New review today for Yet Another Ask a Cat by Charles Brubaker, hope everybody is having a good President’s Day! We had a good run of 44 of them that were at least mildly qualified, so I guess statistically we were due for a narcissistic con man with obvious signs of dementia.
Yet Another Ask a Cat
Charles has put out maybe a dozen comics over the last couple of years, so it’s not like he’s in need of any professional advice, but I’ll throw one out there anyway: if you have an open-ended series like this, and you plan on putting out an as-yet undetermined number of future issues, it’s time to give in and start using numbers for the issues. Unless this is the last issue of “Ask a Cat” ever, in which case never mind, but these comics are such a delight that I hope I’m wrong about that. And, as I’ve said before, you’re bound to get a lot more out of these comics if you’ve had cats as pets either currently or in the past, but there’s enough funny in these strips for anybody. Subjects this time around include the truth about their relationship to dogs, what cats would do if they had wings, how cats indicate that they want a divorce, what they think about snow, what cats think about mustard, whether or not they have strange dreams and (and this one hit home with me) why cats insist on poking you in the face while you’re sleeping. I’m pretty sure Charles came up with the actual answer on that one. There’s more, of course, but I’ll leave some surprises for you. I’ve noticed the questions got a lot more fantastical this time around, so maybe this series won’t last as long as I thought, but the man hasn’t run out of ideas yet, so enjoy! $2
New review today for Snow Cone City #2 by Joseph Hewitt. Say, can any politically active person in Columbus Ohio direct me to the best Indivisible group? I’m interested, but there sure are a lot of them around here…
Snow Cone City #2
I’ve read all kinds of black and white comics over the years, and I’ve only rarely thought that the comic would be greatly improved if it was in color. This issue of Snow Cone City has our five heroes from the previous issue (basically Power Rangers but as penguins) meeting the Canadian super hero team with five members. Each of these teams wears uniforms with slight differences so that we can tell them apart. And it would be vastly easier to do so if they were all wearing uniforms of different colors. It’s an odd pet peeve for me to have, but there you go. It’s not a dealbreaker, as the comic itself was a lot of fun. And the Snowbirds (the Canadian team) is in full color on the back cover, so at least my curiosity is satisfied. So how about the story? In this issue the first penguin to make it to Mars comes back down to Earth. Instead of giving remarks he starts singing… and doesn’t stop. He’s also turning into a godzilla monster, there’s an American Idol parody (this did come out in 2012, after all), the super teams clash (as all super teams are required by law to do whenever they meet), and there’s even a Korean translation in the back. So if you want to learn to write Korean, this would be one place to start! Other than that, there’s a lot of punching and one giant singing space monster, so what’s not to love?
Last week got completely away from me, sorry about that. But I can make it up to you by introducing Skip Tobey Volume 1 by Andy Herd into your lives!
Do you miss your comics being funny? Tired of angsty messes worrying about their problems instead of punching people? Well, have I got a comic for you! This is a hefty comic that has all seven (so far) stories of Skip Tobey and his adventures. And the chief who loves him. I don’t mention the sample image often, but I picked this one because it has the most pure, concentrated funny of the whole book, although it was damned tough to choose just one. This isn’t even a page from one of Skip’s adventures, but I used it anyway. So what’s all this about? Stories include Skip in space with a sandwich that’s also a gun, time travel and murder, Skip infiltrating a group of hackers, Skip on a coffee bender uncovering clues about the invading reptile people, the “natural causes” of death by meteor, an archenemy finally getting Skip where they want him (for the fifth) time, and the plot of the lizard people coming to fruition. And when I say “funny,” I mean that I laughed out loud at some point in damned near each story, and that’s not even mentioning the short bits between the stories, which were also uniformly hilarious. The “how to draw Skip” bit perfectly mirrored every attempt made by a human to ever follow those instructions, getting a peek into the daily life of the chief was mildly terrifying, good luck getting through those fake classified ads without laughing, and there’s even a functional crossword puzzle included. And I haven’t even mentioned Skip’s pining over his “missing” wife. Look, there are times when I can unreservedly say that everybody should read a book, and this is one of those happy times. Maybe you wouldn’t care for this if you have no sense of humor, but in that case you have bigger problems than deciding on which comic you should be reading. Everybody else, enjoy!
