Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 2/28/2014

(Sung to the tune of Wham's "Careless Whisper")

Oh, ew, whoa, whoa. Ohhhhh...
I could not feel more sure
As I pay the LCS man for great books I adore
Comes as no surprise
Books to dazzle my eyes
The Wake is back I can't believe
Read with satisfied sighs

There's way too many great books again
Deadly Class, oh wow, my denizens
Rex, ZK's truly heaven sent
On this I would not fool
I'm glad I get to tell you 'bout these books, my friend
Like Chew, Hawkeye they're all a win-win
So Black Science rocks your socks again
Great books awaiting you

Alrighty, I ain't gonna lie to you, denizens. I'm feeling the pressure. It was a big comic book release week and between "Micronauts Monday," the three classes I'm taking, the project for one of those classes, a short comic story thing I can't talk about, the novel I'm finalizing, and FSoH/SitW...I've got a lot going on. I would normally say that I am joined my CEO Obie (my friends' Boston terrier) and by marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/lead-Earth-wanderer Tulip (my dog, Obie's sister), but this week I am joined by no one. Translation: I can't find my dang employees. Obie and Tulip said they were feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work and that they were going for a quick walk-n-talk to discuss prioritization and strategies for maintaining our status as a Fortune 250,000 company. This was two days ago...hold on...hey! I can see them playing with a frisbee at the park across the steet. Argh! Okay, while I wrangle up some support, have a look at...

