Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 9/18/2015

Friday Slice of Heaven

This week: Prez, Sex Criminals, The Fade Out, and Tokyo Ghost

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 / curser of extreme temperatures Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). Ahhhhhh…finally, a reprieve from the heat. Alas, it is short-lived, though. Today and through the weekend, it will again be in the upper 80s / low 90s, which is better than a few weeks ago, but still…yuck. Anywhooo, we have the Donist World corporate office (Mom’s basement) all set up for chillaxin’ with a pitcher of sweet tea in the fridge, lime popsicles in the freezer, and some salmon-flavored kibble on ice for my doggie executive team. We also have a truckload of comics and graphic novels to keep us occupied in the event we need to hunker down to wait out the heat. Luckily, Obie is preoccupied ironing out the details of his wholacracy management plan (not holacracy, mind you, wholacracy, where he is in charge of everything), so he should be out of our hair for most of the day. So, while you prepare to stay cool, fire up some chillwave music (new Neon Indian album in October!), pour yourself a nice cool sweet tea, get yourself a taco basket, and settle in for this week’s post. Thank you for reading.

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Prez #4 - Written by Mark Russell, illustrated by Dominike “DOMO” Stanton, inked by Mark Morales and Sean Parsons, colored by Jeremy Lawson, lettered by Marilyn Patrizio, published by DC Comics. No one suggested to Beth "Corndog Girl” Ross that being the PotUS would be easy. With the recent death of an innocent Pakistani boy at the hands of “beanbag soldier,” the weight of reining in power-gone-awry begins to take its toll.

Denizens, I can’t begin to tell you the lift in spirits I get each time I see a new issue of the amazing Prez in my LCS pull. Even without seeing the other comics waiting for me, I knew this would be the first book I’d be reading later that night. But does the comic continue to WOW me the way it has with the previous three issues? Boy howdy, yes.

Now, I will say that there are a few shifts with this issue that are a bit different from what has come before. First, the tone of the book, although still with plenty of brilliant satirical moments that cracked me up — and that subsequently bummed me out with the realization that the jokes were not at all as far removed from reality as I would like — was decidedly darker. The issue mostly served as a look into the nature of borders and occupying territory, and the effect of using callous “beanbag soldiers” to man death-drone robots. We also see the US detaining prisoners — some legit threats, others completely innocent of any wrongdoing — at Guantanamo Bay, and the abysmal treatment received by those held. It’s all rather disheartening upfront, as opposed to the usual slow building realization that beneath the fun, cartoony style of the comic, the subject matter is rather grim. Thankfully, there are still humorous moments, particularly with Beth’s new Chief of Staff, a movie award ceremony (“I ‘heart’ my dad,” ha ha ha ha) and the commentary on the direction of books, movies, and copyright laws cracked me up completely…until that realization that Russell might sadly be on to something here. A side question I have is whether or not Fred Wayne is a descendent of Bruce Wayne — this is a DC comic after all — but I’m cool with the creators letting us wonder.

The second shift with the issue is fill-in artist Dominike “DOMO” Stanton, whose artistic style is different enough from Ben Caldwell’s issues to be noticeable, while still maintaining the overall feel Prez fans have grown accustomed to seeing. This is not a knock on DOMO, I’m merely stating that I noticed something was different, and then slipped gracefully back into what is one of the best new series of 2015. DOMO’s character design, character acting, and sequentials are pretty dang outstanding. Like most of Russell’s scripting, the art comes off as humorous, lighthearted, but when you stare long enough at a page, such as the one centering around the US wheat stores, you can quickly see the grim nature of the scene beneath Lawson’s beautifully vibrant colors. What I’m trying to say is if anyone is going to stand in for Caldwell as an artist on this series, it dang well better be DOMO, as he is a dang perfect fit. Come to think of it, if Russell wants to do a six-issue spin-off prequel or parallel tale to Prez, I wholeheartedly volunteer DOMO for the honor of doing so. (Please do this.)

Am I as happy or giggly after reading the latest issue of Prez? No, I’m not. BUT am I as thrilled, engaged, and expecting to be left pondering the subject matter of this comic until the day issue five drops? Oh my stars and garters, YES! I. Love. This. Comic. You need to be reading Prez. Don’t trade wait the series, and please preorder the remaining eight issues of this phenomenal satire of our political system and the world as a whole. Russell and Caldwell have confirmed that the series will run its 12-issue course, but as I alluded to above (flat out stated, actually), I want to see Prez prequels, minis, sequels, annuals, epilogues, or whatever. I’m not giving up hope on an eventual hardcover collection, either. This series is a blast and a real kick-in-the-pants as to the current state of the world and where we could be headed. Beth “Corndog Girl” Ross for President in 2016! VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Sex Criminals #12
Sex Criminals #12 - Created by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky, flatted by Spencer Afonso, edited by Thomas K, produced by Drew Gill, published by Image Comics. Jon and Suzie are visiting the “Sunshine State” in an effort to find recruits to help them take down the Sex Police. But after their first interaction with Ana Kinkaid, they have learned that not all sex powers are created equal. Some can be downright terrifying.

