Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 8/29/2015

Friday Slice of Heaven

This week: Prez, Low, East of West

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 / hero of superheroes Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). Dang, denizens, this SoCal heatwave is the pits. Not only am I constantly scanning the mountain range for wild fires, but I have my own fires to put out here at the corporate office (Mom’s basement). You see, Obie has taken our “casual” dress code to mean “clothing optional” and he has been running around the office howling “I’m nekkid! Check it out, Tulip. I’m nekkid.” <sigh> Seeing as how he is a dog, he’s always “nekkid,” but he’s disrupting important business while he repeatedly “streaks the joint.” That tears it, it’s too hot for this. I’m calling an emergency meeting and team building exercise involving running through the sprinklers. So, don’t just stay gold, Ponyboy, stay cool, and while you’re at it grab some killer tacos, a strong ginger ale — or perhaps a nice cool sweet tea— and settle in for this week’s post. Thank you for reading.

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Prez #3
Prez #3 - Written by Mark Russell, illustrated by Ben Caldwell, inked by Mark Morales, colored by Jeremy Lawson, lettered by Travis Lanham, published by DC Comics. Teenager Beth “Corndog Girl” Ross is President. Deal with it. Those who formerly called the shots are not happy about having a leader who owes no one, and who cares nothing about being humiliated in the public eye. Oh, and having Congressman Rickard as Beth’s VP won’t do her any favors with the old guard, either.

Prez is one of the best books coming out of Image…errrrr, I mean Vertigo…dang, DC, it’s coming out of DC!…to hit the stands. If you’ve been following my thoughts on the first two issues (here and here) then you know that Prez took me by surprise and I fell deeply in love with but a few short pages. But at the halfway mark of the first story arc, does Prez continue to wow this Donist with the same one-two punch of the first two issues? You bet your sweet patooties, denizens.

The beauty of this series is found in the creators’ ability to build a future that is both new and off-the-wall, while at the same time being relevant to modern day politics, reality shows, corporations, work, health care, and technology. Even when you see the mech security bot, or the floating hologram screens, or the “Taco Drones,” there is far more truth behind the sci-fi drapery than fiction. Sure, Boss Smiley, CEO of Smiley Enterprises, descending from the heavens to address his forced-into-attendance workers is kind of out there, but in the end the situation’s not all that far removed from reality. Boss Smiley — a man with a holographic smiley face obscuring his true identity — both praises and threatens between reinforcing the mission statement and the Smiley values, while caring nothing of those who make the company possible in the first place…timed bathroom breaks? The whole two page sequence would be utterly ridiculous were it not sadly all too real, as my own personal experiences can support (oh, do I have stories!), and that the bizarre timing of news articles like this totally substantiate. The thing is, Prez does what all brilliant satire should do: it makes you laugh, it makes you smile, all before the sense of dread sets in that you are reading about a variation of the world you currently live in. I will say that I smile a lot more than I fret, though.

I also greatly appreciated Rickard’s comments to Beth about President’s filling their cabinets with other politicians: A Labor Secretary who’s never had a job, a Secretary of Transportation who’s never ridden a bus (how about education heads who’ve never taught?). Even better were the pages of Beth filling her cabinet with “actual smart people.” Dare to dream, denizens, dare to dream.

In reading this issue, it struck me how a simple change up in the style of the art, with nearly all of the writing remaining the same, would vastly change the tone of this book. Imagine if you took Caldwell’s art and switched it up with a darker, more realistic style and then muddied up Morales’s inks and desaturated Lawson’s vibrant color palette, shifting it toward more earthy tones. What you would have is a book more along the lines of 1984 but the creator’s have (thankfully) not gone that route. Caldwell’s cartooning is uplifting, and Lawson’s colors vibrant and joyful. Combined, both provide a sense of hope, and uplift the mood despite the fact that this issue sees President Ross nearly being assassinated as she is being sworn in to office. Horror and laughs, laughs and horror, with most of the emphasis landing on laughs. * Side comment: I love how the creators gave Beth a tan in this issue, now that she no longer slaves inside the corndog joint all day. A nice touch. *

Prez is as smart as it is entertaining. No matter where you land on politics, you undoubtedly know something is wrong in ’Murica these days. This tremendous series has absolutely no problem taking the immense issues plaguing our country and presenting them in a light that will keep you laughing through to the end…it will also give your worries a sharp elbow to the ribs to get you thinking. I love this comic. I love this comic. I love this comic. And I think you might, too. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

(yes, I realize the hypocrisy of sending you to a news site reporting on abusive business practices and then sending you to buy a book (1984) — that kinda sorta predicted said company — at the very site referenced in the article.)

Low #9
Low #9 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Greg Tocchini, colored by Dave McCaig, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. After Stel Caine’s cliffhanger ending from last issue, we learn…actually, we don’t learn a thing about Stel’s fate. Instead, we check in with twins Della and Tajo and see firsthand what happened after their abduction at such a very young age.

Yeah, I was hoping to find out Stel’s fate with this issue, but what we got was every bit as good. The creators take us on a heart-wrenching flashback to where Della and Tajo, after seeing their father murdered, their mother possibly dead, and themselves taken by strangers, are then split up to be raised apart from one another. Watching Della attempt to console Tajo is emotional and moving, especially as the girls attempt to channel their mother’s optimism. The scene is all the harsher since we know what happened to these girls years later.

The move to the present, where the majority of the story focuses on Della is fantastic, as we see the person Della has become. After she had killed her artist girlfriend (issue #7) in her duty to eradicate hope, Della has become that which she was taught to fight against. The ending of the issue is all about being led down the wrong path, family, and what happens when the two come into direct opposition. It’s an incredibly messed up situation, and Remender has us torn between which side to root for, with the implications of Della’s actions and the possibilities of aid lost knocking the wind out of us by the time Tajo makes her grand appearance.

