Friday, November 7, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 11/7/2014

(Sung to the tune of  Olivia Newton-John’s “Have You Never Been Mellow”)

Got little time? Here are some comics that’ll take you far
Let me tell you
Got little dough? Here’s a little list to help you through
Let me show you
Now, it’s been said I kid around
But good comics don’t make you frown

Have you ever read The Sixth Gun?
Have you ever tried, the groovy new book Tooth & Claw?
Have you ever checked Swamp Thing or the awesome Chew?
God Hates Astronauts’s mental, I'm tellin’ you

Welcome Donist World denizens! Before we get started with the regularly scheduled programming, it’s shameless plug time. You see that image at the top right of this screen (although maybe not on a mobile device)? Yup, that there is for Kibbles ’N’ Bots an all-ages novel I wrote about Tulip as a superhero, and her know-it-all brother, Obie, as they take on a robot menace terrorizing the West Coast. It only cost $2.99 (free through Lending Library if you’re an Prime member, and also free if you signed up for Kindle Unlimited) and you can read the prelude through to most of chapter four by clicking on the image or the link above to take you to the product page. If you would like to support Donist World, please check it out and give Kibbles ’N’ Bots a read, and if you enjoy it, then please please please give me a glowing review on Amazon; I can’t tell you how much it would be appreciated. Anyways…

This week, I am joined as every by our CFO, Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier), and by our marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / robot crusher, Tulip. I would say that we are hard at work solidifying our strategic position as a Fortune 320,000 company, but unfortunately that is not the case. Obie is sitting out front of the corporate offices (my mom’s basement) at a table with a line of seven Sharpies meticulously placed on the table (I think he actually evenly aligned them using a ruler) and a placard (that must have cost a pretty penny) that reads “Obie — Co-Star of Kibbles ’N’ Bots”. He also has four or five water bottles (NOT environmentally friendly) to his right, and he is wearing a pair of shades that look rather of expensive. All I can gather from this is that he is waiting to do a signing, but what he fails to realize is that my novel is currently only available electronically for the Kindle, so I have no idea what he could possibly sign. I will admit that it is rather nice in the office, but…oh no! It’s those shady finance guys from Healdsburg trying to get Obie to sign what looks like a contract of some type. Ack…I need to stop this! Please enjoy this week’s…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Chew #44
Chew #44 - Written and lettered by John Layman, illustrated and colored by Rob Guillory, color assists by Taylor Wells, published by Image Comics. <sigh> <an even bigger sigh> Criminy, denizens, I was not expecting this. After 40+ issues in this phenomenal series, I should have known it was about time for some major stuff to go down, and let me tell you, it…goes…down…hard. Geez Louise! As much as I want to spoil each and ever terrible event that happens in this issue, I won’t. You will need to read it for yourself. What I will tell you are my reactions as I hit each major moment. “Ah, makes sense.” “Whoa! D-d-did I miss an issue? Nah, must be an arrive late, leave early kind of plotting thing, but DANG!” “Whoa, again!” “Wait…slow down, I…awwww no way!” “You’re in for it, now…crud.” “NO WAY! Oh my gawd, that is gnarly.” “I-I-I…this is so sad.” “Okay, this time you’ve…dang! No!” Take from all of that what you will, just know I need to watch some happy cartoons after what I just read, but the main takeaway is that this issue is heavy, yet great, if not a tad short.

Mason, Caesar, Applebee, Savoy, Vorhees, Olive, and Babycakes move on the Collector. Things don’t go well.

Usually when I talk about Layman and Guillory’s most-unique-comic-book-on-the-stands, I repeatedly mention how much fun the series is, and how I laugh almost the whole way through. Not so much this month. Yes, I still smiled and laughed a couple times, but then the action kicks in, moving wicked fast as Mason’s task force is decimated by the Collector in the most horrific of ways — things go downhill for our heroes from there. Yes, we get a brief respite through a two-page dark-yet-humorous moment with Babycakes — not to mention a guest appearance of some comic characters from another series — but then the unthinkable happens. It is harsh, it is shocking, it is entirely unexpected, and ultimately touching. ALL of these moments are beautifully choreographed by Guillory whose both subtle and not-so-subtle facial expressions ramp up the intensity as each of Layman’s vital word balloons deliver a gut punch to the reader. Dang, denizens, I'm still reeling from this read.

Guillory’s colors are stronger than ever, but each of the tense moments of this issue — and there are many for this 20-page comic — are ratcheted up primarily through the use of deliberate background colors. When moments heat up, that is when the background details of a scene vanish and are replaced by solid red or white, or through orange-appearing halftones, and in one particular moment a watercolor splash that flows alongside the blood being spilled in the panel. As always, I also love when a cibopath uses their ability and the monochromatic tiles fall neatly into place. As jarring and gruesome as moments of this issue are, it cannot be said that Chew is not beautiful in even its most grotesque moments.

I love this comic. I have been buying the floppies  and I have picked up all four of the Omnivore Editions (ten plus issues each) which I anticipate re-reading in the very near future, but if you are more inclined to read the trades, then there are eight of those out in the wild thus far.  What I am trying to get at here is there are multiple ways to read this awesome comic, and you should pick at least one of them. Yes Chew is mostly fun and games, but every so often, an issue drops that reminds you that the stakes are high in this highly bizarre and vastly entertaining comic that I am certain is unlike anything you have ever read. One final thing: because of the lower page count, the creators toss in the first half of the script and roughs for this issue, which provides a fascinating look at what goes on under the hood of this great series. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Tooth & Claw
Tooth & Claw #1 -Written by Kurt Busiek, illustrated by Benjamin Dewey, colored by Jordie Bellaire, lettering and design by John Roshell & Jimmy Betancourt of Comicraft, published by Image Comics. The time of magic is passing from this life, but the upperclass citizenry who hold the magic will not let it fade from existence without a struggle. Gharta the Seeker, an old warthog woman, has devised a dangerous plan to once again open the font of magic, but things don’t quite work out as planned. Meanwhile, Durstan, a young bull terrier boy, begins to learn of the divide between those who dwell above and those who dwell below, and Gharta’s plan looks to drive those lessons home.

Dagnabbit…Image, denizens, Image. I tell you, I’m trying (and failing completely) to cut down on clutter in my life, but I see a book like this on the shelves, and I just could not say no; thank dawg for that. Even before you get to the freakin’ gorgeous art, or the epic story, or the glorious colors, you have a phenomenal cover of Gharta floating above the devastation, using her dwindling magics, with plenty of white space below (a trend in cover creation I love), and a beautiful title design with credits perfectly spaced across that title. Then you pick up the book and immediately notice its sizable heft — and the Kurt Busiek name attached to it — turn it over to see “48 pages, no ads, $2.99.” Even without flipping through the issue, I knew this book was coming home with me. *Note to other much, much larger comic book companies: this is how you release a number one. Yes it is potentially a loss leader to pull us in, which it did, but when you compare Tooth & Claw to one of your more popular titles (which starts at $3.99 for maybe 30 pages of story riddled with ads), and then have an “event” or “storyline finale!” that ups the price to $4.99 or even $5.99, you hammer your loyal readers, and leave a bad taste in our collective mouths…you know?*

Anyways, A+ design and marketing aside, this book is brilliant from the moment you crack the cover until closing it at the very end. The creators are world building here, as well as introducing a host of characters, and being that this is a fantasy series, there are rules at play that require us to be brought up to speed. Busiek’s narration at no point seems expository, but rather an integral part of the overall piece, much like a fireside storyteller’s voice guiding you from one end of the tale to the other. This story is also a comment on the haves and the have-nots, and how one of the haves, Durstan, innocently has no idea of how his actions affect those who live below, as he empties his chamber pot over the side of his floating city. Innocent actions such as this, and the intentional actions of Durstan’s father look to drive what happens next issue, and it will not be pretty.

The art is…whoa, Nelly…the interior art is beyond amazing. Whether you are admiring the anthropomorphic animal characters, or absorbing the sights of the lush backgrounds of inspiring architecture or the multitudes of airships and floating cities, you will be captivated by what you see. Then you have to admire Dewey’s costuming, character designs, and his magical ability to render disarmingly real expressions and emotions to a myriad of animal types. Speaking of magical, Bellaire’s colors are great throughout the issue, but it is during Gharta’s spell casting session where she brings in a rainbow of colors that both complements Dewey’s black lines, and also knocks out other blacks to a visually stunning effect — having some experience with comic coloring, this hurts my head to think about how she actually pulled this off.

Image continues kicking butt and taking names, as well as pulling in a larger share of my (sadly) finite comic book budget, and for good reason. Tooth & Claw is a ridiculous bargain no matter how you look at it, and if you are a fantasy fan, then you simply cannot pass up this title. However, I won’t lie to you, this is a very dense read, but if you are fan of fantasy stories, you will not notice how many words are on the page, rather you will be dreading the fact that each page read brings you that much closer to the end. If you are one of those people who hate fantasy — which admittedly I cannot comprehend in the slightest — then maybe this is not the book for you…although given the creators involved, the 48 pages, and $2.99 price point, maybe dipping your toe in the magic pool is something worth giving another shot. Tooth & Claw is a gorgeous book that looks to take us on one heck of a magical ride, and I cannot wait to see where that might be. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Sixth Gun #44
The Sixth Gun #44 - 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. Becky, Drake, and Screaming Crow are taking the war to Griselda the Grey Witch, and they have the fury of the ancient thunderbirds to back them up. Griselda, however, has been on the Earth — many versions of it actually — for a very long time; she comes with fierce power. Little do our heroes know what awaits them in the town with no name.

The first review above should clue you in that Chew had left my heart pumping and my nerves on end as one terrible thing after another progressed throughout the story. The Sixth Gun gave me the same exact accelerated heart rate, only for very different reasons. This issue is a pure adrenaline rush as the action hastens and builds, and has you flipping through panels and pages with every fantastic moment of the thunderbirds’s carnage, until midway through the issue the escalation peaks, slows, and halts at the last-page splash. The creators build this momentum thorough many techniques, but namely it is the page-by-page panel count that carries you through the issue. What I mean by this is that we start with three panels, then a double-page splash, then a few four panel pages, then eight panels, then twelve, then sixteen, to twelve, to eight, to four, and finally the full-page splash shocker. It would seem that increasing panels per page would have the opposite effect of slowing things down, but Bunn and Hurtt, opted to have no word balloons this issue with only brief captions, and the panels progress much like movie stills, pausing on each intense moment. They pull it off beautifully and the end result is something you simply have to behold.

The tradeoff with using many panels per page is that each panel becomes smaller and thus fits fewer details, but Hurtt does not allow the smaller panels to diminish his storytelling, and with Crabtree’s signature Sixth Gun coloring palette each moment flows perfectly. Not even the concise captions slow the pacing, and even if they were to be omitted altogether, you would have no problem following what was happening thanks to Hurtt’s storytelling skills…that said, the captions are great for providing background information and history, and are of vital importance to this issue.  Not only that, it’s just frickin’ cool as heck to see multiple snake-men take a lightning bolt to the chest.

Not even counting the deft style the creators utilized to tell this chapter of the tale, this issue was a blast and did exactly what it was supposed to do…leave me desperate for the next issue. I am not sure if The Sixth Gun is actually ending as of issue 50 or not, but it is still not too late to get caught up on this Donist World darling. You can easily pick up the all seven trades of this awesome supernatural Western that has been thrilling readers for the past five or six years, and that will hopefully get the television series it so richly deserves. So much fun. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Swamp Thing# 36
Swamp Thing #36 - Written by Charles Soule, illustrated by Jesus Saiz, colored by Matt Hollingsworth, lettered by Travis Lanham, published by DC Comics. The Machine makes its move, but they underestimated the Green’s avatar, the Swamp Thing. Now that Alec knows this young kingdom is making a play for dominance, he decides he must warn the Rot’s avatar, his love, Abigail Arcane.

With the previous two comics above, we had heart-pounding terrible events, high-stakes action, and now we have yet more action, but more importantly to this series, we have true love. One of my favorite parts of the Alan Moore Swamp Thing series is the love between Abigail and Alec, and it bummed me out — in the best of ways — when Scott Snyder tore them apart by making Abby an avatar of the Rot. Now, after far too long, we see them together again, and Soule handles the moment perfectly with heartbreaking, yet realistic, dialogue.

The rest of the book is just as well-written, especially with the Capucine and Jonah scene, and the very cool A, B, C, and Omega Calculus units discussing not just how to proceed, but their ultimate decision, which left me wishing for more pages. One complaint I have falls back on the whole “Futures End” event that spoiled where the book is (supposedly) going and dampened the impact of part of Alec and Abby’s conversation. I also rolled my eyes at the mention of a “white ring,” but whatchagonnado; the book is unfortunately part of DC proper, and not with Vertigo.

Saiz’s art is great as ever, with some cool touches added to the Green version of Capucine (wood shoulder pad, anyone?) and I am still grooving on A Calculus’s design and that of the Rot’s Abby. Hollingsworth is also a champion this issue with each page taking on surreal background lighting ranging from purples (real world), to greens (the Green…duh), to blues (the Rot), to stark white (the Machine). In short the book looks great as ever, which is what bums me out now that Soule is set to leave the series to become exclusive with Marvel.

<sigh> Just when the book begins to hit its stride, the creative team changes. Hopefully Swamp Thing will continue to move closer to the horror title it is meant to be — like Soule has been doing — while the rest of the DCU, the “events,” and whatnot stay out of the mix. This issue is one heck of a good read, and with that final splash page…dang, denizens, I can’t wait to see what happens next. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

God Hates Astronauts #3
God Hates Astronauts #3 - written and illustrated by Ryan Browne, colored by Jordan Boyd, lettered by Crank! and Ryan Browne, edited by Jordan Browne, designed by Thomas Quinn, published by Image Comics. Okay, what this comic book is about. Yes…ummm…well, there's like anthropomorphic animal-people like King Tiger Eating a Cheeseburger, Queen Tiger Holding a Baby, Sir Hippothesis, Time Giraffe, Seal Armstrong (astronaut…duh), Buzz Owldrin (another astronaut…double duh), Dr. Professor (a rhino guy with a mustache), and that’s just the beginning. You also have Star Grass, who was once a star hero, whose head exploded and was replaced by the head of a cybernetic ghost cow, his wife Starrior, a guy with robot arms who is haunted by an old flame, a deformed cowboy, and…a ton of other characters who make absolutely zero sense. Anyhow, the story is about…ummm…some kind of invasion by King Tiger Eating a Cheeseburger, because some crabs got whacked by golf clubs (oh geez, help me with this), and there’s a like a 3D Ghost, and…forget it.

Yeah, I have no idea what this comic is really about, and that is part of the charm of God Hates Astronauts; you don’t have to understand what the heck is going on to have a blast reading this book. Browne’s dialogue is crazy and his sound effects alone (“apology ax-cepted”…classic) are worth the price of the book. Despite the madness going down on every panel of every page, you can easily discern that Browne has his storytelling chops down tight. The same goes for his character acting. As strong as each of the components is in this comic are, the sum total of the insane, obscenity-ridden dialogue, the laugh-out-loud SFX, and the absolutely psychotic imagery will either put readers off (like those who dislike fun and stuff) or create lifelong fans like myself who absolutely love whatever the heck this is I am actually reading.

I am still missing the first issue of this series, which is steadily driving me insane, but I hope to get a copy in the near future. Be warned though: there is a trade paperback that you need to read — consider it to be volume 1, with these three issues making up volume 2. Of course you don’t have to read the trade, but if God Hates Astronauts is the type of madness that you enjoy, then it is imperative that you read the trade that started it all. I think I’ll read this issue again right now. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

“Stay Gold Ponyboy, Stay Gold” - Let’s stay positive this week. Hey, I released my all-ages novel about Tulip as a superhero on (Kibbles ’N’ Botsplease please please check it out. Only $2.99 for a whole fun-filled story with surprises abound!), my story “Sunnyside” will now appear in RISE: Comics Against Bullying thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, I created a cool fake magazine cover for my media design class (I’ll showcase the stuff I’ve been working on in the near future), and I’m going to see Big Hero 6 later this afternoon after lunch at the Holllister Brewing Company. Not only that, I’m really jazzed about the comics I read and talked about this week, so go forth and be merry!


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