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…


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