Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 1/30/2015

(Sung to the tune of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven”)

“Tell me, tell me, tell about some books to pick”
“Some books to make me scream,” you said
“Some that’ll make me laugh,” you said
Here’s some that’ll groove, by heck
Are you noncompliant? Oh I promise you
I promise that Bitch Planet’s for you, Bitch Planet’ll surely do

Spinning on a spinner rack
I gotcha, Cuz, I got your back
Dreamed of Sex Criminals craze, and how John’s thingee glows
“Those books sound super chill,” you said
Oh yeah? Here’s ’un for ya, bro, The Dying & the Dead woo hoo
It’s so dang fine, it’s true

Hello there and 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 / mediator Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). The office (my mom’s basement) is kind of in turmoil this week as Obie and I have been fighting like cats and dogs. You see, Obie has called me out on the greatly diminished Big Two titles on my pull list, which I argue is just me wanting to read about new characters and new situations while not having to read four or more titles just to understand the complete story happening in any particular book I am interested in. Then we argued about how many Image titles I am reading every month. Then we argued about how despite the fact I am reading a diverse range of comics, I always order the same pollo asado tacos from the taco truck. Then we argued about kibble brands, and things devolved into a which character would beat which other character in a fight. In between bouts of anger and avoidance, Tulip stepped in and pushed Obie’s copy of Full-Contact Management: Come Out Swingin’ across the conference room table (the folding card table). Obie’s aggression suddenly all made sense; he must have ditched the MbDM (management by dungeon mastering) style of managing — thank goodness. <sigh> Anyhow, Obie does have a point about the Big Two books, so I think I’m going to check out the Secret War mini from Marvel when it comes out, even though I tend to avoid event books. Honestly, I’m interested in seeing what all the hubbub’s about and, hey, Jonathan Hickman’s on the book… Anyhow, I’m off to figure out what I’m going to order from the taco truck. I’ll probably order the pollo asado tacos just to spite Obie…man, those things are good, but the tacos al carbon are lookin’ kind of promising…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Bitch Planet #2
Bitch Planet #2 - Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, illustrated by Valentine De Landro, colors by Cris Peter, lettered by Clayton Cowles, cover & logo design by Rian Hughes, backmatter design by Laurenn McCubbin, edited by Lauren Sankovitch, published by Image Comics. Kamau Kogo has just discovered that the Auxiliary Compliance Outpost (ACO), also known as “Bitch Planet,” is not just where noncompliant women are sent, it is also where irksome women are disappeared. After seeing former-housewife Marian Collins murdered, the powers-that-be look to pin the blame on Kamau. That is unless Kamau goes along with their plan…

I ain’t gonna lie to you, denizens, this is a messed up book…but it is exactly the right kind of messed up us non-traditional, comic-lovin’, thinkin’ folk can appreciate. DeConnick has set up a world that could have been or that might be, where sports rule the entertainment industry, and noncompliant (NC) woman are the players in what looks to be a sort of gladiatorial exhibition for public consumption. This universe is so corrupt, that we have already seen one woman (Marian Collins) sent to the ACO for merely getting in the way of her husband marrying a younger woman. Now, with the new sports angle, DeConnick opens the story to women being “recruited” to the Bitch Planet games because they have the potential to be star performers in the show. This terrifyingly enough means innocent people getting sent to their possible death so a handful of rich, white guys can become richer, while maintaining a willingly compliant society. <brrrrrrr> Equally distressing is the fact that money made from the games will go to pay for the system that keeps NC women incarcerated: one huge terrible never-ending cycle.

One of the fascinating things about this comic is that issue one saw the introduction of many characters, while most of the attention was spent on building this terrifically-disturbing world. In fact, we were only introduced to Kamau in the last half of the first issue, and even then she only appears on six pages. The first issue cleverly misdirected me into believing this comic to be Marian Collin’s story, and I sympathized with the woman. We briefly met Penny Rolle, Violet, Kamau, and they looked to help the wrongfully incarcerated housewife. Then Marian is murdered and the focus shifts to the characters I knew even less about. Despite and because of the brilliant setup, I was 100% on board with all of these characters by the end. Even with this issue, we still know little of the surviving characters from last month, but I’m still with them all, including the newly introduced Meiko. I also loved the addition of Operative Whitney, a woman in the employ of the ACO, who seeks to steer Kamau toward forming a team for the games, deepening the complexity of this world.

De Landro’s character acting and storytelling are just as gorgeous as the previous issue, with Kamau and Operative Whitney’s discussion in Kamau’s freaky jail cell being the highlight. Whitney’s subtle and not so subtle threats and Kamau’s clever retorts are perfectly carried through in the characters’ expressions, while the squirrel fight on the background monitors makes the mood all the more disturbing.

Also great is De Landro’s sequence of Kam, Violet, Penny Rolle, and Meiko engaging in the mandatory exercise session, where the foreground sees the women talking, but it's the background where the magic happens. As Kam talks to Violet and then Meiko, a skirmish between Penny and the guards begins, but as the scene progresses, a full-blown riot occurs that you could almost miss if you were not paying attention—Penny Rolle also drops the atomic elbow on a downed guard, which is its own level of awesomess. All the while the ’70s exercise/pr0n instructor continues on in colorist Peter’s striking half-tone dots.

We are only two issues in, we know next to nothing about any of the characters, we have not seen what the games fully entail, and I am beyond cool with that. I love everything about this comic, and the creators can reveal what they want as they want, just so long as I get to see more of this terrifying universe and these fascinating characters. If you are a fan of dystopian sci-fi and you have a respect for the culty ’70s women-in-prison genre, then experiencing these creators’ story is something you have to do. I am guessing that the first issue might be a tad scarce, but with some looking you should be able to find it, which I strongly encourage you to do before giving this must-own issue a read. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Sex Criminals #10
Sex Criminals #10 - Written by Matt Fraction, illustrated by Chip Zdarsky, production by Drew Gill, editing by Thomas K, published by Image Comics. Jon and Suze have a plan to take down the Sex Police, but they’re going to need former-porn-star Ana Kinkaid’s help. Heck, why not invite their friends Robert and Rachelle along for the trip and turn it into a mini-vacation. As Jon and Suze discover there is much more to Ana than meets the eye, the Sex Police begin to up their game.

