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’


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