Friday, June 7, 2013

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 6/7/2013

(Sung to the tune of Pet Shop Boys "West End Girls")

Sometimes you're better off dead
Creepy ass alien wants to gobble up your head
Marshal Law's mad, gonna kick some tail
Bustin' up punks and shootin' epic fails

How 'bout that Swamp Thing, he's wearin' a frown
Capucine? Seeder? They're gettin' him down
Green Arrow, it rocks yo, stuff gets real when
Death comes to town

Death comes to town in a dead end world
The East of West comic book, bro

Death comes to town in a dead end world
The East of West comic book, bro. Comic book, bro.

Obie! Look out! That giant rolling boulder could crush you! Tulip, beware! That stone on the floor triggers a volley of poisoned darts and <phew> you dodged them! I--hello there Donist World denizens, I'm here with my CFO Obie (my friends' Boston terrier) and Donist World marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/lead archaeologist Tulip (my dog and Obie's sister) and we are heading into the comic book storage closet. It is a dark, scary place where sounds of tittering creatures can be heard and offending odors languish in its dank recesses. Nothing will prevent us from excavating the great Comics-That-Donist-Forgot, and no trap or beast will waylay our efforts. There are treasures of Marshal Law long rumored to be stashed in there as well as treasures created by Ennis, Ellis, and Moore, but we must survive our journey through the closet first. Hold...what is that my trusty Zippo lighter reveals? <eeeeeek> A spider bigger than any I have ever seen before sits atop the dust and cobweb covered Longbox of the Chosen. Quick, Obie, use the whip! That's right...I...crap. Obie is sporting the archaeologist hat with style, but how could I think a 1-foot-tall Boston terrier would ever be able to effectively use a 9-foot-long whip? He's trying, bless his little heart, but yeah, that's not gonna cut it. Drat, c'mon puppies, let's call it a day and we'll try again tomorrow when the spider has hopefully gone off to eat the neighbors or something. In the meantime, let's have a look at this week's...

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

East of West #3
East of West #3 - Written by Jonathan Hickman and illustrated by Nick Dragotta, published by Image Comics. To almost quote someone I don't want to take the time to look up, "I may not understand East of West, but I know what I like." You see, denizens, there ain't one cape in this comic, or tights boasting an impenetrably trademarked symbol. There ain't even any underwear over any tights...although to be fair you won't be finding many tighty-whities (or bluesies or redies for that matter) over at the Big 2 these days. What we do have is sibling rivalry to the maximum, a case of poor parenting, "Horsemen" of the Apocalypse, ebony and ivory murder machines who whupass off camera, a talking eyeball (?), and Death himself on a steel horse he rides (I'm pretty sure he's wanted--WANTED--dead or alive...heh!). This stuff I get. All the other stuff not so much, but that Hickman fella's smart...real smart...and I have a feeling additional pieces will fall in place with each release. We are in for one heck of a ride. No one said reading comics had to be easy, denizens, which is why the creator-owned offerings can be such rich and rewarding joy to read.
Xiaolian (aka Death's wife) has been held captive by her sister Hu for the past decade. Hu originally captured Xiaolian with the aid of the previous incarnations of Death's apocalyptic siblings. Death has long since believed his wife dead, but now he knows he was lied to, and nothing will stop him from retrieving her. Meanwhile, Death's old partners have found Tracker, a man with a sentient (parasitic?) eyeball that reveals Tracker knows more than he is saying. The Horsemen also conclude that Death is after three things: his wife, the lives of "the Chosen," and something that the Horseman stole from him years ago. A terrible battle is about to begin.
<phew> Okay. Just writing the little summary above while rereading the book, and taking a closer look at the art, clarified much of what's going on and what is to come. Hickman indeed requires his readers to connect many of the cleverly concealed clues as to what is happening and what has happened themselves, but he still has much hidden up his sleeves for later revelations. Many of these reveals will not come easy...good.
Dragotta's art is consistent with his tremendous storytelling from the first two issues, but it is his character acting that excels with this installment. The pages with Xiaolian and Hu standing before their father, shows the intense rivalry between the two sisters even without the word balloons; the coldness of their father is equally chilling. Also worthy of mention is the slight variation of the "children" versions of War, Famine and Pestilence (or is it Conquest?) from issue to issue as they mature into their proper forms. He also draws a mean crawling eyeball.
East of West is so much more than your average America-after-the-apocalypse tale. Hickman and Dragotta know where this story is going, but do not expect them to handhold the reader down every path along the way. These creators expect more of us, and with those expectations come the promise of an exciting and immersive experience unlike anything you have read before. After seeing the final splash page, issue four cannot come soon enough. I know I will be rereading these issues this weekend. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Other Heavenly Items:
Swamp Thing #21
Swamp Thing # 21 - Written by Charles Soule and illustrated by Jesus Saiz, published by DC Comics. Finally, an issue without a crossover guest star and the story shines because of this. Soule was put in the difficult position of continuing the story of the Swamp Thing after the somewhat disappointing "Rot World" event. Immediately forcing a guest star of a certain character--whose movie I am dying to see--didn't make life easier for Soule. Left to his own devices on this issue, he's off to a pretty good start.
Alec Holland, the Swamp Thing, meets the enigmatic, immortalish, warrior woman Capucine who is seeking protection. But who does a woman of 800+ years need protection from and why? The Swamp Things decides to enter the Green and consult with one of his predecessors on the matter. Unfortunately, while he is there, the former guardian of the Green's power is sucked dry by the mysterious being known only as the Seeder, who also tries to take Alec's power but fails. The last thing you want to do is anger a force of nature, and Alec is plenty mad.
With any luck we will be seeing more of the horror side of this series and less of the DC Universe proper moving forward, but already a couple issues involving Constantine loom on the horizon. Yes, I am fully aware that Constantine first appeared in Alan Moore's Swamp Thing issues (some of my favorite comic books ever), but with the New 52, the character now exists with the capes and cowls crowd and his appearance makes me worry. Soule is doing a fine job on the title and will hopefully be given enough breathing room to shine without too much interference from the other titles and characters. Saiz draws an intense protector of the swamp and I'm interested to see what the two have in store with the Seeder and Capucine. RECOMMENDED!

