Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 1/24/2014

(Sung to the tune of Pink Floyd's "The Wall")

So you want some groovy comics
We just need some Deadly Class
How 'bout some Bad Dog, Chew, or Batman
Donist, throw these kids a bone

Hey, Donist, throw these kids a bone

All in all these are great comics, I'm tellin' you all
All in all read great comics, I'm tellin' you all

So you want some groovy comics,
We just need Pretty Deadly, Cuzz
How 'bout some Hawkeye, for you to go try
Donist, throw these kids a bone

Geez Louise, I had forgotten how creepy that Pink Floyd video was, and now I know where my dreams are headed tonight <brrrrr>...anyhow, welcome back to Donist World, denizens. I'm joined this week by Donist World marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/pumpkin pancake connoisseur Tulip (my Boston terrier), and fresh from his corporate retreat--of which he attended alone and on the company dime--is Donist World CFO Obie (my friends' dog, Tulip's brother). It was a slammin' comics week, and we have six of the seven comics that I bought to look at, so we're going to keep this intro short. Just know that here at Donist World headquarters (my mom's basement), we are fully committed to maintaining our Fortune 320,000 status while synergizing our intra-geo-methodologies to bring you the the things you should be checking out. Now, while I scrutinize Obie's T&E (that's travel and expense for you non-Fortune 320,000 company types) report and--since when does a 15lb bag of kibble cost $429.97? Ugh, while I roll up a newspaper to have a talk with our CFO, take a gander at this week's...

