Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 9/22/2013

(Sung to the tune of Irene Cara's "What a Feeling")

First, when there's nothing but a slow glowing dream
To read books, that kick ass, ones so good you'll gasp
Swamp Thing is scary stuff, of which I can't get enough
Comic books that sure rule, ones to own

Well, I crack the cover, wow my eyes, feel the glory
Great story, take ahold of my heart

What a feeling, readin's believin'
With The Sixth Gun, cool characters come to life
Thor's got passion, so make it happen
Daredevil's alive, all's good, great books for your life

Hey there, Donist Wold denizens, I'm Donist and I'm <yaaawwwnn> a little out of sorts this morning. I'm joined this week, well, by no one...the rest of the Donist World executive team is not yet in and probably sleeping somewhere. I should be joined, as ever, by our CFO Obie (my friends' Boston terrier) as well as by Marketing Director/Administrative Assistant/Party Planner/Sleep Deprivation Specialist Tulip (my dog and Obie's sister). You see, we were up until a not unreasonably late hour last night discussing ways to move Donist World from a Fortune 320,000 company to a Fortune 310,000 company and I guess the puppies over did it on the kibble, dog water, and rereading this week's great comics. Anyhow, Obie snuck off with to an after-party with some shady Wall Streeters (who should probably be in jail...for something), but Tulip and I just went to bed. I don't know what the heck was going on, but Tulip snored up a storm fit for a thunder god for most of the night, and I kept having to shake her to make her stop. It didn't matter if she was on her back, side or front, the snoring persisted as did the loud "squeaking" sound she was making from what I assume was due to nightmares about this week's VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! title. So, <yaaaaawwwn> have a look at this week's heavenly titles, while I give Obie a call to see what kind of mischief he's gotten himself into. I'll do that...right after...I close my eyes...for a's this week's...

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Swamp Thing #23.1
Swamp Thing #23.1 - Written by Charles Soule, illustrated by Jesus Saiz, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Travis Lanham. Yes, denizens, I oftentimes gripe about "events"--especially a recent one from the other half of the Big Two that shall not be named--and "guest appearances" plaguing issues and interrupting what would otherwise be the story I want to read. Then there's the gimmick--I've mentioned these a bit over the past couple FSoH/SitW posts. The gimmick can be anything from glow-in-the-dark covers, chromium covers, "touch the blood" covers, a hole punched through the comic, etc. In fact, it was the focus on gimmicks as opposed to actual content that chased me away from ALL comics in the early-'90s; it took me almost a decade to return. Now, here we are more than a decade later and we have quadruple shipping titles, 3D covers commanding an additional $1.00 on the cover price, an "event" sprawling across almost all DC titles, and uncredited creators on the covers. In case you missed that last part, let me say that one again, uncredited creators on the if these books magically appeared out of nowhere. In fact, I vowed not to buy a single 3D issue, only the regular issue, and I also decided to only purchase one of the quadruple shipped titles. All of this said, denizens, I have a confession to make: I bought the 3D version of Swamp Thing since the regular was not on hand. I know, I know, "vote with your wallet" and they will stop doing this gimmick nonsense and bring the focus back to what's inside the package, not just the wrapping. All ranting about ridiculous business practices aside, this 3D cover is kinda pretty and the carpet matches the drapes in that the story is exactly what I've wanted to see in a Swamp Thing book.
Since the events of "Rot World," we have seen neither hide, nor hair (he's totally bald, folks, but you get my drift) of the sinister Anton Arcane. We have also seen little of Abigail Arcane, who is the current avatar of the Rot. We learn that after Arcane's gross indiscretions over the past two years both Abigail and the Parliament of Rot have condemned the horrendous monster to his own private hell. Supposedly defanged and declawed, Abigail confronts her uncle about the gaps in her memory concerning her mother and her childhood; Uncle Arcane is only too happy to talk...for a small price.
This right here, denizens, is the Swamp Thing book I've been wanting to read. The cover implies that this issue is part of DC's current "event," but I don't believe we'll see Arcane running around with Lex Luthor, or Sinestro or anything any time soon--man, I hope we don't see that. This is more of a side story that Soule and Saiz use to remind us that Arcane is still the main source of evil in Alec Holland's life, and that, although Arcane is temporarily gone, he will be back. After reading this tremendous issue and seeing that creepy-as-hell final panel, this notion scares the bejesus out of me. As I said before, I did not want to buy this issue on principle (gimmicks, pricing, unlisted creators, etc), but I saw the first page splash online and I was sold; that was all I needed.
Saiz's haunting image of an emaciated, shadowed, nearly-panicked Arcane grabbed me and reminded me of how much this character has scared me through the decades whether it was in the '70s with Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, in the '80s with my desert island must-have issues by Alan Moore and Steve Bissette/John Totleben, and recently with Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette. Then, once we turn the page, everything gets even better. It's those first few pages spent in Arcane's private hell that made me love this issue, as Saiz gives us both beauty and unspeakable horror that carried me through tension, nervousness, to a feeling of shock that I knew was coming, yet surprised me none the less. This was done without added sound effects, but the intensity of Saiz's imagery had me imagining the horror film sounds on my own as I flowed through each sequential panel. It was unnerving in the best of ways.
Soule directs the villain to fill the gaps of Abigail's missing history and it is everything I hoped it would be. There is no hero to rescue her from her uncle, at least none who survive the attempt; she has to rely on herself. But this is Arcane. He's not one for telling the truth, unless of course that truth hurts. The writing mixes with the art to create the perfect mood, especially when Soule's dialogue crawls under your skin with the aid of Lanham's wavering balloons and dripping caption boxes.
Another superstar of this issue is Matthew Wilson with some of the most striking colors on a comic I have seen for some time. Again, I have to return to those first few pages where Wilson gives us a gorgeous heaven of green and wood and life, but there's Arcane, sitting in the grass with the sun beating down on him. The shading on his skin, a flat purplish grey with touches of pink leading into the stark white where the sun actually touches him, makes this character all the more menacing. The explosive oranges and reds succeed in driving the feeling home. The pages are scary, yet beautiful and ones you must linger over.
Ignoring the gimmicks, this was a great issue where the absence of "events" (this is part of Villains Month in name only...I hope) and "guest appearances," the creators are allowed to shine and provide an issue of Swamp Thing that brings back the spirit once found when it was a Vertigo title. If this issue is any indication of where Swamp Thing is headed, then I am 100% onboard. Oh yeah, before I forget...hey DC, put the names of the dang creators on the cover, what the hell's wrong with you. This issue is VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Other Heavenly Items:

Thor: God of
Thunder #13
Thor: God of Thunder #13 - Written by Jason Aaron, illustrated by Ron Garney, colored by Ive Svorcina, lettered by VC's Joe Sabino, published by Marvel Comics. Sometimes, after reading a particularly awesome storyline like the fantastic 11-issue run involving Gorr the God Butcher, you are left with a mixture of both anticipation that the followup is going to be great, but also a sense of dread that it won't stand up to what came before. Not only is the villain of this new storyline set to appear in Marvel's next Thor movie (uh-oh, possible movie tie-in), but this villain is also a huge part of The Mighty Thor #347 by Walt Simonson, which I read when I was a kid until it literally fell apart (Malekith first appeared in issue 344, but 347 is the one I got ahold of first for that great storyline). After reading this latest issue, I see that all worries were unfounded; this is a great start to something grand.
Malekith the Accursed has been trapped in the deepest pits of Niffleheim, the frozen land of Hel, for quite sometime. Gods rest easy because of this. Little do those gods know that Malekith's fanatical followers wish to change his imprisonment. Once free, Malekith goes on a murderous rampage against the dark elves--his own people--and it's up to Thor and his fellow gods to put the mad dark elf down.
I don't know what the Hel (ahhh...see what I did there?) I was so apprehensive about with this issue...Aaron's got it all under control. All you need to do is read the first page, which is only letters and gray clouds against a black background, to know what's in store. Aaron delivers the epic qualities we expect on a Thor book and crafts such an evil, cruel version of Malekith, that I have doubts as to whether the character's time in Hel has done anything but make him more diabolical since his first appearance almost three decades ago.
Another pointless worry I had was that Esad Ribic would not be illustrating this next story arc, but Ron Garney arrives without a single misstep, not a one. The character designs are tremendous (I really like Malekith's new armor)--have a look at that last page splash--and the graceful flow of the action never once brings you out of the story. I have a suspicion Garney was created in the Nidavellir by the dwarves specifically to draw this series.
One of the main bridges between the previous artist and the new is that of colorist Svorcina. I've commented before that the colors on this series are more than just something pretty to look at, but something you want to swim in and allow to envelop you. As an amateur colorist (Thank you to teacher and colorist extraordinaire Chris Sotomayor from Comics Experience), I really hope to see a "process" video from Svorcina, because I honestly can't figure out how such beauty is possible; one can hope a video pops up some day.
One gripe I do have is this trend of revealing the big reveal on the cover. How cool is that image on the cover, huh? Malekith charging into battle with the god of thunder while riding a bat-winged white liger (it's like a lion and a tiger mixed...bred for its skills in magic). It's a truly gorgeous cover...that should have been used on the NEXT issue. Why? Because--spoiler alert--this issue ends with a beautiful splash page of Malekith riding into battle atop a bat-winged white liger. This final page is supposed to be the "Ooooo...Ahhhhh..." moment that is there to stun us, surprise us, leave us desperate for issue 14, but that surprise has already been spoiled before we've even opened the book. C'mon, Marvel...this isn't WTF month, right?
That one gripe aside that has nothing to do with the fine creators who have constructed one hell of a well-told and visually arresting book, I'm excited by what I've just read, and even more so by what is to come. This issue is also a perfect jumping on point for Thor God of Thunder, with the previous 12 issues not being necessary to your ability to follow what is happening, but if you have not read those issues, I strongly encourage you to do so, as they were fantastic. Aaron, Garney and Svorcina have crafted a truly epic beginning to a promising storyline. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Sixth Gun #34
The Sixth Gun #34 - Written by Cullen Bunn, illustrated by Brian Hurtt, colored by Bill Crabtree, lettered by Ed Brisson, and published by Oni Press. The "Ghost Dance" story arc is winding down and although I've enjoyed seeing the past and the possible futures via Becky's trip to the Spirit World, I am anxious to see the band back together again. With this issue Gord, Kirby, Asher, Nahuel and Nidawi--who possesses the powerful and sentient shrunken head of Screaming Crow (who but Bunn and Hurtt could think up such a thing?)--take the fight to the Skinwalkers to save Becky Montcrief from their evil. Becky and Drake Sinclair communicate across the planes just before Becky sees a parallel world that is everything she desires. Oh yes, I almost forgot, lizard men riding wolf-bats...BOOM!
In this issue, Bunn gives us a brief glimpse of the history between the newer characters Nahuel and Nidawi, which is interesting and a cool addition to the story. That said, I am still really curious to know more about Drake's history and hope we see some of his past come to light soon. The moment with Screaming Crow using his powers is a cool idea made awesome by Hurtt's always stunning imagery and panel flow. I also really dug his "talking dead" moments with the parallel world Drake. Crabtree's minimally rendered panels are a huge plus and crucial to the style of the book.
The Sixth Gun continues to be one of the best comics on the stand and one I look forward to reading month in and month out. I will admit I'm saddened we are past the halfway point, yet I can't wait to see what happens next. I also hope that with a bit of luck we'll someday see a The Sixth Gun television serious done right. If you haven't picked up this extraordinary series, there are five trades out and a hardcover on the way--which I am definitely double dipping on. RECOMMENDED!

