Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 2/27/15

(Sung to the tune of Rick Springfield’s “Love Is Alright Tonite”)

I’m picking up my comics tonight
Chew and Low best be waiting, to keep things alright
You never know, there might be a surprise
Like Spider-Gwen and Criminal to try on for size

Tonight, web-crawling is the ticket
Another must-read Harley Quinn
You surely must, surely must read it

I love these books, alright
Gonna read ’em all, tonight
I love these books
I love these books, alright

Hello there Donist World denizens and welcome back. I’m joined as every by CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / bad-week counselor (my dog, Obie’s sister). I am running a bit behind on Donist World, and this week has been none-too-fun, so we are going to cut the intro a tad short. Usually, Obie would balk at this, but even he is feeling bad about things, so he is thankfully not giving me any grief about stuff. Hey, he even went so far as to give me one of his spare chicken tacos. Sure there was a sizable bite taken out of it, but it’s the thought that counts. Anyhow, check out these four comics, as well as the awesome hardcover that wowed us this week.

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Criminal: The Special
Edition (One-Shot)
Criminal: The Special Edition (One-Shot) - Written by Ed Brubaker, illustrated by Sean Phillips, colored by Elizabeth Breitweiser, published by Image Comics. Teeg Lawless is not a good man. Not by a long shot. It’s no wonder he’s in prison, only he is doing time for a trivial crime as opposed to the the very big one the authorities don’t even know he committed. Thankfully, the sentence is short, and all Lawless has to do is keep his head down and wait out the days reading old comic magazines…that and figure out why there’s a price on his head.

Holy shpamoly, denizens, this comic is fantastic. Last we saw of Brubaker and Phillips’s Criminal was back in 2011 with the four-issue mini-series Criminal: The Last of the Innocent, and if you read my FSoH/SitW posts from back then, you’ll know that I was kind of blown away by that chapter. Honestly, you can say the same about most of the Criminal books over the years, but after an over-three-year-long absence, was I was worried the series had lost some of its luster? Heck no.

If you are a fan of crime comics, then there is absolutely no reason to skip out on this issue or the series in general. In each chapter, the creators take unsavory characters, criminals (duh), and provide a glimpse into who they are, what they’ve done, and for some, who they were. The brilliant part of this series is that you begin to sympathize with the various characters, even up until the point they do something truly horrible; even then you might find yourself rooting for them. The same holds true for this one-shot.

Teeg Lawless is a terrible human being. He is fine with killing, thieving, and most other illicit activities, and if you have been following the various Criminal books over the years, then you already know of Teeg, as he has been around in most (possibly all) of the arcs, and even starred in an issue. You should not like this man. You’re not supposed to. Still, the creators bring you into the mystery of who put the hit on him, and you can’t turn away.

In addition to the regular story, we are treated to a Warren Magazine-esque, black and white comic — with yellowed pages, no less — of Zangar the Savage, which Teeg attempts to read to pass the time despite continually being interrupted by attempts on his life. Phillips’s dark, shadowed style — prominent in books like Criminal, The Fade Out, and Sleeper — is better than ever, but in the Zangar sections he casts aside the shadows for a clean line style prevalent back in the day of the Warren Magazines I loved so much as a kid. Whether you are looking at the story proper or the comic-within-a-comic, Phillips’s artwork, regardless of the style, is simply beautiful.

Buy this comic. When I sat down to read this 48-page, $4.99 book (a bargain) it was late, I was tired, and almost called it a night to go to bed. Then I peeked inside to the yellowed, black and white Zangar tale, and the next thing I knew, I was awake and completely hooked by the story. I loved it. You can read this one-shot without having read any of the material that came before it, and I encourage all Criminal newbies to do just that. But…if you have interest in reading a phenomenal crime series, then I STRONGLY recommend you pick up the trades. That said, be sure to pick up the newly re-issued Image Comics versions of the Criminal trades, versus the older Marvel Icon ones, as I believe the creators receive a larger share of the sales. Although Criminal: The Last of the Innocent is still my favorite chapter, this one-shot comes in at ridiculously close second. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Chew #46
Chew #46 - Written and lettered by John Layman, illustrated and colored by Rob Guillory, color assist by Taylor Wells, published by Image Comics. Poyo in hell? Colby and Chu at odds? New and unexpected partners? A candy shop that is anything but sweet, and a plan that's kinda-all-sorts-of-messed-up? You betcha.

Did you feel it, denizens? If you have been reading the ever-awesome Chew, then I’m sure you did. For those of you not reading the most unique book on the stand, allow me to explain. After 45 issues — and two must-read Poyo specials — Chewvotees (devoted Chew readers…duh) have become quite attached to many of the characters in the book, and although every issue contains at least one moment of laugh-out-loud hilarity and zaniness, the past couple of installments have proven to be emotional gut punches that left us all reeling. We have watched characters get brutally beaten, one eviscerated, and one major character seemingly killed by a most heinous betrayal (no way is this so!). With issue 46, we see the fallout of broken trust and strifes worsened.

Still, you can’t help but laugh through much of this issue.