Speaking of grand appearance, like all issues before it, this issue is gorgeous. This is especially true of the storytelling on display during the action sequences that take up the later half of the book. Wowzers, denizens, I’m not joking when I tell you it is all rather jaw-dropping in the choreography and the flow from panel to panel as Della opens a can of whupass on her opponents…again, even though the situation’s all kinds of messed up. McCaig’s colors greatly impact the final scenes as we shift from the yellows and oranges to the reds with blue accents that make every page both stunning in it’s look and exciting in the story being told.

After mostly following Stel for the majority of the series, taking another issue to exclusively follow the twins is a change of pace, but it is a welcome change. This release fills in some of the blanks of the past while providing hints to the direction of the series going forward. I cannot wait to get issue #10 in my grubby little paws. If you are looking for a sci-fi, dystopian-with-a-side-of-fleeting-hope, underwater, futuristic tale that is compellingly told while being beautiful to behold, then Low is a book you simply must pick up. You can easily do this with the low-priced first trade, and then pick up the second trade releasing near the end of October. Of Remender’s current three Image titles (Deadly Class and Black Science being the other two, of course), all three of which are definitely worth reading, Low continues to be my favorite. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

East of West #20
East of West #20 - Written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Nick Dragotta, colored by Frank Martin, lettered by Rus Wooton, published by Image Comics. The Union has been trying to setup lines of communication with the Endless Nation for some time since the war had started. Wondrous, lavish gifts were sent…only to be returned with select bits of the envoy contained within each box. But for the Union’s Chosen, Antonia LeVay, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try…and then send Doma Lux.

Dang, denizens, I should have waited 30 minutes after eating before diving into the deep end of the pool that is East of West. Anyhow, it has been some time since we have touched base with LeVay and Doma Lux, or the Endless Nation, or the PRA, so it took me a read through followed by some time of reflection (i.e. confusion and doubts of personal mental ability), and ultimately some mental timelining and chicken or the egg pondering to understand what was going on. In the end, I’m still confused about the order of a couple of events, but that is fine, as the end result is the same, and my love of this title endures.

As I say with every issue of Hickman and Dragotta’s tremendous East of West, this is a thinking person’s comic. Hickman is known for the intricacies of his plotting, and some seemingly minor moment in, say, issue two might hold the key to a major story arc a year or two down the line; then again, it might just be a minor moment. I remember reading the first issue of this tremendous series and thinking I have no idea what is going on, but I really like what I am seeing. Keeping with the title will reward you, however, as pieces of the story fall into place and character relationships and motivations come into focus, all of which leave you filled with a sense of accomplishment.

The storytelling on this series has been amazing since issue one, and Dragotta keeps you flowing from panel to panel, page to page with any pause in your reading attributable to an overwhelming need to marvel at what you are actually seeing. The Machine City of the Endless Nation is a stunning example of this, as the imagery pulls you ever deeper into this fascinating world. But as tremendous as Dragotta is at keeping you engaged in the story, his character acting is just as impressive. The standout example being an eleven-panel page four that despite showing only talking heads, perfectly pulls the reader into the dawning of a plan for one character, and the sudden, terrifying dread of another. Martin’s wonderful colors continue to push the tone of a sequence, especially during Doma’s “fight” scene, where Martin’s warm (hot, actually) colors are sure to get any reader’s heart pumping.

East of West is a complex, exquisitely told and presented comic that would have lost my interest after the first story arc were it not for the tremendous talents of Hickman, Dragotta, and Martin. It is a “challenging” comic, you are never spoon fed info, but stick with it and you will be greatly rewarded as you become more immersed within this fascinating world, and its intriguing characters. Be warned, though, you cannot just jump in at any random issue. You need to start at the beginning, which you can easily do with the available first four trades (covering issues 1–19 and The World), or go big with the recently released hardcover (covering issues 1–15), and immerse yourself in this sci-fi / fantasy / post-apocalyptic / drama / adventure / thriller / everything-else comic book that is unlike anything you have ever read. Just remember to stretch before diving in. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice into the Woods

Speaking of Nekkid… - They are destroying my self esteem, denizens. DESTROYING IT, I tell you. What am I talking about? Why the “Handsome Boy Nearly Nekkid Collegiate Running Team,” of course (aka the UCSB men’s running team). Dagnabbit. So, here I am, two miles into my run, I look like hell warmed over, sweating, wheezing, but doing it. I. Am. Doing. It. Then I hear what appears to be a stampede coming up from behind me. In a manner it is. Behind me comes flying about 20 young college guys with collectively an ounce of fat on their nearly nekkid bodies. These cats, probably on their 127th mile of their 200 mile run, just blow by my lagging carcass as if I was crawling. If that wasn’t bad enough, they eventually vanished into the horizon, reappeared much later to charge toward me, vanished behind me, then blew past me yet again. Screw those guys! I bet I’ve read WAY more comics than they ever have. So there! TAKE THAT!

And on that humiliating note…

(Sung to the tune of Billy Idol’s “White Wedding”)

Hey comics reader I'm tellin’ you, son
Hey comics reader these books are loads of fun
Hey comics reader of Prez I am a fan
Hey comics reader Low is one you want
Hey comics reader awesome

It’s a nice day to read, my friends
It’s a nice day for some East of West
It’s a nice day to read, my friends


Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 8/21/2015

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 / burger outreach specialist Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). This week my head is spinning as Obie has been assaulting Tulip and I with an unending barrage of business jargon, as opposed to focusing on what matters most…great comic books. I doubt he even understands half of what he’s saying. It’s all “open the kimono” this, and “core-competency” that, and I tell you, it’s getting tiresome. I don’t buy in to this whole synergizing our vertical silos by reaching outside our own swim lanes. I’m not about to drink the Kool-Aid on this. I ain’t gonna…oh no…he’s got me doing it now, too! Excessive business jargon does not a good company make. Oh well, forget building your tiger teams, the best practice is to grab some killer tacos and a strong ginger ale — or perhaps a sinfully rich malt from your favorite soda jerk — and settle in to enjoy this week’s post. Thank you for reading.

