Friday, July 10, 2015

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 7/10/2015

Friday Slice of Heaven

Welcome back, Donist World denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by our marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / beachcomber Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). This week we aren’t doing anything at the corporate office (Mom’s basement): No Power Point presentations about securing our status as a Fortune 320,000 company, no Risks Benefit Assessment discussions concerning tacos al carbón versus tacos al pastor versus tacos de barbacoa, no ROI meetings concerning Obie’s MbDM (Management by Dungeon Mastering) style. Nothing. We didn’t even bother having Amy the intern (my wife) refuse to make us all coffee. You want to know why? Because it’s SDCC week and we are not there. See? Sad, right? Anyhow, we’ve been taking it easy, relaxing a little, playing to spark creativity, and doing team building exercises to improve our corporate culture…all while feverishly checking in with the latest SDCC news. If you aren’t at SDCC, you might as well join us. So write that last email, cut out of the office early, 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 before heading out. Thank you for reading.

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Descender #5
Descender #5 - Written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen, lettered and designed by Steve Wands, published by Image Comics. TIM-21 and his band of protectors have been taken by a team of Scrappers to the planet Gnish, home world of the Robot Culls. Once delivered, TIM, Telsa, and Dr. Quon have a meeting with the Gnish leader that does not go well, as Driller, Bandit, and Tullis head into the dreaded Melting Pits.

Criminy! This series continues to blow me away with its compelling story, characters, world, writing, art…everything. As I have said with each of the past four issues, Lemire pulls on my ’70s and ’80s sci-fi animation / comics heartstrings with this harsh but beautiful tale. Previously, I would have mentioned “beauty” before “harsh,” but that all changes with this month’s installment: the interrogation scene, the Melting Pits, the shocking reveal. This is not to say the issue is overshadowed by the more brutal scenes. We still delve further into TIM and Driller as the creators grow their vast world, all while catching a glimpse of some of the behind the scenes machinations of The United Galactic Council (UGC). This issue is already perfect, but a new and surprising complication — the wolf in sheep's clothing moment — caused me to sit up straight with dread. I was then filled with even more dread when I realized I was already at the halfway point of the issue, and I desperately did not want it to end.

Lemire’s story alone makes Descender a must-read comic, but when joined with Nguyen's gorgeous watercolors that bring every scene to life, I have to add a must-own designation to this brilliant sci-fi tale as well. The storytelling and character acting are phenomenal and reason enough to praise Nguyen for his visuals, but his character designs, costuming, architecture, machinery, weaponry, and tone are simply astounding.

To summarize: I love everything about this comic.

If you aren’t reading Descender, then please write yourself a one-day hall pass from your job, school, dentist appointment, or whatever, and get to your LCS to pick up these five issues. If you don’t find all of the issues at your LCS, then go to your NCLCS (next-closest to the LCS), then the NCNCLCS (next-closest to the next-closest to the LCS). Yes, denizens, I know. The first six-issue trade is available sometime in September, but why would you ever wait? Don’t do that do yourself…you deserve Descender, and you deserve it now. Hey, I'm going to get the trade in addition to the floppies, and I will even triple dip on the eventual hardcover release (please please please!). So, yeah, I kind of dig this comic, and I know you will, too. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Archie #1
Archie #1 - Written by Mark Waid, illustrated by Fiona Staples, colored by Andre Szymanowicz with Jen Vaughn, lettered by Jack Morelli, published by Jon Goldwater of Archie Comic Publications. Throughout history there have been power couples, but none have been as historic as Riverdale High School’s own Archie Andrews and Betty Cooper. Those two have been together since kindergarten. They were supposed to get married, get a dog, have kids, the whole white picket fence American dream. But then came the “Lipstick Incident”…

Wow! This blew me away. Anytime I say anything related to Archie Publications, I mention how as a kid I thought the comic was “for girls,” but how over the past decade I have reassessed and realized just how wrong I have been for most of my life. I realized this even before the phenomenal (and phenomenally slowly released) Afterlife with Archie, after delving into The Best of Archie Comics and the beautiful and emotional Archie The Married Life (which I desperately need to catch up on). Dang…sometimes it’s so good to be so wrong.

Waid immediately pulls you in with just three word balloons atop Staples and Szymanowicz’s stunning first page splash. Turn the page and Waid helps you realize that not all of the popular kids are a bunch of cruel, entitled, rich d_bags; occasionally you get an Archie Andrews and a Betty Cooper, who happen to be pretty good people. With this new reboot / refresh, we experience a flash of imagery alongside Archie’s earnest break-the-fourth-wall recounting of his and Betty’s time together and mentioning the “Lipstick Incident” that drove them apart…something they swore to never speak of. What is this “Lipstick Incident?” No one knows, except for Archie, Betty…and Jughead, who ain’t talking. The mystery of what happened is not just the obsession of everyone at Riverdale High, but it becomes an obsession of the reader as well. Waid’s characterization and his ability to tease and lure you into this fun, romantic, refreshing story is a joy to read from beginning to end.

Fiona Staples…you know her from Saga, and you know how much this ol’ Donist is thrilled by her illustrations. It’s business as usual on this title, and business is good. Although she does not color her own drawings here, you won’t be disappointed with Szymanowicz’s colors which remind me very much of Staples’s beautiful style. The character acting, design, and storytelling are just as stunning here as on Saga, and I love her updated take on the cast of Riverdale, especially on Jughead.