This comic is not for kids. Did you get that? Allow me to repeat. This comic is NOT for kids. It is for “Mature Readers,” which means no pro-censorship a_holes, no we-know-what’s-better-for-you-than-you-do goody-goodies, no abstinence-only (no…it doesn’t work) champions of righteousness. No. This comic is for those mature enough to laugh at immature dick jokes, and who want to have one heck of a fantastic time reading a hilarious comic that is as enlightening and honest as it is ridiculous. Still with me? Haven’t yet read Sex Criminals? It was number one on TIME Magazine’s ”Top Ten Graphic Novels” of 2013. It is continually a Donist World darling, and has remained as one of my top five comics being released since issue one. Translation: You need to be reading this fine comic if you haven’t been already.

I’m not going to spoil this issue other than to say that it is somewhat of a mashup up of anime and horror and drama, plus a history lesson on the term “normal,” all while remaining off-the-walls funny. Fraction and Zdarsky had me rolling by page four with every page involving Jon and Suzie. Okay, I will spoil one thing…there are few things as messed up as seeing a guy, wearing only a pair of socks, running while in the buff. There isn’t. Well, maybe a nekkid guy jumping on a trampoline — <brrrrrr> so cold, so very, very cold <brrrrr> — but I think you get the point. Why is the guy running nekkid? You’ll just have to read Sex Criminals #12 to find out, and trust me when I say you will not be prepared for the reason why. Dang, denizens, I’m still laughing about it. I will tell you that Zdarsky has some of his best sequentials to date, but you will need to go back through for a second read to spot all of the awesome background gags to be found in the glowing pink bedroom.

There have been some lengthy delays on Sex Criminals, but if you stick around for the letters column, Fraction and Zdarsky will fill you in on the reasons why; it is well worth your time. Plus, you want to read the final page of this issue, which is on the back inside cover, much like a post-credits scene found in many superhero movies. Sex Criminals is loads of fun (*snicker*) and the fact that it keeps getting banned on iTunes and Android and Comixology (Amazon) despite the joyful, positive, informative, honest nature of the comic is all the reason to seek this series out. If you want to buy a copy digitally, then go to and get yourself a DRM-free copy. If you want to read it the way it was meant to be read, in print, then you have two trades and a beautiful hardcover to choose from, but the floppies are where the must-read letters column can be found. Regardless, just be sure you are reading this dang fine comic…provided you are mature enough, and smart enough, to handle it. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Fade Out #9
 The Fade Out #9 - Written by Ed Brubaker, illustrated by Sean Phillips, colored by Elizabeth Breitweiser, published by Image comics. Charlie and Gil have been at odds for a while now, which means they haven’t exactly been talking to each other. But after what happened to Val, and in light of what Gil recently discovered, the two friends need to bury the hatchet…just not in the other’s head.

Holy cow, this book is great. Brubaker and Phillips have had the crime drama down ever since their phenomenal Criminal series debuted.  The Fade Out is set to run for 12 issues and at the three-quarters mark, I am every bit — more so, actually —engrossed in this exquisitely-paced, brilliantly-told tale involving many damaged characters, all with secrets to hide and stories to tell. I honestly can’t get enough of it. This issue is especially important for all of those who have been following the series, as we finally learn Charlie and Gil’s history along with the ups and downs of their relationship. Trust me, there are some pretty big downs that actually made this Donist gasp in surprise. But despite their intensely complicated relationship, it is clear that these guys are lifelong friends no matter how crazy things get; unfortunately, certain decisions they make kind of suggest their lives might not actually run all that long.

With each issue of The Fade Out, I comment at length about Phillip’s mastery over storytelling and character acting, and absolutely nothing has changed since last issue — the art delivers as expected; each page is a thing of beauty. If anything caught my attention visually with this issue, it was the scene where Charlie and Gil stop their fighting and actually talk things through. There’s drinking and smoking and anger and caution, and the dim lighting accentuates the shadows to set the mood that Breitweiser’s beautiful complementary colors hammer home. It’s a powerful scene, but I have to say that the panel of the sock to jaw packs quite a wallop itself…dang, that looked painful.

If you like crime comics then you have absolutely zippo reasons to not be reading the tremendous The Fade Out. Brubaker and Phillips are masters of their craft, and this series is certain to draw you in and keep hold of you until the harsh end. There are no “jumping on points” for this series other than the first issue, so that is where you must start. You can dive in with the ridiculously inexpensive trades, or, better yet, by picking up the floppies that provide tremendous bang for your buck with the exceptional letters column and fascinating essays that are well worth your time, and not available in the trades. This series just gets better and better. I cannot wait for the next issue. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Tokyo Ghost #1
Tokyo Ghost #1 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Sean Murphy, colored by Matt Hollingsworth, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. 70 years in the future, most of humankind has slipped into an apocalyptic nightmare of their own creation, a world where tech addiction runs rampant. Enter Debbie Decay and Led Dent, constables for the powers that keep everyone jacked in and jacked up, to enforce the law.

