Update for 8/18/17

New review today for Francine by Michiel Budel, which wasn’t up in the Secret Acres store yet but it should be there soon. Happy weekend everybody!

Budel, Michiel – Francine

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Francine

One of the trickiest aspects of reviewing comics is trying to describe something when I come across a style that is completely new. Oh, woe is me, I know, I know. But Francine is one of those books where things didn’t really start clicking for me until I was maybe halfway through the book, and when it did all start coming together I was blown away. The style has some hints of Dave Kiersh and Katie Skelly, a little, but it’s all very clearly Michiel’s own thing. It’s easy to think that this is all entirely innocent, that those flashed panties here and there are accidental. Then you start seeing the weird dynamics between the various characters in the books and how it all seems to come back to sex and attraction, and it puts everything that’s come before in a different light. There’s 8 different sections here, with mostly the same characters and often similar themes throughout. I just flipped through the book again to try and come up with some way to tell you all about it, and if anything I’m more confused than before. The sheer number of hilarious asides, the deftness of the humor, might not hit you right away. This book has confidence but it’s still somehow awkward. deeply important while focused on the little things in life. I genuinely don’t know how to encapsulate it, and feel like it would be an insult to the artist to keep trying. It’s something that you really have to see for yourself. His website has all sorts of free samples, take a few minutes and read a handful of his strips. You’ll get it. $17.95

Update for 8/16/17

New review today for Valley by GG, as a new gaggle of mini kus books arrived in the mail last week. A group of four mini comics is referred to as a gaggle, right?

GG – Valley

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Valley

Well, kudos to GG. I figured I would have an impossible time finding contact information for him or her online, but it came right up. Who would have thought? This is a comic that’s almost entirely about mood, so it’s inherently difficult to review. A woman gets a message from a group of her friends who have gone camping that they’ve run out of food and they’re hoping that she’ll be willing to drive more food to their location. She’s miffed, as she would have liked to have been invited initially, but she gets over it and decides to help them out. But this is all in the wilderness, so communication and cell phone service is unreliable at best. She ends up getting lost herself, but in a warm area with fog and what looks like a natural hot spring. She eventually hears back from them that they’ve decided to go home, but she’s in a state of bliss, so… what’s the rush? It’s more quiet and understated than that, but that message is beautiful. We should all be required to get lost at least a few times a year to keep our heads on straight. Oh, if only I was the ruler of the world. Anyway, this book is beautiful, so give it a look.

Update for 8/14/17

New review today for Hot Dork Love #1 by Mary Q. Contrary, which is very much only for adults. Is it still worth issuing that warning now that the internet exists? It’s not like nudity or sex imagery is hard to come by these days…

Contrary, Carrie Q. – Hot Dork Love #1

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Hot Dork Love #1

There’s naked people and some fucking in this comic, so if such a thing is a dealbreaker for you, watch out for this comic! How anybody could live their daily lives in this current (the hellscape of 2017, future readers) mess and have nudity be a bridge too far is beyond me, but what do I know. Now that all the puritans are gone, what’s in this comic for the rest of us? There are a few stories in here, involving sex in one way or another. The first bit is about a young lady who wanders into a Dungeons and Dragons game and finds herself turned on by the dungeon master. It takes awhile to clear the room, but they get to business eventually. Spoiler alert? Does that count in porn? Internet pedants, discuss. Other stories involve enjoying the shower a little too much, letting your mid get away from you while focusing on a nude male model, and trying to figure out the best speed to seduce a first date without scaring him away for being too aggressive. Sure, there’s plenty of sexiness here, but Carrie throws in plenty of funny lines as well. The punchline on the artist story was hilarious, as were the troubles of the woman who couldn’t seem to find the right pace for her dates. So yeah, this is definitely worth checking out. There’s more here than just sex, but if that’s all you’re after there’s plenty of it as well. $4

Update for 8/1/17

New review for Burning Rivers by Caitlin Cass. That’ll be the only review this week, as things are a bit busy around here at the moment. It should be back to normal next week, meaning probably three or four reviews. Oh, and I’m also thinking about starting an Instagram page, keeping with my trend of being resolutely a good 5 years behind any trend. I’ve just been meaning to dig through my old comics/letters/sketches that I’ve accumulated over the 16+ years that I’ve been running this website (I never throw anything away) and thought maybe some comics minded people might like to see some of it. Any interest?

