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

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for Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Beats

Disappointment is the predominant theme of today's reviews, one of a book from which I had expected more and the other of a movie I was fairly certain would blow chunks. I've only myself to blame for the time I wasted on the latter.

The book is The Beats: a Graphic History [Hill and Wang; $22] with scripts by Harvey Pekar, Nancy J. Peters, and others, and art by Ed Piskor, Jay Kinney, and others. My problems with this biographical anthology are just that - "my" problems - and I'll try to make that clear where applicable.

I've never been a particular fan of the Beat movement. My taste leans towards the straightforward in both storytelling and discourse. If you have something to express, then express it as clearly as possible. This book gives me yet another reason not to be a fan of the movement: its subjects are, for the most part, an assortment of self-indulgent gaspoles whose profligate lifestyles did harm to their family, their lovers, and their talents. There is a little to admire in most of them beyond their work, and we've already discussed my ambivalence towards that.

The biographies are lifeless. Neither the personalities nor their "adventures" are portrayed in an exciting or even interesting manner. There are exceptions, of course, but, for the most part, I found these biographies deadly dull.

The exceptions? The best chapter in the book is "Beatnik Chicks" by Joyce Brabner with art by Summer McClinton, one of the few pieces in the book in which the women are portrayed as more than objects and enablers. I also enjoyed: "Kenneth Patchen" by Nick Thorkelson and Pekar with art by Thorkelson; "The Janitor" by Jerome Neukirch; "Jat DeFeo: The Rose" by Trina Robbins and Anne Timmons: and "Tuli Kuperfberg" by Jeffrey Lewis and Kuperfberg with art by Lewis. Just five out of twenty-five stories. Sigh.

The Beats: a Graphic History will certainly appeal more to devotees of the Beat movement than it did to me...and they should write their own reviews of the book. However, for me, it earns a dismal two out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony

Punisher: War Zone

Moving to today's movie review...

I didn't expect much from Punisher: War Zone [Lions Gate; $29.95]; I got even less. Someday I will break my insidious desire to watch every comics-related movie. This was not that someday.


The Punisher murders an undercover FBI agent and almost gives up being the Punisher. That could have been an engaging story if director Lexi Alexander or the movie's four writers ever got around to telling it. They didn't. Even when it looks like Frank Castle is going to walk away from his vigilantism, he doesn't come close to doing the right thing...which would have been to at least think about turning himself in for the murder.

Wayne Knight is pretty good as Microchip, not that the movie makes much use of his excellence in the role. If the Oscars were awarded on the curve - a movie's good performances weighed against bad ones - he would deserve one. Because every other performance in the film is excruciatingly awful.

Even wonderful Julie Benz sleepwalks through her performance as the widow of the murdered FBI agent. Indeed, at the movie's end, she's utterly unconvincing when she tells Frank her husband thought he was one of the good guys and she thinks so, too. Oh, dear Julie, we expect so much more from you.

British actor Ray Stevenson plays Castle as if he had a rock stuck in his throat. Dominic West as Jigsaw and Doug Hutchison as his brother Loony Bin Jim are scenery-chewing clowns. Every other actor is laughably mediocre as well.

I can't soft-pedal this. The acting is moronic and the over-the-top violence even more so. I was reduced to near tears at the sight of Castle hanging upside-down from a chandelier and using the backlash of his machine guns to spin himself around and slaughter dozens of incredibly stupid mobsters.


Punisher: War Zone is a stupid, dumb movie. You should not buy it, you should not rent it, you should not watch it for free even if Julie Benz asks you to watch it...and there's precious little I wouldn't do for her. It earns absolutely no Tonys.

No Tonys



It's Tuesday and that means new Tony Polls questions for your balloting entertainment. This week, we're asking you to rate a quartet of new genre movies:

Star Trek
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Terminator Salvation
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

You can cast your votes here:

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

Tony Isabella

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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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