Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 2/7/2014

(Sung to the tune of Toto's "Africa")

***cut to 48 seconds in the song***

The path to great comics? Here's the way
Lazarus post apocalyptic world is sure to please
Get to your LCS I must say
"Hurry boy, this book's waiting there for you!"

Swamp Thing's intense, Capucine rocks it's true
Then I suppose time-crossed love in Trillium's too.
They're just insane these great comic books
Set aside some time to read the things that'll make you glad mmm-hmmm

Wow, there are a lot of lyrics before you even get to the chorus of that song—Hello there, Donist World denizens, and welcome. I'm Donist and I'm joined as ever by Obie our CFO (my friends' Boston terrier) and by Tulip our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/Lazarus project manager (my dog, Obie's sister). We have been busily...hold on a sec...<sigh> Obie says that from this moment forth he is to be known as Metabaron Obedicus and that I am to hold my "fool tongue" lest I lose it; take a wild guess as to what book Obie has been reading. Anyhow, Metabaron Obedicus best get his butticus to the card table in my mom's basement the conference room so we can review the action items to maintain our status as a Fortune 320,000 company. We will also be looking at Metabaron Obedicus's SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Awesomeable... errr...Recreational, and Thirsty?) for the quarter as well as his five-month plan—five years is a REALLY long time for dogs. Thankfully, Tulip has already provided me with her SMART goals (and clarified what "SMART" stands for), presented her action items on a timetable, and arranged for the pest control to come out and deal with the vermin problem here in Mom's basement in the Donist World kitchen. While I rein in and gather up his Metabaronship, have a look at this week's...

