New review today for Reluctant Oracle #1 by William Cardini, who has been making comics for quite a few years now. You know, what with the 20th anniversary of the website coming up next month, I was thinking about trying to find out what the first people I reviewed were up to today. Then I remembered that I somehow was motivated enough to launch the website with 100 reviews already written (which absolutely boggles my mind today), and I’ve mostly lost the original review dates for the first few years anyway, so I guess that’s out. I’m sure one of them was John Porcellino, and King Cat is still chugging along, so that’s something…
Reluctant Oracle #1
Once again I’m reviewing a book before it even hits the creator’s website, so clearly this is THE place to be for new comic reviews. This makes maybe a half dozen times already this year! OK, granted, several websites post updates daily, and they’re dedicated to everything new that’s coming out, and… hey, look over there! This is another tale set in the Hyperverse, as William has put together a stealth universe all his own. It starts off wonderfully, as a great and powerful oracle has been beheaded and left for dead. The only times he regains consciousness is when a group of local rats powers him up and asks advice about their crops, which is not a subject that holds a great deal of interest for him. Eventually the Floating Crystal Witch finds him and makes him an offer he can’t refuse (you may have guessed from that cover that it involves getting a working body for him). She’s not entirely truthful in her offer, and he’s not entirely truthful in his response, so who’s going to come out on top? As always with one of Will’s comics, this one is absolutely gorgeous, and the full color spread really brings his comics up another level. He’s a master at drawing things that obviously couldn’t belong in this world or any other, but if you squint at them just right, don’t they look a little… familiar? It’s difficult to describe, and it’s possible that my brain just isn’t like other brains to elicit this response. Probable, even. Still, one of these days I want to gather all of his comics together and see how well it holds up as an epic. He clearly has a bigger plan in mind (and he did label this one as #1 after all), but since they come out so infrequently I’m curious how well the whole thing holds up. Until then, this is still a damned solid issue all by itself. I only wish he’d spent more time with the rats, because that stuff was comedy gold. $12
New review today for Addicted by J.T. Davidson, from a mystery pile of mini comics whose origins have been lost to time. Intrigued?
Hey, it’s the third J.T. on the website! Relevant to exactly nobody but me, granted, but I thought it was odd. This is one of the mini comics that came in a pile from …? I wish I could say I remember exactly who sent me everything, even after months or years, but that is not even close to true. I remember it came in a bundle with several minis by different artists, and almost all of the ones I checked had no web presence at all. Makes it tricky to link for reviewing purposes, even if I do applaud them for staying true to the “trade and share” tradition of how mini comics uses to be found. Have I said a thing about the comic yet? Nope. Anyway, I did find J.T. online, although you’ll have to ask him about the comics, as there was no online store. This is a simple 8 page mini with a single panel per page, which is also maybe another reason why I’m rambling so much before getting to it. It’s all about J.T. questioning whether his grueling work routine is worth it, as he’s occupied seemingly every minute of the day. He’s also clearly responsible for quite a bit, so passing the buck doesn’t seem to be available to him as an option. Still, his question is answered when he gets home after work and sees what it’s all been for. I guess I won’t spoil the conclusion, even though it’s fairly obvious where it’s headed? Eh, maybe it’ll surprise somebody, who knows. It’s quick, but it’s a heartfelt story, and sincerity can be rare in the comics world. Like I said, I didn’t see a simple way to order this or his other comics through his website, but I’ll bet if you contacted J.T. he would have some ideas…
New review for Heel on the Shovel #1 by Michael Kamison and Steven Arnold. Anybody have any good advice for raising a giant cat? Because one of these new kittens is looking like it might end up in the 20 pound range, and that’s way outside of my cat experience. Unrelated to comics, I guess, and I do apologize for wandering off topic for the very first time in the history of this website.
