Update for 2/20/19

New review today for So Buttons: Man Of, Like, A Dozen Faces by Jonathan Baylis and a gaggle of assorted artists, some of which you already love.

Baylis, Jonathan & Various Artists – So Buttons: Man of, Like, a Dozen Faces

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So Buttons: Man Of, Like, A Dozen Faces

One sign that I’m reading an amazing book? When I pick about a dozen pages in my head to be my sample page, then realize when I’m done that I could really use just about any page. An embarrassment of riches, I believe it’s called. If you’ve been living under a rock (like me) and have somehow never heard of “So Buttons” even though you already know almost all of the artists involved, you’re in luck! This book collects stories (possibly all of the stories? It’s not clear) from the first 7 issues of his comic series. He uses several different artists, with a few names popping up several times. These strips are all autobiographical, and (this is important for people thinking about making an autobio comic) each of them had something to say. Even the ones about mundane aspects of his life; it’s clear that the guy has seen a lot and/or known people who have seen a lot, which is when it’s advisable to make an autobio comic. Not to name any names of people who make autobio comics for years with seemingly little to nothing to say. Ahem. Anyway, this one starts off with a comic about Jonathan’s first day working for Marvel in 1994, which happened to be the day that Jack Kirby died. He was there when John Romita Sr. did the tribute art for Jack, and he was the one who had to tell him to improve his Thor drawing. Which was a little intimidating, to put it mildly; if you’re not familiar with comics history, those were two legends and it was his first day. This story was also drawn by Fred Hembeck, which is not a name that I’d ever thought would be on my website because he’s a Marvel guy through and through, but here he is. There’s a real danger of my saying either too much or too little about the remaining stories, but I’ll give it a shot. Subjects include taking a trip to take in some art, overdoing it on the Halloween makeup before getting into an auto accident, his kinda sorta connection to R. Crumb, the dangers of meeting your heroes (in this case Robert Redford), meeting Jackie Mason, the perfect joke after seeing Schindler’s List, trying to find the secret to the perfect brisket, how he manages to love both New York baseball teams, how we went from bully to bullied in one word, his Annie tryout in grade school, his unfortunate reaction to the news that John Lennon had been killed, hanging out with his dad and learning that the guy wasn’t as predictable as he thought, bringing out a traumatic memory of the war from his uncle, and almost meeting Jim Jarmusch. There is also almost an entire half of the book that I didn’t mention at all, so obviously there’s a lot here to love. The artists do amazing work with the material they’ve been given and Jonathan is an incredibly gifted writer. Yeah, I don’t have a single bad thing to say about this one. Check it out! $20

Update for 2/18/19

New review today for Chlorine Gardens by Keiler Roberts, which is another chance for me to tell you to support your local libraries. I wouldn’t have nearly the access I do to graphic novels without them.

Roberts, Keiler – Chlorine Gardens

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Chlorine Gardens

Years ago I made the decision here to only review physical comics, mostly so I could manage the review submissions. And due to my looking forward to eventually dying after being smothered by a giant stack of toppled comics. Anyway, due to this policy I rarely know how a comic came about unless the artist mentions it somewhere, which is all a long way to go to say that I don’t know how Keiler put together this book. Parts of it seem like they may have come from weekly strips , other bits are longer and more complex. All this makes it tough to judge as a whole, because I don’t know how it came about. So I’m going to ignore that question altogether and instead tackle the quality of the contents. It’s pretty great, everybody! This is a collection of loosely connected stories covering a wide range of events in Keiler’s life. Things start off with the story of the birth of her daughter Xia, how she didn’t get the best advice beforehand, the antics of her doctor and why she put up with him. From there the stories get a bit more scattered (where I’m assuming they’re weekly single page strips), with subjects dealing with when she had to put down her old dog (her line to the other lady in the waiting room has hilariously dark), her various family members and bits of her childhood, and raising Xia and some of her hijinx. From here things get serious, as Keiler gets diagnosed with M.S. This could have been a horrific moment, and it was still deadly serious, but Keiler managed to make a few jokes and her sense of humor about the whole thing (beautifully conveyed through a few conversations with her sister) was fantastic. The diagnosis and her attempts to get other opinions hangs over the rest of the book, but the stories themselves deal with the last days of her grandfather and how she handled it and how she dealt with taking a trip. Even if the format seemed a bit jumbled to me at times, the book as a whole is engrossing, hilarious while being occasionally heartbreaking (sometimes in the same panel) and just a damned entertaining read. If it hasn’t already been nominated for something, there’s a solid chance that you’ll be seeing this title when various awards come back around. $12