New review for Dark Pants #3: The Pantening by Matt MacFarland. OK, I made up the subtitle. I’ll concede that it could use some work. Happy weekend everybody!
Dark Pants #3
I’ve been wondering what those pants were up to. In case you missed the last issue, this series is about a pair of pants and their effect on a person at a particularly important time in their life. This issue takes place in 1988, and it deals with Phil and his fumbling realization that he’s gay. For the younger readers with little context, let’s just say that it was a whole lot tougher to realize and accept that you were gay in 1988 than it is in 2017. Well, in America, anyway. Well, most parts of America. Well, some parts of America. So far. Unless this current administration criminalizes gay marriage again. Anyway! I’ve wandered off the point a bit, probably due to my constant low level dread of what a President Trump can do. We quickly see Phil fantasizing about making out with John Stamos, but he fights against the feeling. He’s hassled by a bully at school, has one true friend that he hangs out with, a counselor that’s trying to help him, and a girl that he’s desperately trying to convince himself that he likes. Then, during one creepy walk home, somebody (we know who from the last issue, of course) tosses their pants off the car window and they literally fall onto his head. He likes the style and notices how clean they are, then goes about his normal life until his friend suggests they go out to a place that Phil has heard is a gay hotspot (his friend doesn’t know this). So Phil dons the pants and approaches an older guy to buy them drinks. The guy responds a little too positively for a nervous Phil. This all finally leads to a momentous party where everything in Phil’s life collides, but I’m not going to tell you what happens there. I will say that the pants do move on, so we get to see what happens (theoretically) in the next issue to them. As for this issue, it’s one of the better coming out stories that I’ve read, even if he technically doesn’t even come out. $10, but again, this is one hefty comic.
New review today for Spectacular Vermacular by Mathilde Van Gheluwe. This is also mini kus #50, which is damned impressive for any series, not to mention a series that showcases a different artist each time, so reward them by buying some of their books!
Hey everybody, mini kus comics now have better binding! Yeah, don’t think you can sneak improvements by me. I occasionally notice things. I will give you one spoiler right off the bat: nothing in this comic will help you discover whether or not “Vermacular” is a typo. Maybe it’s the last name of the witch? But I’m getting ahead of myself. This one starts off with a very fancy talking cat on a late night talk show. They chat with the usual talk show banalities, then the host shows Vlad (the cat) an “embarrassing” old photo of him with a witch. The photo is meant to poke some light fun, but it triggers a nostalgia overload in the cat, who loses himself in the memory of his time with this witch. The rest of the comic shows Verma (the witch) gradually getting sick of taking orders from the citizens and deciding to make a name for herself with her talking cat. There’s a lot to ponder here, as the story avoids giving the reader a whole bunch of easy answers. It’s not the first time that I’ve wished for a second issue after reading a self-contained mini kus comic and it probably won’t be the last, but I’m genuinely curious about the time in between the witch and this cat getting famous. If that’s not the sign of a damned good comic then I don’t know what is.
New review today for That’s Me in the Corner Part One by Jep. Hey international readers, remember when I was joking about marrying one of you to get me out of this rapidly devolving country? Maybe I was kidding then, but it’s getting more serious by the day. Loveless marriages welcome!
