Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 8/30/2013

(Sung to the tune of Billy Joel's "Pressure")

That Lazarus is so dang good
It's a pleasure
As is Conan by Brian Wood
It's a pleasure
Doubts about Sex? Should you read?
You should
So when you go to that place
The LCS you love and know
Too much to choose in your face
Here is where you can start
It's a pleasure

Ugh...hey there, denizens. <phew> Okay, let's do this thing. I'm here, as ever, with Donist World CFO Obie (my friends' Boston terrier) and Donist World marketing director/executive assistant/party planner/dietician Tulip (my Boston terrier, Obie's sister) and this is the moment. Yes, indeedy, it is the moment. "What in tarnation are you talking about, Donist?!" you say. Well, last week I mentioned that my drive had relaxed a bit over the past couple months. This isn't to say that I wasn't writing everyday, but I haven't been lettering or coloring pages in the evenings like I had been, or working on broadening my knowledge in things like InDesign or some of my other areas of interest. Nope. Tulip, Obie and I have already begun to get back on track in that regard. What I am talking about is the downturn in our diets and exercise regimens. You see, even before the Donist World team went on vacation, we all went berserk on the eating and drinking. Kibble tumbled down the mountains like an avalanche of heaven, while beer flowed with a majesty worthy of kings. KINGS I tell you! Well, denizens, some things are now overflowing over our belts and collars, and the time is nigh to repair the damage of our excesses. Of course it doesn't help that Obie keeps stocking the refrigerator full of wondrous beers to the point that Amy the intern (my wife) is getting a bit peeved that we can no longer fit actual food inside the ol' ice box. So, up and at 'em, Donist World executive team! How can we expect to run a healthy Fortune 320,000 company, when our bodily temples are unhealthy? Okay, Tulip and Obie are refusing to move. While I rouse the puppies for a quick run on the beach, have a look at this week's exciting...

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Lazarus #3
Lazarus #3 - Written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Michael Lark, published by Image Comics. All right, denizens, I'm going to express my outrage with Image Comics, so please be patient with me. Alrighty, prior to the past year, I was pretty much only buying the ever-fantastic Chew. Then Image done went crazy and released Saga, East of West, Satellite Sam, and of course Lazarus. All of these titles consistently rank highly at Donist World and are among my most anticipated monthly reads. Then, a month or so ago, Image came along with their high-falutin', fancy pants expo thing (yes, I'm bitter I was not there) and announced a truckload of new titles that I have to read. Now, after I thought Image was finally done with the whole "take the comic book world by storm" initiative, they have to go and have their creators double down on the quality of their stories, art and production. It's a revoltin' development I tell ya, and I'm outraged! Okay...fine...Lying Cat (different Image title, but you get the point) would call me out on some of these statements, but I am definitely telling the truth that the latest issue of Lazarus is even better than the amazing previous two. The only real pain point with Image titles these days is biding your time until the next exciting issue of their many wonderful titles.
Forever "Eve" Carlyle, the Lazarus (protector) of the Family Carlyle, is on a special mission for her father. She is in Mexico for a meeting with the head of the Family Morray, and to offer some of Carlyle's seeds in exchange for Morray's weaponry. There is one other condition of the trade: Morray must cease all communications with Eve's traitorous siblings, Johan and Johanna. The twins are in fact working against their father's will and attempting to start a war with the Family Morray. Meanwhile, her message delivered and terms agreed upon, Forever spends some time with Morray's Lazarus, Joacquim. The two flirt, almost innocently, but their time together is ruined as Johan and Johanna make their move.
Aside from a minor character being Cuisinarted by a Lazarus and a heck of a cliffhanger ending, this issue put aside the action and fighting to focus primarily on character building, which it did spectacularly. Rucka gives us insight into Forever that shows there is so much more to her than merely being a walking death machine. We saw her begin to question her role in the first issue, but with this third chapter, Forever is more at ease with her counterpart, Joacquim, than anyone else in the series thus far. Rucka gives them an innocence and shyness, an uncertainty as to what to do with the attraction they feel towards each other. Their roles as Lazarus for their respective families has prevented them from ever having a moment's joy; it's all rather touching to see their friendship build amidst a completely screwed up world. The reverse is true with the discussion between the Carlyle twins--especially Johanna...<brrrrrrr>--and after the tenderness of the previous scene the change is shocking, but effective in keeping the reader off balance.
Rucka's words and the situations he has scripted are made all the more powerful by Lark's stunning character acting. Page three, panels four through seven are prime examples of this. Here's how it plays out: the Morray sergeant disobeys an order from Joacquim, the grimly serious Forever casts a look to her counterpart, he signals her with a slightly raised eyebrow, the page ends with a closeup of Forever staring dead ahead; it's almost as if she is daring you to turn the page. What follows is a gnarly five panel action scene where Forever never once loses her focus. A few pages later we see the same seasoned killer smile for the first time in three issues. The entire comic is filled with slight changes in expression and subtle gestures that give you so much information as to nature of the characters involved. Add Santi Arcas's gorgeous colors to the already beautiful art and you will have no choice but to become part of the creators' world.
I love this comic. The idea that this future is the result of a world that so closely resembles our own is not just exciting, it's frightening. I was with Forever at the get-go, but after the insight into her character in this issue--not to mention the brutal cliffhanger--I desperately want to see what happens next. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Other Heavenly Items:
Conan Vol 13: Queen
of the Black Coast TPB
Conan Volume 13: Queen of the Black Coast TPB - Written by Brian Wood, illustrated by Becky Cloonan and James Harren, published by Dark Horse Comics. It's been a while since I mentioned Brian Wood. In fact the last book of his I read was DV8: Gods and Monsters TPB, which I talked about here, but if you're too lazy to read that review, just know that I LOVE that book (do yourself a favor and go buy it, denizens). Anyhow, were not talking about the flippin' amazing DV8 book, were talking about Conan, a character I've loved since I was a kid, but one I haven't mentioned before at Donist World.
It was because of countless recommendations, numerous positive reviews, and my love of Wood's work on DV8 that I finally took the plunge and bought this trade. Dagnabbit if that was not one of the best moves ever. Wood perfectly captures the spirit of a young, brash Conan who has not a care in the world; that is until he meets Belit, the Queen of the Black Coast. The youthful barbarian is still the familiar character we've loved throughout the decades; he still has his arrogance, fury, greed, and pride. But this time, we see a different side of Conan, one who loves, and in learning to love, also learns new sides of fear and trust.
The story begins with Conan being chased through the city Messantia, where he narrowly escapes aboard a nearby ship. The young barbarian quickly charms the crew into accepting him aboard and Conan quickly becomes one them. Days flow by smoothly until the day the Queen of the Black Coast, Belit, and her pirate ship the Tigress attack, and all of Conan's shipmates are killed in the battle. Conan wrecked plenty of damage to Belit's crew as well, but when the barbarian and Belit meet, all past grievances melt away, and the two become lovers. Time passes and their bond grows, but Belit has a plan to plunder Messantia, a plan that will test Conan's love and trust.
Wood's take on this old tale is perfect in both tone and character. The narrative captions flow so naturally and are so clear that I imagined an aged man recounting the exploits of the Cimmerian as I read, but we all know how ridiculous this one near Conan lives long enough to reach old age. When Wood has Conan talk his way onto the merchant ship, it's easy to see the barbarian's charisma to the point that I'm smiling and nodding my head along with the ship's crew. Conan isn't the only one with his own unique voice, but also Belit, the old seer, and the many different crew members (from both ships) who each comes to life under Wood's care.
Cloonan illustrates the first three issues and her art is not at all what I am used to seeing on a Conan book, but it is astounding. Her young, muscular-but-not-bulky take on the character is stunning and her action scenes are thrilling, but it is the powerful emotions of the characters that will grab your attention and keep you hooked. Cloonan's take on Belit is, well...let's put it this way, Belit scares me, but she is so unbelievably sexy that I could easily get past my fear. Each page is a treat, and I enjoyed lingering on each and every panel Cloonan drew; again, I can't wait to see more in the next volume. Having Dave Stewart's colors on already beautiful art doesn't hurt things either.
Harren's art is also a great addition to this title; he picks up the second half of the book. Harren's panels of a sad, defeated Conan are great, but he excels with his fight scenes, which are bursting with energy and chaos. He is a perfect fit for any fantasy book and great follow up to Cloonan's first three issues.
Going in, I had a strong suspicion I would love this book, and I underestimated just how enjoyable a read it is. Thankfully, volume 14 is just around the corner, and Wood, Cloonan, and Harren are all involved. If you are a lapsed Conan fan or just have some interest in the character or the creators, then this is a must-own collection. You will not be disappointed. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Sex #6
Sex #6 - Written by Joe Casey and illustrated by Piotr Kowalski, published by Image Comics. Okay. Uhhh...yeah, this book is definitely not one for the kiddies. Criminy, no! Man. In fact, there are more than a few panels--two pages if you must know--that a grown-ass man like myself could barely get through. Trust me on this, denizens, it was kind of rough. That said, I am still enjoying Sex quite a bit (Amy the intern looked at me funny as I read that line aloud), although those two pages I alluded to could have probably been condensed down to a single page. I'm guessing Casey wants his readers to feel uncomfortable, and with those images from Kowalski...mission accomplished. Again, Sex is still a really good comic...for adults.
Simon Cooke's lawyer and friend, Warren, is trying to uncover information about the Saturnalia, a ultra-secretive adults-only party catering solely to the wealthiest of Saturn City's inhabitants; the search is not going well. Meanwhile, Simon has an uncomfortable meeting with the mayor as their employees begin to express a little interest in each other. The Old Man continues his reprehensible acts (dude! Was that necessary?! Ugh). Simon's old flame, Annabelle, learns that sometimes super-science can backfire years later. Finally, Keenan receives an interesting offer, and gives a little something back in return.
How's that for vague? Image continues its march of enjoyable, non-capes-n'-tights comics with Casey and Kowalski's highly imaginative Sex. The story continues to slowly unfold as we receive bits and pieces of the characters and their doings, both past and present. Casey's dialogue is fantastic and Kowalski's art is lovely as ever with Brad Simpson's non-traditional colors being a huge plus. Although, I still have no idea where this story is going, the strength of the creators' talents and the intrigue of this comic will keep me coming back for quite some time. RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Money Grab Tactics Coming Full Circle...'90s Anyone? - I'm going to keep this brief and polite as I wouldn't mind working for the Big Two someday. I'm a little worried about the return of the fancy-pants covers. You know what I mean. Lenticular, glow-in-the-dark, foil-stamped, die-cut, polybag, pop-up, chromium, and--gawd help us--covers that ask you to "rub the blood." These types of books were touted as collector items back in the day, and many included a bump in price to accommodate the increase in printing costs. This type of corporate shenanigans eventually backfired and crippled the comic book industry for nearly a decade afterwards (please read the fantastic Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, which touches on this). Now, here we are 2013 and DC Comics is having "Villain Month" where your regularly scheduled book might be replaced by not just one "Villain" book, but in the case of more prominent titles such as Batman, you will have four titles to pick up. Not only that, denizens, all "Villain" books are being released with a 3D cover (including an extra $1.00 price bump). Yes, there are regular cover versions that will be available at $2.99 each, but expecting loyal fans to shell out an additional $9 to $12 for the more popular titles is kind of skeezy. All I know, is if polybagged collector cards start showing up, then I'm out. Vote with your wallets. I'm only getting two of these books.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 8/23/2013

