Friday, September 2, 2016

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 9/2/2016

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 / unintentional whistler Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). The Donist World corporate office (Mom’s basement) kinda fell into disarray this week when during one of team building exercises — tug of war with a beat up dog toy — Tulip yelped and retreated to her cubicle. Low and behold, the toy had blood on it, and one of her front teeth (not a canine) was loosely held in her gums. By the next morning I found the tooth on the bed. Thankfully, the vet said the tooth had popped out clean and that it would have fallen out eventually anyways because of overcrowding in Tulip’s mouth; the rest of her teeth are doing fine. Thus we are all three taking it easy for the rest of the week. Y’know, chillin’.  And you should do some chillin’, too. So read some of the awesome Prez (see “Slice into the Woods” below <sniffle>), and check-in on an episode or two of the exceptional Stranger Things on Netflix, and most of all read some great comics…like Prez. 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***

Afterlife with Archie #10
Afterlife with Archie #10 - Written by Roberto Aguierre-Sacasa, illustrated by Francesco Francavilla, lettered by Jack Morelli, published by Archie Comic Publications, Inc. Josie and the Pussycats finally make their appearance and they discover firsthand that monsters roamed the Earth even before the coming of the zombie apocalypse.

My goodness gracious, Denizens, even though the wait between issues was only three months this time — compared to the year-long wait between 8 and 9 — it still felt much longer. Heck, even if the wait was only two weeks it would still be far too long. What I’m trying to say is that I L-O-V-E this series. This week’s issue does not detract from my rather bold proclamation of adoration, and the crazy thing is that this issue doesn’t even touch on the events of the previous nine issues. Nope. Instead, we jump back in time to catchup with Josie and the Pussycats (Josie, Melody, and Valerie) to see what they were doing before the zompacalypse, and I can promise you it is not what I was expecting. No siree Bob.

Aguirre-Sacasa has continuously juggled horror, drama, mild-humor, and intense emotional beats with every issue, while ever remaining true to Riverdale’s inhabitants. So what if Archie Andrews does not appear in this issue. Neither do Betty or Veronica. Hey, we don’t even see one stinkin’ zombie this issue, but given our time with Josie, and to a lesser degree the Pussycats, I am totally fine with the decision. As I said above, I did not see the direction this story was headed, and I was completely immersed in the story and characters even before the crazy reveal came. Dang, this is a cool, creepy, fun story that I look forward to rereading in the near future.

The art is as astounding as ever. If you do a search for “Francesco Francavilla” on Donist World and read each of my thoughts on the books I have reviewed, you’ll quickly figure out that I kinda like his work. Okay, that is an understatement. Actually, I freakin’ love what he does. Not only does his compelling storytelling and phenomenal character acting pull you into his work, but his coloring also pushes the story forward, while accentuating the mood of each scene. His art is stunning, which reminds me I need to get one of his posters so I can proudly put it on display around the house.

If you are already reading Afterlife with Archie, then you are definitely nodding your head in agreement to everything I’ve said. If you aren’t, then I’m guessing you are thinking, “Archie meets The Walking Dead? That sounds dumb,” but trust me. This comic is a powerhouse of a series, with story and art that will grab hold and keep you desperate to see what happens next, and I can’t wait to see what that is. You can catch up with the first trade (the second trade releases in February), and you might as well pick up Afterlife with Archie’s sister book, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina while you’re at it, it’s good, too. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Future Quest #4
Future Quest #4 - Written and illustrated by Jeff Parker, illustrated by Evan “Doc” Shaner and Ron Randall, colored by Hi*Fi, lettered by ALW’s Dave Lanphear, published by DC Comics. New players enter the fray against the dreaded Omnikron!

The first three issues of Future Quest have been a blast. Even without the nostalgia kick to remind me of just how much I used to love many of these characters — and to remind me that I should try to watch some of these old shows again someday — Parker’s story is engaging and thrilling with some legit stakes. Already we’ve been introduced to hosts of characters and this multiple-chapter issue introduces a bunch of new ones with still plenty more to come. At 32+ pages each issue, the story is close to feeling a tad full, but the creators somehow manage to move forward even while introducing Mightor, a caveman, a kid named Todd, Number 1(?), Linda Kim-Conroy, Buzz Conroy, and Frankenstein Jr. See what I mean? There’s a lot goin’, but — dagnabbit — even if we barely see one panel with Space Ghost, I’m still loving this adventure comic.

