Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Donist World 2021 Year-End Roundup! (Part 1)

(Sung to the tune of The Sound of Music's “My Favorite Things”)


Gamma-ray greatness has reached its conclusion
Truthful departments sow so much confusion
A nice lakeside home and the doom portents it brings
These are a few of my favorite things

Beta Ray Bill is in need of a hammer 
Robots and magic collide in a clamour
Rot, Red, Green team-up it certainly stings
These are a few of my favorite things

Fantastic landscapes and wizards of terror
Ink blots and strangeness and targets you know are
Three super books from the mind that’s Tom King’s
These are a few of my favorite things

Diamond misships
Then my beer spills
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad

Slice of Heaven For the Year!


As some of you said just over a year ago, “Where the hell have you been, Donist?!”
Same ol’, same ol’ as last year, Denizens: being lazy. Well, that's not quite true. I guess most of 2021 was spent working myself (physically and mentally) into a state of anxiety and to such a degree of exhaustion that the very thought of doing anything that could be considered “normal”—washing dishes; going outside; exercising; seeing friends and family; engaging in artistic endeavors I normally enjoy, like writing; speaking to other human beings with, like, words and stuff—seemed like the most herculean of tasks. Seriously, it’s been to the point where if anyone tried to get me to do something, anything, my blood pressure would rise and I would become nervous/depressed/angry. Now, granted, some of my anger/irritation was justified—pressure to attend large indoor dining events in the midst of a pandemic, people trying to shift their drama my direction, etc.—but most of my lack of creative output can be attributed to exhaustion in the face of teeny-weenie little things like COVID-19, anti-mask/anti-vax cultists, watching teachers’ lives and safety be routinely disregarded, the higher level insurrectionists still not be brought to justice, assaults on our democracy, voting rights being decimated, and so on and so forth. Basically, all of the same crap from 2020 continued to bring this Donist down in 2021. There have been days where we are invited to go out to a very safe, outdoor beer garden for IPAs and Stouts, French fries, and burgers and my kneejerk reaction is “How DARE you try to get me to do something that I absolutely love?! How DARE you, sir!” But I’m getting through it. I've been trying to focus on all of the “mindfulness” and “self-care” stuff that I can, which for me means reading a metric ton of comics and graphic novels and journeying down epic re-reads of some tremendous series. This post, however, is about the comics I read in issue form that were released in 2021 and that made everything, somehow, a little bit better for a while
Let’s have a look at my favorites of 2021.

***Probably NOT spoilers below***


If you have a moment, check out our past Slice of Heaven Year-End Roundups to see what’s stayed the same and what’s changed over the years. I had quite a few pleasant surprises this year, so let’s get to it!


Donist World Top 10 Favorite Comic Series of 2021 (In No Particular Order)



Ascender

(Written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen, published by Image Comics)
I have been singing the praises of Lemire and Nguyen’s Descender/Ascender sci-fi/fantasy series since the first issue and this will be the last Year-End Roundup that I feature the series as it came to its phenomenal conclusion. As with anything written by Lemire, there were emotional highs that soared and dang near made this Donist weep with joy and some heartbreaking lows that made me want to break out sobbing. Descender/Ascender has everything I want in a story: characters who I genuinely love and hold dear to my heart, action, adventure, drama, heartbreak, triumph, robots, dragons, witches, vampires, political intrigue, friendship…the list goes on and on. Every new issue of Ascender instantly went to the top of the reading stack and I often went back through each before moving on to the next fantastic-but-not-Ascender comic. My only gripe for this series, and it is a small and greedy gripe, is that it felt as if we needed one bridging story arc before this lovely conclusion, but that might just be me wanting to spend more time with Mila, TIM-21, Andy, Effie, Telsa, Bandit, Helda, Driller, and the rest. I don’t doubt that a compendium/omnibus sorta collection comes out at some point, but I’m hoping for an over-sized hardcover collection that I can feature prominently on the bookshelf to display what is one of the best comic series of all time. Get it. Buy it. Love it.


(Written by James Tynion IV, art by Martin Simmonds, lettered by Aditya Bidikar, designed by Dylan Todd, edited by Steve Foxe, published by Image Comics)
Maybe reading this amazing series centered around conspiracy theories made real by the collective unconsciousness (or consciously created in some instances) is not the healthiest option I could choose to read given just how prevalent these things are in the unwonderful world of make-believe that far too many individuals in the US currently exist. Thankfully, we have Cole Turner and his colleagues within the Department of Truth to stop these deliberate falsehoods from manifesting into reality…that is if his colleagues are to be trusted. DANG if I do not love everything about this all-too-relevant comic. It is one of the smartest, most compelling series I have read in some time and has been right up there with Ascender as one of my most anticipated reads every month or so. The ’80s Satanic Panic and the Sasquatch storylines are still my favorites, but everything about this smash hit deserves your attention and definitely warrants multiple readings to uncover all of the little bits and pieces you may have missed the first time through. This is currently one of the best comics on the stand.


(Written by Tom King, illustrated by Jorge Fornés, colored by Dave Stewart, lettered by Clayton Cowles, published by DC Comics on their Black Label)
After his death 35 years ago, Rorschach (or someone dressed like him) is running around and attempting to assassinate a candidate running against President Robert Redford. A detective is hired to find the identities of this supposed Rorschach and the young woman with the six-shooters and the domino mask who accompanied him. Political intrigue and a deep mystery will pull you in for a tale that had me hanging on every page turn with Fornés’s art style and Stewart’s colors beautifully delivering the look and feel of a ’70s spy thriller. If it’s a limited series and Tom King is attached, just do yourself the favor and buy it. Fans of King’s fantastic The Omega MenThe Vision, and Mister Miracle should not miss this smart, complex series that is rapidly moving its way up my re-read stack so I can experience the glory in one grand sitting. I think I'm going to need the lovely hardcover for my favorite bookshelf.


(Written by Tom King, illustrated by Mitch Gerads and Evan “Doc” Shaner, lettered by Clayton Cowles, published by DC Comics on their Black Label)
You will probably notice a theme for the 2021 Year-End Roundup in that Tom King’s name appears more than once and for dang good reason. This time, we have a shift to the more vibrant and more overtly superhero side of things with Adam Strange, hero of the distant planet Rann, vanquisher of the dreadful alien race known as the Pykkts. But there was a cost: the life of his daughter, Aleea. Now, living on Earth with his wife Alanna, Strange's life and his recounting of the Rann-Pykkt war are called into question after the death of an activist and the arrival of the hero Mr. Terrific who looks to uncover the truth of what really happened during Strange’s war. This wonderful, yet shocking mystery is brought to life via Shaner’s heroic segments that look at the events of the past and Gerads’s somewhat grittier look at the present. Much like Rorschach, this one will require a one-sitting re-read to pick up on all of the clues missed during its every-other-month(ish) release. Looks like I will be double-dipping on the hardcover collection for this one as well. So very, very good.


