Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 9/19/2014

(Sung to the tune of Electronic’s “Getting Away With It”)

I’ve been thinking ’bout my books
Freaking myself out on purpose
The Private Eye’s on my mind
Would internet-free life be worse?
I’ve been reading great comic books all my life
(Reading great books)

However I look, it’s clear to see
Deadly Class is intriguing
However I look, it’s clear to see
Ellis’s Trees has sure hooked me

Over two decades old, and I still really love that song. Hello there, Donist World denizens! I’m back with our CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and our marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / getting-away-with-it specialist Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister) and we are trying to pull our collective acts together after this stoopidly hot heatwave. You see, even from the safety of our glorious corporate office (my mom’s non-air-conditioned basement) the heat was still getting to us…then we had to go home. Tulip and I sleep upstairs in a room with vaulted ceilings, a weak fan, and not much air circulation; it was miserable. Needless to say, neither of us slept at all for three whole nights. Obie tells us that at his “crib” (his words) it was so hot he snuck out of his crate, dumped all the ice from the ice cube trays onto the floor, placed a towel over them, and slept like a baby. Of course, now he’s grounded because of the two grand worth of water damage he caused to my friends’ hardwood floor. But whatchagonnado? It was hot. Thankfully, today is much cooler, so to celebrate we’re going to pause our efforts in maintaining our status as a Fortune 320,000 company, and we’re heading out for walk-’n’-talk meeting followed by a trip to the taco truck…my treat. So, grab a cold beverage of your liking and have a look at this week’s…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

The Private Eye #8
The Private Eye #8 - Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Marcos Martin, colored by Muntsa Vicente, published by Panel Syndicate. I love stories that have the whole this-is-a-look-at-the-world-that-might-be feel to them. Or rather, I love those types of stories until such a point that the writer’s fiction starts to transition toward reality. Such is the case with Rucka and Lark’s frightening Lazarus, and, of course, with Vaughan and Martin’s amazing The Private Eye. 

A severely-wounded DeGuerre and the ever-subdued Nebular are poised to see the fruits of their brutal labor, as they prepare to launch their satellite into orbit and tear down the privacy of the world in their bid to restore the flow of information; the internet might soon live again! P.I., however, could care less. All he wants is to get back his seen-better-days sidekick, Melanie, who just so happens to be in DeGuerre and Nebular’s custody. As the clock ticks on the restoration of the internet, so does the time left for Melanie’s life…the girl’s sharp, cruel tongue looks to hasten her demise.

You know what, denizens? I love this dang comic. This donation-only-(this-includes-free!) comic is so good, so thought-provoking, you will gladly kick down a couple bucks to the creators. Then, if you are like me, you’ll even throw in an extra dollar or two, because you are all giddy from that email that just informed you a new issue has become available. The amazing — and frightening — aspect of this comic is that it centers on a world where the privacy we thought a life in the cloud afforded us all, eroded in one fell swoop exposing everyone’s secrets, big and small; lesser versions of this actually happen all too often (see “Slice Into the Woods” below). If that wasn’t enough, the creators throw other glimpses of other worrisome concerns at us, such as global warming (aka SCIENCE! to all climate denying, dum-dums out there), and although what we see at the wall might be exaggerated (possibly not…again, SCIENCE!) it is shocking.

Vaughan and Martin are not completely one-sided in their depiction of a world without internet. Even the morally-reprehensible character of DeGuerre makes some very valid points concerning the flow of information, and how knowledge should be made available. But then, so does the battered and bruised character, Melanie. The funny thing is the creators keep saying they will never put The Private Eye into any sort of tangible form of print, which is a brilliant comment regarding what would happen to this very work if the events leading to the creation of their world actually did occur. Yes, maybe Martin actually used art boards when drawing each page, but the lettering would see different positioning, and thus the work as we originally saw it would be gone forever; if Martin illustrated digitally, this book would be lost along with the web. It’s crazy to think about.

Oh, yeah, the story and art are as tremendous as ever…in case you didn’t gather that from prior reviews.

The Private Eye always gets me thinking, but this is after I read each issue. During each read, however, I am swept away with this roller coaster ride of excitement. Brilliant writing and illustrations have made this “book” a Donist World darling  ever since the first issue, and this unbelievably compelling story leaves me frothing at the mouth for the final two issues. DANG! I cannot wait to see what happens next. Please support these amazing creators so we continue to benefit from the exceptional quality of their work…at least until the internet implodes. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Deadly Class #7
Deadly Class #7 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Wes Craig, colored by Lee Loughridge, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. After a brief hiatus, Deadly Class returns for its second arc. Remender is on a creator-owned roll with three tremendous titles currently seeing release (Black Science and Low are the other two must-read titles), and this is in addition to his well-received Marvel work, and his robust history that includes the phenomenal Fear Agent. After reading this issue of Deadly Class, the guy does not appear to be slowing down in the slightest…thank goodness for us.

Young love is in the air…as well as all the jealousy, doubt, and wandering eyes that go along with it. Also in the air is Marcus and his friends’ worry as to what He did with Chico’s body. Like Marcus, He has a family of his very own, all of whom are nearly as ruthless and terrifying as He. Meanwhile, someone close is not what he seems.

How’s that for vague? Removing the whole school-of-assassins aspect of the story, Remender perfectly captures the rush, the confusion, the conflicting emotions of young love. He mixes in the feelings of belonging for some, while not belonging for others, as he tackles the subject of depression and the tenacious grip it maintains on so very many. The lives of each character in Deadly Class are so richly steeped in reality, that you don’t even flinch when the fantastical elements of the murdered psychopath Chico, or He, or adolescents belonging to a school dedicated to killing arise. Through Remender’s characterization, dialogue, and intentionally chaotic thoughts via the captions, it’s all too easy to remember the tumultuous experience of being Marcus’s age — minus the assassinationing (deliberate word choice here, denizens), of course.

Craig’s art continues to be simply stunning. High-panel-density pages are the norm, and each and every one adds to the drama and escalation of the page to the point that when you come across a page with four or fewer panels, you are rattled by the transition; this is by design, something pivotal has just occurred. Craig’s character acting tells you most everything you need to know about a character and a scene, with the exception of the enigmatic Saya and the massively-scarred He (you can read His actual name in the book). Pushing the mood of Craig’s art is Loughride’s primarily analogous coloring scheme which does so much, with so little. Although there is little rendering, the mood and the storytelling skills delivered by his color palette are unmistakable.

I rarely mention letterers, it is the “invisible” art after all, but Wooton expertly steers a reader through the occasional dialogue-dense scenes without breaking the flow of the story. This is not an easy thing to do — I know — but Wooton makes keeping the eye moving through the story seem effortless to the point that most readers will fail to notice any of the word balloons.

So, yes, a couple months off, and Deadly Class does not miss a beat. This excellent title succeeds in capturing the chaos of youth, while mixing in a compelling story that is certain to appeal to mature readers who want something more than the usual capes and tights fare. Now is the time to jump on, as you can pick up the first trade (contains issues 1–6) for only $9.99 retail, and with this fantastic issue you will be all caught up on yet another great Remender comic. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Trees #5
Trees #5 - Written by Warren Ellis, illustrated by Jason Howard, lettered by Fonografiks, published by Image Comics. Most of the characters and locations since the first issue appear in some capacity as the trees continue to do nothing…or so it seems. Some try to spur the trees to action, one realizes his purpose as peace collapses, another’s potential is appreciated, as something shocking transpires in the frozen north.

If any of the above makes sense, then good…that’s really about all I can tell you about what transpires in this issue. This is not because I want to avoid spoiling anything, but rather because I really couldn’t tell you much more than that; anything else is beyond this Donist’s feeble mind to comprehend. That’s okay, though, I’m enjoying these glimpses into different parts of the world and the people who live in those places. This is a comic more about human nature, as opposed to the alien trees. So much so, we never even saw the trees’ arrival on Earth, we only see —thus far — humanity acting in its myriad of ways, regardless of whether or not that world includes the trees.

Howard’s artwork is as strong as ever, with his command of character acting and coloring driving the impact of every scene. One thing I can glean from Howard’s tremendous art is that this issue signals the beginning of many things to come, as indicated by varying color schemes, and the subtleties within each panel. Whatever is in store for us, I’ll be there to see it happen…I can’t wait. RECOMMENDED!

Supreme Blue Rose #3
Supreme: Blue Rose #3 - Written by Warren Ellis, illustrated by Tula Lotay, lettered by Richard Starkings, designed by John Roshell, published by Image Comics. Diana Dane continues her search for Ethan Crane…the blue rose that does not, and should not, exist. She is also being paid an incredible amount of money to do so by billionaire Darius Dax. As she rides in a limousine with some…uh…guy who just appeared there for no reason, he informs Diana that she is on a road that is 250,000 miles long and has taken countless lifetimes to traverse. Then…ummmm <cough, cough> a television show about someone called Professor Night means something or other, as (dang…I’m dyin’ over here) a hot redhead with cleavage molecules appears at a bar at Dax’s complex, a bar that doesn’t exist (what?!). Then...crud…a blue guy talks about something and an African-American Albert Einstein in a cool spacesuit steps out of a wrecked army medical vehicle (don’t text and drive, denizens!). Ummm…yup, that sure is what happened, alrighty.

