Update for 5/29/15

New review today for Baseline Blvd by Emi Gennis. That’s right, a sneaky Friday update. Have a good weekend everybody!

Gennis, Emi – Baseline Blvd

Website

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Baseline Blvd

This is going to be another one of those cases where I can’t say much about the comic without giving away the ending, so for those of you who enjoy watching me dance to avoid such a thing, get ready for some fun! Generally speaking you can count on a comic to be autobiographical if a character in the story looks like the author and is referred to by his or her first name, so when I saw another character refer to the female lead here as “Emi” I assumed that would be the case. But you know what they say about assuming, so I went to her website and it’s true, this is autobiographical, and clearly deeply personal. This is Emi’s longest work to date (unless I’m forgetting something, but it’s 64 pages), and long chunks of it are taken up with her driving through Missouri or flashbacks. The flashbacks detail a deeply troubled relationship, or at least that’s the bits of it we see, and I’ve read enough of these types of comics to think I knew was coming. I was completely wrong. The conclusion smacked me right between the eyes, and going by the chain of events that led up to it, I’m glad that was her reaction rather than crumbling up into a ball and shutting herself away from the world. I can’t say for sure that that wouldn’t have been my reaction under similar circumstances, but from everything I’ve seen she has no reason to feel even remotely guilty. I hope that this is an older story from her life, one where she’s had a bit of time to heal, but if it’s still raw, and if she does happen to read this, her reaction was exactly right. Those types of people take their power where they can find it, and they’d probably be delighted to know that they still had power over you even when they can no longer do you any harm. Knowing that conclusion even gives those driving scenes more power, as that drive must have seemed like it took an eternity with all the thoughts that must have been swirling around in her head. Everybody reading this who has ever had a problematic relationship should give this a read, as it answered a pretty big “what if?” question that was in my head. $8

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Update for 5/27/15

New review today for Colonel MacTaggart in Colonel Cube by Steve Steiner. No votes one way or the other on my idea of closing my online store, which was kind of the reaction I was expecting (based on sales, anyway). You kids today can find your own comics online! Either that or the combination of the awful design of my store combined with infrequent updates for the last year or so means that people only come here about once a month or so to catch up. Nothing wrong with that!

Steiner, Steve – Colonel MacTaggart in Colonel Cube

Website

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Colonel MacTaggart in Colonel Cube

OK, granted, that cover image makes the lead character look an awful lot like another vaguely cubish character from a ridiculously popular cartoon. Assuming it’s still popular and, as I have no kids, I don’t know that for sure, so I’m talking about Spongebob Squarepants if it’s no longer popular or if you’re somehow reading this in the distant future. But what’s wrong with turning your lead character into a cube? It’s obvious even from the cover that this doesn’t really happen to him, that it’s just a dream, so where’s the harm? Who am I arguing with right now? Anyway, this is the story of a dream of the Colonel. We don’t see the reason for the odd dream until the end, but right away we see the Colonel coming to terms with his new form and learning that this form also allows him to transform other creatures (albeit with unpredictable effects). So our hero transforms a small lizard, turning it into a giant monster, and the monster is then killed by a tribe of “cone savages.” We get some solidly funny dialogue from the Colonel to this tribe, showing the delightful contempt that such explorers often showed for native people back in the day, which leads to their interaction taking a bit of a turn. I’m in danger of giving the whole thing away here, so I’ll just say that the eventual reason for his odd dream was brilliant. It’s a fun and funny book all around, and I’ll always agree with the idea that creatures who look like living candy corn should always be the villain. Oh, and it’s all in full and glorious color, assuming that such things matter to you, and why shouldn’t they?

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Update for 5/26/15

New review today for Last Mountain #2 by Dakota McFadzean. I’m thinking about getting rid of the online store, as I rarely get orders and the internet more or less has you covered if you want to buy mini comics these days. Well, either closing the store or making it much smaller and more specialized. Any thoughts from people who have been around here for years? Good idea, bad idea, medium idea?

