What I’m Reading Now, September 2004 edition

Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass: My audio book selection this month returns to the past of Roland the Gunslinger, before he went west on his titanic quest to hunt down the Man in Black. It’s a tragic tale that deals with Roland’s star-crossed first love and it’s a painful read. Nonetheless, in this second reading I’ve begun to see just how crucial this book is to the series. It provides a transition from the more quest-oriented first three books (focused primarily on traveling to the Dark Tower) and the more metaphysical recent books, in which the reader (and Roland’s ka-tet) comes to the realization that the Dark Tower is always close … and always has been.

Dragon #323: The re-launched Dragon has oriented itself more along the lines of a Dungeons & Dragons news source than purely a game aid. It’s also focusing more on the geek community at large, including snippets of information only tangentially related to D&D. At the same time, the magazine’s clearly oriented toward giving gamers content they can use in every issue. There’s a new section dedicated to the game’s archetypal classes, and each edition promises content or rules you can use for each one. No more weighting around for that fighter themed issue, and ignoring everything in between. Or at least, that’s the theory — personally, I always paged through Dragon noted stuff I might use at some later date, and then return later when I had use for it. I didn’t expect to put every article to use every month, but apparently I’m in the minority on that one.

Dungeon #114: Formally ditches all that bothersome, extraneous, non-D&D content in favor of three adventures a month and a bunch of new Dungeon Master-friendly advice columns. While I’m sorry to see Polyhedron go, this new approach makes sense to me. The three modules mean that every issue will have adventures I can use, regardless of the party’s level (well, as long as their below 20th, but most of my adventures are). After spending a Saturday sorting through my Dungeons looking for 4th-5th level adventures, I can appreciate the wisdom of this move. The new columns are also welcome, particularly the ones dealing with random generation of flavor text and dungeon dressing.

Astonishing X-Men #1-#4: Joss Whedon is kicking ass with his X-Men title, bringing the sort of engaging, thoughtful banter that typified Firefly to the X-Verse. The story focuses on the new headmasters of the school — Scott Summers (Cyclops) and Emma Frost (White Queen) as well as the new teachers, Beast, Wolverine and Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat). Kitty, who’s had way too much experience with Emma as a super-villain, distrusts the White Queen immediately, and the poisonous exchanges between them are chilling reading. Just as cool though, are the one-shot interactions between the faculty and student — they’re infrequent, but each carries emotional punch. It reminds me of the good ol’days of New Mutants.

Conan #6-#7: Dark Horse’s new Conan comic book hews close to Robert H. Howard’s original vision, depicting the barbarian as being an intelligent, cunning and brutally strong warrior. The artwork’s well done, and the typewriter-style font used for the narrative reinforces the book’s pulpy origins.