“Update” for 6/22/16

OK, I thought I could balance this being my last week at work and the week that I’m changing apartments along with putting a few reviews together, but since only one of those things is optional, guess which one isn’t going to happen? Yep, no reviews this week, and I’ll post my new address this weekend once I’m actually living there. I should be able to get a few reviews up next week (assuming competence from Time Warner), and there was a bit of good news from all this packing: I’ve uncovered more than a few caches of comics that I got years ago that were never reviewed, as it seems like they ended up in a box during a previous move and then buried. So apologies to those artists and writers, and I’ll check to make sure that they’re still active, but I should be able to get some of those reviews up soon. In this culture would they be considered “retro” if they’re a few years old? Probably so…

Update for 6/16/16

New review today for Mutant Punks Fuck Off #1 by Kevin Panetta & Jared Morgan, which is a heartbreaking tale of forbidden love in dire circumstances. Or you could refer to the title and guess for yourself what it’s about. Also sorry about the lack of a sample image, but my scanner is now apparently at the point where it scans the cover image and then needs to rest for several hours. And since I’m moving next week and have to buy a bunch of furniture, I don’t have the cash to spare to get a new one. Luckily the internet still exists and the images aren’t hard to hunt down for those who are inclined to do so.

Panetta, Kevin & Morgan, Jared – Mutant Punks Fuck Off #1

Website

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Mutant Punks Fuck Off #1

Call me an old timey punk if you want (or maybe just old), but doesn’t it undermine your case of being a punk book when you cross off “fuck” from the title? Yeah, it’s an odd thing to be cranky about, and the book itself is chock full o’ fucks, but it struck me as odd. Anyway, how about that comic? It’s basically an excuse for an extended fight scene, but it was a pretty great fight scene. The Vomit Lords are leaving a punk show when they go to the local fish market. One of the shopkeepers is despondent because the fish are mutating and he’s barely able to make a living, which is when The Nimrods come onto the scene with an ultimatum: that whole area belongs to the same people who are polluting the river, and the market has to get out of town in a hurry. The Vomit Lords disagree, and the rest of the comic is the aforementioned fight scene. And what sets off the fight scene? Just the most awful word for any punk band to ever hear. It’s a fun comic overall, and my quibble about that title is a very minor thing indeed. If you like mayhem and/or punks you’ll have a lot of fun reading this. $3

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Update for 6/14/16

New review today for Satan Cat #2 by Steve Steiner. Have I mentioned that I’m moving in a couple of weeks? Because I am. If you have review comics to send, maybe hold off until after 6/24 so there’s no confusion with mail delivery.

Steiner, Steve – Satan Cat #2

Website

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Satan Cat #2

Cat people, gather round! Dog people and weirdos who don’t like any pets at all, this one probably isn’t for you. Or maybe it is, if you’re intrigued by the concept of a cat literally thinking that it’s Satan. But is it actually Satan, or is the cat crazy? That’s the premise of this unexpectedly complex issue. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all still easy enough to grasp, but the bulk of this comic is a conversation between the cat and a mouse toy, with the mouse toy playing the role of the sane one of the two. This toy also points out the absurdity of it being the rational one and that the cat should think about that, at which point the comic almost collapses in on itself. It’s another funny issue but, as is often the case with a mini this small, there’s not a whole lot for a reviewer to talk about outside of the basic “yea or nay” issue. So… yea! It’s always fun to watch one of the most smug creatures on the planet question its own sanity.

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Update for 6/13/16

New review today for Elf Cat in Love by James Kochalka, who was maybe one of the first people I reviewed on this website back in the day. Who can say for sure, that was 15 years ago!