I feel dumb.

What the heck? Even after writing down only what I see — the words kinda make things more crazy-complex — I feel the need to give my poor brain a break with some Rich Mean Housewives Who Dance While There Are Stars-a-Boo-Boo, just to make myself feel semi-intelligent again. So, no idea what’s going on, but I’m looking at this as a freakin’ challenge.

When the first story arc wraps, I’m going to detox from bad foods, beer, caffeine, and television for a good week. During that time, I will engage in some long runs, yoga, and meditation, while helping woodland animals. Then, and only then, will I light 44 candles in my Fortress of Donistude and reread each issue straight through. This will be no mere reading, but an osmosis of comprehension from the Ellisplane to the new pocket universe of my own making. That should help things make sense.

All joking aside — am I joking? — I still like this comic…whatever it is. Lotay’s artwork is stunning, magical, especially when depicting the gorgeous women…doubly so for those with molecule cleavage. The coloring on every page is jaw-dropping beauty that makes me wonder how she achieved the various effects she utilizes. The rainbow of squiggles that flow through panels and gutters and out into the bleed add to the visual delight of this book as well.

I ain’t going to lie to you, denizens, this is varsity-level comic booking. There are no capes and tights or cheerful, light-hearted moments, and things might not (yet) make sense, but my love of the creators will keep me coming back to see if I can figure out what is going on. So, if you want something truly not like anything else on the stands, then do some jumping jacks, some pushups, and give Supreme Blue Rose a read. Let me know what’s going on if you figure it out. RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Crud…I Forgot Satellite Sam #10 - Darn. Add that to the list of missing Image comics, alongside God Hates Astronauts #1 and Lazarus #10. Dang.

The Private Eye Got Me Thinkin’ (Oh No) - You remember what just happened a couple weeks ago? Some…not a very nice person(s)…shattered many female actresses’ perceived privacy by releasing countless nude photos of them on a methodically scheduled basis for all the world to see. In a sense, a small-scale version of The Private Eye played out right in front of our faces. This could have happened to you, it could have happened to me. (Un)fortunately, I don’t think I’m pretty enough to get this sort of treatment, but please know, denizens, I have been working out. Sadly, this is the world we now live in, the world of cloud computing, our “private” lives stored in cyber space even when we don’t know our camera / phone is placing that info up deep into the interwebs. We are practically told to change all of our passwords on a quarterly basis as passwords and personal information are routinely pilfered from any number of websites. Not only that, we now live in the age of services versus ownership, where computer software — I am specifically calling out Adobe here — is now rented to us with the only set of keys belonging solely to the company as handed down through an internet connection (which other companies are attempting prioritize based on $$$s); if the internet goes down, so does your access to those programs. It’s a scary world where nothing is private and we own less and less and less. If the internet ever goes down hard with all of our juiciest secrets up for grabs, just remember that Vaughan and Martin’s The Private Eye told you so.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 9/12/2014

(Sung to the tune of Twisted Sister’s “I Wanna Rock”)

Need good books you say
Well, all I gotta say to you is Lazarus is way cool, Bro
Yo, yo, yo, yo, yo, bro

How ’bout more you say
Well, East of West and Annihilator will melt your brain, again Bro
Yo, yo, yo, yo, yo, bro

So, Batman, Hawkeye also hit you with the flava
There’s only one thing I can say to you

Good comics rock
Good comics rock

Huh…I met Dee Snider once a couple decades ago at some sort of music convention thing back when I worked at a music store…nice guy. Anyhow…welcome to Donist World where I am not joined as ever by CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier), but I am joined by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / not-gonna-take-it specialist Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). Tulip and I are alone at the Donist World corporate office (my mom’s basement) today, because Obie got busted by my friends, because he keeps chewing up the baby’s toys instead of his own. Now, most normal businesses can't boast having a high-level executive who at one moment punishes some P&L statements, and the next finds himself getting punished for demolishing some expensive baby toys, but here at Donist World we look to refresh what we perceive as stale business models. So, as Obie sits at home, I have to say that it is rather pleasant being able to get work done without having to worry about my CFO trying to get into the petty cash drawer so he can hit up the taco truck. Even Tulip is more productive as she works away on a new secret project. <sigh of relaxed satisfaction> While we bask in the tranquility, have a look at this week’s Friday Slice of Heaven. Come to think of it…I could go for some tacos…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Lazarus #11
Lazarus #11 - Written Greg Rucka, illustrated by Michael Lark with Tyler Boss, colored by Santi Arcas, lettered by Jodi Wynne, designed by Eric Trautmann, edited by David Brothers, published by Image Comics. Now, denizens, if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s reading things out of order. In the past, I have sat on comics for months and months waiting for that one missed issue to arrive so I can read it and move on. Last month my copy of Lazarus #10 never showed up, and I still have not seen hide nor hair of it since its release. Next thing I know, I have the latest Lazarus issue in hand and although issue ten is supposed to be a stand-alone tale, I’m sure some matters relevant to the ongoing story transpired. But here I was at home, holding it, gazing at the cover, seeing Forever staring across a field of battle at what can only be another Lazarus. I broke, denizens. I couldn’t wait for issue ten to carry me through the sacred reading order that can never — nay, must never — be broken. Was it worth it? Did some important stuff transpire in said missed issue? Do I regret reading a book out of order? Would I do such a thing again? The answers are: yes; yes; a little, but dagnabbit I could not stop myself; possibly, for a comic this good. There is one positive…maybe Lazarus cured me of my little disorder.

Jonah Carlyle has managed to get himself captured by his family’s life-long enemy, the Family Hock. The feud is so bitter and so longstanding that Hock and Carlyle cannot meet in any manner. Thus, Hock contacts their ally the Family Bittner to serve as intermediary, who in turn sends their Lazarus, Sonja Bittner, to relay Hock’s message concerning Jonah. When a Lazarus arrives on your doorstep, you best listen.

I have to start with Lark’s art. The first three pages of this issue demonstrates Lark’s mastery of storytelling and drama just as evidenced by the sheer menace contained in Sonja Bittner’s body language. Holy cow. If I saw this woman approaching — whose character design is absolutely phenomenal, btw — I would cross to the other side of the street; if I knew who it was…I would probably be so scared I’d make the pee pee waters on the spot. Even with Sonja just walking toward the Carlyle security team, you see the taut, coiled-snake-waiting-to-strike posture that sure enough lashes out to annihilate a guard for a minor, yet understandable, offense. We cut to a new scene with Forever, that is perfectly acted, before returning to Sonja and many more guards. It is now nighttime in the story, the cutdown soldier lies dead in the blood-drenched snow as Sonja stands unmoving with the other guard facing the lethal end of her sword. There are now lights, reinforcements have arrived, and Lark gives the reader the sense that Sonja and the guard have been standing here like this for hours upon hours. Then Forever arrives to receive Sonja’s message. It is one of the most tense situations I have ever read in a comic book, and — spoiling things here — a fight never even breaks out between the Lazaruses (Lazarai?), which is a great decision for a book focused on intelligent drama as opposed to senseless action. I will say that the art in this issue left me wanting to do some jumping jacks or push-ups or anything to release the tension from this issue. I guess this is all the long way of saying that Lark has outdone himself yet again.

All props to the art aside, Rucka’s story is equally as amazing as it sets up each stressful moment mentioned above, beginning with Sonja delivering her emotionless demand three times, with each instance cranking up the tension, while giving a glimpse into this new character. Elsewhere, we see Forever begin to question whether or not she was actually born into the family (from last issue), and that the ultra-cool Marisol (also last issue…I really need to see what happened with her) is still alive and a confidant for Forever. Again through Lark’s art we see in Marisol’s eyes that she knows more than she is letting on, but Rucka’s dialogue lets us know Marisol cares for Forever, despite possibly being an informant. We also have Rucka’s brand of unease: the political kind that operates in the shadows. With both visual and written stress escalating your heart rate from the beginning of the issue to the end, don’t plan on going to sleep or relaxing anytime soon.