(Sung to the tune of "Under the Sea [From the Little Mermaid]")

The Sixth Gun only gets meaner
Becky's made a big mistake
Skinwalkers out to steal her soul
If only she could but wake
Have a look at Animal Man
Brother Blood's a complete fright
Then cheer up with Hulk and Daredevil
Mr. Waid will set you right

Comics to read
Comics to read
Darling their rocking
Good times a knocking
Take it from me

Hello there, denizens, and welcome to Donist World. This week I am under siege by my very own executive team as they have chained me to my desk and refuse to let me go until I snap out of the lackadaisical funk I have been in for the past month. Donist World CFO Obie (my friends' Boston terrier) and Donist World marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/correctional officer Tulip (Obie's sister, my dog) state they will not release me until I agree to get back into the swing of things in regard to my writing. I've tried to explain to them that I just finished reading my wife's comments on my kid's book and actually completed another draft--I still have a couple areas to rewrite before a final polish--but they've noticed a drop in my productivity; so have I. Anyhow, Tulip is kind enough to bring me a fresh lemonade now and then, but Obie is threatening to make me "go out and shake that money maker for all it's worth." I'm unsure if he knows what he's talking about or not, but his comment is frightening no matter how I look at it. So, it's time to start jumping out of bed at 5:00 AM--not 5:30 or 6:00 like I have been--to get cracking on my projects and back to learning, lettering, coloring, etc. in the evenings so I can actually begin to release some of the stuff I've been working on these past few years. Crud...Obie just informed me that he swallowed the key to my cuffs. Okay, while I try to Houdini myself out of my predicament, take a little gander at this week's...