That’s Me in the Corner Part One
What, you thought that Jep only had funny stories in him? I don’t know why you would assume that, but we’re dealing with your hypothetical illusions here, and you’re wrong, imaginary construct in my mind. This comic is made up of strips that Jep made weekly (ish) on his website. The idea was that he was going to tell the story of his introduction to religion and how he eventually fell away from it, including the event in particular that pushed him completely away from religion. But as he worked on the story things went off into different directions for him, and his memory proved to be far less certain than he originally thought. There’s a fine line in comics of relying too much on the “inside baseball” vein of comic strip. For those of you who hate all sports allegories, basically that just means that the artist is wallowing in telling stories about how hard it is to tell stories. That can sometimes cause a spiral where no stories get told, but Jep avoids that trap here and ends up making those strips essential to the story that he’s telling. For example, the event that pushes him away (spoilers here if you don’t want to know a thing about this book, which I’d recommend) is his witnessing the molestation of his friend by a priest. But it’s clear that he doesn’t remember exactly what happened, or how long it happened, or what he said to the guy to prevent himself from getting molested initially. The only way Jep could clear this up would be to contact the guy who was potentially molested, but he sees no reason to upend his life just so he (Jep) can get a little piece of mind. Even basic stuff like how many churches they visited before his mom settled on Catholicism proves unreliable, as his brother contradicts bits of his story. It’s a fascinating peek into a mind as it’s deep in the creative process, taking sometimes reluctant detours down unintended paths to tell this story. He was also nice enough to send along the second part of this story, so I get to see how it “ends” soon, as much as the story of his life can end when he’s still alive. This particular part of it, anyway, but he also mentions never being sure how far to dig in these stories. It was a damned great read, and I’m not just saying that because my own religious experience more or less mirrors his own.
New review today for The Shirley Jackson Project, edited by Robert Kirby and featuring a whole bunch of amazing artists. I’m stuck with the flu that wouldn’t leave, so this might be it for reviews this week. Or I’ll finally get better and it won’t be. Guess you’ll have to wait and see!
Every so often life reminds me that I’ve been meaning to reread all of Shirley Jackson’s work, especially since I mostly read her stuff way back in high school. She holds a unique place in the literary world for a variety of reasons, and it seems like a character flaw on my part that I’m not more familiar with all of her work. Sure, I know The Lottery and The Haunting of Hill House (and the first movie adaption of it, The Haunting), but other than that I’ve just read a few scattered short stories. Well, if you’re a better person than me and are already familiar with her works, this book is for you. And if you’re like me and are a bit lacking in your Shirley Jackson knowledge, this book is also for you. If you’re an incurious dullard on this subject, you’re off the hook, I guess. So! Like the title implies, this is an anthology with various artists writing adaptations of her works, with a few of them showing various times of her actual life. Annie Murphy starts things off by showing various quotes from Shirley about her life and her beliefs. Colleen Frakes then has a tale about her own childhood and how her experiences with critics resembles the reaction Shirley got when The Lottery first came out (if you haven’t read any Shirley Jackson stories at all, at least read that one). Oh, and I almost forget to mention the introduction by Robert Kirby, which is especially helpful to people with only a passing familiarity to her work (like me). In other words there’s a lot to like here, and I don’t want to go through it piece by piece (because of my undying belief that being surprised by the stories is half the fun of anthologies), but highlights include Asher & Lillie Craw’s examination of places and food in her stories, the various Shirley Jackson archetypes by Robert Kirby and Michael Fahy, W. Woods with an adaption of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Ivan Velez Jr. with his experiences with oddities and real life and how they connected to his experiences with Shirley’s work, Eric Orner’s tale of the death of a friend and how it related to the Shirley Jackson book he was reading at the time, Rob Kirby with a story of how Shirley once freaked herself out when a red liquid started dripping from the cabinet, and Dan Mazur’s combo adaption of a few of her stories starring Shirley as the witch. So yeah, there are a whole lot of great stories in here, and that’s with me only having a passing knowledge of her work. Imagine how much more you could get out of this is you already knew and loved her! $16.95
New review today for Zoar by Matthew Heisler, which is really making it feel like old home week around here (Matthew did a comic called Milk Baby with his brother about a decade ago). Short week because I’m stuck with a lingering cold and/or protesting the end of American democracy. Oh sorry, I’m getting hyperbolic. I meant that I’m protesting the end of America being taken seriously internationally. Or domestically. Happy weekend everybody!