So Lazarus…If you aren’t reading it, buy it. You can buy this issue and the first two trades and be completely caught up (eleven issues for roughly $24). Yes, this book is frightening in its look at where the world might be heading. Yes, every issue stresses me out of my gourd. Yes, you will be thinking about Lazarus for a while after putting it down. To be honest, I would not have it any other way. A fantastic comic book. VERY HGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Annihilator #1
Annihilator #1 - Written by Grant Morrison, illustrated by Frazer Irving, lettered by Jared K. Fletcher, designed by John J. Hill, edited by Greg Tumbarello (associate) and Bob Schreck, published by Legendary Comics. I like pleasant surprises. Here I walk into my LCS and the owner calls across the counter “Hey, Donist, there’s one copy left of Annihilator. You might want to check it out.” So I did. A couple things: I knew a new non-Big Two Morrison book was on the horizon; I like a lot of Morrison’s work; I am especially interested in seeing more creator-owned stuff from him (Happy is great and worth checking out); Frazer Irving is a beast of an artist whose pages bewilder me in regard to how he makes them look so dang gorgeous. Let’s face it, denizens, I’m lucky I got this issue.

Ray Spass (pronounced “space”) is a once popular Hollywood screenwriter on the verge of slipping into obscurity, and all the drugs and hookers in LA can’t help him. After Ray receives a horrifying health diagnosis, his life seems over until his own sci-fi creation, Max Nomax, pays him a visit.

Whoa, now! This issue is 32 pages of Morrison and Irving awesomeness. Morrison’s depiction of Ray Spass gives us a glimpse into this damaged man’s world as his life spirals downwards. Spass is a manic, desperate, egomaniac clutching at anything that will give him that edge, that spark, that one thing to return him to the lofty stars he lost after his first two blockbuster hits. Morrison develops the character well as Spass attempts to be crazy and weird (half-shaved head, creepy murder house, drugs, sex, emotional outbursts) to the point of making Spass almost completely unlikeable. However, as much as you dislike Spass, you can’t help but be fascinated and enveloped in the character’s situation. The fictional-fictional character of the series, Max Nomax, is intriguing, mysterious, and someone I want to know more about, whether he is in the groovy fictional-fictional world, or the plain ol’ regular fictional world. The story alone makes this book a must read.

Irving…if you’ve read my reviews of the must-own Xombi mini, or issues nine through ten of The Shade maxi, then you know what I think of this guy. His storytelling and acting are top notch, but it is the final renders and his color palette which consistently blow my mind. His command on when and where to apply complementary, analogous, monochromatic, or tertiary colors to enhance the mood of a scene is extraordinary — the pages of the party with the blue room contrasted with the lit, yellow room are awesome — and so very pretty; his pages are mesmerizing. The art alone makes this book a must read.

Yes, I really liked this first issue and I look to be here for the long haul. A fascinating story and gorgeous art give you everything you could want in a book that makes you think and will leave your mind spinning…and spinning…and spinning…until the next issue arrives. I loved this. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

East of West #15
East of West #15 - Written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Nick Dragotta, colored by Frank Martin, lettered by Rus Wooton, published by Image Comics. Speaking of stressful comics… I have commented before that East of West ain’t your freshman-level comic book. Hickman and Dragotta have a ton of characters and stories playing out at all points and time. Often, you are chucked right in the middle of a story with characters you have never met before and the creators trickle out the information deliberately through flashbacks, mannerisms, and dialogue. You might not understand what is happening on a given page at that moment, but you can rest assured that insight and understanding will come with patience and your undivided attention.

Xiaolian unleashes her “Dragons” and her “Widowmakers” upon the world as the Nation brings war to the Republic. Meanwhile, the son of Xiaolian and Death, “the Beast,” prepares to meet three-fourths of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse who mean to see him dead.

It has been a while since we have seen the Beast — who has now acquired the name of Babylon — and after reading this issue, I hope to see much more of him; with the direction of this story, I can safely expect to be equally happy with future issues. I also love his floating companion / instructor, Balloon, whose advice and counsel takes an interesting turn by the end of the issue. Babylon’s design reminds me of a bleached out version of something straight out of Akira, and I mean that as the highest complement. The character stands in sharp contrast to the rest of the cast of the series while at the same time fitting perfectly into the sci-fi portion os this sci-fi / horror / political /fantasy / Western / post-apocalyptic epic. It was also kind of cool to see the usually snotty Horsemen get their behinds handed to them.

In less capable hands, a genre mashup like East of West would never work. It actually shouldn’t work. But between Hickman’s meticulous plotting and dialogue and Dragotta’s stunning storytelling and character designs the creators not only make the impossible possible, they make the book a heck of a compelling read. You can readily pick up the first two trades, with the third arriving in October that should contain this issue. East of West is a complicated, yet vastly rewarding title you do not want to miss. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Hawkeye #20
Hawkeye #20 - Written by Matt Fraction, illustrated by Annie Wu, colored by Matt Hollingsworth, lettered by Chris Eliopoulous, published by Marvel Comics. So this is it, denizens. The end of Hawkeye is nigh as we head into the final three issues of Fraction, Aja, and Wu’s vision of this fantastic series.

Kate Bishop and Pizza Dog’s time in Los Angeles comes to an end, as Madame Masque ups the malevolent pressure, and Kate learns a few shocking truths.

I’m not completely sure what all of the delays on this title have been about, but I will say that the LA storyline has been going on for a very long time compared to the number of issues we have seen. That said, although I prefer the Clint portions of this series, the Kate-centric issues have been highly enjoyable, especially with Wu’s beautiful art. I especially like the first page mugshots of a beat-all-to-heck Kate that consists of only two panels, two captions, and the use of extensive white space to pull you into the story. The non-chronological progression threw on occasion, but once I worked out each scenes timeline, I was good to go. I love how the story ends not in the best of places for Kate, but her loss in this issue provides some timely righteous anger that gives her the motivation to look into certain personal matters (nope, I ain’t spoilin’ here) going forward.

Hawkeye has been my favorite Marvel title for a while now, and this is in spite of the numerous delays between issues, and the jumping about between characters and locations. I will be sad to see this book go — its current incarnation at any rate — but more than that, I’m anxious to see how things end up with Clint, Buddy, and the Clown and what roles Kate and Pizza Dog play in this two-issue finale that will hopefully not take a year to complete. If you wish to catch up on this mold-breaking-but-fun series, you can pick up the first two trades now, and a third trade collecting the Kate Bishop stories will be along in short order. RECOMMENDED!

Futures End #1
Batman: Futures End #1 - Written by Ray Fawkes, story by Ray Fawkes and Scott Snyder, art by ACO, colored by FCO Plascencia, lettered by Dezi Sienty and Carlos M. Mangual, published by DC Comics. Here we go again. As I touched upon last week with the really cool Swamp Thing: Futures End #1, We get another gimmicky 3D cover, but for some reason us lucky consumers are spared the $1.00 price increase, as the cover price remains the same as the regularly scheduled Batman programming. We are not, however, spared the five-year look ahead as to what is in store for ol’ Bats for this “event,” but that is okay, as the story is pretty entertaining.

For only a five year jump, Batman is looking and feeling rundown. Not only does he look like a sixty-year-old man, his heart is not doing well, his reflexes are down, and the exoskeleton supporting his shattered spine only has a limited charge. But crime does not rest, nor does it age, wither, or die. Knowing this, Batman heads out to confront an exceedingly high-profile villain.

Yeah, I have no idea what happened to our hero, but I was able to pick up on where the characters were at emotionally, and that they needed something exceptionally rare to fix Batman back to his normal self. The story is entertaining, exciting even, and stand in artist ACO does a commendable job taking us through the action. There were a couple panels I found a tad confusing, but they weren’t enough to remove me from the story. This is a fun issue, and the implications of the final page are interesting in that they show Batman venturing into realms of thinking I never thought he would consider. That said, my complaint with the Swamp Thing: Futures End story carries over to this title as well: I would rather see the events play out chronologically and then actually be surprised as the surprises happen. Still, this is a solid issue of Batman, and I am excited to see what happens next…five years from now. RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

I Really Wish I Had My Copies of Lazarus #10 and God Hates Astronauts #1 - Bummed. Just bummed. Oh well, I’ll find them soon enough.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 9/5/2014

(Sung to the tune of Sisquo’s “Thong Song”)

skipping ahead a bit in the song…

You want to know all the hip new books?
And choose to peruse ones worth your looks
Somethin’ that will deep set in its hooks
’Cause Southern Bastards is kinda loca

There’s a man with a stick, whump, whump
Corrupt chumps, chump, chump
Plant a headbutt, butt, butt
I think I’ll read it again

Next was born in a swamp, swamp, swamp
Fightin’ the Rot, Rot, Rot
All night long
Let us read Swamp Thing

Baby…Swamp ThingThingThingThingThing
I like where this story goes
Baby make your booty go
Down to your LCS to show
Swamp ThingThingThingThing, Thing

Ooooookay…wow. That song is pretty dang offensive, so let’s not over-think it. All I know is that I decided to set the iTunes on random and of the 18,000+ songs in my collection — I worked at a music store for six years many moons ago — that is what popped up. Hey, it could have been the David Hasselhoff album, Milli Vanilli (don’t ask), or who knows what else. Annnnnddddd…Hello! 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 / pumpkin-flavored-food specialist Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). Dang, it looks like we only had two comics in our pull this week on account of still missing the latest Lazarus and somehow missing out on the new God Hates Astronauts, which really bums all of us out here in the corporate office (my mom’s basement). Obie is still on his MBDM kick (management by dungeon mastering) and is claiming that we essentially rolled a one for our savings throw, and are to remain at the office (basement) all weekend as if we had been hit with the paralysis of a ghast. It’s a bummer. What we should do is drive down to Ventura to the awesome Hypno Comics to correct the situation, but I don’t think we have time to do that. Oh well, I should have some credit from showing up any day now, so I will order them then. The good news is that the two book we did pick up were incredible.

