Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 10/10/2014

(Sung to the tune of Tony Toni Toné’s “If I Had No Loot”)

If the book rocks, I want you to read it
and read it good
ah-ah, ah-ah-yeah, ah-ah-hah

Groovin’ on Sex Crims, a comic I adore
A title not to be shorted by my local store
But also awaits cool Wytches and Black Science
Chills and thrills and not a fleeting dalliance

And so you can call on this Donist for books to add to your list
They’re there, y’see, a kick in the pants to boot,
You gotta read ’em
I’m just glad to tell some truth
That Infinity’s a deal
I just want to do what’s right by you

Another night of little sleep (see “Slice Into the Woods”), so let’s get right to it. I’m Donist and I’m joined as ever by CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / neighbor disturbance specialist Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). Even though I am massively sleep deprived, I see no reason why I should not belatedly cut into this cake that Obie prepared for my 19th 26th birthday. I know he and Tulip are excited about it, because they are circling me like a couple of starved hyaenas eager for a piece. Even though it says “Happy Berfday Donut!” I’m pretty sure he meant “birthday” and “Donist” — he is a dog after all — let’s give him a pass. So it…gawd…ugh…this cake is abysmal. I should have remembered that dogs cannot eat chocolate and instead of cake, Obie ground up his duck-flavored kibble and baked it into a bread like substance…that he then covered in vanilla frosting. Man, while I tell myself it’s the thought that counts and go to gargle some mouthwash for the next couple of hours, have a look at the below announcement, and all the groovy books in this week’s…

Friday Slice of Heaven

The image in the top left corner
is from my story “Sunny Side”
My Story “Sunny Side” To Appear In Rise: Comics Against Bullying - I will get into it a bit more in a separate post in the next couple of days, but my story “Sunny Side” will appear in an issue of the anthology Rise: Comics Against Bullying which has just seen a Kickstarter pop up, and it is currently at 25% of goal with 23 days to go! Bullying is a terrible problem of which I am unfortunately all too familiar with (I got off lucky compared to many kids, though), and is something that needs to be better addressed and understood by kids, parents, teachers, and administrators alike. The books will be distributed by GLAAD, Stand For the Silent, and Prism Comics, and contains stories and art by new creators like me and “Sunny Side” artist Brian Gilman, and by superpros such as Howard Chaykin, Marc Guggenheim, Chris Roberson, and many others. I am thrilled to be contributing my story to a worthy cause, and hope you can make a pledge, no matter what size, to help bring this incredible project to life. Please have a look at the Kickstarter page to see what it is all about!

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Sex Criminals #8
Sex Criminals #8 - Written by Matt Fraction, illustrated by Chip Zdarsky, color flats by Becka Kinzie, edited by Thomas K, produced by Drew Gill, published by Image Comics. *FYI…this title is not for the kiddies. Mature readers only* I can’t begin to tell you how brimping happy I am when this title appears in my pull, denizens. The thing is, I watch my pull like a brimping hawk and barring any publisher / distributor last-minute changes / brimp-ups, I look ahead to know what’s coming for the next couple of weeks. I knew Sex Criminals was set to drop on Wednesday. Still…even though I know when the book is due, I get all giddy each time I flip through my potential purchases and find it there. Imagine my surprise when this issue wasn’t in my brimping pull this week. I had two of the three expected books, and four other things my LCS slipped in there that I didn’t want, but the key book — the hot brimper for which I went all the way downtown to buy — was not there. I was brimping brimped! I’m not sure what happened, but when I expressed my outrage (aka…openly sobbing at the cash register in front of the Magic the Gathering card purchasers and that one guy who carries around his copy of the Overstreet Price Guide to verify the LCS prices for deals / price gouging), the owner magically produced a copy of the book. He basically took it from someone else’s pull, which is fairly brimped up…amirite? But you know what? No one brimps the Donist! This goes doubly so when it comes to the brimping fantastic Sex Criminals comic. The Donist is a 24-year-long customer who was at the LCS the day the store opened. The Donist speaks in the third person and has no brimping problem making anyone uncomfortable by turning on the brimping waterworks. All that said, did I like it? You bet your bottom dollar I did. It was brimptastic!

