Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 12/20/2013

(Sung to the tune of Ronnie James Dio's "Rainbow In the Dark")

Comic book lightning
You know they never bring me down
Saga you see, golly gee, to me
It's one of the best comics around

Black Science, pure magic
East of West I now see the light
They're cool 'n no foolin'
Rex: Zombie Killer'll set you right

Bet you didn't see Pretty Deadly comin'
They're all books you must own
Double rainbows in the dark
Double rainbows in the dark

<PWEEEEET!!> Enough! Enough! Obie. Tulip. Stop the presses. That's it, we've done all we can do for this installment. Publish this week's FSoH/SitW. Oh...hello there Donist World denizens. I'm Donist and I'm joined by my very tired executive team of CFO Obie (my friends' Boston terrier) and Tulip our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/deadline buster (my dog, Obie's sister). Criminy. This week was a doozy. I have a sneaking suspicion that the our favorite comic book publishers pushed all the books that they could into this week as the next two Wednesdays are holidays. Obie, Tulip and I bought eight comics this week: five are reviewed below, one...meh, two I have not even had a chance to read (Thor God of Thunder and Daredevil). So, realizing we just don't have time to read and talk about those other books, we're posting what we do have to keep our regularly scheduled programming running. Hey, we made a valiant effort, so whatchagonnado? Anyhow, we hope you all have a fabulous holiday season and we hope you enjoy this week's...

