Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 5/10/2013

(Sung to the tune of Hall and Oats "Private Eyes")

I tell you, 'bout books to read
Like Batman and Thor, books that'll make your heart sing
Oh bro, you've got to know these comics got hooks
Chin Music will give you a start
Marshal Law is a prize, Nuke me slowly then there's

Private Eye, I'm telling you
Vaughan's really got the groove
Private Eye, I'm telling you
Private Eye, it's something new
Got the groove, Got the groove, Got the groove

Whatever, denizens, whatever. You see the Donist World CFO and marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/party pooper, aka Obie (my friends' Boston terrier) and Tulip (Obie's sister and my dog) are still not on speaking terms with me. It all stems from their failure to understand that dogs are not allowed in American theaters even when the dogs are executives for a Fortune 320,000 company and even when they are into cosplay and even when the movie is Iron Man 3. Sometimes the good ol' US of A ain't all that progressive. I know, I'm as shocked to hear that as you are. It doesn't matter that Obie spent a good three hours on his Iron Man costume and had to shred all the toilet paper to get the cardboard rolls that make up the legs of his armor, or that Tulip spent the past four months carefully casting her armor and gluing it all together (it's quite lovely actually). Dogs just aren't allowed in the theater. Period. Oh well fine, Tulip. Fine, Obie. Sit there with your backs to me as you stare outside at the beautiful sunny day before us. We have lots of work to do and if you two insist on--fine. I'll just have to go to Taco Friday by my little(ish) lonesome and-- Okay, looks like they're over their misgivings and are sitting patiently at the car. Dog + Food = Iron Man 3 forgiveness. Oh yeah, I'm not going to review Iron Man 3 (did you see the size of this post!!!), but I will say I had a blast watching the film and give it a healthy HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Heck, denizens, I look forward to seeing it again very soon, but <shhhhh> keep that on the down low, I don't want to upset my executives. While we head out for some apology tacos, have a look at...

