TONY’S TIPS #172

Newspaper comic strip creators fascinate me. They always have, even though the first one I met was a jerk. That fascination grew when, a few years back, I started writing for or other assisting several of them. My admiration for what they accomplish, day in and day out every day of the year, has only grown since then.

Robb Armstrong’s Jump Start, which is about a married couple with kids, is one of my favorite strips. Joe Cobb is a police officer. Marcy Cobb is a nurse. The supporting cast is as likeable as they are. Which wouldn’t mean beans if Armstrong’s writing and drawing weren’t as excellent as they are.

Fearless: A Cartoonist’s Guide to Life [Reader’s Digest; $24.99} is a three-in-one book by Armstrong. It’s a third drawing lessons and a third autobiography and a third life lessons.

The drawing lessons are challenging but not complicated on account of Armstrong knows his craft and is able to explain it in a manner even us non-artist types grasp. Each drawing lesson is followed by a portion of his life story. At the end of each chapter, we get a life lesson combining what we have learned from the drawing lesson with what Armstrong learned (or didn’t learn) at each stage of his life. I was amazed at how well it all ties together.

Armstrong is a person of faith, but his Christianity is truer than most in its acceptance of the world around him. His older brother converted to Islam and Armstrong couldn’t be more complimentary in praising his sibling’s commitment to that faith and how it has made him a better and stronger man. God doesn’t divide us; that’s a job for foolish human beings.

The book also includes a section on art supplies and a gallery of some of Armstrong’s favorite Jump Start strips. Oh, dear, I think I will now have to buy as many traditional Jump Start collections as I can find. I do love this strip.

“Inspirational” is an adjective that gets tossed around a lot, but Fearless deserves to wear it proudly. In the middle of my own very busy schedule, reading this book recharged my energy. Which is why it’s my pick of the week.

ISBN 978-1-62145-287-4

******************************

Lost in Space

Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space: The Lost Adventures #1-3 [American Gothic Press; $3.99 per issue] features a comics adaptation of “The Curious Galactics,” an unproduced script by Carey Wilber. He wrote several episodes of the TV series, the famous “Space Seed” episode of the original Star Trek and lots of other TV shows in the 1950s through the 1970s. The script was adapted by Holly Interlandi with art by Kostas Pantoulas.

This is huge news for avid Lost in Space fans, but I can’t really include myself in their number. I didn’t hate the show. I was a fan of all the cast members with some of them – Guy Williams, Bill Mumy and June Lockhart – being among my favorite TV stars. I watched the show up to the point where the stories just got too silly for me. Also, I have a vague memory that, at one point, it was scheduled against a show I liked better. Maybe even the original Star Trek.

“The Curious Galactics” is more serious than the later episodes of the series. It involves some aliens – Hey! Wouldn’t the Robinsons be considered aliens out there? – testing John Robinson, Don West and Will Robinson to see if they are intelligent beings as defined by their own emotionless standards. It’s not a bad premise, but it simply isn’t three issues worth of premise. The result is a story that drags to its conclusion.

The writing is so-so as the art. The story’s conclusion is flat and the aliens never quite make sense. The human characters are stiff with faces that often look like they were lifted from a press kit’s photos. When the characters do show some emotion, it’s exaggerated.

If you’re an avid must-have-it-all Lost in Space fan, you will want these comic books. If you’re not, give them a pass.

******************************

Eerie Volime 1

Pre-Code Classics: Eerie Volume One and Volume Two [PS Artbooks; $59.99 and $64.99] reprint issues #1-14 of the 1950s horror comic series from Avon Periodicals. Avon had published a one-shot comic with the same title in 1947, but didn’t begin the ongoing series until 1951. The title ran for 17 issues, but the last three issues were reprints of the first three issues.

Eerie starts off with the usual horror comic fare: werewolves and vengeance-driven ghosts and other undead creatures. The writing is adequate, but only occasionally rises above that. We know Sol Cohen was the editor of the title, but the names of the writers have yet to be uncovered.

Some of the better stories would include issue #2’s “The Thing from the Sea” (art by Wally Wood); “The Stranger in Studio X” from the same issue; issue #3’s “The Mirror of Isis” (art by Joe Kubert); and “Cremation of Evil” from issue #4 (art by Gene Fawcette). More unusual monsters would appear in issue #8: “The Phantom Python” and “The Curse of the Bulaga.” issue #11 would unleash “The Anatomical Monster” while #12 would feature an issue-length adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The basic plots of Eerie’s stories are all good, but the execution was mostly journeyman.

Eerie Volume 2

The art on these comics is a mixed bag. There are some first-rate jobs from the afore-mentioned Wood, Kubert and Fawcette, as well as Fred Kida, Louis Ravielli, Manny Stallman, Carmine Infantino (hurt by so-so inking), George Roussos, Harry Lazarus, Everett Raymond Kinstler and Alvin C. Hollingsworth. But there are two many stories by Norman Nodel, Vince Alascia and even lesser lights.

These hardcovers aren’t cheap, but they are way less expensive than if you tried to buy the original issues in decent shape. My usual recommendation is that fans of pre-code horror and historians will want them. Less committed readers will probably want to pass them by. As for me, I’m delighted to have them.

Pre-Code Classics: Eerie Volume One:

ISBN 978-1-84863-926-3

Pre-Code Classics: Eerie Volume Two:

ISBN 978-1-84863-950-8

I’ll be back next week with more reviews,

© 2016 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #171

First up this week is This Magazine is Haunted Volume One [$59.99] from PS Artbooks. This was Fawcett’s first supernatural anthology, which the company that gave us Captain Marvel published from 1951 through 1953. When Fawcett got out of the comic-book business, the title was sold to Charlton which continued the series from 1954 to 1956. This volume reprints the first seven issues [October 1951 to October 1952].

The title was created by legendary comics creator Sheldon Moldoff. He pitched it to Fawcett, who initially passed on the very idea of getting into horror comics. EC Comics was more receptive, but, as Moldoff would later say in interviews, EC reneged on a dale to pay him royalties on their horror titles. By this time, with those EC books doing very well, Fawcett took the plunge.

Edited by Will Leiberson and Al Jetter, Haunted never went in for gore. While the stories certainly inflicted some gruesome fates on many of their protagonists, those fates were always depicted with restraint.

The stories themselves were a mix of the usual ghosts and unearthly creatures. There were some tales inspired by the surprise endings of the renowned O. Henry – You probably read his “The Ransom of Red Chief” in school – and some which were influenced by horror movies. The stories aren’t credited, but we know Paul S. Newman wrote for the magazine and it has been suggested Roy Ald also did.