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Deadly Class #1
Deadly Class #1 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Wes Craig, colored by Lee Loughridge, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. Hey, Remender...hey, Image Comics...Are you proud of yourselves? Is this what you wanted? Is it? Huh? Well, no use crying over spilled milk, I'm in, hook, line, and sinker. Oh, all right, stop with the doe-eyed innocence look, and git...go on, run back outside and play in your subterranean assassin training compound for youths. We all know I can't stay mad at you; I never could. Just be sure to be back home before supper. And don't forget to check on that little rascal Black Scienceain't no tellin' what he's getting into.
It's the '80s and Marcus's life has been terrible. Having tragically lost his parents in an accident that should have never happened, and forced into a boys' home, Marcus quickly decides life is safer living on his own under a bridge than suffering the evils of the home; he's fourteen. A few more bad events push him to hopelessness, and as he finds himself standing atop the Golden Gate Bridge staring down at the water below. A voice whispers "Don't." Life then speeds up, and Marcus is on the run from the police when a gang of teens intervene to provide Marcus with the choice of a lifetime.
I wasn't planning on picking up this book, but my LCS pulled aside a copy for me, and after glancing at two or three pages, I knew there was no way I was going to pass on this tremendous new series--Remender's second in the past three months. This is a personal tale as evidenced by the letters page at the back of the book--which you simply MUST read. Remender, Craig, and Girner all collaborated on Deadly Class and they make it painfully clear for the first third of the book just how miserable Marcus's life has been in a way that is not over-the-top. They also don't bludgeon us with a barrage of exposition, but rather the information flows naturally, fluidly from one painful panel to the next. The repercussions of Reagan's defunding of U.S. mental health facilities succeeded in destroying much of the lead character's life, and from there we understand why Marcus would decide to call it quits. Then the Kings Dominion School of the Deadly Arts appears with an offer Marcus can't refuse if he wishes to offer they could have made much sooner, yet clearly did not to be sure Marcus had been sufficiently beat down by life to accept their offer. It's all exceptionally heavy, yet compelling to the point I could not put the book down.
Don't fret, though, this book is by no means a downer as the later two-thirds is filled with action so intense I was flying through the pages. I am not overly familiar with Craig's work, but I am now seeking to remedy that mistake. His storytelling skills are mighty, and oftentimes go against normal panel count guidelines to great effect. On the two pages where a homeless man tries to steal Marcus's shoes, we have a page with 10 and 17 panels respectively. Pages with this many panels are difficult to pull off, heck, having a page work with more than seven panels is no easy feat, yet Craig makes such high-panel counts work effortlessly throughout the entirety of the book. He also cleverly adjusts the angle of the panel borders on the more action-intense pages, adding additional velocity to each scene to the point that I felt like I, too, was involved in the car/motorcycle chase. Sloping down, sloping up, and jumbled all around, Craig's layouts pull you right into the middle of the action. Oh yeah, character acting? He has that down, too.
I will say that it was the coloring that grabbed my attention first as I flipped through Deadly Class at my LCS. Loughridge uses a predominantly flat coloring style, but instead of using the same general color palette throughout, he fluctuates between warm and cool, monochromatic and contrasting to push the emotions of Craig's action scenes into overdrive. It's an experimental choice, but one that works perfectly.
So, surprise, surprise, Image Comics releases another kickace comic book that I am completely invested in. At 30 dense pages, you will breeze through this comic in no time and if you are like me, you will flip back through just to make sure you didn't miss anything. As the cover suggests, there are a whole host of characters involved in this story, and with issue one we have really met only three of them (one of whom is not even on the cover). There's a lot to come, denizens, and I can't begin to tell you how excited I am to see what happens next. THIS is how you start a comic book series. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Bad Dog #6
Bad Dog #6 - Written by Joe Kelly, illustrated by Diego Greco, lettered by Thomas Mauer, published by Image Comics. This is kind of weird, denizens. I had almost forgotten about Bad Dog up until last month when issue five popped up out of the blue to remind me of how much I had enjoyed the first four issues. Then came the darkness. Nothing, zilch, nada for months, years, possibly centuries. But like I said, issue five came in to remind me of how much I had missed the story of a werewolf named Lou and his diminutive partner, Wendell.
Bounty huntin', hard drinkin', some substance abuse, wakin' up in strange hotel rooms with ladies of questionable morals, what more could a werewolf possibly want? The problem is that this is not what Lou wants. In fact, he doesn't know what he wants, until he sees a milk carton with a missing girl he's been trying to find for some time. From there it's a beautiful-but-psychotic assassin extremist, her diabolical bull god, accountants with a death wish (what else is new?), an a-list a-hole who wants Lou on his payroll, and Wendell...loose in the very bowels of Las Vegas. Oh dear...