Thus concludes the second arc, and I am just as amped for the third as I have been throughout the course of the entire series. Comparatively, this issue is lighter on the humor than in past issues, but with this installment we become more in tune with all of the characters, which is saying something, because if you are a fan of Sex Criminals then you are already heavily invested in Jon and Suze, Robert and Rachelle, and now Ana; you end up just loving them more. The idea of the Sex Police and the Quiet is so bizarre, so outer limits, yet the thing that lifts this comic to the top of my read pile is just how honest, how true all the characters and situations feel. I sympathize with Jon’s struggle with his feelings and saying those three words, yet at the same time I want to grab him and shake him and tell him he knows what to do. As I’ve said in past reviews, Fraction and Zdarsky have made these characters my friends, and I can’t stand watching them screw things up for themselves; I desperately want them to succeed.

The Quiet features in only a handful of panels in this issue, which means that Zdarsky’s other-worldy glows and effects are at a minimum, but that just means more of his stunning character acting and lively real-world colors. Although the humor of this issue is downplayed compared to past issues, Zdarsky has hidden some laugh-out-loud moments to the scene of Robert and Rachelle at the bookstore Pornes & Noble.

The title alone should tell you this series is not for the kiddies, and one flip through this issue and spotting Jon’s glowing bellend should solidify that knowledge. If you are sex positive, open-minded, and like a humorous story with likeable characters, then look no further than Sex Criminals. You can easily find the first trade, and I am certain the second is on the way in the next month or so, but as I always say, the backmatter of the floppies are every bit as funny — if not more so — than the actual comic; they are a crucial part of the experience. Heck, if anything, pick up this issue to read Zdarsky’s one paragraph erotic take on a romance novel. “…which I kneaded like a space baker about to make space bread.” I’m still rolling after reading that! VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Dying & the Dead #1
The Dying & the Dead #1 - Written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Ryan Bodenheim, colored by Michael Garland, lettered by Rus Wooton, published by Image Comics. In 1969, after a long search(?) a secret organization gains control of an item of great power(?). Meanwhile, a group of otherworldly, alabaster-hued beings need one Colonel Canning, an elderly human with a dying wife, to help in dealing with the threat of Bah al’Sharur. The Colonel would sooner step away from the mystic beings, but the deal they offer him is too good to pass up.

Like the Donist World darling East of West, The Dying and the Dead begins in the thick of things, leaving this Donist’s brain addled and in need of a reread (later today) that will probably raise more questions than provide answers; I’m fine with that. I’m completely in on this title that looks to have a Cobra-style (like on G.I. Joe) villainous organization threatening the world and a mystical group of humanoids lurking in the shadows with humanity caught in the middle. So I guess if I had to attach a genre to the series I would call it an adventure / fantasy / spy / sci-fi with most of the emphasis falling on the adventure side of things. Again, I have no idea where the story is going, what the deal is with the enemy and their soldiers (I won’t spoil the details about them), who these white beings are, why Colonel Canning is special, what happened in the Colonel’s past, or what is in the box, but I trust Hickman to fill us in along the way. Think of it like running to catch up to a moving pickup truck while you are being chased; don’t stop to think, just run and jump on in.

Bodenheim…goodness gracious, I love the gorgeous art on this book. Trust me, just buy this comic and while you’re at it also pick up the trade for Red Mass For Mars (another awesome comic written by Hickman) and you’ll see what I mean. Great character acting, great pacing, stellar storytelling, and an impressive style all make me love every panel of this book. I especially like the intentionally standout difference in line weight of his inks, like on the beautiful double-page spread title page; those backgrounds are just as stunning in their detail as well. I also have to mention the other double-page spread of the City that has to be seen to be believed, and the character design of the mysterious Shurra al Alum is just plain cool. Even if this book were printed in black and white I would still be floored by Bodenheim’s work. Geez Louis.

That said, of equal importance to the look and feel of this comic is Garland’s wonderful colors. Most every scene in the comic is set to a striking monochromatic color scheme. Doing this makes slight additions of a new color like the complementary yellow rings amidst the predominantly blue page much more impactful. This is especially true on the first DPS mentioned above with the muted-purple bad guys walking across the crimson grounds. Garland’s coloring choices also give the beings-in-white even more presence on the page as they stand apart from everything around them. His use of knockouts in many of the backgrounds add to the beauty of Bodenheim’s lines.

Sure, I don’t completely know what’s going on, but that doesn’t matter. Each component of this book has me hooked. I like the writing, the art, and the colors — each alone is worthy of praise — but all three combined make this first issue a no-brainer, must buy. Not convinced? How about 60 pages at a $4.50 price point? Other bigger publishers charge $4.99 for 30 pages with ads interrupting the story. With The Dying & The Dead you are paying $1.50 for every 20 pages, which is unheard of. Do yourself a favor and seek this out, it looks to be epic. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Buried - No ranting this week. I have some thumbnails to draw for one class, a couple exercises for another, job huntin’ to dial in, a dog walk to do, and I REALLY need to get some Amazon reviews (or reviews in general) going for Kibbles ’N’ Botsmy all-ages ebook available for the Kindle and Kindle Apps, for all of you playing the Tulip the Superpowered Boston Terrier home game — and some free copies sent. With that, have a great weekend and let me know of any must-read books I’ve been missing out on. Oh! I totally forgot! My copy of Avengers: The Korvac Saga TPB should be arriving today. Bonus!


Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 1/23/2015

(Sung to the tune of The Cure's “Primary”)

The Autumnlands fills me with much zen
So good I’m dreaming
So sublime

Historic lines begin to blur
Oh monstrous fears
To chill your heart
Manifest Destiny’s superb

These books we read
The more we need
You best pay heed
Consume with speed

Hello there, Donist World denizens, and welcome back. I'm joined as ever by CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / The Cure fanatic Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). It was kind of a slow new release week here at Donist World seeing as how we only had one book in our pull. Thankfully, we had a backup trade that we absolutely LOVED, so we'll take a quick look at that as well. The slow release week is actually well timed as I started two more graphic design courses, I’ve been finalizing my resume, began the job search, took on a graphic design project, I am nearly finished with an online resume, and I’m preparing to tackle our taxes. By Obie’s estimation, we should be due “a cool 10Gs” for Donist World business, but what my CFO fails to realize is that you have to have income to apply to all those business expenses and you have to have overpaid your taxes in order to receive a refund. Ummmm…our lease at the corporate office (Mom’s basement) is $0 per month, the snacks (kibble) are not deductible since a dog is not considered an employee, and the squeaky plush toys are not considered an entertainment expense. Bummer, I know. Oh well. Anyhow, I have to cut over to some pressing homework now, so that I will have some time to read my recent delivery from of Six From Sirius (the first issue rocked my world), Six From Sirius 2, and The Light and Darkness War — super sci-fi goodness. Have a great weekend, and let me know if there is something I should have been reading this week. With that, on to…

Friday Slice of Heaven

The Autumnlands:
Tooth & Claw #1
The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw #3 - Written by Kurt Busiek, illustrated by Benjamin Dewey, colored by Jordie Bellaire, lettering and design by John G. Roshell & Jimmy Betancourt of Comicraft, published by Image Comics. Three cheers for the Champion! Here here here! The Champion was summoned to save the magic and the people of the great city of Keneil…make that the-once-great city of Keneil. But the Champion, Learoyd, is odd in appearance and manner. Yes he saved the people of Keneil from the low-born bison raiders, but Learoyd is brash and cares little of anyone. And what tidings does the fox-woman trader, Goodfoot, bring to the high-born brought low?

I have been hoping for a good fantasy comic for sometime now. Sure, aspects of other Image titles fall into this category, but Tooth & Claw…errrrr…make that The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw (I was wrong about the heavy metal band naming mixup that I talked about last month, as clarified in the back matter of this issue) hits all the right fantasy notes: swords, sorcery, bipedal animal characters, a legend of a great savior, politics, classism, and so much more. The first two issues grounded the series firmly in a world that anyone familiar with the term dungeon master can relate. Then Busiek and Dewey change things up with the intermixing of an additional genre.

The new sci-fi angle is downplayed, subtle, mostly used to show that there is more to Steven T. Learoyd than we first thought. Through subtle, unacknowledged artistic sequences — beautifully delivered by Dewey, by the way — we see a possible justification for how the Champion was able to decimate the bison raiders so easily. We also see a problem for Learoyd that is sure to complicate matters in the near future.

This issue also sees the introduction of Goodfoot, a fox-woman trader, who shows up right when life at the fallen city of Keneil is most desperate and confused. She appears with her charming demeanor astride a giant cricket — insects look to be transportation / pack animals in this world — and she bears gifts and advice…for a reasonable price. Goodfoot is absolutely stunning in her design, as Dewey gives her such style and personality through her character acting and through her wonderful costuming. She is simply marvelous with her weaved hair decorations, her traveling hat (complete with a decorative crystal and dragonfly wings instead of bird feathers), large bangles, green-buttoned shirt, brown shoulder pads, scarf, and orange skirt. Dewey has put such time and consideration into every aspect of Goodfoot's design that when mixed with the tremendous personality Busiek gives the fast-talking fox, it is nearly impossible not to fall for the character's charms. I sincerely hope Goodfoot sticks around for some time to come.

Bellaire's colors continue to define and solidify the look of this book, and although we don't see the brilliant displays of magic that made the first issue so striking, there is still plenty to dazzle. What I failed to notice in the first two issues, was that during the more dramatic conversation scenes, where backgrounds are of lesser importance, Bellaire opts to knockout (change the black inks in a portion of a panel to another color for added effect) the backgrounds to more subdued color tones than what is portrayed in the foreground. I have seen many artist flat out omit detailed backgrounds in their art, but Dewey avoids taking the easy road, giving the reader much to see, while Bellaire creates the visual hierarchy and additional perspective with her knockouts and color opacity shifts. The characters might not be using magic this issue, but the technical choices of both artists bring a stylistic type of magic all the same.

Do you have any doubts that I am enjoying this new fantasy comic series? The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw is a beautiful, well-told story that started strong and does not appear to be slowing down. This issue clocks in at 24 pages with a $2.99 price and has absolutely no advertisements to interrupt the flow of the exceptional story. Compare this to certain other high-profile Big Two books that are 20–22 pages at $3.99 (or more) and with far too many meddlesome ads to pull you out of story. If you are looking for a great, beautifully-crafted fantasy comic, then look no further than The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw. The next issue cannot come soon enough. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Manifest Destiny V2
Amphibia & Insecta TPB
Manifest Destiny: Volume 2 - Amphibia & Insecta TPB - Written by Chris Dingess, illustrated by Matthew Roberts, colored by Owen Gieni, lettered by Pat Brosseau, edited by Sean Mackiewicz, published by Skybound, an Image Comics imprint. In 1804, Lewis and Clark set out to explore the uncharted American Frontier with a crew of enlisted men, mercenaries, and convicts. Part of their mission, the one that few others are aware, is that they were also sent to discover and hunt monsters. Their hunt has not been going well. After the horror and catastrophes found at the fort, and the loss of many of their men, Lewis and Clark continue their exploration of America, only to hit another misstep when their riverboat snags upon something in the water. When half of the men investigate, they discover a new threat lies beneath, as the other half discover the horror that lurks in the woods.