(Written by Tom King, illustrated by Greg Smallwood, lettered by Clayton Cowles, published by DC Comics on their Black Label)
Sure, let’s just make almost all of the comics on the roundup by Tom King...don’t be delirious, Denizens, King didn’t write ten comics in 2021. If he had, then that could have been a possibility...I’m already painfully aware of a fourth miniseries that he wrote that somehow missed my pull, but I'm sure it will be rocking my world in 2022. Anyhow, The Human Target…holy moly, I love everything about this series. Christopher Chance hires himself out to impersonate his clients: high-profile individuals who are targeted for assassination. A fairly dangerous line of work, especially given that his recent gig posing as Lex Luthor will succeed in killing him in 12 days’ time. Now it’s up to Chance to solve his own impending murder and the list of suspects points to some rather prominent heroes. King brings a ’50s noir style of intrigue to the story and Smallwood’s oh-so-gorgeous art reminds me of a mix of the style of Robert E. McGinnis that had to have influenced the great Mad Men series. After falling in love with Smallwood’s art I now also have a crush on Ice. I cannot wait to see how this all plays out.


The Nice House on the Lake

(Written by James Tynion IV, illustrated by Álvaro Martínez Bueno, colored by Jordie Bellaire, lettered by Andworld Design, published by DC Comics on their Black Label)
Tynion IV has also been rocking our socks off with his horror series, the captivatingly eerie, The Nice House on the Lake. In this 12-issue maxi-series, everyone who has had Walter in their life knew him to be one of their dearest friends and felt like they were the center of his universe. But, college ends, life paths change, and people move on. Then, after many years, each of Walter’s friends accepts an invite for a vacation in a luxurious home overlooking a gorgeous lake. With everyone in attendance, and no one really remembering how they arrived at the nice house on the lake, the news starts to play… One issue. That is all it took to completely pull me in for this haunting and mysterious ride that leaves so many questions with answers that are sure to not be what the characters hope to discover. A trade of the first half releases in March 2022, right before the second half of this phenomenal series kicks off.


Beta Ray Bill: Argent Star

(Everythinged by Daniel Warren Johnson, colored by Mike Spicer, lettered by VC’s Joe Sabino, published by Marvel Comics)
Beta Ray Bill’s life is not what it was now that he no longer has the might and power of Stormbreaker to help him transform back into his original form, instead of the monstrous one the Korbonite people, his people, gave him to save them. Now, Bill needs a new weapon, one that will make him whole, but to do so, he will need the help of Skurge the Executioner, Pip the Troll, and his sentient ship, Scuttlebutt. Now, Denizens, I would have been on board for this thrilling five-issue limited series, but with DWJ leading the charge, I would have fought with the fury of a million suns to snag the last copy at my local comic shop. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that. Beta Ray Bill is everything I hope and look for in a book by my favorite everythinger, and it does not miss a single mark. Action, adventure, heartbreak, and lovely art, even if you are not familiar with DWJ’s work, this is the perfect icebreaker before you scramble to acquire every single other glorious series he has ever done.


The Immortal Hulk

(Written by Al Ewing, illustrated by Joe Bennett, published by Marvel Comics)
Alright, not much I can do at this point if you have not already read the recently completed The Immortal Hulk series than to kindly request you right this grievous wrong as soon as possible. All while this series was coming out I remarked how I could not believe I was reading and loving a Hulk comic after not doing so for over 30 years. It was Ewing’s brilliant horror twist to the Green Goliath that hooked me all the way from issue 1 to the concluding issue 50 and the same was true for most of the one-shots that came along the way, whether by Ewing, Alan Davis, Jeff Lemire, Mike Del Mundo, or Declan Shalvey. The Immortal Hulk was NOT your average Marvel comic and not your average Hulk comic, but something special and weird in the best of ways. I will be rereading this from the beginning at some point later this year.


(Written by W. Haden Blackman and J. H. Williams III, art and design by J.H. Williams III, colored by Dave Stewart, lettered by Rod Klein, additional design by Drew Gill, published by Image Comics)
Anytime J.H. Williams III illustrates a comic it is cause for celebration and no better reason than with the tremendous Echolands series. Hope Redhood has stolen something from the world’s cruelest wizard who has unleashed his unstoppable “daughter” upon Hope and her friends in an effort to get it back. Williams III utilizes many different art styles—often on the same gorgeous double-page spread—that takes into account the era that influences each character: a gangster-like man looks like someone out of a Dick Tracy story, a gladatorial sci-fi demigod looks like a Jack Kirby creation, vampires and Frankenstein’s monster-type characters are in black and white, while Hope’s style fits a more modern look. Not only is the comic stunning to behold but Williams III and Blackman have a grand adventure that despite taking me a moment to fully understand sucked me in completely. Also worth mentioning is that this comic is in the landscape format and will also see a hardcover collection (June 2022) that I will definitely be picking up, especially if it is oversized.


Swamp Thing: Green Hell

(Written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Doug Mahnke, colored by David Baron, lettered by Steve Wands, published by DC Comics on their Black Label)
In the (depressingly…see the intro to this year’s post) not so distant future, climate change has decimated much of the world. Sea levels have risen to devastating heights and acquiring food is quite difficult. The Red, the Rot, and the Green have had enough and the Green creates a new avatar to wipe what remains of the human scourge from the planet. In a last act of desperation an old man and a young girl venture to an isolated lighthouse whose inhabitant might hold the key to saving what remains of the human race. This issue came out on 12/28/2021, just in time to make this year’s roundup and believe me when I say it left quite an impact. Lemire’s story left me wanting to shout “See what could happen?!” and had me nervously biting my nails as Mahnke’s beautifully harsh and gruesome-at-times art left me not wanting the book to ever end. I cannot recommend this one highly enough and I am counting the days until issue #2 is in my grubby mitts. I already anticipate picking up the hardcover collection, whenever it comes out.


But wait, I’m sure there's more...


I'm sure there are plenty of other comics I somehow forgot to mention or have not yet bought or read in 2021. If there are any glaring omissions, please let me know. There's plenty of room at the Donist World corporate offices for more comics and...hold on a sec...actually, Amy the intern (my wife) has corrected me and said that "No, there is not plenty of room here." <psssttt...hey denizens, let me know anyways. I can totally sneak more comics in on the down-low. Just let me know. We can do this…>

Stay tuned next week for the “Donist World 2021 Year-End Roundup! (Part 2)”



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Saturday, January 30, 2021

Donist World 2020 Year-End Roundup! (Part 2)

 (Sung to the tune of Enigma’s “Sadeness”)


Chanting. Ummm…yeah, uh…a bunch of Latin-sounding stuff that I don’t understand, but the perfect soundtrack for contemplating the things we love. Welcome to…

Donist World 2020 Year-End Roundup (Part 2)!


Hey there, Denizens, Happy New Year! I am joined as ever by CFO Reverse Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier, whose surly attitude changed for the better after his fur colors swapped when a corrupt businessman’s curse backfired) and by marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/vice president of hope for the New Year  Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). We hope you enjoy the top 20 heavenly things of 2020 while Reverse Obie, Tulip, and I take our past-due “long winter’s nap” before mapping out the course of our lives for the new year.

