Monday, December 24, 2018

Donist World 2018 Year-End Roundup! (Part 1)

(Sung to the tune of The Sound of Music's “My Favorite Things”)

Death by sweet hot licks and shredding hot metal
Black Barns in farmlands and cities unsettle
X-Men through history perfection sings
These are a few of my favorite things

Robots and humans at war out in deep space
Vaughan and Fiona stream tears straight down your face
Venom and the Hulk true horror they bring
These are a few of my favorite things

Geoff Johns and Gary Frank expand on a classic
That book by Tom and Mitch is freakin’ fantastic
Desperate heroes vanquishing Mud Kings
These are a few of my favorite things

Diamond misships
Then my beer spills
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad

Slice of Heaven For the Year!

Happy holidays, Denizens! Oh, what a year it has been. From December 2017 until mid-November 2018, things were kind of rough for the Donist. I lost my Grandma, my uncle, my other uncle, there were fires, floods, mudslides, more fires, evacuating in the night during a 104-degree heatwave, Tulip and I were attacked by a couple of pit bulls, and all sorts of chaos that I did not want in my life, including the scourge that is the Dotard in Chief.

Thankfully, we had a few sources of light to guide us through this dark period, one of which being an unending flow of great comics. So, take this time to retreat to your bunker of deflection, that place where no invading relatives can disrupt your chill. Grab a winter warmer beer, or whip up some smooth-as-silk hot chocolate and be sure to line up some tacos (or X-Mas tamales, if you got ‘em) and have at the ready some gingerbread cookies (with the oh-so-crunchy frosting), and settle in to read about the comics that rocked our world the most throughout 2018. Then, once you’re done, create your own top ten list and let me know about your favorites if you’re so inclined. I should also mention that if you hear a pounding on your bunker door, ignore it. It’s probably just Uncle Billy Joe Jim Bob—who invited him over this year anyway?—desperately wanting to edumacate you on some sort of bullshit or other (witch hunts, the myth of climate change, the Dotard is innocent, HER emails, etc.), but the pounding should stop once he passes out; he did drink a full bottle of sweet vermouth, after all (gross). You have our permission to take some time for yourself and to take a deep calming breath before letting go of all those worries for just a little while.

***Probably NOT spoilers below***

If you have a moment, check out our past Slice of Heaven Year-End Roundups to see what’s stayed the same and what’s changed over the years. I had quite a few pleasant surprises this year, so let’s get to it!

Donist World Top 10 Favorite Comic Series of 2018 (In No Particular Order)


(Written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen, published by Image Comics)
What can I say, Descender continues to be my favorite comic year after year. But this is the final year that you will see this transcendent sci-fi series on the “Year-End Roundup.” If you are not reading this amazing series, then you might assume this is because the series has ended, that it is done, that it is terminé. Well, you are correct and wrong. Descender, the first chapter of Lemire and Nguyen’s story, has indeed ended, but the second chapter, Ascender, will begin at some point in the first half of the new year. This series has all of the right components of an epic space opera that gives me the right kind of chills: robots, giant robots, aliens, spaceships, mysterious worlds and beings, and a crew of characters I positively adore. Descender is the tale of TIM-21, a boy companion-bot who awakens after being “asleep” for 10 years to a universe that was decimated by the Harvesters, enigmatic robots the size of moons that rained down devastation before vanishing as quickly as they appeared. Robots then were deemed too dangerous to exist and scrappers rose up to capture and kill them all. But TIM-21 might hold the key to stopping the deadly Harvesters. Lemire’s story is fantastic and Nguyen’s otherworldly, watercolored artwork is a thing of pure beauty that you have to see to believe. I will definitely be rereading the six trades of this remarkable series before the eagerly anticipated Ascender arrives.

Murder Falcon

(Everythinged by Daniel Warren Johnson, published by Image Comics)
F_ yeah! I am throwing up some devil horns and banging my head to a heavy metal anthem no one else can hear as I think about this damn fine series. So. Much. Shred! Okay, okay, Murder Falcon is the story of Jake, a once up-and-coming heavy metal guitarist whose life completely fell apart after a tragedy, prompting him to give up music in its entirety. Now, he pretty much exists in a state of perpetual malaise. Unfortunately, the world is also beset by gigantic, deadly monsters but when one of these monsters threatens to kill Jake, a magical guitar appears along with a muscular, humanoid falcon with a mechanical arm: Murder Falcon. Jake and Murf (as Jake calls him) are connected and the more Jake shreds on the guitar, the stronger Murder Falcon becomes. But the monsters are getting bigger and deadlier and Jake might have to get the band back together with magical, musical instruments of their own. If this description isn’t the most out-there thing you’ve heard all week, then I’ll be a monkey’s uncle (what the hell does that phrase even mean?). I only recently discovered the oh-so-gorgeous works of Daniel Warren Johnson, and I have to say that he is now one of my all-time-favorite artists and someone I MUST figure out how to get a commission from. He’s also a freakin’ helluva writer and an impressive heavy metal guitarist to boot. I am with this series until the kick-ass end.


