TONY’S TIPS #202

Logan [2017] is the most grim and violent of the Marvel movies. It is not my favorite of the Marvel films, but I would not hesitate to list it as one of the best comic-book movies of them all.

Directed by James Mangold, who co-wrote it Scott Frank and Michael Green, Logan is set in the year 2029. It is a dark era for mutants. There have been no mutant births in a quarter-century. Mutants are near extinct. They have been and continued to be hunted by “black ops” and artificially-enhanced Reavers. Mutant DNA is harvested to be used in the creation of new mutants, children and clones looked upon as things rather than human beings.

Logan, played one last time by the brilliant Hugh Jackman, is one of the last remaining mutants. He is old. As his healing abilities weaken, he is dying from adamantium poisoning, his own body killing him. He works as a chauffeur, trying to make enough money to take to the seas with Charles Xavier.

Xavier, played by the even more brilliant Patrick Stewart, must be hidden away from the world. His physical deterioration makes him a threat to all, human and mutant alike. He is cared for by Caliban [Stephen Merchant], a mutant seeking atonement for his former role as a mutant hunter. On the high seas, Xavier will have peace from the voices that scream in his mind day and night. He is a man whose illness led to a terrible tragedy he can never forget or forgive himself for. Yet, such is Stewart’s art, that Xavier is also a man who refuses to abandon hope for the future.

Into this bare bones of an existence come two forces. One is Laura [Dafne Keen], a child created from Logan’s own DNA. The other force are those who hunt her: Zander Rice [Richard E. Grant], a soulless scientist who plays God with Laura and those like her; and Donald Pierce [Boyd Holbrook], the leader of the Reavers.

Without revealing too much more than I have already revealed, let me say that watching Logan was an emotional experience for me. It is not an easy movie to watch. It is grim and it is violent, but it is also heroic and thoughtful and ultimately satisfying. It speaks to me of parenthood and responsibility. It is, at its end, the end of Logan’s lifelong struggle to be more man than beast. There are moments, especially in the final scenes, that had me crying on the inside. Which is where the real tears live.

One such moment has nothing to do with the movie itself. For what I believe is the first time in a non-Marvel Studios production – Logan is a 20th Century Fox film – there are acknowledgments of at least some of the comic-book writers and artists whose comic books contributed to the movie. The special thanks don’t include all the creators they should have included, but their presence in the end credits is a good start for 20th Century Fox.

Logan is a great film. I recommend it to older viewers. Trust me. The “R” rating is accurate. Keep the young kids away from it until they’re older. But, for adults, prepare to experience a super-hero movie that can be dark without abandoning light. This one is truly a masterpiece.

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Batman Wonder Woman 1

Batman ‘66 is among my favorite super-hero comics of recent years. I’ve also enjoyed the more serious Wonder Woman ‘77. No surprise I have been looking forward to the six-issue Batman ‘66 Meets Wonder Woman ‘77 [$3.99 per issue]. Having now read the first two issues, I’m not in the least bit disappointed.

Written by Jeff Parker and Marc Andreyko, the series doesn’t have as much humor as the Batman ‘66 title. But it’s a solid start with Batman and Robin first opposing Catwoman and Talia – the former is stealing a rare book for the latter – and then flashing back to a World War II era auction in which Thomas and Martha Wayne donated the tomes to raise money to find the Nazis. A young Bruce Wayne has his first meetings with Ra’s Al Ghul, Talia and Wonder Woman. The League of Shadows want the books. The Nazis want the books. Young Bruce isn’t of a mind to let that happen.

The art is by David Hahn (pencils), Karl Kesel (inks) and Madpencil (colors). The Catwoman in the story is the Eartha Kitt version, my favorite Catwoman after Julie Newmar. Gotham’s Camren Bicondova has not yet become Catwoman in that TV series, but, when she does, she will definitely be a contender.

With the next issue, Batman and Robin ‘66 will be connecting with Wonder Woman ‘66. Which makes me wonder if we’ll be seeing Batman ‘77 before the end of the series. I hope so.

Batman ‘66 Meets Wonder Woman ‘77 is solid super-hero adventure. It gets my recommendation.

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Alters

Alters [AfterShock; $3.99 per issue] is the story of people and a world in transition. Charlie/Chalice is transitioning into her true self at the same time her super-powers have activated. The growing number of “Alters” has changed the world forever with a murderous sociopath trying to force them to serve him while a team of heroes tries to rescue them. The non-super characters are watching their world and their lives change around them.

Alters is the tale of a journey, both within and without its pages. Writer Paul Jenkins has created an intriguing character in Chalice, but his stories reflect his own journey as he strives to create a positive protagonist who is unlike himself and as he discovers the many ways in which he can tell her story. His editorials, starting in the second issue, reflect and illuminate that journey in these scariest of times for the United States and the world.

Artist Leila Leiz is doing a first-rate job with both the drawing and the storytelling. Drawing comics is more than drawing a series of pictures. Those pictures have to relate to one another and move the writer’s story forward from panel to panel and page to page. Colorist Tamra Bonvillain adds additional weight to the art and the story with her work. It’s a great-looking comic book.

Of course, as my veteran readers know, I am a story guy first and foremost. Jenkins gets high marks from me for giving me a character I can cheer for and relate to. Charlie herself, of course, but also her brother Teddy, who has cerebral palsy. I’m also quite enjoying the slow growth of Charlie’s father. Jenkins put some work in on a character who could have easily become a stereotype.

Alters ties with Logan as my pick of the week. It’s super-heroics in a fantasy world that feels real. It delivered some extraordinary surprises in its first four issues. It’s a keeper and I recommend it to one and all.

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #201

Rick Norwood’s Comics Revue [Manuscript Press; $19.95 per issue) is one of my favorite magazines. Every issue is packed with a terrific selection of some of the best newspaper comic strips of all time. For me, the main attraction of the magazine has long been Modesty Blaise by creator/writer Peter O’Donnell and artist Enrique Romero. However, there are so many great strips in each issue that I never skip to the back of the issue to read Modesty first.

Modesty is the retired leader of a benign criminal organization – no drugs, no prostitution, no murder for hire – who disbanded the organization when she retired. With Willie Garvin, the right-hand man she rescued from a downward spiral, she misses the excitement of her past. She meets and becomes of considerable service to Sir Gerald Tarrant, a top official of the British Secret Service. She and Willie deal with old enemies on a frequent basis and also help friends and strangers in need. I love Modesty and Willie, who are, simply put, two of the best characters ever created and, push comes to shove, will name their strip as my favorite adventure strip of all time.