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

The Sixth Gun #33
The Sixth Gun # 34 - Written by Cullen Bunn and illustrated by Brian Hurtt, published by Oni Press. We've all done it before, denizens. We've all engaged in mental time travel, whether we were replaying something that happened in our past that could have gone better, or fretting/anticipating something that was yet to come. Sometimes we have those thoughts of, "I wonder what it would be like if..." which could be anything from winning the lottery ( can do better) or walking out of a meeting with twin middle fingers held proudly high for all to see (now we're talking) or running across your junior high nemeses once you've "made it" (sing it, denizens) or going to the darker side of things like what would it be like if you never annihilated five unholy creatures of darkness who would then run rampant to literally change the world to their whim? See, we've all been there, amiright?
Becky Montcrief is still stuck in the Spirit World after over-utilizing the sixth gun. To make matters worse, she is pursued by a ruthless band of "skinwalkers" who have murdered her spirit guide and now mean to assassinate her in her dreams. She continues not just her glimpses of the past, but now she sees a possible future, and it is not one that she likes. In this world, General Oliander Hume and his four riders all yet live and have remade the world in their own image through the power of the six cursed guns. One thing Hume and his band never counted on was Becky's sudden appearance or that of the terrifying murderers pursuing her. Death in dreams is final and if Becky hopes to survive, an agreement with those she loathes must be reached. Meanwhile, her friends in the Waking World track the skinwalkers to their camp.
Uh oh...we are now even closer to the end of this Donist World favorite as issue 50 comes into sight from off in the distance. The creative team of Bunn and Hurtt continue to construct a compelling and intense story with their enjoyable and unique characters who have thrilled us over the past three years. I have especially loved seeing Becky Montcrief morph from a scared, out-of-her-element tagalong, to someone who chooses her own path and who is capable of saving not just her own life, but that of her friends when need be. Back in the teens of this series, I often commented that I wanted to see Becky step up to the task before her, which she did, but now I'm hoping to see Drake pull himself together and rejoin his group as the force to be reckoned with he is meant to be; I'm sure that's coming.
Hurtt continues to deliver some dang fine illustrations throughout this mostly calm issue, but the creepy malevolence lurking in each panel of the hair brushing scene and throughout the entirety of the dinner scenes was enough to make my hair stand on end. This is not to say there is no action in this issue, just have a look at the crazy battle involving Kirby, Gord, and Asher, but it is mostly devoted to building the intensity of Becky's situation when confronted with five monsters she believed to be dead. Bill Crabtree's brilliant colors have always given this series its distinct look and are even more beautiful than ever. This is especially apparent in the dinner scenes where the fire light casts striking highlights and shadows enough to give any reader a case of the willies.
The Sixth Gun is everything I love about comics. With this tremendous series, you have a Western, supernatural creatures, magical weapons, and a rich ensemble of characters with a strong story to bring you back month to month. Not enough people are reading this fine book. If you have not been following The Sixth Gun and you want creator-owned comics at their best, then this series is for you. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Other Heavenly Items:
Animal Man #23
Animal Man #23 - Written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Steve Pugh and Francis Portela, published by DC Comics. And to think, a few short months ago I was considering letting this one go. I was thrilled with the idea of "Rot World" and the beginning of the event (brrrrrr...I hate that word) was fantastic, but then things just kind of fell into a sort of team-up book. Now, I did like "Rot World," denizens, it's just...I don't know...I was expecting more of the horror premise found in the first dozen or so issues. Then I read the second annual (creepy, yet touching) and I have really been enjoying this current arc, which has all the scares I was hoping for.
Buddy Baker (Animal Man) is having a rough go of it. Not only did his son recently die, but his recent battle with one of the grotesque splinterfolk is burning up the social media sites. Buddy sneaks past the paparazzi to track down and get some answers from the leader of the splinterfolk; he'd also like to know why they took his blood. He finds out the hard way that the villain known as Brother Blood seeks to become one with the Red. Meanwhile, Maxine ventures back into the Red in search of her dead brother's soul, but with Brother Blood upsetting the realm, staying alive becomes a new priority.
Holy cow, I was not expecting that ending at all. Animal Man once again earns its place among DC's more "dark" titles, and with the absence of any "guest stars" to detract from the story, Lemire's take on this hero stands strong. We see a D-list villain, who may as well have been tailor-made for this series, rise to power in an unnerving fashion that will cement Brother Blood as power worthy of respect. We also witness Buddy's personal life continue to unravel in a manner any fan of Jeff Lemire's work fears to see their favorite character suffer through; it ain't pretty.
The Brother Blood scenes are handled with stunning intensity by Pugh, who also illustrates some great character moments with Buddy as he interrogates one of the jailed splinterfolk. Portela illustrates the scenes with Maxine and brings an almost whimsical style befitting her upbeat attitude, all the while showing just how gruesome the Red can be. I usually do not like split art duties, but in this case it works.
I'm not sure what changed with Animal Man, but the fresh surge of blood flowing through this series's veins came at just the right time. If you are looking for a superhero book that skates the boundaries of the supernatural and the horrific, then this is not a book to be missed. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Daredevil #30
Daredevil #30 - Written by Mark Waid and illustrated by Chris Samnee, published by Marvel Comics. After the slight case of heebie jeebies I received after traversing the darker side of the comic book spectrum, it's kind of nice to read something a bit lighter before heading off to bed. The past two decades have seen "The Man Without Fear" put through some pretty terrible situations, and although life is never easy for Matt Murdoch, at least he has learned to appreciate the finer things in taking a ride on the Silver Surfer's cosmic-powered board. I couldn't be happier for the guy.
If Matt Murdoch had a moment to think about it, he'd probably be a little more upset at the sight of his ex-girlfriend, D.A. Kirsten McDuffie, showing up at the office to help out in Foggy Nelson's (Matt's law partner and best friend) absence. Currently occupying his attention is the strange alien in his office seeking asylum. To make matters worse, this potential new client is being pursued by none other than the Silver Surfer, who means to capture the duplicitous alien.
Everyone who mentions Daredevil usually talks about how much "fun" the book is, and I can't argue the point. It is fun. Waid doesn't leave you feeling like your kitty, Mister Mittens, got mugged whenever you finish reading an issue, heavens no. Nor do you ever feel like you need a shower after making it through one of Waid's fantastic storylines. Instead, you have awkward character moments between Matt and Kirsten, a convincing discussion with a deceitful alien, a chase through the city, and a moment with Daredevil riding on the Silver Surfer's surfboard that makes you wish with all your heart that you could be Matt for just a few minutes.
Samnee is back after a two-issue break with some of his best art on the book to date. The aforementioned surfboard scene is the standout sequence of the book and I could not help but smile as Daredevil flowed gracefully from panel to panel.
As I always mention, Daredevil is the book that brought me back to Marvel Comics and with good reason. Strong stories and incredible art with striking minimalist colors provide a refreshing break from the darker more dismal comics I tend to gravitate toward. If you yearn for the days when superhero comics were more light-hearted, then this book is definitely for you. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Indestructible Hulk #12
Indestructible Hulk #12 - Written by Mark Waid and illustrated by Matteo Scalera, published by Marvel Comics. Alrighty, dagnabbit. After the mood I have been in for the past couple weeks, I could sure use a pint or two of whatever happy juice Waid has been drinking. To be honest, between Indestructible Hulk and Daredevil I felt an odd sensation that I have heard is called a "smile" come across my face. It looks like we are back to the "F-word" again, and by "F-word" I mean "Fun."
If one good thing came from the recent "event" book that shall not be named, it's Waid and Scalera's time traveling Hulk and his volleyball-sized robot companion that happens to be imbued with Bruce Banner's consciousness. In this issue, Banner-Bot and the Hulk come across three heroic cowboys, angry dinosaurs, and a would-be futuristic conqueror set on exploiting the broken timeline. Things are about to get interesting as our heroes crash through time.
Scalera's double-page splash of the Hulk socking the T-Rex is simply amazing as are each and every action scene in this issue. Horses charge, cowboys go flying, and the Hulk smashes and I could not help but be torn over staying on a page to absorb the imagery, or plowing ahead to see what insanity was to come next.
I loved the Hulk growing up, but somewhere I dropped off of ol' Jade Jaws's books. Now, because of Waid, I'm back to reading a Hulk book and having a grand old time of it. RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

The Gravity of the Situation - Let's ignore my moody nonsense for a moment and take a look at something else that was confounding me this past week. As I've mentioned before, I'm not only a beer lover, I'm a beer brewer. I'm still fairly new to the whole process and my 8th batch (a 5-gallon batch of black IPA) ran into a speed bump this past Sunday when I took the final gravity reading. Minimizing the maths and the scientificationables I was trying to determine the alcohol content of the beer and ended up with a 2.7% alcohol content, when I should have had around 6%. Uhhh...what? Anyways, I consulted the mighty interwebs, and was instructed to give the carboy (a 6.5 gallon glass container) a swirl, which reactivated the yeast and restarted fermentation. Soon I will take three gravity readings to be sure fermentation has completed and hope that I am closer to the target alcohol content. As always, I will also hope that the beer does not become infected. Time will tell.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 8/16/2013

(Sung to the tune of Kim Carnes's "Bette Davis Eyes")

Hickman's struck comics gold, Nick's art pleases eyes
This book won't leave you cold, East of West is such a prize
Xiaolian now rules. Buy this book? You won't have to think twice
Death's skin's now white as snow, East of West is such a prize

Then there's Saga, to make you gaga
Thor versus Gorr will please ya
But there's more, cuz
Donist knows you'll dig Animal Man, dreams go hush
You got Bruce Wayne as Batman no lies, East of West is such a prize.

