Congratulations to the creators and editors of 2000 AD on that revered British weekly reaching its 1500th issue. Boo Cook did the cover painting that appeared on the August 9 issue of the magazine, which features a statue of the Mighty Tharg, who founded the comic; an honor procession of Judge Dredd and other members of the force; and, in the background, a dozen or more other characters whose adventures have appeared in 2000 AD.
When any other 2000 AD strips fail to please, readers can usually count on Dredd to pick up the slack. Starting with the above issue, the strip has revolved around the origins of the judge system that rules Mega-City One.
Dredd is a clone of Chief Judge Eustace Fargo, the man who was most responsible for establishing the system. A package containing human tissue is delivered to the Grand Hall of Justice. DNA tests show it is identical to Dredd's and that it was taken from a living man. A ransom note came with the package. Is it possible Fargo is still alive somewhere in the radiation-scarred Cursed Earth beyond Mega-City? That's the question that sends Dredd and a small team of judges on their current mission.
Written and drawn by Dredd creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, "Origins" is exciting and intriguing. I'm up to 2000 AD #1515 [dated November 22] and I'm eagerly awaiting my next shipment of issues. If you've been thinking of jumping on to this title, this is where to do it.
What else is going on in 2000 AD lately?
I rather liked "Malone" by Cal Hamilton and Simon Coleby [Prog #1500-1506]. Its protagonist is a man with no memory of his past on a corrupt and violent off-world colony. He turns out to be more than he initially seemed and a threat to the gangsters running the colony. The revelation of Malone's true identity caught me utterly by surprise and paved the way for the return of another series that seemed to have reached its conclusion. That strip returned in Prog #1508 and has, likewise, been full of surprises.
Less enjoyable was "Stone Island" [Prog #1500-1507], a horror story set in a maximum-security prison. Though it was written by the usually entertaining Ian Edginton, the serial is a mishmash of familiar elements and gratuitous gore. The most frightening thing about it might be its open ending; we might have to endure further chapters of this substandard tale.
Swashbuckling pirate Nikolai Dante has missed very few issues of 2000 AD in recent months, and that's to the good. Writer Robbie Morrison and artist John Burns have been weaving delightful adventures filled with colorful action, high intrigue, and plenty of bawdy humor. After Dredd, it's my favorite series.
The Banzai Battalion, the inches-high robots who combat garden pests, returned in a new serial [#1501-1506] by Wagner and artist Steve Roberts. This time around, the leader of the battalion has come to believe he's evolved into a human being and is prepared to defend his turf against intruders with deadly force, no matter if those intruders are new-model mini-robots or the humans who own the garden. The humor is darker than previously, but this new serial is still well worth reading.
After promising beginnings, writer Simon Spurrier is more miss than hit with me these days. "Chiaroscuro," his newest story, made its debut in Prog #1507 and is still running as of #1515. A film critic, the son of a once-famous director, learns of a previously unknown movie by his father, a production that tampered with forces it should not have tampered with. The serial has been pretty good to date with stark black-and-white art by "Smudge," but it seems to be getting a bit predictable. I like it, but Spurrier will need a solid finish to keep my regard for this serial.
"The 86ers" [Prog #1508-1510] is a short installment of a not-very-interesting "space war" serial, but it's not nearly as bad as the nigh-unreadable "Harry Kipling (Deceased)" that runs in Progs #1509-1512. Of them, we shall speak no more.
Returning to 2000 AD with Prog #1513 was "The Red Seas" by Edginton and artist Steve Yeowell. Usually pirates-and-sorcery, this serial centers on the London-based Sir Isaac Newton, believed dead at the time of this adventure (1765), but, in reality, alive and serving as Grandmaster of the Brotherhood of the Book, keepers of the secret history of the world. Feeling restless, Sir Isaac hits the streets and runs into a werewolf. It's a wonderful change of pace and I'm enjoying it immensely.
On our usual scale, 2000 AD #1500-1515 earn an average score of four out of five Tonys.
Recently reminded that I have not reviewed any Archie comics in quite some time - though I have been reading them faithfully all along - I pulled Archie #571 [$2.25] from the top of my very small pile of unread Archie comics for today's TOT. The cover and two of the issue's four stories are Christmas-themed.
"Christmas Toy Story" is a sweet little fantasy about a surly youngster who wants one special toy - a Super Solider action figure - over all others. Writer Mike Pellowski touches the heartstrings when he reveals why the boy wants this toy.
Says the boy's mom to Archie, working as a department store Santa: "He really wants that toy because it reminds him of his dad, who is a soldier and constantly away from home." That's extremely real-world for an Archie comic.
The other Christmas story, "A Very Special Gift," has Archie, having spent all his money on Veronica's present, trying to come up with something nice for Betty. Enter gift consultant Jughead in a delightful story by Kathleen Webb.