Daredevil #31
Daredevil #31 - Written by Mark Waid, illustrated by Chris Samnee, colored by Javier Rodriguez, lettered by VC's Joe Caramagna, and published by Marvel Comics. Sometimes, using the emotional one-two punch of a terrible situation comes across as fake, it rings false; this is not the case with Waid and Samnee's Daredevil. Yes, Foggy Nelson has cancer and it's a horrible thing, but Waid has done a fine job getting the reader to sympathize with this character. Through Waid's words and Samnee's ability to deliver the perfect emotions for a scene, you can't help but love Foggy and Matt; their relationship is wholly believable.
In this issue, we see Foggy's strength first hand, as well as a bit of his mischievous side with his decision to call Matt's recent ex, Kirsten, to help out at the office. A trial that clearly is a response to the Trayvon Martin case goes bad and Daredevil suspects his old nemesis The Jester might be the one stoking the fires of discord. Finally, Matt is about to receive a shock that I really hope is not what it seems.
The word of the day when Marvel Now's Daredevil is concerned has generally been "fun." Almost all the issues in this series have had some moment that made me smile and even laugh. Prior to Waid rebooting this title, I would have not thought such a thing possible over the past decade. It was all doom and gloom. This, however, might be the first issue of the series I did not grin really at all. There were a couple feel-good-for-a-moment-in-the-face-of-tragedy sequences, but on a whole this issue was kind of grim. This is not to say that it was not exceptionally written or that the sequentials were not beautiful in layout or color, just that the subject matter of cancer and injustice don't exactly bring the warm fuzzies. That's okay. Daredevil continues to be one of Marvel's best offerings, and I'm certain the fun will return, but, like life, every moment can't be fun and games. This is still a fantastic read with a cliffhanger that left me desperate to see what's going to happen next. RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

At Least One of Us Can Sleep
Sleeping - Of the things I am sort of okay, or at least semi-competant, at doing, sleep has never been one of them. I don't know what the problem is, but I'm a light sleeper and things like coyotes howling, or the house settling, or the college students coming home at the ungodly hour of 10:30 PM, just makes it difficult for me to catch any Zs. Imagine my surprise this week when I managed to make it through three solid evenings with only waking once in the night. As much as I was loving the roll I was on, then came Tulip - The Mighty Snorer. I still got up at 5:00 AM this morning, but I dread the state I will be in come this afternoon. Man, if I could give up sleep, I would in a heartbe--<snore>.

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