Hi there, Donist World denizens. I'm joined today by Donist World marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/private eye Tulip (my Boston terrier), but we are missing the Donist World CFO, Obie (Tulip's brother and my friends' Boston terrier). This morning we went to my mom's house the corporate office and found that Obie had left a note on his executive throne saying some such nonsense about downgrading his life and that all the pressures of running a Fortune 320,000 company have been getting to him and occupying far too much of his time and energy. Obie explains that he wants to have more time to read comics for pleasure, to pee on more things, and to chase tennis balls until he barfs up his breakfast. He also mentions that I should not give his whereabouts to any shady Wall Streeters who were vacationing up in Healdsburg, CA last week who might come around to ask about "initial payments." The funny thing about Obie "downgrading his life" is that he still expects to have his weekly $5 direct deposited to his account and for his Nature's Feast Duck and Potato kibble to be delivered to his home while he "finds himself." Huh...maybe he's on to something. Anyways, while Tulip and I try to find Obie--I see a fresh Mai Tai sitting on the blanket out back, so it won't be too difficult a venture--have a look at this week's...

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

East of West #5
East of West #5 - Written by Jonathan Hickman and illustrated by Nick Dragotta, published by Image Comics. I have to admit that for the first two issues of East of West I didn't exactly know what the heck was going on. There were some colorful children, then some characters, then a white-as-snow cowboy, creepy talking eyeballs that will forever haunt my nightmares, then some more characters, and something about a "message." I had no idea what was happening, but I dug the world the creators were building...a lot. Then with the third issue, the fog of confusion began to dissipate, things began to make sense. Issue four arrived and I was reading in a sort of stunned silence as Death waged his war to reclaim his decade-long imprisoned bride, and I was floored by what was happening. I could not wait for the next installment. This month's offering...more of the same exciting story that will pull you even deeper into the creators' fantastic world.
Death waits for no one, the exception to that statement being his wife, Xiaolian. Not only does he wait for her, what's most frightening is he listens to her, seeking to please her. Through flashback, we learn how Xiaolian, a warmaster by the age of sixteen, first caught Death's eye and how their courtship played out. We learn of the birth of their son, a product of a horseman of the apocalypse and a ruthlessly cunning human. Then things went wrong. Misunderstandings harbored for a decade are clarified and an angry Xiaolian learns that their son, thought murdered by the other three horsemen, yet lives. This is not a good thing, for his captors are raising him to become what the Message foretells as the "Great Beast." With his wife safe--and a tad less angry--Death seeks to make his family whole.
War, Famine, and Conquest do not appear in this issue and that is fine, there's much to tell concerning Death and Xiaolian's reunion after a long decade of misconceptions and misunderstandings. As I implied at the beginning of this review, Hickman initially bombarded the reader with many characters and with only the barebones of the story. In the first issue, we received some exposition as to what happened with this world and how it differs from our own historically, but much after that was confusing; the story was, however, fascinating. Each successive issue filled more gaps, clarified character motivations, while keeping the mystery of what exactly happened in the characters' past relegated to the shadows for later reveals. Hickman avoids upfront, lengthy exposition--except when setting up the world in issue one, which was necessary--and instead you receive carefully planned fragments offering just enough information to make you gasp at your newfound knowledge. Then, just when you are about to round that corner of what, say, War did, the writer cuts away back to the situation at hand. Hickman has proven to be a master of giving the reader enough information to answer some questions, while leaving so much more waiting in the wings. This writing style could be frustrating to readers, but Hickman has so many fascinating conflicts and conversations happening at any given time, that as you are pulled from one engrossing moment you are thrust immediately into another. I hope to construct stories this well someday.
Speaking of hopes...I hope to see Dragotta's art on this book for some time to come. He brings such drama and emotion to each scene, which is especially evidenced on the pages where Xiaolian holds Death's face in her mechanized hands, the same hands that so ruthlessly obliterated her sister last issue. Over three pages we see the couple talk. That's it, they just talk, but Dragotta shows the depths of Death's love for his wife, and his desperation to please; he also shows the horseman's anger over even having these feelings to begin with. With Xiaolian, we see her coldness, her resentment over her perceived abandonment, and we are there to see her crack and shed a tear before she restores her resolve. Those three pages are incredibly powerful and the rest of the book follows suit with Dragotta's fantastic storytelling. He is also adept at touching on the horrific as seen in his splash of the "Great Beast," which reminded me of the creepiest parts or the anime Akira. I will also mention Frank Martin's fantastic coloring and I especially like the barely dropped opacity on the flashback scenes.
East of West has transitioned from a series that I really liked, but failed to comprehend, to one that I now "get" and absolutely love. No offense to the creators, but the series is one that begs to be read in substantial chunks, which you can do in September when the first trade is released at a $9.99 price point. If you are buying issue-to-issue as I am, then I recommend pouring yourself a craft beer, or a glass of wine, and rereading the first five issues back-to-back; I suspect you will see a few things you missed the first time through. I am so on board for this series and I cannot wait for what comes next or for the reveals of what has happened in these characters' mysterious yet fascinating past. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Other Heavenly Items:
Saga #13
Saga #13 - Written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples, published by Image Comics. Ahhhh...Saga is back after a couple months' break, but did the time off detract from the main story? Did this Donist stop caring? Would the denizens forget? No way. Saga remains one of the best comics to arrive in the past decade and although this issue fills in the gaps between issue 11 and 12, it's still some darn fine readin'. Respect, denizens, respect.
When we left off last issue, we witnessed Prince Robot IV tormenting D. Oswald Heist, author of the romance novel A Night Time Smoke. In this issue we rewind to see Marko, distraught over his father's death, Alana, Hazel and the rest of their gang en route to visit Heist. The forbidden couple hopes the author can help them determine the best course of action for their daughter, for, after all, Heist's words were what brought Alana and Marko together in the first place. The trip isn't so bad, but their arrival does not exactly go as planned. Meanwhile, The Will comes to a couple realizations when the ghost of The Stalk (or is it an illusion) points out a couple of simple facts to him.
Vaughan picks up the story without missing a beat, and although little happens in this issue that the reader could not have deduced on their own, it's still a compelling as heck read. Vaughan has a knack for helping the reader identify with his characters. Both the dialogue and their actions leave the reader no choice but to love them. This issue could have involved half of the major players sitting at a coffee shop talking and I expect I would still be sucked into the moment completely.
Staples's art is gorgeous as ever and she never fails to pay attention to the little details that make you smile (or wince). One panel we see a bat-rat (sorry, I don't know what the hell that thing is called) flying through the hospital and dropping bat-rat doo-doo. Another, we see a drunk Heist, wearing a robe and tighty-whities with a pee stain on the front. Yet another we see a heartbreaking photo of The Will and The Stalk together, happy, but the look on The Will's face as he stares at the photo is anything but. Vaughan gets the reader to love Saga's cast, and Staples seals the deal.
Denizens, I'm overjoyed that this book is back. There's no way I would forget or lose interest in my favorite comic currently seeing publication. In fact, this creator recuperation period only created the distance necessary to make my love of this title stronger. Welcome back, Saga. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Thor God of Thunder #11
Thor God of Thunder #11 - Written by Jason Aaron and illustrated by Esad Ribic, published by Marvel Comics. This is it, denizens. Gorr the God Butcher has been murdering gods across this cosmos, and after detonating the "God Bomb" last issue he looks to finish the job. Too bad for Gorr that Thor yet stands. But Thor does not stand alone, he has the prayers of the remaining gods to give him the strength to put an end to the murderous Gorr once and for all.
Holy cow! This was a fantastic storyline that Aaron crafted. Multiple Thors, Thor's daughters, Gorr, God Bombs, All-Black the Necrosword (No, it's not a death metal band. I want to see more of this thing in the future, though), young Thor's quick-tempered attitude problem, there was just so much to enjoy over these past eleven issues. For someone who was previously only reading Marvel's Daredevil and HawkeyeThor God of Thunder drove this Donist to make mine Marvel. Now that Aaron's first arc is done, I can't imagine what he's going to do next (Mangog! Mangog!), but I'm fully onboard for the ride.
Ribic's art is gorgeous on its own, but combined with Ive Svorcina's colors I want to glide in the heavens of their backgrounds. That is until we get to the dark mired fields of combat where a god possessed by an evil artifact faces down a killer. Those landscapes are foreboding. Frightening. Then the final page brings us back to a calm beauty. Oh yeah, the action sequences are amazing, too.
I thought my days spent with Thor were long gone, a thing of the past, but this "God Butcher" storyline lured me in and delivered more than I could have asked for. If you are a lapsed Thor reader, then rest assured that Aaron and Ribic's take is well worth looking into. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Animal Man
Annual #2
Animal Man Annual #2 - Written by Jeff Lemire and illustrated by Travel Foreman, published by DC Comics. <pffft> Finally! You might remember that a certain monopoly distributor billed my LCS for this book, but neglected to ship it out; this happens all too often, but whatchagonnado. Thus, two weeks later, I have an Animal Man annual in my hands. Yay! "But wait, Donist, are you cheering for an annual? You rip on most annuals!" Yeah, <kicks a dirt clod> well, ummm...this one's an exception. You see, denizens, it's actually quite good.
Buddy Baker (Animal Man) recently lost his son, Cliff, to a horrific foe and now he's having trouble dealing with the pain. To make matters worse, his acting career has just taken off and put him in the spotlight, meaning the relentless parasitic tabloids see dollar sign's in Buddy's tragedy. Then Buddy remembers his battle with the Spider Queen, a bizarre being who once abducted Cliff to feed on the boy's dreams. It is at this recollection that Buddy has an idea, one that involves tracking down the creepy creature.
I missed Foreman on this book. His art was unlike anything I had ever seen before and was perfect for the horror aspects found in Animal Man. This annual is very much in the horror realm, but it is also very much more than what you think. While Foreman sets the mood and the creepy imagery, Lemire does what he does so very well...punch you right in the ol' heart strings. The final page of this great issue was so very unexpected and so touching that I darn near messed up my makeup as the scary turned to the beautiful.
Now I have yet another kink in my "I hate annuals" stance. I guess I now have to say, "I hate SOME annuals." This one is definitely worth a read for the great story and for Foreman's fantastic art. RECOMMENDED!

