Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 4/29/2016

Friday Slice of Heaven

This week: Saga, Sex Criminals, Low, and Thanos: The Infinity Finale

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 / purveyor of “Pop Life” Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). My puppy executive team and I have been wearing purple all week in honor of the brilliance and joy that Price gave us through his music for so many years. <ugh> I’m still so bummed about the man’s much-too-early death, but Reverse Obie put on “Take Me With You,” and I couldn’t stop the chills (the oh-so good kind) from washing over me. I also couldn’t help but smile as the tune washed over me. I guess if any of us start to get the sads again that we’ll just have to put on “Controvery” or “Peach” or “Let’s Go Crazy” to help pick us up again. So put on some purple, queue up a block of your favorite Prince tunes, and settle in to read some great comics. Take care. Thank you for reading!

*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.

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Saga #36
Saga #36 - Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples, lettered and designed by Fonografiks, coordinated by Eric Stephenson, published by Image Comics. Escape attempts, reunions, a battle, stowaways, and a revelation…oh my!

Thus ends book two, volume six, of chapter 36 of this tremendous series. This issue in particular is a prime example of why Saga remains one of the best comics currently hitting the stands. For those unfamiliar with this story, we have a sci-fi, fantasy tale that is essentially a take on Romeo and Juliet in space…only with so much more. Yes you will see the occasional monster or spaceship, yes you will on rare occasions see something so insanely shocking so as to be completely gobsmacked (this series is in no way for the kiddies; mature audiences only), but what strikes this Donist a deciding blow as to why I will forever follow this series are the myriad characters wrapped up in a compelling story. I love them. I care for them. I wish them all happiness, which makes every struggle, every bad decision or behavior that much more heart-wrenching. As I’ve said many times on past issues, my love does not stop with the “good guys,” it also extends to the “bad guys” as well.

Vaughan and Staples continue to thoroughly immerse readers in their characters’ lives by creating a level of relatability to each character, some moment where we see ourselves in a similar situation. How would you deal with the loss of a sibling, or of a lost child, or of familial scrutiny over your life choices? It’s all rather heavy, but that is not to say the series is without its more humorous moments. There are plenty of times that will have you laughing out loud, or trying not to laugh as you cover your mouth in shock over something you will never ever be able to un-see (remember what I said about this book being for adults?). It’s the precise balance of characters redeeming themselves while others succeed in steadily messing up their lives. It’s the bickering and fighting with those closest to them. Its the laughs mixed with moments of intense sadness. It’s all of this that keeps me coming back to this fantastic funny book. But most of all, it’s the feeling that these characters are now family; for better or worse, I love them.

If you’ve read any of my 35 previous thoughts on Staples’s art, then you know how stricken I am with her work. Even the most mundane of pages is worthy of being framed and hung on your wall for all to see. It’s refreshing to have such a vibrant book that manages to have so much life even when the situation is most dire. Her storytelling prowess is amazing, but it is the character acting and body language that manage to tell you everything you need to know about a scene before you read a single word balloon. Her work is heavenly; just take a look at the picturesque cover to see what I mean.

It’s going to be a brutal two or three months until the next issue drops, as there were plenty of “whoa!” and “wow!” moments that kept me wishing the issue would never end. Not to mention the bomb dropped on the final two pages. Dang, Denizens, this is one heck of a fantastic issue. If you are reading Saga, then you already know all of this. If not…<sigh>…just order the dang oversized hardcover, or load up on the five trades (soon to be six!). Tired of capes and tights? Well there, little buckaroo, Saga is the book for you — provided you are mature enough to handle it. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Sex Criminals #15
Sex Criminals #15 - Written by Matt Fraction, illustrated by Chip Zdarsky, edited by Thomas K, production by Drew Gill, published by Image Comics. When Doc realizes that Kegelface has stolen all of his files concerning a patient, he panics. Too bad those files were about Jon and his deepest, darkest thoughts.

