Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 10/18/2013

(Sung to the tune of Kenny Loggins's "Danger Zone")

Fillin' you with tension
Many new books a floodin' oh no
Here's some I should mention
Beggin' you to read let's go

You must read The Upturned Stone
After dark when you are all alone

Readin' you some Hawkeye
The Sixth Gun will set you right
Animal Man oh what the heck
Books kickin' into overdrive

You must read The Upturned Stone
After dark when you are all alone

Hello all you happy people. You know what? I'm Donist and I'm joined, as ever, by Donist World CFO Obie (my friends' Boston terrier) and by Donist World marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/take-it-to-the-MAXimizer Tulip (my dog and Obie's sister). This week, we've been kicking things into high gear around my mom's basement the corporate offices as we prepare to embark on a couple new projects and do whatever it takes to guarantee our standing as a Fortune 320,000 company (No, Billy-Bob's Chicken Feed Emporium, you will not kick us down to position 320,001, ya dawg gone idjits!). Now that I've worked my way through the coffee withdrawals we are focusing on the endorphin rush of this spicy-as-all-heck salsa Amy, the Donist World intern ( wife) made to take us to the Xtreme. Now, sweatin' like a Tasmanian devil playing dodgeball on hot asphalt, we are pumped, we are happy, we are...gonna go eat some more of that diabolical salsa that hurts so good. Anyhow, while Obie heads out to get more chips (from Mom's kitchen cupboard) take a peek at one of the best things I have read...ever! It's...

