Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Slice Of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 2/20/2015

(Sung to the tune of The Cure’s “A Reflection”)

Hello there, denizens, 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 / time management repair dog Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). We are running a bit behind this week as a bunch of stuff is happening, and given that Tulip is giving me the I need you to take me outside, right now look, I had to skip this week’s song for an instrumental (have you noticed The Cure has been my focus over the past couple months?). I only do this so that the you can get the lowdown on the heavenly items for this week before noon PST. Obie is shaking his head in disapproval, even going so far as to call me a slacker, but he should talk seeing as how he’s been outside the office (my mom’s basement) eating tacos and drinking water from the hose; I haven’t seen him do a lick of work all day. So, while I take Tulip out and hit up some of them tacos, have a look at this week’s…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Lazarus #15
Lazarus #15 - Written by Greg Rucka, illustrated by Michael Lark with Tyler Boss, colored by Santi Arcas, lettered by Jodi Wynne, published by Image Comics. The Family Hock stands accused, the Family Carlyle the accuser. In instances such as this, the accused has the right to demand a trial by combat to prove their innocence, but Jakob Hock does not have his own Lazari to stand as champion, and thus pulls on a failing alliance with the Family Bittner. Unfortunately, Bittner's Lazari is none other than Sonja, Forever Carlyle’s dear friend.

Oh man, denizens, I totally forgot about how issue 14 ended, but when I picked up this issue and saw the cover — which is shocking in its display of the casual acceptance of violence — it all came flooding back. Last issue ended with the #$%@ing evil Jakob Hock demanding that Sonja and Forever meet in (possibly) deadly combat to prove his innocence in the death of Forever’s traitorous brother. Although Hock is innocent of this accusation, he is guilty of far more, but what struck me the most was the man’s cruelty in pitting friend against friend. I partly expected / partly hoped that Jonah would burst into the hall to confess all that had transpired, so that we would not have to watch these two friends take each other apart for the false appearance of honor amongst those who hold no such qualities. This does not happen, and the two Lazari come to blows.

Rucka and Lark have spent the previous four issues introducing us to Sonja. First as a unflinching, ruthless killer, then as the off-the-clock, naive woman possessing an almost childlike demeanor. She and Forever become close friends among a larger friendly group of Lazari. The creators cleverly had me fear Sonja by showing what she is capable of, then they made me absolutely adore her as much as I do Forever, which made this issue one of the most tense reads of the series thus far. Keep in mind that I usually read Lazarus with my shoulders pulled up taut near my ears, but this issue…dang…this issue is something else.

The first few pages remind the reader of just how stressful a cliffhanger we were left with, and the dialogue on those six pages steadily confirm that there is no avoiding this fight. We also see just how unimportant the Lazaris’ feelings (and safety) actually are as the call “…refreshments will be served,” is announced as the non-combatant Lazari gaze on. <sigh> Even just having reread this masterfully crafted scene, my heart starts to race, and the 12.83 silent pages of pure beauty begins.

I have never seen a more stunning, more action-packed, brutally executed, and flawlessly choreographed fight scene in a comic before Lazarus #15. Lark carries such power in not just the punches and stabs, but also in the character acting of the non-combatants. Seeing Jakob Hock’s disdain for Malcolm Carlyle as he ignores the violence transpiring on the floor below, his eyes scanning Malcolm for a reaction that never comes, is almost as chilling as Sonja and Forever’s battle. Almost. The actual fight is only made more intense by Arcas’s colors as the marble floors become increasingly bloodied and the toll of the battle on the women is painted for all to see. To be honest, I have never spent so much time on silent pages as with this issue, as I lingered on every single panel.

This might be my favorite issue of the series after issue 13 where the Lazari hang out free from the confines of family duty. That said, as amazing as this issue is, I would still recommend that new readers start at the beginning, as much of the impact of this issue comes from the investment of time spent in the world and becoming acquainted with each of the characters. You can easily catch up with the hardcover (issues 1–9), or with the first two trades (a third will be available in the coming months). Lazarus is one of my favorite of the recent onslaught of amazing Image titles, but it is also one of the most nerve-wracking of the bunch. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Deadly Class #11
Deadly Class #11 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Wes Craig, colored by Lee Loughridge, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. The end of the second arc is here, as Marcus, Saya, Maria, and the gang take on Chester and his unholy family of meth-head psychopaths. If that wasn’t bad enough, hell hath no fury like a girlfriend wronged, who just happens to be trained in the deadly art of assassination.

