Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 6/26/2015

Friday Slice of Heaven

Welcome back to Donist World. I’m Donist, and I am joined by our CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by our marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / where’d-all-da-comics-go? specialist Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). It’s been a nutty week here at the Donist World corporate office (Mom’s basement), but we’re pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and getting cracking, so let’s dive right into the evil that is the red onion, and why this disturbing trend of putting copious amounts of what I like to call “the devil’s root” on everything is destroying Amer…hold on a moment…oh. Obie just reminded me that we are here to look at comics, even though we only had one in our pull this week; I guess having two job interviews, a project due, hitting the halfway point of the second installment of Kibbles ’N’ Bots, doing some critiques, and avoiding red onions really took a toll on me. I guess it’s okay that it was a slow week after all. So, grab some killer tacos, and a strong ginger ale — or perhaps an iced tea, iced tea is nice — and settle in to enjoy this week’s post. Thank you for reading.

***Possible Spoilers Below***

The Fade Out #7
The Fade Out #7 - Written by Ed Brubaker, illustrated by Sean Phillips, colored by Elizabeth Breitweiser, published by Image Comics. Closeted gay Hollywood heartthrob Tyler Graves may have survived his recent car accident, but the threat of the studio security thug Brodsky still looms. Meanwhile, Charlie (screenwriter who can no longer write and has been living a lie) and Maya Silver (the blond starlet replacing the murdered Valeria Sommers) have a magical getaway weekend that they both know will come to an end all too soon.

This Hollywood crime / noir comic continues to be fantastic. The series as a whole is dark, foreboding in a way that leaves you to suspect that none of the characters will make it through this series unscathed — with the possible exception of Dottie (PR girl for the the studio). What Brubaker has layered into the story so well is that most of the characters have put themselves into each of the terrible positions they find themselves in. There are no real good guys. You mostly have varying degrees of damaged, bad, and wicked, yet each of the characters, even those who only appear briefly, are so fully developed, so fascinating, you can’t help but be interested by what is transpiring on the page. But when one of the main characters appear, like Charlie and Maya, the story becomes utterly compelling.

Phillips’s art is as amazing as always, only this issue showcases something I have not seen in a comic from these creators in quite some time: vibrance and light and moments void of the shadows that usually darken the page. Breitweiser’s colors are key to the impact of this issue and elevate all of the scenes tremendously. We sees the use of light through the hospital room window, with brightly-colored pink roses against the greens of a wall, and of Dottie’s blue and white outfit. But then we cut to the scenes of Charlie and Maya at the beach house, and the scene is startling in its brilliance as the sun reflects across the calm ocean, and the tan sand glows with warmth. Maya is radiant with nary a shadow to be found on either her body or all-white beach wear (cool costuming, btw). But Charlie…even in this scene Charlie has some shadows looming on him, like even this joyful, potentially happy time can’t pull the darkness and the weight of his world away. Once they return to reality, Breitweiser’s color palette shifts back to the murky world we are familiar with, and we see the fantasy is over. I also have to say that Phillips’s character acting and storytelling during and after the bar fight are spectacular.

No superheroes. No zombies. No outer space stuff. All old-Hollywood, reality-based noir drama and The Fade Out absolutely excels for it. If you are a fan of crime / mystery / noir / period pieces, then you need to immediately get your hands on this exceptional comic. Yes there is a cool first trade, but if you want the full experience, you really need to pick up the individual floppies for the bonus letters column and the fascinating historical essay at the back of each issue (this issue has an essay on Errol Flynn). The Fade Out moves at its own pace, slowly building the Hollywood studio world while providing a view into the many interesting characters within that world, each of whom has secrets threatening to destroy them. I have loved Brubaker and Phillips’s previous work (Sleeper, Criminal), but The Fade Out is quickly becoming my favorite of the esteemed bunch. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Stray Bullets:
Über Alles Edition TPB
Stray Bullets: Über Alles Edition TPB - Everythinged by David Lapham, edited by Maria Lapham, copy edits by Deborah Purcell, Karen Hoyt, and Renee Miller, published by Image Comics. Okay, no breakdown as to what this book is about other than to say it is a crime-drama that began in 1995, carried through to issue 40 in 2005, and then vanished until the final issue was printed in 2015 with Image Comics. This beast of a book is 1200+ pages of black and white, not for the kiddies, harsh, criminal comic booking at its best. All 41 issues of the original series are contained in this hefty collection.

I am only seven issues in on this massive volume, but I am wholeheartedly loving every page of what I have read thus far. This is despite having to peek through my fingers, or avert my gaze altogether at some of the brutality involved in the story. Each issue is a mostly self-contained story, but characters come in and out and are often referenced, so reading this series in sequential order will definitely be more impactful as you go along.

This one honestly took me by surprise. I like to think that I was there for all of the major comic events as they happened, whether they were the early Alan Moore works I love so much, the Frank Miller comics, or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles explosion, but somehow I missed out on Stray Bullets. I’m guessing it had to do with being released in 1995, when I had gotten annoyed with all of the alternative covers, polybags, trading cards, and other nonsense that became more important than simply telling a good story, so I simply wasn’t there the first time around. That sucks, because Stray Bullets is a series that would have kept me reading comics had I known it existed. Let’s just say I’m glad to have finally met its acquaintance.