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Saga #17
Saga #17 - Written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples, letters and design by Fonografiks, published by Image Comics. Question: didn't issue 16 just come out like two weeks ago or something? This is by no means a complaint, heck keep 'em coming by golly, I'm just curious if I crossed a time suck (read the second trade) or something. Why look a gift horse in the mouth...hold on, I need to look up what that phrase actually means...oh, got itSaga is my comic book main man, my compadre, the best friend who holds my long flowing locks of gorgeous hair as I hoark in the commode after a night of hitting the wine coolers a little too hard. Saga's got my back, denizens, which is why I will always buy Saga an extra round of beers, or give it the last Pliny the Elder in the fridge, or even attend Saga's dang music recital--and we know how much I hate those. Once again, this series solidifies itself as the Donist World darling of the year, which is saying something as there were some really tough competition from the likes of Sex Criminals, Hawkeye, Lazarus, East of West, and a host of other amazing comics that everyone should be buying. Oh yeah, this issue is not only fantastic, it will make you laugh, it will stress you out, and will provide a couple <gasp> moments guaranteed to leave you off balance. I definitely did not see one of the scenes playing out like it
In this issue we learn the true extent of Upsher and Doff's relationship, as well as just how much trouble they have dug themselves into with the Alana and Marko investigation. New freelancer Peter Murphy from Bauhaus The Brand makes their appearance along with Sweet Boy, their Saint-Bernard-From-Hell (?), much to Upsher and Doff's dismay. The Will continues to bleed out after last issue's misunderstanding, but offers Slave Girl a bit of advice. The author Heist begins to make inroads with Prince Robot IV even after the android had shot him, as Marko, Alana, Hazel, Clara, Izabel, Gwendolyn, and Lying Cat all make their presence known. This ain't going to go well.
The one lone word balloon on the final splash page about sums up my reaction to this issue, but I'm not going to tell you what that balloon says. The majority of Saga's third chapter (13-16) has been a look back at other events and other characters that lead up to issue 12's conclusion where Prince Robot IV tortured the writer Heist in an effort to gain Marko, Alana and their child Hazel's location. Unbeknownst to IV, the fugitive family is in the house. This month's installment picks up from that point and the reader and the creators are once again moving ahead on the timeline where anything can happen, and something huge does. As the moment unfolds, Vaughan has Hazel's beautiful narration run along each shocking panel with the aftermath on the next page running practically silent in response. This showdown has been slowly building over the past four issues, and even though it was clear that something terrible was going to happen with each page turn, I could not help but plow ahead with a building sense of dread. Vaughan delivers. It's harsh. It's upsetting. Saga's huge cast of characters have been so thoroughly developed over the course of a mere 17 issues, that whenever something terrible--or good for that matter--happens to them the reader feels it. You love these characters, quirks, foibles and all; the same holds true for even the "bad guys."
In past reviews, I have mentioned that if Saga were written out as prose that I would still enjoy reading the book and that Vaughan could pull off such a venture, but without Staples's gorgeous and compelling art, much of the charm of this series would be missed. Her line work and painting are without compare, making each and every page--take your pick--worthy of framing and hanging in the home. For this issue, the page where Gwendolyn kicks in the door and the two pages that follow are some of her best work to date, both sequentiallly and dramatically. Each gesture, rhythm and flow of each panel glides the eye to the next, never once pulling the reader out of the moment. In fact, I found myself dreading what was coming next, and wanting to turn away, but this was impossible; You can't help but follow the action of that one ruthless panel. Then there's the drama of those pages: a scowl, a smile, resolve, terror, realization. It is all so real, which makes the whole chain of events that much more heart wrenching. Like Vaughan's words without art, Staples's art without words will convey everything you need to know, but combined you can't escape the perfectly orchestrated beauty of this book.
In case there's any doubt, I love this comic. I've given the first trade as a gift to my brother, to Amy the Donist World intern (my wife), to a couple of my closest friends, and I was considering giving it to my coworkers, but remembered that the book falls into the NSFW category. If you are a fan of sci-fi fantasy intergalactic romance tales with a fair amount of sex and violence that is also one of the best written and illustrated comics around, then this is the book for you. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Other Heavenly Items:
Rex: Zombie Killer #2
Rex: Zombie Killer #2 - 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. Okay, a little clarification and housekeeping on this one to avoid confusion to be sure you get the whole story in the intended order. Rex: Zombie Killer started off with a "one-shot" issue, and has since branched out into a four-issue mini series with the second issue of the mini-series released this week. (of which I am an affiliate) seems to have gotten mixed up and lists the "one-shot" and this second issue of the mini as the only two books in the series; this is not the case. So, if you order issue #1 from, then I'm really not sure if you will get the "one-shot" or issue 1 of the mini. So, I have linked to (they have issue 1 and 2 of the mini) and which has both the "one-shot" (expensive) and issue 1 and 2 of the mini. So, after going through all of this trouble to point out some places where you can actually buy this wonderful adventure if your LCS is out of stock, you can probably guess that I like this comic quite a bit. You can read my thoughts on the "one-shot" and the first issue of the mini here and here.
When we last saw Rex, Kenji, Brutus, Buttercup, and Snowball, they were mixed-up in a battle with a group of primates as led by Chuma, a gorilla who sees the forest as part of his realm. The battle was short-lived as zombified animals arrived to devour them all, including a massive zombie bear. If they are to survive, the animals--the living ones--will have to band together and face the threat. There is strength and numbers, and Rex hopes to convince Chuma to join his group on their journey to Nah-Vah-Da where he hopes to find a "safe place" alongside his lost human friend. Unfortunately, Nah-Vah-Da is a long ways away and there are rotters aplenty to stop them.
Okay, at least Anderson spared me by not making me want to cry like he did in the first two installments. As I mentioned in the past, it is as if the writer dove into my brain and wrote a comic book specifically for me. We have horror. We have adventure. We have zombies. We have animals--lots of them--who take charge. Anderson juggles many characters throughout Rex: Zombie Killer, yet he manages to give each their own distinct personality, wants, and issues, including the squirrels (who have organized, which terrifies me to no end). They are also complex. Rex is intelligent, commanding, his pack listens to him, but we also see his manipulative side come into play as he convinces Chuma to join them, playing on the gorilla's ego to get what he wants: a better chance of reaching the "safe place." The interplay between all of the characters is handled terrifically.
Yu's art, which I thoroughly enjoyed in both the "one-shot" and the first issue, kicks into high gear with this chapter. I don't know what happened since last month, but there is a sense of urgency in the action and the flow of the "lines" from panel to panel had me whipping through the pages to see what was coming next, but wanting to take in all of the little details in the art at the same time. I can only guess that Yu was having a blast drawing this issue as evidenced in the beautiful splash pages and the brutally awesome double-page spread where...well, you'll just have to check it out yourself (trust me, it's insane).
Pushing Yu's beautiful imagery to the next level is Romera's stunning colors. His tones on the characters are true to their light sources, while giving the impression of three dimension and fur as well. He also drives the emotion of a scene with unnatural background hues to great effect when needed.
Rex: Zombie Killer delivers on its Incredible Journey meets The Walking Dead premise and then some. Expertly crafted, beautifully illustrated and colored, and one heck of a fun read, the creators thankfully shy away from the overly gross and adult areas zombie comics tend to traverse, giving us a horror comic that even kids can enjoy--provided they are okay with scary zombies. Now, you might have a bit of a search ahead of you to get ahold of this fine book, but at least I gave you a starting point up top. Rex: Zombie Killer is the comic I desperately wanted back when I was a kid, but I'm pleased as punch to be reading it now. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

