Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 3/27/2015

Friday Slice of Heaven

Hello there, Donist World denizens, and welcome back. I’m Donist, and I am joined by our CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by our marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / Spring Break specialist Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). Today, we are preparing to launch into Spring Break along with Amy the intern (my wife), and we are struggling to finish up some stuff so we can take things relatively easy over the coming week; I’m hoping to get closer to the 50% mark of the next Kibbles ’N’ Bots book. I am also preparing for Obie to come stay with us starting next Thursday, which means added Donist World synergy and collaboration here at the corporate office (my mom’s basement)…and probably some added headaches as Obie attempts to usher in some wacky, new management style. For now, grab a couple tacos and kickin’ ginger brew and have a look at this week’s heavenly comics. Thank you for reading.

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Chew #47
Chew #47 - Written and lettered by John Layman, illustrated and colored by Rob Guillory, color assists by Taylor Wells, published by Image Comics. Where’s Poyo? That’s the question being asked around the FDA office, and unfortunately, John Colby knows the answer. Meanwhile, as Tony Chu waits for his daughter to finally awaken in the hospital after her grievous injuries at the hands of The Collector, Tony and D-Bear move to investigate a truck transporting a megatriceratops head. Shocking newsflash…D-Bear is actually really good at being a detective.

Honestly, after 47 issues, nine trade paperbacks, four hardcover “Omnivore” editions, one monstrous “Smorgasbord” edition, a script book, a Revival crossover, multiple reprints of earlier issues, two awesome “Poyo” specials (here and here), and glowing month(ish) praise here on Donist World with every new issue, are you really all that surprised to see Chew pop up again? Well, you shouldn’t be. As far as heavenly comics go, Chew soars the skies with the deadly luchador chickens…errrrr, I mean eagles…and  continues to be the most unique book on the stands.

I believe we have three more issues in this arc, followed by two more five-issue arcs, that will bring the series to a close. The story Layman and Guillory have been building since issue one looks to be right on schedule and to fully deliver on the promise from way back in the day. Between the characters, the art, the dialogue, the many laugh-out-loud moments, the gross-outs, and the inventive story as a whole, Chew has kept me enthralled in its madness since I jumped on (slightly late) with the third issue. Here, the once-minor D-Bear (who also shined last issue) is pure awesome. Originally a petty-but-annoying criminal, I could not help but smile as the diminutive D-Bear takes wonderfully to his new position as FDA detective and manages to impress even the surly Tony; I’m such a sucker for a good redemption story. *Please Layman and Guillory…don’t kill D-Bear…or anyone else for that matter. I love them all too much, and I don’t think I can handle anymore tragedy. Give Tony a break, by golly!*

Anyhow, with that out of the way, and a full expectation of being punched in the nu-nus by the next shocking event, I need to emphasize that this is a predominantly humorous comic. Sure, much-loved characters have died or been severely messed up, but at the core you will find yourself wiping away tears of laughter more than sadness. With Chew, you also need to take the time to investigate every detail of every panel, as Guillory and Layman have so many subtle jokes hidden in the artwork and the lettering; you might miss them if you breeze through too fast. You also need bright lights and some squinting on some of the tinier details, but you will be well-rewarded for doing so.

Okay, you have all the different available formats that you need in order to read this fantastic series as listed above. Yes Chew can be gross, yes it can be offensive, but more than anything it is always entertaining, and remains one of my most anticipated month(ish) reads. The series is far along, but it is never too late to catch up, especially with the bargain priced first trade. Chew is great. Chew is good. Let us thank Layman and Guillory for our food…errrrrr…comics. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Sixth Gun #47
The Sixth Gun #47 - Written by Cullen Bunn, illustrated by Brian Hurtt, colored by Bill Crabtree, lettered by Crank!, designed by Keith Wood, edited by Charlie Chu, published by Oni Press. The end is nigh, as Griselda the Grey Witch and Jesup prepare to take the final step in recreating the world in their image. Becky, Drake, and Nidawi have one last chance to stop the destruction. Three long-lost characters return.

<sigh> Thus concludes the penultimate arc. After the insane roller coaster ride seen last issue, the creators take a moment to assess the damage, and place all of the remaining characters into place for the last ditch effort to save  / change the world. I’m not going to spoil any of the returned characters other than Nidawi, but for the remaining two, I have been wondering what happened to one, and I’m glad to see the other tying up a story thread from a while ago.

Bunn and Hurtt’s supernatural Western continues to be exciting and shocking as we are brought to the terrible moment dreaded since the first few issues. Key characters — including some minor characters long thought gone — look to complicate matters for our heroes, and I honestly have zero idea of what is going to happen next, which is a great place to be. With little action, Hurtt again excels at bringing the drama and the emotion of Bunn’s dialogue, with Crabtree’s colors setting the dire mood providing yet another beautiful issue of this great comic.

We’re in the homestretch, denizens, and as sad as I will be to see this series end, I cannot wait to get my hands on the next issue. If you’ve been reading The Sixth Gun since the beginning, then you know exactly how I feel. If you came late to this series, then you can still quickly catch up with the seven available trades, and see what happens when the old West meets The Lord of the Rings. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Wytches #5
Wytches #5 -  Written by Scott Snyder, illustrated by Jock, colored by Matt Hollingsworth, lettered by Clem Robins, edited by David Brothers, published by Image Comics. Not only have the wytches taken Charlie’s daughter, but their wicked magic has caused Charlie’s wife, Luce, to forget the girl even existed. Charlie’s finally reached his breaking point, and nothing’s going to keep him from getting his girl, Sailor, back.

Egads, this book is creepy! I mean that in the best possible way. As I’ve said for each of the previous reviews, Wytches is more about the psychological / emotional side of horror as opposed to the often unimaginative gross-out horror that seems to have taken hold a few years back. Snyder takes us deep into that fearful place of not just being alone (Sailor in the wytches’ den, and Charlie trying to save her) but also having the rest of your world actively working against you.

