From my pal Anthony Tollin's Sanctum Books, The Whisperer #1: "The Dead Who Talked" & "The Red Hatchets" [$12.95] is the latest in his ongoing pulp reprints series that include The Shadow, Doc Savage, and The Avenger. The Whisperer is Police Commissioner James Gordon, who had the name before Batman creators Bill Finger and Bob Kane "borrowed" it for their feature. But that's only one of many oddities to be found in these stories.
The Whisperer is a product of the 1930s, battling crime with tactics that are in themselves criminal. As the Whisperer, Gordon is a mysterious figure believed to be on the side of lawlessness. As Gordon, well, he's not all that different. For every criminal the Whisperer dispatches, Gordon matches him. In his spare time, he punches out his deputy commissioner, the political appointee of the city's ineffective mayor. Gordon keeps his job because other powerful politicians back him.
While the stories, written by Laurence Donovan under the house name of "Clifford Goodrich," are nowhere near as good as those to be found in Tollin's other reprints, they have an energy to them. Oh, there are too many instances of smart people doing dumb things to put themselves in jeopardy and, in like manner, too many times when dumb luck is all that saves Gordon's ass, but the stories are fun despite that. Additionally, Gordon is rather short for a pulp hero and that - big surprise - appeals to me.
As always, Tollin and consulting editor Will Murray fill this book with special features. Besides their historical essays, there is a Whisperer short story by Alan Hathaway and "Norgil - Magician" by Walter B. Gibson. That's good entertainment bang for your hard-earned bucks, my friends.
The Whisperer doesn't rank with icons like Doc Savage or The Shadow, but I got a kick out of him. His first volume earns four out of five Tonys.
Nominated for an Eisner Award in the category of "Best U.S. Edition of International Material - Japan," Jiro Taniguchi's The Quest For The Missing Girl [Fanfare/Ponent Mon; $25] is a truly engaging human drama wrapped in a police procedural, this despite the fact that its protagonist is not a detective. Shinga is a mountaineer. He comes to the big city in search of his missing niece Megumi. To rescue the rebellious girl, he must scale the treacherous peaks of secretive teenagers, official disinterest, and commanding power and wealth. This is a page-turner.
Shinga is a richly layered character. He blames himself for not accompanying his friend on the climb that claimed the friend's life, questioning if his action was based on his unspoken love for his friend's wife. He is honor-bound to keep a promise he made to a much younger Megumi that he would always help her if she was in trouble. He doggedly pursues his search in a manner that would do Ed McBain's detectives of the 87th Precinct proud, taking more than a few lumps along the way. He is willing to risk all to keep his promise and atone for his past failure.
Taniguchi tells this story in a straightforward manner, but he combines the action and suspense with moments of beauty and poetry. The thrilling climax pits Shinga's mountaineering skills against a seemingly insurmountable challenge. When Hollywood invaded Comic-Con in search of the ideas it lacks, I hope someone with very deep pockets took a good look at this manga. It would make an exciting movie with great roles for actors of Asian descent.
From Fanfare/Ponent Mon, my mommy is in America and she met Buffalo Bill by Jean Regnaud & Emile Bravo [$25] is a charming and often heartbreaking tale of five-year-old Jean who lives with the emptiness of an absent mother. He can't deal with the pain and he can't really process it, so he makes up wild stories of what his mother does, where she goes, and the marvelous adventures she has in the magical land of America.
Drawing on his own childhood sorrows, Regnaud makes the reader as acutely aware of Jean's loss as is he himself. That he can find and bring humor to that dear child's life is remarkable and wards off what would otherwise be unbearably sad. Bravo's sensitive and puckish drawing, as well as his sure-handed storytelling, are both perfect fits for this outstanding graphic novel.
I'll be astonished if my mommy isn't a contender in the next round of Eisners and Harveys. This handsome hardcover graphic novel earns the full five out of five Tonys.
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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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