Comics Revue’s current Modesty adventure has a vacationing Tarrant troubled by a woman who sells arms to terrorist. It turns out the woman is one of those old enemies mentioned above. Halfway through the story and I’m already ranking Granny Smythe as one of the most interesting adversaries Modesty and Willie have faced.

On the road to Modesty Blaise, Comics Revue presents over a dozen other remarkable strips. “Tarzan’s Double” by John Celardo and Dick van Buren takes us into a hidden land with a beautiful ruler who’s smitten with the Lord of the Jungle. Sir Bagby by brothers Rick and Bill Hackney is a brilliant albeit little-known comic strip about a bumbling knight serving a bumbling king with the dubious aid of a bumbling wizard. The hilarious strip has only been reprinted in the pages of Comics Revue.

The rest of the line-up: The Phantom (1969) by Lee Falk and artist Sy Barry; The Phantom (1950) by Falk and Wilson McCoy; Krazy Kat by George Herriman; Rick O’Shay, a western strip with action, humor and heart by Stan Lynde; Flash Gordon (1959) by Harry Harrison and Mac Raboy; Flash Gordon (1969) by Harrison and an unnamed artist; Tarzan (1977) by Russ Manning; Alley Oop (1940) by V.T. Hamlin; Gasoline Alley (1982) by Dick Moores; Steve Canyon (1974) by the legendary Milton Caniff; Steve Roper (1956) by Allen Saunders and William Overgard; and Buz Sawyer (1965) by Roy Crane. All of these great strips add up to 132 pages of classic entertainment.

Comics Revue is my pick of the week. It’s available at fine comic-book stores everywhere or you can order it directly from Manuscript Press at P.O. Box 336, Mountain Home TN 37684. A single issue will cost you $20 with $59 for a one-year subscription and $118 for two years. With the quality of the newspaper strips and the magazine’s high production values, I think it’s a bargain.

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Black History

Image Comics continues to surprise in delightful ways. The latest such surprise was Ronald Wimberly’s Black History in Its Own Words [$16.99], a hardcover collection of his illustrations of important black figures with “the words that defined them and their times.” Wimberly is an artist, cartoonist and designer who has worked with DC/Vertigo, Marvel, Dark Horse and other publishers. He also wrote and drew the cartoon essay “Lighten Up,” which is something worth looking up online.

Wimberly portrays 39 historical and pop culture figures. The roster includes Angela Davis, Muhammad Ali, Ice Cube, Laverne Cox, James Baldwin and Lena Horne. Each illustration is prefaced by a bit of biographical information and, within the drawing, has a quote from the figure. Two quotes that hit me hard were Cox’s “When you put love out in the world it travels, and it can touch people and reach people in ways we never expected.” and Baldwin’s “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” For me, the first quote represents hope for our sad country and world…and the second represents the reality for too many of my friends and fellow Americans.

Black History in Its Own Words is an important, vital collection. It belongs in public and school libraries. I recommend it highly.

ISBN 978-1-5343-0153-5

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Movie Comics

Confession. Books about comic books that come out of academia are real tough sells to me. It often comes down to the vast difference between someone – me, for example – who actually knows about making comic books and someone – them – who thinks they know about making comic books and surround their conversation with convoluted mumbo jumbo. But, hey, I couldn’t even last a full year of college before I ran screaming into the real world.

In the case of Movie Comics: Page to Screen/Screen to Page by Blair Davis [Rutgers University Press; $27.95], I went for it because the subject matter was one of keen interest to me. It turned out to be a good decision on my part.

Davis keeps the mumbo jumbo to a bare minimum as he discusses the relationship between comic strips and comic books, and the movies, cartoons, TV shows and even radio programs based on them. Then he sweetens the informative pot by also covering the reverse: how the comics adapted movies and TV shows to their medium. The result is a fascinating overview of the relationship from the beginnings of the American comic strips and comic books through the 1960s.

Movie Comics is a solid piece of work. I approve.

ISBN 978-0813572253

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #200

This being my 200th “Tony’s Tips” column in this venue, I figured I should do something different for it. Since I have been telling anyone who would listen that right now is the true “Golden Age of Comics” – with great new comics and graphic novels from all over the world, collections of classic newspaper strips, and countless reprints of classic and perhaps-not-so-classic comic books from the 1940s to the present day – this week’s column discusses a comics weekly some of you have never heard of and most have never seen a copy of. It’s all about the discoveries, my friends.

I’ve been fascinated by British comics weeklies since before I was hired by Marvel Comics to work on New York City-produced weeklies such as The Mighty World of Marvel and Spider-Man Comics Weekly. Fittingly, the first British weekly I ever bought was an issue of Fantastic, which combined British strips with reprints of Marvel’s 1960s super-hero features. I got it from the legendary Jerry Bails, the father of comics fandom, at a Detroit Triple Fan Fare.

These days, I buy 2000 AD and Judge Dredd Megazine from a friendly neighborhood comics shop two states away from my Medina, Ohio home. I sometimes buy back issues of the reprint comics produced by Alan Class in the 1960s and 1970s. Class published material from Marvel, ACG, Tower, Charlton and other American outfits, albeit in black-and-white. The odd issue of Commando, which features original war stories, has also made its way into my Vast Accumulation of Stuff.

Beano 3871

Allow me to digress a moment. When you’ve been in the comics biz as long as I have, you sometimes receive “found money.” This can be a reprint check for long-forgotten work. It can be a surprise find of a comics rarity that can be sold quickly. It can even be repayment of a loan to another comics professional made years or decades ago. In short, it’s money I wasn’t expecting.

When found money comes my way, half of it will go to worthy causes like the American Civil Liberties Union or Planned Parenthood. The other half is used to treat myself to something fun. Most recently, that “something fun” was a year’s subscription to the long-running The Beano, a British kids comics weekly that has been published by DC Thomson since July of 1938.

What sparked my interest in The Beano were columns by Lew Springer, a contributor to Beano, in his indispensable blog Blimey! wherein he writes about the British comics of the past, present and future. You can read Blimey! at: http://lewstringer.blogspot.com

Beano 3872

The stars of The Beano are kids. Mostly rotten kids. Some of them just short on impulse control. Some of them given to pranks. Some of them with a skewered sense of justice. And even one super-hero in the form of Bananaman, a youngster who gains super-powers when he eats a banana.

