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

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for Friday, May 30, 2008

Black Adam

Unlike the bloody train wreck that was Countdown, DC's 52 featured a number of truly compelling stories. Notable among them was the tragic tale of Black Adam. Here was an arrogant and brutal man of power, unquestionably a bad man, who was, quite remarkably, being redeemed by the power of love before everything he loved was viciously ripped away from him. He had been a bad man striving to be a good man. By the end of 52, he had again turned to evil, this time without hope of redemption, had been stripped of the word that gave him power, and fled into the dark bereft of all save his hate and his rage. It was probably as close to an epic tragedy as we're likely to find in a DC Universe crafted by committee and often shy of individual expression.

Though I felt Black Adam's story reached a fitting conclusion by the end of 52, I knew the architects of the current DCU wasn't big on conclusions of any kind. I knew Adam would return. But the character had captured my interest and so I was moderately eager to read the six-issue Black Adam: The Dark Age [$2.99 each] by Peter Tomasi with artists Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy.

Adam had two immediate goals in the series: regaining his lost power and bringing his beloved Isis back to life. Neither would be an easy task for perhaps the most wanted man on the planet. By the end of the second issue, in an uneasy alliance with sorcerer Felix Faust, Adam had regained his power...with the caveat that the more he used said power, the less the chance that he and Faust would be able to bring Isis back. The struggle between power and love would prove as terrible as that between Adam and the world which sought to destroy him once and for all.

BLACK ADAM was well-written and well-drawn, but it was also an unbelievably brutal series, filled with bodies rent asunder and red entrails pulled from still-living creatures. Such brutality and gore has long been ascendant in the DCU, so it didn't surprise me to see it in a series starring a character known for his extreme violence. Still, including a note of caution in this review seems appropriate. You can't say I didn't warn you.

To Tomasi's credit, the series did offer brief glimmers of the man Adam could have been. After defeating Hawkman, he spared the life of his old enemy. Later, albeit in his own gory fashion, he saved the lives of doctors who helped him. But these are mere throwbacks to the better angels he has abandoned.

To no one's credit, the story lacks a satisfying conclusion. That's the way of the DCU. There's an ending of sorts - it's like pushing the "pause" button on your DVD player - but there's clearly more to come. It's a common thing with DC (and Marvel) super-hero comics, but I can't help but wonder if such unending continuation isn't diminishing creativity.

Black Adam: The Dark Age earns four out of five Tonys. Please keep in mind that this is definitely not a story for younger readers.

Tony Tony Tony Tony



DC Comics will publish Black Adam: The Dark Age in a trade paperback edition next month. The cover price is $17.99, but Amazon has it for $12.23.

In addition, according to Wikipedia:

"New Line Cinema is currently developing a Billy Batson and the Legend of Shazam! live-action feature film, with Peter Segal (The Longest Yard, 50 First Dates) as director and Michael Uslan as producer. Actor and former wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has agreed to appear in the film as Black Adam."

Checking in with DC's main competitor:

Marvel's Hulk: WWH - Incredible Herc [$14.99] reprints Incredible Hulk #106-111. Those issues got four out of five Tonys...

Tony Tony Tony Tony

...when I reviewed them here:



I get an e-mail like this once a week:

I'm a huge fan of your work in comics...and wanted to know if you attend/sign at any conventions?

The answer is yes, but not a lot of them.

I can only afford to attend conventions where someone pays my expenses. If money were no object, I'd probably attend two dozen conventions a year. You'd tire of me quickly.

As of this TOT, though I am talking to a convention promoter or two, I'm scheduled to appear at just one event...The Screaming Tiki Comic and Pulp Culture Convention at the Eastwood Expo Center in Niles, Ohio, from October 17-19:

If/when I add any other conventions to my schedule, I'll let you know here. In the meantime, if you're an convention promoter and would like me to appear at your event, by all means, send me an e-mail and we can talk about. And, if you're a fan of my work, do let your friendly neighborhood promoters know you'd like to see me at their event.

But don't be too hard on any promoter who can't see his or her way to bringing me to their events. Because of rising fuel costs, airfares are crazy these days...and, if I'm driving in to the show, that's not cheap either. It costs me almost $50 to drive two hours to Columbus to see my son at Ohio State. I sympathize with event promoters who have to weigh such costs against the "sells tickets" value of any guest and I rarely take it personally.

On the other hand, I am a charming, friendly, and wonderfully witty guest.

