Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 9/14/2012

(Sung to the tune of The Romantics "What I Like About You")

What I like about Chew
It's got loads of bite
Poyo will kill everyone
Colby gonna set it right, yeah

Red Hood whispering in my ear
This dude's Joker? Ouch, it's time to fear
And that's true
Batman's origin's new

I told you I liked Chew?
Well Prophet will make you dance
John eats man meat, oh no, my gosh
Time for some glob romance, yeah

Oh man, it's hot. Obie, my friends' Boston terrier and Donist World CFO, has convinced me to expand my mind and to work through some of the sticking points of my writing by laying on his pillow by the window (I should really wash this thing) and lying in the sun. The brutal, harsh sun, without the wind's cooling breath to blow across my sweating frame and Obie's mad, panting 22-pound form. I try to figure out if I should omit a pair of secondary characters from my novel who don't exactly move the story forward, but all I can focus on is getting a drink of water. Obie gets up to lie on the linoleum and cool off, but tells me to stay in the sun a while longer as thoughts of water morph to floating above the Earth, to traveling to strange distant worlds, and finally to journey to the microcosm, a pocket universe of... Hey! Obie, what are you doing with that money from the petty cash drawer? I'm off to get a drink of water and to let my head stop spinning so I can get my money back from the dog. In the meantime, spec your peepers on...

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Chew #28
Chew #28 - Written by John Layman and illustrated by Rob Guillory, published by Image Comics. Last month(ish) saw a break in the regular story with a "Special" or "One-Shot" or whatever-you-wanna-call-it with the Secret Agent Poyo issue that was totally bonkers and amazing (*Read FSoH/SitW 7/13/2012 here faithful readers for all the details and satisfy your soul!) and if you are a Chew fan was not to be missed. Month(ish) in and month(ish) out Chew is unlike anything else on the stands and consistently shocks, awes and blows the minds of everyone (Obie and I) at the Donist World corporate offices. Should you be reading Chew? Unless you hate America, yes, you should be reading Chew.
Food as fashion. Yes, it happens and it happens HARD during Milan Fashion Week, but when a porterhouse pantsuit explodes, annihilating the surly model and leaving the audience looking like the aftermath of a Gallagher show (look it up kids), its time to bring in the best the various government agencies can muster. Too bad the only cibopath on hand is still recovering from being nearly beaten to death, but that's not going to stop Agent Colby, Agent Poyo (hell yeah) or Agent Caeser, from trying to get Tony Chu to help out despite his being nearly comatose; nothing a little happy juice can't fix. Aside from one of their crew trippin' balls, the group searches to find the abducted Professor Angus Hinterwald who recently developed a method of causing cattle meat to explode at the first sign of decomposition, which led the professor to being abducted. The heroes are eventually led to an E.G.G. hideout and although hopelessly outnumbered, they have something the food terrorists do not...they got themselves a Poyo. Finally, poor cows.
Criminy, I love this comic. Layman continues to create the most outlandish situations and characters while at no time retreading old ground or leaving the story feeling forced. Although Tony Chu, the main character of the story, has taken a backseat to the impressive cast of secondary characters, the story remains strong as ever and the world becomes richer and more fascinating with each issue. Sure there are still plenty of unanswered storylines such as the chicken-tasting space fruits, the vampire guy, the mysterious letters in the sky, the chogs, and the bird flu that started it all, but those answers will come when the time is right; I have complete faith in the creators. Guillory continues to shine with his showcasing of the bizarre and the grotesque with the second panel of the first page causing me to laugh out loud (or LOL as the kids supposedly call it) at the sight of the pissed-off cake model. Then you have page two and all the rest of it...the look on Caesar's face when Poyo goes on the attack is a crack up. Guillory is also a brilliant colorist knowing just how to lock the reader's eye to a scene and when to push the emotion of a particular panel. Everything combined, makes Chew a damn-fine funny book. If you aren't familiar with the most unique comic on the stand, something is wrong with you and you should have yourself looked at. I pity the fool that don't read Chew. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Prophet Vol. 1:
Remission TPB
Prophet Vol. 1: Remission TPB - Written by Brandon Graham. Illustrated by Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, Brandon Graham and Giannis Milogiannis, published by Image Comics. Okay, I'm going to admit that I don't necessarily know exactly what the hell is going on with this trade paperback comprised of six-issues, but at the price point of $9.99--you read that right, $9.99--and after all of the buzz about this comic there was no way I was going to pass this up. Despite the oftentimes high-level science fiction floating above my comprehension, Prophet is a fantastic read with completely mental situations, aliens and bizarre science fictiony (technically speaking) moments that leave you guessing as to what comes next.
John Prophet rises from the ground centuries after the complete takeover of the planet by a variety of alien lifeforms who have since made Earth their own. John must survive the harsh plains with its strange, new animals that seek to devour him. But surviving is what John does best as he struggles to reach his contact, also recently awakened, who will provide the information John needs for an unexpected (ewww!) price. John Prophet is the Earth's only hope if humanity is to return and retake its conquered home.
The above summarizes issue one and with five more issues in this fantastic tpb it becomes more interesting and weird, only in the best of ways. I will say that issues four through six go into some unexpected directions and one thing Graham does exceptionally well, aside from telling a compelling story, is keep the reader guessing as to what comes next and turning the pages to new shocks and surprises. The art, provided by four artists including Graham, is not your typical comic book fare and seems more likely to be found in the pages of the late '70s, early '80s issues of Heavy Metal magazine, which is a definite plus and another reason to love this book. If you never read the original Prophet from back in the comicpocalypse of the '90s, no fear Donist World readers, neither did I; you don't need to in order to fully enjoy this mad science fiction comic. At $9.99 you'd be insane not to check this out. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Batman #0
Batman #0 - Written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Greg Capullo, published by DC Comics. Just to set something stupid straight that I read a few weeks ago, I do not buy Batman because it's Batman. I buy Batman because of the the talented creators making the book so amazing month in and month out. I am sold on the exceptional job that Snyder and Capullo are doing on this title and if not for these creators, I would be gone in an instant as would be thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of other readers. Hell, it's because of these two that I'm actually buying a "0" issue to begin with, but was this "origin" story worth picking up? It wouldn't be on this page if it wasn't.
Every hero has a learning period, a time when they have to discover--sometimes the hard way--how best to proceed in a given situation. Before Batman emerges to torment the underworld of Gotham, Bruce Wayne had to learn how to become a hero, which was the case six years ago. After a miscalculation in his infiltration of the Red Hood gang causes the death of some bank patrons, Bruce Wayne barely manages to escape with his skin intact. Bruce's recent actions also draw the attention of Lieutenant Jim Gordon who questions the decision of the billionaire to setup shop 40 feet away from the very spot his parents were murdered in a horrible part of town. Not to mention a vigilante has started beating up various criminal elements in that very same neighborhood. If Gordon's watching Bruce Wayne, who else might have taken an interest?
Snyder provides a clever, brief and to-be-continued-in-2013 (???) introduction to the character who most likely will become the Joker in issue# 13. Although this is only a partial story with a long wait for the remainder to be told, it is of course well-written and expertly crafted with subtle hints into story points from past continuities. Greg Capullo lays out some beautiful pages as he always does, especially the second-page splash. The crazy thing about this issue is that I actually enjoyed the backup story--written by James Tynion IV and illustrated by Andy Clarke--the most with it's revised look at the calling of the bat family; very cool. This issue was a good read, although it was odd as it is more of an introduction into Bruce Wayne and (possibly) the Joker, but the payoff for the rest of the story is going to take a backseat for at least five or six months. Regardless, if you have been enjoying Snyder and Capullo's Batman (it really is the creators who make this book, RL), then this "0" issue is not one to miss. RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