(Written by Donny Cates, illustrated by Ryan Stegman, published by Marvel Comics)
Not only is there a Marvel superhero book on my top-ten list, but a freakin’ comic starring Venom?!?! I never thought I’d see this day. I’ve always thought Venom was fine as a bad guy or good guy or whatever the hell he’s been for so many years, but it was definitely Cates’s name that grabbed my attention more than that of the character. So, even without a clue as to what came before, I gave it a try and I’m so glad I did. You don’t need to know what happened in the past, as Cates quickly lets you know that Venom (the alien symbiote) has once again bonded to Eddie Brock—the original Venom—and that despite the alien somewhat being a major factor in the destruction of Brock’s personal life, it also allows him to lead a somewhat superheroic life and the two are forever entwined. But the situation becomes dire as a cosmic god of the symbiotes awakens an ancient creature previously trapped on Earth, and Venom will be forced into a fight for the fate of their world. Cates is another creator I recently discovered and one whose entire catalog of work I am attempting to track down. Cates weaves a story that is part redemption, part superhero, part horror while Stegman gives us some of the most spectacular action sequences blended with a solid storytelling prowess to give us one of the most thrilling titles Marvel currently has to offer. These creators have made me a believer. Check out the first trade.

Mister Miracle

(Written by Tom King, illustrated by Mitch Gerads, published by DC Comics)
Mister Miracle began in 2017 and recently concluded in what has been a fascinating take on this B-list superhero/New God. Even if I decided to tell you how this series ended, I would definitely have to think on it for a bit, as the creators gave us much to ponder. What I will tell you is that the series begins after Scott Free, Mister Miracle, has failed at a suicide attempt. His wife and fellow superhero/New God, Big Barda, is the one who finds Scott and the two have to move on from there. The series deftly juggles topics of life and death, hope and despair, family obligations, duty, dysfunctional families, war, politics, careers, fate, and so much more. Gerads beautifully illustrates the entire series in a nine-panel grid format and at times adds a mysterious visual effect that continuously reminds readers that something is not quite right in Scott Free’s world. I was captivated by Mister Miracle from beginning to end and it is no wonder that it was one of this year’s critically-acclaimed darlings. Oh, my stars and garters. This one was a trip and a half to read and one I eagerly await rereading in a solid 12-issue chunk. Let’s hope we one day get a hardcover collection for this masterwork from King and Gerads.


(Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples, published by Image Comics)
Oh, for the love of…I’m pissed. I am so pissed! Not because the creators have opted to take at least a year off for a hiatus after the completion of the ninth story arc (nine trades are now available to read). No, that’s not what’s got me in a tizzy. I am upset because of what the creators have done to one or more characters in the final issue of said story arc. You DON’T do that to ______ and ______. It’s mean, it’s cruel, it breaks my freaking heart, it makes sense to the story, it’s been hinted at since the beginning, it’s…dammit! It’s what had to happen. Yes, I know that, but…arrrrgh…it still hurts! This is what reading Saga is like. You positively love and adore these characters. They become family, even as you watch them make incredibly bad decisions, you still love and wish them the best. Sometimes, Vaughan and Staples have you crying because you are laughing so hard (Fard), or crying because you are made so uncomfortable and grossed out (the dragon), or just plain crying because a very real tragedy strikes. The thing about this series is that the creators instill this emotional investment in their comic beginning in the first issue and that feeling carries through to issue #54. The combination of Vaughan’s honest and heartfelt scripting and Staples’s gorgeous painting—I still can’t figure out how she actually pulls off the imagery found in this amazing title—roped me in years ago, and although I know the future will hold plenty more heartache I cannot see this fine book not being in my life. I can’t wait for its return.

X-Men Grand Design: Second Genesis

(Everythinged by Ed Piskor, published by Marvel Comics)
Things that surprised me about X-Men Grand Design: that Marvel allowed it to be made in the first place; that Piskor is able to take decade after decade of convoluted material that is at times contradictory and that is cherished by its fans and refine it all down into what will eventually be six oversized issues; and that Marvel would give Piskor full control over every aspect of the book right down to the quality paper stock. The thing is…this book works on every imaginable level. The textured, artificially aged look of this impeccably designed and produced book lets you know you have something different the second you crack open the cover. But once inside, you see that Piskor knows his subject matter, that he has every panel of every page plotted out to an obsessive degree. He widdles down 100s of issues into one and the story makes sense and keeps you thoroughly enthralled. Then you have his masterful illustrations that perfectly blend the Indy style those familiar with his Hip Hop Family Tree have come to love with flat-colored, Bronze Age, superhero glory. One small thing that means the world to me is when Piskor brings in solid white for certain characters (Iceman) and special moments (explosions) that show the power of using piercing white at just the right time. The final two issues are coming out in 2019, and I will eagerly be awaiting their release. Two oversized collections are out that demand to be placed on your most prized shelf.