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Archie #2
Archie #2 - Written by Mark Waid, illustrated by Fiona Staples, colored by Andre Szymanowicz with Jen Vaughn, lettered by Jack Morelli, published by Archie Comic Publications, Inc. Archie and Betty, Riverdale’s most famous couple have broken up in the wake of the supposed “Lipstick Incident”…whatever that was. Now, Archie is in search of employment to make enough money to fix his ailing car—Betty was the one who used to fix it for him. The problem: Archie is not only the nicest guy on Earth, with the best of intentions, he’s also the world’s biggest klutz and oftentimes a menace to himself and all who cross his path. <sigh> Would someone please get those two back together already?

I suddenly have an unshakable urge to have a soda pop with a burger ’n’ fries, and to start writing in my diary, one that I keep under lock and key. It’s unfortunately only 6:30 AM, so the burger joint will have to wait, but I think I have a pop in the fridge here somewhere. Ah, a Tab! Such a blast from the past. Crud that stuff tastes awful, but it does grow on you. Anyhow…

Dear Diary, 
Take a gander at this. The first issue of the new Archie was a killer-diller, y’know, a total kick. No foolin’. Archie Andrews might be a total meatball, but he’s still pretty sharp, and an all around swell guy. Then there's that cookie, Betty. What a dish! Don’t get me wrong, though, I ain’t carrying a torch for her or nothin’…I know it’s just not meant to be. Now, I’m not in the know on this whole “Lipstick Incident,” and I might not be an ace on the megillah with this whole love thingamabob, but Archie and Betty kinda belong together. Talk about a couple born to be rationed! But why is everyone at school with half a brain child putting their noses where they don’t belong? I’m just gonna have to go with my pal Jughead on letting the two be. Whatever the rhubarb was with those two, it’s their business. Anyone who says otherwise might just get a bust in the chops from me. But this new baby-doll, this Veronica…beat me daddy eight to the bar! She’s the cat's meow! But she’s a topic for another day, and what a topic that’ll be. Hubba hubba. Anyhow, EVERYBODY needs to be reading Archie, its a laugh a minute and a total gas. I guarantee Archie’ll flip their wigs. I’m an eager beaver for more more more. It’s hotsy-totsy. Oh well, I gotta take a powder. We’ll catch up again tomorrow.

<warble, warble, warble> What the heck am I doing lying on my stomach, on the bed, writing in this glitter-covered journal with, of all things, a pencil?! Where did I get a pencil from? Whatever, Archie continues to be a beautifully written, gorgeously illustrated comic that is great fun for all readers. And I mean all readers. Why, at my LCS, while I was picking up my pull, I saw a young kid (I think grade school or junior high) ask the store owner specifically for Archie. The owner steered the kid to the new release table, where HE was then able to rifle through the copies for the cover he liked the most. When I was a kid in the ’70s, I would have never opted to pick up an issue of Archie when Big Two fare filled most of the spinner rack. I should have given the book a chance. I might have discovered my love for this universe that much sooner. Archie is not just for young girls, it was never meant to be. So I find it incredibly refreshing to see not just myself (a xx-year old man) as well as a newly-teen boy traveling to the LCS to specifically pick up a copy of this fantastic comic book.

Now, if you’ve been reading Donist World for any length of time, you already know how much I adore both Waid and Staples’s work, and this comic builds up from that love. Waid’s dialogue had me smiling, and Staples had me cracking up with every unintentional calamity that followed in Archie’s wake. How could anything from these two not be terrific? But also worthy of mentioning is Szymanowicz’s beautifully vibrant color palette that bring so much additional life and joy to an already stunning book. Archie continues to succeed on every level.

If you’re an 80-year-old, man or woman, you surely know of Archie and his pals from way back when. The art style is definitely different, but the characters and their personas are intact, and although the times have changed somewhat — updated cars, cell phones, some of the clothes, etc. — the heart and soul of the Archieverse is still here. If you are a kid, you might be new to Archie and unaware of the rich history behind the title, but with only two issues out, you can easily jump in and have a blast reading this funny, upbeat, beautifully crafted series. And for all those in-between, folks like me…yeah, this one is for you, too. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Weirdworld #3
Weirdworld #3 - Written by Jason Aaron, illustrated by Mike Del Mundo, lettered by VC’s Cory Petit, published by Marvel Comics. Fighting! A getaway! A dragon! A Brawl! A fall!

I’m still digging this gorgeous and funky adventure comic. I’m also thrilled that despite being a Secret Wars tie-in, Weirdworld continues to be its own incredibly wild beast. Sure, Arkon has appeared in a handful of books over the years, the Crystar characters have been absent for nearly 30 years, Morgan La Fey only shows up in the Marvel Universe proper every once in a while, and I honestly have no idea who the heck this Skull the Slayer cat is. What I’m trying to say is that I am pleased as punch with this barbarian / fantasy comic that doesn't feel the need to have a bunch of costumed knuckleheads running around. *I just looked up Skull the Slayer, and it looks to be about a shirtless dude who fights dinosaurs and lizardmen…I must read this!*

Anyhow, the story is still fairly simple: Arkon is trapped on a bizarre world and wants to return home. That’s it, and the thing is, denizens, that’s all it needs to be. Arkon is a cool character and the obstacles in his way are freaking insane to the level I have to see what’s thrown at this unlucky chap next. It’s clear that Aaron is having fun with this story, free of the shackles of continuity, and fairly free of the constraints of the event it is supposedly part of, and we the readers reap the benefits of this. But as entertaining and fun as this series is, the art is what will draw you in and keep you coming back. I really, really want to see how Del Mundo actually creates these magical pages with their rich colors, vibrant glows, and depth of field blurs, especially when it comes to Warbow and Moltar’s Magma Men, all of which have to be seen to be believed. I really wish we had another 20 or so issues of this series, as I do not want it to end next month.

