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
As if Carrie wasn’t already the hardest working woman in comics (go ahead, challenge me on that one; she’s also one of the hardest working artists in comic period), now she’s doing comics with excerpts from various non-fiction books that she’s read and enjoyed. As the cover says, there are seven books covered in here, 6 of them being two pages long and the last one being only one page. Which is a shame, as it’s the one I was most interested in (Kim Gordon’s “Girl in a Band), but I digress. Other excerpts deal with addiction and the benefits/cost of calling for help when you know it’ll get you in trouble (but might end up with a dead friend if you don’t), having a buddy in a strange country and the social status that comes with the “right” kind of ramen, the odd dichotomy of the Ramones playing at a historical location, meeting Sid Vicious on the street and ending up in a band with his friend, the hilarious moralizing that apparently goes on at the Playboy mansion when one of the ladies turns out to have done hardcore porn in her past instead of just getting naked and/or having sex with a 70+ year old creep who’s incapable of wearing pants, how the Hollywood (which was originally Hollywoodland, just in case you needed that for a trivia question) sign first got up that hill and the awful lights that initially came with it, and Kim Gordon starting to talk about why she produced Hole’s first album and what she thought of Courtney Love. None of these excerpts were enough to give you a sense of the overall story, but that’s why they’re just excerpts. I’m curious to read at least three of these books now, and the existence of this comic makes me wonder why I don’t use the amazing local library system for more than graphic novels. Time to change that, and now I have solid list of non-fiction books to start with.
New review today for Mile High Book Two by Mister V. Wow, I really shouldn’t have changed the background of this site. Now I can’t settle on anything that I really like. Well, outside of that new banner image by Cailey Tervo; I’m still just trying to find a background template to tie the whole thing together.
You know what has long been missing from any conversation about legalizing marijuana? Nuance. That’s a societal (human?) failing on many issues, like gun control, abortion, climate change, etc. For most of these subjects there’s SOME middle ground to be had, but because of the political environment in this country honest conversations about these topics are impossible. And by “political environment” I mostly mean “Republicans;” let’s be real here. Anyway, this comic is about marijuana and I’m drifting into a political rant, so don’t mind me. What Mister V has done such a wonderful job conveying in these two volumes has been the nuances of the debate. In the first volume V (or do I call him Mister for short?), desperate for some relief from his irritable bowel syndrome, finally went with medical marijuana and dipped his toes into his options for staying supplied. Frankly, he could have used a “previously in volume one” summary somewhere; it’s never a good idea to count on the long term memory of stoners to stay fresh on all the details from a previous volume. Stereotype alert, I know, but it’s a good idea for all comics series. Anyway, in this volume we get to see our hero as he tells the parents of his wife about his pot use (always fascinating to see former hippies become moral scolds on the subject now), his misadventures in trying to get medical marijuana, the hoops he had to jump through to renew his license, and his journey to finally becoming more or less a pot connoisseur. Most stories I’ve seen about legalized weed tend to end right about when it gets legalized (at least for medical purposes), but V shows that that is not remotely where the story ends. He also tells the tale about a former co-worker who worked for her company for 20 years (and was demonstrably one of the best people on staff) and was unceremoniously fired after a different co-worker complained about this lady smoking pot. For her own medical situation. In a state where such a thing is legal. So yeah, there’s a long way to go before we can claim to be remotely civilized about this subject as a society, and we just elected the most famous con man in the country as president, so it seems likely that things will get worse before they get better. In so, so many ways; maybe this is why I’m on the constant verge of a political rant these days. Still, leaving all that aside, this is a thoroughly engaging and thought-provoking tale of a guy who is just trying to get some relief in his life and the various ways that his life throws up roadblocks to keep that from being remotely easy to do. He even managed to end this volume (the second of three) on a cliffhanger, one that leaves more questions than answers, so I’m very curious to see how he wraps all this up. Even if you’re not a fan of weed you could learn a lot from these books, and if you’re one of the moral scolds in question there is really a lot you could learn from these books. $10
New review today for Future Space by Mark Velard. So whaddaya think, is 2017 better or worse than 2016?
Ever get the sense that you’ve already and reviewed a book despite a complete lack of evidence that this ever happened? No? Just me then. I guess it’s an occupational hazard of 15+ years rambling about comics. The weird thing is that this is a thoroughly unique book, and I still get that sense. My own mental issues aside, this is a mostly silent comic about a guy just trying to have a good time/lose himself for a bit. He has already had a lousy day, as he burned his food and couldn’t get his elevator to work properly, when he sat down by the futuristic equivalent to the television, scrolled through his choices and decided to take a virtual trip to the moon. Even this only seemed to slightly improve the mood of our hero, but then he decides to read the history of the place and discovers what’s coming right at him. Yep, I’m leaving out the conflict for you to discover. You all know my policy on spoilers, even for comics that I’ve already reviewed in an alternate reality. This comic was a treat, and Mark was nice enough to send me a few of his books, so we all get to see more of his stuff over the coming weeks. And I think this was his oldest comic, for what it’s worth. No price listed, but $2 maybe?
New review today for New Flyer by Tim Brown. Hey, you know what would shut this site down for good? If anybody ever put out a comic called “new review today for [insert title here] by [insert artist here].” Reality would fold in on itself as I tried to introduce it and that would be the end of Optical Sloth. Of course, it might also be the end of reality itself, so maybe don’t try it.