Batman #23
Batman #23 - Written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Greg Capullo, published by DC Comics. Bruce Wayne is not having the best of days. His home has blown up around him, then he is ridiculed by a maniac with a red vase on his head just before the Red Hood Gang nearly beats him to death. Hey, we all have to start somewhere, and this is the very event that pushes Bruce just enough to show him what he has to become to deal with the Red Hood. With his father's death at the top of his mind, The Batman is first imagined.
Man, talk about some violent and dark stuff Snyder and Capullo have going on in this "Zero Year" comic. Outside of the glove on the cover, Batman the caped crusader is no where to seen in this issue. The creators are taking their time to let the readers experience Bruce's transformation as well as allowing them to experience his early failed attempts (in pretty brutal fashion) to combat the growing threat of the Red Hood Gang. Snyder allows Gotham's nemesis to jabber on at length and explain all of his inspirations and motivations, but in the end this mad man is an unreliable narrator, which makes him all the more creepy. Snyder also gives us his take on Edward Nygma (the future Riddler for those of you playing the Batman home game), who also goes on at length, but what's interesting is we can take Nygma's words at face value; he may deceive, but he doesn't lie. As much as I am excited to see Bruce put the suit on for the first time, I'm equally--if not more--excited to see the Red Hood fall and Nygma take up his roll as the Riddler.
There are plenty of intense moments, brutal as they may be, in this issue and Capullo brings some of his finest work to the title...but doesn't he always? His highlights are the character moments between Alfred and Bruce. Another beautiful scene is where Bruce finds his calling through a near psychedelic experience involving hologram projectors (no controlled substances here, folks. Nothing to be concerned about) and what Capullo gives us is detailed and immersive. Add to Capullo's line art Danny Miki's fine inks, and the startlingly gorgeous colors by FCO Placentia and you have some of the most beautiful pages to be found in a Big Two comic.
Batman continues to be a book I have to buy, which is saying something, as I never thought I would return to this childhood favorite until the day I read Snyder's phenomenal The Black Mirror run. With the story Snyder and Capullo have brewing, I anticipate continuing to read Batman for some time to come. RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods


Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 8/9/2013

(Sung to the tune of Motley Crue's  "Home Sweet Home")

This comic's a screamer
But it has a heart of gold
It will bring you up high
Then this issue will make you shout, "NO!"

Things just ain't goin' right
Everything's gone dreadfully wrong
Rachel Rising's where it's at, the book's
Still goin' strong

A wolf eats a hunter's heart
These reborn witches are mean as rocks
Just one more book
I can't take this wait
Moore totes rocks the socks

Now I'm on my way, I'm on my way
Home sweet home

Hello there, denizens, and welcome to the "mobile" installment of Donist World! *Translation: I have been on vacation and have been no where near my LCS to pick up this week's comic books, but I do have a few things to talk about below.* As ever, I am joined by Donist World CFO extraordinaire Obie (my friends' Boston terrier) and by the ever-lovely Donist World marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/wine specialist Miss Tulip (my Boston terrier and Obie's sister...who has just reminded me that her credentials go beyond just her good looks, and that stating her looks as business acumen opens me to various lawsuits, which got Obie drooling). On this Donist World California tour, we stopped in Saratoga, Santa Rosa, Guernville, and Healdsburg where we have visited such great wineries as Cooper-Garrod Vineyards, Moshin, VML (I want to live at this winery, it's beyond beautiful), La Crema and stopped at Russian River Brewery (bought a 6-pack of Pliny the Elder, the #1 craft beer in America), Bear Republic Brewing Co (Did the Specialty Flight favorite was the 05256 Rebellion and the Cafe Racer 15) and had some wonderful food. We also met tons of bears in Guernville--not the four-legged kind--since we unknowingly overlapped with Lazy Bear 2013. 
From ocean to river to vineyard, the Donist World executive team sought inspiration to improve our Fortune 320,000 standing and spread the word of the Donist World story. What this means is that Tulip and I kicked back by the pool with Donist World intern Amy (my wife), while Obie ran off with some locals dressed in suits, who clung to the shadows while uttering phrases like "venture capital," "hybridized CDOs," "time shares," and "used cars." But unfortunately, all vacations come to an end, and we are recharged. While we check out of the hotel (H2 Hotel in Healdsburg...which is fantastic btw), and Obie stops high-fiving the shady businessmen out behind those gnarled trees, have an abbreviated look at a series I was finally able get caught up on. Excuse me one second...Obie, don't you dare sign that contract before I read it!