Weirdworld is, well…a weird one. The genre does not fit in with what typically comes out of the “House of Ideas.” The fantastic painted art doesn’t look like your everyday Marvel book. These characters are so old and obscure that you practically have to dust the cobwebs off of them, and one of them I had never even heard of…and I have been reading Marvel comics for over 40 years. None of these statements are a slight against this title, but rather quite the opposite. Weirdworld is a fun-filled thrill ride, that is just the right prescription for those seeking something a little crazy, something a little less capes and tights, something a little weird. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Ms. Marvel Vol.1
No Normal tpb
Ms. Marvel Vol. 1 - No Normal - Written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona, colored by Jan Herring, lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna, published by Marvel Comics. What should have been a night of teenage rebellion against her parents, instead became a one that turned Jersey City girl Kamala Khan into a superhero. Unfortunately, she still got in trouble for sneaking out of the house, she’s mega-grounded, her best friend ratted her out, her brother is being himself…which is bad enough, her new powers are weird and hard to control, the other kids at school can’t wrap their minds around the fact she is Muslim, she has frenemies, and she’s kind of stuck with the name Ms. Marvel…don’t ask.

First, let’s start with the two biggest problems I have with this comic: 1) I now must read the second trade, 2) I must read the third available trade as well. Basically, my wallet’s gonna take a beating. And thus concludes the entirety of the problems I have with this exceptional comic.

I have been hearing the praise upon praise for this comic series for quite some time now, and after visiting a comic shop in the distant north (aka…Sunnyvale), in a show of support for comic stores, I bought the first trade. I’m so glad I did. Ms. Marvel is a fun — dang, I keep using the f-word today, but “fun” is the best description for this week’s comics — honest look at a teenager’s life. Wilson perfectly captures the pressures assaulting Kamala as she enters young adulthood, whether it is boys, independence from one’s family, pleasing one’s family, friends, people who act like friends who are not, faith, sexism, expectations, one-sided love, and generally trying to do what’s right…whatever that might mean. We also learn what life is like within a Muslim family, and Wilson entertains as she enlightens without ever resorting to exposition. She acknowledges biases and stereotypes, while revealing the reality of this girl's life. In the end, Kamala is a teen trying to understand the world around her and understand herself in the process…gaining superpowers both aids and complicates matters. Even this xx-year-old man learned much from this funny book, and I especially loved learning the terms of affection within the family from “Ammi,” “Abu,” “beti,” and “beta,” and I also found the capitalization for the parents’ terms, and the lowercase on the childrens’ to be of special interest (embrace the grammar, denizens!) Oh, and if you are a teenager, no matter who you are, you can take comfort in the fact that all parents, by default, are insane and most assuredly do not understand you. It’s a fact.

Visually, Ms. Marvel is a ridiculously beautiful thing. Alphona melds a traditional style and a cartoony style of illustration that is perfect for this book as Kamala’s powers involve morphing her body in cool and unique ways. I now can’t imagine an artist better suited to rendering a sixteen-year-old girl not yet comfortable in her abilities, attempting to enlarge her fist enough to pulverize a VW Beetle. But there is so much more to Alphona’s work than mere style. His power comes in the form of the tremendous character acting (a smile, to indifference, to a frown, to intense disapproval) that tells the unspoken story of each page. Then there’s the storytelling that keeps your eye moving gracefully through the page while refusing to allow you a chance to look away; you will not want to. Alphona’s brilliantly designed panels and pages are given even more life with Herring’s colors. Never over-rendering a page, Herring keeps the drab, and the muted at bay, keeping the tone light and exciting…even when the characters are strolling through the polluted city.

Ms. Marvel is one heck of a great read. Even with all the hype and all the praise around this book, I was still pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this comic. Not only that, the Donist World intern (my wife, Amy) read the book first and absolutely loved it. It’s wonderful that a superhero comic can appeal to girls and women — you know, that ~51% of the population mostly ignored by the comics industry for far too long — while still appealing to boys and men. There’s something for everyone here, and I hope to see more fun (there’s that f-word again) books like this released in the future. Psssst, btw…I just found a third problem with Ms. Marvelthe fourth trade comes out late November. Dang, denizens, this Donist needs to make some proper C-A-S-H, pronto. Make mine Ms. Marvel! VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice into the Woods

Too Much Negativity - Nope. I'm not going to go negative for yet another week. Positive is where it’s at, as I have soooo many irons in the fire (ack…more business jargon!) that I don’t have time to give the negative more than a passing thought. Stay positive, denizens, you’ll be happier for it.

And on that positive note…

(Sung to the tune of Billy Idol’s “Hot in the City”)

Groovy, groovy, groovy, groovy

Let’s not fear tonight, great books to excite
On a rad summer night
Archie all the way, Ms. Marvel oh hooray
On this rad summer night

And when a totally weirdo Weirdworld
Rocks your socks ’n’ gives your brain a big whirl
Then you know that it’s

Hot comics baby, hot comics, baby, alright, alright
Hot comics baby, hot comics, baby, alright, alright


Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 8/14/2015

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 / lifehacker specialist Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). Okay, I’m cutting out a tad early, as I just finished “Obie-proofing” the house for when he comes to stay at the Casa de Donist this weekend. You see, one would think that dog-proofing your house involves making sure cleaning supplies and such are safely stashed out of reach, but not when it comes to this Donist World executive. No. What this means is I have to change all of the passwords on my computers, phones, tablets, AppleTV, game consoles…everything, all so he doesn’t load up on digital media at my expense, or cut into the top secret followup to Kibbles ’N’ Bots, which is nearing completion. <sigh> Good help is so hard to find these days. Now, I’m probably going to have to come up with some fairly brutal and time-sucking team building exercises to keep him and Tulip occupied and out of my business. Oh well…in the meantime, you may as well cut out early yourself and grab some killer tacos (or a burrito mojado con pollo), 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***

Descender #6
Descender #6 - Written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen, lettered and designed by Steve Wands, published by Image Comics. Dr. Quon has a been carrying a secret for some time now, but after the torture he was forced to endure the man is finally talking. No one is going to like what he has to say.

