Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 12/19/2014

(Sung to the tune of Prince's “Controversy”)

I just can’t believe all the great books today…BooksYouMustRead
Lazarus all right. Makes me shout hooray…BooksYouMustRead
Swamp Thing and Wytches, bro, comics you surely need…BooksYouMustRead

Wow, I tell ya, man, that The Wicked + the Divine…BooksYouMustRead
Southern Bastards, yay. East of West: the World’s design is fine…BooksYouMustRead
So you wanna fly? Get soarin’ sky high…BooksYouMustRead

Holy cow, denizens, we got a lot of stuff to cover this week, so we are going to cut the introduction a bit short. I’m joined as ever by CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / eggnog connoisseur Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). The holidays are in full force and waging war on my health and mental stability. However, I vow to not get sick like I almost always do, and I will not get stressed over gifts, or guilt, or unrealistic expectations. I WILL NOT GET STRESSED! Oh…thank you, Tulip, for this eggnog that is…WOOO!…spiked how I like it. Anyhow, I am giving the gift of gingerbread pancakes here at the corporate office (my mom’s basement), so the puppies are on their best behavior. What’s also great is that Christmas came early with the awesome books we read this week! Yes, I realize that most of the books here arrived to my LCS late, but hey…they’re new to me, and it is never too late to recognize that which is heavenly. Without further ado, it’s…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Lazarus #13
Lazarus #13 - Written by Greg Rucka, illustrated by Michael Lark with Tyler Boss, colored by Santi Arcas, lettered by Jodi Wynne, design and additional content by Eric Trautmann, edited by David Brothers, published by Image Comics. Good things come to those who wait, especially those whose LCS had a box lost in transit by UPS and have to wait three additional weeks before they get ahold of yet another one of Image Comics’s stellar titles. But — as I always ask when this happens — was it worth the wait? Well, when you are considering a book about a world set in the not so distant future where 16 Families rule the planet, with a small population of serfs serving them, and an immense population of people deemed to be waste, then the answer is yes. Throw in the bonus of each Family having a Lazarus, a technologically / biologically enhanced protector, into the narrative, then the answer to whether the wait was worth it becomes a decided @#$% yeah, denizens!

The Families, most of them anyway, have come together at the neutral territory of Conclave at the isolated luxury resort known as Triton One, to discuss the matter of Jakob Hock’s (of the Family Hock) abduction, kidnapping, and ransoming of Jonah Carlyle (of the Family Carlyle). Malcolm Carlyle (the head of the Family Carlyle) suspects Jakob has taken biological secrets of longevity from Jonah's body, and Malcolm means to do something about it using his Lazarus and daughter, Forever Carlyle.

To sum up this issue: we have lots of talking and a covert operation. At first glance, it doesn’t sound very intriguing, but in the capable hands of Rucka and Lark, it is impossible to not turn the page after the first few panels. If you are a fan of Lazarus, and I hope you are, then you already know all of the characters, and after seeing Forever and Joacquim’s innocent, touching, and unfortunately most-likely-doomed budding romance blossom on the first page, you can’t help but root for these kind-hearted yet terrifying and deadly individuals. Rucka’s words and situations pair beautifully with Lark’s command of storytelling and character acting, making the many panels of people interacting utterly captivating. As a reader, we can’t help but feel Forever’s guilt over having danced with the head of their Family rival, or when Forever’s sister, Bethany, verbally thrashes her for enjoying a moment dancing with Joacquim. The degree of mortified embarrassment shown in the downturn of Forever’s eyes and the drop of her lips deliver the deep hurt and shame Bethany’s cruel words impart. On the other side, Bethany’s anger and disapproval are written across her face clearly for the world to see, but when Malcolm goes to Forever to console her, the five panel progression of Forever’s deep shame, to a relieved smile is a prime example of the magic one can expect in this series. Btw, we have only made it to page three of the issue, and my adoration is firmly cemented.

The Lazari poker game scenes are equally fantastic, and I absolutely LOVED the newly introduced Lazarus, Li Jiaolong, who shows that all Lazarus are not hulking murder machines, and that the power of the mind can be the ultimate engine of destruction. I will let you read the book to experience this new character who I hope we see a lot more of in the future. There are many Lazari in this seven page scene, but each has their own unique voice, and the phenomenal character acting and costuming of their formalwear as created by Lark is simply stunning.

