Friday, February 6, 2015

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 2/6/2015

(Sung to the tune of The Cure’s “A Forest”) <--great old live video, btw

Come closer and read
The books that you need
Wytches chill
Star Wars, man

Come closer and read
Return to Saga
I’ll tell you no lies
I’ll tell you no lies

East Of West, guys
Swamp Thing closing
Nameless is deep
I’m in the dark

I fear Hawkeye’s
About to end
One more to go…
One more to go…

Criminy we have a lot of books to talk about this week, so let’s get right to it. Welcome to Donist World! I’m joined as ever by CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / experience specialist Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). This week we have seven books to look at, which might not seem like many, but when I explain why I like each one, and why I feel you might like them as well…trust me, it takes a long while to write it all down. Anyhow, Obie and Tulip are in the corner trying to piece together what the heck is going on in Nameless, Grant Morrison’s latest book, which is fine by me, as I have had enough of Obie’s “Full-Contact Management” nonsense that he has been trying to enact as corporate policy, here at the office (my mom’s basement). Except for my diminished bank account, this was a pretty good week for comics, with my favorite book of the bunch following below. So, get yourself some tacos, sit back, and enjoy this week’s…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Wytches #4
Wytches #4 - Written by Scott Snyder, illustrated by Jock, colored by Matt Hollingsworth, lettered by Clem Robins, edited by David Brothers, published by Image Comics. With his daughter missing, Charlie is at a loss for how to find her. Luckily, the strange, legless woman who assaulted him in his own house left a message written in the broken blood vessels of his stomach, a message that simply reads “Here.” His wife, Lucy, doesn’t believe him, but Charlie heads to the hurricane-ravaged town of Here, to find the legless woman. Meanwhile, Sailor awakens in the wytches’ den.

This, denizens, is the exact kind of horror story I love and seek out whenever I can. There is something oddly comforting about reading a comic that makes you so uncomfortable. After reading this book, it was past 9 PM and I had yet to take the dog out to do her business. I live in a very quiet area — outside of freeway noise — and could not help but be hyperaware of the fog giving a pinkish hue to the night sky, while providing barely increased visibility of the deserted park out back. The rustling trees, the scattered obscuring hedges, the darkened makeshift path off the parking area where I have once or twice seen a person stagger from, all brought me to distraction. Everywhere I looked seemed to be a place where the wytches might be watching, whispering their promises of desires fulfilled, all for a little sacrifice. As much as I dig the extra awareness of my surroundings, I hurried Tulip along so we could get back inside. THAT is what reading Wytches did to me, and this feeling of nervousness and unease carried through to where I am still thinking about the book the next day as the sun shines bright and the creepy park becomes lovely.

“That’s great, Donist. We now know you’re a big scaredy cat, but we want to know about the comic, not you. You’re probably left trembling after an episode of Goober and the Ghost Chasers.” Uh, yeah, not so much. What I mean to say is that this series, and this issue in particular, really affected me…as all good horror should. Snyder, Jock, and Hollingsworth don’t care about the dreaded cat waiting to leap from behind the trashcan to elicit a scream followed by the tension-relieving laugh. They also don’t resort to gore pr0n that is so over-the-top that you again resort to laughing at the ridiculousness of what you are seeing. Instead, the creators have created a mood, an atmosphere, that began as something unsettling and only escalates from there. It’s a slow build and nowhere do you find cheap scares in story, art, or colors. There is no release of tension until you set the issue you just read down…and then you take the dog outside into the quiet night, or have to get something you forgot out of the car, or have to walk down the darkened hall of your own home. Wytches excels in not the fear of the unknown, but rather the fear that comes from realizing there actually is something lurking out there, and it knows more about you than you know about it.

This issue jumps seamlessly between the past and the present of different characters. The flashback scene with Charlie and Sailor shows some of Charlie’s past less-than-admirable parenting moments, offering insight into the person Charlie was back then. The present day scenes with Charlie and Clara Poirot (the legless, bald woman) provides a hint into the who and what the wytches are, while being scary as all heck — Jock’s wytch skull is something that should stick in your mind for a good while as well. The scenes with Sailor, especially with the clothes (I ain’t spoilin’), push you ever deeper into the tension this book is certain to instill.