Yup. No question about it. Lemire and Nguyen’s Descender is my favorite new comic of 2015. Not only have they released six issues in a timely fashion, each successive issue manages to be better than what came before. My love of the series is a mix of adoring Nguyen’s gorgeous character designs and stunning watercolored artwork — which pulls on my love of the more experimental titles coming out of Epic Comics in the ’80s — and the epic story of other worlds, robots, aliens, spacecraft, and a tragic event feared to repeat itself. The art is reason enough to buy the book. The story is reason enough to buy the book. Together, Descender taps deep into my lifelong love of sci-fi and robots with a deliberately paced tale with characters I either already love (TIM-21, Bandit, Driller), or desperately want to know more about (Telsa, Dr. Quon, Tullis). Reading a new issue of this fine comic is an event requiring a quiet environment void or interruptions, a glass of wine or nice pint of craft beer, and a well-lit room to allow me to become fully immersed in this wonderful tale. Dang, denizens, I love this comic.

With this issue, we begin with a flashback of young Quon, prior to his attaining of the title “Doctor,” and we learn the lies behind his becoming “The Father of Robotics.” It's rather deceitful. It’s kind of messed up. But despite going against his old mentor, Professor Solomon, Lemire and Nguyen help us sympathize with Quon as we see a man steadfast in his belief in scientific advancement and the pursuit of knowledge…it was only later, after the fame and the fortune, that the lies had gone too far to take back. Then the Harvesters came…

The first half is devoted to the flashback and what an insightful glimpse it is. We see what Professor Solomon and Quon discovered in the long-lost tomb (sorry, not spoilin’ this one), and that discovery sets the course of the series. The seven pages centered on the discovery scene are as equally unnerving as they are visually compelling, as Nguyen adds enough reds to the otherwise sterile whites and greys (they are in a laboratory after all), and the effect is creepy with a capital 'C', doubly so with his firm grasp of character acting and command of storytelling.

The final three pages of the issue left me wide-eyed and with my heart racing in anticipation of what is yet to come. But the realization of the tortuous two-month break until the second arc begins deflated my spirits slightly…so I decided to reread the issue again to see if I had missed anything. Arggh! The groovy new character designs, a glimpse of my main lady Telsa, the splash page ending that left me going Whaaaaaat?! November cannot come soon enough.

Descender firmly secures its spot as a Donist World Darling, and I am already anticipating picking up the first trade ($9.99 retail, six issues, available in a couple weeks) that I can read a couple times, give away to a friend or family member, then rebuy the trade, and restart the whole process again. Heck, I already have a spot on my favorite bookshelf set aside for the inevitable Descender hardcover collection that is probably a year or two away, but I have a spot reserved nonetheless. I love, love, love this comic and want everyone interested in experiencing a fantastic non-superhero comic book to give this series a shot. Compelling sci-fi, cool characters, art unlike anything we have seen in quite some time, and a robotic mystery certain to leave you thinking about the book long after you set it down awaits…you best get on this. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Fade Out #8
The Fade Out #8 - Written by Ed Brubaker, illustrated by Sean Phillips, colored by Elizabeth Breitweiser, published by Image Comics. Charlie’s not much closer to discovering who killed rising star Valeria Sommers, but he does have a note telling him to meet with Tina…if only he could remember who Tina is. At least with the annual Halloween party happening, Charlie can meet this “Tina” and maybe uncover something new. By the way, what's Gil been up to?

The Fade Out is easily my favorite crime comic on stands. We have an immense cast of interesting characters, a mystery centering around a murdered starlet, complex relationships and motives, and a period piece centered around the already shady Hollywood. Place all of these elements into the masterful hands of Brubaker and Phillips, and you really can’t go wrong. That said, you should not expect a race to the finish line with this series. There are no immediate answers, and the creators do not have Big Two editorial pushing them to wrap the series in any sort of pre-established timeframe or issue count. Instead, the creators have all the freedom to tell the story they want to tell in the manner in which they want to tell it. True to the noir/crime style, the story can go through slower moments to better develop the characters, even without providing any sort of cliffhanger ending to the end of the arc. Such is the case with this issue, and that is totally fine for a story of this caliber.

What we do get is a glimpse into Gil’s wife, Melba, who we really have not seen much of, and we gain insight into the close relationship between her and Charlie. We also spend additional time with Dottie — who I personally am excited to learn more about — and also Maya, who pulls Charlie deeper into her life, which is in direct conflict with Dottie’s advice for Charlie to steer clear. Each interaction further develops the characters, and even though little headway is made concerning Val’s murder, each moment with Charlie, Dottie, Earl, Tina, Melba, and Maya is time well spent. The creators are not in a rush; we should not be either.

If you’ve read my thoughts on previous issues of The Fade Out, then you already know how much I adore Phillips’s art. He has a knack for turning, say, a ten-panel page of two people talking into something dramatic and intense. Take for instance the page with Charlie (dressed in bandages) and Dottie (dressed as a witch) talking at the Halloween party. The two chat and sip drinks, and that is all that happens. Brubaker’s dialogue is fantastic, but much of the magic of the page resides in the sideways glances, the lips drawn tight, the looking away, and the lighting of a cigarette. These types moments speak so much to each character that you can discern much of the nature of Charlie and Dottie’s relationship without a single word balloon. Breitweiser’s colors lighten the mood of the scene with the appropriate orange and yellow backgrounds, but she also adds some subtle-but-appreciated touches like a blue tint to Dottie’s glasses shining onto her cheek. The best thing is this is just one of many beautiful pages.