The real payoff of this issue — for this Donist, at least — is the moment between Forever and Joacquim. Yes, the following mission sequence, and the crazy ending — not yet certain of what exactly happened here, which is by design — are exciting, but seeing two characters I adore falling in love, and the innocence and tragedy of their conversation really struck me. I have high hopes for these two, but the pessimist in me tells me not to get too attached…this is a cold, cruel world, and for the Lazari, Family comes before all else. Then again, who knows, with Lazarus Thomas things might be subtly changing.

I love this comic, yet still it terrifies me. Yes it is set in the future, but Rucka has gone to great lengths to extend current world issues along a line of progression that is not that far from believability. With the current disparity of wealth, many aspects of Lazarus might not be all that far around the corner, and this is not a world I want to see come about. Let’s face it, denizens, I would fall clearly into the waste category, and if you have been reading this series, then you know how well things go for those chaps. Rucka and Lark have created a fantastic and complicated world, that although scary, is something every sci-fi / dystopia / post-apocalyptic fan should jump on. You can easily do this with the recently released hardcover (issues 1–9, plus loads of extras) or the two trades (covering issues 1–10). VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Wicked + the Divine
The Wicked + the Divine - Written by Kieron Gillen, illustrated by Jamie McKelvie, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Clayton Cowles, designed by Hannah Donovan, edited by Chrissy Williams, flatted by Dee Cunniffe, guest colored on issue 4 by Nathan Fairbairn, published by Image Comics. I know it’s the holidays, and that many of you celebrate Christmas, a time of mass consumerism of gift giving and receiving, and that some of you might just have a copy of The Wicked + the Divine TPB waiting for you in that stocking hung by the chimney with care. Have you taken into account that Christmas is six days away? That’s six whole days without the glory of reading this frickin’ fantastic comic. Now that we have set the timeline, get in your dang denizen-mobile, go to your dang LCS, and buy yourself a dang copy today! Just be sure to conceal the fact that you are reading this book, and to feign surprise come Christmas morning when you discover you were indeed visited by Santa Claus and not Krampus. If you get a second copy, no big whoop, just spread the joy by giving it to a friend. Long story short: you absolutely need to read this.

Every 90 years, the gods return to Earth as beautiful young people possessing incredible powers and abilities. Unfortunately — or fortunately where some are concerned — these gods-made-mortal only possess a two-year lifespan before they are called back to the heavens or to the pit. Some love and adore them as if they were pop star celebrities. Some absolutely hate them. Some refuse to believe, but some, like Laura, desperately want to be one of them. Tensions mount when Lucy (aka Lucifer) kills a pair of would be assassins, and is placed on trial in the human court of law.

I didn’t really spoil anything here, as the premise was revealed ages ago, and the assassin thing happens in the first issue. That said, there is SO MUCH MORE going on in this book that you just need to experience for yourself. Gillen’s dialogue and thought captions flow beautifully giving insight into each of the characters; this includes the many gods who slowly make their entrance throughout the trade. McKelvie — an incredibly genuine and nice man whom Amy and I met back in 2008 and had sign a copy of Suburban Glamour — delivers his best line work to date, which given his stellar past work is saying something. Character acting carries all the right emotional beats in each scene, while the character design is stunning, providing some unique and interesting style to each of the gods; just take a glance at Lucy and Amaterasu.

Wilson’s coloring on the series lifts every character from flat, two-dimensional imagery, to realistic life while reminding the reader that they are indeed reading a comic book with the use of vibrant colors all without resorting to over-rendering. Even if the book was colored in flats, it would still be gorgeous, but Wilson’s minimal shading and carefully chosen color palette add volumes of life to the book. Speaking of flats, one cool thing Wilson does is apply flat colors to the results of the gods utilizing their powers, which completely took me aback and made me utter “Whoa…” many times throughout the reading.

Buy this book. You owe it to yourself, you know you do. You have been under a lot of pressure from the jobby, from the fam, from that neighbor who just won’t stop sifting through your dang trash, and the holiday season tends to bring loads of stress along with it. Enough already, dagnabbit, just do it! I blew through this book in no time, not because of a lack of substantial material — there’s plenty of meat on these here bones — but because I could not tear myself away from Image Comics’s latest must own title. The Wicked + the Divine is a dang near perfect comic, we are truly spoiled. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Swamp Thing #37
Swamp Thing #37 - Written by Charles Soule, illustrated by Jesus Saiz, lettered by Travis Lanham, colored by Matt Hollingsworth, published by DC Comics. The Lady Weeds is reborn this issue as she accepts the Machine Kingdom’s offer to become their avatar, and the Machine Queen is born. First order of business for the new royalty: shore up who is with you, and who is against you in your bid to destroy the Green.

This month’s Swamp Thing must have been in the same box as my lost issue of Lazarus, but no crying over delayed heavenly reading, since the flip side is that my wait for the next issue is that much shorter — unless that shipment gets launched into the void as well, which seems to be happening a lot lately. Ugh.

You already know I like this series, both story and art, but this issue is most striking in Saiz’s character designs as emboldened by Hollingsworth’s beautiful color palette. The pre-operation version of the A Calculus is creepy and worthy of joining your best nightmares, while the reverse can be said of the Machine Queen in her regal, metallic garb and her killer headdress of dangling cables. She’s hauntingly beautiful, even more so when the wings unfurl. Then we see the avatar of the Grey, as her own bioluminescence allows her to read various scrolls. We’ve seen her before, but she still looks impressive, doubly so after the Machine Queen’s “gift.” Visually, this issue is amazing, and the story only makes it stronger.

Unfortunately, to go along with the good news of finally receiving this comic, came the brutal disappointment that DC is canceling Swamp Thing come March(ish) when Soule leaves the series to begin his exclusive tenure at Marvel. This is a huge bummer, as I am even more excited about Swamp Thing than I usually am. Right now, a war is about to begin with the Grey, the Machine, and the Rot (via someone I am glad to see return…gross scene, btw) joining forces. I hope the next few issues form the story I wanted to read back when “Rot World” was first announced; time is limited, but my fingers are crossed. The crazy thing is that once this series concludes, I just realized I will not have any Big Two books on my pull list. Instead, I will continue opting for comics that try new things, that allow creative freedom, that don’t tie into any sort of marketing gimmickry to boost sales over providing fabulous stories. Swamp Thing, more often than not, gave me that sense of something different, but unfortunately it's coming to a close; I will be there to experience the end, all the while wishing the door would stay open. That said, I am available for a run if DC ever decides to change its mind and keep the title around. Just ask me for the details. Please please please! This issue is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Wytches #3
Wytches #3 - Written by Scott Snyder, illustrated by Jock, colors by Matt Hollingsworth, letters by Clem Robins, edited by David Brothers, published by Image Comics. A flashback reveals Sailor Rooks’s ability to disappear…she was always an odd little girl. But now she has not disappeared, but has been taken. Charlie, her father, knows this to be true after his bizarre confrontation with the bald, legless woman at the Rooks home, a confrontation the police say never occurred. Then again, crazy home intruders aren’t the only thing Charlie is seeing…

Finally, a book that arrived on time. Snyder gives us a small look into the Rooks family from three years ago, before cutting back to Charlie, Lucy, a police officer, and a lab assistant(?) as they survey the vast woods where Sailor and her uncle, Reg, have seemingly vanished from the face of the earth. After that is when the cold shivers will creep up your spine as Charlie flashes back to the legless woman (I thought she was a dude last issue, but certain panels…kinda spell things out for us), and unless I wrote three pages of solid text, I would not be able to express just how freakin’ disturbing this sequence is; you just need to see it for yourself. Same goes with what Charlie sees in the woods. These two sequences alone should be enough to mess up your sleep for the evening. <brrrrr>

The art and colors are as stunning as ever, with this issue incorporating Hollingsworth’s psychedelic effects onto every page. It is truly something magical to behold, which is my one minor criticism. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the effects, but maybe only having them show up during scenes involving the woods, or the wytches, or the freaky legless woman might make more sense than on every single page. This is just a minor thing, and I would gladly take the paint effects on every page versus no paint effects at all. One cool thing to note is that the creators share this issue’s process by taking us from inks, to flats, to paint, to textures, to letters, and finally to the paint effects added as layers. Gaining this insight into the process is reason enough to check out this awesome issue.

