Thursday, December 8, 2011

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods - 12/09/2011

(Sung to the tune of The Pixies "Here Comes Your Man")

Want great comics?  Don't sit waiting
You know what you got to do
Swamp Thing will get you breathing
Consume tasty pages in Chew
I know the Action Comics
Will rethrill on Superman
Great comics? Don't sit waiting
No Gus, I'm still a Sweet Tooth fan

A month can feel too long (too long, too long)
It really ain't that long
Here's Animal Man
Here's Animal Man
Here's Animal Man

It's cold my friends.  So very, very least by Santa Barbara standards.  Of course what is our coldest weather here in town is the warmest--if they're lucky--it will get for many of our East Coast friends, but that's beside the point.  I'm here with Space Cadet Obie, my friends' Boston Terrier and we have retreated once again to the warm, safe womb of our Fortress of Sympathy.  What is the Fortress of Sympathy?  Well, Amy, my wife, hates it--that's for sure--since it involves removing everything from the dining room table, strategically lining up all of the chairs and covering everything in blankets and stocking the cave with couch cushions.  It's all rather nice aside from the fact that we are hiding from Magneto and are forced to wear telepathy blocking (aluminum foil) hats to avoid detection.  Hold on a second, Obie's trying to tell me something.  Okay, apparently I have not read an issue of the X-Men in quite some time and it is rather early in the morning as I have just been reminded that Magneto is actually the Master of Magnetism and not the Titan of Telepathy.  Boy, do I have a headache all of a it me or is this hat getting tighter?  Oh well, on to...

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Animal Man #4
Animal Man #4 - Written by Jeff Lemire and illustrated by Travel Foreman, published by DC Comics.  This is getting ridiculous.  Yup, Animal Man #4 is great.  I love it, my favorite of the 52...blah, blah, blah.  I have been saying the same thing since the first issue and you know what?  I'm gonna say it again.  Animal Man (followed by Swamp Thing below) is my favorite comic of the 52.  Yes this book is disturbing and gross, but it has its charm which overshadows all of the disgusting imagery.  At the core this "superhero" tale is the story of a man struggling to protect his family when he does not have the necessary power or knowledge to do so.  I can't get enough of this book.
As Buddy Baker's wife and son are escorted by one of the Hunters Three posing as a police detective to a safe house in the country, Buddy is on his last legs as the other two agents of the Rot threaten to rend him limb from limb.  Maxine, Buddy's young daughter, the true wielder of the power of the Red, is the one with the power necessary to vanquish the invaders and to heal her father.  A brief history of the Hunters Three follows and a member of the Parliament of Limbs agrees to leave the protection of the Red to join Animal Man and Maxine on their quest.  Cliff, Buddy's son, discovers firsthand the danger he and his mother are in, as the enemy reveals itself and begins to feed in front of him.
Damn.  What a great series.  In addition to the slow build of the hidden terror endangering Buddy's wife and son, and the action of Buddy fighting two of the Hunters Three, Animal Man also shows the danger of a family beginning to unravel.  Buddy's wife, Ellen, and his son, Cliff, have no superpowers and Buddy's role as Animal Man--a role he has no choice but to partake in--puts them in danger.  Ellen's mother, vocally opposes her daughter's marriage to a superhero and further doubts are raised by the danger they find themselves in.  The repercussions of Buddy's destiny is part of what makes this book great.  I also loved how Travel Foreman included a double-page spread of Animal Man merging with the Red that was stylistically similar to what Yanick Paquette is doing in Swamp Thing.  My main criticism is the choice of the cover image, which is fine with me, but not something that will grab any new readers and quite possibly turn them off.  In fact, I am waiting for Amy to tell me to not have this issue on top of the mountainous stack of comics on the side of the bed, because it is, "Disturbing and gross."  That minor issue aside, you know you're reading a great comic when you get to the last panel of the last page and go, "No!  I have to wait until next month?  No!"  That is the feeling I've had with each issue that leaves me desperate for more, and worrying over what is going to happen next.  VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Swamp Thing #4
Swamp Thing #4 - Written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Marco Rudy, published by DC Comics.  Yeah, here we go again.  "Two great tastes that taste great together."  If you're reading Animal Man and not Swamp Thing, you are doing yourself a great disservice.  The reverse is equally true.  This is one of my favorite books of the 52 and a worthy continuation of the much revered Alan Moore Swamp Thing issues.  If you enjoy horror comics then this and Animal Man are the books for you.
William Arcane walks into a diner and demonstrates on the folks inside the power of a knight of the Rot in a horrific and gruesome manner.  Abigail Arcane, the boy's sister, explains to Alec Holland exactly how William's frightening power works.  Alec and Abigail take a moment to sleep in the safety of a grassy area, but Alec dreams a portent of the Rot's plans in the desert, and in an amazing two-page spread he sees the history of the fight between the Green and the Rot (aka the Other).  He also learns that the Parliament of Trees has more of a problem with Abigail Arcane who they say is an agent of the Rot and possibly more dangerous than William could ever be.  Alec awakens to a startling and disturbing verification of the Green's concerns and the issue closes on an image of what awaits the pair when they finally do find William.
The confrontation between the Green and the Other draws slightly closer and although it will probably be a few issues before this happens, I am totally fine with Snyder's deliberate pacing that brings the reader more in tune with Alec and Abigail, while providing more insight into the history of this ages-old struggle.  It also hints at an inevitable conflict to come once the menace of the Other has been suppressed, which makes the events of Animal Man all the more important to this tale.  Yanick Paquette is not featured in this issue, but Marco Rudy does an amazing job handling the art and David Baron's colors are vibrant and striking.  I could not be happier after reading this issue other than having the next installment already in my hand.  The slight--keyword being "slight"--problems that I had with the first issue are gone and the comic book only gets better and better.  Scary and gory at  times, Swamp Thing continues to slowly ratchet up the tension and urgency of the situation while hooking the reader in and not letting them go.  I cannot wait to see what happens next.  VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Chew #22
Chew #22 - Written by John Layman and illustrated by Rob Guillory, published by Image Comics.  It seems like it has been a while since I read the last issue, but I am glad to have the latest issue in my grubby mitts.  Chew never ceases to entertain me with its witty, crude, and oftentimes disgusting storylines and unique cast of characters.  In fact, it continues to be one of the best and most creative titles on the stands...if you can get past the gross bits.  But being the seasoned comic book readers that you are, this should not be a problem, especially with a book of this caliber.
Savoy and Caesar have kidnapped Tony Chu's sister, Olive, in the hopes that she shares her father's food based abilities so that she can help them with their secretive agenda.  Unfortunately, it's a "like father, like daughter" situation and the young woman is...less than cooperative.  Caesar and his anti-social partner discover an evil coffee shop barista corrupting people through the coffee.  Tony Chu finds himself in trouble after crossing paths with a rough bunch of golfers and Olive agrees to help Savoy and Caeser, but under certain conditions.
Such a fun, odd, exciting book that I never know what to expect and one that I eagerly anticipate every month(ish).  If there is anything that I take away from Chew #22, it's that I hope to never, ever have to suffer from "Amish Ice Cream Entombment."  Of course I am not Amish,, what a way to go...truly terrible.  This book cracks me up to no end and combined with a fantastic story that is out of this world you can't go wrong.  There are currently two Chew: Omnivore HC Editions out that can catch you to the insanity that is Chew.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Action Comics #4
Action Comics #4 - Written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Rags Morales, published by DC Comics.  This book is exactly what was needed to bring a lapsed Man of Steel fan like me back into the fold.  With a hero struggling to find his way in society and to gain acceptance while protecting the populace, some of whom don't even trust him, Action Comics grabbed me with the first issue the moment Superman confronted one of the world's worst enemies; a greedy and inhuman corporation.  Now in the fourth installment, a more foreign foe has stepped into the picture and the stakes have been raised.
Lex Luthor runs for his life as a possessed John Corben wearing the Metal-Zero armor scours the city in search of Superman, who is busy battling a formidable army of spare-part robots.  Lois and Jimmy attempt to talk some sense into Corben, but he is too far under the power of the invading alien entity, who--upon finding Superman--begins to overcome the hero until John Steel's arrival turns the tide.  We catch a glimpse of Brainiac, who looks to be truly bizarre and...well...alien.  Brainiac has also bottled and filed away a good chunk of Metropolis, including Lois, Jimmy and Lex, leaving Superman and Steel to determine their next step.  This issue also includes a separate and cool story about Steel's fight with John Corben as written by Sholly Fisch and illustrated by Brad Walker.
I am still immensely enjoying this comic and will continue to pick up the next few issues, but I am somewhat concerned that there will be a two issue "interlude" before the story picks up from where it left off.  I'm not sure if this is the wisest choice at this early stage in the game, but I am trusting that Morrison will have plenty of vital character development and story elements to introduce into the series that will make the conclusion to this story arc all the more satisfying.  The action was intense and fun with a sense of urgency that was contagious.  I especially liked the giant robot that plopped the tank on top of its shoulders for a head before promptly blasting Superman in the chops.  Action Comics continues to be a good time and the backup story was enjoyable as well, despite some slightly corny dialogue.  If you are a fan of the Man of Steel, or you love superhero comics that don't go to the "dark place" as Batman tends to do, then you should be reading this book.  RECOMMENDED!

