Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 11/16/2012

(Sung to the tune of  Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker")

These books are such a tidal wave
Drive ya outta your head
Two amazing books in my pull, yeah
Better than sliced bread

Saga's the best kind of winner
To bridge sci-fi and fantasy
Go ahead and skip dinner
'Cause you know Batman is way scary

They are showstoppers
Cream croppers, sock hoppers
You best check 'em out you see
They are showstoppers
Cream croppers, sock hoppers
You best check 'em out, yeah, yeah, yeah

Alrighty then. You know what time it is Donist World readers? No, I'm not talking about Thankstaking Day, although Tulip (my Boston terrier and Donist World marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/turkey taster <sigh>) has a sparklingly clean bowl that she is sitting next to and she's growling at me. Neither is it "excessive bonus" day, despite what Donist World CFO, Obie, who is also Tulip's brother, is trying to tell me; he claims it's in his contract regardless of whether he runs the company into the ground or not. No, it's neither of those things. What it is, my friends, is Saga day! That's right, Saga is back this week and we here at Donist World could not be happier--unless of course someone gets some early turkey in her dog bowl, and someone gets to profit off collapsing an economy). To celebrate, I'm sitting at my computer in a repurposed Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band uniform and a hulled out CRT monitor on my head, Tulip has some wings attached to her back and Obie is wearing a single horn ala Max from How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I'm inclined to send Obie home to put on two horns--I haven't seen any unicorn people in Saga yet--but I'm going to let it slide since he is wearing a pretty sweet sword on his back. This is a special day after all, so I will relax my adherence to the words of wrestling-legend Gorilla Monsoon (with props to Mean Gene Okerlund) of "Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades." Anyways, grab a bottle of anything and a glazed donut because it's...

Friday Slice of Heaven

Saga 7
Saga #7 - Written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples, published by Image Comics. After a few months' break Saga returns to the stands, but did the much deserved hiatus diminish my interest in the book or hurt the story in any way? Not in the slightest. It's like Grand Pappy Donist used to say, "Good things come to those who wait," and yes indeedy they do, Donist World fans. Saga continues to be my favorite comic release of the year, as well as in quite some time. This issue can be summed up by taking a cue from an Erma Bombek novel and twisting it slightly to something more fitting like "Oh the family ties that bind and gag in with extra unmentionables."
We begin with a flashback of when Marko was a young boy growing up on the moon Wreath. His mother and father take him to the site of the final battle to take place on Wreath with the winged-people of Landfall. Back in the present, Marko's parents meet a nearly-naked Alana and Hazel. This of course is after good ol' mom and pop had blasted the ghostly babysitter, Izabel, with a banishment spell.  Marko sets out to find Izabel with his mother in tow, only to come into contact with something too terrible to mention (trust me on this...seriously, skip that you know you have to look). Alana and Marko's father get better acquainted by exhibiting major trust issues and the revelation of a startling secret. Prince Robot soldiers on and The Will wallows in the misery of the death of The Stalk while watching some "home" movies.
I shouldn't be surprised by the story, or the visuals, or for that matter the emotions I'm left feeling after reading each issue of Saga. I shouldn't. This issue is no exception, especially when the first-page splash is so powerfully touching, so beautiful that I was left smiling and remembering the happy times I had in Ohio with my dogs. Then, leave it to Staples and Vaughan to take that feeling to the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, leaving me aghast and recalling the previously blocked memory of walking in on "Tanked" Tim at the college dorm when...okay, let's not belabor the past. Let's just say the mid-point splash page will be burned in my mind until I can adequately suppress that horrid visual; should only take a year or two to bury it nice and deep. As disturbing as the image in question is, it makes you wince, but desperate to turn that page, to see what comes next. Vaughan leaves you wanting to know the fate of each of the characters including the supposed bad guys. The scene with The Will--one shoe and all--is kind of heartbreaking and you know this deadly assassin is in pain as he sits in a darkened room on a tropical paradise. We know little about this guy and the same can be said for all of the characters thus far, yet I love them all the more with each tiny glimpse, each casual reveal.
Sure the delay for this issue was painful, but so long as Saga maintains the standard I am used to and continues to come out on a fairly regular schedule, a couple of months' time is worth the wait. If you are not reading Saga, do yourself a favor and buy the $9.99 ($7.99 at trade and pick this issue up as well. You'll be happy you did. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Batman #14
Batman #14 - Written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Greg Capullo, published by DC Comics. Last month's issue was a tad...utterly terrifying. Now that a month has gone by and we hold the latest issue in our grubby little mitts, we can casually let the tension rise and <insert scratching record sound>. I'm lying. There is no easing of tension in this issue. There is no gradual build. The story kicks off in a life-or-death situation and pretty much stays at that same level throughout. I have a strong suspicion this will be the case for the rest of the "Death of the Family" storyline as well. You know what, folks? I accept that. Bring it Snyder and Capullo. I'm not ashamed to admit that I will read your comic under the covers with a flashlight, and I'm a grown-ass man. Of course I will look under the bed first, especially after Joker's comment last issue.
Joker's gone off the rails to such an extent that even Harley no longer recognizes her beloved Puddin'. Thing is, she kind of hopes that Bats takes Jokers place after the Dark Knight succumbs to the same chemical bath that made the Joker the demented man he used to be. There is some good news, Alfred is alive, but being in the care of a madman can't really be construed as a positive. That's it for the good news. First Gordon is reached by the Joker in an incredibly disturbing way <shudder>, then Batman is forced to reenact his first fight with his greatest enemy. Unfortunately, Joker's current "look" has pushed him into behaving more erratically, and much less predictably. Not a good combination for a psychopath, especially when he announces his plans for the Bat.
Capullo's rendition of the Joker is the stuff of nightmares, and I mean that in the best of ways. The "mask" with the pointy nose and that strapped-on smile revealing that eternal grin...<brrrrr>. The page two and three escape scene was also stunning, considering the crazy amount of detail that went into the bubbles trailing off of Batman; it was a joy to see. The main attraction of this issue, though, are the expressions Capullo gives to Bruce, Harley, Dick, and especially Gordon. Their fear and terror is infectious, and it sticks with you for the entirety of the issue.
Snyder's story continues to be a well-paced, nerve-wracking extravaganza. He delivers tension in all the right places and the scene with Bruce and Dick discussing the abducted Alfred is fantastically tense as Batman struggles to maintain his calm through the use of code words as a means of disassociating himself from the difficult situation he is in. The backup story (co-written by James Tynion IV and illustrated by the amazing Jock) brings the Penguin into the story as the Joker attempts to recruit his fellow villain into his plans. A great backup with some creepsville imagery.
I really enjoyed Snyder and Capullo's "Court of Owls" storyline, but this "Death of the Family" arc is touching on a much more sinister nerve that leaves the reader feeling just as helpless as Batman in the onslaught the Joker has set before him. It's a great place to be. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Other Heavenly Items:
A Couple More Kickstarter Rewards Arrived! - It's so cool to see projects that I helped bring into existence delivered right to my doorstep. Just recently, I received printed versions of Kazu Kibuishi's early work Daisy Kutter: The Last Train (complete with a sketch) and Ryan Browne's psychotically fun Blast Furnace (with a sketch, sticker and postcard). I have not yet started Daisy Kutter, and I have just started Blast Furnace, but I have a strong suspicion they will show up on Donist World in the near future. Very exciting.