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Lazarus #6
Lazarus #6 - Written by Greg Rucka, illustrated and lettered by Michael Lark with Brian Level, colored by Santi Arcas, design by Eric Trautman, edited by David Brothers, published by Image Comics. I like to poke fun at some of the "scary" stuff I see in many of the comics I read. In past posts, I've mentioned how things like the "horse beast" in East of West (a freaking fantastic series in and of itself that you should be reading!) or how the creepy eye moments in that same book will forever haunt my nightmares, but it's done in jest—although the eye stuff does freak me out a bit. Lazarus, however, is a different sort of nightmare. The book, of course, has its sci-fi elements, but what gets to me is the overarching realness of the book. Yes, we're talking about the future with this excellent series, but it's very much a future within our current world's reach. I can picture it just over the horizon, and that's why this title can actually keep me awake at night. Sure, the Lazarus program might be a bit of a stretch—although given the rate of scientific progress, maybe not that big of a stretch—but much of what we see has its roots tied to the events of today: the concentration of wealth and resources, the disappearance of jobs, prohibitive costs of home ownership, Wall Street currently snatching up housing to collect rents that they can bundle and chop up to sell to investors, corporate interests dictating laws and the level of regulation...the list goes on and on. Rucka and Lark have tapped into all of these issues to give readers a look at what happens to the world a few decades down the line when these types of instances run unchecked. So, when I say that Lazarus keeps me awake at night, I am being serious. But not just because it is scary, but equally because it is a helluva compelling read.
We open with a flashback to Forever's younger days. A time when she was desperate for her father's love and approval. Marisol, Forever's trainer, worries over what the Carlyle patriarch's emotional pressure is doing to the girl, and that she is pushing herself too hard. In the present, Eve (Forever's nickname) receives another disturbing text message as her sister, Johanna, continues to play the good family member while they are at the "job fair" in Los Angeles. While making the rounds, Forever notices odd levels of security and finds interests in a particular locked shed. She holds a stakeout. Meanwhile, in Montana, the Barret family (waste) just saw their home and land ravaged by a horrendous storm; they have lost everything. The Carlyle family agrees to provide relief...for a price far too steep to pay. The only choice left is to move to Denver with the hope of a new life—the odds are not in their favor.
Lazarus is a prime example of storytelling done well, in both art and the written word. The very first page gives us five "widescreen" panels of equal height depicting young Forever training, studying and being examined. Each panel has "lines" within the artwork to carry the eye from left to right: panel 1 - you follow the examination table to Forever and keep following her arm; panel 2-you follow the lines of the instructor's arm and weapon, the same with forever; panel 3 - Forever is being examined with arms held up in a "T" pose; panel 4 - Marisol and Forever continue training in an outstretched warrior pose; panel 5 - Forever lies on her stomach on her bed studying, the line traveling horizontal. This setup leaves you with little choice but to see each and every moment of each panel. Then Rucka's words come in via Lark's captions. Each caption box is plain white, nondescript so as not to jar your attention from the imagery. Lark even goes so far as to have each caption box stacked on exactly the same vertical line on the left of each panel. The reader takes in every word of Rucka's script, while not "seeing" the caption boxes as they glide through each lovely panel; lettering is the invisible art form after all...if done correctly. Arcas's colors have a muted palette so as not to be jarring, yet they still provide the desired emotional tone. yes, it is safe to say that I liked this masterfully-designed page and we we are only on page one.
Want another one? How about two? The 10 predominantly silent panels on pages eight and nine are beautifully laid out as well. You feel Forever's calm, in-control vibe as she strolls through the camp, scrutinizing the location's security until something catches her eye. The entire book progresses this efficiently, and I finished this dense read quickly, yet I could not help but flip back through and take it all in again.
Lazarus is one of the many amazing new series that began last year, and despite the uneasy and frightening subject matter, it is one that I greatly anticipate each month(ish). If you aren't reading this book, you can quickly catch up with the trade paperback containing the first four issues for $9.99 retail ($6.66 at, but I would suggest tracking down the individual issues as Rucka stocks the letters pages with tons of interesting/terrifying science facts as well as back matter that you won't find in the trade. This is a series everyone should be reading. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Swamp Thing #28
Swamp Thing #28 - Written by Charles Soule, illustrated by Javier Pina, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Travis Lanham, published by DC Comics. Who is Capucine? This issue will tell you at least some of her story. Alec Holland (the Swamp Thing) has cut off the Green, but in doing so he has inadvertently brought back the living, fleshier version of three former avatars: the Wolf, Brother Jonah, and the Lady Weeds. These three, now made human, are confused by the current world and Alec takes them on a tour to see what has changed since the last time they walked the Earth as people. Once the "visitors" are settled, Alec looks to make good with Capucine, and she relays the strange story of her nearly 1000-year-long life, and her destiny to take her place alongside a certain demon. Couple all of that with the trespassers on Alec's lawn, and life looks to become far more difficult.
Soule continues to bring a fantastic look at one of my all-time-favorite characters, and with this issue he gets me to sympathize with the mysterious Capucine, who I now welcome to the Swamp Thing canon. He also turned my initial reaction to the former avatars coming through the Green to become normal humans from negative to positive. The potential for complication—as well as the promise of coolness to come—opens up so many possibilities as to where the story can go, especially with my favorite, the Lady Weeds, with all of her murderous insanity and quirks. Soule also adds brief elements of humor that work well without pulling you out of the story while weaving seamlessly into the general dark tone of the book.
Pina steps up to full-issue illustration duties and the result is simply stunning. Swamp Thing's design, both his normal look and the elaborate "costuming" in New Orleans, is phenomenal, but the subtle character acting is great as well. The Wolf living it up in New Orleans is great, but it is the barely-subdued malevolence lurking in the Lady Weed's eyes and her body language as she plays Eve in the Garden of Eden gave me chills. Wilson's colors take the already beautiful art and make it something truly awe inspiring.
Swamp Thing is one of the few remaining DC-proper superhero comics I am buying, but with issue after issue being this good, I am definitely sticking around for some time to come. Soule has me very interested in the Lady Weeds—an awesome character—and I can't wait to see if Alec tells the hippies who showed up at his house to "get off his gosh-darn lawn!" HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Other Heavenly Items:
Trillium #6
Trillium #6 - Mostly Everythinged by Jeff Lemire, additional colors by José Villarrubia, lettered by Carlos M. Mangual, published by Vertigo Comics, a DC Comics imprint. We open with Nina remembering what happened to her mother when she was a little girl; this was the year 3769. Now, stuck in 1921, she is trying to convince her "friends and family" that she is a woman out of time, stuck in an alternate world with the memories of a man she recently met via a mysterious pyramid...let's just say the discussion is not going well. Meanwhile, in 3797, William is having relatively the same problem. All he knows is he must get to the pyramid to try to return to his own time and find the beautiful, white-haired woman from the future...which is his present...but she is stuck in the past...which is his present...which is—
With only two issues of Trillium remaining, I am still enjoying the book, although it is meandering a bit. The art is beautiful and I like the story, but I'm curious to find out more about the Caul (the sentient space virus bent on wiping out humanity in the future) and I want to see more of the romance between William and Nika...much more; call me an old softie for this type of thing. The only real complaint I have with this book is the design choice to flip the story upside down when jumping from Nika to William. Perhaps I'm old fashioned, but I like to read comic pages in the correct sequence. The problem with this issue was that once I turned the book 180 degrees to read William's story, I was uncertain if I was to go to the "end" of the book to start or if I was to read in a manga style, turning pages from right to left. I of course figured it out, and I realize that the intent is to leave the reader as off balance as our time-crossed lovers, but I was taken out of the story as I fretted over reading the book in the correct manner; I'm curious how this flippy-flippy stuff will be handled digitally on the iPad. Still, I am liking this book quite a bit and I am eager to see how the story plays out, but there is a lot of ground to cover in the final two issues—Lemire will get us there; I trust him.
Although I have a couple nitpicks, primarily in regard to the layout of the actual pages—how the heck is DC going to handle the inevitable trade?—I still encourage all fans of time travel, romance, and sci-fi comics to give Trillium a try. It's only an 8-issue series, and one worth checking out, especially if you are a fan of Lemire's work (Sweet Tooth, Essex County, Underwater Welder, etc), but something to keep in mind is that the reading experience will most likely be different between the floppies and the trade, which is preferable remains to be seen. RECOMMENDED!