Because my new coworkers might be checking out the ol’ Donist World blog, and are probably considering running a deeper background check on me because of this comic’s title, I will take this time to explain what this book is and why it is not what first comes to mind. Cool? Cool. Okay, Sex Criminals was not only TIME Magazine’s #1 comic series / graphic novel of 2013, it has also been a Donist World Darling since issue one. This is wholeheartedly a mature-readers book that’s about Jon and Suze who meet and are instantly attracted to each other. What neither knows at the time is that they each have a secret superpower that allows them to actually stop time at the moment of…“the little death.” The first time they sleep together, they are pleasantly surprised to find that they can stop time and move through the world together, doing whatever they like, including robbing a bank. That is until the Sex Police find out they are violating certain rules; Jon and Suze aren’t the only ones with powers. 

Sex Criminals has characters so realistic that you might see parts of yourself or your friends in them, as well as relatable situations that can be absolutely hilarious one moment and emotionally painful the next. Zdarsky’s cartooning is a joy, and his coloring brings a sense of magical realism to the page, especially when Jon and Suze venture into “The Quiet.” Despite the title, the comic is not titillating, but is rather an earnest look at what sex means to the various characters whose lives are exposed for us to see. Odds are high that you will be cracking up most of the time, but be prepared for a possible tear or two down the road. 

The lengthy delays between issues is kind of affecting my remembering what has happened issue to issue, but when the creators have many other projects, including film and television, I can see how things can regrettably fall behind. No worries, though, Sex Criminals is still one of my favorite comics hitting the stands; despite not hitting as often as I might like. So after my little rundown, if you’re ready for some adults-only, R-rated humor, that is as fun as it is charming, then you should dive right in on this sex-positive series with either the hardcover or the two available trades. I think you’ll dig it. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Low #13
Low #13 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Greg Tocchini, colored by Dave McCaig, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. The twins realize too late that the woman claiming to be their deceased brother’s wife is not who she claims to be.

Last month’s issue absolutely blew me away, as we saw Stel Caine finally reach the long abandoned surface in her quest for the satellite that holds the hope for a new and habitable world. The action was bountiful and intense. With this issue, we jump back to Stel’s twin daughters, Tajo and Della, and the pacing slows to allow us to see just how psychologically damaged the women have become after their brutal abduction and separation so many years ago. And although I suspected not all was right with the new player in the book, I wasn’t prepared for the actual reveal…or the startling turn of events at the end. Ouch.

Although I’m usually a champion of Tocchini and McCaigs art, things seem a tad rushed and muddied for about half of this issue; the other half is just as ethereal and gorgeous as we’ve come to expect from these two. The change is mostly in the weight of lines and certain proportions, but by the end, when the insanity starts goin’ down, the imagery comes together to reflect the look I have come to adore since the first issue. Who knows, it might be a print thing, but in the end, the shift in the look of the art was enough to give me pause.

My questions with some of the art aside, Low continues to be one hell of a compelling sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, adventure, monster, drama comic that I continue to love. I can’t wait for Stel and her girls to be reunited — if they all survive that long! — and finally prove that hope is not futile, but one of the strongest forces there is. If you would like to dive into this thrilling and visually arresting comic (even with the noticeable style shifts of this issue), then you should rush out and grab the two available trades. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Thanos: The Infinity
Thanos: The Infinity Finale HC - Written by Jim Starlin, illustrated by Ron Lim, inked by Andy Smith, colored by Guru-eFX, lettered by Clayton Cowles, published by Marvel Comics. Face front, true believers, as the latest “Infinity” chapter comes to a close. Thanos is dead. Warlock captured with most of his unlimited power under Annihilus’s control. The mysterious orchestrator of the posiverse’s woes continues to operate from the shadows while the fate of all rests in the grubby mitts of one…lone…smelly…troll.

