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

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TONY'S ONLINE TIPS
for Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tales of the Unexpected 90

I'm back to thrill you anew or, at the very least, present yet another tiger-themed cover in celebration of the new "Year of the Tiger." I've re-embraced my old Marvel nickname - Tony "the Tiger" Isabella - and am hoping the year's motto of "I win!" will rub off on me. I'll let you know how that works out for me.

Today's cover is from Tales of the Unexpected #90 [DC; August-September, 1965] and drawn by Jack Sparling, who also drew "My Twin--The Tiger-Man." Dave Wood is the likely writer of this story, a sequel to "I Was the Burmese Tiger Man" in My Greatest Adventure #59 [September, 1961]. This issue also featured "The Doom Makers" (writer unknown, art by Bernard Baily)...and "The Hero of 50,000,000 B.C.," a Green Glob tale (written by Wood, drawn by George Roussos).

The Green Glob was one of the weirdest comic-book "characters" of the 1960s. It was this invisible cloud of energy from someplace other than Earth that would alter either the protagonist of each of its stories or the reality in which said protagonist existed. As I recall, these men and women would achieve some dream or learn a valuable lesson about life, after which everything would return to normal and the Glob would seek its next special friend. Believe it or not, 17 such tales ran in Tales of the Unexpected. I'm told the "Green Glob" has been retroactively tied into the history of the Guardians of the Universe (from Green Lantern), but choose not to believe this.

Some things are just too unbelievable.

Let's see what else I have for you today.

Angel 31

Even with its title character indisposed for much of the four most recent issues, Angel [IDW; $3.99 per issue] has become one of my favorite series. Writer Bill Willingham's Los Angeles is more strange and unsettling now than when the city was literally in Hell. Vampire-with-a-soul Angel is a celebrity, other celebrities want to become immortal vampires, and Angel's son Connor is quite the leader in Dad's absence. Willingham has given the supporting characters key moments and come up with something wildly unexpected and wonderful for out-of-her-realm goddess Illyria. Artist Brian Denham is contributing good art, likenesses, and storytelling. I love it when a series comes together this way.

Angel isn't perfect. I'm not yet sold on Eddie Hope, a demon and one of Willingham's cast additions. I also think the individual issues could be more reader-friendly; a "what has gone before" page would be nice and more attention paid to naming every ongoing character would help in that regard. But, overall, it's an entertaining, well-done comic book and, as such, it earns four out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Angel: Only Human 1

By comparison, Angel: Only Human [5 issues; $3.99 each] was just sort of there. Supporting characters Gunn and Illyria go on the road to visit the parents of the body the latter took over when she came to our world. Gunn spent some time as a vampire and having some trouble adjusting to life as a human again. Illyria's never been human, but there seems to be some small part of her that is still the late Winifred Burkle. Oh, yeah, and there are these demon supremacists preying on other demons.

Writer Scott Lobdell does a solid job getting the characters right, keeping new readers in the loop, and moving the story along. I also have no complaints about artist David Messina holding up his end of things. But, somehow, save for an occasional nice scene or bit of business - a conversation between Gunn and Fred's parents is wonderful - the overall story never caught my interest. Craft only takes a comic book so far; you need some spark to elevate it above the hundreds of other comics out there.

Angel: Only Human earns three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

Angel vs Frankenstein

John Byrne's Angel Vs. Frankenstein one-shot [$3.99] matches Angelus (Angel sans soul) against the monstrous creation of Dr. Frankenstein. It's a terrific premise, but the story fails to live up to it. If I had to score this battle of the monsters, I'd rate it a disappointing draw with not a lot of interesting action along the way. As with Only Human, this one-shot does not lack for craft in either writing or art. It just lacks the spark that would make it something more.

Oddly enough, one element of the story reminded me of an oft-used device in the Superman comic books of the 1960s. Superman or another member of his cast would go back in time and meet someone who would be important to their future lives. The gimmick worked even better with Superboy, who had an adventure with the explorer father of Jimmy Olsen and also met teenage versions of Bruce Wayne, Oliver Queen, and others. In this one-shot, Byrne shows us...oh, heck, check it out for yourself.

Angel Vs. Frankenstein earns three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

Last Angel in Hell

Los Angeles/Hollywood being what it is, the confluence of bad taste, crooked accounting, narcissism, pretension, and sleaze, it's easy to accept that, as soon as said sorry metropolis returned from its sojourn in Hell, a studio would knock out a bad movie about the horrific experience and the hero who saved them all. Okay, it does stretch my willing suspension of disbelief that, apparently, just one lousy movie was based on the event, but, hey, Brian Lynch, the writer of Angel Annual #1 [$7.99] only had 48 pages to work with here.

"Last Angel In Hell" is an "adaptation" of that bad movie and, as such, it's mostly amusing and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. I would have liked the book to have more laugh-out-loud stuff, less reliance on humor derived from intentionally bad dialogue, and more consistent art and storytelling. I also think eight bucks is too high a price for this particular 48-page comic book. Still, other than that, Mrs. Lincoln and I enjoyed the play enough to give this annual three out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

Angel: Lorne

I saved the best for last.

Angel Special: Lorne [$7.99] is an incredible tribute to the late Andy Hallett. I don't know anyone who could meet Andy and not come away loving him...and that becomes even clearer when you read this issue.

John Byrne's "The Music of the Spheres" was designed to honor Andy and take his Lorne character off stage for a while. IDW has stated Lorne will be back in their Angel book, but this marvelous story brings that character to a satisfying place in his personal saga. It's the best Angel comic-book story ever and also among the best Byrne stories ever. Well done, John. Exceedingly wonderfully well done.

Byrne's long story is followed by Brian Lynch's "Lorne," also drawn by Byrne. It's a fun four-page recap-in-rhyme of what Lorne did during the time Los Angeles was in Hell.

That's followed by actor Mark "the Goosalugg" Lutz's notes on his friend Andy with lots of great photos of the two of them, and some equally great shots of Andy as Lorne.

Angel Special: Lorne is an Irish wake in comics format. It celebrates Andy Hallett as we mourn him. It's both boisterous and heartwarming. It's one of the best comic books I've read this year and already a shoo-in for my sequel to 1000 Comic Books You Must Read.

It earns the full five out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

That's all for now. Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 03/29/2010 | 04/13/2010 | 04/14/2010 >>

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THE "TONY" SCALE

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.

Tony
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.

TonyTony
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?

TonyTonyTony
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.

TonyTonyTonyTony
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?

TonyTonyTonyTonyTony
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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