The story alone is unnerving, but when combined with Jock’s beautifully severe lines and Hollingsworth’s otherworldly colors, you are transported deep into the woods to the tree with the ginger root growing from it like cancerous tumors. And then you drop in. Jock’s shadows and the dwindling lights set chill-inducing scenes, providing you just enough of a view of the horrifying wytches as they feed, deep within the bowels of their grotesque den. Much of these demonic creatures is left to the imagination…which makes each panel in the sequence all the more terrifying. My one gripe is that there are a couple places where I was unsure as to what was happening, but they were not that big of a deal.

Although I’ve stated that there were moments in past issues where some of Hollingworth’s unique — and cool — use of patterns in this series were nearing excessive, that is not the case here. A more subdued version of the patterns accompany the flashback scenes, while the textures become more pronounced and sharper in contrasting colors as Charlie descends into the wytches den for a glittering effect that makes the magics at work very clear.

I read a headline somewhere online that said issue six would conclude Wytches, and my heart shrunk a little believing that would end the book. I’m glad I misunderstood. The next issue, looks to conclude the story with Charlie, Sailor, and Luce, but the series will return to cover new ground this summer. Thank goodness. If you like horror books that stick with you for days afterwards, to the point that when you take the dog out late at night, you end up paying extra attention to the trees, the shrubs, the shadowed recesses, then this is the book for you. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Autumnlands:
Tooth & Claw #5
The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw #5 - Written by Kurt Busiek, illustrated by Benjamin Dewey, colored by Jordie Bellaire, lettered and designed by John G. Roshell and Albert Deschesne of Comiccraft, published by Image Comics. Everyone with a degree of influence has machinations at work: Sandorst the owl seeks to take charge; Goodfoot wants to pit everyone against each other, while robbing them all blind; even the Champion, Learoyd has plans that he refuses to divulge. Lady Gharta and Lady Affa are arrested, and a meeting between Learoyd and Seven-Scars has everyone on edge, as Dustan begins to question his hero’s motives more and more.

The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw continues to be the best fantasy comic on stand. Busiek quietly builds upon his world and further develops the characters while elevating the tension that looks to erupt next issue. Although we see more of what drives each of the main characters, there’s still plenty left for us to uncover in later issues, which I am completely excited to see unfold.

Dewey’s art is simply fantastic with the volumes of life and emotion he gives to each of the animals in the series, from the main recurring characters all the way down to a one-panel-appearance lizard guard. But, it is his scenes with Dunstun that steal the show, with Sandorst and Goodfoot coming in at a close second. On another huge positive note is the single panel appearance of a Boston terrier guard that made Tulip and Obie howl in excitement…please bring this character back and make him / her a recurring character!

I have no idea what is going to happen in this meeting between Seven-Scars and the Champion, but I’m excited to see it all go down; I suspect it’s not going to go all that well. Do you like stories with anthropomorphic animal characters? Do you like fantasy and magic? Do you like both mixed with a hint of sci-fi that is gorgeously written and illustrated? Then look no further than the tremendous The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice into the Woods

This Dang Drought - Okay, enough is enough. Where is our doggone rain? Not only that, it is late March, and the temperature is in the mid to upper 80s, making it difficult to take Tulip out for any thing resembling a decent walk; she doesn’t deal well with the heat. Blah, maybe I should invest in that plastic kiddie pool to help her cool off. Heck, I might just join her. Oh, wait, we’re having a drought, so that’s probably not a good idea. Ugh. Guess I should stock up on Pilsners…

(sung to the tune of The Cars’s “Just What I Needed”

…skipping to the second part…

I don’t mind a tellin’ you
’bout books that you must read
Ones like Chew and Wytches, bro
The Sixth Gun’s whatchu need, yeah

They’ll surely make you want to yell and
In joy or fright, oh what the hell
I don’t mind a tellin’ you
’bout books that you must read

I guess, they’re just what you needed
They’re ones you simply must read


Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 3/20/2015

Friday Slice of Heaven

Welcome back, Donist World denizens! I’m joined as ever by CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / coding therapist Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). It’s a slow week on the comic book front, as we only had one book in our pull, but that does not mean we were lacking in stuff to read…we actually had to postpone one exceptional Image trade for another day, but never fear, we’ll get to it soon enough. I’m actually rather appreciative of the timing of this smaller week as I’m going to be mostly off-the-grid for a few days, and I have to figure out some perplexing stuff for one of my graphic design classes while I’m traveling…ugh. Anyway, Obie and Tulip are shaking their heads in agreement about the smaller week, and I know we’ll get pummeled with a ton of books soon enough, but for time being, check out these great books to whet your appetite.

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Creature Cops
Special Varmint Unit #3
Creature Cops Special Varmint Unit #2 & 3 - Written by Rob Anderson, illustrated by Fernando Melek, inked by Novo Malgapo, colored by Juan Romera, lettered by E.T. Dollman, story edits by Paul Allor, consulting editors Andy Schmidt and Bobby Curnow, published by IDW and Comics Experience. 20 years ago, China created the first duo-spliced animals with the introduction 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. But when an ethically-challenged thug is found dead beneath a bear-bull hybrid, Officer Kaminski begins to suspect a popular sports star and an eccentric novelist to be involved in a most heinous crime, one similar to a case that nearly killed him and Lt. Carson ten years ago.

Thus far only issues one and two have been released, but I have an advance review copy of the third and final issue of this fantastic mini-series. Anderson and Melek give us a large cast of characters — both on the side of the law, and in opposition to it — as well as plenty of cool hybrid animals causing havoc. Humans and animals alike are compelling, with Kaminski and Spike, a horned-mastiff, taking much of the spotlight. Anderson deftly moves from scene to scene as we follow different characters and their storylines, with everything tying very well together. Even without the mini-summary at the beginning of each issue, you will have no problem knowing who is who, and what they are up to, as the creators have organically built everything you need to know into the story. You could pick up the second book without having read the first and still follow along, but why miss out on the wonderful character development, dialogue, and imagery?