Sorry about the “Thanos is dead” thing, but remember what I said about “possible spoilers?” Anyhow, if you’ve read my thoughts on the first two books in this series — Thanos: The Infinity Revelation and Thanos: The Infinity Relativity — as well as the optional (optionally amazing, and not to be missed) four-issue, limited series The Infinity Entity, then you know I had high hopes for the conclusion to this epic story. But did it pay off in the end? Heck yeah, it did, Denizens, this cosmic is better than I could have ever hoped for. I love everything about this awesome cosmic space opera from my lifelong hero Jim Starlin.

I’m going to shy away from revealing anything major, but when the title character ends the second hardcover by killing himself, do you really think he’ll stay dead all that long? This is Thanos, after all. If there’s one thing longtime fans know, it’s that you can’t keep a good / mad /evil / brilliant Titan down. I mean, the guy is madly (emphasis on the “madly”) in love with the physical embodiment of death, known as…well…Death. (In the demigod’s defense, Death is kind of hot…at least when she’s not all skeletony.) The same holds true for my fave Adam Warlock. How many times has this cat died only to return to life? The answer: tons. The whole death has no meaning in the Marvel Universe is something I’ve commented on in the past, and it gets rather obnoxious as event after event sees a litany of ultimately meaningless deaths of its characters (Captain America, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, etc.). The thing about Starlin’s work with Thanos and Warlock is that these characters exist outside of the cosmic norm and death / rebirth is part of their appeal. If one dies, you can count on them to return, but with certain changes; it’s all part of what makes these tales so much dang fun.

Speaking of death…holy cow does this book get dark. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Starlin get as brutal and bloody as he does with this book. The situation with Annihilus is indeed dire, but man-oh-man I did not expect to see major superheroes getting cut down in such ruthless fashion. I also could not believe what Thanos had in store for ol’ Nightcrawler (<brrrrrr> I will not spoil, but…harsh), but for all of the insane intensity of the battle against Annihilus that had me madly whipping through the pages, the moments of hope with Pip had me cheering all the way through. Once Thanos and Warlock are back in play, the story shifts from fights and battles (except for one awesome power move by Thanos) into the more cerebral aspects of righting all the cosmic wrongs of the universe, and restoring all to as it were. Of course the story has no moments that will “change the Marvel Universe forever!!!,” but these hardcovers are outside of whatever is going on at Marvel these days. If there’s one thing Starlin is a master of it is taking all the toys out of the box, crafting a compelling story with palpable stakes, and ultimately putting all those toys back in the box as they were; Thanos and Warlock being the only possible exceptions.

One thing you will notice with this third and final volume is the change in art. Starlin does not illustrate this book — an odd choice given that he illustrated the first two — but if you are going to have anyone other the master-of-all-things-cosmic draw your book, then there is no better choice than bringing in Ron Lim (I will say that Alan Davis was fantastic on They Infinity Entity, though). His storytelling skills are tremendous, and the character acting stronger than ever. If you like his past work on Silver Surfer and The Infinity Gauntlet (I certainly do) then you will be thrilled with what is on display here. Art, coloring, and overall design of the book are certain to please.

See? No real spoilers on what exactly goes down in this book, just the understanding that I love love love this series of hardcovers, and that Finale is the best of the bunch. If you are a Starlin or Warlock or Thanos fan, or if you just like engaging superhero space operas, then you MUST pick up these books. I am also happy that I went back and reread all of the early material (Thanos QuestThe Infinity GauntletThe Infinity WarThe Infinity CrusadeWarlock and the Infinity WatchThe Infinity AbyssThe EndThanos: The Infinity RevelationThanos: The Infinity Relativity, and finally The Infinity Entity) to prepare for my read of Thanos: The Infinity Finale, which made an already great read all the better. Dang, I love this book. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice into the Woods

Prince Dies at Age 57 - I’m still not over the loss of this tremendous artist. <sigh> at least I know what’s going to be playing around the Donist World corporate office (Mom’s basement) this week. So very sad.


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