Bad Dog is not so much a comic that skirts the line of good taste, but rather one that kicks it, stomps it, and reminds it of what happened way back in junior high...yeah...that incident. Kelly is clearly enjoying the character of Lou, but once you get past the debauchery and the exceedingly poor behavior, we see the other side of Lou, the one merely hinted at in prior issues. Lou is a man lost, who does not know his place in life, and becoming a werewolf and acting like how he expects a werewolf to act only serves to push Lou deeper into ennui. Finally, then comes the revelation, but Kelly puts a twist on Lou's awakening and it's kind of rough to see despite being necessary. Kelly's dialogue continues to be well-paced and extremely funny.
The issue clocks in at almost 45 pages, which is especially great as we get tons more of Greco's beautifully rendered illustrations. The action is intense, fun and exciting, but what gets me the most in this issue is the expressiveness of the characters' faces, primarily with Lou. The page four look in his eyes coupled with the second-to-the-last page change in his expression wordlessly shows where Lou stands, and his realization as to who put him there. As heavy as those moments are, the rest of the book springs to life with beautifully flowing action and vibrant, gorgeous colors.
This series is definitely not one for the kiddies, but is one for us adults interested in watching someone--who just so happens to be a werewolf--mess up their entire life. If you are cool with that, then this is the book for you. Behind all the sex and violence and debauchery and fun is a thoughtful story that will stay with you for some time after you set the book down. I can only hope that Kelly and Greco bring us back to the wonderful world of Bad Dog in the very, very, very near future. Until such time, I guess I need to go excavate those older issues from many years ago and get to rereading. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Other Heavenly Items:
Pretty Deadly #4
Pretty Deadly #4 - 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. Ohhhhhh...I get what's happening now; at least I think I do. Sweet. But here's the thing...even if I still didn't know what was going on, I would be buying this series.
Bones Bunny and Butterfly continue their tale of Ginny, Death's daughter, who is free to walk the world of the living and that of the dead, and nigh all in between. Ginny hunts a Mason who goes by the name Fox. Fox is also Ginny's mother's husband, the same man who imprisoned Ginny's mother away from the world until such a time as the woman caught Death's eye. In Death's cruelty, or as a response to the Mason's cruelty toward his own wife, Death tasked the Mason with slaying a beast, and only then would Death hold back Ginny's rage and allow the Mason, at the time of his passing, to see his wife one last time. Unfortunately, the "beast" was a little girl named Sissy, and she has a grand task ahead of her. Fox could not bring himself to harm the girl and raised Sissy as his own.
I realize that the little summary of what has happened in the past three issues might just confuse a bit more than it clarifies for those who have not yet begun this series. But if you have been following along from the beginning, then, like me, the fog has lifted and all the players and their goals become more apparent with this issue. The beautiful thing about creator-owned comics is that DeConnick and Rios can tell the tale they wish to tell, at the speed they wish to tell it. The vague nature of what was happening at the beginning was fine. I knew the creators would bring the various threads of the story together, and now more than ever I want to go back and reread from the beginning. DeConnick still leaves us with many mysteries: the Night Maid, the Day Maid, Coyote's companion, Sissy's beginnings and where she found that dope vulture cloak. I have every confidence we will learn more as the series progresses.
Rios's art becomes more and more stunning with each issue. I'm amazed by the level of detail in her animal illustrations, primarily with the Bones Bunny and Butterfly segments. Equally impressive is her character acting, especially on the page where Fox (the Mason) and Sissy are reunited; it's all incredibly touching. But Rios's skills are not limited to the static or the emotional beats, as seen in this issue's multiple-page battle between Ginny and Fox, which had some of the most exciting choreography I've seen in a comic book fight scene; I would love to see DeConnick's script for this btw.
Its writing lyrical, its illustrations lovely, its story unique, Pretty Deadly is yet another Image title that readers weary of superhero knock-down, drag-outs should be reading. It's a slow-burn tale by design, but you will want to take your time with this one, as you take pause on both words and imagery. You need to read this book. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Chew #39
Chew #39 - Written by Jonathan Layman, illustrated by Rob Guillory, color assists by Taylor Wells, published by Image Comics. Tony Chu is still in a slump after his sister's murder, especially now that his food-based powers will no longer allow him to commune with her. Olive (Tony's daughter) and Amelia (Tony's girlfriend) want to snap the FDA detective out of his funk, but it is going to take a very special recipe requiring some of the more...exotic...ingredients to do the job right. Already in possession of the weird space fruit that tastes like chicken, next up on the list...psychedelic chogs (chicken frog creatures). Finally, the duo has one last decision to make..."Pulse, blend or puree?"