There are some terrific artists on these stories. Besides Moldoff, these included George Evans, Bernard Baily and Bob Powell. There’s also work by the unknown artist which the Grand Comics Database has dubbed “Jokerface” for his habit of drawing minor characters with cartoony elongated faces.

Most of the stories reprinted in this book are, at the very least, readable. Several are excellent. In “The Green Hands of Terror,” a scientist creates disembodied, seemingly sentient limbs that live on after he’s murdered. “The Slithering Horror of Skontong Swamp” deals with swamp creatures. “The Ghost of Fanciful Hawkins’ is as mad a ghost story as I’ve seen. In “The Grim Reality,” which could be my favorite of this volume’s stories, a con man’s manufactured legend comes to life.

Though not as expensive as the original EC horror comics, the first seven issues of This Magazine is Haunted – in merely good condition – would set you back over three hundred bucks. At less than a fifth of that cost, this reprint volume is far more economical. If you’re a fan of comics history in general or 1950s horror in particular, this hardcover volume is a bargain.

ISBN 978-1-84863-958-4

******************************

Is This Tomorrow

Is This Tomorrow [Canton Street Press; $8.95] is a digest reprint of the legendary anti-Communism comic book originally published by the Catechetical Guild Educational Society. It has been digitally colored and restored by Canton Street Press.

There are politicians and political movements who seek to inspire us to greater achievements and unity. Then there are those who just want to bend us to their will by scaring the crap out of us. This comic book falls into the latter group. It puts forth a series of absurd events, seasoned with extreme paranoia, leading to America crushed under the absolute rule of a Communist dictator. Though I suspect some would disagree with me on this conclusion, the answer to the question asked by the title is…

No. It isn’t. But maybe you’ll have better luck with all the other absurd conspiracies scooting across our national conversations like dogs trying to wipe themselves on the carpet.

There are no credits on the comic book itself, but they came later when the story was reprinted in Catholic Digest. The writers were F. Robert Edman and Francis McGrade.

The artists? The identity of one of them will shock you. Here’s the scoop from the Grand Comics Database:

“Script credits not in the comic, but show up when the story was reprinted over three issues of Catholic Digest (information from Ken Quattro via the Comics History Exchange page on Facebook, posted August 11, 2015).

“Charles M. Schulz pencil, inks, and lettering credits come from Schulz himself in an interview with Shel Dorf, in Comics Interview (Comics Interview Group, 1983 series) #47 [1987], page 15 and in Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography by David Michaelis (Harper, 2007 series), pages 161 and 167, as reported by Jean Paul on the Comics History Exchange page on Facebook, August 13, 2015.

“The artwork for this issue was done by several artists and Schulz’s work is hard to determine. Michaelis states that Schulz drew the climactic panels for the story.”

Whatever my views of this comic book from 1947, I consider it to be historically important. Canton Street Press did a first-rate job restoring it and the smaller size of the reprint doesn’t hurt the readability of the book. If you could find a merely good condition copy of this comic book, it would likely set you back about thirty dollars. Nine bucks seems like a great deal to me.

ISBN 978-1-934044-17-9

******************************

New Super-Man

The “DC Universe Rebirth” continues to entertain and intrigue me. Case in point: New Super-Man #1 [$2.99] by writer Gene Luen Yang with artists Viktor Bogdanovic and Richard Friend. This new series takes place in Shanghai, China.

Kenan is a bully who delights in tormenting pudgy Lixin. Kenan is a working-class kid whose mother died in the crash of a commercial jet. Lixin’s father is the CEO of that airline. Kenan knows he is being a creep and struggles with it. When Blue Condor, a villain who terrorizes the rich and powerful, goes after Lixin, it’s Kenan who comes to the boy’s rescue. Before long, Kenan becomes a minor celebrity, is praised for his courage and recruited by some weird scientists to become a super-hero.

When I read this issue, I felt some of the thrill I felt when, as a kid, I would read the first issue of a new super-hero comic book. I love that it’s set in Shanghai. I love the conflicted characters. I love the conspiracies swirling delicately in the background. This is a well-written comic that looks great and flows well. It could be the Firestorm or Nova of a new generation.

New Super-Man #1 is my pick of the week.

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #170

Who has time to read a nearly 900-page graphic novel biography of a comics creator? You do.

Make time to read The Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and Anime [Stone Bridge Press; $29.95]. If you love comics, you should make time to read the life story of one of the greatest – and, arguably, THE greatest comics creator of them all. If you make comics, then you must make time to read a biography that will amaze and inspire you. That is the power of this book.

You might have watched Astro Boy or Kimba the White Lion when you were a kid. Those are only two of the almost countless characters created by Tezuka. The list of Tezuka works – manga and anime – is almost countless. He was a pioneer in nearly every genre and type of Japanese comics. He was a pioneer in animation, commercial and experimental. He was Walt Disney and Jack Kirby and Stan Lee rolled into one unbelievable talent, a man who earned and deserved to be remembered as the “God of manga.”

While reading this book, I was frequently overwhelmed by how much Tezuka accomplished in his too-short sixty years of life. He would write and draw over 300 pages of manga in a month and repeat that in more months than seems humanly possible. Yet, despite all that production, Tezuka’s commitment to quality and innovation was not compromised. He brought his “A” game to every game.

An aspect of Tezuka’s body of work that amuses me far more than it would have amused his editors is how they would hunt him down when he owed them pages and how they, editors from rival magazine, would sit patiently outside his studio waiting for him to finish each of his stories one by one. These editors would literally live at the studio for days at a time.

In a recent dream, I imagine myself, whose own multiple commitments would probably strike Tezuka as a good afternoon’s work, listening to multiple editors in my head. I try to make them comfortable in my noggin. I might be more annoyed that they are. Dreams are funny things, aren’t they?

Yet dreams were Tezuka’s stock in trade. Visions of times past and times to come. The world and especially the world of comics is so lucky to have those dreams.

The Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and Anime is by Toshio Ban and Tezuka Productions with translation by Frederik L. Schodt. It’s my pick of the week. No comics reader should be without it.

ISBN 978-1-61172-025-9

******************************

Fun Family

Benjamin Frisch’s The Fun Family [Top Shelf Productions; $24.99] forced me to ask myself this question: Can I praise the effort that went into and the quality of a graphic novel while finding the work itself revolting? Let’s see.

