Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 7/12/2013

(Sung to the tune of Rick Springfield's "I've Done Everything For You")

This East of West's a cool book just look
A damn fine book you must read
It is all high stakes, make no mistake
and Hawkeye's a book that you need
Well, that Batman book kicks ass all right
And Daredevil's flame ignites the night

Have you read the latest Chew?
Dang it's somethin' to see
Have you read the latest Chew?
Dang it's somethin' to see

Hello, denizens. Would you mind helping me move this stupidly large folding table to the Donist World storage unit? I already killed the two black widows hiding on the underside, so don't sweat it, you're safe. <phew> Thanks. What's that? Oh, Donist World CFO Obie (my friends' Boston terrier) is inside the office of our Fortune 320,000 company along with Tulip, the Donist World marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/event coordinator (my dog and Obie's sister), preparing our SDCC (San Diego Comic Con for those of you playing the Donist World home game) panel schedule for next week., ummm, no our signing table will actually be part of the...uhhh...unofficial remote SDCC being held in lovely Santa Barbara. Obie, Tulip and I will have a table out by the Donist World dumpster in an open air venue with such insightful panels as:

  • Television Shows That Kick Ace
  • Movies We Wish "They" Would Make
  • Michael _____ - The Guy Who Had a One-Second Scene On Doctor Who
  • Video Games I Liked When I Was a Teenager
  • Pancakes
  • Ring Around the Obie - Making the Most of Petty Cash
  • Oh Yeah...Some Stuff About Actual Comic Books

Obie wanted me to also say that he will be signing a sheet of paper with the title of his as-yet-unwritten book From Kibble to Gold Nuggets: The Rise of Obedicus "Obie" Woods. $5 gets you a ticket to wait in line, another $5 gets you a signed sheet of scrap paper, another $20 allows you to have your picture taken with Obie, another $5 will buy you some kind of food that will be cheaper and better than anything you will find at the San Diego convention center, and another $5 allows you to take something from our neighbors unlocked storage unit. Be sure to get here early. While you wait for the excitement to begin, have a look at...