***Probably NOT Spoilers Below***

If you have a moment, check out our past FSoH/SitW Year-End Roundups to see all things heavenly including Part 1 for 2020. Now, keep in mind that some of the items listed below might have come out before 2020, but 2020 was the year that we read, watched, drank, or ate them, thus their inclusion here. We at Donist World, thank you for reading and hope you enjoy our selections as much as we do.

Donist World 20 Heavenly Things (In No Particular Order)


1) Alvarado Street Brewery (Beer)

My favorite brewery of 2019 was again my favorite brewery of 2020 and I was thrilled to find out that in these COVID-19 times I could order a mix of 24 cans and have them delivered right to my home. If you are a fan of IPAs (regular, hazy, double, triple, dry-hopped, double dry-hopped, etc.) then this is the brewery for you. Be warned, though, don’t fall too deeply in love with anything outside of their flagship Mai Tai Tropical IPA, as offerings come and go quickly, but that just means you are rushed to try as many as you can find. If you live in California, you can order from https://burphopsnow.com/.


2) Blade Runner 2019: Vol. 1: Los Angeles (Graphic Novel from Titan Comics)

When I was a child and first saw Blade Runner in the theater back in 1982, I absolutely hated it. I was bored, not much action, no lightsabers, no aliens, not enough nudity; it was a bit much for my 12-year-old brain to handle. Fast forward a few decades later and it is one of my all-time favorite sci-fi films. Move even closer to our present and I was enthralled by its tremendous successor, Blade Runner 2049, where I fell even deeper in love with this fascinating dystopian world. Then I started to hear great things about the new series from Titan Comics that bridges the gap between the two films and I gave it a try. I’m glad I did. This series follows a Blade Runner named Ash as she seeks to recover the wife and daughter of a wealthy businessman from what looks to be a kidnapping by Replicants. Twists, turns, action, and moments that made me gasp, this is one helluva sci-fi series that left me hungry for more. The series boasts beautiful art—in storytelling, character acting, and mood—from Guinaldo and co-written by the writer of the Blade Runner 2049 film. I just read Volume 2 in 2021 and I will be eagerly awaiting a chance to pick up Volume 3 this March. (Written by Michael Green and Mike Johnson, illustrated by Andres Guinaldo, colored by Marco Lesko, lettered by Jim Campbell, published by Titan Comics)


3) DCeased (Graphic Novel from DC Comics)

My first thought about this DC superhero zombie comic was Didn’t Marvel already do this idea ages ago? But then after reading a lot of buzz about the series, I decided to take the plunge which was the right thing to do. 100% outside of continuity and “events,” this miniseries has spawned multiple follow-up series (all of which I MUST now read) and involves Darkseid, a techno-organic virus, and a brutal look at what happens when Earth’s mightiest heroes become the undead. You will see your favorite heroes and villains fall victim to the virus in ways that are shocking and horrifying but will keep you flipping through the pages from beginning to end. DCeased will keep that ol’ heartrate elevated and I suspect you won’t be able to put it down. (Written by Tom Taylor; illustrated by Trevor Hairsine, Stefano Guadiano, Laura Braga, James Harren, Darick Robertson, Richard Friend, Trevor Scott, and Neil Edwards; published by DC Comics.)


4) 11 O’Clock Comics (Podcast)

Yup, David, Jason, and Vince B. continue to produce my favorite podcast after all these years. This is not just my favorite comic book podcast, but my favorite podcast. Period. The boys and the occasional special guest keep me running an extra block or two or three when I’m out exercising as I listen to their thoughts on my favorite comics and so they can give me new ideas of what I need to read. They discuss everything from current mainstream comics, to lesser-known titles, to books of the past, to the comics industry as a whole, to other media, and regularly have comic creators take up the fourth chair. I’ve never met these cats, but they feel like family at this point and I simply adore their show.


5) Harley Quinn (Television Show on HBO Max)

So, a good chunk of the television show exclusives that used to be on the now-dead DC Universe thing were starting to appear on HBO Max. One night I thought, Why not check out a 30-minute show before bed? I chose Harley Quinn and stayed up far later than I had intended because I fell into the “just one more episode” trap. Hilarious, thrilling, a great overarching story, beautifully animated, and so much fun from beginning to end, I fell instantly in love with the show and Harley Quinn. 100% NOT FOR KIDDIES! There’s blood and guts, f_bombs enough to make a sailor blush, sexual inuendos, and adult humor that had me laughing out loud with each episode. Oh my goodness, I cannot wait for a new season and I will definitely be watching seasons 1 and 2 a few times before it eventually does arrive.


6) House of Mystery: The Bronze Age Omnibus Vol. 2 (Graphic Novel from DC Comics)

Speaking of workouts…you can grab hold of this behemoth of a book and get some great tricep extensions in or if you need to change out a flat tire you can prop up your car because this 26-issue, 840-page monster is definitely big enough for you to do those things but this series is meant for reading. Hosted by the devilish Cain, the issues within were originally published in the early ’70s and I remember ”reading” through many of these stories as a young Donist and trust me, it is a TRIP experiencing the images over four decades after first seeing them and it is a joy to actually understand the stories now that I am an adult. There are definitely more “hits” than “misses” in this wonderful collection and even without the nostalgia behind my remembrances of this series, it is definitely worth checking out for the great stories and oftentimes gorgeous (and scary) art. Fingers crossed for a Volume 3!


7) House of Secrets: The Bronze Age Omnibus Vol. 2 (Graphic Novel from DC Comics)

It’s not really that far of a reach that I love The House of Secrets book every bit as much as its big brother, The House of Mystery. This collection contains issues 112 through to the series end of 154. Horror host Abel leads you through all sorts of spine-tingling stories brought to you by such greats as Bernie Wrightson, Len Wein, Alex Niño, Marv Wolfman, Jack Oleck, and so very many others. Reading each of these massive tomes over the course of 2020, I have learned that pretty much all children are evil, if you are picked on don’t try to change your lot in life just accept it, leave cursed artifacts alone, leave witches alone, NEVER mess with ghosts, vampires and werewolves are everywhere, aliens are always invading the Earth, and wives should never nag their husbands as it ends up being bad for both parties. Love love love these books.


8) The Last of Us Part II (Playstation 4 Video Game)

The first The Last of Us video game is the best video game I have ever played and I have played through it three times. It has a cool twist on zombies, a vast post-apocalyptic world, a lush score, characters who I absolutely fell in love with, immense loss, touching moments, beautiful graphics, cool game mechanics and skill/item leveling, and an overall gorgeous/distressing mood. When I finished, I desperately wanted a follow-up and I waited. And waited. And waited some more. But then the video game about a fictional devasting pandemic arrived in the summer of 2020 during a very real pandemic that is still raging across our world. Part II picks up a few years after the first installment and it is every bit as visually stunning and atmospheric and engrossing. I loved all of the new characters, I wanted to scream during one portion early on that I did not see coming and that is completely devastating, and I relaxed and became conflicted once I began to understand various character motivations. I also loved roaming around Santa Barbara (yes, part of the game is set in Santa Barbara, California) especially the recognizable-yet-slightly-different train station that had begun to succumb to the elements. I still prefer the first game, but The Last of Us Part II is a close second. Do not listen to the negative reviews as I suspect a good portion of those are from trolls who have a problem with LGBTQ themes and characters.


