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


No comments:

Post a Comment