Layman and Guillory bring back D-Bear as Tony’s new partner, and despite my still being tore up over what went down at the end of last issue (I ain’t spoiling, but I’m sure you could figure it out), I was smiling as the diminutive man with larger-than-life hair punched out the evil-doer of the issue; heh…I’m still cracking up over it. But here’s the thing about these creators: one moment you’re grinning through the exaggerated characterizations, the funny sequentials, and the brilliant colors, but the next page brings all of that to a screeching halt as we are reminded of the grim events of the past couple issues. <brrrrr> Throughout the series you are allowed to become comfortable with the insane characters and the oddball world they inhabit, but that is when the creators remind us that although this is a mostly humorous comic, there is a grand story at work that isn’t always so nice.

Still, you can’t help but laugh through much of this issue.

Chew is flat out the best comic book ever created involving food-based powers. Yeah, I know, there are no other comic books involving food-based powers, but if there were, Chew would still be number one. Outside of that, this comic is consistently one of the best books on the stand. We are rapidly approaching the series end — issue 60? — which leaves me conflicted in my need to see what happens next, and my desire to see this fine book continue for infinity years. If you are not reading Chew (<sigh>, btw), and you can get past some of the gross parts (you know you can) do not just jump on anywhere. Start at the beginning. You can easily find the first nine trades, or take pride in your comic collecting / reading via the four gorgeous “Omnivore Editions”… like I have. Winner, winner, chicken dinner! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Low #6
Low #6 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Greg Tocchini, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. Stel Caine’s life has not been easy, yet she remains optimistic about the future. She has seen her husband killed, her daughters abducted, and her son fallen to corruption amid life in a city that is about to die. Then she receives hope in the form of a returned probe promising life beyond her dying world. She drags her son away from self-destruction to search for the probe, and in their journey, Stel finds the pirate king Roln, the man who killed her husband. She also finds one of her missing daughters, and learns that the future is not something that comes easily.

I am still loving this book. I count it as my favorite of Remender’s recent creator-owned work, which is saying something given just how great Black Science and Deadly Class truly are. Low is a comic that may as well have been written for me in that we have an undersea sci-fi adventure mixed with monsters, massive cities filled with corruption amidst a world about to die, villainous villains, and a hero who remains strong in her optimism of a future despite every single horrible thing thrown her way. I wish I had Stel’s strength.

The creators gave us much to admire in the Caine family from the first few pages of the first issue. They roped us in with their dreams and the closeness of their tight-knit family, and then summarily tore it all apart by the end of that same issue. It’s a difficult thing to endear new characters to readers in but a few pages, yet Remender and Tocchini succeeded in doing so, and have since given us the highs and (more) lows that hit hard and left us admiring Stel for her perseverance. Again, I wish I had Stel’s strength.

Tocchini’s art continues to be staggeringly beautiful, especially with the predominantly warm color scheme, and the character designs of Stel, Marik, Tajo, and the supernatural pirate king Roln. My only nitpick with this issue is that a handful of panels are a bit unclear as to what is happening, but that said, those panels are still gorgeous in color and composition. As I have mentioned in past reviews, I would LOVE to see many of these covers / pages / panels become posters.

Thus ends the first arc, and what an ending it is. Some gnarly stuff goes down in this issue, denizens — boy howdy, does it — and I still don’t know quite what to make of what happened or what to expect for the next arc. What I do know, is that I am already anxiously waiting for the next issue of Low to return, and it’s safe to say that issue will be at the top of my reading stack come June. The first trade will be available near the beginning of April, so if you have not been reading this thrilling series, then catching up should be simple and at the top of your todo list. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Spider-Gwen #1
Spider-Gwen #1 - Written by Jason Latour, illustrated by Robbi Rodriguez, colored by Rico Renzi, lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles, published by Marvel Comics. In another time, another place, another world, it was Gwen Stacy, not Peter Parker, who was bitten by a radioactive spider that left her with sensational powers and abilities. Now, she is known as Spider-woman, and villains best beware. But that is her secret life…in the real world she is the daughter of police captain George Stacy, and she just recently quit the hit band known as The Mary Janes.

Okay, full disclosure here: I have not bought or read a Spider-Man book in I don’t know how many years. It has seriously been a long time, denizens, but please know that I’m not saying I don’t care about the character, I do, it’s just that I dropped off decades ago and never came back. That said, I am curious about what went down in Superior Spider-Man, and I’m unsure of the Spider-Verse event, but I know this Spider-Gwen character had a bit of buzz, not to mention one heck of a groovy character design. So, why not give this #1 a shot?

The one-page intro sheet explained some of what happened in the Spider-Verse thing, but honestly I was a bit confused as to what is up with Matt Murdock and the grey-skinned, goatee, Hulky dude, but whatever…I just went with it. Anyhow, having zero experience with this character or the world, it quickly became clear that this is a different universe as we meet a very different Ben Grimm, and a familiar Frank Castle working what has to be the man’s dream job. The Vulture quickly appears on the scene and the story kicks off from there.

Latour does a fantastic job giving all of the characters their own voices and the dialogue and situations made the F-word come to mind…the “F-word” being fun. This is further aided by Rodriguez’s solid storytelling skills and tight line work, with Renzi’s bright, close-to-flats color schemes creating a style that looks to make this title more accessible to new readers, which is great. Again, Spider-Woman’s design is just plain cool.