I’m only a few issues into my subscription, but most of the strips seem to be tied into “The Bash Street Kids” in one way or another. We have Dennis the Menace – no relation to the comparatively saint-like character created by Hank Ketcham – and his nasty dog Gnasher. We have Minnie the Minx, said to be tougher than all the boys. We have future con man Roger the Dodger. We have Tricky Dick, supreme prankster. While the behavior of these characters is often immoral, I must note that the adults who usually end up as their victims are no paragons of virtue either.

Each 36-page issue of The Beano is in full color and measures a bit over eleven-and-a-half by eight inches. It has comics stories than run from one to six pages long. It has half-page strips. It has a variety of games and puzzles and joke pages. It has contents, one of which allows a lucky kid to become the “Beano Boss” of an issue. I want to know what the age limit is on that one.

Beano back cover

The back page of each issue is a “Make Me a Menace” strip in which readers e-mail their “menace name” and a photo to the magazine. In the most recent issues, we’ve seen Magic Matthew, Animated Aiden, Victor the Viking. I think Beano is due for a Tony the Tiger or a Terrible Tony. After all, at 65 years old, I can make the case that I’m in my third or fourth childhood.

Though I was warned the humor might be too British for my American tastes, I have had no problem getting into the fun of these comics and understanding the uniquely British slang and touches. I think there’s a reason England rates high on my list of countries in which I could see myself living. The other places on my top three list in that regard are Japan and Monster Island.

Are the comics and jokes a little archaic? Frankly, as long as they make me laugh, I don’t care. Examples:

What makes Mickey Mouse fall over?

Disney spells!

What do boats look for on a date?

Row-mance!

What do you get when you cross a snake with a builder?

A boa constructor!

Okay, maybe not comedy gold, but good inexpensive laughs even for age-challenged readers like myself.

My year-long subscription to The Beano cost me approximately $135 in U.S. funds, which comes out to around $2.50 per issue, including shipping. Which is a pretty good deal as I see it. If you’d like to check out The Beano – you can also subscribe to the digital version of the weekly – head over to the DC Thomson website:

https://www.dcthomson.co.uk

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #199

Goodnight Batcave by Dave Croatto with pictures by Tom Richmond [MAD; $14.99] claims to be “a 100% UNauthorized parody! (We’re MAD Magazine. What did you expect!?). Well, while I don’t expect “the usual gang of idiots” to be math whizzes, I feel I must point out that Batman and MAD are owned by the same corporation. So, at the very best, this hardcover is “a 50% UNauthorized parody!” For that matter, considering how many “Goodnight Moon” parodies I have seen over the years, I don’t think the 50% puts MAD in actual jeopardy. But I digress.

For I have not come to bury Goodnight Batcave, but to praise it to all who read this column. It is one of the funniest books I’ve read all year. I read it aloud to myself and I had to stop several times when my laughing prevented me from reading it. I have ordered both of my children to get married and start giving me grandchildren to whom I can read this book. I want those moppets to love it as much as I do. I long to hear “Read it again, Granddad,” which I will do no matter how much their parents want them to go to sleep. Because it’s not me who will have to deal with kids who didn’t get enough sleep the night before. It’s the circle of life!

Croatto’s hilarious words are perfectly supported by the drawings of the most excellent Richmond. You could frame almost every page and put it on a wall and you would laugh whenever you passed these works of art. Which is why I recommend you not hang these drawings on stair walls. You could laugh and miss a stair and fall to some injury. Such a mishap is only hilarious when it happens to someone else, so be sure to take a selfie and send it to me before you hit.

Goodnight Batcave is my pick of the week. As soon as my kids tell me how many grandchildren they are giving me, I’m going to order a whole mess of copies.

ISBN 978-1-4012-7010-0

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Dramacon

So much English language manga has come out over the past couple decades I was not remotely able to keep up with it. Which is why, from time to time, through the fine service of my local library, I often request manga from years past. This week, I want to tell you about a three-book series that came out in 2005 and which is only available on the secondary market. Which I’m doing because Dramacon Vol. 1 by Svetlana Chmakova [TOKYOPOP; October 2005] just charmed the heck out of me with its story of young manga creators who meet at an anime convention.

Barely legal fledging writer Christie is set up in artist alley at her first convention ever. She’s selling the comic which she wrote and which her boyfriend Derek drew. Already tense from the newness of it all, Christie is taken aback by Derek’s flirting with pretty cosplayers and other fans. She flees from their table and, having a tough time navigating through her tears, runs into a mysterious, handsome young stranger. Which is all the summary you’re getting from me.

Chmakova told a story that held my interest. For the most part, I found her characters well-developed, the notable exceptions being friends of Christie and Derek. She does a terrific job capturing the drama, comedy, insanity, hustle and bustle of a decent-sized convention. There is even a brush with greatness that struck me as very true to life. There is also one very dark scene that earns the book its teens and up rating.

Dramacon is worth searching for. I’ve requested the remaining two volumes from my library and will be looking for my own copies when I’m at conventions this spring and summer. If you have any regard for shojo manga, I think you’ll like this series.

ISBN 978-1598161298

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Harrow County Family Tree

Harrow County Volume Four: Family Ties by writer Cullen Bunn with artist Tyler Crook [Dark Horse; $14.99] gathers issues #13-16 of the “southern gothic fairy tale” and adds fifty pages of background art and features.

The ongoing story of Emmy, descendant of a witch who once brought ruin to the county, continues as she does her best to protect people who both rely on her and frequently fear her. It is a solitary life for the young woman, sweetened by the company of a precious few friends.

In this volume, which might be the scariest one to date, Emmy meets her “family” and it’s not a joyous event. These others, as powerful as Emmy, have their rules which would spell doom for those Emmy has been protecting and perhaps for the young witch herself. There is considerable dread to be pushed aside and boundaries to cross along the way. I may be the black sheep of my birth family, but I never had to deal with creatures as terrifying as these.

Bunn excels at giving life to Emmy. The young woman is caring and formidable and likeable. She has a steely courage and determination that puts steel in the reader’s spine as well. Crook’s art is down to earth and still moody as all get out. Nothing is exactly normal in Harrow County. There are dark corners everywhere.