I have already mentioned how spectacular this series is in both its individual aspects (writing, illustrations, colors) and the collaborative whole, so I won’t rehash all the technical details as to why Wytches is so great. If you are a fan of the horror genre, and want a comic that is masterfully told by three creators working in perfect harmony, then look no further than Wytches. I believe the first arc will run six issues, and a trade collecting them will follow shortly thereafter, but this series looks to have an essay by Snyder included in the back matter of each issue, and thus far is well worth a read. I just went from really, really liking Wytches to absolutely loving it, and I am happily terrified to see what happens next. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Saga #25
Saga #25 - Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples, lettered and designed by Fonografiks, coordinated by Eric Stephenson, published by Image Comics. Wreath (horns) and Landfall (wings) have been at war for a very long time, and a short history lesson — from Landfall’s POV — summarizes things. Three months have passed since Dengo abducted Hazel, Prince Robot IV’s newborn, Clara, Alana, Izabel, and Friendo (Friendo!), and Dengo is making little headway in recruiting for his cause. The Brand, Sophie, Gwendolyn, Sweet Boy, and Lying Cat seek to find a cure for The Will. Marko and Prince Robot IV need to stop trying to kill each other long enough to work with Ghus and Yuma to find their abducted families.

Month(ish) in and month(ish) out, Saga continues to be fantastic and one of the best comics on the stands. After a brief hiatus, this issue begins the fifth arc and mostly serves to remind readers of what has occurred while moving the story along just a tad. Usually, recap issues annoy the heck out of me, but the Vaughan and Staples creatively bring us up to speed through cleverly hidden exposition, while providing a view of the history of the Landfall and Wreath war, and managing to work in a comment on the nature of modern warfare as well.

It is great to be reacquainted with my Saga friends, and as always the book is over much too fast. The large cast of characters looks to expand even further with the one-page introduction of the “Revolution,” but where I would be worried about too many characters in other titles, my reaction to this issue was bring ’em on! If I was to find any fault in this month, it would seem that things on a whole seemed…rushed. That said, a possibly rushed issue of Saga is still an amazing thing to behold, and well worth your time.

If I am correct in thinking this issue read somewhat like a jumping on point, and you have never picked up an issue of this Donist World darling, then I strongly recommend you do yourself the favor of indeed buying this issue, but doing so along with the first four trades and starting from the very beginning. I fell in love with Marko, Alana, The Will, Lying Cat, and this universe back in the first issue, and everything after that has served to only deepen my love of each new character. It is never to late to jump in at the beginning. I promise you won’t regret it. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Star Wars #2
Star Wars #2 - Written by Jason Aaron, illustrated by John Cassaday, colored by Laura Martin, lettered by Chris Eliopoulos, published by Marvel Comics. If the negotiator you are about to square off against is none other than Darth Vader, then you should probably think about changing careers. As Luke Skywalker stands completely outmatched against the Sith Lord, Han, Leia, and R2-D2 attempt to pilot an AT-AT Walker loaded with former slave labor workers out of the area. C-3PO receives some unwanted roadside help with the Millennium Falcon.

Dagnabbit, denizens, I…do…not…want…to…buy…this…comic! As I mentioned last month, delving into the Star Wars universe is like trying to drink Kool-Aid through a funnel that is an inch at the bottom, and that opens up to a diameter of roughly a mile. Sure, we are going to start with this one title, but then we will get Leia, then Darth Vader, then Han Solo, and so on until infinity. By this time next year there will probably be about 10 Star Wars titles…at least. “If that is the case, Doofus, then why are you buying this?” Easy, denizens. I’m buying this comic because it is a thrilling adventure set in a universe I adore, it has some much-loved  and talented creators involved, and it is just a total kick in the pants (i.e. a heck of a lot of fun).