Kochalka, James – Elf Cat in Love

Website

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Elf Cat in Love

Full disclosure time to new readers: I’ve been a fan of James Kochalka since the days of his mini comic and Little Mister Man in the 90’s. Eventually lost interest in the daily strip and he went in a direction of comics more geared towards kids (like the Johnny Boo series), so I’ve lost touch with his stuff over the years. Except for Superfuckers, which was great. Anyway, this isn’t about me, much as it might seem like it from that intro, it’s about Elf Cat in Love! Which is another of his “all ages” books, so again not one that’s geared towards adults, but it still retains that Kochalka charm. It’s broken down into three chapters and is basically the love story between Elf Cat (a magical (?) cat) who’s afraid of girls but thinks an awful lot of himself and a talking, flying tennis ball. Maybe I missed an origin story somewhere, but how much of an origin do you need for such a pairing? The first chapter deals with Elf Cat on a quest to save a princess that doesn’t go at all as planned, the second deals with his quest to heat up a hot dog, and the third is basically the two of them coming together. Even though they’ve been together for the whole book, but you know what I mean. Their mutual reluctance to admit any kind of attraction was fairly adorable, and their escape from the monster/princess in the first chapter was certainly memorable. Overall it fell a little too much on the kids side of all ages for me to think of it as great (but I’ll remind everybody again that that line is crazy subjective), but it was still a fun read, and I’d have to think that most kids would find it adorable. $15

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Update for 6/8/16

New review today for Threadbare: Clothes, Sex & Trafficking, written by Anne Elizabeth Moore and featuring several artists, most of which have already been reviewed on this website at some point. Also my scanner now officially only scans book covers and not interior images, so it looks like I really do need a new scanner. Luckily the internet still exists for people who want to see interior art from this book.

Moore, Anne Elizabeth & Various Artists – Threadbare: Clothes, Sex & Trafficking

Website

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Threadbare: Clothes, Sex & Trafficking

There’s a long list of things I would do if I was a rich man, but high up on that list would be funding comics journalism, or graphic journalism. Whatever it is that Joe Sacco established roughly 20 years ago, anyway. This is a rare occasion where I’ll cite Wikipedia, but they list Emi Gennis, Jen Sorenson, Dar Archer, Matt Bors and Josh Neufeld (among others), and I’m constantly surprised that this isn’t more of an established thing by now. As Anne makes clear in the introduction, that’s mostly because funding is incredibly difficult to come by, especially with a project like this one that covers years of interviews, travel and multiple artists. I’m only going to briefly summarize these sections, as they’re chock full of details (and footnotes after the fact), so the only way to really do them justice is to read them yourself. The title gives you the basics of what’s covered in here, and it’s broken down into four sections. First up is The United States, which deals with fast fashion, the real life of a model, clothing stores, thrift stores, warehouses full of clothes to be recycled, and the trade agreements that “govern” this whole mess. The story of the model (and her description of the ones that were best able to adjust to the environment and the ones who weren’t) is heartbreaking, as is the general waste and pollution caused by the thrift industry (and how little of the profits actually make it to charities). The second section deals with Austria and the history of textiles and fashion, including stories from people who have lived their whole lives in the industry and are seeing it start to vanish due to competition from the larger clothing chains. The third section tells the story of Cambodia, the working conditions and wages of the factories, how that sometimes turns into sex work and how it can cycle back into garment work due to a lack of other options. The fourth section is The World, and it’s probably going to be the most surprising chapter for people who only have a passing knowledge of the sex trade industry and trafficking. The shocking bits (to me, anyway) detail how sex trafficking (slavery, basically) is treated the same in the US as voluntary sex work, and how funding for getting rid of sex slavery often gets tied up in ridiculous moral rules that come from the hyper-religious types. Fighting these moralistic scolds is incredibly difficult because they’re successfully blurred the lines for years, and money that could be more effectively put into housing and counseling for actual victims instead goes into advertising to convince people that their children will be sold into slavery if they leave their parents’ sight for a few minutes. It does conclude on a hopeful note, with some practical advice on how to change things for all of the various problems they’ve documented, but it’s daunting to say the least. Even if you think you’re an expert on this subject I guarantee that you’ll find new information in here, and the comics are drawn by the some of the best artists working today. If you know any millionaires please tell them to throw some money at people who are looking to do this type of graphic journalism, because the world needs more of it. $13.95

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Update for 6/7/16

New review today for Billy Demon Slayer: The Complete Series 2 Collection by Hayden Fryer (check past reviews of the series for sample images because my scanner couldn’t handle it today for whatever reason) and the “Reviews by Author” page is finally fixed! If you’re having trouble getting any other pages here to load, please let me know. Except for the store. I know that thing’s a mess, I’m just trying to find the time to build a new one…

Fryer, Hayden – Billy Demon Slayer: Complete Series 2 Collection

Website

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Billy Demon Slayer: Complete Series 2 Collection

