Friday Slice of Heaven
This week: Descender, Lazarus, and Low
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 / weekend getaway specialist Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). This past week was pretty awful. We’re actually still kind of reeling from it all, but the Donist World team still came to work at the corporate office (Mom’s basement), and we attempted to process things by burying ourselves in work and reading good comics. <sigh> So tell a friend / loved one you appreciate / love them, pour yourself a fresh cup of coffee, cook up some pancakes, and most of all 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***
It’s been three, long months since we last saw an issue of Descender and my hopes were exceedingly high for the start of this third arc. I was, of course, not disappointed. Yes siree Bob this is a fantastic issue.
Last time, the creators left us with the painful revelation that Tim-22 was not the kindly companion bot, he made himself out to be, but this issue — most of it in fact — gives us a clear view into some of what happened to Tim-22 some 10 years ago. I’m not going to go into the details of Tim-22’s origins, only than to say if you are familiar with Lemire’s non-superhero comic book work (Essex County, Sweet Tooth, The Underwater Welder), then you can safely expect the first 16 pages of this issue to walk up to you with a smile…before punching you 32 times in the stomach. What I’m trying to say is that Tim-22’s journey is not a pleasant one, and where I was angry with Tim-22 over his betrayals last issue, the heartbreaking glimpse into his life made me understand where he was coming from. Lemire excels at revealing the more painful parts of life (the hockey story in Essex County still chokes me up…and I hate sports…<sniffle>) every bit as much as he does with the joys and wonders, and such is the case in this phenomenal series. (With the brief appearance of Psius, this issue is also a subtle look into how someone can be radicalized and who extremists tend to target.)
Nguyen’s art is pure beauty. I love it, I love it, I love it…I have no idea how he does it. I desperately want to see a sped up version oh how he typically makes this wonderful story come to life. Does he work strictly digital? Does he blue pencil then actually watercolor each page with actual water, paint, and brushes? Is there a mix of hand and computer. I have no idea, but I’m fine with having to live with the mystery just so long as we continue to get this amazing imagery. But we all know that there is more to fantastic art than just static cover shots (and what an amazing cover this issue and the next have!). Nguyen perfectly brings across the emotional gravity of Lemire’s script with stunning character acting and flawless storytelling accentuated by the gorgeous backdrops, character / robot designs, and futuristic technology. Criminy…I think I’m going to reread Descender (again) from the beginning…I owe it to myself.
Before I wrap it up, let me gripe for a mo-mo. Descender is my favorite comic on the stands. It has been in my pull for each of the past 11 issues, but on Wednesday I learned the hard way that my favorite comic was not on my pull list. WTF?! Needless to say, that horrendous error has since been corrected, and my issue should arrive in the next couple of weeks, but my love of this series is too great to have to wait for the issue to magically appear, so I bought it on Comixology. I had no choice, Denizens. Descender is a love letter to my favorite sci-fi comics / anime / movies of the ’80s, and each release is worthy of celebration, and I strongly urge you to celebrate by picking up the two available trades as well as this exceptional kick-off issue to the third arc. I need July to get her quick! VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Lazarus #22 - Written by Greg Rucka, illustrated by Michael Lark, inked by Michael Lark and Tyler Boss, colored by Santi Arcas, lettered by Jodi Wynne, production design by Eric Trautmann, edited by David Brothers, published by Image Comics. The war has shifted after Forever and her team defeated the family Hock in America. But that is just one battle. The fight now moves to Switzerland, but it will have to do so without Forever, who sustained massive injuries. Luckily, the Family Carlyle has another Lazari on hand: Sonja Bittner.
Dang, Denizens, that was a particularly long and harsh hiatus. It’t been five months since we last had a regular issue of the fantastic-but-bleak Lazarus, but then again, a regular month’s wait between issues is never an easy thing for a title of this caliber: the wait is always worth it.
Rucka and Lark, however, ensured that this hiatus would be especially brutal given the perilous condition Forever was left in last issue. But the creators also enjoy tormenting us loyal readers just that much more — in the best of ways — by not immediately picking up where we left off and opting to give us five, nearly-silent pages of the Family Carlyle forces touching down in Switzerland. Then we jump back to Forever, in a be careful what you wish for moment that brings the grievously injured Forever back to the Carlyle compound, where she is to be treated. She is wild with pain and shock, and despite missing a leg is danger not just to herself, but to all attempting to help her.