To all of the people out there complaining about a lack of original ideas, or how everything is a sequel or clearly designed to be adapted into a movie, I give you… Zoar. Seriously, I am going to have a hard time explaining this in a way that makes even a little bit of sense to you, but I’ll do what I can. I will say right away that it was a delight from start to finish, and that the page I sampled below will give you a solid look into how perfect the dialogue of everybody involved is. This is the story of… huh. How about I tell you where I thought this was going? Things start off with a castle on top of a large hill. We see a princess (?) with plumbing problems, followed immediately by a little man who looks a lot like Mario from the games coming to help her out. Oh, I thought. A Mario Brothers parody. Well, those can be good or not, so I’ll keep an open mind! By the end of the page I discovered that the cause of the blockage was a little boy who has the Earth for a head (complete with an orbiting, talking moon) and I knew right then to throw any preconceived notions I had out the window. We meet the three women who basically run all or most of creation (the virgin, the earth mother and the seducer), get the origin story for the little boy and finally get a glimpse of the inevitable future of the planet (in one of the more haunting two page spreads you’re ever going to see). And that’s all in the first half of the book! From there we get a peek at some of the people on this planet and deal with some parental problems with the father. This whole book is hilarious and unlike anything you’re else you’re likely to see, so support it, yeah? We’re going to need this kind of escape from reality to stay sane over the next four years.
New review today for the complete Berserkotron by David Robertson. How’s everybody enjoying their last week before the Russian coup?
Berserkotron! It’s a great name, and one that has stuck with me throughout the years of my reviewing comics here. But when I went to link to my previous reviews of this series, it turns out that I hadn’t reviewed the first issue. Maybe because it came out in 2002 and I was just getting started back then? Well, whatever the case, the entire series has been collected in one volume, so now I get to see what I was missing. And… it’s pretty OK with some slow and repetitive parts! Eh, this is one of the first stories David did, and he’s since gone on to make significantly better comics, so it’s not like that’s a total shock. This is the complete story of a few friends getting involved in a fighting robots contest (that alone should date this story a bit), how one of them is very involved with the planning while the other is mostly taking advantage of his friend, the “magic paint” that will help their inferior robot survive, and the state of their lives as this is all going on. Oh, and a few different robots along with a few robot fights. When I was reading this in bits, in comics that were released months or years apart, I didn’t notice how repetitive some of the story beats became. Bert gets tricked into painting the robot early on, and his resentment of this fact is really beaten into the ground when you can read it all in one place. Don’t get me wrong, I still liked lots of the dialogue and the robot fights, but overall this doesn’t hold up as well as I had hoped. Which David acknowledges in his notes after the story, so I’m guessing this opinion won’t come as too much of a shock. Here’s my review to Berserkotron #2 (I still agree with it), and the extra material is fascinating from a creative perspective. If you’re already a fan of his work, there’s a lot to like about this collection. If you’re just now giving the guy a shot for whatever reason, maybe start with Dump #3 or some of his later work.
New review today for Lovers in the Garden by Anya Davidson. Right about now I’m in the middle of a work conference. Is it fun? Is it awful? Is it somewhere in between? Only future me knows.
OK, there are an awful lot of moving parts to this graphic novel, so I’ll do my best to tell you the basics without giving anything away. As always, there’s a solid chance that I’ll fail, so my capsule review is that this was riveting and that you should give it a shot. It’s a story set in New York in 1975 (as you can probably guess from the amazing fashions depicted on the cover), and it features hit men who regret what they’re doing (each for different reasons) but are in too deep to get out now, their boss and how he handles the very idea of either of them retiring, an undercover cop who’s been working this case for ages now and is just about to break it wide open, the lady who has been working for the big boss for years but hates her inability to move up in the ranks, and the latest target for the hitmen. Oh, it also shows the sister of the undercover cop (so we get a solid look at her home life), deciding between sandwiches and relationship talk between people who should really call it a day but who are unable to because of their job. And yes, gunplay is very much involved in the ending. That’s my only problem with this, really: that ending had me thinking I got a copy that was missing a few pages at the end. Maybe it’ll grow on me, but my initial reaction was that it was a bit abrupt. But that’s a far cry from a dealbreaker, and the rest of the book is so engrossing that it more than makes up for it. Go on, give it a shot. Who doesn’t love 70’s cop dramas/undercover busts? $10