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.

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