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

The Upturned Stone
The Upturned Stone HC - Everythinged by Scott Hampton, lettered by Tracy Hampton-Munsey, published by Heavy Metal/Kitchen Sink.  When was the last time you read an older book and upon finishing wondered how you could have gone for so long deprived of the experience you just had? For me, it was two nights ago with Scott Hampton's The Upturned Stone. This 64-page graphic novella was originally printed in a 1993 issue (or issues?) of Heavy Metal Magazine, and was collected into its own hardcover by Heavy Metal/Kitchen Sink. As far as I can tell, this book is out of print, but both (marketplace vendors) and are selling copies of the $14.95 retail book for $29.99 and up. I'm going to let you all in on a little secret...if you click on the link or the cover of the book to the left, then you will be taken to the Heavy Metal website where they are selling copies for $5.00 plus $4.00 shipping (if that is the only other item you buy). $9.00, denizens. You can't beat that price for a 20-year-old book that is now one of my favorite graphic novels of all time; it's also a perfect read since Halloween is creeping up.
It's 1969 and Pete's mom has tasked him with bringing home the largest pumpkin $2 can buy. When Pete's friends--George, Dave, and Mark--mention to him that the biggest pumpkin in existence can be found for free, not too far from where they live, the boys can't help but investigate. They soon find themselves in a North Carolina cemetery, where they indeed find the grandaddy of all pumpkins, but it is growing from the grave of a unknown boy who was found dead and buried in the woods; it was an unsolved case and quite the local legend. After much worrying over bad luck and haunted vegetables, the boys agree to take the pumpkin. Pete's mom is overjoyed and the boys have a grand time trick or treating in the neighborhood. When they return back to the house, Pete's mom has a surprise for them...pumpkin pie. That's when everything starts to get weird and a sequence of events unravels that will change their lives forever.
Again, I need to stress just how much I loved this story. Hampton's beautifully painted art is both reminiscent of what I have seen from Jon J. Muth (Moonshadow) and Kent Williams (Blood: A Tale), yet is very much its own style. It is gorgeous, and dark, and ethereal with every expression perfectly captured depending on the scene; hesitance has never felt so real, and the fear is completely tangible. Hampton also paints one of the best pumpkins I have ever seen with a burnt orange pushed to the forefront of the panel by the deep earthy-toned background. I do not want to spoil anything, but the imagery of the woods and the ancient house (both inside and out) gave me the willies; I could practically feel the cool crisp wind whipping about as well as hear every creak of the ancient home settling, all while turning up my nose at the musty smell contained within. <brrrrrr>
As visually stunning as the artwork is on its own, Hampton's story is everything I could ever hope for in a spooky tale ripe for a late night campfire reading. Each boy is fully developed, especially Mark--such a screwed up life--and every bit of their dialogue and their actions rings so very true for kids that age. Pete's narration is equally compelling and I was wholly onboard after finishing page one. I will admit to fretting that the story would not stick the ending, but I have never been so happy to be wrong. I had no idea where the story was going and near the end, things began to move fast with the epilogue closing out the story perfectly; hell, three days later and I'm still thinking about this book. Truth be told, I don't have a single nitpick of this amazing graphic novella outside of availability issues.
The Upturned Stone is going on my favorite shelf, right where I can always see it. I want to easily be able to pull it down to read this time next year, or possibly even sooner. If you are a fan of horror stories, not that blood and guts nonsense, but intelligent, well-told tales that will hopefully affect you as much as this book affected me, then you cannot go wrong with The Upturned Stone. If it helps, think of this as an exceptionally spooky twist on Stand By Me. This is one to own, denizens. I would suggest ordering quickly as who knows what quantities remain at Heavy Metal, but there is another out-of-print option called Spookhouse Vol. 1 to get The Upturned Stone story plus additional art by Hampton that I is now on my "must find" list. Still don't believe me? Then take a gander at this sample, from a Comic Book Resources article by Brian Cronin that contains the first 22 pages. I also read on wikipedia that the story/screenplay was optioned twice, but nothing has come of it yet; here's to hoping. Better (two-decades) late than never, this graphic novella is a wonderful surprise. I couldn't be more pleased. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Other Heavenly Items:
Hawkeye #13
Hawkeye #13 - Written by Matt Fraction, illustrated by David Aja, colored by Matt Hollingsworth, lettered by Chris Eliopoulos, published by Marvel Comics. Okay, on to the monthly(ish) comics, or let's just call it this week's new comics as I believe the last time we saw my favorite Marvel title was back in July...three months ago. Don't worry, denizens, I'm no hater. I'll gladly sit back and wait--I have twelve older issues and an annual to pass the time. However, I will admit that seeing Hawkeye pop up on my Comixology Pull List app every single week prior to this only to have it vanish each Tuesday stung, but whatchagonnado...we have it now.
This issue fills the gaps from the annual, the Pizza Dog issue, the Barney Barton issue and the issue that saw Clint's tenant and friend, Grills, murdered by the tracksuit Draculas' assassin. Clint also finally learns Grills was killed and takes it on himself to inform his friend's father of the man's passing. Can he shed the guilt of bringing this predicament to his tenants' doorstep, and decide how to stop the gangsters once and for all?
There is no action/fighting/confrontation in this installment. Not once do we see Clint (or Barney for that matter) throw a punch or fire an arrow. We are also better for it. Fraction and Aja continue to bring a human element to the character of Hawkeye that is incredibly touching (the scene with Grills's father) and at times relatable as we watch Clint barely coping after his string of being beat down both emotionally and physically. Fraction also gives us a painfully frank moment between Kate Bishop and Clint that shows just how much he takes her for granted. The scene also solidifies in her character what happens when she sheds her tough, sarcastic facade to put her heart and emotions on the line; it's brutal.
