Friday, November 1, 2013

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 11/1/2013

(Sung to the tune of Michael Jackson's "Thriller")

It's close to Wednesday
Comic books are lurkin' at your store
Saga I must say
Is a book that I truly do adore
You want a scream?
Try Afterlife with Archie I know you'll dig it
Another to please?
Sandman's Corinthian commands your eyes
you're paralyzed

'Cause Rex Zombie Killer!
Is a thriller, alright.
And no one's gonna save you
From Swamp Thing before his fight
Oh Rex Zombie Killer!
Is a thriller tonight.

<TWEET!> That right there, denizens, is the sound of Donist World hitting 40,000 views. Woooo! Okay, actually, it is the sound of Donist World CFO Obie (my friends' Boston terrier) blowing on a party blower. Wait, what? Oh, sorry, Obie is still in his "The Bat" costume and wishes to still be called "The Bat" for the remainder of the weekend despite Halloween being over. <sigh> Very well, I am joined by "The Bat" and also Donist World marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/hostess-with-the-mostess <sigh...again> Tulip (my dog, Obie's sister). It is cause to celebrate as we have been working away at Donist World for three and a half years now and of those 40K views, about 30K of them have happened over the past year alone, which is something. Honestly, maintaining our status as a Fortune 320,000 company ain't easy, but we have the desire, the tenacity, the hunger to...oh man, I'm hungry. You see, denizens, the ol' day job is having a wellness day today and I will be having my cholesterol and whatnot tested, which means I can only have water until my test at 10:42 AM this morning. Brutal. Obie's coffee--argh, I mean "The Bat," "The Bat's" coffee--smells amazing and when Tulip's eggs hit that frying pan...drool. Okay, while I guzzle water in a futile attempt to feel full, have a look at this week's...