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Southern Bastards #1
Southern Bastards #4 - Written by Jason Aaron, art and color by Jason Latour, lettered by Jared K. Fletcher, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. I’m not going to spoil this issue, denizens. Nope. Not gonna do it. You’re just going to need to read this issue to see what happens. I will say that I was not at all expecting what went down, or how it went down, or how this issue ends; as a reader this is great. If you are not picking up this fantastic series — and seeing as how there are three printings of issue one, and two printings of issues two and three, you should have little problem finding them — just know that you cannot just pick up this month’s installment and start reading. You MUST start at the beginning and get to know Earl as you peer into the darkness of Craw County, Alabama, and see the wicked grip Coach Boss has upon its citizenry. Only then will this issue provide the brutal gut punch of an ending, followed by the eye-opening epilogue that made me mutter “”

Esaw and his boys sure took care of the Ledbetter kid. In fact, the boy now lies barely breathing in a hospital with multiple broken bones. Truth be told, he’ll never be the same again, and Earl Tubb is partially to blame. With great anger in his heart, and a need to set things right, Earl heads into town itching for a fight and to end the rampant corruption plaguing Craw County. He never counted on what awaits him…

I’m kind of at a loss for feelings on this one, denizens. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I know I desperately need to have the next issue. I know the main story left me feeling all sorts of beat up. I also know the epilogue I keep mentioning took me completely by surprise and got my heart racing for what the revelation means for the remainder of the series. *Excuse me a moment...ARRRRGHH. Okay. I feel better.* Anyhow, I had certain assumptions about Southern Bastards, many in fact, and it looks like nearly all of them are out the window. Is this first arc a prequel? Is the next arc, which Aaron states centers on Coach Boss, a glimpse into the corrupt man’s past, or is it a glimpse of this coldblooded-bastard’s present? I have no idea, but I’m sooooo ready to see how it all goes down.

Latour’s art on the previous three issues was already stellar, but something clicked in him with this issue. The stark drama of every scene leaves the reader reeling as they feel the emotionally-wrecked Earl’s pain after seeing the destruction his involvement in Craw County matters has wrought. Yet, you can’t help but stand by this character as he strives to set things right, even though he his faith in justice is overshadowed by the reality of the situation. Latour captures it all: the pain, the sadness, the horror, the anger, the resolution, the pleading for everyone to do what’s right. He couples the drama with an intense adherence to the smooth flow of storytelling, as can be seen in the brutal fight scenes, which are beautiful in spite of the violence being depicted We also see this on the intense 24-panel, double-page layout — which contains a single panel hinting at the epilogue, btw. Furthering his tremendous line work is Latour’s colors, which cool the sad scenes and steadily warm to an inferno of oranges and reds during the violence. So, yeah, I liked the art quite a bit.

I know I’m giving little away, and if you aren’t convinced to run out and scrounge up these four issues, it looks like a $9.99 trade will be released in October, which will make things easier on you, but that means you have a bit of a wait on your hands…if you’re like me, waiting ain’t your strong suit, so grab the issues. With Southern Bastards, you aren’t going to find capes and tights, werewolves or zombies, magic or super-science, but you are going to find a dang compelling, beautifully-illustrated story that will leave you scrambling for more more more. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Swamp Thing:
Futures End #1
Swamp Thing: Futures End #1 - Written by Charles Soule, illustrated by Jesus Saiz, lettered by Dezi Sienty and Taylor Esposito, colored by Matthew Wilson, published by DC Comics. Okay, here we go again with the “crossover” / “event” madness creeping into a book I have been enjoying greatly since the launch of the New 52. Now, I have ZERO idea what the whole “Futures End” storyline-event-thingamajiggy thing is about, I just know that I like Swamp Thing and that is what I want to read. Upon picking up the comic, I immediately balked at the gimmick cover, but after staring at it a moment, tilting it this way and that to see Swamp Thing morph into the avatar of metal, I have to admit I was kind of impressed. I was much less impressed with the $3.99 price tag, though, but the cost of a gimmick cover has to be passed on to someone, so why not the loyal reader, y'know? I also have to say that every time something rubs against this 3D cover it sets my teeth to rattling, but maybe that is just me. But, even with the gimmick cover, the increased price tag, and the storyline interruption of the “event,” I really dug this issue.

Because of the “Futures End” storyline, every single New 52 DC comic jumps ahead five years from where we last left off. Told in the manner of a fairytale we join the Swamp Thing as he embarks on a quest to rally the support of the avatars of the Grey, the Red, the Machine, and the Divided (bacteria) in Alec’s bid to put an end to the evil of Anton Arcane, restored as the avatar of the Rot. Unfortunately, Arcane has a trump card.

In spite of this issue being a complete break from the regularly scheduled programing, I enjoyed this “Futures End” story immensely. I loved seeing the Grey return and the story Soule has hinted at concerning its avatar is pretty cool. The addition of the new dominions of the Machine and the Divided are exceptionally clever, with each having its odd, yet fascinating, characters and worlds. I was also surprised and happy to see the return of Arcane and Abigail, as well as a return to the horror elements I loved so much in Swamp Thing #23.1 (on sale for $.99 at Comixology until 9/9/2014), which was a tremendous issue even though it was part of the “Forever Evil” money grab. For this “Futures End” book, though, I mostly LOVED everything about this jump forward in time book. Emphasis on the mostly.

What I did not like is the fact that we catch the tail end of a storyline I would have rather seen play out over the course of a year. We have already been introduced to the Grey, but the Divided and the Machine are completely new. We even get a hint that the Machine “…almost took it all,” but instead of blatantly being told that, I would have rather seen it occur. The introduction of these new kingdoms could have made for some great comics, but now we already know the end. I also gave a sigh of disappointment that one of the things that saves the day involves a certain artifact from a popular superhero title; I assume this ties the book into the main event, which is somewhat of a bummer — I still wish Swamp Thing was kept mostly apart from the superhero books, but whatchagonnado.

Even though I have some pretty big complaints about this issue, I still really enjoyed reading it. The strong story pulled me in immediately, but it was made even more impressive with Saiz’s absolutely incredible art. Saiz presents some highly inventive character designs on avatars both new and old, making the design of the Machine’s avatar, the Processor — a featureless robot until it suits up into its more intimidating form — so very groovy. The different worlds are equally impressive, especially when Wilson’s colors provide a relevant haunting, or sterile, or chaotic mood to the appropriate Kingdom.

Long story short, I loved this issue, and if you are a fan of this incarnation of the Swamp Thing, then you should definitely seek this issue out. My biggest gripe with this book comes from the requisite last-second superhero interference that unfortunately tends to accompany these “event” books, and forces me to drop the “VERY” portion of my rating. Still, this comic comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

What I Have Been Up To - I'm close to being done with my kids / all-ages novel. The first draft was completed over a year ago, and has since gone through MANY drafts. I also hired a content editor — one of the best decisions I have ever made — and implemented those story changes into a big rewrite earlier this year. Then I did yet another draft / polish. Needless to say, I am getting tired of looking at this book…I’m ready to start the followup.

With the story finally “done” — at least until my English teacher wife goes through it once again (“Honey, I promise it is waaaaaaayyyy better than that complete mess you read last year”) — I spent the past couple weeks working on turning a Word DOCX file into the Kindle-ready format known as MOBI. This has not been easy and learning how to do all of this had a fairly steep learning curve with much failure, but I’m mostly certain I finally have it all down. Yes there are services that handle file conversions, but I do not want to give away any additional royalty percentages, or list anyone else under the copyright but me, and more than anything I really wanted to do it all myself.

*Warning: Techie Stuff* For the more techie individuals, here is what worked, but ultimately created a much too large a file and a Table of Contents (ToC) I did not like. I used Amazon’s Kindle plug-in for InDesign and placed my DOC file (converted from DOCX) into a page, where I then began setting up styles that could build a ToC). This took a while, but for some reason the exported MOBI file was 4MB+, which is ridiculous as there is only one low-res image (temp cover) and the book would be just over 200 pages if I printed the files out. Unacceptable. I then made some changes and something happened that popped out a 850KB file, which was better, but still too large and the ToC only had chapter headings and not the chapter titles. I couldn’t fix this, so I started over on a new technique.

