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


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