Melek’s art is beautiful, with top-notch storytelling and character acting from beginning to end. Dramatic talking scenes are compelling, and he knows exactly when to go for a subtle laugh like when Spike is riding in the Animal Control truck with Kaminski and Vasquez, and a sharp turn causes the horned-mastiff's jowls to shift with the momentum. It's a minor touch, but one that shows the lighter side of the story quite well. The big baddie hybrid — okay, it’s right there on the cover, so I didn’t spoil — Cthulhu monster is freaking awesome as well.

Romera’s colors help push the all-ages, not-too-dark tale, by giving the book a more classic, bright look, than the muddy colors found in many of the “darker-themed” comics on the stand. Orange griffons leap out against the cooler colored rooms and the earth-tones of the officers’ uniforms. Even when we first see the Cthulhu monster in its subterranean cave, Romera brightens the shadows enough to fully reveal the creature that Melek has stunningly rendered.

So, yes, I absolutely loved this mini-series. It is beautifully written and paced, and looks fantastic. As with Anderson’s equally great Rex Zombie Killer (The Incredible Journey meets The Walking Dead, plus a gorilla with a baseball bat…seek it out!), it is clear the writer has a deep love of animals. As a fellow animal lover — and one who despises animal fighting of any kind, and the sports millionaires who engaged in that activity — it seems as if this book was written for me. Creature Cops is an exciting, enjoyable adventure suitable for all ages of readers who have an appreciation of animals and monsters…the humans in the story are pretty cool, too. Now that the mini is over, and the story nicely tied up, I hope to someday see a return to the Creature Cops universe, and hopefully a Spike plush toy at some point. Read it, read it, read it! VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Silver Surfer V.1
“New Dawn” TPB
Silver Surfer Volume 1 “New Dawn” TPB - Written by Dan Slott, illustrated by Michael Allred, colored by Laura Allred, lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles, published by Marvel Comics. The Silver Surfer has seen much of the cosmos. Dawn Greenwood, of Earth, has experienced very little outside of her sleepy town. But when strange forces cross the cosmic hero and the travel-deficient woman’s paths, they form a friendship and head out to explore the unknown together. Along their journey, they visit strange worlds, meet the powerful being known as the Never Queen, confront Shuma-Gorath, join forces with two superpowered friends, and set out to experience the wonders of space.

This book is an absolute blast. For far too long, the Silver Surfer has been the morose, emotionless purveyor of darkly, dark inclinations of the darkest proportions. Did I mention the Surfer’s been steeped in darkness for quite some time? Not so much with this series. The combination of Slott’s upbeat take on the characters, the subtle jokes, and reverence of the wonders of the cosmos are infectious after the first few pages; I knew I would power through the five issues and the mini-tale in this fantastic collection.

With Michael Allred as artist and Laura Allred as colorist, you know the type of visuals in store for you. Heck, all you have to do is look at the striking cover (and the cool ’60s sci-fi style of the title) to know you in for an exhilarating adventure…and what an adventure it is. Everything from the storytelling, to the character/alien designs, to the vivid colors, to the rip-roaring action sequences pulled me in to this comic and left me thankful to have this interpretation of the character and everything around him. I also have a huge crush on Dawn, who reminds me of the Donist World intern (my wife, Amy). Every page of Silver Surfer is something to Marvel over (see what I did there?), which is refreshing to see from this publisher.

I had so much fun reading this trade, that I am counting the days until volume two comes out. I can’t wait. I really don’t know if this series will survive the whole Secret Wars thingy, man, I hope so, as I have not been this entertained by a Big Two book in quite some time. If you like fun, weird, sci-fi stories starring awesome characters, with simply gorgeous art, then you cannot pass this up. Talk about a thrill ride! VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Satellite Sam #12
Satellite Sam #12 - Written by Matt Fraction, illustrated by Howard Chaykin, lettering by Ken Bruzenak, digital production by Calvin Nye, designed by Drew Gill, edited by Thomas K, published by Image Comics. Life continues to get worse for the cast and crew of the hit children's television show Satellite Sam, as blackmail and racial hatred flourish, old bad habits resurface, career-annihilating photographs float to the surface, alcohol-addled minds fumble simple lines, threats, betrayal, creepy seductions, and inopportune murder accusations. In other words, it’s a typical week on and off the set of Satellite Sam.

Holy Boston terrier! Am I correct in thinking there are only three issues remaining of this tremendous, unorthodox comic maxi-series? I think so, denizens, which both bums me out and excites me to see how everything plays out. Like most of the series thus far, Michael White makes baby steps toward learning about who his father was, and what led to the man’s death. This is fine. The series is not to be classified solely as a murder mystery, but more of a period piece that looks at the messed up lives of the myriad characters linked to the set of Satellite Sam. Michael isn’t necessarily the main character of the series, but yet another victim of the monster that is the show. He isn’t even likable, which can also be said of the rest of the cast, with the exception of Libby Meyers, and possibly — barely — Guy Roth, the closeted Satellite Sam writer. Still, with hardly a single admirable person on the roster, Fraction writes such compelling characters, and weaves so many dramatic elements entwined with each character, that you are completely caught up in how everyone will surpass their obstacles…or not. Oh yeah, then there’s also that pesky little mystery of whether or not Carlyle White was murdered, or not.

Being a drama, the majority of the visual presentation relies upon storytelling, character acting, and settings and costuming faithful to the times. With Chaykin as the artist, you get the best of it all. I honestly can’t see anyone more suited to this series outside of artists who were popular during the time Satellite Sam takes place. The art and design of this series remains as stunning as ever.

