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

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for Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tokyo Vice

Author Jake Adelstein's appearance on "The Daily Show" sparked my interest in his new book, Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan [Pantheon Books; $26]. It's got cops, reporters, and Japan, all subjects which have fascinated me most of my adult life. My local library system came through with a copy in its usual speedy fashion.

Adelstein was a reporter for the Yomiuri Shinban from 1993 to 2005. His accounts of the staggering intricacies and wild oddities of working for Japan's largest newspaper had me rolling my eyes in disbelief. Like so many things in Japanese society, their journalism is both weird and wondrous. But Adelstein's stories get deadly serious when he beings writing on organized crime in Japan, earning the wrath of a yakuza boss.

Let's see if I can hit some of the book's high points without giving too much away...

There is a formality to how the police deal with the press and the yakuza that doesn't generally serve the public well. On the other hand, there are cops and reporters who pursue criminals and stories with a determination that inspires awe.

The Japanese sex industry is a nightmare, especially for the foreign women who often unwillingly work in it. Showing illegal sex acts in a magazine or a movie can carry harsher penalties than actually doing said acts. Many policemen and prosecutors assign a shockingly low priority to crimes committed against these foreign sex workers. It is ingrained misogyny and racism in the guise of expediency and policy.

Nor does Adelstein gloss over his own moral lapses in pursuit of stories. Without making himself either a hero or a victim, he comes across as a somewhat tarnished noir knight. I could easily see this book as a movie.

It's Adelstein and the book's other real-life characters that make his stories so compelling. The police detective who mentors Jake and accepts him as a family friend. The woman reporter facing cruel sexism in the overwhelmingly male workplace. The courageous Australian hooker who enjoys her work but can't stand the thugs who prey on other foreign-born women. And the villain of the piece, a yakuza boss who cuts a deal with the FBI and gives millions of dollars to American institutions so he can come to our country and get a life-saving transplant ahead of more deserving American citizens. If this work of non-fiction were made into a film, there would be no shortage of great parts for its actors.

It's a heck of a book, this Tokyo Vice and it earns the full five out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

ISBN 978-0-307-37879-8



Konga's Revenge

In every issue of Comics Buyer's Guide, this featurette presents extended coverage of comic books that appeared in my book, 1000 Comic Books You Must Read.

Konga's Revenge #2

Cover artist: Steve Ditko Writer: Joe Gill (likely) Artist: Steve Ditko Charlton (Summer, 1963; © 1963 details not printed)

A special edition of the ongoing Konga title, this hilarious summer special saw the normally enormous ape "shrunk to the size of a human thumb." Ditko added to the humor by including visual gags in the backgrounds of several panels.

Earlier issues of Konga continued the giant ape's story from previous issues. For example, in issue #3, having survived the volcanic eruption that destroyed his temporary island home at the end of #2, Konga swam to another where he battled a sea monster and patched up the troubled marriage of his human co-stars.

While the Ditko-drawn issues are the most prized among comics collectors, the whole run of the title is good goofy fun. Gill's scripts portray Konga as a gentle, even gregarious creature except when he is angered by evil or thoughtless men. Bring your sense of humor and you'll have a great time with these comic books.



I watched a bunch of TV during my sick days, enjoying some of it and not enjoying some of it. Over the next few columns, I'll be writing about what I watched.

How can a TV series with actors as excellent as Mark Valley, Chi McBride, and Jackie Earle Harley, and based on a solid concept created by Len Wein and Carmine Infantino for DC Comics, be as bad as Human Target? It's the writing, stupid, or to be a touch more accurate, the stupid writing.

Christopher Chance (Valley) has a dark secret past, which the writers and directors have Valley express by looking terribly sad, speaking softly, acting unsure of himself. Sort of the opposite of the ultra-effective guy he's supposed to be. In the pilot episode, he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with his gun and forgot to reload it at a key moment.

In the premiere episode - and I'm not sure what the difference is, either - the writers had absolutely no clue how airplanes work. With most of the episode taking place on a passenger jet, that made for more stupidity. Then there's the sort of cool but also sort of odd that it's Earle's mysteriously scary character who performs more effectively than either Chance or Chance's handler. It's Earle's character who actually puts the major bad guys away in both episodes.

Human Target has two strikes. Since I watch too much TV anyway, you can guess what a third strike will mean. Unless, of course, someone connected with the show does something intelligent and hires Wein as a writer and story editor.

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

Tony Isabella

<< 01/26/2010 | 01/27/2010 | 01/28/2010 >>

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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.

Please send material you would like me to review to:

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Medina, OH 44256

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