Thursday, September 28, 2017

Comics Lust 9/30/2017

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/burrito aficionado Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). It’s been kind of a meh week this week. Nothing good, but nothing bad, so there’s that. If anything, my puppy executive team and I continue to strive toward maintaining our status as a Fortune 320,000 company. We are, however, excited for October to bring its pumpkin flavored goodies which we intend to consume while we read the Werewolf by Night Omnibus I bought for the office (Mom’s basement) as an early birthday Treat-Yo'-Self; I’m so excited! Anyhow, grab yourself a pumpkin ale or a strong ginger ale, turn on some ’80s-style synthwave, and check out some great comics while you’re at it. Thank you for reading!

*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magiks 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.

Not sure what “Comics Lust” is about? Take a look at the Introduction to “Comics Lust” post or take a look at the static “Comics Lust Table of Contents” page to jump to a topic.

Comics Lust

Something Borrowed, Something Weird (Part 1)

One of the best things about comic books is that they can be anything you want them to be. Open one and you have superheroes who wear their underwear on the outside of their clothes, another will lead you to the mysteries of outer space, while another the ocean’s darkest depths. You can have love, drama, comedy, crime, dragons, anything. But there are those certain days when I don’t want anything that’s too realistic, grounded, or that overly pulls at the heartstrings. Comics are a means of escape. A way to visit new worlds while leaving all your worries behind, and there is no better way to do that than to embrace the utterly strange, the comically bizarre, and the wonderfully weird.
Now, I am going to have to ask you to bear with me as I try to describe what some of these books are actually about as one in particular just baffles the mind, which I mean as a compliment of the highest order. You would generally expect the more oddball offerings to come strictly from the indies, but the Big Two have a few doozies up their sleeves to keep you scratching your head but smiling the whole time.

Chew is one the craziest, funniest, most interesting comics I have ever had the good fortune to read and is written by John Layman, illustrated by Rob Guillory, and published by Image Comics. Essentially, a large portion of the Earth’s population was decimated by a deadly avian flu resulting in a ban on eating chicken and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) becoming the number one governmental agency. Follow me thus far? Okay, here’s where things get different…Tony Chu, a police detective investigating murders and underground chicken dinner joints, uses his abilities as a cibopath to catch the worst of the worst. What is a cibopath, you say? Well, a cibopath is a person who gains a psychic impression from anything they eat; anything except for beets. So, if Tony takes a bite of an apple, he can see the person who picked it or tell the general climate of the orchard, as well as any other specifics pertaining to that apple. If he were to take a bite of steak…let’s just say he prefers to be a vegetarian. Where Tony’s gift really comes in handy is on homicides, where one smallish bite of a victim can tell him plenty about the killer. Gross, but there you have it.

Be prepared for the unconventional, as Guillory’s art on Chew is outlandish and unlike any other comics on the stand, but startled as I was at first, it grew on before I finished the first issue. Part of the charm of this book is taking the time to enjoy the many sight gags tucked away in the backgrounds of each installment. You honestly never know what to expect from issue to issue as aliens, deadly luchador chickens (this being Poyo!), vampires, and a whole host of other weirdos with confounding food-based powers weave their way in and out of the story. Layman’s writing is wacky yet sincere and never comes off as trying too hard; this is just how his wonderful brain actually works. As nutty as the comic might be, there is a compelling story with strong characters and a few shockingly heartbreaking moments that make this series an absolute treasure if you can past the occasional gross parts. The good thing if you have not yet read this must-read series is that after 60 issues, 3 Poyo specials, and a Chew/Revival crossover, Chew has ended exactly how its creators intended and on their terms. This is one I will definitely reread every couple of years or so.

Just because something is classified as being “weird” does not mean it has to be wacky or cartoony—although that can be part of the allure—it can be ethereal, thought-provoking, a general thing of beauty. So it is with the lovely Tale of Sand. This hardcover treasure from publisher Archaia Entertainment is based on the recently discovered screenplay from none other than Jim Henson and his collaborator Jerry Juhl and is brought to life by artist Ramón K. Pérez. It is a surreal, dreamlike tale of precious few words prefacing some larger-than-life sound effects that perfectly envelope you in a desert landscape through which our hero encounters one oddity after another. With little dialogue to read, you would expect to breeze through Tale of Sand, but the majority of your time with this work of art will mostly be spent lingering over Pérez’s line work, masterful storytelling, and drinking in the otherworldly colors that make you an inhabitant of this magical world. Turning each page filled me with a bit of guilt over having to leave so soon, but the draw of seeing what was to come next trumped that feeling every time. Thinking about this one…let’s just say I know what I’m rereading this afternoon.

The sci-fi, psychedelic, space romp Space Riders is a different kind of beauty altogether. Written by Fabien Rangell, Jr., illustrated by Alexis Ziritt, and published by Black Mask Studios LLC, Space Riders is ultimately a revenge tale as Capitan Peligro seeks vengeance upon the man who betrayed him and left him to die. Joined by a sexy ’80s-style robot and a mandrill-humanoid warrior, Capitan Peligro and his crew roam the cosmos in his skullship the Santa Muerte where they encounter space Vikings, green-skinned warrior women, and monstrous god-like beings. Rangell, Jr.’s story is positively bananas and Ziritt’s glorious art, both line and colors, evoke a blend of ’70s comic book sensibilities with blacklight trippiness. I discovered Space Riders this summer and completely fell in love with the story, look, and production of this amazing comic. I can’t wait to get my hands on the follow-up trade, Space Riders: Galaxy of Brutality, which cannot come soon enough.

