Friday, October 9, 2015

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 10/9/2015

Friday Slice of Heaven

This week: Paper Girls, Plutona, Jughead, Secret Wars, Southern Bastards, and We Stand on Guard

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 / pumpkin beer sampler Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). <phew> Now that’s more like it! I don’t know what happened over the last two weeks that I will call the “New Comics Void,” but that bleak time is over. This week, I had six books in my pull, I received a couple graphic novels I ordered and have not yet even touched, and I am still re-enjoying the amazing Chew Omnivore Editions. Not only that, my friends gave me four different pumpkin beers to enjoy for my birthday, and I also picked up a bonus fifth pumpkin beer all on my little lonesome…do yourself a solid and check out Elysian Brewing’s Punkuccino (a coffee pumpkin ale), it is MOST heavenly. Ah…with good beer, a host of great comics, and my Boston terrier executive team distracted with reading them, I can now safely resume freaking the heck out about reality. Ugh. So, settle in to consume as much pumpkin-flavored everything as you can, fire up some chillwave music (new Neon Indian album in October!), pour yourself a nice cool sweet tea, get yourself some pumpkin nachos, and settle in for this week’s post. Thank you for reading.

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Paper Girls #1
Paper Girls #1 - Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matt Wilson, lettered and designed by Jared K. Fletcher, published by Image Comics. It’s November 1, 1988, and running a paper route in Cleveland, Ohio is not the easiest thing for a girl to do. There’s the exceptionally early mornings, the jerks who are supposed to be asleep (older boys), surly police officers, and who knows what else…thank goodness for like-minded girls with an eye toward business to watch your back. And they’ll need to stand together, as things are about to get weird, really weird.

Oh Image…you and your fantastic, stupendous, ever-expanding stable of amazing comics. So, here we are with yet another contender for best new comic of the year, and we are only on issue one (the others being Descender and Prez). Other than what I mentioned in the above teaser, I have little idea of what is going on — especially after the final page shocker (I ain’t spoilin’) — or where the series is going. I am totally cool with that. Vaughan and Chiang introduce so many bizarre elements to the story that I was left dazzled and reeling after the first read through from the implications of what each reveal meant for the story, and more importantly for the characters.

Here’s the thing about Vaughan for which fans of Saga, The Runaways, and Y the Last Man are already well aware: You tend to fall in love with his characters. Sure the underlying story in his books is compelling, but its the life he imbues into every character who graces the page, whether they are “good” or “bad,” that will make you at the very least interested in who they are, and at the very most worried for their safety and wellbeing long after you have set the comic down. Thus is the case with Erin, KJ, Mac, and Tiffany. The page five scene between Erin and her little sister, Missy, is a prime example of a moment that can endear you to a character with all but four words on the entire page. Of course, having Cliff Chiang illustrate the moment will only make your bond with the characters that much stronger. At just 12.5% of the way through the first issue, I was in. The thing is, the book only gets better with each page, with each interaction, with each new character introduction.

Speaking of Chiang…holy moley, denizens, this book is a looker! Just train your peepers on the page 8–9 double page spread. It is gorgeous, large, bold, silent, and jaw-dropping in its line work, and all it shows is Erin heading out on her bike to deliver the early-morning paper. That’s it. Even without previously clicking with the character, and caring for her, this page is very much something I wish I had hanging above my desk. From there it’s just over with as you meet the other girls and fall prey to Chiang’s brilliant character acting. I loved every panel of this issue.

If anyone can accomplish the nigh-impossible task of making Chiang’s work look even better, it’s color artist Matt Wilson. Wilson makes you feel the night with his cool color palette, that changes skin tones to blues with the occasional touch of purple to add additional life, but there are also the scenes when a startling complementary light source heats things up, adding just the right amount of highlights where needed. I also love how he tends to knockout the usual black lines of a character’s nose, ears, and lips to a darker shade of their skin tone to startling effect.