This comic is positively nuts. I kind of had the same feeling reading Tokyo Ghost as I had watching the amazing Mad Max: Fury Road, only with the comic, I needed a bit more to fully hook me to the characters and the world. This is not to say I did not like this premiere issue, much the opposite, but the movie had over two hours of madness to immerse oneself, whereas Tokyo Ghost had only 28 pages of material to introduce an incredibly messed up world, a corporately run political system, a psychotic (but waaaaaay groovy bad guy), showcase the bad guy’s powers, hint at the tech involved and the effects of tech addiction, and sympathize the reader to the two main characters and their lopsided relationship. <phew> See? I told you there’s a lot going on, and I haven’t even touched on the insane action of this thrilling issue that kicks in on page two and carries through to the end. Again…<phew>

My initial reaction upon finishing the issue was what they heck just happened? But now that I have slept on the issue (no, denizens, I do not literally sleep on my comics…not all of them, at least), and flipped back through it, I really want to go read it again with a clearer mind and brighter light — I’m positive I missed a ton of the intricacies in the story and art on my first read. So, yeah, I didn’t immediately connect with this comic in the same way I did with Remender’s recent creator-owned work (Low, Black Science, and Deadly Class), but upon further reflection and after reading Remender’s note at the end that Tokyo Ghost will see many drastic tonal shifts in the story, I am definitely amped to see more more more.

If you’ve been reading Donist World for a length of time, then you know I am a fan of Murphy’s art, but jumping Jehoshaphat this book looks freakin’ incredible. As I mentioned above, there is a lot going on in both the story and art, and I have to recommend reading the comic through quickly, scratching your head, going for a quick run or walk, and then reading again and taking a good half hour or so to appreciate every dang intricacy of every dang panel. Not only is every character beautifully designed and depicted, but there are tons of gags, Easter eggs, and generally cool things going on in the background of every page (like a Black Science pinball machine, no less). Debbie Decay is gorgeous, Davey Trauma is killer with all of his groovy high and low-tech gear (Atari and NES controllers on his arm…classic! Get it?), cars look phenomenal, and Led Dent is imposing, but most importantly the storytelling will keep you madly whipping through the issue to keep up with the high-octane action. Also, Led’s motorcycle, “Zeus’ Dick” is the bee’s knees. This is one beautiful comic, and when you add Hollingsworth’s mood-enhancing colors (also available in pill form) you can feel the despair of this defeated world, only to then have the action heat things up with oranges and yellows to get your heart pumping. (If you want more from Murphy, check the must-own Punk Rock Jesus, Joe the Barbarian, The Wake, and the book I need to pick up and read ASAP The Chrononauts.)

Again, my initial reaction to the first issue of Tokyo Ghost was that I liked it okay, but didn’t love it. The thing is, I keep thinking about the comic, it’s commentary on the invasiveness of tech, the codependency between Debbie and Led, the beautiful art, and I realize just how much I enjoyed reading it; it just needed a little time to marinate, I guess. There’s a richness both within and below the pages that just begs for another reading, which I intend to do later today. I started out liking Tokyo Ghost, but now I love it. I am excited to see where this thrilling series takes me next. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice into the Woods

I Could Sure Use a Wet Banana - “Wait What?!?!” you might say, especially after this week’s awesome issue of Sex Criminals. What I mean is this thing that was a knock off of the old Slip’n Slide. Both options are awesome ways to keep cool, but are probably more likely to cause untold numbers of injuries. I remember being a kid in drought-ridden Santa Barbara, and running to jump onto the Wet Banana, but without a lush, green lawn to cushion our descent…well, the price to stay cool was sometimes a painful one; mind those rocks and dirt clods! And then there were the days where we ignored the warning “Do not try to stand on the Wet Banana,” and quickly learned why you do not try to run, jump, and slide while standing. Those metal fasteners at the end were also not much fun to skid into, and then there were those times you slid off the Wet Banana to learn the hard way that even grass can burninate you. Still, watching the temperature rise, I can see the allure of revisiting those fun-filled-and-often-times-painful days. Ah, youth…

(Sung to the tune of The Style Council’s “You’re the Best Thing”)

I am quite content with the new comics I read
They’re a win, boy howdy, they are so dang fine
The Fade Out is hot, I sure like it a lot
This crime comic makes me wanna shout and sing

Tokyo Ghost’s a win, tech addiction sin
Led and Debbie Decay are oh-so very hot
Sex Criminals I must say thrills me all the way
It brings warmth and a smile, brightens up my day, it makes me shout hooray

Prez is one of the best books that’s ever happened to me or my world
Prez def deserves a long look, it’s great fun, I must say


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