McFadzean, Dakota – Last Mountain #2

Website

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Last Mountain #2

Small press comics artists, take note: that is how you do a cover. I knew exactly what I was getting into before even opening the comic, and Dakota even added a subtle touch (that bug) that played a larger role than I would have thought in the story. The bulk of this comic is about a new kid at school, Danny, and his troubles fitting in. But we see the story mostly from the perspective of another kid, as she makes a few attempts to be his friend. The gist of the story is that Danny is a young man who had to leave his past school for mysterious reasons and that kids there called him “Buggy.” Just in case there are any children reading this who have a nickname that they’d like to get rid of and are moving on to a new school: don’t announce that nickname to your new class! Granted, with social media all nicknames are more or less permanent, but at least don’t make it easy on them. Anyway, Danny has a giant chip on his shoulder about all kinds of things, and his genuinely odd behavior around bugs doesn’t do a thing to ingratiate himself with the local kids. It’s a heartbreaking story where the biggest moments are played silently, giving you plenty of room to interpret some of the more ambiguous silences. There’s one other short story in here, basically dealing with working up the nerve to commit some vandalism when you’re a kid and the consequences that sometimes come with that. It’s a really solid comic all around and I’d recommend it for anybody who ever had issues fitting in as a kid or knew somebody who had those issues. So, everybody, basically.

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Update for 5/19/15

New review today for Inside Salmeck by Vincent Fluckiger. Yes, I’m still dealing with a pile of work from after the election, which is slowing down reviews in a big way, and yes, it was stupid of me to think that that wouldn’t be the case. Live and learn! Or live and make the same mistakes, over and over again…

Fluckiger, Vincent – Inside Salmeck

Website

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Inside Salmeck

How much do you know about where you live? Granted, if you live in your childhood
home, or never left your hometown, chances are you know quite a bit. But if you
moved away when you were younger, have gone from apartment to apartment a few times,
and wound up wherever you are now, how much do you really know about your
surroundings? Know any neighbors? This comic is an exploration of Vincent’s
immediate surroundings. That much is obvious right away, as his image of the
building he lives in has notations for which neighbors live where and the nature of
the building itself, including the history of it and the styles of construction in
various parts of the building. From there we get to learn a tiny bit about his
neighbor (who killed himself; when his mother came by to clean up she gave Vincent’s
daughter the childhood toy from her son, which he was rightly creeped out by), then
into Vincent’s apartment. From there he has a close view of his neighbors across the
street, and each of them has their own story (or story that he made up after
observing them for a time). It never gets too voyeuristic and we learn precious
little about Vincent’s life, but it serves as a fantastic portrait of a place and of
the time in which it’s being observed. Check it out, then just try not to look
around at your own place and wonder what else is going on around you that you’ve
never seen. $2

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Update for 5/13/15

New review today for Crawdads by Adam Pasion. I seem to be crawling out of the election black hole (unless there are recounts, which is possible), so in theory more regular reviews again? I’m an optimist so I’ll go with that.

Pasion, Adam – Crawdads

Website

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Crawdads

Who loves teenage angst? Everybody, that’s who! Well, maybe everybody outside of
parents of teenagers, as they’re sick of dealing with it. And angsty teenagers
themselves, who are convinced that their angst is the one true angst and that nobody
has ever suffered as much as they have. Well, if you’re not in one of those groups,
you’ll probably thoroughly enjoy this comic. This is the story of a 16 year old boy
who gets talked into taking a family trip, complaining all the way. Also along on
this trip are the father (who is annoyed with the boy but gets the whole teenage
thing), the mom (who is also annoyed and much less forgiving) and his younger sister
(who is trying to emulate him out of a clear desire to keep him around for as long
as she can). The bulk of the comic is the conversations between various members of
this group, but the highlight comes from the title, as the two kids notice some
crawdads in the lake and decide to catch one. They end up catching two and, because
of the book our hero is reading at the time, he thinks they might be delicious. So
they cook them up, probably in about the most humane way that they could
(considering that they didn’t know what they were doing), and discover that they are
delicious. But this is when the mom catches them, and instead of joining in in this
moment of family bonding, things take a very different turn. There are lots of cute
and/or insightful little moments in here, and there’s a good chance that this could
even serve as a bit of an instructional guide if you are a parent of a teenager, or
somebody who will soon be a teenager. Either way, there’s a lot to like here for
just about anybody.