I’ll continue to recommend Harrow County to all those who desire a different take on the horror genre. There are four volumes in the series to date with two more scheduled for June and October of this year. Here’s the list…

Harrow County Volume 1: Countless Haints ($14.99)

ISBN 978-1616557805

Harrow County Volume 2: Twice Told ($14.99)

ISBN 978-1616559007

Harrow County Volume 3: Snake Doctor ($14.99)

ISBN 978-1506700717

Harrow County Volume 4: Family Tree ($14.99)

ISBN 978-1506701417

Harrow County Volume 5: Abandoned ($14.99)

ISBN 978-1506701905

Harrow County Volume 6: Hedge Magic ($15.99)

ISBN 978-1506702087

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #198

This week’s column is all about the girls. I’m looking at a trio of books starring courageous young women in stories that will amuse, excite and, in one case, certainly expand your view of the world. Don’t ask me to choose between them. They are all so good that all of them deserve to be my pick of the week.

First up: Dreadnought Nemesis Book One by April Daniels {Diversion Publishing; $14.99]. In this young adult prose novel, Danny Tozer, who is transgender, inherits the powers of the greatest super-hero in a world filled with such heroes and their foes. When the dying Dreadnought transfers his powers to Danny, the fifteen-year-old finds herself transformed into the girl she always knew she was. It is the answer to her dreams and the start of challenges unlike any she has faced before.

Danny’s abusive father, whose solitary parental impulse has been to make his son a man, demands they find a “cure” for her condition. Her mother tries to be understanding, but is hopelessly subservient to her husband. Danny’s best friend hits on her. As for the super-hero community…

Danny is somewhat taken under the wing of a super-hero team whose members have their own agendas. Some openly welcome her. Some only want the power of Dreadnought in their ranks. One is disgusted by the very thought of a transgender super-hero and wants to find some way to transfer Dreadnought’s powers to a more suitable champion. One has secrets of her own.

Danny has one true friend and ally in Calamity, a young woman who is a “grey” hero and not affiliated with the more visible heroes. But the two girls find themselves in mortal peril when they try to bring down Utopia, the cyborg who killed the previous Dreadnought.

Daniels does well with the human drama and the super-hero action of this novel. Danny struggles with her life and powers, but is brave and determined. Some of the human drama of this book will nigh unto break your heart. Some of the super-hero action is brutal enough to make you wince. I was drained by the time I finished reading this novel…and eager for the next book in the series.

Dreadnought Nemesis Book One is suitable for teens. I suspect this book will be challenged by some because, not unlike the character Graywytch, they can’t abide the notion of a transgender super-hero. The most polite response I can manage for those some folks is that I wish them a speedy journey to the dustbin of history.

If there are awards for prose fiction related to comics and such – and, if there’s not, there should be – I would earnestly nominate Dreadnought Nemesis Book One for that honor. After you read it, I think you’ll feel the same.

ISBN 978-1-68230-068-8

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DC Super Hero Girls

The students of Super Hero High School are back to thrill us anew in DC Super Hero Girls: Hits and Myths [$9.99], an original graphic novel by Shea Fontana with art by Yancey Labat, colors by Monica Kubina and lettering by Janice Chiang. This very cool take on some of the most popular DC heroes and villains is a delight in multiple venues: videos, comics, toys and more.

This time, Wonder Woman, Bumblebee, Batgirl, Supergirl, Poison Ivy, Katana and Harley Quinn are studying The Odyssey for a class taught by Professor Etrigan (aka the Demon), excited about a slumber party on Wonder Woman’s Themyscira and trying to find Batgirl’s missing Batplane while facing fearsome foes from both this world and other realms. If that seems like a lot for one sentence, it’s on account of this 120-page graphic novel being packed with great characters, dangerous villains and action and humor a’plenty.

The book is aimed at kids eight to twelve, but older readers (and really older readers like me) will still enjoy it. Old-time comics fans will get a kick out of seeing so many characters from old-time comic books. “Suitable for all ages” has seldom been as true as it is here. You’d have to be a total grumpy-puss not to have fun with this graphic novel. Highly recommended.

ISBN 978-1-4012-6761-2

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Bandette Three

The greatest thief in all the lands returns in Bandette Volume 3: The House of the Green Mask by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover [Dark Horse; $14.99]. She’s out to solve the greatest of all mysteries, the location of the fabled house that contains the greatest of all wisdoms and treasures. Yes, I used “greatest” three times in this one paragraph.  But, my darlings, Bandette, she deserves all of our praise and our love and, at least, most of our chocolate. I have it bad for this young lady.

Seriously…

Tobin and Coover reach new heights in this 128-page hardcover. The title story is a page turner that slows down just enough to present some truly fine moments for the supporting cast. There is very real peril facing our heroine and her friends, but, at no time, does it diminish the exuberant fun that is the hallmark of this character.

In addition to the title story, the book features an introduction by Kurt Busiek, two short comics story, a prose story and scads of background information and sketches. It’s a steal at the price and that’s something of which Bandette would surely approve.

I recommend all three volumes of this series. When the fourth one comes out, I’ll recommend that one as well.

Bandette Volume 1: Presto!

ISBN 978-1-61655-279-4

Bandette Volume 2 Stealers Keepers!

ISBN 978-1-61655-668-6

Bandette Volume 3: The House of the Green Mask

ISBN 978-1-50670-219-3

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #197

We’ll start with one of the strangest items I’ve ever reviewed in my decades of writing about comics. It’s a 48-page graphic novel, published in a large 9.5 x 12.3 inches hardcover edition, lacking a beginning, a middle and maybe even an end.

Published by IDW, Mickey’s Craziest Adventures by Lewis Trondheim and Nicolas Keramidas [$14.99] purports to be pages from a “lost” Disney classic. According to the book’s introduction, Trondheim and Keramidas came across about forty issues of a Disney comic from the 1960s, which had never been archived at Disney and was published on a regional basis only. It is claimed to have been a spin-off from Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories called Mickey’s Quest. However, the collection they found was not complete.

“Mickey’s Craziest Adventures” was a series of single-page comics that appeared in Mickey’s Quest. They ran from May 1962 to February 1969. Delighted by the pages they did see, Trondheim and Keramidas decided to restore them for publication. Even if this strip was not complete, they figured the pages they did have should be preserved for posterity.

I so wish that story were true.

But the alternative is pretty cool, too.

Trondheim and Keramidas (with colorist Brigitte Findakly) crafted 44 gorgeous and wildly imaginative full-page strips. Their “story” begins with “Chapter 2″ and continues with chapters 4, 7, 8, 10 and on. Rarely do we get two consecutive chapters. Often, the setting and situation in one strip is totally different in the next. They are all wonderfully made and left me desperately wishing for those missing strips. Oh, if only someone out there at a complete run of Mickey’s Quest. Chuckle.

