Friday, January 10, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 1/10/2014

(Sung to the tune of the Thompson Twins "Hold Me Now")

I had great comics there in my pull
That Sex Criminals, Jon and Suzie I'm laughing and loving it all
Look there's Swamp Thing, Woodrue's a pain
Swamps needs to be free of the Green and get back to pounding bad guys again

Oh whoa, oh whoa, wh-whooooaaaa

Afterlife...With Archie
Stay with me, you'll love this book, you'll love this book
Afterlife...With Archie
Stay with me, you'll love this book, you'll love this book

Ballyhoooooo, denizens! (no, that doesn't work...sounds like an Echo & the Bunnymen song). <ahem> Tallyhoe! (no, total weak sauce there, too). Garroommmmm! (awww, forget it). Okay, let's just table the idea of a Donist World call for the time being, and get down to brass tacks... Hello there, denizens. Welcome back. I'm Donist, and I'm joined as ever by our gorgeous (he made me say that) CFO Obie (my friends' Boston terrier), and by our lovely marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/home repair specialist Tulip (my dog, Obie's sister). We have left my mom's basement (she was out of those microwave burritos we love so much) the Donist World corporate office for an off-site meeting at Goleta Beach. We have decided to have a "Meet-N-Walk" to discuss our collaborative efforts to synergize Donist World across the broadest range of demographics while solidifying our corporate stance as a Fortune 320,000 company; we're going to be walking for a while. I also wanted to have a meeting where we weren't sitting around my mom's old card table the boardroom table all day listening to Obie's justifications for raiding the petty cash box...again. In fact, there's somethin' to getting out of the office for a while, and stretching our legs as we get into some extreme thinking outside of the box. We're all in better moods and...Obie...OBIE! NO! DO NOT ROLL IN THAT DEAD SEAL CARCASS! ARRRGGH! @#$%! <sigh><grumble><grumble> Okay, while I try figure out how not to touch my CFO, while getting his smelly butt in the car, and home for a b-a-t-h, have a look at this week's...