So yeah, like I said, I’m only 1/6th of the way through, but I am so digging this book. Although I am glad to have it all in one large package, I will say that I won’t be reading this thing in bed, and that I usually have to be sitting upright with the book in my lap, but hey…good comics is good comics, you make the sacrifice. If you like gritty crime stories, and I know you do, then you must get ahold of this awesome collection. Just off of the seven issues I have read thus far, this tome comes VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice into the Woods

Too Much Stuff to Do, Not Enough Time - Let’s end on a positive note, and leave the negativity behind. It was a crazy, stressful week, but overall a good one…I hope. I at least have some Stray Bullets to read, the second volume of The Silver Surfer TPB to read, some Kibbles ’N’ Bots to write, and a web design project to turn in. Oh yeah, something to critique, and a query letter to submit to a publisher. Oh yeah, oh yeah, I also want to pitch a story to comic book publisher. No worries, it’s all under control. Bird by bird, denizens, bird by bird.

No time to figure out a song this week, but here is some Fuzzbox awesomeness!

Thanks for reading!


Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 6/19/2015

Friday Slice of Heaven

Welcome back to Donist World. I’m Donist, and I am joined by our CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by our marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / too-much-awesome-dystopia analyst Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). We’re keeping the intro short this week as my puppy executive team and I are off to a corporate summit to discuss maintaining Donist World as a Fortune 320,000 company and to discuss what we need to do as a corporation to secure the 2016 presidency for a teenager named Beth. So, grab some killer tacos, and a strong ginger ale — or perhaps an iced tea, iced tea is nice — and settle in to enjoy this week’s post. Thank you for reading.

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Lazarus #17
Lazarus #17 - Written by Greg Rucka, illustrated by Michael Lark, inked by Michael Lark and Tyler Boss, colored by Santi Arcas, letters by Jodi Wynne, published by Image Comics. The Family Carlyle and the Family Hock are at war, and everyone around and between them look to become engulfed in the conflict. The Family Carlyle is losing precious ground, but General Valeri has a plan to change the course of battle, one that involves the Lazarus Forever. Meanwhile, we revisit former Waste family members recently lifted to new positions within Carlyle.

The break between issues wasn’t actually all that long, but when it comes to Lazarus, it may as well have been years. I can’t get enough of this dystopian nightmare of a world that has been divided amongst financial lines versus political, geographical, or religious ones. The creators immediately pulled me in with the first issue of this tremendous series with their terrifying world, compelling characters, fantastic art, and masterful storytelling, and I have been both thrilled and scared by everything I have seen since. Rucka and Lark have pulled much of the real world into their story with a view of what might come to pass if things continue as they are, which freaks me the heck out. After reading this issue — as with all other issues before it — I will be thinking about the events for days after reading, yet no matter how grim things get within the pages, I am so entangled in Forever, Sonja, and the Barrett family’s situations that I’m already counting the days for the next issue.

I am completely with this series until the bitter end…which is hopefully many years down the road. I also hope hope hope the television series actually happens in the near future. Fingers crossed. If you enjoy dystopian / post-apocalyptic / political dramas with strong ties to current events and you are not reading the phenomenal Lazarus, then you must get to your LCS and catch up via the first hardcover or the three available trades ASAP.  Once you are caught up, however, I strongly suggest switching to floppies (you can always pick up all of the past floppy issues in addition to the collections), as most of the monthly(ish) issues contain incredible supplemental information such as historical timelines, Family histories and background information, among other deep, world-building tidbits not found in the collections. Not only that, the letters column, “Forever Yours,” contains fan letters with thought-provoking responses from the creators that are both enlightening and informative. This month’s column features a response from Rucka about what has been happening to education in the US that hits all too close to home, and got me all fired up; it’s great to see some truth for a change, even if it has to be in the pages of a comic book. Lazarus is an intense, relevant, and amazing comic that everyone should be reading, and this issue comes VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Southern Bastards #9
Southern Bastards #9 - Written by Jason Aaron, illustrated by Jason Latour, lettered by Jared K. Fletcher, published by Image Comics. Sheriff Hardy’s been in Craw County his whole life. Hell, he was even a star player for the Rebs…once. But the past is the past, you can’t change it. You also can’t hide it, unless of course Coach Boss tells you to, and what Coach Boss says is law.

Criminy, denizens. I read Southern Bastards after Lazarus, and let me just say…it was one of those nights. By that I mean I read two solid comics, but they were both grim, harsh, and without a laugh to be found in either. This issue stands as kind of a one-shot look at an important secondary character living in Craw County: Sheriff Hardy. Aaron and Latour give us a look at a man who has given up not just in his duty as a law enforcement officer, but also in life. Being in Boss’s pocket for so many years, turning a blind eye to the criminal activity, the violence, and most recently the murder of Earl Tubb, it’s no wonder Hardy is so dead inside. Thankfully, the character wakes up just a little after Big’s suicide last issue. We should hate this guy for his inactivity, for his lack of backbone, but like the past story arc where Aaron and Latour made me understand and actually <gasp> care about Coach Boss, they do the same with Hardy; all in the span of one issue. His life ain’t pretty, in fact it’s never been, Craw County ate this guy up, and that final splash page (I ain’t spoilin’) is a gut punch of a moment that solidifies just how far gone Sheriff Hardy is. I really hope to see him redeem himself at some point in the story, but I’m not holding my breath — he might be completely lost.

This issue bummed me the heck out. It bummed me out a lot, denizens, but you want to know something? I loved every freaking moment of this issue. This brief glimpse into Sheriff Hardy’s life is just another notch in Aaron and Latour’s creative belts as they offer up a damn-compelling story, with some beautiful line work and colors for a crime comic about football. FOOTBALL! I hate football, yet Southern Bastards is one of the best comics on the stands. Whether or not you like football, Southern Bastards has something for everyone who loves well-crafted stories. You can — and should — easily catch up via the two available trades. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Low #7
Low #7 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Greg Tocchini, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. When last we saw Della Caine, she was but a little girl at the time the pirate Roln abducted her. Now, she is an adult and living in the Second City, an icy region where hope is punishable by death, and the creation of any form of art is one of the highest crimes. Della, now a fully-grown woman, is a Minister of Thought, one of Second City’s elite policing agents.

