Friday, March 7, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 3/7/2014

(Sung to the tune of Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell")

Last night a little comic nearly scared me out the door
Afterlife With Archie taught me 'bout true horror
So many books to read, but which ones should you love?
How about a lil' Swamp Thing from heaven above? because

Jupiter's Legacy? You want more, more, more?
Awesome comic books, give us more, more, more
Yeah Satellite Sam, cuz, more, more, more
Awesome comic books, more, more, more, more, more, more

Hello there Donist World denizens, I'm Donist and I'm joined by our CFO Obie (my friends' Boston terrier) and by marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/horticulturist Tulip (my dog, Obie's sister). Before we cut into this week's heavenly comics, I am currently in a meeting at our boardroom table (the folding card table) at the Donist World corporate headquarters (my mom's basement), and not counting the lunch we ordered in (mom made PB&J crust!) I just can't pay proper attention to Obie's presentation. This is saying something, as his presentation is on maintaining our Fortune 320,000 company status by off-shoring my position as Donist World CEO, which is odd seeing as how I don't get paid. I just can't listen to him, because I have a sneaking suspicion that he was outside peeing on the rose bushes again. Why do I suspect this you might ask? Well, as he explains the benefits of firing me, I see multiple thorns that have broken off of the bush sticking out of his face, head and shoulders. In fact, there are so many thorns sticking out of him that they are showing on his shadow that the digital projector is casting on the wall. The good thing is at least he doesn't seem to mind the thorns, but still... Oh, looks like our head landscaper (Mom) is here with a rolled up newspaper to "encourage" Obie not to "water the daisies" going forward; I sure hope she pulls those thorns out of him first though. Anyhow, have a look at this week's...

