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.)

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