I binge-read David Walker’s Power Man and Iron Fist #1-14 plus the Power Man and Iron Fist: Sweet Christmas Annual #1 ($3.99 for the regular issues; $4.99 for the annual). Given I have considerable fondness for the title stars and some history writing both of them, I can’t believe it took me this long to get around to reading such excellent comic books.

Walker combines the street-style of Luke Cage with the mysticism of Danny Rand in this series. The two heroes and their friendship are well used with their back-and-forth conversations being very funny at times…and serious when it’s called for. There are nice moments with Luke and his family – at least until some other writer in some other book split up Luke and Jessica – and reflective moments when the heroes, especially Danny, question their choices and place in this world. I’m a guy who likes to see the real world reflected in the super-hero comics he reads. Walker brings that realism to the fantastic Marvel Universe in fine fashion.

Sidebar. I haven’t read all of Civil War II yet, mostly because I am bone-weary of these mammoth and ultimately useless major events. I’m guessing whatever went down between Luke and Jessica went down there. Or maybe it was in the new Jessica Jones series, which I’ve read but which seems to take place after the split. The new Jessica series has the disadvantage of being tied to yet another, oh, I’ll just say it, manifestly dumb event. The bottom line is that I liked Jessica in Power Man and Iron Fist a heck of a lot more than in her own new series. May the Universe protect us from creators who think the way to write super-hero comic books is to dump on those heroes unrelentingly. End of sidebar.

Walker brings back a great many characters from Luke and Danny’s pasts with great takes on those characters and the Harlem in which they operate. Luke and Danny mostly stay on the side of the angels, but there’s a considerable grey area in which yesterday’s foe might become today’s ally. That the issues to date have offered terrific redemption stories clicks another of my boxes. This is really smart writing that draws readers into the world of Heroes for Hire.

Did I mention my heart beat just a tad faster when Heroes for Hire reopened for business? I love the concept.

Several artists were involved in the issues I read. Sanford Greene is my clear favorite, but Flaviano, Elmo Bondoc and Scott Hepburn all did fine work as well.

Getting back to Civil War II for a moment, that sad event has too many heroes – heroes – deciding that it’s perfectly okay to arrest, sentence and imprison people for crimes that they haven’t committed yet on account of some psychic Inhuman says they’re going to commit those crimes. If I’m a super-hero or even just a typical American citizen who actually understands what our country is supposed to be about, my immediate response is:

“Are you kidding? That’s not just a massive civil rights violation, it’s immoral on every level. What’s next? We start taking missions from Alex Jones?”

To sum up…Civil War II was really dumb.

There were about a thousand tie-ins to Civil War II. Walker had one of the best takes on it. He has Luke Cage game the system to trick the fascist super-heroes into doing what he wants them to do. Gee, how come the psychic didn’t see that coming?

Power Man and Iron Fist is my pick of the week. There have been two collections of the series to date. Power Man and Iron Fist Vol. 1: The Boys are Back in Town [$15.99] reprints the first five issues. Power Man and Iron Fist Vol. 2: Civil War II [$16.99] collects the next four issues plus the Sweet Christmas Annual. I recommend both volumes for fans and libraries alike.

Power Man and Iron Fist Vol. 1: The Boys are Back in Town

ISBN 978-1302901141

Power Man and Iron Fist Vol. 2: Civil War II

ISBN 978-1302901158



I also binge-read DC’s Nightwing #11-17 [$2.99 per issue]. Before and after Rebirth, this has been a so-so title for me. That said, the recent storyline involving Dick Grayson returning to Bludhaven, meeting and working with some reformed villains, starting a brand-new and interesting romance, and running afoul of a Bludhaven cop who doesn’t think highly of costumed heroes was entertaining. I’m a sucker for bizarre groupings of heroes and villains, even when, as with this story, I didn’t know who most of them were. It could be I never read the comics they appeared in previously, it could be those comics were utterly forgettable. That doesn’t matter to me as long as I can follow the story – which I could – and if the story has a satisfying conclusion – which it did. So kudos to writer Tim Seeley and artist Marcus To on this serial.

