Friday, December 6, 2013

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 12/6/2013

(Sung to the tune of Dead Milkmen "Punk Rock Girl")

This last Wednesday I went to my LCS
I found some books there that made shout out "Yes!"
Punk Rock Jesus it's sure to please, hey I wouldn't tease
With Battling Boy your fun increases, just be sure to read Punk Rock Jesus

On the topic of new weekly floppies things were rather slow
But the ones I bought and read were quite good, don't you know?
Punk Rock Jesus is what you need, Swamp Thing you should also read
Trillium is sure to please us, just you must scope Punk Rock Jesus

Okay, Obie...drumroll please...What? C'mon, man. What the what? I...forget it, just forget it. Hello there Donist World denizens, I'm here with my CFO Obie (my friends' Boston terrier) and my marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/blog post counter and we have yet another cause for celebration. Now, granted, 2:00 PM is enough cause for the Donist World offices to pop the Champagne, but today is extra special. You see, Obie was sitting in front of the uber-sweet drum set we stole from my mom's neighbors' son Billie who really needs to knock off that racket past sundown procured, but in our excitement we all kind of forgot that dogs don't have thumbs and just can't provide a proper drumroll; Boston terriers are also too short to reach the bass pedal. Anyhow, what we are celebrating here is the 300th blog post on Donist World. <woo-hoo> Most of the posts are of the FSoH/SitW variety, but my earlier posts were initially my writing about anything and everything that came to mind. I wrote about the weirdos I met while working in retail (both employees and customers), odd and cool things that happened to me at a couple comic conventions and gyms, live concerts I've been to on "To All The Concerts I Loved Before", or on the "Still Thinking About Up In the Air" I talked about the past jobs I've held and what went down at each of them. But for the past I-don't-know-how-long I've mostly focused on "Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods." I'm thinking its high time I started adding a little variety to my posts on occasion, and we'll see where that goes in the near future. In the meantime, I want to again thank you all for joining Obie, Tulip and I for some of these 300 posts. So, grab some cake, help yourself to a mojito (you have my permission) and have a look at this week's...