9) The Last Podcast on the Left (Podcast)

At over 400 episodes (not counting a ton of “Side Stories” installments) of cryptids, serial killers, conspiracy theories, reptilians (like Moscow Mitch McConnell), and all other assortments of oddity subject matter, I have listened to every episode—some multiple times. I generally listen to Ben, Henry, and Marcus at work and there have actually been a few times I had to press pause and “walk it off” because I was cracking up and starting to scare my coworkers; at least back in the pre-pandemic days this was true. Give ’em three episodes or so on something you’re interested in like Jeffrey Dahmer (icky!) or Albert Fish (brrrrrrr) and you will be hooked. I also love having random people say “Hail Yourself!” when I’m wearing my TLPotL t-shirt. Be sure to check out The Last Book on the Left book! TLPotL is hands-down my favorite “crime” podcast.


10) Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (Television Show on HBO Max)

2020. Yeah, it was a massive pile of dog doo that the twice impeached 45 and his vile, criminal enablers in the GOP have steadily kept America walking through while convincing a smaller percentage of the populace—who inexplicably worship him—to thank them for the privilege to do so. It was one hell of a downer of a year, but John Oliver managed to bring some levity to the myriad of situations that steadily and repeatedly assailed those of us who can tell the difference between fact and fiction. Although every episode managed to bring a laugh here and there for this news weary Donist, I did notice that even Oliver found it difficult at times to find the humor in the massive amounts of stupid the tRump administration had heaped upon America over the course of the previous week. I cannot wait for the show’s return in mid-February 2021 now that things are a little bit better.


11) Luthor Strode: The Complete Collection (Graphic Novel from Image Comics)

Late in the year, as one is want to do, I was thinking about Tradd Moore’s art on the positively stunning Silver Surfer: Black, and I began looking at other comics he had worked on and one book caught my eye: Luthor Strode Vol. 1, The Strange Talent of Luthor Strode. I began digging through my computer files and found that I had the book from a Humble Bundle I purchased from a bunch of years ago; I just had not checked it out yet. I read the first issue in the collection and BAM! I was in love. I ordered Luthor Strode Vol. 2, The Legend of Luthor Strode, and Luthor Strode Vol. 3, The Legacy of Luthor Strode. Oh, my goodness, not only is the early art of Moore freaking amazing, the Justin Jordan story completely pulled me in. The story is about a puny kid who gets tired of being bullied and orders a “tired of getting sand kicked in your face” self-help book from an ad in a comic book and in turn becomes an absolute murder machine. Think video games with boss levels in a comic book format and a heck of a lot of super-violent good times. Luthor Strode has been optioned for film, which is why I suspect the Luthor Strode: The Complete Collection is not currently in print and hopefully pending a newer, awesomized release in the future. (Written by Justin Jordan, illustrated by Tradd Moore, colored by Felipe Sobreiro, published by Image Comics.)


12) Magic Puzzles (Puzzle)

Early in the Pandemic, I somehow came across a Kickstarter for the Magic Puzzle Company and I decided to contribute at the level that meant I would eventually receive all three of the first series puzzles. The Kickstarter was a huge success and my estimated September delivery date passed. Then October. Then November. But in December, all three puzzles arrived and Amy and I settled on beginning with the one titled “The Happy Isles.” The puzzle is pretty dang difficult, has all sorts of weirdly shaped pieces, and once we delved into it and through to near completion, we began to notice various “oddities” to how things were laid out. We eventually finished and then returned to the box that had an envelope that warned us not to open it until the puzzle had been completed. Inside was a sheet that listed a bunch of quests like finding all 17 cats, finding an astronaut, and those sorts of things, which was cool, but it was the envelope inside the envelope that made us go “WHOA!!!” after we followed the directions inside. What did it contain? You’ll have to buy it and find out, just know that each image is beautiful, it’s challenging, it is fun, and the mystery and the mechanics of this puzzle are unlike anything I have ever seen.
 


13) Marvel Puzzle Quest (Video Game for iOS)

This game has steadily transitioned from being a casual pastime to something of an obsession. Every morning, before I get out of bed, I fire up the app and see what updates have been made, what new characters have arrived, and if there are new challenges to work my way through. Think of it as a marriage of Bejeweled and the MCU and you get the idea for the style of the game, but the fun revolves around acquiring new characters of varying power (one-star beginners up to five-star powerhouses). Each character has three+ powers/abilities that you can use as well as supports, team abilities, and the hope for a good amount of luck for a favorable board. My current strongest lineup is Polaris (once she gets going she is unstoppable, four-stars), Kitty Pryde (she increases Polaris’s tiles every turn, five-stars), and Medusa (she racks up color points and heals while stealing enemy strike tiles, four-stars); these ladies bring the smackdown! That said, Deadpool (Spirit of Vengeance) just leveled up again last night and is becoming a force to be reckoned with, and with Adam Warlock recently added to the mix, no telling what my favorite team might switch to being. This game is a blessing and a curse.




14) The Old Guard (Movie on Netflix)

Based upon the comic book The Old Guard (written by Greg Rucka, illustrated by Leandro Fernandez, published by Image Comics, and a book I have not yet read and need to remedy ASAP), the show stars Charlize Theron as she and her team of immortals who have protected Earth throughout history discover a new immortal while becoming targets of a mysterious group who knows of their fantastic abilities. I LOVED this movie and even Amy the intern said it was one of her favorite movies that she watched in 2020, which coming from someone who generally does not like comic book movies is the highest of praise. If you have not yet watched The Old Guard, get thyself to Netflix and start watching.


15) Pod Save America (Podcast)

It’s kind of hard to say that I “enjoy” this podcast as it is a response to the horror/shit show that is everything Trump and the GOP. Former aides of President Obama—Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer, and Tommy Vietor—recap the week’s calamities, bringing actual facts and insights into the world of politics. Yes, they skew to the “Left,” but that just means they are critical of both sides (god, I hate those words…both sides, ugh) and call out where the crimes, lies, and injustices are taking place. Pod Save America cheers me up when the news of the world is so damn horrendous and political criminals seem to get away with robbing us of our money, our healthcare, our retirement, and our rights as the uber-wealthy get richer and richer and racism attempts to become normalized.


