Update for 11/15/17

New review today for Jonah 2017 by Tomasz Niewiadomski, another from the mini kus pile. That’s it for next week, in theory things should be calmer next week, barring a recount of some kind…

Niewiadomski, Tomasz – Jonah 2017

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Jonah 2017

For a minute there I thought this was going to be another one of those wordless minis that left me more or less baffled, but then the talking started to bail me out. What can I say, it’s tricky to depict time travel without words. Um, spoilers. On the first page alone there’s a man in a fish, a talking octopus (who is talking about robots), five skulls, a talking crab (who is talking about an hourglass), a robot (standing next to the hourglass), and a robot in a different location next to a grandfather clock. That’s your introduction to this world, and in a lot of ways it would probably be better for you if that’s all you knew about this story. So if that’s all the convincing you need, get yourself to an online ordering station, you’re done here. For the rest of you, from there we see an elaborate tunnel structure (that may or may not be alive), a winged cat lady and a strange box that gets dumped into the ocean. Another man goes looking for the box (while also looking for types of fish for a menu, apparently), goes through a time portal of some kind and starts seeing stuff that’s even stranger. Yeah, that’s all you get for this one. I could go on, but I’m looking out for you here, OK? Surprises are hard enough to come by in this world, why ruin one that is as delightful as this? $6

Update for 11/13/17

So about two weeks ago I meant to put up a note here, mentioning the upcoming election, saying how I’d be too busy to post updates but that all would be back to normal soon. In other words, that’s why I haven’t been around. This will be another busy week so there’s only time for a couple of new reviews, but luckily mini kus came to the rescue with some new books. New review today for Share the Love by Paula Bulling & Nina Hoffmann!

Bulling, Paula & Hoffmann, Nina – Share the Love

Website for Paula

Share the Love

If I ever manage to collect all the time in the world, I should really go back through these mini kus books and rank them somehow. 60+ issues in, I don’t think there’s a really terrible one in the bunch, and the vast majority are amazing in one way or another. This time around we get a series of conversations of snippets of dialogue, mostly dealing with relationships or how somebody sees the world. There’s an older man who talks to a couple about his past (while throwing in some casual racism, which seems to be mandatory in elderly storytellers who impose themselves on people), a couple on a date and the unfortunate test that the lady offers to the man to show his interest level, another couple where one is happy to settle in and the other wishes for more, and a child with an older woman going swimming together (and the brutal honesty that comes from the child in her direction). There’s a lot of wisdom in this one about a variety of subjects, so on the off chance that new mini kus books aren’t an automatic purchase for you at this point (they should be), this is one that’s definitely worth a look. $6

Update for 10/27/17

New review for The Complete Strange Growths 1991-1997 by Jenny Zervakis. Do yourself a favor and buy a copy, won’t you?

Zervakis, Jenny – The Complete Strange Growths 1991-1997

Website (to buy the book)

The Complete Strange Growths 1991-1997

Look, I’ve been doing this for a long time now, and usually have no trouble starting to ramble about any comic. With this, I hardly know where to begin. This collection reprints the first 13 issues of her comic in their entirety, meaning that even the comic recommendations are included, so it was a heavily nostalgic trip to read through. Some of the names listed there are still making comics, but most of them have vanished. Are they still drawing occasionally? Have they moved on completely? Do they even think about their old comics, and if so are they proud of that time or ashamed? But all that has nothing to do with Jenny’s remarkable book, so I shouldn’t dwell on it. Jenny was one of the pioneers of the self published mini comics movement of the 90’s; for whatever reason her comics were rarely in the comics shops I went to back in the day, so I only ended up with a few scattered issues of this series. After reading this collection it’s clear that I was missing out, and that I should have spent more effort back in the day tracking these down. Like I said, this collects the first 13 issues, has a new introduction by John Porcellino, a new interview with Jenny and Rob Clough, and several of her scattered strips from anthologies. In other words, it is as complete a volume of the works of Jenny Zervakis as we’re likely to get, and I can only hope that this leads to more collections like this in the future (complete Silly Daddy, here we come!). When it comes to reviewing this as a comic, well… this is where I get stumped. It’s wholly original, it evolves as it goes on (I was going to mention some of the rougher poetry of the earlier issues, but Jenny talks about that herself eventually), but most of the earlier strips are still pretty great. Sometimes she’ll tell stories about her family (I do wonder what eventually happened with her brother), sometimes about her life in the city, or going out to clubs and increasingly feeling like the oldest person there, or observations of what she sees around her or stories she’s heard. And the dream stories! Very few people do dream stories better than Jenny. It’s easy for them to feel self-indulgent or pointless, but a few of these are going to haunt my own dreams. That image of her rolling up the side of the wall and how her sister had a similar dream… brrr. There are also a few longer text pieces in the style of Jeff Zenick (another person who could use a complete collection of their work), quiet moments seen and imagined, a few stressful times, and various animal adventures. There’s no ongoing narrative thread, but this still felt like the story of her life, even if she was more private than a lot of the artists of the time. It works remarkably well as a complete book even though it’s made up of disconnected pieces, is what I’m trying to say. If you’ve never heard of Jenny and have any interest in small press comics, you are in for a real treat. If you already know her work, I seriously doubt that you managed to find every issue of this series when it was coming out, and even if you did, there’s no way you also caught all her stories in anthologies. And if you DID manage to do all that, there’s still a brand new interview with her. I get the impression (based on pure speculation) that John and Spit and a Half are looking at this as a test case, to see if there’s interest in publishing other books like this. Meaning that there’s every reason for you to give this a shot and none to pass it up. It really is a remarkable achievement and I hope that everybody reading this tries it for themselves. $20

