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

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TONY'S ONLINE TIPS
for Thursday, August 16, 2007

Shadow 9

My pal Anthony Tollin, series editor of the Doc Savage and Shadow double novels published each and every month by Nostalgia Ventures, sent me his latest releases. Each of them is a treasure, but the one that is an absolute must-have for Batman fans is THE SHADOW #9: "LINGO" & "PARTNERS OF PERIL" [$12.95]...wherein we see how much DC's Dark Knight owes to the Shadow, to Shadow writer Walter B. Gibson, and to occasional Shadow fill-in writer Theodore Tinsley. I guarantee you'll be amazed.

My full review of The Shadow #9 will run in Comics Buyer's Guide #1636. For now, let's say that, in addition to the Shadow novel "Lingo" by Gibson, the volume also has "Partners Of Peril," the Tinsley fill-in from which Bob Kane and Bill Finger lifted the plot of the very first Batman story. There are way too many similarities for it to be otherwise.

Wait. There's more.

Jerry Robinson, who has long claimed to be the creator of the Joker, wrote the book's foreword. Tollin and fellow historian Will Murray contribute essays on the Shadow-Batman connection. And, to keep the amazement level high, the volume also includes a Tinsley novelette titled "The Grim Joker" with a pasty-faced killer by that name. Tollin does not suggest a link between the Tinsley villain and Batman's arch-enemy, but it remains a remarkable coincidence. Especially since "The Grim Joker" appeared in the July, 1937, issue of The Whisperer, a mysterious crime-fighter whose alter ego was...Police Commissioner James Gordon. With contents like these, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Nostalgia Ventures had to go back to print on this book by Labor Day.

I know I can't wait to sit down and read it.

Doc Savage 7

The other books Tollin sent were Doc Savage #7: "The Lost Oasis" & "The Sargasso Ogre", Doc Savage #8: "The Sea Magician" & "The Living Fire-Menace," and The Shadow #8: "The London Crimes" & "Castle of Doom" [$12.99 each]. Each volume contains two full-length novels plus special features, making them among the best bargains in adventure fiction.

Watch for Doc Savage and Shadow reviews in upcoming editions of TOT. With a little luck, I'll catch up on them before Nostalgia Ventures and Tollin come out with their three new quarterly series. We might not live in a pulp adventure world, but we'll get to visit there as often as we like.

******

BLADE #5 Guest review by Tony Collett

Blade 5

If you visit the Tony Isabella Message Board at ComicsCommunity.com, you know that, from the time to time, I offer comics and other items to posters in exchange for their writing guest reviews for TOT. Here's one such review:
BLADE #5: "Vendetta's Echo" by Marc Guggenheim, art by Howard Chaykin [Marvel; $2.99].

Before we begin, a caveat:

I have not read previous issues of Blade - my knowledge of the character is mainly from the Wesley Snipes movies. Nor I have read any of the "Casualties of War" tie-ins or miniseries. I am approaching this comic tabula rasa, and my review will be the same.

First, the cover. It took a moment for me to realize that it wasn't just Wolverine's fist underneath Blade's head threatening to pop his claws; he actually did it, and they're sticking out of the top of his head. I would say the dark and muted colors toned down the impact of this cover. I hope this is a better defense than the one given by Bill Gaines when he testified before a Senate subcommittee on the severed head held by an axe wielder on the cover of Crime SuspenStories #22.

It begins "three weeks ago" with Wolverine captured by SHIELD, and Director Maria Hill offering him a deal to cooperate with the Superhuman Registration Act. Logan points out that the nullifier they put on him was based on a mistake many people make -- thinking his claws are a super power -- and he escapes. (Oddly enough, the folks behind X-Men 3: The Last Stand made the same mistake with Juggernaut.) We cut to the present day with Blade fighting Morbius, and "the Living Vampire" springing a trap on our hero with SHIELD agents. Some may be surprised that the authorities welcomed Morbius with open arms just for registering, but older readers of this site may recall the U.S. recruiting German rocket scientists from the Nazis after World War II, as well as the country's policy to support anyone opposed to communism, no matter how dictatorial. We then have a flashback of an individual swearing his beating was done by a vampire, described in a way longtime comic readers would recognize as Wolverine and not a vampire.

Meanwhile, in the present day, Hill offers Blade a deal: bring in Wolverine dead or alive, and he will be allowed to continue his vampire hunting with the support and blessing of SHIELD. The rest of the issue is a good scrap between the two, with the flashback showing a younger Blade fighting a vampiric version of the Yellow Kid. What does the flashback have to do with the story? That would be telling.

To bring in the movie fans, Blade looks and dresses more like Wesley Snipes than the character designed by co-creator Gene Colan. Much as I love Colan and his work, the yellow and green monstrosity Blade wore in his Tomb of Dracula debut was a bit loud.