Update for 2/14/19

New review today for the complete Jam in the Band by Robin Enrico, which was a long time coming but well worth the wait. Um, even though it was technically released in 2017…

Enrico, Robin – Jam in the Band

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Jam in the Band

Memory is a tricky thing. Bear with me; I’m reading a book now dealing with how you can convince yourself of fake memories because of repetition and doing whatever is necessary to put you in a better light, so I’ll just say that I thought that I’d been reviewing Jam in the Band issue by issue, piece by piece for a solid chunk of the last decade (which is how long Robin has been working on it). Turns out that I reviewed the preview comic (which I wasn’t thrilled with) and the first book (which I loved, but had a few complaints that were addressed with this completed volume). So yeah, bottom line: always get corroboration when your only source for something is your own memory. But hey, Jam in the Band! This is the complete story, and any doubts I had in the previous two reviews are wiped away with this completed epic. I was worried about Bianca (the lead singer) getting all the attention in the first book, but from then on the two other band members (Tiara and Corbin) take over, along with other characters, and Bianca fades into the background. Not completely though, as she has maybe the best story arc of the bunch. This one starts off with three young women in a band deciding to get out of their small town, with Bianca very much the ringleader of this plan. They get into a van and go on tour, things go reasonably well but two of them are still getting sick of the arrangement, when they get a lucky break and things start going their way. From there we see the three of them navigating this newfound fame, each in their own way before things take a turn for the worse. I’m not going to get too much more into the overall plot because it could be summed up pretty simply and spoiler-y, and because the real joy of this book is in the details. The various gigs they play, the people they meet along the way, the connections to their lives that they pick up and drop off, and how they each change and grow is a wonder to behold. I’m guessing that Robin probably wishes that he spent less than a decade on this book, but I don’t see how it could work any other way. Robin in his intro mentions that he changed plenty during that decade as well, and that experience carried over to this characters. If you’ve liked his past work you probably already have this (it came out in 2017 but I somehow lost track of my review copy until now), but if you missed this when it came out or have heard of Robin but never tried his stuff… you’re not going to regret giving this book a shot. $19.99

Update for 2/12/19

New review today for The Fuzzy Princess by Charles Brubaker, which is different from his past issues of the same name, so don’t be fooled.

Brubaker, Charles – The Fuzzy Princess

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The Fuzzy Princess

One piece of advice I try to give out to people making comics is to make it easy for anybody jumping in late to get caught up, so I feel compelled to point out that this issue is just called “The Fuzzy Princess” with no issue numbers or other unique markers, which would absolutely be confusing to anybody coming in late. It looks like Charles did this issue as a sort of reminder about his ongoing Kickstarter campaign to put a book together (available at his website), which makes that a little better. As for the comic itself, this deals with Kat accidentally getting his tail chopped off and coming to love a new prosthetic tail that, naturally, has a lot more features than the old fleshy tail. We also learn about Kat’s mom, her life and the traveling she did through a variety of odd locales. I’d say more about it, but this is already a comic with 6 pages of story and I already sampled 1 of them. There’s still room for a few funny bits, so if you’re a fan of his previous work you’re sure to like this one too.

