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

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for Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Color of Earth

You know that tingle you get in the presence of a truly great work of the comics art form? I got that while reading The Color of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa [First Second; $16.95]. Ehwa is a young girl living with her widowed mother in a tiny village in early twentieth-century Korea. In this first of three volumes, we see her grow into a beautiful young woman and learn her first lessons about love. In parallel to Ehwa's growth, her still-young mother rediscovers love and passion with a handsome salesman who often stays at their inn. The women, as mother and daughter and as each other's dearest confidants, are among the most romantic heroines in comics, but their lives and their manner ring as true as the world around us.

In words and scenes and images that are poetic and vivid, Hwa lays Ehwa's life and loves before us and sweeps us into her world. That world and those who exist in it are fascinating. I couldn't put down this book and, on finishing it, I was anxious to read the subsequent volumes in the series. Even as we speak, The Color of Water and The Color of Heaven are on my reading shelf. You can expect reviews in the near future.

The Color of Earth earns a full five out of five Tonys. I'm ready to call it a strong contender for next year's comics awards. Read it and see why.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Chew 1

I squealed with delight reading Chew #1 [Image; $2.99] by John Layman with artist Rob Guillory. This new comic "stars" cibopathic detective Tony Cho, who gets psychic impressions from the food he eats and who, on one particularly violent day, learns he can use his disturbing power in his work.

In both its concept and execution, Chew is one of the strongest debuts I've seen in ages. Layman's script is dark and hilarious, accomplishing the latter without ever diminishing the seriousness of the crimes with which Cho must deal. Guillory's art clearly lean towards the humorous, but still gives the story an appropriately grim vibe.

If you're a comics fan reading this review, put aside CBG for however long it takes to run to your friendly neighborhood comics shop and buy however many issues of Chew it has in stock. If you're one of those Hollywood people who get the best rooms and tables at comics conventions, track down Layman and Guillory, give them a ton of money for the film rights, and have them write and design the killer movie you'll make from this wonderfully twisted comic. It could be the next Shaun of the Dead.

Chew #1 gets the full five Tonys. Why are you still sitting in your chair reading this review?

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Outlaw Territory

Also from Image, we have Outlaw Territory Volume 1 [$19.95], a 240-page anthology of grim and gritty western tales. White hats are pretty much absent from this book, but there's no shortage of excellent stories.

Editor Michael Woods gathered dozens of writers and artists for his anthology and, while not every one of the book's 30 stories is a winner, there are some awfully good yarns here. Mind if I make with the shout-out for a few of them?

Joe Kelly's "The Ballad of a Bad Man" - art by Max Fiumara - is the shocker that made it clear I was going to have to read every story in this anthology.

"The Most Civilized Establishment From Ocean to Ocean" has to be one of the most unusual westerns I've ever read. It's by James Patrick with artist Khoi Pham.

Both "Incident Over Thirty-Six Days in the Colorado Rockies" by Joshua Hale Failkov and Christie Tseng and "He Will Set Your Fields on Fire" by Chris Moreno would not have been out of place in the EC horror or adventure comics of the 1950s.

Other favorites include "Them What Comes" (mpMann), "The More Things Change" (Skipper Martin and Christopher Provencher), and "We Meet At Twelve" (by P.J. Kryfko and William Simpson). There are many other good stories as well, adding up to good value for your comics-buying dollars.

These days, good western comic books are few and far between. That's why Outlaw Territory Volume 1 gets an impressive four out of five Tonys. I'm looking forward to Volume 2.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Fire Investigator Nanase

I'm hooked on Fire Investigator Nanase [DC/CMX; $9.99 each] by Izo Hashimoto and Tomoshiga Ichikawa, a deliciously creepy series about a rookie firefighter who unknowing saved the serial arsonist who killed her parents and is being assisted or pursued or set up by him. Part of what makes this so intriguing is that we don't actually know what Firebug, the serial arsonist, has in store for the dedicated Nanase. Yes, he helps her catch other arsonists, but what will be the eventual price of that?

Nanase is a great heroine. She's dedicated to her work, but incredibly compassionate. Though she herself is in her 20s, she's raising a boy whose parents died. When the cases get personal, as when the son of a superior is accused of an arson murder, nothing will stop her from following the clues to the truth. She holds her own in a male workforce that often disparages her for her relative youth and inexperience. But she's as smart as any of them, smarter than most.

The stories in the two volumes so far have been edge-of-your seat scary. The storytelling is excellent, though, like in too many American and Japanese comics, the artist don't have a wide range of faces to...err...draw on to give their casts of characters enough diversity. But this is good stuff; I don't hesitate to recommend it to you.

Fire Investigator Nanase earns a respectable three out of five Tonys. The second volume was published in May; I hope the third is on its way soon.

Tony Tony Tony

That's all for now. 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

<< 09/21/2009 | 09/22/2009 | 09/23/2009 >>

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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