Frisch’s graphic novel debut is a mean-spirited deconstruction of Bil Keane’s immensely popular newspaper feature The Family Circus. There appears to be something about such popular comic strips that enrages the sensibilities of younger cartoonist. Normally, it takes the form of “If only the newspapers would drop these features that readers have enjoyed for decades, then my comic strip would become successful I would receive the acclaim I deserve simply because I want it. But, in the case of The Fun Family, the intent is to smear and debase dopplegangers of Keane’s beloved characters.

Using a style akin to Keane’s, Frisch drags his characters through an emotional hellscape. Mom leaves the family to have a succession of sordid affairs with her manipulative psychiatrists. Between the death of his mother and the discovery by his eldest son of a room full of porcelain statues representing a more loving family, Dad is a basket case. As Mom moves out with the two kids she likes best, the son has to take over Dad’s comic strip, take care of what is left of their family and, oh, yes, even pay the psychiatrists who are having sex with his mother. His sister becomes a religious nut whose faith revolves around her late grandmother. Before long, the little girl has started a virtual cult.

With the exception of the eldest son, every character in this book is either a horrible human being or a not-so-horrible human being who exists to make the eldest son’s life even more miserable. This is an abusive story about abuse. I loathe it.

So I guess the answer to my question is: I can’t.

ISBN 978-1-60309-344-6

******************************

The Beauty

The Beauty Volume 1 by writer/artist Jeremy Haun and writer Jason A. Hurley [Image; $9.99] is a horror/medical/sci-fi thriller with a high concept to die for. Literally.

Our beauty-obsessed modern world is hit with a sexual-transmitted disease that makes its victims beautiful. Which sounds pretty good until those victims spontaneously combust. A corporation has a cure for the disease, but is holding off on releasing it in a quest for obscene profits.

Two detectives battle corrupt politicians, murderous agents of the corporation, arrogant federal agents and the anti-beauty movement to expose the threat and end it. Haun and Hurley give us heroes we can root for, ordinary people caught in the lies and secrets of the rich and the powerful and some downright scary villains. The story and the visual storytelling are first rate…and this book has such a satisfying ending that I have no idea what they are planning for the second volume.

I recommend The Beauty. It’s a keeper.

ISBN 978-1-63215-550-4

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #169

I’ve already received quite a bit of response to last week’s piece on DC Universe Rebirth. The friends and readers who have spoken to me are optimistic in generally and intrigued by some of the wilder things that have happened in these initial issues.

There are those fans who want DC comic books to be exactly like the DC comic books they read when they were twelve or exactly like the DC comic books were before Crisis or after Crisis or…you get the picture. What’s embarrassing for me as an older reader – I’ll be 65 in December – is how these fans cling to the past. Those great old comics are still there. You can always read them in the originals or in the many wonderful collections DC and other publishers have been putting out for decades. But to expect comic books, even those published by major players like DC and Marvel, to remain exactly as they were decade after decade, is delusional.

New readers get turned onto comic books all the time. Maybe not in the numbers we would like, but they are coming and I welcome them. I don’t expect them to find the often-buffoonish Jimmy Olsen of the 1960s as entertaining as I did. I don’t expect them to be enamored of female characters who exist merely to be rescued by male heroes. I don’t expect them to be satisfied with nothing but Caucasian male heroes of indeterminate religion (but probably Christian). Comics today reflect the world of today, a world lush with different kinds of characters. You can enjoy the old comic books without being so hostile to change.

My take on comics continuity reflects my views on the longevity of popular characters and universes and the telling of great stories for readers old and new. What’s most important to me are the core values of the characters. If those are present, everything else is up for grabs.

Is there something in past continuity that is dated or just plain dumb? Ignore it. Really. Just pretend it never happened. Don’t do a six-issue arc explaining it or explaining it away. Just – and you can use your best mobster impression here – forget about it.

Can a writer revisit a character and make improvements in how he or she formerly envisioned the character? Of course they can. The only constant should be the commitment to quality writing and those core values mentioned above. When I return to comic-book writing in the near future, these are going to be my guiding philosophies. I hope the readers who have enjoyed my work in the past will like my new work even more.

Philosophy aside, here’s some comments on some of the “DC Universe Rebirth” comic books I’ve been reading…

Aquaman Rebirth #1 [$2.99] was a mixed bag for me. It had elements of which I’ve become weary, notably Black Manta and the seemingly endless Atlantean political disunity. I get more than enough of the latter from the evening news. As for Black Manta, he’s become the go-to-villain for Aquaman. While understandable, he’s been gone to too many times for my tastes. Give him a rest. Especially since his plans seem to bode ill for Mera. Sixty-five years of life and over thirty years of glorious marriage to a terrific woman has be less than enthusiastic over the whole “woman in jeopardy” bit in comics. Especially since Mera could certainly kick Black Manta’s ass before breakfast.

Aquaman also had elements I liked very much, especially the strong love between Mera and the title hero. Again, I point to my decades of happy marriage. There should be comics for folks like me, too.

Aquaman has great power and enormous responsibilities. That’s also on display in these initial Rebirth issues. Let his acceptance of and successful carrying out of those responsibilities play a major role in future issues – Should I mention that I enjoy super-heroes winning clear-cut victories over villains? – and I’ll be hooked on Aquaman. No fishing pun intended.

Detective Rebirth

Detective Comics #934 [$2.99] won me over with the saner-than-he’s-been-in-years Caped Crusader putting together a team of heroes that are more than cannon fodder for his obsessions. Inviting Clayface to be part of the team is brilliant and uplifting. Batman has often played lip-service to believe his foes can find redemption. Here, he’s actively working towards that end. I hope it sticks with the tragic Basil Karlo, says the guy who hated, absolutely hated, when Marvel Comics reformed the Sandman and than took that great bit of character development away from us.

It seems like The Flash will be pivotal to whatever is happening in Rebirth, which seems fitting since it was his actions that led to Flashpoint and the New 52. I haven’t been knocked out by the first couple of issues, but I’m keeping an open mind. I don’t want to see the legion of super-speedsters we’ve gotten over the years, but I could live with a few.

Wonder Woman rebirth

Wonder Woman Rebirth #1 [$2.99] did knock me out. I love the idea of Wonder Woman realizing her life has been altered over and over again.  It’s audacious and intriguing for the title to look at those clumsy continuity missteps squarely in the eye and try to sort them all out. If you’re asking for my votes, I would recommend ditching the dark mess that was the New 52 version of the character and give us something powerful and uplifting. Not because the lead character is a woman but because she’s Wonder Woman. I want a hero I admire and love as much as I admired and loved Lynda Carter in the live-action TV show and as much as I admired and loved the Wonder Woman in the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoons. Wonder Woman should be a hero for both the ages and for all ages.