Boy, this one takes you on a real journey. I got one set of expectations from that cover, another one from the first few pages (although the hints were there all along when I went back and checked), and then quite another set after I really got into it. This is the first issue of three, and don’t fret! They were nice enough to send me all three issues, so there’s no danger of another unfinished series dangling around out there. This is a story mostly focused on three people: Adler, Muriel, and Daniel. Adler and Muriel are married and Daniel is their three year old child. You’d think there wouldn’t be a whole lot going on with a three year old, but Mr. Kamison has other ideas on that front. Things start off with full frontal male nudity, so if you’re at all prudish, move along I guess? Why you’d be buying small press comics if you’re alarmed by a dick is another conversation. Anyway, from there Adler and Muriel each go to console one member of a friend couple of theirs who has just broken up. Muriel is distracted because she’s thinking about biting people, and Adler just finds the apartment gross and tries to reassure his friend that every marriage has problems, even one that seems as perfect as his. From there things get dicey in terms of me saying too much about it, as spoilers for a comic that has two more issues coming seems like a bad idea. I’ll just say that Muriel is tremendously dissatisfied in her life (we get a brief synopsis of her former hopes and dreams) and finally decides to do something for herself, Adler tries to roleplay his way into cracking the case of the bathroom smoker at his school and ends up in an entirely different scenario, and Daniel tries to understand grownup problems as well as his new playground friend who is significantly further along the “woke” scale than he is, what with being three years old and all. All of this is expertly drawn into a collision by the ending, with everything coming together to cause a shocking ending. But hey, two more issues to find out what’s going to happen next! I had my doubts about the first comic from these two that I reviewed, but this one right here, this is an absolute winner. If you’re curious about their work(as they have a lot of comics to choose from), so far I’d say that this is the place to start. $8
New review today for G-G-G-Ghost Stories by Brandon Lehmann. Even the title is spooky!
It’s a big old collection of Brandon’s comics! If you’ve read any of my past reviews of his work you’ll know that I find the man to be full of funny, and that fine tradition certainly continues in this collection. Looking over his website I think some of these stories were previously in mini comics. Maybe some are brand new to this collection? I don’t know, as for once I’m so timely with my review that he hasn’t even posted this book as being for sale yet (give it a week or so, I’m sure it’ll show up). These all have some sort of generally spooky theme (more or less), and there’s even an epilogue section with a brief follow-up to two of the previous stories that’s delightful. But I’m getting way ahead of myself if I’m already talking about the epilogue, huh? Stories in this one deal with getting some cash for spending the night in a haunted house, how one Lyft driver is getting awfully tired of ghosts requesting rides, a cursed book where the severity of the curse is mostly in the eye of the beholder, a haunted house for cats (which is where the sample image comes from; without that context it’s one baffling sample image), daily phone calls announcing the impending arrival of the Viper (with one of the dumbest endings ever, but hey, Brandon calls that fact out in real time), and the Okiku ghost and her very specific rules for how many plates you need in your house before triggering the curse. There’s also the meaty center of the book, in which a man who recently became a werewolf goes to the local Barnes and Noble for some advice on how to cure his curse. So many wonderful little details in that one, and the fact that it constantly escalates without really going anywhere has to be seen to be believed. And if you think that means I didn’t like that one, incorrect! It’s probably second only to the haunted house for cats, and that’s because I’m hopelessly biased towards cats being weirdos. So yeah, this one is an all around winner. The man is awfully prolific (again, going off his website) so I’ll most likely be checking out some of his other comics soon. I was already pretty well sold after the last two comics, but this one has me convinced that more people should be singing the praises of this guy. $15
New review today for Forever and Everything #7 by Kyle Bravo. It’s a pandemical comic!
Forever and Everything #7
The pandemic comics are finally starting to arrive, and this one covers a few areas that I had no experience with in my particular bubble. Early in-person voting, sure, I know all about that (98% of the people were great, but that 2% who weren’t, whooo boy), but what happened in schools was all hypothetical to me until reading this comic. This one reads more like a regular comic than most of his books, if that makes any sense. Kyle tends to keep his observations short in past issues, but this one started with the first time he heard about the coronavirus, how he dismissed it several times along the way and downplayed the severity of it when it did hit, all taking up maybe the first half of the book. It also showed how he tried to comfort his students, their reactions when they got the news that the school was shutting down (mostly centered around how anxious they were to be able to take their art supplies with them), and a bit about how he handled classes remotely. Other stuff in here is similar to how a lot of us had to deal with things, going from not being sure if it was OK to touch anything to figuring out how it was all about the masks. Other subjects include the oddity of fishing on a random Wednesday afternoon, trying to get some work done while being attacked by his children, going to the doctor for what he was sure was the corona, and dealing with a sudden glut of homemade masks. As we in America are mostly in the clear (this is July 2021, dear readers, so if the Mechagodzilla variant has hit by the time you read this, my apologies), there’s been just enough distance for all of this to be fascinating to me. Your mileage may vary! Maybe you’ve heard more than enough about the virus and want some distance. If so, give this one a while before checking it out. Otherwise, all I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed it.
