Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 1/23/2014

(Sung to the tune of The Cure's “Primary”)

The Autumnlands fills me with much zen
So good I’m dreaming
So sublime

Historic lines begin to blur
Oh monstrous fears
To chill your heart
Manifest Destiny’s superb

These books we read
The more we need
You best pay heed
Consume with speed

Hello there, Donist World denizens, and welcome back. I'm joined as ever by CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / The Cure fanatic Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). It was kind of a slow new release week here at Donist World seeing as how we only had one book in our pull. Thankfully, we had a backup trade that we absolutely LOVED, so we'll take a quick look at that as well. The slow release week is actually well timed as I started two more graphic design courses, I’ve been finalizing my resume, began the job search, took on a graphic design project, I am nearly finished with an online resume, and I’m preparing to tackle our taxes. By Obie’s estimation, we should be due “a cool 10Gs” for Donist World business, but what my CFO fails to realize is that you have to have income to apply to all those business expenses and you have to have overpaid your taxes in order to receive a refund. Ummmm…our lease at the corporate office (Mom’s basement) is $0 per month, the snacks (kibble) are not deductible since a dog is not considered an employee, and the squeaky plush toys are not considered an entertainment expense. Bummer, I know. Oh well. Anyhow, I have to cut over to some pressing homework now, so that I will have some time to read my recent delivery from of Six From Sirius (the first issue rocked my world), Six From Sirius 2, and The Light and Darkness War — super sci-fi goodness. Have a great weekend, and let me know if there is something I should have been reading this week. With that, on to…

Friday Slice of Heaven

The Autumnlands:
Tooth & Claw #1
The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw #3 - Written by Kurt Busiek, illustrated by Benjamin Dewey, colored by Jordie Bellaire, lettering and design by John G. Roshell & Jimmy Betancourt of Comicraft, published by Image Comics. Three cheers for the Champion! Here here here! The Champion was summoned to save the magic and the people of the great city of Keneil…make that the-once-great city of Keneil. But the Champion, Learoyd, is odd in appearance and manner. Yes he saved the people of Keneil from the low-born bison raiders, but Learoyd is brash and cares little of anyone. And what tidings does the fox-woman trader, Goodfoot, bring to the high-born brought low?

I have been hoping for a good fantasy comic for sometime now. Sure, aspects of other Image titles fall into this category, but Tooth & Claw…errrrr…make that The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw (I was wrong about the heavy metal band naming mixup that I talked about last month, as clarified in the back matter of this issue) hits all the right fantasy notes: swords, sorcery, bipedal animal characters, a legend of a great savior, politics, classism, and so much more. The first two issues grounded the series firmly in a world that anyone familiar with the term dungeon master can relate. Then Busiek and Dewey change things up with the intermixing of an additional genre.

The new sci-fi angle is downplayed, subtle, mostly used to show that there is more to Steven T. Learoyd than we first thought. Through subtle, unacknowledged artistic sequences — beautifully delivered by Dewey, by the way — we see a possible justification for how the Champion was able to decimate the bison raiders so easily. We also see a problem for Learoyd that is sure to complicate matters in the near future.

This issue also sees the introduction of Goodfoot, a fox-woman trader, who shows up right when life at the fallen city of Keneil is most desperate and confused. She appears with her charming demeanor astride a giant cricket — insects look to be transportation / pack animals in this world — and she bears gifts and advice…for a reasonable price. Goodfoot is absolutely stunning in her design, as Dewey gives her such style and personality through her character acting and through her wonderful costuming. She is simply marvelous with her weaved hair decorations, her traveling hat (complete with a decorative crystal and dragonfly wings instead of bird feathers), large bangles, green-buttoned shirt, brown shoulder pads, scarf, and orange skirt. Dewey has put such time and consideration into every aspect of Goodfoot's design that when mixed with the tremendous personality Busiek gives the fast-talking fox, it is nearly impossible not to fall for the character's charms. I sincerely hope Goodfoot sticks around for some time to come.

Bellaire's colors continue to define and solidify the look of this book, and although we don't see the brilliant displays of magic that made the first issue so striking, there is still plenty to dazzle. What I failed to notice in the first two issues, was that during the more dramatic conversation scenes, where backgrounds are of lesser importance, Bellaire opts to knockout (change the black inks in a portion of a panel to another color for added effect) the backgrounds to more subdued color tones than what is portrayed in the foreground. I have seen many artist flat out omit detailed backgrounds in their art, but Dewey avoids taking the easy road, giving the reader much to see, while Bellaire creates the visual hierarchy and additional perspective with her knockouts and color opacity shifts. The characters might not be using magic this issue, but the technical choices of both artists bring a stylistic type of magic all the same.

Do you have any doubts that I am enjoying this new fantasy comic series? The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw is a beautiful, well-told story that started strong and does not appear to be slowing down. This issue clocks in at 24 pages with a $2.99 price and has absolutely no advertisements to interrupt the flow of the exceptional story. Compare this to certain other high-profile Big Two books that are 20–22 pages at $3.99 (or more) and with far too many meddlesome ads to pull you out of story. If you are looking for a great, beautifully-crafted fantasy comic, then look no further than The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw. The next issue cannot come soon enough. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Manifest Destiny V2
Amphibia & Insecta TPB
Manifest Destiny: Volume 2 - Amphibia & Insecta TPB - Written by Chris Dingess, illustrated by Matthew Roberts, colored by Owen Gieni, lettered by Pat Brosseau, edited by Sean Mackiewicz, published by Skybound, an Image Comics imprint. In 1804, Lewis and Clark set out to explore the uncharted American Frontier with a crew of enlisted men, mercenaries, and convicts. Part of their mission, the one that few others are aware, is that they were also sent to discover and hunt monsters. Their hunt has not been going well. After the horror and catastrophes found at the fort, and the loss of many of their men, Lewis and Clark continue their exploration of America, only to hit another misstep when their riverboat snags upon something in the water. When half of the men investigate, they discover a new threat lies beneath, as the other half discover the horror that lurks in the woods.

As you might remember from my post in June 2014, I kind of flipped out over the first trade of Manifest Destiny. I had heard the series was well done, but I had no idea of just how compelling and exciting this book was until I had read those first few pages; I hammered through the trade in a couple of days. When I saw that the second trade was soon arrive, my pulse quickened with anticipation and I picked it up the day it released. I smashed through this new volume in two sittings — I would have preferred one sitting, but you know…life — and was brought fully back into the creepy, yet thrilling world I first enjoyed over six months ago.

Again the creators give us six terrific issues in this reasonably priced ($14.99 retail) collection as we discover — the hard way — new monstrous threats lurking in the American wild. Roberts’s depictions of both the amphibia and the insecta portions of the creatures in this book are wild and freaky as all heck, yet the monsters remain true in their design to the animals upon which they are each based. Whether the monsters have exoskeletons, ear drums, a proboscis, a curved bone structure for the skull, or natural body movements or postures, Roberts captures it all perfectly with the attention to detail of someone who deeply understands the anatomy of what he is depicting.

The creators utilize splash pages and larger panels sparingly, but when they do appear, they deliver the perfect emotional one-two punch to make you gasp in shock. The visual and written storytelling is just as strong as the previous volume, and we gain additional insight into not only Lewis and Clark, but many of the unsavory men in their command. The volume ends with the promise of more adventure, more horror, more of the mysterious arches, and more of the amazing Sacagawea (aka…the wise, pregnant, Native American murder machine), and I will be there eagerly waiting to see what comes next. This comic series is positively fantastic, and blast to read. You need to check this out. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Not Much… - Although having only on book in my pull this week is a mite disappointing, there really wasn’t much gettin’ on my left nerve this week. That said, I am a little stressed as I’m gearing up for a new round of life changes with the job search, which looks to be… interesting… as I try to find something that will allow me to continue physically attending my Publication Design class; lifelong learning is a commitment I hold dear. I also need to finally start bringing professional reviewers on board for my all-ages novel Kibbles ’N’ Bots so I can hopefully see some positive reviews (one so far, and surprisingly it is not from anyone I know!) and get some sales and excitement ramping up as I write the next book (I have loosely plotted the entire story by chapter, and I'm ~7000 words into the first draft thus far). There's also the small matter of creating over 50 little illustrations to put at each chapter head, which I really need to start. Ugh…so much to do.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 1/16/2015

(Sung to the tune of The Cure's “Close To Me”)

I’ve waited a month for Lazarus, I’ve been impatiently sick
It arrived today hip hop hooray
I never thought that the day would come
I never thought I’d buy Star Wars you see, but it’s a must read

But when comics get so dark, sometimes you’re filled with fright
Well never fear, Starlight is here
Another book you must hold close
Creature Cops is tops, but there’s a two week wait ’til gator snake

Just have a bit of faith
Donist’ll steer you safe and clean
Hot dang I am so sure
That these books I adore are a dream

Hello there and welcome to Donist World. I’m Donist, and I’m joined as ever by CFO Obie (my friend’s Boston terrier) and by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / canine cicerone Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). This week there was only one comic in our pull, but another comic proved too hard to resist, another is an advance copy, and another is a digital copy of a mini-series I read this week; all are freakin’ fantastic! Anyways, I’m keeping the intro short because I have started writing the first draft of the followup up to my ebook Kibbles ’N’ Bots (edited by none other than Rob Anderson, writer of Creature Cops, discussed below!), and Obie has just handed me a list of demands (or rather story notes) for his character in Kibbles ’N’ Bots, as well a backend profit-sharing contract that basically signs all of the Donist World assets over to him in the event the book does not earn out the million dollars he states he is entitled to receive. We have some painful discussions ahead of us.