16) Something is Killing the Children (Graphic Novel from BOOM! Studios)

Erica Slaughter kills monsters. In fact, she is one of the very few adults who can see them. Children, however, can see the monsters just fine and as more and more children disappear in the small town of Archer’s Peak, only Erica believes the tales surviving children tell of horrendous things that live in the shadows and that prey upon them. (Written by James Tynion IV, illustrated by Werther Dell’Edera, colored by Miquel Muerto, published by BOOM! Studios) 
I had been hearing about this comic for some time and on a whim picked up the recently released first graphic novel only to be completely blown away by this immensely dark horror comic. Thankfully, I only had to wait a few months to pick up the second volume and it looks like the third will be out towards the beginning of summer which is too long of a wait for a comic of this caliber. Pair this comic series with Tynion IV’s fantastic The Department of Truth and you have two of my favorite comic series of 2020.


17) Supernatural, Season 15 (Television Show Available to Watch on Netflix)

Well, it’s been a hell (get it?) of a run for a 15 season television show that Tulip, Amy the Intern, and I have enjoyed since the very beginning through to this series finale. Sure, some episodes were slight misses, but most definitely were not. I mean, what’s not to enjoy about a show where the protagonists hunt down monsters, demons, devils, angels, gods, and even the all-mighty himself? We all fell in love with Sam and Dean over a decade ago, welcomed Castiel to the fold, and even found ourselves cheering for Jack when he first made his appearance. I will admit to being a little torn as to whether or not the final episode was needed as the penultimate episode could have been the series ender but, hey, I’m also not denying my peepers weren’t exactly dry by the end of that final episode either. Who knows, maybe in a year or two, we’ll begin it all again, but until then, carry on my wayward son.


18) Swamp Thing (Television Show on Blu-Ray)

I only got around to watching this great show on Blu-ray at the beginning of December but I was definitely tempted to sign up for the recently deceased DC Universe service to watch it as it aired only to be dissuaded by the fact that the show had been canceled despite critics and fans being generally happy with the series. Once I finished the first episode and got all of the “that’s not like what Alan Moore did at all and why is Abby’s hair black?” out of my system, I found a unique, creepy, and completely enjoyable series that was cut down WAY before it should have been. I love all of the characters and the introduction of the Blue Devil and the Phantom Stranger gave glimpses of what the writers hoped to show us had the series not been so cruelly canceled. Damn. It would have been amazing to see where things could have gone after Jason Woodrue’s transformation and with the inevitable introduction of Anton Arcane. Who knows, maybe HBO Max can someday grow something great from the wonderful seed that we actually received.


19) Swamp Thing Omnibus by Nancy A. Collins (Graphic Novel by DC Comics)

Up until now, Nancy A. Collins’s take on my much-loved Swamp Thing was a blindspot. Her run began around the time I had thrown in the towel on comics after the glut of events and the speculation boom had shredded my enjoyment of the medium but now, over two decades later, I am finally catching up on everything I missed after the Rick Veitch issues. I am so glad that I did. Collins brings a fantastic take from one who is familiar with the swamps of Lousiana, the myths, and the people and adds murderous priests, pirates, Lady Jane, and the occasional Constantine and Anton Arcane to bring it all home. Granted, this omnibus carries a hefty price tag, but I plowed through this massive tome in all but a few weeks because I loved what I was reading so much. Well worth it.

20) Young Justice, Season 3 (Television Show on HBO Max)

I had watched the first and second seasons of Young Justice a few years back and was completely hooked. But, like most great animated shows, I thought that was the end of it, which was a bummer. Then I learned that there was a third season and it was coming to HBO Max and I couldn’t wait to check it out. So, almost every evening, once Tulip and Amy the intern had gone to sleep, I would watch an episode or two. Although this season is not as great as the first two seasons, it is still really good and better than any of the live-action movies DC has been putting out. Here a new group of heroes takes the lead, becoming the Outsiders and taking on all sorts of villains who have been kidnapping children and attempting to give them superpowers. Again, this season of Young Justice is really good, but I am even more excited for what season four has to bring—*cough*…Darkseid…*cough*.


That wraps up this year’s roundup. If you think of anything I should be reading, watching, playing, or drinking, then please let me know. I hope you had a fantastic 2020 and I wish you all the best for 2021! Thank you for reading.


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Sunday, January 10, 2021

Donist World 2020 Year-End Roundup! (Part 1)

 (Sung to the tune of The Sound of Music's “My Favorite Things”)


Gamma-ray monsters brawlin’ enthrallin’
Conspiracies turned real is kinda appallin’
Dig Wonder Woman and the hope that she brings
These are a few of my favorite things

Evil god glowers bring the Plague of flowers 
Worst candidate Scumbag gains superpowers
Strange mystic academies with magical beings
These are a few of my favorite things

A costumed crusader and a blot-masked vigilante
Robots and magic combine beautifully, not too shabby
Adventures so strange for the fences it swings
These are a few of my favorite things

Diamond misships
Then my beer spills
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad

Slice of Heaven For the Year!


“Where the hell have you been, Donist?!”
Yup, that is a fair question, Denizens. For most of Donist World’s existence, I have published something weekly. Then, in 2019 I relaxed a little on that because of work stuff, moving, and a host of other things happening in my life, but I was still putting up posts on the somewhat regular; then came 2020. Well, 2020 was awful on a scale that no one other than any sane, rational, non-cultist human being could have ever predicted: We were besieged by a pandemic that continues to worsen, sicken, and kill people; we had “leadership” that ignored COVID-19, profited off of it, denied its existence, politicized it, and called upon its cult members to shun masks; science was under attack (like always); education was under attack (like always); big-bad SOCIALISM was thrown around (like always); Trump lost the election legitimately and substantially both electorally and popularly (one of the few beacons of hope in 2020) only to see the results continuously questioned and denied by the predictable bands of deplorable scum within the GOP; John Lewis died; Ruth Bader Ginsberg died; Chadwick Boseman died; Kobe Bryant died; Eddie Van Halen died; Kenny Rogers died; Neil Peart died; anti-maskers flouted concerns (at times aggressively) for themselves, their loved ones, or the public at large; predominantly-peaceful Black Lives Matter protests were vilified and tear-gassed so Trump could have a photo op while holding a bible upside down; the inaction of social media to take down or moderate the deluge of damaging lies that have led us to where we are in 2021 (not going into that today); and so very, very, very much more.
So, where was I? I was at home. My job took the coronavirus very seriously and we went fully remote which is commendable and one I know many simply cannot do, but this shift created a ton of work and priority adjustments that has kept me dreadfully busy. So, where did I find the time for creativity? The truth is that I didn’t. I let that go. I just couldn’t manage the brainpower or energy to squeeze in an hour or two here or there to write as the world fell to pieces around me. I did far too much “doomscrolling” as Amy the Intern (my wife) and I frantically tried to find additional safety measures for her to take in the event the schools foolishly reopened. It was all so very exhausting. One thing I did do, however, was read and I read a ton of fantastic comics. Let’s have a look at my favorites of 2020.

***Probably NOT spoilers below***


If you have a moment, check out our past Slice of Heaven Year-End Roundups to see what’s stayed the same and what’s changed over the years. I had quite a few pleasant surprises this year, so let’s get to it!