<sigh> This was the third book I read that very same night. Geez Louise. This is some heavy, dreary stuff, denizens, but, again, another tremendously solid book. Remember up above what I said about spoilers! It has been so long since we have seen Della Caine that I at first thought the lovely — and dang-near nekkid — blue-haired girl was Della, but that was not the case. It was easy for me to assume blue-hair was Della, as she is an artist, a dreamer, an optimist much like Della’s mother, and this woman appears to be trapped in her own home, a prisoner. The blond woman has risen in the ranks as a Minister of Thought and appears to have lived in Second City her whole live, she knows the rules, and now she enforces them. I completely got it wrong with who was who. Maybe I was just being thick-headed, or maybe this is how the creators intended the story to be read, but regardless of which woman you initially believe Della to be, the story is beautifully-told and powerful.

Even when there were a couple panels throughout the first six issues that I found confusing, I have loved Tocchini’s painterly work since the beginning. Something, however, has changed with this issue, and it has changed for the extreme better. The character designs are stunning whether it is Della in her Siberian-esque outfit, the tattoos on the gorgeous women, the Grand Editor and his ultra-grand mustache, pipe, and groovy hat, or the super-cool mecha-polar bear thing that Della rides. Then there is the matter of the colors that bring so much life to every panel that it was difficult for me to break away and turn the page. Man, I want a poster of the cover and the title page to liven up my home.

I love this comic. It is my favorite out of Remender’s three Image titles (Deadly Class and Black Science being the other two, of course), although all three are definitely worth reading. If you are a fan of undersea adventure or post-apocalyptic worlds or sci-fi goodness, then you cannot go wrong with Low, which you can start reading with the first trade (collects issues 1–6). This issue is the beginning of a new chapter, and one that has me very excited to see what comes next…I suspect what’s to come is probably gonna be kind of harsh, too. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Prez #1
Prez #1 - Written by Mark Russell,  pencilled by Ben Caldwell, inked by Mark Morales, colored by Jeremy Lawson, lettered by Travis Lanham, published by DC Comics. It’s 2036, and the current President of the United States of America’s recent activities have made it clear that he does not intend to run for reelection. Whatever are a bunch of old, white, male, d_bag senators supposed to do? Other than stack the deck with their own malleable candidates of course. What they didn’t account for was a certain “trending” down-on-her-luck teen, becoming a contender for the nomination.

Whoa…I freakin’ loved this comic and I am 100% on board for the duration of this 12-issue mini. Seriously, denizens, it was a joy to read, even when not compared to the other comics I read this week. Russell hit all of my “special buttons”…errr…I should rephrase that…he hit on everything I have come to suspect as truth: politicians are predominantly old, rich, white guys; many politicians are either bumbling fools or gnarly sexual deviants, most are liars; YouTube shows like “Puppy Slaps” already exists and no one above the age of 15 will EVER be able to understand such nonsense; corporate ’Merica believes they run things and they kind of do; people are willing to do almost anything to lift themselves from poverty or secure the little things like…you know…health care for their families. I know, I know, Prez sounds like the lovechild of Lazarus and Southern Bastards that was left on the doorstep of a boutique meth lab, but it is not. This comic has wickedly sharp sense of humor that had me laughing from page one through to the end, and left me bummed to not have another 100+ pages to immediately read.

Caldwell’s art is phenomenal, the perfect choice to lighten the mood of this brilliant satire, while bringing life to all of the characters with great storytelling, character acting, and the occasional absurd moment to give readers pause. Lawson’s colors are bright and vibrant, bringing even more excitement to Caldwell’s cartooning. With cool effects such as knockouts, glows, and timely opacity shifts imagery leaps from the page bringing joy to moments that should actually be quite appalling. I couldn’t look away.

My biggest disappointment with Prez has nothing to do with the creators, who have created a comic that I am genuinely VERY excited about. No. My biggest problems lay with with DC who loves to interrupt the flow of this 21-page (20 pages if you count the two half comic pages…ugh) comic with no less than 10 ads. Usually, this type of nonsense pulls me out of the experience, but not with Prez. I was so into the story that every ad — with the exception of the horrendous page-ruining-splitting candy bar ads — was invisible to me, I just did not notice them at all.

To repeat: I love Prez. Right after I post this FSoH/SitW entry, I’m taking my tape measure upstairs to my favorite book shelf to estimate the width of the ad-free twelve-issue hardcover that sure as heck better be released once this series wraps. Russell and Caldwell have brought great humor to our distressing reality, and I am sooooooo eager to see what happens next. Vote for Beth in 2016! VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

God Hates Astronauts #9
God Hates Astronauts #9 - Most everythinged by Ryan Browne, colored by Jordan Boyd, lettered by Ryan Browne and Chris Crank, edited by Jordan Browne, designed by Thomas Quinn, published by Image Comics. Prince Tiger Eating a Cheeseburger, recently reborn as Cosmic Tiger Eating a Carrot (I think that’s what he was called, doesn’t matter) is dead, and it’s a King versus King battle royale, as Starrior and her Star Gang Three (Star Fighter, Big Head Star Fighter, and Star Grass) attempt to rescue baby Starlina.

This was the fourth book I read in my New Comic Wednesday's reading, and let me tell you, denizens, it was kind of nice to have a release from the frightening, dismal, bum-me-outingness of Lazarus, Southern Bastards, and Low (those books are still amazing, though). Yeah, GHA is a whole different bag of robotic cats, boy howdy is it. As I’ve mentioned in all past looks at this bonkers series, explaining what it is about with just words is a tad pointless. If I ever had to say, “Hey, Mom, let me tell you about this hip new funny book all the cool kids are readin’," I would need roughly an hour filled with many ummmmm’s, and wait, I think…no…I’m not sure why a Russian boxer employed an army of bears, only to have her respond, “I’m glad you like it, I just don’t get it, are you taking your medicine?” Honestly, if you need some laugh-out-loud, nonsensical, superhero absurdity that is actually quite clever, then look no further than God Hates Astronauts.

