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

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for Thursday, July 2, 2009

This was written in late May.

I am one tired tipster this week, recovering from a wonderful trip to Philadelphia for the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention and gearing up for my next big household/writing project. Consider yourself teased.

While I'm not up to write a full-blown column today, I can sit and chat with you about one of my most favorite things in the world: my local library and the wonderful books and other items with which the library provides me.

When I started using the library more extensively, most of what I read were books I had seen reviewed in the local newspapers or by authors I had seen interviewed on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart or The Colbert Report. I have reviewed some of those books here and there.

The most recent such book I read was Unfriendly Fire: How The Gay Ban Undermines The Military And Weakens America by Dr. Nathaniel Frank. I can't recommend the book highly enough; in calm, factual, reasoned, and surgically precise commentary, it demolishes every reason for banning gays from service in our military. It should be required reading for President Obama and Congress.

Since late last year, I've been rereading the 87th Precinct novels of Ed McBain. This series of over fifty police procedurals "star" the detectives of the afore-mentioned precinct and is set in a city much like New York. The first book was Cop Hater (1956) with the last one - Fiddlers - being published after McBain's death in 2005. I own them all, but all but the most recent novels are buried deep in my storage unit. However, thanks to the library, I've been able to enjoy them again in chronological order. I just read Blood Relatives (1975) and am awaiting the arrival of the next in the series. None of these books is less than entertaining and many of them are among the best in the genre. If you're looking for a series you can enjoy for a long time, I most heartily recommend the 87th Precinct.

I have also been reading various comic-book series in trade paperback collections. Most notable among them is Keiji Nakazawa's Barefoot Gen, the artist's autobiographical story of life before and after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Eight of the ten volumes in this series have been published in English. I've read the first three and just received the fourth volume.

Garth Ennis is on my library reading list twice, represented by Preacher and The Boys. I didn't care for the former when it was first published, but it's grown on me. However, I still believe Ennis' gory violence and kinky sex was gratuitous. Oddly enough, there is more gory violence and kinky sex in The Boys, but there it works for me. Probably because it recalls the underground comix I read back in the day, albeit better written and drawn than many of those old favorites.

I probably own a complete run of Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris' Ex Machina, but the issues and trades are scattered through about as many boxes as there have been issues and trades. You know me. How could I resist a book that combines super-heroes and politics, especially one done by such skilled storytellers? After reading a review of the recent hardcover collection in my local paper, I started getting the trades through my library...and loving them a lot. I'm now current with the trades and trying to figure out how long it would take to find the subsequent issues so I could enjoy them as well.

Marvel sent me review copies of most of the Secret Invasion trades. The library has gotten or is getting the other ones for me. Even the repetitious nature of some of these books, it's been a terrific way to follow this huge storyline.

There are dozens of other series available through my local library system. That's just the ticket for enjoying comics without busting my comics-buying budget.

So what have you used your library for lately?

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

Tony Isabella

<< 07/01/2009 | 07/02/2009 | 07/03/2009 >>

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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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