Donist World Top 10 Favorite Comic Series of 2020 (In No Particular Order)



Ascender

(Written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen, published by Image Comics)
Ever since the first half of this two-part epic, Descender, launched so many years ago, this heavenly series has held the top spot of every Year-End Roundup. Descender is a series that follows TIM-21, a boy robot who awakens after the Harvesters (monstrous robots) suddenly appeared, laid waste to the nine planets of the UGC (United Galactic Council), and vanished once they had completed their grim mission. It is a sci-fi story bursting with characters you immediately fall in love with and one that is mysterious, thrilling, heartbreaking, and one I reread often over the course of its six trade paperbacks. Then, as the ending occurred and I was left wanting to shout, “What?! What?! What?!,” I saw the ad for Ascender.
Ascender picks up ten years after the devastating events of the first part but this time, robots are no more and Lemire and Nguyen have exchanged sci-fi for fantasy. Here, we have a universe where magic flourishes…at least it would if not for the tyrannical grip that “Mother” and her deadly vampiric army holds over everyone. Two of the main characters from Descender have had a child since the War of the Robots and that child and everyone’s lives take a dramatic turn when a much-loved robot from the first series appears in a universe that is now void of such things. Nguyen’s stunning, watercolored art is as striking as ever and Lemire continues to have me actively cheering at moments, cringing at others, and gasping at the shock of what happens to some of these characters along the way. (I still hold out hope for one character thought lost from Descender, but we will see.) Now, you could read Ascender without having read Descender but it is the opinion of this humble Donist that you would do yourself an immense disservice of missing out on the amazing events of the first part of the story and the deep love you will develop for most of the characters within. Sadly, Ascender is said to be ending with issue 18 and I would not bet against this heavenly Donist World darling showing up on 2021’s Year-End Roundup. Get it. Buy it. Love it.


The Immortal Hulk

(Written by Al Ewing, illustrated by Joe Bennett, published by Marvel Comics)
The Immortal Hulk continues to be my favorite comic from Marvel Comics. Gone are the days of the childlike Hulk smashing the villain-of-the-month (not knocking those days, I actually love that Bronze Age stuff) and in its place is a series that focuses on the psychological, the mysterious, and, best of all, the horror that surrounds this being that cannot die. Events set in motion 10 or 20 issues ago surface and playout over the course of this series in complex and shocking ways as Ewing deftly navigates Bruce Banner’s fractured mind and the schemings of his most terrible foes (the Leader currently, and trust me, he is bone-chilling) as Bennet delivers the usual flawless storytelling combined with some of the most truly unnerving body horror imagery of the Hulk’s transformations. The Immortal Hulk has been outstanding since its debut and I have to commend Marvel for allowing the creators to do their thing and for not miring the series in any sort of “Event” books and instead opting to release one-shots to tell stories outside of the norm (some of which are amazing, btw). Ten years ago, I would have said you were crazy if you told me I would be reading and loving a Hulk comic. Now, I would say you are crazy for not reading The Immortal Hulk.


(Everythinged by Daniel Warren Johnson, colored by Mike Spicer, published by DC Comics on their Black Label)
This dark, apocalyptic Wonder Woman tale is everythinged by Daniel Warren Johnson, so there was absolutely no way I could pass it up. I also had no doubt that I would love not just his amazing art with his heartrate-increasing speed lines and terrifying beasties but that the story would also grab hold and keep me desperate to snatch up each of the oversized issues in this spectacular four-issue series. When some youths are pursued by a grotesque creature seeking to end their lives, they stumble across a cave where they find a woman cryogenically frozen who they free and who defeats the monster…with some effort. Wonder Woman walks out of the cave to find the world ravaged, her friends gone or dead, and her once immense powers greatly diminished. Now she looks to be humanity’s only hope in a world that seeks to make humans extinct. What happened over the scores of years she was locked away, why are Diana’s powers fading, and how can the Princess of Power bring light to a dead Earth filled with monstrosities? You will just have to read to find out.


 
(Written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, illustrated by Ricardo Federici, colored by Sunny Gho, lettered by Tom Napolitano, cartography by Jared Blando, published by DC Comics on their Black Label)
I’m going to flat out say that this high fantasy series is one that is probably best read from beginning to end, which I fully intend to do once this first chapter completes in the next few weeks. Despite starting each issue with a “Wait a minute…what happened last time?” question, I quickly settle in to enjoy the oh-so-lovely painted artwork and immerse myself within this world where the Plague of Flowers brings back the dead and perverts their forms as their master, the evil god Mol Uhltep, unleashes them upon the denizens of this rich world…for the second time. The series tells two tales: one from 30 years in the past when a group of heroes ventured to the Black Stairs to sop Mol Uhltep, and the present when a new group of heroes (including some from the original group) seeks to put an end the Flowering Dead once and for all. Unfortunately, some of the actions of the past dictate the tragedies of the present and each character will have to come to terms with what “victory” will entail. The Last God fills a much-needed fantasy void that has existed in the Big Two for far too long and is one you absolutely need to catch up on. A hardcover collection looks to release in August.


(Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by various, colored by Moreno Dinisio, lettered by Rus Wooton, designed by Erika Schnatz, edited by Will Dennis, published by Image Comics)
The tagline on this fairly recent release states, “The World’s Fate Rests with the Worst Person on it” and that is the best way to describe this crude, offensive, and ultimately glorious series. Ernie Ray Clementine is absolutely the worst. He’s a drug-abusing, alcohol-guzzling, womanizing, barely-literate…well, scumbag. He offends everyone around him with his filthy behavior, but when he stumbles across a superhero fighting a supervillain and “accidentally” shoots up with a special chemical lost in the fray, he gains tremendous abilities and might just be the only person who can save the world from Armageddon at the hands of extremist fascists. As of today, only three issues have released, but I am all in as I laugh and cringe, laugh and cringe some more at Ernie’s antics as his handlers struggle in their attempts to get this selfish a_hole to do what’s right. The Scumbag is the perfect temporary antidote to the very real ills happening in the world today. You definitely do not want to sleep on this one, especially if you are a Remender fan. Plus, every issue features a different mega artist to feast your peepers upon.


(Written by James Tynion IV, art by Martin Simmonds, lettered by Aditya Bidikar, designed by Dylan Todd, edited by Steve Foxe, published by Image Comics)
By the time I had set down Tynion IV and Simmond’s The Department of Truth I felt as if a glass of water had been thrown in my face. Even prior to the past four years—and especially 2020—I have wondered why the dumbest, most asinine beliefs come to exist and start to take hold with seemingly rational people: flat Earth, birtherism, anti-vaccinations, climate change denial, Pizzagate, election fraud, etc. ad nauseam. The Department of Truth explains it all. In this world, if enough people believe a conspiracy theory, then that garbled bunch of nonsense begins to become a reality. Cole Turner, an FBI agent who teaches about the conspiracy theories that dominate the avenues we are all too familiar with is targeted by the Department of Truth to stop these deliberate falsehoods from becoming a reality. This is not the book I needed to read to help diminish my anxiety of the past five years, but it is 100% the book I needed to read for these troubling times. Even outside of the current deluge of “alternative facts” and the horror show that was 2020, this must-read series is one that would have still been at the top of my favorites list. ’80s Satanic Panic, anyone? Look for a collection of the first five issues in March.