The Teacher's Strike In Chicago - You're probably wondering what this has to do with comics, books, games or movies. Everything actually. Today's children are going to be responsible for tomorrow's amazing creations. "That's right, Donist, those damn teachers need to get back in the classroom and start fostering those young minds!" I agree, but you can't foster young minds if all they do is learn about taking standardized tests, practice taking those standardized tests, and spend tons of time on the actual standardized tests themselves. Not only that, how is a teacher (who does not start out making $70K per year--that's bullshit--can have closing on 40 or more students in a class allowing just over a minute of individualized attention per student in a 50 minute class) supposed to instruct, again only on the standardized tests script, to impoverished, hungry, possibly abused children with less than optimal living conditions? "Well it's the damn unions tearing our country apart and hurting our kids." Maybe to some degree. Tenure is a slippery slope and I am sure a small percentage of "bad" teachers do have that protection as do the teachers who are feeling burnt out over years of disrespect from children, the children's parents, administrators and now politicians and their corporate backers who wish to privatize education so they can make a buck or two. Unfortunately, without tenure good and great teachers, who are actually effective from their years of experience, would be the first ones to go. The $36K per year fresh-out-of-college teachers who will probably only make it through a few years before quitting will be the ones to replace those teachers who otherwise would be the ones mentoring the newbies. Without union protection, whether good or bad, the most expensive teachers would be let go know, those few who actually do make above $70K. "But they have three months off at summer, a week at Thanksgiving, two weeks at Christmas, a week at spring and a ton of holidays off as well. Talk about your fat cats." Yeah, but if you're an English teacher with 150+ students (that's five classes of 30 students each...good luck finding an English class that small btw) you are talking essays and written sheets of paper. After a full workday can you grade 150 single-page tests (the shortest thing an English teacher will grade) and if so, how long will that take you? How about a three page essay? Multiply that by 150+ students. Doing the oversimplified math of a minute a page and that equates to a ton of time, oftentimes spent during those "cushy" vacations and always on evenings and weekends throughout the school year. "But that summer vacation..." Nope. Summer vacation can be around two and half months, most of which will be spent sitting in not-mandatory-but-you-are-expected-to-go standardized testing meetings, meetings with business-types who have never taught a class in their life and are trying to sell you on a "program" to aid test scores, and then there is the planning for the coming year. Honestly, teachers end up with about a month to dial back their impending nervous breakdown or heart attack and wonder what happened to the days when education was actually valued in this country and teachers were respected and allowed to actually teach something to kids. Judging a teacher's worth based off a test mostly developed by a corporation with little input from actual teachers and administering that test to kids more worried about whether or not they will eat tonight, or if they are going to be beaten up by their peers, or beaten up when they get home, or just not giving crap by the dreadfully dry test in the first place is not fair. The teachers have every right to be upset by the unjust work environment being thrown at them.

Sorry for the rant.

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