Taking a bit of a relationship break, Suzie meets the world’s sexiest and most-put-together gynecologist, Robert Rainbow, as John has an informative meeting at the food court. Three-wheelin’ (or is it four-wheelin’?) is awkward. Suzie receives a devastating blow.

C’mon, the vagueness of the above synopsis has to spike your curiosity about this book somewhat…right? Anyways, Fraction and Zdarsky continue to deliver one heck of a beautiful and fun book. The dialogue expertly defines each individual character, oftentimes traversing into the uncomfortable in how true, how brutally honest some moments might be. Yet, even when such intense topics as depression, medication, possible sexual incompatibility, or love arise you don’t find yourself becoming sad or down, because you are either laughing the next moment at Fraction’s words, or Zdarsky’s art reveals something completely ridiculous. The prime example from this issue is when Robert Rainbow informs Suzie in wonderful detail about the different methods of birth control (including some statistics and science, denizens). But Zdarsky creates some powerful imagery in both Suzie’s actual facial expressions, and through Suzie’s imagining Robert stripping as he delivers the info; the awesome analogous color scheme of the pictograph running in the background is simply gorgeous…and a crackup to boot. The amazing thing about this issue, alongside the humor, is how in a limited space the creators handle a highly informative look at both birth control and depression; again it is truthful, it is honest. To further add to the wonderful character acting, the differently colored thought captions pertaining to each character is a nice touch that deepens my love of this book. On a side note, I think I need a couple “Running is Bullshit” shirts for when I’m out there huffing and puffing and staving off the blahs myself — love it.

All of the The Smurfs-type talking in the intro above, and the idea that the creators should create a cartoon show called The Brimps (Fraction and Zdarsky, contact Obie for the details on The Brimps! cartoon) aside, Sex Criminals continues to be one of my top three comics hitting the shelves. I absolutely love this series and I will be rereading the first trade ahead of the mountains of other reading material I have teetering menacingly nearby; I simply NEED to experience everything all over again. If you have not read this book, and you are mature enough to handle it, then you can’t go wrong with TIME Magazine’s #1 graphic novel of 2013. The one caveat I have had to buying this book in trade form has been the omission of the hilarious / earnest / informative letters column “Letter Daddies,” but thankfully that problem has been solved with the December hardcover release of Just the Tips that I now have to order. I love this brimping funny book, and I kind of suspect you will, too. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Wytches #1
Wytches #1 - Written by Scott Snyder, illustrated by Jock, colored by Matt Hollingsworth, lettered by Clem Robins, edited by David Brothers, published by Image Comics. Witches used to be green-skinned hags with large noses, cackling, stirring up a cauldron of potions, and generally getting up to mischief. Now, witches are cute, or sexy, or fun-loving. Wytches are neither of those things, yet so much more. The Cray family learned this, and now it looks like the Rooks family is set discover the same thing, as a horrifying event from young Sailor Rooks’s past comes back to haunt her.

Oh my goodness, denizens, I dug this first issue. Snyder’s roots lie deep in the horror genre, and he reminds us of this within the first four pages. Having spent the first ten years of my life in Akron, OH, and knowing full well the thrills and scares residing within the woods, Snyder immediately taps into the strongest, creepiest elements country living has to offer, and then begins the story of the Rooks family. We quickly meet Sailor and her illustrator father, followed by Sailor’s mother, who is confined to a wheelchair for reasons as yet unrevealed. Through cleverly concealed exposition and natural dialogue we learn how this family works and some traumatic event(s) had happened in the past. Snyder then reveals exactly what happened to Sailor back in their old hometown, and the events are chilling and in turn open up many more questions. Things only get crazier from there.

I’m used to seeing Jock’s art on the superhero titles or the crime titles, but this is the first I’ve seen of his horror work. If the cold shiver coursing through my body at the glimpse of the tree, the woman, the look on the boy’s face, the man in the woods, the bully in the woods, the deer, another woman in the tree, the teeth…basically every dang thing in this issue is unnerving; I love it. The character acting is fantastic as we see Sailor’s father, Reg, being a goofball for his daughter’s benefit one moment, and then once she leaves on the bus a silent panel shows us exactly how this man feels.

Adding to the mood of every moment of this book are Hollingsworth’s dark colors and background textures, with the key scenes of Sailor and her bully meeting in the woods. This is also true of the creepy first four pages. With this issue of Wytches we get an awesome bonus for process junkies like myself, in that the creators provide the script for the fourth page, then the inked art for that page, and finally the colors-only page four. Both the inked page and the colored page are gorgeous in their gruesomeness, especially when you see the impact both art forms add separately, and more so on the finished page. I would actually love to see a black and white version of the rest of this book, and one that is colors only (no line art), but whatchagonnado?

Aside from being impeccably-written, beautifully illustrated and colored, and scary-as-all-get-out, the first issue of Wytches clocks in at 28 pages and a $2.99 price point that the Big Two could learn a thing or two from. The funny thing is that I flew through this book, and when I came to the end, I wished I had another 28 pages to curl up with, while I shivered under the covers as I read with my flashlight. This is creepy stuff, denizens, and if you like that sort of thing, like I do, then you simply must pick this up…if you can find a copy. Wytches #1 is a fantastic start and comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Black Science #9
Black Science #9 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Matteo Scalera, painted by Dean White, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. As we catch a glimpse of Rebecca’s tragic past, Grant McCay’s (possibly-not-long) surviving children, Nate and Pia, are on the run alone on a deadly world. Sword-wielding goblins, sentient and well-spoken centipede creatures bearing the “onion” coat of arms, and the return — sort of — of a lost colleague await.

Without even reaching page two, I have to say I would PROUDLY hang both the cover and page one on any wall in my home if the creators (hint-hint) decided to release them as posters. Anyhow, this issue slows things down a bit — if you can call trolls and giant bugs slowing things down — but is still highly entertaining, if not a tad confusing. I believe this is by design, and things will become as clear as the creators wish to make them come the next couple of issues.

Black Science continues to be a fantastic series, and although this issue did not grab me as much as the previous issues, that does not mean it was in any way bad. Quite the opposite actually, and I cannot wait to see what happens next on this tremendous series. If you have not been reading yet another of Image Comics’s amazing success stories by these amazing creators, you can catch up with the first trade ($9.99 retail for six issues!) and then just pick up issues 7–9, which I strongly encourage you to do. Treat yo’ self! RECOMMENDED!

Infinity TPB
Infinity TPB - Written by Jonathan Hickman with Nick Spencer; illustrated by Mike Deodato, Stefano Caselli, Marco Rudy, Marco Checchetto, Jim Cheung, Jerome Opeña, Dustin Weaver, Leinil Francis Yu, Mark Morales, Guillermo Ortego, Dave Meikis; colored and lettered by too many exceptionally talented folks to list; published by Marvel Comics. As half of the Avengers head off to distant galaxies to combat the threat of the deadly “Builders,” the remaining Earth-stuck members find themselves fighting back the threat of Thanos the Mad Titan’s murderous “Black Order.” Interstellar alliances are built and shattered in this taut thriller of political intrigue and secrets coming to light.

Remember last week when I was freaking out (in the best of ways) about Avengers Versus Thanos TPB beast of a book? Well, coming off the high of that mixed with a frustrating bout of insomnia — no more late-night coffee yogurt with chocolate chips for me, boy howdy — I hammered through the monstrous Infinity TPB over the course of four days. This tome is stuffed to the gills with Marvel cosmic superhero goodness with the following issues contained within: Infinity 1–6, New Avengers 7–12, and Avengers 14–23. At a $49.99 price point, it is a hefty chunk of cash, but if you click on the cover / title above, you will save roughly $15, which is definitely the way to go.

As for the book itself, I loved it, but I will say that there are a bunch of areas that left me a tad bewildered and struggling to catch up as a result of having not read the Avengers 1–13 and New Avengers 1–6.  I had no idea of who Black Swan, or Smasher (the woman version), or Eden, or Abyss, or Nightmask, or Ex Nihilo are, or what the deal is with the tons of other Ex Nihili (Ex Nihilii, Ex Sleepy, Ex Grumpy, Ex Bashful, Ex Donaldo Trumpo…just kidding on the last four). Instead or fretting about it, I just allowed the story to take me away, and I ended up being fine, although with a marked interest in reading the first two Avengers trades, and the first New Avengers trade as well.

As for the flow of the story, or rather the order in which the individual issues are presented, I could not begin to tell you as there are multiple chapter breaks. Each utilizes Hickman’s graphic design sensibilities with a predominant use of white space, but no indication of issue covers or numbers to clarify what book you are actually reading. This is awesome, in that reading this book gives you the feeling of reading a standalone graphic novel as opposed to a mere compilation of comic book issues that had been written for the trade; not an easy thing to do. This is further aided by the seamless flow of the myriad of artists showcased within, whose styles are indeed different and recognizable, yet not once was I removed from the story by jarring art shifts.

As for the story itself, it is what you can expect from Hickman; brilliantly-plotted, massive, and unapologetically complex, but ultimately rewarding. I loved seeing the space team of Avengers joining up with the various alien races, many of whom were previously enemies, in an effort to stop the very real threat posed by the grotesque Builders. I equally enjoyed the more earthbound story dealing with Thanos, and although my favorite Mad Titan really only appears in about a third of this book, his “Black Order” fanatics were cool enough to keep me enthralled. I will also admit to a bit confusion by much of the stuff going on with Black Bolt and the Inhumans, but I suppose reading the trades mentioned above will clarify things. Then there is the “Infinity: Prelude” stuff, with a character called Superia who works with A.I.M. and sends some robotic creature thing in between two dead universes, which never gets another mention (at least I don’t think so). All my enjoyment of this book aside, I’m left wondering how you can have an “Infinity” book with out my main man, Adam Warlock, but I’m certain Marvel has plans for him in the near future. Time will tell.

So, yes, I enjoyed reading this book quite a bit. If you are a fan of the Marvel cosmic side of things, then this is a must-own book, but be warned, if you love the Guardians of the Galaxy movie and its sharp wit and humor, don’t expect to be laughing at any point through Infinity — it just ain’t that kind of book. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Neighbors - One of my goals in life is to not have neighbors either above or below, or connected on either side, or less than twenty feet across from us. Now, I don’t want to be unneighborly or anything, but as I mentioned in the Wytches review above, I grew up in the country with loads of space. You know, space enough to where the college girls on the adjoining right of our unit can’t wake us up as they drunkenly(?) pound on their sliding glass door (bad idea) for over an hour beginning at 12:15 AM. Yes, Santa Barbara is a college town, but our complex is off-the-beaten path and is relatively quiet…even the infrequent sketchy people coming off the railroad tracks and who stumble across our area keep to themselves. But these dang girls…

After angrily throwing on some clothes, stomping downstairs, flipping on the outdoor light, and heading out to see what the problem was, I peer over the low fence to see one girl, clearly out of it (alcohol? drugs? there was a case of beer I could see inside her unit) smacking the bejesus out of the glass door to get someone’s attention to let her in.

I say, “What’s going on?” as I wonder why none of the other neighbors have called the cops on her.

She mumbles in a near whisper, “Sorry, sir,” not even looking in my direction.

“Do you need me to call someone?” I say, irritated.

“No, sir,” she mutters again, still refusing to look at me.

At first I thought there was only one of them out there, causing this calamity, but then a second girl materializes from the shadows — had she been sleeping out there? — says something to the first girl, and they both turn to fade away, allowing the darkness of the night to claim them.

Unsure of what to do, I stood out there as moths descended upon me, but the girls stayed hidden, so I went back inside. We heard them rap on the glass a couple more times, but I guess their passed out friend finally woke up enough to let their creepy, messed-up carcasses back inside.

No sleep for us after that. Ugh. Morons. Hey…she called me “sir”…twice! As if I was a police officer or an old man or something. Ugh. Morons.


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