While we trudge through that mess, have a look at this week’s…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Lazarus #14
Lazarus #14 - Written by Greg Rucka, illustrated by Michael Lark with Tyler Boss, colored by Santi Arcas, lettered by Jodi Wynne, design and additional content by Eric Trautmann, edited by David Brothers, published by Image Comics. Forever Carlyle, the Family Carlyle Lazarus, has been tasked with infiltrating the Family Hock’s section of Triton One to eliminate her kidnapped brother Jonah, from whom Hock has allegedly stolen technological secrets. Getting to Jonah is next to impossible, unless you are Forever, but one thing Forever’s father, Malcolm Carlyle, did not count on was for the two siblings to actually talk before Forever carried out her mission.

T-E-N-S-I-O-N. If you were to summarize in one word Rucka and Lark’s compelling Lazarus series, “tension” might be the best way to do so. The majority of this issue focuses on Forever’s mission to take out her brother, Jonah. We see her sneaking in and out of facility ducts, checking behind doors, avoiding cameras, and moving her disheveled brother somewhere safe so she can kill him. At any moment, the alarm could sound ensuring violence and possibly war between the two families. Then the creator’s have the two talk, and in the flurry of emotions that ensue, Lark draws the reader completely into the nerve-wracking exchange, and the ticking clock of the alarm eventually sounding. The entire nine-page sequence had me nervously thinking get out of there, get out of there, you have to get out of there, all the while desperately wanting to hear what Jonah had to say. Through brilliant dialogue, exceptional character acting, and storytelling that keeps you transfixed panel-to-panel, readers who have been following Lazarus since the beginning not only read the story, they become part of it.

The final five pages of this issue bring the intensity down a little, but then with the final three panels you can’t help but gasp. I want to spoil the brutal cliffhanger with its promise of events I do not want to see unfold, but I’m not going to; you just have to read this tremendous issue for yourself. What I will say is that the creators succeeded in endearing many characters to us some time ago, and as much as I don’t want certain events to unfold, there is no way on Earth I can hope to look away from what is coming next issue. To be honest, I fully expect to be quite traumatized come this time next month(ish), but I wouldn’t have it any other way — I do hold out some hope for things to work out.

I don’t exagerate when I say Lazarus is one of the best things to come out of Image, denizens, it is a fantastic comic. Be warned though: if you are looking for cheer in Rucka and Lark’s world, then you are going to be sorely disappointed. If you are looking for a dark, futuristic tale of a world and situations that are not all that far removed from possibility, then you should definitely pick this up. Currently, you can find two trades, or opt for the beautiful hardcover. I will say that although each issue has a mini-summary of what has previously transpired, this is a book you need to start at the beginning to properly understand the world and the intriguing characters. Must read stuff. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Creature Cops #1
Creature Cops: Special Varmint Unit #1 (Advance Review) - Written by Rob Anderson, illustrated by Fernando Melek, inked by Novo Malgapo, colored by Juan Romera, lettered by E.T. Dollman, story editor Paul Allor, consulting editors Andy Schmidt and Bobby Curnow, published by Comics Experience and IDW. 20 years ago, China created the first duo-spliced animals with the creation of the “Panda Dog,” which became immensely popular as a pet around the world. Now, in the US, both legal and illegal hybrid animals have flourished, existing in the home and oftentimes in the wild. In response to the growing numbers of these animals, Animal Control has been federalized to deal with problematic, animal-related incidents.

You might remember Anderson from my glowing reviews of his one-shot and subsequent four-issue mini-series Rex Zombie Killer, a fun mashup of The Walking Dead and The Incredible Journey with the added bonus of a gorilla with a baseball bat; it’s also great read. With Creature Cops, Anderson brings his love of animals along with his knowledge of working in no-kill animal shelters to the field of animal control. After reading this issue — and the other two issues, which I will talk about in the future — I can easily see Creature Cops as a television procedural (only better than most) with its impressive roster of characters and the barrage of hybrid-animal-related incidents plaguing the city. Each of the characters from the day shift and the night shift have their own distinct voices, histories, problems, and wants, while also subtly infusing the very real problem of budgetary concerns, which we see via the hosts of empty seats at the precinct roll call. Even though the comic is fantastical with the creatures found in the book, and many of the situations are serious, there are a fair amount of humorous and laugh out loud moments that fit seamlessly into the narrative. The story as a whole and the dialogue and characterization are all highly enjoyable.

The art is beautiful and perfectly suited to both the humans and the host of cool creatures Melek has created. The character acting is solid whether we are watching the characters sit through (or for a couple officers, suffer through) the morning roll call, or when two others navigate a budding romance. As for the many hybrid creatures (gator snake, panda dog, king rat), they are all well-developed, but my definite favorite of the bunch is without a doubt the horned mastiff, who has a hilarious panel riding squirrel with Kaminski and Vasquez that made me love this title all the more. Romera’s colors are vibrant and full of life, despite the fact that many scenes occur in the city, and his style rounds out Melek’s line work beautifully.

There is much more at play in the story than officers merely bringing in interesting animals as you will see with what Gabby finds while out on a routine call, but I ain’t gonna spoil; you’ll just have to read for yourself. Creature Cops is a heck of a fun read that I have been lucky enough to see progress from script, to pencils, to inks, and now to the final product that you will be able to buy on January 28th at your LCS. Also, please check out this great interview with Anderson over at Newsarama here. If you are an animal lover, a fan of police procedurals, or you like great comic books outside of the usual capes and tights fare, then Creature Cops: Special Varmint Unit is exactly the book you need. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Star Wars #1
Star Wars #1 - Written by Jason Aaron, illustrated by John Cassaday, colored by Laura Martin, lettered by Chris Eliopoulos, edited by Jordan D. White, published by Marvel Comics. Following Rebel pilot Luke Skywalker’s destruction of the Death Star, the Imperial Forces have to regroup. Pressing their advantage, the Rebels stage a daring infiltration on an Imperial weapons factory. All seems to be going well until the Imperial negotiator arrives…

Dagnabbit, denizens, I…did…not…want…to…get…this…comic. I didn’t. I used to occasionally pick up the odd Star Wars comic back in the ’70s, but since then I’ve kind of stayed away from the whole Star Wars comic thing. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are supposedly some amazing runs out there, but the sheer volume of material available is simply daunting; I would have no idea of where to start. With Disney buying Marvel, and then Disney buying Star Wars with licensing rights reverting from Dark Horse to Disney, you don’t need a crystal ball to predict an onslaught of new Star Wars comics flooding into comic shops. Just look at the back of this issue where you will find previews / solicits for a Darth Vader comic, and a Princess Leia comic on the horizon. I’m sure Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, C-3PO and R2-D2, Lando, Chewbacca, Obi Wan Kenobi, and who-knows-what-else is certain to follow — I for one am personally holding out for the thrilling Bib Fortuna series. My problem with buying a comic in the Star Wars franchise is that doing so holds the potential to open a gateway to a monetary black hole from which there is no escape.

So, why did I buy this issue? The answers are simple: Jason Aaron, John Cassaday, 30 pages, and a new number one based on a movie that changed my life forever. I love the creators on this book, the characters are amazing, but I was curious to see if a comic could spark my interest in a property where I already knew what was going to happen a la the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. I should have known better…this book was a blast. Into the black hole I go. Again, dagnabbit!

Aaron gives the reader exactly what they have come to expect from one of his books: an exciting read filled with drama and action-packed adventure. He also delivers on the Star Wars front by nailing every single character voice and personality to the point that even without the imagery you know when Luke, or Han, or Leia are talking; Chewie is a no brainer.

As for the art, Cassaday shows exactly why he is a master. At once giving us picture perfect renditions of the main Star Wars characters and infusing them with some of the best expressions and body language I have seen in a comic. Add in Laura Martin’s tremendous colors — especially on dramatic character lighting — that lean toward cooler colors for interiors and warmer for outside shots, and I was transfixed by every aspect of this issue. Then the issue ends with that full-page splash and the solitary “RUN” balloon…again, dagnabbit, I say.

