Friday, May 9, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 5/9/2014

(Sung to the tune of Blossom Dearie’s version of “The Say It’s Spring”)

When I was young I lived in a world of dreams
Comic books filled with super villain schemes
Though now I’m much more grown up
I fear that I must own up
To the fact that I still have love
For heavenly books that thrill ’cuz

This Sixth Gun thing
Sends chills down my spine, now, baby
The Wake gives spring
To my step with monsters maybe
Rex, Zombie Killer, too

I say hooray!
Swamp Thing drives me full on crazy
Hooray, I say!
Satellite Sam stockings, oh baby
Heavenly, I'm tellin’ you

Hello there, denizens, and welcome to Donist World. As ever, I am joined by our CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and our lovely marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/InDesign specialists Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). This week has been absolutely nuts as I begin to wrap up my graphic design projects and I kind of think that Obie had something to do with my frustration this week. You see, I was having brutal problems getting some buttons and animations to work in InDesign and I lost two days to the void of the program. Every time I stepped away from the computer something would go wrong. Then I found some duck-flavored kibble crumbs on my keyboard… I think Obie is operating under the belief that a distracted CEO (me) gives him free rein of the office (my mom’s basement). He continues to maintain our standing as a Fortune 320,000 company (I’m cool with this), but he’s more focused on developing his MBDM (management by dungeon mastering) technique so—I assume—he can break away from his duties here at Donist World and hit the infinitely more lucrative consulting/mentoring/self-help circuit. Unfortunately for Obie, he has yet to realize that the contract he signed with Donist World clearly states that anything created/developed either on or off company time is hereto owned by Donist World, which means me. My thinking is to let him run with his idea so long as he fulfills his other duties, since a distracted Obie is a good thing for my sanity. Plus I don’t really think this MBDM fad has any legs—I’m sick of constantly failing my “saving throws” throughout the day and being told that my “wisdom” scores could use some fine tuning. Anyhow, while I submit my finally-working project, have a look at this week’s…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

The Sixth Gun #40
The Sixth Gun #40 - Written by Cullen Bunn, illustrated by Brian Hurtt, colored by Bill Crabtree, lettered by Crank!, designed by Keith Wood, edited by Charlie Chu, published by Oni Press. Am I correct in saying that the ever-amazing The Sixth Gun is wrapping up with issue #50? I believe I read that somewhere ages ago, but given the current momentum of the story and the events of this issue, it looks like 50 is correct. This is sad, denizens, as Bunn and Hurtt’s tremendous supernatural Western is something I look forward to spending some time with every month(ish). Just like meeting the person of your dreams right before you ship off for that once-in-a-lifetime candy-taster job at Willy Wonka, let’s not think about the looming despair-ridden day it all ends, but instead enjoy the good times to be had.

Things aren’t looking good for Drake, Becky, and Nidawi. Asher, Gord, and Nahuel are dead, Kirby was taken, and now Jesup and his entourage of serpent men mean to put what’s left of our heroes six feet under as well. To make matters worse, Nidawi is bleeding to death, but the severed—yet living—shrunken head of Screaming Crow (how often do you get to write a sentence like that?) has a plan to save the woman. As the battle of the Six commences, and Jesup gains control of another gun, Becky has an insane plan.

I read this book in record time. As much as I wished to savor every panel of Hurtt’s lovely art, the story demanded I whip through as each oh no, I can’t believe they did that, and what’s gonna happen next?! moment compelled me on. This issue kept the action going, all while moving the story forward with Screaming Crow taking charge, and with Becky using the power of her gun to travel back in time to consult with a dead character. The fight between Drake and Jesup has been building for a while and when it finally happens, Drake loses one of the six guns, bringing the end of the world that much closer. Then comes Becky’s decision that initially made me question the creators’ decision, but when I thought about what happened (sorry not gonna spoil today) it all made sense. By the end, I was all smiles—although I was a smiling nervous wreck.

For the first two trades worth of the series, my one gripe was I wanted to see Becky take the initiative and to start making decisions. This has not been a problem for quite some time now, as she clearly has grown, knows what she wants, and no longer has a problem doing what she feels is best. Drake continues to be a mystery, and I still hope to someday see a bit more of Drake’s past revealed before the three remaining guns in his possession alter him forever. The characterization and dialogue are solid, with each character clearly having their own voice. Hurtt’s artwork is as beautiful as ever, and whether he is depicting tense action, drama, or rich character designs his storytelling is always flawless. Crabtree’s colors always push the emotions of Hurtt’s imagery, but the green-glowing Jesup and the time-traveling Becky standout brilliantly in this issue. 

I am thankful that The Sixth Gun came in on time this week—the shipments to my LCS containing “S” titles get delayed often <pffft>—but that just means the wait for #41 is going to be all the more brutal, denizens. Ugh. I love this series and I am going to be very sad when it comes to an end; at least we still have about a year to go. Not only that, we also can look forward to another prequel, this one titled The Sixth Gun: Days of the Dead, which covers Jesup and Brother Roberto. The Sixth Gun is gem of a comic every comic book fan should be reading. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Swamp Thing #31
Swamp Thing #31 - Written by Charles Soule, layouts by Jesus Saiz, finishes by Javi Pina, colored by Matthew Wilson, published by DC Comics. As I have said in many of my past reviews of Swamp Thing, both the character and the book itself have been instrumental in my lifelong love of comics. I started with the Wein and Wrightson books as a young boy, and those Alan Moore issues…dang, those Alan Moore issues…blew me away and remain on my “Top Ten Comic Book Series Of All Time” list. Since then, there were some decent attempts at the character, but nothing really grabbed me. Then Snyder and Paquette came along and brought me back in. I love the idea of the Green, the Red, and the Rot, and since Soule has taken over I have been enjoying his run, but it is this issue’s introduction of the Grey that made me sit back and go “Wow!”

Alec Holland, the Swamp Thing, has been duped into the body of a human, a human that is rapidly burning out, and when it does, so will pass Alec. His avatar body has been taken by a corporation bent on using it for the diabolical means of profit masquerading as an effort to benefit mankind. Unfortunately for Alec, he has no idea who has his body, what they are doing with it, or where it is located. Not only that, the beautiful woman known as Miki has revealed that she is an avatar of the Mycos, or rather of fungi, the Grey, and Miki has been burning through human bodies for centuries when she abandoned her avatar form, which is being kept at the temple of the Sureen. If Alec is to save his life, without taking anyone else’s, then he will have to think quickly and not reveal the revulsion he feels at the trail of dead Miki has left in her wake.

Holy cow! As I said above, I have liked Swamp Thing for quite some time, but this issue made me love the series once again. The idea of the Green, the Red, and the Rot was cool back when the new 52 started up, but Soule handled the introduction of the Grey in such a unique and interesting way that I accepted this new force not just without hesitation, but with enthusiasm. Not only do we get this new character, Miki, who I like immensely, we also get to see exactly just how cool the body of the avatar of the Grey actually is thanks to Saiz. The fact that the creators bring an evil corporation into the mix, only deepens my love of this issue as we see just how far a handful o’ d_bags will go to increase market share and profits. A great story and beautiful art…what more could any comic fan ask for? Well…I have something…

As much as I loved this issue, there is one thing that makes me nervous, and that one thing appears on the final splash page: Aquaman. Now, nothing against Aquaman—I have not been reading his book, but have heard it is good—but as I have said from the beginning of this relaunch, I wish this book was still under Vertigo. There, I said it again. The guest-appearance/crossover into other titles is something I almost always find off-putting, and I can’t help but wonder how much more successful the whole “Rot World” storyline would have been had there been no other super heroes gumming up the works. I also see the guest-appearance/crossover as something of a portent of doom for the titles I enjoy—remember how great I, Vampire was before Batman showed up? Now we have Aquaman appearing, and we are directed to another title to get the whole story. I could be jumping the gun here, maybe the story will be awesome; we’ll just have to see. Again, I wish Swamp Thing was still under the protective embrace of Vertigo, but despite the groan-inducing interruption of a guest-appearance/crossover/event this issue comes VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Wake #8
The Wake #8 - 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. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I liked the first half of this book quite a bit, but this second half is even better. This continues to be the case for the third-to-the-last issue of this incredible adventure comic. As we delve even further into a tiny corner of this immense world—which the creators have no prayer of exploring to my satisfaction over the final two issues—we witness even more fascinating creatures, characters, and locales. Oh how I want to set up as a squatter in Snyder and Murphy’s insane “Argo 3” and stay there forever and ever and ever…

Leward has been saved from the rampaging mers! Or rather, she’s been captured by “Outliers,” pirates who roam the seas despite the mers, and who are rumored to be cannibals and consorts of the creatures. Not only that, Captain Mary of the Argo 3, a vessel shaped like a gigantic mer, has a pet pink mer that he unleashes on her. When she comes to from the creatures’s venom, Leeward discovers her intel on the Outliers might not be all that accurate. Unfortunately for all, Governess Vivienne of the Arm—an authoritative police force—are after Leeward and all who have spoken with the girl, and they now know where to find her. 

Snyder and Murphy deliver yet another outstanding issue of The Wake, and in its wake (see what I did there?) they bring a whole host of new questions and curiosities. I instantly fell in love with the character of Captain Mary, Walleye (the pink, toothless mer), the bizarre Argo 3, Gabby the robotic parrot, and their briefly-seen home. There is so much happening in this issue, and there is a hint of a bigger purpose to the mers regarding their lack of attention to those who explore the lands beneath the waves as opposed to exploiting them. To be fair, I have to admit to being confused on a few pages as to what was actually happening within the dialog, but that’s okay. My slight confusion aside, I am torn between my desire to reach the end of this fantastic story and wanting to stay in this fascinating world for years to come. Everyone should be reading this comic. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Rex Zombie Killer #4
Rex, Zombie Killer #4 - 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. Not just dogs and cats living together, but apes, monkeys, and squirrels as well. Throw into that mix a world filled with innumerable “rotters” and the few remaining humans as lead by one power-mad military man, and you have the bones of the excellent Rex, Zombie Killer

Rex and his crew have made the perilous journey to Las Vegas where they band of animals were promised to find a “safe place,” which they find. Unfortunately, the “safe place” is not quite move-in-ready. Rex failed to mention that his human and the “safe place” are under the military control of the cruel Major. Thankfully, Rex has a plan to seize control of the military base, but the plan has a lot of moving parts and the looming zombie menace adds a degree of unpredictability that can ruin everything. It’s The Incredible Journey meets The Walking Dead as our fine-furry friends risk it all for safety in a most unsafe world in this exciting conclusion to Rex, Zombie Killer.

There is no “easing” into this issue as you are thrown immediately into the action, and the tension of the story only relaxes in a few flashback moments until the very end. Animals act heroically and some even die, but it is not the zombies that are the biggest threat to the animals. Anderson continues to provide a unique voice to each of the many characters in this exciting mini-series, and the dialogue and story are compelling from beginning to end. However, it is the characterization of Rex, Buttercup, Snowball, Kenji, Brutus and the rest that pulled me in with the original one-shot and those characters kept me reading through to the story’s conclusion. *Super-minor spoiler—that one panel of Buttercup in the sniper’s scope…let’s just say I would have mutinied if the scene played out in any other way. No one messes with Buttercup!*

Yu’s artwork somehow manages to look even better than each stellar issue as he conveys all of the key dramatic moments through the animals’ expressions, and his storytelling glides the eye from panel to panel, page to page. The double-page spread in this issue is something you just have to see, and Romera’s beautiful coloring and rendering make those pages even more stunning. 

As for the ending, the story wraps up wonderfully with all of the major questions answered, but I will say I wasn’t ready to leave the creators’ world quite yet…but whatchagonnado. I’m not sure if Anderson and Yu will someday return to Rex, Zombie Killer or not—I should ask them—but there is room to see what happens now that the animals have achieved their “safe place.” I’m also curious as to how the zombie-killer crew deals with their losses and the fact that Rex was not completely honest with them throughout the mini-series; time will tell if we get more Rex in the future. For now, you can find the one-shot on Comixology, and the entire limited series at or at the Big Dog Ink website. As a final thought, I have to go on record and say I still disagree with the creators about their views on squirrels, and view the idea of those animals organizing as a portent of doom, but despite that notion, both this issue and the series as a whole come HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! 

Satellite Sam #8
Satellite Sam #8 - Written by Matt Fraction, illustrated by Howard Chaykin, lettering Ken Bruzenak, digital production by Jed Dougherty, designed by Drew Gill, edited by Thomas K, published by Image Comics. I love this title. There are no superheroes, no monsters, no mustache-twirling villain…heck, there aren’t really any “heroes” at all in this series. But that’s okay. I have plenty of comics with costumed individuals pummeling the bejesus out of one another. What you have with Satellite Sam is a slow-burn period piece of a murder mystery that is brilliantly written and gorgeously illustrated—man, I LOVE the costuming in this book, and boy, oh boy, those stockings…

Italian TV actress Maria Melato gets a glimpse back to her rough past in war-torn Italy, and it is no wonder she beat the holy hell out of the man who still has not fulfilled his promise to marry her. Michael (the new star of Satellite Sam after his father was found dead in a secret apartment with loads of girly Polaroids) watches some of his father’s old film reels, but when he stumbles upon a particular reel that is NOT fit for broadcast, he begins to see how his father’s debaucherous proclivities might have gone too far. Finally, a Tijuana bible upsets Satellite Sam co-star Clint Haygood and Christmas parties are rarely any fun. 

As I’ve said before, I love reading Satellite Sam in issues, but reading in larger chunks might be the way to go in order to keep up with the large cast of characters involved in this tiny television studio; you can get the first five issues in this trade that retails for $9.99. Fraction’s dialogue on this compelling crime drama is impeccably written, and Chaykin’s art work, whether delivering the drama or showcasing the incredibly stylishly-dressed cast, is something that must be seen. This is not a book you read when you are tired or distracted. No. You need to pour yourself a rye on the rocks, or if you don’t drink, a coffee black as the devil’s soul, put on some mellow jazz music, retreat to the lounge room, and immerse yourself in this brilliant comic. If you are a fan of Mad Men, then this one is a no-brainer. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Still No Undertow #3 For this Donist - Oh well. I’ll be happy if it shows up next week, as I think Batman is the only book set to appear in my pull. We’ll see.


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