As I mentioned above, this issue consists of three chapters / stories, each with a different art team, which is a bit of an odd choice given last month’s flashback issue. But as tightly packed as this comic might be, everything works; each page is lovely, vibrant, fun. It doesn’t matter whether you were watching these cartoons back in the day or not — although I’m sure it helps — there’s still plenty of excitement for everyone. For a comic book series spun off of multiple cartoon shows, Future Quest is a heck of a thrill ride with more depth and intrigue than fans could ever hope for. You need to be reading this. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

East of West #29
East of West #29 - Written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Nick Dragotta, colored by Frank Martin, lettered by Rus Wooton, published by Image Comics. At long last, Death and his son are reunited.

With almost every installment of this post-apocalyptic, revisionist history, sci-fi, horror, political drama, I remind the Donist World Denizens that this series is varsity-level comic booking. What I mean by this is that the there are so many characters, all with their own motives and secrets and complex relationships, and so many different plot threads that sometimes this ol’ Donist has trouble following what is going on. The good thing is that the mysteries tend to be slowly revealed over the course of a story arc. This issue, however, isn’t like that.

For the first time in quite a while, things are fairly straight forward. There’s fighting and cool imagery, as well as the highly anticipated meet up that has been building over much of the series, and let me tell you, it’s awesome. After so much intrigue and machinations and labyrinthine power plays, this issue reinvigorates things by giving the reader that which they’ve been clamoring to see. Don’t worry, though, new questions arise near the end, and I have no idea what the final two pages mean for this bleak world. What I do know is that I am jazzed to see what happens next.

Complex. Difficult. Fascinating. Genre crossing. East of West is all those things, but for those interested in an intricately plotted, challenging series that is thoroughly rewarding, then you need to give this one a shot. You can dive in with the five available trades (a sixth in November!), or take the plunge with the oversized hardcover. Crazy things look to be on the horizon in next month’s conclusion to “Year Two.” VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Tokyo Ghost #10
Tokyo Ghost #10 - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Sean Murphy, colored by Matt Hollingsworth, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. This is it, true believers. It’s Debbie Decay, aka The Tokyo Ghost, versus the techno-terrorist Davy Trauma for the fate of the entire world.

Tokyo Ghost really got me thinking about how pervasive and intrusive tech is in our lives (I say this as I type on a MacBook, while controlling an Amazon Tap through my iPhone, as my FitBit patiently waits for me to get up and move). The creators gave us a world where all but the Tokyo Garden had fallen before the might of a tech addicted society and the whims of greedy corporations. Back in the real world, after seeing a gaggle of bros all engrossed in their smartphones at a local brewery, Remender and Murphy’s Tokyo Garden suddenly seemed like a rather nice place; yeah, that paradise didn’t survive the first story arc of Tokyo Ghost…at least not completely.

The stakes are high in this series conclusion, and I have to admit I was skeptical that this 10-issue series would end in a satisfying manner. Silly, Donist…given the creators involved, there was no way Tokyo Ghost could miss the landing. They also succeed in making this book simultaneously sad and uplifting considering the events of issue 8 and the “One Year Later” ending of this issue. I still don’t necessarily understand what Davey is or how he came to be — maybe a Davey one-shot someday? Please? — but in the end he’s the bad guy, the force of group think, the end of independent thought, and what a fine villain he is.

This NSFW maxi-series is an exciting, fun, tragic, heartbreaking, and uplifting comic that will get you thinking about the direction our lives might be heading, all through fantastic scripting and Murphy and Hollingsworth’s stunning artwork, with all its fine details and glory. That’s it. It’s done. It’s over…for now, at least. Who knows, we might get more Tokyo Ghost someday in the near future, but for the time being newcomers can jump in with the first trade today, and the concluding trade in October on this cautionary tale of the perils of tech addiction and codependency. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Lazarus #24
Lazarus #24 - Written by Greg Rucka, illustrated and inked by Michael Lark, ink assists by Tyler Boss, colors by Santi Arcas, lettered by Jodi Wynne, designed by Eric Trautmann, published by Image Comics. Joacquim is on a secret mission, as Forever learns of a closely guarded secret.