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

The Private Eye #2
The Private Eye #2 - Written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Marcos Martin, published by...ummm...those two all by their lonesome. "Private eyes, hey, their watching you. They see you're every move," but just because this PI happens to see your every move, it doesn't mean they have a clue as to who you actually are or what you have been doing. After the futuristic grand failure of the "cloud," the world all but fell apart. What was once a time of posting every teeny tiny little detail of one's life has now made way for extreme privacy. The internet no longer exists, phones have cords, and everyone--at least once they are old enough to remove their youth bracelets--walks around with their true identities hidden, whether by paint, mask or holographic imagery. This is the world of The Private Eye and dang if parts of this world don't sound appealing to me...not counting the murder of course.
P.I. is on a case to look into the past of the beautiful Taj McGill, as hired by...Taj Mcgill. The situation is that Taj wants to see if P.I. has the ability to dig up any of the skeletons--and they are many--hidden in her closet before her potential employers can discover them. It's an odd job for P.I. and even his young cohort, Melanie, is inclined to agree. What's even more odd is that Taj has just been found murdered in her own home and her sister, Raveena suspects P.I. is behind it based off a clue written on Taj's hand. You see, Raveena was also a former client of P.I. and was the one to recommend Taj to the unlicensed investigator in the first place. Meanwhile, the murderous De Guerre, is posing as Taj and has tricked an old coworker into performing an as yet unknown deed. P.I. spends some time with Raveena and her angry baseball bat, but the two work things out just as two French goons make their deadly presence known.
More of this please and as soon as possible. Between The Private Eye and Saga, Vaughan has cornered the comics market on compelling stories, characters, dialogue, plot, the whole kit and kaboodle. Each character has their own distinct, clear voice and motivations that leaves the reader flipping page after page desperate to see what comes next. The mystery of Taj's murder and what it was she was attempting to hide left me frantic for the truth, and despite knowing that it is not going to be coming any time soon, I am consoled knowing that I am in the capable hands of P.I. and Melanie (who I really want to know more about).
Marcos Martin is the perfect artist for this digital series with a style that is both minimalist and at times cartoon-like. I don't mean this as an insult, but the highest praise. He has given The Private Eye a distinct look and a wonderful sense of motion with each panel, and his acting never fails to convey the emotion of the scene as it is needed. As far as backgrounds go, his abandoned subway car city in the middle of the desert is fantastic as are the homes built out of what I am guessing are abandoned oil pipelines. I wished I could physically explore each area. It is all quite beautiful.
The neat thing about The Private Eye is if you are legitimately hard up for cash--these be tough times after all--or if you are a shamefully cheap bastard without a soul, then you can download each of these issues for free. You also get to choose your format of cbz, cbr, or pdf. If you are human, have a heart and know that making comics is not cheap, then you have the option to throw these innovative creators some of your hard-earned cheddar. I gave them $4.00 for this issue. I wish I could do more, but that is the price for most comics these days, and if we all continue to chip in a few bucks for each comic book issue with this level of quality, then the creators will allow this fantastic series to run its course and receive the monumental ending it deserves. This is must read material, denizens. Support it! Did I not talk about the fantastic first "issue"??? Oh wait, I mentioned it here. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Batman #20
Batman #20 - Written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Greg Capullo, published by DC Comics. Okay, willful suspicion of disenchantment time, folks...wait, that's not right. Ugh...willing species some dysentery. No that's not it either. Oh, Tulip just clarified. It's willful suspension of disbelief time, Donist World denizens, but hey it's superhero funny books, who's really going to say, "That's just not realistic, bro"? Okay, plenty of people probably , but my point is that this issue has some...areas where you just need to go with the flow and accept that Clayface just ain't the sharpest tool in the shed. Do that and you're in for one heck of an entertaining Batman book, and the backup ain't nothin' to sneeze at either.
Clayface has Bruce Wayne right where he wants him: trapped, alone, no avenue for escape. They are at the Wayne Enterprises R&D Lab, surrounded by equipment, weapons and vehicles all designed for Batman. Heck, Wayne's even got voice-activated Bat Bots, but this newly evolved Clayface has the ability to mimic his victims down to their distinct voice, fingerprints and more. We'll ignore that Clayface can't put the square peg in the square hole and come to the conclusion that Bruce Wayne IS Batman. Don't feel too bad for ol' Mud-In-The-Eye, even the brilliant Lucius Fox--CEO of Wayne Enterprises--can't seem to make the connection without the use of the yet-to-be-developed "Bold and Striking Chin Analyzer"; that's still three years out. Bruce and Lucius are tossed out like trash to die, but luckily a discarded piece of tech (one that made me cheer) saves the day. Clayface runs amok posing as Bruce Wayne, and Batman meets the monster at Wayne Enterprises. Clayface then discovers the truth, Batman confuses matters, Gotham's finest have no idea what to think, Clayface touches a nerve.
Yes, I know, I've spent most of the review poking fun at the holes in the logic of the Batverse--a problem Snyder inherited, as opposed to created--but this issue was a blast. Snyder gives us the Batman book we've loved since we were kids. We have the impossible to beat bad guy, with the odds stacked against our hero up until the moment his quick thinking vanquishes his foe and reinforces the secrecy of his identity. But then Snyder jeopardizes everything. At the exact moment Batman is smug with his victory, Clayface brings up Bruce Wayne's dead son Damian Wayne. Everything was fine, the day was won, but the pain of losing Damian sends Batman into a rage. If anything, Jim Gordon now knows exactly who Batman really is, but I suspect he will not be telling anyone. It was a subtle and bold move by Snyder to allow the Bat to drop character and show his human side just for a moment. We also have an incredibly touching moment shared with Alfred as he offers to watch footage of the deceased Damian alongside Bruce. I'm getting choked up just thinking about it and I didn't even like the "In this issue a hero dies!!!" decision to kill off a character.
Capullo's art--surprise, surprise--is better than ever. The action sequences are tense thrill rides and the character designs, especially the continuously morphing Clayface, are without compare. The standout for this issue though are two little panels, the ones where Alfred extends his hand to Bruce as he asks to watch the video footage of Damian. Damn...there I go again...messing up my makeup. The scene has beautiful, emotional acting that is as far removed from fisticuffs as you can get, yet its impact is without question.
Even without the Batman Beyond nod that made me gasp with joy, or the willful suspension of disbelief, this issue of Batman was a victory and cemented this title as my favorite New 52 book by a long shot. Also needing mention is the great conclusion to the backup story by James Tynion IV and Alex Maleev with its phenomenal last page moments between Batman and Superman...or rather Bruce and Clark. This issue as whole is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Other Heavenly Items:
God of Thunder #8
Thor God of Thunder - Written by Jason Aaron and illustrated by Esad Ribic, published by Marvel Comics. This book is doing it right. I have been a fan of Thor since I was but a wee Donist trying to untangle the mess of matted hair gracing my Mego doll. I read my Marvel Treasury Edition #10 of The Mighty Thor, with my favorite villain being the unstoppable Mangog. The Walter Simonson stuff is beyond compare, but after that run I had long since given up on the character and all of his books. Nothing grabbed me until now.
The Thor of the present and the past are making their way to confront Gorr the God Butcher, not knowing that a younger version of themselves is held captive as a slave and being forced to construct a device called the God Bomb. Young Thor then meets three beautiful women set on destroying the God Bomb themselves, women who we learn are Thor's grandchildren. The situation is awkward. Young Thor makes a heroic play to destroy the bomb, and modern Thor gets smacked in the face with a space shark. The battle is about to begin.
Aaron's take on Thor is working on every level. The story spans many millennia, concerns three Thor age groups, now includes granddaughters, focuses on a god murdering being, and jumps from time period to time period and by all means should be a complete mess of a story. But not on Aaron's watch. All aspects of the story flow well together and the fantastic dialogue adds the drama, the intensity and many laugh out loud moments as well. Ribic's art is stunning on its own, but combined with Ive Svorcina's colors becomes something as epic as Aaron's storytelling.
With two more issues in this arc, I can't wait to see what's to come next, but I have no doubt it will be worthy of the finest songs of Valhalla. Having read these past eight issues, I can't believe I was reluctant to pick this title up. Marvel NOW! VERILY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Chin Music #1
Chin Music #1 - Written by Steve Niles and illustrated by Tony Harris, published by Image Comics. Ahhh...this beer I'm drinking is so refreshing. It has it all: a nice citrus hop aroma, clean, slight bitter taste, complex. It's just like the debut issue of Chin Music that I timed reading with this Firestone Pale 31 Ale. It's nice to have something new, something unexpected, something finely crafted with a noticeable pride added by the creators; I ain't talking about the beer.
The book opens with a man with glowing orange eyes, meticulously carving magic runes into a a bullet which he then fires out the window. We cut to a scene in Egypt from years (?) prior where a merchant with glowing orange eyes is pursued by shrouded demons who very much know who the merchant is. The demons annihilate--there is really no better word--the flesh of the "man," stating that "he" was one of them but no longer. The bloody mess that remains yet lives and somehow shifts from Egypt to New York (?) where it is struck by the car of none other than blank (sorry, you'll have to read it). With a touch, the thing's power is transferred to the prominent historical figure (at least I think that is what happened). Back in the present, we see a criminal, another prominent historical figure (ditto, denizens), just as the shot fired from all the way across town takes him down.
As you can tell in the little synopsis above, I'm not completely certain what is going on. Some of the conclusions I have about the Egypt to New York part or what happened to the shambling, skeletal horror might be wrong, but like the beer (not the beer again!) I may not understand everything going on behind the scenes, but I do know I like what's in front of me and I am more than happy to try another next time. Niles and Harris have the making a a frightening little gem, and this issue is a great way to kick everything off. There are few words in this issue, but that is fine as the visuals more than carry us through to the end of the issue leaving us eager for more. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Flashback Friday:
Marshal Law:
The Deluxe Edition HC
Marshal Law: The Deluxe Edition HC - Written by Pat Mills and illustrated by Kevin O'Neill, published (this time) by DC Comics. Ahhh...Welcome to fantasy island! Smiles everyone, smiles! That gentleman gently pulverizing that hero's face is one Joe Gilmore, a superpowered law enforcement officer who has taken up the job of reining in out of control "heroes" with extreme prejudice. Mr. Gilmore also goes by the nom de guerre Marshal Law. The Marshal hails from the city of San Futuro, what used to be known as San Francisco before the "big one" hit, and he is visiting our island in hopes of satisfying his deepest fantasy, which is...oh dear-- You see, the good Marshall currently lives his fantasy and is here to arrest the heroes partaking of their own warped powertrip perversions on the island. According to the Marshall, he makes his living hunting heroes, of which he hasn't found one; at least none that hold up to his definition of the word. Please everyone, maintain your smiles, there is no cause for alarm. The Marshal will kindly ask Ocean King, American Warrior and the Wombat to come along nicely...Oh! Hitting a patron in the unmentionables is very ungentlemanly, Marshal and--no need to use a "Mace To the Top" bullet on American Warrior, once he pulled up his pants I'm sure he was going to--Marshal!!! Dismemberment of the guests of Fantasy Island is strictly forbidden and--
I remember seeing an ad mention the new Epic Comics book titled Marshal Law back in the late '80s and my interest was peaked. My life had already been forever changed by such books as Batman The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, Miracleman, The Saga of the Swamp Thing, and a host of other tremendous works and Marshal Law looked to be right up my alley. I found a copy of the first issue while visiting my dad and my step-mom in Ohio at a comic store that was somewhere in Akron. I had somehow missed the issue back home in Santa Barbara, California, but I found it in all its "Fear and Loathing" glory. There I was, sixteen-year-old Donist with no clue the Marshal Law character looked like a leather-clad sex worker, which I quickly learned about within the pages of the actual comic as the sexually perverse "heroes" openly mocked the Marshal on his fashion choices right before they were beaten and maimed. That's alright, though, he still looks cool. The book also offered a constant satirical look at both modern and traditional super hero comics. Who in their right mind would dress in a brightly-colored costume, give public speeches while holding so much power in their hands? Many of these "heroes" were also developed by the government as living weapons of warfare which they used freely for many despicable war crimes. The "heroes" Marshal Law hunts have almost all proven to be highly damaged goods, with copious amounts of PTSD, extremely perverse predilections, and a general sense of being above the law...which sounds surprisingly like today's politicians; who woulda thunk it? This book immediately sunk its teeth into me with its filthy language, frequent nudity, and more importantly it opened my eyes to how many of the comics I had loved as a kid were still telling the same story over and over again; I learned about cliches. Yet again, I began to look at comics differently.
The journey involved in being a Marshal Law fan since day one was an arduous one. Again, I didn't have the internet available to me for most of the time, and knowing what was coming out and when was something fit for a Dan Brown character, cryptograms and all. Here is the release schedule with the dates and publishers involved as well as my reactions at the time:

  1. Marshal Law #1-6, published by Epic Comics, 1987-88 <--Cool. Ads in other comics. Donist achieves awareness.
  2. Marshal Law Takes Manhattan (one-shot), published by Epic Comics 1989 <--No prob, baby. I got this.
  3. Marshal Law - Kingdom of the Blind (one-shot), published by Apocalypse Comics, 1990 <--Who's Apocalypse Comics? Whatever, Marshal Law forever!
  4. Marshal Law - The Hateful Dead (part one), published by Apocalypse Comics, 1991 <--Sweet! I didn't even know about this!
  5. Marshal Law - Super Babylon (part two of The Hateful Dead), Dark Horse Comics, 1992 <--Wait, who's Dark Horse and what about the cliff hanger from The Hateful Dead? Oh this continues that story...bonus!
  6. Marshal Law Vs Pinhead: Law In Hell #1&2 - published by Epic Comics, 1993 <--I totally missed this on the first go around, possibly to the suckitude that was the '90s comic book scene. Back to Epic Comics? Aren't they toast?
  7. Marshal Law - Secret Tribunal #1&2 - published by Dark Horse Comics, 1994 <--Finally! More Marshal Law comics. Ohhhhh, Dark Horse does stuff with Matt Wagner and Paul Chadwick. 
  8. Marshal Law/Savage Dragon #1&2 - published by Image Comics, 1997 <--Whoa, totally missed this as comics became about holofoil, scratch-n-sniff, limited edition, trading card, polybagged, micro-investments that could buy you a house! Yeah, I bailed during that nonsense, and had to pick this up a while later. Thank you interwebs! 
  9. Marshal Law/The Mask #1-2 - published by Dark Horse Comics, 1998 <--Missed this too the first time around, but bought about five years ago. Still waiting for more Marshal f-ing Law!

