Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 8/22/2014

(Sung to the tune of David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” also on The Guardian’s of the Galaxy soundtrack!)

I’m a motivator, I’m a groovy-comic shoutout to you
Rockin’ elevator, sayin’ Trees will freak ya, baby, it’s true
So keep your eyes shut, keep on squawking like a pink monkey bird
Now open them and grock the cosmic written word

Keep your confused eye on it babe
Supreme: Blue Rose daze your head
Press your nose to a chillin’ book, bro
Freak out to The Fade Out daydream oh yeah!

I had to keep the “squawking like a pink monkey bird” line of “Moonage Daydream” intact, since outside of this David Bowie song, I will probably never write those six words in that order ever again; it’s a onetime deal. Anywho…welcome to Donist World. I’m joined as ever by CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / lead groovologist Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). This week at the corporate office (my mom’s basement) I have required all of us to wear our matching red polo shirts with the yellow writing embroidered on the left side. I have also required that the puppies wear their red collars, drink from red water bowls, I’m only to eat red M&Ms, and we are typing on red keyboards (they were on sale in bulk last year). Why are we doing this? Well, because this week it is all about one thing and only one thing: Image Comics. The red theme just happened to fit because our matching red Donist World corporate polo shirts were the only color we were able to afford at this time, and we wanted to maintain a sense of unity in our manner of dress and in the comic books we read this week. <pssst> <pssst> Come closer for a moment. I actually wanted to have a required uniform, because Obie has been breaking the dress code lately. He has worn sleeveless shirts with things like “Who’s the Big Dog Now, Punk?” and “Take This Job and Shovel It!” and “I Ain’t Your B_____!” to work lately, so I had to come up with something to get him back on track. Now, while I crunch the numbers to see if we have enough coin to order some blue corporate polo shirts, have a look at this week’s Image exclusive…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

The Fade Out #1
The Fade Out #1 - Written by Ed Brubaker, illustrated by Sean Phillips, colored by Elizabeth Breitweiser, edited by David Brothers, published by Image Comics. I would be lying if I was to proclaim that “Image needs to knock it off, already!” Or maybe partially lying, because the ol’ pocket book is getting tired of the big lunch-time shakedown it gets every Wednesday at the LCS. But maybe a bully analogy is the wrong way to think about the Image Comics parade of domination that only gets bigger and bigger with each passing week. Yeah…the situation is more comparable to an increasing number of lovely temptresses each kissing me on the cheek and whispering amazing things into my ear as I gleefully hand each of them $2.99 or $3.50 (minus a 10% purchase volume discount, plus sales tax, of course). I then leave: lipstick on my collar, hair completely tousled, glasses askew, and an ever-growing number of Image comic books in my hands. I wouldn't be shocked to see little cartoon hearts floating around my head either as I stumble merrily from the store. So, yeah…the first issue of The Fade Out…

It’s 1948. Charlie Parish is a Hollywood screenwriter who really tied one on last night. I mean REALLY tied one on. Not only does Charlie not know how he ended up sleeping in a bathtub, he has no idea where the bathtub is, or who owns it. As he tries to piece together the fragmented chain of events of last night’s party, he finds that the tiny apartment he woke up in happens to belong to a friend of his: the dead starlet in the living room.

One mistake I need to remedy in the very near future is missing most of the Fatale comic book series, as I am a huge fan of the creators’ work on the superhero-turned-double-agent series Sleeper and the phenomenal Criminal series — ESPECIALLY the darn-near perfection that is the Criminal: The Last of the Innocent storyline found in the second hardcover. Burbaker and Philips have proven with their exceptional past work that they have crime / noir / spy storytelling down and the same holds true for The Fade Out. Two panels — and to be fair a “Cast of Characters” page helped as well — is all it took to grab my attention, and the funny thing is that panel one contains only white text on a black background that says “The Wild Party.” That’s it, that’s all it took for me to know I was going to greatly enjoy this new series: basically an image of a passed-out, still-drunk screenwriter coming to in a bathtub.

On the simplistic “Cast of Characters” page, with Brubaker’s succinct character descriptions coupled with Phillips’s mastery of depicting drama, it takes only six individual images to gain tremendous insight into each of the key players before the story even starts. Phillips’s subtle changes in a character’s eyes and mouth tell you what you need to know about each person as you read left to right, top to bottom: ready to snap, confident, sad, barely treading water, kind / helpful, not to be messed with. There is no need to for up-front, lengthy exposition surrounding each character’s background as a small headshot speaks 1000 words. After panel two, it’s a steady 30-page ride through this crime comic that takes a rather unexpected turn involving the dead starlet, which opens up the story to many intriguing possibilities.

I also need to compliment Breitweiser’s beautifully-moody colors that set the tone for each scene and add so much to Phillips’s already substantial storytelling skills. I especially liked the green-tinged murder scene where Valeria’s red-purple dress draws the eye.

We’re only one issue in, and I’m completely hooked. If you are a fan of the other books I mentioned above, or if you loved the tone of Brubaker’s awesome Captain America run, then you can’t go wrong picking up The Fade Out. If you have not yet read those older works, then change that immediately when you go to pick up this fantastic entry to the crime-comic genre. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Trees #4
Trees #4 - Written by Warren Ellis, illustrated by Jason Howard, lettered by Fonografiks, published by Image Comics. I’m going to spoil this issue right off the bat by saying that all we see of the alien “trees” is a single spire in one panel, and a brief look at the top of a smaller tripod unit. They still don’t do anything, and you know what, denizens? That’s okay.

Chenglei and Zhen take a walk through the Chinese city of Shu on the way to where Chenglei will create art; it is an eye-opening experience. Meanwhile, near the North Pole, Marsh determines that the strange black flowers are more than what they seem, and in Somalia the military makes a move against what is believed to be the smallest “tree.”

 What should now be clear with Ellis and Howard’s Trees, is that it is more a look at humanity and its reaction to the possible threat of an alien invasion that is decades in the making…if it is a threat at all. This story is about people and how they cope with the aliens’ arrival. The creators show us how some study, some attack, and others are inspired to create. What is also refreshing is the glimpse of the city of Shu and how it thrives off of art and creativity and innovation, while fostering an environment of equality and acceptance as seen with Zhen, a transgender woman, and her friends. Unfortunately, Shu appears to be poised for a downfall as the perceived threat of the “trees” looks to have been forgotten by the supposed “peacekeepers,” who seem very much on edge. Tension is building in this series, not just in free and idealistic Shu, but throughout every region of the world, both from the “trees” and predominantly from mankind itself. The beautiful thing about Trees is that I have ZERO idea of what’s going to happen next.

Howard’s art has been amazing on this series thus far, but I have to say that this issue is the strongest. The opening splash page is worthy of blowing up and hanging on your wall, and it is merely an image of a bustling city street with the focus on two characters walking; it’s lovely. The rest of the book is just as striking, with a wondrous look at the art tower, and some great moments of the snow base, but it is Howard’s colors that push the beauty and the mood to even greater heights.

If you like smartly written, and strikingly illustrated sci-fi that is more about story than spaceships, explosions, and laser beams, then this is the book for you. Trees is a calm ride, at least it has been for four issues thus far, but the escalating tension and unease in the series is something I cannot wait to see play out. Things are about to get very interesting. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Supreme: Blue Rose #2
Supreme: Blue Rose #2 - Written by Warren Ellis, illustrated by Tula Lotay, lettered by Richard Starking, designed by John Roshell, published by Image Comics. I may not know Supreme: Blue Rose, but I know what I like. Yeah, denizens, I ain’t gonna fool ya…I don’t know what the blue blazes is going on, but maybe if I jot down what happens in this issue, something will dawn on me.

At an undesignated time, a gorgeous redhead with a extreme case of glowing face, meets a writer and then decades later draws him up into the heavens upon a blue spiral staircase (Wait...what?!). Meanwhile, Diana Dane, the reporter hired by Darius Dax to find ”blue roses” (okay, got it!) is picked up by Dax’s limo driver who goes by the name of Twilight Girl Marvel (Hey, it’s a free country, choose whatever crazy names you want). As the limo drives by a diner, two scientists talk about (errr...ummm) quantum mechanicky stuff, and a Supreme symbol opens up another dimension with math (fragonometry?) giving some other lady “Supreme-like” eyes (or something), which causes disco lights (and possibly jazz hands). We learn that Diana likes the show Professor Night (okay, this I know for a fact…mostly because she flat out tells us this). Finally, Diana’s limo ride travels on the Bifrost Bridge (maybe? I don’t know), and a sexy man with bedroom eyes appears in the limo for some reason; Diana is dreaming (?). What the what?!

Okay, writing down what happened in this issue only made my understanding worse, but that said, I still really like this issue. The dialogue and captions are well-written, at times poetic, but what makes this issue — and the first for that matter — so wonderful, is Lotay’s shockingly beautiful art and colors. Both character design and storytelling are impressive to begin with, but when she lays in the ethereal color palette and the glows and the panel bursting squiggles, the book takes on a dreamlike quality I have not seen in other comics. The main things I DO know about Supreme: Blue Rose is that Lotay’s work is simply mesmerizing and I can’t wait to see more of her art in the next issue as I try to figure out what exactly is going on. Seek out these issues if you want to please your eyeballs and stretch your mind. RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Heaviness, Denizens, Heaviness - This week I exclusively read heavy subject matter, and I’m about due for some lighter fare. You see, in addition to the books above, I’ve been trudging through the third bulky volume of Hellblazer, and it’s a good book — although nowhere near as much as the first volume, just sayin’ — but I think I need something a little more light-hearted or something more upbeat and brightly colored. Maybe something older is the way to go. I'm thinking some older superhero books can raise my spirits, maybe this Avengers vs. Thanos is the ticket to get me going again. Fun, action, thrills, and chills, and it has a few stories I missed back in the day. Plus, we all know how much I love the cosmic Marvel stuff. Boom! It is decided.

Thank you for reading and have a great weekend.


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