Unfortunately, the issues following that story bring back another of the grotesque villains that have dominated the Batman titles for too long. There’s a sameness to these villains with their bizarre motivations and their inclinations toward disfigurement and other tortures. Psychopath after psychopath works better in a TV series like Criminal Minds than in a comic book. Mostly because, save for rare cases, TV series don’t bring back their psychopaths in issue after issue. I’m a huge fan of Dick Tracy creator Chester Gould’s willingness to polish off even a great villain to make room for the next one.

I like Nightwing well enough to continue reading it. But I’d like it to be more than Batman Lite.


Avengers Steed Peel

One more item for this week and it’s a pip. The Avengers Steed and Mrs. Peel: The Comic Strips [Big Finish; $16.67 or thereabouts] is a collection of the eight, gorgeous fully-painted stories that ran in D.C. Thompson’s Diana magazine in 1967. The strips, drawn by Emilo Frejo with assistance from Juan Gonzales, ran two pages per week from issues #199 to #224. These stories have also been adapted by Big Finish for its series of Avengers audio adventures.

I ordered this book for its novelty value and because Mrs. Peel was a boyhood crush of mine. I was pleasantly surprised to find these stories were clever and not at all beyond the scope of the Avengers TV episodes I loved. Steed and Peel were in character, albeit not quite as flirty as in the TV series. The art, as mentioned above, is gorgeous. The more I learn about these British comics weeklies, the more I wish I were writing for such magazines today.

I enjoyed this collection tremendous. It also features informative articles on the making of the audio adventures. It’s a fascinating volume and the only downside is that it has me wanting to buy the audio adventures as well, and watch all the Steed and Peel episodes again, and start searching out the various paperback adventures of the team, and…oh, blimey, I’ve got it bad.

ISBN 978-1-78187-697-0

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2017 Tony Isabella


If, like me, you approve of punching Nazis, then Mark Fertig’s Take That, Adolf! The Fighting Comic Books of the Second World War! [Fantagraphics Books; $29.99] is the coffee table book of both your dreams and nightmares. The handsome softcover book provides insight into the role comic-book heroes of the 1940s played when Hitler and his Axis cohorts threatened the world. This colorful 252-page tome includes more than 500 covers from that era, covers drawn by comic-book legends like Jack Kirby, Alex Schomburg, Bill Everett, Charles Biro, Jack Burnley, Reed Crandall and others.

Fertig’s text can be a little too dry at times, but it does a good job explaining the times that brought these garish covers to life. The covers are the real attraction of this book. They are exciting and horrifying, both for the brutal violence they depict and the clear racism that will startle and upset readers with more modern, evolved sensibilities. I would never suggest censoring these images – there’s that whole bit about what happens when you forget history – but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to see the word “Jap” on the cover of a Superman comic book, even one from the 1940s.

The cover of Red Dragon Comics #7 [Street and Smith; July 1943] was the one that stopped me in my tracks. Drawn by an unknown artist, it shows the hero blasting the flesh off the bones of a Japanese officer and exposing the officer’s shattering spine. Adding to the impact, the officer isn’t drawn as the usual cruel and dehumanizing caricature with which the Japanese were usually depicted. He looks human and it makes the violence all the more shocking.

Many of the covers have little or nothing to do with the interiors of these comic books. Heroes like Batman and Superman are fighting alongside American soldiers or bringing them supplies, which they almost never did in their actual stories. Heroes raised money for the war effort with covers often including reproductions of bonds and stamps.

It wasn’t just costumed heroes who supported the soldiers on their covers. Five different covers from July 1945 show the same letter urging readers to buy War Bonds. Bugs Bunny holds the letter on the cover of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies Comics #45. Andy Panda and Charlie Chicken post the letter on New Funnies #101. The cover of Popular Comics #113 has the letter being held by Smilin’ Jack, Pat Ryan and Connie from Terry and the Pirates, and Smokey Stover. Head shots of the stars of Super Comics #86 – Dick Tracy, Smitty, Winnie Winkle, Moon Mullins, Harold Teen, Tiny Tim – float around the letter on that cover. On the cover of Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #58, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Dopey react the Spirit of ‘76 image with the letter turned into a flag.