Like I said, I’m not completely certain what the heck is going on, but this issue captured my interest, and made me curious to see what happens next issue. I want to learn more about Gwen, The Mary Janes, and this new parallel universe. The crazy thing is that Spider-Gwen also got me buying a Marvel superhero book once again, one that wasn’t the soon-to-end Hawkeye. This issue is definitely worth checking out and had I read Edge of Spider-Verse #2 (where Spider-Gwen is introduced) prior to this one, I would have probably liked this issue even more — looks like I need to track down a copy of Edge of Spider-Verse #2. RECOMMENDED!

Harley Quinn:
Hot in the City HC
Harley Quinn: Hot in the City HC - Written by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, art (mostly) by Chad Hardin, colored (mostly) by Alex Sinclair, lettered by John J. Hill, published by DC Comics. Harley Quinn is back and on her own in Brooklyn after inheriting an apartment building along with its colorful cast of occupants. Unfortunately, the property taxes that go along with the building require a hefty sum of green, something Harley is sorely lacking. So, with the help of a part-time therapy job, a roller derby job, and various…legally questionable jobs, Harley's looks to make life work. But when someone mysteriously puts a hit on her, sending every second-rate assassin out to kill her, Harley luckily has her apartment building friends, Poison Ivy, a stuffed beaver named Bernie (don’t ask), and a really, really, really old cybernetic guy to lend a helping hand.

I’ve been cool with Harley since the phenomenal Batman: The Animated Series first aired, but have not kept up with her in the comics at all. Sure, I’ve seen hundreds of people dressed as Harley at the various cons, and have heard / read about the various changes with the character and the myriad teams she has been involved with, but I just haven’t cared enough to delve into the Harleymania. Thanks to podcaster Jason Wood’s very high praise for this book on the 11 O’Clock Comics Podcast (my favorite podcast, btw), I decided to give this book a shot. I am so glad I did.

As of this writing, (click the image or the link) is selling this beautiful hardcover for $12.49. This is for nine issues (0–8) of the New 52 Harley Quinn series, which also includes uncolored Amanda Conner cover art, a bunch of penciled art from the series, and all of the alternate covers. For little more than a dollar an issue, you can’t beat this deal.

As for the book itself, it is charming, zany, and funny-as-all-get-out. I was immediately pulled into the crazy story and the mentally-unbalanced, animal-loving Harley had me seeing hearts every time she pulverized a bad guy with her immense mallet. I have no idea why an inanimate, partially-scorched, taxidermied beaver named Bernie is her best friend, but who am I to question a psychopath? Poison Ivy is great, the roller derby moments fun, and the fast-pace of the story kept me whipping through the pages.

Hardin’s character designs are stunning and his storytelling fantastic, while Sinclair’s vibrant colors keep the vibe disarmingly light, even when Harley flat out murders some dudes. What I love the most about the art, though, is the expressiveness of Hardin’s characters, namely with Miss Quinn. This is a beautiful book in story, art, and overall design.

You need to buy this. It’s practically a steal at this price, and I’m sure the deal at won’t last for much longer. The funny thing is just as Swamp Thing, the only DC book I’m buying, is poised to end, I’m brought back into the fold with this demented, fun-filled book that I hammered through over a couple days. It’s great to see some fun come back to the Big Two, and I now can’t wait for the next hardcover to come out. I never would have thought I’d be reading and loving a Harley Quinn book…huh, imagine that. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice into the Woods

Bad Week - I’m not going to go into it other than to say I was just notified that I did not get a job I REALLY wanted, and a comic story I wrote for a project I was excited about is kind of in limbo at the moment. <sigh> As always, looks like I’m going to have to do things the hard way. I hope your week is going better than mine. Joy…


Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Slice Of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 2/20/2015

(Sung to the tune of The Cure’s “A Reflection”)

Hello there, denizens, 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 / time management repair dog Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). We are running a bit behind this week as a bunch of stuff is happening, and given that Tulip is giving me the I need you to take me outside, right now look, I had to skip this week’s song for an instrumental (have you noticed The Cure has been my focus over the past couple months?). I only do this so that the you can get the lowdown on the heavenly items for this week before noon PST. Obie is shaking his head in disapproval, even going so far as to call me a slacker, but he should talk seeing as how he’s been outside the office (my mom’s basement) eating tacos and drinking water from the hose; I haven’t seen him do a lick of work all day. So, while I take Tulip out and hit up some of them tacos, have a look at this week’s…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Lazarus #15
Lazarus #15 - Written by Greg Rucka, illustrated by Michael Lark with Tyler Boss, colored by Santi Arcas, lettered by Jodi Wynne, published by Image Comics. The Family Hock stands accused, the Family Carlyle the accuser. In instances such as this, the accused has the right to demand a trial by combat to prove their innocence, but Jakob Hock does not have his own Lazari to stand as champion, and thus pulls on a failing alliance with the Family Bittner. Unfortunately, Bittner's Lazari is none other than Sonja, Forever Carlyle’s dear friend.

Oh man, denizens, I totally forgot about how issue 14 ended, but when I picked up this issue and saw the cover — which is shocking in its display of the casual acceptance of violence — it all came flooding back. Last issue ended with the #$%@ing evil Jakob Hock demanding that Sonja and Forever meet in (possibly) deadly combat to prove his innocence in the death of Forever’s traitorous brother. Although Hock is innocent of this accusation, he is guilty of far more, but what struck me the most was the man’s cruelty in pitting friend against friend. I partly expected / partly hoped that Jonah would burst into the hall to confess all that had transpired, so that we would not have to watch these two friends take each other apart for the false appearance of honor amongst those who hold no such qualities. This does not happen, and the two Lazari come to blows.

Rucka and Lark have spent the previous four issues introducing us to Sonja. First as a unflinching, ruthless killer, then as the off-the-clock, naive woman possessing an almost childlike demeanor. She and Forever become close friends among a larger friendly group of Lazari. The creators cleverly had me fear Sonja by showing what she is capable of, then they made me absolutely adore her as much as I do Forever, which made this issue one of the most tense reads of the series thus far. Keep in mind that I usually read Lazarus with my shoulders pulled up taut near my ears, but this issue…dang…this issue is something else.

The first few pages remind the reader of just how stressful a cliffhanger we were left with, and the dialogue on those six pages steadily confirm that there is no avoiding this fight. We also see just how unimportant the Lazaris’ feelings (and safety) actually are as the call “…refreshments will be served,” is announced as the non-combatant Lazari gaze on. <sigh> Even just having reread this masterfully crafted scene, my heart starts to race, and the 12.83 silent pages of pure beauty begins.

I have never seen a more stunning, more action-packed, brutally executed, and flawlessly choreographed fight scene in a comic before Lazarus #15. Lark carries such power in not just the punches and stabs, but also in the character acting of the non-combatants. Seeing Jakob Hock’s disdain for Malcolm Carlyle as he ignores the violence transpiring on the floor below, his eyes scanning Malcolm for a reaction that never comes, is almost as chilling as Sonja and Forever’s battle. Almost. The actual fight is only made more intense by Arcas’s colors as the marble floors become increasingly bloodied and the toll of the battle on the women is painted for all to see. To be honest, I have never spent so much time on silent pages as with this issue, as I lingered on every single panel.

This might be my favorite issue of the series after issue 13 where the Lazari hang out free from the confines of family duty. That said, as amazing as this issue is, I would still recommend that new readers start at the beginning, as much of the impact of this issue comes from the investment of time spent in the world and becoming acquainted with each of the characters. You can easily catch up with the hardcover (issues 1–9), or with the first two trades (a third will be available in the coming months). Lazarus is one of my favorite of the recent onslaught of amazing Image titles, but it is also one of the most nerve-wracking of the bunch. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Deadly Class #11
Deadly Class #11 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Wes Craig, colored by Lee Loughridge, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. The end of the second arc is here, as Marcus, Saya, Maria, and the gang take on Chester and his unholy family of meth-head psychopaths. If that wasn’t bad enough, hell hath no fury like a girlfriend wronged, who just happens to be trained in the deadly art of assassination.

Talk about going from one stressful book to another. This issue sees carnage and mayhem happening in practically every scene to such a degree that it at times seems like a hillbilly horror movie — you never know what sort of maniac is going to come at our heroes next. And if I’m going to be completely honest…ain’t nothin’ more terrifying than being pursued by a maniac wearing a headband, a tank top, and a pair of tighty-whities. The story has been slowly building toward the many confrontations of this issue, and now that we are here, the only moments that slow the pacing down are done so to make Marcus and Chester’s confrontation all the more creepy.

Craig keeps the pace frantic with his many-paneled pages, and off-kilter layouts, and Loughridge takes the tension and ratchets it up by frequently changing color schemes. The exception to this is during the Maria versus Gran Gran scene, which relies on a bluish-green lighting to the creepy bathroom where the fight takes place. The entire book is unnerving in both art and story, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We are also left on pretty brutal cliffhanger that looks to keep us biting our nails for the next 60 days until the story resumes.

Deadly Class is a blast, but like most of the books I am loving — predominantly from Image Comics — I would not suggest jumping in willy nilly. The first trade is a mere $9.99 for six issues, and the second trade collecting issues 7–11 will probably show up in the next month. If you are looking for something outside of capes and tights, and are cool with an adult-oriented comic about some messed up kids attending a secretive high school for assassins, then there is absolutely no reason to pass on this dang-entertaining book. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Bitch Planet #3
Bitch Planet #3 - Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, illustrated by Robert Wilson IV, colored by Cris Peter, lettered by Clayton Cowles, published by Image Comics. We interrupt the regularly scheduled programming to take a look at one of the players in the “Bitch Planet” games: Penelope Leona Rolle, aka “Penny Rolle.”

It looks as if every couple issues in this series will feature a look at one of the women from “Bitch Planet,” and will feature a guest artist to tell the tale. Being the first woman featured after only two issues, we take a look at Penny Rolle, who has thus far only been seen beating the bejesus out of the misogynistic guards. My initial reaction to this change in story pace was one of hesitance, but then I read this issue. Not only did I gain a new appreciation and understanding of Penny, this abrupt break from the greater story actually fit in well with some of the harsh cuts found in cult / exploitation films that inspire this book. We also gain more insight into the patriarchy — the “Fathers” — who ultimately decide how woman are supposed to act.