<Sigh> Yes, I will be picking up the second and probably the third issues of this new series that will undoubtedly spawn dozens of other series, but when you have heavy hitters like Aaron, Cassady, and Martin on the book, there is really no harm in picking up this comic, so long as: 1) the Force is with you, 2) you love beautifully presented and fun sci-fi. One heck of a powerful, good start. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Starlight #1
Starlight #1–6 - Written by Mark Millar, illustrated by Goran Parlov, colored by Ive Svorcina, lettered by Marko Sunjic, edited by Nicole Boose, production by Drew Gill, logo by Tim Daniel, published by Image Comics. Once upon a time, Duke McQueen was the savior of a distant universe after he defeated the maniacal dictator, Typhon. The lovely, seven-feet-tall queen offered to make him her king, the people built an enormous statue in his honor, a distant world and its populace adored Duke as a hero. Then he came back home to Earth. He married, had two children, and returned to a life that refused to believe of his great achievements in distant galaxies; he was just your average Joe. His wife believed him, but decades passed and she recently died. Duke is alone with only his memories to keep him company, that is until Space-Boy arrives with news of a new threat to the very galaxy where Duke still matters.

Oh my goodness gracious, denizens, this mini-series is a complete joy. I loved every second of this fun, exciting, emotional tale. After reading — and loving — books from Millar the likes of The Ultimates, Kick-Ass, and the second half of The Authority, all of which lean toward the darker side of the spectrum, I never thought I would ever read a comic so upbeat, positive, and — dare I say — fun from this creator. Think of Starlight as a callback to the days of the old serials Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, only with the hero returning to save the day 40 years later as an old man. Through solid dialogue, perfect pacing, and some beautifully-timed, emotion-filled silent panels, Millar made me a believer in Duke within the first few pages of the first issue; I was completely in.

Parlov’s art is equally to blame for my adoration of this series. The silent panels I mention above delivered such character defining moments for Duke, that you could feel just how lost this character was without the one thing that grounded him to his home planet: his wife. The images are sad, heavy, and when intermixed with Duke’s memories of his other-worldly exploits, they hit that much harder, Thankfully the sadness is short lived with the arrival of Space-Boy and his request for Duke’s help. Amazing character acting and storytelling aside, Parlov’s art more than shines when depicting the sci-fi tech, dynamic costumes, and the occasional splash page that is reminiscent of Moebius when combined with Svorcina’s colors. The colored art alone is worth spending some time lingering over.

Again, I freakin’ loved this series. I anticipate it is one of those I will revisit at least every other year, especially after reading so many of the other dreary — yet excellent, mind you — comics to be found on the shelves. I picked this up through a Comixology sale, but I think I’m going to double dip on the trade (releasing mid to late February) so I can see this dang-fine comic gracing my favorite book shelf. You simply have to read this fun adventure. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

I Have To Be Critical and Poke Fun At Something - Okay, call me a snob for this nitpick, but you know how I mentioned above that the awesome Creature Cops comic is an “Advance Review?” Yeah? Well, one thing that has driven me insane over the years is when other reviewers / publishers refer to advance reviews as “Advanced Reviews.” I know, I know, I am not exactly a grammatical master myself — although mixing up “there,” “their,” and “they’re” is a most terrible crime…I’m sure I’ve done it — but referring to something as an “Advanced Review” or an “Advanced Review Copy” leads me to think the following: 1) the reviewer’s review of the as-yet-unreleased item in question (book, cd, comic) was written / dictated at such a level of expertise as to make my thoughts look on par with that of a drunken kindergartner, 2) the “advanced review copy” requires some manner of specialized training, or perhaps a secret code word, to unlock the juicy content within to such a degree that few can crack it open. 

Why this popped into my head I have no idea. Writing those words made me remember recently seeing an “Advanced Review Copy” of a YA book from a well-known publisher being given away at book store. 

Now, I’m certain you all could bust out your trusty red markers and hack the bejesus out of this post with its myriad of errors, but one thing you will never catch me doing is calling an “Advance Review” an “Advanced Review.” With that said, I’m off to fill my haughty ass with a couple cans of the Champagne of Beers and mayhaps some chili cheese fries. Just kidding, I’m too snobby to drink that crap, but the chili cheese fries thing…


Friday, January 9, 2015

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 1/9/2015

(Sung to the tune of The Cure’s “In Between Days”)

Yesterday I caught a cold
I felt like I could die
Yesterday I read great books
They made me feel more spry

Oh man oh man The Fade Out, yay
Oh boy oh boy Swamp Thing hooray
Yo dawg yo dawg a new Trees’s here
Hot dang hot dang Deadly Class revere

I won’t steer you wrong
What I’m sayin’ is true
God Hates Astronauts is a crack up
To be seen I tell you, I tell you

Hey there, Donist World denizens, and welcome back. I am only kinda-sorta here today, but I’m joined as ever by CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / nurse Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). Last week, you might recall, I was on the start of a brutal sickness journey from which I am just now starting to recover. What I’m trying to say is that I definitely do not have all my marbles, but thanks to Tulip and Obie taking on some of my work load and giving 110% as they synergize efforts of cross-geo collaboration to maintain our status as a Fortune 320,000 company, business continues to happen! My darling little poochie employees have even gone so far as to make me some chicken soup, which…hey, I appreciate the hot soup, but this chicken soup is missing all the chicken, and Tulip and Obie have been very quiet in the corporate office (my mom’s basement) break room (Mom’s kitchen). While I go and see exactly how much chicken they pilfered from this chicken soup, have a look at this week’s…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

The Fade Out #4
The Fade Out #4 - Written by Ed Brubaker, illustrated by Sean Phillips, colored by Elizabeth Breitweiser, published by Image Comics. Charlie returns to center stage as he and Earl prepare to head to a big Hollywood bash. First, however, a little stop over to photographer Steve Turner’s place for a look at his special selection of…personal…photos, before swinging by to pick up Dottie, who may / may not be Charlie’s date. Unfortunately, Charlie sees something in a photograph that sparks a memory from the night that Valerie Sommers was killed, a memory that someone wants to stay buried.

This comic book is so very good. As you can expect from Brubaker and Phillips, you get an exemplary crime story where even the good guys have less than shining pasts. In fact, every character in this story has a secret, something to hide, something that could ruin them in the face of the behemoth that is Hollywood were word to get out. There are plenty out there who are more than happy to spill such secrets given half the chance. Then there are those who would kill to keep things good and buried as Charlie Parish is about to discover.

Each issue of this series has everything I love in a crime / noir comic: complicated characters who might not be guilty of Val’s murder, but are guilty of many other things; fantastic, compelling dialogue with each character having their own voice; dark, oftentimes-murky colors that deliver just the right mood from scene to scene; art that fluently depicts the drama and emotions in every panel; and an overall comic that pulls you in for the duration, while leaving you desperate for more.

No surprise, Phillips’s storytelling is as perfect as ever, but some of the most magical moments come in the form of Charlie’s memories attempting to claw their way back to the surface. With the assistance of Breitweiser’s analogous colors, Phillips creates a trio of gorgeous, ethereal panels that perfectly simulate the fog of memory attempting to make sense of something forgotten. The magenta of the lit cigarette burning amidst the cool blues is both eerie and beautiful, and is a style I have not previously seen in this title; you really need to check it out.

I wanted to read this comic on the very day that I bought it, but I was still sick and quite tired, and I knew that The Fade Out is a book that demands its readers be all-in and at full attention to appreciate all the intricacies of the characters and the story. So, I waited until the next day, when my mind was semi-fresh, and I was able to properly take in the beauty of this title. Brubaker and Phillips have produced some of my favorite comics of all time (Sleeper and Criminal), but with The Fade Out, they look to surpass their already grand accomplishments with what is possibly their finest work to date. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Swamp Thing #38
Swamp Thing #38 - Written by Charles Soule, illustrated by Javier Pina, colored by June Chung, lettered by Travis Lanham, published by DC Comics. It’s the Green Vs. the Machine on multiple fronts as we span the globe with Abby joining the fray against the new, upstart kingdom. What neither Alec (the Green’s avatar) or Abby (the Rot’s avatar) realize is that the Machine has their own avatar now, the woman once known as The Lady Weeds, but now known as The Machine Queen. Unfortunately for the good guys, The Machine Queen has outside help, and her current movements are merely a distraction to her real objective…

Why is this book on the chopping block? Yes, I know: flagging sales, Soule leaving, no movie / television series on the horizon. But c’mon, denizens, this the only DC comic I am currently buying, and I don’t want to see it go. It finally began to take off from a story perspective early last year, and under Soule’s capable pen Swamp Thing has become a title worthy of my lifelong, beloved character. This completely bums me out, but let’s not focus on the inevitable. Instead, let’s focus on just how fantastic an issue this really is.