Mickey’s Craziest Adventures is tremendous fun. It will confuse the heck out of younger readers, but us veteran Disney fans will find it amazingly entertaining. Since reading it, I have returned to it on several occasions, just to marvel at this strip or that strip. This book ties for my pick of the week.

ISBN 978-1631406942

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Die Kitty Die

The only comics I read this week that could equal the sheer joy of the above book were Die Kitty Die! #1-4 [Charterhouse Comics; $3.99 per issue) by Dan Parent and Fernando Ruiz. These two veterans from Archie Comics have crafted a series that has all the charm of the best Archie comic books of the 1960s and 1970s, a thoroughly modern sensibility, some of the sexiest art this side of Dan DeCarlo and more than a little commentary on the vagaries of comics publishing in the 2010s.

Kitty is a beautiful, big-breasted witch who has been appearing in her own comic book for decades. Somehow, the events of her comics also happen in her real life. For example, Kitty Comics has married her five times to five different husbands to increase sales. These marriages don’t last, but her ex-husbands are still around. Kitty Comics has also published the adventures of cartoon characters who parody Casper, Hot Stuff and Richie Rich. This was makes perfect sense when you read these issues.

The title comes from the latest Kitty Comics plan to raise sales. They want to kill Kitty and replace her with the nastier Katty. To achieve this goal, the company has offered to reward whoever kills Kitty with the return of their own comic books.

There’s so much to love in these issues. Each of them leads with a “reprint” of an earlier Kitty story. Kitty hangs out with a bunch of comics fans at a comic-book shop. There are pin-ups and fashion pages and faux advertisements. Simply put, these four issues are a sheer delight. They had me smiling from start to finish…and for a few hours beyond the finish. They have be smiling now because I know you’ll love them as much as I do.

Kudos to Parent, Ruiz and the league of co-conspirators in comics fun: Rich Koslowski, J. Bone, Glenn Whitmore, Janice Chiang, Gisele Lagrace and Bill Golliher. Their work deserves to be named a pick of the week.

A trade paperback collection of the four issues is due this month ($24.95). I recommend it highly.

ISBN 978-1988247144

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We Can Never Go Home

Joy informed my choices for picks of the week, but not every comic book is going to be an uplifting romp. We Can Never Go Home Volume 1 by writers Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon with art by Josh Hood and Brain Level [Black Mask; $9.99] is the pretty grim story of two young people who make bad decisions.

From the back cover:

Teenage misfits Duncan & Madison are on the run. The only things they can count on are their super powers, a handgun and each other.

Duncan and Madison are engaging protagonists. I wanted to like them and I did, only to be taken aback by their propensity to make some of the worst decisions in the history of worst decisions. Nothing goes as they plan. Violence and death are their companions on their journey. The ending of this first volume – first are planned – has them in circumstances much less than they would like.

The writing and story are a wee bit choppy in places, but I think this is, overall, a terrific graphic novel or portion of a terrific graphic novel. The art is personal and powerful. The characters are believable and interesting. The action sequences are exciting and gritty. The ending left me unsatisfied, but, knowing there are more volumes to come, pleases me. I’m sticking with this one.

We Can Never Go Home is not a comic for younger readers, though I think it will resonate with older teens and even old farts like me. I recommend it.

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #196

Here’s the Tony Isabella DC Universe Rebirth update. I still don’t understand what the heck is going on in the DCU, but I am enjoying the ride. Most recently, I read a big chunk of Batman comic books: Batman #6-12, the latest Batman Annual, Detective Comics #940-945 and Nightwing 5-10. What follows won’t be a blow-by-blow review of those issues, just some overall comments, likes and dislikes.

Batman, for the most part, is being portrayed as a complex man with personal issues, but who is quite capable of compassion. In other words, he’s not a massive rhymes-with-frick. I like that and I also like that Bruce Wayne is not being treated simply as a disguise for Bats. Bruce is a real person and Batman is a large part of who he is. That works for me.

Batman has been delving into some science fiction storylines, sort of an updated version of the wild adventures he used to have back in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The arc with the super-powered Gotham and Gotham Girl felt like a modern version of the Batman’s World’s Finest Comics team-ups with Superman. The story delivered a satisfying conclusion and Batman gained an intriguing supporting cast member who I hope stays around for a while.

The “Night of the Monster Men” arc, which stretched out over all of the above-mentioned titles, was good creepy fun. The monsters were horrific, but no more so than Hugo Strange, who created them. This latest Batman/Strange clash also had a satisfying ending. I really like solid endings because, quite frankly, we don’t see enough of them these days. Too many stories end with the horrendous villain escaping to kill again.

Batman’s new “Bat-Squad” of Batwoman, Clayface and other heroes and would-be heroes is another attraction for me. More than ever, Bats has a family and, like every real family I know, they don’t always do what “dad” wants them to do. And, of course, with Clayface, we are getting a redemption story and veteran readers of my writings know what a sucker I am for them.

In these issues, a seeming tragedy occurs. I liked the way Batman and his team reacted to this. Rage and sorrow were moderated with a restraint not often seen in super-hero comics.

As for what I haven’t liked…let’s start with the architect of the above tragedy being Batwoman’s father. The character comes off as a cliche in these issues and, to be honest, while I can see comics writers using the government as villains over the next few years, I am not on board with the tired trope of the former soldier using his training to change the world as he sees fit. Marvel’s Punisher is enough crazed combat vet for an entire industry.

There also seems to be a darkening of Catwoman. Who, apparently, is responsible, perhaps personally, for over 200 deaths. Sure, Selina lives and operates in an often-bleak, morally ambiguous world, but the whole mass murderer bit doesn’t feel right to me.

Then there’s Nightwing. Dick Grayson hasn’t felt right to me for a long time. Not during his “no costume” spy days and not since he’s suited up again. I want to like the guy. I want to enjoy his comic. I’m not doing either. This is a series that needs a new direction that honors Grayson’s history while giving us something we haven’t seen before.

That said, I’m enjoying the DC Universe Rebirth titles I have read and look forward to reading more of them. When I do, I’ll doubtless write about them here.

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Captain Kid

I was excited when I read the solicitation for Captain Kid by Mark Waid, Tom Peyer and Wilfredo Torres [Aftershock; $3.99 per issue]. Waid rarely disappoints and the premise was one that resonated with this 65-year-old comics reader and writer:

Chris Vargas is a middle-aged man with a hacking cough, an obsolete job, and a bombastic secret: whenever he likes, he can transform into the teenage superhero Captain Kid!