Green Arrow #21
Green Arrow #21 - Written by Jeff Lemire and illustrated by Andrea Sorrentino, published by DC Comics. In issues 17, 18 and 19, Oliver Queen, Green Arrow, can be seen walking through the desert and flashbacking to earlier events and his battle with Komodo. Issue 20 found Oliver walking through the desert and finally finding Magus in a teepee and flashbacking on stuff. This issue finds Oliver walking through the desert, meeting Magus (with a page three that almost copies word-for-word all of the dialogue from issue 20's page two), slipping himself a Mickey, and tripping balls on a vision quest that does not involve Matthew Modine or Linda Fiorentino with a perm.
Anyhow, Magus tells Oliver about seven houses (arrow, spear, fist, shield, sword, and axe) and that each of the houses has an ancient totem weapon that offers true enlightenment and allows the holder to become one of the Outsiders' inner circle (not my words here). Oliver also sees three dragons with one of them being Komodo. As Oliver's drug trip ends he vows to find the three dragons and he also meets John Butcher who holds the totem of the axe.
Okay, that was weird, but I will say that this issue brought back some of my interest in the title, which had been waning a bit. Lemire is a fantastic writer, but I do feel this storyline could have been condensed from five issues to three to really keep things moving and possibly even offer a glimpse at the "island" everyone keeps mentioning (Green Arrow Year One? Something from earlier in the series? Gilligan?). Sorrentino's art is beautiful as ever and he makes the prospect of sipping the "special water" equally appealing and terrifying.
Lemire has grand plans for the emerald archer and with the character's past now out of the way, we are free to see where Lemire really intends to take us. It looks to be pretty exciting. 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 by DC Comics (yup...I'm still as shocked as you are). Ahhh...this fine Telegraph Obscura Cacao I'm sipping is the perfect beer to finish off the final arc of the Marshal Law comic series contained in this beautiful hardcover that now sits on my favorite bookshelf. Bask in its glory, denizens! You see, like this particular beer, this comic is not for everyone. Marshal Law has much to offend those of delicate sensibilities: violence, foul language, sexuality, actual sex, young adults getting skinned alive by horrid alien beasts, and stuff that gets you thinkin'. I, however, love it, and if you are a fan of the types of books I usually talk about, then I think you might dig it too.
As I mentioned, Marshal Law: The Secret Tribunal, is the final story in this fantastic collection (although there are the Hellraiser, Savage Dragon, Mask crossovers that can be found at will get to those sometime soon), and after the good-but-not-as-great-as-what-came-before Hateful Dead and Super Babylon two parters, The Secret Tribunal is a breath of fresh air. These two issues were originally published by Dark Horse Comics in 1993 and 1994 and went totally outer limits, by sending the good Marshal to outer space. I don't quite remember where I found these particular issues and I quite possibly bought them at my dearly departed Andromeda Comics back in the day. Although I did not realize it, this would be the last time I would see Marshal Law in a book all his own. Shuttered LCS? No more solo Marshal Law stories? I'm bumming myself out. Let's have a quick look under the hood.
The "League of Heroes"--a flagrant jab at the Legion of Super heroes--is auditioning for new members and decides to send two candidates to an abandoned space ship once used by none other than the Public Spirit (from the 6-issue original series). Needless to say, things go very bad when Luminous Lad gets skinned alive by a horrific alien and Growing Boy barely makes it out alive. Unfortunately, he unknowingly brings the creature back with him. On Earth, a group known as the "Secret Tribunal" (a jab at the X-Men) is tasked with hunting down the alien, and Marshal Law is tasked with leading the so called heroes against the monster. The relationships involved are...strained to say the least. When Marshal Law and the Secret Tribunal arrive on the League of Heroes's ship, they discover that they don't just have an alien problem, they have and ALIENS--plural--problem. Things get nasty, people die, and the Marshal tries not to throttle the Public Spirit Jr. "In space, no one can hear you ream."
Last week's main complaint with Hateful Dead and Super Babylon was that they seemed a tad disjointed and possibly rushed, which is why I gave those stories only a RECOMMENDED! This is by no means bad, they just weren't as good as what came before. I'm happy to see that The Secret Tribunal was a great leap back to form and reminded me of why I fell in love with this book in the first place. This chapter takes most of its stabs at the much loved "teen" teams of the Big 2 books and honestly goes a little easy on them in comparison to past installments. Instead, we have the Marshal trying his hardest to protect those who he feels will eventually grow up into what he most loathes...heroes. Mills and O'Neill deliver a quite scary story of terrible monsters preying on those whose powers are not enough save them, and we move from parody to thrills with no break in momentum.
