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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 9, 2009

Secret Invasion Hercules

Secret Invasion: Incredible Hercules [Marvel; $14.99] collects stories originally published in Incredible Hercules #116-120. Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente are the writers; art by Rafa Sandoval (pencils), Roger Bonet, and Greg Adams (inks).

The Skrulls saw their invasion of Earth as a holy crusade, so, in a Marvel Universe where gods are more or less real, it makes some sense for Hercules and a ragtag band of homegrown deities to take the war to the Skrull gods. It's an intriguing concept, but never quite overcomes its second-string cast - Herc, Snowbird, and Amadeus Cho are the only interesting players - and its considerable distance from human concerns. Even Cho, one of the best new Marvel characters in recent years, seems out of place here. Despite good writing and art, this arc never came together for me. So it earns a disappointing two out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony

Secret Invasion X-Factor

Even less entertaining is X-Factor: Secret Invasion [$19.99] by Peter David with art by four pencilers and four inkers. It has the stories from X-Factor #33-38 and She-Hulk #31, some of which were in She-Hulk's SI trade paperback.

I was a fan of this current X-Factor series when it launched a few years back. Then I got busy with projects and drifted away from the book. I returned for Secret Invasion and, alas, found the magic was utterly gone.

I don't like any of the characters anymore. They are either full of themselves or full of secrets. Most seem to be pursuing their own agendas. The team was probably always dysfunctional, but, back then, that didn't seem to stand in the way of their getting things done and looking out for each other.

Let me put it in TV terms. I never watched Seinfeld for more than minutes at a time because every character on the show was a horrible person. They were the kind of people I would avoid at parties and whose calls I'd never take or return. If they were knocking at my door, I'd pretend I wasn't home.

Not all the X-Factor characters aren't quite that horrible, but enough are so unpleasant that, much as I usually like David's work, I can't bear to be around them. Especially when their comics are as badly drawn as the ones in this collection.

X-Factor: Secret Invasion earns no Tonys.

No Tonys



Before I settled on the choices for this week's 1980s version of "They're Not Dead Yet! Comics Idol, I asked TOT readers for their suggestion.

Brian G. Philbin sent this note:
I just wanted to throw a name in the ring for 1980s writers. Not sure if he qualifies, but John Byrne on Fantastic Four or Alpha Flight would be my choice, as those are considered his "signature titles."

Even having him back on Superman would be a treat. While I truly enjoy what has been done by Geoff Johns lately, and, while I was a dyed-in-the-wool Curt Swan/Dennis O'Neil/Elliot S! Maggin/Cary Bates-era Superman fan, it was Byrne who brought me back to Big Blue after years of my walked by the Superman titles. I really enjoyed Byrne's take. This was a Superman I could really get on board with and I enjoyed being able to continue to see Curt Swan rendering so many of the Superman specials and mini-series during that time. After Byrne left, I could only see Swan's art on Atari Force or other titles in which I was disinterested. I miss his work.

At any rate, thanks for indulging my walk down memory lane. John Byrne brought me back to comics in general and into the Marvel Universe for the first time with his work on Fantastic Four. I discovered Byrne's X-Men work some time after first learning of his Fantastic Four run and believe he is truly underappreciated these days.

I've regularly conversed with Mr. Byrne online over the past 14 years and while some claim he's just a crotchety old guy, I submit I've always found him polite and well-spoken with well-considered ideas. Much like yourself. And he might very well have spoken frankly about some of his past dealings with the big two, but I truly appreciate such frankness from both he and yourself in that regard.

We've met on a couple of occasions in San Diego and while you wouldn't have any reason to remember me, I remain a tremendous fan of your work on your creation, Black Lightning, and appreciate your having shared your script with us fans back in the mid90s still have it!

My congratulations to you and Sainted Wife on your anniversary and thanks for your Tips columns both here and in Comics Buyer's Guide, You're part of the reason I'm a 19-year subscriber to the magazine.

Pax, harmonia.
Thanks for your note, Brian.

The first round of our 1980s "They're Not Dead yet!" Comics Idol competition is active. You and other readers can vote by going to:

The ten writers who get the most votes will be semi-finalists in next week's round.

Thanks to all 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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