Friday, September 4, 2015

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 9/4/2015

Friday Slice of Heaven

This week: The Dying & the Dead, Lazarus, We Stand on Guard, Rachel Rising, Plutona

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 / bad to the bone specialist Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). Ahhhhhhhh…finally, a reprieve from the scorching heat, which means we can comfortably step outside. Now, I know that bicycling is the new golf for most companies fortunate enough to find themselves among the Fortune 320,000, but heading out on a 20-mile ride when your executive team is comprised of two Boston terriers is problematic at best. Although, Obie has suggested getting a trailer that I use to peddle them around while he spouts off about wholacracy (his version of holacracy wherein he retains ALL of the executive power), which is just not gonna happen. Man, I just want to read some comic books and talk about them, which is what we’re gonna do. So, while I go for a non-team-building run, 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***

The Dying &
The Dead #3
The Dying & the Dead #3 - Written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Ryan Bodenheim, colored by Michael Garland, lettered by Rus Wooton, published by Image Comics. A secret collection of immortals, the Baduri, have pulled mankind’s strings since time untold; they are not as secret as they would like to be. Recent history’s most heinous monsters learned of the Baduri and are now in possession of the Bah al’Sharur.

If you need a refresher on my thoughts for the first two issues, have a look here and then here. Don’t feel bad if you need to go back, issue two came out in April of this year. If you read through my review of the second issue, you will see a fairly lofty statement that places The Dying & the Dead as one of the top three best new releases of 2015 (Descender and Prez are the other two, btw). My stance on this has not changed with this issue, but rather has been strengthened…I will say that I wish it came out more frequently though.

This issue is all about history: history of the Baduri, the City, Bah al’Sharur, and even a revision to our own history that I am not going to spoil. As I might have mentioned for the first two issues, I loved what I was reading and seeing, but I was confused as to what exactly was going on. That changes here. With a better glimpse into the past of these odd, alabaster-skinned immortals, we learn more about them, and thus discover what was stolen back in the first issue by the Cobra-esque bad guys. Let me tell you, denizens, it’s all pretty sweet…and a tad gruesome to boot. Hickman perfectly brought the arrive-late-leave-early excitement of the first issue, along with a ton of spectacular mysteries. He then followed by introducing a host of stellar new characters with almost no action and more questions. Now, he fills in many of the gaps, and it’s all of a sudden lightbulb central in the ol’ Donist noggin; more than anything I need the next issue.

Bodenheim’s art and Garland’s colors continue to blow me away. Bodenheim’s use of differing line weights adds greatly to his immense storytelling prowess, especially during the unveiling of the Bah al’Sharur sequence. But then again, that history of the Baduri portion is ridiculously stunning…dang, that Baduri woman is gorgeous. Ummm…where was I? Oh yeah, the pictures are DANG pretty. Speaking of pretty…Garland’s color palette is one of my favorites in modern comics. He primarily uses near-monochromatic color schemes, as well as the occasional analogous one, to incredible effect. The cool thing is that once you become comfortable with what you are seeing, he will add a burst of warm colors among the cool to shock or signal the importance of something, such as the trio of orange boxes against the predominantly desaturated purples of the panel; you need to see it to believe it.

Am I disappointed about having to wait until 2016 for the next issue? Yeah, of course, especially given how much I have been loving this series. But it will come soon enough, and according to the back matter, it should be on track for monthly(ish) release thereafter. In the meantime, I will just have to reread the three issues I have and perhaps Hickman, Bodenheim, and Garland’s Red Mass for Mars to get me through the cold winter months. This issue and the series as a whole come VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Plutona #1
Plutona #1 - Story by Jeff Lemire and Emi Lemox, written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Emi Lemox, colored by Jordie Bellaire, lettered by Steve Wands, published by Image Comics. Life in a small town changes for five children when they find the body of a beloved superhero deep in the nearby woods.

I have a huge problem with Lemire and Lemox’s new mini-series Plutona…that problem is the word “mini” before the hyphen and the other word “series.” What I mean is that I LOVE this first issue, and the fact that we are already 20% into this tale saddens me in that we are that much closer to the end. That’s a crazy way to think about Plutona, but my plan from now on is to just go with the flow, not think about a great thing ending, and appreciate the story we have. And trust me, denizens, there’s a ton to appreciate here.