Although the art is by Howard Chaykin, his star power isn't distracting. The art services the story. It's a good "done-in-one" comic book with no noticeable exposition or obvious tricks by Marc Guggenheim to bring new readers up to speed. The storytelling is solid and it overcomes the "tie-in" stigma that is plastered over the cover.

I would give this comic 3 Guest Tonys out of 5.

Tony Tony Tony
Nicely done, Tony. My thanks.

Watch for more of these guest reviews in upcoming columns. If you'd like a chance to score some swag in exchange for writing one of them, keep watching my message board at:

www.comicscommunity.com/boards/tony

******

BLACK LIGHTNING

Black Lightning

TOT readers love it when I write about Black Lightning and/or discuss my creation's appearances in comics written by others. Now I can't say the latter is always fun for me, but I'll continue to critique them as I read them. That said, however, let me add that I'm way behind in my reading of recent Black Lightning appearances. This is where you come in.

Besides the current Justice League of America series, I know Black Lightning has also appeared in Amazons Attack and recent issues of Outsiders. I plan to read and comment on these in the near future. Are there any other recent appearance I should be looking for?

One last Black Lightning item for today.

People keep asking me this question, even though I've answered it in several different places. One more time:

I'm absolutely thrilled that Dwayne McDuffie is going to be writing Black Lightning in Justice League of America. If I can't write my creation, there's not another writer I'd rather see write him more. Dwayne is one of the best writers in comics today; I know he respects my character and what that character stands for. Sure, Lightning is just one of many heroes in the title, but I'm looking forward to reading what Dwayne does with him.

Watch for more Black Lightning stuff in future TOTs.

******

COMICS IN THE COMICS

Comics in the Comics, wherein I find and share comics panels and strips that have a self-referential bent or that "guest-star" characters from comic books and other strips, will continue to be a regular part of TOT. Today, we have the Sally Forth strip from Sunday, July 22, 2007:

Sally Forth

Sally Forth was created by Greg Howard in 1982. Craig MacIntosh began drawing in 1992. Since 1999, when Howard left the strip completely, it's been written by Francesco Marciuliano. You can read it online here:

o.seattletimes.nwsource.com/comics/sforth.html

The argument that the "funnies" should always be "funnies" is of keen interest to me. My good friend and neighbor Tom Batiuk is focusing on an all-too-true-to-life tragedy - the last days of Lisa Moore - in Funky Winkerbean. Reaction to this storyline has been largely positive, but there are those readers (and newspaper editors) who can't wrap their heads around the notion that not all comic strips have to be humorous, that the history of the art form is filled with both comedy and tragedy.

Though I'm naturally sworn to secrecy on the details, I can tell you I've read the entire Lisa Moore story and it's some of the best stuff Tom or any other modern cartoonist has ever done. It's heart-breaking and inspiring.

These comic strips will be collected in Lisa's Story: The Other Shoe [Kent State University Press; $29.95, cloth, $18.95, paper]. Look for my review of this book in a near-future edition of CBG or TOT.

******

GET MORE TONY

Comics Buyer's Guide 1634

COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1634 [October; $5.99] features my usual contributions. In my "Tony's Tips" column, I beseech one and all to get their facts straight and review Johnny Hiro #1 by Fred Chao; DC's 52 and World War III; the baseball-centric Rob Hanes Adventures #10 by Randy Reynaldo; the concluding issues of Civil War; Punisher War Journal #1-4; and Civil War: Battle Damage Report. In "Tony's Back Page," I write about how comics writer Don McGregor introduced me to one of the great joys of my life. There's lots of other spiffy stuff in the issue as well, including comics legend Dick Ayers' top ten favorite covers and Craig "Mr. Silver Age" Shutt writing about Cosmo the Merry Martian.

Liberty Girl Trade

Heroic Publishing has collected several full-color stories of "America's Bronze Goddess of Freedom" into the 100-page Liberty Girl: The Return [$9.95]. In addition to the comics, the book also features a cover gallery, creator information, and forewords by Roy Thomas, Billy Tucci, and yours truly. It's a nice package for your ten bucks and I recommend it.

My "day job" is taking up most of my time these days, but, as other Isabella material reaches the marketplace, I'll let you know about it right here.

That's all for this edition of TOT. Thanks for spending part of your day with me.

I'll be back soon with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 08/15/2007 | 08/16/2007 | 08/19/2007 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Message Board. Also, read Heroes and Villains: Real and Imagined and view my Amazon Wish List.

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THE "TONY" SCALE

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.

Tony
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.

TonyTony
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?

TonyTonyTony
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.

TonyTonyTonyTony
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?

TonyTonyTonyTonyTony
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.



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