Wilson IV’s art has cleaner lines and a more cartoonish feel than that of regular artist Valentine De Landro, which makes it all the more apparent that this is a flashback / break and works so very well as a “commercial” to the story proper. Peter then uses a halftone dot coloring style on Penny’s days before being shipped off to Bitch Planet, and adds a coloring scheme to the gutters and margins that imply yellowed ’70s comic paper as a cool effect.

We are not all that far into Bitch Planet, but I have enjoyed everything I have read thus far, including this interlude issue, which fits nicely into the grand story. With only three issues available, you might have to do a little searching to get ahold of the first two issues, but I would strongly suggest doing so, as Bitch Planet looks to be taking us on one heck of a journey, while casting an important light on gender roles and stereotypes in the process. Enlightenment and fun, all rolled up in one! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Autumnlands:
Tooth & Claw #4
The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw #4 - Written by Kurt Busiek, illustrated by Benjamin Dewey, colored by Jordie Bellaire, lettered and designed by John G. Roshell and Jimmy Betancourt of Comicraft, published by Image Comics. Dunstun’s awe of the Great Champion, Learoyd, only deepens when the odd man invites the boy to join him on his exploration through the surrounding areas. Also, what exactly is Goodfoot playing at?

The creators continue to slow the pacing a little more after the intense first two issues. Dunstun takes more of the spotlight and we see him begin to realize exactly just how sheltered his life in the air had been. Busiek takes this pause to let his character experience real life and see that there is more to the enemies than he previously thought. We also get to see a single panel of Learoyd’s past as well as some of his tactical skills as he gains an understanding of both his enemies and his supposed allies.

The art continues to be wonderful, especially when it focuses on the many animal people, with Dewey continuing to amaze in his ability to impart emotion through an animal's expression. The brief battle with the bat people is exciting in its choreography, but much of the strength of this issue is found in Dewey’s storytelling and character acting. As a sidenote, I really wish I had one of those walking chairs…you just need to see it.

Things may have slowed down with this issue, but The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw continues to be a fascinating and magical read. I’ve been hoping for a serious fantasy comic for some time now, and Busiek and Dewey have more than delivered. Issue one is already at a second printing, so picking up these first four issue should be possible, and I encourage all fantasy lovers to give this series a try. RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Running Out of Time! - Ack! I’m going to have to cut this short, as I have had interviews, a graphic design job, large and complex class assignments, and work on the second Tulip: The Superpowered Boston Terrier book raining down upon me. It’s good to be busy, but geez Louise…

Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday Slice Of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 2/12/2015

(Sung to The Cure’s “Catch”)

So lend ear towards new books I kind of love
Some groovy ones you need to know
Yeah The Sixth Gun’s end indeed draws closer
I sure don’t want to see it go

You know Rachel Rising might be great for you
That dead dame’s been through hell it’s not fair
With sports I roll my eyes up to heaven
Yet Southern Bastards makes me care

These books make me fall in love by gosh
I can’t help but keep falling again and again
And there’s still one more to read, have no fear
Satellite Sam’s back top of game

Hello there, denizens, and welcome back to Donist World. I’m Donist, and we’re joined as ever by CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / head nurse of medicine disbursement Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). I’ve been sick this week and had to resort to taking some NySwill anti-cough, knock-yo’-butt-into-next-Tuesday cold medicine last night, so I don’t really know what the heck is going on or in what plane of existence I’m actually residing at this moment. What I do know is that Obie, thankfully, is leaving me alone with his “Full-Contact Management” nonsense, and instead has used his new techniques to hammer one of the comic distributors (yeah, we all know there’s only one) into being sure all of our comics arrived on time this week. Historically, for whatever reason, there has been a higher probability of any comics beginning with R or S, being mis-shipped and delayed for at least two weeks. I would say that 5–10% of the time this occurs, and it just so happens that this week’s comics were only comics beginning with R or S. So, thank you, Obie, for getting on the horn and letting that distributor know that we suffer no…hold on…Tulip’s whispering something in my ear. Okay, it turns out that Obie was not on the phone yelling at the distributor, earlier this week, he was actually yelling at the burrito joint about holding the sour cream on his order — he just said he was securing our weekly comics. Hmmmmmm…well, we got them all anyways and that is what matters. So, while I re-up on my coffee, and try to get back down to Earth, rise up towards all things heavenly with…

Friday Slice Of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

The Sixth Gun #46
The Sixth Gun #46 – Written by Cullen Bunn, illustrated by Brian Hurtt, colored by Bill Crabtree, lettered by Crank!, designed by Keith Wood, edited by Charlie Chu, published by Oni Press. With Screaming Crow’s spirit dispersed, the great thunderbirds have gone mad, lashing out at everything in their path as the tempest rages on. Griselda the Gray Witch and Jesup have used the six guns to break the damnable seal and they head downward to forever alter the world. Meanwhile, Becky and Drake have snakemen, wild thunderbirds, and a flood to occupy their time.