Action, battles, team-ups, escalation of threat, a new monster, loss of hope, and more will dazzle Swamp Thing fans, and I found myself equally fearing / applauding Anton Arcane’s return to power. The driving force of this issue does not fall solely on Soule’s fantastic story, but is shared by Pina’s storytelling and gorgeous character design. I especially love the grotesque / sexy design of Mycos Miki (wasn’t that a song by The London Suede?) and of the creepy creature created by the disturbing joining of The Machine Queen, Arcane, and Miki. Together, this is one heck of an thrilling and unnerving comic that successfully joins action and horror, leaving me excited to see what happens next.

Despite the end of this series looming on the horizon, fans of he character and of the great Swamp Thing moments that have graced our collections over the decades should be reading this concluding chapter to this once good series that has made a turn towards great. As I’ve been moanin’ about throughout this review — and last month’s as well — I am really sad to see this series ending with issue 40, but with any luck maybe we will see a new title emerge that continues along the lines of what Scott Snyder started and what Soule expanded upon. I’m not holding my breath. One thing I will say is that I have some ideas involving Jason Woodrue returning to the series that I would be happy to share with the right DC ears ’n’ eyes, possibly some stuff involving Jason Blood as well…just throwing that out there. Again, I’m not holding my breath. All that aside, Swamp Thing #38 is a heck of a good read, worthy your time. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Deadly Class #10
Deadly Class #10 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Wes Craig, colored by Lee Loughridge, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. Well, Marcus got the girl he’s secretly wanted. There’s one problem: his current, unstable girlfriend, Maria. If Maria finds out she will literally kill him; she is exceptionally skilled in such things. Not only that, Marcus is hungover as hell, and he and his friends are scheduled to raid the hideout of his mortal enemy. Please, please, please don’t let Maria find out.

Aside from a two-page sequence that was a bit too over the top for me (If you read this issue, you’ll know exactly what I’m talkin’ ’bout), this is another fantastic issue of Deadly Class. Remender gives the lead character exactly what he wanted, but through a fantastic stream-of-consciousness sequence, we experience Marcus’s thoughts and see his dedication to selfishness and self destructive. He blames cheap alcohol for his cheating on his girlfriend with Saya, as well as running two hours late to his comic store’s most important sale of the year, when in fact part of him knew full well what he was doing. As extraordinary as Marcus’s circumstances are, we see that he actually not all that atypical of a teenager: he’s figuring it out and messing it up as he goes along. To be interesting, characters need to have flaws, and Marcus has flaws in droves.

Craig continues to effectively utilize high-panel count pages for most of the scenes, while infrequently shifting gutters to drive the action further. Loughridge provides a primarily monochromatic coloring scheme to each page throughout the comic, with flashbacks and action receiving change ups in color to command attention and shock. In other words, this issue is just as visually beautiful as those that came before it.

The next issue looks to be the conclusion to the second arc of the phenomenal Deadly Class. If you are a “mature audience” and are cool with reading a book about a high school for assassins, where some pretty grim things go down, then this is the book for you. I am still loving this series, and now my wife is loving this book having just read the first trade. Although the one sequence I mentioned above is disgusting as heck and ran a shade long, it still didn’t diminish the impact of this awesome comic. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

God Hates
Astronauts #5
God Hates Astronauts #5 - Everythinged by Ryan Browne, except colored by Jordan Boyd, word balloon lettered by Chris Crank, and edited by Jordan Browne, published by Image Comics. Admiral Tiger Eating a Cheeseburger lives?! Star Grass versus Croad and her team of sea animals?! Anti-Mugger accused of…<gasp>…mugging?! Starlina’s powers pushed out of control by a cookie overdose?! All this and more in the insane new issue of God Hates Astronauts!

Forgive me if I’m wrong, but the above is probably the easiest go of summarizing an issue of GHA that I have ever had. Still, if you have never read this absolutely bonkers comic, you are probably still scratching your head as to what the heck I’m talking about. The trick to understanding the glory of this comic, denizens, is to not even bother trying to understand it. You just need to go with the flow, baby, and let the madness wash over you.

Who is new character Whizzard? I don’t know, and I don’t care, but bring him on, buckaroo. Why is Croad riding on a flying whale that sings all of its dialogue? Beats me, but I know like it. Why does Anti-Mugger have a monster arm growing out of his chest? I honestly don’t remember, and I doubt the answer would actually clear things up. The thing is, God Hates Astronauts is funny. It’s actually kinda hilarious. Since Browne does most everything on the book, the humor is in the words, the characters, the backgrounds, and even in the laugh-out-loud sound effects (“Pants Destroy”…where else can you find that SFX?). Humor is everywhere, but what makes everything work so dang well is Browne’s exceptional illustrations and his mastery of storytelling. At no point is your attention allowed to drift, as your eyes glide through each page and the giggles set in. I strongly encourage a second immediate read through to pick up any joke(s) you might have missed.

Those without a sense of humor need not apply, but if you enjoy the funny — and I know you do — then you can’t go wrong with this bizarre-yet-beautiful title. So, pick up the first trade (what I like to call the prequel) and then jump into this series with the soon-to-be-released second trade. If you ever are in need of a laugh, then this is exactly the book to sock it to you. It’s a right kick in the pants. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Trees #8
Trees #8 - Written by Warren Ellis, illustrated by Jason Howard, lettered by Fonografiks, published by Image Comics. Characters you thought you knew are gone. The world shifts under the Trees’ shadow. All has changed.

What?!?! Wow…I just…dang. Okay, denizens, let me try to catch my breath and wrap my head around everything that just happened in the latest issue of Trees.

If you have been reading this series, then you know there has been a steady escalation of tension in every region of the world in this book. We have seen militaries begin to mobilize, criminal elements killed to make way for a new leader, and tiny black flowers growing where they could not possibly survive. This issue takes the momentum of the previous seven issues, and casts if off the top of a cliff to either soar of plummet; it looks like we are in for a plummet. Holy moly, denizens, things change hardcore, and it is startling in the severity of the shift. Wow.

I will not spoil any of the three shocking events that happen in this issue, though it is taking all my willpower to not do so. You simply have to read it yourself. I will tell you that this was the fastest comic I have read in quite some time. At only 20 pages and with limited dialogue, you will breeze through this issue, but it is the intensity of Howard’s imagery that will have you frantically scanning through the panels as your pulse quickens and your curiosity takes hold.

Trees has always been a slow build sci-fi drama, and that has been by design. We needed to experience this world that is dominated by an inactive alien presence, and it is a large world with many areas to cover. We needed to meet various individuals and to come to know them so that when something like the events in this issue occur, they all strike harder. Trees is the perfect comic for those wanting an escape from capes and tights, and who are fine with a sci-fi tale that replaces the usual action with more dramatic elements. If you are already reading this fine comic, then I have a feeling you too are pacing the room as you attempt to process what you just experienced. If not, there are currently no trades out, but I recommend buying the individual issues and reading them in order to see what this series is all about. I have no idea what is going to happen next, which is a wonderful place to be as a reader. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Illness - Not sure what happened, but from last Thursday evening until about Monday morning, I was ridiculously ill. No sleep, severe chills, severe sweats, coughing that began to pull muscles, no appetite. Denizens, I was a wreck. I have not been sick for the past couple years, but this was one of the worst I’ve ever had. Even as I write this, I am still a frickin’ mess, and I find it hard to get my brain to work how it should. I still feel horrible, which means that I feel like Superman compared to the state I was in last Friday through Monday. Anyhow, the below sums up last Fri–Sun:
”Mind-Melter Blended”
Combine the following ingredients over three long, terrible days:
1 disgustingly-ill Donist
7 eps of Agents of SHIELD S.1
2 eps of Newsroom S.1
7 eps of Adventure Time S.4
1 The Visitor (1980) - movie
1 The Fantastic Mister Fox - movie
1 ep of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
4 eps Homeland S.3
1 entire first season of Key and Peele
5 trade paperbacks of PREACHER
1 bucket of cough syrup
1 generous pound of cough drops
1 Hot Toddy


Friday, January 2, 2015

Donist World 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.)

Hey there, denizens, and Happy New Year…sort of. I am joined as ever by CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / healthcare (non)specialist Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). This post is incredibly late, as I am currently sick as a dog, which is not exactly true, since Tulip and Obie appear to be perfectly fine as they wolf down the ham sandwich I can’t stomach to look at. No sleep last night, no sleep today, I gots the fever, and feel like I can hoark at any moment. Ugh. Because of this, yeah no song this week, and the last seven entries were written through fever dreams, but I didn’t want to miss a post. So, please have a look at my top 28 heavenly things of 2014, while I stress to Obie that I need to leave the office (my mom’s basement) and go somewhere to relax and try to recover (upstairs).