It’s a little hilarious to go back through my old reviews of this series, note how many times I said I was going to go back and read the series in a chunk (as I reviewed the issues more or less when they came out and forgot a lot of the details between issues), and then somehow I never reviewed the final issue. Or I never got it? Nah, I’ll go ahead and blame me for dropping the ball on that one. Anyway, I was right: this series makes a whole lot more sense when it’s read all at once. Which is the nature of serialized comics, and most people don’t read as many comics as somebody who reviews them does, meaning that they have an easier time keeping all the little details straight. Anyway! For those of you who haven’t read this series (or those reviews when they came out a few years ago), this is the second series, meaning things start off with a recap of what happened in the first series. It was pretty comprehensive, and the only thing I really felt like I was missing out on was some of the more obscure cameos. In this complete volume we start off with a flashback to a couple of swords that are obviously going to be crucial later on, then jump back into life that has more or less gone back to normal after the events of the first series. But things don’t stay normal, as we get a killer hamster to start off with and it’s quickly followed by a mysterious (and, in a hilarious recurring gag, obviously stinky) fog envelops the town and turns almost everybody evil. We even lose our hero for a bit there in the middle, although I’m not going to spell out what that means exactly. Things get pretty dark in this series, but there are quips throughout and (from the afterward) it’s clear that the first series was much more lighthearted and this one ended up darker because that’s just where the story was naturally headed. Buffy and the Evil Dead series were obvious influences, but those are two pretty great influences to have. If you enjoyed those two universes, you’re going to find plenty to love in here. My only complaint is that the two friends of Billy were barely characters at all, which lessened some of their struggles, but again that’s most likely on me for not reading the first series. Other than that I pretty much loved this book. $25

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Update for 6/2/16

New review today for Drawing Under the Influence by Derek Baxter & Brian Canini. Since I have to go to the dentist tomorrow that’s probably it for the week, so happy weekend everybody!

Baxter, Derek & Canini, Brian – Drawing Under the Influence

Website

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Drawing Under the Influence

Is it possible for a really great collection of comics to be undermined by its premise? That might not make any sense, so let me try again: this comic collects a bunch of strips that Derek and Brian did for their website when they realized that it had been left without being updated for ages (I can relate). In the interests of getting a bunch of strips up quickly, they decided that Brian would do a number of simple stick figure drawings to keep things regularly updated. But by the time this plan came together they had more or less abandoned the stick figure idea and had come up with a few dozen mostly full color strips, sometimes one page long and sometimes longer. And those are almost universally great! But there’s a large chunk in the middle of this book called The Adventures of Bugman that looks awful and drags the rest of the book down. But (extra but) it’s the only chunk of the book that literally looks like it was drawn under the influence. So if you’re looking for authenticity, go straight to that story! If you’re looking for stories that will get you literally laughing out loud (and getting odd looks because you’re reading it at work, at least if you’re me) then I can highly recommend the rest of the book. Subjects include the origin of the Drunken Cat (and, in hindsight, it’s hilarious that they thought this origin would be an epic tale), recurring strips about the smartest caveman learning that it wasn’t a good time to be all that smart, recurring strips about a maggot giving advice to kids who didn’t understand his ulterior motives, recurring strips of Big Puff and his unwelcome advice about being better people, the tragic tale of peanut butter and jelly, Drunken Cat and his adventures (that rarely end well, although I would think all the booze would help him better tolerate a lady who says “like” all the time), the redshirts finally getting their revenge on Kirk, and a longer story about the importance of air, told in old timey special speak. Like I said, overall it’s pretty damned great, and it’s hard to bitch too much about the sloppiness of one long drunken comic in a book where that is literally in the title. $16.99

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Update for 6/1/16

Sorry about the radio silence, it’s been a busy week. New review today for Sick by Gabby Schulz, theoretically more reviews to come this week?