Browne’s art is technically beautiful in both line and storytelling despite various scenes falling into the violently grotesque, and this issue is probably the most violent, curse word-ridden issue to date. That said it is also ridiculously funny, and Browne’s hilarious sound effects deserve taking a moment to find every single one of the little fellas littered throughout this issue. Seriously. Where else will you ever see a humanoid hippo punch a humanoid tiger in the face (“Burger Holed!” SFX), then punch the tiger in junk (“Cock Sock” SFX), followed by a gnarly panel where…well…I ain’t spoilin’, but I think you get the drift.

God Hates Astronauts is complete madness. I know I can’t explain what this comic actually is other than saying that it’s crazy, and if you aren’t reading this violent, vulgar, not-for-the-kiddies, fun-filled bundle of nuttiness, then you can quickly catch up with the first two trades, and see what it is all about. Once you read it, though, I dare you to try to write what the series is about within the length of single Twitter post. Go on. Do it! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice into the Woods

Education in the US - Man, Greg Rucka’s response to a letter in the backmatter of this month’s Lazarus really got me fired up. It’s terrible what has been happening to the ever-green, ever-safe political target that is education in our country. I wholeheartedly agree with Rucka’s statement from the letters column that states:
“Critical thought — the surest antidote to media fear-mongering — has been systemically assaulted by a ‘faith’ and ‘family values’ agenda, reinforced by a system of standardized testing and evaluation that seeks to quantify the wrong things, and to shift blame to teachers rather than to assign it where it truly should lay.”
To make myself feel a bit better about it all, I re-watched each of the following TED Talks from the wonderful Sir Ken Robinson. Please give them a quick viewing…you’ll be glad you did.

and also this one…

And on that note, bust out your learnin’ caps and groove to…

(sung to the tune of Duran Duran’s “Notorious”)

Yeah yeah good comic books. Good comic books. Yeah yeah good comic books

You can read about ’em
So great for your eyes
You’ll do fine with ’em
Here’s some that’ll surprise
Books bring truth to lies
Open ’em to find it out
Get wild about it
Lay your hopeful judgements
Books so great they’re part of our lives

You own the money
Best snatch up Lazarus
I’ll sell ya Low, bro
Prez is surely in your best interest
God Hates Astronauts, a justifiable reason
I’m gonna promise, Southern Bastards totes rocks

That’s why I tell you again. Yeah Yeah good comic books


Friday, June 12, 2015

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 6/12/2015

Friday Slice of Heaven

Welcome back to Donist World. I’m Donist, and I am joined by our CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by our marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / too-much-of-a-good-thing analyst Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). We’re keeping the intro short this week as we came home with eight books, seven of which we need to tell you about, so we better get rolling. My puppy executive team and I are heading into a meeting about maintaining Donist World as a Fortune 320,000 company and about the best taco variations in existence today…we’re in for the long haul. So, grab some killer tacos, and a strong ginger ale — or perhaps an iced tea, iced tea is nice — and settle in to enjoy this week’s post. Thank you for reading.

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Saga #29
Saga #29 - 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 makes their demands, but Wreath High Command has some demands of their own. Another group’s quest for dragon…ummm…remainders comes to an end. A third group hops out of the frying pan and into the ice box.

Not since the second trade  have I been so shockingly repulsed by imagery from a comic. One particular splash page comes to mind, and if you read that issue/trade, then you know exactly what I’m talking about (hint: Fard!!!). This month, we don’t get just a single horrifying splash page, but rather, Vaughan and Staples deliver a full on double-page spread of something that will scar your mind, body, and soul for the rest of your days. You can’t un-see this image once you’ve seen it, denizens, it’ll be with you forever. I’m sure five, ten, fifteen years from now, I’ll be sitting on the porch, sipping my coffee, reading my funny books, relishing the things that make life enjoyable…and then the image will come crashing home from the recesses of my mind, causing me to bolt upright and spill hot coffee into my lap, and damaging my holographic comic book presentation device (iDisp Air 2…nailed it!). <Ugh!> Even going back to look at the spread for this review I’m seeing details I did not previously notice. Whoa boy… being so thoroughly shocked, repulsed, appalled by these creators is something…it’s something I cannot thank them enough for. Criminy, I cannot stop laughing. Bravo and ewwwwwww!

Anyhow, aside from those pages, a ton happens in this issue and it ain’t pretty. It also is by no means funny. I’m not going to spoil what happens, but I will say that last month’s issue is small beans in comparison, and waiting for issue thirty is going to be one painfully long wait indeed. Dang…just dang. All three groups get some screen time this month, and things move quickly as one jarring event after another goes down. After the slow start of the first couple issues in this arc, you should be pretty much floored by the end of this issue. Again, criminy.

As always, the writing and art are phenomenal, with my favorite panel being the last panel page-turner of three bewildered characters as they gaze upon the scene of what will be the double-page spread. I paused on that panel for a good minute, as I tried to imagine what they were witnessing, to predict what horror could possibly be waiting at the turn of the page; my guess wasn’t even close. Again, ewwwwwww! Ha.

Saga is great. I know it. The Donist World executive team knows it. The PotUS knows it. You should know it, too. You can catch up with the trades (four currently available), and or the beautiful hardcover edition that contains the first three issues as well as bonus material. All I know is the next issue needs to get here now now now. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Descender #4
Descender #4 - Written by Jeff Lemire, art by Dustin Nguyen, lettered and designed by Steve Wands, published by Image Comics. TIM-21 and Dr. Quon have been reunited after the terrible destruction of The Harvesters from a decade ago. But no one aboard their UGC ship is prepared to hear that while TIM-21 was dead, the boy robot actually dreamt of a robot underworld. Unfortunately, the group will have little time to investigate the matter as more Scrappers arrive on the scene.