*Warning: More Techie Stuff* What did work was I found help through a blogger’s immensely informative tutorial (I will point to this person’s blog once everything is done). I ended up adding HTML tags to my DOC file for paragraphs, for indents, smart quotes, accents, copyright symbols, ellipses, em dashes, etc, and then removed ALL page breaks. I saved this as a TXT file to strip out even more formatting, and then made a copy, which I then manually changed the file type to HTML. From there I downloaded the free Sigil (an EPUB editor) and began creating styles, applying headers, formatting, splitting chapters, creating both ToCs, and changing each ToC to what I wanted to see. It was pretty brutal, but once I got into the swing of things, it all went smoothly. A save to EPUB gave me a 300KB file...hooray. Unfortunately, when I loaded the EPUB into Amazon’s free Kindle Previewer (awesome app, btw), it created a MOBI file for me. When I reloaded this into Previewer, I saw that everything was looking very professional and each TOC worked flawlessly. Unfortunately, the MOBI file bloated up to 800KB for some reason. I then made a copy of the EPUB, and downloaded the free Calibre application and ran the EPUB through, which generated a 300KB MOBI file that worked like a dream on the Kindle Previewer. Next I will email it to my wife’s Kindle so she can take it for a test spin.

Aside from last minute changes resulting from Amy’s feedback, I will next design and create the actual cover (I know, I know, but there’s a reason I’ve gone through seven graphic design courses this year), buy a block of ISBNs, setup my KDP account with Amazon, and it’s ready to cut loose.

For this book, I have not attempted to go the agent and publisher route. My goal was to write a novel (my second) and take it from start to finish with only an incredibly valuable content editor and some test readers to help me along. I did this because: 1) I wanted to; 2) I love learning new things; 3) I did not want this book to bounce around ignored in a vast limbo for years on end; 4) I wanted to retain ALL rights to my property; 5) I intend to create comic book mini-series from the property in between novel releases, and I do not want anyone telling me who can or can’t help me with this (artists, guest writers, etc.).

For now, all I will say is that the book is about…you guessed it, Tulip and Obie, but in very different rolls than can be found in each weekly Donist World post. Like I said, this is a kids / all-ages book, and is upbeat, lighthearted, and hopefully tons of fun. More to come as things near completion.

Slice Into the Woods

Dang, I missed God Hates Astronauts #1 from Image Comics! - Crud…Oh well, looks like I have to order it or take a special trip down to Ventura to see if I can score a copy. I worship the Kickstarter hardcover version (I gush about it here), and you can check it out yourself — and you should — by picking up the trade. I definitely want to get my weird on with this crazy, wacky, fun series.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 8/29/2014

(Sung to the tune of Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love”) also from The Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mixtape

Read (read)
Hey, girl, Saga melts your head, yeah
Read (read)
Then The Sixth Gun trips your mind
So sublime an-a, oh-oh-oh
Read (read)
How ’bout Black Science? Right! Said, Fred
Baby find it, come on and find it
Read with me, baby
These books are fine
You got time, they’re simply divine

Come and get some Low
Come and find your love
Come and get some Low
Come and find your love

Hey there, denizens, welcome back. I’m Donist and I'm joined as ever by CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / lead chillaxologist Tulip (my dog, Obie’s brother). This week we decided to clean up our act — literally — and the Donist World executive team is hitting the showers, so to speak. You see, my staff is kind of dirty today. Although Obie sprawled out in a patch of dirt a few moments ago, his filth rests more along the lines of the metaphorical, as he is filthy with corporate greed, and acquiring of unnecessary things like caviar, Rolex watches, and rare hummel figurines, which by golly, is the absolute last straw; thus he be cleaned. As for Tulip…well, she rolled in the carcass of some unidentifiable creature and she smells like the physical embodiment of Death itself. The sad yet — let’s be honest — gleefully satisfying part of the Donist World mandated “bath time” is to see the stalwart champions of the Donist World corporate empire pretending to tremble in fear and anger over receiving an oatmeal-shampoo bath. Now, while I clean the tub and prepare for my special ritual, have a look at this week’s…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Saga #22
Saga #22 - Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples, lettered and designed by Fonografiks, published by Image Comics. I think I’m going to create a new method for reading Saga, you know, something special just for me and my favorite comic book series. My old modus operandi was to pick up my new comics, sort them into the reading order, head home, pop open a craft beer, and enjoy — if there are tacos around, then that is an added bonus. The thing is, Saga deserves a little more than that, a more delicate touch. So, on weeks when my favorite space-faring love story arrives, I resolve to do the following: pick up my books, sort into reading order (Saga first, of course), rush home, draw a bath, pour a hefty glass of pinot, and settle in for a tumultuous, emotional, roller coaster ride destined to mess me up for the rest of the evening. Now, there is already a standing rule that the Donist World  intern (my wife) is not to disturb me during my comic reading time — although she does this often — but on Saga Day, all interruptions will henceforth be met with DOUBLE penalties including whining, pouting, and a hefty serving of muttered-under-the-breath grumbling. Relationships take work and time, denizens, which is why you have to take Saga Day seriously, to see just how Marko and Alana are holding up. Then, and only then, look to your own relationships and take the time to…uhhhh…the Donist World intern is giving me the evil eye, so…

Neither Marko or Alana are around the home as much these days. Alana’s drug use causes a slight mixup at work, which catches a recently-absent duo’s attention. Prince Robot IV meets with his daddy, and things fall apart even further at home and even more so at the studio. Also, Friendo!

All joking aside — I’m only half joking about the wine and bath, btw — Saga continues to astound in its depiction of the highs and lows of family life, as it provides an intensely realistic, heartfelt, heartbreaking look at a relationship unraveling under the stress of day-to-day life; all this from a sci-fi / fantasy series complete with robots, aliens, and monsters. Vaughan writes emotional and intensely personal dialogue, which leaves the reader sympathizing, at least to a minor degree, with every character in the book. Marko has cause to be upset about his wife’s drug use around their daughter, but then Alana is well aware that Marko’s romantic attention has strayed. Prince Robot IV has a whole mixed up history spurring him on to some of the horrible things he has done, and I can even sympathize with Dengo, who has justifiable reasons for being upset with the status quo, although his actions are reprehensible. There is no black and white, no hand-wringing villain out to enact wickedness for the sake of being wicked. The characters in this world are complex, oftentimes making mistakes knowing full well they shouldn’t be doing what they are doing. Saga is one of the most “real” comics I have ever read, and this is in spite of plant women, gargoyle bosses, sentient and emotional robots with televisions for heads, and the magnificence that is Friendo (Friendo!).

As for Staples, her flawless storytelling skills keep your eyes flowing through each scene, but her tremendous character designs — the double-page spread of King Robot must be seen to be believed — will give you reason to slow your reading to appreciate each character, as will the beautiful color palette that brings it all to life. But, as I have said practically each issue, it is Staples’s mastery of character acting that hammers home the gravity of each scene. This is especially true during Marko and Alana’s fight near the end of this issue. The facial expressions compound the force of Vaughan’s dialogue with the three panels following what Marko does (sorry, not gonna spoil) showing you just how bad things have become.

Ugh...see? Now I’m all upset. Sipping my wine. Lounging in the bath. Reading my Saga. Letting the tears fall into the tub. But you know what, denizens? I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you are not reading this series, then by now you know you should be. It’s sci-fi, fantasy, romance, war, and comedy (not so much in this installment, though) all rolled into one finely-tuned package. You can pick up three trades now, or splurge for the hardcover of the first 18 issues that is set to release in November. The most important thing to know about Saga is that it is definitely worthy of your time. I hope you have some bubble bath ready. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Low #2
Low #2 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Greg Tocchini, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. I love the first issue of Low — I hope you were able to find a copy, it blew out of stores quickly. That issue ended with a tremendous cliffhanger that left me desperate to see what happened next with the Caine family and their plight. I was in no way prepared for the turn the story took in the second issue. That is a great thing, indeed.

Ten years have passed since the terrible events that led to the abduction of Stel Caine’s young daughters, and the tragic fate suffered by her husband, Johl. Now, Stel is alone and her only child, Marik, now an officer of the law, will not visit her. As Marik relays a terrible truth, his life begins to fall apart, as Stel’s hopes are lifted by a timely communication.

The creators take a chance and jump ahead ten years on this second issue, which in a sense makes the first issue a prequel to the story we are now being told. Last month we were introduced to the Caine family and fell in love with them before everything went all to heck. Now, instead of picking up where we left off, we come late to the game and are down three family members, with the mother and son barely on speaking terms. No progress has happened with rescuing Stel’s daughters, as the pirate who stole them is long gone. This issue focuses on Stel’s desperate grasp to maintain hope in a situation that is utterly hopeless. Remender and Tocchini do a wonderful job filling the reader in on what transpired: Stel barely leaves her home, Marik has succumbed to corruption, the days are numbered for the city of Salus. The most difficult part of the story to read is what actually happened between Stel and Johl, and their unbelievably tough conversation near the bottom of the ocean.