The comics industry reached out to its readers with covers showing humor and heroism, horror and determination. Fertig’s collection of these images is a terrific way to capture the times that inspired those covers. I recommend this book highly while cautioning readers that some images might be too alarming for youngsters.

Take That, Adolf is my pick of the week. Get a copy for yourself, then recommend it to your local public and school libraries.

ISBN 978-1-60699-987-5



I’m reading my way through more of DC’s “Rebirth” titles. Some of them delight me and others leave me cold. My interest in all things Green Lantern has been on a downward slide since those titles went “all the colors of the wind” on us. The Justice League books aren’t doing it for me. This doesn’t mean they are bad comic books, just that they aren’t doing it for this reader.

Batgirl and Batgirl and the Birds of Prey are titles I enjoy, but which aren’t among my favorite DC titles. As much as I like Barbara Gordon in these titles, she still strikes me as too young to have lived all the history that still follows her even after “Rebirth.” Even so, there are things I like very much in these books.

“The Son of the Penguin” story arc that began in Batgirl #7 [$2.99] captured my interest. I’ve read through issue #9 and look forward to learning more about Ethan Cobblepot and whatever relationship he has with his father.

In Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, I’m pleased by the portrayal of the Huntress, a great character who has performed poorly in recent years. She was particularly misused in the ill-conceived Grayson. I disliked that series so much that I get a twinge whenever it gets mentioned, even in passing, in this title.

Both titles have solid writing – Hope Larson in Batgirl; Julie and Shawna Benson in Batgirl and the Birds of Prey – and decent art and storytelling. The stories of the supporting characters add weight to the super-hero stuff. I’m not handing out any awards to either title, but both are entertaining. That’s enough for me to continue reading them and to recommend them to you.


Poe Dameron

Marvel’s Poe Dameron [$3.99 per issue] is yet another entertaining book. Written by Charles Soule with art by Phil Noto, it’s a Star Wars spin-off that stars the Resistance X-wing pilot introduced in Star Wars: The Force Awakens [2015]. The title is set immediately before that movie.

I’ve read Poe Dameron #1-12, which features exciting clashes with the First Order and the New Republic. Poe’s supporting cast – droid BB-8 and his Black Squadron of fellow fighter pilots – expand the adventures in good ways. Poe even has his own arch-nemesis in the form of Terex, a former officer of the First Order Security Bureau who has his own agenda going on. This is fun stuff.

You need to be reading all Marvel’s Star Wars titles to follow and enjoy Poe Dameron. The first six issues have been collected in Star Wars: Poe Dameron Vol. 1: Black Squadron [$19.99]. The next batch of issues will be reprinted in Star Wars: Poe Dameron Vol. 2: The Gathering Storm [$19.99], shipping in July. I recommend these books to Star Wars fans young and old.

Star Wars: Poe Dameron Vol. 1: Black Squadron

ISBN 978-1302901103

Star Wars: Poe Dameron Vol. 2: The Gathering Storm

ISBN 978-1302901110

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2017 Tony Isabella


Resolved: I don’t have to know what the heck is going on with DC’s Rebirth event. I’m just know I’m enjoying more of the publisher’s super-hero titles than I was before Rebirth.

A case in point is Superman by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason with art by Jorge Jimenez and Doug Mahnke. I like some issues more than others, but that I can single out a one-issue story or a two-issue story as particularly enjoyable is a huge step up from “arcs” designed to tell one story in enough issues to pad the inevitable hardcover and trade editions.

This time around, I’m looking at Superman #7-9. The current series has a married Clark and Lois living with their son Jon in Hamilton County, three hundred miles from Metropolis. It’s an ongoing “mike drop” for those who claim married super-heroes, much less married super-heroes with children, can’t be interesting.

Issue #7 opens with Superman flying around the world to help some of his super-friends. Predicably, Batman is kind of a rhymes-with-wick about it. The others appreciate the help. Then Clark returns home to spend a night at the county fair with his family, promising Lois there will be no Superman-ing that evening. This done-in-one story is funny and heartwarming and the kind of comic books that’ll put a smile on your face.