Cass, Caitlin – Burning Rivers

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Burning Rivers

For those of you who are too young to remember it (myself included), the title of this comic refers to a real thing. There were a few rivers, particularly in the 50’s and  60’s, that were so polluted that they would sometimes burst into flames. Yes, really! This comic briefly details the history of the Cuyahoga River, Chicago River, the River Rouge in Detroit, and the Buffalo River. These rivers were spectacularly disgusting, the the Buffalo River being so bad that some fishermen would intentionally take their boats through the water because it was so acidic that it would burn the barnacles right off the hull. See, and people say that pollution is harmful. Caitlin really packs a lot of information into this comic, as is her way, and once again I learned a lot that I didn’t know/had no idea existed. Each city had their own ways of dealing with the problem, with the Chicago River still being over a decade away from being really fixed. The reactions of the locals was also fascinating, as the man in the street seemed more worried about the perception of them being seen as dummies for letting their rivers get this bad more than anything else. Hey, whatever works, and shame is a potent weapon against dummies. Not always immediately (the words “President Trump” spring to mind), but it eventually catches up to ever the most thick-headed of people. This is well worth checking out, so go buy it from her! Buy as many of her other comics as you can while you’re there too. Eventually she’ll have enough of these books that there could be a whole college class dedicated to expanding on her findings in these books. $4

Update for 7/20/17

New review today for The Academic Hour by Keren Katz, and I’ll ask one more time that if anybody from Secret Acres is reading this, I haven’t lived at the apartment where you’re sending your books for almost a decade. Lucky for you I’m still friends with the person who does live there, but this all makes me wonder how many review copies of various books from all sorts of publishers are still going to old apartments of mine. Update your records! And yes, I have tried contacting them directly. Happy weekend everybody!

Katz, Keren – The Academic Hour

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The Academic Hour

Longtime readers of this website know that I occasionally have nothing to say about a book. Or at least nothing coherent and/or remotely insightful, but I usually bluster through it by offering a series of impressions or apologies about my deficiencies. And… here we are again! This is a remarkable book, all angles and ideas, thoughts about impossibilities and how to get over them (if they can be overcome), and a doomed love affair that never seems all that passionate. Most of the images look they were finished by an act of will; Keren could have just kept going with some of them until they filled the page, or spilled through the pages onto the rest of the book, or drawn onto and even into you if you sat still long enough. I rarely flip back through a book immediately after finishing it, but I did that here, taking time to ignore some of the captions just to see if I could get where she was going with the images alone. In most cases I could! Or at least I could get to where I thought she was trying to go, imperfect though my thoughts might be. It makes quite an impression, there’s no denying that. Subjects in here include a trapped horse and how to get him down, polishing bones with your moustache, whether or not the planned buried railroad cars exist, telling stories to get the person to fall in love with you, a young lover wondering when and if her teacher was watching her, and the watching witch. This book reminded me, above all else, of the feeling people sometimes gets that everything and nothing are both just a little bit off to the side, out of reach but not impossibly so. It’s all right there, if you tilt your head just right, angle your arms just so that they can slip through that veil and grab a bit of what’s on the other side. If you angle too far you’ll slide right through and never return, and if you don’t angle them enough you’ll never see a thing. Get yourself and your mind into exactly the right position, take a deep breath and dive right in. $19.95

Update for 7/18/17

Sorry about the unplanned week off last week, but my internet and cable were both down for most of it. Oh, what a joy Time Warner/Spectrum is to deal with. If you can’t tell whether or not that’s sarcasm, congratulations on never having paid for cable! New review today for Samurai Slate in Punch Drunk or Bowl Me Over by Keith O’Brien and a gaggle or artists who have almost all been reviewed here at one time or another.

