Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 9/26/2014

(Sung to the tune of Ultramagnetic MCs’s “Traveling At the Speed Of Thought”)

I go 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
As I take your mind off
and on to a new book
So let’s have a look
Respect Low, as it whups your brain
Eyeball strain, leaves you prayin’
In the ocean as it thrills your skull
It’s dang cool as it’s melting ya skull
You want hurt and pain, love, bats, death
Saga’s down, covering you for some eye jammy
It’ll take your brain from the back
and pull it to the front ’cause it rocks
Rachel Rising, oh no, another lunatic
The Sixth Gun, cowboy thugs, monsters scare
Tao-Boy fights Eelyaki psycho
Read this book Chew, ’cause it rocks
There’re more good books than you ever thought

I usually listen to the awesome remix of that song, but seeing as how I never heard the original version of “Traveling at the Speed of Thought,” or that there was an old video for it, let’s just say my spirits rose a bit. Hello, denizens, and welcome back to Donist World. I’m joined as ever by CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / kool beats specialist Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). We’re going to keep it brief, as we have a bunch of books to look at this week — I got a copy of last week’s Satellite Sam and still have not had a chance to read it. We also have some Slice Into the Woods thoughts below about Banned Books Week (Check out and the American Library Association page for the list of most challenged books) and show your support to stopping any censorship efforts going down in your community and around the country. So, while I run out to stop my executive team from peeing on the tires of some pro-censorship psycho’s attempt to pull Jeff Smith’s wonderful graphic novel Bone (#10 on the Top Ten Challenged Books list) from the library’s shelves…actually, nah, I’m going to let Tulip and Obie do the deed, and then we’re off for some pollo asado tacos. While we do that, feast your peepers on this week’s…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Low #3
Low #3 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Greg Tocchini, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. The first issue of Low took me completely by surprise. Not because we received a well-written, and beautiful character study by Remender, but because were introduced to the man’s third amazing creator-owned comic in less than a year — the other two being Black Science and Deadly Class, of course. All three comics are still going strong in addition to Remender’s books at Marvel (which I need to read some day), but as of this issue Low snatched me up to drag me along on it’s magical yet terrifying journey. This is not to say I was floundering on the first two issues — I loved everything about them — this issue, however, moved us into the main story: that of a journey to the abandoned surface of the Earth to locate humanity’s last hope for survival. The first issue is the prelude, and the second a more in-depth introduction to the world and the character of Stel as she struggles to remain optimistic, while her self-destructive son follows the course of their people. The adventure to the surface begins with this third issue.

With the City of Salus’s remaining air supply spoiling and the inhabitants’s days numbered, Stel Caine’s hope for salvation arrives in the form of a returned space probe that might hold the roadmap to an inhabitable planet. Unfortunately, the probe has landed on the surface, a place long-abandoned over a millennia ago. If only the wealthiest and most powerful of Salus could pause their debaucherous, self-destructive behavior and listen to Stel for a moment, they would see the chance in front of them; giving up is easier than striving onward. Stel hopes to bring her son, Marik, with her, but she must act fast, else his despair consumes him.

This issue can be divided into two halves: the preparation for the journey, and the crossing of the threshold that marks the beginning of the journey. Each part is compelling, but for different reasons. When Stel shows up at the senator’s party (this book is not for the kiddies, let’s leave it at that), we see the excesses and ignorance of the ruling class, the very ones who helped hasten their own demise. They eat with abandon and allow food to rot as the greater populace starves; it’s a familiar setting that resonates all too clearly the greed and self-destruction of our own world. Remender shows us the depths of Marik’s despair and desperation as his resistance to his mother’s optimistic views leads him to a drastic choice. Then, Stel removes Marik from the small microcosm he had confined himself to and the adventure begins. This is the point when the chills hit me.

Tocchini’s art, character acting, and colors are striking during the beginning half of this issue; the warm-colored, monochromatic orgy scene and the complementary colors of Marik’s jail cell are gorgeous. This half stands out in its beauty, but then the double-page spread of darkness happens followed by the interior of the ship and the magical move into the wondrous ocean; it is here where I was wowed. The design on Stel and Marik’s wetsuits is stunning with the multiply-webbed areas and the long flowing flippers commanding appreciation and showing a sci-fi functionality that bursts from the page as the warm orange colors cut the cool blues of their surroundings. Then we see bizarre fish and and jellyfish and mammoths as Marik sheds his sadness for just a moment, and Toccini delivers the one-two punch of the final three pages that left me desperately wishing there was more to experience.

I had goosebumps on my first read through, denizens, and I am strapped in for this ride that looks to be my favorite book Remender is currently writing. If you are an adult / mature reader, then you need to be reading this spectacular sci-fi series. We are only three issues in, and I am so deeply hooked I want to mark off the days until issue four arrives and blows me away all over again. Remender tells us that life will not be easy for our characters going forward, but as long as we see more of this magical world and these wonderful characters, I will be there to see it all and cringe at what they are put through. A second printing of issue one is available, so catching up on this phenomenal new series is not too difficult and something I urge you to do as soon as possible. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Saga #23
Saga #23 - Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples, lettered and designed by Fonografiks, published by Image Comics. I know, I’m as shocked as you that the latest issue of Saga is not at the top of the list, it usually is — but that does not mean this issue was not as compelling and all-around awesome as it always is. In fact, this issue was freakin’ great, but if you read this series, then you already know that.

What does a husband / father do when he just had the worst fight in the entirety of his relationship with his wife / mother-of-his-child, and he has been kicked out of his rocket tree house? Simple, go see Ginny the bat-girl, who is already half of the problem between Marko and Alana to begin with. Meanwhile, Prince Robot IV is on the case of finding his abducted son, while said abductor’s killing spree leads him to a certain rocket tree house…

Friendo sighting in this issue, denizens. FRIENDO! Ahem…oh boy, that intro splash-page of Ginny spells all sorts of bad news, but geez Louise is she hot, and going off of Hazel’s narration, it looks like she is going to be around for a while. Again, bad news, but that is part of Saga’s charm. Vaughan and Staples have created a gorgeous sci-fi / fantasy universe, yet they ground everything in real-life situations: arguments over family and responsibility; dissatisfaction with routine; the dwindling of passionate fires; the meddling “other” woman; drug use; etc. Yes, we are planet hopping with multitudes of alien races, but these characters still deal with the same things we deal with or at least routinely see on television. The difference is these characters are so well developed and beloved that it hurts to see them suffer and behave poorly; we can’t help but frantically scramble to see what happens next, as we hope for things to turn out fine.

This comic book rules. I know it. Your life coach knows it. Even your dog knows it. I buy this series in issues, and also in trades which the Donist World intern (my wife) then reads. Come November, I will buy the super-duper-special-edition hardcover that contains the first 18 issues as well as loads of other groovy stuff. If you are not reading this series, then I am sad for you, because you are missing out on one of the best books to come out in quite some time. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Tao-Boy and Engine OGN
Tao-Boy and Engine - Written by Bret Bernal, illustrated by Al Bigley, colored by King Bola, lettered by Dave Sharpe, published by Markosia Enterprises. Full disclosure…I know this Bret Bernal cat. In fact, I know him pretty dang well. We met a few years ago in Andy Schmidt’s Comics Experience Creators Workshop and we’ve been friends ever since. Now, I’m not one to steer the denizens wrong, and I’m also not one to hurt a fellow creator’s feelings, and thankfully I don’t have to do either today.

Kan Yan, or rather Tao-Boy, is the youngest fisherman of his village and an adept student of the Tao. But when the evil forces of the oppressive ruler, Eelyaki, invade Tao-Boy’s village, abduct his grandmother, and take an artifact of great power, it is up to Tao-Boy to rescue her and keep Eelyaki from taking over the world. Thankfully, he has the aid of an amnesia-stricken robot to aid him on his journey. Thieves, giants, chases, and a monstrous ruler with an appetite for human flesh…oh my!

Bernal and Bigley’s graphic novel embraces something we don’t see all that often in today’s comic books: fun appropriate for all ages. Tao-Boy is likable, Engine is cool, Eelyaki is despicable in the best of ways, and the morally-questionable thief, Jia, are just a few of the many characters you will find. Tao-Boy and Engine is a mixture of sci-fi and fantasy that succeeds through Bernal’s compelling story, interesting and unique characters, and fluid dialogue. Bigley’s storytelling keeps you in the action, and his character designs, especially when it comes to Engine and Eelyaki, are just plain cool; I love the look of these guys and Jia reminds me of a girl I had a crush on many moons ago, but let’s not go there… King provides a vibrant color palette in a comic book landscape that tends toward dark and muddy color schemes, almost giving the book a classic feel. Combined, you get a tight comic that will have you smiling all the way to the finish line.

Clicking on the title or the image above will take you to Comixology, where you can buy the 66-page comic for the ridiculously low price of $3.99. You get three comics for the price of one Big Two book, and you can’t go wrong with that, especially given how enjoyable you will find this all-ages comic from this team of talented creators. Definitely check it out, and hopefully we see more of Tao-Boy and Engine’s adventures in the future. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Rachel Rising #28
Rachel Rising #28 - Everythinged by Terry Moore, published by Abstract Studio. Rachel and Zoey connect atop a building as Rachel digs for possible information regarding who killed her. Jet stops by Louis’s for a disturbing conversation. Then it’s off to Aunt Johnny’s place of employment for a few unsettling discoveries.

Rachel Rising continues to be my favorite horror-themed comic on the stands. Yes there is murder, demons, witches, plagues of rats, dead girls walking around like everything is fine, a murderous kid in possession of Lucifer’s sword, but there is so much more. There are also in-jokes, and tightly-knit relationships between characters Moore has expertly made us love ever since the first issue. We also have the creepy setting of Manson made real by Moore’s lovely illustrations, the crystal clear storytelling, and character acting that make each issue a pleasure to read.

This excellent series continues to keep me eagerly anticipating each issue as the characters begin to look into the mystery of who murdered Rachel. Rachel Rising is a comic more interested in portraying the fear of what’s out there as opposed to being just another splatter pr0n yawn-fest, while never forgetting to look at the human side of the main characters. Every issue features gorgeous art, a compelling story, and is deserving of being noticed far more than it actually has been. You can easily catch up with the first four trades, with a fifth coming some time at the beginning of the new year. All horror comic lovers should be reading this fantastic book…spread the word, denizens! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Chew #43
Chew #43 - Written and lettered by John Layman, illustrated and colored by Rob Guillory, color assists by Taylor Wells, published by Image Comics. Olive Chu has always excelled at every endeavor she has attempted, but then again, not everyone is an immensely powerful cibopath. As Savoy, Colby, and POYO! take Olive on her first trial mission, Tony Chu is stuck in Antarctica…oh boy, will he be mad when he finds out he was tricked into being as far away from his daughter as possible.

Spoiler Alert! Not. I’m still loving / in love with Chew. I believe there are only 17 issues left in the series — discounting any surprise POYO one-shots — but lets try not to think about that. Instead, let’s focus on the insanity that is this comic. We have a crazy world, a wacky premise, gross-outs abound, ridiculous situations, power sets that are completely outer limits, characters as lovable as they are bizarre, an artistic style unlike anything I have ever seen in a comic book, and pages containing both blatant and concealed jokes that leave you lingering on every panel. Nowhere else will you find surly, cigar chompin’ snowmen, or cybernetic luchador death chickens, or girls trained in the deadly art of tortilla weaponry. Not only that, seeing the portly Mason Savoy disguised as a starry-eyed bear mascot, holding a “Yum” sign no less, is just not something that goes down in most comic books…thank goodness for that.

If you’ve never read Chew, then you are probably a sick person who talks during movies and chews with your mouth open, but Dr. Donist has the prescription you need. You can pick up the first eight trades, or the first four hardcovers (like I double-dipped on), with no problem at all. The world is a dark place, denizens, so why not add in a little weird fun to brighten up your life. Hey, you owe it to yourself. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Sixth Gun #43
The Sixth Gun #43 - 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. The Knights of Solomon and the Sword of Abraham have been feuding with each other for quite some time, but the King of Secrets, the mysterious leader of the Knights of Solomon, seeks to put an end to the conflict once and for all. Drake, Becky, and Screaming Crow need to find Griselda the Grey Witch so they can attempt their risk-ladened plan to rid the world of the six guns once and for all. Their desperation will lead them to an unexpected conclusion as to what must be done.

I won’t lie to you, denizens, not a whole lot happens in this issue, as the creators set us up for the battle to come, which looks to be quite a doozy. This is fine. After loosing more than half of their group a couple issues ago, and being on the run ever since, the slowdown in pacing is a relief for us to collect our breath as we spiral toward the end of the series. I will admit to being a mite confused by the zombie guys and their declarations, but when it comes to the supernatural, sometimes you just have to roll with things. The art on this issue is as beautiful as ever, and I am still loving the freaky design of this King of Secrets character, who I hope to see more of in the future.

I’m not certain what happened with the whole television series, but I would rather see The Sixth Gun wrap up on the creators’ terms, and then see a television series come out. Until that day, new readers can jump aboard this awesome supernatural Western series via the trade paperbacks, and see what this highly creative series is all about. With a premise like The Lord of the Rings set in the old West, you can’t go wrong. RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Wood

Banned Books Week - No, I am not upset about Banned Books Week, rather I am upset there even has to be a Banned Books Week at all. It is fantastic that the ALA releases its list of most challenged books, and that they actively strive to prevent the attempted censorship of the written word, by an overly vocal minority bent on compromising our country’s freedom to decide what we can and cannot read. If you don’t like The Hunger Games (I love it), then don’t read it. If you don’t want your children reading the beautifully-illustrated and wonderfully-told graphic novel Bone — a pillar of excellence in graphic storytelling, btw — then try a different approach with your child, you know, parenting and possibly paying attention to what they are doing; leave everyone else’s children out of it.

The problem doesn’t stop there. I realize I am about to narrow the issue down to school libraries when books are challenged at public libraries far too often. Anyways, it is not just that children miss out on opportunities to be excited about reading, there is also a massive time and money suck involved when a book is challenged. It’s shocking to hear when a “concerned” parent-on-a-crusade begins with first an email to the school, then a phone call, then a personal appearance, followed by all sorts of disruptive behaviors (like storming a teacher’s class room during school…trust me, I know people this has happened to) that schools would never tolerate from its students, yet occasionally allow from an adult. Another problem, sadly, is that some librarians and teachers, not wanting the headache of yet another battle, might not even put a book on the shelf. This is done in fear of having to deal with a psycho parent bent on taking away everyone’s right to choose what they will or will not read in an effort to instill the parent’s all-encompassing, unflinching morality on everyone else. It’s a shame these censorship cuckoos are feared, much less granted the time of day, but alas they oftentimes get their way. Why let one adult take away every child’s ability to read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, when that book keeps them reading and/or helps them process certain situations pertinent to their own lives? If your kid wants to read Captain Underpants (#1 on the list for 2013, btw) and nothing else, why allow a stranger to bully the book out of the library, when that book is actually the bridge to your child’s eventual love of other literature.  

So, in honor of Banned Books Week, I ask that you visit the site, see what has been challenged, laugh at the stupidity involved, and then begin to worry that this is actually an issue. Once you have done that, then read a challenged book you already own, buy a new challenged book that you have never read (support authors!), and if you have the financial means then give a little somethin’ somethin’ to the American Library Association for all their hard work in keeping books available for us to decide which ones are worthy of our time. If you are a parent and hear of a book(s) being challenged at your school library, then please contact your school administrators and say that you want the book(s) kept available for each individual to choose if it is right for them or not, and for those administrators to stand up against the whims of censoring whackjobs.

***Side Note*** This reminds me I need to buy another Bone: The Complete Cartoon Epic In One Volume, because I showed it to my friend a long time ago, telling him that his very young, yet already smarter than this ol’ Donist, son should check it out. My friend took my copy believing I was giving it to him, but I bit my tongue and was later thrilled to hear his son had read it multiple times, and has been an avid reader of everything ever since. True story. (Hey Nick, when you eventually get to high school and start accepting résumés for whatever successful business you will eventually start, please keep me in mind. Cool? Cool.)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 9/19/2014

(Sung to the tune of Electronic’s “Getting Away With It”)

I’ve been thinking ’bout my books
Freaking myself out on purpose
The Private Eye’s on my mind
Would internet-free life be worse?
I’ve been reading great comic books all my life
(Reading great books)

However I look, it’s clear to see
Deadly Class is intriguing
However I look, it’s clear to see
Ellis’s Trees has sure hooked me

Over two decades old, and I still really love that song. Hello there, Donist World denizens! I’m back with our CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and our marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / getting-away-with-it specialist Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister) and we are trying to pull our collective acts together after this stoopidly hot heatwave. You see, even from the safety of our glorious corporate office (my mom’s non-air-conditioned basement) the heat was still getting to us…then we had to go home. Tulip and I sleep upstairs in a room with vaulted ceilings, a weak fan, and not much air circulation; it was miserable. Needless to say, neither of us slept at all for three whole nights. Obie tells us that at his “crib” (his words) it was so hot he snuck out of his crate, dumped all the ice from the ice cube trays onto the floor, placed a towel over them, and slept like a baby. Of course, now he’s grounded because of the two grand worth of water damage he caused to my friends’ hardwood floor. But whatchagonnado? It was hot. Thankfully, today is much cooler, so to celebrate we’re going to pause our efforts in maintaining our status as a Fortune 320,000 company, and we’re heading out for walk-’n’-talk meeting followed by a trip to the taco truck…my treat. So, grab a cold beverage of your liking and have a look at this week’s…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

The Private Eye #8
The Private Eye #8 - Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Marcos Martin, colored by Muntsa Vicente, published by Panel Syndicate. I love stories that have the whole this-is-a-look-at-the-world-that-might-be feel to them. Or rather, I love those types of stories until such a point that the writer’s fiction starts to transition toward reality. Such is the case with Rucka and Lark’s frightening Lazarus, and, of course, with Vaughan and Martin’s amazing The Private Eye. 

A severely-wounded DeGuerre and the ever-subdued Nebular are poised to see the fruits of their brutal labor, as they prepare to launch their satellite into orbit and tear down the privacy of the world in their bid to restore the flow of information; the internet might soon live again! P.I., however, could care less. All he wants is to get back his seen-better-days sidekick, Melanie, who just so happens to be in DeGuerre and Nebular’s custody. As the clock ticks on the restoration of the internet, so does the time left for Melanie’s life…the girl’s sharp, cruel tongue looks to hasten her demise.

You know what, denizens? I love this dang comic. This donation-only-(this-includes-free!) comic is so good, so thought-provoking, you will gladly kick down a couple bucks to the creators. Then, if you are like me, you’ll even throw in an extra dollar or two, because you are all giddy from that email that just informed you a new issue has become available. The amazing — and frightening — aspect of this comic is that it centers on a world where the privacy we thought a life in the cloud afforded us all, eroded in one fell swoop exposing everyone’s secrets, big and small; lesser versions of this actually happen all too often (see “Slice Into the Woods” below). If that wasn’t enough, the creators throw other glimpses of other worrisome concerns at us, such as global warming (aka SCIENCE! to all climate denying, dum-dums out there), and although what we see at the wall might be exaggerated (possibly not…again, SCIENCE!) it is shocking.

Vaughan and Martin are not completely one-sided in their depiction of a world without internet. Even the morally-reprehensible character of DeGuerre makes some very valid points concerning the flow of information, and how knowledge should be made available. But then, so does the battered and bruised character, Melanie. The funny thing is the creators keep saying they will never put The Private Eye into any sort of tangible form of print, which is a brilliant comment regarding what would happen to this very work if the events leading to the creation of their world actually did occur. Yes, maybe Martin actually used art boards when drawing each page, but the lettering would see different positioning, and thus the work as we originally saw it would be gone forever; if Martin illustrated digitally, this book would be lost along with the web. It’s crazy to think about.

Oh, yeah, the story and art are as tremendous as ever…in case you didn’t gather that from prior reviews.

The Private Eye always gets me thinking, but this is after I read each issue. During each read, however, I am swept away with this roller coaster ride of excitement. Brilliant writing and illustrations have made this “book” a Donist World darling  ever since the first issue, and this unbelievably compelling story leaves me frothing at the mouth for the final two issues. DANG! I cannot wait to see what happens next. Please support these amazing creators so we continue to benefit from the exceptional quality of their work…at least until the internet implodes. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Deadly Class #7
Deadly Class #7 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Wes Craig, colored by Lee Loughridge, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. After a brief hiatus, Deadly Class returns for its second arc. Remender is on a creator-owned roll with three tremendous titles currently seeing release (Black Science and Low are the other two must-read titles), and this is in addition to his well-received Marvel work, and his robust history that includes the phenomenal Fear Agent. After reading this issue of Deadly Class, the guy does not appear to be slowing down in the slightest…thank goodness for us.

Young love is in the air…as well as all the jealousy, doubt, and wandering eyes that go along with it. Also in the air is Marcus and his friends’ worry as to what He did with Chico’s body. Like Marcus, He has a family of his very own, all of whom are nearly as ruthless and terrifying as He. Meanwhile, someone close is not what he seems.

How’s that for vague? Removing the whole school-of-assassins aspect of the story, Remender perfectly captures the rush, the confusion, the conflicting emotions of young love. He mixes in the feelings of belonging for some, while not belonging for others, as he tackles the subject of depression and the tenacious grip it maintains on so very many. The lives of each character in Deadly Class are so richly steeped in reality, that you don’t even flinch when the fantastical elements of the murdered psychopath Chico, or He, or adolescents belonging to a school dedicated to killing arise. Through Remender’s characterization, dialogue, and intentionally chaotic thoughts via the captions, it’s all too easy to remember the tumultuous experience of being Marcus’s age — minus the assassinationing (deliberate word choice here, denizens), of course.

Craig’s art continues to be simply stunning. High-panel-density pages are the norm, and each and every one adds to the drama and escalation of the page to the point that when you come across a page with four or fewer panels, you are rattled by the transition; this is by design, something pivotal has just occurred. Craig’s character acting tells you most everything you need to know about a character and a scene, with the exception of the enigmatic Saya and the massively-scarred He (you can read His actual name in the book). Pushing the mood of Craig’s art is Loughride’s primarily analogous coloring scheme which does so much, with so little. Although there is little rendering, the mood and the storytelling skills delivered by his color palette are unmistakable.

I rarely mention letterers, it is the “invisible” art after all, but Wooton expertly steers a reader through the occasional dialogue-dense scenes without breaking the flow of the story. This is not an easy thing to do — I know — but Wooton makes keeping the eye moving through the story seem effortless to the point that most readers will fail to notice any of the word balloons.

So, yes, a couple months off, and Deadly Class does not miss a beat. This excellent title succeeds in capturing the chaos of youth, while mixing in a compelling story that is certain to appeal to mature readers who want something more than the usual capes and tights fare. Now is the time to jump on, as you can pick up the first trade (contains issues 1–6) for only $9.99 retail, and with this fantastic issue you will be all caught up on yet another great Remender comic. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Trees #5
Trees #5 - Written by Warren Ellis, illustrated by Jason Howard, lettered by Fonografiks, published by Image Comics. Most of the characters and locations since the first issue appear in some capacity as the trees continue to do nothing…or so it seems. Some try to spur the trees to action, one realizes his purpose as peace collapses, another’s potential is appreciated, as something shocking transpires in the frozen north.

If any of the above makes sense, then good…that’s really about all I can tell you about what transpires in this issue. This is not because I want to avoid spoiling anything, but rather because I really couldn’t tell you much more than that; anything else is beyond this Donist’s feeble mind to comprehend. That’s okay, though, I’m enjoying these glimpses into different parts of the world and the people who live in those places. This is a comic more about human nature, as opposed to the alien trees. So much so, we never even saw the trees’ arrival on Earth, we only see —thus far — humanity acting in its myriad of ways, regardless of whether or not that world includes the trees.

Howard’s artwork is as strong as ever, with his command of character acting and coloring driving the impact of every scene. One thing I can glean from Howard’s tremendous art is that this issue signals the beginning of many things to come, as indicated by varying color schemes, and the subtleties within each panel. Whatever is in store for us, I’ll be there to see it happen…I can’t wait. RECOMMENDED!

Supreme Blue Rose #3
Supreme: Blue Rose #3 - Written by Warren Ellis, illustrated by Tula Lotay, lettered by Richard Starkings, designed by John Roshell, published by Image Comics. Diana Dane continues her search for Ethan Crane…the blue rose that does not, and should not, exist. She is also being paid an incredible amount of money to do so by billionaire Darius Dax. As she rides in a limousine with some…uh…guy who just appeared there for no reason, he informs Diana that she is on a road that is 250,000 miles long and has taken countless lifetimes to traverse. Then…ummmm <cough, cough> a television show about someone called Professor Night means something or other, as (dang…I’m dyin’ over here) a hot redhead with cleavage molecules appears at a bar at Dax’s complex, a bar that doesn’t exist (what?!). Then...crud…a blue guy talks about something and an African-American Albert Einstein in a cool spacesuit steps out of a wrecked army medical vehicle (don’t text and drive, denizens!). Ummm…yup, that sure is what happened, alrighty.

I feel dumb.

What the heck? Even after writing down only what I see — the words kinda make things more crazy-complex — I feel the need to give my poor brain a break with some Rich Mean Housewives Who Dance While There Are Stars-a-Boo-Boo, just to make myself feel semi-intelligent again. So, no idea what’s going on, but I’m looking at this as a freakin’ challenge.

When the first story arc wraps, I’m going to detox from bad foods, beer, caffeine, and television for a good week. During that time, I will engage in some long runs, yoga, and meditation, while helping woodland animals. Then, and only then, will I light 44 candles in my Fortress of Donistude and reread each issue straight through. This will be no mere reading, but an osmosis of comprehension from the Ellisplane to the new pocket universe of my own making. That should help things make sense.

All joking aside — am I joking? — I still like this comic…whatever it is. Lotay’s artwork is stunning, magical, especially when depicting the gorgeous women…doubly so for those with molecule cleavage. The coloring on every page is jaw-dropping beauty that makes me wonder how she achieved the various effects she utilizes. The rainbow of squiggles that flow through panels and gutters and out into the bleed add to the visual delight of this book as well.

I ain’t going to lie to you, denizens, this is varsity-level comic booking. There are no capes and tights or cheerful, light-hearted moments, and things might not (yet) make sense, but my love of the creators will keep me coming back to see if I can figure out what is going on. So, if you want something truly not like anything else on the stands, then do some jumping jacks, some pushups, and give Supreme Blue Rose a read. Let me know what’s going on if you figure it out. RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Crud…I Forgot Satellite Sam #10 - Darn. Add that to the list of missing Image comics, alongside God Hates Astronauts #1 and Lazarus #10. Dang.

The Private Eye Got Me Thinkin’ (Oh No) - You remember what just happened a couple weeks ago? Some…not a very nice person(s)…shattered many female actresses’ perceived privacy by releasing countless nude photos of them on a methodically scheduled basis for all the world to see. In a sense, a small-scale version of The Private Eye played out right in front of our faces. This could have happened to you, it could have happened to me. (Un)fortunately, I don’t think I’m pretty enough to get this sort of treatment, but please know, denizens, I have been working out. Sadly, this is the world we now live in, the world of cloud computing, our “private” lives stored in cyber space even when we don’t know our camera / phone is placing that info up deep into the interwebs. We are practically told to change all of our passwords on a quarterly basis as passwords and personal information are routinely pilfered from any number of websites. Not only that, we now live in the age of services versus ownership, where computer software — I am specifically calling out Adobe here — is now rented to us with the only set of keys belonging solely to the company as handed down through an internet connection (which other companies are attempting prioritize based on $$$s); if the internet goes down, so does your access to those programs. It’s a scary world where nothing is private and we own less and less and less. If the internet ever goes down hard with all of our juiciest secrets up for grabs, just remember that Vaughan and Martin’s The Private Eye told you so.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 9/12/2014

(Sung to the tune of Twisted Sister’s “I Wanna Rock”)

Need good books you say
Well, all I gotta say to you is Lazarus is way cool, Bro
Yo, yo, yo, yo, yo, bro

How ’bout more you say
Well, East of West and Annihilator will melt your brain, again Bro
Yo, yo, yo, yo, yo, bro

So, Batman, Hawkeye also hit you with the flava
There’s only one thing I can say to you

Good comics rock
Good comics rock

Huh…I met Dee Snider once a couple decades ago at some sort of music convention thing back when I worked at a music store…nice guy. Anyhow…welcome to Donist World where I am not joined as ever by CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier), but I am joined by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / not-gonna-take-it specialist Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). Tulip and I are alone at the Donist World corporate office (my mom’s basement) today, because Obie got busted by my friends, because he keeps chewing up the baby’s toys instead of his own. Now, most normal businesses can't boast having a high-level executive who at one moment punishes some P&L statements, and the next finds himself getting punished for demolishing some expensive baby toys, but here at Donist World we look to refresh what we perceive as stale business models. So, as Obie sits at home, I have to say that it is rather pleasant being able to get work done without having to worry about my CFO trying to get into the petty cash drawer so he can hit up the taco truck. Even Tulip is more productive as she works away on a new secret project. <sigh of relaxed satisfaction> While we bask in the tranquility, have a look at this week’s Friday Slice of Heaven. Come to think of it…I could go for some tacos…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Lazarus #11
Lazarus #11 - Written Greg Rucka, illustrated by Michael Lark with Tyler Boss, colored by Santi Arcas, lettered by Jodi Wynne, designed by Eric Trautmann, edited by David Brothers, published by Image Comics. Now, denizens, if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s reading things out of order. In the past, I have sat on comics for months and months waiting for that one missed issue to arrive so I can read it and move on. Last month my copy of Lazarus #10 never showed up, and I still have not seen hide nor hair of it since its release. Next thing I know, I have the latest Lazarus issue in hand and although issue ten is supposed to be a stand-alone tale, I’m sure some matters relevant to the ongoing story transpired. But here I was at home, holding it, gazing at the cover, seeing Forever staring across a field of battle at what can only be another Lazarus. I broke, denizens. I couldn’t wait for issue ten to carry me through the sacred reading order that can never — nay, must never — be broken. Was it worth it? Did some important stuff transpire in said missed issue? Do I regret reading a book out of order? Would I do such a thing again? The answers are: yes; yes; a little, but dagnabbit I could not stop myself; possibly, for a comic this good. There is one positive…maybe Lazarus cured me of my little disorder.

Jonah Carlyle has managed to get himself captured by his family’s life-long enemy, the Family Hock. The feud is so bitter and so longstanding that Hock and Carlyle cannot meet in any manner. Thus, Hock contacts their ally the Family Bittner to serve as intermediary, who in turn sends their Lazarus, Sonja Bittner, to relay Hock’s message concerning Jonah. When a Lazarus arrives on your doorstep, you best listen.

I have to start with Lark’s art. The first three pages of this issue demonstrates Lark’s mastery of storytelling and drama just as evidenced by the sheer menace contained in Sonja Bittner’s body language. Holy cow. If I saw this woman approaching — whose character design is absolutely phenomenal, btw — I would cross to the other side of the street; if I knew who it was…I would probably be so scared I’d make the pee pee waters on the spot. Even with Sonja just walking toward the Carlyle security team, you see the taut, coiled-snake-waiting-to-strike posture that sure enough lashes out to annihilate a guard for a minor, yet understandable, offense. We cut to a new scene with Forever, that is perfectly acted, before returning to Sonja and many more guards. It is now nighttime in the story, the cutdown soldier lies dead in the blood-drenched snow as Sonja stands unmoving with the other guard facing the lethal end of her sword. There are now lights, reinforcements have arrived, and Lark gives the reader the sense that Sonja and the guard have been standing here like this for hours upon hours. Then Forever arrives to receive Sonja’s message. It is one of the most tense situations I have ever read in a comic book, and — spoiling things here — a fight never even breaks out between the Lazaruses (Lazarai?), which is a great decision for a book focused on intelligent drama as opposed to senseless action. I will say that the art in this issue left me wanting to do some jumping jacks or push-ups or anything to release the tension from this issue. I guess this is all the long way of saying that Lark has outdone himself yet again.

All props to the art aside, Rucka’s story is equally as amazing as it sets up each stressful moment mentioned above, beginning with Sonja delivering her emotionless demand three times, with each instance cranking up the tension, while giving a glimpse into this new character. Elsewhere, we see Forever begin to question whether or not she was actually born into the family (from last issue), and that the ultra-cool Marisol (also last issue…I really need to see what happened with her) is still alive and a confidant for Forever. Again through Lark’s art we see in Marisol’s eyes that she knows more than she is letting on, but Rucka’s dialogue lets us know Marisol cares for Forever, despite possibly being an informant. We also have Rucka’s brand of unease: the political kind that operates in the shadows. With both visual and written stress escalating your heart rate from the beginning of the issue to the end, don’t plan on going to sleep or relaxing anytime soon.

So Lazarus…If you aren’t reading it, buy it. You can buy this issue and the first two trades and be completely caught up (eleven issues for roughly $24). Yes, this book is frightening in its look at where the world might be heading. Yes, every issue stresses me out of my gourd. Yes, you will be thinking about Lazarus for a while after putting it down. To be honest, I would not have it any other way. A fantastic comic book. VERY HGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Annihilator #1
Annihilator #1 - Written by Grant Morrison, illustrated by Frazer Irving, lettered by Jared K. Fletcher, designed by John J. Hill, edited by Greg Tumbarello (associate) and Bob Schreck, published by Legendary Comics. I like pleasant surprises. Here I walk into my LCS and the owner calls across the counter “Hey, Donist, there’s one copy left of Annihilator. You might want to check it out.” So I did. A couple things: I knew a new non-Big Two Morrison book was on the horizon; I like a lot of Morrison’s work; I am especially interested in seeing more creator-owned stuff from him (Happy is great and worth checking out); Frazer Irving is a beast of an artist whose pages bewilder me in regard to how he makes them look so dang gorgeous. Let’s face it, denizens, I’m lucky I got this issue.

Ray Spass (pronounced “space”) is a once popular Hollywood screenwriter on the verge of slipping into obscurity, and all the drugs and hookers in LA can’t help him. After Ray receives a horrifying health diagnosis, his life seems over until his own sci-fi creation, Max Nomax, pays him a visit.

Whoa, now! This issue is 32 pages of Morrison and Irving awesomeness. Morrison’s depiction of Ray Spass gives us a glimpse into this damaged man’s world as his life spirals downwards. Spass is a manic, desperate, egomaniac clutching at anything that will give him that edge, that spark, that one thing to return him to the lofty stars he lost after his first two blockbuster hits. Morrison develops the character well as Spass attempts to be crazy and weird (half-shaved head, creepy murder house, drugs, sex, emotional outbursts) to the point of making Spass almost completely unlikeable. However, as much as you dislike Spass, you can’t help but be fascinated and enveloped in the character’s situation. The fictional-fictional character of the series, Max Nomax, is intriguing, mysterious, and someone I want to know more about, whether he is in the groovy fictional-fictional world, or the plain ol’ regular fictional world. The story alone makes this book a must read.

Irving…if you’ve read my reviews of the must-own Xombi mini, or issues nine through ten of The Shade maxi, then you know what I think of this guy. His storytelling and acting are top notch, but it is the final renders and his color palette which consistently blow my mind. His command on when and where to apply complementary, analogous, monochromatic, or tertiary colors to enhance the mood of a scene is extraordinary — the pages of the party with the blue room contrasted with the lit, yellow room are awesome — and so very pretty; his pages are mesmerizing. The art alone makes this book a must read.

Yes, I really liked this first issue and I look to be here for the long haul. A fascinating story and gorgeous art give you everything you could want in a book that makes you think and will leave your mind spinning…and spinning…and spinning…until the next issue arrives. I loved this. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

East of West #15
East of West #15 - Written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Nick Dragotta, colored by Frank Martin, lettered by Rus Wooton, published by Image Comics. Speaking of stressful comics… I have commented before that East of West ain’t your freshman-level comic book. Hickman and Dragotta have a ton of characters and stories playing out at all points and time. Often, you are chucked right in the middle of a story with characters you have never met before and the creators trickle out the information deliberately through flashbacks, mannerisms, and dialogue. You might not understand what is happening on a given page at that moment, but you can rest assured that insight and understanding will come with patience and your undivided attention.

Xiaolian unleashes her “Dragons” and her “Widowmakers” upon the world as the Nation brings war to the Republic. Meanwhile, the son of Xiaolian and Death, “the Beast,” prepares to meet three-fourths of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse who mean to see him dead.

It has been a while since we have seen the Beast — who has now acquired the name of Babylon — and after reading this issue, I hope to see much more of him; with the direction of this story, I can safely expect to be equally happy with future issues. I also love his floating companion / instructor, Balloon, whose advice and counsel takes an interesting turn by the end of the issue. Babylon’s design reminds me of a bleached out version of something straight out of Akira, and I mean that as the highest complement. The character stands in sharp contrast to the rest of the cast of the series while at the same time fitting perfectly into the sci-fi portion os this sci-fi / horror / political /fantasy / Western / post-apocalyptic epic. It was also kind of cool to see the usually snotty Horsemen get their behinds handed to them.

In less capable hands, a genre mashup like East of West would never work. It actually shouldn’t work. But between Hickman’s meticulous plotting and dialogue and Dragotta’s stunning storytelling and character designs the creators not only make the impossible possible, they make the book a heck of a compelling read. You can readily pick up the first two trades, with the third arriving in October that should contain this issue. East of West is a complicated, yet vastly rewarding title you do not want to miss. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Hawkeye #20
Hawkeye #20 - Written by Matt Fraction, illustrated by Annie Wu, colored by Matt Hollingsworth, lettered by Chris Eliopoulous, published by Marvel Comics. So this is it, denizens. The end of Hawkeye is nigh as we head into the final three issues of Fraction, Aja, and Wu’s vision of this fantastic series.

Kate Bishop and Pizza Dog’s time in Los Angeles comes to an end, as Madame Masque ups the malevolent pressure, and Kate learns a few shocking truths.

I’m not completely sure what all of the delays on this title have been about, but I will say that the LA storyline has been going on for a very long time compared to the number of issues we have seen. That said, although I prefer the Clint portions of this series, the Kate-centric issues have been highly enjoyable, especially with Wu’s beautiful art. I especially like the first page mugshots of a beat-all-to-heck Kate that consists of only two panels, two captions, and the use of extensive white space to pull you into the story. The non-chronological progression threw on occasion, but once I worked out each scenes timeline, I was good to go. I love how the story ends not in the best of places for Kate, but her loss in this issue provides some timely righteous anger that gives her the motivation to look into certain personal matters (nope, I ain’t spoilin’ here) going forward.

Hawkeye has been my favorite Marvel title for a while now, and this is in spite of the numerous delays between issues, and the jumping about between characters and locations. I will be sad to see this book go — its current incarnation at any rate — but more than that, I’m anxious to see how things end up with Clint, Buddy, and the Clown and what roles Kate and Pizza Dog play in this two-issue finale that will hopefully not take a year to complete. If you wish to catch up on this mold-breaking-but-fun series, you can pick up the first two trades now, and a third trade collecting the Kate Bishop stories will be along in short order. RECOMMENDED!

Futures End #1
Batman: Futures End #1 - Written by Ray Fawkes, story by Ray Fawkes and Scott Snyder, art by ACO, colored by FCO Plascencia, lettered by Dezi Sienty and Carlos M. Mangual, published by DC Comics. Here we go again. As I touched upon last week with the really cool Swamp Thing: Futures End #1, We get another gimmicky 3D cover, but for some reason us lucky consumers are spared the $1.00 price increase, as the cover price remains the same as the regularly scheduled Batman programming. We are not, however, spared the five-year look ahead as to what is in store for ol’ Bats for this “event,” but that is okay, as the story is pretty entertaining.

For only a five year jump, Batman is looking and feeling rundown. Not only does he look like a sixty-year-old man, his heart is not doing well, his reflexes are down, and the exoskeleton supporting his shattered spine only has a limited charge. But crime does not rest, nor does it age, wither, or die. Knowing this, Batman heads out to confront an exceedingly high-profile villain.

Yeah, I have no idea what happened to our hero, but I was able to pick up on where the characters were at emotionally, and that they needed something exceptionally rare to fix Batman back to his normal self. The story is entertaining, exciting even, and stand in artist ACO does a commendable job taking us through the action. There were a couple panels I found a tad confusing, but they weren’t enough to remove me from the story. This is a fun issue, and the implications of the final page are interesting in that they show Batman venturing into realms of thinking I never thought he would consider. That said, my complaint with the Swamp Thing: Futures End story carries over to this title as well: I would rather see the events play out chronologically and then actually be surprised as the surprises happen. Still, this is a solid issue of Batman, and I am excited to see what happens next…five years from now. RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

I Really Wish I Had My Copies of Lazarus #10 and God Hates Astronauts #1 - Bummed. Just bummed. Oh well, I’ll find them soon enough.


Friday, September 5, 2014

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

(Sung to the tune of Sisquo’s “Thong Song”)

skipping ahead a bit in the song…

You want to know all the hip new books?
And choose to peruse ones worth your looks
Somethin’ that will deep set in its hooks
’Cause Southern Bastards is kinda loca

There’s a man with a stick, whump, whump
Corrupt chumps, chump, chump
Plant a headbutt, butt, butt
I think I’ll read it again

Next was born in a swamp, swamp, swamp
Fightin’ the Rot, Rot, Rot
All night long
Let us read Swamp Thing

Baby…Swamp ThingThingThingThingThing
I like where this story goes
Baby make your booty go
Down to your LCS to show
Swamp ThingThingThingThing, Thing

Ooooookay…wow. That song is pretty dang offensive, so let’s not over-think it. All I know is that I decided to set the iTunes on random and of the 18,000+ songs in my collection — I worked at a music store for six years many moons ago — that is what popped up. Hey, it could have been the David Hasselhoff album, Milli Vanilli (don’t ask), or who knows what else. Annnnnddddd…Hello! Welcome back to Donist World. I’m joined as ever by CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / pumpkin-flavored-food specialist Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). Dang, it looks like we only had two comics in our pull this week on account of still missing the latest Lazarus and somehow missing out on the new God Hates Astronauts, which really bums all of us out here in the corporate office (my mom’s basement). Obie is still on his MBDM kick (management by dungeon mastering) and is claiming that we essentially rolled a one for our savings throw, and are to remain at the office (basement) all weekend as if we had been hit with the paralysis of a ghast. It’s a bummer. What we should do is drive down to Ventura to the awesome Hypno Comics to correct the situation, but I don’t think we have time to do that. Oh well, I should have some credit from showing up any day now, so I will order them then. The good news is that the two book we did pick up were incredible.

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Southern Bastards #1
Southern Bastards #4 - Written by Jason Aaron, art and color by Jason Latour, lettered by Jared K. Fletcher, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. I’m not going to spoil this issue, denizens. Nope. Not gonna do it. You’re just going to need to read this issue to see what happens. I will say that I was not at all expecting what went down, or how it went down, or how this issue ends; as a reader this is great. If you are not picking up this fantastic series — and seeing as how there are three printings of issue one, and two printings of issues two and three, you should have little problem finding them — just know that you cannot just pick up this month’s installment and start reading. You MUST start at the beginning and get to know Earl as you peer into the darkness of Craw County, Alabama, and see the wicked grip Coach Boss has upon its citizenry. Only then will this issue provide the brutal gut punch of an ending, followed by the eye-opening epilogue that made me mutter “”

Esaw and his boys sure took care of the Ledbetter kid. In fact, the boy now lies barely breathing in a hospital with multiple broken bones. Truth be told, he’ll never be the same again, and Earl Tubb is partially to blame. With great anger in his heart, and a need to set things right, Earl heads into town itching for a fight and to end the rampant corruption plaguing Craw County. He never counted on what awaits him…

I’m kind of at a loss for feelings on this one, denizens. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I know I desperately need to have the next issue. I know the main story left me feeling all sorts of beat up. I also know the epilogue I keep mentioning took me completely by surprise and got my heart racing for what the revelation means for the remainder of the series. *Excuse me a moment...ARRRRGHH. Okay. I feel better.* Anyhow, I had certain assumptions about Southern Bastards, many in fact, and it looks like nearly all of them are out the window. Is this first arc a prequel? Is the next arc, which Aaron states centers on Coach Boss, a glimpse into the corrupt man’s past, or is it a glimpse of this coldblooded-bastard’s present? I have no idea, but I’m sooooo ready to see how it all goes down.

Latour’s art on the previous three issues was already stellar, but something clicked in him with this issue. The stark drama of every scene leaves the reader reeling as they feel the emotionally-wrecked Earl’s pain after seeing the destruction his involvement in Craw County matters has wrought. Yet, you can’t help but stand by this character as he strives to set things right, even though he his faith in justice is overshadowed by the reality of the situation. Latour captures it all: the pain, the sadness, the horror, the anger, the resolution, the pleading for everyone to do what’s right. He couples the drama with an intense adherence to the smooth flow of storytelling, as can be seen in the brutal fight scenes, which are beautiful in spite of the violence being depicted We also see this on the intense 24-panel, double-page layout — which contains a single panel hinting at the epilogue, btw. Furthering his tremendous line work is Latour’s colors, which cool the sad scenes and steadily warm to an inferno of oranges and reds during the violence. So, yeah, I liked the art quite a bit.

I know I’m giving little away, and if you aren’t convinced to run out and scrounge up these four issues, it looks like a $9.99 trade will be released in October, which will make things easier on you, but that means you have a bit of a wait on your hands…if you’re like me, waiting ain’t your strong suit, so grab the issues. With Southern Bastards, you aren’t going to find capes and tights, werewolves or zombies, magic or super-science, but you are going to find a dang compelling, beautifully-illustrated story that will leave you scrambling for more more more. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Swamp Thing:
Futures End #1
Swamp Thing: Futures End #1 - Written by Charles Soule, illustrated by Jesus Saiz, lettered by Dezi Sienty and Taylor Esposito, colored by Matthew Wilson, published by DC Comics. Okay, here we go again with the “crossover” / “event” madness creeping into a book I have been enjoying greatly since the launch of the New 52. Now, I have ZERO idea what the whole “Futures End” storyline-event-thingamajiggy thing is about, I just know that I like Swamp Thing and that is what I want to read. Upon picking up the comic, I immediately balked at the gimmick cover, but after staring at it a moment, tilting it this way and that to see Swamp Thing morph into the avatar of metal, I have to admit I was kind of impressed. I was much less impressed with the $3.99 price tag, though, but the cost of a gimmick cover has to be passed on to someone, so why not the loyal reader, y'know? I also have to say that every time something rubs against this 3D cover it sets my teeth to rattling, but maybe that is just me. But, even with the gimmick cover, the increased price tag, and the storyline interruption of the “event,” I really dug this issue.

Because of the “Futures End” storyline, every single New 52 DC comic jumps ahead five years from where we last left off. Told in the manner of a fairytale we join the Swamp Thing as he embarks on a quest to rally the support of the avatars of the Grey, the Red, the Machine, and the Divided (bacteria) in Alec’s bid to put an end to the evil of Anton Arcane, restored as the avatar of the Rot. Unfortunately, Arcane has a trump card.

In spite of this issue being a complete break from the regularly scheduled programing, I enjoyed this “Futures End” story immensely. I loved seeing the Grey return and the story Soule has hinted at concerning its avatar is pretty cool. The addition of the new dominions of the Machine and the Divided are exceptionally clever, with each having its odd, yet fascinating, characters and worlds. I was also surprised and happy to see the return of Arcane and Abigail, as well as a return to the horror elements I loved so much in Swamp Thing #23.1 (on sale for $.99 at Comixology until 9/9/2014), which was a tremendous issue even though it was part of the “Forever Evil” money grab. For this “Futures End” book, though, I mostly LOVED everything about this jump forward in time book. Emphasis on the mostly.

What I did not like is the fact that we catch the tail end of a storyline I would have rather seen play out over the course of a year. We have already been introduced to the Grey, but the Divided and the Machine are completely new. We even get a hint that the Machine “…almost took it all,” but instead of blatantly being told that, I would have rather seen it occur. The introduction of these new kingdoms could have made for some great comics, but now we already know the end. I also gave a sigh of disappointment that one of the things that saves the day involves a certain artifact from a popular superhero title; I assume this ties the book into the main event, which is somewhat of a bummer — I still wish Swamp Thing was kept mostly apart from the superhero books, but whatchagonnado.

Even though I have some pretty big complaints about this issue, I still really enjoyed reading it. The strong story pulled me in immediately, but it was made even more impressive with Saiz’s absolutely incredible art. Saiz presents some highly inventive character designs on avatars both new and old, making the design of the Machine’s avatar, the Processor — a featureless robot until it suits up into its more intimidating form — so very groovy. The different worlds are equally impressive, especially when Wilson’s colors provide a relevant haunting, or sterile, or chaotic mood to the appropriate Kingdom.

Long story short, I loved this issue, and if you are a fan of this incarnation of the Swamp Thing, then you should definitely seek this issue out. My biggest gripe with this book comes from the requisite last-second superhero interference that unfortunately tends to accompany these “event” books, and forces me to drop the “VERY” portion of my rating. Still, this comic comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

What I Have Been Up To - I'm close to being done with my kids / all-ages novel. The first draft was completed over a year ago, and has since gone through MANY drafts. I also hired a content editor — one of the best decisions I have ever made — and implemented those story changes into a big rewrite earlier this year. Then I did yet another draft / polish. Needless to say, I am getting tired of looking at this book…I’m ready to start the followup.

With the story finally “done” — at least until my English teacher wife goes through it once again (“Honey, I promise it is waaaaaaayyyy better than that complete mess you read last year”) — I spent the past couple weeks working on turning a Word DOCX file into the Kindle-ready format known as MOBI. This has not been easy and learning how to do all of this had a fairly steep learning curve with much failure, but I’m mostly certain I finally have it all down. Yes there are services that handle file conversions, but I do not want to give away any additional royalty percentages, or list anyone else under the copyright but me, and more than anything I really wanted to do it all myself.

*Warning: Techie Stuff* For the more techie individuals, here is what worked, but ultimately created a much too large a file and a Table of Contents (ToC) I did not like. I used Amazon’s Kindle plug-in for InDesign and placed my DOC file (converted from DOCX) into a page, where I then began setting up styles that could build a ToC). This took a while, but for some reason the exported MOBI file was 4MB+, which is ridiculous as there is only one low-res image (temp cover) and the book would be just over 200 pages if I printed the files out. Unacceptable. I then made some changes and something happened that popped out a 850KB file, which was better, but still too large and the ToC only had chapter headings and not the chapter titles. I couldn’t fix this, so I started over on a new technique.

*Warning: More Techie Stuff* What did work was I found help through a blogger’s immensely informative tutorial (I will point to this person’s blog once everything is done). I ended up adding HTML tags to my DOC file for paragraphs, for indents, smart quotes, accents, copyright symbols, ellipses, em dashes, etc, and then removed ALL page breaks. I saved this as a TXT file to strip out even more formatting, and then made a copy, which I then manually changed the file type to HTML. From there I downloaded the free Sigil (an EPUB editor) and began creating styles, applying headers, formatting, splitting chapters, creating both ToCs, and changing each ToC to what I wanted to see. It was pretty brutal, but once I got into the swing of things, it all went smoothly. A save to EPUB gave me a 300KB file...hooray. Unfortunately, when I loaded the EPUB into Amazon’s free Kindle Previewer (awesome app, btw), it created a MOBI file for me. When I reloaded this into Previewer, I saw that everything was looking very professional and each TOC worked flawlessly. Unfortunately, the MOBI file bloated up to 800KB for some reason. I then made a copy of the EPUB, and downloaded the free Calibre application and ran the EPUB through, which generated a 300KB MOBI file that worked like a dream on the Kindle Previewer. Next I will email it to my wife’s Kindle so she can take it for a test spin.

Aside from last minute changes resulting from Amy’s feedback, I will next design and create the actual cover (I know, I know, but there’s a reason I’ve gone through seven graphic design courses this year), buy a block of ISBNs, setup my KDP account with Amazon, and it’s ready to cut loose.

For this book, I have not attempted to go the agent and publisher route. My goal was to write a novel (my second) and take it from start to finish with only an incredibly valuable content editor and some test readers to help me along. I did this because: 1) I wanted to; 2) I love learning new things; 3) I did not want this book to bounce around ignored in a vast limbo for years on end; 4) I wanted to retain ALL rights to my property; 5) I intend to create comic book mini-series from the property in between novel releases, and I do not want anyone telling me who can or can’t help me with this (artists, guest writers, etc.).

For now, all I will say is that the book is about…you guessed it, Tulip and Obie, but in very different rolls than can be found in each weekly Donist World post. Like I said, this is a kids / all-ages book, and is upbeat, lighthearted, and hopefully tons of fun. More to come as things near completion.

Slice Into the Woods

Dang, I missed God Hates Astronauts #1 from Image Comics! - Crud…Oh well, looks like I have to order it or take a special trip down to Ventura to see if I can score a copy. I worship the Kickstarter hardcover version (I gush about it here), and you can check it out yourself — and you should — by picking up the trade. I definitely want to get my weird on with this crazy, wacky, fun series.