With so many review items coming to Casa Isabella each month, it's impossible for me to keep current on all the comics titles and comics writers I enjoy most. So I'm particularly appreciative when I get a big chunk of a favorite scribe's work.
Tom Strong: The Deluxe Edition Book One [America's Best Comics; $39.99] by Alan Moore and Chris Sprouse collects the first 12 issues of the "science hero" whose adventures are kin to those of Doc Savage, Superman, and other colorful heroes of comic books and pulp magazines. Besides Sprouse and inker Al Gordon, the book also has stories drawn by Arthur Adams, Jerry Ordway, Dave Gibbons, Gary Frank/Cam Smith, Alan Weiss, Paul Chadwick, and Gary Gianni. I'd say that qualifies as an all-star roster.
Tom Strong is a celebration of heroism and imagination. While comics and pulp readers will recognize beats from any number of sources, Moore's scripts have a funky fun freshness even when he is inspired by his own favorites. Strong's supporting cast - wife, daughter, intelligent ape, sentient mechanical man - are every bit as interesting as he is while his foes are equal parts deadly evil and wildly wacky. These delightful stories will bring smiles to their readers, especially those weary of the darkness which holds sway over the usual DC and Marvel fare.
Tom Strong: The Deluxe Edition Book One is not another Moore masterpiece, though he has written many of those. But it's a most entertaining tome delivering considerable bang even for its hefty price tag. It earns four out of five Tonys.
Wataru Mizukami's Four-Eyed Prince [Del Rey; $10.99] is one of those "contentious relationship" tales we see so frequently in manga, particularly of the shojo variety. Sachiko is in love with Akihiko, a classmate who says he has no interest in her. Her heart takes a further hit when her mother marries Akihiko's father. Yep, the object of Sachiko's desire is now her brother, at least by law. Ick.
A more interesting element is that, when Akihiko removes his glasses, his personality changes from cold, quiet student to cool, smoking hot ladies' man. Except that the dual personalities angle is pretty much dispensed with before the end of this first volume and what remains is a guy who, in either personality, is somewhat abusive to his new sibling. Ick again.
On the plus side, Mizukami's visual storytelling is actually nicely straightforward and his drawings are very attractive. The English language translation/adaptation by Jamie Jacobs is smooth, making the book an easy read.
This first volume contains a done-in-one bonus story ("Mean Boy") about yet another somewhat abusive boyfriend and some author pages treating glasses in a fetishistic manner. As weird Japanese obsessions go, that one is pretty mild.
Kudos to the cast of Bones and especially writer Bob Harris for "The Proof in the Pudding," which aired on January 21. The episode found Temperance Brennan [Emily Deschanel] and her crew locked in their lab by secretive government agents and ordered to examine a mysterious skeleton. Viewers were treated to some major fighting moves by FBI agent Seeley Booth [David Boreanaz] as well as major insight into what drives him. The episode also had swell character moments for the rest of the cast.
I give three cheers and a tiger to Brian Howe for his role as a disgraced former cop turned private detective in the January 17 episode of Cold Case. In "The Runaway Bunny," we not only got Howe's great performance as a fallen man determined to do the right thing, but an equally fine turn by Jane Daly, the woman who hired him to find her missing stepdaughter in 1974.
Criminal Minds has pulled out the stops this season as the show about FBI profilers features the creepiest serial killers on television. It's scary good fun.
The UK series Demons only ran six episodes. I've seen most of them on BBC America. While this male drag version of our beloved Buffy the Vampire Slayer wasn't a great show, it was fun. I think I'd watch anything starring Philip Glenister...even when he's doing a less-than-convincing American accent. Whatever other flaws the series might have had, it's "Who's Cooking Monsters in the Kitchen?" theme song was infectiously jolly.
More "TV Talk" to come.
While most readers contact me through my e-mail address, I do receive the occasional letter via my land-bound mailbox. This one is from Martin Hirchak...
Happy New Year! I just finished reading your column in CBG #1663. I enjoy and appreciate your well-written reviews.
I've always been a huge horror/sci-fi fan and your comments on Stan Lee's writing for Menace are right on. You said Lee is surpassed only by the period ECs (1953-54) and I concur. The ECs were awesome, definitely wordy, but entertaining for sure. I have met Al Feldstein several times and he's a very sharp-minded person. He and William Gaines turned out hundreds of plot springboards and stories. The EC history is very interesting.
Your Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1 review was also well-written. I've been a devoted fan of Ditko's work for 40 years. I'm sure you would enjoy Rob Imes' fanzine, Ditkomania. It is a very well-done effort with outstanding contributors.
I'm planning to attend the Gem City Comic Con in Dayton, Ohio, in April. The event is sponsored by Bill at the Fearless Readers comics store. Perhaps we will have a moment to talk about comics if you attend.
Again, I enjoy your writing. Have a great year!
The Comics Buyer's Guide issue to which Martin refers is the current issue of the magazine. TOT readers will be able to read my Menace and Strange Suspense reviews online in about a month.
I subscribe to Ditkomania and, like Martin, I love it. Okay, it sticks in my craw when the occasional contributor uses the pro-Ditko nature of the zine as an excuse to churlishly attack my friend and mentor Stan Lee, but I've seen far worse behavior from online commentators. Anyway, you can get a six-issue subscription to the zine by sending $15 to Rob. For ordering information, write the esteemed Imes at:
Unfortunately, at this time, I have no plans to attend the Gem City Comic-Con. If that changes, I'll let you know.
My 2010 show schedule is practically non-existent. I can only attend events that pay my expenses and, depending on the nature of the event, provide me with table space to sell 1000 Comic Books You Must Read and other things. Interested event promoters can contact me at:
Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
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: