Friday, May 20, 2016

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 5/20/2016

Friday Slice of Heaven

This week: Power Man and Iron Fist, Jughead, and Uncanny X-Force

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / princess of pizza pizzazz Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). It’s a weird week of highs and lows (mostly lows) this week, Denizens, but we’re gonna do this thing with what we have, and we’re going to do it right, by golly. We have to start with the most devastating news of all: the loss of comic book master creator Darwyn Cooke, whose work has enchanted this Donist for years. I will talk a bit more about that near the end. Otherwise, it’s a quiet week this week with only two books in our pull as we were once again shorted on The Sixth Gun (I’m now behind two issues) and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Needless to say, the puppy executive team is crunching the numbers and calculating the impact to the Donist World Pleasure Principle quotient to determine if maybe going digital is the way to go. Thankfully, there was some positive this week: I finished the third draft of the followup to Kibbles ’N’ Bots. Now, I just need to adjust a pacing issue near the action-packed ending before coming up with a title and developing a cover. I also finally replaced my eight-year-old computer, which should help things tremendously. Anyhow, take a moment of silence for Darwyn Cooke, check out some of his gorgeous work — both comics and animation — and most of all read some great comics. Take care. Thank you for reading!

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

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Power Man and
Iron Fist #4
Power Man and Iron Fist #4 - Written by David Walker, illustrated by Sanford Greene, colored by Lee Loughridge, lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles, published by Marvel Comics. Power Man and Iron Fist’s old secretary from their Heroes for Hire days, Jennie Royce, is angry and resentful; she’s also now a powerful demon filled with an immense blood lust. Luke and Danny need to act quick if they are to free their friend from the cursed amulet before someone gets seriously hurt.

Thus ends the first arc of Power Man and Iron Fist. The comic established itself as a lighter, more humorous superhero book that, despite the muted coloring scheme, offers a glimmer of hope where most of the capes and tights fare on the stands are intent an exploring harsh realities, infighting, and oftentimes death. Many of the jokes found in the first three issues continue to run their course with a nice payoff by the end. But even though there are some beautifully choreographed fight scenes, one of my favorite parts of this issue was the flashback scene of Jennie and Black Mariah’s growing friendship during their time together in prison. Each flashback breaks up the action for a moment to remind us how we got to where we are and what it is that will ultimately free Jennie. The jokes are plentiful, the fighting intense, but it is ultimately the relationships (Jennie and Black Mariah, and Luke and Danny) that won me over.

The story-crushing ads were obnoxious, especially the Luke Cage in “A Close Shave,” but so it goes with Big Two books these days, where ads trump story cohesion.

Walker’s story is fun, and Greene’s art stunning, and those looking for a superhero book not steeped (currently) in any sort of event or crossover or convoluted history, then this is the comic for you. At only four issues in, catching up should not be that big of a deal, or if you must, you can wait until October for the trade, but why do that to yourself…you should “fiddle faddle” check it out. RECOMMENDED!

Jughead #6
Jughead #6 - Written by Chip Zdarsky, illustrated by Erica Henderson, colored by Andre Szymanowicz, lettered by Jack Morelli, published by Archie Comic Publications, Inc. Jughead’s given up the fight against Principal Stanger and his super secret high school spy program? Whatever will it take to bring our hero back to the fray?

Well, I guess the best way to lessen my irritation over having to wait for three comics that should have been in my pull is to spend some time with the more upbeat and humorous books; Jughead does not disappoint in lifting my flagging spirits. Zdarsky continues to dish out the humor, while Henderson’s beautiful linework and solid storytelling brought many laugh out loud moments worthy of rereading — mind-bent Moose and dance-machine Dilton (go Dilton!) being my favorites. The great thing is that with all the goofiness and daydreams and sight gags, the creators deliver a satisfying ending that made me smile once the bad guy finally got what’s coming to him.

Jughead’s my favorite character from the Archieverse. He does his own thing, he thinks in ways that confound those around him, he’s food driven, and he’s fiercely loyal to his friends. He’s a zen genius, and I kinda want to be more like him. I ain’t lyin’. Whether you are longtime fan of the Archiverse, or you’re relatively new to the gang from Riverdale, Jughead is a heck of a lot of fun, and something you should definitely check out (trade comes out late July). While you’re at it, check out the new and amazing Archie, as well. RECOMMENDED!

Uncanny X-Force
Complete Collection V.1
Uncanny X-Force - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by various artists, published by Marvel Comics. Wolverine decides that the best way to prevent monsters from destroying the world is to preemptively strike those who pose the largest threat, beginning with the latest incarnation of Apocalypse. Gathering like-minded mutants (Archangel, Deadpool, Psylocke, and Fantomex) to become a secret group of super assassins, Wolverine and his X-Force set out to right the wrongs before they ever happen.

If you’ve been reading Donist World for any length of time, then you already know that Rick Remender is a creator who clearly falls under the category of “heavenly” with the MANY comics I’ve reviewed on this site over the years. I have mostly read Remender’s creator-owned work (Fear Agent, Low, Black Science, Deadly Class, Tokyo Ghost), but after Marvel had a “half off” sale at Comixology, I decided to finally pull the trigger and get this series which I have had my eye on for quite some time. Thank goodness I did. I plowed through the entire series in just under two weeks; I couldn’t put it down.

I’m not going to go too far into the story other than to say that things go badly for our heroes, and many of their actions have horrendous repercussions that threaten to destroy them all. The story is solid and tremendously compelling for the whole of the series, with most of the art working well throughout — and some not so much, but whatchagonnado. The story and character work, however, make up for any of the few, jarring artistic shifts. If you like any of these characters — I am now a Fantomex fan — then you will absolutely love Uncanny X-Force. Remender’s entire run is covered by either seven trades, or by the somewhat recently released two volumes of the Complete Collection, and is sure to please Remender fans, dark superhero fans, and fans of finely crafted comics all the same. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice into the Woods

Darwyn Cooke Dies at Age 53 - After already losing two of my biggest heroes so far this year (David Bowie and Prince), the news of Darwyn Cooke dying at such a young age was a devastating blow that came completely out of the blue. I continue to be floored by the beauty that his storyboarding helped produce for both Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series, but it’s his work in comics that has enchanted me since I first discovered his art in Catwoman. From there, I went on to gather up Batman: Ego, The Spirit, The Twilight Children, but it is his work on DC: The New Frontier and his masterwork Richard Stark’s Parker books that showcase his complete understanding and mastery of the comic craft. So, if you are not familiar with Cooke’s work, then please remedy this, by picking up some of this writer / artist’s work, and you will instantly see why the man is so thoroughly respected in the comics world. He will be sorely missed.


Friday, May 13, 2016

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 5/13/2016

Friday Slice of Heaven

This week: Southern Bastards, and Archie

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / regent of relaxation Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). It’s a good thing we only had two books in our pull this week, as my puppy executive team and I traded in the intensity of the Donist World corporate office (Mom’s basement) for the luxury of the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. Yup, we had two and a half glorious days of sipping cocktails by the poolside, enjoying good music, and savoring tasty foods. Although we did hold a few meetings (catered of course) about maintaining our status as a Fortune 320,000 company, we also got in a few good runs around Ojai. Best of all, I got to have two spa days with the pups, where we sweated out the toxins of stress in the steam room, rejuvenated our faces at the cleansing station (the dogs trimmed their whiskers nicely), and luxuriated in the relaxation room with mint tea and calming chimes. (Speaking of which, how does one get a “gig” as a spa music composer? I got my pan flute skills at the ready…I’m just sayin’.) It was a simply delightful time of team building and strategizing. Anyhow, add some lavender oil to your sauna experience, wrap your hair in a towel, pour a calming hot mint tea, and settle in to read some rejuvenating great comics. Take care. Thank you for reading! Namaste.

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

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Southern Bastards #14
Southern Bastards #14 - Written by Jason Aaron, illustrated by Jason Latour, lettered by Jared K. Fletcher, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. When Roberta Tubb returns to her old home, she finds that Craw County, Alabama remains a bastion of ignorance, anger, and hatred. Being a stranger to the area, the daughter of Earl Tubb, and having a black mother doesn’t exactly sit right with the locals…that’s fine by her.

I’m not sure what the delay was — actually, I’m pretty sure it was the many other projects the creators are working on — but I have been missing Southern Bastards something fierce. Not to mention that we were not even on a between-arcs hiatus since we last saw an issue back near the end of January. This actually concludes the current storyline, and we now we have a few months before we see another issue. But if reasonable delays mean we get a series of this caliber, then this Donist is totally cool waiting to get this amazing comic in his grubby mitts.

Since the shocking conclusion to the first arc — which still messes me up just thinking about it — I have been dying for Roberta Tubb’s arrival, and now it is finally here; the Jasons do not disappoint. With Roberta, an Afghanistan war veteran, we learn exactly what kind of a woman she is within the first few pages. We know she’s a strong, highly intelligent, and disciplined soldier, but beneath that calm exterior is an anger leftover from the war, at the loss of her father, and at Craw County’s inhabitants’ racism whose depths manage to surprise even her. We also get a flashback where we see daughter and father right before Roberta went overseas. It is a dreadfully awkward moment between the two where we see her accept her father’s inability to communicate his feelings. With but one page, the creators successfully sum up the relationship between the two and as sad as the exchange is, it is immensely beautiful. Roberta’s exchanges with the neighbors is beautiful in a totally different way, but you’re just going to have to read the issue to get the deets on that.

Latour’s art is as gorgeous as ever, in both storytelling and drama, with the muted, earthy colors providing the perfect mood, with sparse reds adding just the right punch when needed most. Some panels in this issues seem rushed, or a little rough, but at no point was I removed from the story, in fact, it’s that roughness which strengthens the impact of some of the truly ugly people found in this series. Rather, I was moved by Latour’s character acting mastery, and desperately wanted to see more of Roberta and the rest of the characters so expertly introduced throughout earlier issues in this arc.

Southern Bastards is a harsh, unflattering look at the deep south, but despite the ugliness (accurately) portrayed in this small town of Craw County, you can tell the creators have much love for some of the redeeming values of the region. It is precisely this love, and this frustration that makes this such a powerhouse of a crime comic. As I’ve said before, I hate football, but the creators have made one hell of a compelling tale — including the football parts — with characters you will love, and others you will utterly loathe, but you will understand them. As rough as this book gets, it is must read material that will keep you coming back for more more more, which you can do with the two available trades (third in July) or the oversized hardcover. Regardless of how you read this series, or when individual issues actually appear, Southern Bastards is one of the best books on the stands that warrants your immediate attention. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Archie #8
Archie #8 - Written by Mark Waid, illustrated by Veronica Fish, colored by Andre Szymanowicz with Jen Vaughn, lettered by Jack Morelli, published by Archie Comic Publications, Inc. There’s no level too low that Mr. Lodge will stoop in order to keep his daughter, Veronica, away from that Archie Andrews hooligan.

As lighthearted and fun — I can’t believe I used the “f-word” to describe a current comic — as this series is, I was stunned by how cutthroat Mr. Lodge (he ain’t mayor yet) is in this issue. Dang, denizens, Archie is essentially a walking disaster, a tornado in human form, but he is truly a good guy. Heck, he’s the best. But, Lodge is ruthless to the point where I had to mutter, "Now that’s just cold,” in between the laughs and wanting to tell the actual comic, “Forget that Veronica chick, Archie, she doesn’t deserve you.” The guy’s my pal now. I’ve been rooting for the kid since Waid’s first phenomenal issue, where the writer took an already beloved character, put a modern coat of paint on him, and made each issue a joy to read.

Fish’s art just gets better and better. The storytelling and character acting are top notch, and the exaggerated moments are laugh-out-loud funny, while the sight gags are hilarious. I especially enjoyed the part where Jughead throws a ball for Hotdog, who then comes back with a stick, only to run off to fetch a live squirrel, to then run off to get the next non-ball object. It’s all rather subtle to the point that you have to pay attention to each panel lest you miss something cool. Szymanowicz’s colors set an upbeat, vibrant mood that makes Fish’s already lovely art all the more appealing, and the comic is as pretty as it is well-written.

At eight issues in, I am still very much loving this series. So much so that I am kicking myself for waiting so long to foster a true appreciation of all things Riverdale. Archie has heart, big time laughs, heartbreak, as well as moments that are all too relatable. It is so easy to see not just yourself, but your own friends, family, and acquaintances in the characters, and you can’t help but want to see your pals succeed. This comic ain’t just for kids, it ain’t just for girls, it has something for everyone to like, and you can easily catch up on the first trade of this wonderful series, which I strongly advise you to check out. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice into the Woods

Spa Days are Over - <sigh> I’m not really sure why it takes so much time, effort, and planning to actually relax, but I guess that’s just how life goes nowadays. It was great to get away for a few days (I was actually out on a work thing, which was awesome) and not fretting over Donald “Chump” Drumpf Trump (who I am certain Aaron and Latour’s Craw County residents are voting for…no doubt on that), or bills, or parking spots, or garbage littering the park. Ack. I’m queueing up some chimes and pan flute music, dabbing some calming lavender oil to my forehead, and off to ponder the AMAZING Captain America: Civil War, which I have already seen twice now. Yeah, focus on the positive. Focus on the awesome. Take care.


Friday, May 6, 2016

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 5/6/2016

Friday Slice of Heaven

This week: Criminal: 10th Aniversary Special, and Empress

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / Captain of America Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). Poor Tulip had a rough day yesterday. We think she ate something bad after she proceeded to barf throughout the day (including on the bed and couch). So, in a show of solidarity, the Donist World executive team is taking a sick day today. Thankfully, with Reverse Obie’s kindly care, Tulip finally appears to be on the mend, but we’re going to kick it mellow style today with some Captain America: The Winter Soldier and plenty of rest. I, however, will be stepping out for a few hours later this afternoon to see Captain America: Civil War…I can’t wait. So before you head out to catch this Donist’s most anticipated movie of the year, grab some tacos and strong ginger brew, and read a couple great comics. Take care. Thank you for reading!

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

***Possible Spoilers Below***

10 Year Anniversary
Criminal: 10th Anniversary Special - Written by Ed Brubaker, illustrated by Sean Phillips, colored by Elizabeth Breitweiser, published by Image Comics. Young Tracy Lawless has been on road trips like this before, and when a father like Teeg Lawless, tells you to pack your bag and get in the car, there's no discussion of school or friends or staying home; you just do as your told. From there it’s a journey of armed robbery, seedy hotels, and violence as father and son scour a small town for a girl named Lana.

I failed, Denizens. Not just you, not just myself, but as a fan of the Criminal series. You see, this comic came out a week or two ago, and I knew nothing about it. Somehow, through all of the various Image announcements, solicits, website mentions, and what not, I missed that this was even coming out until I heard it reviewed on a comic book podcast. Talk about dropping the ball. But never fear, Denizens, all is right in the universe…my LCS had a single copy waiting for me on this rather meager comic book week.

It’s been over a year since we last saw a Criminal book, but the Criminal: The Special Edition (One-Shot) floored me (read my thoughts about that amazing issue here), almost as much as Brubaker and Phillips’s masterpiece Criminal: The Last of the Innocent, but the creators do not miss a beat on their fantastic new offering. For those of you not in the know…Criminal is a love letter to old black and white crime and noir movies, where the “good guys” aren’t exactly on the side of the angels and the “bad guys”…let’s just say they lean towards a more downward facing region. You can expect to read about robberies, heists gone wrong, contracts gone right, double crosses, and dames from which no man is safe. It’s all the typical components ow what makes crime comics so damn alluring. However, what sets the Criminal series apart from the wealth of material that influenced it is how human the creators make their characters. It doesn’t really matter which chapter you pick up, you can expect to not necessarily relate to a character and their particular situation, but you will definitely understand how they got into the deep end of a pool of their own making. Maybe it’s gambling debts, or a fixed boxing match, or the wrong girl. Maybe it’s the lose of a decent job, or the drinking, or a family lacking in certain values. Or perhaps it’s just being born bad. Whatever the case may be, don’t expect a happy ending for any of Brubaker and Phillips’s characters, but rather expect to be immersed in the lives of those who have chosen to progress down the wrong side of the street, expect to be captivated by those who’ve succumbed to the more sordid aspects of life.

You can also expect to marvel at the art of a true master of storytelling and drama, especially given that this beast of a comic is 60 pages of dark, gritty beauty. Phillips’s work on Criminal utilizes thick lines and deep shadows to bring about the mood and tone of the series, but the artist definitely has more up his sleeve than just the one style. As with last year’s One-Shot, Phillips illustrates a comic-within-a-comic as Tracy Lawless reads Deadly Hands…featuring Fang, the Kung Fu Werewolf. During these breaks in the main story, Phillips gives us a thinner line and a completely different style that when combined with Breitweiser’s simulated yellowed paper and strategically placed halftone dots, gives the feeling that you have been transported back to the bronze age of comics in the ’70s. It’s a magical shift in tone that perfectly captures Tracy’s retreat into fantasy given the dark, desperation of his reality. Regardless of what page you are looking at in this comic, it’s all beautiful. I will say this…I really wish Brubaker and Phillips would put out a actual Fang, the Kung Fu Werewolf comic; I would love to read it.

I’m not going to lie to you, Denizens. If you want / need happiness and double rainbows in a comic, then you might want to save this one for a dreary day. It’s harsh, it ain’t pretty, but the story being told is beyond compare. If you are a fan of crime and noir, Criminal is an absolute must read. That said, this treasure is something you can thoroughly enjoy on its own, but you will get so much more out of it if you read the Criminal stories that came before it first. I would go in order as follows: Coward, Lawless, The Dead and the Dying, Bad Night, The Sinners, The Last of the Innocent, and then the One-Shot. I know that seems like an extensive list of trades to read, but it really isn’t a bad thing given the caliber of each installment. Regardless of where you begin on this series, just be sure you start somewhere — you won’t be disappointed. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Empress #2
Empress #2 - Written by Mark Millar, illustrated by Stuart Immonen, inked by Wade von Grawbadger, colored by Ive Svorcina, lettered by Peter Doherty, edited by Nicole Boose, published by Icon, a Marvel Comics imprint.

When a queen decides to leave her husband, the tyrannical ruler of their empire, she takes their three children with her, and a galactic search ensues. Unfortunately, her only means of transport is ruined and all that can possibly save her is a remnant of a war long past.

Millar’s wonderful sci-fi comic Starlight is one of my all-time favorite sci-fi comics ever, so I had high hopes going into Empress; at two issues in (of seven), I could not be more pleased. With the queen, her three children, and an advisor we have only seen brief glimpses into each character, but each slight reveal is enough to pull me in and keep me invested in this fantastic story. We have spaceships, aliens, monsters, and ray guns, but we also have a more grounded backbone of escaping one’s past and subsequently escaping one’s present with the hope of a better future, which is an uncertainty. Millar does not burden the reader with loads of exposition to tell us about his characters, instead we see their actions, their disagreements, and interactions that push us to fill in the gaps, to use our imaginations in this highly imaginative world; we are the better for it.

Immonen and Svorcina’s art is gorgeous. With grand backdrops reminiscent of a more pristine Blade Runner style world, and stunning spaceships and alien designs, the clear storytelling and great character acting make this book as beautiful to behold as it is to read. If you are a sci-fi / adventure fan, then Empress is a comic you cannot skip. At only two issues in, I also heard it has already been optioned for a movie…and with good reason. This series is something special that you need to be reading. I can’t wait to see what happens next. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice into the Woods

Keepin’ It Positive, Goin’ to See Cap 3 - It’s been a crazy week…in a good way. So let’s forget about that chump Donald Drumpf, and focus on the good. Go see Cap 3, read some comics, have a craft beer, and listen to some Prince while you’re at it. Take care, I have some Captain America: Winter Soldier to watch before the big movie viewing.


Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 4/29/2016

Friday Slice of Heaven

This week: Saga, Sex Criminals, Low, and Thanos: The Infinity Finale

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / purveyor of “Pop Life” Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). My puppy executive team and I have been wearing purple all week in honor of the brilliance and joy that Price gave us through his music for so many years. <ugh> I’m still so bummed about the man’s much-too-early death, but Reverse Obie put on “Take Me With You,” and I couldn’t stop the chills (the oh-so good kind) from washing over me. I also couldn’t help but smile as the tune washed over me. I guess if any of us start to get the sads again that we’ll just have to put on “Controvery” or “Peach” or “Let’s Go Crazy” to help pick us up again. So put on some purple, queue up a block of your favorite Prince tunes, and settle in to read some great comics. Take care. Thank you for reading!

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

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Saga #36
Saga #36 - Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples, lettered and designed by Fonografiks, coordinated by Eric Stephenson, published by Image Comics. Escape attempts, reunions, a battle, stowaways, and a revelation…oh my!

Thus ends book two, volume six, of chapter 36 of this tremendous series. This issue in particular is a prime example of why Saga remains one of the best comics currently hitting the stands. For those unfamiliar with this story, we have a sci-fi, fantasy tale that is essentially a take on Romeo and Juliet in space…only with so much more. Yes you will see the occasional monster or spaceship, yes you will on rare occasions see something so insanely shocking so as to be completely gobsmacked (this series is in no way for the kiddies; mature audiences only), but what strikes this Donist a deciding blow as to why I will forever follow this series are the myriad characters wrapped up in a compelling story. I love them. I care for them. I wish them all happiness, which makes every struggle, every bad decision or behavior that much more heart-wrenching. As I’ve said many times on past issues, my love does not stop with the “good guys,” it also extends to the “bad guys” as well.

Vaughan and Staples continue to thoroughly immerse readers in their characters’ lives by creating a level of relatability to each character, some moment where we see ourselves in a similar situation. How would you deal with the loss of a sibling, or of a lost child, or of familial scrutiny over your life choices? It’s all rather heavy, but that is not to say the series is without its more humorous moments. There are plenty of times that will have you laughing out loud, or trying not to laugh as you cover your mouth in shock over something you will never ever be able to un-see (remember what I said about this book being for adults?). It’s the precise balance of characters redeeming themselves while others succeed in steadily messing up their lives. It’s the bickering and fighting with those closest to them. Its the laughs mixed with moments of intense sadness. It’s all of this that keeps me coming back to this fantastic funny book. But most of all, it’s the feeling that these characters are now family; for better or worse, I love them.

If you’ve read any of my 35 previous thoughts on Staples’s art, then you know how stricken I am with her work. Even the most mundane of pages is worthy of being framed and hung on your wall for all to see. It’s refreshing to have such a vibrant book that manages to have so much life even when the situation is most dire. Her storytelling prowess is amazing, but it is the character acting and body language that manage to tell you everything you need to know about a scene before you read a single word balloon. Her work is heavenly; just take a look at the picturesque cover to see what I mean.

It’s going to be a brutal two or three months until the next issue drops, as there were plenty of “whoa!” and “wow!” moments that kept me wishing the issue would never end. Not to mention the bomb dropped on the final two pages. Dang, Denizens, this is one heck of a fantastic issue. If you are reading Saga, then you already know all of this. If not…<sigh>…just order the dang oversized hardcover, or load up on the five trades (soon to be six!). Tired of capes and tights? Well there, little buckaroo, Saga is the book for you — provided you are mature enough to handle it. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Sex Criminals #15
Sex Criminals #15 - Written by Matt Fraction, illustrated by Chip Zdarsky, edited by Thomas K, production by Drew Gill, published by Image Comics. When Doc realizes that Kegelface has stolen all of his files concerning a patient, he panics. Too bad those files were about Jon and his deepest, darkest thoughts.

Because my new coworkers might be checking out the ol’ Donist World blog, and are probably considering running a deeper background check on me because of this comic’s title, I will take this time to explain what this book is and why it is not what first comes to mind. Cool? Cool. Okay, Sex Criminals was not only TIME Magazine’s #1 comic series / graphic novel of 2013, it has also been a Donist World Darling since issue one. This is wholeheartedly a mature-readers book that’s about Jon and Suze who meet and are instantly attracted to each other. What neither knows at the time is that they each have a secret superpower that allows them to actually stop time at the moment of…“the little death.” The first time they sleep together, they are pleasantly surprised to find that they can stop time and move through the world together, doing whatever they like, including robbing a bank. That is until the Sex Police find out they are violating certain rules; Jon and Suze aren’t the only ones with powers. 

Sex Criminals has characters so realistic that you might see parts of yourself or your friends in them, as well as relatable situations that can be absolutely hilarious one moment and emotionally painful the next. Zdarsky’s cartooning is a joy, and his coloring brings a sense of magical realism to the page, especially when Jon and Suze venture into “The Quiet.” Despite the title, the comic is not titillating, but is rather an earnest look at what sex means to the various characters whose lives are exposed for us to see. Odds are high that you will be cracking up most of the time, but be prepared for a possible tear or two down the road. 

The lengthy delays between issues is kind of affecting my remembering what has happened issue to issue, but when the creators have many other projects, including film and television, I can see how things can regrettably fall behind. No worries, though, Sex Criminals is still one of my favorite comics hitting the stands; despite not hitting as often as I might like. So after my little rundown, if you’re ready for some adults-only, R-rated humor, that is as fun as it is charming, then you should dive right in on this sex-positive series with either the hardcover or the two available trades. I think you’ll dig it. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Low #13
Low #13 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Greg Tocchini, colored by Dave McCaig, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. The twins realize too late that the woman claiming to be their deceased brother’s wife is not who she claims to be.

Last month’s issue absolutely blew me away, as we saw Stel Caine finally reach the long abandoned surface in her quest for the satellite that holds the hope for a new and habitable world. The action was bountiful and intense. With this issue, we jump back to Stel’s twin daughters, Tajo and Della, and the pacing slows to allow us to see just how psychologically damaged the women have become after their brutal abduction and separation so many years ago. And although I suspected not all was right with the new player in the book, I wasn’t prepared for the actual reveal…or the startling turn of events at the end. Ouch.

Although I’m usually a champion of Tocchini and McCaigs art, things seem a tad rushed and muddied for about half of this issue; the other half is just as ethereal and gorgeous as we’ve come to expect from these two. The change is mostly in the weight of lines and certain proportions, but by the end, when the insanity starts goin’ down, the imagery comes together to reflect the look I have come to adore since the first issue. Who knows, it might be a print thing, but in the end, the shift in the look of the art was enough to give me pause.

My questions with some of the art aside, Low continues to be one hell of a compelling sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, adventure, monster, drama comic that I continue to love. I can’t wait for Stel and her girls to be reunited — if they all survive that long! — and finally prove that hope is not futile, but one of the strongest forces there is. If you would like to dive into this thrilling and visually arresting comic (even with the noticeable style shifts of this issue), then you should rush out and grab the two available trades. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Thanos: The Infinity
Thanos: The Infinity Finale HC - Written by Jim Starlin, illustrated by Ron Lim, inked by Andy Smith, colored by Guru-eFX, lettered by Clayton Cowles, published by Marvel Comics. Face front, true believers, as the latest “Infinity” chapter comes to a close. Thanos is dead. Warlock captured with most of his unlimited power under Annihilus’s control. The mysterious orchestrator of the posiverse’s woes continues to operate from the shadows while the fate of all rests in the grubby mitts of one…lone…smelly…troll.

Sorry about the “Thanos is dead” thing, but remember what I said about “possible spoilers?” Anyhow, if you’ve read my thoughts on the first two books in this series — Thanos: The Infinity Revelation and Thanos: The Infinity Relativity — as well as the optional (optionally amazing, and not to be missed) four-issue, limited series The Infinity Entity, then you know I had high hopes for the conclusion to this epic story. But did it pay off in the end? Heck yeah, it did, Denizens, this cosmic is better than I could have ever hoped for. I love everything about this awesome cosmic space opera from my lifelong hero Jim Starlin.

I’m going to shy away from revealing anything major, but when the title character ends the second hardcover by killing himself, do you really think he’ll stay dead all that long? This is Thanos, after all. If there’s one thing longtime fans know, it’s that you can’t keep a good / mad /evil / brilliant Titan down. I mean, the guy is madly (emphasis on the “madly”) in love with the physical embodiment of death, known as…well…Death. (In the demigod’s defense, Death is kind of hot…at least when she’s not all skeletony.) The same holds true for my fave Adam Warlock. How many times has this cat died only to return to life? The answer: tons. The whole death has no meaning in the Marvel Universe is something I’ve commented on in the past, and it gets rather obnoxious as event after event sees a litany of ultimately meaningless deaths of its characters (Captain America, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, etc.). The thing about Starlin’s work with Thanos and Warlock is that these characters exist outside of the cosmic norm and death / rebirth is part of their appeal. If one dies, you can count on them to return, but with certain changes; it’s all part of what makes these tales so much dang fun.

Speaking of death…holy cow does this book get dark. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Starlin get as brutal and bloody as he does with this book. The situation with Annihilus is indeed dire, but man-oh-man I did not expect to see major superheroes getting cut down in such ruthless fashion. I also could not believe what Thanos had in store for ol’ Nightcrawler (<brrrrrr> I will not spoil, but…harsh), but for all of the insane intensity of the battle against Annihilus that had me madly whipping through the pages, the moments of hope with Pip had me cheering all the way through. Once Thanos and Warlock are back in play, the story shifts from fights and battles (except for one awesome power move by Thanos) into the more cerebral aspects of righting all the cosmic wrongs of the universe, and restoring all to as it were. Of course the story has no moments that will “change the Marvel Universe forever!!!,” but these hardcovers are outside of whatever is going on at Marvel these days. If there’s one thing Starlin is a master of it is taking all the toys out of the box, crafting a compelling story with palpable stakes, and ultimately putting all those toys back in the box as they were; Thanos and Warlock being the only possible exceptions.

One thing you will notice with this third and final volume is the change in art. Starlin does not illustrate this book — an odd choice given that he illustrated the first two — but if you are going to have anyone other the master-of-all-things-cosmic draw your book, then there is no better choice than bringing in Ron Lim (I will say that Alan Davis was fantastic on They Infinity Entity, though). His storytelling skills are tremendous, and the character acting stronger than ever. If you like his past work on Silver Surfer and The Infinity Gauntlet (I certainly do) then you will be thrilled with what is on display here. Art, coloring, and overall design of the book are certain to please.

See? No real spoilers on what exactly goes down in this book, just the understanding that I love love love this series of hardcovers, and that Finale is the best of the bunch. If you are a Starlin or Warlock or Thanos fan, or if you just like engaging superhero space operas, then you MUST pick up these books. I am also happy that I went back and reread all of the early material (Thanos QuestThe Infinity GauntletThe Infinity WarThe Infinity CrusadeWarlock and the Infinity WatchThe Infinity AbyssThe EndThanos: The Infinity RevelationThanos: The Infinity Relativity, and finally The Infinity Entity) to prepare for my read of Thanos: The Infinity Finale, which made an already great read all the better. Dang, I love this book. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice into the Woods

Prince Dies at Age 57 - I’m still not over the loss of this tremendous artist. <sigh> at least I know what’s going to be playing around the Donist World corporate office (Mom’s basement) this week. So very sad.