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Afterlife With Archie #4
Afterlife With Archie #4 - Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, illustrated by Francesco Francavilla, lettered by Jack Morelli, published by Archie Comic Publications. After flipping to pages 2 and 3 of this issue I knew I was doomed, denizens. It was going to be a game over scenario for this ol' Donist. Let's look at the evidence before us: a zombie comic using established characters we know and love; the first issue had Jughead dealing with the pain of losing his dog, Hot Dog; this issue begins with young Archie picking out his puppy, his lifelong friend; young Archie's life with his parents is incredibly touching. You can already guess where this is going. As I've stated in past posts, Archie comics were something I was well aware of as a kid, yet they were ones I avoided like the plague. Now as an adult, I see just how wonderful those original tales and the newer ones such as the triumphant Archie the Married Life books really are. Afterlife With Archie then casted its lot to be one of the best comics I read in 2013. With this series we have our favorite treasured characters put into a situation born of grief and things go horribly wrong. The creators remain true to each character and organically instill modern issues into their lives, while still maintaining that stuck-in-the-'50s-and-'60s vibe. The art style is drastically different on this title than what we have grown up with since Archie's first appearance in 1941, yet you will still know each character when they show up. The creators have performed a magnificent magic act with Afterlife With Archie, one that transforms the known, into the familiar, with a subject matter never before touched upon by this publisher who is unafraid to kick the status quo to the curb and give their readers something truly different. It honestly shouldn't work, yet it does beyond all expectations.
We join young Archie and his mom and dad at the puppy farm where Archie picks ups his lifelong puppy pal, Vegas. His mom is worried, though, as she recalls how painful it was to lose her dog. But loss is a part of life, and the Archie of today will learn that firsthand when he comes face to face with the zombified Hot Dog, and only Vegas can protect him. Unfortunately, the rough times are about to get much worse as Archie retreats into his family's home; what he finds inside is not good. Meanwhile, the Blossom twins are holed up in their fortress of a home and things get a little creepy...and there aren't even any zombies in sight. Finally, the zombies aren't just mindless rotting corpses, some of them have a will of their own.
Ugh...anytime I see a dog in a movie or comic or book, I start to think of Old Yeller, or Where the Red Fern Grows, and all of the other books of that ilk. Just because a dog shows up, doesn't mean they have to buy the farm, dagnabbit! <huff, puff> That said, yes, Vegas's days, or rather pages, are numbered in this issue, but where I would usually be calling "cheap shot" on a book, Aguirre Sacasa and Francavilla had me sucked into the story with no hope of escape. I've honestly never seen this Vegas dog in the pages of Archie at all, maybe he's a creation for this story, who knows. But three panels on page three depicting Archie meeting and playing with his puppy was all it took for this cold Donist heart to thaw. I also felt tremendous unease...I knew where this was going, it is a horror book after all. What startled me the most with the Vegas versus Zombie Hot Dog was the power of Francavilla's nine-panel grid layout—a la Dave Gibbons's  The Watchmenmixed with Aguirre-Sacasa's minimal yet heartfelt captions. Criminy, I'm getting choked up with that one page 7, panel 8 image. Every aspect of these pages has Francavilla's striking coloring, and all the aspects of what makes a true horror comic, one that does not need to rely on blood and guts, but rather panic, desperation, and more importantly sacrifice and love. (<whew> Gotta turn the dang page and go pet Tulip for a sec.) The wonderful thing about this issue and the series as a whole, is that when you do turn the page, and Archie makes it into the house, the suspense lets up only to slam you in the stomach and keep the pressure on until the next thing you know you're in the basement with Archie and his family.
This is by far the darkest of the issues released, but I could not get enough of this book. It pulls on every aspect a work of art needs to utterly floor me. This is solid storytelling in both the written word and in the gorgeous imagery. Beautiful, horrifying, touching, scary and thoroughly compelling, you skip this title at your own risk. Afterlife With Archie is a prime example of comic books not only done right, but done with excellence. If you missed the first few issues, never fear, a trade releases in May, but there are multiple reprintings out there, so hopefully you can get caught up. This one is required reading, denizens. You got homework to do, best get to it. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Jupiter's Legacy #4
Jupiter's Legacy - Written by Mark Millar, illustrated by Frank Quitely, colored/lettered/designed by Peter Doherty, digital art assisted by Rob Miller, edited by Nicole Boose, published by Image Comics. After a fairly lengthy delay, Pluto's, that's not right...Neptune's Progeny...uh, whatever this series is called—it's been that long since issue three came out—is back and its as if we haven't missed a beat since whatever the events were that occurred at the end of—what issue was it again? Oh yeah—issue three. Okay, enough kidding around, but it has been a darn while since we were left with a homicidal son and his duplicitous uncle after they had just murdered the Utopian, the most powerful man on Earth.
The world is not quite the place Brandon (the Utopian's son) and Walter (the Utopian's brother, Brandon's uncle) imagined it would be after they removed the patriarch from his post by force. In fact, many of the problems that plagued the world before the uprising persist, and the increased surveillance of the world's populous and the removal of freedoms does not help matters. What bothers them, though, is Brandon's nine-years-gone sister, Chloe, who the pair do not know is married and has a son of extraordinary abilities. As bizarre rescues occur and events unfurl, Brandon and Walter hire a specialist to find the missing Chloe.
I won't lie to you, denizens, it took me a moment to be brought back up to speed in regard to the story and the key players, but once I sorted things out, I quickly remembered why I liked this comic so much. There's a large cast of characters, each with their distinct personalities and a litany of problems, which make them fascinating. After the brutal events of last issue, seeing a glimmer of hope in this issue with Jason, Chloe's son, was a much needed touch; too bad his extended family aren't going to be thrilled to learn of his existence. Millar's writing and characterization is great, Quitely's art and storytelling fantastic, which makes this issue an exciting read despite the dark subject matter.
If you're looking for a good, fun time, then you might want to look elsewhere—unless you have a sick idea of what constitutes as "fun"—as Jupiter's Legacy is a dark book; it is immensely entertaining, though, and well-told. I would suggest trade waiting this one given the delays in getting issues out, but if you have not yet picked up this book and you happen to see the first four issues laying about, and your are in a particularly surly mood, then go ahead and get the floppies; you won't be disappointed. Let's just hope the wait for issue five is not that long. RECOMMENDED!

Swamp Thing #29
Swamp Thing #29 - Written by Charles Soule, illustrated by Jesus Saiz, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Travis Lanham, published by DC Comics. The last time a group of random weirdos dressed in lime green robes showed up at my mom's house the Donist World corporate headquarters, all it took was to turn the sprinkler system on and, well...the problem kind of sorted itself out. Anyhow, Alec Holland (the Swamp Thing) could maybe take a few pointers from my mom, and if the Holland Manor is lacking in its irrigation system, then a sturdy rake and a garden hose could do the job in a pinch. But to be honest, he wouldn't have had this problem if he hadn't violated the most important rule of all: N.E.C. or No Eye Contact. Man, did Swampy blow it big time.
If dealing with three former Avatars of the green made flesh wasn't a big enough problem, now Alec has the Sereen, a group of green robed religious fanatics who worship at the alter of the Avatar. These pleasant enough people are more than willing to help, all they ask is for a taste of Alec's psychedelic fruit, but they come baring a gift that looks to be what Alec wants more than anything. If something looks too good to be true...
The cover to this issue alone is worth the price of admission with the green Swamp Thing centered on the plate with a sea of warm colored arms to create intensity. Inside, the story is equally as good, as Soule slowly reveals that former Avatars—Lady Weeds, the Wolf, and Brother Jonah—might not be as forgiving of their current affliction of humanity as they seemed. I didn't trust this Sureen group as far as I could throw them, but Brother Jonah convinced both Alec and I that these cultists were trustworthy; I was expecting something bad, but not at all like what happens. Saiz's design for the Swamp Thing still leaves me happy that he is in very competent hands, and Saiz's storytelling will keep you flipping through the pages to see what comes next. Wilson's colors are as phenomenal as ever, whether depicting day, night, or the dancing light of a campfire. The entire package will please most any Saga of the Swamp Thing fan.
The creators definitely have my attention and more than that my curiosity with these new characters, both the former Avatars and the Sereen. This might not necessarily be the horror aspect of the character that I have loved for the past couple decades, but with a story this wrought with mysteries and intrigue, I sure as heck ain't complaining. RECOMMENDED!