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

East of West #4
East of West #4 - Written by Jonathan Hickman and illustrated by Nick Dragotta, published by Image Comics. We've all felt it before. We've all experienced the disappointment of when a story's building conflict just does not pay off. HBO's third season of the television show Deadwood comes to mind with a season-long showdown that built only to have everyone quietly part ways. Or, take a recent Big Two ten-issue commercial/advertisement for a multitude of other titles "event" comic that was like shotgun pellets fired into an open field to ultimately only strike dirt as gravity took its course on each story fragment. When you have so much build up and so much hype and story tension around the possibility of the dog-doo hitting the fan, when the payoff doesn't happen, or there is no tremendous twist, then the reader/viewer is left with nothing more than memories of time and money lost. The anti-climax has its place, but unfortunately action comics or after 10+ episodes of built-up tension on a television show is not it. All of that said, what about Hickman and Dragotta's East of West? doesn't do any of that stuff. In fact, it does not disappoint in the slightest.
In the future, or so it seems, Death no longer rides a pale horse, but rather a headless, ebony, nano-tech beast of destruction. He also rides in the company of a pair of terrifying witches as they prepare to take on the House of Mao's forces to retrieve Death's wife, Xiaolian. Hordes upon hordes of men and women against four? The house of Mao does not have a prayer of surviving the encounter. Meanwhile the other three horsemen of the apocalypse, the ones who betrayed Death in the first place, meet with one of "the Chosen" to discuss both that which they fear and that which they should fear: Death and she who conquered him.
For East of West, I have had the following reactions: Issue #1 - I may not know art, but I know what I like! Ummm...what the hell's going on? That eye is gross; Issue #2 - Oh. I think I get it now...sorta. Message and Chosen, got it. Death has a wife?!; Issue #3 - Holy crud! That's what happened with Xiaolian? But wait, I don't get why... Okay, that eyeball thing will haunt me for the rest of my days. Whoa...I can't wait for issue #4.  With the latest issue, Death has arrived at the House of Mao's very walls, and there is no talking things out or coming to some sort of agreement; Hickman makes sure that does not happen. We learn the consequences of wronging Death and it is not pretty.
This is not to say that all your questions will be answered with this issue. Far from it. We still need to know what caused Death to turn from black to white, or what happened to the previous incarnations of the horsemen, or the history--or even the names...did they say the names?--of Death's companions. Those reveals are coming, I trust Hickman to provide that information eventually, but it will be at the pace of his choosing, which is fine. He succeeds in leaving the reader desperate to know how Death met and was eventually tamed by Xiaolian. We want to know more about the witches and how War, Famine and Conquest came to the conclusion that the Apocalypse did not necessarily need a Death. With the world built, the players introduced and the stakes presented, Hickman's mystery behind this tremendous story is one that I will have to patiently wait to see unfold.
Dragotta's action scenes are simply breathtaking and I found myself torn between absorbing each and every beautiful panel to plowing through page after page to see just what the crow witch would do, or how Xiaolian would deal with her sister. There are also the scenes where Xiaolian speaks with her father and sister, and the emotions they show--the fear, the disdain, the ultimate acceptance of defeat--speaks loud and clear where word balloons alone cannot do the moment justice. Every image flowed from one to the next with not one panel taking the reader out of the story.
I knew I would like this issue, but I vastly underestimated just how much fun I would have reading this month's release. East of West is the comic that completely wowed me this week; heck, I read it again the following morning. We are only four issues in on this compelling series, and yes it is true that there are a lot of questions as to what is happening, what has happened, and what will come to pass, but you know what, denizens? That is fine. I am so very much along for this ride. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Other Heavenly Items:
Chew #35
Chew #35 Written by John Layman and illustrated by Rob Guillory, published by Image Comics. Image Comics just needs to stop it. <no, please don't stop> Cut it out already. <nope, full steam ahead, captain> Criminy, you guys! <hells yes, Image!> C'mon! I can't take much more of this. <not true, I will take as much as you can give me and I am an insatiable comic-books-are-my-food monster> Chew rules!<preach it, Donist!> We all know this. Amiright? Just look at the first page splash. You know, the one that says, "You all saw this one coming, right?" Well, no I didn't, and that is probably why I shot the beer that I was drinking out of my nose. One page. One page is all it took for Layman and Guillory to done stun me all good and proper. Page two and three succeeded in taking my shock and turning it into cold shivers traveling down my spine. Lucky for me, I still had 19 pages left to go.
In this issue: Colby's life becomes more...complicated; members of the Divinity of the Immaculate Ova take a food-powered hostage; Tony learns that the DIO might be onto something; Savoy is captured; Olive and Tony bond.
If you've been reading Donist World for some time, then you will have read 34 entries concerning this series over the past couple of years. Translation: I have loved every issue of this comic book series that is the most unique on the stands. Yes, some issues are merely "good," but most are great or better, and no comic makes me laugh out loud as much Guillory and Layman's Chew. If you are not reading this great comic...well....I pray that Poyo does not come for you in your sleep. Buy it, denizens. It's weird. It's fun. It's compelling. It's Chew! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Hawkeye #12
Hawkeye # 12 - Written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Francesco Francavilla, published by Marvel Comics. Wait a minute...didn't I just buy Pizza Dog...errrrrr...rather, didn't I buy issue 11 two weeks ago? Hold on, doesn't that second trade paperback that was released alongside this very issue contain issue 11?! What the what?! Marvel...SHENANIGANS! Double shipping and releasing an issue barely two-weeks old in trade paperback is kind of a low thing to do, but I'm going to level with you, denizens...if it's Hawkeye then whatever Poppa Disney/Marvel has to do to keep this title coming works for me.
Clint Barton's older brother, Barney, is down on his luck and will suffer almost anything to put a buck or two in his pocket. Barney's got time to kill before he meets up with Clint and some tracksuit Draculas seem to have an opening in their busy schedule. We also catch a glimpse of the Barton boys in their younger years, which I wouldn't necessarily go calling their glory days.