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Probably NOT Spoilers Below***

If you have a moment, check out our past FSoH/SitW Year-End Roundups for 2014 (Part 1)20132012, and 2011 to see all things heavenly from the past. For the comic series listed below, I provide an image of the best way to experience the comic if you have not yet read it. Basically, I will try to show an omnibus, then a hardcover, then a trade, and finally, if no trade is yet available, the first issue of the series. We at Donist World, thank you for reading and hope you enjoy these things as much as we do.

Donist World 14 (Times Two) Heavenly Things (In Alphabetical Order)


Friday, December 26, 2014

Donist World Year-End Roundup - Part 1!

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

Optimist hotties and school kid assassins
Walrus boy cuteness and Lazari badasses
Six guns and cowboys recall Lord of the Rings
These are a few of my favorite things

Cibopath agents and glow-in-the-dark thingees
Zombies in Riverdale and knife-wielding kiddies
Vanishing privacy and non-compliant voice sings
These are a few of my favorite things

Bad Southern coaches and dead ladies risen
Apocalypse horsemen and ghost cow head spacemen
So many good books that shine bright with bling
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

Friday Slice of Heaven

Happy Holidays, denizens! I would like to say that we at Donist World are tucked safely away in the comfort of the “Room of Reflection” located at the corporate headquarters (my mom’s basement), but unfortunately we are under a hostile takeover. No, no, no, not in the one evil corporate empire engulfing the smaller pie-in-the-sky, mom-’n’-pop, Fortune 320,000 company just trying to make its way in the world, but rather the holiday season itself has besieged us. You see, someone invited Aunt Bea and Uncle Billy Joe Jim Bob to the Donist World Holiday Celebration (thanks, Mom), which knowing their penchant for hitting ye ol’ eggnog extra hard, has historically made every holiday…well…extra hard, as in exceptionally difficult. Seriously, who attends a festive gathering with a set of body-fat-measuring calipers and takes the guests’ measurements for all to see? Anyways, it was especially weird this year, as Aunt Bea and Uncle Billy Joe Jim Bob split up…and by split up I mean they split up five minutes upon arrival to the party. Forget that noise.

So, CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier), and marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / party avoider (my dog, Obie’s sister), and I are on the run and literally heading into the hills. Obie knows of a tech dead zone — one, I suspect, he often utilizes to get out of doing work — so I packed a thermos of coffee, some tiny sandwiches, some kibble, some pumpkin cookies, and the gifts we are going to give each other. We also packed a tent and sleeping bags as we might be out here for a while as we wait for things to simmer down back at home base. Anyhow, we wish you all a happy, stress-free holiday season, and, hey, if you can find us hiding out in the backwoods, avoiding the holiday “joy,” then you are more than welcome to join us…just be sure to leave the calipers at home. If you can’t find us, then I hope you enjoy the first half of our year-end roundup.

***Probably NOT Spoilers Below***

If you have a moment, check out our past FSoH/SitW Year-End Roundups for 20132012, and 2011 to see all things heavenly from the past. For the comic series listed below, I provide an image of the best way to experience the comic if you have not yet read it. Basically, I will try to show an omnibus, then a hardcover, then a trade, and finally, if no trade is yet available, the first issue of the series. We at Donist World, thank you for reading and hope you enjoy these comics as much as we do.

Donist World 14 Favorite Comic Series of 2014 (In no particular order)

Read More!


Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 12/19/2014

(Sung to the tune of Prince's “Controversy”)

I just can’t believe all the great books today…BooksYouMustRead
Lazarus all right. Makes me shout hooray…BooksYouMustRead
Swamp Thing and Wytches, bro, comics you surely need…BooksYouMustRead

Wow, I tell ya, man, that The Wicked + the Divine…BooksYouMustRead
Southern Bastards, yay. East of West: the World’s design is fine…BooksYouMustRead
So you wanna fly? Get soarin’ sky high…BooksYouMustRead

Holy cow, denizens, we got a lot of stuff to cover this week, so we are going to cut the introduction a bit short. I’m joined as ever by CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / eggnog connoisseur Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). The holidays are in full force and waging war on my health and mental stability. However, I vow to not get sick like I almost always do, and I will not get stressed over gifts, or guilt, or unrealistic expectations. I WILL NOT GET STRESSED! Oh…thank you, Tulip, for this eggnog that is…WOOO!…spiked how I like it. Anyhow, I am giving the gift of gingerbread pancakes here at the corporate office (my mom’s basement), so the puppies are on their best behavior. What’s also great is that Christmas came early with the awesome books we read this week! Yes, I realize that most of the books here arrived to my LCS late, but hey…they’re new to me, and it is never too late to recognize that which is heavenly. Without further ado, it’s…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Lazarus #13
Lazarus #13 - Written by Greg Rucka, illustrated by Michael Lark with Tyler Boss, colored by Santi Arcas, lettered by Jodi Wynne, design and additional content by Eric Trautmann, edited by David Brothers, published by Image Comics. Good things come to those who wait, especially those whose LCS had a box lost in transit by UPS and have to wait three additional weeks before they get ahold of yet another one of Image Comics’s stellar titles. But — as I always ask when this happens — was it worth the wait? Well, when you are considering a book about a world set in the not so distant future where 16 Families rule the planet, with a small population of serfs serving them, and an immense population of people deemed to be waste, then the answer is yes. Throw in the bonus of each Family having a Lazarus, a technologically / biologically enhanced protector, into the narrative, then the answer to whether the wait was worth it becomes a decided @#$% yeah, denizens!

The Families, most of them anyway, have come together at the neutral territory of Conclave at the isolated luxury resort known as Triton One, to discuss the matter of Jakob Hock’s (of the Family Hock) abduction, kidnapping, and ransoming of Jonah Carlyle (of the Family Carlyle). Malcolm Carlyle (the head of the Family Carlyle) suspects Jakob has taken biological secrets of longevity from Jonah's body, and Malcolm means to do something about it using his Lazarus and daughter, Forever Carlyle.

To sum up this issue: we have lots of talking and a covert operation. At first glance, it doesn’t sound very intriguing, but in the capable hands of Rucka and Lark, it is impossible to not turn the page after the first few panels. If you are a fan of Lazarus, and I hope you are, then you already know all of the characters, and after seeing Forever and Joacquim’s innocent, touching, and unfortunately most-likely-doomed budding romance blossom on the first page, you can’t help but root for these kind-hearted yet terrifying and deadly individuals. Rucka’s words and situations pair beautifully with Lark’s command of storytelling and character acting, making the many panels of people interacting utterly captivating. As a reader, we can’t help but feel Forever’s guilt over having danced with the head of their Family rival, or when Forever’s sister, Bethany, verbally thrashes her for enjoying a moment dancing with Joacquim. The degree of mortified embarrassment shown in the downturn of Forever’s eyes and the drop of her lips deliver the deep hurt and shame Bethany’s cruel words impart. On the other side, Bethany’s anger and disapproval are written across her face clearly for the world to see, but when Malcolm goes to Forever to console her, the five panel progression of Forever’s deep shame, to a relieved smile is a prime example of the magic one can expect in this series. Btw, we have only made it to page three of the issue, and my adoration is firmly cemented.

The Lazari poker game scenes are equally fantastic, and I absolutely LOVED the newly introduced Lazarus, Li Jiaolong, who shows that all Lazarus are not hulking murder machines, and that the power of the mind can be the ultimate engine of destruction. I will let you read the book to experience this new character who I hope we see a lot more of in the future. There are many Lazari in this seven page scene, but each has their own unique voice, and the phenomenal character acting and costuming of their formalwear as created by Lark is simply stunning.

The real payoff of this issue — for this Donist, at least — is the moment between Forever and Joacquim. Yes, the following mission sequence, and the crazy ending — not yet certain of what exactly happened here, which is by design — are exciting, but seeing two characters I adore falling in love, and the innocence and tragedy of their conversation really struck me. I have high hopes for these two, but the pessimist in me tells me not to get too attached…this is a cold, cruel world, and for the Lazari, Family comes before all else. Then again, who knows, with Lazarus Thomas things might be subtly changing.