I am wholeheartedly a Paper Girls fan. I’m in. To be honest, I want a dang paper route now. I will say that once I reached the end of the book’s 40 pages ($2.99 price tag…take that Big Two $3.99 and $4.99 titles) I was vastly disappointed that I did not have another 40 pages…nay, denizens…100 pages still to read. I loved every moment of this fantastic new series with every component (words, art, colors) standing strong on their own while working together to bring us a truly special story. I love Erin, KJ, Mac, and Tiffany, and I am already counting the days until I can tag along on their adventures and see what happens next. You need to be reading this book. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Southern Bastards #11
Southern Bastards #11 - Written by Jason Aaron, illustrated and colored by Jason Latour, lettered by Jared K. Fletcher, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. It’s not everyday that you meet a Craw County native who thinks nothing of football. In fact, odds are pretty good that you’d never even meet someone like Deacon Boone. He tends to stick to Piney Woods much like his father, and his father’s father before him…that is until some town folk cross the line.

Okay, let me catch my breath before I continue. <phew> I have loved Southern Bastards since the first issue. This is despite the fact that the general story revolves around football, a sport I care absolutely nothing about. I also kind of hate — with a capital H-A-T-E — many of the corrupt twisted characters in this book, especially after certain shocking events from the first arc, yet these creators have a knack for deeply investing this Donist in a comic that should not appeal to me in way. Again, let me stress, I love this comic. But issue eleven, denizens…oh ho ho ho…this issue floored me in the BEST of ways. Criminy, this month’s offering is a fantastic topper to an already heavenly series.

The first four pages introduce us to one Deacon Boone as he hunts deer in the woods near his home deep in Piney Woods. All he says on those four pages is one blessing for a deer he just killed with his bow. The rest of those pages rely on captions to relay the information about Boone’s past, world view, and beliefs, and what in lesser hands would come across as blatant exposition, flows as naturally as the river near Boone’s house. By the end of these four pages, both through words and imagery, we know this man, and although he is probably not someone I would like to meet in person, he is a new hero in this series for me. Because of this, I don’t think he is long for this Craw County, Alabama world. Still, I greatly appreciate this man’s thoughts on hunting, guns, football, and how to prevent certain crimes from ever recurring, but I have to draw a line at snake handling…that’s just dumb, but then again everyone has their faults.

As I said above, it took me four pages to know Boone, but I was honestly fully in and excited to read this issue after the first-page splash. The remaining 21 pages did not disappoint. Rather, they built upon that amazing first page and made me more excited to learn about Boone and imagine what he would do in future issues. The writing alone made this issue amazing, but with Latour’s combination of fine and thick lines and his color choices that set the mood while pushing panel elements to the fore or background, this issue has never looked better (which is something I practically say with each issue, but it’s true). Outside of Latour’s mastery of visual storytelling, I loved his use of knockouts on Boone as he trudges away; that watercolored scene of Boone in the boat is simply magical and worth mentioning, too.

Dang. I’m gonna be thinking about this issue until we see issue 12, and for good reason. We have a new and fascinating character in this series that best categorized as a true crime book with a heaping helping of sports. But whether you are a fan of football or not, or like crime comics or not, you need to be reading Southern Bastards if you appreciate comics that are not just well-done, but that are masterful in every sense of the word. Have you heard the good news? Let me share it with you, denizens, you can easily catch up with the first two trades, or with the hardcover collection (issues 1-8) and experience one of the best comics on the stand. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Plutona #2
Plutona #2 - Written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Emi Lenox, colored by Jordie Bellaire, lettered by Steve Wands, published by Image Comics. After finding a much-loved superhero dead in the woods, a group of children discuss what to do next.

The one sentence teaser above about sums up everything that happens in this issue. It’s mostly the same kids from the first issue standing around a dead superhero and debating what they should do next. This sounds like it would be boring, but that is not at all the case. The creators beautifully developed the characters previously to such a degree that I immediately fell back into the story by the first page of this issue. From there through to the end, every word balloon and every one of Lenox’s lovely panels made me care for the kids and their plight all the more. The final page of the main story completely ensures I will be back next month, no doubt.