New review today for The War On Dental by Michael Aushenker. Also I found the button that deletes my entire inbox, and I was digging into it because I hadn’t checked it in at least a month, probably longer. So if you’ve sent me an email in the last month or so, maybe send it again if you want to hear back.
The War On Dental
It’s always a good sign when a comic is actively hilarious, and this one more than crosses that bar. This is a story about dragons murdering dentists. If you’re understandably confused, relax, I’ll break it down a bit. Cast your minds back to maybe 2016 or 2017, when that one incredibly rich dentist flew to that one African country and murdered a very old lion that was a huge cultural symbol to the people. He was told not to, he did it anyway, and as far as I know the worst thing that happened to him was that some people called him mean names online (I just checked and it’s true. The lion was named Cecil, he was 13 years old, and the dentist is fine). That’s obviously a terrible story, and what would make it better is if the lions got together to pay this dentist a visit. This comic takes a different path: there’s still a dentist, but he kills a hibernating dragon and steals his fangs, which leads to the remaining lions coming up with a plan to take their revenge. Which, honestly, happens pretty quickly, as it’s not like a dentist has much of a chance against several enraged dragons. This isn’t quite satisfying enough for the dragons, who then kill his wife, his family, and destroy his business. From there the vendetta goes on to include all dentists, all people who kind of look like dentists, countries where the most dentists might come from, etc. So yeah, the rest of the book is complete mayhem. If you think it’s nothing but dragon murder, humans do briefly get their collective act together and find a couple of heroes (including the one listed on the cover, who must be from one of Michael’s other books?), which involves a giant mecha. It’s funny and more than occasionally brutal, what more could anybody want? I still don’t see an obvious way to order Michael’s books from his website, but go to it anyway and send the man an email. $5
I know, I know. Things have been crazy around here (new kittens! new bookshelves! new car!), but there’s a new review today for Four Stories by Brian Canini. And I’m writing three reviews this week, so that’s something. Right?
Four stories? In an eight page comic? Who would have thought that such a thing was possible? Granted, two of the stories are only a single page, but it’s still impressive. This is a really solid mini, and it even ends with a nice little update to the first story, which features a grimly realistic tale of a fish slowly developing the ability to walk on land and what happens to him when he gets there. All on one page! Next up is the meat of the comic, a tale about the hidden costs of dining out at a seriously upscale restaurant, which is a little too close to real life, and something that’s probably coming (if it’s not already here; I haven’t dined at a super fancy restaurant since before the pandemic, so I’m a bit behind the times). Next up we get the juxtaposition of a letter home from an aspiring star in Hollywood to the actuality of what she’s going through. And finally there’s a good old fashioned gag strip about how quickly time can pass you by and make you seem completely out of touch. As somebody who still has trouble grasping why it’s so terrible to use a period to end a sentence in a text message, boy howdy can I ever relate. It just means the sentence is done, not that I’m yelling at you! Ugh, kids today. Well, since those last two sentences aged me twenty years, I’d better wrap things up. This one has variety, a couple of surprisingly dense stories (especially considering the format), and a few laughs. All for a measly $2!
New review today for O Human Star Volume One by Blue Delliquanti, which is absolutely fantastic. Dang it, did I give away my opinion in the preview again?