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

The Wake #6
The Wake #6 - Written by Scott Snyder, illustrated by Sean Murphy, colored by Matt Hollingsworth, lettered by Jared K. Fletcher, published by Vertigo Comics, a DC Comics imprint. The first five issues introduced us to Lee Archer, a marine biologist specializing in cetology—the study of whales, dolphins, and porpoises—and the group of specialists who are called down to a deep sea, underwater oil rig where a vicious merman was captured alive. Inevitably, disaster strikes and a new form of terror makes its presence known to the world; things ended badly for all. 200 years later, a new tale begins, one that shows what remains of humanity and their struggles with the mermen, and one that leaves me desperate to see what happens next.
200 years have passed since the first half of the series finale, and although the battle between the humans and the mermen continues to be waged, they are winning. The creatures claimed the oceans as their own, and melted polar ice caps to sink countless cities, forever altering the Earth's landscape. Fresh water is scarce, and confrontations with the mermen on the coast are a fact of life that Leeward has come to expect—and profit from. Leeward is able to trade severed merman heads, which contain the hallucinogenic liquid produced by the creatures' eye sacs, for plenty of drinking water. She doesn't want water. What Leeward wants is an "ear," or rather old communication technology, that has been outlawed by "The Arm," the new form of government that does not want anyone listening in on anything going on out in the world. Unfortunately, they know Leeward has an "ear" and they mean to discuss the matter with her...forcefully.
I really enjoyed the first half of this series. It struck a chord with my lifelong love of monster movies, especially with the mermen, who are an awesome twist on the Creature from the Black Lagoon. It was cool to see the modern day take on how we would deal with the discovery of a "mer," and the flashbacks to the creatures' influence on history was interesting as well. What confused me about the first half of The Wake was beginning the story with Leeward and the future, and then barely touching upon that time period over the course of the five issues. It seemed somewhat random. Now it all makes sense, but I still would have liked to have seen a couple pages not necessarily of Leeward, but of the state of the world 200 years from our time placed within those five issues. The first half of The Wake was essentially a prologue, but it was a great prologue none the less.
Enough griping, though, this issue is freaking amazing. Leeward is an awesome character, and I love her dolphin pal, Dash—dang, denizens, Flipper kicks ass! The world building that Snyder sets up quickly and brilliantly in this issue is staggering with brief looks at the Earth from space, at a map of what remains of the US, and with the wonderful dialogue that has zero traces of blatant exposition. For the most part, we have all new characters and a world that might as well be a different planet, and it is all handled economically in just 20 pages. More importantly, the story is engaging, fascinating, leaving me desperate for the next issue.
Murphy and Hollingsworth's art and colors might as well be gift wrapped with ribbon and bow as they deliver a gorgeous look at this new world, whether we are at sea, on the docks, upon the cliffs, or in the wastelands of the inner continent. The page three splash/title page is beautiful, depicting Leeward—with her bag of "mer" heads—on her glider, being hauled by Dash past the gates of the outpost. It only takes one image to tell you what remains of our world; it ain't pretty. A tattered flag, merman heads on spikes, dilapidated walls and the yellowed tone of the sky are all the artists need to instill despair, yet the whimsical image of the dolphin hauling Leeward gives you a sense of hope. Every page of this issue is pure storytelling and a treasure trove of information about the creators' world.
Although this is my favorite issue of the series thus far, I do have a couple concerns. The first is that many of the location/informational captions are lettered in white and appear atop a yellow background, rendering them incredibly difficult to read. Having experience with lettering, this does not fall on Fletcher or Hollingsworth, as I'm certain each was working separately off of the same black and white art, and that production deadlines forced the pages through. It ultimately pulled me out of the story for a moment as I squinted and held the book up to light to try to figure out what was being said. This would have been an easy thing to fix before going to print. My second concern is that the creators give us a map of the new US with depictions of new states, walls, and a bunch of new regions such as "Tree People," "the Deadlands," and "the Sands," but with only four issues remaining, I don't see how we can visit each of those locations without merely glossing over them, and therein lies the problem: the creators did their job. I want to see and experience everything this merman-ruled world has to offer, and four issues might not be enough. What I'm saying is I want to stay with Leeward for some time to come, much more than just the four remaining issues.
So, yes, I loved this comic. It covered the sci-fi, fantasy, post apocalyptic spectrum and was exceptionally done. You could even jump on with this issue, but please, please, please do not do that. Go for the buildup as that too is excellent and will prep you for what the second half has to offer. Plus, you can get the first five issues in trade format for $9.99 retail. I am so psyched for the next issue, that the next month(ish) is going to be a painful wait indeed. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Black Science #4
Black Science #4 -Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Matteo Scalera, colored by Dean White, lettered and designed by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. Since the first issue of Black Science, I have said it is a cross between Indiana Jones and Lost in Space; even the creators have mentioned the similarities to those shows.  You have fun, adventure, exotic locations, bizarre inhabitants, and a sense of exploratory wonder. Now, I'm not so certain. Sure, Black Science still has those aspects, but where it diverges from the previously mentioned shows is in how main characters seem to die left and right...some die horribly! <brrrrr> I did not see the events of this issue coming at all.
Ward, Shawn and Kadir have their Shaman, unconscious and tossed over Ward's shoulder, but they got him. The problem is the rest of the high-tech Native Americans want their guy back...and they want his abductors' scalps. With two minutes left on the pillar before the next jump, and with Grant's life slowly slipping away, Ward, Shawn and Kadir are so close to their goal they can taste it. Then, tragedy. The survivors jump, and Grant awakens good as new to find a new team member has joined his Black Science crew.