There are lots of cool things about Chris. He’s a responsible guy trying to take care of his aged, sickly father. He wants to remain connected to his friends. For me, right there, that’s the answer to the question of why he doesn’t stay super and young all the time. Waid and Peyer also ground the super-heroics in reality. A super-hero needs a command of science and, especially, physics, if he is to use his powers effectively…and Chris comes up somewhat short in that area. Makes him more human. Makes him more interesting. So I’m mostly on board with this series.

Where I’m less than enthusiastic is the element of time-travel that permeates the first issue and the indications that there’s a larger story to be told, one involving other super-heroes and world-shattering events. Which is fine and good, I guess, even though you can’t hardly trip in a comic-book store without landing on super-hero comics filled with such things.

The middle-aged guy juggling power and responsibility, the guy who doesn’t want to lose himself in the super-hero suit, that’s a far more interesting theme than the common senses-shattering adventures I can get in dozens of other comic books.

I enjoyed Captain Kid #1 and #2. How much I continue to enjoy the series will probably depend on how well it maintains the elements I most enjoy and minimizes those I don’t.

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Champions

My pick of this week? That would be Champions [Marvel; first issue #4.99, following issues $3.99 each]. Written by Waid with Humberto Ramos (pencils) and Victor Olazaba (inks) on the art, this new book features young heroes Ms. Marvel, the Miles Morales Spider-Man, the Totally Awesome Hulk ala Amadeus Cho, Nova, Viv Vision (daughter of the Vision) and the Cyclops brought from the past with the other original X-Men in a time travel storyline that makes my brain throb if I think about it too much. But, since I’m not gonna think about it, I can report I love Champions without reservation.

Obviously, as the guy who first conceived and wrote Champions for Marvel back in the 1970s – albeit with a much different and rather bizarre roster – I have a sentimental attachment to the name. I’m also delighted beyond belief that my “Because the World Still Needs Heroes” tag line is being used in this new series. But there’s so much more to my regard for this new team.

Just as he did with his too-short-lived Legion of Super-Heroes book of 2005, Waid has come up with a fresh new concept for a teen hero series. Back then, it was rebellious youth. This time around, it’s young heroes disillusioned with the antics of the older heroes with whom they’ve teamed. They are disillusioned with those heroes and their agendas that get in the way of just helping people. They are disillusioned about the “punch first” philosophy of their mentors. They want to change the world in positive ways.

These young heroes aren’t spending their time fighting old enemies in battles that have nothing to do with non-super people. They are intelligent and dedicated young people who think about the possible consequences of their actions and make good choices as a result of this forethought. Best of all, they are written realistically. As the father of two kids who, with their neighborhood friends, grew to be capable and decent adults, I find Waid’s handling of Kamala Khan and her teammates to ring true. The super-powered Champions of the Marvel Universe, just like the young people of our real world, are the hope of the future.

Champions is a progressive super-hero team book. It’s well-written and well-drawn. I love it a lot and, unless you’re the kind of jerk who thinks “social justice warrior” is an insult, I think you will love it, too.

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #195

When it comes to my entertainment preferences, “comics” in all its myriad forms – comic books, comic strips, graphic novels, cartoons, movies, TV shows – are and will always be my first love. Just as my second entertainment love will always be monsters, especially giant monsters. So I may well burst with joy as Marvel Comics devotes one of its huge publishing events to its glorious monsters of the 1960s and beyond.

Monsters Unleashed Prelude [$34.99] is a 264-page collection of 13 of the giant monster stories by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers and Steve Ditko. These are creatures whose names sound like someone spilled letterer Artie Simek’s box of sound effects. Goom! Googam! Orrgo! Moomba! Rommbu! Blip! Groot! Grottu! Vandoom! Backing up these thirteen tales, we have more recent stories from Fearless Defenders, Marvel Zombies, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, and Totally Awesome Hulk. Excuse my squeals of delight.

The giant monster stories of the 1960s often featured what I call “outsider heroes.” The scientists who are mocked for their “crazy” theories or slight builds or shyness. The novelist trying to relax with his family. The escaped criminal. Even the ones who fit the traditional heroic image had a realism to their characters that spoke to me. Some of these stories were man versus monsters. Some were morality plays. Some were man versus man with the monsters a bit harder to recognize. I loved them all and, on rereading them so many decades later, find them just as much fun as ever.

Comics history digression. There have been many alternative facts about how these stories were created. The real truth comes from my friend Larry Lieber:

Stan would come up with the basic idea, sometimes in sessions with Larry. Then Larry would write a full script for artist Jack Kirby. Jack, recognized as one of the greatest storytellers in comics, was likely allowed to adjust these scripts for more dramatic visuals. The nutty names were Stan’s, the scripts were Larry’s and, almost certainly, the creature designs were Jack’s.

These giant monster stories appeared in titles like Strange Tales, Tales to Astonish and Tales of Suspense. Many of the earliest ones were six or seven pages in length. Somewhere along the line, they were expanded to twelve or thirteen pages, which allowed Kirby to draw bigger panels and even full-page shots that looked like movie posters. At least they did to me.

The more recent stories in this collection don’t take me back to my youth, but they are fine efforts. They have me eagerly awaiting the full-blown invasion of these classic-to-me monsters into the Marvel Universe. And I’m squealing again.

ISBN 978-1-302-90089-2

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I Am Jim Henson

Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos’ “Ordinary People Change the World” series of children’s books continues with the release of I am Jim Henson [Dial Books; $14.99] last month. Meltzer is better known as a political thriller and non-fiction writer, but has also written for comic books and created TV shows. Eliopoulos is widely regarded as one of the best cartoonists in comics. If I’m recalling correctly, this is the thirteenth book in the series.

Henson was a born performer and a master of imagination. With his Muppets, he made children and grown-ups alike delight in the world around them, embrace worlds beyond their own, laugh at the comedy of the real and unreal, and learn about themselves, about others, about math and science and so much more. Henson and his characters invited us to explore and feel and grow and love. His contribution to our society is and remains immense.

Meltzer and Eliopoulos use Henson’s life to inspire young readers. In these books, the subjects narrate their stories and are shown as children themselves. This method speaks to the children who enjoy these books and to adults who can embrace that sense of wonder of their youth. I love the series without reservation and recommend each and every one of the books in it.

Birthday hint: The books make great gifts for young children. With subjects including George Washington, Helen Keller, Lucille Ball, Albert Einstein, Rosa Parks and more, you’re sure to find one that will appeal to that birthday boy or girl in your life.