There you have it. Two decades after first reading Marshal Law: The Secret Tribunal, it more than stands up to my fond memories and was a blast to read. I give this story a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! You can read each of my reviews for the Marshal Law six issue mini-series, Marshal Law Takes Manhattan, Marshal Law: Kingdom of the Blind, and the Marshal Law: The Hateful Dead/Marshal Law: Super Babylon two parter from each of the past four Friday Slice Of Heaven entries. On a whole, Marshal Law: The Deluxe Edition HC is a must-own book if you can handle all that darn fear and loathing and is VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Age of Ultron #9
Age of Ultron #9 - Written by Brian Michael Bendis, illustrated by Brandon Peterson and Carlos Pacheco, published by Marvel Comics. <sigh> Okay, I know my mission statement has always been to focus on the positive side of comics, to not be a typical troll living in his mommy's basement--hold on a second (thanks for the cookies, Mom, I--yes, YES, I will fold the laundry. C'mon! I'm writing my funny book stuff, Mom! Geesh). Where was I...Oh yeah. I'm going to break my mission statement slightly here. Anyhow, the penultimate issue to the Age of Ultron event reminds me why I swore off events from the Big 2. Very few of them have ever satisfactorily paid off. Sure there are some neat moments--what's left of Iron Man, and the double page splash for instance--but the rest of the book is spent resetting the reset that happened at the halfway point ensuring that Ultron will indeed be born. We have time travel, more time travel, memory wipes, and the off panel deaths of our favorite heroes for limited to no impact.
I completely bought into the premise of the first couple of issues, with Hawkeye risking life and limb to rescue Spider-Man when no one else would do so. Luke Cage finding the Vision in control of the Ultron drones, and Luke Cage with She Hulk attempting to stop Ultron were all fantastic moments despite the decompressed storytelling; as I said, I was in. Then the story went off the rails with time travel, and Morgan LeFay, and Luke Cage dying alone off panel in a hut. It's all very...odd. Now with one issue left and the spoiled return of Neil Gaiman's Angela character from the Image Comics Todd McFarlane Spawn Universe set to happen, I'm going to throw out a crazytown prediction.
I read that there is a new series called Mighty (or something along those line) is coming and it will have the Blue Marvel, a character more powerful than any other hero on the team. Wasn't that the Sentry at one time? But the Sentry was killed off on account of most people hating him, and with the return of Angela, does this mean the return of Marvelman? Marvelman--aka Miracleman--was redefined by Alan Moore and then handed off to Gaiman before Eclipse Comics went bust and Todd McFarlane ended up buying the rights to the stories at what was the equivalent of a yard sale. Legal battles ensued and Marvel now supposedly has the rights to Marvelman and Gaiman is working with Marvel. Hmmmmm. I predict Age of Ultron brings Marvelman to the Marvel Universe and the only one who can combat him is the Blue Marvel. I really hope I am wrong about this.
Anyhow, this issue made me groan, but than again I fully expected to be less than thrilled; again, I was hoping to be wrong. Who knows, issue 10 might just blow me away, but mostly I expect it to introduce at least one character who probably should not be introduced into the Marvel Universe proper at all. Only time will tell if Donist pulls a Wanda Maximoff, "No. New. Events." WORRIED.

Rachel Rising #16...Bueller...Bueller - Dag Nabbit. I just want my damn Rachel Rising #16! Criminy, and true to form I received issue #17 right on time. I tell ya. I get no respect. Geesh. Hopefully next week.

Two More Creators Express Grievances With Editorial At DC Comics - Uh...DC Comics...Uh...what the hell is going on over there? You are hemorrhaging tremendous creative talent. If your shareholders are that concerned over such short term fluctuations in business, then aren't those shareholders actually gambling day traders? Who cares what they think? Those guys are going to just bail anyways. Yes the comics market is a small portion of your corporate overlords's portfolio, but you would not have the movies, toys, bed sets and pajamas without the creators who made the properties matter in the first place. Let the creators work their magic and create. You might just have the makings of the next billion dollar grossing film and toy line if you foster an environment where people actually want to work for you. Sharing some of the upside from things like movies and television shows with contributing creators wouldn't hurt either.

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