Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Nothing like a huge chunk of a great comic strip to show a reader
how terrific that strip was.  From IDW and Dean Mullaney’s Library
of American Comics, Miss Fury: Sensational Sundays 1944-1949 by
Tarpe Mills [$49.99] presents 191 (mostly full-color) pages of the
first female superhero created and drawn by a woman cartoonist, a
character who predates Wonder Woman.

Editor Trina Robbins provides an informative, lively introduction
to this landmark tome.  Comprehensive as it was, the introduction
and these heaping helping of exciting comics left me wanting more.
Mills and her creation are comics treasures.

Socialite Marla Drake first dons the ceremonial black panther skin
suit for a costume party.  Though the costume doesn’t giver Drake
super-powers, it does open the door for her to have adventures far
more dangerous and thrilling than she had known.  It also seems to
make her more confident in her own impressive skills.  And there’s
just the hint of a curse that could fall on her or those around her
every time she dons the costume.

It’s a good starting point for a superhero and Mills flies with it.
Her writing has enough action, drama, and romance to please readers
of all ages and genders.  Her art is classic and compelling.  She
fills the strip with three-dimensional supporting characters and
villains.  I’d pick up the book intended to read a month or two of
the strip and end up reading several months at a shot.  Miss Fury
is a page-turner.

Miss Fury and the events/themes of the strip are so strong I think
the character cries out for a modern makeover, albeit a respectful
one that recognizes the genius of what Mills created.  In a world
where I get to do any comics I want to do, I’d leap at the chance
to write such a revival.

Miss Fury is worth its $49.99 price tag, but, if you’re as short on
funds as I am - two kids in college - check if your library system
has.  This book is must-read comics.

ISBN: 978-1600109058

Speaking of great comic strips...

The Phantom #1602 [Frew; $7.50 Australian] reprints the entirety of
“The Python Strikes Back” by Tony DePaul and Paul Ryan.  This is
the longest adventure of the Phantom ever and one of the very best
Phantom stories of all time.

From behind prison walls, the murderous terrorist known as Python
carries out a hideous revenge against the Ghost Who Walks, one that
takes the Phantom down some dark paths.  The story ran over a year
and never lost its intensity.  Twist after suspenseful twist in a
truly epic feat of storytelling.

DePaul and Ryan are fit successors to Phantom creator Lee Falk and
the great artists who worked with Falk.  The reproduction of these
strips is first-rate as is the entire 140-page presentation.  This
issue is an essential part of any Phantom collection.

I buy the Australian Phantoms in bimonthly batches from Comics Oz.
If you’re interested in getting the Frew Phantoms from them, go to
their website:

Between classic Phantom comic strip reprints and the never-seen-in-
America Scandinavian Phantom stories, these Frew comics are worth
the extra effort and expense it takes to get them.
Slowly catching up on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel/Spike
comics from Dark Horse and IDW, I read Angel Vs. Frankenstein II by
John Byrne [IDW; 3.99].  Set in New York City a few years after the
First World War, the 24-page one-shot features the second meeting
between the vampire-with-a-soul and Baron Frankenstein’s creation.
It’s a neat little story with a hint of the classic monster movies
of Hammer and Universal.  Though the story could’ve used a few more
pages, it’s still a good, solid, entertaining comic books.  Byrne
has done some fine work with Angel at IDW.  The character is back
at Dark Horse, but that company could do a lot worse than to call
on Byrne for the occasional one-shot or mini-series.  I’d love to
see them.

Here’s Mark Crilley’s Brody’s Ghost in a nutshell, cribbed from an
ad for the series that appeared on the inside back cover of Brody’s
Ghost: The Midnight Train and Other Tales
[$3.99], a one-shot from
Dark Horse Comics:

Brody hoped it was just a hallucination.  But the teenaged ghostly
girl who’d come face to face with him in the middle of a busy city
street was all too real.  And now she was back, telling him she
needed his help in hunting down a dangerous killer, and that he
must undergo training from the spirit of a centuries-old samurai to
unlock his hidden supernatural powers. 

Three sentences telling you all you need to know to read and enjoy
the four short stories in this one-shot.  If only they had appeared
on the inside front cover of the issue, the better to give any new
readers a brief introduction to the series.  Editors, creators, and
designers: think about this.  Think about this every time you put
together an issue of a comic book.

My nagging quibble aside - you’ve heard me rant about this before
and you’ll doubtless hear me rant about it in the future - each of
the four vignettes in this one-shot delivers a satisfying morsel of
story.  “The Midnight Train” is Brody’s slice-of-the-city encounter
with a gang of subway thugs.  “The Scene of the Crime” puts a very
human face on Brody’s quest for a killer.  “The Test” is a wild and
wooly monster-fest.  “The Big Game” is an amusing yarn about Brody
trying to have a normal evening.  Four stories in 32 pages.  First-
rate writing and art by the remarkable Crilley, a 13-time nominee
for Eisner Awards. 

Needless to say, I recommend this one-shot and the ongoing Brody’s
Ghost graphic novels.  But you probably already figured that out,
right? You’re clever that way.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.       

© 2012 Tony Isabella

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