ISBN 978-0-525-42850-3

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Nonnonba

I’ve been reading a lot of Shigeru Mizuki manga of late. In recent months, I’ve praised his Kitaro comics and his four-volume Showa: A History of Japan. This week, I’m praising NonNonBa [Drawn and Quarterly; $26.95], which was first published in English in 2012. One of the wonderful things about our modern comics world is that brilliant works like this often remain available for years after their initial release, either though booksellers or through public and school libraries.

“NonNonBa” is a contraction for the Japanese words for grandmother and a person who serves Buddha. As seen in Mizuki’s Showa volumes, this woman was family, ally and spirit guide to the young mangaka to be. In this warm and fanciful memoir, autobiography mixed with ghost stories, the focus is on Mizuki and his relationship with his grandmother. She was his guide to the spirit world and his support when life dealt him hard blows. The artist loved her and, once you read this 432-page softcover, you will, too.

Choosing my “pick of the week” this time around wasn’t easy. There is my nostalgic love for the Marvel monsters of the 1960s. There is my continuing admiration for what Meltzer and Eliopoulos are doing with their “Ordinary People Change the World” series. It came down to the sheer artistry of Mizuki in sharing his life and his beloved grandmother with his readers.

NonNonBa is my pick of the week. It earns my highest recommendation and that extends to all of Mizuki’s work. He was truly one of the greatest comics artists of all time.

ISBN 978-1770460720

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #194

Fantagraphics Books gets possibly the most-deserved “pick of the week” recognition since I started writing this column for Tales of Wonder. The publisher earns it for The Complete Peanuts: Comics & Stories Volume 26 [$29.99], the culmination of one of the all-time greatest comic-strip reprint projects.

With the launching of Peanuts in 1950, Charles M. Schulz redefined the American comic strip as only a handful of cartoonists have done in the history of that popular art and entertainment form. He and his work were and remain an inspiration to cartoonists all over the world, just as the characters he created – Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus and the rest – are loved all over the world. That his cartoon legacy has been preserved in 25 beautifully-made hardcover collections is a blessing to comicdom.

“Wait a minute, Tony! You just wrote that Peanuts was collected in 25 volumes, but you’re reviewing a 26th volume. We know math isn’t your strong point, but what the heck?”

Relax, my Peanuts-loving posse. I can explain.

Besides Schulz’s 50-year-run creating the daily and Sunday Peanuts strips, he produced a figurative ton of other drawings and related items for comic books, storybooks, single-panel gags, advertising campaigns, book illustrations and more. This 344-page finale to The Complete Peanuts presents a great deal of that rare material along with historical information to put it into context.

There are gag cartoons from The Saturday Evening Post, seventeen in all, created and sold before Peanuts hit the newspapers. There are seven Peanuts comic-book stories Schulz did in the 1950s and 1960s. His collaborator Jim Sasseville handled most of the art for these Dell comic books.

The book has advertising art and strips, and even a drawing and a recipe Schulz did for the cover of a 1983 cookbook by the Women’s Sports Foundation. He was on the organization’s Board of Trustees.   There are special Christmas stories that appeared in Better Homes and Gardens, Good Housekeeping and Women’s Day. There are Peanuts storybooks, such as Snoopy and the Red Baron.

There are drawings Schulz did about golf and tennis, two passions of his. There are dozens of other spot drawings.

Most moving of all is a remembrance of Schulz written by his wife Jean. “Sparky” brings the great and humble man to life in a manner that made me wish I had met him…and which explains why his work will always be part of me.

This final volume and this entire series should be in every school and public library. I’m deliriously happy that these books are part of my personal library as well. Thank you, Fantagraphics, and, of course, thank you, Charles Schulz.

ISBN 978-1069699-975-8

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Shaft

It amazes me to say this. Until I read Shaft: A Complicated Man by David F. Walker and artist Bilquis Evely [Dynamite; $19.99], I had no experience with this iconic hero. I had never read one of Ernest Tidyman’s seven Shaft novels. I never saw the four Shaft movies, or any of the made-for-TV movies featuring the character. This despite Tidyman being a legend in my native Cleveland before he created the character. This despite my creations of Black Lightning and Misty Knight and my work on other African-American comics heroes like the Falcon and Luke Cage. This despite my long-held interest in adding more diverse characters to comics. Go figure.

Walker and Evely’s six-issue “origin of Shaft,” collected in this trade paperback, has sparked my interest in Tidyman’s famous hero. It shows how his life and his times shaped the man John Shaft would become. It brings those times to life in all their beautiful hope and ugly bigotry while reminding today’s readers that hope remains a precious commodity and bigotry is always just one racist politico away. It’s a solid thriller involving murderous crime bosses, the corrupt politicians in bed with them, their willing accomplices and the innocents caught up in their violence. It’s a well-written tale with guys and solid visuals. I liked it a lot.

The story collected in this volume won the 2015 Glyph Comics Award for Story of the Year. The book also features samples of the story scripts, concept art, variant covers and more. It gives the reader a solid bang for his twenty bucks. It made this reader start trying to figure out he can make time to read all those novels, including a new one by Walker, and watch all those movies. Can we please have an extra month or two this year?

ISBN 978-1-60690-757-3

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Punisher

John Shaft lives in a often-violent world. The Punisher, especially in the comics written by Garth Ennis, is the very personification of violence. That’s my takeaway from Punisher Max: The Complete Collection Vol. 1 [Marvel; $34.99] by Ennis with Darick Robertson, Lewis LaRosa, Tom Palmer and Leandro Fernandez.

This massive 424-page trade paperback reprints Born #1-4 (2003) and Punisher #1-12 (2004) and also includes an introduction by Ennis and dozens of pages of behind-the-scenes bonus material. These are not comic books for delicate sensibility.

Born by Ennis and Robertson with inker Palmer could be considered the “secret origin” of the Punisher before Frank Castle officially took on that identity. It follows Castle through his final tour of duty in Vietnam. Yet even there, he has taken on the attributes of judge, jury and executioner. He is becoming a monster and, though there is an indication, he is the willing host of some never-seen demon, he is as much monster as he is human.

When I say Frank Castle is violence, it’s because that is the one constant in his post-Vietnam world. “In the Beginning” by Ennis and LaRosa with Palmer casts him as a monster in a world of monsters. There are few innocents in this world and, more often than not, he cannot save them. This six-issue arc shows him at war with the mob responsible for the deaths of his wife and children, with those who would use him for his own ends and with a former ally who he will judge harshly. He is violence unrelenting.