The scene is particularly jarring given Lark’s harsh realism in the scene. His storytelling makes it nearly impossible to look away despite how uncomfortable things get…and you want to look away, as the intensity of that makeshift operating room scene is almost too much to handle, which is a testament to Lark’s talent as a storyteller. But as I have said in past reviews of Lazarus, Lark’s skill with character acting is fully on display, especially when we see the panic and trauma in Forever’s eyes upon being wheeled into the room. <brrrrrr> It’s actually going to be hard to forget that look. To make matters worse — and by “worse,” I mean more intense and awesome for the reader — Arcas’s colors add to the tone of the sequence, providing the macabre effect of barely-adequate fluorescent lighting in a hospital room. Heavy, uncomfortable to see, those three pages are striking and beautiful in their construction and pacing with Rucka’s dialogue adding even more realism and stress to get the reader’s blood pumping.
At only eight pages in, I was fully drawn back into the world of Lazarus, with that same mix of excitement and dread that this might be an indication as to where we in the real world are actually headed. And that apprehensive thrill does not even count the shocking assumptions we readers made many issues back about Marisol and Forever that hits like a battering ram, or the crazy cliffhanger we are left with for next issue. Oh, and sorry, Denizens, I’m not spoilin’ either moment.
I’m so glad Lazarus is back, as I’m sure is the case with everyone who follows this amazing post-apocalyptic tale. For those who have not yet read this series, do not start here. Don’t do it. So much vital world building occurs from the first issue that you must start at the beginning and read in order, which you can easily do with the first four trades, or the two beautiful hardcovers. This is heavy stuff, Denizens. Yet as terrifyingly realistic as situations in Lazarus are, I can’t help but come back to one of the most compelling titles on the stands. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Low #14 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Greg Tocchini, colored by Dave McCaig, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. Stel Caine and Zem come across even more problems on the surface, as the twins, Della and Tajo deal with the daughter of their greatest enemy…among other things.
Arrghhhh! This book cannot end where it ends! <sigh> At least this isn’t the conclusion to the third arc — that comes in the next issue — but man oh man do the creators know how to mess with us. They start us with Stel and Zem exhausted and hungry and bickering, before giving us a slight glimmer of hope, which they summarily yank away as they remind us exactly why no one goes to the surface. But there is a brief moment, a single caption, that gives both the characters and the readers something to think about for future issues. It’s a very clever tidbit that I think will be something major for later in the series, but time will tell. What I do know is that the bad thing that happens to Stel and Zem ends up being pretty dang scary. Terror rides upon blue wings…
The second half of the book focuses on the twins, and, true to the nature of this comic, delivers some fairly harsh changes for the Caine girls that had me wide-eyed and bewildered over what happens. Again, I’m not going to spoil what goes down, but I will say that there’s much more to worry about than just the vengeful daughter of the Roln the pirate. Sheesh, I never saw what ultimately happens coming.
Although the art last issue seemed a bit rushed, that is completely not the case here. No way. This issue is every bit the beauty I have come to expect from the wonderful team of Tocchini and McCaig. The storytelling and character acting are great as ever, but we also get some great vehicles, intricate costumes (still loving Stel’s swimming suit), and the full page splash that ends Stel’s half of the book is something to marvel at for a good long while. Dagnabbit, this is gorgeous comic.
As great as Remender’s other creator owned books are (Black Science, Deadly Class, Tokyo Ghost), Low is my favorite currently on the rack (Fear Agent is still my all-time-favorite, though). Lovely art, striking colors, a grand post-apocalyptic, undersea, sci-fi, drama, monster mash with a struggle to maintain hope is everything this Donist loves, and I think you might like it, too. You can easily find the first two trades, which I strongly encourage all fans of good comics to do. I can’t wait to see what happens next. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Slice into the Woods
I Still Don’t Have The Sixth Gun #49 - But I have issue #50! A lot of good that does me, though. <pffffft> I might just buy #49 digitally, as I don’t want to wait for the issue to someday show up in my pull. Waiting to see how the series ends is driving me nuts.
I Lost My Friend Frederick Kim - I’m still quite confused and in disbelief over the passing of my friend, Fred, who died this week as a result of a brain aneurysm he suffered last Thursday. I’ve known Fred for just over five years, and met him online through the Comics Experience program. We were also part of the short-lived Brutal Circle writing group, and we often critiqued each others writing (teleplays / comic scripts / short stories / pitches / etc.). Fred even contacted me out of the blue a few times to tell me of various writing opportunities he thought I had a shot at getting, and he encouraged me to pursue them; he was just that kind of guy. He was an IMMENSE talent, and I often would say to my wife after watching a particularly great television show, “I can’t wait for the day that I see my buddy Fred’s name listed in the credits as writer for one of these shows.” It hurts that this now won’t happen. It’s so unfair. He was much too young. I wish I had been able to express my gratitude and appreciation for his generosity, patience, and much-needed advice one last time. I will miss you, Fred. You were such a good and talented person. You will continue to inspire me with everything I write.
My thoughts, heart, and love go out to all of Fred’s family and friends.