Friday, June 27, 2008

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 6/18/08 and 6/25/08

Just now got my comics. Partly due to busy work stuff and partly due to my birthday festivities last weekend.

BIRDS OF PREY #119: I know a few months ago I was wishing that Tony Bedard was writing this book. Now I'm starting to think that I should have been careful what I wished for.

Oh, don't get me wrong - there's a LOT to admire in this issue. Bedard is trying to set The Birds up on their own, taking them out of the Shadow of The Bat AND The S-Shield and - at the same time - positioning them in such a way that they can easily reabsorb Black Canary into the fold and into this book, where she belongs. There's a lot of seeds being planted, from the mysterious Visionary behind Platinum Flats to Oracle's manipulation of The Calculator. And who doesn't like seeing Manhunter at work?

Still, there's a lot of things about the issue that make me uncomfortable and worried. For one thing, The Visionary isn't an inspiring crime-lord ala The Kingpin or even Blockbuster from Chuck Dixon's 'Nightwing'. I'm also worried that they're pressing forward with the cliched "two people can't stand each other, so their obviously long-lost siblings" storyline between Misfit and Black Alice. And then there's the unanswered question as to just why Oracle has Manhunter tailing Black Canary and Green Arrow in the first place and how any reason other than the obvious - Babs is checking up on the best friend she never gets to talk to anymore -

The artwork inside the book is pretty good, though the cover... with yet another Dinah's costume is coming unzipped cleavage shot - is horrible beyond words.

CONAN OF CIMMERIA #0: A nice, basic story based around Conan's slaughter of several Vanir warriors and Robert Howard's poem Cimmeria, this issue is both a look back - in flashback paintings - of the 51 comics that came before and an introduction to the character of Conan for those who have yet to be exposed to the character through books, movies, comics or video games. We see that Conan is a man of action, but also a man of principal and compassion as he spares a younger man with a lyre, forced into combat, and urges him to go home "sing of this day... and of how Conan slew your kin." Those this reboot to a new title with a new #1 may be pointless, this comic isn't and I'll be surprised if it doesn't get an Eisner nod like Conan #0 before it did.

EX MACHINA #37: Again, regarding the pink-leather clad, conservative fighting bad girl who is now making many Republicans uncomfortable and - by proxy - Mitchell Hundred's life more difficult... I think I'm in love with a fictional character. Again.

FINAL CRISIS #2: I've decided to write all my comments on Final Crisis as separate posts from now on. Look for that later today.

GREEN LANTERN #32: The plot thickens as Johns continues to build and expand on the Green Lantern mythos and Hal Jordan's background in particular. Tying some of Hal's more powerful villains closer into his own life is an inspired idea and in doing this Johns has eclipsed John Byrne who tried - and failed - to do much the same thing in Spider-Man: Chapter One.

For some reason, it just seems to makes sense for Hector Hammond to get his telepathic powers after tampering with alien technology he doesn't understand rather than from his random discovery of an intelligence-enhancing, radioactive meteor. We also get an extended version of the first meeting between Sinestro and Hal Jordan that we saw in Green Lantern: Rebirth as well as the first ever scene I know of which depicts how Tom "Pie" Kalmaku found out about Hal's secret identity. Throw in a scene that seems to show the creation of the power behind The Red Lanterns and you have one hell of a story.

HELLBLAZER #245: The production team for a "Where Are They Now?" show about punk rockers does a story on John Constantine's old band and apparently awaken something evil as they go looking for the nightclub in Newcastle where a younger John tried to fight a demon, went mad in the process, failed to save a little girl from Hell and was blamed for the girls' murder.

John's absent for most of the issue, but his presence is felt none the less. Like many classic Batman stories where the legend of Batman and the influence of the character are felt even if the character is never seen, John Constatine's legend fills this story to the point where John's first appearance on the last page is almost gilding the lily. Another good issue for newbies who have never been exposed to the world of Hellblazer to jump on with.

HUNTRESS: YEAR ONE #4: I liked the first three issues of this series for creating an origin for Helena that didn't seem like a rehash of The Godfather or make her into a supporting player in her own origin story. I love this issue for the first meeting between Helena and a younger, pre-wheelchair Barbara Gordon and a bunch of little touches, such as..

1) Barbara being a revealed as a legal librarian. It makes perfect sense given her interest in crime-fighting as a teenager and her father putting his foot down over her becoming a cop. And as a librarian myself, I appreciate someone acknowledging that most of us are specialists in some aspect of the research sciences.

2) The idea of Bruce Wayne making his home available for a Mafia social function and then bugging his own house. Of course we've seen Bruce using his position to get information from the high class criminals before... but this is such a brilliant conceit, I'm amazed that I haven't seen it used in a Batman story before.

3) The Selina Kyle cameo. Nice continuation of the use of the character in The Long Halloween.

I know Tony Bedard just got back on the book... but we need Ivory Madison writing Birds of Prey as soon as he is ready to move on to something else.

JACK OF FABLES #23: Ex Machina is probably the best written book I read every month. And Fables is the best overall package. But for my money, no book can quite get me to laugh like all the bits with Babe, The Blue Ox in this book. And the main story with bandit king Gentleman Jack Candle in the Ol' West staying one step ahead of Sheriff Bigby Wolf is a good one too.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #22: Some say that Brad Meltzer is the best writer working at DC when it comes to getting inside the character's heads and giving us a story that may not have a lot of action, but perfectly captures the heart and spirit of a character.

With all due respect, these people are full of it. Because Dwayne McDuffie - in this single issue - has built upon every thing Brad Meltzer did in his one year on JLA and then blown it out of the water as...

* An incorporable Red Tornado answers more questions than we ever wanted to know about his sex life and proposes to his long-term, common-law wife.

* Vixen pours her heart out about her failing powers to ex-boyfriend Bronze Tiger.

* Superman goes Dr. Phil, and gives Roy Harper his philosophy on how conflict and arguments benefit a relationship.

* Black Canary takes charge and actually acts how a professional woman, a legacy hero and the leader of the Justice League SHOULD act when she finds out that one of her teammates has been lying to the team and been putting them in danger. She chews Vixen out, kicks her off the team and dismisses all requests for leniency.

* She then pulls Vixen aside, and because Dinah has always been a nurturer as well as a warrior, asks what she can do to help Vixen with her problems.

* Batman actually loses a fight. This happens so rarely, I thought I should mention it.

As I've said before, give McDuffie the freedom to write his own stories, and he's one of the best writers on the planet. Shame he's stuck with Ed "Cheesecake" Benes on art... but you can't have everything, I guess.

KNIGHTS OF THE DINNER TABLE #140: Just in time for Convention-Season, all the standard storylines went on hold for this tribute to traveling to the convention. From bad road-trips to surly gate guards and the magical powers a chainmail bikini can bestow upon a girl amidst gamers, this issue is something that comic geeks and game geeks can both enjoy. If you've ever been curious about KoDT, this is a good issue to jump on with.

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