Sweet Tooth #28
Sweet Tooth #28 - Written by Jeff Lemire and illustrated by Matt Kindt, published by Vertigo Comics, a DC Comics imprint.  "The Taxidermist" storyline featuring guest artist Kindt comes to a shocking conclusion that raises a far more questions than it does answers.  This is okay.  Take a deep breath and hope you're not inhaling the Alaskan plague, as this post-apocalyptic world has become all the richer.
James becomes terrified at the sight of Louis's baby boy, an antlered child that James sees as a harbinger of death.  Louis chases the confused white men from his land with the belief that Jasper and James are already carriers of the plague and that they will carry the sickness back to Europe with them as the gods have dictated.  James, on the verge of death, is found and restored to health where he and the remaining crew members wage a war on Louis and his people until only Louis and his antlered son remain.  The baby is dropped in the "cursed" cave and left to the elements, as James, Louis and the rest of the crew attempt to make their way back to Europe, but ultimately meet an expected end.
I don't want to say that this three-issue history lesson was not a well-written, beautifully painted chapter in the Sweet Tooth universe, but as a reader I am more heavily invested in Gus and Jepperd's story.  I've missed these tragic, flawed characters and their terrible struggle to survive.  "The Taxidermist" shed some small degree of clarity on what happened 100 years in the past, but there are many more questions raised: 1) So the baby was dropped in the cave, what happened to him?  2) Is the baby Gus?  Probably not since it had a belly button, 3) What are the odd animal totems found in the cave.  4) Did the plague die with James Thacker?  I expect there will be another interlude in the future, where a high-stakes cliffhanger is broken up to explain the next phase of the boy with antlers and the plague's story.  Although this break will hurt, it will be necessary and hopefully provide even more of a payoff.  I look forward to the next history lesson, but more so rejoining the characters that I have grown to love.  This is still an amazing book.  RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Oddly Enough, All's Well in the Donist World on Comics - If anything, not enough time in the day to read everything that I wish to be reading.


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