Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 5/30/2014

(Sung to the tune of Harry Nilsson’s “Coconut”) *If anyone knows what this song is about, then please…let me know.

Donist bought some comic books, he bought ’em cause they’re prime
They’re ones you should be readin’, son, they’re a heck of a good time

You get a bag for your comic books, then read ’em all up
You get a bag for your comic books, then read ’em all up
You get a bag for your comic books, then read ’em all up
You get a bag for your comic books, then check with Donist, raise it up

Say “Donist, Trees, Chew Revival are so great”
You say “Donist, Deadly Class I cannot wait”
You say “Donist, Southern Bastard’s really great”
You say “Donist, Batman’s awesome for Pete’s sake”
Donsit World’ll set you straight

You get a bag for your comic books, then read ’em all up

Hello there, denizens, welcome back to Donist World. I am joined, as ever, by our CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by our marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / barometric pressure tester Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). Yesterday was an odd day around the Donist World corporate headquarters (my mom’s basement) in that something in the air just made us tired and foggy-brained. It was difficult to put two and two together, let alone present strategies for maintaining our status as a Fortune 320,000 company or quickly write reviews that actually made any sense for this week’s comics. Luckily, today I feel better, and with much revising I believe those letters, words, and sentences are a bit more understandable. Obie and Tulip will back me up on this as…hold on. Where the heck did they go. <hmmmmm> The note here says that the puppies have failed their savings throws and still feel crummy. In fact, they say they feel so crummy that they are off to the park across the street to have tacos, mojitos, and to “recover” from the change in barometric pressure that we believe is messing us all up. Again, <hmmmmmm> From here, I can actually see that they are not feeling ill — they are wearing their “Happy 5th Birthday” hats from last Sunday — and are playing tug of war with a rope toy in the park. Usually, I would have to write them up, but you know what? It’s a nice day, and I could go for some chicken tacos myself. I also see that Obie took my wallet. While I head across the street, take a look at the Image bonanza of…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Trees #1
Trees #1 - Written by Warren Ellis, art by Jason Howard, lettered by Fonografiks, published by Image Comics. Let’s just cut to the chase, denizens… Yes, I loved this first issue. I loved it quite a bit, and you want to know something? I honestly have very little idea as to what is going on or what is going to happen. I’m cool with that. The important thing to know is that Image Comics again assails comic fans with their newest must read title, but is anyone really surprised given that the creators behind this intriguing new series are Warren Ellis and Jason Howard? Nope, I didn’t think so. 

Ten years ago, the monstrous “Trees” landed on planet Earth, and stretched far into the heavens. Humanity shuddered at the sight of the alien structures and the Trees responded by doing nothing. We attempted to attack them, but to no avail. In response, the Trees did as before: nothing. It has been as if they have not even noticed us, as if we are nothing to them. The Trees appeared across the globe, and after a decade of no activity, something finally happens, and it is not good.

Again, I loved this comic. In one issue, Ellis and Howard bring the reader up to speed with what most of humanity in the series knows: precious little. We see a high-tech pacification police force — complete with armed drones and those creepy robotic dog things —oppressing the citizenry of Rio De Janeiro, a politician in New York vying for more than political power, a young artist newly moved to the Special Cultural Zone of the city of Shu, and a team of scientists in frozen North West Spitzbergen, but how they are all linked outside of the Trees remains to be seen. The creators instantly pull you into the chaos of this world, and although we know next to nothing about the handful of characters introduced thus far, uncovering the mystery of what has happened, and the drive to know who these strange aliens are is so strong, so compelling, I was desperate for more when I reached the final page. In fact, I was dreading each page turn, because I knew there were two fewer pages left for me to experience. My main complaint is that there are only 20 pages of material for this introduction.

Ellis’s story, dialogue, and the very idea of the series are fantastic, and Howard brings the full impact of it all home. The action kicks off almost immediately in Rio, but the story shifts more to the dramatic as we are introduced to what I assume will be the main characters of the series — I could also be wrong about this. Trees showcases Howard’s storytelling and character acting prowess, as well as his ability to enhance both through the use color. 