Although we may have started this adventure with Grant, he is not the only narrator for this series, as other characters look to take center stage at times, making this a definite team book. That said, I wasn't expecting to see a main team member go down in such a gnarly way like the one in this issue. Dang, denizens, let me just tell you that it's cold. <brrrrrrr> Remender introduced us to a great character, one who seemed like he would be around for a while and then took him out hard, and it kind of hurts. But that's the point. Couple this death with the one from the first issue, and us readers can never relax in this series as death can strike at any moment.
Scalera's sequentials in this issue are outstanding, carrying a momentum from panel to panel that builds, then lets up ever so slightly, before becoming even more intense. The character design of the new villain (?) with the "onion" emblems on their armor is awesome and promising. White's colors—which make the new villain look really cool—are again outstanding, pushing the drama of each scene; I especially love his use of pinks, purples and blues. I rarely mention it, but I will say Wooton's lettering is perfectly invisible—this is a compliment—and leads the eye gracefully along with the action of the art.
I have to admit that I was ready to jump to a new world sooner, but like I said above, I was NOT expecting what happened in this issue at all. With the Shaman now being part of the team—I think—and members being picked off left and right, it looks like the creators will be having some inhabitants of these weird worlds join Grant's team of involuntary explorers on their mission to find their way back home. I couldn't be more excited to see where we go next. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Chew #40
Chew #40 - Written and lettered by John Layman, illustrated and colored by Rob Guillory, color assists by Taylor Wells, published by Image Comics. With the end of this issue, we see the end of the "Family Recipes" storyline and I can now count the days until I can get the fourth Omnivore Edition...but that is a separate matter. Do I even need to say that Chew is great? After 40 issues (41 when you count the Poyo Special, which you better count) this series continues to be a fun, well-written, gross-out fest that just doesn't ever slow down, which is worrisome since we are now 2/3 through the series; the thought of this comic ending gives me a major case of the sads. If you read Chew, then you already know what a treasure this book is. If not, then get diggin' into the pirates' booty that is this incredibly unique series.
Tony's trippin' balls. His girlfriend and his daughter just fed him a psychedlic alien space fruit (tastes like chicken) that was cooked in blended chog juice (a chog is a chicken/frog hybrid...also, tastes like chicken) and now he is talking to his recently deceased sister on a planet in a distant galaxy. It happens. When Tony's partner, Colby, stops by and learns of the effect the food is having on his pal...well, he too eats some of the trippy stew. Chu and Colby then go on a crazy trip that will bring them into an immensely brutal pillow fight. After that, things get real weird.
How do Layman and Guillory come up with this stuff? What the heck are they going to hit us with next? And more importantly, can I join them during their next meeting? I will kill as many scorpions as it takes! Anyhow...yes, this series will leave you feeling like you ate a space fruit basted in a chog puree, and I mean that as the highest compliment. If you haven't yet sunk your teeth into Chew and you just can't bring yourself to buy the lovely hardcover Omnivore Editions (10-issues each), then you definitely can't go wrong buying the first trade for $9.99 retail. I can safely say you've never read anything like this. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Deadly Class
Deadly Class #2 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Wes Craig, colored by Lee Loughridge, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. And to think that I was initially on the fence about picking up the first issue of what is yet another home run for Image Comics. In case you don't recall, I was blown away by what I read. Boy howdy am I glad I did not decide to trade wait what looks to be a thought-provoking and exciting ride.
After the deaths of his parents, deaths that could have been avoided had Reagan not cut funding for mental health services, Marcus spent some rough years on the streets. In fact, he almost died on a few occasions. Now, he's at the underground (literally) school of King's Dominion, a school dedicated to taking young, eager minds and turning them toward the fine arts of killing. Like other schools, Marcus has difficulty fitting in with the various cliques, so he seeks out those certain individuals that all schools have: the outcasts, the punks. He makes a few friends, he makes more enemies, and he's even invited to a special "invitation-only" class, with a rather unorthodox homework assignment. Man, the first day of class can be murder.
With all of the action and excitement of the first issue, this one slows the pace so we can begin to know the major players and to understand the nature of the school. We also get a glimpse of what Marcus once did while at a home for at-risk youths. it does not put a nice light on him, but I'm guessing that's one of the reasons why he was chosen to attend King's Dominion. The creators give us something reminiscent of Harry Potter's Hogwarts, only this school is for nurturing trained killers. After reading Remender's letters page at the end of the first issue, it is easy to see why the main character would gravitate toward the punks and miscreants of the school, and I love Marcus's driving goal, and what that will mean for the series as a whole.
Although I mentioned that there is little action in this issue, that does not mean there is a lack of intensity or excitement; the opposite is true. Craig creates the intensity through the emotions depicted on each panel of every page, while Loughridge's creative use of color pushes the drama even further, with one standout part being the AP Black Arts sequence. The storytelling on this series continues to be fantastic.
Deadly Class is off to a phenomenal start. Even without the tease and promise of the character from Marcus's past at the end of this issue, there is no way I want to miss seeing what happens next. If you made the grievous error of skipping the first issue of this comic that reminds me of a more murderous John Hughes movie—which some of the students poke fun of in the book—you should be able to find a second or third printing of the first issue, which I strongly suggest you do. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Hawkeye #15
Hawkeye #15 - Written by Matt Fraction, illustrated by David Aja, colored by Matt Hollingsworth, lettered by Chris Eliopoulos, published by Marvel Comics. So...Clint Barton as Hawkeye...who's Clint Barton, again? Just kiddin', denizens and comic book creators. We just haven't seen our favorite hero for quite some time, but sweet bejebus if it isn't great to have the star of my favorite Marvel series back in action and drawn by one of my favorite artists of all time. Like all the issues before it, this one is funny, dramatic, and expertly develops the characters...and then you reach the final two pages. Sweet bejebus!