Schulz, Gabby (aka Dahl, Ken) – Sick

Website

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Sick

Once again I’m going to cheat a bit and quote directly from the disclaimer on the back of the book: “This book is not recommended for children or the self-satisfied.” That might seem to be a confusing description about a comic dealing with a sickness, but boy does it ever make sense after you read it. This starts off as the story of Gabby (aka Ken Dahl) as he deals with a sudden illness. He starts off with the same plan as everybody with no health insurance: wait it out, drink lots of fluids and hope for the best. But his illness keeps getting worse and worse, so he finally breaks down and heads to the local emergency room (despite that same emergency room being recently sued for letting somebody die in their waiting room after leaving them there for 24 hours). 22 hours into his stay he gets in to see a doctor… who doesn’t help him out even a little bit. From there he goes back to his original plan of waiting it out, even though it had clearly gotten pretty terrible for him to head to the hospital in the first place. But as the days went on and he didn’t get any better, he started pondering the reasons for living, and what was or wasn’t worth fighting for. From there he thought of all of human history and the delusions that we all must tell ourselves to enjoy our lives in a place of such rampant corruption, disease and hopelessness. He came away with a damned near irrefutable case against humanity in all its forms, unless you were willing to stick to that plan of willful ignorance, but you can read this yourself to see the case that he made. Granted, his mind was in a sick and dark place when he thought all this through, but I defy anybody to read this without agreeing with a good chunk of what he said. If you’re content in the bubble that you’ve made of your life and have no interest in seeing if anything could break through, stay away from this book at all costs. If you can accurately see your surroundings already and want to live as closely examined of a life as possible, there are few books better than this to help in that task. $21.95

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Update for 5/24/16

New review today for Shioya Reko by Graeme McNee, and I’ll try to put up a few more reviews this week but things have picked up a bit at work, so no promises.

McNee, Graeme – Shioya Neko

Website

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Shioya Neko

Local comics often have a deeper meaning for the people in the area covered, and that is certainly the case in this book. This comic is the silent story of a cat on its travels through Shioya, which is a small town near Kobe, Japan. Several local stores and buildings are featured, and Graeme was nice enough to include a letter with his feelings on those locations to help me along a bit as a reviewer. It’s clear that they’re near and dear to him, but if you’re one of the people reading this who aren’t familiar with the location (and I’m guessing that’s most of you), you’re in luck! It’s also a completely adorable story about a cat wandering around the city and its interactions with the local animals and people. It starts with its casual escape from its home (it was unclear if it was escaping or just an outdoor cat), as it follows a bird, then a bug, and the stumbles across an ominous larger cat. Not to worry though, no violence here, as it then moves along to a charmed (and sleeping) construction worker, an indifferent smoker and a cranky old man who’s just trying to rake some leaves in peace. I’ll leave the rest of the journey for you to discover, but it’s never anything less than thoroughly charming throughout. If you ever find yourself in this part of the world I’d recommend taking this book and do a little walking tour, as it sure looks like Graeme did his research. I should also mention that this originally started out as an exhibition requested by the city, as they wanted a way to showcase the town, and he (wisely) added the cat (which is “Neko” in Japanese) to it. Hey look, you learned something today!

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Update for 5/19/16

New review today for Alien Beings from Laura Kenins, which is #42 (!) in the mini kus series of comics.

Kenins, Laura – Alien Beings

Website

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Alien Beings

Somewhere out there (assuming comics like these are still even sold in physical stores), somebody bought this thinking they were getting an alien abduction story. Too bad, suckers! Instead you got a comic about the slow dissolution of a marriage as experienced through the eyes of the young daughter of the couple. Oh, and some unexplained lights. Those lights were a really innovative way to start the book, as it was a typical ride home with the kids in the back seat and the parents in the front (singing along to the radio, so clearly they weren’t always unhappy). Suddenly they saw lights floating above the car, causing them to stop for about 10 minutes (as remembered by Laura, assuming this is autobiographical). From there things took a sharp turn at home, with the parents increasingly arguing with each other until they eventually take the kids aside and tell them that the father is going to rent an apartment alone. All along the way this is taking a toll on Laura at school, as she kind of likes a boy at school, but not as much as the music her parents were listening to would indicate. As the marriage falls apart she also concludes that all love is hopeless anyway, so there’s no point in liking that boy anyway. Laura develops a fascination with all things related to aliens and also tries to come up with a plan to get her parents back together, all while getting constant “helpful” books from other friends and family dealing with how to cope with divorce. Laura going back and asking her parents about those strange lights they saw before the divorce is the kicker, but you can find out how that went for yourself. It’s a perspective on divorce that you don’t usually see, and it was a story that was very well told.

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Update for 5/18/16

New review today for Cats and Witches #1 by Charles Brubaker.