Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 3/14/2014

(Sung to the tune of The Pet Shop Boys's version of "You Were Always On My Mind")

I'm pretty dang sure I love ya
Just about as much as I could
Batman and Hawkeye I gotcha
Oh so good ones you should

East of West is def' one of the best
Even though Death's now partially blind
Great books are always on my mind
Great books are always on my mind

Hello, denizens, welcome back to Donist World! If you are new here, thank you for stopping by, and please, make yourself at home. For those who are new, here's the deal: every Friday I talk about the comics, among other things, that we loved the most this week. We don't slam the books we don't like, we just don't talk about them, and we don't beat-up on creators—there are far too many negative sites out there already covering vitriol, so forget that noise. No, instead we remain positive with an eye toward critique of why we love what we love. First, we lead with a song where we change up the lyrics. Second, I detail the happenings of the Donist World corporation. Third, the reviews, which might include older comics or movies or television or beer. Fourth, we end with something that is not so positive, but again that does not reflect poorly on the creators...unless they did something atrocious such as selling cigarettes to kittens or something. Anyhow...

This week I'm not joined by CFO Obie (my friends' Boston terrier) or Donist World marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/role call organizer Tulip (my dog, Obie's sister). As I mentioned last week, I've been running around like crazy between writing and graphic design coursework, so I—<shhhhhhh> don't tell the pups—took a sick day on Wednesday to relax with a meal at Eureka Burger (plus two beers) followed by the awesome Lego Movie, as well as picking up the week's heavenly comics. I took the rest of the week off as well. Basically, I left the corporate office (Mom's basement) in Tulip and Obie's semi-capable paws. I also, unbeknownst to them, installed hidden surveillance cameras throughout the office (Mom's house...creepy, I know), and with this trusty app, I can listen to Obie's nonsensical meeting with Tulip covering how by removing me as CEO of Donist World we can improve our Fortune 320,000 standing and gain market share in the process. There are tons of problems with this, including the fact that you have to have a market to have market share, and that I don't get paid, so how does that impact our nonexistent bottom line? <sigh> Anyhow, I'm relaxing, and you should too, with some fantastic comics. I'll deal with Obie on Monday, where I inform him he will no longer be allowed to watch House of Cards.

