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

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for Friday, May 21, 2010

Turok, Son of Stone Vol 1

Here's the rest of my reviews from Comics Buyer's Guide #1666, followed by an extended version of that issue's "Tony's Back Page" featurette...

The 1950s. Dinosaurs. Indians. That should have been quite the winning combination for the young Tony Isabella, but, somehow, Turok, Son of Stone never ranked high on my comic-book hit parade. In fact, though I got a few issues as incentives in comics trades among my friends and read more while waiting for a haircut at the loyal barber shop, I can't recall ever buying an issue of the title. I couldn't have told you why until I read Turok, Son of Stone Volume One [$49.94], a full-color hardcover collection of the title's first six issues that was published by Dark Horse last April.

The legendary and prolific Gaylord DuBois created Turok and wrote the initial issues of the title. Lost valleys where ancient dinosaurs and other extinct creatures still roamed were not new to adventure fiction, but DuBois' explanation of how this particular valley came to exist is kind of brilliant in what I assume is its faux-science. It involves the walls of vast caverns collapsing to form several connected valleys and it's convincing enough to engage my willing sense of disbelief.

Turok and his friend Andar get trapped in these valleys and, while trying to find a way back to their own valley, must survive in a world of dinosaurs. They meet and usually befriend tribes of cavemen. They face deadly dangers with alarming regularity. They show remarkable ingenuity in overcoming those dangers and also in bringing home the dinosaur bacon to their new friends. This should be one of the greatest comic-book series of all time...except that it isn't.

DuBois was a terrific writer. Since there were no credits on comics stories back then, I only know in retrospect that I enjoyed hundreds of his tales. Yet, somehow, despite what should have been exciting perils for Turok and Andar, the stories in this collection never thrill me. It's as if DuBois, or, more likely, his editor or his publisher or both, didn't want to excite their young readers too much. After all, Turok's first adventures were published at a time when comic-book burnings and congressional hearings on comic books had to have been fresh in their minds.

The art in these stories is tame as well. The storytelling is good, but the movement of the characters and critters struck me as stiff. The art would improve in later issues when Italian artist Alberto Giolitti started drawing the series, but his fine work is not represented in this volume.

I've happily read and enjoyed archive editions with writing and art greatly inferior to what's in this first Turok volume, but those other collections charmed me in ways that eluded this book. In this economy, that means the other Turok hardcovers move from my "buy" list to my Amazon "wish list." I figure I only have to live through another fifty birthdays and Christmases to receive all the books on that list.

Turok, Son of Stone Volume One earns three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

ISBN 978-1-59582-155-3


The Chill

Jason Starr's The Chill [Vertigo Crime; $19.99] strikes me as an odd choice for DC/Vertigo's crime imprint; it's more of a modern supernatural horror story than a crime mystery. Its serial killer villains are a father-and-daughter team who have unnatural powers; the title is what happens when the daughter has sex with their victims. Pursuing the familial duo are the FBI, the NYPD, and a gone-to-seed Irish cop from Boston with a personal connection to the case.

Novelist Starr handles the comics format well. The 184-page story flows well, accompanied by solid drawing and storytelling by artistic partner Mick Bertilorenzi. When Starr loses me is in the graphic novel's ending. I'd explain why this ending doesn't work for me, but it's one of those "your mileage may vary" calls, best determined by the individual reader.

The Chill is in an attractive and convenient format: a compact hardcover with dimensions of 8-1/4 inches by 5-1/2 inches. Tactile sensation isn't often a factor in my reviews, but, darn it, I like the book's feel in my hands. Were it not for my dislike of its ending, this graphic novel would have rated higher than three out of five Tonys with me.

Tony Tony Tony

ISBN 978-1-4012-1286-5



Our Army at War 160

For the time being, "Tony's Back Page" has switched from relating sterling tales of my life and career to extended coverage of comics that appear in my new book, 1000 Comic Books You Must Read.

Our Army at War #160

Cover Artist: Joe Kubert Writers: Robert Kanigher, Hank Chapman Artists: Joe Kubert, Jack Abel DC (November 1965; © 1965 National Periodical Publications, Inc.)

American combat units were segregated during World War II, but that didn't stop Robert Kanigher from including African-American soldier Jackie Johnson among the "combat-happy Joes" of Sgt. Rock's Easy Company. Johnson made his first appearance in issue #113's "Eyes For a Blind Gunner" [December, 1961]. A couple years later, at Marvel Comics, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby would follow Kanigher's lead in Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandoes #1 [May, 1963]. One of the members of Fury's boisterous squad was African-American musician Gabe Jones.

In the classic "What's the Color of Your Blood"," Johnson, who was a prizefighter before the war, gets an unexpected rematch with the German storm trooper who once defeated him and ends up saving the other fighter's life. Kanigher was never shy about combating racism in his stories, using racial themes in several other comics scripts he wrote in the 1960s and 1970s.

Also featured in this issue is "Jackass Volunteer" by Chapman and Abel. This is the second of the three "Sgt. Mule" stories that ran in DC war comics during the 1960s. And, yes, the hero of these tales was, indeed, an actual mule. He's one of many reasons I love the Silver Age of Comics.

Chapman was a prolific writer for Marvel in the early 1950s, writing gritty war stories and also contributing to the publisher's crime, horror, romance, and super-hero titles. Working for DC in the late 1950s and through most of the 1960s, he wrote for most of editor Kanigher's titles and, according to "Who's Who of American Comic Books 1928-1999," he also wrote Batman scripts.

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back on Monday with a column on how I lost my virginity.

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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