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!


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