If you are in need of a crime/noir book, then look no further than Brubaker and Phillips’s tremendous The Fade Out, and then immediately pick up their equally impressive Criminal trades. The first trade is currently available, with the second arriving late September. However, I always recommend picking up the individual issues of these creators’ work, as the letters columns are informative, and each issue usually has an interesting essay about crime, Hollywood, or something relevant to the subject matter at hand. Regardless, you need to be reading this brilliant series.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Secret Wars #5
Secret Wars #5 - Written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Esad Ribic, colored by Ive Svorcina, lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles, production by Idette Winecoor, published by Marvel Comics. Stephen Strange, the Sheriff of Agamotto, is dead and God Doom wants his killer found. To do this, he charges his daughter Valeria, Head of the Foundation, to bring Strange’s killer to justice. There’s just one problem…God Doom was the one who killed the sorcerer in the first place.

We are over the halfway point of a Big Two “Event” book, and I am still enjoying it immensely. I know, weird, but given the book is written by Hickman and illustrated by the amazing team of Ribic and Svorcina, the decision to pick up this eight-issue mini-series was an easy one to make.

All praise aside, this issue is my least favorite thus far, which is not saying it is not worth picking up and reading. Quite the opposite, in fact. It's still a lot of fun and we get to see what happened to the Molecule Man and learn a bit more about the nature of Doom’s powers, but I was ultimately left confused as to why God Doom set Valeria on a wild goose chase. I’m definitely going to reread this issue to see if I’m missing something, or maybe his actions are his wanting to be taken down from his lofty perch of godhood…I’m just not sure.

Even though the story does not move all that far forward and Doom’s motives are confusing, the art alone makes this issue a must read. Ribic’s character design and storytelling are great, and Svorcina’s colors, especially the blues in the scenes with Doom and Valeria, are stunning. That said, as always, I really wish we were seeing more of these artists’ take of the Deadlands or the farthest regions of the cosmos…but whatchagonnado. It’s all gorgeous no matter how you look at it.

So, yeah, this issue seemed a bit of a stumble to a (thus far) great event book, which means it is merely a really, really good comic. If you are hesitant to jump into yet another Big Two event book, then take it from ol’ Donist that you’ll do just fine with the first five issues of this eight-issue series. I am also confident that the final three issues will stick the landing given the talent involved, which should make for a great reread once all is said and done. This issue comes RECOMMENDED!

Rumble Vol. 1
Rumble: What Color of Darkness TPB vol. 1 - Written by John Arcudi, illustrated by James Harren, colored by Dave Stewart, lettered by Chris Eliopoulos, designed by Vincent Kukua, published by Image Comics. So…a scarecrow warrior god chases a local drunk into a bar, ignoring the young bartender, Bobby, and says…absolutely nothing. He means to kill the drunk. As much as it seems like it, this is no joke, but it is the beginning of some form of madness as demonic beings begin to walk the streets in search of the scarecrow’s fearsome sword. All this with poor Bobby stuck in the middle when all he really cared about was impressing a girl who doesn’t even know he exists. Things are about to get weird…

I’m not going to go too far into what this book is about other than to say it is positively bonkers in the best of ways. I will also say that writer Arcudi is quite possibly nut-balls, and that Harren is his therapist, taking Arcudi’s madness and translating it to a visual medium, which in turn drives Harren a touch crazy himself. After reading the entirety of Rumble, I don’t ever want these guys to be cured. Awwww hells no.

This book seems as if it was written with an age range of Young Donist to Current Donist in mind, as it has almost everything I love contained between the covers: great writing, stunning art, a rich color palette, scarecrows (Yeah!), scarecrow warriors (Yeah! Yeah!), scarecrow warrior gods (Boom!), creepy-ass monsters, goofy-ass monsters, quests, adventure, stakes, love, friendship, grand humor, and more fun than you can shake a ridiculously massive sword at. This book seems as if it was written for me. <thank you, creators!>

On its own, the story sucked me in by the first quarter of the book. The art and colors, however, had me much sooner. Rumble has an exaggerated, cartooning style that might remind some of Rob Guillory’s work on Chew, but it is entirely its own beast. And what a beast it is. Character designs and character acting are great, but the scarecrow warrior god is majestic and bold, and the monsters are devilishly groovy, especially those with wicked sets of teeth. But the thing that strikes me most about Harren and Stewart’s art is the storytelling and the phenomenal action/speed lines that carry you through the multitudes of intense battles. Dang, denizens, I might just have to reread this book right now so I can see a scarecrow kick the snot out of some gnarly creatures all over again.

This comic rocks. The name fits perfectly as this book has plenty of action and plenty brawling, hacking, and slashing, but it also has so much more. If you are in need of some monster comic smackdown goodness, then look no further than the heavenly Rumble. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice into the Woods

I Still Want to Keep it Positive…Still - I straight up copied and pasted what is to follow from last week, but it is something I feel the need to keep in mind…The job search continues to produce nought but the sounds of crickets, but I will fight the pessimism, and cling tenaciously to hope as I continue moving forward on the followup to Kibbles ’N’ Bots, my graphic design projects, and another website idea I am working on creating from scratch. Respect Stel Caine, denizens. Respect! Thank you for reading.