Remender’s dialogue carries great emotional heft on its own, but when paired with Tocchini’s gorgeous art and his striking, warm color schemes I was drawn into the creators’ world deeper than before. I could not help but give a sigh of disappointment that the end of the issue came much too soon. Each page is beautiful — including a couple that are definitely not for kids — especially when focusing on Stel or on the wondrous technology and architecture that surrounds her. You need to be reading this adult-themed, sci-fi, underwater adventure, but I have a suspicion that finding the first issue will be a chore until the reprints arrive. Next month cannot come soon enough. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Black Science #8
Black Science #8 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Matteo Scalera, painted art by Dean White, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. Speaking of books taking an unexpected turn…I never expected what happened at the end of the first arc. No siree, Bob, not at all. That said, the action-packed thrill ride that is Black Science does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

Pia and Nate are on their own in a hostile jungle, as the surviving adult members of the group argue over how to proceed. The techno-shaman offers a look at his history and the coming of the pillar to his world. Can the adults pull their act together and find the kids before the jungle’s mysterious inhabitants do? The next jump is in three days.

Another blast of an issue, with weird creatures and phenomenal action sequences from Scalera, perfectly coupled with Remender’s look at the dysfunctional relationship of the adults in the group. The huge win of this issue, however, is White’s mesmerizing color palette, especially when he pulls in the magical purples and the crisp, cool blues like on the double-page spread title page…which I wish I had blown up and hanging on the wall above my computer. I also have to point out White’s colors on the techno-shaman’s flashback scene to which he adds some great distressed effects to further envelop the reader into the character’s memory.

Black Science does not appear to be slowing down in the slightest, even with the loss of the main character. I can’t wait to see what surprises the creators have in store for us next. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Sixth Gun #42
The Sixth Gun #42 - 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. The end is nigh, as the Grey Witch’s agent, Jesup Sutter, has gained control of the six cursed guns, and they are poised to open the seal to a new world of their making. Meanwhile, the Knights of Solomon gain information from a horrifying source. Becky, Drake, and Screaming Crow determine their next move, but their chances of success are slim.

Not a whole lot happens in this issue, which is not to say it is anything less than superb. The creators give us a glimpse of the nightmare-inducing King of Secrets as beautifully designed by Hurtt who inserts intricate keys and locks into the creature’s clothes and helm; the King’s priests are equally disturbing. Hurtt also shows us a Mayan-influenced temple devoted to the Grey Witch, complete with a stron serpent and skull motif. Each setting comes to life via Crabtree’s signature coloring style, providing cool blues to the king and an impressive array of warm colors for both the temple and what remains of our heroes.

The Sixth Gun is poised to begin its final steady march to the series finale. I can’t wait to see how this Donist World darling wraps up, but at the same time I am filled with a sense of dread that one of the best indie comics on the stand is rapidly approaching its end. With any luck, the long-teased The Sixth Gun television show will arrive to fill the void left by this fantastic comic. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

The Knee Defender Debacle - I am a 6' 2" tall man, and I have been the victim of the dreaded “entitled recliner” on many flights. Oftentimes, said recliner has been a 3' toddler who could more comfortably lie across their seat with their head on the parent’s lap. Other times, it has just been me divining the future of my irritation in the shiny bald head of the short guy in front of me with his seat fully reclined. Then the Donist World intern (my wife) told me about the Knee Defender devices and the United Airline battle that grounded a plane recently. My first thought was that I needed to order a pair of the devices, and I assumed the intern would take my side, but she didn’t, saying that reclining helped her feel less ill on a plane. We went back and forth over who was right and realized that neither would ever see the other’s point of view. It then occurred to me that the Knee Defender is actually a foreign object brought onto a plane, that alters the design and functionality of the airline’s property, which leads me to believe the devices should be banned.

Now, this does not mean that I believe everyone should recline as far back as they wish without being a gosh-darn human being about it and checking the situation behind them. If you look back and see a 3' tall toddler sitting behind you, then go for it. If you look back and see a 6' 7" high school basketball player* behind you, maybe have the grace to realize that you can somehow manage to live through THREE WHOLE HOURS of sitting upright. I mean, c’mon, I assume you work somewhere for extended periods of time that has zero qualms about making you and your life as uncomfortable as possible. It’s most likely only about three hours. If it’s a five hour flight, then get up and stretch a few times; you’re supposed to do that anyways.

Just to be fair, I also don’t have sympathy for the corporate warrior pounding away on their laptop and shaking the seat of the person in front of them for hours on end. Unplug for a while. Read something fun instead.

The thing is, no one is right in this situation, but there is someone you can blame: the dang airlines. Flying was definitely a MUCH better experience a couple of decades ago. I have a personal list of reasons why this was so, but this problem falls upon the airline’s bottom-line decision to lessen space between seats, so they could add even more passengers. Cha-Ching! Yes, seats can recline, but nowhere in the airline terms and conditions does it guarantee someone in economy class ANY degree of comfort. If you’re upset about the airplane experience, it’s usually the airline’s fault. Just remember to be kind and courteous to your fellow passengers and to the poor vastly-underpaid attendants.

Here are two articles from The New York Times: one for, and one against.

*This actually happened on a flight I was on. I saw the monstrous kid sitting across from me, and the woman in front of him tried to recline and couldn’t because of his knees. She whipped around angrily and said, “Would you mind letting me recline my seat?” The kid was incredibly polite and replied in his Southern accent, “I’m sorry, ma'am, I’m six-seven. I already can’t even move as it is.” The woman huffed and puffed, but when she turned back around it was clear to see she felt like a total a_hole...good.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 8/22/2014

(Sung to the tune of David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” also on The Guardian’s of the Galaxy soundtrack!)

I’m a motivator, I’m a groovy-comic shoutout to you
Rockin’ elevator, sayin’ Trees will freak ya, baby, it’s true
So keep your eyes shut, keep on squawking like a pink monkey bird
Now open them and grock the cosmic written word

Keep your confused eye on it babe
Supreme: Blue Rose daze your head
Press your nose to a chillin’ book, bro
Freak out to The Fade Out daydream oh yeah!

I had to keep the “squawking like a pink monkey bird” line of “Moonage Daydream” intact, since outside of this David Bowie song, I will probably never write those six words in that order ever again; it’s a onetime deal. Anywho…welcome to Donist World. I’m joined as ever by CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / lead groovologist Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). This week at the corporate office (my mom’s basement) I have required all of us to wear our matching red polo shirts with the yellow writing embroidered on the left side. I have also required that the puppies wear their red collars, drink from red water bowls, I’m only to eat red M&Ms, and we are typing on red keyboards (they were on sale in bulk last year). Why are we doing this? Well, because this week it is all about one thing and only one thing: Image Comics. The red theme just happened to fit because our matching red Donist World corporate polo shirts were the only color we were able to afford at this time, and we wanted to maintain a sense of unity in our manner of dress and in the comic books we read this week. <pssst> <pssst> Come closer for a moment. I actually wanted to have a required uniform, because Obie has been breaking the dress code lately. He has worn sleeveless shirts with things like “Who’s the Big Dog Now, Punk?” and “Take This Job and Shovel It!” and “I Ain’t Your B_____!” to work lately, so I had to come up with something to get him back on track. Now, while I crunch the numbers to see if we have enough coin to order some blue corporate polo shirts, have a look at this week’s Image exclusive…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

The Fade Out #1
The Fade Out #1 - Written by Ed Brubaker, illustrated by Sean Phillips, colored by Elizabeth Breitweiser, edited by David Brothers, published by Image Comics. I would be lying if I was to proclaim that “Image needs to knock it off, already!” Or maybe partially lying, because the ol’ pocket book is getting tired of the big lunch-time shakedown it gets every Wednesday at the LCS. But maybe a bully analogy is the wrong way to think about the Image Comics parade of domination that only gets bigger and bigger with each passing week. Yeah…the situation is more comparable to an increasing number of lovely temptresses each kissing me on the cheek and whispering amazing things into my ear as I gleefully hand each of them $2.99 or $3.50 (minus a 10% purchase volume discount, plus sales tax, of course). I then leave: lipstick on my collar, hair completely tousled, glasses askew, and an ever-growing number of Image comic books in my hands. I wouldn't be shocked to see little cartoon hearts floating around my head either as I stumble merrily from the store. So, yeah…the first issue of The Fade Out…

It’s 1948. Charlie Parish is a Hollywood screenwriter who really tied one on last night. I mean REALLY tied one on. Not only does Charlie not know how he ended up sleeping in a bathtub, he has no idea where the bathtub is, or who owns it. As he tries to piece together the fragmented chain of events of last night’s party, he finds that the tiny apartment he woke up in happens to belong to a friend of his: the dead starlet in the living room.