As I have said before, I absolutely love this series. It tugs on all the right ’80s comic book and sci-fi nostalgia, while expanding upon those experiences by delivering an exquisitely written and paced story with some phenomenal watercolored art that brings the reader right up to the front row of the action. The creators instantly made me love the humanoids, Dr. Quon and Telsa, while sparking great interest in tough-guy Tullis, but they also made me positively adore the robot TIM-21 and Bandit — a robo-dog, who looks like a more mobile Rhumba…but cuter. I also dig the monstrous, not-all-that-smart, lethal bot, Driller, who looks like the ’80s lovechild of a GoBot and a Transformer, which I say as a huge compliment. Almost every panel is hauntingly beautiful in both storytelling and layout, but Nguyen’s bonus one-two punch comes from his brilliant character acting and gorgeous character design. It does not matter that the first page is a simple four-panel grid depicting TIM-21 from the shoulders up as he talks to someone (Dr. Quon) off-panel. There is not a shred of background detail, only TIM-21, but the expression and life in the boy-bot’s face strengthen make the page a compelling scene. Or, take the moments with Telsa and Dr. Quon, where the woman relaxes the perma-scowl on her face for just an instant and the hard lines under her eyes lift. We have always had the impression that Telsa has seen a lot in her life, and this issue reveals the reason why those harsh scowl lines exist — she is dang stunning, though.

I love this comic. At just four issues in, and with not even half of the year gone, Descender is Donist World’s Best New Release of 2015, and I can’t see anything really edging it out. Heck, I’m already imagining the over-sized hardcover collection, and where I’m going to put it on my favorite bookshelf. What I’m saying is you need to be reading Descender if you are in anyway a fan of great sci-fi, great storytelling, wonderful characters, and beautiful art. You should be able to find floppies at the ol’ LCS, which I strongly suggest you do for this Donist World darling. Buy it! VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Black Science #15
Black Science #15 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Matteo Scalera, colored by Moreno Dinisio, lettered by…someone, possibly edited by someone as well, published by Image Comics. Dissension among the group leads to startling developments, as Grant McKay attempts to save a world that very much wants to see him dead.

I frequently refer to Black Science as an adventurous roller coaster ride, but I’m going to have to add an “and emotional” clause to follow “adventurous.” Holy schmoly. Okay, first off, there is a flashback of Grant recruiting Shawn to the world of forbidden science, one that struck more than a few personal chords for this ol’ Donist, but that is beside the point. This issue, and the series as a whole for that matter, is all about the choices we make. The whys and the whats that blur the lines between selfishness and selflessness, and of how the right decision can twist to become the wrong, and that action and inaction can have equal consequences. Shawn, Kadir, Shaman, Pia, Grant, Nathan, everyone makes some big choices in this issue, and there are definite repercussions that I suspect will make readers gasp and groan in frustration at having to wait for the next awesome issue that will conclude this third arc.

If you want a crazy sci-fi comic that will take you up, down, and all around, all while giving you some beautiful sights to see along the way, then look no further than Black Science. You can easily catch up with the first two tradesthen the third (available in August), which should leave you more than ready to convert to floppies, as the creators promise next month’s third arc finale will leave you breathless. I cannot wait to see what happens next! VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Rachel Rising #34
Rachel Rising #34 - Everythinged by Terry Moore, published by Abstract Studio. As Rachel and Zoe begin to investigate whether or not reclusive author Carroll Palmer had anything to do with Rachel’s death, but a surprise visit from someone looks to adjust their priorities. Meanwhile, Jet and Earl have the talk…

The discussion with Earl and Jet almost — almost — brought a tear to my eye as my cold, dark, shriveled heart thawed to near room temperature. I was close, denizens, dangerously close just like that time on the train from SDCC where I was reading the final volume of a series that left me sniffling with sadness and my bottom lip trembling as I approached the end. What was that book you ask? Why none other than must-read Strangers in Paradise, which was also created by Moore. So, no big surprise that a horror series by the same creator can have the same effect on me, only for a very different reason. This brief moment with Earl and Jet was so real, so heartfelt, so deeply earnest that I was touched to my core. Usually, moments like this feel forced or ring false, but not true for Moore; he has this down, in both visuals and written word.

The moments with Rachel and Zoe are also fantastic, as are the implications surrounding their uninvited house guest. Story and art continue to be on par with what one can expect with this wonderful series, but I was a tad bummed by the fact that there are only 18 pages of story in this issue. <sigh> More people need to be reading Rachel Rising, and with the five available trades, catching up has never been easier. This is a great series, and I want to see it run for a good long while, but to do that, Moore needs readers to pick up the individual issues and preach the word of what a great horror comic this is. Maybe a jump over to Image would boost sales volume enough to raise awareness of this fantastic series by this writer-artist master. Even at only 18 pages, Rachel Rising comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Weirdworld #1
Weirdworld #1 - Written by Jason Aaron, illustrated by Mike Del Mundo, colored by Mike Del Mundo and Marco D’Alfonso, lettered by VC’s Cory Petit, published by Marvel Comics. Arkon the Barbarian battles strange creatures on the most bizarre world of all as he searches for the greatest prize of all…a way home to Polemachus.

I have no idea what to say other than this world is indeed weird. Dragons, squidsharks, ogres, floating masses of land, something you would never expect to find under the sea, a familiar enemy, and a bunch of other crazy stuff. I went into this comic only knowing that Marvel was dipping its toe back into the fantasy realm in a way unseen since the ’70s with the original Weirdworld: Warriors of the Shadow Realm — which I now really want to read as well.