This issue is one heck of an adventurous blast. The issue opens as Griselda and Jesup succeed in placing the final gun upon the seal. Drake and Becky have failed…and you hold your breath as you turn the page. From that moment on, Bunn and Hurtt refuse to let you catch that breath as thunderbirds rampage, snakemen descend, and Drake and Becky struggle to stay above water as a town dies. The tension never really lets up until the very end with a surprise guest who made me cheer. Still, the good guys are totally hosed, and I was left desperately wishing for another 20–40 pages since my adrenaline was in overdrive; no matter how long the wait for next issue, it’s going to be a brutal one.

Save for a couple of pages, the creators use high panel counts to keep the tension high and to make each sequence all the more dire. The scenes with Drake moving from house to house and from level to level had the feel of an Indian Jones movie as the hero barely squeaks by with his hide intact as enemies come at him from every direction. The same is true for Becky as she struggles to stay alive despite all hope being lost. Each character’s fight had me eagerly flipping through to see what happened next, and despite being nerve-wracking, I enjoyed every page.

This issue is yet another example of Hurtt’s storytelling prowess, as your eye flows through each panel and your mind fills in the unseen actions in-between. The character acting is as wonderful as ever, with great scenes of snakemen losing their bravado when faced with Drake, as well as when Becky flashes a smile just before Drake panics over what lurks behind her.

The artwork alone is beautiful, but Crabtree’s colors make the book shine. Because of the rain and the flood, most of the book is set to cool color tones, but near the issue end, the blast of red with flowing blue lines (not going to spoil exactly what is going on) has a shocking similarity to blood and veins on a gorgeous full-page spread.

The Sixth Gun is rapidly approaching its end with what I believe to be only this chapter and the next (?) remaining. Now is not the time to jump in. If you have been reading this comic since the beginning, then you already know how great this supernatural Western with a The Lord Of the Rings vibe continues to be. If you have not been reading The Sixth Gun — despite my continuously telling you to read this exceptional comic, I might add — then you really need to start at the beginning with the first trade and move on from there…you'll be glad you did. This thrilling roller coaster ride of an issue comes VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Rachel Rising #31
Rachel Rising #31 – Everythinged by Terry Moore, published by Abstract Studio. A grisly find on a long, lonely stretch of road gives Aunt Johnny cause for concern. Rachel died…again…but this time she sees “the stream of life” and gains the address of her killer from the ghost of one of his previous victims. She also envisions Zoe’s fate five years in the future, and it is not a good one.

Rachel Rising has been moving at a slow, steady pace for the past couple of issues, but that changes as we (maybe) learn the identity — or at least find the residence — of Rachel’s killer. We also see Aunt Johnny — one of my favorite characters in the series — at work and discovering a horrific murder that makes me very curious to see how it ties into Rachel’s search for her own killer.

Even though the story is fantastic, Moore’s greatest success with each issue of this series is his ability to make you love his characters. A child with the soul of a serial killer and in possession of Lucifer’s sword? Fine by me, Zoe is one of my favorite characters. A slightly unbalanced mortician who talks to her subjects, and was once poisoned, and had her soul placed into a dog before being brought back from the brink of death? As I said before, Aunt Johnny is one of my favorite characters. Of course you have Rachel and Jet — the dead girls — who are fascinating in their extremely different personalities. Moore’s art only makes you love each character all the more, which can even be said of some of the past villains like Lilith and Malus.

Every panel of Moore’s work is beautiful to such an extent that even the rain falling on a two-lane road is something to linger over and enjoy. Or the lovely falling leaves as Rachel and the spirit girl stare at a murderer’s property. Every character is a work of dramatic, expressive art, and the same can be said of even the mundane background elements that set the mood of the scene. Moore is a master writer / artist, a rare thing nowadays, and each of his creator-owned books is worthy of all praise given.

This cover is also my favorite to date.

If you are not reading this book, then I implore you to do so. Moore is a solo act on this series, he does it all, including publishing it on his own. Every issue and every trade sale goes to ensuring we continue to experience this awesome horror comic. Rachel Rising is always one of my most anticipated reads, and I look forward to rereading the five trades in the near future. I actually double dip on this one, denizens, as I read issues, and my wife reads the collections, and we are glad to give a little extra boost to a creator we adore. Face, it, you owe it to yourself to be reading this dang-fine comic. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Southern Bastards #7
Southern Bastards #7 – Written by Jason Aaron, illustrated by Jason Latour, lettered by Jared K. Fletcher, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. After Euless Boss got his foot shot as a result of his no good, rotten-to-the-core daddy’s illicit activities, one would think the boy had given up on football…not so. In fact, even before he is fully healed, Boss is on the field giving it his all. With the instruction of blind Big, Boss might have a chance of seeing his dreams made real. Unfortunately, carrying the name “Boss” carries a helluva lot of weight.

As I have said before, I do not like football, and after issue four of this fantastic series, I sure as heck hated — and I mean hated — Coach Euless Boss. Now, I still have little to no love for the sport, but the creators are succeeding in turning me around on Coach Boss. This is kind of insane, as Euless is a deplorable character in the present, but now that we’ve taken a look at his youth and seen the household he’s grown up in…let’s just say the wicked son of a gun looks to have good reason for being the way he is. Criminy, his life was awful, and therein lies the extraordinary talent of these creators, who have made a sport I dislike and the culture behind it fascinating, while at the same time making me sympathize with the murderous Coach Boss. Heck, I still have a hard time believing it. Even more crazy…I want more: more of Boss’s past, and more of the game and its effect on the town of Craw County, Alabama.