As you might remember from my post in June 2014, I kind of flipped out over the first trade of Manifest Destiny. I had heard the series was well done, but I had no idea of just how compelling and exciting this book was until I had read those first few pages; I hammered through the trade in a couple of days. When I saw that the second trade was soon arrive, my pulse quickened with anticipation and I picked it up the day it released. I smashed through this new volume in two sittings — I would have preferred one sitting, but you know…life — and was brought fully back into the creepy, yet thrilling world I first enjoyed over six months ago.

Again the creators give us six terrific issues in this reasonably priced ($14.99 retail) collection as we discover — the hard way — new monstrous threats lurking in the American wild. Roberts’s depictions of both the amphibia and the insecta portions of the creatures in this book are wild and freaky as all heck, yet the monsters remain true in their design to the animals upon which they are each based. Whether the monsters have exoskeletons, ear drums, a proboscis, a curved bone structure for the skull, or natural body movements or postures, Roberts captures it all perfectly with the attention to detail of someone who deeply understands the anatomy of what he is depicting.

The creators utilize splash pages and larger panels sparingly, but when they do appear, they deliver the perfect emotional one-two punch to make you gasp in shock. The visual and written storytelling is just as strong as the previous volume, and we gain additional insight into not only Lewis and Clark, but many of the unsavory men in their command. The volume ends with the promise of more adventure, more horror, more of the mysterious arches, and more of the amazing Sacagawea (aka…the wise, pregnant, Native American murder machine), and I will be there eagerly waiting to see what comes next. This comic series is positively fantastic, and blast to read. You need to check this out. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Not Much… - Although having only on book in my pull this week is a mite disappointing, there really wasn’t much gettin’ on my left nerve this week. That said, I am a little stressed as I’m gearing up for a new round of life changes with the job search, which looks to be… interesting… as I try to find something that will allow me to continue physically attending my Publication Design class; lifelong learning is a commitment I hold dear. I also need to finally start bringing professional reviewers on board for my all-ages novel Kibbles ’N’ Bots so I can hopefully see some positive reviews (one so far, and surprisingly it is not from anyone I know!) and get some sales and excitement ramping up as I write the next book (I have loosely plotted the entire story by chapter, and I'm ~7000 words into the first draft thus far). There's also the small matter of creating over 50 little illustrations to put at each chapter head, which I really need to start. Ugh…so much to do.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 1/16/2015

(Sung to the tune of The Cure's “Close To Me”)

I’ve waited a month for Lazarus, I’ve been impatiently sick
It arrived today hip hop hooray
I never thought that the day would come
I never thought I’d buy Star Wars you see, but it’s a must read

But when comics get so dark, sometimes you’re filled with fright
Well never fear, Starlight is here
Another book you must hold close
Creature Cops is tops, but there’s a two week wait ’til gator snake

Just have a bit of faith
Donist’ll steer you safe and clean
Hot dang I am so sure
That these books I adore are a dream

Hello there and welcome to Donist World. I’m Donist, and I’m joined as ever by CFO Obie (my friend’s Boston terrier) and by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / canine cicerone Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). This week there was only one comic in our pull, but another comic proved too hard to resist, another is an advance copy, and another is a digital copy of a mini-series I read this week; all are freakin’ fantastic! Anyways, I’m keeping the intro short because I have started writing the first draft of the followup up to my ebook Kibbles ’N’ Bots (edited by none other than Rob Anderson, writer of Creature Cops, discussed below!), and Obie has just handed me a list of demands (or rather story notes) for his character in Kibbles ’N’ Bots, as well a backend profit-sharing contract that basically signs all of the Donist World assets over to him in the event the book does not earn out the million dollars he states he is entitled to receive. We have some painful discussions ahead of us.

While we trudge through that mess, have a look at this week’s…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Lazarus #14
Lazarus #14 - 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. Forever Carlyle, the Family Carlyle Lazarus, has been tasked with infiltrating the Family Hock’s section of Triton One to eliminate her kidnapped brother Jonah, from whom Hock has allegedly stolen technological secrets. Getting to Jonah is next to impossible, unless you are Forever, but one thing Forever’s father, Malcolm Carlyle, did not count on was for the two siblings to actually talk before Forever carried out her mission.

T-E-N-S-I-O-N. If you were to summarize in one word Rucka and Lark’s compelling Lazarus series, “tension” might be the best way to do so. The majority of this issue focuses on Forever’s mission to take out her brother, Jonah. We see her sneaking in and out of facility ducts, checking behind doors, avoiding cameras, and moving her disheveled brother somewhere safe so she can kill him. At any moment, the alarm could sound ensuring violence and possibly war between the two families. Then the creator’s have the two talk, and in the flurry of emotions that ensue, Lark draws the reader completely into the nerve-wracking exchange, and the ticking clock of the alarm eventually sounding. The entire nine-page sequence had me nervously thinking get out of there, get out of there, you have to get out of there, all the while desperately wanting to hear what Jonah had to say. Through brilliant dialogue, exceptional character acting, and storytelling that keeps you transfixed panel-to-panel, readers who have been following Lazarus since the beginning not only read the story, they become part of it.

The final five pages of this issue bring the intensity down a little, but then with the final three panels you can’t help but gasp. I want to spoil the brutal cliffhanger with its promise of events I do not want to see unfold, but I’m not going to; you just have to read this tremendous issue for yourself. What I will say is that the creators succeeded in endearing many characters to us some time ago, and as much as I don’t want certain events to unfold, there is no way on Earth I can hope to look away from what is coming next issue. To be honest, I fully expect to be quite traumatized come this time next month(ish), but I wouldn’t have it any other way — I do hold out some hope for things to work out.

I don’t exagerate when I say Lazarus is one of the best things to come out of Image, denizens, it is a fantastic comic. Be warned though: if you are looking for cheer in Rucka and Lark’s world, then you are going to be sorely disappointed. If you are looking for a dark, futuristic tale of a world and situations that are not all that far removed from possibility, then you should definitely pick this up. Currently, you can find two trades, or opt for the beautiful hardcover. I will say that although each issue has a mini-summary of what has previously transpired, this is a book you need to start at the beginning to properly understand the world and the intriguing characters. Must read stuff. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Creature Cops #1
Creature Cops: Special Varmint Unit #1 (Advance Review) - Written by Rob Anderson, illustrated by Fernando Melek, inked by Novo Malgapo, colored by Juan Romera, lettered by E.T. Dollman, story editor Paul Allor, consulting editors Andy Schmidt and Bobby Curnow, published by Comics Experience and IDW. 20 years ago, China created the first duo-spliced animals with the creation of the “Panda Dog,” which became immensely popular as a pet around the world. Now, in the US, both legal and illegal hybrid animals have flourished, existing in the home and oftentimes in the wild. In response to the growing numbers of these animals, Animal Control has been federalized to deal with problematic, animal-related incidents.

You might remember Anderson from my glowing reviews of his one-shot and subsequent four-issue mini-series Rex Zombie Killer, a fun mashup of The Walking Dead and The Incredible Journey with the added bonus of a gorilla with a baseball bat; it’s also great read. With Creature Cops, Anderson brings his love of animals along with his knowledge of working in no-kill animal shelters to the field of animal control. After reading this issue — and the other two issues, which I will talk about in the future — I can easily see Creature Cops as a television procedural (only better than most) with its impressive roster of characters and the barrage of hybrid-animal-related incidents plaguing the city. Each of the characters from the day shift and the night shift have their own distinct voices, histories, problems, and wants, while also subtly infusing the very real problem of budgetary concerns, which we see via the hosts of empty seats at the precinct roll call. Even though the comic is fantastical with the creatures found in the book, and many of the situations are serious, there are a fair amount of humorous and laugh out loud moments that fit seamlessly into the narrative. The story as a whole and the dialogue and characterization are all highly enjoyable.

The art is beautiful and perfectly suited to both the humans and the host of cool creatures Melek has created. The character acting is solid whether we are watching the characters sit through (or for a couple officers, suffer through) the morning roll call, or when two others navigate a budding romance. As for the many hybrid creatures (gator snake, panda dog, king rat), they are all well-developed, but my definite favorite of the bunch is without a doubt the horned mastiff, who has a hilarious panel riding squirrel with Kaminski and Vasquez that made me love this title all the more. Romera’s colors are vibrant and full of life, despite the fact that many scenes occur in the city, and his style rounds out Melek’s line work beautifully.

There is much more at play in the story than officers merely bringing in interesting animals as you will see with what Gabby finds while out on a routine call, but I ain’t gonna spoil; you’ll just have to read for yourself. Creature Cops is a heck of a fun read that I have been lucky enough to see progress from script, to pencils, to inks, and now to the final product that you will be able to buy on January 28th at your LCS. Also, please check out this great interview with Anderson over at Newsarama here. If you are an animal lover, a fan of police procedurals, or you like great comic books outside of the usual capes and tights fare, then Creature Cops: Special Varmint Unit is exactly the book you need. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Star Wars #1
Star Wars #1 - Written by Jason Aaron, illustrated by John Cassaday, colored by Laura Martin, lettered by Chris Eliopoulos, edited by Jordan D. White, published by Marvel Comics. Following Rebel pilot Luke Skywalker’s destruction of the Death Star, the Imperial Forces have to regroup. Pressing their advantage, the Rebels stage a daring infiltration on an Imperial weapons factory. All seems to be going well until the Imperial negotiator arrives…

Dagnabbit, denizens, I…did…not…want…to…get…this…comic. I didn’t. I used to occasionally pick up the odd Star Wars comic back in the ’70s, but since then I’ve kind of stayed away from the whole Star Wars comic thing. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are supposedly some amazing runs out there, but the sheer volume of material available is simply daunting; I would have no idea of where to start. With Disney buying Marvel, and then Disney buying Star Wars with licensing rights reverting from Dark Horse to Disney, you don’t need a crystal ball to predict an onslaught of new Star Wars comics flooding into comic shops. Just look at the back of this issue where you will find previews / solicits for a Darth Vader comic, and a Princess Leia comic on the horizon. I’m sure Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, C-3PO and R2-D2, Lando, Chewbacca, Obi Wan Kenobi, and who-knows-what-else is certain to follow — I for one am personally holding out for the thrilling Bib Fortuna series. My problem with buying a comic in the Star Wars franchise is that doing so holds the potential to open a gateway to a monetary black hole from which there is no escape.

So, why did I buy this issue? The answers are simple: Jason Aaron, John Cassaday, 30 pages, and a new number one based on a movie that changed my life forever. I love the creators on this book, the characters are amazing, but I was curious to see if a comic could spark my interest in a property where I already knew what was going to happen a la the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. I should have known better…this book was a blast. Into the black hole I go. Again, dagnabbit!

Aaron gives the reader exactly what they have come to expect from one of his books: an exciting read filled with drama and action-packed adventure. He also delivers on the Star Wars front by nailing every single character voice and personality to the point that even without the imagery you know when Luke, or Han, or Leia are talking; Chewie is a no brainer.

As for the art, Cassaday shows exactly why he is a master. At once giving us picture perfect renditions of the main Star Wars characters and infusing them with some of the best expressions and body language I have seen in a comic. Add in Laura Martin’s tremendous colors — especially on dramatic character lighting — that lean toward cooler colors for interiors and warmer for outside shots, and I was transfixed by every aspect of this issue. Then the issue ends with that full-page splash and the solitary “RUN” balloon…again, dagnabbit, I say.

<Sigh> Yes, I will be picking up the second and probably the third issues of this new series that will undoubtedly spawn dozens of other series, but when you have heavy hitters like Aaron, Cassady, and Martin on the book, there is really no harm in picking up this comic, so long as: 1) the Force is with you, 2) you love beautifully presented and fun sci-fi. One heck of a powerful, good start. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Starlight #1
Starlight #1–6 - Written by Mark Millar, illustrated by Goran Parlov, colored by Ive Svorcina, lettered by Marko Sunjic, edited by Nicole Boose, production by Drew Gill, logo by Tim Daniel, published by Image Comics. Once upon a time, Duke McQueen was the savior of a distant universe after he defeated the maniacal dictator, Typhon. The lovely, seven-feet-tall queen offered to make him her king, the people built an enormous statue in his honor, a distant world and its populace adored Duke as a hero. Then he came back home to Earth. He married, had two children, and returned to a life that refused to believe of his great achievements in distant galaxies; he was just your average Joe. His wife believed him, but decades passed and she recently died. Duke is alone with only his memories to keep him company, that is until Space-Boy arrives with news of a new threat to the very galaxy where Duke still matters.

Oh my goodness gracious, denizens, this mini-series is a complete joy. I loved every second of this fun, exciting, emotional tale. After reading — and loving — books from Millar the likes of The Ultimates, Kick-Ass, and the second half of The Authority, all of which lean toward the darker side of the spectrum, I never thought I would ever read a comic so upbeat, positive, and — dare I say — fun from this creator. Think of Starlight as a callback to the days of the old serials Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, only with the hero returning to save the day 40 years later as an old man. Through solid dialogue, perfect pacing, and some beautifully-timed, emotion-filled silent panels, Millar made me a believer in Duke within the first few pages of the first issue; I was completely in.

Parlov’s art is equally to blame for my adoration of this series. The silent panels I mention above delivered such character defining moments for Duke, that you could feel just how lost this character was without the one thing that grounded him to his home planet: his wife. The images are sad, heavy, and when intermixed with Duke’s memories of his other-worldly exploits, they hit that much harder, Thankfully the sadness is short lived with the arrival of Space-Boy and his request for Duke’s help. Amazing character acting and storytelling aside, Parlov’s art more than shines when depicting the sci-fi tech, dynamic costumes, and the occasional splash page that is reminiscent of Moebius when combined with Svorcina’s colors. The colored art alone is worth spending some time lingering over.

Again, I freakin’ loved this series. I anticipate it is one of those I will revisit at least every other year, especially after reading so many of the other dreary — yet excellent, mind you — comics to be found on the shelves. I picked this up through a Comixology sale, but I think I’m going to double dip on the trade (releasing mid to late February) so I can see this dang-fine comic gracing my favorite book shelf. You simply have to read this fun adventure. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

I Have To Be Critical and Poke Fun At Something - Okay, call me a snob for this nitpick, but you know how I mentioned above that the awesome Creature Cops comic is an “Advance Review?” Yeah? Well, one thing that has driven me insane over the years is when other reviewers / publishers refer to advance reviews as “Advanced Reviews.” I know, I know, I am not exactly a grammatical master myself — although mixing up “there,” “their,” and “they’re” is a most terrible crime…I’m sure I’ve done it — but referring to something as an “Advanced Review” or an “Advanced Review Copy” leads me to think the following: 1) the reviewer’s review of the as-yet-unreleased item in question (book, cd, comic) was written / dictated at such a level of expertise as to make my thoughts look on par with that of a drunken kindergartner, 2) the “advanced review copy” requires some manner of specialized training, or perhaps a secret code word, to unlock the juicy content within to such a degree that few can crack it open. 

Why this popped into my head I have no idea. Writing those words made me remember recently seeing an “Advanced Review Copy” of a YA book from a well-known publisher being given away at book store. 

Now, I’m certain you all could bust out your trusty red markers and hack the bejesus out of this post with its myriad of errors, but one thing you will never catch me doing is calling an “Advance Review” an “Advanced Review.” With that said, I’m off to fill my haughty ass with a couple cans of the Champagne of Beers and mayhaps some chili cheese fries. Just kidding, I’m too snobby to drink that crap, but the chili cheese fries thing…


Friday, January 9, 2015

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 1/9/2015

(Sung to the tune of The Cure’s “In Between Days”)

Yesterday I caught a cold
I felt like I could die
Yesterday I read great books
They made me feel more spry

Oh man oh man The Fade Out, yay
Oh boy oh boy Swamp Thing hooray
Yo dawg yo dawg a new Trees’s here
Hot dang hot dang Deadly Class revere

I won’t steer you wrong
What I’m sayin’ is true
God Hates Astronauts is a crack up
To be seen I tell you, I tell you

Hey there, Donist World denizens, and welcome back. I am only kinda-sorta here today, but I’m joined as ever by CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / nurse Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). Last week, you might recall, I was on the start of a brutal sickness journey from which I am just now starting to recover. What I’m trying to say is that I definitely do not have all my marbles, but thanks to Tulip and Obie taking on some of my work load and giving 110% as they synergize efforts of cross-geo collaboration to maintain our status as a Fortune 320,000 company, business continues to happen! My darling little poochie employees have even gone so far as to make me some chicken soup, which…hey, I appreciate the hot soup, but this chicken soup is missing all the chicken, and Tulip and Obie have been very quiet in the corporate office (my mom’s basement) break room (Mom’s kitchen). While I go and see exactly how much chicken they pilfered from this chicken soup, have a look at this week’s…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

The Fade Out #4
The Fade Out #4 - Written by Ed Brubaker, illustrated by Sean Phillips, colored by Elizabeth Breitweiser, published by Image Comics. Charlie returns to center stage as he and Earl prepare to head to a big Hollywood bash. First, however, a little stop over to photographer Steve Turner’s place for a look at his special selection of…personal…photos, before swinging by to pick up Dottie, who may / may not be Charlie’s date. Unfortunately, Charlie sees something in a photograph that sparks a memory from the night that Valerie Sommers was killed, a memory that someone wants to stay buried.