As I’ve said before, Satellite Sam is not for your average comic book reader. If you are looking for capes and tights, werewolves and vampires, magical weaponry, a touching romance story to warm the heart, laugh-a-minute sequences…well, you’re not going to find that here. But, if you are a fan of the television show Mad Men (ending soon…can’t wait!), like a large cast of diverse characters, historical fiction concerning a segment of the entertainment industry, and are fine with sex (and oftentimes creepy sex, at that), vulgarity, substance abuse, and people making really bad decisions, all wrapped up in a smart, beautifully written, painstakingly researched, gorgeously illustrated and designed comic, then there is no reason to miss this title. We are now in the third and final arc of Satellite Sam, but you can easily catch up with the two readily available trades, which will allow you to hammer through this binge-worthy title. I for one intend to double dip on an oversized hardcover (please put one out) collecting all fifteen issues once things wrap in the next few months. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

Processing Junk - And by “Processing,” I don’t mean working through emotional, personal junk (of which I have tons), I mean the Processing coding language for this Digital Literacy class I am taking. Ugh. Just when I hammer one concept (mapping) into my head, another comes along to confound me (timing). But that said, I'm figuring it all out, and I will get my Abstract Clock (a project of ours) working in due time. This stuff will not beat me. Ugh.

And on that note…

(Sung to the tune of The Cars “Good Times Roll”)

Read some good books, bro
Ones like Creature Cops
Here’s some good books, bro
Satellite Sam’s the tops

Silver Surfer soars through the air
Oh so pretty, commanding your stare

Read some good books, bro
Read some good books, bro
Read some good books, bro


Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 3/13/2015

Friday Slice of Heaven

Hello there, and welcome back to Donist World. I’m joined as ever by our CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / information sequentialist specialist Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). You might notice the absence of the song at the head of this installment of FSoH/SitW, but never fear, it’s still here, only at the bottom of the post, and will be considered the outro from now on. Obie was checking the Google numbers and came to the conclusion that getting to the reviews sooner was the way to go, and I agree…I don’t, however, agree with how he tackled me in the corporate office (Mom’s basement) break room (the folding table in the corner) as part of his “Full-Contact Management” style; not cool. Anyhow, grab a ginger ale, line up some tacos, and enjoy this week’s…

***Possible Spoilers Below***

East of West #18
East of West #18 - Written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Nick Dragotta, colored by Frank Martin, lettered by Rus Wooton, published by Image Comics. Babylon is free and roaming the world, but the world he sees is not the world that is. His companion, Balloon, a robot that feeds the boy both false imagery and a steady stream of information meticulously created by the Chosen and three of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse to bend the powerful child to their intent. Now, one of the Chosen has his own plans for the boy. Meanwhile, Death heads out to track down Babylon, his son.

Denizens, I don’t know whether to laugh or recoil in horror over what happens in this issue. It’s humorous and uplifting in that Babylon, despite the years of misinformation fed to him, is still a boy who wants to have fun. Seeing him play with Ezra’s creature-at-arms (this makes sense if you’ve been reading this series) made me laugh at how innocent Babylon is as he throws the stick for what Balloon forces the boy to see as a large, cute, hampster thing. In reality, the creature is an eyeless, exposed-brain, large-toothed, pink monstrosity that was formed from what was Ezra’s right arm (again, this makes sense if you read the past few issues). The thing is, I don’t know what’s more horrifying: the fact that this revolting creature was once Ezra’s arm, and that neither hold the world’s best interest at heart; or the level of psychological abuse and manipulation the Chosen have enacted upon Babylon. <brrrrrrr> I tell you what, though, I can’t wait for Death to catch up to those who’ve been messing with his son all of this time, or to see what happens when Babylon, “The Beast,” finally breaks free and begins to experience the world as it is — whatever happens, it ain’t gonna be pretty.

Dragotta’s art is always exceptional on this series, but given the level of detail and the exceptional creepiness of this issue, you can tell he had a blast getting wicked with the imagery;  his designs and storytelling have never looked better. The jumprope panel is just…look, you just need to read the issue and you’ll be laughing as you shiver with unease. Another highpoint is Martin’s coloring, which messes with the mood you should be feeling when combined with Dragotta’s art. What you have is a dark, scary (and false) world with attractive and cutesy characters (also false), cut with a bright, green, beautiful wooded area inhabited by horrors — beauty and the objectionable coexisting as mirrors between the virtual and real world. As a bonus, Death’s terrifying horse beast finally makes a return appearance in this issue.

Make no mistake, this is another great issue of this fine series, and the fact that I will be thinking about it for the next week or so — ugh, that arm monster with those teeth! — stands as an example of these creators’ immense skill. As always, this post apocalyptic, alt-history, sci-fi epic is not for casual reading. You need to be fresh and ready with a quite spot to allow yourself the proper environment to fully experience this complicated tale. If you haven’t been reading East of West, you can easily catch up with the first three trades, on what is yet another of Image Comic’s amazing offerings. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Universe! #2
Universe! #2 - Everythinged by Albert Monteys, published by Panel Syndicate. In the far future, robots and A.I.s have taken up many positions in society. They are shopping malls, they are citizens, they are companions, they have even become our spouses. Enter the MRR3, a companion bot that requires just a small amount of their companion’s blood — and a little conversation — to form the bonds of true love. But when MRR3s begin killing their human spouses, the company that manufactures them, Soulmates Companions, has some investigating to do.

I absolutely loved this issue! Much like the first, must-read installment, Monteys puts a comedic spin on a futuristic, sci-fi tale steeped in social / political commentary that is almost uncomfortable in just how close it hits modern society below the belt. Monteys has taken the idea of people being so enamored with their devices a few steps further in that not only can people physically love their devices, but the devices can actually love their user / owner / companion back; in this case they love their humans too much. In this crazy world, human-on-human relationships (such people are called “carnals”) is something of an anomaly that only those with open minds can understand. There is actually so much going on in this story in respect to commentary on humans and machines, humans and humans, what people think of their beloved machines after they are gone, and how we are falling away from human interaction that I am sure I am missing many other subtleties that Monteys has tucked away in this amazing story. Thankfully, that is what rereads are for, which I will definitely be doing.