Hooded vigilantes, skull-faced crime fighters, luchador detectives, and a scantily-clad, masked woman with a bullwhip all grace the bizarre world of Tarantula. Yet another mindbending team-up between Rangell, Jr. and Ziritt, only this time from Adhouse Books, Tarantula is the modern equivalent of watching a cult-classic film on my ’80s favorite Nightflight from back in the day. The colors are primarily flat throughout with occasional halftone dot patterns and intentional color plate shifts, and the pages are actually given a yellowed effect to such an authentic degree that the less observant might mistake this oddball offering as a recently unearthed treasure from the past; it was published this past June 2017. As for what the story is about…I’m not sure other than Tarantula and her band of weirdos fighting other bands of weirdos in order to stop a bunch of Satanists. What I do know is that this smaller-scale hardcover is every bit as fun as its sister book Space Riders and that any newly born fan of one will surely find their way to the other.

Remember when I mentioned that the Big Two have occasionally gotten their weird on? Well, Marvel was king when—thanks to the wicked-sharp mind of the immortal Steve Gerber—Howard the Duck became a household word among the groovy, the trippy, and those looking for something outside of the usual capes and tights and fisticuffs crowd. Howard, a cigar-chomping, partially-clothed, trash-talking duck looking to make a buck, originally appeared in the pages of Fear #19 (written by Gerber, illustrated by Val Mayerik, 1973) which spotlighted the almost-as-bizarre Man-Thing. Howard then went on to appear in Man-Thing #1 (again by Gerber and Mayerik, 1974) only to seemingly perish midway through the story. Distraught fans of the gruff waterfowl did not have to mourn too long, as Howard ended up being alive and plummeting between strange, magical worlds only to appear on Earth in a backup story in Giant-Size Man-Thing #4, then again in another backup story of Giant-Size Man-Thing #5 before graduating to his own comic in 1976, all written by Gerber and gorgeously illustrated by Frank Brunner.

Wherever Howard appeared, madness followed. Within the pages, you would find such characters as Garko the Man-Frog, a vampiric cow known as Bessie the Hellcow, the Deadly Space Turnip, and the ultra-weird Kidney Lady (don’t ask, just read it). You also found social commentary, pokes at the comic book industry, and digs at our political system where Howard made a bid for the presidency. Even crazier is when Howard actually does go crazy and spends some time in an asylum that is not quite on the up and up. Howard the Duck is something I always noticed as a kid, but never picked up in favor of more conventional and kid-appropriate fare. I don’t think I could have followed this rather adult comic book at the time, but now as an adult, I can better pick up the nuances of Gerber’s storytelling and I too have joined the cult following Howard the Duck so richly deserves.

I definitely saved the weirdest for last, and you’d be hardpressed to find a weirder comic anywhere that works as well and is as beautifully illustrated as Ryan Browne’s God Hates Astronauts. It originally began as a webcomic and quickly gained fans through rampant word of mouth before Browne ran a largely successful Kickstarter campaign that ultimately put a now rare hardcover edition—chockfull of extras and goodies—onto the top of my favorite bookshelf. Lucky for all, there is a trade of the webcomic as well as two additional trades of the 10-issue God Hates Astronauts comic series that followed from Image Comics. Now, what the series is about…ummm…okay. You see, there’s this dysfunctional group of superheroes known as “The Power Persons Five” who are charged with stopping farmers from launching manmade rockets into space, but they never actually do this. Instead, they bicker with one another as they fight a super-pugilist who trains a bunch of battling bears. One hero’s head gets beaten until it grows to the size of a giant beach ball, only to have his head pop, only to have it replaced by a flaming ghost-cow head. There’re misshapen cowboys, something called Craymok, a mustached Anti-Mugger, and King Tiger Eating a Cheeseburger—a bipedal Tiger who is always eating a cheeseburger. I will say that the story makes almost no sense and that you honestly never know what to expect with each turn of the page, which is all part of the charm. If something in the world’s got you down, God Hates Astronauts might be just what the doctor ordered.

I have barely scratched the surface of the “Weird” category, but we can look forward to exploring more from Ryan Browne, Marvel, and Image in the near future. Heck, I bet I can even scare up something from DC while I’m looking around for the next installment of “Something Borrowed, Something Weird.”

The Week’s Reading List

Saga #47 (Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples, lettered and designed by Fonografiks, coordinated by Eric Stephenson, published by Image Comics) With this penultimate issue to the eighth chapter, Saga continues to be a fantastic read. Here we not only catch up with The Will, we gain a brief glimpse of his childhood and the events that led him to become a contractor. The final splash-page is simply beautiful. I still adore this series. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Southern Bastards #18 (Written by Jason Latour, illustrated by Chris Brunner, lettered by Jared K. Fletcher, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics) Although there’s often a lag between issues, Southern Bastards is always worth the wait. Latour and Jason Aaron are so in tune with each other I didn't even notice Latour wrote this issue that focuses on Roberta Tubb and her dealings with Materhead; it ain’t pretty. Brunner stands in as artist and I have zero problems with that as his style fits perfectly on this exceptional crime comic centered around college football. I can’t wait to see what happens next! VERY HIGHLY RECCOMMENED!