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Saga #15
Saga #15 - Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples, lettered by Fonografiks, published by Image Comics. You would think at some point I would get sick of talking about how much I love Saga, but it hasn't happened yet. Month(ish) in and month(ish) out Staples and Vaughan's phenomenal sci-fi, fantasy, Romeo & Juliet in space story continues to be my handsdown favorite title. I can't get enough. With this comic, you have what makes being a comic book reader so equally fulfilling yet frustrating as all heck: finishing that amazing issue, and suffering as you lie in wait for the next release. Saga gives me that same feeling I had when Preacher (Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon) was coming out. I loved to linger on each panel and take in all the accompanying range of emotions depicted, but as I turned each page a building dread filled me as I was that much closer to the end of the issue, the story arc, the series; yet I could not help but see what happened next. Saga gives me exactly those feelings, even as I reread an issue for the tenth time. Without the need for cross-overs (ugh), events (double ugh), guest appearances of other popular characters from other books (sigh), and no one dictating that a certain scene is too objectionable to fully pull in any target demographic and might jeopardize the Saga footie pajamas merchandising deal, Vaughan and Staples are free to run wild with their wonderful story, and we are all the better for it.
Upsher and Doff, amphibian reporters extraordinaire, are looking into the Alana abduction theory and have set down to interview Alana's old commanding officer, Countess Robot X. The interview is going well--quite informative, actually--until Upsher is shot by a sniper whose bullet was meant for Countess Robot X; this might just be the break the reporters were looking for. At D. Oswald Heist's lighthouse: Alana settles in, Marko snaps out of his funk, Nun Tuj Nun breaks the ice. Marko and Alana also have a conversation that strikes a bit too close to home for this reader ("office drones?") Meanwhile, The Will, Gwendolyn, Lying Cat, and Sophie--and also The Will's imaginary deceased-ex-girlfriend The Stalk--prepare to take off, but something odd is going down that looks to be a major pain in the neck going forward.
There's not much more I can say about this amazing book that I haven't said in any of the previous 14 reviews. I like it. I like it quite a bit. Staples's art is gorgeous, Vaughan's writing (dialogue and characterization) is so compelling that I occasionally wonder why I bother writing my own stuff (I ain't quitin' though, dagnabbit.) Staples has a command of both action and drama that guides the eye from panel to panel, and the true emotions at play are clear regardless of the words coming out of the characters' mouths. Vaughan's dialogue rings so painfully true, especially during the family game time (Oh the family ties that bind and gag), that most any reader can relate to what is being said to some moment in their own's occasionally too spot on (Vaughan needs to stop peeping in on my personal life, gosh darn it). Art and words combined, you have no choice but to become personally involved and completely immersed in this extraordinary comic.
Every time I read a new issue, or even think about this book, I can' help but tell Amy the Donist World intern (aka my wife) how great it is. She's read the first issue and loved it, but says she wants to read it in a trade as she does not like to read the individual issues...they're too much of a pain. I kind of get this, but I would rather have smaller installments with shorter waits as opposed to larger chunks with painfully long waits; I'm addicted. I would gladly double dip on the trades, so my issues can stay safely bagged and boarded in their cozy long box, but I'm holding out for some sort of pretty hardcover, which has yet to be announced. Crud, I love this series so much and want everyone to read it so badly that I might actually have to triple dip here. Ahhhh...So it goes with love, true love. What I'm getting at is if you aren't reading Saga, you're doing this thing called "comics" all wrong. Buy it. Read it. Love it. Okay, now that this is done, Obie, Tulip and I are off to play a few rounds of Nun Tuj Nun! the book, denizens, you'll know once you read the book. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Rex Zombie Killer #1
Rex Zombie Killer #1 - Written by Rob Anderson, illustrated by Dafu Yu, colored by Juan Romera, lettered by E.T. Dollman, edited by Paul Allor, published by Big Dog Ink. As I mentioned last time with Anderson's amazing Rex Zombie Killer #1 One-Shot (review here), I know this guy. In fact, I know all these guys. Allor, Yu and Dollman, as well as Anderson, are all involved with the Comics Experience group, to which I belong (and absolutely love), and Romera has beautifully illustrated one of my own stories (found here...the issue also has a story by Anderson and other Comics Experience members), so, full disclosure. That said, it doesn't matter that I know these incredibly talented people, Rex Zombie Killer is a dang fine comic that is simply a joy to read and something that animal lovers, zombie lovers, or just plain comic book fans will enjoy.
We pick up where the one-shot left off with Rex and his crew (for those of you keeping count: 3 dogs, 1 cat, 1 gorilla with a baseball bat) heading to Nevada in hopes of finding Rex's human who is at a military base in Nevada. They hope to find safety and caring people there, but they are still a long ways away. Little does Rex's group know that they are being tracked by a group of gorillas and other primates as well as a mob of squirrels (Come to think of it, what the heck do you call a group of squirrels? A pod? A flock? A cluster? The end of the world?) When all three groups' paths finally cross their problems with each other are nothing compared to what awaits them just past the forest.
