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

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for Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Black Panther

I have often decried DC's and Marvel's overuse of the company-wide "event." That said, I've also said, nearly as often, that the Marvel events are generally far more interesting than those found at their Distinguished Competition.

Black Panther #1-8 [mostly $2.99 each] make that case for me. In a world where Norman Osborn is America's "top cop" and has formed a clandestine alliance with some of the world's most deadly and powerful individuals, even the Panther's invincible Wakanda is threatened as never before. Compared to what's facing Wakanda now, the Skrull Invasion was Granada.

Doctor Doom treacherously attacks the Panther and the vicious assault leaves T'Challa on the brink of death. Other enemies try to take advantage of Wakanda's moment of crisis. With a new Black Panther trying to live up to her new responsibilities, Storm must risk all to save her husband. Menace is layered on menace in a run every bit as exciting as writer Reginald Hudlin's earlier work on the title. These are great comic books.

Hudlin has made Wakanda the most vividly realized place in the Marvel Universe in its culture, geography, and people. If it were real, there's no place on Earth I'd rather visit. In these current issues, Hudlin and new writer Jonathan Maberry have had me stunned at moments of tragedy and cheering at moments of victory over the most insurmountable odds. I can't wait to see what happens next in this title.

With terrific art by Ken Lashley, Paul Neary, and Will Conrad, and equally exemplary coloring by Paul Mounts and Peter Pantazis, Black Panther #1-8 earn the full five out of five Tonys. Just as impressive, they convinced me to read the rest of Marvel's "Dark Reign" comic books. Hooked again.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Shipping later this month, Black Panther: The Deadliest Of The Species reprints the first six issues of the above in a hardcover book at the very reasonable price of $19.99. It'll look great on your bookshelf or in your local library.

ISBN 9780-785-13976-8

Vietnam War

Former comics editor and writer Dwight Jon Zimmerman is also a renowned writer on military topics. He was co-executive producer of the Discovery Channel's mini-series "First Command," based on his book on American generals. The Book of War won him the gold medal for reference books from the Military Writers Society of America. Now he's returned to comics with The Vietnam War: A Graphic History [Hill and Wang; $19.95].

Drawn by Wayne Vansant, The Vietnam War is a compact history that packs its 138 pages with an overall chronicle of the conflict and smaller personal stories. The tale of a two-boat patrol, led by Boatswain's Mate First Class James E. Williams, running a wild gauntlet through an enemy that outnumbers them to an absurd degree is as thrilling an adventure as I've read.

Zimmerman delivers a remarkably balanced look at the war while Vansant provides rugged visuals to bring the events home. My only minor quibble with their presentation stems from my belief that no history of the Vietnam War is truly complete without ample coverage of its mental and moral cost on our country, a cost that continues to be paid decades later. We do get some of this in the book, but not enough of it.

My minor quibble doesn't prevent The Vietnam War: A Graphic History from earning the full five Tonys. This hardcover book is a must-have for military history buffs, fans of war comics, and any other comics afficionado interested in the many ways the comics art form can present information to readers.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

ISBN 9780-809-09495-0

Hero Tomorrow

A couple years back, I reviewed a Cleveland-based independent film name of Hero Tomorrow. Here's what I wrote:

"This indy film belies its low budget as it tells its engaging tale of a comicbook creator getting too close to his creation and the spiraling impact this has on his life and the lives of those around him. I've seen the movie a couple times now and I'm always impressed by how good it looks. The story is solid, the comics related stuff rings true, the acting is never less than good and often superb. The direction and cinematography hold the film together very well. The surprises - character and plot revelations - are surprising, but they never come out of nowhere.

"Perren Henderson's portrayal of the struggling comics creator David is excellent, revealing the character's passion and problems. David's creation is actually a pretty good superhero; I could see an ongoing Apama comic. With a hero inspired by Native American culture, such a series could have a nice "urban animal" feel to it. I'd be interested in reading it.

"Jocelyn Wrzosek is the cast's standout performer. As Robyn, David's girlfriend, she pushes darn near every emotional button you can imagine. She's got what it takes to be a genuine comics fandom heartthrob. Other exceptional performances include Shelley Delaney as Robyn's mom, and Ray McNiece as the owner of the Hero Tomorrow comicbook shop. In fact, my favorite scene in the movie, running during the end credits, is a hilarious vignette between McNiece and a sharptalking Texan with rare comic books to sell.

"Note should also be made of the many comics creators who made their characters and comics available to co-writer/director Ted Sikora and cowriter/coproducer Milo Miller. Fans will delight in mentions of Kurt Busiek's Astro City, The Frankenstein Mobster, Hip Flask, El Mucho Grande, and others. Full disclosure demands I mention that I get a "thanks" in the endcredits, though all I did was let comics people know Ted and Milo needed help and have the good sense to turn down Ted's offer to cast me in the movie."

When I reviewed this movie, it was not available on DVD. I'm pleased to report that's no longer the case. You can now order the Hero Tomorrow DVD [$19.95] online at:

Besides the brand-new final version of the film with a great new musical score, the DVD also contains a bunch of bonus features. There's over four hours of material there. You can build an entire "films for fans" movie night around Hero Tomorrow.

When I first reviewed this movie, it got an impressive four Tonys. In this new and improved DVD, it makes it all the way up to the full five out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony



These reviews originally appeared in the "Tony's Tips" column from Comics Buyer's Guide #1662 [February 2010].

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with mostly new stuff.

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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Medina, OH 44256

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