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

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for Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Serial Squad

Movies inspired the remaining comic books I got at this year's Mid-Ohio-Con, but I find more common ground with Paul E. Schultz's Serial Squad heroes than I do with the desperately sexy adventurers found in the titles written by Nik Havert.

The Serial Squad! [Bad Place Productions; $5.95] has a high concept to die for. In this 52-page, black-and-white special, set during World War II, the President recruits a bunch of second-tier serial actors to go on a secret mission, complete with devices that allow them to emulate their big-screen prowess. In a further bit of brilliance, it turns out the Martians of H.G. Wells actually did invade our planet, albeit during the Dark Ages. The Nazis have found the ancient Martian technology and plan to use it against the Allies. I absolutely love this premise.

Schultz's heroes - and heroine - are a likeable bunch. They aren't all the most willing participants in this mission and some of them aren't really up to the task before them. Some are gung-ho warriors and some are reluctant conscripts. Some prove amazingly adept at real-life heroics; some don't. The result is a thriller of a tale that left me wanting more.

Schultz writes and draws the 50-page debut story. His writing and especially his art could be described as minimalist. Despite that, his characters are completely realized and his storytelling is pretty good. There are places where the latter could have been clearer, but, overall, it's a fine effort.

The lead tale is followed by a heavily illustrated text piece on the creation of this comic book and its heroes. It's a terrific bonus that added to my delight with this issue, as did the gorgeous "jungle queen" back cover illustration by Jay Fife.

The Serial Squad! earns an impressive four out of five Tonys. Schultz followed it with...

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Serial Squad 1

The Serial Squad! #1 [$3.99], the first issue of a new ongoing series. This one has some new heroes, the revelation of a Serial Squad that came before this current squad, and a mysterious land inside the world. Bonus features include a text page on the making of this issue, the first chapter of a prose story featuring the Silver Scorpion, and another great back cover illustration by Fife. The ongoing series may take some time finding its rhythms, but this first issue still earns a perfectly respectable three out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

Code Red

Though I've praised Nik Havert's writing in the past, I've less affinity for Code Red #1 [Pickle Press; $5] than his earlier work. This black-and-white comic features real-life wrestler April Hunter - as real as anyone could consider the laughable thing that is professional wrestling - as a hitman who kills really bad guys while incessantly threatening to kick her handler in the junk. The line wasn't particularly amusing the first time she said it, so you can imagine how well it played the next four times she used it or some variant of it in this 18-page story.

The comic never rises above its mediocre heroine or premise. The Monty Borror art is inconsistent. Too many head shots and not enough motion to the action sequences. Too few backgrounds and too many allegedly sexy scenes of Code Red getting a message, thrusting her breasts forward, and even pleasuring herself.

The story is followed by several pages of April Hunter photos and a Borror pin-up of the lady. They didn't do much for me and, when I got to the ad for Hunter's website - with its selling points of "explicit nudes, wrestling, girl/girl, foot lovers" and such - my reaction was that it's a shame Havert is wasting his talent with the likes of this comic book.

Code Red #1 gets no Tonys.

No Tonys


Havert's Jasmine #1 [$3] is a better comic book on all fronts. Alex Del Monacoo translates more smoothly into the title's heroine - a beautiful cat goddess - than Hunter did into Code Red. The plot, which involves an ancient cult and a human sacrifice, is not terribly original, but it's serviceable. The writing is much better than in the Hunter book and the black-and-white art by Arif Gunawan more so. Okay, there is a panel of the reclining heroine in which she looks two feet shorter, but, generally, the drawing and storytelling are pretty good. There's a lesbian love scene that screams, "Hey, boys, look at this!" but there's also some decent build up to the moment.

I do question the photo cover of the issue, mainly because the black-and-white pose looks awkward and the logo/title of the series doesn't stand out or give any indication that this is more than a stroke book. The full-color back cover drawing of the character is equally awkward, but, by showing Jasmine in mid-transformation, it gives a better idea of the comic's content. Even in these days of convention and online sales, small publishers need to work harder on their covers. First impressions.

Jasmine earns three out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more Mid-Ohio-Con reviews.

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.

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