As more Rebirth titles cross my path, I’ll doubtless return to this conversation. In the meantime, I’ll be back next week with reviews of other things. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #168

“Tony, what’s this DC Universe Rebirth stuff about?”

Now that is not an unusual question to be asked of someone like me, a comics professional and writer about comics for well over forty years.  What is unusual was that I was asked the question at G-Fest, a glorious Godzilla convention, and PulpFest, a terrific gathering of pulp magazine collectors. As I’ve been saying for some time now, even people who don’t follow our beloved comic books closely have a familiarity with them.  Even if that familiarity comes from news and other mainstream sources.

My familiarity with Rebirth comes from having read the first month of the involved titles. I don’t often read news articles or opinion columns on things I’m likely to read. I suppose I could ask my new friends at DC Entertainment to explain Rebirth to me…and I might do that soon…but, here, I’m going it alone.

DC Universe Rebirth strikes me as a soft reboot of the DC Universe most recently represented by “The New 52.” Some unknown person has been playing with reality. What we have at the moment seems to be a DC Universe which has some elements of the traditional universe and some of “New 52″ universe. I find this interesting. I want to see how it all shakes out.

There also seems to be a more optimistic atmosphere to the Rebirth titles. As I have always felt the super-hero genre is, at its very heart and soul, an optimistic one, that’s a good way to convince me to buy and read these comic books again.

DC Universe Rebirth #1 [$2.99] kicked off this new chapter for the Universe. It was written by Geoff Johns with stunning art by Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis and Phil Jimenez. It contains 63 pages of story and art, which, at today’s comics prices, is a great buy for three bucks.

I’m not going the review route per se this week, but I will touch on some of the appealing and/or interesting things in the issues I have read. Most of these issues have gone into multiple printings, so they shouldn’t be too hard for you to track down.

There seems to be a link to Watchmen, the landmark limited series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. I surprised myself by being pretty much okay with this. Moore seems to have divorced himself from the property completely and Gibbons, who seems a mite miffed about this possible use of the characters, was okay with the Before Watchmen comics of a couple years back. I think what convinced me not to be upset was a comment from Marvel’s Tom Brevoort. While agreeing the original Watchmen series was complete unto itself, he said that if Marvel had owned the property, they probably would have brought the characters into the Marvel Universe a decade ago.

“Everything you thought you knew is a lie” is a common and seldom completely truthful come-on for super-hero stories. However, in the case of DC Universe Rebirth. It does appear a great deal of what we (and the heroes) know about the “New 52″ universe was a lie or, at least, a manipulation of reality. Wally “Kid Flash” West is back. A very old Johnny Thunder is screaming for his thunderbolt. Ryan Choi may be back as the Atom. Someone with a Legion of Super-Heroes ring is looking for Superman. The young Blue Beetle is working with Ted Kord. Green Arrow and Black Canary, who barely knew each other in the “New 52,” feel a connection with one another. And someone is watching our world with Batman knowing something is going on that isn’t right. I’m intrigued.

In Batman Rebirth #1 [$2.99] by writers Scott Synder and Tom King with artist Mikel Janin, Batman seems more sane than he has in too many years. I like that. Duke, the “Robin” whose parents remain in a mental hospital due to their exposure to Joker gas, is coming to work for the apparently integrated Bruce/Batman and not as another Robin. I like that. And there’s also a positively unsettling take on the Calendar Man.  I like that, too. I’m feeling better about the Batman after reading this.

In Green Arrow Rebirth #1 [$2.99] by writer Benjamin Percy with art by Otto Schmidt, Green Arrow and Black Canary are exploring their mutual attraction. Some of the conversations between them, mostly about Oliver Queen’s wealth and self-proclaimed status as a social justice warrior, lands with loud clunks. The points are made, but the speeches are unnatural.

GL Rebirth

Green Lanterns Rebirth #1 [$2.99] by Johns and Sam Humphries with art by Van Sciver and Ed Benes focus on rookie lanterns Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz, who neither like nor trust one another. They are forced to work together by Hal Jordan. There’s also terrible menace growing beyond our planet. As is usually the case with me and the Green Lantern comics, I like the Earth stuff much better than the outer space or other universes stuff. Still, as with every Rebirth one-shot I’ve read, I find the characters and stories interesting enough that I want to see what happens next.

Superman Rebirth #1 [$2.99] by “storytellers” Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason with art by Doug Mahnke (pencils) and Jaime Mendoza (inks) is a very human story of the Superman who came to Earth from a parallel universe with his family. In it, he helps Lana Lang give the recently deceased “New 52″ Superman a proper burial alongside Jonathan and Martha Kent.

Action Comics

Meanwhile, we get another Superman in Action Comics #957 [$2.99] by writer Dan Jurgens with artist Patrick Zircher. It’s Lex Luthor in a super-suit. Which does not sit right with the Superman mentioned above.  Oh, yeah, and there’s a new Clark Kent who doesn’t seem to be Superman and a new Doomsday, sporting his original “burlap sack” look. So, yes, I want to see what happens next.

The Luthor of this comic book is more nuanced than many previous incarnations. I don’t trust him any more than the married Superman does, but decades of reading Superman comics have conditioned me to think of him as a stone villain. He may not be the Superman I want, but maybe he’s the Superman his city needs right now.

In apology to the artists who worked on the above comics, I know I give them the short shift when I discuss the issues they’ve drawn. First and foremost, I’m a story guy. That said, all of the art in the above issues was at least good and some of it, like Zircher’s Action Comics, was amazing. There’s a full-page shot of Superman in the issue that should be a poster.

I’m going to continue my examination of DC Universe Rebirth in my next column. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #167

Donald Trump is now officially the Republican Party’s candidate for President of the United States. If you’ve been reading my columns for any length of time, you probably have a pretty good idea how I feel about that. Which means I don’t have to take up any precious space explaining how I feel about it. I’m as relieved that I don’t have to do that explaining thing as much as you’re relieved I’m not doing it.  However…

What I am doing is alerting you to the recent publication of Yuge!: 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump by G.B. Trudeau [Andrews McMeel Publishing; $14.99]. How does the Donald feel about being portrayed in the Doonesbury comic strip? Well…

The back cover of this 112-page trade paperback features “Selected Comments from Donald Trump.” The comments start with “Doonesbury, Doonesbury! Everybody’s asking me to respond to Doonesbury! People tell me I should be flattered.” The comments conclude with “A total loser!”  In between, we get comments that are positively benign when compared to Trump’s usual rhetoric.