The Metabarons
Ultimate Collection HC
The Metabarons Ultimate Collection - Written by Alejandro Jodorowsky, illustrated by Juan Gimenez, US edition edited by Alex Donoghue, book designed by Jerry Frissen, published by Humanoids, Inc. Okay, I'm not going to go too far into this one, as I am just over the halfway mark, but just know that this beast of a book—544 pages—is absolutely stunning. You have a hard sci-fi multi-generational tale of love, betrayal, deceit, war, power, robots, naked folks, and a whole host of craziness that has kept me glued to this amazing book.
Each chapter is assigned to a different character and progresses with a glimpse here and there of the current Metabaron before focusing chronologically from the time of the first Metabaron on, as told by one robot (Tonto) to another (Lothar). Each chapter, thus far, has been pure insanity, but it is an intricately plotted and expertly crafted insanity that makes me want to stop writing and get back to reading...immediately! (I will soldier through, denizens.) The art is a visual explosion of detail and colors with every teeny-tiny detail given attention and painstakingly presented for the reader, and I'm curious as to how long Gimenez spent on each and every page of this book...I'm guessing he began illustrating sometime in the 1500s, or thereabouts. The Metabarons is beautiful in the art, the story, the physical design.
I will warn you though...this is not for the kiddies. Heck, there are some parts that I am unsure if they are for a full-grown—yet highly immature—man. I...I desperately want to tell you some of the freakin' messed up stuff that goes down in some of the chapters I have read, but I'm going to keep my trap shut and you'll just have to get to the "Oh no he didn't!" parts yourself. Just know I love, love, love this comics masterpiece that is somehow linked to The Incal by Jodorowsky and Moebius, a book I now need to track down. Even though I'm not yet done reading this massive book, I can confidently say it is...VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Awwwww...Heck, Let's Be Positive - You know what, denizens? I'm going to end this post by being positive. In fact, I'm going to be happy until such a point that I get just absolutely disgruntled, disgusted, disparaged, and all of the other "dis-" words out there. Until that time, I will create a new mantra...Along the tides of joy drifts a tiny fleet of misery, awaiting just off the shore. Huh. I kind of like that. See you Monday for "Micronauts Monday."


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