What’s different with this issue from the previous two, is that we stay completely within the red-toned, yellowed paper of the past, with not a glimpse of Boss’s present. This is not a bad thing, just something I noticed, and given how much there is to tell of this character’s history, it was precisely the right way to go with this issue. I loved seeing Euless stand up to his father, and excel in the game as each victory brought an even greater crushing blow that made me wince…again, for a character I completely hated.

Aaron’s dialogue is great and Latour’s art jaw-dropping in its harsh beauty. The cover alone is something I could see blown up and hanging on my wall as blind Big looks into the night sky and where he once saw stars, now he only sees football plays. What the heck has come over me? I’m stoked about a sport, and that is something that never happens — except when two truly gifted creators are able to actually make me care.

With a name like Southern Bastards, do you have any doubt that the comic itself will be anything less than kinda harsh? Even if you hate football, or sports in general, this is a book that should not be missed. Just be ready to get angry, real angry, by the end of the first trade. If any creators capable of making you care when you didn’t, sympathize for someone you hated, or excited to see what happens next, then something truly amazing is happening within the pages of their fine book. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Satellite Sam #11
Satellite Sam #11 – Written by Matt Fraction, illustrated by Howard Chaykin, lettering and logo by Ken Bruzenak, digital production by Calvin Nye (thanks to Dean Parks), designed by Drew Gill, edited by Thomas K, published by Image Comics. Michael and Kara in bed together? Libby forced off the road and left for dead? Blackmail? Klan problemes? Multiple non-conventional marriage arrangements set to implode? Backstabbing at the studio? All that and Dick only just recently died. Things can only go downhill from here.

Satellite Sam has been on hiatus for a while, but the creators waste little time in bringing readers back up to speed with the informative roll call page, just before we awaken alongside the hero of the show. The cast of characters is huge in this series, and it honestly took me a while near the beginning to keep them all straight, but once I figured out who was who, I’ve been transfixed by this book ever since. Satellite Sam can be compared to a darker, more dysfunctional sibling of Mad Men, only with more adult-style themes (i.e. more explicit S-E-X), but like that television show, this comic is not for everyone. There are no superheroes, no fantastical elements, it is straight up reality perfectly set in the early’50s. Fraction has brilliantly written and researched this tale, requiring you to have your thinking cap fit tightly upon your head, and that you are nowhere near the state of mind of the series’s main character, Michael White.

Chaykin’s art is gorgeous and dramatic and his storytelling without compare, with the jaw-dropping shading of crosshatching and halftone dots used throughout the book providing amazing depth to all the characters — mere description cannot do his art service, you have to see it. Then there are the intricate background and clothing patterns like the wood grain in a headboard, or the details of a rug or the titles of books, or the label of a pack of cigarettes, or the checkerboard floor of a diner: it’s all stunning. Everything written and every visualization deserves to be lingered over, making this one beautiful black and white comic.

We are in the final arc of Satellite Sam, and although I did not expect the story to last for many years, I will be sad to see it go. As I mentioned above, this smart, risque series will not be for everyone, but those up to the challenge are sure to be wowed once they get into the groove of things. If you have not been reading Satellite Sam, then by bejeebus do not jump on in the middle. Start with the first ridiculously inexpensive $9.99 trade that covers the first five issues, and proceed from there to the second, and then read this issue. You need to devote the time to the world, the characters, and the multifaceted story Fraction and Chaykin have masterfully built. I cannot wait to reread this series from the beginning once it all wraps. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

This Stupid Cold - It seems everyone has it. The kids at Amy’s school are dropping like flies, my publication design teacher had it, and I had barely recovered enough to make it to class as well. Yuck. So that makes it two illnesses thus far in 2015 for this Donist, and we are not even halfway through the second month. I probably should not have boasted near the end of 2014 to a friend that I had not been sick for nearly three years…I totally jinxed it. Drink plenty of liquids, and get plenty of sleep, denizens, and possibly lock yourselves in a self-contained, human-sized, hamster ball…you don’t want this.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Into the Land of Discovery: The LCS

It’s been a good, long while since I posted something other than a “Friday Slice Of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods” post (weekly) or a “Micronauts Monday” post (ended July of last year), but I’ve been thinking a lot about the golden days of the ’70s, and spinner racks, and newsstands, and what life was like before my first local comic shop (LCS). I touched on some of these topics back in 2010 when I first started Donist World, but thought it was high time for a revisit.

As a kid living in Akron, OH, I always had comics around from a very young age. I’m not completely certain where they had come from, whether my mom or dad bought them for me, or maybe they had been lugging some around for some reason, but all I know is I had quite a few. Of course I had books with Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, the Fantastic Four, the Legion of Superheroes, and the Avengers, the usual superhero fare, but I also had some stuff most adults would consider worthy of contacting child protective services.

Would you let your
six-year-old read this?
Yeah, this six-year-old loved to read himself some horror funny books. Weird War Tales, Werewolf By Night, Tomb of Dracula, Man-Thing, Godzilla, Unknown Soldier, House Of Secrets, and House of Mystery all completely rocked my world. I recall the odd Richie Rich, or Casper the Friendly Ghost, or Hot Stuff (which I liked…y'know…a devil baby, c’mon) kicking around my collection, but for me, the creepier the comic, the better. That’s why Swamp Thing #10 is the issue that solidified my love of comics.