I love this comic, yet still it terrifies me. Yes it is set in the future, but Rucka has gone to great lengths to extend current world issues along a line of progression that is not that far from believability. With the current disparity of wealth, many aspects of Lazarus might not be all that far around the corner, and this is not a world I want to see come about. Let’s face it, denizens, I would fall clearly into the waste category, and if you have been reading this series, then you know how well things go for those chaps. Rucka and Lark have created a fantastic and complicated world, that although scary, is something every sci-fi / dystopia / post-apocalyptic fan should jump on. You can easily do this with the recently released hardcover (issues 1–9, plus loads of extras) or the two trades (covering issues 1–10). VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Wicked + the Divine
The Wicked + the Divine - Written by Kieron Gillen, illustrated by Jamie McKelvie, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Clayton Cowles, designed by Hannah Donovan, edited by Chrissy Williams, flatted by Dee Cunniffe, guest colored on issue 4 by Nathan Fairbairn, published by Image Comics. I know it’s the holidays, and that many of you celebrate Christmas, a time of mass consumerism of gift giving and receiving, and that some of you might just have a copy of The Wicked + the Divine TPB waiting for you in that stocking hung by the chimney with care. Have you taken into account that Christmas is six days away? That’s six whole days without the glory of reading this frickin’ fantastic comic. Now that we have set the timeline, get in your dang denizen-mobile, go to your dang LCS, and buy yourself a dang copy today! Just be sure to conceal the fact that you are reading this book, and to feign surprise come Christmas morning when you discover you were indeed visited by Santa Claus and not Krampus. If you get a second copy, no big whoop, just spread the joy by giving it to a friend. Long story short: you absolutely need to read this.

Every 90 years, the gods return to Earth as beautiful young people possessing incredible powers and abilities. Unfortunately — or fortunately where some are concerned — these gods-made-mortal only possess a two-year lifespan before they are called back to the heavens or to the pit. Some love and adore them as if they were pop star celebrities. Some absolutely hate them. Some refuse to believe, but some, like Laura, desperately want to be one of them. Tensions mount when Lucy (aka Lucifer) kills a pair of would be assassins, and is placed on trial in the human court of law.

I didn’t really spoil anything here, as the premise was revealed ages ago, and the assassin thing happens in the first issue. That said, there is SO MUCH MORE going on in this book that you just need to experience for yourself. Gillen’s dialogue and thought captions flow beautifully giving insight into each of the characters; this includes the many gods who slowly make their entrance throughout the trade. McKelvie — an incredibly genuine and nice man whom Amy and I met back in 2008 and had sign a copy of Suburban Glamour — delivers his best line work to date, which given his stellar past work is saying something. Character acting carries all the right emotional beats in each scene, while the character design is stunning, providing some unique and interesting style to each of the gods; just take a glance at Lucy and Amaterasu.

Wilson’s coloring on the series lifts every character from flat, two-dimensional imagery, to realistic life while reminding the reader that they are indeed reading a comic book with the use of vibrant colors all without resorting to over-rendering. Even if the book was colored in flats, it would still be gorgeous, but Wilson’s minimal shading and carefully chosen color palette add volumes of life to the book. Speaking of flats, one cool thing Wilson does is apply flat colors to the results of the gods utilizing their powers, which completely took me aback and made me utter “Whoa…” many times throughout the reading.

Buy this book. You owe it to yourself, you know you do. You have been under a lot of pressure from the jobby, from the fam, from that neighbor who just won’t stop sifting through your dang trash, and the holiday season tends to bring loads of stress along with it. Enough already, dagnabbit, just do it! I blew through this book in no time, not because of a lack of substantial material — there’s plenty of meat on these here bones — but because I could not tear myself away from Image Comics’s latest must own title. The Wicked + the Divine is a dang near perfect comic, we are truly spoiled. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Swamp Thing #37
Swamp Thing #37 - Written by Charles Soule, illustrated by Jesus Saiz, lettered by Travis Lanham, colored by Matt Hollingsworth, published by DC Comics. The Lady Weeds is reborn this issue as she accepts the Machine Kingdom’s offer to become their avatar, and the Machine Queen is born. First order of business for the new royalty: shore up who is with you, and who is against you in your bid to destroy the Green.

This month’s Swamp Thing must have been in the same box as my lost issue of Lazarus, but no crying over delayed heavenly reading, since the flip side is that my wait for the next issue is that much shorter — unless that shipment gets launched into the void as well, which seems to be happening a lot lately. Ugh.

You already know I like this series, both story and art, but this issue is most striking in Saiz’s character designs as emboldened by Hollingsworth’s beautiful color palette. The pre-operation version of the A Calculus is creepy and worthy of joining your best nightmares, while the reverse can be said of the Machine Queen in her regal, metallic garb and her killer headdress of dangling cables. She’s hauntingly beautiful, even more so when the wings unfurl. Then we see the avatar of the Grey, as her own bioluminescence allows her to read various scrolls. We’ve seen her before, but she still looks impressive, doubly so after the Machine Queen’s “gift.” Visually, this issue is amazing, and the story only makes it stronger.

Unfortunately, to go along with the good news of finally receiving this comic, came the brutal disappointment that DC is canceling Swamp Thing come March(ish) when Soule leaves the series to begin his exclusive tenure at Marvel. This is a huge bummer, as I am even more excited about Swamp Thing than I usually am. Right now, a war is about to begin with the Grey, the Machine, and the Rot (via someone I am glad to see return…gross scene, btw) joining forces. I hope the next few issues form the story I wanted to read back when “Rot World” was first announced; time is limited, but my fingers are crossed. The crazy thing is that once this series concludes, I just realized I will not have any Big Two books on my pull list. Instead, I will continue opting for comics that try new things, that allow creative freedom, that don’t tie into any sort of marketing gimmickry to boost sales over providing fabulous stories. Swamp Thing, more often than not, gave me that sense of something different, but unfortunately it's coming to a close; I will be there to experience the end, all the while wishing the door would stay open. That said, I am available for a run if DC ever decides to change its mind and keep the title around. Just ask me for the details. Please please please! This issue is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Wytches #3
Wytches #3 - Written by Scott Snyder, illustrated by Jock, colors by Matt Hollingsworth, letters by Clem Robins, edited by David Brothers, published by Image Comics. A flashback reveals Sailor Rooks’s ability to disappear…she was always an odd little girl. But now she has not disappeared, but has been taken. Charlie, her father, knows this to be true after his bizarre confrontation with the bald, legless woman at the Rooks home, a confrontation the police say never occurred. Then again, crazy home intruders aren’t the only thing Charlie is seeing…

Finally, a book that arrived on time. Snyder gives us a small look into the Rooks family from three years ago, before cutting back to Charlie, Lucy, a police officer, and a lab assistant(?) as they survey the vast woods where Sailor and her uncle, Reg, have seemingly vanished from the face of the earth. After that is when the cold shivers will creep up your spine as Charlie flashes back to the legless woman (I thought she was a dude last issue, but certain panels…kinda spell things out for us), and unless I wrote three pages of solid text, I would not be able to express just how freakin’ disturbing this sequence is; you just need to see it for yourself. Same goes with what Charlie sees in the woods. These two sequences alone should be enough to mess up your sleep for the evening. <brrrrr>

The art and colors are as stunning as ever, with this issue incorporating Hollingsworth’s psychedelic effects onto every page. It is truly something magical to behold, which is my one minor criticism. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the effects, but maybe only having them show up during scenes involving the woods, or the wytches, or the freaky legless woman might make more sense than on every single page. This is just a minor thing, and I would gladly take the paint effects on every page versus no paint effects at all. One cool thing to note is that the creators share this issue’s process by taking us from inks, to flats, to paint, to textures, to letters, and finally to the paint effects added as layers. Gaining this insight into the process is reason enough to check out this awesome issue.

I like me a good horror story, one where you only catch a scant glimpse of what lies waiting for you around the corner. One that when you finally gather the courage to take that heart-stopping peek, you find nothing but a new clue, something that will fill you with a new level of dread right before you hear the creak of the floorboards behind you. That is exactly what reading this exceptional comic is like. Yes Wytches moves kind of slow, but this is at exactly the pace the creators intend, as they build their story upon a foundation of suspense and bone-chilling terror. If you enjoy a more cerebral form of horror comic, then this is definitely the right book for you. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Southern Bastards #6
Southern Bastards #6 - Written by Jason Aaron, illustrated by Jason Latour, lettered by Jared K. Fletcher, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. Coach Boss wasn’t always the mean-spirited, murderous, football coach who put Earl Tubb in the ground. He was once a high school kid with dreams of playing football, but his diminutive size, lack of muscle, and the inhuman humilities enacted upon him by the coach and team members alike refused to grant him his wish. Oh, and his home life kinda sucks, too. But just when things begin to look up, Craw County drags him back down.

As I mentioned last month, I don’t care about sports; I never have. But the creators of this title do the impossible and make me care. On top of that, they even succeed in making me feel bad for Euless Boss, a despicable character who I completely hated after the events of issue 4. Heck, after reading that issue, I went to bed mad at what the creators had this fictional character do. Dang, denizens, I was totally pissed. But like I said, the Jason’s have been shining such an informative light on Coach Boss these past two issues, that I can actually sympathize with him and now understand some of how he came to be.

I admit that I really wanted to jump back into the story with Tubb’s daughter, but now that I have seen some of Boss’s history, gosh darn if I don’t want to know more; I believe we will see two more issues focusing on the man.