Trudeau’s interest in Trump started with the Donald’s first trial Presidential balloon in 1987. The cartoonist struck comedic goal, so he continued to use Trump from time to time. At one point, Uncle Duke, the former Rolling Stone writer kinda sorta based on Hunter S. Thompson, was Trump’s muscle and tasked with acquiring property from reluctant owners.

While there’s nothing in this collection flattering to Trump, there are many of the keen satirical insights that made Doonesbury one of the finest comic strips of all time. As such, it’s a valuable book on multiple levels. First and foremost, it is a terrific gathering of great comic strips. It’s also a fine example of political satire in the comic strips. And it’s a reminder that we should have seen Trump coming a mile away. He was just waiting for the angriest and most intolerant of his fellow citizens to catch up with him.

It’s said laughter is the best medicine. I hope that’s true because I’m feeling more than a little sick right now.

Yuge!: 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump is a remarkable collection. I recommend it to all.

ISBN 978-1-4494-8133-9

******************************

Ms. Marvel 8

Ms. Marvel #5-8 [Marvel; $3.99] are, collectively, my pick of the week. I am also ready to officially declare that Ms. Marvel is my favorite Marvel title.

If you’ve somehow managed to miss the generally positive press on this character, Kamala Khan is a teenage Muslim girl who lives in Jersey City. When she was exposed to the Inhumans’ Terrigen Mist, she got super-powers. She became a super-hero and, in short order, a member of the Avengers. What makes Kamala so delightful for me is how writer G. Willow Wilson manages to combine super-heroics with real-life issues and teen life.

Kamala is stressed by the many facets of her life and the secrecy surrounding them. She feels the weight of family obligations just as strongly as those of her super-hero life. She experiences teen romance for the good and the bad. She tries to think before using her powers. She sometimes trusts authority figures too much. It’s a winning combination for me.

In these most recent issues, Kamala’s stress levels have been off the charts with her brother’s marriage vying for her attention as she deals with school and super-hero stuff. She’s also had to deal with the first stages of Marvel’s latest crossover event: Civil War II. Which I’ll describe as briefly as possible.

A new Inhuman has the power to rip off Minority Report. Excuse me, the power to see the future and, theoretically, prevent crimes and tragedies before they happen. Of course, this kind of sort of means the heroes who buy into this as a good thing will be arresting and otherwise violating the civil rights of individuals who have yet to commit an actual offense.

Captain Marvel, who Kamala respects tremendously, is on the side of civil rights being too inconvenient to bother with. Kamala follows her lead, but quickly has doubts about the situation as she quite correctly compares this to racial profiling. Issue #8 brings this into focus with a dynamite last page that really does make me want to see what happens next.

Ms. Marvel is available in several hardcovers and trade paperbacks. I recommend them all.

******************************

Planet Comics 8

It’s been a while since I’ve written about the Planet Comics books published by PS Artbooks of England. When last we spoke of them, I cautioned the initial years of this 1940s Fiction House title were mediocre at best. Sure, there were some ideas so bizarre that they were kind of fun. Sure, there was some of the early works of comics artist we now revere. But, all in all, these were not the cream of the comic-book crop.

With Planet Comics Volume Eight [$59.95], we’re getting more good stuff that not-so-good stuff. This hefty hardcover reprints Planet Comics #30-35 [May 1944 to March 1945]. The book also includes an informative intro by noted comic-book fan/historian and science-fiction author/fan Richard A. Lupoff. But, as always, the stories and art are the real draw.

“The Lost World” is rolling along nicely. Hunt Bowman and his high-heel wearing friend Lyssa are surviving on an Earth devastated by an alien invasion and fighting the vile Volta Men. The adventures are entertaining with art by such notables as Graham Ingels before he was deemed “Ghastly” and Lily Renee.

Artist Joe Doolin does fine work on “Mars, God of War.” The title character possesses the bodies of the human du jour – men and women – are uses them to foment war. The spectral sociopath is thwarted by a succession of brave men and women. In the last “Mars” story of this volume, he is opposed by the remarkable Mysta of the Moon. She will soon boot the God of War from his own feature.

The wacky “Norge Benson,” which features a bear as the hero’s main sidekick, is also fun. Alas, this book reprints the last stories of the feature.

The remaining series are basically assorted space cops and robbers. Some of the stories are good, some are mediocre, a few are simply awful. We don’t know who wrote the stories, but the artist roster includes Fran Hopper, George Tuska, Lee Elias and some of the first work of the legendary Murphy Anderson and Joe Kubert.

These Planet Comics volumes – I’m running four or so volumes behind in reading them – won’t be for every comics reader. I get them for two reasons. First, I’ll purchase just about any reasonably-priced collection of comics from the 1940s or 1950s. Second, these books bring back fond memories of my late friend Dave Massaro, a gifted teacher who loaned me his original copies of Planet Comics issues because he thought they would inspire my own writing. I’m looking forward to reading the remaining volumes of Planet Comics. We will probably talk about them again.

ISBN 978-1-84863-861-7

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #166

The Batman Adventures Volume 4 by Paul Dini, Brice Timm, Kelley Puckett, Mike Parobeck and others [DC Comics; $24.99] is my pick of the week this time around. Just as Batman: The Animated Series is my favorite movie or television incarnation of the legendary hero, the comic book based on that series is one of my all-time favorite Batman title. In the mid-1990s, when these stories first appeared, it was common for comics fans to deem the series the best current Batman title.

The Batman Adventures Holiday Special #1, which is included in its entirety in this volume, is a comics collaboration between writer Dini and other members of the animated show’s creative staff. The anthology features Batman, Batgirl, Clayface, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, the Joker and Commissioner Gordon. Each short tale is complete unto itself with a satisfying ending. Especially choice are a melancholy Mr. Freeze story and an action-packed Joker tale. But there’s also much to be said for the sight of Harvey Bullock as Santa Claus and Renee Montoya as his elf.

Puckett has several great stories in this trade paperback. One is an epic three-issue adventure in which Batman/Bruce loses all of his adult memories. Another is a wry comedy in which Mastermind and his two criminal compatriots are smack in the middle of a quest for a fantastic pearl. Ty Templeton pens a moving yarn of Bruce Wayne’s romance with a single mother that caught me smack dab in the heart.

The collection concludes with a sprawling 44-page thriller in which the Batman joins forces with the Demon to stop Ra’s Al Ghul’s mad plan to wipe out most of humanity. This tribute to Jack Kirby was by Dini with co-plotters and artists Timm and Glen Murakami. This book is over 250 pages of some of the very best Batman comic books of the 1990s.