The art…oh boy howdy, the art. I was blown away by Monteys line work, character design, storytelling, and character acting skills in the first chapter, and the visuals continue to thrill, and possibly improve, with this issue. This is before he even adds the rich, vibrant, striking colors to his already impressive illustrations. He utilizes a mostly flat color palette along with color knockouts on his lines when depicting various forms of holographic imaging and technology that have to be seen to be believed. Each page demands spending some time to appreciate, as there are many additional unexplained tidbits tossed into the various scenes. What’s the deal with that cute little robot? What exactly is that thing on Lola’s foot? What happened to Raul’s arms, and how do they work? Who knows. We won’t. It’s the future, denizens, it is what it is and you just need to go with it, and I love this book for giving us so very much, while still leaving much to the imagination.

Support this. Support this. Support this! Universe! is from Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin’s Panel Syndicate, which means that it is available in a digital-only format, and the crazy thing is that you can contribute any amount you want to gain access to a download, which includes FREE. So, if you have any doubts about this book (or the must-read The Private Eye), then download these two issues, read them, love the, and then go back and kick a little somethin’ somethin’ to the creator to ensure that we get to see more of this amazing creative endeavor. I chipped in $3 for each issue, and I intend to buy some prints if Panel Syndicate decides to offer some. I am beyond excited to see what Monteys comes up with in the next issue. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Rachel Rising #32
Rachel Rising# 32 - Everythinged by Terry Moore, published by Abstract Studio. Bad things occur in the town of Manson. In fact, they’ve been happening for quite some time. People tend to die…often, but the problem is the bizarre circumstances behind the inhabitants’ deaths. One might almost believe an ancient evil was loose and seeking to amuse itself in the quiet town.

Rachel, Zoey, and Aunt Johnny are not really in much of this issue. They actually only appear for six and a third pages, yet Rachel Rising continues to be an intriguing read. This issue mostly focuses on the guy involved in the decapitation incident from last month, a character who will not be returning to the series after this issue. Usually, this sort of thing would turn me off of a book, but not with this creator. Moore manages to make Zak, the person present at the moment of last month’s victim’s death, both interesting and relatable. Through brilliant phrasing and Zak’s dramatic facial expressions as he stands atop the water tower reflecting on the events that led him there, Moore brings you into this Manson resident’s life, managing to make the reader care, and care deeply. I can see how this slight detour might put some readers off, but in the end, this issue serves to further develop Rachel Rising’s world, and the influence Malus has had upon it.

Yes, this issue is different in its pacing and presentation, but if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times (or at the very least 31 times previously), Rachel Rising is an absolute treasure. If you are a fan of Moore’s other phenomenal creator-owned work (Strangers in Paradise and Echo), then I can assume you are already hugging close a copy of this amazing series as you read this. If you have not read Moore’ work (shaking my head in sadness), then I’m excited and envious (my spirits rise) that you can experience both his older books, and this beautiful horror title (five trades of Rachel Rising currently available!) for the first time. You have your reading assignment…get to it. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Spider-Gwen #2
Spider-Gwen #2 - Written by Jason Latour, illustrated by Robbi Rodriguez, colored by Rico Renzi, lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles, published by Marvel Comics. When we last left Spider-Woman (we know her as Spider-Gwen, true believers), she was plummeting to her death. But killing off Marvel’s biggest breakout character in years, after just a couple issues, is not exactly a sound business decision. She pulls through. Unfortunately for Gwen, surviving and working through a concussion leaves her seeing things and trying to process what happened. Thankfully she now has the guidance of her fairy godmoth—…errr…godpiggy?

Spider-Gwen continues to be a fun, vibrant roller coaster ride, and with the inclusion of Spider-Ham — something I enjoyed in this issue, but hope doesn’t become a recurring thing — it is clear that this book looks to stray from the dark, gritty, moody, fuddy-duddy attitudes found in most of today’s superhero comics for something a bit more upbeat. Thank goodness.

My main problem with Spider-Gwen stems from not having read her introduction in Edge of Spider-Verse #2, which is not that big of a deal. The creators have stoked my interest in the character and now I want to know more of Gwen’s backstory as I’m left a shade in the dark as to some of Gwen’s motivation; I guess I need to visit my LCS this weekend. Again, not that big of a deal.

The art, both line work and colors, is gorgeous beyond description and I especially love the two-page flashback sequence of how Spider-Woman survived. The purple tones are just beautiful, and that character design still manages to wow me.

So, even though I still feel like I came late to the party and missed out on some of the cool stuff, I'm still at the party and getting into the swing of things. The story is cool, the art lovely, and the book is an overall good time. I’m excited to see what comes next…and to get that dang Edge of Spider-Verse #2. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Sixth Gun:
Dust to Dust #1
The Sixth Gun: Dust to Dust #1 - Written by Cullen Bunn, illustrated by Tyler Crook, colored by Bill Crabtree, lettered by Crank!, designed by Keith Wood, edited by Charlie Chu, published by Oni Press. It’s a shame, what happened to ol’ Billjohn O’Henry in the wake of the Battle at the Maw. We grew to be quite close to the kindly-yet-deadly man, but this is not a tale about the day of his death. This is about the man prior to such dark times.

I unfortunately read this book quite late, and don’t have enough time to properly do it justice. Let’s just say, I loved this issue. I’m a huge The Sixth Gun fan, but the various side tales, although good, never quite grabbed me the way the main title had. The Sixth Gun: Dust to Dust is entirely a separate matter. I really liked Billjohn from the early parts of the main title, which is why when he dies, I was left shocked and saddened. After reading this issue, it is apparent that Bunn has an affection for this character — as he should, he’s great — and possibly regrets having him die so early in the series. I’m glad he chose to return to Billjohn for some much-appreciated additional time.