And on that positive note…

(Sung to the tune of Billy Idol’s “Sweet Sixteen”)

I’ll do anything
For those sweet comic books
And I’ll do anything
For more of The Fade Out, child

Read myself some Descender, sing!
Robots and alien things
Ev’rything I adore
Those sweet comic books

Secret Wars
Is a rockin’ book
I never guessed it would
Rock my socks off, dear
Oh, oh, oh, oh

Rumble deserves a huge shout out
Oh sweet comic books
Scarecrow gods and monster creeps
Deserve a poundin’


Friday, August 7, 2015

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 8/6/2015

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 / quantumology guru Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). It was an incredibly slow new-release week this week, with only two titles in my pull, but I had a digital-only offering that blew my socks off (I need to look into the origins of this phrase) and I finally finished reading a beast of a book that nearly threw my back out as a result of its sheer size. I also just finished another volume one Image trade ($9.99 retail…whoa, doggie!) that I picked up while up north last week, that will have to wait until next week’s FSoH/SitW. It’s otherwise been yet another…weird…week, but we’re going to forget all of that noise and close the corporate office (Mom’s basement) at noon today, because it is Fiesta here in Santa Barbara. Obie has already left the building, saying that part of his “wholacracy” (his version of holacracy) vision is engaging in the principle of obtaining “the whole enchilada,” which means heading down to De La Guerra plaza and literally eating some whole enchiladas. <sigh> In the meantime, cut out early —it is Fiesta, after all — and grab some killer tacos (or a burrito mojado con pollo), 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***

Universe! #3
Universe! #3 - Everythinged by Albert Monteys, published by Panel Syndicate. It's the year 3543, and Earth has sent out 130 "Handshakes," or spaceships if you will, to explore the universe at large in hopes of finding new life beyond our own. The brave — well, most of them are brave — team of explorers aboard Handshake-117 supposedly come up empty handed when they arrive at Taurus-77, but for one man, Arthur Bonaparte, and his robotic pal Henry, “new life” can mean many different things.

Daaaaannnnng, denizens. I love this comic! Ever since the glorious first issue, which I talked about…ummm…wait a minute, I’m sure it’s here somewhere…I think I…poopies. I can’t find a review for the fantastic first issue. Crud. I did take a look at the equally fantastic second issue here, but I’m stunned there is nothing for the first…zip…zilch…nada. <ugh> Anyhow, I thoroughly enjoyed both the first and second issues of Universe!, and I’m happy to report the third does not diverge from the path of heavenliness already set by what came before.

Now, each issue of Universe! is a done-in-one sci-fi tale, with no discernible ties to what came before or after, other than being humorous, futuristic tales. Issue four looks to break from this pattern as a group of characters are said to reappear, but I suspect that the next offering will still work as a brilliant standalone — ooooooooohhhhh, I can’t wait!

Montey’s beautiful cartoony style and vibrant nearly-flat coloring schemes set a jovial, lighthearted tone to the book, but as you laugh and smile your way from page/screen to page/screen, you begin to pick up on subtle themes and commentary on the nature of freedom and life. The relationship between Arthur (the not so brave anthropologist) and Henry (the Class E transport unit who enjoys writing poetry) is funny, but at heart the two have much in common as they are both owned by the government, but only one of them is actually pursuing their dreams. Then Montey comes to what qualifies as “life,” the value placed upon its discovery, and what types of life are ignored. The first two issues also had a deeper meaning lurking beneath the lighter, more prominent imagery presented upon the page/screen whether it was looking at the nature of work or love or relationships or acceptance, but the thing all three installments have in common is providing an uplifting reading experience that is sure to have you smiling, while leaving you thinking about the finer details of the storyfor many days after.

You absolutely need to be reading this amazing digital comic, denizens. With gorgeous art and thought-provoking, humorous, sci-fi stories, you cannot go wrong with Albert Montey’s Universe! Support this. Support this. Support this! Universe! is from Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin’s Panel Syndicate, which means 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 first three issues, read them, love them, and then go back and kick down 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. A grand achievement. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

We Stand on Guard #2
We Stand on Guard #2 - Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Steve Skroce, colored by Matt Hollingsworth, lettered by Fonografiks, coordinated by Eric Stephenson, published by Image Comics. The United States has invaded the biggest threat to democracy in all of history: Canada. At least that is probably what they are telling their citizenry. They actually invaded their northern neighbor to secure clean water, but Canada is not going to just sit around and take it. A group of rebels, the Two-Four, mean to end the occupation of their country, and new recruit Amber is more than willing to do the job.

All Donist World denizens know I'm a huge fan of BKV’s various works (Saga, Y the Last Man, The Private Eye, Dr. Strange: The Oath, and more) and for good reason. You might remember from my look at the first issue  of We Stand on Guard (here), I really enjoyed the futuristic war tale. We were introduced to the complicated world, and a handful of characters (a few of them died in that issue), and I was 100% in for the ride. My main takeaway was that although we had 36-pages of material, and I was sold on the story, I had not yet fully connected with the characters. This is fine, as this is a complex story that raises a ton of questions with many requiring immediate answers and the rest for later reveals. It was mostly setup for a rich and immense world, and the same is true with this month’s offering with the exception of Amber, who we learn a bit more about in the first four pages.

The link to current events hits a bit close to home as the US invades another country, detains innocent civilians, seizes that country’s resources for its own, and brands those who want the US out of their country as terrorists. Vaughan uses a flashback at the beginning to pull the reader in and gives them a glimpse of Amber’s journey from a child to adult as she watches her second set of parents taken from her for no real reason. It’s an incredibly harsh moment, and one that helped me identify with the adult she becomes. That said, I wish the book had space for another flashback or two centering on Amber and her little brother, to leave me wanting to don a Two-Four t-shirt while waving a Canadian flag and chanting “Free Canada Now!”

