Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 3/29/2013

(Sung to the tune of Huey Lewis and the News's "If This Is It")

I've been reading and believing
In this ol' heart, comics have a home
No second guessing, books are impressing
These comics rock and their so so strong

Tupes, don't try to swipe my Rachel Rising
Tupes, don't lie, is that my Black Beetle?
Tupes ain't sly, give back Where Is Jake Ellis?!
I can't believe you'd try to deceive

I said drop it, they're my comics, bro
Drop Age of Ultron or my top will blow
I said drop it, wait your turn, bro
It's comics love, baby, I said so

Yeah...we're a bit late today. I know it. Obie (Donist World CFO and my friends' Boston terrier) knows it. Tulip (Obie's sister, my dog, Donist World marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/rough night consultant) knows it. You see, we kinda had a rough night last night since Obie's owners--sorry, Obie objects to the term "owners" and wishes me to go with the term "housemates" instead--ahem...Obie's housemates are out of town for a couple days and have left Obie at the Donist World headquarters for a sleepover. Tulip, Obie and I have seized this opportunity to synergize our efforts and collaborate in an effort to establish Donist World in various cross-geo markets, namely getting my weirdo neighbor to stop peering through the fence and instead focus on Donist World and supporting the comic book industry (yes, Jonathan, we're talking about you, buddy, stop peering through the dang fence...gosh!). Anyhow, all we have collaborated on thus far is a steak burrito from Chicken Ranch and a lovely bottle of Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA. Then, after waking in the park out back this morning, we collaborated on some coffee, pumpkin pancakes with apricot jelly, and OHHHH! we're about to collaborate on the food truck that just pulled up. Synergy, folks, it's all about the synergy and telling the Donist World story. I'm off to get some chicken asada tacos and to work out the details of "Operation Donist World: Stop Peering Through the Dang Fence." Please enjoy...

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Rachel Rising #15
Rachel Rising #15 - Everythinged by Terry Moore, published by Abstract Studio. For the previous issue of Rachel Rising my main thought was that very little occurred. This isn't to say I did not still enjoy the issue, I definitely did. Plus having an issue of a comic from Terry Moore where little happens is preferable to most of the superhero fare we see nowadays anyways. This week's release brings the story back to form with all the beautiful character moments, the humor, the weirdness and that building feeling of unease that things are about to go so very, very bad. I'm also suddenly hesitant to go into a darkened bathroom, even one in my own house. Now tell me THAT's not a return to form for this fantastic horror series.
Jet's dead. Or rather, she's dead for the second time, but her friend, the lumbering and shy Earl, is there to watch over her until such a time as she decides to come back to life...again. She does, but confused as Jet might be over the circumstances of her second death, her more pressing issue is that she has once again revived sans clothing in front of poor, shy Earl. Meanwhile, after barely escaping from deep underground amongst the bones of hundreds of women killed three centuries ago, Rachel turns to her mother for advice and support. The problem is Rachel's mother is dead and buried, but along with Rachel's reanimated body, comes the supernatural ability to burrow through the earth with ease and to gain insight from the dead at a touch. Finally, Manson suffers a bit of a rat problem...correction...Manson suffers a huge plague of rats problem.
Brrrrrr...There you go. Thems the type of willies I adore (ugh...that sounds wrong, but I'm goin' with it) and missed from the last issue. Moore leaves the reader still knowing precious little as to what exactly is going on in this story, but the strong characterization and the looming mystery of Lilith and Malus that he cleverly allows peeks and glimpses into keeps us coming back for more with each and every installment. The opening pages with Earl and Jet are phenomenal from both the dialogue and the silent panels where an expression, or a movement tells us everything about these two people. It's clear that Earl cares deeply for Jet, and despite her actions, you can see that, despite the words coming out of her mouth, Jet cares for the big lug as well. That's the beauty of a Moore book, you see when a character is being disingenuous to herself or to others, and although you might be in the dark as to what is happening in the story, you feel as if you are in on secret to which other characters are not privy.
Speaking of secrets, this book should not be one. Judging by sales numbers, more people should be and need to be reading Rachel Rising than currently are. There are tons of capes and tights comic books that retread the same old stories over and over again, yet those very comics far outsell this Donist World favorite. That should not be. If you are on a budget--who isn't these days--and you are buying certain comics out of habit, comics that you no longer actually enjoy, then consider giving Rachel Rising a shot. It's slow-burn horror storytelling at its best with some remarkable artwork, by one of the best creators in the business. Two trades are currently available. With any luck, we'll see a television show of this title in the near future. I wouldn't steer you wrong. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Where Is Jake Ellis? #3
Where Is Jake Ellis? - Written by Nathan Edmondson and illustrated by Tonci Zonjic, published by Image Comics. Good things come to those who wait...yeah, right. I should have received this book two weeks ago, but Diamond shorted my LCS (still invoiced them for the book, though), so I waited. The most important thing is I now have the this great followup mini-series to the exciting and creative Who is Jake Ellis? released in trade in 2011. Word of warning though...if you have not read Who Is Jake Ellis?, then do yourself a favor and skip this review, and read that before delving into Where Is Jake Ellis? Some crazy stuff goes down in Who and you'll miss a darn fine twist to this spy thriller comic. Plus, Where will probably be a shade confusing otherwise. Respect the reading order, folks. Respect!
The eyeless man, Dawid, who sees far beyond what even an eagle can perceive has Jake sedated and in the custody of a team of deadly mercenaries. Now they're gunning for Jon, the man oddly linked to Jake. Unfortunately for a woman named Mollie, being anywhere near Jon is a hazard to her health. Jon sends her away as a physically sedated Jake once again appears in Jon's head to provide the intel that will hopefully get the pair out of their predicament and out of Dawid's crosshairs. As Jon takes the fight to his pursuers, Dawid shows who is really in control.
Discounting the Diamond mixup, the wait between issues has been a bit long, but reading this issue, the events of the first two came rushing back with the fast paced action and tense pacing of the story. Edmondson does not miss a beat in this second volume of the Jake Ellis series(?)(I hope it's a series), and although we are now aware of the connection between Jon and Jake, the new mystery of Dawid and of who exactly is pulling his strings is more than enough to make me excited to know what's going to happen next. This is a plot driven book and although we know very little about Jon or Jake, the fast-paced action pulls the reader into their world and the exhilaration of each chase, each near slip-up leaves you concerned for their mutual wellbeing. That said, I would advise against reading this comic right before bed, as it will definitely get your heart a pumpin' and your brain a whirlin'.
Zonjic continues to deliver some fantastic illustrations with his panel-to-panel storytelling skills bringing a tremendous intensity to each scene. His art would fit right in on an issue of Hawkeye, but let's hope he continues to illustrate Edmondson's Jake Ellis tale. Also worthy of mention is Zonjic's striking, minimally rendered colors that only heighten the mood each scene.
I hope there are plans to continue with Jake Ellis after this volume concludes. With only two more issues for this chapter, and the uncertainty of the very bad place Jon and Jake now find themselves, the penultimate issue cannot come soon enough. Where Is Jake Ellis? is every bit as stressful of a read as Who Is Jake Ellis?, but darn if it's not a heck of a good read. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Black Beetle #2
The Black Beetle #2 - Everythinged by Francesco Francavilla, published by Dark Horse Comics. Okay, okay, this one falls on my shoulders. It's on me. Back many moons ago, I was out at the local steak house, a real topnotch joint if you get my drift, and one martini led to another and I neglected to add this book to my pull list. I saw the solicits, I knew--and freaking love--the man's work, I'm a fan of the genre, and just the cover of the "0" issue alone is enough to make me want this comic. Now, I ain't no boozehound, and although the dame what took my order had gams to die for, I knew I needed Black Beetle. Yet somehow I got flimflammed; it didn't happen. Why wouldn't I put this on my pull? It don't even cost a fin, Jack. But I missed out. Issue 0 and 1 came and went, and I was in a jam. Thankfully the amazing Hypno Comics set me right on a copy of the first issue (I jaw about it here) they had stashed behind the counter. Then things began to finally hit on all eight as my LCS came through on this little beauty. I've learned my lesson and hope to have issue 3 on time. Well, I've been bumping gums long enough, I'm off for a stack of wheat and a cup of joe. Learn yourself something about The Black Beetle.
Last issue, The Black Beetle went to "The Fort," an island prison that makes Alcatraz look like a vacation resort, in order to question a man named Constantino about the deaths of two major crime families. The problem was Constantino was so scared of what waited for him on the outside that he willingly went to The Fort thinking he'd be safe. He wasn't. The Black Beetle saw Constantino murdered by a mysterious man who escaped and now the guards think the masked protector is responsible. Escapes, mysteries, clues and loads of vermin await you throughout this issue.
Man, I am loving this book. The good thing about being so late to the game on The Black Beetle is that the wait for the third issue won't be all that long. Yes, I could have waited for the inevitable hardcover, which will probably have the elusive #0 and probably some other fancy-pants items as well, but I will probably just double dip on this one, just as I did on the Detective Comics run (with Scott Snyder and Jock no less) which was my introduction to Francavilla's wonderful art. In The Black Beetle we also get to see Francavilla's skill as a writer, which perfectly captures the mood of a '50s crime caper through The Black Beetle's voiceover which draws us deeper into the mystery, leaving us anxious for more. The art, of course, is everything I hoped it would be, with a huge draw being his use of minimally rendered coloring that provides his unique style while drawing the eye exactly where Francavilla wants. I will be studying his use of color for my own work, but more than anything I hope there are some BB prints showing up for purchase like the ones he was selling at all of the conventions I was unable to attend.
So, yeah, I like this comic very much. It has a cool look, a cool story and overall is a lot of fun. I can't wait to see what Francavilla comes up with next and I will forever wish he would illustrate one of my comics. Just one issue. I have the perfect one in mind. Scott Snyder even critiqued the original version of the script. C'mon...please? Pretty please with sugar on top? HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Other Heavenly Items:
Age of Ultron #3
Age of Ultron #3 - Written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Bryan Hitch, published by Marvel Comics. With the last page splash reveal, I almost kicked this issue into the HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! category as I was not expecting it at all. Not in the slightest. Wow and no I'm no going to spoil it here. Just know it was pretty cool and makes total sense granted Marvel history from way, way back. That said, I still feel that this issue as well as issues 1 and 2 could have been condensed down into two comic issues as opposed to three, but that's just me. Even without the reveal at the end, this was an interesting and fun issue, but my main complaint is the art seems a bit rushed in places to the point I was occasionally pulled out of the story. Still other pages were gorgeous and buildings and structures looked amazing in no small part to Paul Mounts's colors.
One bit of news that I will spoil here is that Neil Gaiman's character Angela (some sort of warrior woman from the pages of Spawn and a component of a huge legal battle with Todd McFarlane) is slated to appear at the end of the series and then throughout other Marvel comic books, which leads me to assume the appearance of another greatly contested character. This "other" greatly contested character from the the '80s is one whose comics I would like to own in a reasonably priced hardcover and not the rare comics that I am afraid to remove from their protective bags. This news, however, leaves me worried that AoU will fall apart and turn into the typical money grab "event" I vowed to never support. I sincerely hope AoU remains focused on telling a good story and not becoming a marketing vehicle to introduce new characters for short-term gains. Aside from my worries about the future of this series...RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Inside Job - Grrrrr...why did I watch this after having such a bad day at the the jobby? Am I a glutton for punishment? Yeah, apparently so. Inside Job is a great documentary about Wall Street, "too big to fail" banks, their cancerous ties to our government and the relatively small group of individuals who completely messed up our economy for their own MASSIVE personal gain, and all at our own personal expense. Narrated by Matt Damon, it's an informative and infuriating look at what happened, how it happened and why it will continue to happen. Not one of the lowlife criminally traitorous @#$%wads who caused this mess has as yet gone to jail or at the very least had their stolen assets seized.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 3/22/2013