So, yeah, I don’t like sports, but this comic drew me in despite my hesitance. It is so much more than a football comic: it is a look at the darkness buried beneath the pleasantries of the South, it is a crime comic, it is so much more. If you trust me, and I know you do, then you will pick up this title, which is an easy thing to do at the $9.99 retail price for the first trade. After that, you might as well just add this one to your pull list, ’cause I suspect you’ll be hooked after the first issue. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

East of West: The World
East of West: The World - Written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Nick Dragotta, colored by Frank Martin, lettered by Rus Wooton, published by Image Comics. This comic is not essential to following the amazing story going down in the series proper of East of West. That said, if you are a fan of the series, and of course you are, then you simply need to have this.

East of West: The World consists of a bunch of things: a six-page story, an OHOTMU(Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe)-style look at the different nations covering America, and a beautifully-designed timeline of this world’s history. Admittedly, there is a lot of white space in this book, but that in turn makes it exceptionally easy to admire on an aesthetic level, but when you actually begin to read what is on each page, and to study the maps and understand the timeline, those seeking a deeper understanding of East of West will get exactly that. You will learn the military strength of The Endless Nation, and the economic strength of The Kingdom, as well as the year of the death of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse Conquest, War, and Famine (2055) followed by the year of their rebirth. It's fascinating to see.

Again, you don’t have to pick this up to follow the awesome story happening in the three available trades, but this issue is definitely something for East of West completists and fans of clean design aesthetics. I just happened to fit into both categories. RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

DC Canceling a Whole Mess of Titles - Yeah, yeah…I know. “You’re not buying any of these books, Donist, you just said so up above in your review of Swamp Thing.” This is true, but that does not mean I want to see any of them canceled. For all I know, some of the to-be-canceled titles — and many of the set-to-continue titles — are quite good and are ones I would greatly enjoy (if this is the case, let me know which ones). It’s just a bummer, especially with the Seasons greetings, Creators-Who-Are-Stoked-To-Be-Writing-a-Big-Two-Book-and-Earning-a-Steady-Paycheck, but your book is being cancelled. All the best in your future endeavors!!! type message the creators received about this. In all fairness, I’m sure the creators have known this for a while, and many will go onto other projects, but it cannot be happy news that something that has taken up such a major amount of time, energy, and brain power is set to end before the stories play out how those involved intended. I wish all the best to all those who steadily poured their hearts and their time into their work.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 12/12/2014

(Sung to the tune of Prince’s “Take Me With You”)

I can’t disguise my groovin’ on these books
They read so strong
Come feast your eyes, what can I say?
It’s goin’ on

Listen close, I’ll tell ya, bro
You know just what to do
Listen close, perhaps maybe
They’ll thrill you some, too

Sex Criminals? Bitch Planet? Please
They’re changing up the game
Rachel Rising and Afterlife
Greatness calling you by name

Listen close, I’ll tell ya, bro
You know just what to do
Listen close, perhaps maybe
They’ll thrill you some, too

Hello there, and welcome back to Donist World. I’m joined as ever by CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / rainmaker Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister) and we have weathered the storm…at least thus far. Late last night, my executive team and I rushed to the Donist World corporate offices (my mom’s basement) to be sure no rain had leaked in to damage our finalized five-year plan, or the roadmap to maintaining our status as a Fortune 320,000 company…Tulip also wanted to be sure her bag of salmon kibble was safe from any water damage. Everything was fine, it was mostly a night of psychotic winds, but the three of us decided to enact an impromptu team building exercise by spending the night at the office in the dark, drinking coffee, chatting, and eating snacks. Obie went so far as to tell some scary stories, perhaps you’ve heard of a couple of them: The CFO Who Never Received an Adequate Bonus, or that timeless classic How Donist Failed His Business 101 Savings Throw, and Learned to Love Relinquishing Control to Obie. Needless to say, I’m questioning the validity of team building, at least in this team’s case. Anyhow, the sun has emerged momentarily, so we are outtie 5000 to get some tacos. In the meantime, pick up the hit ebook Kibbles ’N’ Bots, and then have a look at this week’s…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Sex Criminals #9
Sex Criminals #9 - Written by Matt Fraction, illustrated by Chip Zdarsky, edited by Thomas K, production by Drew Gill, published by Image Comics.
Sex Criminals is finally back in our grubby little mitts, and boy howdy is it as strong as ever. I know it, the dog knows it, I have a suspicion my grammie knows it, and the fellow brimpers know it. “What, pray tell is a ‘brimper’ you ask?” (Donist hangs his head low, but offers a sympathetic smile. There is yet hope.) To understand the “brimper” reference, you must be mature enough to have read the first issue of Sex Criminals, you should really be an adult, you need to have an open mind, you need to be sex positive, you should be receptive to laughing, you should have an appreciation for a beautifully written and illustrated comic. Oh yeah, did I mention you should be an adult, or mature enough to deal with the subject matter of this Donist World darling of a comic? Yeah? Well, alrighty then.

We begin with Ana. You’ve known of her since the very beginning of the story, but the truth: no one really knows Ana, but Ana. The world at large mostly knew of her as someone else; this includes Jon and Suze. But after Jon’s infiltration of the Sex Police leader’s home, they now know that Ana is much more than the former-porn-star of Jon’s dreams. In fact, she might just be key to keeping the Sex Police from interfering in everyone’s lives.

Yeah, there was a bit of a delay between issues, but you know what, denizens? I don’t care, and you shouldn’t either. Heck, the creators even apologize for the slight delay and promise to keep things on schedule for the third chapter. Whether a couple weeks or a month, it doesn’t matter to me as long as the Sex Crims keeps on a comin’.

What grabbed me with the first issue is exactly what grabs me with each and every issue of this series: the brutally honest look at life, relationships, adolescence, work, depression, and what have you. Jon and Suze resonated with me immediately, and because of that I have been cheering for them, not just for their plans, but for their relationship. Things have been a little rocky between the two leads, but isn’t that the case for all relationships at various points and times? With this issue, we finally see Jon and Suze communicating, and it doesn’t go well at first. They scream. They blame. They get mean. But they talk, and that is where the creators’ magic comes in. Every moment of the interaction between Jon and Suze felt so true that I could not, would not, tear myself away from what I was reading. Fraction’s dialogue and captions combined with Zdarsky’ storytelling and character acting capture the incredibly personal interaction of these two characters so thoroughly, so perfectly, that I could not help but breathe a sigh of relief that these two are back on track and working together. It’s almost like seeing two close friends who were experiencing some problems finally work things out.

The above is just half of the issue. The moments with Ana, a character I was in no way expecting to become part of the cast, provided a fascinating look into how certain chains of events and certain immutable situations can lead a person down certain roads. Experiencing Ana’s life, and the all-too-understandable choices she makes is heartbreaking whether it is her unfortunate accident, her unhappy home life, working for an inadequate minimum wage, or falling into substance abuse. I became whole-heartedly invested in this new character by page two, and seeing her finally overcome the odds that were so thoroughly stacked against her, I was touched; I can’t wait to see how she, Jon, and Suze continue from the last page. I also have to call out the awesome addition of The Wicked and the Divine, as well as its creators (ha!) to Ana’s story as well…I ain’t spoilin’ the context, but I promise you’ll crack up once you read it.

You know I love this dang comic. I have the individual issues, I will buy the trades, and I will buy the super-duper hardcover thingy whenever it happens. Sex Criminals is such a smart, affecting read, but it is also one that will have you laughing as you hope for the best for your friends Jon and Suze. If you are not reading this fantastic comic, you can catch up with the $9.99 first trade collecting the first five issues, and see what all the fuss is about. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Bitch Planet #1
Bitch Planet #1 - Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, illustrated by Valentine De Landro, colored by Cris Peter, lettered by Clayton Cowles, designed by Rian Hughes, backmatter by Laurenn McCubbin, edited by Lauren Sankovitch, published by Image Comics. Fine. Fine. Image, I tell you…my pull list scales have greatly tilted towards this dang fine publisher, and with the release of Bitch Planet, that side of the dang scale is dang near touching the gosh dang ground. Dang. Okay, this is another “mature readers” book, so no kiddies on this one on account of subject matter, language, and nudity. Now, I can only half say the nudity part, because of all the comics I have read through the many, many years, I have never seen more accurate portrayals of the female form. That said, the violence and messed up situations in this amazing new comic definitely make the book for adults only, and I will gladly say that this here adult thoroughly loved it.

“Be a good girl. Get them silly notions out of your head. Aim to please.” Most of all “We get by when you comply.” One thing women in this futuristic world do not want to do is get marked as “NC,” or non-compliant, lest they get sentenced to the Auxiliary Compliance Outpost (ACO), or Bitch Planet, as the less eloquent refer to the off-Earth, all-women detention facility. Women of all sorts who have committed all manner of violations inhabit this planet, and this just in…the future will be televised.

