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

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for Thursday, February 11, 2010

JSA 80-Page Giant #1

I love anthology comics. I love thick comic books and thicker collections of comic books. I especially love comics anthologies that present a variety of characters, genres, writers, and artists. That said, if a comic book like DC's Justice Society of America 80-Page Giant #1 [$5.99] meets me halfway, the odds are pretty good I'll praise it. Unfortunately, this comic book didn't meet me halfway. I shall explain.

Meeting me halfway means establishing the characters, giving me their names and telling me just a little bit about who they are. Some of the stories in this comic failed to do that. Particularly egregious is this way was Felicia D. Henderson's "Heart of Steel," which relied entirely on a traumatic past event for its impact and never explained that past event in sufficient detail for a new-to-the-JSA reader to understand or be truly moved by it.

With 80 pages available to editor Mike Carlin, he could have easily allocated a couple of them to a contents page that included a pictorial roster of the featured heroes with their names and one or two lines of background. Better yet, he could have insisted his writers perform the basic task of clearly and properly introducing characters and situations. Back in the day, that was lesson one. Is school really out forever?

Though most of the stories in this comic drown in continuity and pretentious psycho-babble, there were three stories I enjoyed. Writer/artist Jerry Ordway's "Mother Little Secret" is the issue's stand-out, delivering a concise and fulfilling "secret origin" for the new Wildcat. Kevin Grevioux's "Amazing Grace" could have used more clarity and pages, but it still managed to pique my interest in the current Amazing Man. And, were I French, I would kiss Jen Van Meter on both cheeks for Maxine Hunkle's delightful critique of Power Girl's costume. It was brilliant.

Of course, in typical DC Universe fashion, this entire 80-page comic ends with a mysterious "something is coming" sequence. Hey, for his or her six bucks, the reader deserves an actual ending and not an advertisement.

Justice Society of America 80-Page Giant #1 was more disappointing than entertaining. It's only because of the stories by Grevioux, Ordway, and Van Meter that it earns even a paltry two out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony

DC Universe Halloween Special

Low as that score is, it's still a full two Tonys more than I'm giving the DC Universe Halloween Special '09 #1 [$5.99]. With the exception of Billy Tucci's charming "To the Finish Line," the cutest race between Superman and the Flash ever, there isn't anything in this 80-page comic worth reading. Nothing but leaden stories featuring largely uninteresting characters that struck me as a nigh-criminal waste of the talents of some, but, by no means, all, of the artists cursed to draw them. After reading it, I felt like egging the DC offices and waxing their windows.

Michael Siglain's Outsiders story is not only the worst story in the awful issue, it may also be the worst Black Lighting story ever written. Virtually every line he attributes to my creation is just plain wrong.

The Owlman character briefing the team on the creatures they must face never tells Black Lightning that electricity makes said creatures stronger. And, if it weren't bad enough that Lightning is usually written as Batman's bitch, he's now being written as GeoForce's bitch.

Those are just my Black Lightning complaints. This is one dumb story, and it doesn't even have the courtesy to end cleanly. Nope, it concludes with what it clearly a set-up for some future story. Oh, goody.

Bizarro stars in the bookends of this special and writer Jake Black can't even get the most basic Bizarro characterization right, namely that they act and speak in an opposite manner from humans. On the last page of the issue, Bizarro calls the comic the "worst Halloween special ever." Since that statement is 100% correct, it was out of character for Bizarro.

As I said above, the DC Universe Halloween Special '09 earns no Tonys whatsoever. How do editors not notice when a comic book is this awful?

No Tonys



Here's another edition of the segment that allows me to fool myself into thinking the hours I spend watching TV isn't a complete waste of time. Fool me once...

Continuing our ongoing Human Target watch, "Sanctuary," the episode that aired on February 3, was the best episode to date. Chance (Mark Valley) and Winston (Chi McBride) did all the work for a change while the Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley) sub-plot actually showed us how dangerous he is, as opposed to just indicating this. The only sour note was the absurd sequence in which Sam Huntington, playing a reforming thief, instructs a small group of monks on the parallels between the Flash and Jesus Christ in DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths. When critics and writers talk about "killing your darlings," this is precisely the kind of scene they're talking about. But the show is improving.

I hate it when smart characters do dumb things to advance the plot or add suspense. The latest offender is "Criminal Justice," the January 13 episode of CSI NY. Otherwise solid evidence against a murderer has to be tossed because a prosecutor planted an unrelated item on the crime scene. All that's left to the case is the testimony of the only eyewitness. Even knowing the killer will likely make bail, no thought is given to the witness's safety until the killer is out on the streets. That's when we get the desperate chase to beat the killer to the woman. Andy Sifowicz would never have let something like that happen.

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