With this issue, Aja goes with a strict nine-panel grid layout and does not once detract from this style, which is good as this layout works exceptionally well for each of the character moments this issue needs. Doing this allows Aja to focus on the needed facial expressions and the body language to drive the impact of the scene. Clint's slumped shoulders as Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman) walks by standing tall, refusing to acknowledge the man, clearly tells anyone looking at this one single page the following: these two had some sort of involvement, Clint was the one who screwed up, Jessica has not forgiven him. Aja gives this level of attention to every panel in the book and it is precisely what draws me to his work. I also love his inking style of slightly thicker outlines on his characters with a finer line on the details. When you add Hollingsworth's phenomenal color palette you have pages I wish were hanging on every wall of my house.
So, yes, a three-month wait for talking and emotions and stuff was well worth it. Heck, if this was all Fraction and Aja gave us with this series I would cheerfully grab up each and every issue and reread them as often as I could. I'm still pissed that Grills was killed, and I will say that I am ready for Clint Barton to win a hand or two and give these tracksuit-wearing a-holes the smack down they deserve. Hawkeye is still the best Marvel book seeing release. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Sixth Gun #35
The Sixth Gun #35 - Written by Cullen Bunn, illustrated by Brian Hurtt, colored by Bill Crabtree, lettered by Ed Brisson, published by Oni Press. The "Ghost Dance" chapter comes to a close and Becky Montcrief will never be the same. Then again, being in contact with four of the six guns will damn well insure that Drake Sinclair will never be the same again either. With the Skinwalkers defeated and Missy Hume and her forces on the run, what happens when Griselda, the Grey Witch and Missy's mother-in-law, demands answers for the failure to bring her the prize of the sixth gun?
This was an exciting issue with a startling ending that I'm not completely sure I yet believe. With Bunn and Hurtt's amazing supernatural Western you can never be sure, what's coming next, but you can count on it being grand as is the case with the "Ghost Dance" storyline. Bunn's dialogue and captions consistently ring true and the confrontation between Becky and her potential self is a fascinating part of this issue. Hurtt and Crabtree's sequence with Nahuel, Nidawi, Gord, Asher, Kirby and Screaming Crow (I love, love, love that a major character is an immensely powerful shrunken head) fighting Missy's evil forces in the rain, especially when Nahuel takes on the Skinwalker leader are intense, exciting and had me cheering for these fantastic characters.
The Sixth Gun is a series I have loved since the beginning--okay, near the beginning as I bought the first trade and then went issue-to-issue--and it remains one of the best comics on the stand. There's a reason why this series has been bouncing around for a possible television series (please, please, please...if done right). If you are behind on this title, it is readily available in trade format with a hardcover becoming available in that I will be double-dipping on for sure. Great art, great characters, a compelling and unique story, The Sixth Gun is a fun read and something you will gladly revisit often. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Animal Man #24
Animal Man #24 - Written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque, colored by Dave McCaig, lettered by Jared K. Fletcher, published by DC Comics. Daaaannggggg, denizens. Stuff be gettin' all real up in the Red. Totems fraggin' Totems, Brother Blood putting the smack down on the Parliament of Limbs, Maxine running for her life, and a bunch of Red Skull skinless bastiches wanting to serve up Animal Man's head on a plate. Yup, Buddy Baker is having one heck of a bad day, but, hey, at least he and his wife are speaking again...there is that.
Albuquerque steps in for Mike Pugh on this issue and his particular style is perfect for this not-quite-yet-almost-a-Vertigo-title title, especially when showing the Parliament of Limbs and the betraying Totem. The heavy inks are perfectly tailored to the look of the Red and McCaig's crimson colored backgrounds with mostly warm colors on all of the characters creates a tense, hostile world. Albuquerque's Totems are also just plain scary.
I like that Lemire has reunited Buddy with Ellen as this horror title (let's call it what it is and I'm glad for it) has been about family from the beginning, which is what makes Buddy such an endearing and interesting character. Lemire has always been a writer who was able to thaw my grumpy frozen heart through his creator-owned work, and I'm glad that he is able to do the same with his superhero book as well.
To be perfectly honest, the Rot World "event" almost pushed me out the door. But when Lemire is allowed to tell his story outside of the confines of crossovers and what have you, the results are noticeable. Don't get me wrong, Rot World was fine--it was definitely no "event that shall not be named"--but the creators shine when the human aspect and the horror aspect of the story merge into something compelling. Now that we are two years in, I'm happy to say I am still enjoying Animal Man and I'm excited to see what happens next. RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

The Government Shutdown Is Over!!! For a Month or Two?! - Yeah, not really a cause for celebration as the ones who shutdown the government in the first place are only going to do it again in the next few months. It's kind of a "Yay, they released the hostages" situation. Yes, it's good things are up and running again, but this should not have happened in the first place. Man, I wonder how much in "campaign contributions" have been funneled into the Tea-D-Baggers' coffers. Their attempts to defund the Affordable Care Act directly impacts many of the work-for-hire creators listed above who don't have a spouse who can include them on their (overly expensive) medical plan. How many of the individuals who we all know and love and whose works we wish to keep enjoying are but one medical emergency away from financial ruin? I hope Bill Mantlo (you know, creator of The Micronauts, Rom, TONS of other great comics, and co-creator of the soon-to-be-movie-star Rocket Racoon) is able to receive assistance through the ACA now that it is up and running. These Tea-D-Baggers need to be voted out of office at the very least.

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