March has come in like a tiger as I've embraced my old Marvel nickname - Tony "the Tiger" Isabella - and the motto of the Chinese "Year of the Tiger":
For most of this month, you can expect tiger-themed openings and columns filled with my writings about items randomly selected from the towering "things I'd like to write about" pile on my desk. Like Mount Everest, I must conquer the pile because it's there and because it could collapse on me at any moment.
Today's cover is from Jumbo Comics #26 [April, 1941]. Drawn by Nick Viscardi - you likely know him better as Nick Cardy - the scene pits Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, against the "Tiger-Man Terror!" The interior art on this 12-page Sheena thriller is by Bob Powell. The issue also features such lesser-remembered characters as Stuart Taylor (science fiction), Midnight (western), Lightning (super-hero), Inspector Dayton (detective), XZ-5 (spy), Tom, Dick, and Harry (war), and, reprinted from earlier issues of this title, the high seas period adventures of The Hawk, written and drawn by Will Eisner. That's 68 pages for a dime.
Readers of 1941...you win!
When Dark Horse announced Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, a continuation of the TV series to be helmed by creator Joss Whedon himself, I thought it was a brilliant idea. I enjoyed the earliest issues and thought there were some memorable episodes among them. Now, 32 issues into what has now become tedious beyond belief, I'm breaking up with Buffy. It's not me. It's her. Or, more accurately, it's what this comic has become.
The genius of the TV series was that every season was a story, pretty much complete unto itself. We got a strong beginning, some wonderful middles, at least one terrific change-of-pace episode in each season, and a satisfying ending. What we're getting here is a lot of mediocre middles in a story/season that's already gone on a third longer than any of the TV seasons. I'm not surprised the sales have been dropping or that Dark Horse has been promoting what should've been a major reveal months before the comic gets to that major reveal.
Our beloved Buffy is portrayed as incompetent, needy, and even unlikeable. Her foes haven't been much better. It's no longer a question of which side - kinda good or evil - will win. It's which will lose first.
The various flighty romances have been tedious as well. Most of them seem designed to shock the readers. I grew up during the relatively tame 1960s/1970s and even I'm more bored than shocked by these goings-on. Can any of the book's writers craft an actually convincing romance?
Even the art has taken a turn for the Roloff as Buffy and her cast seem to be four feet or shorter. Hey, how many reviewers give you "Little People, Big World" references?
I no longer care what happens in this series. Even a recent Willow one-shot didn't deliver a complete story, just the opening chapter in some sort of witch walkabout.
You know what I'd like to see? I'd like to see Buffy at age 30 or even 40. New supporting cast. New setting. New situations. Put this no longer believable 20-something angst behind her and do something as breathtakingly original and captivating as we saw in the TV series.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #32 gets but one out of five Tonys. I liked the Jo Chen cover and the mini-introductions that writer Brad Meltzer provided for the main characters.
Kudos to writer Grant Morrison and artist Sean Murphy. Joe the Barbarian [DC/Vertigo; $1] hooked me with its first issue. Joe is a young diabetic who, when he stops taking his medication, begins to imagine another reality populated by his action figures and toys, and other fictional characters. He's a sympathetic hero who puts me in mind of several Steve Gerber-penned youngsters and that's no small praise. The Murphy art is amazing; I actually went through the issue a second time just to admire it.
The first issue grabbed my interest and I'm eagerly looking forward to the second and the third and so on. At the risk of seeming too eager here - it is, after all, just the first issue of the series - I'm giving this debut the full five Tonys.
Tom Taylor is the son of a writer who disappeared mysteriously after authoring a series of Harry Potter-like books whose hero is named Tommy Taylor. A scandal erupts when Tom is accused of being a fraud. It gets extremely bloody when several horrific murders are committed and Tom is blamed for them.
I liked The Unwritten [DC/Vertigo; by writer Mike Carey and artist Peter Gross well enough to continue reading it, but it wasn't until issue #5's "How the Whale Became" that I was well and truly hooked on it. The issue tells of the tragic Rudyard Kipling, raised to fame and fortune when he does the bidding of his patrons only to subsequently lose all when he rebels against them. I have already earmarked the issue for inclusion in my hoped-for sequel to 1000 Comic Books You Must Read.
The series really picks up with Tom's incarceration to a scary prison whose conflicted warden reads the Tommy Taylor books to his child and who despises the real Taylor. These prison issues share a vibe with Gerber's great Hard Time, and, again, that's not a bad thing at all.
I give The Unwritten to date an impressive four out of five Tonys. The first trade paperback, reprinting the first five issues, was released in January with an attractive $9.95 price. A second volume will be published in August.
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: