Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 12/5/2014

(Sung to the tune of Prince’s “When Doves Cry”)

Dig if you will a comic
Of animal magicians with a twist
This Autumnlands book’s thrillin’ me
Have you my darlings
Have you read through it?
Dream if you will a series
Of cibopath Tony Chu
Characters which creator disposes
The story’s neat
It’s neat and it’s titled Chew

We love books that are outstanding
Ones that will not leave you cold (so cold)
Maybe you jive with The Sixth Gun
Maybe you want liquid sci-fi, cool Low
Maybe you want something nutballs
God Hates Astronauts (He sure does hate them blind)
No need to scream for any others
Comic books so dang good
You will cry

Dang, Donist World denizens, there is not enough time in the day to do what needs to be done, but we all know that. Anyhow, 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 / time crisis management specialist Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). You ever wonder why so many people get sick during the months of November and December? For the past 30 years, I would say I have been very ill for 22 of the holiday seasons. Most everyone I know is so stressed to the level that it has become expected, celebrated even, during these two months, which is mind boggling to me. This is not even taking into consideration all of the family wanting to spend time together for some reason. This definitely gets in the way of maintaining our status as a Fortune 320,000 company. What gives? To top it off, the Donist World intern (Amy, my wife) also wants to do things like celebrate her birthday (November), to which Obie staunchly objects, going so far as to suggests replacing her with one of the throngs of people (actually, only the crazy person in the condo complex wants the job) clamoring for the sweet Donist World intern spot. Ugh…ha…ha…ha…just kidding, dear, oh…sorry, valued intern and celebrated member of the Donist World team. Obie was just making a joke. Right, Obie? Right?! Anyhow, I got to get back to work (or rather, digging myself out of the hole I just dug myself into), but before I do that, let me do the plug of reminding y’all to check out my all-ages novel Kibble ’N’ Bots, which is available exclusively for the Kindle and Kindle Apps (Smartphones, tablets, computers) for the low price of $2.99 (free for Kindle Unlimited and Lending Library)! If you want to read about the exploits of Tulip as a pink-cape-wearing puppy with superpowers battling robots with her know-it-all brother, Obie, by her side, then this book is for you! Think Grapes of Wrath, only with Boston terrier puppies, secret identities, scrounging, pink hooded capes, robots, a secretive villain, space battles, adventure, laughs, and plenty of fun. Now, on to…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

The Autumnlands #2
The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw #2 - Written by Kurt Busiek, illustrated by Benjamin Dewey, colored by Jordie Bellaire, lettered and designed by John Roshell and Jimmy Betancourt of Comicraft, published by Image Comics. Wait, wait, what?! What the heck is The Autumnlands? At first I thought last month’s fantastic Tooth & Claw premiere issue was so popular that it has already spun off a prequel or side tale of some sort, but that is not the case. No siree Bob, denizens, this is indeed the followup to that dang-near flawless first issue, just with a change in title that Busiek vaguely attributes to a trademark issue. To me, the title Tooth & Claw screamed death metal band, and I did a brief look online to see what might be the problem, and I found a heavy metal band with a song called “Tooth and Claw,” a Doctor Who episode shared the name, and there is also a book of the same title. Dang, that sucks. Of the four contenders, the comic is the winner for me, but what do I know? Don’t be surprised if the next issue has a name change as well, given that Autumnlands also sounds like a death metal band — minus any umlauts, of course. This is part of the bane of creating a fantasy book…all 1.3 million death metal bands have already taken all of the good fantasy-based titles. Anyhow, next month, look for Not a Dang Death Metal Band: The Autumnlands: Tooth & Nail #3 (aka…Fred #3 at your LCS, because after reading this issue you will surely have the craving for more of this bold new series.

Magic is fading. Those-who-live-above, the upper class (literally in this case), attempted to bring back a champion of old to restore magic for generations to come, and they succeeded…only their efforts brought down their floating city, leaving the magicians vulnerable to the less-than-sympathetic-and-resentful-as-hell ground dwellers. As the magicians squabble over what animal represents the champion locked inside the opaque ball of magic, an attack on the fallen city awakens the champion of the past.

What a blast! An action-packed, gorgeously-illustrated blast. The premiere issue was lengthy, a dense read focusing on introducing the main characters and more so on building this complex and expansive world; 44 pages for the ridiculously low price of $2.99, in fact. The first issue was not something you could casually sit down and read over the course of five minutes. You needed time to take in the creators’ world and to appreciate every single beautiful panel presented to you. There were tons of words, yet there was tons you absolutely needed to know. You needed to be prepared to take in the book, and who’s going to gripe about 20 free pages of material, especially when larger publishers would have easily charged twice as much for the book? (Okay, I’m sure plenty of folks complained about all the words, that’s what they do <sigh>, but not this Donist!)

With this issue — still longer than your average Big Two offering at 24 pages and a $2.99 price — we now know the world and we know most of the characters, and we get action as the champion makes his presence known, unleashing his fury upon the enraged buffalomen. Dewey previously wowed us with his uncanny ability to provide drama and emotion through the expressions of the multitudes of animal people, and by multitudes, I mean a good chunk of the animal kingdom is represented in this series, and Dewey captures each of them brilliantly. This month we get more of the beautiful character designs, but we also see Dewey’s intense choreography and storytelling through the wicked battle that spans many pages. Bellaire’s colors heighten the experience of reading this series, but when magic appears, the visuals become…well…magical, for lack of a better word.

I love this issue and I love this series, but I do have one complaint. It was completely unnecessary to show the champion in the mural last issue with all but his face obscured. Doing this essentially gave away what the champion ends up being. Yes, I guessed the nature of the champion before seeing that page, but that mural, although wonderfully rendered, took some of the steam out of the reveal. I would have preferred to have seen many murals depicting a different-looking champion, depending on where the mural was displayed. Or, maybe have Dunstun and his pals compare different versions of a story/book, only with differing depictions of the champion. This is minor quibble.

If you enjoy fantasy tales, especially ones of this calibre, then you need to hunt down the first issue and pick this one up as well. This comic has started off strong and looks to be headed in some crazy directions, and regardless of what the name of the series ends up being, I will be eagerly wait to see what happens next. So very cool. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Low #5
Low #5 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Greg Tocchini, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. Oh my goodness, denizens, I’m crushing hard on Stel Caine. For those of you not reading Remender and Tocchini’s fantastic, post-apocalyptic, years-in-the-future, sci-fi, underwater epic — heavens to Murgatroyd, what’s wrong with you, btw — then you need to know that Stel is the stalwart hero of this series. She is a brilliant scientist, she is driven, resourceful, a fighter, but more importantly she is an eternal optimist despite having seen her husband murdered, her two daughters abducted, and her son fallen to corruption and depravity. She is also unbelievably beautiful (thank you, Tocchini) and I am not afraid to admit that I would be cool allowing her to protect me if the need ever arose…I would actually kind of dig that. She is definitely tougher and smarter than this ol’ Donist, but we’re not here to discuss my many issues.

Four months have passed since Stel and her son, Marik, were betrayed by Tajo, the daughter / sister abducted by the pirate Roln so many years ago. Now, Stel is imprisoned by Roln, ever at his side, and is frequently tormented by her brainwashed daughter. Marik, on the other hand, has done well for himself in the arena, but that looks to be exactly what Roln planned.

Last issue, there were a few sequences that I could not make hide nor hair of, but that is not the case here. Everything stands clear as day, even during some of the heavier scenes that left me wanting to cover my eyes because of the intense situations. But when admiring Tocchini’s stunningly beautiful art (See what I mean about Stel?) covering your eyes is the last thing you want to do.

At five issues in, I am still impressed with the amazing character designs. Roln, a red-headed, samurai-looking pirate with barbed swords, appears graceful and gentlemanly despite the evil seething within him. Then there is Roln’s brother, Grolm, a character we have seen looming nearby, but this is the first time we have gotten close to see this heavily-armored, skull-faced creature who has obviously been through some rough times. Such cool and unique looks, but when combined with Remender’s dialogue, my hatred of these two gives way to the vast curiosity to know more about them. With this issue, we also get glorious and gigantic monsters worthy of your awe. The colors command your attention throughout (just look at the primary colors of the cover) and add to the ease of immersing yourself in this book.

Low continues to be my favorite of Remender’s recent creator-owned books, which is not a knock against the awesome Deadly Class and Black Science (each of which I whole-heartedly recommend), but Low just has more of my favorite things: a strong central character, fascinating secondary characters, mystery, a flawed and self-destructive world, monsters, undersea adventure, and the stalwart hope for a better world. I already can’t wait to see what happens next! VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Chew #45
Chew #45 - Written and lettered by Jonathan Layman, illustrated and colored by Rob Guillory, color assists by Taylor Wells, published by Image Comics. We haven’t seen much of Paneer since The Collector murdered his wife, Toni Chu, sister to the FDA cibopath Tony Chu. With Toni’s dying words, she asked Paneer to watch out for her brother…unfortunately, she neglected to mention which one. Paneer has been busy. He has also been looking for ways to get revenge on The Collector, and he has all the tools of NASA at his disposal. Also, Tony and Colby have it out.

What?! WHAT?! Are these creators out of their minds?! What are they trying to do to us?! Criminy! Okay…deep breaths, Donist, deep breaths. I’m not going to spoil the conclusion of the “Chicken Tenders” storyline, but just know that it is a whopper. Boy howdy, is it ever. After the carnage of the previous issue, I thought things might chill for a moment, y’know, get back to the funny. Not the case. Sure, Layman and Guillory have some of their hilarious and bizarre moments (“NASA’s got space suits” is the bee’s knees), but that final full-page splash?! Ack. Not expected and I am all sorts of messed up after reading this issue, denizens, no lie. It wasn’t until I started thinking about what happened that it occurred to me that things might not be that bad. Maybe these creators are every bit as clever as they have consistently been with the previous 44 issues (and each of the must-read Poyo one-shots here and here). Maybe, a hint at the why of what happened is staring us right in the face…hmmmmmm…then rereading Colby’s dialogue 36 times offered even more insight into why this happened. Again…hmmmmmm…those crazy, sexy beasts. I think I get it. Even so, the events in this book are freakin’ rough to see play out

Anyhow, any book capable of upsetting me as much as Chew just did — actually, it’s kind of been pummeling my emotions on a regular basis over the past year and a half — is something worthy of mentioning. I love the many characters of this series. It took a few issues for me to fully get into the whole Chewiverse, but once I did, once I got to know the characters, I was thoroughly invested in them all. That is why the past two issues have been so brutal for me, and I would wager for other fans as well. Regardless of how terrible things get for these characters, there is no way we’ll miss next issue to see if our hopes are raised — which does happen this issue, there is that — or if we feel like we were just punched in the stomach 47 times…again.

I don’t think Chew gets all the props it deserves. I check some of the other more popular review sites every once in a while, and oftentimes it is simply not mentioned. The same goes for the comic podcasts I listen to. I don’t really get it, to be honest. Who cares which superhero wears their underwear outside of their clothes and who doesn’t? Who cares what superhero’s life will be shockingly extinguished until their next movie comes out? Chew has real stakes, a compelling story in addition to the wackiness, and characters to hold near and dear to your heart. If you want to catch up on the book before the cartoon eventually comes out, then I would recommend the slightly oversized, and beautifully designed “Omnivore Editions.” Chew is not only the most unique comic book on the stands, it is consistently one of the best. Love it. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Sixth Gun #45
The Sixth Gun #45 - 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 Image Comics. Becky and Drake have found the blood-soaked seal that harkens to the destruction of the world as we know it. Thankfully, with the help of Screaming Crow and the ferocity of the Thunderbirds, the ritual to open the seal was interrupted, but Girselda the Grey Witch knows how to tip the scales back in her favor. Also, a companion thought lost returns.

Crud. This series really is drawing to a close, isn’t it. <sigh> Yeah, of course I do not want to see it end, but if the creators get to finish the story they wish to tell in the time and manner of their choosing, then I have to support the coming of the end. I also know the creators have no intention of making the conclusion easy for the characters as evidenced by some of the events of this issue. And land sakes alive, do things get nuts. One favorite character returns (ack…not going to spoil, nope) and it ain’t pretty. Then another character goes out, and that looks to make things even worse…for everyone involved, both for our heroes and the villains. But one of my many favorite moments in this issue comes through three simple panels where bullets rip through a building at a snakeman, Drake pulls the trigger to an empty clk, followed by his realizing the inconvenience of having to reload a gun after having relied for so long on the might of four mystic guns he once possessed. Right then is where I realized man, Drake and Becky are screwed. Things only get worse for them from there.

Story, illustrations, and color are everything fans of the series have grown accustomed to seeing, which means they are as stunning and thrilling as ever.

If you love The Sixth Gun, as I obviously do, then you will not be disappointed in the slightest with this issue, and I reckon you will be clamoring for the next as well. If you have not yet read the series that fellow creators, industry pros, and comic shop owners have been raving about for the past five (?) years, then you have a lot of catching up to do via the seven available trades, but I don’t think having such an exciting and grand series as The Sixth Gun as reading homework is all that bad of a thing. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

God Hates Astronauts #4
God Hates Astronauts #4 - Most-everythinged by Ryan Browne, although colored by Jordan Boyd, lettered by Crank! and Ryan Browne, edited by Jordan Browne, designed by Thomas Quinn, published by Image Comics. Oh boy, here we go. The gist of the story in this issue…ummmmm, okay. We begin with a flashback of the deceased Admiral Tiger Eating a Cheeseburger (then a prince) and see the origin of Croad. Dr. Professor is in critical condition after a brutal mugging, but thankfully Detective Charles Lebronson is on the case. Star Grass gets an upgrade and an attitude adjustment. A deformed cowboy and a cyborg-armed man become closer. Sir Hippothesis springs into action.

Does any of the above make sense to you? It kind of doesn’t to me, either, but I guess that’s the point. So, if you want another truly unique comic on top of your required Chew reading, then look no further than God Hates Astronauts. Summing up the characters and trying to explain what this comic is about would require writing a War and Peace-sized tome accompanied by some heavy therapy sessions. You just have to go with it, denizens. Just know that this comic is beautifully illustrated with scores of psychotic characters all beautifully designed, and with laugh-out-loud moments and hilarious sound effects. As for the story, it is safe to say there is nothing else like it, and that is an awesome thing for us readers.

Is fun your thing? How about a host of truly bizarre, yet expertly rendered, characters? Do you like to read hilarious dialogue from potty-mouthed, star-powered, ghost-cow-headed, cybernetic superheroes? Did that previous sentence confuse the bejesus out of you? If so, then God Hates Astronauts is totally for you. Just know that there is a “prequel” to this fantastic comic series that you absolutely must check out. Then, once you are all up to date on this positively nuts series, you can spend the holiday season attempting to explain it to your friends, your loved ones, and even your creepy uncle. This comic defies description, and that is half the fun. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

No Time, Arrrrrgh - Okay, the semester is ending for my graphic design classes, and I just finished one final Digital Imaging assignment and aced a Graphic Design final, but I still have to create an interactive brochure. Not only that, Snoop Donnie Don needs to be getting a jobby job soonish, but I need to create a better resumé than the unappealing and dense-with-black-ink one I have used in the past. On top of that, it’s high time I actually began marketing Kibbles ’N’ Bots and seeking both reviews and Amazon reviews. Oh, and the holidays are practically here, which means even more chaos. Breath in, breath out, we can do this…after I go for a run, of course.

I also need to talk about a couple trades I just read (The Wicked and the Divine and Nailbiter) and also an AWESOME new comic titled Creature Cops: Special Varmint Unit from my ridiculously talented friend (and Kibbles ’N’ Bots editor) Rob Anderson, with the book looking to land in early 2015. I will post an advance look in the very near future, but just know you should preorder now with Diamond code NOV140526. Exciting times, denizens!

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