(Written by Scottie Young, illustrated by Humberto Ramos, colored by Edgar Delgado, lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles, published by Marvel Comics)
I just realized that Strange Academy is the only non-cynical bright spot on the 2020 Year-End Roundup. Everything else is murder, despots, fascists, scumbags, apocalyptic straits, death, horror, etc., but I guess those topics are just my sort of thing. Looking at all of the other titles, it’s pretty clear that ol’ Donist needed to smile on occasion and to maybe, just maybe try out that thing called laughter. Strange Academy gave me what I needed in droves. Imagine Hogwarts only with Marvel characters where the magical beings you are already familiar with (Doctor Strange, Doctor Voodoo, Magik, and others) teach a wide array of magical kids covering the range of gods, demons, giants, Weird World denizens, and even a child of Dormammu and you have a fun-filled adventure that will leave you smiling the whole way through. Now, this isn’t to say there are no stakes or dire situations that the students find themselves thrust into, it’s just that you feel uplifted each time you set an issue down. If you are looking for a fantastic story, with gorgeous art, then look no further than Strange Academy. The first trade arrives in February.


(Written by Tom King, illustrated by Jorge Fornés, colored by Dave Stewart, lettered by Clayton Cowles, published by DC Comics on their Black Label)
As I often say, “I have very little to no idea as to what the hell is going on...but I love this comic.” At three issues in, this sentiment still holds true. What I do know: The book takes place 35 years after the events of Watchmen, Rorschach is impossibly running around and trying to assassinate a candidate running against President Robert Redford, he had a masked accomplice (?). A detective is tasked with finding out the identity of this supposed Rorschach but in doing so he is led along a downward spiral of conspiracies and corruption. Of course, this is not going to be a happy-go-lucky gigglefest of a comic but King has me for the long haul on what I believe will be 12 issues once all is said and done. Fornés art is wonderful in its storytelling and a perfect style for this noirish tale and I especially love his imagery and the design of the retro-inspired covers. If you are a fan of King’s other 12-issue masterpieces (The Omega Men, The Vision, and Mister Miracle) then this is one you do not want to sleep on. Speaking of great 12-issue series by Tom King…


(Written by Tom King, illustrated by Mitch Gerads and Evan “Doc” Shaner, lettered by Clayton Cowles, published by DC Comics on their Black Label)
Here we go again…, “I have very little to no idea as to what the hell is going on...but I love this comic.” In this series, Adam Strange is the hero of the distant planet Rann where he led the defeat of the alien menace known as the Pykkts. Now, Strange has returned to Earth with his wife Alanna of Rann to a life of retirement, but Strange might have brought the troubles of Rann to his home planet. When an activist winds up dead, Strange is believed to have been involved and his Rann war record is called into question, which brings Mr. Terrific to the scene to investigate. Strange Adventures is a compelling story where I don’t yet know what to believe and is one that is beautifully illustrated by Gerads for the scenes set in the present with a more realistic art style and by Shaner for the sequences set in the past with a more traditional comic style that makes the remembrances seem more like a comic book and possibly hinting at embellishment by Strange, but time will tell as we head into the remaining five issues in this phenomenal series.


(Written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Andrea Sorrentino, colored by Jordie Bellaire, lettered by Steve Wands, published by DC Comics on their Black Label)
No, Denizens, I am not cheating (although, I can cheat all I want on my own site, by golly!) but rather the three-issue Joker: Killer Smile and the one-shot Batman: The Smile Killer are intricately woven tales meant to be a whole. Don’t believe me? Well, then feast los ojos on the gorgeous, large form factor, hardcover collection of this chilling series that definitely falls more in the psychological horror genre than that of superheroes. Here, Dr. Ben Arnell knows in his bones that he is the one who can finally crack what it is that makes the Joker tick. Arnell has studied, he has prepared, he is ready, or so he thinks. But when Arnell begins to see that the Joker seems to know more about him than he does about the Joker, his steadfast belief in himself and his methodologies begins to crumble around him. The powerhouse team behind the recently concluded Gideon Falls (almost made it on the list and nearly a tie with this series) brings a disturbing, bone-chilling look into a force of nature that is best left undisturbed. This is one series that will leave you reluctant to turn those lights off before you go to sleep. So very creepy and good.


But wait, I’m sure there's more...


I'm sure there are plenty of other comics I somehow forgot to mention or have not yet bought or read in 2020. If there are any glaring omissions, please let me know. There's plenty of room at the Donist World corporate offices for more comics and...hold on a sec...actually, Amy the intern (my wife) has corrected me and said that "No, there is not plenty of room here." <psssttt...hey denizens, let me know anyways. I can totally sneak more comics in on the down-low. Just let me know. We can do this…>

Stay tuned next week for the “Donist World 2019 Year-End Roundup! (Part 2)”


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Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Comics Lust 3/1/2020

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/holiday cookie hoarder Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). It’s been a crazy week for work and just about everything else going on in my life, but I was finally able to find some time to let y’all know about something grand. Anyhow, take a breath, let your shoulders relax, grab a drink (you deserve it…unless that’s not your thing) and see if you can dig up some of those dark chocolate and mint cookies from Trader Joes, sit back, and afterward check out some great comics. Thank you for reading!

*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magics mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Not sure what “Comics Lust” is about? Take a look at the Introduction to “Comics Lust” post or take a look at the static “Comics Lust Table of Contents” page to jump to a topic.

Comics Lust

Bingemode (Part 3)

Given a new Netflix show recently made its debut, I decided it was high time I returned to a series that isn’t just one of the best comic books series of the past decade (read about our “Favorite Comics of the Past Decade”), it is one of the best comic book series period. It shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to guess which series I’m talking about, but if you need me to spell it out for you, the book is…


Locke & Key (2008–2013)