Things are more serious in Superman #8 and #9, featuring the two-issue “Escape from Dinosaur Island.” Superman and Jon are working on the latter’s science project when one of the strange crystals in the Fortress of Solitude transports them to another dimension. I’m thinking this other dimension is where the Dinosaur Island of DC’s “The War That Time Forgot” stories is located. Those stories were published in Star Spangled War Stories in the 1960s. The youngsters reading this column won’t know this, but those “soldiers battling dinosaur” comics were prime trade bait when your Tipster was but a lad on Cleveland’s west side. They sold out at the drug stores and other general stores. One issue of Star Spangled War Stories could get you two or three other comics in trade with your neighborhood buddies. They were the gold standard of comics.

Anyway, Superman and Jon meet one of DC’s war heroes from the 1960s and later issues. It’s an nostalgic adventure without being dated. It’s a respectful treatment of the hero and it ends on a satisfying note. If Rebirth means more comic books like these, I’m a willing convert. Well done, DC. Well done.


Angel City

My pick of the week is the amazing Angel City by Janet Harvey with artist Megan Levens and colorist Nick Filardi [Oni Press; $3.99 per issue]. I read the six-issue series in one sitting. I don’t know if this means anything, but it wasn’t until I sat down to write this review that it suddenly hit me that both the writer and artist are women. Maybe it means I got so into the story so quickly that the creators were in the background. Yeah, let’s go with this is such a page-turner the story consumed all my attention until I finished it.

Dolores Dare is a Hollywood hopeful who ends up working for the mob as a leg breaker. Set in 1930s Los Angeles, the six issues show her coming to Hollywood with a fellow hopeful. When her friend’s body is found behind the famous Chinese Theater, Dolores starts looking for the killer.

Angel City includes real people and places. Gangster Bugsy Siegel is a character. The Zoot Suit riots are part of the story. Harvey and Levens draw their readers into the era in which powerful men played powerful games with innocent women and others subservient to their often-depraved desires. As she tracks the killer and tries to bring him to justice, Dolores learns things that maybe she would’ve preferred not to learn.  But no inconvenient truth deters her from her self-imposed mission.

Angel City has terrific writing and art. Almost every issue has an historical essay that ties into the main story and brings that much more reality to it. I love this series a lot and hope we have not seen the last of Dolores Dare.

Due out in August, Angel City: Town Without Pity [$19.99] collects the six-issue series. If you’re into noir fiction, you’ll want this book. If you have friends or loved ones into that kind of fiction, you might want to think about gifting them with this book. And, if you’re like me and love both great comics and noir fiction, you’ll want to buy the book for yourself. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 978-1620104262


Wendy Project

The classic Peter Pan story gets a modern, psychological retelling in The Wendy Project by Melissa Jane Osborne and artist/colorist Veronica Fish [Papercutz/Super Genius; $12.99]. On a late summer’s night, teenager Wendy Davies crashes her car into a lake. Her two younger brothers are in the back seat. John is traumatized by the crash and goes mute. Michael is not found, though Wendy insists he was taken away by a flying boy. The police ask if she has a history of drug use. Her parents send her to a therapist and a new school. As the young woman struggles with her guilt, she becomes more and more convinced that the flying boy is real, and comes to believe Michael wants her to join him in some other place. Osborne and Fish tell this story so well that readers cannot be certain what really happened. Even the satisfying conclusion casts doubt.

Due to be released in May, The Wendy Project is a fresh new take on an old favorite. It’s today, but it’s also yesterday. It is a tale that will move you. Just the thing for comics readers who like to explore different stories in our art form and the different ways of telling them. I recommend it to those readers.

ISBN 978-1-62991-786-3

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2017 Tony Isabella


Veteran readers of my online writings know that I am a man of many parts. Yes, I am a comic-book fan and professional. But my second pop culture love is cheesy monster and horror movies. And, of all the cinematic creatures I have enjoyed, none means as much to me as Godzilla. Call him Gojira, his original Japanese name, or call him Godzilla, he’s still the King of the Monsters.

G-Fan #114 [Winter 2017; $6.95] is the latest issue of editor and publisher J.D. Lees’ quarterly fanzine of The Godzilla Society of North America. The 88-page magazine is filled with great articles on Godzilla, amazing photos and more.

