Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 5/23/2014

(Sung to the tune of Social Distortion’s “Story of My Life” find the greatest hits album here)

Comics they’ve always ruled my world
I didn’t have much interest in sports or eating corn dogs
And at class I’d dream all day ’bout hittin’ my LCS
Whoa, whoa...

But the books I like to read now
Saga, East of West, Undertow ones you need to notice
That this silly lifelong love’ll be there ’til the end
Whoa, whoa...

Life goes by too fast
You really ought to read the books that set you right
Open your eyes, they’re a gas
Comic fans for life

Hi there, denizens. I’m Donist, and I’m joined as ever by my executive team of CFO Obie (my freinds’s Boston terrier) and marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / 7th level half-elven blink dog Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). So…the heatwave has passed, for now, and the puppies are a bit more lively this week, as am I. They have already forgiven me for not taking them to see Godzilla last week, but they are now salty over the fact that they are not going with me to see X-Men: Days of Future Past; I honestly don’t blame them. I’d be pissed, too, but then I guess being able to attend a movie is a plus for humans that those of the canine persuasion just don’t share. Sorry little puppies. At least Tulip is still working and putting together a power point presentation about maintaining our status as a Fortune 320,000 company and how…wait a sec…“employee morale and productivity are unquestionably related to attending X-Men movies, with one driving the other”; she’s even added an X-Men symbol to her bar graph. <sigh> I guess that’s better than Obie, who keeps bringing his paws to his temples while squinting at me and muttering, “Obey…human scum. Fail your pathetic constitutional savings throw, fool.” Unfortunately, not only is he attempting to control my mind, he is still pushing his rather insulting MBDM (Management By Dungeon Master) proprietary management style on me. Whatever. I know a certain Boston terrier who’s going to roll a D20 and end up in his sleeping crate for a time out if he doesn’t knock it off. Anyhow, while I devise a way to sneak out of the house to see the movie, train your jeeper-peepers on…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Saga #19
Saga #19 - Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples, lettered and designed by Fonografiks, edited by Eric Stephenson, published by Image Comics. It’s only been a couple months since the creators of Saga went on much deserved break, but that time away has been an eternity for us readers. Not much might have happened in our own lives, but that is not the case with Alana, Marko, Hazel, Izabel, and Klara—our favorite happy family. To be fair, there have been big changes, but they happened quickly and much time has passed since. We come in after things have been the same, stable even, and at a time when life has become predictable and routine for the characters, but thankfully not for the readers.

Baby Hazel is now toddler Hazel, and she is very much walking and talking, as she and her family hide away on the planet of Gardenia. Marko is a stay-at-home dad, Alana brings home the bacon — provided her temper doesn’t get her canned first — and Izabel and Klara hang around the rocket tree with the newest addition, Friendo. They’re all one big happy family...errr, uh fulfilled family? Ummmm, content family? Normal family? Meanwhile, as his son is born, Prince Robot IV is still missing…whatever happened to that guy?

Although the book was on hiatus for a few months, the creators waste no time shocking the reader as they bring to life a new direction and tone for my favorite book on the stands. To be honest, not much happens in this issue. We don’t have explosions, or shoot outs, or Lying Cat getting poked in the eye. This issue is about life and living, and the routines we tend to unknowingly settle into; it’s also a little bit about the resentment that can build in those moments. Vaughan perfectly captures the interactions between husband and wife, wife and mother-in-law, babysitter and mother-in-law, wife and boss, wife and assistant, husband and cute bat-like girl at the park, with each word of dialogue. This isn’t some lame rom-com where everyone lives happily ever after, tensions build, whether legitimate or irrational, and Vaughan captures it all with such clarity, with such brutal honesty, that I actually blushed while reading this issue. I felt embarrassed, like I had walked in on an intensely private matter, an intimate moment that no one would want an outsider to see or hear. That said, each bit of dialogue and each caption is handled beautifully. We don’t need to know exactly what happened in between issue 18 and 19, but with the final page splash, Vaughan lets us know exactly what is going to happen in the near future. Needless to say, I gasped.

As emotional and powerful as the writing is, it’s Staple’s gosh darn, @#$%ing amazing artwork that gives the calculated gut punch to each dramatic moment. You can see it in every scene. With Marko watching Hazel in the park, it’s nothing more than a slight tilt of his head, a softening of the eyes as he speaks to a stranger, a beautiful woman. Or by the fact that Klara refuses to even look at Alana as she speaks to her. Staples truly shines when we get to the moment between Alana and Marko in the kitchen, where the body language and the expressions tell the story every bit as much as the words spoken between them. The final splash gives that “Awwwww, cute” moment, but again, it’s Vaughan’s final sentence that contradicts what we see, and which succeeds in breaking my heart.

I love these characters — even the bad guys. I have never read a comic book like Saga before, and by golly I hope to be reading it for years to come. Powerfully written, beautifully illustrated, it is a sci-fantasy-romance that is something everyone should be reading. I could not imagine trade waiting this fantastic series, but there are three trades readily available if by some grand error in the cosmic scheme of life you someone managed to miss the first 18 issues. Need further convincing? Well, let me just say that this issue also introduces the character of “Friendo,” so there really is no going back. Friendo forever! VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

East of West #12
East of West # 12 - Written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Nick Dragotta, colored by Frank Martin, lettered by Rus Wooton, published by Image Comics. East of West is an odd book. It’s one of my favorite comics on the stand, and one I look forward to reading each month(ish). Some parts of the story interest me more than others, primarily the storylline involving Death, Crow, Wolf, and the horse beast thing, but the story jumps around to its myriad other, more human, characters, and it does this often. In the hands of less skilled creators, I might grow annoyed or bored with the slow pacing, but Hickman and Dragotta make their super-smart tale so rich and rewarding, I cannot get enough of this fantastic comic; it does not matter which character(s) we are following.

Last issue, the Nation, the Union, the PRA, the Kingdom, the Confederacy, and the Republic were sitting down to discuss matters as called upon by Xiaolian. Xiaolian wants a war, but not necessarily a war between the different ruling nations, but one between Chosen and righteous. Since only the Chosen are supposed to know of the Chosen, this strikes a nerve with some of the meeting attendees. What strikes deeper than that are three events that will bring about the very war Xiaolian was hoping for.

Leave it to the series creators to make a bunch of people talking as they sit at an immense table simply riveting. This is before the three events I tease above, and without a single mention of Xiaolian’s husband, Death, or any other fantastical being for that matter. The dialogue is heavy and dripping with menace from the moment you open the book to the end, but it is the expressions on the characters’ faces as they deliver their venomous speeches that made me nervous throughout the entire book.

East of West is not an easy read. It is not something you just pick up and hope to figure out as you go along. You have to have the time and be in the right frame of mind for this one, denizens. You need to start at the beginning — as confusing as that might be — and work through the world building, the slowly revealed history, and the glimpses into each character and their possible motivations. You need to be patient. The creators will provide answers to the many questions you might have, but it will at their pace and when they feel it is time — for all you know, the answers to some questions might have been hidden somewhere along the way. Again, you need to be patient, which is a difficult thing for such an masterfully crafted comic book that I anticipate reading every month(ish). Thus far, there are two trades available for this series. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Undertow #4
Undertow #4 - Written by Steve Orlando, art by Artyom Trakhanov, lettered and designed by Thomas Mauer, published by Image Comics. I’m stunned, denizens. Something must have gone wrong, or is it right? My copy of the new Undertow showed up on time and was waiting for me in my pull. This is odd as issues two and three were both mis-shipped and were delayed by about three weeks. The good thing about this is that I only had to wait a week to get the fourth issue of this exciting new Image title. The bad news is I will now have to wait the full month(ish) to read issue five…provided Diamond gets the book out as scheduled. The shorter version of what I’m trying to say is that all of these mixups between the distributor and my LCS matter to me because I am enjoying this book so very much. You should be, too.

Mission accomplished…sort of. Anshargal and his greatly diminished team have found the Amphibian, Kishar Gelal, the elusive air-breathing Atlantean, and he is everything they hoped he would be. Unfortunately, he’s so very much more: psychotic, homicidal, and believes himself to be the cruel god of humanity. Meanwhile, the inhabitants of Anshargal’s ship begin to divide into those who believe/hope their leader to be dead, and those who are loyal and will do everything they can to find him. As the Amphibian proposes a life-threatening “journey” to Anshargal, the Atlanteans make their move.

I liked the first three issues quite a bit, but something changed slightly with this issue now that we have met the Amphibian, as well as received a better glimpse of Zikia and Uruku. The characters and their motivations have finally sunk in, and we see how Anshargal’s defiance of Atlantean rule is leading to future troubles for him and his people — who are already divided as it is. The big change, however, is that the creators have given me questions. Not questions like What the heck is going on? —that is clear — but rather How did the Amphibian come to rule? Was he always psycho? How did he escape?, or What was Anshargal’s first act of defiance against Atlantis? What are the details with his wife and kid? Is there someone in particular driving the building mutiny?, or Is Zikia and Uruku’s relationship accepted by Atlantean society? Is it accepted aboard Anshargal’s ship? The most important question of all for this book, however, is What happens next?, which means the creators have done their job well.

The writing, especially on the creep-out that is the Amphibian, is fantastic, and the artwork continues to deliver the perfect mix of horror and sci-fi, with gorgeous coloring to drive home the drama of each scene, and a visual style that reminds me of my favorite works from the old Warren Magazine days. If you haven’t been reading Undertow, don’t hesitate to pick it up, denizens, but keep your fingers crossed that your LCS actually has the first two issues, which might be problematic to find. I’m sure a trade will be coming in the next few months, but if you are like me, waiting patiently, especially on something this entertaining, is not your strong suit. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Slice Into the Woods

Words of Warning… - I should have posted a disclaimer detailing everything that grown adults might surprisingly be surprised by when reading Donist World. Within the course of this post (or past posts) you might very well find the following: the mention of dogs, no mention of cats, corn dogs, rockabilly, rock ’n’ roll, comic books, political factions, war, undersea adventure, sex, homosexuality, religion, death, Friendo, sarcasm, jokes, goofiness, dreams, monsters, learning, alcohol, beer, the love of beer, cinnamon buns stuffed with maple bacon, mental health services (or lack there of), anti-corporate corruption and greed, the family ties that bind and gag, health care for all, horror comics, sci-fi comics, superhero comics, movies, Boston terriers, graphic design, mac ’n’ cheese, violence, sexual violence, corporate culture, corporate buzzwords, horse beasts, red onions, the devil (see red onions), bullying, and the list goes on and on.

What’s my point? Well, basically, that I can’t possibly list every single thing that might pose to be a trigger for every single one of the four people who read my blog. It’s terrible that some people have been forced to endure / witness horrors in their lives, or that they have been through some uncomfortable situations that will be with them forever, but as grown adults living in a society, we cannot expect to receive warning every time something uncomfortable / objectionable to us pops up. Honestly, there are far too many variables to consider, or to expect (let alone require) others such as educators to convey. The recent discussions around triggers just got me thinking of how Herculean a task it would be to provide a warning for every possible thing that might upset or offend one person, but be fine for another who shares a similar life experience.

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