Update for 2/8/19

New review today for Entropy by Aaron Costain, which is something I should have reviewed months ago but it got misplaced during my move. From July. Again, if there’s anybody out there who’d like to organize over two decades worth of small press comics and doesn’t mind being paid in said comics, I’m hiring…

Costain, Aaron – Entropy

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Entropy

I barely even know where to begin with this one, which means that my best bet is probably my trademark start of a ramble with the hope that it turns into something vaguely meaningful. Oh shoot, I’ve just given away the reviewing game! Pretend you didn’t see that. This book is a decade in the making; Aaron has been putting parts of this out as chapters, but it also sounds like this is a complete reimagining of the overall story. Things start off with the overdressed figure you see on the cover talking to himself, out for a walk. He has a few philosophical thoughts, realizes that he’s lonely and decides to create life. This attempt goes poorly, a talking fox (all the animals in this world talk) comes by to rub it in, and finally a raven comes by to peck at his eyes. Finally our hero gets hit with a blinding light… and that’s it for the first chapter. Out of eleven. To put it mildly, there are lots of questions in here about what it all means, what constitutes life, how blame is apportioned out when something goes wrong, how life started in this world, whether or not to take advice seriously when given by a cat or potential angel, trying to help another golem talk (oh yeah, our hero is a golem, which is why he wears all the clothing, so that his writing doesn’t get rubbed off), and I feel like this sentence could go on forever if I don’t lock it down. This book combines mythologies and creation myths while telling us not to do such a thing, and if you’re even mildly philosophical about what it all means or why we go on, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. $19.95

Update for 2/6/19

New review today for The President Killed My Dog #1 by Chris Kostecka & Dietrich Smith. Keep those review comics coming, I’m planning on picking up the pace soon…

Kostecka, Chris & Smith, Dietrich – The President Killed My Dog

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The President Killed My Dog #1

So here’s a warning that should already by obvious by the title: if you’re one of those people who is upset by depictions of violence to animals… you’re obviously going to want to give this one a pass. Not that there’s an excessive amount of violence, but you can tell what’s going to happen here, and that death scene, hooo boy. But hey, there’s more to the comic that a dead dog! We also learn about Mary, who’s been trying to get by through picking up junk. She’s getting over the death of her husband, which is where Cindy (the dog, named after their miscarried child) comes in. Mary and Cindy are inseparable for years, collecting junk and going about their lives, until, well, Cindy gets hit by a car. There’s not much to spoil here that the title doesn’t already take care of, but I will say that the way this dog died was different than I had guessed. See, there’s still a chance for surprise! There’s another issue after that, which you may have guessed is going to be a revenge story. How is that going to work when the bad guy is the president? Stay tuned to find out! $6.99

Update for 2/4/19

New review today for By Mom, By Me by Rachel and Karen Scheer. That title combined with those names is no coincidence!

Scheer, Rachel & Karen – By Mom, By Me #2

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By Mom, By Me #2

This idea behind this comic right here? It’s fantastic. Rachel draws all the stories while comparing times in her life to times in the life of her mother. In this volume we see both of them get their first apartments, travel while in college and discuss one thing that they’ll never do again. Karen maybe had a few more adventures associated with her first apartment (honestly, based on the jobs she lists here, I’d be curious to read a lot more about her early life), seems to get closer to murdered during her college travels than Rachel (but I’d be interested in living the tour that Rachel depicts here, for whatever that’s worth) and it looks like Karen even came closer to getting murdered during her “one thing they’ll never do again” story. I don’t think this was the intention, but yes, it turns out that people of college age in the 70’s were more likely to get hurt in their adventures, or in any case it sure seems like they had more chances for something to go wrong. Does this mean that Rachel should have done more stupid shit in her youth? Nah, it shows that she knew better that when even her worst stories don’t put her in much danger. Which is also a sign that she was raised right, I reckon. Anyway, like I said, this is a great conceit for a comic series. I’d have to imagine that there are plenty of artists out there who could have a chat with their parents and end up with equally interesting tales… $4

Update for 12/31/19

New review today for UNIQLO Superman by Yan Cong, which is sadly the last of the current batch of mini kus comics. Don’t fret, they’ll come back around again sooner or later!