Holy cow this issue is a blast. It has everything both a young Donist and an old a more mature Donist could ever want. In fact, after reading the one-shot and this fantastic new issue, it's as if Anderson and Yu had created this book with me in mind. As a kid, if I wasn't reading a comic book, I was reading animal or movie monster encyclopedias almost exclusively--if the creators decide to throw in a giant mutated gila monster into the mix at some point then I can effectively just retire from the world, since I will finally be whole. In the meantime, we'll just make do with what we got, which is a fun, scary, and at times touching story that is exceptionally written and beautifully illustrated. The book's tagline of "Homeward Bound meets The Walking Dead," tells you everything you need to know about this title, which, even if I did not know these guys, would pull me in. Every creature has his/her own distinct voice and temperament and you cannot help but latch on to each; you immediately care about them. Yu delivers some great illustrations which jump freely from cute to horrific to emotional, all while easily gliding the reader through each panel.
To be clear, you don't have to read the amazing 56-page one-shot that serves as an introduction to this four-issue mini, but you really should try to get ahold of a copy (it was one of Donist World's top 24 things of 2012, which you can read about here). The one-shot has great character moments that will have you loving Buttercup, Kenji, Rex, Brutus and Snowball and will leave you hungry for this mini (looks like, of which I'm an affiliate, has some copies). That said, this issue is still a jumping on point and you can quickly get into the scheme of things as Anderson makes the process painless, but seriously, get the one-shot, you won't be disappointed (that Buttercup song still pulls my heartstrings). Speaking of, they don't yet have the mini listed on their site, but I expect them to remedy that soon, but I was able to locate some for sale here. This is the real deal, denizens. Expect thrills, chills and a heck of a good time. Even without a giant mutated gila monster this comic is VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Afterlife With Archie #1
Afterlife With Archie #1 - Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, illustrated by Francesco Francavilla, lettered by Jack Morelli, published by Archie Comics Publications. A year and a half ago I did something I never thought I would do...I read an Archie comic. Rather, I read a monstrous digest-sized Archie book that retailed for $9.99 and I was enthralled. I also felt--like I have so very, very many times in my life--that I had mad a huge mistake. As a kid, I was all about the monsters, the aliens and the super heroes. I wrote off the Archie books as something for girls. Thankfully we can learn from our mistakes, which I did when I read the brutally honest, yet immensely beautiful Archie The Married Life, which hit me like a sack full of unread Archie comics (you can read what I thought about that book here.) Now, I'm back with Archie, zombies, and one of my favorite artists Francesco Francavilla and I am again kicking myself for not being more involved with this mainstay of the comic book world. Also, whatever material the cover is made from is very nice: thick, not glossy, and different in a cool way.
Something bad has happened in Riverdale. It was an accident, sure, but bad things happen to good people as Jughead finds out when Hot Dog is hit and killed by a car. Unsure of what to do, Jughead makes a desperate plea for help to Sabrina the teenage witch. She at first refuses, but Jughead's pain touches her soul. She caves in and brings Hot Dog back from the dead. Unfortunately, the lovable pup comes back bad and it's all downhill from there for Jughead and his friends.
Buying this book wasn't that big of a stretch. As I mentioned above, there's no way I could pass this one up, but after reading this issue, I can safely say that my high expectations where surpassed beyond anything I could have hoped for. You already know how much I love Francavilla's work, no matter which comic company it happens to land, but with Afterlife With Archie, you can clearly tell which character is which, yet Francavilla's style--including his coloring, which I adore--still shines through. It's a mix I never thought I would see and I hope to see more of this experimentation in the future (David Aja? J.H. Williams III? Fiona Staples? Please?) Then there's the story.
My goodness...Aguirre-Sacasa had me at page two with Jughead distraught over his dog's death. I struggled not to cry as I sat there reading this comic and petting Tulip. I could only imagine Jughead's desperation, but then again, did he never see Pet Cemetery? I also felt for Sabrina and her initial decision of not bringing Hot Dog back to life, and imagined how difficult that must have been for her and seeing her friend in pain. You see, denizens, I'm only on page two and I've almost cried, I'm sad for Jughead and I completely sympathize with Sabrina's dilemma. Again, we are only on page two! From here, Aguirre-Sacasa could have had the rest of the issue happen at an insurance seminar and I would have be eagerly flipping pages.
So, yes, Archie Comics is awesome, and I need to get ahold of some more material, both old and recent. Here you have two talented creators who seamlessly mesh two genres that should never mix and they effortlessly (at least to our eyes) pull it off with no problems, leaving you with something special. I really, really enjoyed this and cannot wait for the next issue. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Other Heavenly Items:
Swamp Thing
Annual #2
Swamp Thing Annual #2 - Written by Charles Soule, illustrated by Javier Pina and Kano, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Taylor Esposito, published by DC Comics. Wow, it's time for another confession. Okay, up until the last couple of issues, I was almost out the door on Swamp Thing. Nothing against Soule, but the continuous "guest appearances" were totally chapping my hide. Then we had the awesome "Villains Month" issue with Arcane that succeeded in creeping me out on such a level that I kept seeing that image of the evil menace sitting against that tree; the story itself was great, too. Now, we cross into the usually dreaded <expletive> annual, which traditionally has been a throwaway story that usually didn't work. Thankfully, that is not the case this year.