One mistake I need to remedy in the very near future is missing most of the Fatale comic book series, as I am a huge fan of the creators’ work on the superhero-turned-double-agent series Sleeper and the phenomenal Criminal series — ESPECIALLY the darn-near perfection that is the Criminal: The Last of the Innocent storyline found in the second hardcover. Burbaker and Philips have proven with their exceptional past work that they have crime / noir / spy storytelling down and the same holds true for The Fade Out. Two panels — and to be fair a “Cast of Characters” page helped as well — is all it took to grab my attention, and the funny thing is that panel one contains only white text on a black background that says “The Wild Party.” That’s it, that’s all it took for me to know I was going to greatly enjoy this new series: basically an image of a passed-out, still-drunk screenwriter coming to in a bathtub.

On the simplistic “Cast of Characters” page, with Brubaker’s succinct character descriptions coupled with Phillips’s mastery of depicting drama, it takes only six individual images to gain tremendous insight into each of the key players before the story even starts. Phillips’s subtle changes in a character’s eyes and mouth tell you what you need to know about each person as you read left to right, top to bottom: ready to snap, confident, sad, barely treading water, kind / helpful, not to be messed with. There is no need to for up-front, lengthy exposition surrounding each character’s background as a small headshot speaks 1000 words. After panel two, it’s a steady 30-page ride through this crime comic that takes a rather unexpected turn involving the dead starlet, which opens up the story to many intriguing possibilities.

I also need to compliment Breitweiser’s beautifully-moody colors that set the tone for each scene and add so much to Phillips’s already substantial storytelling skills. I especially liked the green-tinged murder scene where Valeria’s red-purple dress draws the eye.

We’re only one issue in, and I’m completely hooked. If you are a fan of the other books I mentioned above, or if you loved the tone of Brubaker’s awesome Captain America run, then you can’t go wrong picking up The Fade Out. If you have not yet read those older works, then change that immediately when you go to pick up this fantastic entry to the crime-comic genre. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Trees #4
Trees #4 - Written by Warren Ellis, illustrated by Jason Howard, lettered by Fonografiks, published by Image Comics. I’m going to spoil this issue right off the bat by saying that all we see of the alien “trees” is a single spire in one panel, and a brief look at the top of a smaller tripod unit. They still don’t do anything, and you know what, denizens? That’s okay.

Chenglei and Zhen take a walk through the Chinese city of Shu on the way to where Chenglei will create art; it is an eye-opening experience. Meanwhile, near the North Pole, Marsh determines that the strange black flowers are more than what they seem, and in Somalia the military makes a move against what is believed to be the smallest “tree.”

 What should now be clear with Ellis and Howard’s Trees, is that it is more a look at humanity and its reaction to the possible threat of an alien invasion that is decades in the making…if it is a threat at all. This story is about people and how they cope with the aliens’ arrival. The creators show us how some study, some attack, and others are inspired to create. What is also refreshing is the glimpse of the city of Shu and how it thrives off of art and creativity and innovation, while fostering an environment of equality and acceptance as seen with Zhen, a transgender woman, and her friends. Unfortunately, Shu appears to be poised for a downfall as the perceived threat of the “trees” looks to have been forgotten by the supposed “peacekeepers,” who seem very much on edge. Tension is building in this series, not just in free and idealistic Shu, but throughout every region of the world, both from the “trees” and predominantly from mankind itself. The beautiful thing about Trees is that I have ZERO idea of what’s going to happen next.

Howard’s art has been amazing on this series thus far, but I have to say that this issue is the strongest. The opening splash page is worthy of blowing up and hanging on your wall, and it is merely an image of a bustling city street with the focus on two characters walking; it’s lovely. The rest of the book is just as striking, with a wondrous look at the art tower, and some great moments of the snow base, but it is Howard’s colors that push the beauty and the mood to even greater heights.

If you like smartly written, and strikingly illustrated sci-fi that is more about story than spaceships, explosions, and laser beams, then this is the book for you. Trees is a calm ride, at least it has been for four issues thus far, but the escalating tension and unease in the series is something I cannot wait to see play out. Things are about to get very interesting. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Supreme: Blue Rose #2
Supreme: Blue Rose #2 - Written by Warren Ellis, illustrated by Tula Lotay, lettered by Richard Starking, designed by John Roshell, published by Image Comics. I may not know Supreme: Blue Rose, but I know what I like. Yeah, denizens, I ain’t gonna fool ya…I don’t know what the blue blazes is going on, but maybe if I jot down what happens in this issue, something will dawn on me.

At an undesignated time, a gorgeous redhead with a extreme case of glowing face, meets a writer and then decades later draws him up into the heavens upon a blue spiral staircase (Wait...what?!). Meanwhile, Diana Dane, the reporter hired by Darius Dax to find ”blue roses” (okay, got it!) is picked up by Dax’s limo driver who goes by the name of Twilight Girl Marvel (Hey, it’s a free country, choose whatever crazy names you want). As the limo drives by a diner, two scientists talk about (errr...ummm) quantum mechanicky stuff, and a Supreme symbol opens up another dimension with math (fragonometry?) giving some other lady “Supreme-like” eyes (or something), which causes disco lights (and possibly jazz hands). We learn that Diana likes the show Professor Night (okay, this I know for a fact…mostly because she flat out tells us this). Finally, Diana’s limo ride travels on the Bifrost Bridge (maybe? I don’t know), and a sexy man with bedroom eyes appears in the limo for some reason; Diana is dreaming (?). What the what?!

Okay, writing down what happened in this issue only made my understanding worse, but that said, I still really like this issue. The dialogue and captions are well-written, at times poetic, but what makes this issue — and the first for that matter — so wonderful, is Lotay’s shockingly beautiful art and colors. Both character design and storytelling are impressive to begin with, but when she lays in the ethereal color palette and the glows and the panel bursting squiggles, the book takes on a dreamlike quality I have not seen in other comics. The main things I DO know about Supreme: Blue Rose is that Lotay’s work is simply mesmerizing and I can’t wait to see more of her art in the next issue as I try to figure out what exactly is going on. Seek out these issues if you want to please your eyeballs and stretch your mind. RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Heaviness, Denizens, Heaviness - This week I exclusively read heavy subject matter, and I’m about due for some lighter fare. You see, in addition to the books above, I’ve been trudging through the third bulky volume of Hellblazer, and it’s a good book — although nowhere near as much as the first volume, just sayin’ — but I think I need something a little more light-hearted or something more upbeat and brightly colored. Maybe something older is the way to go. I'm thinking some older superhero books can raise my spirits, maybe this Avengers vs. Thanos is the ticket to get me going again. Fun, action, thrills, and chills, and it has a few stories I missed back in the day. Plus, we all know how much I love the cosmic Marvel stuff. Boom! It is decided.

Thank you for reading and have a great weekend.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 8/15/2014

(Sung to the tune of Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”)

Listen, baby, there are comics high
They won’t make you low, these ol’ comics got the stuff, baby
Have a looksee, wooeee, no matter where you are
So many comics, don’t worry, baby
You know the name, don’t get all in a flurry
No need to worry

’Cause baby, these ol’ comics got the stuff
They won't leave you low or rough, books so good can’t get enough
They’re sure to be thrillin’ you, baby

Hello there, and welcome back to Donist World. Things are almost back to normal after our two-week vacation, and I am joined as ever by CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / health insurance grievance counselor Tulip (my Boston terrier, Obie’s sister). Gonna keep this brief, but you might have noticed a bit of a facelift on the ol’ Donist World site; let me know what you think. For a bonus, here is a design I was thinking of using, but I decided to go for a more ’70s vibe instead...maybe I will use this as a link to my store (which if you use it to make a purchase I will get a portion of the sale at no cost to you = more weird stuff to review, so you should buy this here television). Or I might use it as a banner to, where I also get a percentage of each linked sale as credit so I can buy and review even weirder stuff. Anyhow, I will post some of my non-comics projects here to share with y’all on occasion, so let me know what you think about those as well. Now, it’s…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Sex Criminals #7
Sex Criminals #7 - Written by Matt Fraction, art by Chip Zdarsky, color flats by Becka Kinzie, edited by Thomas K, production by Drew Gill, published by Image Comics. This issue arrived a couple weeks later than planned, but that’s okay. I’m cool waiting a tad longer than usual for one of the best and most original comics on the stand. With many late comics, I find I have to go back a couple issues for a refresher on what has happened previously, but for Sex Criminals that is not the case. I fell in love with this series by page three of issue one, so how could I ever forget what has been happening with these characters who have become such dear close friends?

Suzie’s day might have started off bad, but when she crosses paths with her recently ignored best friend, Rachel, things begin to look up. As close friends reconnect, Jon crosses a MAJOR line with the Sex Police from which there is no going back.