Aaron continues to just nail every single character voice in this comic to such an extent it might as well have been the long-lost Star Wars: Episode 4.5. Seeing Darth Vader in the first Star Wars trailer back in the ’70s absolutely blew my kiddie mind, and even though I loved all three of the movies, I always wished I could see more of the dreaded Sith Lord in action. I can only suspect Aaron felt the same, as he brings Vader to the story as a fearsome force of nature who toys with Luke, and practically takes down a tank-on-steroids with the Force (get it?) of his mind. All of this is visually thrust at you by Cassaday and Martin, who elevated my heart rate with each beautiful sequence. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this book made me go Wow!

The big question…should you buy this? Duh. Of course you should. Just go into it knowing that if this book sweeps you up, as I suspect it will, you will probably think maybe I should pick up those Leia and Darth Vader comics as well. When you open those floodgates, just be prepared to take on that second job and rent that storage space as you are going to need it to pay for and house the deluge of Star Wars comics flooding into your life. You’ve been warned…but do check this out! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Hawkeye #21
Hawkeye #21 - Written by Matt Fraction, illustrated by David Aja with Raul Allen, colored by Matt Hollingsworth, lettered by Chris Eliopoulos, published by Marvel Comics. With Clint Barton partially deaf and Barney Barton paralyzed from the waist down after their encounter with The Clown, the Barton brothers prepare to defend their building, and its occupants, from the menace of the Tracksuit Draculas.

Wow, that was a heck of a long wait. I’m not really sure what the delay was, but even though some of the impact of my favorite Marvel superhero title is missed, this issue serves as a reminder of what I loved about this comic since issue one. Aja’s art is as striking as ever some with spectacular action sequences (Clint firing upon the Tracksuits), cinematic moments (the vans approaching, and The Clown preparing to leave the vehicle), escalating tension (the Barton brothers and the Tracksuits near the end…yikes!), and some killer design pages (the title page, and again Clint firing upon the Tracksuits). Sure there was a wait, but for results like this issue, I suppose it is worth it.

Fraction’s writing continues to make both the story and the character compelling, while making this title so unique compared to most normal superhero books. The lipreading sequence with Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman) had me confused for a moment, but once I realized the parenthesis symbolized lipreading, I was good to go — it’s actually a nice touch.

So, yes, we’ve been waiting for a while for this issue, and hopefully the final issue in Fraction and Aja’s award-winning series is already in the can and ready to go next month. I’m excited to see how things wrap, but, again, the massive delays caused me to forget some plot points or moments with significant impact from the past had dissipated by the time issue 21 finally arrived. This is a bummer, but I have a sneaking suspicion all “Hawkguy” fans will be picking up these final two issues anyways. What I do know, is that I am eagerly awaiting the conclusion, and that I will be rereading Hawkeye from beginning to end once I have the whole enchilada. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

East of West #17
East of West #17 - Written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Nick Dragotta, colored by Frank Martin, lettered by Rus Wooton, published by Image Comics. As a former Chief of Staff is promoted to President, his old position has just been filled by someone as wily, if not more so. In the Kingdom, a Prince showcases his prowess in the mental, physical, and possibly romantic arenas. Meanwhile, Death and Xiaolian have a chat.

As a total side note, it is a completely odd experience to write about the intricately plotted, and highly intelligent East of West while listening to Doris Day. I felt you should know. Anyhow, little happens in four of the five sequences of this issue, but rather we see the various characters plotting, speaking of plans, and reminding us what has been happening. The majority of this issue, the final eight pages, focuses on Xiaolian and Death discussing Death’s failure to find their son, and what he suspects has been done to the child. If you are a fan of this thought-provoking series, an issue that moves the story slowly forward is to be expected from time to time, and although not much happens, our understanding of the characters and world deepens, and we love the book all the more for it.

Both the written and artistic storytelling on East of West are as fantastic as each issue before, but those who are already reading this title are well aware of this. If you are new to this post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, fantasy, revisionist-history comic book, and you enjoy placing the ol’ thinkin’ cap firmly upon that skull of yours for this intricate-but-rewarding tale, then you should pick up the first three trades and see what all the fuss is about. Once hooked, you’ll be with the title to the bitter end, and I fully expect that ending to be bitter indeed. RECOMMENDED!

