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


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