East of West #8
East of West #8 - Written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Nick Dragotta, colored by Frank Martin, lettered by Rus Wooton, published by Image Comics. Although I loved the first couple issues of this series, I have admitted in previous reviews to not fully knowing what the heck was going on. Now, eight issues in, the story and the characters make more sense as this fascinating post-apocalyptic world continues to push through the fog of confusion and it is a grim world indeed. I love it.
The President was put in power by three of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and she has to keep the order and do their bidding no matter how terrible their whims may be; she did not bat an eye at the offer. Meanwhile, Death, Crow, and Wolf travel deeper and deeper into the prison that is of Death's own making, and we discover who it is he keeps there. In the end we learn just how far The President will go to keep the populace in line and subservient.
If anything, you can count on Hickman and Dragotta's excellent East of West to be intense and oftentimes disturbing, but you can also count on it to be intelligent and beautifully illustrated. The characters are interesting, but unlike Saga you won't find yourself loving any of them. This is not a bad thing. Rather, the bleak world contains hints of our own and the intricacies of the story are so compelling you will have to return to see what messed up catastrophe happens next. East of West is another Donist World favorite and if you missed it the first go around, then the trade--at $9.99 retail, cheaper at catch you up on the first five issues of this amazing series. Oh yeah, this issue also features a guest appearance by the horse afraid denizens, be very afraid. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Black Science #2
Black Science #2 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Matteo Scalera, colored by Dean White, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. The cool thing is that it's only been three weeks since the tremendous first issue of Black Science was released. You might also remember that ol' Donist was blown away by the pulpy, Warren Magazine-style tone of the book. In that issue we even got to see a guy tear a frog-man's head off, wear it like a glove, and proceed to weaponize its electric tongue--how awesomely sick is that?!
The first issue dropped us right in the middle of some insane--and boy-howdy do I mean insane--action with fish creatures riding giant land eels, mountainous turtle cities, and frog-men with electrified tongues. This issue slows the pace down considerably to introduce us to more of the cast and to show their relationship to our title character, Grant McKay. We also pick up on a strange new world where a German soldier bayonets McKay in the side. If that wasn't enough, McKay's crew discover who the severely outmatched Germans are fighting.
Never in a million years would I have imagined who the sci-fi enemies of this issue would be, but if you read Remender's phenomenal Fear Agent series (I need to reread this), then you already know the writer is beyond well-versed in telling bizarre, but beautiful sci-fi tales. At two issues in, he looks to deliver another solid book.
Although, this issue is predominantly built around establishing the characters with a brief glimpse of this harsh, new dimension that they have to survive before jumping to the next random, parallel world, Scalera's art keeps each panel flowing from one to the next. His dynamic character acting shows us all of the emotions and defines the relationships between the large cast of characters with ease, even if Remender's great dialogue was to be removed. Dean White's colors, although not as gloriously trippy as the first issue, is still stunning, especially when it comes to scenes involving the tech of this world at war.
Although we are only two issues in, Black Science looks to join the parade of amazing comics Image keeps adding to their roster. I may not completely sympathize with the characters yet, but it is safe to say that I am in love with the Lost In Space style premise and I'm excited to see how McKay and his group survive jumping from one creepy location to the next. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Pretty Deadly #3
Pretty Deadly #3 - Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, illustrated by Emma Rios, colored by Jordie Bellaire, lettered by Clayton Cowles, edited by Sigrid Ellis, published by Image Comics. Looks like what we got here is a fourfer of an Image Comics comic book bonanza this week, with yet another dang-fine offerin'. Like East of West, Pretty Deadly is one of those books that you have to be ready to read: no distractions, be well rested, be sure to have eaten. We are three issues in and I'm not completely certain of what is going on, but that is fine by me given the poetic beauty of the writing and art.
Bunny and butterfly continue their tale, picking up with Johnny Coyote who is lost in a fever dream from his gunshot wound. Missy, the daughter of Death, prepares to hunt down Fox (her dead mother's husband...confusing, I know), and Ginny, the vulture girl (see issue one...again, confusing), learns a bit more than she bargained for. Then comes the flood.
Pretty Deadly's story is like a large, mysterious jigsaw puzzle to which we do not yet have all of the pieces. But with each issue we receive additional pieces of the puzzle and the main picture begins to take shape. DeConnick's narration glides in and out of each scene with the dialogue rolling in with ease. Rios's imagery gives the reader a reason to linger on each panel as the story unfolds. Her design of Death is startling, creepy yet majestic; he is a thing worthy of fearing.
Pretty Deadly is still in the early stages of the story, and even though I'm a tad lost as to what is going on, I am certain it is by design. The creators give us a fantastic fairytale of the old West that is dark, bleak, yet beautiful none the less; it's like nothing else on the stand. If you want a lyrical tale that unfolds at the creators' deliberate pace, a tale of dark beauty, then Pretty Deadly might just be the comic for you. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

So Busy. So Very, Very Busy - I'm sure something got my goat, but for the life of me I can't think of what that might have been.


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