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

East of West 10
East of West #10 - Written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Nick Dragotta, colored by Frank Martin, lettered by Rus Wooton, published by Image Comics. Ugh. Are the creators intentionally trying to terrorize me? Seriously, it's as if they somehow gained access to my subconscious mind and gleaned knowledge of that which frightens me the most. Take for instance anything involving eyes. Seeing someone put eye drops in their eyes is enough to give this Donist a severe case of the willies, but this Oracle with the Cthulhu tentacles squirming out of her left eye socket and Death's stolen eye in the right... Sorry, I'm back. I fainted, but I'm cool now. Where was I? Oh yeah, if that isn't enough to end any chance of normal sleep, then I have one more tidbit of horror for you, denizens: the horse beast is back. Despite freaking me out, this comic keeps getting better and better.
Death wants to know the whereabouts of his abducted son; sacrificing his eye to the Oracle for the details is not quite working out how he planned. As it turns out, leaving a powerful creature in a prison without her eyes for century after century is no way to ingratiate yourself with someone. Death, Crow and Wolf all head to "talk" to Wolf's father, a member of the Chosen, who knows where Death's son is being imprisoned. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Death, the remaining Horsemen of the Apocalypse stand watch over the boy, weighing the possibility that The Message has been misinterpreted—perhaps the boy is not the Beast. If that is the case, then the Horsemen can safely kill him. Death's son, however, knows full well who watches him and he has plans for his would-be killers. Finally, as Death, Wolf, and Crow face down one of the Chosen that has assumed a spiritual manifestation, a relatively new player makes their presence known.
I'm only partially kidding about how unnerving the opening sequence of this issue is. Hickman and Dragotta give us the perfect hybrid of horror and sci-fi and Western and fantasy and historical piece, and the cast of characters flowing in and out of the story is staggering. But it works. Every single element of this comic serves the story and something seemingly inconsequential today, will have some relevance at some point down the line. I'm curious to know Hickman's process and his organization for this title (if anyone knows of any interviews or articles about this, please let me know), as the volume of information, characters, and storylines is beyond impressive for a comic that works so well issue to issue.
He also knows when to divvy out just enough background information to prod the reader's interest for a character, and when to cut that information off as we finally take a look at Wolf's past with a couple informative panels. As I've said before, Hickman slowly answers questions, but each reveal of past events raises new relevant questions, but you will have to wait for the answers. The great thing about East of West, is that before you can begin to become upset over wanting to know more about one character, you jump to someone else, becoming wrapped up in the new details of their life. The story constantly progresses as pieces fall into place, and the comic is dang near impossible to put down because of it.
Much of the horror of this issue comes from Dragotta's twisted and downright disturbing imagery at the prison—criminy...those tentacles <brrrrr>. Death's rage, frustration, and pain is intense, as is the Oracle's grinning visage as she basks in the knowledge of victory yet to be realized. Later in the issue, we see some of the most intense action scenes in the series to date, with an insane battle at the Sea of Bones. Although I like to poke fun at Death's horse beast thing, Dragotta's design on the creature is impeccable. In one panel it walks like a horse (on tippy toes, no less!), then stalks and crouches during the battle like a cornered tiger, and the next it scurries away like a bug, which leads back to the distribution of back matter; I desperately want to know what this thing is, almost as as much as I want to know more about Wolf and Crow. I also must point out the killer panel of Crow exploding into a flock of crows after Death fires upon her. This one, lone panel is filled with birds, yet in the chaos you can clearly make out Crow's face as she screams in shock; it's a small yet beautiful image worth taking time to appreciate.
There you have it. I continue on with East of West and there ain't nothin' that can stop me. I reread the first five issues a while back and marveled at how awesome a tale this is now that I know the characters, the story, and the world it takes place in. If you have not yet read East of West you can pick up the first trade on the cheap—with a second trade on the way—but I have to remind new readers that you cannot expect to understand what is going on until you reach about the third issue. This did not bother me in the slightest back then, as it was clear from day one that this grand story knows exactly where it is going and you will too...with time. A wonderfully complex comic. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Hawkeye #17
Hawkeye #17 - Written by Matt Fraction, illustrated by Chris Eliopoulos and David Aja, colored by Jordie Bellaire, published by Marvel Comics. Oh man, I love this series, but I don't know if I'm coming or going. First Kate Bishop went off to LA, and we have been having even numbered issues focusing on Hawkgal's exploits and Hawkguy's issues covering the odd numbers. Then we saw the release of issue 14, followed by a delay, followed by another Kate Bishop issue 16. Then there was a bit of a delay, and we then received the awesome issue 15 two weeks ago, with this filler issue showing up this week. It's all rather screwy, but every issue of Hawkeye (the only Marvel title on my pull list nowadays) is still a real kick in the pants—which for you whippersnappers out there means it's a good fun time. Usually, the dreaded "filler issue" is right on par with most annuals, but heck this issue was enjoyable and right inline with what you can expect with this fantastic series.
It's holiday season, and Clint (Hawkeye) is visiting with a neighbor and her two young kids. As they settle in to watch the kids' favorite show, the cartoon "Winter Friends." Before it even starts, Simone (neighbor) is asleep and resting on Lucky (Pizza Dog), but Clint is transfixed by show about a group of multidenomenational, pantheistic, all-inclusive animal team of super heroes who have to stop Mister Sun as he arrives early to eradicate winter. Unfortunately, with the heat of the sun, the Winter Friends lose their powers and it's up to Steve—the dog without powers—to come to the rescue. Sounds somewhat relevant to a certain purple clad hero's situation, amirite?
I liked this book on the first read through, it's cute and fun, but I liked it even more on the second read. Fraction's dialogue is whimsical and cracked me up at parts—"My nightmares are turning real!!"—with clever little easter eggs hidden throughout the story to clue the reader in on how the story relates to Clint's current dilemma with the Tracksuit Dracula "Bros."
Eliopoulos's art and character designs are adorable, and his storytelling will have you burning through the pages as if you were actually watching a cartoon show. Even with a cartoony style, the drama and character acting stands fantastically strong, and I finished reading the issue convinced that I would gladly pick up an "all ages" Hawkeye book, if this is what I could expect on a monthly(ish) basis. In short, it was a blast. The first and last page of the issue are illustrated by Aja, and I must give props to the final page where Lucky crawls up to sleep next to Clint, which is so thoroughly touching that I'm going to pause momentarily to pet Tulip.
Although many delays on what is Marvel's best title seeing release can be frustrating, I forgot the annoyances every time I turn to that first page. Yes, issue 15 left us with a brutal cliffhanger that will not see resolution until issue 19, but the creators gave us something truly special to tide us over and it is something everyone should check out. My only wish for this offering is that we would have received it back during the holidays, when it would have had an even stronger impact, but you know...delays happen. So very fun. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Batman #29
Batman #29Written by Scott Snyder, illustrated by Greg Capullo, inked by Danny Miki, colored by FCO Plascencia, lettered by Steve Wands, published by DC Comics. I love when I get that burning nerd rage, that momentary indignation over something rather stupid, only to realize that I did not have the whole picture. What is it that got me going this time? Answer: the price of this comic. Lo and behold I look at the cover and see that the price has gone up by another $1. This has happened often over the year as "Villains Month" waltzed in with extra titles and certain issues danced between the $4.99 range all the way up to $6.99. Let's forget the "Villains Month" thing, and focus on the part where I am wrong. So, yeah, $4.99, but instead of the 20 pages we usually get, this month we have 41 pages of amazing story and oh-so-sweet Capullo art. Here we go with the maths again...that's like $2.50 an issue! So, note to self: simmer down, ya big palooka, take a chill pill and enjoy the bat-ride.
The Batman is onto the Riddler and his schemes, and if he ever hopes to beat the unsettlingly-rational madman at his game, he's going to need Jim Gordon's help, too bad Gotham PD's corrupt force is none too fond of either of them. Luckily, Batman's packing some serious muscle in the form of a monstrous black blimp that he is taking to disarm a stolen weather balloon guarded by none other than the horrific Dr. Death. Intense action, a gorgeous homage, a face not even a mother would love, a brilliant criminal mastermind, and a hero whose brightly colored world begins to slip into the dark await you in this tremendous issue.
Snyder and Capullo have always brought beautifully written and illustrated issues of Batman, but over the past year they seem to be upping their game with each issue's release as the series gets better and better. With this issue, we catch glimpses into Bruce's life before the incident that would forever alter his life. Snyder let's us see just how a young kid could take everything leading up to his parents' deaths and bring it back upon himself; in his mind his actions led them to that alley on that fateful night. We also see Bruce as an adult not exactly winning as he underestimates the Riddler, and Gotham goes all to hell. It is his life and his failures repeating again, only on a much grander scale, and it's kind of sad to see go down.
Capullo...uh...positive adjectives, and positive adverbs for every dang aspect of this book. The character acting, the freaking insane levels of adrenaline-pumping action, the nightmare-inducing character design of Dr. Death, that one stoopidly beautiful homage splash page that I want as a Mondo poster more than anything right now (24"x36" would be perfect, y'all)...short of calling out 70% of the individual panels in this issue, let's just say the gosh darn art sure is purty.
FCO Plascencia's coloring is the same situation: many positive adjectives and adverbs. Not just on the homage splash, but also on the blimp splash page, and each contrasting color scheme page and accented effect throughout the book. Plascencia is also telling a story with this issue as we watch what has been a brightly colored "Zero Year" begin to shift to the darker grey color schemes of what Gotham will become. He also makes Dr. Death that much more terrifying.
To be honest, I wasn't really filled with rage, I'm not that kind of guy. I did notice the bump in price, though, but despite the shenanigans of double-shipments, gotcha events, annuals, and sporadic price jumps, the creators make it up to us faithful readers. An event pops up to mess up a monthly release...the following month we get a double sized issue for only a buck more. An annual pops up and you still get your regular issue with the creators' story still faithfully intact. That is why Batman gets my dollars and the occasional extra buck or two. I support the creators of this fine book because Batman is cool and all, but the real heroes found within these pages are each of the individuals involved and their dedication to the story. And I'd buy that for a dollar...extra. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

True Detective - No. I'm not going to spoil anything. I'm just glad that we were able to watch this eight episode HBO series at a friend's house after we bribed them with pizza. Of my all-time-favorite television shows, this one is firmly in the top five along with Firefly, Game of Thrones, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Breaking Bad. If you don't have HBO, or a friend with HBO, then you have a wait ahead of you for the DVD/Blu-Ray release, but just know this is one of the best shows I have ever seen. Period. End of story. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Nothing To Report - I am quickly getting buried under obligations and quizzes and projects and the guy who just came to tell me that the water is going to be shut off for a few hours, so let's take a deep breath, smile and tackle these things one at a time. All the best, denizens. Have a great week. 

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