Update for 10/25/17

New review today for Trim #5 by Aaron Lange. Get lost kids, this one is for the adults.

Lange, Aaron – Trim #5

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Trim #5

Yep, just an email address for contact info. You can also click on the link in the title to buy his books, but as far as looking at the goods online goes, you might be able to find other reviews here and there, but other than that it looks like he’s chosen the old school option. Says the guy who doesn’t use any social media, obviously. Before I even get to the comic, there’s a letters page on the inside front cover, and it has some of the true greats of the comics field on it. It starts off with a long letter by Robert Crumb, then there’s Mary Fleener, Kim Deitch, even Noah Van Sciver. That’s quite a list of talent offering their thoughts on his work, even if they aren’t all completely in love with it. This book is also put out by The Comix Company, which primarily published XXX rated comics (that means penetration in sexy ways, usually). Outside of one graphic image of him watching porn, this is damned near all ages. OK, that’s hilariously inaccurate, but if you’re only looking for naked sexy stuff, I’d recommend something else from their catalog. If you’re looking for a thoroughly engaging comic filled with all sorts of stories (mostly taken from real life, apparently), I’d recommend this one pretty highly. Stories in here include two pastors from his church as a kid, throwing out all his porn and getting locked outside in his undies when he does, trying to sell “records,” him reading a letter he sent John Porcellino, an extended story about his family history in Germany, and an awkward conversation with a woman who’s bemoaning the lack of single, fun, drinking guys in her age group. She’s 45, he’s 9 months sober. Oops! There are also a bunch of stories from art school, usually single page strips of memorable events like mistiming the effects of acid hitting him while he’s in class, shaving what he thinks is his entire body, the scarred nude model, and getting some advice about his future after art school. There’s plenty more I’m not mentioning; he really packs a lot into this comic. Normally this is the part where I recommend checking this book out, but come on Robert Crumb is a fan. You’d have to be a terrible person not to be at least curious about this series by now. $4

 

Update for 10/23/17

New review today for A Witch Named Koko #7 by Charles Brubaker, and it’s looking like I’ll be in the market for more review comics soon, if anybody has anything new coming out soon and would like to get the word out a bit more…

Brubaker, Charles – A Witch Named Koko #7

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A Witch Named Koko #7

Hey, wait a minute. I thought these comics by Charles were entirely for kids. Are kids able to see “hell” as a curse word now? Have I been confused all along? Or am I overthinking this whole thing? Yeah, I’m guessing it’s the last one. In this issue, Marl gets her glasses broken and has to get a replacement pair. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, you’re reckoning a world without magic, as the gang goes with her to pick up replacement glasses and runs into all sorts of shenanigans. The glasses each have different abilities or let the user see the world in a variety of different ways. Some are funnier than others, but I’m not going to go through all the options and ruin the fun for you here. There are also a couple of “ask a cat” strip at the end, as is required by law. Oh, didn’t you know that I passed a law to make that mandatory in his comics? Yep. Could have solved all sorts of problems in the country, sure, but I focused instead on increasing the number of cat stories in his comics. Eh, I still think I made the right call. All in all it’s another comic full of good clean fun (except for the one mild curse word that scandalized me so), if that’s the sort of thing you like you should check this out! $2

Update for 10/20/17

New review today for Instruction Manual for Lonely Mountains by Nicola Gunn & MP Fikaris, happy weekend everybody!