(Written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez, colored by Jay Fotos, lettered by Robbie Robbins, published by IDW publishing)
IDW is a publisher for which I have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to their many offerings. Their G.I. Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Transformers offerings are enticing, but the volume of material available makes diving in an insurmountable task without the aid of a comic Sherpa to guide you through the quagmires of those licensed properties. But then, every so often, the publisher releases something different, something new, something that has a beginning, middle, and an end (sorta, more of that later) that is accessible not just to comic book fans, but also fans of fantastic stories.
Thus we have Locke & Key.
Back in 2008, after the first few issues of the first chapter of Locke & Key had seen release, I had heard rumblings about the series across various podcasts and review sites, but I didn’t take the plunge; I even remember seeing the iconic cover of the first issue depicting the Ghost Key, yet I didn’t pick it up. It wasn’t until I started catching on to the new digital app offerings that had recently surfaced that I decided to finally give the book a try after the IDW app featured the first issue for $.99 or it might have even been free, I’m not certain, but what I do know was that the book was too cheap to not take a look. So, I threw it in my cart, purchased it, and then sat on it for a long while. Many months later, the “Welcome to Lovecraft” arc had ended and “Headgames” was an issue or two underway and I decided to finally give my digital copy a read. When I finished that one issue, I bought the other five digital versions of the first chapter and was totally blown away by what I had just read. I then ordered the hardcover collection of “Welcome to Lovecraft” and resolved to buy the hardcovers of everything the creators would throw at me over the next few years.
The story involves the surviving members of the Locke family (Tyler, the older brother; Kinsey, the sister; Bode, the youngest brother; and Nina, the children’s mother) moving from the west coast to a family home in Lovecraft, Massachusettes after the brutal murder of Wendell Locke, their father/husband, at the hands of two deranged highschoolers. The east coast mansion—known as Keyhouse—appears to be somewhat of a haunted mansion, but it is a fresh start away from the tragedy of a few months prior and the hope for a return to some semblance of normalcy; Keyhouse is anything BUT normal. Shortly upon settling in, young Bode finds a mysterious key that allows him to turn into a ghost and to roam the property unseen. He also discovers the well-house where a beautiful woman in a black gown lives and talks to him via echoes, begging the boy to do her a favor. From there, the horror the Locke’s sought so desperately to leave behind rises anew as the woman in the well makes succeeds in escaping her confines. Things then take a turn for the weird, as magic and wonder present themselves in the form of even more mysterious keys that each hold a special power when used on the right door or lock. But will the keys be enough to ward off both the lady in the well and their father’s killer, Sam Lesser, who recently escaped prison and is making his way to Lovecraft?
One thing I did not realize for the first year or so of reading this heavenly series was that writer Joe Hill is the son of famed novelist Stephen King. Had I known this at the time, then it’s safe to say that the name recognition of the man’s father might have pulled my attention to the book a bit sooner, but then that’s possibly why Hill goes by “Hill” to stand on the merits of his own work. And what a mighty work it is indeed. Hill immediately pulls you into the story through a flashback as you quickly learn all is not going to be well for Mrs. Locke upon the arrival of Sam Lesser and Al Grubb and the reveal of the dead body in the back of young men’s stolen truck. Then we meet the Locke children in the present, at the Keystone house in Maine, wherein two pages we are introduced to Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode and I was instantly charmed by them and pulled into their plight as another flashback, this time at the funeral for their father, sealed the deal and had me desperate to know more about them. The tragedy that has been forced upon these kids and the manner in which they each try to cope is heartbreaking and endeared them to me completely. With just over half of the first issue, Hill introduced me to the Locke family and the awfulness of their situation and I was completely absorbed into the tremendous story that was about to unfold. But it was the introduction of that first key and the hint of the lady in the well-house, that left little doubt that there was to be a strong supernatural element to this tale, that I knew I had what was destined to be a great experience ahead of me, and to be honest, I underestimated just how fantastic this series is and just how phenomenally it sticks the landing with the final two issues.
But it isn’t just Hill’s writing that makes Locke & Key such a thoroughly captivating read. Coupled with Rodriguez’s positively stunning storytelling, character design and acting, and elaborate backgrounds, you have a comic that has you thoroughly torn between rushing page to page to see what happens next and lingering on every panel to thoroughly breathe in the visuals. Rodriguez uses a thick line to add visual impact to each character while using a thinner line on their facial features to convey their feelings, whether they are openly upset, or struggling to keep their emotions under their control. Rodriguez also gives the characters and the environments an open, more upbeat style that avoids the shortcut/cheat of deep shadows, and allows you to see everything that is happening in a scene from slight facial feature changes to added intricate details in the stones and wood of the surroundings, with the end result being a simply gorgeous book whose visuals every bit match and complement the rich story.
So, yes, one issue was all it took to convince me that Locke & Key was something special. After the first arc of six issues, I knew digital was not the way to go, but rather I needed to go big with the hardcover collections that were available at the time. To read this fine series, you have the following options available to you:
  • Locke & Key Master Edition Volume 1–3 - Slightly oversized and probably the choice I would make were I to buy it today
  • Locke & Key Hardcover Volume 1–6 - This was how I read the series, but beware that volume one and four did not have a ribbon bookmark and that this will forever haunt me. I manage. These, unfortunately, appear to be out-of-print
  • Locke & Key Trade Paperback Volume 1–6 - These look to be readily available
Thankfully, although we have a complete and masterfully-told story that more than stands on its own, the creators have released and continue to release a series of one-shots expanding the universe that I have not yet read (a travesty, I know) and that are now firmly on my radar:
  • Locke & Key: Guide to the Known Keys (2011) - also contains the short story “Open the Moon”
  • Locke & Key: Grindhouse (2012)
  • Locke & Key: Small World (2016)
  • Locke & Key: Nailed It (2019) - a San Diego Comic-Con Exclusive
  • Locke & Key: Dog Days (2019) - Contains the new story “Dog Days” and the impossible to find “Nailed It”
  • Locke & Key: World War Key: Battalions #1 (2020) - Not out yet
  • Locke & Key: World War Key: Revolution #1–6 (2020) - Not out yet. This series will follow the one-shot.
  • Locke & Key: Hell & Gone (?) - A crossover with DC Comics’s Sandman Universe, and one that seemingly takes place during the “Seasons of Mists” storyline
Given that these one-shots might be a tad on the difficult side to track down, IDW currently offers these hardcovers (and soon-to-be trades):
So, yes, there is a lot of extra material to be found surrounding this enchanting world once you complete the main story, which I am certain will not only be a jewel in your collection but one of those series that you will return to every year or two. Locke & Key is a bingeworthy read of the tallest order and one that I had difficulty putting down to do things like sleep, go to work, or engage with the outside world. It is a masterpiece of a comic that seasoned comic collectors and new readers alike can enjoy.


Locke & Key (Television Show on Netflix)

Okay, I’m going to keep this brief. I have currently watched seven of the ten episodes of the first season of Locke & Key. I like it, but I don’t love it. The actors who portray the Locke kids are fantastic in their roles but the story itself plays much too safe in an effort to appeal to a broader demographic, which is Donist Kryptonite. Sure, the comic series has some laugh-out-loud moments and at times can be whimsical, but there are some much darker and traumatizing sequences in the comic whose repercussions carry through to the end. The television show, however, completely omits things like what happened to Nina, Nina’s alcoholism (although the end of the seventh episode looks to introduce that), what happened to Al Grubb, including Al Grubb in the story at all, certain circumstances surrounding Dodge, Uncle Duncan’s husband/boyfriend, among other things. The show also changes up how the keys manifest their powers, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I LOVE how the Head key gives the user/victim their ideal place (Bode a Chuck E Cheese type location, and Kinsey an amazing MC Escher style mall) to store their memories. The comic is leaps and bounds greater than the show, but if you look at it as a completely separate beast and ignore the fact that the writers could have taken a few more risks (to be fair, they were probably instructed to lighten things up by the head honchos), then you will probably enjoy this good show that had the potential to be great.



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