The Immortal Hulk

(Written by Al Ewing, illustrated by Joe Bennett, published by Marvel Comics)
Three Marvel books on my top-ten list?!?! I’m as shocked as you are, but it’s totally deserved; this isn’t even considering a trade or two I’ll be looking at in part 2. I will say that it was the premise that originally lured me in on the first issue. Think of it this way: what if you take the Hulk, make him an unkillable force of nature that seeks to stop evil permanently, and thus morph the tone of this widely-known character into a superhero horror book? There was no way I could resist. I honestly expected this series to be a train wreck that I would have abandoned after the first issue, but Ewing completely pulled me in as the Hulk sought revenge against a normal person on behalf of a normal person who could not seek justice on their own. It’s a dark issue but I had to see this bad guy brought low and see it we did. Bennett knows when to come in close to shock the reader and when to pull out wide to continue shocking the reader, all the while delivering the drama and excellent storytelling to keep you from being able to turn away. The other stories thus far push the scary and unnerving angle ever further and The Immortal Hulk shines for it. My only nitpick is that I would rather see superhero guest appearances kept to a minimum and the focus kept on one or two-issue story arcs—with a broader story building in the background, of course—and keep the focus on Banner and the Hulk, while keeping a rich, unsettling feeling looming throughout. There’s a very good reason everyone is raving about this book, and you can leap in with the first trade.

Seven to Eternity

(Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Jerome Opeña, published by Image Comics)
I’ve been in love with Seven to Eternity since its release in 2016. A strange, new world of magic where a single person seeks to control it all as a lone family refuses to bend the knee and side with this so-called Mud King, this God of Whispers. Then there’s the dwindling group of beings in possession of great abilities seeking to thwart the tyrant in a last-ditch effort to free everyone from the Mud King’s influence. This was not all. It’s also written by my hero, Rick Remender, and so gorgeously illustrated by Jerome Opeña, who gives as much intimate detail to the background as he does to his stunning character designs with every page being something truly spectacular to behold. Seven to Eternity was everything I could ever want in a comic. Then the delays came and we waited almost a year for the next issue to arrive, which happened in August of 2018. I was bummed about it up until the time I cracked the cover and saw Opeña’s lovely art and I remembered (mostly) why I love this book so much. I need a reread as soon as possible and you should check out the first two trade when you can.

Gideon Falls

(Written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Andrea Sorrentino, published by Image Comics)
Lemire and Sorrentino, the same creators who brought The Green Arrow and Old Man Logan to life, join together to bring a comic series that is like a more horror-tinged Twin Peaks. A couple issues in and it was optioned for television after a bidding war. What more do you need to know? Gideon Falls tells the tale of a priest with a mysterious past coming to live in a small town that has been plagued throughout history by the occasional appearance of a Black Barn that brings death and despair. However, in the city, a presumably mentally ill man scours the area’s trash for fragments of the Black Barn, which has appeared and disappeared there as well, but when his psychotherapist also begins to see things, the pair begins to seek answers. All will converge as the madness grows and the Black Barn slides into view. Phew! I will warn that you need to be ready to tackle this one as it is definitely a cerebral journey that will leave you reeling in its wake. That’s why I’m thrilled to reread all the available issues back to back to see what clues or patterns I can find in this bizarre and engrossing psychological thriller. There’s currently only one trade available to catch up on, which you should definitely do.

Doomsday Clock

(Written by Geoff Johns, illustrated by Gary Frank, published by DC Comics)
Yeah, there’s been a bit of a delay between issues, but I am still loving this follow up to Alan Moore’s seminal work Watchmen. Doomsday Clock is also a bridge of the heroes of the DCU and those of Watchmen’s universe, which sounds kind of…not appealing…at first, but then you have to take into account the creators involved. Both the narrative and the visuals flow very well from the inspiring work and although the premise might seem a little hokey at first, rest assured it is not. The DCU is in shambles as Superman, Batman, and the other surviving heroes find the world on the brink of nuclear war with an ever-increasing blame being shifted towards the heroes. Sound somewhat familiar to Watchmen. This is by design. Throughout the eight available issues thus far, we jump around from Rorschach to Batman to Ozymandias to Superman and back while being introduced to two of the coolest new villains I have ever seen: Marionette and the Mime. I won’t lie, this one is bleak, but it is definitely thrilling and despite what the naysayers say, many of whom probably haven’t even given this maxiseries a try, I am loving every page of it. I have no idea how Johns and Frank intend to bring it all home in the final four issues, but I do know I can’t wait to see how it all plays out. I’m 100% in.

But wait, I’m sure there's more...

I'm sure there are plenty of other comics I somehow forgot to mention or have not yet bought or read in 2018. If there are any glaring omissions, please let me know. There's plenty of room at the Donist World corporate offices for more comics and...hold on a sec...actually, Amy the intern (my wife) has corrected me and said that "No, there is not plenty of room here." <psssttt...hey denizens, let me know anyways. I can totally sneak more comics in on the down low. Just let me know. We can do this…>

Stay tuned next week for the “Donist World 2018 Year-End Roundup! (Part 2)”


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