Plutona is a five-issue mini-series, and it’s practically half over already, which is a bummer, but we should be glad that the creators are telling the story they want to tell, in the format they choose; their enthusiasm for this tale clearly shows. If you are not reading this compelling offshoot of a superhero story as beautifully told from the perspectives of five normal kids, then you can easily catch up with a quick trip to the LCS. I bet you’ll be glad you did. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Jughead #1
Jughead #1 - Written by Chip Zdarsky, illustrated by Erica Henderson, lettered by Jack Morelli, edited by Mike Pellerito, published by Jon Goldwater of Archie Comic Publications, Inc. If there’s a tough job in need of doin’, or you are looking for someone to roll up their sleeves and give you a helping hand…then you probably shouldn’t call Jughead Jones. This isn’t to say Juggy is a bad guy, there’re just precious few things that manage to grab his attention. But if there’s burger injustice in the world, or burgers are being oppressed, then that is the day that Jughead leaps into action.

This book is a total hoot. Zdarsky and Henderson bring their unique senses of humor and styles to the timeless Jughead, at once paying homage to the character of old, while successfully bringing him into the modern age. Of course Jughead would be a video game junkie with an unfaltering attention span and a way of thinking that is not only outside of the box, but rather never been inside of the box to begin with; it’s just not his style. But then the creators pose a real problem to the story’s hero, and it doesn’t even register with him, not until the food he loves so much becomes jeopardized. What follows is a laugh out loud montage of weirdness that shows both how brilliant and obsessive Jughead can be. I will say that this version of Jughead and the one found in the pages of the fantastic Archie are a bit different in that Jughead is a bit more zen in the latter title, and more of a goof in this one. Regardless, ol’ Forsythe “Jughead” Jones is my hero, and the creators give us a heck of a good time with this fun read.

Yes, I had some issues a while back with the whole Kickstarter thing (a corporation shifting risk to consumers, and prizes that are far below the money requested), but that never meant I did not want to see this great spinoff see the light of day. Jughead had little choice but to be a lighthearted, fun-filled romp given the creators involved, and they give us exactly the book we were hoping for. If you are down for a good time, and you oftentimes wish you too lived in Riverdale, then Jughead is a book you cannot miss. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

We Stand on Guard #4
We Stand on Guard #4 - Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated Steve Skroce, colored by Matt Hollingsworth, lettered and designed by Fonografiks, coordinated by Eric Stephenson, published by Image Comics. The USA has invaded their northernly neighbor, Canada, in what appears to be a resource grab; only the resource is not oil, it’s fresh water. All that remains against the onslaught of the US military might are the freedom fighters known as the Two-Four…the fight is not going well.

I have been enjoying We Stand on Guard, but I’ve had some difficulty connecting with the various characters of the series, but with this issue I am more on board with Amber and the rest of the Two-Four. Atypical for a Vaughan book, We Stand on Guard has primarily focused on story versus characters, and given the grand nature of the future of warfare and how dwindling resources and technological advancement play a role, there has been quite a bit of world building to tell. Now that we see the monstrous vehicles, the drones, the new torture techniques, the robo-dogs, the dried-out husk that is the US, etc., the slow introduction to the actual people at the heart of the story begin to shine through. We also get a heck of an adventure sequence that builds to the shocking final page splash, which Skroce hammers home as he does with every page of his gorgeous art.

