BIRDS OF PREY #111 - I hope that DC finds some book to put Tony Bedard on. Hit or miss as his work can be, I think he did a good job with the one Supergirl fill-in I read, the one issue of Countdown I enjoyed completely and the Black Canary mini-series. I also think that he has done a pretty good job capturing the essence of the Birds during his three fill-in issues thus far. And this issue, which focuses upon The Calculator, is the first to truly do anything to examine the character or develop him since he was introduced as the Anti-Oracle in Identity Crisis. Between that and the guest artwork by Jason Orfalas (which I didn't even notice wasn't Nicola Scott until I double checked), this is still one of the best books DC publishes every month.
BRAVE AND THE BOLD #7 - I bought an extra copy of this by accident, forgetting that I put this on my pull-list last month. And yet, I'm not that upset. Why complain about having two copies of a book which so perfectly sums up the difference between Wonder Woman and Power Girl in one page?
It's got Mark Waid writing and George Perez artwork. If you're not buying this comic and loving every moment of it, there's something wrong with you.
CONAN #45 - I'm a bit torn on this book. Kurt Busiek is back and his writing is strong as ever in telling this tale of Conan's first great battle as a teenager; The Seige of Venarium. Guest artist Greg Ruth does a fine turn as the first to follow Cary Nord, using a similar style that looks as if it was sketched in multicolored pencils or lightly painted rather than drawn. With the colors done in washed greys and browns, he perfectly depicts the land of Cimmeria as "a gloomy land that seemed to hold All winds and clouds and dreams that shun the sun."
And yet, I can't help but wonder if Robert Howard would approve of a story which suggests that the entire reason for the war between Aquilonia and Cimmeria (which came to a head during the Seige of Venarium) is because of Conan bedding some wizard's daughter and the wizard telling the Aquilonias to settle northwards. I wonder if Howard would approve of Conan being the one to demand they cease their seige and attack following the slaughter of a boyhood rival. Conan was a great thing but he was all too human. And it may be making too much of a legend to lay responsibility for every incident of Conan's past at his own feet.
But then I think - he would certainly approve of the sentiment uttered by Conan's grandfather, who smacks down a callow youth who calls one of the great battles of his youth legend and says the old man is too old to fight...
I was at Brita's vale, whelp -- when your father was still suckling at his mother's teat! And if you had the sense Crom gave a woodpigeon, you'd know the only time a Cimmerian's too old to fight for what's his is when he's dead and in the ground!
Howard may not have approved of this story. But I certainly do.
EX MACHINA #31 - We're 3/5ths of the way through this book's projected 50-issue run and it still feels like it is just getting started. This is another one of those books which I love every issue of and yet I find myself hard-pressed to find new ways to describe its' glory every month.
Well, let's try this. This comic features a scene in which a superhero with the power to talk to machines must save a group of Satanic-wannabe Preppie chicken-slayers (there's a movie title in the making) from a mind-controlled gorilla.
And THAT isn't the most awesome scene in the book.
FABLES #66 - The plot thickens even further. If there is any complaint that can be made about the last few issues, in which we see The Frog Prince (aka Flycatcher aka King Ambrose) taking the long-road to becoming a hero and establishing a safe kingdom in the heart of darkness, it is that it seems like the stories of all the other characters have been put on hold. Indeed, we see most of the rest of the main cast crammed around a magic mirror in the final page, watching what Flycatcher is up to. And while what he is doing is interesting and important and we are doubtlessly building to something bigger - it is a bit erratic in a monthly book. I imagine it will read better in the trade but that is not to say that it reads badly at all now. Far from it.
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #14 - I suppose it behooves me to weigh in on the latest controversy.
Now for those of you who haven't been keeping up with this book since Dwayne McDuffie took over, let me sum up. Lex Luthor has formed a new Injustice League, built a base called The Hall of Doom and methodically taking down all of the Justice League save Superman and Black Lightning in the span of two issues. Luthor, being Luthor, has to gloat and poke Superman with a metaphorical stick because of his belief that an angry Superman makes mistakes and will be easier to fight. As part of this psychological warfare, Lex shows Supes and BL their comrades.
Do I think that Lex would pose three female adversaries in the most humiliating way possible in order to annoy The Big Blue Boy Scout? Hell, yes. He's a bad guy. It's what he does. And he admits that was the whole point of the image in the first place.
Do I think the artwork had to go to QUITE this extreme? Hell, no.
Still, this is Ed Benes - Pin-up Man Extraordinary who is responsible for this, so I figure the blame for this can be put on him and not on Mr. McDuffie. Given his previous work, I somehow doubt he wrote "Make sure Black Canary is wearing a thong and that Vixen's chest is pushed out as far as possible" in his art instructions.
This perfectly sums up the rest of the issue. McDuffie writes a great script and Benes - while capable of drawing distinctive characters - is a poor visual storyteller, who has Black Lightning appear out of nowhere in the Hall of Doom and introduces other characters during fight scenes in a slap-dash way that seems to ignore three-dimensional space. Still, for McDuffie's writing... I can forgive a lot.
KNIGHTS OF THE DINNER TABLE #131 - Part of me longs for the days when KODT featured several small strips in each issue. This one has three large comics - one continuing the plotlines of Weird Pete's addiction to World of Hackcraft, one continuing the adventure in BA's campaign to run his group through "The Temple of Horrendous Doom" and one comic involving the staff at gaming company Hard 8, which loosely ties into Pete's storyline while setting up another future plotline.
What's wrong with the larger storylines? Well, nothing really. The book is still as well written as ever. But it seems as if all the on-going storylines are moving by at a snail's pace. We've spent months watching Weird Pete try to find a clan to accept him on WoH and the Hard 8 strips are usually more about plot and less about laughs. Still, The Temple of Horrendous Doom storyline isn't disappointing. And I laughed out loud at Brian's lackluster reaction to B.A.'s attempts at being a spooky gamemaster.