Castle’s character is only slightly tempered in “Kitchen Irish” by Ennis and Fernandez, and that only because he allies himself with an old friend. The monsters he faces in this six-issue arc are the heirs of a vicious Irish gangster who hated his family as much as they hated him.

Readers who know of my preference for “white hat heroes” – heroes who hold themselves to a higher ideal and who sacrifice their own happiness to protect others – may be surprised by my praise for the Ennis Punisher. But these are not remotely super-hero stories in intent or execution. They are crime stories and maybe even horror stories. They are apart from the Marvel Universe that is simply not a good fit for Frank Castle. They are their own thing, a brilliant exploration of unending war in a world of monsters.

Frank Castle isn’t a hero, but is a most fascinating protagonist. These stories are intense and honestly told with visuals that suit them exceedingly well. They are not for every comics reader, but I recommend them to adults who enjoy taking a walk on the dark side from time to time.

ISBN 978-1-302-90015-1

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #193

I probably sound like a broken record to veteran readers of “Tony’s Tips” and my other writings about comics, but nothing gets me more excited than the amazing variety of material available to today’s comics readers. Today’s “Tips” is a shining example of this as we look at a super-hero series by an award-winning novelist, a comics adventure based on a Disneyland roller coaster and a different take on a classic Japanese manga.

First up is Angel Catbird Volume 1 by Margaret Atwood with artist Johnnie Christmas and colorist Tamra Bonvillain [Dark Horse Books; $14.99]. Atwood is best known for her 1995 novel The Handmaid’s Tale and other works. She’s also a poet, literary critic, essayist, environmental activist and inventor/developer. Christmas created and illustrated several acclaimed comics. They’re a formidable team and this graphic novel is further enhanced by Bonvillain’s colors. Bonvillain has worked with Greg Hildebrandt and also for many/most of the top comics publishers.

Angel Catbird is a super-hero comic book. Atwood clearly revels in the genre and the proof is in this 72-page debut of her character. Though she plays with familiar comics tropes – a scientist whose gene-splicing experiments turn him into a creature he never could have imagined; an evil man-rat corporate villain; a hidden race of cat people – she tells her story with such delight and skill that none of that impaired my enjoyment of this book. When I got to the end of this first hardcover book, I immediately wanted to read the second volume in the series. Fortunately, that volume is scheduled to appear in just a few weeks.

The book’s good guys are heroic and likeable, especially the odd-but-wonderful Count Catula. The bad guy is clever and dangerous. Feel free to hiss at him. The writing, the art, the storytelling, the coloring, are all wonderful. Yeah, this is a super-hero comic book, one fine super-hero comic book.

Angel Catbird is my pick of the week. The comics material is top-notch. The book is further enhanced by lots of bonus material and solid facts and tips about our animal neighbors on this planet. By my standards, it’s suitable for all ages. It’d make a terrific gift for any animal-loving comics reader.

ISBN 978-1-50670-063-2

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Big Thunder

Having seen Disney Parks attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion and Tower of Terror turned into movies – some more successfully than others – it didn’t surprise me that Disney and Marvel Comics could also turn such park attractions into comic books. I wasn’t sold on this idea initially. I kept passing on the comic books and the collections thereof.

Haunted Mansion by Joshua Williamson and Jorge Coelho [Marvel; $24.95] changed my mind. I read the first issue in a free Halloween ComicFest edition and liked it will enough to request a copy of the collection from my local library system. The tale of young Danny, lonely since the death of his globetrotting grandfather, entering the Mansion, interacting with some of the 999 spooks living there and becoming their hero was great fun. After reading this graphic novel, I requested other titles from the Disney Kingdoms and Marvel line. My personal jury is still out on Figment and Seekers of the Weird, but another book scored big with me.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad by Dennis Hopeless with artists Tigh Walker, Felix Ruiz and others [Marvel; $24.99] is a action-packed supernatural western with a haunted mine, a greedy mine owner, the mine owner’s rebellious daughter, a masked outlaw and a town posed on the brink of derstruction. Abigail Bullion is a feisty and not particularly proper young woman who rides a horse better than any man she knows and who has a keen sense of right and wrong.

The characters are finely tuned components of the story. Even with their allies, they can be prickly. The tale moves both smoothly and swiftly with very good writing and storytelling. The real villain of the piece is heinous, indeed. The threat from beyond our world is formidable. There’s even redemption for one character. We know how much Tony loves a good redemption story.

These aren’t classic comics stories, but they are entertaining and well worth reading. If you have a Disney parks fan in your life, I think they would enjoy them even more than I did.

Haunted Mansion:

ISBN 978-1-3029-0076-2

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad:

ISBN 978-0-7851-9701-0

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unfollow

My initial impression of Unfollow: 140 Characters by Rob Williams, Mike Dowling and R.M. Guera [Vertigo: $14.99] was that is was not unlike Battle Royale, the Japanese manga series by Koushun Takami and Masayuki Taguchi, based on the former’s novel. In the book and the manga, junior high school students are kidnapped to an island and forced to fight each other until only one remains alive. It is one of the most unsettling comics I have ever read.

In Unfollow, a dying social media billionaire is going to leave his entire fortune to 140 people (characters). The catch is that, when one of them dies, the shares of the others are increased. If you’re thinking folks are going to start dying, you’re thinking correctly.

Comparing Unfollow to Battle Royale is fair game, but I would not want you think I’m not intrigued by the first six issues that have been collected in this volume. Unfollow is much more high tech and the stakes are bigger. Along with the usual Vertigo weirdness – one of the characters cut off his own legs and wears a wedding dress to the island gathering of the 140 – there are some sympathetic people who, though flawed, are people I can root for. Additionally, the story isn’t confined to the island. Almost the entire cast leaves after the billionaire dies and one of the 140 is murdered by party or parties unknown.

ABC is said to have Unfollow in development for televison. Bringing us closer to the day when comic books completely control all of the TV networks and cable channels. I will cheer when Sister Wives and Duck Dynasty are pushed off the air by DC Bombshells and Howard the Duck. Comic books are much more real to me than so-called reality shows featuring deplorable blights on mankind.

I enjoyed Unfollow: 140 Characters. I look forward to Unfollow: God Is Watching, which should be out right now. A third volume is due in July. If you’re a fan of Vertigo, I think you’ll like this series.

Unfollow: 140 Characters

ISBN 978-1-4012-6274-7

Unfollow: God Is Watching

ISBN 978-1-4012-6723-0

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2017 Tony Isabella