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

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for Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Danger's Hour

Today's first review has nothing to do with comic books, but I'm feeling a little maverick-y today.

Maxwell Taylor Kennedy's Danger's Hour: The Story of the USS Bunker Hill and the Kamikaze Pilot Who Crippled Her [Simon and Schuster; $30] virtually consumes the reader's attention with the vastness of its story, with the intricacies of how the lives of the American sailors serving on the Bunker Hill contrasted and intersected with those of their Japanese foes, and with its meticulous attention to detail. It's a big magnificient chunk of history that never forgets the men who made that history.

On May 11, 1945, with Japan unquestionably losing the war and turning to desperate suicide attacks in the hope of negotiating a better surrender for itself, two human sacrifices, two among many, defied all the odds and the superior firepower of the Americans, to visit devastating death and destruction on the carrier that served as the flagship of the U.S. Navy in the Pacific.

The Bunker Hill, home to thousands of crewman, was the most sophisticated vessel in the fleet. Yasunori Seizo was the 21-year-old son of farmers. Kiyoshi Ogawa, his fellow tokko (kamikaze pilot), was a college student on the day the Japanese government drafted all of its students to serve in an army that was, for all intents, already defeated. The crewmen and pilots of the Bunker Hill, who, for all their successful attacks on Japanese forces and cities, had never experienced the war as intimately as they would on that day in May and during the nights and days that followed it, nevertheless responded to the attacks with courage and determination. The stories of the participants from both sides of this conflict make for compelling and frequently horrifying reading.

Kennedy starts his narrative before Pearl Harbor, then takes us through that attack and the entire war in the Pacific. He gives us the stories of crewman, pilots, and commanders from both sides. He details the events and the aftermath of the May 11 attacks with a thoroughness that stuns me, and follows up with what happened to the survivors after the war.

Danger's Hour is the result of years of interviews, research, and dedication. It's a book that wounds and heals the spirit. It earns the full five out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Man of Rock

"Joe Kubert's career spans the history of the comic book in America."

That statement on the back cover of Bill Schelly's Man of Rock: A Biography of Joe Kubert [Fantagraphics; $19.99] sums up but one reason this work is extraordinary.

I've long been of the view that it was Action Comics #1 and, specifically, Jerry Siegel's and Joe Shuster's Superman that turned the American comic book from a novelty item into an honest-to-God industry. Kubert started drawing comics in 1938, the same year the world met Superman, and has been drawing them ever since. He's also been an editor and an educator and more. So, yeah, this great artist is a fitting symbol of our comics history.

But what makes Man of Rock more than a biography and even more than a history is Schelly's coverage of the Kubert family in their native Poland, the economic and social forces that brought them to America, and the story of the boy who would become a man and, more, a pivotal force in the growth of the industry. Kubert was there at every important moment in the history of the American comic book, but, in this wonderful biography, Schelly makes Kubert come alive as a man, creator, husband, father, and teacher. After reading it, I feel if I know Joe Kubert better than I know many members of my own family...and I understand why his work has always moved me.

Reading of Kubert's creative process and work ethic is nothing short of inspirational. Schelly leaves no doubt as to why Kubert has been and continues to be a major influence of decades of comics creators. Kubert wears the mantle of "legend" well.

Man of Rock is one of the best comics biography ever written. It may even be the best. For that reason, and because I'm still in my "maverick" mode, it earns an astonishing six out of five Tonys. You need to read and own this book.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony



It's Tuesday and that means new Tony Polls questions. This week's questions are kind of sort of like last week's, except instead of asking you to choose which Marvel and DC characters and titles you would recommend to someone who's fallen months and years behind his comics reading, we're asking you to choose which Vertigo and WildStorm characters and titles yadda yadda.

We've also got a third question for you this week. In my pal Tom Batiuk's Funky Winkerbean, single father and widower Les Moore is currently being pursued by two women: Cayla Williams, who is the school secretary and whose daughter Keisha is on the school basketball team with Les' daughter Summer; and Susan Smith, who was a former student of Les' and is now a teacher at the same school. I know who I'd like to see end up with Les, but Tom hasn't let me in on what he's decided...if, indeed, he has decided. So our third question asks those of you who read Funky to where your own preference lies.

You can vote on all three questions here:

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

Tony Isabella

<< 04/27/2009 | 04/28/2009 | 04/29/2009 >>

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.

Please send material you would like me to review to:

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