(Sung to the tune of Young MC's "Bust a Move")

These are the books let Donist tell ya
Kick ass Saga toats rocks the casbah
Good stuff leaves you singin' La La
Bad stuff plays like a punch to yo jaw
Here's a to-do, go check out Chew
Tortaespaderos for you
Marvel's got your back with Age of Ultron
Captain Marvel and Daredevil got it goin' on

If you want it
You got it (just go read Chew)
If you want it
Baby, you got it (and Saga, too)

Thank you, thank you, Young(ish) MC for visiting the Donist World corporate headquarters and performing for us here today. What's that? Why yes you can leave's not like we were holding you against your will or anything. We don't do that to our guests. No, no, no. It''ll be okay Young(ish) MC, don't be scared, just punch this code into the titanium lined digital keypad at the top of the stairs and let yourself out. Be sure to grab a bag of my mom's chocolate chip cookies on your way out the door. Visit again soon sometime, okay?! Bye-bye!
Hello Donist World readers. I'm here in my mom's basement the Donist World corporate headquarters where I am joined as ever by our CFO Obie (my friends' Boston terrier) and Tulip, our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/home security specialist (my Boston terrier and Obie's sister). It was another big week this week and we only had time to talk about our top five choices, but I will say that you all should check out Brian K. Vaughan's new digital-only offering of Private Eye #1, that is available right now for whatever amount you choose to give him, which can also mean "free," but c'mon this is crazy stuff so give the creators a buck or two. Personally, I gave Vaughan and the artist Marco Martin $3 for the issue and it was well worth the price of a retail book; I hope to talk about this issue next week. The reason this is so crazy is that the book downloads to your computer as a .pdf, .cbr, or .cbz file and it is DRM free. The money goes straight to the creators, they retain the rights to their property and there is no third-party that could potentially go out of business, taking all your digital purchases with them (hello digital manga world...ouch). As a creator myself, this is an interesting model and one that I wish to keep a close eye on for my own work in the future. I will let you know that Private Eye falls firmly in the HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! category, so definitely check it out! Now, I...crud Obie's going for my wallet again, which means the food truck is here. While I roll up a newspaper to punish my CFO, have a look at...

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Saga #11
Saga #11 - Written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples, published by Image Comics. Yup, there will be spoilers, so go read this issue first, it's well worth the cover price. Let's start with my reactions to this issue in order of appearance. <gasp>...hubba, hubba. "WHOA, what did (s)he say?!" <heh> "Oh no...Wait a minute. Oh please, please, please. YES!" <shock> "You can do it, you can...oh shoot, no. No. No. No." <sob>. This book, (wo)man...I tell ya. Each issue just puts you through the emotional ringer, but you can't help but come back for more. I love it. This is always the first book I read, and Wednesday I rushed to my LCS to buy it, opting to read it outside of my work in the car as Tulip waited patiently in the passenger seat for me to finish; I was late back to work. The best/worst thing about Saga is that it feels as if it is over just as soon as you began reading. It has just as many words--if not more--as the Big Two comics, and has a couple extra pages to boot. But it goes by so fast that I can't help but whip through the book a second time to really drive home the heartfelt victories and the sorrowful defeats. At only eleven issues thus far, Saga is right up there with the Donist World darling, Preacher, and rightfully so. I cannot wait for a hardcover collection.
A brief flashback reminds us that Marko and Alana are on the run and...uh...very much enjoying their time together despite the deeply engrained belief that they should be killing each other after years of taught enmity between their people. Those feelings will subside. Back in the present, Marko, Alana and their crew are about to be consumed by a newly-born time suck, but the determined family doesn't intend to become a monster's snack. The Will and his crew aren't faring all that well themselves. While in the midst of danger, The Will launches himself into the cold darkness of space to retrieve the unconscious Lying Cat. Marko uses some ingenuity to give their tree rocket ship the extra oomph it needs to escape, but the strain of the propulsion threatens to rip the ship to shreds; thank goodness for Barr and his magic. Unfortunately, holding a ship of that size together is itself a terrible strain on the sickly man.
Obie is pretending to be strong after reading this issue. In fact he won't even look at me as  he gazes out the window, but I'm pretty sure I heard a whimper come from his direction, a few minutes after I heard a joyful yip of relief. Saga will do that to you. It seems that every issue I talk about the importance of character with this book, and this issue is one of the strongest examples of this. The main characters are great, but they took a bit to grow on me. The supporting cast, however, immediately grabbed my attention. Izabel the sassy ghost girl is a crackup and pretty bad ass. The Will's pain is all too realistic and you can't help but really feel for the guy, especially after the near death of the awesome Lying Cat in the last issue. Then there is Barr. This guy...a warrior, a killer, a creator, a father, a husband, a friend, it took only two issues for me to love him. I wanted to hang out at his house, help him with the garden, share a beer. Vaughan made Barr more real than most characters I've ever read. This issue was painful in the best of ways and the fact that Vaughan dragged me through the emotions he did is indicative of his skills as a writer. But we all know this guy's got the stuff, don't we?
Fiona Staples's art only makes the triumphs within the pages more sweet and the losses the more bitter. Of course it's her ability to illustrate compelling facial expressions, but it's the action scenes in this issue that provoke the oohs and ahhhs. Just have a look at the scenes of The Will rescuing Lying Cat and you will see what I mean; I was literally in the car going "oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh". Then there are the gorgeous colors that will have me revisiting the letters column from a few issues ago where Staples explains her coloring process that I am curious to try out. For colors, though, it is the cover that showcases Staples's skills as a painter as well as an illustrator.
I cannot say anything bad about this issue. Not even a quibble. Next month Prince Robot returns as the second arc concludes. April cannot come soon enough. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Chew #32
Chew #32 - Written by John Layman and illustrated by Rob Guillory, published by Image Comics. Is there a term for when you fully expect to be surprised, but the only unknown factor is the exact nature of the surprise, or rather what it is that will surprise you? I want to ponder this, but it's making my head hurt in a "if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" sort of way. With every issue of Chew you know something weird/tragic/crazy is going to happen, you just never know what that might be. It could be a main character's death, it could be the person with whom Colby hops into bed, or it could be a guy with chocolate carving powers. This issue has a guy who is a tortaespadero (one who carves tortillas into deadly bladed objects). Now that's a surprise!
Director Peñya of the USDA is having a rough go of life now that John Colby has left to join Tony Chu over at the FDA. Thus her team is faring poorly as well since they know Colby is the cause of their director's woes. But they will have to mend their ways if they are to free the hostages being held at a chicken joint by members of the Immaculate Ova Cult, a group of militant anti-chicken consuming extremists. The group even has a tortaespadero in their ranks, but what they don't have is a pissed off Tony Chu, who would rather spend his time bringing his sister's killer to justice. Meanwhile, Colby discovers that their pal, Caeser, still has an alliance with fugitive Mason Savoy, and boy does Colby still harbor ill will towards Savoy. Colby and Caesar discuss the matter with their fists, but come to a tenuous agreement.
See? If anyone out there predicted this comic would have a guy who carves deadly shurikens out of tortillas, then they should tweet me with this weekend's Mega Lotto numbers. No, seriously, tweet me. Anyhow, at anytime through the course of this comic, Layman could fall into the trap of just dropping joke after joke without developing character or progressing the story. This is not the case. Every joke-hilarious as it may be--serves a purpose. The tortaespadero is killed within a few pages, but we later learn that Tony's daughter has absorbed the goofy ability to add to her own arsenal so she can utilize that skill while in the employ of Savoy; a man Tony believes to be his enemy. As random as some moments might seem, they're in Chew for reasons we are not yet aware, but after 32 issues of this fantastic series, I trust Layman to tie everything together by the end of issue 60.
Speaking of surprises, I didn't "get" Guillory's art style the first time I laid eyes on this comic. By the end of the first issue I was a believer. Now I hope we never have a fill-in artist on this series, we haven't thus far. Guillory's exaggerated facial expressions and fantastic action sequences tell the reader everything they need to know issue to issue with Layman's lettering delivering the laughs and/or the drama of the scen. Without Guillory's illustrations, Chew would not be Chew.
So, yeah, I like this book. I loved this issue. If you have not been reading Chew then you better have been fishing for chogs in the Arctic Circle, which if that's the case, I couldn't really recommend a jumping on point other than the very beginning. The first trade (5 issues) is $9.99 retail, and there is a beautiful hardcover of issues 1-10 that can start you on the road to one of the most unique and addictive series to grace the spinner rack. Have a look, I guarantee you'll be surprised. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Other Heavenly Items:

Age of Ultron #2
Age of Ultron #2 - Written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Bryan Hitch, published by Marvel Comics. "Dang you, event comics. Why can't I quit you?" I know I said I was forever done with Big Two event comics, but the first issue to this out-of-continuity (at least I believe it is) comic has a post-apocalyptic world, most of the Earth's heroes are dead, Ultron reigns supreme and Hawkeye is a bad ass. I enjoyed that issue immensely, and was bummed to discover AoU #2 was out at my LCS last week, but they pulled through for me and got me a copy this week. Thank goodness they did.
We get a look at the West Coast and follow a physically and emotionally scarred Black Widow and Moon Knight as they attempt to survive and understand their new world. Back East, Spider-Man recounts to the few surviving super heroes what happened to him before he was freed by Hawkeye. As the heroes try to understand Ultron's methodologies, Captain America pulls out of his malaise to rejoin the fight and to announce he has a plan.
Another solid issue that leaves me anxious for the next, with no signs of the story unraveling at the seams like almost all of these event books inevitably do. Again, not much happens in this issue other than what I stated above, but the pacing and the beats kept me turning pages and interested. I love Hitch's art and Paul Mount's colors are phenomenal, although I'm still confused by what Black Widow is doing on page five, panel one, but that's okay. After the Brightest Infinite Secret Wars of Invasion Crisis books of the past that left my wallet angry and my hopes for a well-told, non-money grab story dashed, Age of Ultron is thus far a fulfilling jaunt back into the world of "events." If it keeps it up, my faith might just get renewed. RECOMMENDED!

Daredevil #24
Daredevil #24 - Written by Mark Waid and illustrated by Chris Samnee, published by Marvel Comics. Reeling from the terrible news that his best friend and Law Partner, Foggy Nelson, is afflicted with a rare form of cancer, Matt Murdock seeks the advice of some of his Avengers pals, but even the brilliance of Hank Pym is not enough to cure Foggy. Matt gets rejected by someone who totally knew what she was getting into, making him fall for her all the more, and we catch our first glimpse of the latest player attempting to ruin Daredevil's life...a giant, creepy-as-all-getout cocktail shaker.
I wasn't kidding about Cocktail Shaker Man (possibly NOT his real name). Anyhow, Waid continues to drive the emotional attachment to his characters with these all-too-real situations. Foggy's fright is tangible, but you see the man's strength as he sits in the cancer ward more focused on helping fix Matt's personal problems as opposed to dealing with his own. I also loved the scene between Matt and Kristen--his old "girlfriend" and A.D.A.--as Matt tries to reconcile with her, but we also see that Kristen didn't exactly think the situation all the way through herself. Samnee's art remains strong as ever, with the previously mentioned Matt and Kristen meeting being a fantastic four-page standout of storytelling. This month's offering is mostly the calm before the storm, but is still a great read. RECOMMENDED!

Captain Marvel #11
Captain Marvel # 11 - Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Chistopher Sebela, illustrated by Filipe Andrade, published by Marvel Comics. In issue #9 we learned that Carol Danvers is suffering from a brain lesion that can cause some blackouts and memory loss if Carol's superhero persona, Captain Marvel, uses her powers to take flight. She also came into conflict with Death Bird, but this DB is not the same one who used to plague the X-Men. Thankfully, Carol has plenty of friends attempting to convince her not to use her flight powers, but those friends are the very people the mysterious person pulling DB's strings seeks to use against the hero.
DeConnick continues to develop Captain Marvel as the headstrong, hero who will cast aside her own well-being if it means keeping people safe. Lucky for Marvel, we also have the supporting cast of regular folks who care about this character and refuse to allow her to get herself killed for their benefit. DeConnick also gives the hero a unique sense of humor like when she uses a pair of DB cronies as ballasts, as the grounded Captain Marvel tests the limits of her jumping abilities. Andrade continues to bring a unique and compelling style to the title that is a refreshing break from the usual look we are used to seeing in most Big Two books nowadays. Captain Marvel continues to be a fun title with serious overtones and I'm happy to see what comes next.

Slice Into the Woods

WTF! DC Comics - WTF is right. This week both Andy Diggle and Joshua Hale Fialkov split from very high profile DC Comics titles (Action Comics, Green Lantern Corps, Red Lanterns) siting creative differences with editorial. You can read about this with a quick Google search, but I will say that I stand by the creators and would love to have each tell the story they wish to tell. Heck, I was actually going to buy Fialkov's take on the Lanterns, but it looks like DC saved me the $5.98. It was stated that one reason Fialkov left DC is over the rumor that DC wants to kill off the much-loved John Stewart character, which would be a bad move indeed. Whole lotta shakin' goin' on over at DC these days, which is a bummer.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 3/15/2013

(Sung to the tune of The Dead Kennedy's "Police Truck")

Today's the day that we're all in luck
New comic book day, gonna buy some up
Batman will thrive, I'm tellin' you dear
Great stuff to read so nuthin' to fear

Read, read how we read
Read, yeah read

It's comic time, the new Thor's a treat
He ain't in it, it's still kinda neat

Read, read how we read
Read, yeah read

Flashback Friday I'm tellin' you cuz
Gargoyle still rocks, I have to say

Just read, yeah read

Hello there, Donist World readers. I'm Donist and you are joining us live(ish) from beautiful, sunny Palm Springs, California for a special desert edition of Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods. I'm joined as ever by Donist World CFO Obie (my friends' Boston terrier) and our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/destination advisor, Tulip (my dog and Obie's sister). My wife Amy, and two of our friends are currently preparing a presentation on "Google in the Classroom" (they're English teachers, and amazing ones at that). Seeing as how they are so high fallutin', fancy pants ladies with a room full of attendees, Obie, Tulip and I decided to hold our own Donist World 2013 1st annual conference where we will be discussing our plans the way something or another. The conference is currently being held in our room and we have one attendee thus far...the maid who would really like for us to leave so she can clean the dang room (this is not a dog-friendly hotel). Since we have a captive audience, we have handed her a stack of comics to read and have her poring through all of the Donist comic stories on our display (iPad generation one). Obie and Tulip have graciously agreed to fetch (sorry, that's a bad word in our offices, I meant to say "procure") some refreshments for our attendee, ones that do not come from the minibar at such ridonkulous prices. $5 for a bottle of water?!? Anyways, Doris is reading some of the comics yours truly has written and just asked me why I don't have any stories about "The X-Mans." I really don't know how to answer this. Wait a minute...I can see Obie and Tulip down by the dang pool sharing a tremendously sized Mai Tai that they probably charged to the room, which my wife strictly forbade us from doing. Okay, while Donist World 2013 takes a brief recess so Doris can actually clean the room and I can stop my employees from bankrupting us, take a gander at...

Friday Slice of Heaven

Batman #18
Batman #18 - Written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Andy Kubert, published by DC Comics. Harper Row is back, my friends! She's back! Now, if you haven't been reading the New 52 Batman--and I'm willing to bet you have been since it's only one of the best selling monthlies coming out--then you probably said to yourself, "Self, what the heck is a Harper Row?" Well, Donist World Reader, join us by the pool for a beer and learn yourself a little somethin'.
Harper Row first found Batman through the power grids. She's actually a pro at monitoring that which gives Gotham City its literal life spark. She cares for her younger, gay brother and although they lack money, they are relatively happy. She also has a poor-excuse-of-a-father currently serving time in prison. The disappointment is mutual. The problem is Harper has a bit of an obsession with the Bat and she has noticed that something about him. Batman has been pushing himself too hard, with no sleep and he is starting to become sloppy. Unless Harper intervenes, she fears her hero is liable to get himself killed.
In case you missed the blatantly-spoiled death of Robin (Damian Wayne, aka Bruce Wayne's son) in the pages of Batman Incorporated, you should expect a bit of grieving from our favorite caped crusader. Leave it to Synder to NOT choose the easy way out. Instead of giving us the typical lengthy diatribe over images of Bruce Wayne reflecting over the past and generally moping about, we get something else. We see Batman's grief, but from the point of view of an unknowing, but sympathetic outsider. Harper cares for Batman, even after the emotionally distraught, sleep deprived, mourning father punches her in the face, breaking her nose (with a septum piercing that can't feel good). We feel for Batman and the great thing about this issue is it's Harper's tale, not Batman's, which allows every character their moment to shine.
Andy Kubert is guest artist for this issue, giving powerhouse Greg Capullo a moment to breathe. Kubert's art is the perfect stand-in, especially on the action sequentials and on the images of Batman himself, but I especially loved the look and expressions he gives to Harper's father during the prison scenes. Art on the second chapter is from Alex Maleev and although all of the imagery centers around verbal exchanges, the emotions conveyed are strong, especially on the exhausted Batman on the second to the last page.
Man...death is everywhere this month with DC Comics (Damian Wayne, Abigail Arcane, Alec Holland, Clifford Baker). It wouldn't surprise me if even more characters croak in some of the books I'm not reading, but now that the annual deathfest is over (hopefully), I'm ready for Batman--and all of the other characters--to get back to living. I actually wish the Robin death could have been pushed off for another year so we could see the repercussions of the fantastic "Death of the Family" storyline. This happened last month, folks. Now we might never see the breakdown of the Bat Family that Snyder and Capullo cleverly put together over the past year. Instead, Damian's death will take the spotlight as the heroes deal with that. Snyder can't be blamed for events outside of his book, and this issue makes the whole "In this issue a character DIES!!!" predictable cycle a bit easier to swallow. Because of that, this great atypical issue is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Thor God of Thunder #6
Thor God of Thunder #5 - Written by Jason Aaron and illustrated by Butch Guice, published by Marvel Comics. Thor! Thor! Thor! Oops...sorry, I meant to say "Gorr! Gorr! Gorr!" since the God of Thunder is no where to be found in this issue. Gorr, Butcher of Gods takes the spotlight this month as we delve into his past and tragic life.
Life on Gorr's planet blows...blistering sunlight scorches the ground and food and water are scarce. He and his wife and children make their way across the planet searching for a respite from the cruel hunger and thirst slowly killing them all. His pregnant wife is ever vigilant. She prays to the gods and has faith that life will be better once their gods finally take heed of their plight. The gods ignore them. Gorr loses everything except one of his children, and even their days are numbered until two gods fall from the sky. The gods have nearly killed one another, and are locked together in pain and suffering. When one pleads for Gorr's help, the other's sword transfers to its dark powers to Gorr, who then butchers the gods. Fast forward a few centuries and he has an unexpected prisoner and Gorr finally realizes what we've known all along.
Aaron deviates from the course of the story to provide some background on our villain. Some of what we learn is cool new information, some is information that we figured out on our own. Still, the result is interesting and with the added mystery of the stone-like artifact the story is enjoyable and keeps me wanting to see what comes next. Butch Guice fills in this month for Esad Ribic and Guice's vastly different, rougher style works well for the harsh look of Gorr's world. Thor God of Thunder continues to keep me on board for the next storyline and I hope to see more of my favorite thunder god (all three ages of him) next month. RECOMMENDED!