My one sentence synopsis of the issue pretty much sums it up. The superhero is dead on page one. The kids find her body on the last page (of the main story…more on that in a sec). What happens in between is a glimpse into each kid’s life as they prepare to go to school, their walk to school, a glimpse in the lunch room, and then their fateful meeting after school. The majority of the magic happens in the development of each child: a sister and little brother being raised by a single mother; an awkward girl attempting to establish her identity (she also has a cool new puppy); a boy obsessed with superheroes and tagged with an unfortunate nickname; and a possibly abused boy living with his alcoholic father. We see each prepare for school and instantly gain insight into each kid’s life…it all rings painfully true.

Accurately portraying kids is not an easy thing, but Lemire and Lemox just nail it. We see how uncomfortable some of the kids are in their own skin, we see blatant-but-not-too-bad bullying (toughie to nerd), subtle bullying (sister to brother, friend to friend), bickering, experimentation / coping with cigarettes, and generally just dealing with life. It’s all accurately and tastefully done, and I was reminded of my own youth, my own friends, and what it was like to fill time before the onslaught of grander commitments and very different sorts of stress came crashing down later in life. By the time I finished the issue, I felt like I was the sixth wheel of their little group, and was thankful that I was allowed to tag along.

Lemox’s cartooning could not have found a better place than with Plutona. With but a few precisely drawn lines, a tweak of the mouth, slumped shoulders, or creases of irritation around the eyes, she tells the reader so much about each character, it’s easy to imagine you are right there with Mei, Diane, Ted, Ray, and Mike, attempting to make it through your day. Bellaire’s colors are predominantly flat with most examples of rendering / gradients occurring in skylines or a faint blush to the cheeks, and through her colors elevates the mood of the story, making it a pleasure to read. To add more punch to an already great thing, Lemire illustrates a four-page segment at the end of book titled “Plutona’s Last Adventure,” which looks to unveil what happened to the superhero, through Lemire’s much loved art style.

Although I now want to read this comic forever, I am resigned to the fact that we will get only five issues of this tremendous start to a fantastic all-ages(?) mini-series. 2015 looks to be a heck of a year for Lemire’s creator-owned work as evidenced by Descender and Plutona, and I can’t wait to see what else he has in store for us down the road. As for this book, I have zero doubt that these creators will deliver anything other than a wonderful tale that will resonate for some time to come once issue five falls into our hands. I am so psyched to see what happens next. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Lazarus #19
Lazarus #19 - Written by Greg Rucka, illustrated by Michael Lark, inked by Michael Lark and Tyler Boss, colored by Santi Arcas, lettered by Jodi Wynne, publication design by Eric Trautmann, published by Image Comics. For all intents and purposes, Forever Carlyle is dead. After receiving a gunshot wound to the head — and after not getting up as a Lazarus should — her team is forced to move on without her, as command moves to Casey Solomon. Meanwhile, Johanna plots…

Lazarus continues to be one of my favorite Image titles. It’s also the title that freaks me out the most because of its portrayal of the direction the world might be headed in, but it is one of my favorites nonetheless. Thankfully, Rucka gives this ol’ Donist a break from the worries of potentially being designated as Waste at some point in the near future by focusing mostly on Casey Solomon pulling the team together to finish their mission, Malcolm Carlyle’s condition, and the state of Forever Carlyle. One thing I noticed that was somewhat uplifting was the supposed sibling concern for Forever’s wellbeing, which I want to believe extends beyond their concern for the state of the mission and the war with Hock.

My slight relief at hope for humanity wavered, however, once we got to Lark’s two pages of Sonja, Marisol, and Michael, where Sonja takes the pills given to her. Something about the body language and character acting in the sequence shows there’s more at work than the oddly innocent murder-machine that is Sonja realizes — Marisol’s expressions show she knows more than she is letting on. And speaking of murder-machines…when Forever does get up in this issue, Lark’s storytelling and fight choreography delivers four pages of heart-pounding carnage and mayhem that had me cheering for Forever despite the raw brutality of the scene; dang, it was awesome.

Never before has being so disheartened by what the future has in store for us been so much fun. I love this series. If you are not reading this book and are a fan of post-apocalyptic tales, then you cannot go wrong with the brilliant Lazarus. You can quickly catch up via the three available trades, or jump in with the beautiful hardcover collection. It’s well worth your time, but be prepared to have your senses rattled in the best of ways. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Rachel Rising #36
Rachel Rising #36 - Everythinged by Terry Moore, published by Abstract Studio. Rachel and Lilith talk through their problems with Zoe as referee. Unfortunately, their discussions attract the attention of some nosey neighbors. Meanwhile, a certain someone notices that Rachel has been creeping around their property.