Crook’s art, with Crabtree’s signature colors, is fantastic on this more-Western-than-supernatural take on The Sixth Gun universe. The storytelling and character acting serve to make an already likable character even more so. If you are a fan of the main title, and surely you must be, then this mini-series is a no-brainer purchase for sure. Get it! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice into the Woods

Over-Caffeination (or, the Art of Being Nervous and Jittery as Heck) - I don’t know why I keep overdoing it on the coffee (yes, I do, it’s called being addicted to caffeine), but I just can’t help but go ballistic with that ever-so-bitter, opaque goodness, especially on Fridays. As I have said before, I wake up early. The alarm goes off at 5:00 AM on each weekday…whoa, whoa, whoa, settle down, you should actually try adjusting your schedule to getting up very early; it’s how I wrote my first two novels, maintain Donist World, as well as wrote several comic scripts via ComicsExperience.

Now, I keep trying to quit coffee as even a little bit messes me up for the day, but I love the taste, and the process of brewing a perfect cup of coffee, like craft brewing, is a most serious art form. I just wish coffee loved me as much as I love it. The thing about Fridays, is Amy the intern (my wife) and I are downstairs and working on our personal projects by 6:00 AM and the coffee begins to flow. Then we head over to the South Coast Deli at a little past 7:00 AM for an end of the week special bagel…and more coffee. By the time I’m back in front of the computer, I’m caffeinated out of my gourd and trying to write. <bbbbbzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz> <sigh> I need to switch back to tea, but coffee is just so GOOD!

and on that note…

(sung to the tune of The Cars’s “Shake it Up”)

Uh well, these books are tops, I must say
Rachel Rising has got a way
Scary story, can’t be beat
And East of West turns up the heat

Snatch it up
Snatch it up, oo yeah
Snatch it up
Snatch it up

Read all night, ain’t no excuse
Universe!, is one to choose
Read all night, Spider-Gwen, son
I gotta say, it’s tons-o’-fun

Snatch it up


Friday, March 6, 2015

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 3/6/2015

(Sung to the tune of Rick Springfield’s “Don’t Talk to Strangers”)

So you want good comic books, ones really cool
Descender’s tops, babe, it’s sure to rule
Black Science still rocks, I wouldn’t fool
These groovy stories rock my world, they’re cool

Saga is awesome. Oh what’s Marko gonna do
’Cause family ills I just can’t believe it’s true
God Hates Astronauts’s so hot, I tell you dude
And Nameless, too, read

Skipping’s a danger, baby, don’t you skip

Hey 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 / confidence archaeologist Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister), and we are still running at a hectic pace (at least I am), but we are a bit calmer as we get all of our ducks in a row and synergize our efforts in a collaborative effort to complete our projects within and outside of Donist World, while maintaining a firm toehold as a Fortune 320,000 company. We’ve ordered tacos in, and we’ve barricaded ourselves in the corporate office (my mom’s basement) and locked the door to the conference room (a card table separated from the rest of the basement by my old Star Wars sheets draped over a clothesline). We’re pulling ourselves up by our dang bootstraps and were going to make things happen. We got the Rick Springfield playing, we got plenty of tacos, and the dog water is flowing like a river. It’s time to get down to dang brass tacks, denizens, let’s do this thing, it’s time for the dang…

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Descender #1
Descender #1 - Written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen, lettered and designed by Steve Wands, published by Image Comics. The Planet Niyrata is one of nine Core Planets known as The United Galactic Council. Residing on Niyrata is one Dr. Quon, lead robotics expert, who is called upon to lend his expert advice when nine mysterious, monstrous robots — one for each planet in the UGC — suddenly appear and act. Ten years later, a young boy, Tim-21, awakens on a mining colony moon. Completely alone, save for his trusty robotic dog, Bandit, Tim-21 attempts to find other inhabitants of the colony just as a ship lands on the deserted moon.

I loved reading this fantastic comic. It was the second book I read Wednesday evening as I sat sipping an imperial dark rye beer. Donist World intern Amy (my wife) and Tulip slept quietly upstairs, and the night was my own. Descender transported me back to my early years of watching ’80s sci-fi films like Blade Runner, and Alien. Not so much the subject matter of those films, but more the overall mood of each, back when films focused less on special effects (which are tremendous in those films, btw), but rather the actual story and the feeling of living in those worlds. Descender also reminded me of my first exposures to anime such as Akira and Robot Carnival, or television shows Starblazers and Macross. This comic also has a strong Epic comics vibe found in such titles as Moonshadow, or Six From Sirius, as well as a dash of the less-risqué moments from Heavy Metal Magazine. The story, the tone, the illustrations all brought me back, and by the time I set the book down, I was smiling, warmed…and desperately wanting to read the next issue.

As I’ve alluded to, there’s no grand cosmic battles, no robots gearing up for war as they scream cries for vengeance, no chase scenes across the universe. Instead, Lemire and Nguyen introduce us to a world (one of nine), Dr. Quon, and the enormous robot — one of the Harvesters as they are called — that nearly ended all life on the nine planets. We only catch a few glimpses of the destruction wrought by the Harvesters, that event is mostly a footnote as we jump forward ten years to meet Tim-21 and see the emotional state of Dr. Quon. We don’t need explicit death and violence, the creators allow us to fill in those gaps on our own with the before and after look at Niyrata.

Again, I come back to the wonderful tone of the book, which is equal parts Lemire’s story, narration, character development, and Nguyen’s gorgeous watercolored art. Lemire immediately grabbed me with Dr. Quon and Tim-21, even more so than the appearance, destructive force, and vanishing of the giant robot; the addition of the robotic dog is a deal-sealing treat. Nguyen’s painted art is exactly that: beautifully painted works of art. Again, each panel of each page reminds me of the ’80s work from such greats as Jon J. Muth, Kent Williams, and Scott Hampton, while at the same time Nguyen makes the look his own. The splash page with Tim and Bandit, the double-page spread of the giant robot, and the last page splash are prime examples of the mastery Nguyen is employing on Descender, with each of those pages deserving more than a moment to linger over and appreciate. Separately, the story and art are worthy of respect, but together they are amazing. Even the title page — exactly that, a sans-serif, uppercase title across a strip of the universe, a subheader, and two-thirds of the page being white space — is a triumph, and comes at the exact right time in the book with great impact.