Technically this one is more of a zine than a comic, as Tim tells this story by using drawings he’s done of bus passengers over the years while telling a text story alongside them. Which makes me think, yet again, that I don’t spend nearly as much time here on zines as I should, but there’s not enough time in the world to deal with all the mini comics in the world AND all the zines. Anyway! This is basically the story of Tim’s history with buses. As a child he rarely had to use them, so only knew what they were in the abstract and that was mostly because of one neighbor who waited for the bus every morning. As he got older Tim found more reasons to use them, and he gradually grew to appreciate their beauty. Or, if that’s not the right word, at least their uniqueness and the peace that he (usually) got to experience on the bus. He also goes into detail about a few types of people to ride the bus, the reaction he would sometimes get from people who realized they were being sketched, and how the bus ride in Austin changed after the refugees from Katrina hit Texas. I almost said “flooded into,” but that seemed like poor taste. So yeah, this is a nice, quiet, observational book, telling the story of a group of people that can be completely invisible to you if you never ride the bus. $9
Happy new year everybody, I changed the layout again! Yeah, after spending lots of years with the last setup now I can’t decide which one I want to use. And yes, of course that’s the most important thing I should be worrying about this year, so leave me alone about it. New review today for The Fuzzy Princess #3 by Charles Brubaker.
The Fuzzy Princess #3
Does Charles have a regular newspaper comic strip gig yet? If not it seems like it’s only a matter of time, as the guy has the perfect sense of timing for it and is more than prolific enough to keep up on the grueling schedule. This time around we have Jackson and the Princess looking for a gift. They go into a bookstore, we see the differences in reality for the Princess in how she refers to comics, and we end up back in the Princess’ room where Jackson goes through her dolls, looking for the perfect gift. One of the dolls has a surprise inside, which leads to the conflict that we get for the rest of the comic, so I should probably leave it a mystery. There are also a few single page strips at the end of the book, because Charles clearly abhors blank page, so we get to learn how cars mark their territory (it’s not what you’re thinking), the bureaucracy of the tooth fairy and a master class in blowing bubbles. It’s another pile of funny from one of the hardest working guys in comics today. I mean, unless you don’t like the humor, I guess. Which is what websites are for, as you can just go to his, look at the samples and find out for yourself. You guys already know all that though, so I’ll shut up now. $5
New review for the last book of 2016, Snow Cone City #1 by Joseph Hewitt! Since I’m writing these reviews in advance, I assume that 2016 still has one more celebrity death to crap out before the year is up, so I’ll guess… Betty White? She seems nice, which makes her a perfect finale to this crappy year. Here’s hoping for better things next year!
Snow Cone City #1
Sometimes, over the course of running this website, a comics artist sends me their entire back catalog of comics. Usually it’s like in this case, where there’s roughly half a dozen comics to read. Some might suggest to start with the most recent comic, as that’s the best representation of what kind of work they’re doing right now. But me? I’m a super nerd; this should be obvious because I’ve been running this site for 15 years. As such, I go back to the beginning and work my way forward. The point of all this rambling is that if this particular comic is not representative of what Joseph is doing right now in late 2016, well… oops. This also sounds like I’m leading up to crapping all over this book, and that is not my intention. This is the story of Pokemon (or the generic pocket monsters of your choosing) existing in the real world. Or at least a version of the real world that has Power Rangers/Voltron pilots keeping the peace. The monsters have been getting loose and disturbing the peace, so the crew investigates and finds the source of these monsters. Along the way Joseph gets really inventive with the odd background monsters that the nerdier among you will delight in identifying, which helps to elevate the fairly standard story about good guys coming together to beat the bad guy. It’s a fun book, is what I’m trying to say, and I’m looking forward to reading through the other comics that he sent my way to see how he’s evolving as an artist/writer. And the three books in this series are a measly $1 each!
New review today for Raccoon by Marie Hausauer. Is anybody who went into work this week actually doing any work, or are you just killing time reading websites like this? Discuss.
Is it sad that I find it odd that Marie only has an Instagram page (that I can find) and nothing else for an online presence? Isn’t that plenty? I guess I’ve gotten used to having three or four websites to link for contact information for every artist. Says the guy who doesn’t even keep up a Facebook page or any other sort of website outside of this one. Ahem! This is the story of a dead raccoon. Well, mostly it’s the story of the reactions of different people and groups of people to said raccoon. We don’t get to see how it died (one person said it died snarling, but death does funny things to faces) and are left to confront how other people handle a dead raccoon body. There’s an older couple who is mostly baffled that “somebody” hasn’t done something about it yet, there’s a group of young kids who pressure the outsider of their group into sticking his hand into the gaping hole in its belly, and finally there’s a lady who uses it as a backdrop for her poetry on her social media page. I found the reaction of the kids to be the most sympathetic, as each of them reacted in genuine ways to the body and what happened when they upset the body. Maybe it’s too close to the election of Trump (future people, assuming the printouts from this website survive, yes, we did know how bad he was), but the old people wishing somebody else would fix the problem mirrored reality a little too well for me at the moment. And yes, this is reading something into this that isn’t there, but you can’t tell me how to read/interpret comics. And you? How would you react to seeing a dead raccoon in the woods? Would you walk on by? Poke it with a stick? Post it to your social media page of choice? Or would you go in a completely different direction with it?