Speaking of Jughead…I love him. Waid has him as somewhat of a zen, leave-your-problems-at-the-door kind of guy who not only thinks outside of the box, he lives his life outside of it. Jughead Jones knows he’s a different sort of cat as he tends to think far ahead of his fellow students, and hates to see everyone desperately trying to get in his best friend’s business. (Crazy glue…ha ha ha ha.) Come October, I will totally be picking up Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson’s Jughead series…who woulda thunk it?

Whether you have been reading Archie Comics for years, or you are fairly new to the publication, you need to be reading this comic. No superheroes, no darkly moody dark darkness, no robots, no violence, none of that stuff. Archie is just good plain ol’ fun that is exquisitely written and illustrated and that leaves me thrilled to see what comes next. I honestly cannot wait. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Black Science #16
Black Science #16 - 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 seeks to save the very world that actively wants to see him dead. Treachery within the Dimensionauts and misread intentions plague the group as the pillar’s timer ticks down to one…final…jump.

Straight up, this is possibly my favorite issue of the amazing Black Science series to date. Watching Grant fly about the city, trying to save this parallel dimension was so action-packed, so thrilling that I was whipping through the first half of the issue. Thankfully, I went back through to give Scalera’s art the proper amount of time and appreciation it so richly deserves. That’s the problem with Scalera: the guy has storytelling down to such a degree that you can’t help but fly along with Grant at breakneck speed from panel to panel, page to page, but move that fast and you’ll miss all the wondrous details of his imagery. Still…breeze through, or linger in awe? Answer: Breeze through, then reread and linger. Dinisio’s colors only make this issue even more striking and fantastic, as he pushes the mood and visuals even further. Dang, denizens, this is one heck of a pretty comic.

Remender’s story snags you by the arm and pulls quickly through from beginning to end with few points to catch your breath. The creators made good on last issue’s promise that crazy, gnarly things were going to happen, and that Black Science was in for some big changes going forward. Characters’ wants and preconceived notions cause all sorts of problems by the end, which seems to be the theme of the book since Grant’s obsession with the pillar forced everyone on this journey, as did Kadir’s selfishness, and Rebecca’s as well. Even as Grant actually does something right, his stubborn, unflinching mind leads him to a misunderstanding that backfires horribly. Other terrible things happen, and then the malfunctioning pillar jumps…and now we wait until November. To be honest, my heart is still racing after this one. <phew>

If you liked Fear Agent — and you darn tootin’ better have liked it — then you MUST read the crazy sci-fi / adventure roller coaster that is Black Science. If you are already reading Remender’s current three creator-owned awesome comics (Deadly Class and Low are the other two), then I know you are sitting there shaking your head in agreement that Black Science is science fiction comics done right. If not…<sigh>…you can still catch up with the first two trades today (the third comes out next month), or wait until December for the premiere hardcover. Whatever you do, check this great series out! VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Saga #30
Saga #30 - Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples, lettered and designed by Fonografiks, coordinated by Eric Stephenson, published by Image Comics. Crashing your dragon skull spaceship is probably not the best way to reunite families, but Marko, Prince Robot IV, and Ghüs really had little say in the matter. Now it’s up to Alana, Hazel, Dengo, and their group to stay alive long enough for the reunion. All that and The Will finally gets the cure he needs, but he might not be overly gracious.

Thus concludes the fifth arc of Saga. Holy schmoley these past six issues have really cleaned up many of the characters roaming around in this vast, rich universe. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m happy to see these characters go — mostly in horrific ways, btw — I am merely pointing out that plenty of folks, both good and bad, croaked this arc. Of those surviving characters, roughly half get what they wanted (Ghüs reunited with Friendo…FRIENDO!!!), and others only get part of what they wanted, which makes things almost worse…while gracefully leading us into the sixth chapter of what is still one of my favorite series.

I will say that getting a double-dose of Fiona Staples heavenliness is something I do NOT want to grow used to — one book is enough to drive a fella insane with happiness, but two comics the same week is more than us mere mortals can take. This issue has a few fantastic storytelling moments, such as the clever dual reunion of Marko and Alana, and Prince Robot IV and Dengo, which almost mirror each other in layout, only with vastly differing end results; each is beautiful. The focus, however, is on all of the key dramatic moments that have been building for some time, and as always Staples’s vibrant imagery is pure magic. (Her FRIENDO! moments are of course top notch.)

I still love this series and the cliffhanger does its job dang well as it leaves me with a desperate need to see what happens next. Although nothing decidedly mind-blowing happens this issue, Saga continues to take us along for one heck of a wonderful ride. If you aren’t reading what is one of the best comics on the stands, then you can easily catch up via the beautiful hardcover and/or the four currently available trades. Now begins the sad, painful wait for next fantastic issue…and hopefully more FRIENDO! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice into the Woods

I Wish I Was at SDCC - Actually, I only partially wish I was there. I went to two back-to-back SDCCs in 2007 and 2008, and Amy and I had a freakin’ blast. However, I will say that by the time we left the 2008 SDCC, we were totally over the crowds, which were noticeably worse than the previous year in terms of mass quantities of people. We had also noticed that movies, television, video games, and other non-comic stuff had a stronger presence than our first time, and as much fun as we had at both, diminishing returns had already set in. Still…I wish I was there right now. <sigh>

And on that note, this week’s song…

(sung to the tune of OMD’s “Electricity”)

Want to know hot books to read?
Simplify the discovery
Descender rules for me
Archie will set you free
Cool books you must read
Black Science you have to see
Saga still rocks it, G
Preachin’ cool books you must read


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