I'm just saying.



I have a variation on our regular Comics in the Comics feature today: a quartet of panels that reference TV's CSI franchise. Sit back and enjoy them, but I warn you there'll be an essay question at the end of this section.

John Deering's Strange Brew did two takeoffs on the CSI shows, one on January 14 of last year and the second on March 29 of this year:

Strange Brew

Strange Brew

Dan Piraro's Bizarro from August 2, 2007:


Finally, in a similar vein, we have Dave Whamond's Reality Check from September 24, 2007:

Reality Check

Here's your essay question:

Pick a character from any of the three CSI shows - the original, the Miami version, the New York version - and then tell me what you think their favorite cartoon, comic book or comic strip would be. Explain your reasoning as briefly as you can.

The best essays will be posted in a future edition of TOT and the writers will receive Isabella-autographed stuff from my stash of Isabella swag.

Send your essays to me at:

Just as you do with comics strips that reference comic books, other comic strips, and giant monsters, don't be shy about sending me strips and panels that reference CSI. For that matter, let's include Lassie in that as well.



Jesse Martin

Last week, I wrote about some of this TV season's finales and the e-mail response was swift.

In response to this from me:

Never before hinted at back story was pulled out of some writer's ass to explain the departure of Jesse L. Martin's character in Law and Order.

Thom Zahler wrote:
I have to differ with you there. In his first appearances, Ed was shown to be a habitual gambler, making references to going to the track and skipping sleep to drive to Atlantic City to go gamble between shifts. I'm not saying it was smooth or flawless, and it certainly wasn't mentioned in years, but that he had a problem was in character for him.

Now "Bones," I agree wholeheartedly with you. I'm convinced (although I have no proof to back it up) the psychiatrist character was the original apprentice. In fact, I swear you can see it's him in the episode where we see the apprentice kill a guy. I'd bet that they either thought the psychiatrist worked well with the cast (which I don't), that the psych sessions were too good a device to lose (maybe) or that actor decided to move on and they changed it accordingly. It felt as abrupt as Hawk becoming Monarch instead of Captain Atom.

I'm hit and miss on "Bones" so take that with a grain of salt, though.
That's definitely my mistake on Detective Ed Green's gambling problem. I wasn't watching Law and Order at the time the character was introduced. On the other hand, his final episode did specifically mention Green suffered a "relapse" after the death of his former partner Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) and, though that was just a few seasons back, we never saw any evidence of it until this season's finale.

Paul Storrie wrote:
Not going to argue with your opinion of the episode, but I believe Jesse Martin's early appearances on the show did, indeed, refer to him putting down bets. Jerry Orbach's Lenny seemed fairly ambivalent, though not approving. So Ed Green's gambling problem wasn't completely out of left field.
I also heard from Neil Ottenstein:
Personally, I didn't buy the Bones ending. I think I could've have bought something a bit more convoluted, such as Zack going undercover to catch Gormogon and being overwhelmed or brainwashed by him while doing that. At least he would fallen while trying to be a hero.

I didn't mind that the episode quickly resolved the previous episode's cliffhanger. We saw Booth him shot on the left side and the show couldn't continue without him. I thought they might have kept him "dead" a little longer, but I didn't mind it.
If you'd like to read my season finale comments, you can find that column here:

Since writing that column, I've watched the season finale of Torchwood and, though I still have to watch the finales of the various CSI shows and Law and Order, I'm ready to call the Torchwood finale as the best of this TV season's bunch. It ramped up the jeopardy for its characters and the world, never twisted any of the characters, and had real consequences for those characters. It was brilliantly written and magnificently played. Our American shows could learn from it.

As always, your comments on my columns are appreciated. You can e-mail them to me at...

...or you can post them on my message board:



Tony's Online Tips is a reader-sponsored feature, made possible through your "Tip The Tipster" donations. Your donations have paid for the next nine columns, but, after that, there won't be any new columns until we receive additional donations. If you'd like to contribute and keep TOT running, click on the "Tip The Tipster" link you'll find elsewhere on this page.



Saturn Awards

Every Tuesday, I post new Tony Polls questions for your balloting entertainment. This week, I'm asking you to vote on the six DVD categories of the 34th Annual Saturn Awards, which will be presented by The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films in late June.

To cast your votes, head over to:

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. Have a happy and safe weekend.

I'll be back on Monday with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 05/29/2008 | 05/30/2008 | 06/02/2008 >>

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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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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