The Batman Adventures Volume 4 is suitable for all ages. If you’re a Batman fan, a connoisseur of great comics, someone looking for a gift for a Batman fan, or, especially, the book buyer of a public or school library, you should buy this book. You should also buy a copy for yourself. Because you’ll want one.

ISBN 978-1-4012-6061-3

******************************

Buffy

Buffy: The High School Years – Freaks & Geeks by Faith Erin Hicks with artist Yishan Li [Dark Horse Books; $10.99] takes us back to our stake-wielding heroine’s first year at Sunnydale High School in Hellmouth, er, I mean Sunnydale, California. To put it another way, this compact [80 pages, 6″ by 9″) graphic novel is set during the first season of Joss Whedon’s wonderful Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series, which was must-watch television at my house.

Hicks takes us back to when Buffy was still making the adjustment from most popular girl at her former high school to outsider at her school. Her friendships with Willow and Xander are still new, both for the Slayer and her friends. Her tutelage under Giles is just as new with the reserved watcher starting to become more than just her instructor in the ways of vampire-slaying. All of them have doubts about these new relationship, which Hicks uses to great effect in this story.

Nerdy vampires. Four students who were abused in life and who are still dismissed by cool vampires in their undead existence. Just as desperate for attention as in their former lives, the four figure killing the Slayer will gain them immediate entrance to the coolest of the cool vampire ranks. They play on Buffy’s doubts, something common to high school students and, indeed, most of us throughout our lives. This adds the kind of emotional element to the vampire-slaying seen in the best episodes of the TV series and the best of the Buffy comic books over the years.

The highest compliment I can pay Freaks & Geeks is that I could see it as a first-season episode of the TV series. It captures all of the angst and wonder of that first season. It feels like the show. It would have made for a memorable episode.

This is the first book in a series of Buffy: The High School Years graphic album. Buffy: The High School Years- Glutton for Punishment [$10.99] by Kel McDonald and artist Li is scheduled for publication in November. I’m looking forward to it.

Buffy: The High School Years – Freaks & Geeks

ISBN 978-1-61655-667-9

Buffy: The High School Years- Glutton for Punishment

ISBN 978-1-50670-115-8

******************************

Kitaro

Add Shigeru Mizuki’s Kitaro to the list of manga characters I love. Kitaro is a one-eyed boy with supernatural powers, the last living member of the Yurei Zoku. This “Ghost Tribe” used to roam our world until the growing numbers of humans chased them underground. But there are other creatures and ghosts bedeviling modern-day mankind. The answer to the question of who they gonna call when that happens is…Kitaro.

The Birth of Kitaro [Drawn and Quarterly; $12.95] is the first in a series of volumes reprinting the earliest Kitaro adventures from the 1960s. Mizuki draws on Japan’s countless legends of ghosts and other fearsome things for his stories, but the horror is lightened with humor and wacky characters. Neko Musume is a good example of those characters. He’s an unrepentant con man monster who is kind of sort of Kitaro’s friend. Kitaro also kind of sort of has more the one eye. His late father’s sentient eyeball lives in his son’s empty eye socket and often helps his son out of jams.

Mizuki has a crisp to-the-point style in both his writing and his art. This first volume has seven done-in-one stories, the opening part of a prose feature on the history of Kitaro plus a section of “Yokei Files” on the things that dwell in Kitaro’s world. That’s a lot of fun and suitable-for-all-ages content.

Kitaro Meets Nurarihyon, the second in this seven-volume series, will be published in October. If you read this first volume before then, you’ll be awaiting each and every volume as eagerly as do I.

The Birth of Kitaro

ISBN 978-1-77046-228-1

Kitaro Meets Nurarihyon

ISBN 978-1-77046-236-6

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #165

Tales of war and warriors are among the most fascinating, horrible and profound stories of the comics art form. When removed from the crass jingoistic tone that characterized the genre for much of its existence, such comics works can illuminate the human condition and draw readers into the experiences of the men and woman called upon to put their lives on the line for our lives or, far too often, for the economic or political desires of those who do not serve, have not served and will never serve their country and their fellows in this dangerous manner. If I seem to have climbed on to my soapbox, it’s because of this week’s pick of the week.

A New York Times bestseller, Maximilian Uriarte’s The White Donkey: Terminal Lance [Little, Brown and Company; $25] is an emotionally-changed graphic novel about a young Marine who faces the horror and the mundane realities of serving in Iraq. Abe enlisted in the Corps in search of something missing from his life. What he finds comes at a terrible price.

When I cite the emotional nature of this graphic novel, I refer to my emotions as I read it. I could feel the lump in my gut growing as I turned page after page. How can we put our young soldiers into situations like the then and now disaster that is the Middle East and do so again and again? How can we squander the potential of men and women who have so much to give our country in peace as well as in war? My jaw drops as Uriarte tells Abe’s story in crisp, to the point dialogue and drawings. There are more than a few moments that made me gasp or even choke as I read them. There were tears…for Abe, for his fellow soldiers, for my country.

Uriarte is am Infantry Marine and Iraq veteran, who enlisted at 19. He served four years as a MRAP turret gunner and as a combat artist and photographer. He created Terminal Lance while still on active duty. The strip is published in the Marine Corps Times. The White Donkey is the first graphic novel of the Iraq War written and drawn by an actual veteran of the War.

Released in April, The White Donkey: Terminal Lance deserves to be nominated for all applicable comics art and comics industry awards. It needs to be read…and not just by comics fans. Simply put, it is an unforgettable graphic novel.

ISBN 978-0-316-36283-2

******************************

Lois Lane

Lois Lane: Double Down is the second book in the young adult Lois Lane series by noted YA author Gwenda Bond [Switch Press; $16.95]. Weighing in at close to 400 pages, the novel is a solid thriller on every level. It has likeable characters, dastardly villains and a couple of players who fall somewhere in between. Even not so young adults – says the senior citizen reviewer – will enjoy it.

Bond keeps the focus on Lois throughout the book, but never slights other characters. We see more of what will make Lois an incredible reporter in the future. We get to know her mother and sister much better. We get to know her friends and other supporting players. We get new reasons to not trust Sam Lane, her father, and further than I could throw him. We get more of the online relationship between Lois and her “SmallvilleGuy,” even as we are introduced to a new online presence, the mysterious “TheInventor.”