The lead articles discuss Shin Godzilla, the first new Toho Studios Godzilla movie in years. The intelligent commentary comes by way of Daniel DiManna and former Godzilla movie actor Robert Scott Field. Both bring a lot to the conversation, though I would disagree with some of Field’s more political observations. I saw the movie during its brief run in the United States and like it as much as DiManna did and more than Field did. 

The issue also presents a photo-festooned report on an exhibition of kaiju memorabilia; a retrospective of the little-seen Dogora the Space Monster; a reproduction of the pressbook for Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster; an article on The Lost Continent; writer Allen Debus bringing his considerable science chops to a critical history of flying monsters Rodan and Varan; Lyle Huckins linking lost worlds of five seemingly unrelated films; kaiju art and fiction, a letters column and a news column. It’s the kind of magazine a Godzilla fan can relax with for hours and days.

With the disclosure that your beloved Tipster is also the pastor of the First Church of Godzilla on Facebook, G-Fan #114 is my pick of the week. How could I do less for a magazine whose stated goal is “International understanding through Godzilla!”



Hookjaw was the star of Action, a mid-1970s British comics weekly that horrified the sort of adults that generally get horrified at comics that strike out in daring new and often bloody directions. Devised by the legendary writer and editor Pat Mills, Action was, to some extent, the Asylum of its time. The Asylum owes much of its success to mockbusters, entertaining movies not unlike movies with much bigger budgets from much bigger studios. Action featured its own “Dirty Harry” type and a knockoff of the film Deathball. With Jaws being the first summer blockbuster, Action also had its very own monstrous white shark.

Hookjaw was the nickname of a shark that had a gaff hook stuck in its jaw. Besides its considerable gore, the strip had environmental themes. Years after Action was toned down and disappeared, a good chunk of Hookjaw was reprinted in Judge Dredd Megazine. I read it there and loved it.

Move ahead to 2017. Titan Comics has launched a new Hookjaw title [$3.99 per issue] that adds a socio-political aspect to the mix of carnage and environmental concerns. Written by Si Spurrier with art by Conor Boyle, colors by Giulia Brusco and lettering by Rob Steen, the new series has shark researchers, Somali pirates, covert U.S. military and spooks and more.

Hookjaw is thought to be a legend, one that even appeared in comic books in the 1970s, until it reveals itself again. That brings the pro-environment protestors and the media to the party. Snacks will be served, albeit it to Hookjaw. It’s a solid adventure tale with mystery and real-world sensibilities. Each issue also has a prose article on some aspect of sharks.

Hookjaw is a terrific comic book series. I’ve read the first three issues and I’m…okay…hooked. I recommend it to readers who, like me, like comics and monster movies.



Decades after his death, Elvis Aaron Presley continues to fascinate pop culture historians and his countless fans. I was never an avid Presley fan, but, to this day, I can hear many of his songs in my head and conjure up that image of a smiling young man with a guitar who looked like a real-life version of Captain Marvel, Jr.

Elvis by Philippe Chanoinat and Fabrice Le Henanff [NBM; $19.99] is a hardcover comics biography of Presley. Though the graphic album is limited by its brief 80-page length, the script does cover quite a bit of territory while include at least passing mentions of the other great musicians whose work inspired Presley or were inspired by Presley’s work. Le Henanff’s photo-realistic art adds emotion and weight to the Elvis story. It’s as if each page were hanging in an art gallery just beyond your touch. It’s an impressive book and, to my mind, a natural gift for that Elvis fan you know.

ISBN 978-1-68112-076-8


Though I hesitate to use this column to promote my own work, I did want to let you know about my upcoming convention appearances. This list isn’t 100% complete. I’m talking to a few other conventions. But, if you want to meet me, ask me questions and get me to sign a few books, you can find me at these events:

April 29-30: FantastiCon (Lansing, Michigan)

May 6: Free Comic Book Day at The Toys Time Forgot (Canal Fulton, Ohio)

May 19-20: East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention (Philadelphia)

July 14-16: G-Fest (Chicago)

August 20: NEO ComicCon 3.0 (North Olmsted, Ohio)

October 20-22: Grand Rapids Comic-Con (Grand Rapids, Michigan)

November 4-5: Akron Comicon (Akron, Ohio)

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2017 Tony Isabella