Now that is some crazy bouncing around amiright?! I'm not even going to try to touch the maelstrom that is the trade paperback release schedule. All I will say is that I was excited when news broke of an omnibus to be published by Top Cow Comics ("this is getting ridiculous"), but then that vanished to the Bermuda Triangle until this glorious edition arrived at my doorstep as published by DC Comics. "Game over, man, game over. Publisher, smublisher, I'm just thankful I finally have this book." Be warned though, this is NOT a definitive collection as it is missing all three crossover issues (Pinhead, Savage Dragon, Mask), but at this point I will take what I can get. And hey, you can still get the missing issues on the cheap, which I am sure you will after you read this big ol' book.
<phew> Now that the history is done, how to tackle this beast. The best way to lick this filly (not sure why you would lick a horse, but whatever) is to break it up by release across future FSoH posts. Let's look at the first six issues from Epic Comics, the ones that started it all.
A serial killer known only as the Sleepman is murdering women dressed as the hypersexualized superhero Celeste, and San Futuro hero hunter Marshal Law is going to bring the monster down. To the Marshal, most heroes are self-serving, damaged, perversions with no qualms against taking what they want. No one with powers is above suspicion where the Marshal is concerned, especially the revered Public Spirit, a Superman analog who is very much in the public eye. As much as Marshal Law hates the Public Spirit, he just can't prove that the colorful hero has been dressing in black, donning bladed gloves and placing a brown sack over his head before committing his gruesome crimes. As the hero hunter investigates the Public Spirit, he doesn't find any links to the Sleepman murders, but what he digs up proves to be every bit as disturbing and he finds he's been played.
The length of this post alone should tell you that I kinda like this book. Whether it is Pat Mills's brutal critique of the superhero genre and the politics of the time (and the past and future as well) or Kevin O'Neill's beautifully stark imagery, this comic was unlike anything I had read before; it was also just what I needed as an evolving comic book reader. In summary, yes, I loved this comic back then and it more than stands up to the test of time now. Both the Epic issues and this collection as a whole come VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Ray Harryhausen Passes - So sad that Harryhausen has died, but no one can argue that the man led a full life. Boy howdy! Look at the man's body of work. Comic books, the movie monsters (Dracula, Wolfman, etc) and Harryhausen all factored greatly in my love of the fantastic, the impossible, and the terrifying. Harryhausen especially. I remember at a very young age seeing The 7th Voyage of Sinbad in the theaters and at the Drive-In theater as well. My mom shared her love of the movie with me and I could not get enough of the gorgeous monsters parading about the screen. Sinbad Shminbad, give me the cyclops, give me the dragon! I'm not sure how I saw the movies in the theater since the movie was released in the late '50s (I'm not THAT old denizens), but there must have been a period of rescreenings as I clearly remember the experience of seeing this amazing movie from the comfort of our blue station wagon. I also got to see Jason and the Argonauts in the theater as well with my friend Dirk and Clash of the Titan...oh man, don't get me going on my love of that one (I still have the Charon action figure for Pete's sake).
Rest in peace Mr. Harryhausen. You were directly responsible for my love of the fantastic, the magical, the impossible. Because of you, I craft my own worlds now, forever hoping to give a glimmer of the spark of life to my stories that you gave to each of your glorious creatures. You are missed.

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