Friday, December 18, 2015

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 12/18/2015

Friday Slice of Heaven

This week: Descender, Tokyo Ghost, and Weirdworld

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / resident puppy Jedi Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). As I’ve explained over the past couple FSoH/SitW posts, Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magics mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap. Today, we are barricaded in the corporate office (Mom’s basement) as we attempt to avoid all the spoilery Star Wars merchandising, trailers, reviews, interviews, and whatnot assaulting us at every turn. Make no mistake, Denizens, the Force is indeed with us, we just don’t want the Force of Disney’s marketing campaign to ruin anything for us before we’ve had a chance to see the dang movie. So, whether you are heading out to see Star Wars later today, or you have to wait a couple more days like we do, then set yourself up for some tasty tacos — how about a great ginger ale? — rewatch the real three movies, and most of all read some great comics. Take care. Thank you for reading!

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Descender #8
Descender #8 - Written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen, lettered and designed by Steve Wands, published by Image Comics. When Andy was a young boy, he had a robot companion named Tim-21, who he loved and called his brother. That was then. That was before the coming of the Harvesters. Now, Andy is a scrapper, a robot hunter, and he has partnered with the alien Blugger to find Tim-21, but does Andy mean to save his brother…or scrap him?

Finally finally FINALLY! A new issue of my favorite new comic of 2015 has arrived. And when I say “finally,” Denizens, I don’t mean to imply that the book was late — in fact it was right on schedule — but what I mean to say is that one week, let alone a month, is too long to wait for this simply fantastic book. In case you haven’t picked up on my love for this comic with every glowing review of every past issue, it’s probably for the best if I restate everything that works in this amazing new sci-fi series.

You can’t go wrong with an already established creator like Lemire writing the story he wants to tell as he wishes to tell it. Descender is a futuristic story where the nine core worlds of the galaxy are attacked by immense robots which vanish as quickly as they appeared, but not before billions of lifeforms have perished. Ten years later, a “companion” bot (not that kind, sickos!) awakens on an abandoned mine and who might hold the key to the secrets of the Harvesters. Sounds simple enough, but Lemire has so many complex and intriguing characters, such as Tim-21, Dr. Quon, Telsa, Psius, Andy, and others, that even though we still know little about many of them, the brief glimpses into their backgrounds you do get are enough to pull the reader completely into the characters. Even the less-complex characters (at least they’re less-complex for the time being) like Bandit (robotic dog) or Driller (the “real killer” mining bot) are pure creativity, and all coolness. Every character has more going on than you see, and Lemire makes you care about them all within a few panels of their introductions.

The story, as I’ve said before, reminds me of the best ’80s sci-fi movies and comics, where the tale being spun was infinitely more important than a bunch of CGI-type action moments or chases. Descender focuses on world building and strong character development to move the story, which it does with tremendous success, and of course there are moments that are particularly cinematic, but at no time does spectacle ever overshadow the grand tale being told. That said, there is no better way to make a stellar story spectacular than to have Nguyen provide the visuals.

Criminy, Denizens, this comic is heavenly. Nguyen’s watercolor paintings are something to behold. Yes, there are insanely cool aliens, bizarre tech, desaturated flashbacks, expansive galaxies awash with stars, and otherworldly cities to keep you coming back to revisit every page, but Nguyen’s refusal to allow beautiful subtleties such as the detail of Andy’s hair (page 1, panel 6) to be glossed over or rushed allows even the must mundane of moments to shine; every panel is worthy of your time and appreciation.

Descender is a lovely comic, one you will return to multiple times whether you want to excavate story clues you might have previously missed, or you wish to revisit the striking art, or to re-experience the grand story which is sure to pull sci-fi lovers in deep and keep them there. In fact, I just reread the first six issues with the double-dipped trade (ridiculously priced cheap and a must-buy / must-gift for all), and I was every bit as enamored with this amazing tale as I was with my initial read…if not more so. Trust me on this one, you need to be reading Descender, it is definitely the best new comic to come out of 2015. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Tokyo Ghost #4
Tokyo Ghost #4 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Sean Murphy, colored by Matt Hollingsworth, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. Led Dent (aka Teddy) and Debbie Decay have found their paradise in Tokyo. Unfortunately for the amorous couple, the past comes back to haunt them.