Rounding out the issue are "The Spoiler" by George Gladir, in which bad-luck charm Jinx Malloy seems to be bringing good luck to Archie and Jughead, and Pellowski's "Freezer Burn," in which high heating bills are causing no end of grief for Archie's dad. All of the stories are pencilled by Stan Goldberg and inked by Bob Smith, the absolute best of the current Archie artists.
Archie #571 earns four out of five Tonys.
Sue Richards left her husband after the death of Bill Foster in Civil War #4. From the week of October 4, Fantastic Four #540 shows Sue's first meeting with Reed since she joined Captain America's Superhuman Registration Act resistence movement. The occasion? Sue uses her powers to free a non-registrant who was about to be sent to the Negative Zone by Reed. In the same issue, Ben Grimm tells Reed that, rather than hunt down the super-heroes working with Cap, he is moving to France. With Johnny Storm gone as well, Mister Fantastic is the sole remaining member of what was once the world's greatest super-hero team.
Writer J. Michael Straczynski continues to knock them straight out of the park here and in Amazing Spider-Man. He doesn't pull his punches in exposing the evil of the government's actions; my heart sunk when Sue compared the exiling of the non-registrants to the exiling of the Jews to Hitler's camps in World War II. That it's far from an exact match is arguable; that its more steps on a totalitarian slippery slope isn't.
Reed doesn't make any attempt to capture Sue or to report her actions. But I have a hunch Tony Stark is conducting the same kind of illegal surveillance on the Four as he was conducting on Peter Parker. I think Stark is a lost cause, but I'm still hoping Reed will redeem himself.
With terrific art by Mike McKone, Fantastic Four #540 earns the full five out of five Tonys.
In TOT for 12/28/06, in reviewing Liberty Girl #2 from Heroic Publishing, I wrote:
I like this character a lot, even though I think creator and writer Dennis Mallonee can get a little strident in using her to proclaim his political views. It's not that I disagree with those views - though I do disagree with many of them - it's that, particularly in this issue, they are inserted into the story in such a ham-fisted manner that they undermine the story and the more noble, partisan qualities of his character.... The action part is swell, the emotional reunion of LG and an aged friend of her family is also swell, up to the point where the politics derail it. I'd like to think the end of this story sets the direction for LG's future adventures, that she will be an inspiration and not a polemic.
Dennis responded to my review:
"Don't read LG's attitude into Senator Brooks's. To LG's mind, things are a lot less simple than a frustrated, dying old man might want to hope they can be once again."
Rereading my review, I should have made it clearer that I felt Dennis was using LG's stories, or, more accurately, that one story, to stridently proclaim his views, and not LG herself. It's the Senator who gets up on the soapbox in that issue. LG seems to be carefully considering her role in the modern world before taking positions, a far more thoughtful approach.
What's frustrating for me is that, at one point, I had written a line similar to what Dennis wrote me and cut it from my review. My line was awkwardly phrased. I probably meant to rework it, but, somehow, never got around to doing that and putting it back into my review. So, boo on me for that lapse and boo on Senator Brooks for his simplistic views. I'd bet dollars to doughnuts Liberty Girl's unmentioned-in-this-story "Uncle Andy" is not only a liberal, but also much cooler than the Senator.
COMICS IN THE COMICS
I get a kick out of self-referential comic strips and panels, and out of comic strips and panels that guest-star other comic-book or comic-strip characters. When I spot them in my local newspapers or online, or when readers e-mail them to me, I save them for use in this segment.
Today's example was e-mailed to me by veteran CITC contributor Tom Duffy...
It's Shoe by Chris Cassatt and Gary Brookins, and it's from March 28, 2006.
Space permitting, you can look forward to seeing CITC, or some variation thereof, in most future TOTs.
Here's my candidate for the dumbest goof I made in 2006. When I wrote about Lassie #51 for the October 18 edition of this column, I included the cover - the *photo* cover - that graced that 1960 comic book. However, by the time I finished writing about the issue, I'd forgotten about the photo cover and, misreading the info on Jerry Bails' Who's Who of American Comic Books 1928-1999 website, credited the cover to painter Mo Gollub. What's even more amazing is that not one reader noticed or pointed out my boneheaded mistake. Did you all play hooky that day?
Better late than never, I apologize for the mistake. If you'd like to read my special "Radioactive Lassie" report, you can do so by going to:
Given how many columns I write, there *will* be more mistakes. Don't be shy about e-mailing me about them. In the future, I will endeavor to be more timely in correcting them.
It's a new year and we're back with new "Tony Polls" questions for your voting entertainment. This week we're asking you which of Diamond's top twenty publishers
of comics or comics-related supplies gave you the most entertainment in 2006...and whether or not you'd like to go to some comics or comics-related conventions...and which pulp magazine hero, Doc Savage or the Shadow, you like best. To vote on these questions, go to:
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: