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?!

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