Friday Slice of Heaven

Rachel Rising #16
Rachel Rising #16 - 18 - Everythinged by Terry Moore, published by Abstract Studio. Holy calamity, scream insanity! I finally got a hold of my missing issue of this Donist World favorite comic, by a Donist World favorite creator. I've been sitting on issue 17 and 18, and multiple times I considered skipping the absent issue, because the wait was killing me. I stayed strong, denizens. I stayed strong, by golly! The past fifteen issues of Rachel Rising have been a slow-burn horror roller coaster ride, but it has ALWAYS been a fantastic comic book through and through. I strongly advise against trying to jump into the series at anywhere other than the very beginning. Sorry, folks, that's just the way it is, but never fret, there are three trades available at this point, so you're covered. However, we're here to talk about the issue I was missing and the two issues that follow. Was it worth the wait, which required that I order from since three comic stores that I visited could not get me a copy. Oh my goodness, yes!
Rachel, Jet, Aunt Johnny, and Carol (Aunt Johnny's love) are trying to wrap their heads around some problems, namely resurrection, undeadness and Jet's missing memories. Meanwhile, Zoe, the murderously confused little girl, seeks refuge in a church, which seems like a good idea, except a demon has inhabited the body of the priest. Poor little Zoe's going to get all the wrong encouragement, such as an exceptionally sharp knife previously owned by a man/killer named Jack. Lilith decides it is time for a change and does her best imitation of a phoenix, while Mary Scott and Hannah wait patiently; at least they can pass the time on a couple of overly-touchy hunters. Zoe learns to get medieval on someone's posterior. Lilith is reborn, but suffers an emotional setback at the sudden appearance of Ma Malai. Someone in Rachel's group makes a bad decision (!).
The intentionally sparse three-issue summary above does little to show just how emotionally intense or how perfectly the tension for each character builds from page to page; there's little to break the momentum...except for the painful wait for issue 19. Moore's greatest strength--and he has many strengths--is the characterization found in his gorgeous art and within his carefully formulated words. You love these characters, even the evil ones, to such a degree that you cannot put the book down until you reach the end of the issue, and even then you might find yourself immediately rereading an installment as I did. Such is the power of Moore's work, and after issue 18 I am very worried for the well being of a couple of my favorite characters.
Moore's creator-owned work is some of the best comic book material out there. The dramatic and heartbreaking/touching Strangers In Paradise left me hammering through all six Pocket Editions, with the final volume leaving me an emotional wreck and fighting back the tears as I rode a train from San Diego to Santa Barbara. Echo is a crazy sci-fi epic that I never wanted to end--and that I hope to see return someday. Rachel Rising is...really starting to freak me out, but no matter what happens, I just can't turn away...I  do not want to, ESPECIALLY after what happened in issue 18. Moore is my favorite writer/artist and his creator-owned stories feature prominently on my all-time-favorite comic book list. His ventures deep into the darkside are exactly the type of horror I love and this is a comic I cannot give enough praise. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Revival Vol. 2 TPB
Revival Vol. 2 Live Like You Mean It TPB - Written by Tim Seeley and Illustrated by Mike Norton, published by Image Comics. Okay, denizens, I'm going to keep this unfairly brief as I have not yet discussed the first volume, which I read, and loved, back in February (?); I promise to get to it some time soon. Just know that you should  buy BOTH volume 1 and 2 if you are a fan of the following: 1) creator-owned comics, 2) horror comics, 3) either/both creators, 4) subject matter that might unnerve you, 5) well-told stories with compelling characters, 6) all of the above. I must have been needing a horror fix or something which I got in droves this week. Never mind that both comics deal with women who were killed and are now very much "alive" as they attempt to solve their own murders...that is where the similarities stop. Both stand on their own merit and both are books that Donist World very much loves. Tighten your belts, denizens, as this one might just scare the pants off of you, and we all know how embarassing it is to be caught without pants on...unless you are a total weirdo, which is cool, too, I guess. As I said, I will come back to both of these volumes soon, just know that Revival is VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Other Heavenly Items:

Trillium #1
Trillium #1 - Everythinged by Jeff Lemire, published by Vertigo Comics, a DC Comics imprint. Wuv...true least that is what I believe the solicits for this new Vertigo release from Jeff Lemire promised, but that is not totally clear after this issue. This is fine, we have a lot of interesting prep work to get through before our two time-crossed lovers meet.
Lemire gives the reader two choices, two perspectives to choose from to begin the story: "The Soldier - 1921," and "The Scientist - 3797." All you have to do is flip the book to choose your starting point. I began with the story concerning Nika from the far future, but I would actually suggest holding off on the fascinating sci-fi future and begin with William in the past to work up to Nika's story; either way you get to your destination. William is a war-damaged ex-soldier intent on finding the Lost Temple of the Incas. His search will lead him through hostile territory and to a confrontation that will bring back all the horrors of the war. Then he finds not only the temple, but a woman in strange clothing. Nika is a scientist attempting to establish communication with an alien race known at the Atabitians, who she hopes to eventually barter with to obtain a new source of the flower known as Trillium. Humanity is on the verge of extinction as an intelligent space virus known as the Caul has actively pursued and decimated the human population. Around 4000 people remain, but the Caul is on their way, and Trillium is the only possible last defense. With time running out, she finds a pyramid that transports her to a jungle where she meets a mysterious man.
I have had a void in my comic book loving heart since the incredible Sweet Tooth series ended a while back. I honestly missed that feeling of being put through the emotional wringer you get from a Lemire (non-superhero) title, and this book fills happily fills that gap. Thinking of Essex County, The Nobody, The Underwater Welder, Sweet Tooth, and Lemire's other work, "happily" is probably a poor word choice, where "harsh" and "beautiful" and "amazing" might be better suited. This is a short series with only seven issues remaining, but I can tell you it's off to one heck of a start. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Satellite Sam #2
Satellite Sam # 2 - Written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Howard Chaykin, published by Image Comics. Storywise, I can safely say that that the first issue of Satellite Sam was not at all what I expected. This is not a bad thing, quite the opposite. I was expecting some sort of space-faring story about a phantom spaceman or some such who was murdered by a sexy lady in lingerie (that's what showed on the cover at least), but instead read a period piece about a doomed television network with a popular show and calamity of dysfunctional talent with the star gone missing. I like what we got better...although I do hope to see lingerie-clad outer space femme fatales someday.
As Mikey White slips deeper and deeper into the bottle after he finds his father dead in a flophouse room, containing stacks of photographs of scantily clad women, Dr. Joseph Ginsberg struggles to save the floundering LeMonde Television Network. Joseph attempts to secure funding, he attempts to keep the Satellite Sam cast from imploding, and he will do whatever it takes to keep Satellite Sam scribe Dick Danning on the show for as long as possible. Mikey realizes Joseph is not being completely honest with him, and he also recognizes one of the ladies in his father's photograph collection. Satellite Sam must stay on the air!
Not much happens in this issue to further what happened to Mikey's father, but this is not solely Mikey's story, and what we get with the other characters is both intriguing and captivating. A great story by Fraction and beautiful art by Chaykin who gives the reader the impression that they too are sitting at the bar or visiting the diner or standing on the set along with all of the Satellite Sam cast. I'm excited to see what comes next. RECOMMENDED!