Trees is a beautiful yet chilling read. As troubling as the thought of the ominous Trees is to the planet, thus far it is humanity’s reaction to the occupying aliens that is the most fascinating in this excellent first issue. The creators succeed in making me curious to know more about not just the Trees, but how various regions have responded to them, and how humanity intends to deal with them after so much time has passed. I have so many questions about this series, but I can definitely say that Should I keep buying this? is NOT one of them. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Chew / Revival #1
Chew / Revival #1 - Written by John Layman and Tim Seeley, illustrated by Rob Guillory and Mike Norton, colored by Rob Guillory and Mark Englert, lettered by John Layman and Crank!, published by Image Comics. Hey! Someone got some Revival on my Chew. No, wait…someone dropped their Chew into my Revival. Two great tastes that go great together! If someone asked me to predict a far-out event occurring in either of these series, this issue would never have come to mind. I always figured each to have their own separate worlds, but then again, this is the beauty of creator-owned comics. Those involved can do whatever the heck they want with their properties, but just because they can have a crossover event like this, does it mean that they should? We all know my thoughts on some of the crossovers that have gone down at the bigger publishers, and I suspect that many of you have felt the financial sting of buying the multitudes of comics involved in those crossovers only to be let down by the convoluted story and multiple artistic changes. Keeping those feelings in mind, is Chew / Revival something we should be worried about? Yes, it is something you should be worried about…you should be worried about missing out on this awesome double feature that is both laugh-out-loud funny and pull-the-covers-up-tight scary.

Chew / Revival #1 - This 16-page section of the book was done by the Chew creators and focuses on their characters with some of the cast of Revival brought in. Tony and Colby head to the quarantined zone in rural Wisconsin where the dead have come back to life, and a particularly grisly crime has caught the FDA’s attention. Tony and Colby meet Officer Dana Cypress and her partner Ibrahaim Ramin as they attempt to track down a missing hand that looks to be involved in the sale of black market body parts. They also meet Martha Cypress, Dana’s sister, and things get real weird, real quick.

Revival / Chew #1 - On the flip side of this issue is another 16-page story, this time told by Revival’s creators. Officer Dana Cypress and her partner Ibrahaim Ramin are investigating a spate of missing bodies at a cemetery, and FDA agent Tony Chu arrives to investigate if the missing bodies are tied to the sale of black market body parts that have periodically escaped the quarantine zone for “normal” folks to eat in hopes of gaining immortality. What they find out at the old barn will unnerve and disturb them all.

This book is a blast. When I saw this issue in my pull, I immediately noticed the $4.99 price tag and I then heard a ghostly voice echo in my mind, Donist…this is a crossover…beware the crossover…it has burned you before. I almost put it back on the shelf, but I'm glad I didn’t. Each story was worth it’s half of the cover price, and I found myself giggling and cringing through Layman and Guillory’s half, while feeling incredibly creeped out by Seeley and Norton’s disturbing portion. Although I would not recommend a reader who is unfamiliar with each series to try this issue — read the first couple trades of each first — I would strongly encourage fans of these series to read this special comic. It has the best of what you love most about each title, even when the creators are working with the characters that are not their own; both teams seamlessly integrate the two worlds into one and it works. If you love Chew and Revival as much as I do, then you will definitely be pleased with this crossover that is just crazy enough to work. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Deadly Class #5
Deadly Class #5 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Wes Craig, colored by Lee Loughridge, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. Indubitably my reaction to this issue can be summed up in an exclamation and one sentence: No! You can’t end this issue there!!! <ahem> Sorry, allow me to regain my composure. Okay. Last issue seemed to be a nod to Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, but after reading Remender’s note at the end of this issue, it will become clear that much of last issue and this issue are reflections of events that the writer has actually endured. This is a scary thing. 

Marcus took some acid. That’s a lie. He took a boatload of acid, and his friends have taken off, leaving him trippin’ balls in a Vegas hotel room with Billy,  a punk rocker with daddy issues. To make matters worse, their friends left the television on to baby sit Marcus – it’s not helping – and their room just happens to be right next door to Billy’s dad. Things just kind of fall apart from there. 

After reading this issue, you might need to watch some old cartoons. Something, anything to get your heart rate down after the excitement of this stressful issue. Geesh. This is not a bad thing. The creators perfectly bring the reader into the bad trip Marcus is suffering through with each harsh scene building upon the next until the messed up end of the issue…which you will have to read for yourself. I will say that I am curious to see more of Kings Dominion High School for the Deadly Arts, but after what happens on the final page, I am definitely fine hanging out in Vegas to see how the events of this issue play out. 

Remender’s dialogue and captions capture the paranoia of someone on drugs and the bizarre directions their brain takes them. Craig’s storytelling and character acting is staggering in how it ramps up the intensity of a scene, as he effortlessly pulls off high-panel count pages to great effect; not an easy thing to do. The truly spectacular moments of this issue are by far the action scenes, which Craig speeds up with either upward tilting panels, or a large splash page followed by quick snippets of action through lower-panel-count pages. To make the mood even more extreme, or psychedelic, or terrifying, depending on the scene, Loughridge using a primarily flat coloring scheme to push and shove the reader to the emotion they need to feel. The casino and the Vegas nightlife are mesmerizing, right before those insane final five pages. 

Deadly Class continues to be a dark but compelling read with great writing, art, and colors that deserve your time and appreciation. I believe the first five issues are set to be collected in a trade come late July, but if you can get the floppies, don’t hesitate to pick them up. After the brutal cliffhanger ending, I will be biting my nails until the next gorgeous issue. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Southern Bastards #2
Southern Bastards #2 - Written by Jason Aaron, illustrated and colored by Jason Latour, lettered by Jared K. Fletcher, color assists by Rico Renzi, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. Okay, here we go on our fourth Image Comic review for the week, and surprise, surprise, it’s a dang fine comic as well. Something I need to point out before we take a quick look is that I do not like sports. I just don’t care about them in the slightest. If I have to watch a sport, I guess basketball is okay, but the only time I will willingly watch football is during the Superbowl; I do this for my friend’s mother’s diablo chili (hurts so damn good!). Otherwise, sports…they ain’t my bag. That said, leave it to the strength of the Jasons to make a 22-page comic consisting of eight pages devoted to a football game enormously entertaining and worthy of being immediately reread.

Earl Tubbs left Craw County, Alabama decades ago for what he thought was for good…then his uncle passed and the next thing he knows is he’s back and clearing out his Uncle’s home, which used to belong to Earl’s father. The town lives and dies for the one thing it collectively cares about: football. The unfortunate thing is that someone is going to die for the team, and that someone was an acquaintance of Earl’s. Earl finally meets Coach Boss, and quickly learns that no one crosses the man…ever.

Not much has happened over the past two issues, mostly just an old guy returning to his hometown, running across an old acquaintance, and noticing that things are bad in Craw County. But Aaron paces the book so well and allows us to get to know Earl and some of the other characters through great dialogue and the escalating airs of violence. Latour’s storytelling and colors are a driving factor in the building feeling that shit’s-about-to-go-down. The drama of people’s facial expressions is great, but what I love the most with this issue is the body language, especially with Coach Boss who oozes malevolent authority even without a single word balloon — just look at the cover to see what I mean. 

There are no capes, no tights, no action figures (yet), and no chance for a set of Southern Bastards branded bed sheets (I WILL buy a set if the creators get around to releasing some…truth!), but the strength of these creators’ craft and the apparent heart and soul put into this comic make Southern Bastards a must read for fans of real-world crime comics. The crazy thing about this book is that the protagonist is not a handsome, young guy with sex appeal, but rather a semi-portly, older guy with a strong sense of right and wrong and a need for justice. I have a feeling things are about to get ugly, and I guarantee I will be there when it does. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Batman #31
Batman #31 - Written by Scott Snyder, illustrated by Greg Capullo, inked by Danny Miki, colored by FCO Plascencia, lettered by Steve Wands, published by DC Comics. Whoa! A non-Image comic on Donist World, denizens! What is this world coming to? It has been “Zero Year” for going on two years now, which is cool by me because of a few things: 1) it’s written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Greg Capullo, 2) keeping the story in the past keeps it, for the most part, from getting mixed up in external events and crossovers like “Forever Forgotten Days of Future Earth 2’s Evil Villains,” 3) Batman has been and continues to be quite good. 

The Riddler holds Gotham City in his purple-gloved grip, refusing anyone access in or out. The city is overgrown, more primal, and each day Edward Nigma plays a game of “stump me with a riddle.” The rules are simple: each day someone has the opportunity to tell a riddle that the Riddler cannot solve. If that person wins, then Gotham goes free. If that person fails, then they forfeit their life to the pit. NO one has won. After far too much time cutoff from the world, Lucius Fox decides to step up to the challenge until Batman appears with a plan. 

The story is still intriguing and it is cool to see Batman operate without all of his tech, gadgetry and doohickeys. For this tale, it will take brains and the tools of the past and the creators handle it well. There are plenty of words on most pages, which is typical of a Snyder book, but what is also typical is that you never notice it; Snyder’s words serve and enhance the story from front to back. Capullo is king of facial expressions and drama in this issue, but the splash page of Batman riding in on a motorcycle is one of the best images of the series to date — although we all know Capullo’s next issue will probably bring something even awesomerer…it’s that kind of thing. One of the key additions to both the splash and the opposite page are Plascencia’s colors. Plasencia uses an orangish-gold background to complement Batman’s blues and greys (desaturated purples actually) and the image is stunning as our hero and his Batcycle practically leap off the page. The rest of the issue is equally brilliant, minus the drab that usually bathes Gotham City, and this month’s cover is also one of my favorites for the series in both its layout and coloring. 

So, of the New 52, Batman is one of two books that I am still reading — the other being Swamp Thing. I almost dropped off after that “Villains Month” money grab, but I’m glad I’ve stuck around, as the creators have given us much to love. RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Last Friday… - I usually try to keep the “Woods” portion of my posts geared towards comics or comic company shenanigans or movies or gripes about monopolistic distributors, but last Friday’s terrible events really rattled me. I am of course referring to deadly stabbing/shooting rampage of that monster-who-I-will-not-do-the-service-of-naming. It’s tragic, deeply saddening, and ultimately just another notch in the stupidity that has been happening all too often in our country. 

Isla Vista is located just over three miles from our house. Amy and I go there every two to three weeks to pick up a pizza, and we were in fact tossing around the idea of heading into IV that night, which would have meant we would have missed driving by the exact location of the shooting by just a couple of hours. It’s scary, but nothing compared to what the people who were there had to suffer through, or to the innocent people who lost their lives. 

Of course I have been following the events on the radio, on web sites, and on Twitter, and I have seen people bickering over what is the leading cause of this: criminally underfunded and dismantled (thanks for nothing Reagan) mental health services, the ridiculous availability of guns and ammunition (legal or otherwise), misogyny on a grand scale, absent parents, male entitlement, boys never taught to not rape, “pick up artist” bullshit, etc. My problem with this is why can’t ALL of these things be to blame? Why can’t we focus on fixing ALL of these things at the same damn time? Fund mental health services, and keep the private sector out of it. Get these NRA lobbyist out of Washington, and make much-stricter gun control laws; no one needs semi-automatic weaponry or more than one handgun. Keep sex education in our public schools, it is so much more than penis-in-the-vagina talks and should discuss misogyny, rape, STIs, and so much more. On the topic of sex education: abstinence-only “education” is complete bullshit that does not work and should be defunded immediately. As for parents, parent; talk to your children, read to your children at a young age — yes, I know that no one can control what happens in the home. Classify “men’s rights” groups as hate groups. Improve stalker laws immediately. Get asshole, douchebagging, white-haired, old men who believe in the immense stupidity of “legitimate rape” out of office…their time is better spent utilizing the services of a more robust mental health care system, which they so desperately need. 

<sigh> The Isla Vista shooting should not have happened. None of the shootings that routinely occur should happen. My condolences to the victim’s families and to all of those injured or who have to carry the memory of this horrendous night with them for the rest of their lives. 

If you have a moment please read this page from The Onion, whose headline captures my thoughts perfectly titled “‘No Way to Prevent This’ Says The Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.”


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