TONY'S ONLINE TIPS for Wednesday, January 14, 2009
The Starman Omnibus Volume One [DC; $49.99] reprints the first 17 issues of the series that was to super-heroes what Neil Gaiman's The Sandman was to fantasy. In the mid-to-late 1990s, writer James Robinson crafted stories and characters more intriguing and nuanced than was common for super-heroes then or now. Reluctant champion Jack Knight could and still does drive me a little crazy with his countless references to his countless collections, but he's as real as they come. His father, the first Starman, is notable for both his triumphs and his failures. Player after player came onto this stage and gave stellar performances: the Shade, who was a villain, but not always; the aged, murderous Mist and his equally murderous offspring; the O'Dare family of police officers; a Solomon Grundy unlike any version of the character ever imagined; and even Jack's dead brother.
These stories represent the making of a hero on the hero's own terms and it's a thrilling evolution. The writing is even better than I'd remembered from when I first read them. The art is moody or vibrant as dictated by the tale at hand, artists Tony Harris's and Wade Von Grawbadger's dedication to the work evident on every page they drew and inked. Under the guidance of original editor Archie Goodwin, arguably the best editor of the era, Robinson and all the other artists who worked on Starman kept the quality high throughout the title's run. Adding to the value of this gorgeous hardcover collection are dozens of pages of informative text, some of them from the original comic books.
Normally, I rate comics on a scale of zero to five Tonys, but, sometimes, that's just not good enough. The Starman Omnibus Volume One earns six out of five Tonys.
Thom Zahler, creator of the should-be-winning-awards Love and Capes, has published Powerful Women 2 [Maerkle Press; $16], a very cool collection of convention drawings of some of fandom's favorite females. Drawn in a style similar to that of Love and Capes, these 25 pieces feature Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Shadowcat, Valkyrie, G.I. Joe's Scarlett, Starfire, Black Widow, Bo and Boo from The Mighty Orbots, and others. Printed in vibrant full color and on heavy stock with a ring binding, this is a sexy, sturdy booklet that is the next best thing to having the original drawings themselves. Across from each piece are Zahler's comments on the characters and the artistic choices he made in creating each drawing. So, while the $16 price tag is a mite steep, it's not so steep that it keeps me from recommending the book. Besides, if you order both this book and Powerful Women from Thom, the price drops to $26 for the pair.
The embarrassing lesson I learned from Marvel Atlas [Marvel; $14.99] was that I need a refresher course in the geography of the real world. In this magnificently obsessive trade paperback, head writer/coordinator Michael Hoskin, writers Anthony Flamini, Stuart Vandal, and Eric J. Moreels and cartographer Eliot E. Brown take us on a tour of planet Earth, or at least planet Earth as it exists in the Marvel Universe. My embarrassment does not stem from my geeky delight in their efforts, but from the several times I looked for the "First Appearance" information for nations that actually exist in the real world.
The book includes all the places you'd expect to find - Doctor Doom's Latveria, the Black Panther's Wakanda, Genosha, Muir Island, and such - but also the more obscure corners of the Marvel Universe version of our world. I'm talking places like Carnelia, Morvania, Boca Caliente, and Canada.
Just testing you with the last one.
Reading this book a few pages per day is great fun. There are maps and illustrations for every entry. In addition, you can find corrections and additional information by going to The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe FAQ page at:
Marvel Atlas earns four Tonys. Don't plan your next Marvel Universe vacation without consulting it.
Charlton Spotlight #6 [Argo Press; $7.95] is a special issue of the magazine dedicated to "exploring the history of the Charlton Comics Group." This time around, editor and publisher Mike Ambrose has opened a King Tut's tomb worth of never-before-published comics stories, art, and photos.
The biggest finds are two tales by Nicola Cuti and Joe Staton. E-Man and Nova meet the Traveler from H.G. Wells' The Time Machine in the 22-page "Future Tense," a story originally prepared for the characters' short-lived Alpha Comics run in 1993. That's followed by an 11-page, hard-as-nails Michael Mauser, Private Eye thriller about a vicious protection racket. The never-finished-until-now story was scheduled for a 1976 issue of Charlton's Vengeance Squad. That's 33 pages of new comics by two of Charlton's most beloved and talented creators.
There's more. In two-dozen pages of what can only be deemed rare artifacts, we get photos of the Charlton offices and the folks who worked in them, looks at promotional comics, a page of script by Walter Gibson of The Shadow fame, correspondence with readers, and never-before-seen or rarely-seen artwork, character sketches, and covers. All topped off by a lively letters columns, the latest installment of a year-by-year Charlton checklist, and "Weird Kids" cartoons by Nick Cuti.
At 72 pages, Charlton Spotlight #6 is essential reading for Charlton fans and comics historians. It's great fun that delivers equally great bang for your bucks, all of which earns the full five out of five 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.
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