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Sex Criminals #4
Sex Criminals #4 - Written by Matt Fraction, illustrated by Chip Zdarsky, color flats by Becka Kinzie, edited by Thomas K, produced by Drew Gill, published by Image Comics. Four issues in and you would expect a bit of a lull to have hit at some point, a certain misstep to break the momentum from the first issue...then the second...then the third, but with Sex Criminals that is not the case. Fraction and Zdarsky's crime caper for adults continues to be...dare I say...a blast, with Suzie and Jon's adventures showing that comics can still be loads (sorry about that) of fun while holding what would be an R-rating were it a film. With but a mere four issues, Sex Criminals is contending with another certain adult-oriented Image title--Saga, of course--for the Intercontinental Championship Donist World Belt as favorite comic book on the stands...with comics this good, let's just call it a tie; we all win!
Suzie and Jon have been utilizing their timestopping sex powers to steal small amounts of money in a bid to stop Suzie's library from being foreclosed upon by an evil bank. The bank is the very same one where Jon works and has his soul sucked dry on a daily basis, and where Suzie's father was shot and killed many years prior. Now that the bank is going to foreclose on the library, the lovebirds decide to use their unique abilities to get even and pay off the library's debt with the bank's own money. But not if the Sex Police have anything to say about it. Suzie and Jon learn that they are not alone in their talents and that the three odd individuals dressed in white disapprove of using the Quiet to commit crimes.
As I've mentioned in my reviews of the first three issues, Fraction's dialogue and captions provide a unique voice to each of the characters, that immediately drew me in to both Suzie and Jon. I love these characters. Who hasn't felt helpless before a faceless juggernaut of an infinitely more wealthy entity such as a bank? Who hasn't had brutally awkward and defeating moments not just in their adolescence, but throughout periods in their adult lives? We've all thought about what we would do if we could stop time--Twilight Zone's "A Kind of Stopwatch" being the perfect example--and Fraction captures the sentiment perfectly. With such a power we could catch up on sleep, take a timeout during a stressful event, maybe pet a tiger, but we could also do those things that we would never do in real life: Jon's romps at the porn store; Suzie's getting even with a doucebag rapist; rob a bank. "With great power comes great responsibility," or whatever, but who wouldn't use an ability such as stopping time to some selfish end? Hence the Sex Police, which I am dying to know more about, and the cliffhanger ending that leaves me even more frantic for the next issue...I also kinda want to see Jon deliver on his statement to the combover bus driver perv who clocked him with a dildo.
Zdarsky's cartooning and sequentials are as strong, if not stronger, than the first three issues, with the highlights of the book coming from the subtle, dramatic character moments of a slight change in facial expression from one panel to the next. Of equal importance is Zdarsky's colors and the gorgeous magic he portrays in the Quiet. The glows and the knockouts are stunning, and create a false sense of ease as the threat of the Sex Police becomes more apparent. Also, because of him, I kind of have a "thing" for Suzie (a Hamburgler costume?! Who knew?!)
Sex Criminals is sooooooo much fun to read, and the art leaves me flipping back through to take in the brilliance of the aforementioned colors and clever subtleties hidden in the background of various panels. Nearly as enjoyable as the comic itself, is the "Letter Daddies" letters column, which clocks in at eight laugh-out-loud pages. Smart creators attract smart readers (luckily, I qualify on a technicality), and it is clear just how much fun Fraction and Zdarsky are having with this book, the letters column, and their die-hard fans, of which I proudly admit to being a card-carrying member--<snicker> I said "member!" Even without this issue's cliffhanger ending, there's no way I'll miss what comes next. Make mine Sex Criminals! VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Afterlife With Archie #3
Afterlife With Archie #3 - Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, illustrated by Francesco Francavilla, lettered by Jack Morelli, published by Archie Comics. To be honest, a few short years ago, I would have probably written off Afterlife With Archie, citing a million and a half reasons as to why this series would be completely lame. Now that I know better, all of those reasons would have been wrong. Thankfully, I caved and read the first Best of Archie Comics anthology and the phenomenal yet heartbreaking Archie the Married Life, which helped me realize that I have been missing out, denizens. Archie Comics produces fun, thoughtful, well-written, beautifully illustrated stories by a publisher who does not shy away from taking risks. Hey, why not have a mashup with America's favorite comic book teens and the dead that walk? Just mix in talent like Aguirre-Sacasa and Francavilla and you're bound to have something special. Everyone should be reading this series...provided you can get ahold of any copies.
As Mayor Lodge's dreams of his dearly departed wife intermingle with the nightmare of the zombies plaguing Riverdale, he awakens to find that his fortress of a home is equally as good at keeping zombies in as it is at keeping them out. Meanwhile, Veronica organizes a pool party for the manor's "guests," but even her tough exterior begins to crack as more of her friends succumb to the zombie madness. Elsewhere, Nancy and Ginger decide to run away from home to begin their lives anew, but only after checking on their parents first. Archie succeeds in escaping through the only chink in the Lodge manor's armor so he can check on his parents, but the situation outside is much worse than he could ever imagine.
It's a great feeling to follow up reading one fantastic comic with another equally fantastic comic. Afterlife With Archie is not only fun--as is to be expected from the wonderful world of Archie--it also manages to be quite scary. Aguirre-Sacasa and Francavilla succeed in pulling the reader further into its already lovable stable of characters and makes you truly feel for them. With this issue, Mayor Lodge, a frequent antagonist for Archie, is revealed to be a man who deeply misses his wife, and was once young and hopeful himself. With his wife gone, he no longer has her strength to guide him, and when Lodge let's us see this emotion, the moment is so touching you can't help but sympathize with the man. Then there are Veronica, Midge, Nancy and Ginger who all bare their souls to a select few characters, and those moments are heart wrenching to witness, but they kept me eagerly flipping pages for more.
The mood of each panel is brought home not only by Francavilla's non-traditional--by Archie's standards--illustrations, but primarily through his phenomenal coloring schemes. This is especially so on the zombie pool scene where Francavilla contrasts reds and blues to increase the frightful intensity of the moment. The scene with Nancy and Ginger in front of Pop Tate's diner, as the fire they started burns the place to the ground, is also striking in its intensity, but lovely in the the sentiment of Ginger's idea to go west contrasted to the reality of the girls' situation. There is no better artist for this comic.
The release days from my Pull List app are generally not that accurate on this title, so I'm usually never quite certain on when a new issue is actually going to be released. I usually find out a week prior when to expect this book, which is fine...each release is like a very pleasant surprise when I actually find a copy waiting in my pull. No capes, no tights, no punching, but a terrific story filled with heart and soul, and stunning art that leaves you desperate for more. Thank goodness this mini has been extended to a full series, as it is one of the strongest titles on the stand. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Other Heavenly Items:
Swamp Thing #27
Swamp Thing #27 - Written by Charles Soule, illustrated by Jesus Saiz, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Travis Lanham, published by DC Comics. The Micronauts is the comic that first compelled me to pick up a comic book series in sequential order and on a monthly basis (check out my new "Micronauts Monday" post here), but it was Wein and Wrightson's Swamp Thing from the '70s that taught me to love comics to begin with. Yes, I greatly enjoyed Spidey, Supes, Bats and that Iron Guy, but Swamp Thing and his archrival Arcane is what grabbed me--yes, I was an odd kid. Then in the late '80s, Alan Moore's take on the character blew my teenage mind (as did MANY of Moore's other books from that era), and made me just as hungry for Swamp Thing as I was for The Micronauts. Things kind of fell apart after Moore's departure from the title, and I steered away. Now, with the New 52 and a great run by Scott Snyder and Paquette, Soule continues to write intriguing stories with my oldest, favorite character in all of comics.
Alec Holland is not dealing with his forced retirement in the Green very well. As the Wolf points out, he can enjoy his mortal desires for as long as he likes. Or, if he chooses, he can spend his time in a blissfully drugged out state, but the allure of simple pleasures hold little appeal to Alec. Jason Woodrue roams the Earth as the Green's new avatar, and Alec is the only one who can stop his mad rampage. Unfortunately, Alec is trapped in the Green and only through the aid of the insane Lady Weeds can he hope to escape to stop Woodrue and set the world right.
I am a fan of the dark, foreboding world of the Swamp Thing, and Soule succeeds in delivering just such a comic while bridging the gap to the brighter side with the occasional touch of humor. This is a formula I would never expect to work for this title, yet Soule pulls it off effectively. I love how the Wolf and Lady Weeds manifest their ideal heaven since "retiring" to the Green, and I look forward to seeing a very pissed off Lady Weeds reappear at some point down the road. Technically speaking, everything plays out just fine, but I would have liked to have seen at least another issue or two of Woodrue really becoming a viable threat to not just the Red or the Rot, but to humanity in general. The story glossed over some potentially great moments, moments that could have shown Woodrue constructing his throne of meat (an awesome touch, btw), and becoming a truly wicked villain on par with Anton Arcane. Simply put, I wanted more time with this monster. The story is still a blast, and I applaud the decision to effectively shut down the Parliament of Trees.
Over the past couple issues, I praised Saiz's character designs, and I have to do more of the same. The Wolf and Lady Weeds are spectacular in their respective elegance and creepiness, but Saiz does not stop there, introducing the Green's version of the Parliament of Trees. The dinosaur, the neanderthal, and the other historical representatives are equally freaking killer in their designs, and I cannot wait to see what Saiz brings out in future issues. Then there's Wilson, who only makes great character designs even more stunning with his colors, which push the differences between the Wolf's world and Lady Weed's world to such an extreme it's hard to believe both are part of the same Green. Wilson's storytelling through hue and saturation makes Swamp Thing all the better.
Although I felt this storyline wrapped up much too quickly, I still enjoyed this arc and look forward to what comes next. I'm only buying a couple New 52 books nowadays, but it's safe to say I'm on board this title for a while, denizens. Soule and Diaz succeed in expanding upon my much loved '70s and '80s versions of the Swamp Thing, and so long as the DCU proper stays relatively out of the mix, I anticipate reading this book for some time to come. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