Remender and Murphy’s futureistic tale of tech addiction and codependency continues with a knockdown, drag out brawl to end all brawls. The lead characters have resorted to some fairly drastic measures in their previous lives as constables, and those actions are what follow them to peaceful, tech-free Tokyo. However, those seeking payback haven’t exactly lived the lives of darling little angels themselves, having set in motion all the violence and hate to begin with. Who’s right, who’s wrong, who took things too far depends on which side you are standing on. This Donist is almost always against the bullies, but I have to admit Teddy might have taken things to an unnecessary level. Yowsers. As cool as the revenge upon revenge angle is in this issue, the battle seemed to go on a tad too long, but not enough to lessen my enjoyment of this issue, especially given the final panel cliffhanger that has me eager for the next installment.

One thing is for certain if you are going to have a fight scene push the limits of reader attention spans, there is no better artist suited for the job than Sean Murphy. Yes the fight goes on too long, and the degree of punishment unleashed upon poor Teddy is extreme, but Murphy keeps your eyes coasting from panel to panel, page to page with his storytelling mastery. Even as many key moments in the battle shift toward silhouettes, the effect coupled with Hollingsworth’s primarily red and blue colors, succeeds in intensifying the battle to new heights. The visuals are simply lovely.

So, yeah, even though the battle carried on too long in this issue, the creators are so skilled at their craft that this is just a minor quibble. I love Debbie (not to mention Murphy has me crushing on her a bit, too) Teddy / Led, Kazumi, and the idea of tech-free Tokyo. This title serves as a reminder of how pervasive tech has become in our lives and the degree to which our attention spans have lessened as a result of a constant barrage of both self-imposed and unintentional interruptions in our lives. Although each issue of Tokyo Ghost leaves me thinking for days afterwards, not just about where we are and where we are headed, but also about the cool characters and the fantastic story these creators are telling. You need to be reading this awesome futuristic, sci-fi, dystopian comic. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Weirdworld #1
Weirdworld #1 - Written by Sam Humphries, illustrated and colored by Mike Del Mundo, color assists by Marco D’Alfonso, lettered by VC’s Cory Petit, published by Marvel Comics. All Becca Rodriguez wanted was to get to Guadalajara, Mexico, but thanks to a muppet-reject of a creepy wizard, her plane was pulled out of the sky and to the nightmarish realm known only as…Weirdworld.

After Jason Aaron’s awesome run on what was arguably the best thing to come out of the whole Secret Wars event — which is still going on btw — Sam Humphries dons the writing mantle for what is sure to be Marvel’s weirdest book hitting the stands. In fact, Humphries doesn’t miss a beat as he introduces us to Earth girl Becca and to Goleta, the barbarian woman with a mad hate-on for all things of a wizardly nature. “But what about our favorite punching bag? What about Arkon?” you ask. Well, he’s right there on page three (which is part of a stoopidly gorgeous double-page spread, btw), and that is the only time you will see him for the remainder of the issue. A weird choice given the mini-series was all about Arkon, but that’s okay. There is so much insanity happening in this hit-the-ground-running story, that I honestly did not miss Arkon; never fear, Denizens, I’m sure he will be showing up soon enough. The book is a blast from page one and I smiled through the dialogue, the monsters, the awesome Goleta, and the bizarre Ogeode (hey…wasn’t that the name of the wizard in the Crystar comic?), all the way until the stunning dark reveal on the third to the last page. I won’t spoil what goes down, but I will say that when Marvel decides to allow a creator to go dark with a story, they let them go dark. Criminy.

One thing that does not change on this new series is Del Mundo on art. With the mini, I often extolled the storytelling, the choreography, the character design, the colors…practically everything. I also stated how I wanted to see a time lapse video of Del Mundo creating one of these otherworldly pages, because I kind of think the guy is tapping into some magical realms of his own in order to deliver this gorgeous comic. With this issue, and the page two and three double-page spread in particular, he actually surpasses the already phenomenal art from the mini-series. Even if you don’t dig the thrilling story as much as I do, you must check out the crazy illustrations and colors. So lovely.