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Punk Rock Jesus TPB
Punk Rock Jesus TPB - Everythinged by Sean Murphy, lettered by Todd Klein, published by Vertigo Comics, a DC Comics imprint. Well, denizens, sometimes ol' Donist is a little late to the fish fry. Or, I'm just a little strapped for cash and have to hold off on some of the many books I want to buy...but I inevitably get around to some of the awesomeness I initially missed at some point. Enter Punk Rock Jesus.
Last week, I decided to approach the Tower O' Comics erected near the bed, the one that makes Tulip nervous and that has possibly evolved a lesser form of sentience that leaves it watching...always watching. Anyhow, I liberated the Punk Rock Jesus TPB from the angered Tower O' Comics and after applying an ice pack to my blackened eye and a liberal amount of Mercurachrome to my cuts, I somehow knew my wounds were fitting with the book I was about to read. What I didn't know when picking up this book was that I was about to experience one of those comics that makes you sit back and say, "That was great. This is a career defining work. This should be included in the list of most important graphic novels of all time." So, yeah, it was pretty good.
"Money can't buy you everything" is generally a true adage, but when an insanely rich television network, Ophis, strikes a deal with the Catholic Church to supposedly obtain DNA from Jesus Christ so they can clone him and run a reality show called J2, money does indeed talk. The series follows J2 star Chris and his bodyguard, ex-IRA member Thomas McKael, as well as Chris's ever-troubled mother. Chris grows up under the always-open public eye, and J2 is in fact the most-watched show of all time, although it is not without its detractors, and they are many. As Chris's mother becomes more unhinged over their "imprisonment" on J2 Island, Chris begins to butt heads with Slate, head executive of Ophis. After sneaking glimpses into the real world, the world Ophis wishes to keep hidden from him--poverty, war, consumerism, fanaticism--Chris comes across some of Thomas's old punk rock albums and his eyes finally open. Now he knows his true purpose and the best way to deliver his message.
I'm fairly certain this book has ticked some people off, including many who will never bother to even read the story. In fact, it's likely to jump to the top of their "Burn at the next bonfire" list. That's okay...hey, free promotion for Murphy. Knowwhatimean? In the back matter for this trade (I'm unsure if it is included in any of the six individual issues), Murphy briefly explains how he was Chrisitian and his turn toward Atheism, which is what spawned the very book you hopefully hold, or will soon hold, in your hands. Usually with a deeply personal book like Punk Rock Jesus, you would expect moments to be quite heavy-handed, but this is not the case. Chris's evolution into the young man he will become occurs organically within the story, as does Thomas's outlook on what is right and wrong. With the brief summary above, it might not be clear that Thomas is every bit the protagonist for this story--at times more so--as Chris, and Murphy expertly reveals the man's history as well as his issues with the difficult decisions he has to make. Storywise, Murphy also has many other well-developed characters such as Dr. Sarah Epstein, and Chris's mother Gwen who shine throughout the book and have profound impacts on both Chris and Thomas and keep the story moving as a whole. However, my one story/characterization complaint is that I would have liked to have doubted my hatred of Slate at least once or twice before his "act he cannot come back from," but he retains his DB-ery throughout, or rather he sinks further and further into corporate evilness.
Before proving his substantial writing talent with Punk Rock Jesus, Murphy was primarily known as only an artist...scratch only an exceptional, highly-influential, masterful artist. He is responsible for the visuals on the likes of Joe the Barbarian, American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest (I need to read this), most recently The Wake, and a host of other books. This is Murphy's baby and his art clearly reflects this with the fine line work, detailed backgrounds, insane character acting and sequentials that flow gracefully from panel to panel. Every page is simply beautiful. My one complaint with the art is that although I love to see the unaltered imagery, I would still like to see a minimally colored version of this story--Matt Hollingsworth?--similar to what we get with the phenomenal The Wake. A colored version would only help push forward, drop back, and develop characters that extra little bit.
Punk Rock Jesus is an important work. After finally reading this remarkable and compelling story, I would even go so far as to put it up there with the likes of The Watchmen, V For Vendetta, Batman - The Dark Knight Returns, Essex County, Daytripper, and Asterios Polyp, and with longer form works such as Planetary, Saga of the Swamp Thing, The Sandman, Strangers in Paradise and of course the ever-amazing Preacher (another contender for the "Burn at the bonfire" club which I wrote about three and a half years ago here...ugh, we all have to start somewhere). Murphy has created a masterpiece that is readily, and inexpensively, available for your pleasure, and is one that is going on my favorite shelf until a colored hardcover (dare to dream, denizens) comes along. I really hope Murphy is beginning to chip away at his next big personal project, because I can't wait to see what he comes up with next. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Battling Boy OGN
Battling Boy OGN - Everythinged by Paul Pope, colored by Hilary Sycamore, published by First Second. Okay, as much as I adored this booked we're starting with a couple negatives here, denizens. You might remember that around the time of my 17th 26th birthday, I read and talked about Paul Pope's freakin' amazin' The Invincible Haggard West right here. I really dug it. I talked about how it was an awesome prequel to the not yet released Battling Boy OGN. I was pumped to get the main book, and imagine my surprise when I turned to the first page to find that it was exactly the same as the first page of The Invincible Haggard West; the same was true for the first twenty-some pages of the book. What the what?! The Invincible Haggard West is not a prelude, it is a sampler. Not only that, it is a sampler that charges you $2.99 to hook you, only to represent the same exact material from the comic in the OGN. I did not need to buy this, but I had no way of knowing this at the time of purchase. The only plus the 22-page comic has over the 208-page OGN is that it is standard comic size where OGN is a smaller form factor meant to be placed in the kids section of brick and mortar book stores. The size differential isn't even all that big a deal as many of the comic pages have rather large white borders at the bottom/top of the page so First Second could trim without affecting Pope's pages. <sigh> I'm not really digging this blatant money grab, but pushing all of that aside, the OGN is drop dead gorgeous despite being a bit petite in size. Enough complaining, on with the show.
With Arcopolis's hero, Haggard West, recently murdered by the evil Sadisto and his gang of hooded and bandages monstrosities, what man will rise up to protect the city plagued by monsters? There is no man who can stand up to the challenge, but there is a 12-year-old godling who has come to our world as a right of heroic passage. Armed with a collection of magical T-shirts that grant him the powers of the animal depicted on the front, Battling Boy arrives to help...too bad he has to rely on a secret helping hand from both his father and from a girl dressed and armed in the manner of the deceased Haggard West. Battling Boy better learn the ropes soon, as Sadisto does not plan on waiting for the child to fully come into his power.