O’Brien, Keith (and Various Artists) – Samurai Slate in Punch Drunk or Bowl Me Over

Website (for Tom Cherry, can’t find one for Keith)

Samurai Slate in Punch Drunk or Bowl Me Over

So what exactly is your tolerance level for word puns? If it’s your favorite thing in the world, boy howdy do I ever have a comic for you! If you can barely stand them, you might want to save yourself some time and move on to the next review. Keith wrote these stories, all either one or two pages, and they all feature a comedic theme based on a specific type of wordplay. The strip I sampled (where the story works in using every day of the week) is the clearest example of it, but other stories in here use puns based on books, punctuation, cows, India, chess and minerals. If your eyes naturally roll to the back of your head every time you/read hear a pun, this book might just kill you. If not, there are some genuinely funny bits here and there, and just seeing how they manage to work all these words into each story can be interesting. So… get this with your eyes wide open. I doubt there will be much middle ground for an opinion here, but you might just love it. No price listed, but I’m guessing it’s a buck or two…

Update for 7/7/17

Today is the end of the ongoing Brian Canini theme, as I review the last two issues of his Ruffians series, #12 and #13. Suddenly I have graphic novels piling up around here, so if all goes well I’ll be reviewing a few of those next week. Happy weekend everybody!

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #13

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Ruffians #13

OK, one thing first, just to make sure you get it: I’m going to talk about spoilers here, because this is the last issue of a series so of course I’m going to talk spoilers, either read the series before reading this or don’t read the series ever, in which case spoilers will never effect your life. But it’s a fun series overall, so you might want to read it. Anyway! My main conclusion after reading this last issue, ambiguous Soprano’s-style ending notwithstanding? Scar might be an immortal. Sure, he’s a three foot tall blue bear, so the rules for his existence were never clearly defined, so maybe that’s on me? But he was shot eight times in the back (and arm) in the last issue, and it is never mentioned or addressed in this issue. Thanks to Erin, he manages to escape what seems to be certain death in that nightclub, not seeming to be slowed down in the least, and then goes to a diner to get some food and talk some more to his dead friend Black Jack. So are we to assume that he was hit with a paint gun? That he had body armor that covered his back? Which wouldn’t do a thing to explain those 8 bloody bullet holes we see in the last issue. If it seems like I’m focusing too much on this aspect, hey, maybe you’re right! But if you or I were shot eight times in the back, maybe we could get a burst of adrenaline off long enough to take a few more assassins out (in real life we’d almost certainly just be dead), but once the adrenaline wore off that would be it. It seems like Brian sacrificed the natural flow of the story for a more dramatic gunfight in the last issue, and considering the care he took with the rest of the series, it strikes me as a misstep. Still, putting aside that one aspect (with great difficulty, obviously), we do get a final battle with Scar and Malt, we get to see him confront Cypris, and we finally get the real answer of what happened to Black Jack. I was wrong in my guess, which is always gratifying as a reader. And I’d still recommend this series as a whole. There’s intrigue, betrayals, an overarching mystery… a lot to love here. There were a couple of missteps here and there, but there’s more than enough good here to overshadow those things. $3.99

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #12

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Ruffians #12

It’s the penultimate (I love being able to use that word and have it fit) issue in the series, so you can be sure that there’s a lot of gunplay going on in this one. Brian doesn’t waste any time with it either; our hero tosses back a few more drinks, gets warned off one more time by the ghost of Black Jack, then puts a gun to the head of Cypris. Unfortunately his mustache disguise fell off during those drinks, so now all the assassins at this party recognize him. It’s one of the more baffling aspects of this story, the fact that that disguise worked so well, but it’s not much of a stretch to think of most of these assassins as not being all that bright. Oh, and Erin (Scar’s lawyer/lover) is there as well, and she’s armed, so she also gets a few murders in, although I lost track of her in all the chaos. Things take a turn towards the end of the issue, as Scar is finally tagged with some gunfire. 8 bullets in the back to be exact, which seems like enough to murder just about anybody. But who kills off the hero before the last issue? So Scar is still standing, if just barely, as he tries to summon the strength to find and kill Cypris (who ran away in all the confusion). One issue left to go, then I’ll have some thoughts about the whole series to wrap it all up. If you’re a weirdo who only buys one issue of a series and doesn’t care about the larger story but loves guns, this would be the one to get. $2.99