I don’t blame you if you missed the “Volume 0” Secret Wars tie-in mini-series. Hey, these Big Two events can totally suck your hard-earned money right out of your wallet if you aren’t careful, but now that the event is over — at least all aspects of the event other than the actual main Secret Wars title — it is safe to wade in and test the waters with some of the more heavenly tie-ins, which you can do with the recently released Weirdworld Volume 0 TPB! You don’t need to read the mini, but with Aaron and Del Mundo setting some great groundwork you will be better prepared for what looks to be a helluva ride with Humphries and Del Mundo on this new series. Stay weird, Denizens, stay weird. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - No, I have not seen the movie yet. I probably won’t be able to get to the theater until Tuesday, which is a bummer, but I’ll get there soon enough. Heck yeah, I will! Anyways, I just wanted to briefly retell my first encounter with Star Wars. As longtime Denizens know, I’m on the older side of the equation, which means I was a kid when Star Wars came out, and I was still a kid for the releases of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The level of anticipation to see all three is something I expect will never be surpassed.

I remember the first time I saw the Star Wars trailer. We were visiting my grandparents in Santa Barbara, CA, from Akron, OH, and I was watching either Gumby or the roller derby on TV, and it cut to a Cal Worthington used car commercial, which was then followed by something that melted my six-year-old mind. Star Wars. Holy guacamole, Denizens, this trailer had outer space stuff, monsters, robots, armored guys, and glowing swords. I was transfixed by what I saw, and I might have possibly peed — just a little — because of my excitement. But here’s the problem: we were set to leave Santa Barbara to go back home before the movie premiered. My poor, wee Donist mind was in a whirlwind panic as it did not occur to me that the movie would indeed follow us across the country. It was clear to me that this movie was going to be a life changing event, and I had to be there to see it. After frantically telling my mom that we needed to cancel our return trip home until we saw Star Wars, she eventually talked me down until I hesitantly believed her when she explained that even the lost land of Akron would get Star Wars.

She was right. Star Wars indeed came to Ohio, and I went to see it seven times, which was nowhere near enough; the movie was more than I could have hoped for. Now, as a much older kid, I kind of have that same feeling of excitement building within me in spite of the cynicism that being an adult tends to foster. Screw adult cynicism. I’m gonna see me some Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I can’t wait.

Slice into the Woods

The Star Wars Merchandising Onslaught - I know, Denizens, this is nothing new. In fact, the merchandising has been invading everything to such a degree that even Best Buy has tons of Star Wars: The Force Awakens stuff on display throughout the store. So, as successful as I have been in avoiding any sort of trailers or spoilers or such, all I have to do is turn my head and see a bad guy here (a 12" tall action figure…hard to miss), a cool droid there. Heck, everywhere you turn there’s loads of spoilery Star Wars stuff lurking about. Essentially, the Force is with you whether you want it to be or not. Ugh…I just need to hold out a few more days until I get to see the actual movie. I suppose I need to head down into the Donist World bunker just to avoid it all. Once I see the movie, then I’m positive I’ll be buying the Official Star Wars figures, Legos, cereal, sheets, mac ’n’ cheese, candy, beach towels, slippers, dog slanket, acne medicine, and of course some Star Wars branded Ibuprofen.

DANG, I can’t wait to see the movie!

(Sung to the tune of Foreigner’s “Hot Blooded”)

Oh, these hot comics, check ’em and see
So much awesome contained inside these three
Come on, Denizen, don’t leave it to chance
These hot comics, these hot comics

Skip these? Well you must be blind, Descender is the sweetest find
Honey I’m tellin’ you so
Weirdworld is so fine, Tokyo Ghost’s a grand time
You oughta know, that these comics totally don’t blow

Now it’s up to you, take a trip with these books and shout “Woo Hoo!”
You know it’s true, these comics are hot, they’ll rock your socks, truth!

That’s why, these hot comics, check ’em and see


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