Nameless #1
Nameless #1 - Written by Grant Morrison, illustrated by Chris Burnam, colored by Nathan Fairbairn, lettered by Simon Bowland, logo designed by Rian Hughes, published by Image Comics. A man with no name is tasked with retrieving the Dream Key of Nan Samwohl from…uhhh…dreams, which is in direct opposition to the Veiled Lady and her anglerfish-headed minions’ wishes. Ummmm…some lizard headed guys in the past, and a city with weird writing. Okay…then outer space stuff including an asteroid with a very big symbol on it, by golly, and lots of stuff divided in half. Or something.

Yup, I have no clue as to what the hell is going on in this book. That said, I did like it, and I figure things will make approximately 70% sense in the next few issues that come along — I will be there to read them. If I figured out anything in this issue, it’s that the bus driver who puts on the cloth mask, the one with the wired light on the front, does so to have the freedom to move around in Nameless’s dream…then again, who knows, I could be totally wrong.

Burnam’s art is phenomenal, whether he is bringing the psychedelics of the gorgeous title splash page, or the creepy interrogation room of the Veiled Lady. Fairbairn’s colors are equally outstanding throughout the intense action sequences and also in the calmer sequences with Paul Darius appearing via the drone. My favorite pages from the artists, outside of the stunning title page, are the two pages set in the Mayan(?) jungle, which have a strong Richard Corben vibe in both layout and color; I hope to see more of this look in future issues.

Again, very little clue as to what is actually going on, but you kind of have to expect that with a Morrison book. Just seeing the guy’s name on the cover should clue you in that you are going to have to work to comprehend what you are about to read, and that you will be returning to this issue multiple times throughout the course of the first arc. If you are not a Morrison fan, then you might want to pass on this one, but just know that doing so will mean missing out on some gorgeous artwork. If you are a fan of Morrison’s writing, then you are probably scratching your head as you try to understand what is going on, but smiling as you do so. RECOMMENDED!

Swamp Thing #39
Swamp Thing #39 - Written by Charles Soule, illustrated by Jesus Saiz, colored by June Chung, lettered by Travis Lanham, published by DC Comics. The Machine Queen makes her play, and she will suffer no interference from anyone, not even those who made her. Alec fights himself, or rather the monstrosity created by the Rot, the Machine, and the Grey. Abigail Arcane and Alec seek outside help and make a desperate plan to restore balance to the world.

I like this issue quite a bit, but I really want to love it. This issue runs into pacing issues as Soule and Saiz rush to next issue’s series conclusion. Bummer. The creators do an excellent job hastening to the finish line, but this issue would work so much better across three or four more issues. The art is as stunning as ever, especially the character design involved on that final WOW of a splash page, but the disconnect occurs with how things play out. This is no fault of Soule’s, but I wanted to see more of the Machine Queen’s monster being a credible threat, or of the conflicts within her own kingdom, or an issue or two of Alec and Abigail’s reunion. I also could have done without the guest appearance of a character — one who is not having his series canceled — who basically shows up to save the day. Give me more Mycos. Give me more of the Arcanes. Give me more of the kingdoms! Speaking of which, where is the Red? I’m guessing the Red will help save the day next issue.

<sigh> Regardless of the fact that I do not want to see this series end, and pacing problems aside, I must commend Soule and Saiz on still delivering a highly entertaining and beautiful issue. So, yeah, I’m sad but thankful we still have an issue left to wrap things up, and I am definitely looking forward to seeing what happens. Also, after peering into my Donist World crystal ball, the obscuring mist begins to lift and I see Swamp Thing appearing in other titles, and eventually, once again, in his own series…eventually. RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Need More Hours! More Hours! - Dang, I need more hours in the day so I can work on the second “Tulip” book, begin a YA novel cowritten with my wife, do my class work, hunt for a job, prepare the taxes, walk Tulip, create Donist World content, keep in contact with friends and family, exercise, eat, read, and do fun things. Argghh. <phew> I feel better now. We can do this.


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