As creepy as the idea of tech addiction is in Tokyo Ghost, the book that really makes me nervous is Lazarus. Lazarus is the comic that portends the direction the world is headed given the current political climate and the ever-increasing disparity of wealth distribution. I can see certain one-percenters pushing for a world of serfs (those who actively serve a ruling family) and waste (those deemed unnecessary), and that’s troubling. This is the landscape of Lazarus, only with super(in)human beings known as Lazari protecting each of the controlling families.

The creators have this series so dialed in, so thoroughly researched, that it often leaves me wondering if some of the more fantastical elements of the story are not actually part of reality…again, given our current course some things might someday come to pass; let’s hope not. But as disturbing as this series can be, it is trumped by the strength of the lead character, Forever, and the other Lazari. It’s also thrilling as heck given what the ending leads me to think is happening. I can safely tell you I will be peeking through my fingers as I eagerly read the next issue.

Despite the scary subject matter, I love this series, and seeing Joacquim in action — as told through Lark’s spectacular storytelling prowess — has me thoroughly pumped for the next issue, especially after seeing who he is working with. Lazarus isn’t just a post-apocalyptic, political thriller, it’s also an important comic that warns of what happens when a handful of “Haves” continue to take from the “Have-Nots.” If you aren’t already nervously reading through the floppies, you can catch up with the first four trades, or go the route of the two impressive hardcovers. However you do it, be sure you are reading this awesome series. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Saga #37
Saga #37 - Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples, lettered and designed by Fonografiks, coordinated by Eric Stevenson, published by Image comics. Alana, Marko, and their eclectic family-by-circumstance search for Sir Robot’s abducted child. Meanwhile, Sophie sets a new life goal.

Such wow, Denizens! For some reason that seemed like a dreadfully long hiatus, but most Saga fans will agree that a hiatus of any length is gonna be a harsh one. This beginning of what is the seventh story arc — an impressive achievement for a creator owned book these days — mostly serves to remind us of the myriad characters, their plights, and their wants. I would almost…almost…go so far as to say it could be a jumping on point for new readers, but I would strongly advise against such a thing. You see, all the way back in issue one I quickly sympathized with Alana and Marko, but over the course of the series they, and almost all of the other supporting characters, have practically become family to me: I love them, they worry me, they upset me. But to really get into this amazing series, you need to start from the beginning to understand the world and to get to know the cast; you also don’t want to miss any of the touching, or laugh-out-loud funny, or exciting, or thoroughly disturbing (but still hilarious in a I’ll-never-be-able-to-unsee-that kind of way…i.e. FARD!!!) moments.

As I’ve said before, a merely good issue of Saga is better than most books on the stand, and this re-introductory issue is definitely good based off of the story itself. Fiona Staples’s art, however, continues to be better than ever. Her storytelling and character designs are always masterful, but it is her character acting that can have you smiling on one page, and then sniffling back the tears by the next. To be honest, she could illustrate an issue about Marko and Alana arguing over Hazel’s toys scattered about the rocket ship and it would be a thing of wonder. Dang, I still want to see some process videos on how she creates these stunning works of beauty…I think it involves some sort of magic or something.

So, yeah…I might not be raving about this particular issue, but I still completely adore this compelling series. If you aren’t reading Saga then you owe it to yourself to start from the beginning with the six available trades, or pull up your big-boy/girl pants and jump in with the gorgeous oversized hardcover. Just keep in mind that Saga is wholeheartedly NSFW, but this sci-fi / adventure / fantasy ever remains one of the best comics on the stand. Chic-a-chic-a-check it out! RECOMMENDED!

Slice into the Woods

Prez Cancelled?!?! - Yeah, I’m still REALLY upset about this. Considering how important this comic is as commentary on our world, politics, society, etc., I am surprised that DC did not market it better to the likes of Last Week Tonight, The Daily Show, or any news station that actually has brains in their heads (although there aren’t many these days). Who knows, maybe DC didn’t want to get overly political or stir things up, which is a cowardly move, if that is the case. Regardless, six final issues of a critical darling is not that huge of a financial risk, given the great potential of this fantastic series. Bah humbug.


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