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

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for Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Heartbreak Diet

The Heartbreak Diet: A Story of Family, Fidelity, and Starting Over by Thorina Rose [Chronicle Books; $19.95] is the San Francisco illustrator's first graphic novel. Like many of the graphic novels I get through my library, I learned about this work through a review in one of the three daily newspapers I read. When a comics work gets a favorable review outside the comics press, I take notice.

Rose married young and moved from New York to San Francisco. Her husband - "X" - begins an affair with his running partner and chooses the younger woman over Rose and their two sons, ultimately leaving them to move in with his lover. In 170 or so pages, Rose takes us through the couple's history and troubles. She struggles with doubts, heartbreak, and the necessity of rebuilding her life for herself and her children.

Rose's art will remind you of magazine cartoons and it proves to be a wonderfully clear and direct way to tell her story. There are, as you might expect, many moments of pain and sadness in the telling of that tale, but there is also humor in her reactions to the misery visited on her by her unfaithful spouse, in the chorus of friends who advise her, and in her melodramatic-but-endearing determination to set her world right. I'm rooting for this woman all the way.

The Heartbreak Diet would make a great gift for older readers, most especially for women looking for a graphic novel more attuned to their lives. It earns the full five out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony



Wacky Packages

To celebrate the 35th anniversary of one of its great success stories, the Topps Company has put together Wacky Packages [Abrams; $19.95], a compilation of 223 of the trading cards and stickers beloved by kids since 1967. This volume collects all the stickers from Series One through Seven of the 1973 relaunch of the product. For a time, according to some collectors, these "wacky packs" even outsold the company's baseball cards.

Wacky Packages were perfect for kids who were growing up with the Al Feldstein-edited MAD and whose youthful sense of humor naturally embraced the hilariously gross images on the parodies of products advertised on TV and used in their own homes. Brand names were mangled for laughs as Fritos Corn Chips became Freetoes Corn Chips - human toes promised in every package - and Lipton Tea Bags transformed into Hipton Tea Bags, the "Hippy" tea that "gives you the energy to loaf, hitchhike, and avoid work." Paging through the book brought memories of brands and products I grew up with, some of which are no longer with us.

The artists who worked on Wacky Packages included Art Spiegelman, Jay Lynch, Kim Deitch, Bill Griffith, and that dean of card painters, Norm Saunders. Spiegelman and Lynch bookend the stickers with their insights and remembrances of working for Topps in the 1960s and 1970s.

I was never a collector of these wild and wonderful stickers - comic books were my passion - but I did buy a pack or two every now and then. The inventive gags and designs made me smile, which was a pretty good return for my spare change.

Wacky Packages earns four Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony



Some further thoughts on your local library:

Public libraries depend on the support of their communities and that support generally comes in the form of tax levies. Of all the city, county, and state services that I, as a taxpayer, must fund, none delivers more value for my dollars than my local library system. Support your local library. Take advantage of the books, CDs, DVDs, online resources, and programs it has to offer. Far and away, it's the best buy in town.

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 03/24/2009 | 03/25/2009 | 03/26/2009 >>

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.

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