Of course I wasn’t exactly reading the issues way back then, mostly I flipped through and enjoyed the monster mash, but that one issue of Swamp Thing…dang, I just could not get enough of it. You had the title character of the Swamp Thing, who was a large, green, plant creature with roots for veins, but he was not the only monster in this issue. It also had the positively horrific Anton Arcane and his equally disturbing Un-Men to make my heart pump faster and to keep me awake late at night. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I had gained an appreciation of illustration through the gorgeous artwork of Bernie Wrightson, whose style I would recognize in many of my beloved horror comics. I would also come to notice Wrightson’s work in the more naughty magazines (Eerie, Creepy, and Heavy Metal), which I secretly perused at the the local Clicks store, which led to my discovery of Richard Corben, but that is another tale that I touch on briefly here and here in a couple looks at some beautiful hardcover releases.

Oh my gosh.
I think I have the vapours…
Anyways, Swamp Thing made me a lover of comic books, but I still only bought them on occasion off of spinner racks at convenience stores and grocery stores. That was until the day I bought my first issue of The Micronauts — cue the “Hallelujah” chorus from Händel’s Messiah. The amazing toy line had utterly consumed me for sometime, but the day I saw The Micronauts #2 sitting on the rack at the newsstand, it seized my eyeballs as I seized 35¢ from my mom to buy it. On the cover I saw Acroyear, Space Glider, and my soon-to-be-favorite character, Bug, who I prayed would someday be made into an action figure — I’m still waiting. One read through this sci-fi adventure with stunning art by Michael Golden, I had suddenly changed from a kid who bought comics willy nilly, to a monthly buyer and collector.

My poor parents. I kind of feel sorry for them at this point. Not only did I beg to go to the toy store at the mall, but more so I wanted to go to the newsstand a couple times a week, just on the off chance the latest issue of The Micronauts had arrived. My love and devotion to this series followed me from Ohio to California, where I was still able to find all my new issues at the grocery store, 7-11, and K-Mart. I was happy as could be until the day issue #37 arrived to shatter my world. I reminisce about this issue in my “Micronauts Monday” post here, but the short version is that the death knell of buying comics at grocery stores and newsstands had sounded. The Micronauts was one of the first series to go to the magical realms known as “comic specialty stores” and “select retail outlets,” which made zero sense to my 11-year-old mind. Thus I entered into what I call The Micronauts Void.

This period would last roughly a year and a half, until by some weird miracle I found out about Andromeda Bookshop. The first time I set foot in this L-shaped store, I was initially disappointed by the overstuffed shelves of sci-fi and fantasy books, but once you walked further in and hung a right…glory. Before me was a large, square room with cubbies full of comics behind the counter on the left and back walls, and new comics on racks to the right. There was also a table in the center that held the week’s new releases, and multiple bundled series climbed the right wall toward the ceiling; we wont’t go into the XXX books crammed into the corner. I had found it, my own pirate’s treasure trove. I had entered Olympus itself, and it bore riches beyond my imagining. More importantly, there sitting upon the Andromeda comic racks was that which I coveted beyond all else: a new issue of The Micronauts, #50 to be exact

Dave Sim signing
I have tried to find pictures of Andromeda for years,
and finally found one. I was not here for this event,
but this is the room. Photo by Ted Mills.
I was back in business. Not only could I buy new books, I could also fill the many gaps in my collection — once I had saved up enough allowance, of course. This would take some time, as new and what would become legendary comics (Batman the Dark Knight Returns, Miracle Man, Watchmen, The Saga of the Swamp Thing, and so many more) were dropping like joyfully dark rain upon the gritty concrete streets.

Over at least two summers, my brother and I made the couple-times-a-week walk from our house to the comic store downtown (4.25 miles round trip) so we could torment the employees by making them drag out all The Micronauts, Daredevil, Uncanny X-Men (the Claremont issues, by golly) back issue stacks, so we could marvel at the covers, and bemoan the out-of-our-price-range costs. These journeys were in addition to our mom driving us to Andromeda every Saturday once we had been paid our $2/week allowance. It’s safe to say we were a little obsessed.

Nerds are cool and all, but this nerd
prefers Volcano Rocks.
The walk downtown wasn’t just about the comics; although that was the primary force for making the trek. We also got to stop by the State Street Video Game Arcade to play Bagman, Joust, and Crystal Castles. Then there was a quick visit to the game store inside the Piccadilly Square mall, not to mention spiced potato logs, lime Slush Puppies, and Willy Wonka Volcano Rocks at Fernando’s Market on the way back home…if we had any money left over, which we rarely did.

Alas, my first LCS bit the dust in the ’90s thanks to high rents and the comic crash, but thankfully Metro Comics came along and I have been shopping there ever since. Only now, I drive to my LCS and I have big boy money to spend, which given current comic book prices means I can roughly buy about the same number of books as I could back when I was a kid.

What was your first LCS?

Any fond memories, or epic journeys to get to one?

How about your favorite Holy Grail comic as a kid?

I’d love to hear about it.