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

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for Monday, November 2, 2009

Batman Barcelona 1

Batman is one of my favorite comic-book character, which makes the shortage of good Batman comic books that much more depressing to me. It comes down to a difference of opinion between DC Comics and myself. They think Bats is insane; I think they are, at least when it comes to portraying the Caped Crusader as a nigh-psychotic vigilante. He's not obsessed, he's dedicated his life to doing all he can to prevent other innocents from suffering as he did when his parents were murdered. I'll take heroic over deranged every day of the week.

Mark Waid's Batman in Barcelona: Dragon's Knight one-shot [DC; $3.99] is my kind of Batman. Created for international release, the 38-page thriller is a retelling of the Spanish legend of St. George and the Dragon with Batman and Killer Croc taking on the lead roles. Waid's Batman is capable without sacrificing his humanity and even prone to a rare mistake, such as when he forgets momentarily that the Spanish cops might not know who he is and see him as just as much a menace as Croc. His Bruce Wayne is a real person and not just a mask for the Batman. His Croc is as scary as we've ever seen him. Maybe more so.

The Batman/Croc battle is played out amidst the breathtaking background of Barcelona. Artist Diego Olmos, a native of the area, is a masterful storyteller who made this American reader feel as if he were in Spain. The lovely coloring of Marta Martinez is easily the best I've seen this year. This is an exciting, gorgeous comic book and should be an Eisner/Harvey contender.

Batman in Barcelona: Dragon's Knight earns the full five out of five Tonys. Waid is a comics treasure.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Love and Capes 10

Thom Zahler's Love and Capes is my favorite super-hero comic, even when it breaks from its own proud tradition as it did with its tenth issue [Maerkle Press; $3.95]. Love and Capes is the story, the romance of Abby and Mark. She owns a bookstore, he's a mild-mannered accountant. He's also the Crusader, the mightiest super-hero on Earth.

Love and Capes has always been more sitcom than super-hero, a witty effort drawn in a bright, welcoming style. But, in this tenth issue, with Mark having proposed to Abby and her having said "Yes," she begins to wonder what his super-heroic life is like and if there's some way for her to experience it, the better to understand the man she is to marry. It turns out there is a way and, before long, Abby is flying the super-hero skies and trying her best to live up to that great responsibility.

Plot-wise, that's all you get from me. My good friend Zahler has, in this issue, crafted the best super-hero story of the year and one of the best super-hero stories ever. It is thoughtful and moving in a way too few super-hero comic books are in these days of endless crisis and misery as a marketing tool. It deserves every award our industry has to offer.

Love and Capes #10 earns the exceedingly rare six out of five Tonys. I refuse to be bound by your earthly math.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony



Herbie 1

Appearing monthly in Comics Buyer's Guide "Tony's Back Page" has switched from sterling tales of my life and comics career to extended coverage of comic books from my new book, 1000 Comic Books You Must Read.

Herbie #1

Writer: Richard E. Hughes

Artist: Ogden Whitney

American Comics Group (April-May 1964; © 1964, Best Syndicated Features Inc.)

Hughes' hilarious masterpiece. Herbie Popnecker, armed with magical lollipops, was Earth's greatest hero, but his clueless dad thought of him as a "little fat nothing." Both legendary and real-life figures often appeared in Herbie's adventures. In this first issue alone, there were appearances of then-President Lyndon Baines Johnson, First Lady Ladybird Johnson, Nikita Khrushchev, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, King Arthur, Merlin, Sir Lancelot, Guinevere, Jimmy Durante, Sonny Liston, Fidel Castro, and Satan. It was a given of the series that women from all times and places found young Popnecker irresistible.

Following Herbie's appearances in ACG anthologies Forbidden Worlds and Unknown Worlds, his own title ran 23 issues from April-May 1964 to February 1967. Dark Horse Comics has reprinted these hilarious stories in a trio of handsome hardcover editions.

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back Thursday with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 10/30/2009 | 11/02/2009 | 11/05/2009 >>

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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