I believe Arkon has popped in and out of Marvel books over the past couple of decades, but now he has his own title, and although “Secret Wars” is stamped on the cover, that is the only tie Weirdworld has to the Marvel-wide event. Awesome. What this means is Aaron and Del Mundo can get as weird as they like, and trust me…they get weird. I have no idea why Arkon walks these strange lands, or how he got there, but I was instantly drawn to his plight and sadistically can’t wait to see what trials Weirdworld has in store for him.

Aaron’s writing and characterization are entertaining and compelling, but the art is positively gorgeous. I honestly have not seen such bright, vibrant colors since…well, Spider-Gwen actually, but you get what I mean. The action is plentiful, and each panel of every page is worth taking time to fully appreciate. I am thrilled to see the House of Ideas actually taking a risk on a fantasy title that (currently) has few ties to the greater Marvel Universe; I hope it stays that way. The comic is pretty good, too.

So, yeah, I’m glad I took a chance with this groovy fantasy title, and I am excited to see where it takes poor Arkon next. As long as Weirdworld keeps the tie-ins and the crossovers to Secret Wars to a minimum, and we get to see more of this trippy planet and its funky inhabitants, I can see reading this comic for some time to come. So much fun. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Spider-Gwen #5
Spider-Gwen #5 - Written by Jason Latour, artist Robbi Rodriguez, colored by Rico Renzi, lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles, designed by Idette Winecoor and Jessica Pizarro, published by Marvel Comics. Now that Gwen is back with the band The Mary Janes, things are looking up, but when the band’s rival, Felicia + the Black Cats, invite them to be the opening band for an important show, what could possibly go wrong? Well, how about everything?!

I’ve been enjoying Spider-Gwen since the first issue, but this issue is the best to date. I still don’t know all of the characters very well, or why one of the band members of The Mary Janes is wearing a cat on her head — is that cat alive? or is it a stuffed animal? — but what I do know is that Gwen Stacy is cool, Matt “Murderdock” Murdock creeps me out, Spider-Woman has one of the best character designs in years, and I have loved five consecutive issues of a Marvel comic after not reading anything from them for over a year. This issue left me wishing that The Mary Janes and Felicia + the Black Cats were actual bands, and that the “To be continued…” tag at the end of the issue was for real. What I mean by this is that in the “Gwencils Down” column, assistant editor Devin Lewis mentions that because of Secret Wars, everything ends and this is the final issue of Spider-Gwen. Wait, what? Seeing as how this series was a smash hit, my guess is that we will see a brand new number one issue once Secret Wars wraps, but I really really really hope that Latour, Rodriguez, Renzi, and Cowles are all attached; otherwise, I most likely won’t be attached to that particular iteration of this character.

With Spider-Gwen we get an amazing alternate take on Spider-Man that is refreshing and new to such a degree that even those who have been following ol’ Web-Head for decades will have something to appreciate alongside younger fans of this powerhouse character. Marvel’s onto something special with this series, and I hope that after the all-consuming event (which I am also enjoying) ends, that Spider-Gwen will pick up right where it left off…and continue along the path of success that the creators have built and that their fans have loved. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Sabrina #3
Sabrina #3 - Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, illustrated by Robert Hack, lettered by Jack Morelli, published by Archie Comic Publications. Most sweet-sixteeners hope for a car when they reach that much-anticipated age, but not Sabrina. For much of her life, Sabrina’s aunts have groomed her for the day she will become a handmaiden of the Devil and come fully into her witch powers. Unfortunately, Madam Satan has a bit of a problem with that.

Hold on a second, denizens. I was just rubbing my eyes for the past minute and they need to readjust. Yup, it’s true. We have a new issue of Sabrina that took just over a month to see release versus the full gestation period of a human child. Cool…I’ll take it! Hold on a second more, gotta rub my eyes again. Yup, it’s true, the book is still here despite my envisioning the entire membership of One Million Moroms (moms + morons, get it? Also probably only a few thousand moroms at best) taking and burning this issue in one big bonfire that they would generally reserve for the witches they were attempting to cleanse. Holy cow! Not to spoil too much, but I will say that Sabrina the Teenage Witch arrives in the woods to perform some Satanic rituals and that there are no less then nine “Hail Satan!” word balloons on that page, which is directly across from a scene where Sabrina machetes a goat. No joke. So, no hijinks, or goofy fun that you would expect to find in an Archie comic in this here issue. No siree, Bob.

Aguirre-Sacasa and Hack spend much of this issue building the world where witches exist and pre-sixteen kids must decide whether to become full-fledged witches or revert to boring old humans. We do however see a bit more of Sabrina, and see Madam Satan establish a false relationship with the girl as she wedges herself into Sabrina’s life. It's a crazy story, and there are tons of word balloons to read in this issue, but I did not notice them as I merrily made my way through to the end. And what an issue it is, given Hack’s gorgeous imagery that skirts the line of whimsical, while predominately remaining in realm of the super creepy. I love it all.