Update for 7/5/17

New reviews for Ruffians #10 and #11 today, and that leaves only two more issues in this Brian Canini series. Who will live? Who will die? Stay tuned to find out, even though I probably won’t tell you in the review! That’s how you do a teaser, right?

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #11

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Ruffians #11

Boy, Brian has really picked up the pace on his release schedule as the end is in sight (says the guy who is reading the last half dozen issues in a chunk). This one came out in March 2016 and #10 came out in February of the same year. In small press comics that is lightning fast! Things start off this time around with Scar having a drunken/hallucinating conversation with Black Jack, who he pictures as the bartender. During that conversation we learn that Scar really doesn’t want to have to kill the man who raised him, and that the ghost of Black Jack (as imagined by Scar) doesn’t want Scar to get himself killed trying. Our hero makes his way to the bathroom, where we learn that he is definitely drunk, and his washing his face to try to sober himself up ends up making his terrible disguise fall off. Oh, and one of the hitmen is also in the bathroom, and was apparently completely fooled by said disguise. A pretty brutal fight follows, and Scar gets out of the bathroom just in time for Cypris to get introduced. Two issues left in this story, and I’m guessing they’re going to be bloody messes, but this relatively quiet issue was a good chance to get in Scar’s head one last time before everything falls apart. Or unless everybody gets a happy ending, which is not something I’d bet any money on. $2.99

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #10

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Ruffians #10

Scar has one very immediate problem to take care at the start of this issue: who sold him out during his escape in the last issue? He uses some casually psychotic methods to get to the bottom of it, but he gets there: it was Cypris, biggest crime boss in the city, and the guy in charge of all the hitmen. Oh, and the guy who more or less raised Scar. So this is a problem! Scar manages to come up with one of the worst disguises I’ve ever seen (how do you hide a three foot tall blue bear?), gains access to the birthday party for Cypris, and tries his best to blend in. As of the close of this issue (back in dicey spoiler territory here, I know), the disguise is still working, but Scar comes across a familiar face tending bar. This is probably the closest this series has come to slowing things down a bit, as only one person gets killed (granted, it’s not a pleasant death), and there’s not even a cliffhanger to speak of. Catch your breath here, as I’m guessing our hero being in at a birthday party, surrounded by hitmen on all sides, is not something that’s going to work itself out peacefully. Just a hunch! $2.99

Update for 7/3/17

The Brian Canini theme continues, as today there are new reviews for Ruffians #8 and #9. If all goes according to plan I’ll be wrapping up reviews of this series by Friday. And when has anything ever gone wrong around here?

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #9

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Ruffians #9

When we closed out the last issue, our hero was getting stabbed at the end of a prison riot. As we open up the new issue, our hero is getting zipped up into a body bag. I’d say that things were looking a little grim for him, but luckily he still has a few friends out in the world. And one of them had a master plan for getting him out of prison that (spoiler alert, I guess, which is a tricky concept when I’m reviewing an entire series in two weeks) actually involved him getting stabbed by somebody on the inside who knew how to make it look good without killing him, so it’s all fine. Some smart writing from Brian and some great work keeping the tension high. After Scar regains consciousness he gets the whole story from his lady lawyer friend and her two accomplices, right before someone starts shooting up the ambulance that he’s escaping in. Hey, why make things easy on the guy? The rest of the issue involves a whole lot of gunplay, a few people getting shot and some solid suspicions of betrayal, which keeps the story moving right along.  No time to waste, I have more comics to read! $2.99