Satellite Sam #6
Satellite Sam #6 - Written by Matt Fraction, illustrated by Howard Chaykin, lettered by Ken Bruzenak, digital production by Jed Dougherty, designed by Drew Gill, edited by Thomas K., published by Image Comics. Satellite Sam is not the type of comic I normally read. There are no superheroes, no werewolves, no mystical powers, no space travel, no dead people rising, no nature gods. Instead, we have ordinary, messed-up individuals trying to do the best they can while dodging backstabbing attempts, and occasionally backstabbing others as they self destruct. This is the inner workings of a popular television show and studio. They're all just one big unhappy dysfunctional family...only the new lead's father, who was the previous lead, died with a shoebox bursting with photos of scores of under-clad women in an apartment he secretly rented. This series may not be what I normally read, which is probably why I love it so much.
The television series Satellite Sam is about to have another setback. Apparently, even a starlet like Maria Melato can't get away with bludgeoning her boyfriend in the head because the bastard refused to marry her. But who's a girl to call when she finds herself in a pinch? Why, none other than Dick Danning Satellite Sam's director! Unfortunately, Dick has some problems of his own—the kind a doctor has you sit down to hear. With the show set to air, some last second script tinkering is in order. Meanwhile, Michael White, the new and younger star of the show, is starting to let showbiz go to his head, and with increasing frequency below the belt. If that wasn't enough, jealousy, hurt feelings, compromising photos, and hidden desires plague the set to such a point that even the glue of the show, assistant director Libby Meyers, might not be able to keep the fracturing mess together.
While I was reading this issue last night, I was drinking a pretty good Saison craft beer. It liked it, but now that I think of it, my beverage choice was not appropriate to the subject matter. I should have been drinking a glass of bourbon, or perhaps even rye to better fit with the tone of this fantastic series. Oh well, no use cryin' over spilled Ovaltine. The creators continue to give us a wonderful character study as well as an in-depth look into the inner workings of a hit television show that's constantly on the verge of imploding as a result of all the egos involved. I love how the once meek Mike has quickly become full of himself as he takes stardom to heart, and how many of those around him now have their claws out. The mystery of what exactly happened with Carlyle White, Mike's dad and former star of Satellite Sam, has taken a back seat this issue, but seeing Fraction and Chaykin's characters and situations play out is so fascinating that I am fine picking up that storyline at some point down the road.
I liked this comic since issue one, but it admittedly took me a while to sort out the impressively large cast of characters and to determine everyone's business relationship and schemes; I'm glad I stuck with it. This is varsity-level comic book reading, denizens. As I alluded to at the beginning, there's no one getting punched through walls, or thrown into the sun, or involved in a fight scene for pages and pages. In this book, if a fight happens, it will most likely be over with a single punch, but that is not the point of this story. Satellite Sam is a look at realistic people, involved in a realistic things, with realistic problems, during a set time period. It's a dense character-driven work that might actually read even better in trade format (volume one just released for $9.99 retail! Issues 1-5) and in one long sitting. If you are a fan of the wonderful Mad Men series on AMC, then picking up this fantastic comic is a no-brainer. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Burning the Candle at Both Ends - Okay, I need to slow the pace down a bit. Between working on my own novels and comics—of which I need to do more—and doing the reading and homework and projects for the three graphics design courses I am taking, less sleep than required, plus Donist World, and regular ol' every day living, I think I went momentarily nuts with exhaustion at around 7:30 PM last night. Not good. Nothing crazy happened, I just stopped being able to think or make a decision. When Amy asked if I wanted a chocolate chip cookie—she should know the answer to this—I honestly could not process any answer other than "I don't know." The day I don't know if I want one of her chocolate chip cookies is tantamount to the coming of the apocalypse. Thankfully, I finally got close to a full night's sleep, and I think I have a workable schedule and expectations of my coursework. I took the jobby sabbatical to not just decompress and remember what life is about, but also to focus on my writing as well as to learn new skills. Still, for all the stress of the past couple weeks, I can say my worst day with writing and classes is leaps and bounds better than my best day at the old day job. I got this under control, denizens.


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