I hope Bond is writing another Lois Lane book because she’s created an impressive Lois for modern readers. If she isn’t, I hope Switch Press has another writer lined up. This is a Lois Lane I definitely want to watch grow into the woman her fans have always known that she could be. I recommend this novel to Superman fans of all ages and genders. It’s a great read.

ISBN 978-1-63079-038-7

******************************

Think Tank

One of my favorite current comic-book series is Postal, the ongoing Image title by Matt Hawkins and Bryan Hill and Isaac Goodhart. The series, which I’ve praised in the past, is set in the very odd town of Eden, Wyoming. When I learned Postal would be crossing over with two other series created by Matt Hawkins, I went in search of those  earlier series.

Think Tank Volume 1 by Hawkins and artist Rahsan Ekedal [$14.99] came out in December, 2012, but is still in print, Its protagonist is David Loren, a genius recruited by the government when he was a teen. He’s the smartest scientist in the military think tank where he lives, but he’s grown increasingly opposed to the military using his creations for killing. Loren wants out.

David is MacGyver on super-science brain steroids. His success rate is higher than any other scientist in the think tank and would be even higher if he weren’t withholding some of his successes. But he’s considered such a high-value government asset the military would be willing to stick him in a dark hole or even terminate him to keep him from taking his talents elsewhere. That’s a challenge David can’t resist.

What follows is a fast-moving and very smart story. Even the more outlandish science stuff seems completely implausible within this collection of Think Tank #1-4. The story itself is reason enough to seek out this book, but the bonus features add considerable value to the collection: a cover gallery, the fascinating “Science Class” columns and previews of two other Image series, Echoes and Sunset. I’ve ordered both.

Think Tank Volume 2 is also on its way to me, but I couldn’t wait to let my Tips readers know how much I enjoyed the first volume in the series. For me, Hawkins has become a writer worth seeking out. I’m sure I’ll be writing about his other work in the future. In the meantime, check out Postal and Think Tank.

Think Tank Volume 1:

ISBN 978-1-60706-660-6

Think Tank Volume 2:

ISBN 978-1-60706-745-0

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #164

Hero Comics [IDW; $19.99] is an anthology of comics stories and art created to benefit the Hero Initiative, an non-profit organization, which, in turn, gives financial and other help when comics creators are in dire need of assistance. While the Comic Book Legal Defense gets more donations and press – and does good work protecting the First Amendment rights of cartoonists and other creators – it’s the Hero Initiative that speaks more deeply to me.

The Hero Initiative treats the comics creators it helps with great respect, as well they should. Many of those they have assisted are the very writers and artists who inspired subsequent generations of creators. Increasingly, those in need of their help are creators of my own generation and those that followed us. These are my people and I love Hero for having their backs.

That great respect I mention includes respecting the privacy of the creators helped by the Initiative. This is one reason why the fans don’t always realize how much good work Hero does. Confidentiality does not get headlines in the comics press.

While some comics creators don’t want their circumstances revealed, others have come forward to become champions of the Hero Initiative and their fellow comics creators. Mike Grell wrote the introduction to this collection. Russ Heath contributes a poignant single-page comics story that encompasses how comics artists have not received fame and appropriate fortune for their work and how a simple act of kindness, giving Heath a bottle of wine along with the more vital help he needed, can foster self-esteem in creators beaten down by the industry. Not that tough guys like Russ and my friend Mike are ever beaten down.

So here we have this benefit book. It is 120 pages of outstanding comics creativity by the likes of Howard Chaykin, David Lloyd, Bill Willingham, Neil Gaiman, Mike Dringenberg, Sam Kieth, John Layman, Richard Starkings, Kevin Eastman, Kurt Busiek, Dave Sim, Gene Ha, Gerry Conway, Phil Hester, Mark Stegbauer, Bill Messner-Loebs, J. Scott Campbell, Ralph Reese and many others. These are stories and images that tugged at my heart, contributions from those who are no longer with us: Josh Medors, Gene Colan, Darwyn Cooke, Dave Simons, Alan Kupperberg, Stan Goldberg and Robert Washington. These are my people. They will always be my people.

Hero Comics is my pick of the week. When you buy it, you’re helping comics creators. I urge you to buy this book, to become a member of the Hero Initiative and to donate as generously to the organization as your own circumstances allow. You can be a hero, too.

ISBN 978-1631406089

******************************

Superman Adventures

DC’s Superman Adventures was set in the continuity of Superman: The Animated Series. It ran for 66 issues from 1996 to 2002. It was a companion title to The Batman Adventures and Justice League titles, also based on animated series. DC has started reissuing the trade paperbacks collecting these stories. Superman Adventures Volume 2 [$19.99] is the latest reissue.

This book collects Superman Adventures #11-16, Superman Adventures Annual #1 and Superman Adventures Special #1. The writers line-up is impressive: Scott McCloud, Mark Evanier, Mark Miller, Hilary J. Bader and David Michelinie. Likewise the pencilers and inkers: Rick Burchett, Neil Vokes, Joe Staton, Terry Austin and others. Not one of these suitable-for-all-ages tales is less than entertaining and most are far more than that.

There’s no writing down to a young audience in this book. McCloud kicks things off with a two-issue story about a dying Superman and the world’s attempt to save him, then follows that with a clever, funny tale about aliens challenging Superman to a sporting contest. Evanier draws a contrast between traditional print journalism and modern media that also shows their similarities. His second story in the book features the always-fun Bibbo.

I loved the Superman cartoons this comics series drew its tone from and I love these comic books. They would make wonderful gifts for the young and the old Superman fans in your lives.

Superman Adventures Volume 1 [$19.99]:

ISBN 978-1401258672

Superman Adventures Volume 2 [$19.99]:

ISBN 978-1401260941

******************************

Usagi 154

I’ve been re-reading Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo from the start of that exceptional comics series, but I’m also reading new issues as they are published. There is no such thing as too much Sakai.

Usagi Yojimbo #154 [Dark Horse; $3.99] is a done-in-one adventure. “Kazehime” is a bat-like ninja whose life Usagi saves. Her clan of ninjas has featured prominently in other tales. When our wandering samurai’s journey leads him to a job protecting a merchant, he once again crosses path with her.

The issue is completely accessible to new readers. The inside front cover gives sufficient background to Usagi’s world and situation. Sakai’s clear storytelling, both in the writing and in expressive black-and-white art, bring a reader into the story and keeps them there.

Besides Kazehime, we also meet sword-for-hire Yamaguchi, who was on the opposite side from Usagi when they met years ago. Yamaguchi commands the merchant’s less-than-professional guards. He recruits Usagi so he can have at least one dependable sword at his side. He is an interesting character who works well with Usagi.