Russian River Brewery On-Tap List
Beer - Aside from music, what else goes so well with comics other than beer? Okay, nature, I'll give you that, nature goes well with comics. Oh, and hot dang if burritos and pizza don't go well with comics, too. Go-go dancing also fits in there with comics somewhere, but right now I'm talking about beer. On this trip, I was lucky enough to visit The Bear Republic and The Russian River Brewery. If you like beer, then you should be familiar with Bear Republic's Racer 5, Red Rocket Ale and Hop Rod Rye, but after taking part in the eight beer tasting I can strongly recommend the Cafe Racer 15 (double IPA, limited bottle release) and the 05256 Rebellion (single hop IPA, draft only...sorry).
Then there's The Russian River Brewery. "Ooo, baby, do you know what that's worth? Ooo, heaven is a place on Earth," and that heaven can be found in Santa Rosa, CA. Here's what I have had: HUGElarge SOUND "Czech" pils (a fantastic pilsner...draft only?), Row 2, Hill 56 (easily the best pale ale I have ever had. Draft and bottles, but no bottles available that day), Pliny the Elder (Double IPA, the grand daddy of all IPAs. Simply the best. I had draft and have five bottle going home with me!). I also bought Blind Pig IPA and Shadow of a Doubt Porter, which I have not yet tried. Russian River Brewery is a must visit for craft beer lovers as their offerings can barely make the demand of the immediate area, much less Southern California or out of state. I know I will be drinking something special the next big comic book release day. Beer and comics make the world go around.

Wine - Keep in mind, denizens, that I only encourage those of legal drinking age to imbibe of the spirits, and please realize that I don't drink to excess, but I am a grown ass man who just happened to be visiting both wineries and breweries. When I get back to life and back to reality, I will be hitting the water, and the trails as I attempt to run off all of the extra calories. Anyhow, I have an appreciation of wine that, although not as robust as my love of beer, is still pretty strong. This trip we tasted Cooper-Garrod (my wife's family's winery), VML (most beautiful building for a tasting room I have ever seen), Moshin and La Crema. Come to think of it, wine pairs well with comics, too.

Slice Into the Woods

Live Wire (Not the Motley Crue Song) - On the way back from Healdsburg, we (Amy, Tulip, and I) managed to make it about a mile before traffic came to a complete stop Southbound on the 101. We sat for a few minutes before we started noticing drivers getting out of their cars and wandering around on the freeway attempting to gain a better view of what was causing the delay. This was problematic for me. You see, denizens, I am a fan of horror films and have seen MANY in my days including a fair amount that fall in the zombie category. My Donist mind ran wild. I was just waiting to hear an explosion followed by woman's scream as a car is flung over top of us stranded travelers. Then the undead slowly make their way towards us...or they would descend upon us like a great rushing river depending on your favorite type of zombie. Thankfully, none of this happened.
It turns out a live wire had come down across the freeway and traffic was being diverted onto the once sleepy neighborhoods of the area. We managed to do a 180 degree turn, drove done the wrong way of the freeway, and escaped the traveling throngs by heading into the back country with newfound designs on stopping at the Russian River Brewery. Huh...I've also seen a ton of horror films based in various remote countrysides...

Friday, August 2, 2013

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 8/2/2013

(Sung to the tune of Siouxsie and the Banshees's "The Killing Jar")

Down where this Donist guy seeks his comic books
Amidst the shelves, lies The Wake
A merman cuts through the water
Slicing into scientist nerds

Then to my surprise Daredevil flies
Boxing racist thugs about their eyes
Simon and Sex, Sex and Simon
He's grasping for straws and I wish him well

Hulk don't sulk, smashes and bashes
Hands on great comic books
Hands on great comic books

Good morning/afternoon/evening, Donist World denizens. With the SDCC 2013 come and gone, Donist World CFO Obie (my friends' Boston terrier) has returned home for some much needed R&R. Donist World marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/villain-a-chillin' Tulip (Obie's sister and my dog) and I have also decided to kick back and relax a bit. It's time to read some comic books, and breathe in the fresh air available to us now that Obie is not around to give off the Eau de Polecat that was wafting off of him after his run in with a skunk a couple weeks ago. Don't get me wrong, Obie didn't reek all the time, just when he got hot after being in the sun, or after a grueling game of racquetball out at the Donist World country club. Being the "head honchos" of a Fortune 320,000 company is not easy work, but the three of us not only know how to work hard, we also know how to relax hard. So, while Tulip gets a pedicure and I get a refresher of this mojito before I apply a mud mask on each of us and lay the coolness of sliced cucumbers across our oh-so-weary eyes, have a look at what knocked our socks off this week. You know what time it is, it's...

