Update for 11/21/19

New review today for Bell Time by David Robertson. Time travel changes your tie!

Robertson, David – Bell Time

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Bell Time

Who out there has seen Peggy Sue Got Married? It’s a movie from the 80’s, and the premise involves Kathleen Turner going back in time into her teenage body because… reasons. I’ve never seen it, but it was David’s inspiration for this story (based on his afterward), and he hadn’t seen it either until he was doing research for this story. In other words, if you love complaining about trivial things and are a huge fan of the movie, there’s probably stuff in here to get you worked up. For us relatively normal folks, there’s a lot to like here. It’s a full 60ish page story, with a bit in the middle with school tales from what seems to be mostly family members. I’ll leave those alone so you’ll have a mysterious treat in the middle, but how about the main story? It’s all about Lenny, a boy in school who was recently bullied with an egg in the face. He saw that movie, had some thoughts about how that would work out in real life, and returned to school the next day. When he was there he heard bells (that only he could hear), followed them and suddenly found himself in his adult body. Adult Lenny ended up as the school librarian, which didn’t exactly lead to a lot of respect from his peers. To me this comic comes close to being a horror story, even if that doesn’t seem to be the intention; to get the chance to be an adult when you’re a bullied teen and then be trapped dealing with fights and mayhem from other teens while you’re trapped in an adult body is a nightmare. It’s interesting to watch his perspective change of the other teachers as well as how he sees the students. No spoilers, but his “I’m an adult and you’re not” mindset held quite a long time as a solid bluff. Overall this is another really solid comic from David, with funny bits and insightful bits mixed together. Unless you have a phobia about being trapped in a high school library, give this one a look.

Update for 11/19/19

New review for Plastic People #1 by Brian Canini, and since he sent along a few issues I’m going to be doing weekly reviews of this series for a bit.

Canini, Brian – Plastic People #1

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Plastic People #1

Is Brian the most prolific comic artist going today? Is there a contest for that sort of thing? There’s not (that I know of), but he’d have to be high up the list. Brian sent me a few new comics recently, as I’ve somehow missed him at the last couple of local comic conventions. He sent a few issues of this comic along, and when I went to link to his website I saw that he already has ten issues done. 10! Granted, these are 8 page minis, but that’s still a better pace than a lot of artists, and he’s also always working on other comics. Does it seem like I’m stalling a bit on the actual review? Yeah, that’s probably because I am. This one starts off with a perfume ad that morphs into two people having sex. They get interrupted when our hero (I’m assuming) has to leave because his ride for work has arrived. They get into a brief argument, as the woman thinks that his female ride was hitting on him, and that’s that. If that makes it seem like everything is simple and straightforward, it’s really not. Everybody in this town has gotten plastic surgery, meaning all the women look the same and so do all the men. I’m curious to dig into this and see where it goes from here, as I already have a lot of questions. Which means that a first issue did its job, and this is one of those rare first issues where you already know there’s plenty out that’s already completed. I’m assuming this one will have significantly less punching than his Ruffians series, but who knows? Check it out, maybe buy a few issues while you’re at it to see where this is headed. $2

Update for 11/15/19

New review today for Elemental Stars by Kevin Hooyman, another from the mini kus stack. They list this is as mini kus #82… which do you think will come first, mini kus #100 or the 20th anniversary of my website (roughly early August 2021)? Let the race begin!

Hooyman, Kevin – Elemental Stars

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Elemental Stars

Who’s up for a good quest story? As is often the case, the journey here is far more important than the destination. Then again, that’s when all the action happens here, so what do I know. This one starts out with Bird-Man having a dream about a crystal city. His friend (?) Alvum wakes him up, they chat briefly before Bird-Man decides that he has to tell everyone he knows about this dream so that they can all find it together. As he sets out on his journey we learn more about the other characters that are with him, along with which characters were not invited on this trip and why. I don’t know what these creatures had against Hedgie, but that little man seems very useful in a crisis. Oops, almost a spoiler! That was a close one. I almost told you about how Hedgie went full kaiju… darn, I did it again! Anyway, this is a delightful mini, where there’s somehow time to make each of these half dozen characters a fully realized being. Kevin did some really solid work here, so give it a shot! $6


Update for 11/13/19

New review today for Meat Grinder by Rob Jackson, who would have his own wing in this place if it was a mansion and not a website. Hey, who do I have to make a wish with to make that happen?