Flashback Friday:
The Gargoyle #1
Gargoyle (1985) #1 - 4 - Written by J.M DeMatteis and illustrated by Mark Badger, published by Marvel Comics. "If you promise to be a good boy, and not tattoo your brother again on the car ride north, I will buy you The Gargoyle mini-series to read on the drive. Remember how bad you felt about that Fantastic Four tattoo you gave him." We've all heard some form of this, right? Anyhow, the miracles of modern science and laser removal.
You know I'm a fan of Etrigan, DC Comics yellow-skinned, rhyming demon created in the 60s. Imagine my surprise when decades later, Marvel comics came up with The Gargoyle, an orange-skinned demon who didn't bust rhymes, but had wings and could fly. I had to pick this book up.
Isaac Christians goes to a funeral home to gaze upon the recently deceased body of Elaine, the woman he loved from a distance for most of his life. Unfortunately, his appearance causes a disturbance and he is forced to flee. Who wouldn't be disturbed at the sight of a orange-skinned, monstrous gargoyle lurking about the dead. Christians was once an elderly man who made a pact with a demon known as the Six-Fingered Hand to save his struggling home town. He was also a member of the Defenders, but now he is merely a monster causing havoc. As Christians flees into the night, it becomes apparent that strange forces are at work as he is compelled to visit a church where he is confronted by memories of lost love, misdirected affections and poor choices. He also meets himself, Isaac Christians. The Six-Fingered Hand did not merely transform Christians into a Gargoyle, they exchanged Christians's body with that of a living gargoyle, a gargoyle who very much wants his body--and his powers--back. Christians knows better than to give the creature what it wants, but the creature knows what Christians wants most in the world...his beloved Elaine young and back among the living. The reversal is made just as an ancient, mystical druid arrives on the scene and the Gargoyle is unleashed upon the world. Christians realizes he has made a mistake, and that the woman in his company is NOT actually Elaine. Now once again elderly and frail, Christians and the mystical stranger head out to stop the Gargoyle before it can lay siege to the world.
Here you have Donist, age 14 or 15, reading a comic about the Gargoyle and although I liked the comic enough as a youth, I will admit to being a bit disappointed. This is because of a few things: Isaac Christians was an old dude, it was about love and lost love, it was about betrayal, it involved a mean girl, there was little to do with punching colorful enemies in the face. There you have it, the folly of youth. I had no experience with girls (I know Donist World readers, I'm as shocked as you), and couldn't fathom being twenty, let alone seventy like the character Isaac Christians. Still, the Gargoyle looked cool and the story was sound, strong even, so although it did not deliver exactly what I expected, I did enjoyed the comic. Fast forward a whole mess of years later to a month ago, imagine my surprise when I found this comic series in a $1.00 bin at the fantastic Hypno Comics. Let's just say, now that I am slightly older than way back then, I fully understand and relate to the story and can sympathize with the character of Christians and I enjoyed this mini-series so much more.
DeMatteis has crafted a great story of love never realized, sacrifice and regret. It is also one of mistakes. Yes, there is little fighting, but we gain a look into what motivates this tragic character and we see most of his history as the Gargoyle all in the first issue. You don't need to read the old issues of The Defenders in order to understand comic, but if you find them in a $.50 bin, then hey...knock yourself out.
Badger's art was also something that young Donist was not prepared to see. It is a more stylized art and something I would be accustomed to seeing in today's comics. I did, however, like it then and I love it now. Badger's fantastic storytelling is readily apparent in the action scenes and Bob Sharen's colors perfectly complement Badger's style with their eye-catching, near-flat qualities.
Overall, I'm glad to have this book back in my collection and although I still think Etrigan (I wrote about The Demon mini here) would win in a fight with the Gargoyle, the human side of Isaac Christians is the one to which this old man can more readily relate. If you are nostalgic for the '80s comics or just want a well-told story, pick this one up. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Next Week Looks Like Another Big 'Un - Yup, tons of books next week, plus I won't be surprised if my missing Black Beetle #2, Age of Ultron #2, or other books I've requested come in. Hey Marvel. Hey DC. This is Donist of Donist World here. Give me a call and we can hammer out a distribution schedule that is more conducive to my FSoH/SitW posts. I have a readership of...well, my mom and now supposedly Doris from housekeeping at the Marriott Renaissance Hotel in Palm Springs. So pay us heed, Big Two, we're comin' on up. Face front true believers.

Age of Donist - Shocking. That's all I can say. Our friends took a group picture yesterday and it turned out to be a great picture--I am usually fantastically unphotogenic--but then I saw something I never fully realized. My hair is almost completely silver. Criminy. I never suspected. Then again there probably is a reason why Amy calls me "Michael McDonald" after going so long without a haircut, or when she calls me "Kenny Rogers" when I desperately need to trim my goatee. This is shocking as I am so youthfully immature at heart. Plus, can't she call me something else like "Silver Fox" or "Silver Ghost" or something cooler than Michael McDonald or Kenny Rogers?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 3/8/2013

(Sung to the tune of Richard Harris's "MacArthur Park")

Buddy Baker's arm broke, I might hurl
He ran to save his fam
Hey Rot creeps time to dance

How 'bout more tragic pages
Swamp Thing's Al /Abs doomed heart lovers mix
like some rot covered plants

That Ollie Queen's life just falls apart
Oh this sweet Green Arrow comic brings me down
Then I read Cloak and Dagger once again

I don't think that I can take it
This comic thirst I cannot slake it
And this Ultron brings me back to events again, oh no

Hi there, Donist World readers. As always, I'm here with Donist World CFO, Obie (my friends' Boston terrier) and our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/cake taster, Tulip (Obie's sister and my dog). We're scrambling to figure out what we are going to do to continue bringing you the content only my mom demands. You see, next week I'm not going to be around my computer and even having a chance to pick up my Wednesday comics is going to be a bit dicey. We will be bringing you something for Donist World next week, it just might not be our thoughts on that week's newest comics. We'll see. Also, Tulip, Obie and I have all traded in our PC laptops for iPads--we're fancy here at Donist World like that...Obie got them, I don't ask how--and working on Blogger through an iPad has been...interesting. Anyhow, next week might have new books, it might have more Friday Flashback, but there will be something, Obie will be sure of that. Speaking of which, where is he? Dagnabbit, the food truck is outside of my mom's house the business park again, and surprise-surprise thirteen dollars is missing from the Donist World coffers (we HAD eighteen bucks). Crud, I can see him from here and...oh, there's Tulip running to catch up with him. Alrighty, I'm gonna book and try to catch my executives before they eat all the mac n' cheese, but in the meantime, grab a coffee, lean back, crank up that sweet MacArthur Park, 'cause it's...