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Update for 5/4/15

New review today for Eyelash Out by Ben Sea. The lack of posting lately has been due to there being an election tomorrow and, as I may have mentioned a few times around here, even the tiny elections tend to be a bit overwhelming when you work at the local Board of Elections. If all goes perfectly “normal” reviews will resume this week. Since that never happens, chances are better that normal reviews will return next week.

Sea, Ben – Eyelash Out

Website

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Eyelash Out

You know how some reviewers refer to any comic featuring a drug trip as
“psychodelic” or just go with the easier “weird?” Yeah, I am very tempted to just
call this comic “trippy” and leave it at that. Still, that would be doing a
disservice to the comic, as there is so much more going on here. It is also trippy
as hell, and if you’ve done a large amount of LSD in your life there’s a chance that
various images in here could lead to flashbacks. That’s how that works, right?
Anyway, this comic starts off with a young man who is barging his way to the front
of a… contest? Selection process? Whatever it is, it’s the process of another
person (?) trying to determine who is worthy to have one of his/her/its eyelashes.
One person goes through the process and is awarded one, while the young man from the
first page bursts through the crowd and just takes an eyelash. The rest of the crowd
apparently doesn’t take this well, but from that point on all we see is the
(distorted, surreal) world through the eyes of these two characters, on whatever
analogy to a drug trip that they’re experiencing, so they don’t have to worry about
an angry mob. And man, that imagery. Every panel has at least a little bit of
floating imagery, often unconnected from anything that could be mistaken as coming
from the “real” world. I often wish for full color in my comics these days, but I
don’t know if my senses would have been able to handle it with this one. From there
we get to experience their trip in all its glory, until the male in the group
chooses a confrontation, and things spiral a bit from there. I’d say I’m avoiding
spoilers by not going any further with the story, but I could tell you the story
from beginning to end and I’d still recommend getting this book for the visuals
alone. If I had to pick a style it reminded me of I’d say early Ron Rege, sort of,
but also entirely its own thing, so not a helpful comparison. Here’s a test to see
if this book is for you: examine that cover image. Really dig into it. If you think
you know exactly what’s going on there, and want to see more, then pick this up
immediately. If you’re not sure what it happening, well, doesn’t that make you
curious to see what you’re missing? $4

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Update for 4/27/15

New review today from another one from the mini kus pile, this time R.A.T. by Lala Albert.

Albert, Lala – R.A.T.

Website

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R.A.T.

Do you maybe have a computer monitor that was made in the last 5 years or so, one of
the ones that has a webcam built into it? If so, have you ever wondered whether that
camera is ever really off? I don’t know what you’d call that, as it’s hard to say
“paranoia” when it’s a technology that’s so open to exploitation, but if you’ve ever
worried about that, this comic is for you! This one starts out with a creep who
watches a young woman through her webcam on her computer. She never turns the
computer off, so he always has an easy way to observe her. He still has his “rules,”
so he doesn’t use this technology to get her bank data or any other personal
information. Nope, this guy just uses it to watch her while she has no idea that
this is going on. From there we get a scene of our heroine out drinking with some
friends, and she finally comes across this R.A.T. program and decides to take a look
at it and at who is available on this network. What she finds isn’t all that
shocking if you read the first half of this review (and boy would you be a weirdo if
you only read the second halves of reviews), but it sets up a nice “confrontation”
for the end of the comic. It’s a problem with no easy answer (although I’ve heard
that duct tape over a webcam is surprisingly effective), but this comic is bound to
creep you out as you think about it. $5

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Update for 4/23/15

New review today for Drawn Onward by Matt Madden, which should be a familiar name to you if you’ve been reading these funny books for as long as I have. Get off my lawn!