Okay, denizens, I can only imagine the reaction I would get reading aloud the brief synopsis above at say...a grocery store, or outside of a junior high school, or a church, or to my dad. Let's just say that following my arrest and inevitable release, I would have plenty of mental health industry reading material to take home with me. Thankfully, I can always go no, no, it's not me, it's those guys Layman and Guillory; they're, like, totally messed up and stuff. Regardless, whatever ails this scorpion-hating duo, I'm fine with whatever their issues might be, so long as we keep getting issues of this consistently amazing and inventive series. Yes, Layman's writing is fantastic and all of the little plot threads strewn throughout the past 39 issues (40 if you count the Chew Secret Agent Poyo special...must read btw) are starting to come together for the <sniffle> series end at issue 60. Yes, Guillory is an fantastic storyteller with some of the best sequentials around and a grasp of color to push the emotions of a scene to the max. Yes, you should be reading the most unique series on the stand (do so with the kickace Omnivore Editions!). Yes, if you love fun, love chogs, love the occasional gross-out moment, and, more importantly, if you love to read great comic books, then this is a series to hold dear. Whether you pulse, blend, or puree, you need to be reading this phenomenal series. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Batman #27
Batman #27 - Written by Scott Snyder, illustrated by Greg Capullo, inked by Danny Miki, colored by FCO Plascencia, lettered by Steve Wands, published by DC Comics. Somewhere in Tokyo in the year 1946 a lovely woman sings for some guy for some reason. I have no idea why. Meanwhile, six years ago, the Batman has been setup and the more corrupt members of Gotham's finest are looking to put him down for good. Luckily, Jim Gordon does not number among the crooked cops and lends the young Batman a helping hand. Gordon tells a tale that chaps my hide (people involved in dog fighting deserve to be thrown into a volcano) and Batman learns that Dr. Death is not the one calling the shots.
Man, Snyder really knows how to get my blood pumping with that story Jim Gordon tells Batman--which also served to cleverly strengthen the mens' understanding of one another. We also get to see a very inexperienced Batman have a rough go as Gotham's protector. The dialogue is tremendous as always, with moments of exposition naturally worked into the action of each page.
Every panel of Capullo's art is...criminy, you just need to flip through to see the incredible action and the exquisite expressions on the various characters' faces. Batman's battle with the police is desperate, nearly hopeless, and Capullo keeps us as breathless as our hero from one panel to the next. I will also say that I never wanted a poster-sized splash page of a hand coming out of the water more than the one found in this issue. Complementing the breathtaking art is Plascencia's colors, which are most stunning when depicting harsh contrasts at key moments in the story like the fight scene and Bruce and Alfred's talk at the Batcave.
Batman continues to be one of the best told--both visually and written--superhero stories on the stands. For a hero who has been around for 75 years, Snyder and Capullo bring a new and exciting take on the character, even when revisiting Batman's earlier years. Although I am not reading that many DC titles, Batman is one I anticipate eagerly picking up for some time to come. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Hawkeye #16
Hawkeye #16 - Written by Matt Fraction, illustrated by Annie Wu, colored by Matt Hollingsworth, lettered by Chris Eliopoulos, published by Marvel Comics. Okay, I thought I was going crazy for a moment. I was positive that the last issue was number 14 and that it centered on Kate. Then the letters page confirmed that issue 15--Aja's issue--was running a bit behind schedule, and that it will follow shortly. This is a bit of a bummer, as I'm excited to see what happens with the Barton brothers, but, hey...we still get some West Coast Lady Hawkeye.
Kate's newest Los Angeles client for her detective gig appears to be a shaggy, crazy man who she just found walking down the 405 freeway.
What Kate doesn't know is that the man is one half of a famous '60s duo who both happened to vanish away from prying eyes...until now. Will Bryson is back, but he's in a bad place after his brother supposedly stole and leaked previously unreleased recordings that Will wants back. Kate Bishop is on the case...which brings her to a certain masked killer's attention.
Much like last month's issue #14, Fraction delivers a mostly standalone tale that is both thoughtful and touching. Wu's imagery is perfect for this dramatic story, with moments that make it impossible not to feel deeply sympathetic for poor Will Bryson and his terrible situation. There is little fighting for a superhero book, but that is fine, what is there is handled well.
I am enjoying Kate Bishop's adventures, and it was a good idea to split the characters apart for a while, but I will admit that I am missing my main Hawkguy guy. Still, this is a great issue that is definitely worth checking out. RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Let's Not Be Negative Today - It was a huge week and this one took a while to write, so let's not focus on the negative--like stupid Reagan defunding mental health facilities, or the scum of the earth who engage or support dog fighting. Instead, let's head out for a walk, say howdy to a friend or loved one, pop a craft beer open, and work on something that makes us happy. I think some pumpkin pancakes are calling my name.


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