Unlike a particular television show that delivered mystery after mystery with very few answers (yes, I’m talking about Lost), Moore’s Rachel Rising delivers mystery upon mystery, while providing plenty of shocking answers along the way. Such is the case with this issue. This month, we gain some fairly startling revelations of Biblical proportions in the nature of Rachel and Lilith’s relationship that made me go “Ohhhhhhhhhh, yeah, why didn’t I see that before?” I always love reading Rachel Rising, but it’s the “Ah Ha!” moments like this that make me love it all the more.

Then you have moments like Zoe, acting like a goofy little girl, swinging and playing about in a tree, all while gleefully spouting off some particularly nasty ways of dealing with the ladies’ demon problem. It’s funny and disturbing all at the same time. What really touched me this issue, though, were the three silent pages of Earl and Jet, and their budding (and probably doomed) relationship. As I have said before, Moore is the guy who nearly brought this Donist to tears while I rode a packed train back from SDCC many years ago after I finished reading his masterwork Strangers in ParadiseNow, it’s Earl and Jet’s courtship that warm my cold, dark heart…the look in Jet’s eyes and then Earl’s eyes…<sigh>. Such a beautiful moment. I will say, that I am ready for some more Aunt Johnny time in the near future, which is the thing about Moore: you cannot help but embrace his characters into your heart.

Dang, sorry for getting all emotional there, denizens, but Moore just has a way of grabbing you with both words and imagery. You’re reading Rachel Rising, right? If not, and you are a fan of shows like Twin Peaks or you’re a fan of smartly-written horror tales — not that splatter-pr0n nonsense or cats jumping out of cupboards — then you simply MUST pick up Rachel Rising, which you can easily do with the first five trades. At 36 issues, Rachel Rising continues to be a fun, exciting read that gets better and better with each issue. I think it’s about time I started up my rereading from the beginning. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

We Stand on Guard #3
We Stand on Guard #3 - 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 war between the US and Canada continues, as the Canandian freedom fighters, the Two Four, prepare for some tough times ahead.

I am still enjoying We Stand on Guard quite a bit, but at three issues in, I am not yet fully invested in any of the characters. But as with the previous issues, the flashback sequences bring me a little closer to Amber, but it is the world and the circumstances surrounding the intricacies of how this futuristic war is waged that keeps me coming back for more.

The part where captured rebellion Chief McFadden is tortured by the US Military was, although reprehensibly, interesting for the futuristic methods employed to extract information from prisoners. Vaughan has the sequence literally play out in McFadden’s head, while her torturer is also not just in McFadden’s mind, she is not even physically present where McFadden is really being detained. It’s all rather messed up, especially given what it is that actually breaks the freedom fighter.

The main draw of this issue is Skroce’s beautiful artwork. Holy moly. The details found in backgrounds, clothing, mecha, tech, animals, expressions…everything, is phenomenal, and when you couple it with Hollingsworth’s colors, the end result is thrilling to say the least. And speaking of thrlling…that final double-page spread is exactly what I’m talking about.

We Stand on Guard might not be my favorite work from Vaughan, but it is still a fascinating look at the future of war. Also what’s not to love when a Canadian freedom fighter says to a US military commander, “I’m not going to explain climate change to an American.” I’m still cracking up over that one. We’re now at the halfway mark of this mini-series, and I am definitely sticking around to see how it all wraps up. RECOMMENDED!

Slice into the Woods

Ahhhhhh…Out of Time - I will say that the spectacle this Kim Davis moron is stirring up is beyond annoying. It’s crazy — keyword: crazy — how an insanely — keyword: insanely — hypocritical person like Davis is able to gain so much airtime for her supposed morals, morals that clearly do not apply to herself. It’s frustrating that this person believes she can impose her narrow-mined views on others and not carryout the duty for which she was elected, forget the whole separation of church and state, and willingly break the law. If you don’t like the job, then the sensical solution is quit. Oh well, for all her attempts at martyrdom, I’m sure she will soon be forgotten. Enjoy the limelight, dearie, it’ll be gone soon enough.

And on that note…

(Sung to the tune of The Style Council’s “My Ever Changing Moods”)

You want to read great comics, like The Dying & the Dead
Plutona and Lazarus, they simply are the best, yeah
Groovy Rachel Rising, it’s not all that surprising
We Stand on Guard realizing, such hotness I’m surmising 

I wish to read forever, comics are totes my food
Oh, but I’m caught up in the whirlwind
Of comic books that are this good, yeah


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