Friday Slice of Heaven

Animal Man #18
Animal Man #18 - Written by Jeff Lemire and illustrated by Steve Pugh, published by DC Comics. Face front true believers, this--sorry, that's Marvel's thing, uh, let's start over. The "Rot World: The Red Kingdom Epilogue" is here, although there is no mention of "Rot World" on the cover at all. All we know from the cover is that this is the most terrific day of Buddy Baker's life as we see by his smiling...hold on, let me wipe that smudge off my glasses where Tulip licked the lens. Oh. Buddy's not laughing, and it's the most "tragic" day of his life. "Tragic"...sorry about that. Anyhow, the end of Rotworld is now really upon us as all the events of the past year are wiped free and clear--except in Buddy's mind--and new mysteries surface to leave me very interested in what's coming next.
The force of the Rot is not necessarily a force of evil, but actually a force intricately woven into the cycles of the Red and the Green; none can actually survive without the other. Anton Arcane, however, IS evil, pure and simple and the usurper has proceeded with his own agenda in opposition to the Rot's ruling party, the Parliament of Decay. The Parliament succeeds in providing (barely) safe passage for Buddy Baker back to the moment where his daughter Maxine--also the young avatar of the Red--is about to surrender herself over to Arcane's agents, the Hunters Three Two and the young William Arcane. Buddy fights for his family, but as the cover all but tells you, someone dies. Also, what has Maxine's abilities actually done, and what is "Taproot" and what is an "Ascension Chamber?"
"The good guys win...but at what cost?" Is exactly the tagline that ran through my head when I first saw the cover of this issue. It was clear a family member was doomed. Which is fine and makes sense--superheroism is a dangerous pastime after all--but given the nature of Animal Man and his emotional grounding in his family, it might have been more interesting for Buddy to win with all family members intact. Lemire is the king of writing emotional tales that haunt, and yes death is what is to be expected when the natural seeks to fight the supernatural, but I would have liked to see an outcome where all family members survive, yet ultimately reject their father for bringing his "work" home with him. The seeds were already there and I'm sure Buddy's family is going to ask him to leave after the death and therein lies the win-but-lose scenario, only the bad guy gets his one last laugh on the actual battlefield as opposed to later in the story. This gives Buddy someone to blame other than himself. Still, this is a fantastic issue Lemire has crafted. Baker as the family man powerhouse rushing to save his family while ignoring his horrifically shattered arm (aggh, gross, I'm going to faint) made me want to cheer, praying he would get there in time. Maxine coming into her power and what happens to the Hunters Two left me VERY interested in the implications, and despite my criticism of using the "shocking" death of a character, the death is, in Jeff Lemire fashion, touching with the short dialogue providing the punch to the heart.
Pugh illustrates this entire issue and shines throughout. The page two and three double page spread is shear madness and leads the reader to have a pretty good idea of what their hero is going through. The Hunters Two still come across as horrifically terrifying and the scenes of Maxine using her bizarre abilities made me gasp, but it is the one panel of Buddy's reaction to the death of his family member that really seals the deal. Strong stuff. Adding to emotional beats of Pugh's gorgeous art are Lovern Kindzierski's colors of which I have been a diehard fan since issue one; just have a look at the previously mentioned DPS with the Parliament of Rot's disembodied hands glowing in the dark chaos...brrrrrrr. Gorgeous.
The Rot World saga finally comes to a close, as does the Rot storyline that has been running since issue one. I do think Rot World itself ran an issue or two long and I would have liked to have seen fewer of the DC pantheon of characters appear in the event, but overall Rot World and all the issues before left me excited for Animal Man. I look forward to rereading this series from the beginning in the coming months and more importantly, I can't wait to see what the bizarre introduction of these new characters has to offer. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Green Arrow #18
Green Arrow #18 - Written by Jeff Lemire and illustrated by Andrea Sorrentino, published by DC Comics. To be honest, I don't know who anybody is in this book outside of Oliver Queen, and even this version of the hero is foreign without the old standard forked beard and that sweet Errol Flynn mustache. We have some guy with no eyeballs--which creeps me the hell out--some friends of Queen who we thought were dead and one becomes dead, then we have this cool Komodo guy who has a murderous little whelp, an ex-stalkerish employee, and more talk of "the island." Man...I don't know any of these fools or what exactly has happened, but you know what, folks? I'm cool with it. The story is good, sound and I really want to see what happens next as I let the past slip away and embrace what is before me. It's all good, Lemire's got me covered.
Oliver Queen is alone, wandering the Arizona desert, as he suffers from thirst and heat exhaustion. He's not one to give up, so he presses onward to Black Mesa at the suggestion of the blind man (blind?! that cat ain't got no eyeballs!), Magus. Rewind the tape a little and we see that Queen is wanted for murder, a murder he didn't commit, which we DO know from last issue. Not only that, he lost his only help, but the resourceful Queen knows just the right person to enlist to his side, Henry Fyff, a man Queen fired for being a bit of a stalker. Meanwhile we see Komodo without his mask, but he's no one we yet know, and he has a daughter, who is every bit as murderous as her father. As Queen searches for clues to the meaning of his murdered family friend, Komodo makes his move to take the Emerald Archer down once and for all.
Here's the thing about not knowing exactly what is going on with this title...that's right where Lemire wants us. Those who've been reading the rebooted Green Arrow since the beginning only have a tad bit more insight than those who jumped aboard when Lemire took over, and even then the characters they knew are turning up dead. We are all at the same basic level of knowledge as our hero. Lemire takes last issue's faceless villain and gives him a face, a life and an enmity for Queen that we don't yet fully understand. Then we are (re)introduced to Fyff, a supposed creepy stalker, and through cleverly concealed exposition we get a decent glimpse into the character and I already like him. With the mysteries set and the new and existing characters introduced we're ready for the story to kick into high gear, which it does on the final page.
Man, do I love Sorrentino's art. His use of heavy shade and shadow set the tone and pace for all of his scenes with not a single confusing panel in the book. His storytelling is phenomenal and even if each of Lemire's beautifully written dialogue/captions were removed from the comic, you would know what was happening. Also of note is Sorrention's I, Vampire colorist Marcelo Maiolo, whose gorgeous colors only enhance the already stunning illustrations. It's great to see the pair's work appearing in the same book again.
When I first learned that Lemire was going to write Green Arrow, my first reaction was one of curiosity and resignation that this was a book I needed to buy. Then I learned Sorrentino was the illustrator...done deal. Thus far there is no doubt that I made the right choice. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Other Heavenly Items:
Swamp Thing #18
Swamp Thing #18 - Written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Yanick Paquette, published by DC Comics. I really, really, really wanted this book to end in the VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! category. I did. Outside of Spider-Man and Batman, The Swamp Thing is one of the first books I remember absorbing into my being and even though I was not old enough to read, I could more than understand the terrifying villainy of Anton Arcane. Then years later we had the Moore run of the books and they changed my life to the point of being a definite choice for a book to have when stranded on a desert island (along with The Preacher of course and my Micronauts comics). A bunch of stuff followed that I could never get into until Scott Snyder did what I had all but given up on...he resuscitated the title.
Don't let my little story lead you to think that I did not like this issue. I did like this epilogue to "Rot World" but it was missing something that I cannot quite narrow down. The fight with Arcane and then the fight with Arcane (you have to read to understand) were cool and all, but the fight was pretty much just a fight and it was over quickly. To this Donist, Arcane is the slow burn villain, the one who of course throws a punch or two, but his main battles should happen on the psychological and emotional level. This monster is one who likes to gloat, who lords his malevolence over Alec Holland (the Swamp Thing) and wants to watch him suffer. Maybe more time needed to be spent between these two and less with the entourage of guest-appearance heroes throughout the course of "Rot World."
What I DID like was the love between Abigail and Alec. This is where Snyder sunk his hooks in and I merrily allowed him to kick my emotions around like so-and-so did in 11th grade (don't ask). That one doomed tortuous kiss was heartbreaking and I so desperately wanted these two to end up together, but it was never meant to be...until maybe next year.
Paquette's work is stunning as ever, with the main triumph being the character design of Abigail Arcane as the new avatar of the Rot. She. Looks. Gorgeous. I hope to see more of this version of Abigail some point soon after the new writer begins.
Snyder does leave us anticipating some answers to a newly mentioned mystery or two , but it looks like we will not be seeing anymore of the warrior Poison Ivy or learn the fate of the Rot World Jason Woodrue. I'm excited for the former, but bummed about the latter. Don't get me wrong. Despite wanting a stronger finish on this fantastic series, I still very much love Snyder's run on Swamp Thing and I intend to stick around a while to see what the next creative team comes up with. Definitely worth checking out. RECOMMENDED!

Age of Ultron #1
Age of Ultron #1 - Written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Bryan Hitch, published by Marvel Comics. <ugh> I know, I know...I'm such a hypocrite. If you've been following me for any length of time, you know my thoughts on events, particularly the multiple title spanning events. Series like Crisis on Infinite Earths, Secret Wars (I was a kid then...might not hold up), Infinity Gauntlet (still love this one), Age of Apocalypse (Oh yeah) all worked for me and I continue to read those books on a regular basis, but far too many events have burned me and I have avoided them ever since. Nowadays, getting a complete story outside of the main title runs into the hundreds of dollars. Both Big 2 companies have done this and I vowed to never partake in another money grab event. Then I saw the one and only issue left in my store of Age of Ultron and I caved, mostly after hearing that Hawkeye (thank you, Matt Fraction and David Aja) was one of the central characters of the book so I swallowed my pride and took the plunge. Thus far, I'm glad I did.
Like Green Arrow, I have no idea what happened. The world's a mess--more of a mess than it is now, because Ultron stomped it into submission--and Hawkeye is sneaking around killing Ultron's thralls on the street all in an effort to rescue a captured and beaten Spider-Man from the clutches of some post-apocalyptic villains. Then the Ultrons come. Hawkeye and Spider-Man make it back to Hawkeye's base where the pair are NOT welcome. What's left of Earth's mightiest heroes is in shambles: Cap is shellshocked, Tony Stark has lost his sweet mustache, She Hulk has shaved her head. It's terrible. What exactly happened to reduce the Avengers and X-Men to this state? I'm sure we'll find out, but hopefully NOT in the two tie-in books in March, or the six tie-in books in April. Issue #2 drops in two weeks.
I enjoyed this comic. Bendis has intentionally left out much of the story to draw readers like myself in. You essentially have Hawkeye freeing Spider-Man, Ultrons come and they fight, and there is dissension in the ranks of the decimated Avengers. That's it. More than anything, this is a book about my newly favorite purple archer and how he is one of the few to step up and try to set the world right. Hitch's sequentials remind me of my his Ultimates and Authority runs, and Paul Mounts's colors are stunning and leave me feeling as defeated as the Avengers as I prepare to color some of my own comics stories. I'm on board for issue two, and hope good storytelling does not fall to the wayside of comic headlines or ever-expanding tie-in money grabs. RECOMMENDED!