O Human Star Volume One
So I just did a quick bit of research, and outside of a few shorts pieces in anthologies, it’s true: this is Blue’s first long comics series. Why did I feel the need to research this? Because it’s damned near flawless, and it will always be shocking to me when that’s true with anyone’s first try. Also, as I’m perpetually a day late and a dollar short, the third and final volume has been completed and should be coming out this year, so the story is over right as I’m getting into it. Ah well, I can still do my reviewers duty and get anybody who’s as constantly late as me on board. This is the story of Alastair Sterling, and it starts with him dying. Before you start making comparisons to Sunset Boulevard, no, he’s not dead for the whole story and narrating it. Well, he is dead. Ugh, I’m getting ahead of myself. He does die in the first few pages, true. But then he wakes up with his consciousness in the body of an extremely human-looking android and is told that this is because of his former assistant Brendan as he’s being driven to see him. Who’s driving him? Well, that ends up being a mystery, as he quickly learns that Brendan had nothing to do with this resurrection. Alastair was at the forefront of artificial intelligence technology before he died, and in the ensuing 16 years robots have become normalized and have their own rights. The bulk of this book is spent with Alastair trying to get a grip on this new reality, interspersed with flashbacks to show how the two of them met, how they researched their work and how they finally got it off the ground. Alastair also meets another synthetic life form, Sulla, whose personality was taken from his brain waves in one of Brendan’s failed attempts to bring Alastair back. Sulla, however, had requested to be a girl after her first few years, which raises all sorts of questions from Alastair. So how many mysteries are we up to? Mysterious benefactors, the questions about his robotic clone (not even close to the right term probably), how his relationship with Brendan is going to go after so long apart, a few more I’m definitely forgetting. So there’s all kinds of intrigue, but it’s also just so damned human. Sulla is a typical teenager, at least in temperament, and there’s the usual nervousness about trying to fit in with other teens, especially after a lifetime of home schooling has left her without many social graces. Alastair tries his best, but he’s clearly and consistently uncomfortable in this world. And Brendan’s collapse early on as he realized that this really was Alastair at his doorstep was devastating, as was his constantly walking on eggshells around Alastair and Sulla. I’m completely hooked and getting the second volume as soon as I wrap up this review, so expect a few words about that in the coming months. Maybe just in time for the third volume to be released so I can be at least mildly current? I live in hope. But yeah, in case I wasn’t clear: get this book as soon as you can. I guarantee that you’ll be hooked after the first few pages. $25
New review today for Bee-Man: The Death of Bee-Man by Michael Kamison and Steven Arnold. Why yes, I am trying and failing to not fall into my more sporadic summer reviewing habits, why do you ask?
Bee-Man: The Death of Bee-Man
Don’t you hate it when you randomly pick one comic from a new stack by a team of artists while you’re pressed for time, read it, then quickly flip through the other comics from the stack and become convinced that you inadvertently picked probably the weakest of the bunch? What’s that you say? The amount of people in the world who relate to that are probably in the single digits? Oh yeah. Anyway! These fine folks sent me about a half dozen comics (don’t fret, I’ll get to them), but look at the cover of this sucker! Of course I’m going to go with that one first. This is the story of a team of scientists who are trying to reverse the dying out of the bees, but their first attempt ended with them accidentally making “vampire bees.” Erwin (the hero of the piece) is by far the most dedicated of the bunch, but it comes at the expense of his home life and new child. He eventually starts to hallucinate that the vampire bees are talking to him (or possibly they are; I wasn’t entirely clear on that), which leads to him trusting the bees far too much and entering a controlled environment to prove that they aren’t dangerous. Multiple bee stings ensue, and the guy ends up in a coma for ten years. When he wakes up things have changed quite a bit, and that’s before he notices some gradual and then sudden changes to his own body. I honestly can’t decide if I should go into spoilers here for the rest of it. I mean, when you call your first issue “Death of Bee-Man,” the writing is very much on the wall. I’ll just say that they stuck to the science of what happens when a bee stings somebody, and even with that the ending seemed abrupt, like they had just had enough of the story. There were some funny bits and some solid quotes, but this felt like something that should have maybe been a few issues long to let it breathe. Either way, that is some cover, and I’m looking forward to getting to the rest of the books from their pile. $5