The Green has struggled since even before the coming of The Red and the dawn of man. Now, The Green struggles amongst itself as the current avatar (the Swamp Thing, Alec Holland) finds his roll challenged by Jason Woodrue, who is supported by various factions of the Parliament of Trees. Alec is going to need help, which he finds with two past avatars and one completely unexpected guest star.
Okay, this issue's "guest appearance" is one I can get behind. It makes total sense. Pina gives us so many crazy character designs for past avatars in this issue that I honestly wish I had a one-shot devoted to each and every one of them. This is especially true of the two main avatars aiding Alec Holland in this issue. Not only are the designs cool, but the action is also outstanding, especially where The Lady Weeds is concerned.
Soule, once left to his own devices, gives us not the horror that I loved so much in the Arcane issue, but a tale that pulls directly from the strife occurring within our own political system, and the situation is almost too close for comfort. The new characters have their own voices, especially The Lady Weeds who even manages to be a bit frightening in her resolve; hopefully we get to see more of her in the future.
This issue was great and I don't see myself jumping off this title any time soon. If you were a little thrown by the "guest appearance" issues that kicked off the beginning of Soule's run, just know that things now seem to be back on track. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Sandman
Overture #1
The Sandman Overture #1 - Written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by J.H. Williams III, colored by Dave Stewart, lettered by Todd Klein, published by Vertigo Comics, a DC Comics imprint. I clearly remember the first time I came across The Sandman at the long departed Andromeda Bookstore in Goleta, CA. That first issue was sitting there, with the as yet unknown and haunting Morpheus gazing at me through the mist. The cover was unlike anything I had ever seen before. I picked it up and began a seven-year-long love of what would become one of my favorite comics. Imagine my joy when I heard the news that Gaiman would be returning to DC to write and eight-issue prelude with no less than the J.H. Williams III illustrating. I couldn't believe it. Unfortunately, that feeling began to give way to the pessimism and mistrust that had invaded this older Donist's heart over the past 18 years spent working for a living and dealing with the wonderful world of corporations.
Were my misgivings misplaced? Well, denizens, yes and no. You see, I really liked Dead Boy Detectives, the old The Sandman, Promethea, Hinterkind, Coffin Hill, Black Orchid, The Unwritten. Wait a minute...what book was I reading again? Sorry, there were so many highly intrusive, brilliantly white, attention demanding, double-page spread adds that I forgot what book I was actually reading. No disrespect to the wonderful books advertised, but nothing takes you out of the moment quite like turning the page and having an ad scream in your face. Amy the Donist World intern (my wife) read the book and proclaimed, "This is all one big ad! What the hell?" Then I read the comic and sadly I had to agree. I am thankful that the ads were at least comic related and not for Geico, or some hideous shoes, or Subway, or whatever, but man-oh-man did they interrupt the flow of things.
We also have the $4.99 price tag for 26 pages of content. I believe the 1989 first issue of The Sandman was $2 for 52 pages. By comparison, this month's Swamp Thing annual (see above) has 38 pages of material and the same $4.99 price tag with only single page ads near the front. Granted, Gaiman and Williams III command higher page rates--justifiably so--and the book has a gorgeous foldout four-page spread, which is pricey to include, but c''s The Sandman, you still see people dressed as these characters, and I'm not just talking about at the conventions either. It's going to sell, and it's going to sell well. Why not keep the $3.99 price and banish all the adds to the back of the book?
Anyhow, what comic were we reading again? Oh yeah, The Sandman Overture...aside from the above corporate nonsense (nothing to do with the creators at all), I liked it. We all know Gaiman can write and that his words, whether they are captions or dialogue or a perfectly placed moment of silence, will be lyrical, lovely. We also love all of these characters. Or rather if you have read The Sandman through to the end, and I really hope you have, THEN you love these characters. If you haven't, then I'm not sure this book is the right introduction to this world. I would strongly suggest starting with all of the trades of the original series and by the time you finish, The Sandman Overture should be gathered into its own hardcover or trade and minus the onslaught of advertisements. This series is for the dedicated fans, like me, who love the original series.
Having Williams III illustrate this series only helped make me look past the $4.99 price tag. (Yes, I know, the only way to stop bad business practice is to not support it, but it's the mutha fudruckin' Sandman gosh darnit.) He was kind of tailor-made to illustrate a comic about dreams and the bizarre and occasionally terrifying things that dwell there. Just have a look at the Corinthian page where each panel is one of the monster's teeth and you will see what I mean. Stewart's colors continue to complement Williams III's amazing imagery and make this issue stunning to behold.
I liked the story and the art on this continuation of what is one of my all-time-favorite comic book series, but the previously mentioned missteps have me considering trade waiting so I can read the book how I want to read it...namely uninterrupted. Again though, as a fan and given the gorgeous material I do have to say that this book is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Let's Let The Sandman Overture Problems Stand For This Week - 'Nuff said.


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