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

The Wake #3
The Wake #3 - Written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Sean Murphy, published by Vertigo Comics, a DC Comics imprint. The Wake is the comic I wish I had written, yet at the same time I'm glad I didn't. The series has much of what I love and fear: the helplessness of physical isolation, undersea terror, ruthlessly intelligent monsters, science run awry, the ancient past, the unimaginable future. Truly the stuff that dreams are made of, but also the stuff that Donists are afraid to love. Whenever I visit a lake or go to the beach, I often wonder not just what treasures lie below the surface, but also what horrors lurk in the depths, guarding those secrets with tooth, claw, tentacle and spine. I've always been this way. There's a certain rush to uncertainty, but sometimes that rush can be halted by a memorable piece of fiction such as Jaws. Who hasn't had that movie replay through their mind when they dunk their head under the water. Now with The Wake, we have something else to worry about when our toes first touch cool liquid. I wonder how Murphy and Snyder feel about going for a dip in a lake nowadays.
We open with a glimpse into the past, 3.8 billion years ago or thereabout, when the oceanic planet, Mars, experienced its destruction. Back in the present, Lee is talking with her son. She's happy, content. Unfortunately, it's a lie, a hallucination caused by the merman, which is on the loose and eviscerating everything in sight. The situation is so dire that a wounded Cruz agrees to evacuate the underwater base, which all surviving members readily agree is the best course of action. All, that is, except for the murderous Meeks, who wants the monster's head to rest above his fireplace. The situation goes from bad to worse to abysmal, when Lee realizes that the monster's calls were not to its captors, but to its friends.
Where the last issue slowed the pace a bit, this month's offering kicked the action and tension into overdrive. Snyder starts by giving the reader a false sense of security, but by page five we are kept off balance from one terrifying moment to another. The momentum, however, slows abruptly once we reach the third chapter, as the captions run a bit long, but not enough to pull the reader out of the story. Then Snyder hits us with the final four words on the last page and we end with a cliffhanger that will leave you counting the days for the next issue.
Murphy's art is again stunning. Whether he is drawing a picture perfect bird on page four, a chilling scene of Lee saved just in time on the following page, or the fluidity of the creature diving back into the water to make its escape through a grate, his imagery glides the eye from panel to panel. I actually had to slow myself to appreciate the details of each panel and each character within. Speaking of characters, Murphy's Meeks steals the show. This old, bald, murderous psychopath was awesome, and I especially loved how his character was not the typical young, beefy, wisecracking blowhard that we've become accustomed to seeing in the movies. The final three pages leave us with a sense of dread at the scope of just how screwed the protagonists are...those pages are also dang pretty.
I need to call out Matt Hollingsworth's colors on this issue, which help to draw out Murphy's characters one moment and then push them back the next; the pink backgrounds during the creature scenes are a prime example. The blue tint to each characters' skin helps bring the reader to feel as if they too are experiencing the frigid temperature of the underwater rig. Hollingsworth's colors are a perfect complement to the art.
When I first read the solicits for The Wake, I was excited for the book and the first third of the series has more than exceeded my expectations. This month's cliffhanger also has me eagerly awaiting what will come next, but I guarantee that I will be reading issue four while peeping through the fingers of the hand covering my eyes; what's to come ain't going to be pretty. The Wake is a fantastic series fans of horror comics should be reading. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Other Heavenly Items:
Daredevil #29
Daredevil #29 - Written by Mark Waid and illustrated by Javier Rodriguez, published by Marvel Comics. Last issue touched a nerve by dealing with the subject of bullies as Matt met his childhood nemesis, Nate Hackett, and ultimately ended up aiding the uncharismatic man against false charges. Then the judge, a covert member of the white supremacist group the Sons of the Serpent  shoots Nate during the court proceedings. That is where this month's issue jumps off.
I'm not going to break down this issue other than to say it's fun, exciting and dramatic as one of Marvel's best titles mixes the usual superhero fare into a "they are among us" courtroom mystery. The story is a blast from start to finish. Daredevil's declaration that he is "going to clean house" on the institutions of the city that have been infested by the Sons of the Serpent spoke to my thoughts on the nut bags/corporate tools/racists/classists currently entrenched in our own political system and I can't wait to see what Waid has ol' Hornhead do next.
Javier Rodriguez is a perfect stand-in artist for the book with great acting and excellent action sequentials throughout. His colors also fit with the already established tone of the book, while maintaining his own style.
Between Daredevil and Hawkeye, I will be buying Marvel titles for some time to come, which is shocking as I was buying nothing from the "House of Ideas" just two years ago. When you bring someone like Waid to a series, the decision to pick up the book is not all that difficult. If you haven't been reading Waid's Daredevil then you best catch up on the first three trades here. You'll be glad you did. The fourth trade comes out in September. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Sex #5
Sex #5 - Written by Joe Casey and illustrated by Piotr Kowalski, published by Image Comics. Ooooooohhhh...I said the "S" word, denizens. I'm in trouble. Wash my mouth out with soap, and send me to bed without dinner. The title alone tells you this is not one for the kiddies, and some of the contents of the book will definitely confirm this, but with us being more "mature," y'know, adults, Casey and Kowalski's not-what-you-expected title is a great book for the more open-minded crowd.
Simon Cooke's buddy, Warren, has the best of intentions. He wants nothing more than to see Simon snap out of his funk. He wants his friend to have a good time. Too bad excessive amounts of booze, bad cover stories, and two beautiful women won't be enough to bring Simon around. Meanwhile, Simon's old sidekick, Keenan, from back in his superhero days, has decided to do something about the rampant crime in Saturn City, and feels he owes Simon a heads up as to what he is doing; unfortunately his former hero is not in the most respectable of states. The story wraps as Warren decides to take another shot at lifting Simon's spirits by getting his friend access to the Saturnalia.
Casey gives us another glimpse into what it is exactly that is putting Simon in such a funk. We also learn just how traumatized Simon is over his decision to quit what he was born to do and of losing a loved one. Kowalski's art is beautiful, not just with his oh-so-lovely women, but mostly when depicting the emotions of a scene. The looks on Simon and Keenan's faces inform the reader of what is happening on each page, with Casey's dialogue and captions filling in the gaps quite nicely.
Sex is a well-told and beautifully illustrated (and colored) story for which I am completely uncertain as to where we are going. I am anxious to see Simon pull himself up by his bootstraps (gawd, I hate that phrase) and find what it is that will give his life not just meaning, but also enjoyment. I trust the creators to get us there. RECOMMENDED!

Indestructible Hulk #11
Indestructible Hulk #11 - Written by Mark Waid and illustrated by Mateo Scalera, published by Marvel comics. If you take a look at the middle left of the cover, you will see three words that almost made me not but this issue. Oh, you don't have your magnifying glass to see what I'm talking about? I will tell you. It says, "Age of Ultron." Boom. There you have it. But then I started thinking...this is written by Mark Waid--we all know he rules--and the past 10 issues have been great. I mean...Waid took Bruce Banner and made him cool, confident even. Then toss in some super science with some impossible missions, and you have the makings of one heck of an entertaining book. So, yeah, I bought the book. I'm glad I did.
All you need to know about this issue, and the next, is what you see on the dag burned cover, denizens. You have a time traveling Hulk, who will inevitably run into some rootin' tootin' dinosaurs! Not sold? Okay, another vague snippet is that the Hulk is traveling with Dr. Bruce Banner. To find out how this is possible, you will have to just read the comic. For the "Age of Ultron" tie-in, my recommendation is to just ignore that, and focus on the Hulk attempting to clean up someone else's timestream mess and you'll be fine.
As far as Waid's super science goes, I have no idea whether or not he does much research, or how based in truth his plot lines are or not, but I will tell you that he could have Banner reconfigure a toaster to accelerate growth on an organically grown grapefruit tree and my reaction would be, "Wow, does that really exists." Fill-in artist Matteo Scalera is P-E-R-F-E-C-T for the book. The airport scene is so exciting and moved so fast from page to page that as a reader, the chaos and tension is impossible to resist and one that is guaranteed to get your heart beating faster. Next issue is cowboys and dinosaurs! RECOMMENDED!

Beer Brewin' - Not comics, I know, but one thing that goes great with comics (reading/writing/lettering/coloring) is craft beer. For eight months now, I've taken up homebrewing and this past Sunday I started up what is my eighth brewing session of beer. This is a five-gallon batch of a black IPA that came as an extract kit and my first one using a new water filter, and with rehydrating dried yeast. I also know that I need to upgrade to an outdoor propane burner and I also need to pick up an immersion chiller as well, both of which I hope to have soon. Homebrewing is fun and oddly relaxing, while requiring an incredible amount of attention to detail. I'm right now 7:7 on the beers I have made, and hope for this one to be my eighth success, especially since I'm a fan of the black IPA style. If you are interested in trying out the whole homebrewing thing, check out where I got this kit and you will be on your way. They also have a cheaper bucket-based kit available. If you decide to give homebrewing a try, then know that you will also need a 5-gallon pot and lid, and both distilled water (for the sanitizer if you wish to store it) and filtered water (for the beer itself). Check out the host of videos on the site as well. Salud!

Slice Into the Woods

My LCS Did Not Get the Animal Man Annual This Week - Grrrrrr...It seems like I always get skipped on at least one title every week. I know, I know, Donist excited for an annual?!? I'm as shocked as you, but I read a three-page preview and the Travel Foreman art coupled with a creepy-as-all-heck story left me eager to read this comic...I guess it wasn't meant to least not for a week or two. One good thing is that is that I finally received my Rachel Rising #16 from my heroes at! Now I have three issues of one of my favorite series to plow through this weekend. One thing I never really mention is that Donist World is a affiliate and that if you click on one of the comic images or hyperlinked comic book titles and buy something (doesn't have to be the title I'm talking about) then I get a small portion of the sale as store credit, which is what I used to buy the Rachel Rising and a host of other books I will soon be talking about on Donist World...probably while I wait to receive my missing copy of the Animal Man Annual.

Donist World FSoH/SitW Gonna Be Slightly Off Next Week - Sorry, denizens, but next week I am going to have some difficulty picking up my Wednesday comics in time for the FSoH/SitW post. I will still post something--possibly about Rachel Rising or a trade or two--and I might do a short-form follow up of next weeks titles on Saturday or Sunday. I'll have to see how things go, but at least I'll get you somethin' on Friday. Werd to the motha.