Jackson, Rob – Meat Grinder

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Meat Grinder

More than once I’ve thought that I should gather up all my old Rob Jackson comics and read them again. The man has been doing this for quite a while now; I’m curious to see what’s changed. If you knew my (nonexistent) organizational system you’d know why that always up just being an idea, but today a second thought struck me: maybe I should go back and read just my reviews for his books. I have to have written at least a couple of dozen reviews of his work over the years, and I’d be astounded if I hadn’t repeated myself in that time, probably several times over. For example, one of the first things I thought while reading this was how impressive Rob’s ability was to create a fully formed world, then move onto something completely different in his next comic and do it all again. This one is filled with characters that bring up a lot of questions, but chances this is all we’ll ever see of them. I should probably get to the comic, right? Right. This is basically one long cooking contest, with the stakes being pretty damned high if our heroes end up as losers. There’s the glutinous ruler, the other contestants, the judges, our hero the clown and his two helpers. Then there’s the meat itself, which is a delightful source of suspicion all the way through the ending. As always with one of Rob’s comics, there was suspense, surprises and more than a few funny bits. Seriously, if you can get through that sample page without laughing, you might be dead inside. Check it out, give the man some money so he keeps making these things. Probably around $6, but I don’t know the exchange rate at the moment…

Update for 11/11/19

Long time readers may remember that I work for a Board of Elections, meaning that late October/early November are often dead times around the website. For the rest of you, my apologies for my sudden absence! I’m back now. New review today for Neverending Race by Liana Mihailova, another from the rapidly dwindling mini kus pile.

Mihailova, Liana – Neverending Race

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Neverending Race

Dog shows! There’s a whole lot that goes into them, the care and feeding of the dogs specifically. This comic compares and contrasts the dog to their handler, tying a link between each of their ambitions and goals. Is there also a subtle dig at the treatment of these animals and what they get out of the process versus the handler? Eh, maybe, if you look at the last page. Or I’m putting my own biases into it, which is a constant problem. Liana does a masterful job of blending the dog and the handler into one, sometimes leaving the reader unable to tell where one ends and the other begins. The dog putting its handler through the paces, for example, is an image that’ll stick with me. This comic is at times adorable, haunting and seemingly inevitable. An odd mix, but it all blends together more seamlessly than you might think. Give it a shot and you might earn yourself a treat! $6

Update for 10/17/19

New review today for Artema #2: The Beast by Rachel Cholst & Angela Boyle. Or possibly Artema: The Beast #2. But I think I was right the first time.

Cholst, Rachel & Boyle, Angela – Artema: The Beast #2

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Artema: The Beast #2

Here’s a questions for the pedants in the audience, since clearly this series is going places and I’m going to have to figure this out eventually: is it best to list this as “Artema #2: The Beast,” since each title is apparently going to have a different subtitle? After all, this isn’t “The Beast #2.” Oh, the worries you have when you’re running a small press comics review website! Yep, the struggle is real. Anyway, the subtitle is accurate this time around, as Artema goes full beast here. Her fighting skills make any sort of combat a joke for whoever she’s fighting (except for the fact that she’s killing whoever she’s fighting); towards the end of the issue she takes out 1000 soldiers more or less by herself. Along the way she meets a few more people that I assume are going to become more of a factor as time goes on, and ensures that she makes a lifelong enemy out of the enemy commander. Still more questions than answers for me, but since this is only the second issue that’s still the way things should be. Rachel and Angela are on a good pace here, seem to be getting the support they need from their Kickstarter (and hey, chip in if you like them; I’d link but they’re on Facebook, so just follow the link through the website for Artema). I’m especially intrigued by the title of the next one being “The Lover” after so much mayhem in this issue, so here’s hoping they don’t stop now! $5


Update for 10/15/19

New review today for The Brooklyner by Michael Aushenker, as this week I’m getting back to the mail bag.

Aushenker, Michael – The Brooklyner

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The Brooklyner

Here’s the thing about humor: it’s subjective. I know, pick your jaw up off the floor, but some people actually think Adam Sandler is still funny, or that those “Scary Movie” films are the height of hilarity. They’re wrong for me, but they’re not wrong for them. Even though I think they could do better, that part of what makes us better people is challenging ourselves to grow and expand our horizons, that garbage is still, to them, funny. I bring all this meandering nonsense up so I can seamlessly segue into talking about this comic, which is a collection of rejected strips that Michael sent to The New Yorker. Now, I haven’t read a New Yorker strip in years, outside of the few that run alongside other articles I’m reading online. It’s been ages since I’ve found them particularly funny, and Michael felt the same way, seeming to notice a dip in quality over recent years. So he thought something along the lines of “hey, I can at least be as funny as these strips,” and sent these along in 2018. They were all rejected, so now his question is this: are these rejected strips funnier than what’s currently running in their magazine and, if not, are they even funny at all? This is all from his afterword, by the way; I’m not the first successful mind reader in history. So, based on all that I said above, including my ignorance of the current New Yorker strips, are they that funny? Well, I never laughed out loud reading this, but I rarely do for their strips either, so I’ll give them a tie. But several of these strips wouldn’t feel out of place if I first saw them in their magazine, so in that sense I’d say these were successful. Read it for yourself to make up your own mind, you don’t need me to tell you what you think is funny. $3

Update for 10/11/19

New review today for Pinky & Pepper Forever by Ivy Atoms, and that’s it for this short week of Cartoon Crossroads reviews. Happy weekend everybody!