Sakai delivers a fine story with a satisfying conclusion. It’s one more reason Usagi Yojimbo has been and remains one of the very best comic books being published today.

******************************

My July weekends are going to be busy and fun. I’m attending three conventions in as many weekends.

First up is G-Fest, the annual Godzilla convention held in Chicago. I’ll be doing a “Kaiju in the Comics” presentation at this event, showcasing giant monsters in said comics. This convention will take place on July 15-17.

PulpFest is devoted to pulp magazines like Doc Savage, The Shadow and many others. It takes place July 22-24 in Columbus, Ohio. I’m not a featured guest at this convention. I go there to see old pals I don’t see anywhere else.

My July schedule wraps up with Monsteramafest, a brand-new event in Akron, Ohio. Put on by the same folks who do the wonderful Akron Comic-Con, it will take place on July 30-31. I’ll be appearing on a panel devoted to Cleveland’s own Ghoulardi (Ernie Anderson), the monster-movie host who ruled Cleveland when I was a kid.

I love to see my readers at these and other events. If you are at the same convention as me, don’t be shy about coming over to chat with me. I enjoy that a great deal.

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #163

It’s not a comic book or graphic novel. It’s not a book about comic books or anything related to comic books per se. My slim rationale for choosing Stephen King’s End of Watch by Stephen King [Scribner; $30] as my pick of this week is that it does have a super-villain. Before I discuss this new novel, I need to make with a bit of “what has gone before.”

THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD

End of Watch is the finale of King’s Bill Hodges trilogy. Hodges is the retired police detective we met in Mr. Mercedes (2014). He is haunted by his most infamous unsolved case, the slaughter of people waiting in line at an early-morning job fair. Their killer ran them over in a stolen Mercedes and then drove the woman whose Mercedes he stole to suicide. The killer – Brady Hartsfield – is a computer genius and a sociopath.

Brady’s mistake is when he tries and fails to drive Hodges to suicide as well. He compounds that by trying and failing to kill Hodges, by accidently killing his own mother and by trying to go out with a suicide bomber bang at a concert. Hodges and his “team” – Holly Gibney, the niece of one of Brady’s victims, and Jerome Robinson, a young friend – prevent Brady from carrying out this massacre. Holly prevents the heck out of it by clobbering Hartsfield with her laptop until Brady’s brains are mush. The mad killer ends up in a coma and an institution.

Finders Keepers (2015) has Bill working as a private investigator with Holly and Jerome at his side. In this second book, the big bad is an obsessive fan who murdered a reclusive writer and, 35 years later, is seeking that writer’s lost notebooks. Hartsfield is not a major player in this novel, but King features him and reveals Mr. Mercedes isn’t quite as brain-damaged as we thought.

In End of Watch, Bill’s health is failing, though he tries to hide this from Holly. Meanwhile, an egotistical, immoral neurologist has used Brady as a test subject for experimental drugs. The treatment gives Brady the ability to act despite his ruined body. He’s going after those teens he failed to kill at the concert…and he’s going after Bill Hodges and his team. Which is as specific as I’m going to get here.

THE SPOILERS ARE OVER

End of Watch is as riveting as the best King novels. Hodges, Holly and Jerome are heroic, likeable and relatable characters. Pete Huntley, Bill’s former partner on the force, is a solid supporting player. Pete’s new partner is a detective more focused on advancing her career than doing her job. And Brady? He is a scary, venomous villain. The kind you love to hate.

End of Watch delivers heart-stopping thrills and horrific moments. Most importantly, it delivers a satisfying ending that feels right. Not only does King still have it, he’s never lost it. I will keep reading his books as long as he keeps writing them.

Mr. Mercedes [$30]:

ISBN 978-1476754451

Finders Keepers [$30]:

ISBN 978-1501100079

End of Watch [$30]:

ISBN 978-1501129742

******************************

Wonder Woman Earth 1

Wonder Woman: Earth One Volume One by Grant Morrison with artist Yanick Paquette and colorist Nathan Fairbairn [DC; $22.99] is the latest in the series that has seen modern-day reinterpretations of Superman, Batman and the Teen Titans. Some of those graphic novels have been brilliant, some less so. This one isn’t brilliant, but it is a solid and solidly entertaining work.

Morrison never soft-pedals either the oppression of the Amazons by abusive men or the lesbianism that naturally results as the warrior woman create their own island society. Paquette with his drawings and Fairbairn with his colors draw a sharp contrast between those two states of existence. The oppression is hard to take, the island is wondrously uplifting despite the secret dishonesty which lies at the heart of Princess Diana’s birth.

Morrison’s reinvention of Steve Trevor as a man of color who sees the parallels between Amazon and American history re: slavery and other deprivations and deceits. Etta Candy is gloriously reinvented as a unabashed bisexual whose confidence and joy of self is simply delightful. I love her and I love this graphic novel.

I highly recommend this graphic novel. You will read it and love it and then join me in anxiously awaiting Volume Two.

ISBN 978-1-4012-2978-8

******************************

Last Night

Edited by Liesa Mignogna, Last Night, a Superhero Saved My Life: Neil Gaiman!! Jodi Picoult!! Brad Meltzer!!…and an All-Star Roster on the Caped Crusaders That Changed Their Lives [Thomas Dunne Books; $25.99] is a collection of articles by authors about the comic-book heroes with whom they connected in a formative way. Those of us in the comics industry whose creative bent is to honor the essentially optimistic nature of the super-hero genre have long understood the power of our work to change lives for the better. More than I can express, I cherish the communications from readers who have told me they became teachers because of Black Lightning or found a key to strengthening their relationships in a scene I wrote decades ago. If you want to take the above as my disdain for comics creators and publishers who use super-heroes to act out their own darkest desires, feel free. They are damaged individuals incapable of appreciating or understanding the joy of the genre.

Back on point, Last Night is the mixed bag you’d expect from such an anthology of stories from diverse creators. A couple of them are pretentious and virtually unreadable. Most are intriguing. A few of them will touch your hearts and souls. Among the latter were the contributions from Delilah S. Dawson, Anthony Breznican, Alethea Kontis, editor Mignogna, and the three pieces on Wonder Woman from Carrie Vaughn, Leigh Bardugo and Jodi Picoult. There’s a lot more good than bad in Last Night and a fair share of great. I recommend it to readers whose interest in comic books extends beyond just the comic books themselves.

ISBN 978-1-250-04392-4

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2016 Tony Isabella