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


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


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.


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


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


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


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


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.


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.



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


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


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



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