First Full Week Jobby Free - I'm still kind of freaked out over the whole leaving my day job thing so I can focus on writing, going back to school, and changing the path that had been making me miserable for so very long. It's weird having the freedom and time to work on things that actually matter to me. Kicking the overwhelming sense of dread that I have felt for most of the past 25 years (predominantly the latter half) is not easy. Somewhere I forgot what it was like to wish that a day would not go by so fast. I grew accustomed to praying that each weekday would end quickly, so I could get to Friday, where I could then be depressed that I only had two days before it all started up again.
What I have done is not what you are supposed to do. It's not what is expected of you. To be honest, it's not something a risk-adverse person like myself would ever even consider doing...but then again I was so very unhappy. If I wanted things to change, then I had to make things change.
So, what did I do this past week? Classes don't start until the 27th, so I gave myself this week and the next to do more writing/creating with a built-in "goof-off" allowance to help decompress. I started "Micronauts Monday," researched ideas for a short comic book story to pitch, pitched for that comic book story, wrote this FSoH/SitW, researched Turbo Tax (can't escape taxes), removed two light fixtures (see below about this), installed two new light fixtures, fixed a clogged sink, took care of a ton of other home items, spent time with Tulip on some great walks, went for a couple runs, cooked dinner for my wife, watched Pacific Rim (loved it), watched the animated Batman the Dark Knight Returns (loved it), rewatched Avatar (loved it), and saw a glimmer of the person I used to be. This weekend I will begin revising my kids chapter book based on the feedback from my editor, the great, Rob Anderson (writer of the AWESOME Rex Zombie Killer comic book).
Now, I'm completely aware that I will most likely not be earning a living from my creations, and I will be looking for a new job sometime around September. That said, the job will not be for a soul-devouring corporation, or for a borderline-abusive CEO, and it preferably won't be in the area of finance. Instead, I hope to work for a company I respect, or for a cause I that means something to me; somewhere that allows some degree of creativity that allows an actual sense of fulfillment. But who knows, a lot can happen between then and now. Time will tell.