This book is beautiful in both visuals and in the highly engaging story, and discounting my frustration with First Second's "marketing decision" this book is something that not only Paul Pope fans should seek out, but fans of fun stories reminiscent of some of the best comics from the '70s should own--I fall into both categories. Pope has given us his all with this book. We have exquisite character designs from the pulpy sci-fi goodness of Haggard West, to the over-the-top creepiness of Sadisto and his thugs, to the regal gods, and the car-devouring, bright-red monster. Drop all the word balloons, rearrange all of the pages in random order and I would probably still recommend you buy this book; the artwork is stunning. Sycamore's nearly-flat style of coloring polishes up Pope's art giving it an added '70s vibe that works well with the tone of the book.
The allure of Battling Boy is not just in Pope's visuals, but also the story; it's a fun-filled blast. The characters are all appealing--even the bad guys like Sadisto and the monster are worthy of following--and although many of the situations are ridiculous, they are equally captivating...I didn't want put the book down. Everyone has their own distinct voice and motivations with the words and art at no point battling for space on the page.
Although I am still kind of miffed about the comic money grab, if I push that quibble aside, then there really is no fault I can find with this beautiful work. Battling Boy will appeal to comic fans both young and old--I would have loved this just as much as a kid as I do as an all-growed-up adult--and is something worthy of displaying on your favorite book shelf so you can repeatedly read it between the long wait for volume two. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Other Heavenly Items:
Swamp Thing #26
Swamp Thing #26 - Written by Charles Soule, illustrated by Jesus Saiz, colored by Mattew Wilson, lettered by Dezy Sienty, published by DC Comics. Oh how the mighty have fallen, and they have fallen to Jason Woodrue, the Floronic Man, the new avatar of the Green. Woodrue wastes no time in his new role as he seeks to further win the Green's favor by harrassing Cappuccino Capucine at Alec's old manor, picking a fight with Animal Man, and stomping on some big corporate climate ruiners. But what of Alec Holland? All he can do is watch from his new place among the Parliament of Trees.
Soule's decision to not show Alec Holland, the former Swamp Thing, but have him narrate as we watch Woodrue tear things up, works well for this issue. I liked getting a glimpse into Woodrue's past as his once noble cause twists into obsessive selfishness. There are some inconstancies between the narration and what occurs on the page, but the story is so fascinating that I had no problem looking past the conflicting parts of the Green's relationship with the avatar. I am also unsure of the decision to have this Capucine woman appear in the book so many issues ago, only to have her sit alone, on a swing, at a mansion, for months on end, but I can look past that as well.
Saiz's art, specifically on the Woodrue character design, is creepy and a worthy update to the emaciated Floronic Man I loved so much during Moore's incredible seminal run. The character acting continues to be strong and Wilson's colors breathe life into both the backdrops and the cool-as-heck look of Woodrue as the Avatar.
As I've mentioned in past reviews, I dropped anything dealing with The Swamp Thing shortly after Moore's treasured run. But when Scott Snyder was announced as writing the New 52 take on the character, I was in, and now that the book is in Soule's capable hands, it looks like I'm going to be sticking around for some time to come. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Trillium #5
Trillium #5 - Everythinged by Jeff Lemire, colored (half of it anyway) by Jose Villarrubia, lettered by Carlos M. Mangual, published by Vertigo Comics, a DC Comics imprint. "She walked in, he woke up. He'd never seen a pretty spaceman look so tough. Baby..." Sorry about that. No this is not another musical guest on Donist World this week, it was just something that went through my mind when I was thinking about this series.
Trillium is basically about a man in the past trying to escape his present and find a long lost temple that seems to be calling to him. In the future a woman seeks to save the human race from extinction at the flagella of a alien space virus and she believes the plant trillium holds the answer to humanity's plight. When the woman enters a strange temple, she transports to the past and comes across the man who awakens to life at the sight of her. See...a Prince song. This issue sees William and Nika with their roles reversed and something seriously wrong with the time stream after last issue's destruction of the temple.
The story seems to have slowed down after issue two, but I am still very much enjoying this inventive take on the time-crossed romance...although there has been little romance in this book thus far. The writing and art are very much in line with what you would expect from Lemire, meaning that both are exceptionally-developed. My only concern is that the actual story wraps up properly in the next three issues--I believe this is an 8-issue series--as this sci-fi, time-traveling, romance hasn't quite gotten to showing these two are destined to be together. Then again, maybe I'm wrong about the notion that this comic is a love story at its core. Regardless, we have interesting characters, an legitimate threat to the future, mysterious aliens, and something weird between the two timelines that I want to see get resolved.
Although I get the whole "two completely different worlds come together" idea and playing with the format of the books layout is part of that, a couple of the issues were difficult to read while trying to determine the correct panel flow. Now, I'm all for experimenting with story format, but at this point in the book the reader should be aware of the two worlds idea, but that said, the book is still a brave undertaking and a refreshing break from the capes and tights drama. If you are looking to check this series out, then please do not attempt to just dive in. Big mistake. You have to start with issue one and work your way through or at this stage in the game trade waiting might be the way to go...which makes me wonder how all the liberties taken with the format will play out when all eight issues appear in a single trade. Still, Trillium has me along for the ride until the very end. RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Watched Arrow Season One on Netflix -  Don't read this the wrong way, denizens. I'm sad because Donist World intern Amy (my wife) and I powered through the entire first season of Arrow over the course of two and a half weeks. The show is FANTASTIC! I was hooked within the first ten minutes of the first episode and after much begging and pleading I convinced Amy to watch it with me; she was hooked, too. Great writing, overall awesome characters and character growth, with action scenes that were long enough to keep me happy, while short enough to keep my wife's attention. The negative side of this is that only season one is on Netflix with the second season currently airing. I want to buy the episodes as they release, but that looks to cost around $50 to get the whole season. Arrrghhh! I just might have to pull the financial trigger on this one so I can keep up with this amazing show about one of my lifelong favorite superheroes.

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