I like me a good horror story, one where you only catch a scant glimpse of what lies waiting for you around the corner. One that when you finally gather the courage to take that heart-stopping peek, you find nothing but a new clue, something that will fill you with a new level of dread right before you hear the creak of the floorboards behind you. That is exactly what reading this exceptional comic is like. Yes Wytches moves kind of slow, but this is at exactly the pace the creators intend, as they build their story upon a foundation of suspense and bone-chilling terror. If you enjoy a more cerebral form of horror comic, then this is definitely the right book for you. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Southern Bastards #6
Southern Bastards #6 - Written by Jason Aaron, illustrated by Jason Latour, lettered by Jared K. Fletcher, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. Coach Boss wasn’t always the mean-spirited, murderous, football coach who put Earl Tubb in the ground. He was once a high school kid with dreams of playing football, but his diminutive size, lack of muscle, and the inhuman humilities enacted upon him by the coach and team members alike refused to grant him his wish. Oh, and his home life kinda sucks, too. But just when things begin to look up, Craw County drags him back down.

As I mentioned last month, I don’t care about sports; I never have. But the creators of this title do the impossible and make me care. On top of that, they even succeed in making me feel bad for Euless Boss, a despicable character who I completely hated after the events of issue 4. Heck, after reading that issue, I went to bed mad at what the creators had this fictional character do. Dang, denizens, I was totally pissed. But like I said, the Jason’s have been shining such an informative light on Coach Boss these past two issues, that I can actually sympathize with him and now understand some of how he came to be.

I admit that I really wanted to jump back into the story with Tubb’s daughter, but now that I have seen some of Boss’s history, gosh darn if I don’t want to know more; I believe we will see two more issues focusing on the man.

So, yeah, I don’t like sports, but this comic drew me in despite my hesitance. It is so much more than a football comic: it is a look at the darkness buried beneath the pleasantries of the South, it is a crime comic, it is so much more. If you trust me, and I know you do, then you will pick up this title, which is an easy thing to do at the $9.99 retail price for the first trade. After that, you might as well just add this one to your pull list, ’cause I suspect you’ll be hooked after the first issue. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

East of West: The World
East of West: The World - Written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Nick Dragotta, colored by Frank Martin, lettered by Rus Wooton, published by Image Comics. This comic is not essential to following the amazing story going down in the series proper of East of West. That said, if you are a fan of the series, and of course you are, then you simply need to have this.

East of West: The World consists of a bunch of things: a six-page story, an OHOTMU(Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe)-style look at the different nations covering America, and a beautifully-designed timeline of this world’s history. Admittedly, there is a lot of white space in this book, but that in turn makes it exceptionally easy to admire on an aesthetic level, but when you actually begin to read what is on each page, and to study the maps and understand the timeline, those seeking a deeper understanding of East of West will get exactly that. You will learn the military strength of The Endless Nation, and the economic strength of The Kingdom, as well as the year of the death of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse Conquest, War, and Famine (2055) followed by the year of their rebirth. It's fascinating to see.

Again, you don’t have to pick this up to follow the awesome story happening in the three available trades, but this issue is definitely something for East of West completists and fans of clean design aesthetics. I just happened to fit into both categories. RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

DC Canceling a Whole Mess of Titles - Yeah, yeah…I know. “You’re not buying any of these books, Donist, you just said so up above in your review of Swamp Thing.” This is true, but that does not mean I want to see any of them canceled. For all I know, some of the to-be-canceled titles — and many of the set-to-continue titles — are quite good and are ones I would greatly enjoy (if this is the case, let me know which ones). It’s just a bummer, especially with the Seasons greetings, Creators-Who-Are-Stoked-To-Be-Writing-a-Big-Two-Book-and-Earning-a-Steady-Paycheck, but your book is being cancelled. All the best in your future endeavors!!! type message the creators received about this. In all fairness, I’m sure the creators have known this for a while, and many will go onto other projects, but it cannot be happy news that something that has taken up such a major amount of time, energy, and brain power is set to end before the stories play out how those involved intended. I wish all the best to all those who steadily poured their hearts and their time into their work.


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