Friday, December 26, 2014

Donist World Year-End Roundup - Part 1!

(Sung to the tune of The Sound of Music's "My Favorite Things")

Optimist hotties and school kid assassins
Walrus boy cuteness and Lazari badasses
Six guns and cowboys recall Lord of the Rings
These are a few of my favorite things

Cibopath agents and glow-in-the-dark thingees
Zombies in Riverdale and knife-wielding kiddies
Vanishing privacy and non-compliant voice sings
These are a few of my favorite things

Bad Southern coaches and dead ladies risen
Apocalypse horsemen and ghost cow head spacemen
So many good books that shine bright with bling
These are a few of my favorite things

Diamond misships
Then my beer spills
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad

Friday Slice of Heaven

Happy Holidays, denizens! I would like to say that we at Donist World are tucked safely away in the comfort of the “Room of Reflection” located at the corporate headquarters (my mom’s basement), but unfortunately we are under a hostile takeover. No, no, no, not in the one evil corporate empire engulfing the smaller pie-in-the-sky, mom-’n’-pop, Fortune 320,000 company just trying to make its way in the world, but rather the holiday season itself has besieged us. You see, someone invited Aunt Bea and Uncle Billy Joe Jim Bob to the Donist World Holiday Celebration (thanks, Mom), which knowing their penchant for hitting ye ol’ eggnog extra hard, has historically made every holiday…well…extra hard, as in exceptionally difficult. Seriously, who attends a festive gathering with a set of body-fat-measuring calipers and takes the guests’ measurements for all to see? Anyways, it was especially weird this year, as Aunt Bea and Uncle Billy Joe Jim Bob split up…and by split up I mean they split up five minutes upon arrival to the party. Forget that noise.

So, CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier), and marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / party avoider (my dog, Obie’s sister), and I are on the run and literally heading into the hills. Obie knows of a tech dead zone — one, I suspect, he often utilizes to get out of doing work — so I packed a thermos of coffee, some tiny sandwiches, some kibble, some pumpkin cookies, and the gifts we are going to give each other. We also packed a tent and sleeping bags as we might be out here for a while as we wait for things to simmer down back at home base. Anyhow, we wish you all a happy, stress-free holiday season, and, hey, if you can find us hiding out in the backwoods, avoiding the holiday “joy,” then you are more than welcome to join us…just be sure to leave the calipers at home. If you can’t find us, then I hope you enjoy the first half of our year-end roundup.

***Probably NOT Spoilers Below***

If you have a moment, check out our past FSoH/SitW Year-End Roundups for 20132012, and 2011 to see all things heavenly from the past. For the comic series listed below, I provide an image of the best way to experience the comic if you have not yet read it. Basically, I will try to show an omnibus, then a hardcover, then a trade, and finally, if no trade is yet available, the first issue of the series. We at Donist World, thank you for reading and hope you enjoy these comics as much as we do.

Donist World 14 Favorite Comic Series of 2014 (In no particular order)

Read More!

Saga Hardcover
1) Saga - Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples, published by Image Comics. C’mon…how could this not be on my list, yet again? Saga is not just one of my favorite comics of the past two years, it is one of my favorite comics period. I know I said that the titles on this list are not in any sort of order, but like I said last year, this one holds the number one slot with authority. Saga has a crazy host of characters, each with their own look and voice, and each who I love as dearly as I would a friend. I laugh with them, I get angry with them, I cringe at some their actions. Honestly, my impulse when reading this book is to pick up the phone and call Alana and Marko separately and try to talk some sense into them, or to check in with The Will as to Lying Cat’s health, and then try to help him through the rough spots. Yes, there’re also monsters, robots, some naughty parts, a sci-fi Romeo and Juliet love story to grab my attention, but it’s these gosh-darn characters who I love so deeply. The level of writing is everything I aspire to, and the art glides me through each scene via its grace and beauty. If ever there was a Donist World darling, it is the heavenly Saga.

Sex Criminals TPB
2) Sex Criminals - Written by Matt Fraction, illustrated by Chip Zdarsky, published by Image Comics. With my intense love of everything Saga, one might think that nothing else comes close to my adoration of that series. Wrong, and I’m about to be caught up in the lie (again) about there being no order or ranking to this list. Sex Criminals crosses the finish line just a fraction of a second after Saga. It’s amazing how my mood lifts, and my anticipation of getting home, hiding the cell phone, turning off the computer, and reading this wonderful series sans interruptions becomes my top priority for that moment. Talk about loving characters…I know I would be over at Suze and John’s place for pizza on a regular basis if they were real people, and that’s the thing about Sex Criminals: leaving aside the superpowers, the two main characters are written and drawn to be so real, and with such flaws and brutal honesty they might as well be sitting on the couch telling you about their exploits. With Zdarsky’s tremendous storytelling and character acting pushed to the limits by his vibrant, magical colors, and with Fraction’s lovely writing, Sex Criminals is yet another of the best books on the stands. Adding the numerous laugh-out-loud moments and the sex positive vibe, this ”mature-audiences” comic is one of the best things to happen to the comic book world for some time.

Chew Omnivore Edition
3) Chew - Written by John Layman, illustrated by Rob Guillory, published by Image Comics. Chew still holds its position as one of the most unique series seeing release. It also has the simultaneous effect of thoroughly cracking me up, and progressively bumming me out with each issue. “How can this be?” you ask? Simple, the ending of the series is coming more and more into focus, and it’s becoming clear that a world without Chew is a world somewhat diminished. Cibopaths, tortaespaderos, saboscrivners, xocoscalperes, and the whole host of crazy folk with food-based powers that have graced the many pages have brought me such joy and laughter, that my main consolation is that I have the tremendous hardcovers to reread over and over again. Even with all the fun and wacky moments of this series, there are the occasional emotional beats that manage to hit hard, before bringing a smile to your face all over again.

The Sixth Gun TPB
4) The Sixth Gun - Written by Cullen Bunn, illustrated by Brian Hurtt, published by Oni Press. I thought it was about time to break up the run of Image books, and what better way than with another amazing series that is rapidly approaching its end. This supernatural Western charmed me with the first issue of the first trade, leaving me scrambling to find all the individual issues that continued the story; there was no way I was going to trade wait something as awesome as a world of cowboys, mystical guns, and demons run rampant. This series also, oftentimes, ended up being shorted in my comic pull for whatever reason, causing me to wait for weeks on end to see what happened next. A series of this caliber (see what I did there?) is not something you want to miss, and distributor-based shipping delays are all the more fierce.

Low #1
5) Low - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Greg Tocchini, published by Image Comics. On the creator-owned side things, Rick Remender has been on a tear, with three ongoing series. Of those three, I’m kind of leaning toward Low as my favorite of the bunch, but they’re all dang fine comics. How could I not love a book set in an post-apocalyptic world where humanity has been driven beneath the waves and placed their hope in a bunch of space-faring probes seeking inhabitable planets? Then you throw in the brilliant and steely Stel Kane with her stalwart optimism as depicted by Tocchini’s ethereal art, and you have a series that was practically made for me. Full disclosure: I also have one heck of a wicked crush on Stel…dang, once you meet her, I bet you will too. Toss in monsters and exotic costuming and you have the makings of a grand sci-fi tale.

Afterlife With Archie
6) Afterlife With Archie - Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, illustrated by Francesco Francavilla, published by Archie Comics, Inc. I’ve been saying for a while now how thrilled I am to have finally recognized the beauty to be found in the many Archie offerings, both old and new; better late than never. Just a couple of years after I had found my deep love and respect for the Archieverse, they announced a comic set in a zombie apocalypse. Admittedly, my first instinct was to roll my eyes as I thought the world was already over saturated with all things zombies. Then I noticed the artist attached to the series: Francavilla. I love this guy’s work…a lot. Then I noticed the writer, who I met at SDCC in ’07 and remembered how nice a guy he is. What the heck, why not give this not-a-chance-in-hell-it-will-make-it-past-four-issues comic, and midway through the first issue I muttered, “This is one of the best things I have ever read.” Wonderful character work that is at times extremely uncomfortable, and with Francavilla at his most ridiculous best — I WILL get one of his dang MondoTee posters someday…someday — every reader wins. Whatever you think you know about zombie tales, or Archie comics, Afterlife With Archie will far exceed your expectations.

Rachel Rising TPB
7) Rachel Rising - Everythinged by Terry Moore, published by Abstract Studio. Okay. Please tell me you know of Terry Moore and his work? If not, then know that besides the beautiful Strangers In Paradise  that put him on the map, he’s done a bunch of Big Two work, his sci-fi creator-owned Echo is fantastic, and now his leap into the world of horror is something you simply must read. With some of the best character acting to be found in comics, and an exceptional story surrounding the once-dead Rachel on the hunt for her murderer in a town plagued with centuries-old witches and demons walking around in human skins, Rachel Rising is as compelling a read as it is visually stunning. As should have been established with practically every title on this list, creator-owned work is where it’s at for this Donist, and this creator is doing most everything on his own. He needs everybody’s support so we can continue experiencing his amazing work. For a book with such a grim premise, Rachel Rising is also a heck of a lot of fun.

The Private Eye #9
8) Private Eye - Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Marcos Martin, published by Panel Syndicate. Holy guacamole, denizens! This comic is a nerve-wracking roller coaster ride of fun, beauty, darkness, and creativity, that although set in the future, is something I can see becoming a reality. The story is about the years after the internet imploded, releasing everyone’s private lives for all to see. In response, no one knows anything about anyone, now. In fact, it’s a crime to violate the privacy of others, so everyone walks around wearing masks. There’s MUCH more to it than that, but everyone should already know this since Vaughan is one of the creators. But, don’t go scouring your LCS for a copy, because this book is offered only digitally. The Private Eye is as creator-owned as it gets: no publisher, no agents, no distributors, no retailers, no printer, no Apple, no Amazon, no middlemen. The only entities getting paid, outside of the creators, are the internet hosting site, and Paypal. But here’s the thing: you don’t have to pay a dime to the creators if you don’t want to. The Private Eye cost whatever you can pay, and for an addictive read like this, I bet you will be more than happy to kick down a few bucks — or more — for each exciting issue. Seek this out!

Deadly Class TPB
9) Deadly Class - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Wes Craig, published by Image Comics. Whaddya know…another Rick Remender book. There was no way I could pass this one up. Get a load of this: Deadly Class is set in the ’80s and is about an abused, homeless teen who is invited to attend a school for young assassins, who then decides his final project will be to assassinate Ronald Reagan. See what I mean? Crazy… Anyhow, the story and cast of characters is great, and even though we have seen little of the school, the many situations plaguing Marcus and his friends is more than enough to keep you busy. Remender also brings much of his personal past to the story, as detailed in an intimate note to the readers, and when you get enveloped by Craig’s kinetic layouts made explosive by Lee Loughridge’s fantastic coloring, you will power through the comic once, and take a second, slower run through to be sure you didn’t miss a thing. I can’t wait to see where this one goes.

Bitch Planet #1
10) Bitch Planet - Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, illustrated by Valentine De Landro published by Image Comics. Check this out. Only one issue out thus far, and Bitch Planet is one of my top 14 comic book series of the year. NOT an easy thing to do, but I so thoroughly enjoyed this first issue, that I read it twice after. Basically this is a callback to the ’70s sexploitation cult films, where in the future, all women who are deemed “Non-Compliant,” or “NC,” are sent off world to a prison world known as Bitch Planet. Not one of the women in the issue looks like any of the others, and each has their own distinct voice, but what really grabbed me — aside from the fantastic art — were the two moments that completely threw me for a loop, and left me going “Whoa.” Adding to the impact of De Landro’s art and DeConnick’s words, are Cris Peter’s colors, which use a mostly flat coloring style on the characters, and stunning halftone dots on the backgrounds. I have no idea where this series is going, and I already know I can’t trust what I think is going to happen, but this first issue was total kick in the pants, and I’m counting the days until the next one.

Lazarus HC
11) Lazarus - Written by Greg Rucka, illustrated by Michael Lark, published by Image Comics. I swear to you, denizens, I am not an employee of Image Comics, nor do they sponsor me with review copies or any thing of that nature — I am SOOOOO open to that, though. Anyways, Lazarus is also a scary title. It, however, is not exactly a horror comic, but involves a futuristic world where the haves (16 families) own most everything in the world, including the serfs who serve them, and the waste (think the 99%) that scrape and forage to survive. What terrifies me most about this brilliant book, is a feeling that our current, real world is poised to go down this very path, and it is not pretty. Rucka’s words are compelling and ring true, while Lark’s mastery of storytelling can tell you everything you need to know about a scene with as little as the furrowing of a character’s brow. This series only gets better, as we are introduced to new Lazari (Family protectors possessing scientifically enhanced abilities). Be warned though, you should probably stretch out before reading each issue…you’re about to go for one heck of a tense ride.

East of West TPB
12) East of West - Written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Nick Dragotta, published by Image Comics. I’m going to level with you on East of West. When I read the first couple of issues, I wasn’t quite sure of what exactly was going on. I like to tell myself that this is by design, that I’m not a big dummy-head. By the third issue, more and more insight concerning the immense world and the large cast of characters clicks into place, and the depths of Hickman’s plotting become clear: suddenly you understand. Then, a bunch of new characters and mysteries arise, and you’re blissfully unsure of what is happening, but don’t worry…the creators will get you there. What I’m trying to get across is that East of West is varsity-level comics, but the other side is that it is also an immensely rewarding read about a post apocalyptic world where the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are at odds, the son of Death roams the plains, the ruling parties are on the brink of war, and Lovecraftian creatures lurk in the plane next door. Also, Death rides a mechanical, faceless horse beast that walks on its toes and is kinda, sorta terrifying in its own right. I can’t wait for “season two” to start!

Southern Bastards TPB
13) Southern Bastards - Written by Jason Aaron, illustrated by Jason Latour, published by Image Comics. Strike 1 = no robots, no monsters, no superheroes. Strike 2 = a comic where sports (football) takes a prominent role. Strike 3 = …hmmmm, no strike three, but there are plenty of pluses: Aaron and Latour are the creators; characters so compelling you just might find yourself rooting for one of the most despicable men to ever grace a comic page; a MAJOR event that changes everything you thought you knew about this book; the existence of fried pie. I know I’m being vague about this phenomenal new title, but just know that it is at heart a crime drama that takes a deep, long stare into the darkest recesses of a Southern town (Craw County, AL) that has no problem allowing Coach Boss do whatever horrid deed pleases him, so long as the town football team dominates. Great art. Great story. Great comic.

God Hates Astronauts #1
14) God Hates Astronauts - Everythinged by Ryan Browne, published by Image Comics. In each of the reviews for this title, I attempted to give a synopsis regarding the installment in question. Now, if I were to hand the synopsis to my Grammie, she would read the synopsis, tell me “I have no idea what this means,” and then shake her head as she looked at me with sadness in her eyes. Well, apparently, my Grammie just doesn’t get this comic. Heck, I don’t even get this comic half the time, I just know that I abso-freakin’-lutely love it. Gaze into the mouth of madness that is God Hates Astronauts and you will come away laughing like a crazy person. There are clever jokes in the dialogue, in the imagery, and in the backgrounds, even the sound effects — heck, especially in the sound effects. This comic is a blast, and is something beyond description. I will say that you need to read the trade first (think of it as volume one) and then read the individual issues (think of them as volume two), and let yourself melt into the insanity of this thoroughly entertaining comic.

But wait, there's more...There were a ton more comic book issues that I read and that were released in 2014 that I must mention: Sabrina (Aguirre-Sacasa / Hack), Rex: Zombie Killer (Anderson / Yu), Hawkeye (Fraction / Aja / Wu), Tooth & Claw (Busiek / Dewey), Wytches (Snyder / Jock), Black Science (Remender / Scalera / White), The Fade Out (Brubaker / Phillips), She-Hulk (Soule / Pulido), Aw Yeah Comics (Baltazar / Franco), The Universe (Monteys), Satellite Sam (Fraction / Chaykin), Trees (Ellis / Howard), Batman (Snyder / Capullo), The Wake (Snyder / Murphy), Swamp Thing (Soule / Saiz), Bad Dog (Kelly / Greco), Pretty Deadly (Deconnick / Rios). I'm sure there are plenty of other comics I somehow forgot to mention or have not yet bought or read, so if there are any glaring omissions, please let me know. There's plenty of room at the Donist World corporate offices for more comics and...hold on a sec...actually, Amy the intern (my wife) has corrected me and said that "No, there is not plenty of room here." <psssttt...hey denizens, let me know anyways. I can totally sneak more comics in on the down low. Just let me know. We can do this…>

Stay tuned next week for the “Donist World 14 (Times Two) Heavenly Things (In Alphabetical Order)”

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