Fraction takes the story in a new, somewhat darker direction as we see the sad yet touching story of Clint and his brother living with a highly-abusive and alcoholic father. The state Barney the adult is in, by the time he reaches Clint's door, is not uplifting, but rather sad. This story is different from all the issues that came before, but it is exceptionally well-told.
Francavilla, one of my favorite artists working in comics, is back with another issue that is equally as striking as issue #10, with the color palette that I love so much in all of his work (also, read The Black Beetle...seriously). Francavilla's scenes with the Barton boys growing up are truly tough to see as we experience the makings of another bad night, but he then brings us down with a heartwarming scene depicting the brothers coping with their plight. It's all rather beautiful.
At this point, I don't know what to expect with my favorite Marvel book. One moment we have a Hawkeye story, the next we have Hurricane Katrina, guests artists, Pizza Dog centric issues, bad guy introductions, and now an intimate look at the family life of a character I love. Double ship? Triple ship? Quadruple ship for all I care--I'd be cool with this, btw--just keep this Hawkey a comin'. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Batman #22
Batman #22 - Written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Greg Capullo, published by DC Comics. Young Bruce Wayne is losing the fight against the Red Hood and his gang. The crimson-domed maniac has branched out from recruiting random law-abiding citizens to actual criminals and rival gang members all to grow their numbers in the pursuit of causing fear and unrest throughout Gotham City. Bruce and Alfred have a difference of opinions, and Bruce's headstrong attitude causes a rift between them. A groovily-sideburned Edward Nygma meets Bruce for the first and possible last time as the Red Hood strikes.
I'm now down to three New 52 DC titles. It's not how I wanted things to go, but I will say that Batman by Snyder and Capullo remains DC's strongest title and not one that I anticipate dropping any time soon. Snyder gives us a look at the man who would become the Batman and the events leading up to his rise. His version of Bruce Wayne is stubborn, arrogant even, and we see that Bruce is in for some difficult lessons, making this reimagining of Batman's history--which we pretty much see on a semi-annual basis--so very interesting and worth the read.
Capullo's art is fantastic as ever. I always mention his gorgeous character designs and exciting action sequences--how could you not?--but also worthy of mention is how each of his panels lead the eye from one to the next. Just have a look on the first page where we follow Bruce's gadget down the hole then glide to the next panel with the partial note that leads us to the third panel along the rope to the page turn. On the next page is where the action and chaos begins, yet Capullo still leads the readers eye through each panel as you cruise along the gunfire, down the blimp from tail to nose, from Red Hood up a line on the floor, and through the final panels. These masterful designs might be painstakingly laid out, or, as I suspect, Mr. Capullo just sees this stuff naturally these days. I should also mention letterer Nick Napolitano whose invisible art plays off Capullo's imagery to gently guide the reader through each completed page.
The only thing missing in this issue is a look at Bruce in the Batsuit and trying to put Gotham back together as we saw from the previous issue, but if you are familiar with Snyder's work, then you know he plays the long game; we'll get there. Month-in and month-out, Batman continues to be a great looking book with an engaging story that vaults the caped crusader's to the top of DC's stable of superhero titles. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Daredevil #28
Daredevil #28 - Written by Mark Waid and illustrated by Javier Rodriguez, published by Marvel Comics. Speaking of double shipments..."Bullies." That's all Waid had to say to bring me doubly onboard for a book I already can't help but buy. Make of that statement what you will, denizens, just know that the subject is something I hold near and dear o my heart and we'll leave it at that.
When Matt Murdock's childhood nemesis shows up at his law office, he is filled with many mixed emotions, but most prominent is a still burning anger. Decades have passed since Matt has seen Nate Hackett, but it's safe to say he has not forgotten the man or rather the kid who used to torment him. Nate is not in Matt's office to apologize, or to tease. He is there seeking help on a false arrest charge stemming from a poor decision he had made years prior but for a crime he could not possibly have committed. Matt sees Nate is telling the truth and reluctantly agrees to help the person who had made his life a living hell. What follows next is completely unexpected.
Waid can do no wrong on this title. Sure some issues were not as stellar as others, but all that means is those issues were merely great. I'm guessing Waid has had some personal experience with the subject matter of this book--haven't most of us, denizens?--and he handles it not just with a complete understanding of what it feels like to be bullied, but by also giving us the bully's perspective. This is not something you see all that often. Then Waid does the impossible...he gains a shred of our sympathy for the bully Nate. He gets us to not necessarily give the man a pass on his actions, but he allows us to take a moment and see where Nate was coming from and why he treated Matt the way he did. By the time the issue ends, we hope to see Nate succeed in turning his downtrodden life around. Darn you, Mr. Waid...making me care for a bully...
Rodriguez steps in for Chris Samnee on this issue and his style of art is perfect for the book. He maintains a color palette that is not overly rendered, similar to what has been used in the past, and the acting and action of each panel is fantastic. I especially loved the page six aging regression of Nate as an adult and Nate as a kid, with all of the similarities and differences a few decades make in a person's appearance. His final page is shocking to say the least.
I usually get annoyed by the whole double shipping thing, but if Marvel wants to get me the next part of this bully story in the next couple of weeks, then I promise I will not complain. Daredevil is the comic that brought me back to Marvel and it remains a book that will keep me coming back for more. If you are lapsed Daredevil reader like I was, Waid's take on the character should more than bring you back around to what is one of their strongest titles. At only 28 issues in, a few trades should set you right. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Still No Rachel Rising #16 - Forget it. I'm just going to order it online. Crud. I have issue 17 and 18 now.

All Work and No Play Means Donist Will Not Be at SDCC - The last time I was there was 2008 and it's been over two years since I have been to any comic book convention. This is something I need to remedy.

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