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for Friday, September 11, 2009

Sub-Mariner 70th

I'm trying to extend my enjoyment of Marvel's 70th anniversary by reading just one issue per day, but I felt my resolve weakening as I read Sub-Mariner Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1 [$3.99]. If it were a potato chip, it would be the kind of which no mere mortal could eat just one.

Cover artist Mitch Breitweiser got the issue rolling with an image evocative of the most exciting pulp magazine covers. It's as powerful and realistic a shot of Namor as I've ever seen.

Roy Thomas' untitled 22-page lead story stars a Sub-Mariner who hasn't quite figured out the profound differences between the Americans and the Nazis. The former may be flawed, but the latter were pure evil. This Namor is frightening and wonderfully alien, as befits a protagonist who is not entirely human. Taking cues from creator Bill Everett's first Sub-Mariner story - reprinted at the end of this issue - Thomas gives us a transformative moment in the life of Namor...not to mention a fierce Nazi submarine and a sexy Nazi temptress. With art and colors by Breitweiser, this is one of the best Sub-Mariner adventures of the modern age.

That's a followed by a second new story: "Vergeltungswaffe" by Mark Schultz (story) and Al Williamson (art). It's another early Namor story, set earlier than the lead, in fact, and has everything that makes for a great World War II-era Sub-Mariner tale. A Namor angry at those arrogant humans, a beautiful human heroine, gorgeous art, and, of course, Nazis, Nazis, Nazis.

With two fine new stories and the classic debut of this most legendary comics character, Sub-Mariner Comics 70th Anniversary Special earns the full five out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Fallen Justice

The super-hero has a powerful hold on our imaginations. Which is why, despite the seemingly endless number of super-heroes published by industry leaders Marvel and DC, the genre continues to hold an attraction for writers. In recent years, we have seen such gems as Thom Zahler's Love and Capes, Kurt Busiek's Astro City, Robert Kirkman's Invincible, and Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson's The Boys. I fully except to see other exceptional super-hero titles in the years to come and, alongside them, many less-than-exceptional super-hero titles that attempt to join their hallowed ranks.

Fallen Justice [Red Handed Studios; $3.50 per issue] is such an attempt. While its three issues don't succeed in reaching the heights of those series mentioned above, it's an honest, if flawed, effort to do something different with the genre. To quote from the first issue's intro, the title "is about what happens when the most powerful and respected hero on the planet finds out he has three months to live."

The hero is Justice Theta, about as cumbersome a super-hero name as I've seen. While writers Cary Kelley and Steven Forbes do a terrific job portraying the shocking effects of what's killing the hero, they are less successful with their other characters. In that regard, they do best with Theta's doctor and former girlfriend and his current also-a-super-hero girlfriend. The villains and the other heroes? Their characterizations and dialogue fall flat. To the credit of the writing, the story itself does move well through these issues and does make me want to read what happens next.

Artist Harold Edge does a decent job with the storytelling, but the actual drawing is kind of sort of lumpy. It doesn't convey a sense of reality or convey its own reality. The sometimes overpowering coloring doesn't help it at all.

The bottom line? If you like super-heroes but don't like the big event dominance of Marvel and DC, Fallen Justice should be more to your liking. You get 22 full-color pages of story for your money, which makes it a decent buy in this market. The three issues earn a perfectly respectable three out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

For ordering information on this and other Red Handed comic books, visit the company website at:

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with the usual mix of news, views, and reviews.

Tony Isabella

<< 09/10/2009 | 09/11/2009 | 09/14/2009 >>

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.

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