Madden, Matt – Drawn Onward

Website

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Drawn Onward

Who likes some experimentation in their comics? Is it you? Do you prefer to have
some boundaries pushed, to see an attempt at something completely different? It’s
impossible to talk about this comic without at least giving away the concept, so if
that’s your thing, and if you have trust in Matt’s abilities since he’s been making
comics for 20 (ish) years now, then I’m going to go ahead and recommend this
unreservedly right now. It’s unlike any comic I’ve ever read, and that is saying
something. That right there is your last chance to just pick this book up without
knowing anything about it, although I suppose it’s likely that the description of
the comic on their website might give something away. If you can manage to read this
completely unspoiled, do so. Anyway, now I’m going to talk about the story, in case
you need more convincing and don’t mind at least little spoilers. This is described
as a “palindromic comic,” which eagle-eyed observers might have already figured out
from that title. Things start off with a young woman and a chance encounter on a
subway with a young man. This man seems overly familiar with the woman, but too
desperate for her to do anything but run away from him. She keeps meeting him on the
subway, and gradually she starts to become less and less afraid of him, until
finally she realizes that she’s looking forward to seeing him again. Things finally
break just right, they kiss… and everything changes. And nothing changes. It’s up
to you to decide which of those things is true, or if they’re both true. This is a
genuinely remarkable book, and one of those rare occasions where I went back and
read through it again right after I finished it. Matt is a member of a group called
Workshop for Potential Comics, and I’m going to look into that after I finish this
to see what else they have to offer. For now, read this comic, especially if you
need a reminder that the only constraints that are on this art form are what the
individual creator brings with them. $5

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Update for 4/22/15

New review today for Grampa by Jason Payne.

Payne, Jason – Grampa

Website

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Grampa

Anybody who has been reading this website for more than a few days know that I abhor
spoilers, as all decent people should. But this time I’ll around I’m going to make
it clear that I’m going to be spoiling the ending for this book, mostly because I
just don’t get it. And if I do get it, I don’t care for it. This always leaves the
option that it’s over my head, which is always a possibility, but I wanted you to be
warned. So! This comic is all about a trip with two kids to see their Grampa. They
don’t care for the man, as he stinks, is mean and is kind of racist, but of course
their concerns are shouted down by their parents. Well, mostly the mother and a
nearly invisible father. Anyway, from that setup I was expecting them to either be
proven right or wrong once they reached their Grampa, but we skip over all that
stuff entirely. Instead the first look we get at Grampa involves him telling the
kids not to go into a house near his because it’s haunted. As a warning like this to
children is pretty much an incentive to go into said house, they wander away from
him and into the haunted house. He secretly follows them, notices their reaction (or
lack thereof) and bursts through the window to… really scare them? This is where
it lost me. They’re both all in white, so maybe Grampa cut an artery going into the
window and is now scaring them as a ghost? No, the kids are all white too. So why
would their Grampa busting through a window do anything to convince them that the
house is haunted? Agh, I don’t care for doing nothing but crapping on a comic, so I
should point out that I did enjoy the full color aspect of it and thought it mostly
looked terrific. That joke on the final page about how to be a grampa got a chuckle
out of me. And maybe this book is for little kids and I’m over-thinking it, but
narratively I don’t understand why the problems that the kids have with their Grampa
would be set up so meticulously only to never come to anything. It’s almost like
this comic started as the first half, got set aside for a few years and then started
again, by which Jason forgot or ignored the stuff he was setting up in the first
half. He sent along another book that’s an anthology of stories, and I’m looking
forward to it, but despite the bits that I liked I can’t really recommend this one.
$5.99

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Update for 4/20/15

New review today for Piggy by Niv Bavarsky. I already mentioned that everybody should watch that new Netflix Daredevil series, right? Just making sure. That mom and pop comic company Marvel need all help they can get!

Bavarsky, Niv – Piggy

Website

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Piggy

You know what we don’t see enough of when it comes to pigs? Pig rampages. Sure,
boars get mad and charge at people occasionally, but your average pig rampage is
rarely seen. That is corrected with this issue, as the main story is all about a
man, his post-coital attempt to smell some flowers, and the fierce reaction a pig
has to this fact. All in all the man stays fairly calm about it, which is not how I
would have handled something as shocking as being attacked by a pig. There are then
a series of single page images (at least a couple of which strongly imply that
things didn’t end well for that pig), a collection of ways that people say that they
would like to die, and a final story about a frantic attempt to plug up an active
volcano using a big boulder. Come to think of it, that’s probably how I’d like to
go: jumping into an active volcano. But only if I already knew that I had cancer or
something like that, and preferably holding onto the last remaining copy of Action
Comics #1. Yep, got it all planned out. Anyway, digression aside, I thoroughly
enjoyed the stories in here along with the single page images/stories, but I’ll
leave the details of those a mystery so you have something new to discover when you
buy this comic. $4

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