Skroce’s art on this issue is breathtaking. All you need to see is the opening splash-page of the US soldier kicking in the door of the kindly old Canadian couple’s home to see what I mean. It’s practically 3-D with shards of wood exploding toward you as the door itself follows close behind. Hinges tear from the wall, and a massive boot projects toward your midsection. The inks on the image are such that the sole of the boot is of a thicker weight than the rest of the soldier, and the three squad members are composed of an even finer line. The image is as lovely in its composition as it is terrifying in its depiction, but Hollingsworth's colors make Skroce’s image scream to life with the vibrant foreground elements and the recessed knockouts of the background elements. As I said, it’s breathtaking, and we still have 21 glorious pages of insane character acting, fantastic storytelling, and some cool costuming and character designs to experience. The double-page spread is just icing on the bacon-stuffed cinnamon roll (a real thing, denizens…glorious).

I am loving this comic despite not yet fully identifying with any of the characters quite yet, but the second issue of We Stand on Guard brings me a skootch closer to Amber and pushes me farther away from the evil, wicked Americans — wait…Canadians are Americans, too, uhhhhh…so I guess I mean the United Statesians or whatever. As far as the story and the world go, however, dang…I so can’t wait to see what’s to come in the remaining four issues. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Deadly Class #15
Deadly Class #15 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Wes Craig, colored by Jordon Boyd, lettered by Russ Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. Oh Marcus…Marcus, Marcus, Marcus… Not only has the deadly teen slid into a deep depression over his girlfriend Maria's disappearance, his drug-fueled paranoia is only serving to alienate the few friends he has left. To make matters worse, Willie and Saya are together, and Marcus has got it in his head that Saya is behind all of the bad mojo going around.

Deadly Class continues to be one heck of a flashback trip into the culty goodness of the ’80s. Only a few of you are going to get this reference, but it reminds me of something I would have watched on USA Up All Night with Rhonda Shear, or maybe as a late-night feature on Night Flight…only much, much better. Remender continues Marcus’s march of self-destruction, but even amidst all of the misplaced blame, excessive use of drugs, and wrong assumptions, the character might just be on to something regarding class size at Kings Dominion Atelier. Remender does a fantastic job of complicating the boy’s life with teen angst and out of control hormones, all of which serve to further isolate Marcus. The last page shocker looks to spark even more problems not only for the protagonist, but for the rest of the cast as the first major story arc is set to conclude with the next issue.

Craig’s awesome storytelling prowess and striking panel layouts make Deadly Class a visual joy to read, but when coupled with Remender’s compelling story and dialogue — even when there are a lot of words on the page — the book works on every level. The addition of Jordan Boyd as the new colorist rounds out the experience as his colors perfectly match the look and feel of the previous fourteen issues, while adding his own style to awesome moments like the vibrant mushroom trip and the appearance of Space Gipper.

Remender’s current creator owned work (Low and Black Science being the other two titles…the first trades are each $4.77 at of this writing!) just get better and better, but Deadly Class is not a book for everyone. Boyhowdy, it ain’t. There’s sex, drugs, and rock and roll in droves, and that’s all heaped a top the premise of a high school for assassins. The kiddies should steer clear of this one, and leave it to those mature enough for the subject matter and who like to read comics that are far away from the everyday capes and tights fare at the Big Two. You can pick up the first two trades today, with the third seeing release in early October. If you aren’t reading this fine book, you are clearly missing out. 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 going to keep this follow up to what I originally wrote in this FSoH/SitW post very brief. Back near the end of June, I had read the first seven issues of the 41 contained in this behemoth of a book, and I was THRILLED by what I had read. Well, I read the other 34 issues and I am pleased to say I was drawn in even deeper to Lapham’s crime series than ever before. Some stories are brutal, harsh to the extreme, while others will leave you laughing until you need to turn your gaze away in shock, but there is one constant that I found while reading the MASTERPIECE that is Stray Bullets…no matter how shocking or disturbing some of the events might be, I always continued reading with a renewed fervor, even if it meant peeking through my fingers while covering my eyes.

If you are a fan of crime comics, then you absolutely, positively, must read Stray Bullets. Allow me to restate my thoughts on this book in case there is any confusion: Stray Bullets is a complete MASTERPIECE not just in regard to crime comics, in which it is one of the best, but in regard to comics as a whole. I loved sitting on my tiny balcony, sipping a beer or wine, and reading a few issues at a time. I did try to read this massive edition in bed a couple of times, but it was a bit too unwieldy, so if you want something a bit more manageable, you can pick up the newly released individual trades from Image instead. After finishing this awesome achievement, I desperately need to read the Stray Bullets: Killers trade and I also must track down the two Amy Racecar: Color Special issues. Even though I arrived late to the party with Stray Bullets, I at least get to say I was eventually able to attend. A prime example of why I love comic books. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!

Prez Is Still Set to be a 12-Issue-Long Series - A few weeks ago, I expressed distress over a rumor that my current favorite DC comic hitting the stands was having its scheduled 12-issue-run slashed down to only six-issues, but I am oh so thrilled to say that one of the creators recently squashed the rumor on Twitter. We will indeed be getting a full 12 issues, and I am pleased as punch over this news. Now, if DC wants me to be pleased as a bacon infused cinnamon roll, then they will also eventually release an over-sized hardcover edition once the series wraps. Beth “Corndog Girl” for President in 2016!

Slice into the Woods

I Still Want to Keep it Positive - The job search continues to produce nought but the sounds of crickets, but I will fight the pessimism, and cling tenaciously to hope as I continue moving forward on the followup to Kibbles ’N’ Bots, my graphic design projects, and another website idea I am working on creating from scratch. Respect Stel Caine, denizens. Respect! Thank you for reading.

And on that positive note…

(Sung to the tune of Billy Idol’s “Flesh for Fantasy”)

For a change of pace
That Universe! is sure great
Do you like good comics?
Don’t leave it to chance. Oh yeah
Checkin’ out We Stand on Guard tonight
Deadly Class a kickace read’ll treat you right. Oh yeah
So you want some more?
How about Stray Bullets? Oh yeah

Page by page
They’re on the rack
You see and add
Them to your stack
Sing it
Books, good books we must read
We Want
Books, good books we must read