As with every issue of this phenomenal series (hey, TIME magazine says so, too), you will laugh — oh how you’ll laugh — but at the same time you will sympathize with Suze or Jon, or both. You might even relate to their plight(s) a bit more than you bargained for. Heck, their situation might even make you a bit sad, and therein lies the beauty of Sex Criminals. Fraction and Zdarsky made me love their characters and each issue has succeeded in strengthening that bond. As humorous as this book can be, it is also brutally honest and sincere. Fraction somehow perfectly captures both traits of people I know, as well as (more likely…oh boy) aspects of myself, and conveys each character’s thoughts through his wonderful dialogue and captions; the words alone are enough to hook me with this series. Add in Zdarsky’s gorgeous illustrations (the colors are absolutely stunning…such vibrant glows in The Quiet) with all the drama and character acting and there is plenty to love about this comic. With but a shift of the eyes or a shrug of the shoulders, the art tells you everything about a scene you need to know, and you can rejoice in the characters’ happiness, or commiserate in their lows.

It should be pretty clear what I think of both this issue and the series as a whole: it’s a Donist World darling, through and through. Sex Criminals even passed the wife test when I gave her the stoooopidly inexpensive trade of the first five issues and she plowed through it in one sitting. The title alone should tell you that this book is strictly for mature readers, and if you fall into that category and dig things like fun and joy, then Sex Criminals is not a book to be missed. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Rachel Rising #27
Rachel Rising # 27 - Everythinged by Terry Moore, published by Abstract Studio. Need another fantastic comic book? If you’re a horror fan — not torture pr0n crap, real horror — and like television shows like Twin Peaks, and comics like Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing or the Hellblazer books, then you need to be reading Rachel Rising. If you are a fan of Terry Moore — and you should be after reading Strangers in Paradise and Echo — then you are probably already buying this great series.

Aunt Johnny and Earl have a heart to heart, before making a distressing discovery at the morgue. Zoe and Rachel (along with her new hairdo) order take out and find a friend. Zoe takes care of old business.

I ain’t going to lie to you, denizens, but little happens in this issue. Usually, I would be pretty annoyed by the lack of progression in the plot of a comic, but not on Rachel Rising. What Moore does instead is pull us in and ground us with these characters, who I hold near and dear to my heart. The scene with Aunt Johnny and Earl is immensely touching, almost shed-a-tear touching, but just when the scene is at its heaviest, we do get some movement in the story with their realization surrounding the deceased Carol’s supposed suicide note. Moore also delivers the humor during the Rachel and Zoe scene and the introduction of a character who I hope reappears later in the story. We also get a moment with Jet realizing one of her faults, before ending with Moore’s contest promise, which plays out well while giving a rather spooky revelation about a certain character. So, yeah, little movement with the story, but what we see with the characters, the life of this series, MORE than makes up for the slower story progression. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with the story…no siree, Bob. Resurrections, killers, witches, devils, mysteries, serial killers, century-long tales, Rachel Rising has plenty of happenings going on to keep your interest, but when you throw in Rachel, Jet, Zoe, Johnny, Earl, and the rest of the cast, you can’t help but be drawn into Moore’s beautifully creepy world. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Where Is Jake Ellis?
Where Is Jake Ellis? #4 - Written by Nathan Edmondson, lettering and art by Tonci Zonjic and Jordan Gibson, published by Image Comics. Okay, here is where the jokes can start: Where WAS Where Is Jake Ellis?; Who is Jake Ellis, Again? I Totally Forgot; etc. Apologies to the creators for the jabs — we all need to remember that crazy / tragic things can cause the delays — but it has been roughly a year and half since I read (and loved! btw) issue three. Thankfully, there is a brief summary on the first page to catch us all up on what came before.

Jon and Jake have both been captured by a mysterious organization interested in their unique “relationship.” The innocent bystander Mollie continues to be in the worst place at the worst time, and Jon and Jake plan an escape that will involve extreme measures.

I will admit that it took me a couple pages to remember what the heck was going on in this book, but once it all came back, I was pulled back to the action-packed roller coaster ride that made the first volume as well as this rapidly ending chapter so very exciting. In fact, it was easy to be swept up in the nerve-wracking intensity of Where Is Jake Ellis?. Although Zonjic might not have been responsible for some of the art in this book — it looks like Gibson will be providing all of the art on the final issue — the sharing of art duties is not intrusive or all that noticeable; you stay in the story from beginning to end. What I notice as being different from previous issues is the coloring, which is fine, but I remember the coloring as being a more vibrant and apt to fit the mood of a scene…I might be wrong about this and should reread the earlier issues to be sure. Edmondson’s story remains as solid and engaging as ever; I can’t wait to see how this ends next month (???).

You missed out if you did not pick up the spy / mystery / action-adventure romp of a first volume titled Who Is Jake Ellis?, which is readily available. Once you have read that, then hopefully a Where Is Jake Ellis? trade will be available to carry you home on this fantastic series. This issue is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Missed Books Over the Past Couple Weeks:
The Wake #10
The Wake #10 - Written by Scott Snyder, illustrated by Sean Murphy, colored by Matt Hollingsworth, Jared K. Fletcher, published by Vertigo Comics, a DC Comics imprint. The first time I read this issue I had no idea what had happened, who was who, or how things ended. Granted, that day I had packed a car full with suitcases, drove five hours, came home to spend a couple hours moving furniture, then ate a monster burrito and had two beers before attempting to read the finale to this awesome series. I’m here to tell you you can’t do that, denizens. No way. This issue ties it ALL together and puts a pretty bow on this series, but you need to have your noodle firing on all pistons for this smartly written, beautifully illustrated story. So, I reread the book while in a better state of mind (last night), when I could focus on what was being said and what it was I was seeing, and it all clicked; that’s how you’re supposed to do it.

I’m not going to provide a synopsis on this issue, you’re just going to have to read it yourselves, and the only way to do it is to start at the beginning (a hardcover releases in November, wink-wink-nudge-nudge) otherwise this issue will not make sense. I will say that Snyder took the original genre of the book and changed it at the midway point, and to great effect, which is a freakin’ hard thing to do. Murphy’s art makes me wish I was rich enough to buy every dang page of original art in this series, but I’ll just have to wait on the ol’ Lotto to come through. <sigh>

My biggest complaint about The Wake is the same that I have had for the past four issue: I want to see a ton more of this world. It’s kind of unfair to give us only ten issues with mere flashes of what this world and these characters have to offer. Heck, give me multiple one-shots, give me a three-issue glimpse of what happened in the past 200 years, or give us an epilogue, give us a Dash Special…I don’t care, as long as we get to see more. I know this probably won’t happen, but <sniffle> dare to dream, denizens. Dare to dream. Anyhow…this series begs to be read straight through once you have read each of the issues, which is something I fully intend to do in the near future. A great end to a great series. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Swamp Thing #34
Swamp Thing #34 - Written by Charles Soule, illustrated by Javier Pina, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Travis Lanham, published by DC Comics. Jonah dying! The Wolf transformed by Lady Weeds in an effort to enact revenge on the Swamp Thing, Alec Holland!
This issue is a blast, and an ending to the Jonah / Wolf / Lady Weeds storyline that manages to hold great potential for future stories. I want to say how great it is to have an issue free of outside interference, but then we have the final two panels that open up the the “Futures End” event that looks to be taking over next month; oh boy, we’ll see how that goes. Regardless, Swamp Thing continues to be my favorite New 52 DC book, and I remain ever hopeful for the eventual return of Arcane to the pages of this title. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Health Insurance - I’m going to keep this brief so as not to get too ranty. As I mentioned a couple times since the beginning of the year, I left a fairly well-paying job on account of being there was demoralizing and made me question the purpose of life. I saved for a long time, took care of some major financial obligations, and having a fair amount of padding, I quit. I have since become a near full-time student in a graphic design program and I am about finished with my second novel (almost there). 

Part of the reason I was able to do this was because I have been on my wife’s health insurance plan for going on 15 years. This plan has traditionally covered all employees for a family of four (individual, spouse, +2 children), this is even if the individual was unmarried, and without children, and whether or not the spouse was already insured. This was fine for a while, but she has had to pay more and more with each passing year. This year, however, everything is about to change. 

Now, the health insurance racket has gone so outer limits in its pricing and the “Affordable” Care Act has a condition that breaks the current method of insurance in place at my wife’s job. Insurance at the job now can only cover the employee (for a very high cost), and each dependent is an additional charge. Basically, what was once already expensive is now MUCH more so, for much less coverage, and at the exact wrong time for our situation; I should have quit last year. 

We looked into the “Affordable” Care Act — notice the quotes? — and it is anything but. I have no idea of how to fix the problem outside of removing health industry lobbyist from Washington, and regulating the bejesus out of any industry that profits off of the 100% guaranteed probability of illness, aging, and dying. Anyhow, our insurance is almost doubling ($350 more per month), and I feel horrible for families of four who are about to see their premiums jump by more than $500 per month (~$330 to ~$883 taking into account the average plan) with a forced move from HMO to PPO come September. How does this help anyone besides the behemoth that is the health insurance industry? We’re freaking out.