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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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TONY'S ONLINE TIPS for Monday, January 1, 2007

Batman 247

My new year's resolution is to not write about my new year's resolutions.


Having thus blown my NYR in record time, let me say that the coming of this year is more of a challenge for me than the bright and sunny optimism dance of previous years. I made the mistake of looking at the goals I set for myself at the start of 2006 and was appalled at how few of them I accomplished. Actually, "appalled" is too mild a description. "Really pissed off at myself" is much closer to the mark.

Stuff happens. Stuff is always going to happen. If I learned anything from 2006, it's that I just have to lower my head and bull my way through the stuff that gets between me and the things I want to accomplish.

Let's see how well that works out for me this year.

Our opening cover is from Batman #247 [February, 1973] and was hitting the newsstands about the same time I was moving to New York to work for Marvel Comics [Halloween, 1972]. It's drawn by Dick Giordano, a great artist, a darn good man, and a very good friend to me over the years. I don't remember anything about the tales within this Julius Schwartz-edited book, but the Grand Comics Database [] identities them as:

"Merry Christmas" (6 pages) by writer Denny O'Neil, penciller Irv Novick, and Giordano (inks); and,

"...And a Deadly New Year!" (17.5 pages) by O'Neil and my pal Dick on both pencils and inks.

I've *got* to get my comic books out of storage and organized this year. But I'm not going to consider that a NYR because those things can kill you!



Cindy and her Obasan 1

Cindy and Her Obasan [Rorschach Entertainment; $2.99] is the first comic I'm reviewing for 2007 because it's one that I wanted to review in 2006 and, for one stupid reason after another, never got around to. It's the first adventure of a young girl and her Japanese fairy godmother - her obasan - and, before the debut is over, the plucky duo has visited Rock and Roll Heaven, tracked the ghost of Elvis to Japan, and matched wits with an unscrupulous toy manufacturer who's also a ranking member of the Yakuza. Should I mention the sentient teddy bear?

Written by George Gladir of Archie Comics renown, the 32-page story has likeable characters, modern twists on fairy godmothers, nods to magical girl anime like "Sailor Moon," tidbits of Japanese culture, and engaging visuals by Stan Goldberg (pencils) and Bob Smith (inks). My small quibbles are that I would have liked to see a bit more menace/tension in the action sequences and that I would have loved to have seen this comic in full color. As loathe as I am to help the Hollywood chuckleheads who bring us so many mediocre comics-inspired movies, I see big-screen, live-action potential in these bright new characters.

Cindy and Her Obasan #1 earns four out of five Tonys. For ordering and other information, head over to:

Tony Tony Tony Tony



We pick up the reviews with the comics that shipped the week of September 27, but I'm gonna do my best to get current on this by the end of this month.


Amazing Spider-Man 535

In part four of the six-issue "The War At Home," Peter Parker finally realize he made the wrong choice by siding with Tony Stark. It starts with him learning that Stark and Reed Richards are making huge profits from Superhuman Registration Act contracts, continues with his visit to the Negative Zone prison where Stark intends to hold non-registrants for life, and ends with him facing off against Iron Man. It appears Stark has been spying on Parker and his kin all along and now attacks him *before* Parker has actually violated the law. I would say I can't wait to read the next issue, but I'm obsessive compulsive enough that I'll wait because I'm reading the Civil War issues in the order they were published.

The most chilling moment in this issue is a speech Stark makes to Peter at the Negative Zone prison:

This place is not on American soil. American laws don't touch here. American lawyers are not welcome here. Once non-registrants come here, they're legal nonentities. Occupants. Prisoners. Them and those who give them aid and support.

Kudos to writer J. Michael Straczynski, penciller Ron Garney, and inker Bill Reinhold for a super-hero tale more frightening than any horror comic on the market.

Amazing Spider-Man #535 earns the full five out of five Tonys. This title is one of the very best super-hero comics being published today.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Cable Deadpool 32

I liked Cable/Deadpool #32 better the second time that I read it, but that didn't help the issue much. Beginning in the Oval Office, where the Marvel Universe George Bush is only slightly more competent than his "our universe" counterpart, and going from there to Rumekistan (the country Cable leads) and New York City, this issue is mostly about the title heroes arguing their opposing positions on the Superhuman Registration Act. Unfortunately, even with action scenes, that makes for a dull issue, which I could have ignored if I thought either of them had made their case. But Cable didn't do more than his usual "I know the future" bit and Deadpool only made the case for why he himself shouldn't be allowed to run loose.