Holy cow, denizens. I don’t know what is going on in the DeConnick / Fraction household, but the two are delivering some phenomenal comics of late. Bitch Planet is an extreme look at a world where women not stepping into line with the whims of the patriarchy end up being shipped off planet. Even more severe is that the happenings at the ACO look to be televised for the amusement of the Earthlings — not to mention a perpetual warning against women speaking up — as an extreme, reality show version of Orange Is the New Black.

DeConnick instantly solidifies character voice to some of the key players, while organically world building without resorting to any sort of exposition. As I read through each panel, I could not help but think about the messed up premise of this comic book, but then it occurred to me: there are plenty of psychos out there who would love to see this world come about. Just read some of the terrifyingly real comments from some of the weaker-minded politicians out there, you know, those in charge. But let’s not go down that road here. DeConnick has the characters and the world down, but just when you think you know where things are going in the story, she knocks the reader completely off balance — twice no less — and leaves them reeling on a particularly nasty cliffhanger.

The story and writing are enthralling enough on their own, but with De Landro’s gorgeous art, the book only gets better. This world is not one of superheroes where every woman is a hypersexualized fanboy’s dream. No. De Landro’s character designs offer glimpses of reality as there is no single cookie cutter mold for the women in this book. You have Penny Rolle, then Kamau Kogo (who might just be my new hero), then Marian Collins, and so on with no one looking the same, even to the degree that each of the characters has their own body language. It’s honestly kind of insane. The only characters that are similar are either the faceless male guards, or the instructional hologram “women” who are hypersexualized reminders of how the prisoners should look and act.

Adding to De Landro’s linework are Peter’s amazing colors. He utilizes a predominantly flat coloring scheme for the actual characters, while the backgrounds get halftone dot gradients that enhance the cult vibe of this comic. His knockouts on the hologram women make them leap from the page and the additional use of the halftone dots makes them even more otherworldly.

All of this said, I want the dang double-page spread title page as a poster.

I was kind of blown away by this book, denizens. If I have to point out any shortcomings, it’s that it is only 24 pages, and not the 100 pages I would have gladly read in one sitting. If you are a “mature audience” and can handle a callback to the cult / exploitation films of the ’70s, and you love beautifully written and illustrated sci-fi comics that leave you desperate to see what happens next, then this is book for you. On a completely different note, I would love to see this comic reprinted on the old non-glossy, lower-quality paper used back when I was a kid to really bring home the culty vibe…just a thought. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Afterlife With Archie #7
Afterlife With Archie #7 - Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, illustrated by Francesco Francavilla, lettered by Jack Morelli, published by Archie Comics, Inc. Archie and his surviving friends have left Riverdale after the zombie apocalypse had taken over. Unfortunately, the undead, as led by a zombified Jughead, are not content to stay put and have given chase as Archie and his pals run for their lives to get to the nearest CDC. During moments of rest, Betty (re)journals her youth, the gang holds a makeshift funeral, and someone has decided that enough is enough.

Okay, now that was a long wait for this issue. But as with all issues of Afterlife With Archie, the moment you start to read, to become immersed in this twisted take on the familiar Archie-verse, any delays are soon forgiven. Although Jughead and his zombie minions only show up briefly, this issue is all about the retooling and modernizing the past as seen with the flashbacks to Betty’s childhood and life with her older, troubled sister, Polly.

As I’ve mentioned before, Archie comic books were always around me at an early age, but I (erroneously) avoided them in favor of the superhero books. It wasn’t until my 30s that I finally decided to give the books a try and I was floored by the beauty and perseverance of this wonderful publisher. I breezed through the Best of Archie Comics and then read the phenomenal Archie: The Married Life and felt my heartstrings pulled taut (I really need to catch up on this series). I mention this, because Betty’s sister, Polly, is new to me, so I’m uncertain what their relationship has historically been like. With this issue, however, it looks like Polly has been nowhere near Riverdale and is poised to make a return in the near future, which will be interesting to see how things work out between the sisters in this new, messed-up world.

On the subject of Polly as told through Betty’s journal entries — expertly written by Aguirre-Sacasa — Francavilla employs a more stripped-down, cartoonish style that when combined with his beautiful coloring schemes sets the mood perfectly with the primarily blue and complementary yellow colors. The regular story is as stunning as ever with its fiery-hued dramatic sequences adding to Francavilla’s storytelling skills.

Then there’s the small matter of the last page. I’m not going to spoil what goes down in a “Blaze” of startling glory, denizens, just know that a character does something that would likely give Archie fans of the ’60s a coronary. Biting my tongue…biting my tongue…but I will say that the creators will give you a serious case of the willies with yet another flashback that both the unsettling dialogue and twisted visuals are sure to elicit. Ack…it’s givin’ me the chills, by golly.

Alright. So maybe you are like the Donist of old, the one who foolishly wrote off Archie Comics for decades without truly understanding the fun, artistry, and brilliance of this vital comic book universe. But surely you have a basic understanding of some of the characters, enough to know that they have all been historically goody-goody (NOT a bad thing, btw), and that should be enough to lead you into the wonderfully spine-tingling Afterlife With Archie, which you can and should do immediately with the first trade. Afterlife With Archie is a delightful-yet-creepy twist on the characters we grew up with, and is something everyone should be reading. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Rachel Rising #30
Rachel Rising #30 - Everythinged by Terry Moore, published by Abstract Studio. Rachel is on a vision quest of sorts, and not the type that involves Matthew Modine. Zoe discovers the inert Rachel, but Rachel is onto something as she gains a clue toward finding her killer. But where Rachel cannot wake up, someone else is not afflicted the same problem, as this awoken person will soon prove to Zoe that good help is so very hard to find.

I am still in love with this long-burn horror story. Moore continues to show the diversity of genres for which he is able to create compelling stories. Of course he is most famous for his wonderful real(ish) world depiction of relationships (Strangers In Paradise), but he also covered sci-fi (Echo), and he has worked in the superhero realm with Marvel on many occasions. Now with Rachel Rising, he brilliantly covers the Twin Peaks-style mystery / horror genre with a host of characters you will take to heart, and a story that leaves you desperate to know what happens next.

Moore is a fantastic writer, one of the best, but when you see his art, that is when you go “oh…wow.” Moore is a master of character design, character acting, and visual storytelling to such a degree that even without his witty and compelling dialogue, you can follow his story with little trouble. In this issue, one of the most stunning pages is a silent one that depicts a man in a parked car, outside of a hotel, staring at his wedding ring, a gun in hand. This is a new, minor / major character (you have to read the comic to understand what I mean), but in all of two panels, we know this guy, we feel his pain. The hopelessness, the defeat, it all comes across without a word — none are needed. The final panel of the page shows the man out of the car, a grey sky above, and you have an entire story about this guy as told silently, over five panels on a single page. THAT is what you get when you read a work by this writer-artist.

I mostly detailed one page out of this comic, but much of it is actually spent silently watching the wicked goings-on in the gorgeously-rendered forest as a character makes his return (it involves a bear, btw…yeah, just read it!) before kicking into the final revelation by the lead character. Rachel Rising is my favorite horror comic, and it is one that Amy (my wife) adores reading in trade format…we double dip to support this amazing creator. If you are looking for a beautiful, chilling, occasionally humorous horror title, then Rachel Rising is a book you simply must read. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

More Missed Dang Comics?!?! - Grrrrrrr! Okay, now I’m missing a bunch of books that have been “delayed in transit”:

  • Lazarus
  • Swamp Thing
  • Southern Bastards
  • East of West

It’s a revoltin’ development, denizens, but at least I know I’ll get them…some day.

Speaking of Shipments - You have got to be kidding me! Check out these images, and then read the following “Packaging Feedback” I left for
Smells Like Teen Spirit, or
actually wet cardboard
Sure you care, buckaroos,
sure you do
This is most likely USPS's fault, but I received my package in a clear trash bag on a Sunday afternoon. The box itself looked as if it had been dropped in a swimming pool, and stank of old wet cardboard. The tape had actually come undone and one of the box flaps had completely ripped open.
The Blu-ray was fine, and I don't care about the dog bags, but the collectible hardcover book, although shrink wrapped, had let some water (I hope it was water) in and added minor warping of the actual pages. 
The Post Office had tossed a "Sorry, chump" note in the trash bag, that basically said, "@#$% happens, bro. Sucks to be you."

I have never seen a package delivered in such a condition, and I have worked in shipping/receiving before. This would be comical if it wasn't my order.

I think I’m going to try to request a replacement for the Saga HC, yes damage is minimal(ish), but the thing is a dang collectors item, and I expect it to be in tip-top shape. No respect, I tell ya.