Cong, Yan – UNIQLO Superman

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UNIQLO Superman

It’s a rare mini kus with two stories inside! The bulk of the book is taken up by the mostly wordless cover story. A strange naked man (or maybe I’m assuming he’s strange because he’s naked) walks into a UNIQLO clothing store and methodically goes through his various options. Do you think he puts on clothing as he goes or does it all at once? You’ll never know unless you read the comic! It’s a very bizarre tale, but any doubts I might have had about it were dispelled by one of the better punchlines that I’ve seen in ages. The next story is completely different and deals with the love between a frog man and a woman. Um, a normal woman. I think. Anyway, some quiet tension is obvious, and the frog man is metaphorically keeping himself at arm’s length from his wife. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Read it and see! Or read it and make your own conclusions, because sometimes relationships just fade away and nobody is at fault, whether frog or human. Big shocker, but it’s another solid mini kus comic. Pretty sure they’ll be responsible for world peace if they make it to #100 and still have this high of a ratio of quality books. No pressure! $6

Update for 12/29/19

New review today for The House on Horse Mountain: Teacher’s Pet by Jason Li. Sorry about the lack of reviews lately, having a constant cold took it out of me last week. It’s bound to be wearing off one of these days…

Li, Jason – The House on Horse Mountain: Teacher’s Pet

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The House on Horse Mountain: Teacher’s Pet

WARNING: This is going to be a review of the second chapter of an ongoing graphic novel. I haven’t read the first chapter and I don’t know what’s coming next, so take all that into account when reading my ramblings on the comic. The graphic novel as a whole is based on the stories of Jason’s mother and her time growing up in Hong Kong in the 60’s. The subject of this chapter of the graphic novel is simple: it’s all about grades 1 through 6. She was the school equivalent of an authority figure from a very early age, and it’s clear from this book that she was mostly in it for the free gifts from the teachers for being good. We get to see how the various teachers interact with her, and later in the volume we get to see how she reacts to that dreaded grade school social scourge: being diagnosed with head lice. Based on what I saw in grade school, the teachers in Hong Kong were a lot more circumspect on the privacy aspect. It’s an intriguing peek into a side of grade school life that I never saw much (i.e. being an authority figure as a small child), and I’m curious to see where this graphic novel goes next. It’s worth a look, although if you’re not the patient type you might want to wait for a few more chapters to be finished first. $12

Update for 1/17/19

New review today for The Fang Volume 1: Moon Light Snack by Marc Palm. Happy weekend everybody!

Palm, Marc – The Fang Volume 1: Moon Light Snack

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The Fang Volume 1: Moon Light Snack

Werewolves! Ghouls! Witches! Human Slime! And Muppets! I assume you’re already sold, but just in case you’re still skeptical, I’m talking about the Fang. I reviewed a few of Marc’s comics years ago (2012 to be exact), but he’s been making comics for lots longer than that, and The Fang seems to be his ongoing series. Which is great, because this comic is something else. How anybody could pass this up based on the cover alone is beyond me, but the insides are just as good. The Fang is a paid assassin of monsters, which leaves the world of the series open to all sorts of exploration. This one opens with a werewolf on the run after his date has gone horribly wrong; it turns out that he was on a date with The Fang, she has been chasing after him for months and lets him know that she’s there to kill him. Once she has him at her mercy the thrill wears off a bit, and the werewolf is able to talk her into a date the following evening. From there our hero takes on the a Human Slime, has a therapy/smoking session with the Hash Hag (she’s not there to kill the hag, just to chat and smoke) and finally she goes back to meet the werewolf to continue their date. Along the way it’s hilarious, graphically sexy and violent, and goddamn gorgeous to look at. Oh, and there’s a bonus story at the end that shows here encounter with a giant monster baby, but I don’t want to spoil a thing about that. If the concept of a muppet monster hunter doesn’t get you interested I don’t know what will, but if you’ve been waiting for it… you’re in luck! $7.99