Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 6/13/2014

(Sung to the tune of U2’s “One”)

My pull is feelin’ lighter
Than last last week it’s a shame
Where have all my comics gone?
Could Diamond be to blame?

I say, one book, in my pull
It’s The Sixth Gun, I’m good, yo
One book means pummeled later
Whateves, Cuz, I’m cool, I ain’t no hater

Hello there, denizens, and welcome back to Donist World. I’m joined as ever by our CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / cloud based services specialist Tulip. The puppies are mad at me this week — when aren’t they ever mad at me — because they think I am to blame for the ridiculously light comic book week. Look, I prefer to have my books spread out evenly week to week, but no matter how many rage-filled letters I send to the comic book publishers, they are unwilling to bend to any personalized requests. Last week we had two books, this week one, next week looks to be one comic again, the week after that…at least nine. Oh well, I have a massive backlog of “flashback” titles to talk about, and last night I finished an AWESOME new trade from Image that you’ll have to wait to hear about next week (hint…it sounds like danifest mestiny), and I still have some The Micronauts: The New Voyages to talk about over the next few Mondays; we should be okay. The thing is, the puppies just don’t feel like working today and are using the light week as an excuse to get out of my monthly day-long (with a one hour break for lunch) “pow wow” on maintaining our status as a Fortune 320,000 company. Yes, we rehash the same material month-in and month-out, identify areas for marginal process improvement, and then proceed to do absolutely nothing about it so we can complain about the same crap the following month. Now that I think about it, a monthly day-long “pow wow” probably doesn’t benefit anyone, when a 10-minute-long “catch up” meeting would be more productive and less demoralizing. Nah! Obie chewed up our office (my mom’s basement) carpet the other day as Tulip watched, so this meeting will be their punishment. It. Is. On! While I gather the troops, have a look at…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

The Sixth Gun #41
The Sixth Gun #41 - Written by Cullen Bunn, Illustrated by Tyler Crook, colored by Bill Crabtree, lettered by Crank!, designed by Keith Wood, edited by Charlie Chu, published by Oni Press. Well, denizens, I’ve made my thought about “events” and “crossovers” pretty apparent: no, sir, I don’t like ’em. Now, this statement is not always true. Heck, just last week, Swamp Thing had a crossover with Aquamanand before that was the awesome Chew Revival one-shot that I enjoyed quiet a bit. What I’m trying to say is that my broad statement has exceptions. I’ve also griped a bit about the oft dreaded “annual,” but something I do not believe I have ever complained about is the “filler” issue. Over the decades as a comic lover, I have been burned by the “filler” issue many a time, but again, that does not mean all such issues are bad. Every once in a while, an issue comes along to give either the writer or artist, or both, a buffer and the main story pauses a moment to develop a side story, or to put the spotlight on a little-seen character and round them out for the reader. Such is the case with The Sixth Gun #41.

Griselda the Grey Witch, mother of the diabolical General Oliander Bedford Hume, has a centuries-long past primarily lost to time, but no longer. In this issue, you learn of Griselda’s childhood, and of the events that made her what she is today. We also see those who she calls her “sisters.” The tale is not pretty.

This is how you do a filler issue. There is no need to take an entire story arc of six issues to delve into the history of this mysterious character when a one-shot is enough to provide insight into Griselda, while maintaining enough mystery to keep her an interesting threat. Tyler Crook is the guest artist on this issue, but he is no stranger to the world of The Sixth Gun, having previously stood in for an issue about Asher Cobb, and another about Kirby Hale; each is great. Crook’s style fits in with the world of The Sixth Gun, and his storytelling skills mesh well between Brian Hurtt’s regular issues, especially when Bill Crabtree’s vibrant color palette bridges the two seamlessly.

Bunn’s story is a harsh history lesson on what brought about not just the Grey Witch, but also the reason for why the “six” were created in the first place, and true to the creator’s love of horror and the supernatural, the story delivers some great moments. Griselda’s “sisters” are awesome and creepy — especially with Crabtree’s pulsing reds lighting the darkness — and the single page of the six changing shape throughout the course of history was great to see, offering much left to the imagination as to how they could be used and their effects. Bunn also doesn’t hesitate to “go there” with the Grey Witch’s choice to father her child. <brrrrrrrrrr> <squirm>

Yes, this is a filler issue, but it is one that provides a bit of clarity to the grand story at hand. Of course I want to get back to Becky and Drake after they have lost friend after friend in quick succession and the tension mounts after having also lost all five of their guns. Dang, how I can’t wait to get back to things, but if the creators are going to take an issue’s break, then one that fills in some of the gaps and questions I’ve had is fine by me. The next issue shows Becky and Drake on the cover, and for some reason Becky has one of the six in her hand, so more questions and a painful wait are in store for us. Not only that, come August, what I believe to be a six-issue mini-series called The Sixth Gun: Days of Dead arrives with none other than Mike Norton taking on the art duties as Bunn and Hurtt share the writing. It has never been a better time to be a The Sixth Gun fan. RECOMMENDED!

Cannon HC
Cannon HC Everythinged by Wallace Wood, published by Fantagraphics. Here’s what this book is: hardcover, black and white, 292 pages, wide format, originally published in the ’60s for the US military newspaper Overseas Weekly, not subject to censorship laws of the time. What that means for us adult readers — sorry, kids, this is not for you! — is nekkid ladies, spy action, nekkid ladies, guns, nekkid ladies, Hitler, nekkid ladies, frequent plastic surgery to change one’s appearance, nekkid ladies, Weasel, nekkid ladies, wicked evildoers, nekkid catfights, nekkid ladies, incompetent bosses, nekkid ladies, jets, and so much more…including nekkid ladies!

Being a child of the ’70s, there’s plenty of things I was not aware of from the previous decade. Take for instance the fact that if a woman ever used her home telephone, she had to do so while being nude. Maybe phones in the ’60s would inadvertently set women’s clothes on fire, or perhaps the telephony wavelength rendered their clothing invisible. Why would I say such a thing? Well, within the pages of this gorgeous collection, anytime a woman is on the phone, she is nude, with the only exception occurring when a woman answers a phone while at work. When that happens, the telephony waves compel women to want the handsome John Cannon somethin’ fierce. Who wouldn’t want John Cannon? He’s the formerly brainwashed super-spy with an eye for the mission —and a knack for gaining the attention of every woman who crosses his path, including his enemies. I was also unaware that if you needed an effective disguise, then nothing beats a quick plastic surgery, which you would then have reversed after the mission was over. Who knew?

All joking aside, both the presentation and design of the physical book itself and everything contained on the pages within are without a doubt of the highest quality. In fact, Cannon is one of the most beautifully made books in my home — if only it had a ribbon bookmark. The interior is all Wallace Wood art…do I really need to say anything else? As much I love the build of the actual book, NOTHING beats the gorgeous art inside. There is a reason why Wood is considered a master, which is clear on each page of this comic strip series. The character design, the character acting, the background scenery, the use of blacks and halftones and negative space, and his command of depicting the human form — both men and women…especially the women — is without compare. Even more tremendous is Wood’s storytelling as the art/action of each panel carries your eye from one to the next, and we see his “22 Panels That Always Work” come to life.

The overall story is comprised of many different storylines covering a wealth of situations from exciting and pulse-pounding action, to office politics, to the just plain ridiculous, but the most important thing is this book is a blast to read. I suspect that some might consider the written stories as being “of a time,” but I doubt anyone can say the art is anything but timeless. I am so happy to own this absolute treasure, and I hope you can find a copy for yourself before they are all gone; Fantagraphics is said to only be printing this volume the once. I would also like to thank the 11 O’Clock Comics podcast, my favorite comic book podcast for a few years now (I owe them an iTunes review) for pointing me in the direction of this must-own book. Be warned…roughly 20% of the 292 pages DON’T have nekkid ladies on them; I thought you should know. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Flashback Friday:
The Mask
Marshal Law #1
The Mask Marshal Law #1–2 - Written by Pat Mills, illustrated by Kevin O'Neill, lettered by Ellie Deville, colored by Dave Stewart, designed by Kristen Burda, edited by Scott Allie, published by Dark Horse Comics. (this first paragraph is from my post of 4/11/2014) Back in mid-2013, I received the Marshal Law: The Deluxe Edition HC (DC Comics) and I rejoiced. Marshal Law was a series that Young Donist absolutely loved back at its introduction, and the chance to own most of the series in a hardcover edition was something I could not pass up. The key word in the previous sentence is “most.” The hardcover edition contained everything but three crossover mini-series that featured our surly hero meeting Pinhead (from the Hellraiser films/comics), the Savage Dragon, and finally the Mask. My guess is that reprinting those stories would have been a logistical and licensing nightmare, so DC just didn’t trouble themselves, which is understandable, as reining in BOOM, Dark Horse and Image sounds…complicated. Anyhow, if you have a moment, check out my reviews of the individual series that make up the hardcover (start at the bottom and move up), and you’ll come away with my feelings at the time Marshal Law was being released, and you’ll quickly learn that I kind of adore the series of mini-series within that collection. But what about the issues not in the collection? Hmmmm...let's see.

With only one comic sitting in my pull this week, and only two last week — I know I'm going to get walloped in the near future — I thought it best to wrap up my coverage of all things Marshal Law while I had a bit of a breather. And what a title to “end” things on than The Mask Marshal Law crossover that would become the final —as of today — Marshal Law comic book.

The Mask was an important comic in the early ’90s that I unfortunately never read at the time, but the mini-series gained popularity and the attention of Hollywood, resulting in The Mask movie, which I remember enjoying when it came out, and is one I hope to rewatch in the near future. The important thing to remember is the character appears in the pages of my Donist World darling Marshal Law. 

SHOCC (Super Hero Operational Command Control) has the catatonic Danny Mallon, the super-powered serial killer once known as the Sleepman, under their control and have scheduled the monster for a top-secret experiment. Danny is also the son of the defamed and dead Public Spirit (a Superman analog), but more importantly, Danny was the one who murdered Marshal Law’s girlfriend many years ago. The Marshal has not forgotten this. When the Sleepman comes back to life thanks to SHOCC’s mystical artifact, it’s up to Marshal Law to call off his pending retirement, and put down the vastly more powerful monster once and for all.

The short of it is that Youngish Donist (these came out in 1998) loved these two issues, and Current Donist liked it every bit as much. What is sad is that the two-issue mini ends on a crazy note that could have taken a followup mini in countless awesome directions, but alas it was not meant to be…for now — there is, however, a novella with a few illustrations available that I have not yet read. This series was released in 1998 and in 1999 Kevin O’Neill began illustrating The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and has been working on that series ever since…can you blame him for putting everything else on the back burner?

This mini is a return to form of what I loved most about the early Marshal Law works in both tone and look. It’s in color, unlike the Savage Dragon crossover, and is printed on a non-glossy paper with better printing that avoids the muddied look of the Hellraiser crossover that lessened my enjoyment of that particular series. We finally get to see the return of the Sleepman, and the introduction of the Mask is the perfect way to kickstart the story and give Marshal Law the kick in the pants he needed. Although I miss Razorhead and Suicida in this issue, the introduction of the Marshal’s replacement, Gale Force, is a great addition and someone I wish I could see more of. Who knows, with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen wrapping up in the near future, maybe a Mills and O’Neill reunion on one of my favorite comics of the past three decades is in order…they can definitely count on a sale from ol’ Donist. If you are a fan of Marshal Law, or a fan of The Mask, then picking up this great crossover is something you simply must do. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Teacher Tenure Rejected In California - <sigh> A California judge just rejected teacher tenure in California in a case brought by plaintiffs, backed by a Silicon Valley millionaire, saying tenure protection deprives students of a decent education. You can read about this here. The whole “terrible teachers are running rampant and destroying our children’s chance for a decent education” rhetoric is tiring. Yes, there are indeed SOME bad teachers out there —I’ve had a couple in my life — but the fact of the matter is that despite that ONE history teacher I had in high school for 50 minutes a day, Monday through Friday, for a single school year, that ONE history teacher in no way deprived me of an education. I would go home, bust out the history book, read it, take notes, do the exercises, turn them in on time, and get As and Bs in a subject that bored me to tears as taught by an uninterested teacher. Why is this? Because my single, low-income, over-worked mother pushed my brother and I to do our homework and to do well. She did not give a shit that the teacher was “boring” or that he/she mumbled to the point I could not understand him/her. It was up to me to do well. Thankfully, I was not in a classroom bursting with students, or where one or two emotionally disturbed or severely defiant children were allowed to ruin class on a daily basis for everyone, because an ineffective school administration allowed such to occur.

Now, tenure law does need to be changed to allow an ineffective / poor teacher to be fired with cause provided proper documentation and possibly a review of independent mediators to avoid personal conflicts between the parties of administrator and educator. Why does tenure even have to exist in schools? Well, for one, to prevent administrators from firing an individual for personal reasons, but currently to prevent good and great teachers with higher salaries from being fired when the next round of draconian budget cuts are forced upon our schools. The promise of tenure is a huge draw to the educational profession, especially in today’s climate where the term “job security” is becoming more and more of a joke.

But why do these millionaires care? The text book industry is huge business. Standardized testing is huge business. Consultants based upon these industries are huge business. Converting public schools to for-profit schools is huge business.

How to fix schools? Restore funding, smaller class sizes, review school administrators, restore funding for programs for highly-troubled kids so they cannot destroy the learning experience for other children, and a renewed value prioritization of public education. We also need to cease attempting to lump every single, vastly different child into the same test score bucket. But the problem goes so far beyond just the school. Situations need to change at home — parents need to read to their kids, actually talk to them, need to feed them, need to not abuse them, need to encourage them, need to teach them self-accountability. Adjusting tenure laws is ALSO a necessary component to remove the small percentage of “bad” teachers out there, but removing tenure all together is a recipe destined to increase the “failure” of our public schools, opening the door even wider to for-profit schools.


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