Atoms, Ivy – Pinky & Pepper Forever

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Pinky & Pepper Forever

Where to even begin talking about this comic? It’s amazing, sure, but I’m not nearly as talented as Ivy, so how do I convey that on this page? This is the story of Pinky and Pepper (duh), two lesbian art students who end up in hell. See, that already feels like a spoiler! But it’s also in the synopsis on the back cover, so maybe it’s not a bad thing to mention. Anyway, Pepper is open about using Pinky as her muse for most of the projects, but Pinky is trying to forge her own path, which eventually leads to her final art project that ends up with her in hell. Pepper tries to live her life without her, but eventually she realizes she cannot and ends up in hell too. She thought she might end up in the other place, but alas. Naturally she tries to find Pinky, but when she does manage that things don’t exactly go as she expected. There are all kinds of clever touches here about art school life, conversations with the parents when you’re living with your same sex partner (“Again, she’s my girlfriend, not my roommate”), how they’re each seen by their peers, digging into their past sexual histories to examine what they’re currently doing… there’s a lot here, and that’s in the half of the book where they’re still in the real world. I’m leaving the entire section of them in hell for you to discover, and wow is there a lot to discover. Ivy won a grant at Cartoon Crossroads for this book (reports differed but one thing I heard was that she got $5000? I hope that’s true) and, as this is my early winner of “best book in show,” she earned it. Check it out, get in on the ground floor with this one, as she’s going to be a big comics star if she keeps this up. $12

Update for 10/9/19

New review for Couldn’t Afford Therapy So I Made This by Lawrence Lindell, another Cartoon Crossroads book.

Lindell, Lawrence – Couldn’t Afford Therapy So I Made This

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Couldn’t Afford Therapy So I Made This

Sometimes at comic conventions there are titles that stand out from everything else, even at a show like Cartoon Crossroads where there were amazing books everywhere I looked. This title? I’m not sure if I even slowed down. The money was in my hand as I said hello to Lawrence, and the comic lived up to the title. This comic is a list of his mental health disorders, how he navigates the world on a daily basis (and a few tips for friends and family to keep in mind if he’s running late or behaving “oddly”), the manic and depressive phases, personal space concerns, how he constantly relives the night he got robbed (whether he should have tried to stop them, the order he could have attacked them, how he would have fought back if he was alone but he had others to consider), and the PTSD that comes with it. He’s in a near constant state of hypervigilance, which sounds absolutely exhausting. It also reminds me that I had a long conversation with Jaime Crespo, who had a table right near him, after buying his book, and how the average con must be a very different place for him than it is for me. Still feels like I’m just scratching the surface of everything he talks about in here, so the only obvious solution is for you to get a copy for yourself. If you have any mental health issues (and doesn’t everybody, to some degree?), you’ll find some useful information in here. If you’re the picture of mental health, you’re not reading a website with reviews about comics dealing with mental health problems anyway, so I’ll just let this sentence implode in on itself now. $7

Update for 10/7/19

Well, obviously my plan to talk about Cartoon Crossroads comics last week fell apart, meaning that’s what this week is about! All comics reviewed this week came from the con, after that I’ll just be sprinkling them in with the other comics reviewed. Don’t worry, I’ll still mention which books I got at the con so you can feel shame about not coming. New review today for The Audra Show #1 by Audra Stang!

Stang, Audra – The Audra Show #1

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The Audra Show #1

There’s more than you might think that goes into buying comics at conventions. For example, this particular comic. It looked intriguing, Audra couldn’t have been nicer at her table (she even chased me down to get me a better copy after I was oblivious and purchased her display copy of the first issue), but it was early in the show. Do you get all three comics on display for $10, or check out one issue for $4? I went with the cheaper option, and here I am, a couple of weeks later, regretting it. Gah, I’m a dummy. Oh well, I still have one issue to review. Obviously I liked it, so let’s remove all suspense on that front right away. This is another case where I’m not sure how far I should dig down into spoilers (especially since that cover and title make a lot more sense about 2/3 of the way through), so I’ll try to tiptoe around them. This is the story of three servers at a restaurant, helpfully listed on the back cover: Owen, Bea and Jonah. Owen seems like a nice guy, Bea is an oddball, and Jonah so far seems like a straight up creep. Owen get hassled by some customers, he and Bea have a chat about scars as he tries to determine whether or not he’s getting hit on, and Jonah annoys him by badgering Owen about his hitting on Bea. Then the shift is over and they go about their evenings, leading to Bea seeing Owen alone on a pier. Just as she’s approaching him to say hello, he jumps into the water. And doesn’t come up for air for a distressingly long amount of time. Which is as far as I can get without spoilers! I will say that this particular problem was resolved by the end of the issue, but now I can’t wait to see what happens next, and I was too shortsighted to get all three issues at the con. Use me as a cautionary tale, comic readers! If you have the cash to check out the first few issues of a series… do it! $4 (or $10 for issues #1-3)