Gunn, Nicole & Fikaris, MP – Instruction Manual for Lonely Mountains

Website for Nicola

Website for MP

Instruction Manual for Lonely Mountains

Oh, of course this was an adaptation for a theater show! Sorry, but I just saw the back of this book, and now it all makes sense. Not that it didn’t make sense before, it’s just that I can definitely see this as a play. Oh hi everybody, this may look like random thoughts popping through my head that made it onto the computer, but it’s really a review! Tricky, I know. This one starts off with a man walking into a group with the title of “Focus Group for the Protest Against the Extinction of the Human Race.” Three other people are present at this meeting, each of them trying to get to casually know the other members of the group at first. The difficulties start at an innocuous moment, when everybody tries to agree on what basic drinks and snacks should be included with each meeting. This moves into a demonstration on how repetition is more effective than violence, then a discussion of how we could be the first generation of humans that could theoretically live forever, provided certain technological advancements come through and are available to everyone. People discuss how they’re likely to be remembered, and a man starts telling the story of how he broke up with his girlfriend over the phone because he had fallen in love while staying in Paris in the springtime. The fractures from this story are substantial, but I’ve said enough about their conversation by now. MP also includes several striking visual images, vibrant splashes of color on an otherwise black and white story, sometimes accentuating the story, often completely separate. This books will provoke plenty of thoughts and feelings, with no easy answers but some obvious conclusions. To me, anyway. I can’t predict your conclusions for you, which is why you should read this for yourself. $20

Update for 10/18/17

New review today for Alien Lives by Joseph Hewitt, as once again the pile of the review comics shifted, revealing some forgotten comics. Surely you can all relate to such a thing!

Hewitt, Joseph – Alien Lives

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Alien Lives

So here’s an intriguing concept for a comic: half of these stories are in Korean with English translations at the bottom of the page, and the other half are English with Korean translations at the bottom of the page. Guaranteed to intrigue/alienate everyone! Kidding, of course. You can even learn a little bit of (written) Korean this way if you want. Just take some of the shorter pieces of dialogue so that you’re sure which words conform to which symbols, and voila! You now know what a few Korean symbols mean! The stories are all over the place, and I mean that in the best possible sense. Stories include a queen who sends a bird to get the heart of a prince (and a bird who takes that request a little too literally), robot hijinx while dealing with pigtatoes, a fishing trip with a bear and a puppet that goes horribly wrong when they manage to catch a wishing fish (and the only story that confused me when I was trying to line up the translations to the panels, and ironically it was a wordless bit that threw me), dating in the future while somehow also being dating in the past, and a brief stop for a joke about the real needs of finding a habitable planet. There were also a few strips that were parodies of those snack cakes ads from comics in the 80’s, which may or may not make sense to the youth of today, but I got a kick out of them. It’s a nice mix of stories and, like I said, a chance to learn at least a tiny bit of Korean. $2

Update for 10/16/17

New review today for The Chronicles of Fortune by Coco Picard. Election time is coming up fast, so I may be more scarce than usual around here soon. But not this week!

Picard, Coco – The Chronicles of Fortune

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The Chronicles of Fortune

Sometimes picking the sample image is the trickiest part of writing a review, especially in a book like this where everything unfolds at a deliberate pace and no single image can really capture its essence. Not that that’s usually an option, but it’s hopeless with this book. Unless you believe that this book is about a woman and her talking mountain, and hey, maybe it is about that! It’s also about so much more, as it’s the rarest of fictional treats: I was reluctant to leave this strange, haunting, depressing, enlivening, fantastical world. This book is a collection of moments in the life of Edith May, who is also a superhero who has the power to fix everything that is wrong with the world, but she suffers from a crippling case of ennui so she never quite gets around to saving the world. She splits from herself to become this hero after her mother dies, leaving a lingering sense of loss throughout the story. From there we learn about her quiet apartment and life, how she opens her home up to neighborhood weirdos, her getting a fish that was supposed to sing to her, her old fashioned stove and the one day when she forgot to light it right away, an impromptu trip to Alcatraz and her running into a ghost, the sentient mountain that just wanted to be a good roommate, what was causing the leaking from the ceiling and how that led to another roommate/sidekick, trying to fit in with people while attending a bachelorette party, doing the same thing while attending an office Christmas party, her job as somebody who listened to people complain about their Christmas lights, and her final struggle against Death. Sort of. Oh, and how could I forget the moths? The moths were crucial to everything else. I could talk about this book for hours, but my instinct is to (digitally) hold it up in front of me, say “take some time to read this amazing book,” and leave it at that. For what it’s worth, I’ve read a lot of comics by a lot of different people about a lot of different subjects over the 20+ years I’ve been enjoying the small press comics world, and I’ve never read anything quite like this. If I was rich I’d offer a money back guarantee, but I’m not, so… take a chance on this book. You won’t be disappointed. $20