If you picked up Sabrina in the hopes of seeing a strawberry malt magically dumped over Reggie’s head as Sabrina gives a snickering wink to Jughead and Betty and Veronica giggle at the joke, then you are in for one hell of a rude awakening. As I mentioned above, this book is a huge departure for what Archie fans have come to expect from our favorite Teenage Witch. Sabrina is horror, through and through, and one that probably isn’t the best choice for the kiddies. That said, it is smart, engaging, and ultimately compelling to the point of making me excited to see what happens next…in hopefully just over a month. If you are a fan of horror comics, then you can’t go wrong with Sabrina. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice Into the Woods

This Has Nothing to Do with Comics, But I thought I would mention it anyways as it was kind of creepy and weird. Anyhow, Amy had just finished teaching her last day of class for the school year, so we headed out to Eureka for lunch. While sitting there, enjoying a beer, French fries, and tacos (you knew it would be tacos right?), an attractive youngish blond woman sat at the table behind us with a much older, bearded man. I did not want to eavesdrop, but just could not block out what I was actually hearing from their conversation. From what I could gather, the woman was trying to sell the guy something, and she was totally giving him the hard sell. She mentioned the previous representative the guy used to meet with, and that she wanted to know what “options” the guy was interested in. I initially thought she was attempting to get him to buy some sort of financial product, but when she started spouting off things like PD-45 and ADH-7 (I made these brands up, I don’t remember exactly what she said), I deduced that she was trying to sell him drugs…as in pharmaceuticals.

Things got even more weird as the guy would express hesitance over whatever drug she was peddling, and he would then ask her about what she enjoyed doing outside of work, or he would lean toward “no” on a particular drug, and she would change the tone of the conversation to her likes. It was like a very weird and awkward date, only she wanted to sell the man on pharmeceuticals, and he wanted to know about her pet peeves and measurements. What did Pharma-Girl like to do you ask? Well, she really likes riding horses and the power the animals possess, and she is heavily into fire dancing, which she learned while visiting an island (I didn’t catch which island) where “a lot of crazy stuff happens, not sex-orgy-type stuff, but pretty crazy stuff,” and that she continues to develop her fire dancing techniques to this day. WTF? The conversation would then steer back to pharmaceuticals, and then back to near sexual stuff, and back again, at which point we finished our lunch and were on the way out the door.

All I know is that whatever pharmaceutical company that woman works for is abhorrent, and that I never want to visit that doctor for fear of being prescribed a healthy dose of ADH-7 or whatever weird drug he agreed to buy in his hope of hopping into the fiery sack with a no-sex-orgy-type-stuff, fire dancing Pharma-Girl. Creepy.

And on that note, bust out the lighter fluid and your fire dancing skills to groove to…

(sung to the tune of Duran Duran’s “Planet Earth”)

Only came outside to buy some good books what the hey
I saw so many worth my time
Like some new Descender and Rachel Rising, oh zounds
Saga and Sabrina, best drop a dime

Look now, look all around, there’s so many books
Weirdworld and Spider-Gwen gotta read ’em now
Also Black Science truth, your looking at great comic books!
Bop bop bop bop bop bop bop bot these’re great comic books!


Friday, June 5, 2015

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 6/5/2015

Friday Slice of Heaven

Welcome back to Donist World. I’m Donist, and I am joined by our CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by our marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / life coach Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). It’s been a weird week, and as much as I hate to see days go by, I’m glad it’s over. Thankfully, I have my trusty puppy executive team beside me, and we are aggressively seeking to maintain our standing as a Fortune 320,000 company. We are also embellishing our core competencies, while buying-in to the scalability or our cross-geo-canis-Donist-synergies. I don’t know what that means either, but Obie was adamant about it, and I don’t feel like arguing the matter with him. So, why don’t y’all shove aside the blahs (or heck, set the Midnighter upon ’em), grab some tacos, and sip away at a strong ginger ale — or perhaps an iced tea, iced tea is nice — and enjoy this week’s post. Thank you for reading.

***Possible Spoilers Below***

The Autumnlands:
Tooth & Claw #6
The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw #6 - 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. The parley is finally here, and Seven-Scars the bison has brought his secret war party to celebrate the occasion. But Learoyd, the Champion of the magic-using upperclass, has a plan in place for such treachery, one that will shock and appall both sides in the disagreement…provided anyone lives to tell the tale.

The first arc of the exciting The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw fantasy series comes to a close and it does exactly what it is supposed to do: it leaves you eager to see what happens next. This issue shows just how out of place Learoyd is in this world, and how far he will go to win the day. No one understands the man or his methods, or why he does not adhere to their customs or beliefs in right and wrong. The situation is further complicated as the Champion freely admits to Seven-Scars that he might very well be on the wrong side of this war, but the fact remains he has chosen a side, and that side will persevere through whatever means necessary. Learoyd has some pretty drastic means. Although, I am a little surprised by both sides' shock over Learoyd’s actions. Seven-Scars was going to violate the parley the first chance he got…the Champion was just willing to go to even more extreme means to improve his side's chance of survival. Still, I can’t help but be sympathetic to the bison tribe, who has literally had the crap of the magic-using upper class dumped down upon them for generations. Maybe the Great Champion is on the wrong side, but there are still plenty worth saving like Dusty (bull terrier boy) and Gharta (warthog woman). That Sandorst (the owl guy), though, is a piece of work…

Dewey’s art is as gorgeous as ever. As I have said with each of the prior issues, his storytelling prowess is extraordinary, as are the character designs and costuming, but it is his character acting with the myriad animal people that rocks this Donist’s socks off. I have never seen a more cheerful / distressed bull terrier, or a more beautifully detailed owl, begrudgingly admiring the human Champion. In one panel you see a bear, a mastiff, and a walrus, all armed to the teeth, with such grim determination that you can’t help but feel slightly more at ease as the furious tribe of bison men descending upon them. Make no mistake, you not only get a wonderfully crafted story with The Autumnlands, you get some truly beautiful pages as well.