Friday Flashback:
Cloak and Dagger #1
Cloak and Dagger (1983) #1-4 - Written by Bill Mantlo and illustrated by Rick Leonardi, published by Marvel Comics. Cloak and Dagger is another one of those comic book mini-series that my mom bought for me to read on long car trips for our summer vacation to Huntington Lake. This series--in addition to Jack of Hearts, Hercules (1982 and 1984), Falcon, Vision and Scarlet Witch, Kitty Pryde and Wolverine, Magik, and countless others--helped keep my yapper shut for about an hour and guaranteed my mom a reprieve from the "are we there yets" and from the "Jeff keeps looking at mes." Win-win for all parties involved. Of those series, Cloak and Dagger was the more challenging of my reading material as I had little clue as to much of the subject matter. Runaways, drugs, prostitution, pimps (the movie Night Shift being my main source of information on these subjects...a poor teacher indeed), addiction, little of this made sense to a kid who only knew Akron, OH and Santa Barbara, CA. As foreign and fascinating as these strange concepts were, I did understand the undercurrent of fear and horror with this mini-series. That made sense. That is what I latched onto.
Cloak and Dagger were once the runaways Tandy Bowen and Tyrone Johnson, until the day they were abducted and experimented upon by evil men seeking to develop a new, powerfully addictive drug. All of the experiment's subjects died except for Tandy and Tyrone. The pair escaped, but soon began to exhibit strange abilities: Tandy over intense warming light, Tyrone over cold gnawing darkness. They became Cloak and Dagger and vowed to seek vengeance on all street-level evil-doers by at the least hurting them back or at the extreme slaying them. The story opens with Cloak and Dagger seeking refuge from a priest, to whom they relay their history and mission. Over the course of the series they come into conflict with detective Brigid O'Rielly who seeks to arrest them for their crimes, they attempt to rescue a pair of runaways caught in a situation that looks to repeat their own history, all parties seek to capture a psychopath poisoning childrens' medicine, and the "heroes" deal with their own addictive parasitic relationship.
Bill Mantlo is a hero of mine. Although I didn't realize it at the time, Mantlo wrote the majority, if not all, of the first volume of The Micronauts, the first comic that left me desperately seeking to read my comics in order, in a month to month fashion. He also has a tremendous body of work for Marvel Comics (more than 500 issues of material) that continues to captivate readers and bring in money for Marvel. In 1992 Bill Mantlo was struck by a car--it was a hit and run, the driver was never found--and suffered permanent brain damage. There is a lengthy, and truly heartbreaking nine-page article about Mantlo's life, the accident, his shameful treatment by our corrupt healthcare system, and the lack of help from the employers who still earn plenty of money from his creations...most notably Rocket Raccoon (I am not a tax specialist, but I believe "gifts" that cover medical expenses are NOT taxable to the giver).
<sigh> Just remembering that article crushes my heart, but back to the comic. Mantlo created two "heroes" who dealt with a world I did not understand, but Ty and Tandy's story still grabbed me. The idea of being taken by strangers wishing only ill will toward you, the isolation of being alone in the world, the dream of being able to protect yourself and to make things right all appealed to this young Donist. They had everything in their lives working against them yet still they persisted, still they tried to make life better for everyone--except for the evildoers of course. I had no choice other than to be hooked by this story, but I will admit a bit of disappointment by the "not...the end" on the last page of the final issue. An 11-issue series followed in 1985 (written by Mantlo) and a third series of 19-issues followed in 1988 (not involving Mantlo).
Rick Leonardi provides the art on all four issues and it is grim, dark and utterly gorgeous with his work reminding me of the tones and styles seen in Ralph Bakshi animated films. Cloak melts into darkness as Dagger leaps to the forefront of each panel, light balances against the dark. You feel these characters' pain as their powers consume them, but the fear of Cloak's victims as his cloak devours them into its void is all too palpable with the assist of Glynis Wein's limited-yet-striking color palette.
No, this comic book mini-series is not a superhero beat down fest with brightly colored, mustache-twirling baddies and grinning posturing good guys engaging in fisticuffs where the heroes eventually prevail. These characters never really win, they will always suffer, yet they move on, skirting the line as to whether or not they should actually be called heroes. The villains of this book are real. They are tangible. Heck, the nemeses might just reside outside of some people's homes. Cloak and Dagger is a tragic story and one dealing in a different brand of heroism that more than holds up to the test of time two decades after first being published. I was happy to experience it once again. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Bill Mantlo - As I mentioned in the Cloak and Dagger Friday Flashback above, what happened to this talented writer is terrible and should not happen to anyone. Our insurance companies are monstrous profit-driven beasts that only care about appeasing shareholders and ensuring third and fourth homes for their 1%er CEOs. This doesn't surprise me though, I completely expect that type of behavior from them. Then there's Mantlo's creation Rocket Raccoon, which will soon be delivering sacks of money to Marvel/Disney with the coming of the Guardians of the Galaxy movie along with all the merchandising that follows. Would it kill a CEO to pay the therapy bills for the person who gave their corporation that property to begin with, not to mention hundreds of issues of comic book material? Mantlo's life actually depends on some outside help, help the insurance companies will definitely not be providing.

Jerry Ordway - Earlier this week, I read this post on Ordway's blog. Go on. Check it out, especially if you are an aspiring comic book creator, you should know EXACTLY what you are setting yourself up for with the freelance life. You should also read Ordway's eye-opening posts that follow this one for some very important advice regarding the business side of things. Basically, Ordway, who has provided me and thousands upon thousands of others with some tremendous comic books over the years is having difficulty getting work within the very company that signed him to an exclusive contract. Ordway gave us Infinity, Inc, The Power of Shazam and countless other comics he either wrote, pencilled or inked. Judging by the outpouring of support on Twitter for Ordway, I'm sure he will be fine, but signing an exclusive contract should also guarantee a minimum level of steady work. Ugh. Criminy. I have a feeling Ordway will be seeing plenty of work all too soon, but I will say...I have a single issue comic story I wrote that I would love for this comic book superstar to illustrate...I'm just sayin'...pretty please?!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 3/1/2013

(Sung to the tune of Creedence Clearwater Revival "Bad Moon Rising")

I've seen a Red Moon GN
Mox and Daeden I gotta say
Capes and tights? Fur's happenin'
This book just made my whole day

Don't go out tonight
Read Black Beetle alright
Pulp noir goodness. Out of sight

Last month, hurricanes were blowing
Now Hawkeye gets a redhead storm
Fraction, Aja kick ass knowing
The best Big 2 comic to keep you warm

Bad employees! Bad, bad, bad employees. I want you both back in my mom's basement the Donist World corporate headquarters right now!
Hello there Donist World purveyors of the (un)known. I'm Donist and right now I'm trying to wrangle my CFO Obie (my friends' Boston terrier) and my marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/herald of the apocalypse Tulip (my dog and Obie's sister) back into the office so we can actually get some darn work done.
You see, the dogs just finished reading Red Moon by David McAdoo and now they are out at the park tormenting the crows, trying to get a potato bug to talk to them, and foretelling the destruction of life as we know it with the coming of the red moon. Of course the bug isn't talking and the only visions Obie has come after he has had double dinners after sneaking into the kibble bag, and those visions are mostly just of him hoarking all over the new Donist World rug (we're fancy here like that). Tulip however did point out that there was a full moon and that I was acting particularly moody this week, and that the sequester is a sign of a mini apocalypse; I need to restrict her Game of Thrones and "news" watching habits. Obie's reaction to Tulip's vision of financial doom was to stop chasing the crows, head back inside so he could see about getting in on that sweet-sweet $83 billion subsidy going to the too-big-to-fail banks. Maybe I should encourage them to go back to harassing the crows. Ugh...anyhow, while one dog pretends to foretell a financial apocalypse and the other sets about trying to make it happen, I just want to talk about some comics. So, I will ignore Tulip's prediction that I will be apocalypsed if I don't feed her some of my pizza, and ask you kindly to please enjoy...