Update for 10/12/17

New review today for A Carl Short: So Long My Sole Soul So Long by Marcos Perez. That’s right longtime readers and other people with excellent taste in comics, Carl has returned!

Perez, Marcos – A Carl Short: So Long My Sole Soul So Long

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Website (if the other one doesn’t work)

A Carl Short: So Long My Sole Soul So Long

Boy howdy, have I ever reviewed a lot of Marcos’s comics. Go ahead, click on his tag, you’ll see. 6 issues of Tear Stained Makeup (still available in my store if you can get it to work!), several variations of Carl is the Awesome stories, a few other mini comics… it’s safe to say that I’m a fan. I missed him at CXC this year (2017), because of course I did, but I did meet Neil Brideau, who was nice enough to give me the free mini Marcos was giving away at the convention. If you’re not familiar with the lore of Carl, I’m not sure if I could do it justice here. Maybe check out the sample images and come back to this. The short version is that Carl IS the awesome, in just about every way. He’s also some kind of a dinosaur, but that’s irrelevant. In this story Carl decides that he wants to become the president of New Jersey, and he has no interest in facts like “there’s no such thing as the president of New Jersey” getting in his way. He manages to detach his soul by flailing his arms about wildly, which makes him the perfect politician. The rest of the comic involves Carl’s friends trying to find a way to restore his soul while this thoughtless version of Carl wreaks havoc everywhere he goes. The solution to the problem is just so perfectly Carl that I’m a little in awe of it, but I’ll leave that mystery for you. Carl stories are always welcome around here, and this one is no exception. Check in with Marcos, maybe he’ll have a few of these left over after the various conventions are done. And if you don’t have the other Carl stories, you’re not living your best life, so fix that problem ASAP…

Update for 10/10/17

New review today for You & A Bike & A Road by Eleanor Davis, in what’s looking like a (shortened) week of reviews of comics by longtime favorites of mine. Not to give away the tone of the reviews or anything…

Davis, Eleanor – You & A Bike & A Road

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You & A Bike & A Road

One of the true joys of this “job” is that I get to watch amazingly talented artists as they develop; search for her name or click on her tag if you don’t believe me. I got a few minis from here in Athens, Georgia in early 2005, got a few more in 2007 and then kind of lost track of her. Which happens way too often and is entirely my fault. Anyway! Since I can’t afford to buy all of the comics in the world, much as I would like to, I’ve been using the local library system a lot lately (if you live near Columbus, Ohio, go nuts with it, you can read damned near anything), which finally brings me to talking about this graphic novel. The idea behind it was simple enough: Eleanor got a new bike from her parents in Tucson, Arizona. She was dreading figuring out some way to get it back to her home in Athens, Georgia, and riding her bike gave her a kind of peace that she couldn’t get anywhere else, so she got the idea to just ride her bike all the way from Tucson to Athens. If you’re curious, that’s right around 1800 miles. This book is the story of that journey, how she handled the mental and physical wear and tear, and some of the people and things she met along the way. There’s also the constant question of whether or not she’s going to make it, as her knees started giving her trouble relatively early in the journey. There’s a lot to love about this book, and it often reminded me of Jeff Zenick (sadly, that’s probably not a familiar name to most of you) and the stories he would tell about his travels. For what it’s worth, that’s as high of a recommendation as I can give for an autobiographical comic. I knew the border patrol was active anywhere near the border, but she saw helicopters and vehicles of their pretty much constantly, along with one particularly memorable episode involving an immigrant (?) who was trying to get away from them and the tactics (lies) they used to bring him down. Despite the seemingly simple premise, there’s a lot going on in this story, from the reactions of all the people she met along the way to everything she learned and experienced to her pushing the boundaries of her own physical limits. At the end of the day it’s just a great story, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this inspired more than a few people to try something like this for themselves. $12