Slice Into the Woods

Dang...the Dang Ceiling Lamp Done Exploded (aka Where's Our Pizza?) - Last week I mentioned how on my very first job-free day I was greeted with a bill for a new stove and a new car battery. Well, on Friday, the oven delivery guys showed up and I thought it was only polite to turn on a couple of lights so they could work. I went to turn on the "dining room" hanging ceiling light and <BOOM!> went the connector between the cable and the hood of the light. The massive shooting spark freaked all of us out, and the delivery guys quickly installed the stove and got the hell out of there. Amy and I then loaded Tulip into the car (for her safety) and headed to the hardware store where we picked up a circuit tester and two new light fixtures; the kitchen light was also worrisome.
After the store, we went to pick up a pizza and were relieved to find the place empty. We ordered our pizza (bacon, tomato, pineapple) to go, and ordered a beer while we waited. Multiple students and families came, ordered, ate, and left, while all we had received was our tiny little salad. Long story short, not one, but two of our pizzas were stolen or "accidentally taken." Anyhow, it all worked out. The workers were very apologetic, and we got a larger pizza that was accidentally made (pepperoni, bacon, pineapple...very close), a large cinnabread (cinnamon, frosting, apples...awful for you, but ohhhhh so freakin' good), and $10 in credit for our troubles. Not too bad a haul for having to wait almost triple the amount of time we were supposed to wait.

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