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Conan The Barbarian #15 (Dark Horse): DMZ collaborator Andrea Mutti joins Brian Wood for part 3 of “The Woman on The Wall” in an issue that closely examines Belit’s heritage. Mutti’s style is very balanced, with soft natural lines that also manage to capture the harsh environment of Shem. It’s an utterly fascinating story that reminded me of the story of Isaac and Ishmael, with Belit being cast out despite being the (“illegitimate”) Princess of Fortress En Ram. By extension, it’s also an interesting look at gender politics and what it takes to survive and forge an identity as a woman in a patriarchal society that might not be big on women’s rights in the first place. Conan guiles his way inside the fortress and by trying to understand Belit on her actual home turf, he does so both more and less at the same time. This is probably one of the best written Conan issues in recent memory. By the end, it wraps back on itself in a very poetic way that highlights one of the central lessons of the story. It organically sneaks up on you like a scorpion in the desert wilds of Shem. This issue is crammed full of an emotional roller coaster of a story that touches on lineage, identity, love, relationships, and family; being a classically romantic book is probably the last thing you’d expect from something called Conan The Barbarian, that is, unless you severely underestimated Brian Wood’s versatility as a writer. That’s something I wish the Eisner Award judging panel took into greater consideration. Ahem. Grade A+.
Todd The Ugliest Kid On Earth #4 (Image): Let’s face it, Ken Kristensen writes that intro page better than most other books are written in their entirety. Todd’s oblivious innocence is completely charming. Tickle Party! I love the little surprise throwaway moments, like the cops suddenly discussing “complex conceptual metaphors,” because they prove the great care and attention to detail this creative team is executing. MK Perker’s art is a great mix of exaggerated caricature and realistic details. The whole thing is just off-kilter enough to delight, with chatty cockroaches and a beautifully played Heat reference. Todd’s dad continues to cavort with the actress, who has an interesting proposition that could well fuel the future of the (now ongoing) series, the PD is still bumbling their way through the obvious, while Todd’s mom comes through by bailing him out. Now, trust me when I say that I’m not selling wolf tickets for some kind of literary road kill to ninja turtles on the river here. This is a real Cadillac comic that I hope continues for, like, Buck Rogers time. I’m no yobwoc or anything, but I’m also not afraid to dry snitch from the ghetto penthouse that this creative team has a real juice card with this jack mack of a comic. Grade A.
Bloodshot #10 (Valiant): It feels, a little, with this issue that you don’t really need to be reading Bloodshot to be enjoying the Harbinger Wars crossover currently underway. I suppose that’s a double edged sword. On one hand, it’s nice not to get roped into having to buy multiple titles to experience a cool story. On the other hand, I’m not 100% certain I’ll come back since I don’t buy this title regularly; I may just go on picking up Harbinger and Harbinger Wars. So, there’s that. I do enjoy the complex morality of placing these sheltered psiot kids between Harada and Bloodshot, two very dangerous men, one with a very distinct agenda, and one with something of an identity crisis currently underway. Bloodshot’s got the kids on the run and temporarily holed up in a make shift safe house, and him wanting desperately to protect these kids from further harm is a good lesson in the fact that everyone does good and bad deeds, one doesn’t wash away the other. Not a lot else happens in this set-up issue, but Barry Kitson’s art is really nice and consistent, with some moody dark inks from Stefano Gaudiano. I’m used to seeing him on bright superhero work, so this was a great visual change of pace. Grade A-.