I love this brilliant fantasy series. The Autumnlands world is inventive and fascinating, its characters rich and complex, and each more-pages-than-a-Big-Two-book comic gives you incredible value for each issue's $2.99 price tag. Much of this six-issue arc has been dedicated to world building, but we have been given enough of a glimpse into the characters to at least get to know them some. Yes, I want to know more about Dusty, Learoyd, Sandhurst, Seven-Scars, and the rest of them, but with the amount of content crammed into each issue, the creators would have needed to give us around 48 pages with each installment (I would be totally okay with this, btw). That said, I’m pleased with what we have, and I’m certain we will explore deeper into all of the fascinating characters in the next arc, which cannot come soon enough. If you have not been reading the best fantasy comic on the stands, then you will soon be able to catch up with the July release of the first trade ($9.99 retail!). HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Secret Wars #3
Secret Wars #3 - Written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Esad Ribic, colored by Ive Svorcina, lettered by Chris Eliopoulos, published by Marvel Comics. Dr. Stephen Strange and Dr. Victor Von Doom have always had a complex relationship, a complex relationship that persists in this new world, where Doom is god, and Strange his sheriff. Both remember the way the world used to be, but they are not alone in this knowledge, as a few more players emerge whose recollections of the past have not been altered.

Denizens, I am so confused by what is going on. Not by the story, or art, but by the fact we are on the third issue of a Big Two event comic, and I am absolutely loving what I am reading. Weird, right? Usually I enjoy the first issue and things begin to fall apart thereafter, whether it involves the writing (characterization, story, etc.) or art (rotating artists, 10+ inkers, breakdowns in storytelling), but that is not the case here.

Hickman writes some compelling and complex characters, especially when it comes to the Strange / Doom relationship, which is one of mutual admiration, slight distrust, and dare I say…friendship. If the issue had been merely Doom and Strange talking, I would have been perfectly happy with that, but the addition of the other characters made the story all the stronger. We also gain a tad more insight as to what went down and who knows what, as well as learn of a potential secret plot. The issue ended much too soon.

Ribic and Svorcina’s art continues to amaze, but I will agree with some of what I have been reading across the dreaded interwebs that some faces look slightly off at times, but not enough to pull me out of the story, or dampen my love of the imagery. I will say that I hope to see more of the artists’ interpretations of the Deadlands and, of course, anything that involves outer space, for that is where the pair amaze and dazzle.

Admittedly, I had fallen off from the majority of Big Two books over the past few years, but this event, this Secret Wars, is pulling me back in, by golly. You have Hickman’s writing, which like his work on the Donist World darling East of West, leaves the reader with many questions. But the cool thing is he does not leave you frustrated in a Lost sort of way. Instead he actually answers those questions, leaving the reader with a need to delve deeper into Hickman’s fascinating world. So, yeah, I’m scratching my head. I’m very eager to see what happens next, and as of this writing Secret Wars is delivering a dang-fine event book. Who woulda thunk it? HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Midnighter #1
Midnighter #1 - Written by Steve Orlando, illustrated by ACO, inked by ACO with Hugo Petrus, colored by Roulo Fajardo, Jr., lettered by Jared K. Fletcher, published by DC Comics. The baddest good guy of them all begins his own series, on his own terms, and if you have a problem with that, then take it up with him. Go on. I dare you. That’s what I thought. There’s a thief in the God Garden, and they have taken everything, including something of grand importance to the Midnighter, which was a very, very, very bad move on the thief’s part.

Well it’s about time, denizens. Please keep in mind that I have not read Grayson (Should I?), which I have heard does the Midnighter justice. I first went nutty for the Midnighter back when Warren Ellis introduced him in the pages of Stormwatch and then even moreso in the must-read The Authority. Mark Millar also had some great moments for the Midnighter, but after that…no one really captured the magic of the character or the supergroups he was part of…until now.

Orlando presents the Midnighter as a man who couldn’t care less about protecting any sort of secret identity, and he has zero problems keeping his sexual orientation secret either. Like the honey badger, the Midnighter doesn't give a sh*t, he not only accepts who he is, he likes who he is. Older versions portrayed the character as deeply dark, moody, secretive — which was great — but seeing him release all of that is a fantastic evolution of the character. Although Orlando has made the Midnighter more vocal (outside of when annihilating some sort of soon-to-be-very-sorry bad guy), don’t assume he is a super goody-goody. As the character says, “I’m not a hero. Some people can’t handle that,” which he proved on a previous page, after kicking a steak bone through a bad guy’s skull. Ouch.

ACO’s art is fantastic with some truly insane layouts that brought back memories of watching Sonny Chiba’s Street Fighter with the special “X-ray vision” moments that are still cracking me up — a steak bone through the skull, by golly! That said, there are some moments throughout that I wasn’t quite sure what was going on, but not enough to pull me out of the story; I just wanted to see what happened next.

<sigh> I thought I was out on DC titles, but now Orlando had to go and re-awsomize one of my favorite superheroes. I’m also thrilled that we now have a bit of diversity with a gay character who might not be the nicest of cats, but who puts the “bad” in badass. I also want to applaud DC for allowing a sex positive stance in one of their titles. As for the split-page ads: yeah, they suck, but not as much as having 10 ads interrupt the flow of the story. Criminy, that’s a lot of ads. As for the book itself…Orlando and ACO nail the character, his voice, and his look in a story that is both a fun read, and one that leaves me excited to see what comes next. One heck of mighty fine start. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice into the Woods

Not a Great Week - I am not referring to comics, but let’s just say it just wasn’t the best of weeks for me. But, hey, let’s not focus on the negative, and instead move forward with the positive, y’know, the stuff that really matters.

and with that…

(sung to the tune of The B-52s’s “Legal Tender”)

We’re into comics, looking for hits 
All of it’s hot
10-20-30 dollars ready to be spent
Browsin’ racks against the wall
Oh yeah represent

Lovin’ ’em all oh what to buy
But baby, prices are up there, ain’t no lie
Don’t fret, no need to lament
Autumnlands’s a good one, kid
Secret Wars will rock your socks
And also Midnighter
No need to lament