Friday, May 6, 2016

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 5/6/2016

Friday Slice of Heaven

This week: Criminal: 10th Aniversary Special, and Empress

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 / Captain of America Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). Poor Tulip had a rough day yesterday. We think she ate something bad after she proceeded to barf throughout the day (including on the bed and couch). So, in a show of solidarity, the Donist World executive team is taking a sick day today. Thankfully, with Reverse Obie’s kindly care, Tulip finally appears to be on the mend, but we’re going to kick it mellow style today with some Captain America: The Winter Soldier and plenty of rest. I, however, will be stepping out for a few hours later this afternoon to see Captain America: Civil War…I can’t wait. So before you head out to catch this Donist’s most anticipated movie of the year, grab some tacos and strong ginger brew, and read a couple 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***

10 Year Anniversary
Criminal: 10th Anniversary Special - Written by Ed Brubaker, illustrated by Sean Phillips, colored by Elizabeth Breitweiser, published by Image Comics. Young Tracy Lawless has been on road trips like this before, and when a father like Teeg Lawless, tells you to pack your bag and get in the car, there's no discussion of school or friends or staying home; you just do as your told. From there it’s a journey of armed robbery, seedy hotels, and violence as father and son scour a small town for a girl named Lana.

I failed, Denizens. Not just you, not just myself, but as a fan of the Criminal series. You see, this comic came out a week or two ago, and I knew nothing about it. Somehow, through all of the various Image announcements, solicits, website mentions, and what not, I missed that this was even coming out until I heard it reviewed on a comic book podcast. Talk about dropping the ball. But never fear, Denizens, all is right in the universe…my LCS had a single copy waiting for me on this rather meager comic book week.

It’s been over a year since we last saw a Criminal book, but the Criminal: The Special Edition (One-Shot) floored me (read my thoughts about that amazing issue here), almost as much as Brubaker and Phillips’s masterpiece Criminal: The Last of the Innocent, but the creators do not miss a beat on their fantastic new offering. For those of you not in the know…Criminal is a love letter to old black and white crime and noir movies, where the “good guys” aren’t exactly on the side of the angels and the “bad guys”…let’s just say they lean towards a more downward facing region. You can expect to read about robberies, heists gone wrong, contracts gone right, double crosses, and dames from which no man is safe. It’s all the typical components ow what makes crime comics so damn alluring. However, what sets the Criminal series apart from the wealth of material that influenced it is how human the creators make their characters. It doesn’t really matter which chapter you pick up, you can expect to not necessarily relate to a character and their particular situation, but you will definitely understand how they got into the deep end of a pool of their own making. Maybe it’s gambling debts, or a fixed boxing match, or the wrong girl. Maybe it’s the lose of a decent job, or the drinking, or a family lacking in certain values. Or perhaps it’s just being born bad. Whatever the case may be, don’t expect a happy ending for any of Brubaker and Phillips’s characters, but rather expect to be immersed in the lives of those who have chosen to progress down the wrong side of the street, expect to be captivated by those who’ve succumbed to the more sordid aspects of life.

You can also expect to marvel at the art of a true master of storytelling and drama, especially given that this beast of a comic is 60 pages of dark, gritty beauty. Phillips’s work on Criminal utilizes thick lines and deep shadows to bring about the mood and tone of the series, but the artist definitely has more up his sleeve than just the one style. As with last year’s One-Shot, Phillips illustrates a comic-within-a-comic as Tracy Lawless reads Deadly Hands…featuring Fang, the Kung Fu Werewolf. During these breaks in the main story, Phillips gives us a thinner line and a completely different style that when combined with Breitweiser’s simulated yellowed paper and strategically placed halftone dots, gives the feeling that you have been transported back to the bronze age of comics in the ’70s. It’s a magical shift in tone that perfectly captures Tracy’s retreat into fantasy given the dark, desperation of his reality. Regardless of what page you are looking at in this comic, it’s all beautiful. I will say this…I really wish Brubaker and Phillips would put out a actual Fang, the Kung Fu Werewolf comic; I would love to read it.

I’m not going to lie to you, Denizens. If you want / need happiness and double rainbows in a comic, then you might want to save this one for a dreary day. It’s harsh, it ain’t pretty, but the story being told is beyond compare. If you are a fan of crime and noir, Criminal is an absolute must read. That said, this treasure is something you can thoroughly enjoy on its own, but you will get so much more out of it if you read the Criminal stories that came before it first. I would go in order as follows: Coward, Lawless, The Dead and the Dying, Bad Night, The Sinners, The Last of the Innocent, and then the One-Shot. I know that seems like an extensive list of trades to read, but it really isn’t a bad thing given the caliber of each installment. Regardless of where you begin on this series, just be sure you start somewhere — you won’t be disappointed. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Empress #2
Empress #2 - Written by Mark Millar, illustrated by Stuart Immonen, inked by Wade von Grawbadger, colored by Ive Svorcina, lettered by Peter Doherty, edited by Nicole Boose, published by Icon, a Marvel Comics imprint.

When a queen decides to leave her husband, the tyrannical ruler of their empire, she takes their three children with her, and a galactic search ensues. Unfortunately, her only means of transport is ruined and all that can possibly save her is a remnant of a war long past.

Millar’s wonderful sci-fi comic Starlight is one of my all-time favorite sci-fi comics ever, so I had high hopes going into Empress; at two issues in (of seven), I could not be more pleased. With the queen, her three children, and an advisor we have only seen brief glimpses into each character, but each slight reveal is enough to pull me in and keep me invested in this fantastic story. We have spaceships, aliens, monsters, and ray guns, but we also have a more grounded backbone of escaping one’s past and subsequently escaping one’s present with the hope of a better future, which is an uncertainty. Millar does not burden the reader with loads of exposition to tell us about his characters, instead we see their actions, their disagreements, and interactions that push us to fill in the gaps, to use our imaginations in this highly imaginative world; we are the better for it.

Immonen and Svorcina’s art is gorgeous. With grand backdrops reminiscent of a more pristine Blade Runner style world, and stunning spaceships and alien designs, the clear storytelling and great character acting make this book as beautiful to behold as it is to read. If you are a sci-fi / adventure fan, then Empress is a comic you cannot skip. At only two issues in, I also heard it has already been optioned for a movie…and with good reason. This series is something special that you need to be reading. I can’t wait to see what happens next. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Slice into the Woods

Keepin’ It Positive, Goin’ to See Cap 3 - It’s been a crazy week…in a good way. So let’s forget about that chump Donald Drumpf, and focus on the good. Go see Cap 3, read some comics, have a craft beer, and listen to some Prince while you’re at it. Take care, I have some Captain America: Winter Soldier to watch before the big movie viewing.


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