Admittedly, my interest in this series was wavering with the past two issues, but that has changed. I am now fully on board as we head into the final two issues of this beautiful-looking-yet-disturbing series. If you aren’t reading We Stand on Guard  and you need to be — then I am guessing you are waiting for the trade that will inevitably be released in early 2016, but if you love BKV and/or are a fan of the insanely talented Skroce, then tracking down these first four issues shouldn’t be all that difficult, and is something I recommend you do. Sticking with this series looks to have one heck of a payoff. I can’t wait. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Secret Wars #6
Secret Wars #6 - Written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Esad Ribic, colored by Ive Svorcina, lettered by Chris Eliopoulos, production by Idette Winecoor, published by Marvel Comics. Valeria begins to ask the very questions Doom asked her to ask, only he does not want to be the one being scrutinized or have the questions asked of him. (huh?) Some of Thanos’s people have been captured, others now serve Doom…ummm…some werido named Bentley-23 is weird, two Reeds quibble, the Spider-Mans talk to the Molecule Man and feed him a burger (a cross-company theme), someone called “The Prophet” is raising forces against Doom. Then Captain Marvel has a Mr. Sinister doohickey on her forehead and is now kind of mean for some reason, Namor and Black Panther put their differences aside, and Black Panther accessorizes with some sweet bling. Oh, yeah…SPOILER ALERT the Thing is a wall. WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?!

Okay, I either missed an issue (I don’t think I did), or a whole heck of a lot went down outside of the main event that is played off as common knowledge (“Buy all the tie-ins, True Believers!”). <sigh> I know I always say Donist World is a positive blog, but I kind of backtrack on that a tad when it comes to Big Two events. Before I go any further, I will say that I still enjoyed this issue of Secret Wars, and maybe the fact that it was well past my bedtime when I read it caused me to be a tad irked by this issue. It just feels like much of the action is happening outside of the main series, leading to a bunch of characters hanging around talking. I like Black Panther’s find, and I am totally intrigued by this Prophet character (Adam Warlock? Maybe?), and the Thing as a wall came out of left field, but whatever, that’s cool. But for the rest of the comic it seems that the weight of the event threatens to drag the story down, confusing matters. I really shouldn’t be surprised, this tends to happen with practically every single event book that appears over the course of its perpetually-delayed release schedule, but in this instance I decided to give Secret Wars a shot. My hopes were high after the first couple of issues, and I still have my fingers crossed that the creators will be allowed to deliver the book they want us to read over the course of the next three issues — it was also recently announced that the event would now be nine issues instead of eight.

Again, aside from weird story flow problems, and the inevitable push for people to read every one of the tie-in issues to know what is going on, I did like this issue overall. I will buy the remaining three issues — whenever they manage to come out — with at the most a hope that Secret Wars goes back to being awesome, and at the least seeing issue nine drop with a “# 9 of 8" prominently displayed in the top right corner of the book. RECOMMENDED, but things are starting to get dicey!

Slice into the Woods

Keeping the Negativity Short…Despite a New School Shooting - So, yet another school shooting, making this the 47th school shooting this year, and we still have two and a half months yet to go. 47th!!! We have had 144 school shootings since 2013. This is just stupid. You want to know how to NOT have a school shooting? Not having the ability to shoot, by not allowing guns. Want to know how to deal with crazy people who would use a gun to kill people (no, I'm not certain if this person is “crazy” or not, but to shoot another human being kind of leads to that assumption)? By once again funding mental health services (I’m cool with my tax dollars doing this) like a developed country should. This is stupid. This is ridiculous. MUCH needs to be done. <ugh>
*I just read that the shooting resulted from a fight between two groups. Okay, possibly not crazy, but if there were no guns, then there would be no shooting. Duh.

Awful…truly awful. Let’s close out happy, though. Thank you for reading.

(Sung to the tune of Supertramp’s “Dreamer”)

Reader, you are a comics reader
Well there’s too many books to be read, oh no!
I said reader, Paper Girls is totes a leader
Well you should check Southern Bastards, oh yeah!
They are “Far out, - so’s Plutona, Jughead, and Secret Wars
You know, - Well you know We Stand on Guard is good, too
Now there’s much to read for you, it’s true

Reader, you groovy comics reader


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