This comic book is so very good. As you can expect from Brubaker and Phillips, you get an exemplary crime story where even the good guys have less than shining pasts. In fact, every character in this story has a secret, something to hide, something that could ruin them in the face of the behemoth that is Hollywood were word to get out. There are plenty out there who are more than happy to spill such secrets given half the chance. Then there are those who would kill to keep things good and buried as Charlie Parish is about to discover.

Each issue of this series has everything I love in a crime / noir comic: complicated characters who might not be guilty of Val’s murder, but are guilty of many other things; fantastic, compelling dialogue with each character having their own voice; dark, oftentimes-murky colors that deliver just the right mood from scene to scene; art that fluently depicts the drama and emotions in every panel; and an overall comic that pulls you in for the duration, while leaving you desperate for more.

No surprise, Phillips’s storytelling is as perfect as ever, but some of the most magical moments come in the form of Charlie’s memories attempting to claw their way back to the surface. With the assistance of Breitweiser’s analogous colors, Phillips creates a trio of gorgeous, ethereal panels that perfectly simulate the fog of memory attempting to make sense of something forgotten. The magenta of the lit cigarette burning amidst the cool blues is both eerie and beautiful, and is a style I have not previously seen in this title; you really need to check it out.

I wanted to read this comic on the very day that I bought it, but I was still sick and quite tired, and I knew that The Fade Out is a book that demands its readers be all-in and at full attention to appreciate all the intricacies of the characters and the story. So, I waited until the next day, when my mind was semi-fresh, and I was able to properly take in the beauty of this title. Brubaker and Phillips have produced some of my favorite comics of all time (Sleeper and Criminal), but with The Fade Out, they look to surpass their already grand accomplishments with what is possibly their finest work to date. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Swamp Thing #38
Swamp Thing #38 - Written by Charles Soule, illustrated by Javier Pina, colored by June Chung, lettered by Travis Lanham, published by DC Comics. It’s the Green Vs. the Machine on multiple fronts as we span the globe with Abby joining the fray against the new, upstart kingdom. What neither Alec (the Green’s avatar) or Abby (the Rot’s avatar) realize is that the Machine has their own avatar now, the woman once known as The Lady Weeds, but now known as The Machine Queen. Unfortunately for the good guys, The Machine Queen has outside help, and her current movements are merely a distraction to her real objective…

Why is this book on the chopping block? Yes, I know: flagging sales, Soule leaving, no movie / television series on the horizon. But c’mon, denizens, this the only DC comic I am currently buying, and I don’t want to see it go. It finally began to take off from a story perspective early last year, and under Soule’s capable pen Swamp Thing has become a title worthy of my lifelong, beloved character. This completely bums me out, but let’s not focus on the inevitable. Instead, let’s focus on just how fantastic an issue this really is.

Action, battles, team-ups, escalation of threat, a new monster, loss of hope, and more will dazzle Swamp Thing fans, and I found myself equally fearing / applauding Anton Arcane’s return to power. The driving force of this issue does not fall solely on Soule’s fantastic story, but is shared by Pina’s storytelling and gorgeous character design. I especially love the grotesque / sexy design of Mycos Miki (wasn’t that a song by The London Suede?) and of the creepy creature created by the disturbing joining of The Machine Queen, Arcane, and Miki. Together, this is one heck of an thrilling and unnerving comic that successfully joins action and horror, leaving me excited to see what happens next.

Despite the end of this series looming on the horizon, fans of he character and of the great Swamp Thing moments that have graced our collections over the decades should be reading this concluding chapter to this once good series that has made a turn towards great. As I’ve been moanin’ about throughout this review — and last month’s as well — I am really sad to see this series ending with issue 40, but with any luck maybe we will see a new title emerge that continues along the lines of what Scott Snyder started and what Soule expanded upon. I’m not holding my breath. One thing I will say is that I have some ideas involving Jason Woodrue returning to the series that I would be happy to share with the right DC ears ’n’ eyes, possibly some stuff involving Jason Blood as well…just throwing that out there. Again, I’m not holding my breath. All that aside, Swamp Thing #38 is a heck of a good read, worthy your time. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Deadly Class #10
Deadly Class #10 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Wes Craig, colored by Lee Loughridge, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. Well, Marcus got the girl he’s secretly wanted. There’s one problem: his current, unstable girlfriend, Maria. If Maria finds out she will literally kill him; she is exceptionally skilled in such things. Not only that, Marcus is hungover as hell, and he and his friends are scheduled to raid the hideout of his mortal enemy. Please, please, please don’t let Maria find out.

Aside from a two-page sequence that was a bit too over the top for me (If you read this issue, you’ll know exactly what I’m talkin’ ’bout), this is another fantastic issue of Deadly Class. Remender gives the lead character exactly what he wanted, but through a fantastic stream-of-consciousness sequence, we experience Marcus’s thoughts and see his dedication to selfishness and self destructive. He blames cheap alcohol for his cheating on his girlfriend with Saya, as well as running two hours late to his comic store’s most important sale of the year, when in fact part of him knew full well what he was doing. As extraordinary as Marcus’s circumstances are, we see that he actually not all that atypical of a teenager: he’s figuring it out and messing it up as he goes along. To be interesting, characters need to have flaws, and Marcus has flaws in droves.

Craig continues to effectively utilize high-panel count pages for most of the scenes, while infrequently shifting gutters to drive the action further. Loughridge provides a primarily monochromatic coloring scheme to each page throughout the comic, with flashbacks and action receiving change ups in color to command attention and shock. In other words, this issue is just as visually beautiful as those that came before it.

The next issue looks to be the conclusion to the second arc of the phenomenal Deadly Class. If you are a “mature audience” and are cool with reading a book about a high school for assassins, where some pretty grim things go down, then this is the book for you. I am still loving this series, and now my wife is loving this book having just read the first trade. Although the one sequence I mentioned above is disgusting as heck and ran a shade long, it still didn’t diminish the impact of this awesome comic. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

God Hates
Astronauts #5
God Hates Astronauts #5 - Everythinged by Ryan Browne, except colored by Jordan Boyd, word balloon lettered by Chris Crank, and edited by Jordan Browne, published by Image Comics. Admiral Tiger Eating a Cheeseburger lives?! Star Grass versus Croad and her team of sea animals?! Anti-Mugger accused of…<gasp>…mugging?! Starlina’s powers pushed out of control by a cookie overdose?! All this and more in the insane new issue of God Hates Astronauts!

Forgive me if I’m wrong, but the above is probably the easiest go of summarizing an issue of GHA that I have ever had. Still, if you have never read this absolutely bonkers comic, you are probably still scratching your head as to what the heck I’m talking about. The trick to understanding the glory of this comic, denizens, is to not even bother trying to understand it. You just need to go with the flow, baby, and let the madness wash over you.

Who is new character Whizzard? I don’t know, and I don’t care, but bring him on, buckaroo. Why is Croad riding on a flying whale that sings all of its dialogue? Beats me, but I know like it. Why does Anti-Mugger have a monster arm growing out of his chest? I honestly don’t remember, and I doubt the answer would actually clear things up. The thing is, God Hates Astronauts is funny. It’s actually kinda hilarious. Since Browne does most everything on the book, the humor is in the words, the characters, the backgrounds, and even in the laugh-out-loud sound effects (“Pants Destroy”…where else can you find that SFX?). Humor is everywhere, but what makes everything work so dang well is Browne’s exceptional illustrations and his mastery of storytelling. At no point is your attention allowed to drift, as your eyes glide through each page and the giggles set in. I strongly encourage a second immediate read through to pick up any joke(s) you might have missed.

Those without a sense of humor need not apply, but if you enjoy the funny — and I know you do — then you can’t go wrong with this bizarre-yet-beautiful title. So, pick up the first trade (what I like to call the prequel) and then jump into this series with the soon-to-be-released second trade. If you ever are in need of a laugh, then this is exactly the book to sock it to you. It’s a right kick in the pants. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Trees #8
Trees #8 - Written by Warren Ellis, illustrated by Jason Howard, lettered by Fonografiks, published by Image Comics. Characters you thought you knew are gone. The world shifts under the Trees’ shadow. All has changed.

What?!?! Wow…I just…dang. Okay, denizens, let me try to catch my breath and wrap my head around everything that just happened in the latest issue of Trees.

If you have been reading this series, then you know there has been a steady escalation of tension in every region of the world in this book. We have seen militaries begin to mobilize, criminal elements killed to make way for a new leader, and tiny black flowers growing where they could not possibly survive. This issue takes the momentum of the previous seven issues, and casts if off the top of a cliff to either soar of plummet; it looks like we are in for a plummet. Holy moly, denizens, things change hardcore, and it is startling in the severity of the shift. Wow.

I will not spoil any of the three shocking events that happen in this issue, though it is taking all my willpower to not do so. You simply have to read it yourself. I will tell you that this was the fastest comic I have read in quite some time. At only 20 pages and with limited dialogue, you will breeze through this issue, but it is the intensity of Howard’s imagery that will have you frantically scanning through the panels as your pulse quickens and your curiosity takes hold.

Trees has always been a slow build sci-fi drama, and that has been by design. We needed to experience this world that is dominated by an inactive alien presence, and it is a large world with many areas to cover. We needed to meet various individuals and to come to know them so that when something like the events in this issue occur, they all strike harder. Trees is the perfect comic for those wanting an escape from capes and tights, and who are fine with a sci-fi tale that replaces the usual action with more dramatic elements. If you are already reading this fine comic, then I have a feeling you too are pacing the room as you attempt to process what you just experienced. If not, there are currently no trades out, but I recommend buying the individual issues and reading them in order to see what this series is all about. I have no idea what is going to happen next, which is a wonderful place to be as a reader. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Illness - Not sure what happened, but from last Thursday evening until about Monday morning, I was ridiculously ill. No sleep, severe chills, severe sweats, coughing that began to pull muscles, no appetite. Denizens, I was a wreck. I have not been sick for the past couple years, but this was one of the worst I’ve ever had. Even as I write this, I am still a frickin’ mess, and I find it hard to get my brain to work how it should. I still feel horrible, which means that I feel like Superman compared to the state I was in last Friday through Monday. Anyhow, the below sums up last Fri–Sun:
”Mind-Melter Blended”
Combine the following ingredients over three long, terrible days:
1 disgustingly-ill Donist
7 eps of Agents of SHIELD S.1
2 eps of Newsroom S.1
7 eps of Adventure Time S.4
1 The Visitor (1980) - movie
1 The Fantastic Mister Fox - movie
1 ep of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
4 eps Homeland S.3
1 entire first season of Key and Peele
5 trade paperbacks of PREACHER
1 bucket of cough syrup
1 generous pound of cough drops
1 Hot Toddy


Friday, January 2, 2015

Donist World Year-End Roundup - Part 2!

(Sung to the tune of Enigma’s “Sadeness”)

Chanting (Ummm…yeah, uh…a bunch of Latin sounding stuff that I don’t understand.)

Hey there, denizens, and Happy New Year…sort of. I am joined as ever by CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / healthcare (non)specialist Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). This post is incredibly late, as I am currently sick as a dog, which is not exactly true, since Tulip and Obie appear to be perfectly fine as they wolf down the ham sandwich I can’t stomach to look at. No sleep last night, no sleep today, I gots the fever, and feel like I can hoark at any moment. Ugh. Because of this, yeah no song this week, and the last seven entries were written through fever dreams, but I didn’t want to miss a post. So, please have a look at my top 28 heavenly things of 2014, while I stress to Obie that I need to leave the office (my mom’s basement) and go somewhere to relax and try to recover (upstairs).

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Probably NOT Spoilers Below***

If you have a moment, check out our past FSoH/SitW Year-End Roundups for 2014 (Part 1)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 things as much as we do.

Donist World 14 (Times Two) Heavenly Things (In Alphabetical Order)