Okay, denizens, there’s a reason why Descender was optioned for film approximately a month before the first issue even debuted, and to understand why, you just have to check this comic out. If you are looking for action, fights, and the such, then this is probably not the book for you. But if you want a gorgeously illustrated, expertly-crafted story that looks to be epic in scope, and you do not yet own this comic, then grab your car keys and get thee to thy LCS. Descender looks to be something special and this lengthy first issue does best what every first issue should…leave the reader exceptionally interested in seeing where we are headed next. I can’t wait. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Saga #26
Saga #26 - Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples, lettered and designed by Fonografiks, coordinated by Eric Stephenson, published by Image Comics. The Last Revolution arrives and they are very much interested in Hazel, but has Dengo, the robot, gone too far? Marko’s little incident at the alien equivalent of 7-11 looks to bring all sorts of trouble to his group…in more ways than one. The youngest, most vulnerable member of Gwendolyn’s group looks to hold the answer to the dragon problem and finally curing The Will.

Not a whole lot happens in this month’s installment of Saga, as we follow each of the three groups, but that doesn’t mean the issue isn’t a nerve-wracking bundle of fun. This issue is all about character development: a sunken-eyed, desperate Marko loses control not once, but three times over his missing family; Prince Robot IV has mellowed slightly in his search for his son, and taken to wearing an all-black version of his outfit; Sophie is unusually bright for her age, but Gwendolyn’s treatment might be taking a toll; the insane Dengo might be doubting his own actions. In addition to our normal three groups of characters, we also have a new player (the one with the rifle, who bears an uncanny resemblance to another past character), and the members of The Last Revolution who we first saw at the end of last issue. So, yeah, there is a lot going on, but every moment of my favorite comic on the stands grabs and holds my interest and leaves me desperate to see what happens next.

It’s Brian K. Vaughan, denizens, you already know the story’s gonna rock your socks off — which is why I wear fuzzy slippers when I read this book — and with Fiona Staple’s gorgeous line work and vibrant, close-to-flats coloring (a compliment to the exceptional look) on the characters, you know you’re in good hands on this sci-fi, adventure odyssey. The truth is: I’m in love with this book. I have the issues, the trades, the hardcover, and even a digital copy of the hardcover…I just wish I pulled the trigger on that Lying Cat t-shirt before they vanished. Anyhow, you’re buying this, right? You gotta be. If not, do the right thing and get the first four trades, and/or the Deluxe Edition hardcover (contains the first three trades) and catch up on this hit comic…you’ll be glad you did. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Black Science #12
Black Science #12 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Matteo Scalera, colored by Moreno Dinisio, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. Grant McKay is back, and we learn exactly how that has come to be. But like everything since the Pillar was first activated, things just keep going wrong. No sooner does McKay — our McKay — reunite with what remains of his team, than an alternate universe version of Grant and his wife arrive, only to have Rebecca, Grant’s former mistress, kill alt-Grant. On top of that, the new world they are visiting happens to be populated by fanatics who have reason to be angry.

Admittedly, I desperately needed the “The Story Thus Far…” on the inside cover as I had forgotten most of what had happened prior to this issue. I was also tired and fading fast at the time of reading, which made remembering the past, connecting it to this issue, and keeping up with the fast pace of events a chore. I reread the issue the next morning and I’m glad I did.

The creators give us the first five pages to explain what happened to Grant, and the roller coaster ride resumes as we follow Pia as she chases her alt-mother through the streets of this new, hostile world inhabited by a new enemy. Scalera’s storytelling is as exciting and frantic as ever as the armored enemy chases Pia through what looks to be a mostly-abandoned city. New colorist Dinisio keeps the style of the book in line with what we have come to associate with Black Science, but he adds a cool, otherworldly highlight style to the McKay flashback scenes worth appreciating.

So, lesson learned: it is best to be rested in mind and body before reading an issue of Black Science; having a “The Story Thus Far” section only helps. If you are not reading this sci-fi, world-hopping, adventure thriller, you can easily catch up with the first two trades, as you should. I continue to love this book, and I think once this third arc wraps, it will be high time to reread Black Science from the beginning and take in the thrills and chills all in one fell swoop. So much fun! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

God Hates Astronauts #6
God Hates Astronauts #6 - Written and illustrated by Ryan Browne, colored by Jordan Boyd, lettered by Chris Crank and Ryan Browne, edited by Jordan Browne, designed by Thomas Quinn, published by Image Comics. Star Grass dead and Starrior defeated by their own superpowered baby daughter who is mad on a cookie-based sugar high? A giant mecha-tiger-humanoid robot piloted by crab people? Mecha giraffes, hippo barbarian warriors riding chariots drawn by heavily-armed astronaut centaurs, and salmon-loving starbear warriors? You betcha! Heck, and I didn’t even get into the Anti-Mugger arrested and being taken downtown by Detective Lebronson astride a giant, mustached turtle. Oh yeah, the Super Gentendians arrive!

I promise you, denizens, I didn’t make up a single thing in the above paragraph. To be honest, a bunch of other balls-mad stuff goes down in this issue that left me shaking my head in a what the hell am I reading sort of way, but you want to know a little secret? I love every panel of Browne’s insane comic. The thing about God Hates Astronauts is that although creating something over-the-top, and weird is not all that difficult, doing it well to where readers want to come back month(ish) after month(ish) is a darn-fine skill few people have. Browne is not overtly forcing the craziness into his book, he’s just creating the story he wants to tell, as opposed to calculating what joke will work best for a specific demographic as determined by past industry research and standards. This stuff comes naturally to Browne, and although this comic is insane, there is indeed a story, and his immense storytelling skills bring sense to the nonsense. Dang, Browne’s dreams must be messed-up beyond all reckoning…respect!