This is the third and final issue of the Cable/Deadpool crossover with Civil War and it also didn't make a case for why I should continue reading the title. It earns a disappointing two out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony

Captain America 22

In Captain America #22, the focus is on Sharon "Agent 13" Carter, our star-spangled hero's lover and government liaison. Writer Ed Brubaker does a skillful job portraying her conflicted reaction to this civil war...and there's a terrific moment when the tale zags instead of zigs. However, a second and obvious surprise revelation diminishes the story. Even so, Brubaker and artist Mike Perkins do commendable work here, earning this issue a respectable three out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

Young Avengers Runaways 3

Civil War: Young Avengers & Runaways #3 isn't floating my boat either. The two teams don't mesh well. The connection to the main Civil War storyline isn't strong enough to make the series an indispensable part of that epic. The callousness of the federal government in giving the sadistic warden of the Cube free reign to brutalize his captives is rightfully disturbing, but, if this were a movie, I'd accuse the actor playing that character of chewing the scenery. It's just not working for me. The best score I can give this issue is one Tony.


Front Line 6

Civil War is the lead book in the overall epic carrying its name, but writer Paul Jenkins' Civil War: Front Line is my favorite of the old and new titles involved in this incredible blend of super-hero action and real-world concerns. There are three ongoing serials in every issue plus a fourth vignette that conveys the mood of each issue.

In "Embedded" - drawn by Ramon Bachs and John Lucas - Daily Bugle reporter Ben Urich is getting closer to uncovering Tony Stark's plan to sic some of the Marvel Universe's most murderous super-villains on the super-hero resistence movement. Meanwhile, columnist Sally Floyd has been arrested on the barest suspicion she has information on those brave rebels.

In "The Accused," Reed Richards visits Speedball in an attempt to either help or use the imprisoned young hero. It's a very sad day when you can no longer to be sure the leader of the Fantastic Four is a good guys. Drawn by Steve Lieber, this chapter's ending was eerily familiar and no less shocking for that.

In "Sleeper Cell" - drawn by Lee Weeks and Sandu Florea - an Atlantean agent is being tracked by Wonder Man, the latter having been blackmailed into working for the government. Is New York in for another Namor-led invasion?

The issue's untitled "mood piece" focuses on Nighthawk's role in the terrible ambush in which Bill "Goliath" Foster was murdered by a Thor clone created by Stark and Richards. It's drawn by Jorge Lucas. Four satisfying features makes Front Line one of the best buys in comics. It earns the full five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Heroes for Hire 2

Heroes For Hire #2 was something of a letdown after the book's debut. In the aftermath of Bill Foster's murder, H4H leader Misty Knight confronts Tony Stark, fails to recognize the enormity of Stark's crimes, and flirts with him. I thought she was smarter than that, but, by the end of this issue, she has been betrayed by a member of her team and that betrayal leads directly to the defeat and capture of Captain America and Luke Cage. It makes for a heck of a cliffhanger ending, but, unless writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti have something very cool up their sleeves, it's an ending that comes at the expense of Misty's competence. Since I'm Misty's "father," I take that personally. Because of my clear bias against the apparent dissing of my girl, I'm going to recuse myself from scoring this issue.

Watch for more Civil War reviews in future TOTs.



Justice League of America 2

I'm also going to try be current on Black Lightning news and reviews, though, sadly, no one should expect the news to include my return to my finest creation. That's not my doing, but, if you've been reading my columns, you already know that.

Jeff Pierce is a member of the newest version of the Justice League and, for the most part, I like the way writer Brad Meltzer is handling him. In Justice League of America #2, I wasn't thrilled with Jeff threatening to out a villain to get information, but I was very pleased that Meltzer made it clear this was an empty threat, that Jeff would never have followed through on it. For the record, I wrote Jeff as a devout Christian, a "liberal Northern Baptist." He supports equality for gays across the board and that would most definitely include equal marriage rights because that's what Jesus would do.

TOT readers know I'm not fond of the new look artist Ed Benes has given Jeff Pierce. I think it's a modern cliché that African-American super-heroes have shaved heads. Kudos to Meltzer for the Parasite's dialogue in this panel:

JLA interior

"You shaved your head. How unoriginal."

Even a super-villain can be right on occasion.

In JLA #3, Jeff battles Dr. Impossible and Trident, two super-villains who had supposedly gone missing but are in the process of kidnaping the Parasite. Meltzer has Jeff do some neat stuff with his electrical powers, though I don't much like the notion that my guy is being trained in their use by the Batman. Black Lightning was generating force shields decades ago.

I received an e-mail from a reader who thought I'd be angered by Dr. Impossible blind-siding Jeff, but perfect super-heroes bore the crap out of me. My guy is gonna screw up every now and then. As long as he gets back in the fight, one way or another, I'm cool with that.

Meltzer is doing a good job writing Black Lightning. He needs to work on making him less subservient to the Big Three, but, so far, I like what I've read and I'm also enjoying the new Justice League of America title.

More Black Lightning news and views to come.

Thanks for spending part of your New Year's Day with me. I'll be back Wednesday with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 12/29/2006 | 01/01/2007 | 01/03/2007 >>

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

Please send material you would like me to review to:

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