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

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for Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sub-Mariner 5

Our "Year of the Tiger" cover hails from Sub-Mariner #5 [Marvel; September, 1968]. It's penciled by John Buscema and inked by Frank Giacoia, who also did the interiors.

Roy Thomas' "Watch Out For Tiger Shark" (20 pages) introduced Tiger Shark. Todd Arliss was a glory-seeking Olympic swimmer whose rescue of a drowning man - a rescue driven solely by Arliss' desire for publicity - resulted in a spinal cord injury for the athlete. Doctor Dorcas, a scientist doubtless driven to a life of villainy after a childhood filled with classmates making fun of his name, healed Arliss by injecting the swimmer with DNA taken from Prince Namor *and* a tiger shark. What could possibly go wrong with that kind of experiment?

The late 1960s issues of Sub-Mariner like this one are among the many reasons Thomas was my favorite comic-book writer of those years. He was writing great stories for a multitude of great comics: Avengers, Captain Marvel, Daredevil, Incredible Hulk, X-Men and others I've probably left out.

If my friends at Marvel are listening, the sooner you publish the second volume of the Essential Sub-Mariner, the better. Those terrific thrillers deserve to be re-presented for the readers of today...and for nostalgia old farts like me.

More "Year of the Tiger" covers to come.

Past Sins

I love it when something I never heard of before it was sent to me for review turns out to be great. As you might have guessed from the above image, I'm talking about Past Sins: The Matthew Grace Casebook by John L. French [Padwolf; $16]. French is, as others have said, the real deal: a crime scene supervisor with the Baltimore Police Department Crime Laboratory. He has been writing crime fiction since 1992.

The 17 short stories in this collection chronicle the changing fortunes of Matthew Grace. When we first meet Grace, he's working as a crime scene investigator for the Baltimore PD. Fine stories, clever mysteries, engaging characters. Then...well, let's just say Grace crosses a line and switches from crime scene investigator to private eye. More fine stories, enlivened by frequent clashes with former colleagues. And Grace's private eye career is only another step on the path of his life. In addition to all of the qualities mentioned in this paragraph, author French has convincingly moved Grace through the highs and lows of an uncertain life. More folks should know about this character.

Sidebar. While there is no shortage of CSI-type shows on TV, I think there's room for Matthew Grace on USA or one of the other cable networks.

Past Sins was an unexpected delight. It earns a very impressive four out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

ISBN 978-1-89009-640-3

Back Issue 39

Back Issue.

I confess I find it a wee bit disconcerting to read a magazine filled with writers waxing nostalgic about comic books published *after* I started working in the industry. On the other hand, who am I to deny those writers and their readers the excitement and joy I get from reading Alter Ego? And, as long as I'm in this confessional mood, I have to admit I get a kick out of a whole lot of what editor Michael Eury fills his magazine with.

Back Issue #39 [TwoMorrows; $6.95] is the "April Fools Issue" with a swell Mike Wieringo/Karl Kesel cover of Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham. Inside, Michael Browning provides a fascinating in-depth history that made me wish I'd paid attention to the character back in the day and that Marvel will be bringing us an Essential Peter Porker in the near future.

Other articles focus on other oddball characters: Ambush Bug, Forbush-Man, John Byrne's hilarious take on the She-Hulk, Big Boy, Flaming Carrot, and Reid Fleming. There are interviews with Fred Hembeck, Alan Kupperberg, David Boswell, and David Chelsea. For a special treat, the issue also features a wonderful mini-gallery of funny animal heroes meeting DC super-heroes.

There are changes in store for Back Issue. The price is going up a buck and the page count is dropping from 100 to 84, but, on the plus side, there will be 16 pages of full cover and 10 of the pages to be cut are advertising pages. I see this as smart moves and I expect that, just like this issue, future issues will also earn an impressive four Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony



Money Money Money

Ed McBain's 87th Precinct is my favorite book series of all time. It was comics writer Don McGregor who introduced me to Steve Carella and his fellow detectives, reading out loud from one of the books during a Marvel Bullpen lunch break. The language of the passages he read impressed me so much that, on my way home from work that evening, I stopped at a bookstore and bought one of the paperback editions of the series. I haven't stopped reading these books since.

Okay, that's not technically correct. Many things I love got put aside in the latter half of the 1990s when several bad things were done to me, things from which I have never completely healed. But, just as I started putting myself back together, I rediscovered some of those old joys, the 87th Precinct among them.

I'm sure I own all of the series in one form or another, but the books have been deep in a storage unit for years. But, a few years back, I discovered my local library was part of a legion of area libraries and that it was possible to borrow books from each and every one of them. So I started to reread the entire series in chronological order.

Before starting this quest of rediscovery, I had already read most of the 87th Precinct books twice and even thrice. However, in recent months, I have been reading books I hadn't read previously. I'm enjoying these later books as much as I did the earliest ones. I think I even hear McGregor's voice in the background.

Ed McBain, born Salvatore Albert Lombino and who became Evan Hunter in 1952, passed away in 2005. After the book shown above, he wrote four more 87th Precinct novels. My journey with Steve and the guys is almost over.

After that...who knows? Maybe I'll reading/reread all the Max Allan Collins books I can get from the legion of libraries. Maybe I'll catch up with Stephen King or Doc Savage or Harlan Ellison or Jane Austen or the immortal Bard or the other authors whose works have brought me joy and knowledge.

But, for now, I still have a little more time with the beloved McBain. A little more time before I bid him farewell with thanks for the countless wonderful hours we've spent together.

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back May 10 with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 04/21/2010 | 04/22/2010 | 05/10/2010 >>

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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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