Beer School: Beers and Barrels - I tell ya, I should be getting my doctorate in beer any day now. Anyhow, Amy and two of our friends went to the Mercury Bar for my fourth beer school. This time the topic was cask-aged beers. Although most of the beers were not my favorites--the exceptions coming from Stone and Hitachino Nest--it was still a great time. Here's what we sampled.

  1. Firestone Walker Brewing - Unfiltered Double Barrel Ale
  2. Hitachino Nest - Belgian Brown matured in shochu casks
  3. Stone Brewing - Arrogant Bastard Ale
  4. Stone Brewing - Arrogant Bastard Ale Aged in Oak Casks
  5. Brouwerij Bavik - Flanders Oud Bruin
  6. Brouwerij Verhaeghe - Flanders Red Ale
  7. Dogfish Head Brewery - Palo Santo Marron Brown Ale
  8. Allagash Brewing Co. - Curieux
  9. North Coast Brewing Co. - Grand Cru
  10. Uinta Brewing Co. - Cockeyed Cooper 
  11. Cismontane Brewing Co. - Black Dawn
  12. Shipyard Brewing Co. - Double ESB
All and all a fun and informative time...except for the idiots who had to be kicked out at the beginning of the tasting because the event was sold out and they didn't have tickets. You can't just stand in a sold out movie theater, why did they think they could just hang out during a private event. Duh.

Slice Into the Woods

Pay-For-Perfomance In Schools - Ack! I'm running late, so I'll make this quick. Why are politicians so hell bent on this pay-for-performance bullshit? I hate to break it to people, but children are NOT widgets who you can mold into a compliance ratio. All kids are different and not all care about going to college. Sorry. We are not all the same and we are not all living under the same circumstances. When I went to school, there were some kids who were--let's face it--not going to perform as well as me on most tests. The reverse was true as well. No matter how hard I tried, I would NEVER be as smart or high-achieving as my friend Jeff; I would also NEVER be able to beat him in any sort of athletic endevor even if my life depended on it, but that's another matter. It sucked, but it was the truth. There were also kids in my class that could care less about school. They had more pressing concerns such as eating, not getting their ass kicked by dear-old-dad that evening, or trying to avoid the thugs pushing them to try drugs. For those kids, school is not exactly a high priority. How is a teacher, whether good or bad--there are fewer bad teachers than politicians wish you to believe there are--supposed to bring a student to proficiency when that student has no problem telling them to go f_ themselves? Pay-for-performance is yet another push towards privatization and the dismantling of unions. Some may call my thoughts the soft bigotry of low expectations, but I prefer to think of it as the personal experience of the reality of actually having attended a public school. Pay-for-performance should be tied to the salespeople selling their measurably performing physical products (all of which are of nearly the exact same build) and not our over-burdoned teachers.

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