Talk about going from one stressful book to another. This issue sees carnage and mayhem happening in practically every scene to such a degree that it at times seems like a hillbilly horror movie — you never know what sort of maniac is going to come at our heroes next. And if I’m going to be completely honest…ain’t nothin’ more terrifying than being pursued by a maniac wearing a headband, a tank top, and a pair of tighty-whities. The story has been slowly building toward the many confrontations of this issue, and now that we are here, the only moments that slow the pacing down are done so to make Marcus and Chester’s confrontation all the more creepy.

Craig keeps the pace frantic with his many-paneled pages, and off-kilter layouts, and Loughridge takes the tension and ratchets it up by frequently changing color schemes. The exception to this is during the Maria versus Gran Gran scene, which relies on a bluish-green lighting to the creepy bathroom where the fight takes place. The entire book is unnerving in both art and story, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We are also left on pretty brutal cliffhanger that looks to keep us biting our nails for the next 60 days until the story resumes.

Deadly Class is a blast, but like most of the books I am loving — predominantly from Image Comics — I would not suggest jumping in willy nilly. The first trade is a mere $9.99 for six issues, and the second trade collecting issues 7–11 will probably show up in the next month. If you are looking for something outside of capes and tights, and are cool with an adult-oriented comic about some messed up kids attending a secretive high school for assassins, then there is absolutely no reason to pass on this dang-entertaining book. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Bitch Planet #3
Bitch Planet #3 - Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, illustrated by Robert Wilson IV, colored by Cris Peter, lettered by Clayton Cowles, published by Image Comics. We interrupt the regularly scheduled programming to take a look at one of the players in the “Bitch Planet” games: Penelope Leona Rolle, aka “Penny Rolle.”

It looks as if every couple issues in this series will feature a look at one of the women from “Bitch Planet,” and will feature a guest artist to tell the tale. Being the first woman featured after only two issues, we take a look at Penny Rolle, who has thus far only been seen beating the bejesus out of the misogynistic guards. My initial reaction to this change in story pace was one of hesitance, but then I read this issue. Not only did I gain a new appreciation and understanding of Penny, this abrupt break from the greater story actually fit in well with some of the harsh cuts found in cult / exploitation films that inspire this book. We also gain more insight into the patriarchy — the “Fathers” — who ultimately decide how woman are supposed to act.

Wilson IV’s art has cleaner lines and a more cartoonish feel than that of regular artist Valentine De Landro, which makes it all the more apparent that this is a flashback / break and works so very well as a “commercial” to the story proper. Peter then uses a halftone dot coloring style on Penny’s days before being shipped off to Bitch Planet, and adds a coloring scheme to the gutters and margins that imply yellowed ’70s comic paper as a cool effect.

We are not all that far into Bitch Planet, but I have enjoyed everything I have read thus far, including this interlude issue, which fits nicely into the grand story. With only three issues available, you might have to do a little searching to get ahold of the first two issues, but I would strongly suggest doing so, as Bitch Planet looks to be taking us on one heck of a journey, while casting an important light on gender roles and stereotypes in the process. Enlightenment and fun, all rolled up in one! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Autumnlands:
Tooth & Claw #4
The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw #4 - Written by Kurt Busiek, illustrated by Benjamin Dewey, colored by Jordie Bellaire, lettered and designed by John G. Roshell and Jimmy Betancourt of Comicraft, published by Image Comics. Dunstun’s awe of the Great Champion, Learoyd, only deepens when the odd man invites the boy to join him on his exploration through the surrounding areas. Also, what exactly is Goodfoot playing at?

The creators continue to slow the pacing a little more after the intense first two issues. Dunstun takes more of the spotlight and we see him begin to realize exactly just how sheltered his life in the air had been. Busiek takes this pause to let his character experience real life and see that there is more to the enemies than he previously thought. We also get to see a single panel of Learoyd’s past as well as some of his tactical skills as he gains an understanding of both his enemies and his supposed allies.

The art continues to be wonderful, especially when it focuses on the many animal people, with Dewey continuing to amaze in his ability to impart emotion through an animal's expression. The brief battle with the bat people is exciting in its choreography, but much of the strength of this issue is found in Dewey’s storytelling and character acting. As a sidenote, I really wish I had one of those walking chairs…you just need to see it.

Things may have slowed down with this issue, but The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw continues to be a fascinating and magical read. I’ve been hoping for a serious fantasy comic for some time now, and Busiek and Dewey have more than delivered. Issue one is already at a second printing, so picking up these first four issue should be possible, and I encourage all fantasy lovers to give this series a try. RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Running Out of Time! - Ack! I’m going to have to cut this short, as I have had interviews, a graphic design job, large and complex class assignments, and work on the second Tulip: The Superpowered Boston Terrier book raining down upon me. It’s good to be busy, but geez Louise…

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