Friday Slice of Heaven

Hawkeye #8
Hawkeye #8 - Written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by David Aja (with cover pin-ups by Annie Wu), published by Marvel Comics. I think Aja and Fraction have a dare going between them. I'm not sure what the stakes are, but the dare involves squeezing as many panels on a given page as possible. This does not include the beautiful "covers" featured throughout this issue, but needless to say there're quite a few 15-panel pages and something like one four-panel page covering the lower end of the panel count spectrum. Now, given to lesser hands, I would expect word balloons to wage a fierce battle against characters and scenery, and that the story progression would be along the lines of "and then this happened, and then that happened, and what's really cool is this happened, and..." This is not the case with this gorgeous issue, that succeeds on every level, with the 15-panel pages being some of the most riveting moments of all.
There are certain times you don't want the girl you knew was all wrong for you to show up. You know, times like a family member's funeral, during an important business meeting, or when you are at the Avengers' mansion playing "blind man's bluff" with a sexy spy (one you were once involved with and kind of a "bad girl" herself), your beautiful ex-wife, and your gorgeous you are very, very, very good friends with(?). Welcome to Clint Barton's (Hawkeye's) life. It seems Cherry, or Penny, or whatever this gorgeous redhead's real name is, has found herself in trouble. She has shot her husband and needs to acquire a small safe that only Clint can help her secure. The problem is "Penny's" husband is a card carrying member of the tracksuit Dracula squad, one of Clint's many nemeses. He knows what Penny has asked him to do is wrong. Kate Bishop (Hawkeye as well) knows it's wrong. Penny just wants the safe. Unfortunately, Clint just can't say no to a lovely, manipulative, conniving, lying, self-serving lady in trouble.
If I was allowed to buy only one superhero comic (which this might not qualify as one)--as good as many of them are--there is no question it would be Hawkeye. Fraction has taken a well known and loved superhero and made him completely relatable. Heck, I see myself in this character (minus the abs to die for, the muscles, the skills, the bank account, the line up of sexy spys and superheroes and bad girls, the sidekicks, the somewhat respected status, and the list goes on and on). We watch in dread, as Clint makes one mistake after another and all we can do is slap our hand to our forehead. He (and we) knows he needs to steer clear of this girl and the trouble following her, but still he tries to help anyways. See! He messes up all the time...I mess up plenty, too! I AM Clint Barton (uh...minus all of the stuff that makes him so cool as previously mentioned). Anyhow, this issue has wonderfully humorous and serious moments that blend together perfectly. Speaking of characterization, the three panels with Kate Bishop left me rolling and are alone worth the price of admission.
On to the 15-panel pages...Aja again out does himself on this issue. With the very first page, what should be a smashed up mess, turns into a cinematic moment of static images giving the impression of movement and action. The scenes at the strip club, although not 15-panels each, also have the illusion of motion as Clint beats and pounds the tracksuit Draculas and Penny makes a play for the safe (an amazingly gorgeous page I WISH I could display in my home, especially the panel of Penny peaking into the office). Matt Hollingsworth's colors/flats only heighten Aja's stunning art and they leave me amazed at how something perceived as so simple as color choice can result in something so brilliant and eye-catching.
So, yes, this month's Hawkeye was kind of, sort of, beyond fantastic. If you have not been buying this series--it's only eight issues in--then whatever your reasons might be, they are wrong. Boom! There, I said it. But do not worry, my child, if you have deviated from the course or not yet begun your journey, for there is salvation! In a couple weeks' time you can pick up the first five issues in trade format, which means all you need to buy are issues six, seven, and eight. Hallelujah! If you are already reading this fantastic series, then I'm preaching to the choir and you already know this comic comes VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Red Moon OGN
Red Moon OGN - Everythinged by David McAdoo, published by Cossack Comics. I heard about Red Moon on a podcast a while ago...not really sure which one, I'm thinking 11 O'Clock Comics (great podcast btw!), but I could be wrong about that tidbit. Anyhow, my good friend Rob Anderson, writer of the fantastic Rex, Zombie Killer comic book mentioned the Shadow of the Red Moon Kickstarter campaign. It ended recently and I soon had in my hands this gorgeous signed graphic novel from 2011, a signed poster for the the new series, a sticker of the art for the new series, and a variant cover of the first issue of the new series. Not a bad haul. After receiving the goods, I realized there is also a prequel called Red Moon "The Rising" that I now need to find, which should be a hint and a half as to what I thought of this must-own OGN.
Mox the dog doesn't understand exactly why he's being punished, but apparently that wasn't a chew toy he destroyed, but rather his owner's very expense golf glove. Next thing he knows, he's outside for the night, and completely alone. That is until his friend Daeden stops by for a visit. Daeden is a free dog: no owner, no collar, no fence. In fact he's already taken the liberty of providing a hole just big enough for Mox to slip through. Now free, the dogs have the whole world available to them, but their joy is short-lived. Mox begins to have terrible visions of a moon turned red as humanity falls to ruin. To make matters worse, the pair meet Krigg, a crow who wants nothing more than to watch the humans burn while the crows reclaim the world. Mox and Daeden then embark on a journey to seek out great and powerful animals to help Mox understand his visions and hopefully prevent a great cataclysm. Unfortunately, Krigg intends to see his "vision" for the world come to pass and killing Mox and Daeden just might help his dream become a reality.
Don't worry, I only gave you about the first 10% of the story and there is plenty more that goes down afterwards. At 200 pages, Red Moon is a dense book, but prepare yourself to be conflicted. The gripping story will leave you racing to get to the end, but every beautiful page will give you pause to linger and absorb all the details. Still, you must know what Mox and Daeden will do next, but then you also have to be sure you study ever bit of the majestic yet terrifying Colotal (nope, not giving you this one, you have to read it). This is the best of problems to have with a book and McAdoo handles all components brilliantly.
The character designs of the dogs instantly grabbed me with how--I hate to use the word--cute they are, but within five or six pages, I began to forget that these characters were dogs. They became far more than just cute animals. I began to care for them, their quest, and I was worried for their wellbeing. Krigg on the other hand became far more than just a crow. McAdoo turns this bird into a true terror, a ruthless killer with a passionate drive and a wickedness that sends chills down your spine. The ticking clock nature of the book will make you nervous with each turn of the page and Red Moon does not pull any punches.
There are no "This is good, but..." moments for this fantastic OGN. I loved every page of it and if you don't exactly classify yourself as an animal lover--like I do--there is plenty to enjoy in this imaginative series. The best part after reading Red Moon is that I have a prequel to hunt down and the first of ten issues in the followup series waiting to be read. You need to check this out. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Black Beetle #1
Black Beetle #1 - Everythinged by Francesco Francavilla, published by Dark Horse Comics. I first became aware of this Francavilla cat with his work on the brilliant-on-all-levels Detective Comics (on sale for $11.99 for the TPB?!?!) with that little-known writer (sarcasm, folks) Scott Snyder. I was an instant fan. The action of his sequentials, the deceptively simple color palette that helps his imagery leap from the page into your brain, the emotion conveyed in each panel...I was floored. A year or so later, I then saw Francavilla's art on a single issue (I wish there were more) of Swamp Thing #10. I'm done. Game over. Now I need to pickup all of his past work I've missed, but never fear Donist World readers, Francavilla has some creator-owned work at Dark Horse and I was lucky enough to grab the first issue at the amazing Hypno Comics store in Ventura.
In The Black Beetle we have no idea of the identity of the masked man stalking the city's crime bosses or his motivations for doing so, but that's okay, that information will come. What's important to this noir thriller is the story, which begins with the Black Beetle failing in his mission to take down each of the mob families, as a mysterious third-party blows them all to kingdom come. All but one of the criminals die ugly, and that one has decided to turn himself in so he can enjoy the "safety" of an impregnable prison. What has this villain so scared that he retreats to a jail cell? Can the Black Beetle get to the man before the killer can get to him? ***side note...awesome helicopter backpack page!
The worst thing about this book is that issue two was released last week and my store ran out. BOOOOO! Anyhow, it's on order and I hope to have it by next week. I also do not have the "0" issue, which pains me to no end. Every bit of this book oozes old crime novels/comics and Francavilla's efforts to make it so are wonderfully clear. Great story, gorgeous art and colors that still dazzle make this comic a welcome addition to my pull list. The second issue can't get here soon enough. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

The Wrath of Con - <sigh> Many of my friends are at Emerald Comic Con right now and I am not. Nope, while they attend panels, meet creators, buy truckloads of stuff and generally have a hell of a good time, this Donist will be manning a a an all grey and khaki environment...listening to the drone of the white noise CD...all the while dreaming of con food, crowded showroom floors, and the glorious madness that only a comic book convention can provide. Have fun all. Tip an ounce to me and take plenty of pictures. <sigh>