Don’t just jump into God Hates Astronauts if you have not already been following along. You could follow what’s going on — the nice one-page recap, and the two-page flashback bring you up to speed — but the first and second trades are must-read collections that will introduce you to the characters and the insane world they inhabit. If you find yourself at the least smiling, and at the most having difficulty reading the book on account of the laughter tears, then I know you’ll jump to single issues to keep the good times rolling. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Nameless #2
Nameless #2 - Written by Grant Morrison, illustrated by Chris Burnam, colored by Nathan Fairbairn, lettered by Simon Bowland, published by Image Comics. Oh Criminy…here we go, let’s try to do this. Ummmm…Nameless and his fellow astronauts arrive on a secret moon base of epic wonders to discuss the life-destroying asteroid headed toward Earth. Unfortunately for Nameless, the journey for those unaccustomed to space travel is not an easy one. It also doesn’t help that one of the world’s leading superscientists went mad and decapitated a coworker, and she is now spouting a curse in the ancient language of angels…not something the surviving superscientists want to hear.

Okay, I guess writing about what I had just read is the best way of figuring out what it actually was I just read. If you are a Morrison fan than you are no stranger to floating in a somewhat-lost, delirious haze in the man’s wake as he travels about the aether. Thankfully, Burnam’s gorgeous art provides somewhat of a four-dimensional roadmap to where this story is headed. If any of that makes sense to you, then you’re probably already reading Nameless and you probably understand a little more about what is going on than I do; that, or you’re lying.

All joking aside, I really enjoyed this issue, and I actually feel like I’m following the story a bit better than I was than with the first. Morrison and Burnam do leave us with a few answers regarding the asteroid and the man behind the drones, but those answers raise many more questions, which pique my interest in this series even more. I may not fully understand what is going on (yet) in this comic, but I am very curious to see what happens next. If you’re unsure whether this book is for your or not, then just look at the creators involved and you should have your answer. Or, if you’re up for a bizarre, challenging, cerebral, sci-fi story, then rush out and buy the first and second issues. Once you read them, I’m sure I’ll see you drifting amidst the cosmos with the rest of us; just be sure to wave hello. RECOMMENDED!

Swamp Thing #40
Swamp Thing #40 - Written by Charles Soule, illustrated by Jesus Saiz, inked by Jesus Saiz and Javi Pina, colored by June Chung, lettered by Travis Lanham, published by DC Comics. The end is here. It is vegetation versus machine and rot and fungus for the sake of the world as we know it.

I know the Donist World mission statement says that we like to keep things positive when it comes to other people’s work — hey, I’m a creator, too — but in rare instances, I feel I have to point out story / art problems, especially when they are outside of the creators’ control. The many problems with this grand finale are not the fault of the creators, who do a commendable job tying up plot points they had projected out for many more issues. Rather, it is that of the company who brought down the axe on the series prematurely, as opposed to bringing in a guest writer (Soule is now exclusive with Marvel) and giving the series a final five or six-issue push toward a satisfying ending for the loyal fans. Yes, I realize the publisher is a business with shareholder obligations, and at the end of the day, they need to make money as opposed to pleasing a handful (?) of fans. Still, if fans / customers leave…

Anyhow, this issue rushes by so many plot points that little has a chance to make much of an impact. The avatars of the green move to attack Arcane after Alec orders them to. Arcane kills one of them (even though he is alone and on their turf), and bails. The avatars want vengeance, but then Alec says forget it. Okay… Arcane returns to the Machine Queen, the avatars of the Green chat for a while, Seeder joins the cause, the Alec Monster gleefully kills itself, and the Green goes to war with the Machine, the Grey, and the Rot. Someone goes, “Oh, but what about the Red,” and Alec shrugs his shoulders in a beats me manner; that’s the last and only reference to the red in this issue. The battle is cool, although over way too fast. We go meta with Alec meeting the Story (?), then he magically reengages in the battle and takes out the Machine Queen as if she was nothing, a robot dog in a storage shed, and the end with Abby sitting in the grass (but not killing it, she’s still an avatar of the Rot, right?), as Alec reads one of my favorite novels of all time before going “Hhn.” The end. Now, if all of what I have written above seems abrupt and jarring, then know that is exactly the flow of this issue.

I will say that Saiz’s art is as gorgeous as ever, and he draws some mean battle scenes and he has some phenomenal character designs for the former avatars of the Green. Luckily, he was not rushed, or forced to shoehorn a six-issue story arc or two into one oversized issue as Soule was.

That said, all of the griping and whining and fanboy rage (not really, I’m cool with it) aside, I still enjoyed many aspects of the issue. Hey, if I didn't like it in the end, I wouldn’t spend the words writing about it. The battle is cool, the avatars are cool, and I don’t really know what to make of the Story — we weren’t given the time to get to know them after all — there was still much to enjoy. Although I wish DC had contacted me to write the final twelve issues…okay, ten issues…six?…I am thankful that although the story’s ending was disjointed and rushed, we still received an ending that was still pretty cool. RECOMMENDED!…for Swamp Thing fans.

Slice Into the Woods

The Spartacus Workout - <phew> Okay, just thinking about the “The Spartacus Workout” that I found in Amy the intern’s women’s exercise book — don’t worry, it’s the same in the men’s version of the book — and used to do a few years back tires me out. But having given it a whirl after a break of a few years, I can’t believe I’m up and moving around. Criminy, I only did two of the three reps because it is so brutal, and now I'm sore as heck. Do I even want to attempt to do it again later today…no, but I probably will anyways. And to think, another week of “The Spartacus Workout” and I fully expect to be on the Spartacus television show in the next season. Wait…what? The show ended? Huh…oh well, I’ll still be totally ripped. Time for some French fries.

On a side note, have any of you denizens watched the Stars Spartacus show? I’m almost done with the final season, and I am loving it despite the RIDICULOUS treatment of the bloody battles. The slow motion, the fountains of blood, the screams, the sound effects, it’s all so over-the-top that I can’t help but laugh over how uncomfortable it makes me. I wouldn’t be surprised if a character opened up a scroll only to cut their finger in slow motion as blood sprays out to soak the camera and the character screams with rage-filled anguish. Geez Louise. Still, it’s dumb fun, and refreshingly accepting of homosexuality.