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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
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for Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Secret Invasion X-Men

I've been reading Marvel's Secret Invasion through the trade paperback collections and, though I think the basic storyline is terrific, the seeming variations on the same theme have become tiresome. However, there are some decent tales among these books, which brings us to Secret Invasion: X-Men [$14.99] by Mike Carey, Cary Nord, and M.A. Sepulveda.

This TP reprints the four-issue Secret Invasion: X-Men mini-series and a bonus Fantastic Four story by John Byrne. The former would have benefitted from "what has gone before" and "cast of characters" pages. I didn't recognize several of the X-Men and Carey's script wasn't helpful in that regard.

The series is set in San Francisco. The Skrulls are expecting an easy conquest, not knowing the X-Men - lots of them - are also on the West Coast. The action is fast and furious, the Skrulls are scarily ruthless, and the most riveting sequence of the story comes when Hank McCoy and Scott Summers must make a decision not unlike U.S. President Harry S. Truman made when he ordered atomic bombs to be dropped on Japan. There are also good moments in the series for Nightcrawler and Emma Frost.

The John Byrne tale is from Fantastic Four #250 and its appearance here as "a classic story of Skrull deception" negates the surprise value of the tale as it originally ran. Still, it's an entertaining yarn with guest appearances by Captain America and Spider-Man.

Secret Invasion: X-Men earns a perfectly respectable three out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

Starman Omnibus 2

If you fear you might be subjected to a glowing review every time DC publishes a new volume of The Starman Omnibus, then I confess your fear is justified. Volume Two [$49.95] is a further justification of my position that Starman by James Robinson, Tony Harris, and Wade Von Grawbadger was the best super-hero series of the 1990s, as well as being one of the best comics series of that decade. Period.

This one collects Starman #17-29, Starman Annual #1, and related tales from Showcase '95 and Showcase '96. It also contains an introduction by Harris and a selection of additional photo and text features.

The stories? There are adventures with the legendary O'Dare family, the Shade, and the Golden Age Sandman. There are flashbacks and flash-forwards. There's the moment when we learned the new Mist had done something so...evil...I literally gasped when I first read that issue over a decade ago. There's a Christmas story so good that I would rank it with the Carl Barks masterpiece, "A Christmas For Shacktown."

Here's the deal. Just like the first, The Starman Omnibus Volume Two earns six out of five Tonys. I expect every volume will earn six out of five Tonys. Some comic books are so good they transcend math.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Invincible Ultimate Collection 3

Another repeat customer. Invincible Ultimate Collection Vol. 3 [Image; $34.99] reprints issues #25-35 of the ongoing title, an issue of The Pact guest-starring Invincible, and bonus features. I'm enjoying this series a great deal.

Written by Robert Kirkman, Invincible is a young hero whose father was the world's greatest hero until Invincible and the rest of the world learned Dad was actually the vanguard of a conquering race of evil bastards. This collection starts with an unexpected father-and-son reunion that reveals Dad to be something other than 100% no good. By the time, we get to the end of the volume, there have been battles in space, on Earth, and in other times...and lots of other heroes and villains thrown into the mix. In a sense, reading Invincible is like following an entire super-hero universe that's been compressed into one title. It's a pretty good substitute for readers who like super-hero comic books, but who do not want to read dozens of comics every month to get anything near a complete story.

Invincible isn't perfect. I'd recommend Kirkman add a glossary of characters to the collections because he doesn't always do the best job introducing those characters. Still, these are good stories with good art by Ryan Ottley and the afore-mentioned nice selection of bonus features. It's a spiffy package.

Invincible Ultimate Collection Vol. 3 gives excellent bang for the bucks. I give it five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony



In yesterday's TOT, I reprinted my CBG comments about recent changes to Diamond's Previews catalog. The comments brought this response from Jay Bardyla, the owner of Canada's HAPPY HARBOR COMICS. He wrote:
As so many others, I really enjoy your reviews in the Buyer's Guide. As a retailer, read - the guy behind the counter who HAS to read everything but clearly does not have time for it, it's extremely helpful to have your well thought out and full reviews so I can pass along those insights to others.

But why I'm writing, other than to bestow long overdue thanks, is to comment on remarks you made about the new Diamond plateaus and the size of the current catalogue. If I recall, you used an example of where the CGB used to "rank" last month, code number wise, and where it "ranks" this month.

I'm of the opinion Diamond raising their bar will actually benefit the industry by virtually forcing smaller press publishers to look for other distributors, making those distributors viable alternatives, and forcing comics creators to produce higher quality material to keep their sales strong and maintain their spot in the catalogue. Yes, I know no one deliberately makes lackluster comics but somehow...

In any case, the great reduction in code numbers in Previews is actually a combination of the new plateaus and something else; Diamond's Final Order CutOff date. With those, retailer order discounts are no longer solely based on initial monthly orders but averaged orders over a several month period. With that, retailers can reorder trades anytime and those orders will count towards achieving our discount plateaus, not just the initial monthly orders as it used to be. With there being less of a need to place a massive initial order, there's little reason for "the Big 4", who now all use an FOC, to list their entire backlist every month and, hence, fewer code numbers in the order book.

I hope that makes some sense. If not, I can try again. Keep up the great reviews.
Thanks for the enlightenment, Jay.

It should also be noted that Happy Harbor Comics won the 2007 Shuster Award for being Canada's best comic-book store and was also a 2008 Eisner finalist in the category of "Global Retailer of the Year." Our friend Jay is clearly doing something right.

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.

Please send material you would like me to review to:

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