We open with Clint getting caught with his pants down...literally. The Tracksuit Dracula Bro Boys (TDBB for short) have had it with Clint and his meddling. They want their building back—the one that Clint happens to live in—and they do not care who happens to live there. In their minds, the side with the most guys and the most guns has the upper hand. Thankfully, Clint has his brother Barney to tip the scales in his favor, but with each minor victory, Kazu's (the assassin clown) employers become more enraged. Not even the help of Clint's posse of superheroine ex-girlfriends can help him out of this predicament, especially when they learn that his methods are not exactly on the up and up. The problem is that Kazu just found out that Clint's illegal interference just gave him the opening he needed.
What the @#$%!!! Bros. You cannot end the issue there. Aw hell naw. Criminy, denizens. I'm not going to spoil what happened, but I'm upset. So upset, that I'm forced to resort to math after reading this issue. Let me break it down: 1) This is issue 15 and it ends with something nuts; 2) issue 16 came out last month and covered Kate Bishop; 3) issue 17 is going to be a one-off drawn by Chris Eliopoulos, which I'm really excited to read, btw; 4) issue 18 will be a Kate Bishop issue. Cool; 5) Issue 19 will see Aja's return and the continuation of this storyline. Okay, 19 - 16 = 3. If  3 issues = 3 months + ((delays)*x), and you then factor in the pythagonorrhean equation divided by sine...or is it cosine?...Whatever, I will cosign anything to get the next dang issue here sooner.
What the above rant means is that Fraction and Aja have delivered a terrific (no surprise there) issue of Hawkeye, and we have a wait ahead of us before we can see the resolution to this storyline that has been brewing since the first issue. I'm going to let y'all in on a little secret...this is currently the only Marvel book I am buying. I decided that for the sake of space and cash-money, that I am going to try the Marvel Unlimited program in the near future, but this title is one that I will continue to buy in floppies before upgrading to hardcover. Although you won't see costumed villains getting punched through walls with each issue, you will get an expertly crafted superhero comic that is well outside the realm of what you are used to seeing, which is a great thing. Buy it. Buy it and suffer along with me during the 3 + ((delays)*x) month wait until we see what happens next. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Rex, Zombie Killer #3
Rex, Zombie Killer #3 - Written by Rob Anderson, illustrated by Dafu Yu, Colored by Juan Romera, lettered and designed by E.T. Dollman, edited by Paul Allor, published by Big Dog Ink. This is a great series for zombie fans, dog and animal lovers, and those who enjoy well-told stories. That said—and as I've explained in previous reviews—you have to realize the proper sequence for this story. First you need to read the one-shot, then you can hop into this four-issue mini-series. It's not required that you start with the one-shot, the creators take care of you brilliantly on that front, but I guarantee you will tell yourself, "Self, whoa, the first issue of the mini is awesome. Now, Self, why the heck didn't ya get the one-shot, too? Dagnabbit!" Well, you can get the one-shot and the first issue directly from Big Dog Ink...and possibly issues 2 and 3 as well if you contact them directly, which you should. It's The Walking Dead meets the Incredible Journey, and with one issue remaining, you should definitely pick up this wonderful creator-owned gem.
Rex, a golden retriever, has lead his crew of animals—a corgi, some pitbulls, apes, monkeys, squirrels, and a surly cat—to Las Vegas on their route to a "safe place" in California. This is by design. When Rex was a test subject for the military as a puppy, he remembers the humans stopping in the Sin City to unload some cargo, cargo he feels will be needed. The problem is that Vegas is crawling with the undead, way more than the group can safely handle, but with the right amount of planning and the fury of a gorilla king, reaching the house is doable. During their travels, Snowball (the cat) has a revelation, tragedy strikes more than once, and Rex might not have been exactly forthcoming with all of the necessary information.
Anderson and Yu deliver another exciting installment as the series rockets to its conclusion, one that looks to be huge. If this issue is any indication of what is to come, you know that none of these characters are safe, and that all of the trials of the past are going to be nothing compared to what now awaits them in California. We also learn that the hero of the book, might not be as heroic or well-intentioned as we at first believed. Anderson has the other animals begin to suspect this, even before Snowball's revelation that manages to surprise Rex himself. The characters each have a unique voice, and as you learn the backgrounds of the main players throughout the course of series, you fall in love with them, flaws and all. Seeing what happens to the minor characters in this issue, you can't help but worry for the others' safety.
Yu's cartooning is as astounding as ever, especially on the gorgeous double-page spread that the creators kindly give us a backstage pass to see the process involved at the end of the book. The character design is great, as are the backgrounds, and Yu's ability to put shock and sadness on the face of a corgi, or anger on the face of a cat is worthy of much praise. Romera's coloring brings every scene to life, making the necessary emotions pop, especially during the more shocking moments.
This is a fantastic and unique series, one that I am sad to see come to an end next issue, but one that cannot come soon enough. This is a creator-owned work available from a smaller publisher, so I hope your LCS has some copies available, but like I said above, you can order the books. I also have a sneaking suspicion that a trade will be available in the near future, but why not support the creators and the publisher today by picking up the floppies for this fun, exciting, and unique comic. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Hey, Where the Heck's My Satellite Sam?!?! - Ugh, Diamond mis-shipped (or is it "miss shipped") and subsequently charged my LCS for Satellite Sam, along with a few other titles I don't buy. Dudes, seriously, have a look at your crew handling the R-T sections of your shipments. When this happens, it only happens to Rachel Rising, The Sixth Gun, The Stuff of Legend and now Satellite Sam. Oh well, my errant copy will get here soon enough, and I guess I should be thankful as having to write about six amazing comics this week was already a huge time commitment; adding a seventh might have pushed me that much closer to the precipice...of madness!!! Still, not shipping yet charging the LCS just ain't cool.


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