New reviews today for 1944 by Hanneriina Moisseinen and Space: An Eschew Collection by Robert Sergel. Hey, a few times in the past I’ve sold a bundle of 100 random mini or small press comics for $25, usually when I’m moving, like I am again at the end of next month. Anybody interested in that offer? It’s sad when comics get reduced to sheer weight, but that’s what moving does to somebody who’s run a small press comics review website for the last 15 years.
Every time I think I have a handle on the small press comics world, I get a book from somebody who has been doing amazing work for years that I’ve never heard of. Nope, I am never going to be current on everybody I should be watching, but that’s no reason to stop trying, right? This is a collection of stories from Robert, some longer and some shorter. My favorite was probably the 13 pages of bad experience involving water (I’d be amazed if you didn’t relate to at least one of them; with all 13 I wonder if he ever swims at this point), but there was so much good stuff in here that it’s hard to pick just one story. Subjects include ignoring an ongoing problem while working on a crossword puzzle, his first kiss and the aftermath, getting a dead squirrel dumped on his car hood while driving, the saga of his favorite sweatshirt and how hard it was to find a replacement, Nintendo and its connection to an old childhood injury (and another injury that came from his complaining about said injury), the results of watching a yoga video on his computer, physical reminders of an ex-girlfriend, trying immersion therapy to help him get over his fear of crowds/dancing, whether or not Thoreau was a phony, and learning about and meeting an uncle who was always the black sheep of the family (mostly because he was an illustrator). There are at least a dozen other short pieces too, but why tell you about everything? All of these stories share a vague sense of unease about the world, or maybe a reluctant acceptance of his place in it. Anybody reading it will know what I mean, but it’s hard to dig into it without sounding like a phony, and anybody who has read this site for any length of time knows I don’t do that “deep critical analysis” thing. Leave that to the professionals, says I. Anyway, this is a thoroughly thought-provoking and engaging book, while still managing to make me laugh on more than a few occasions. It’s definitely worth a look, especially if you’re like me and had somehow managed to miss Robert for this long. That only leaves more new stuff for you to discover, as this book is huge. $15
I’ll confess, I didn’t think there were any angles to WWII yet to be uncovered, but I was wrong about that. The time frame of this one should be obvious from the title, and this is set in Karelia, an area of Northern Europe. Bombings were a regular occurrence back then (something most Americans can probably barely even comprehend), but meanwhile the citizens were trying to lead some semblance of a normal life. Or, at the very least, they were forced to deal with normal life going on around them, like what’s depicted in this comic. An alarm is sounded, the inhabitants of an area (including a barn that had obviously been hit before) were given two minutes to leave… and this was impossible because there was a cow giving birth. The people were confronted with a few options at that point, none of them good, but they went with the most human option and helped the cow. Still, the idea of traveling on the run with a baby calf wasn’t a good one, so they were once again confronted with a few options, and that’s where I’ll leave the story for the rest of you. There’s tragedy in the smallest things, and the image of the cow that I initially thought was amusing on the back cover turned out to be anything but. It’s a great but heart-wrenching story, all told in scratchy black and white that emphasized the feel of the whole area being under a constant cloud of greasy smoke. $4
Two new reviews today, this time for Comic Con by Evette Langford and The Electric Team #2 by Leighton Connor, Samantha Albert and Abigail Connor. Can I keep this pace up all week? Probably not, but let’s find out!
The Electric Team #2
Parents who are reading this, you must love comics or you wouldn’t be here, right? Maybe you’ve already figured this out, but what’s the best way to get your kids interested in comics at a young age? Why not help them write the comic that you’re putting out together? That’s the case here, and don’t fret, it’s a solid story even for non-parents like me. And frankly, Abigail’s art on page 4 (she drew one of the characters, but it made sense in the context of the comic) is better than what I could do already. If you’re curious, the whole family did the story, Leighton did the script, and Samantha did the art (except for page 4). So what about that story? We start off with a flashback to the character on the cover from when he was a kid, and how he dreamed of growing up and becoming a hero. We then switch back to his modern day perspective, and how being a hero in real life isn’t as great as he thought it would be. From there we meet the whole crew of adventurers and get a little insight into where at least a few of them came from, although I don’t think it was ever made clear where exactly they were headed. Or it was made clear in the first issue, but I only got the second issue at SPACE this year, so that’s on me. It’s an eclectic bunch, and we see them run into some creepy (but somehow still cute) pandas with bat wings along with what looks to be the big villain of the piece. I’m curious about that team, how they all came together and how they’re going to get out of their current jam, which I think means that the comic was successful. And how could you not support a comic made entirely by a family? That’s just a wonderful thing. Check it out, help make sure this kid retains her current love of comics! $4
And here I thought this was going to be one of those comics by an artist that was sold at a convention, with a story about past conventions, to me while I was attending a convention. I can’t believe I made it through SPACE this year without getting one of those, as they are a tradition, but the review pile is getting slim and none have showed up yet. Anyway, that’s irrelevant to the actual contents of this mini, which is a fairly adorable story about two snakes who are trying to decide on the best possible costume for a comic convention. Since it’s 8 pages (with the front and back cover) and since each page is one panel long, I don’t think I should say much more about it than that. Yes, I even believe in no spoilers for 8 page mini comics. What can I say, I liked the punchline. So yeah, I liked it. And Evette sells all kinds of things at her website outside of comics, including some jewelry and badges. Even a Beemo badge, which I would buy if I wasn’t a grown man and could get away with such things. But don’t let that stop you!
Two more new reviews today, this time for Cocosoco by Mooney Tomomi and Laid to the Bone by Mike Burridge & Kevin Eckert. Still more SPACE comics to come, although that pile wasn’t as big as I thought it was…
Laid to the Bone
Well, for once the internet has mostly failed me. I’ve been trying to figure out if this comic is part of a series (Mike and Kevin work on a strip called “Truth Dart”), and these look like some of the same characters based on the few strips I’ve found online, but I still can’t tell for sure. So how about I treat it like any old comic off the street and not a research project? That’s worked for me so far, more or less. This is the story of two people who I assumed were dating for the bulk of the comic but I later learned I was completely wrong on that one. Um, spoiler alert, unless that’s already established in the strips, in which case never mind. Things start off with the two of them at a party and the lady asks the dude to spit in her mouth to cheer her up. They do, everybody sees it, and a new party game is born! From there we see them hanging out, mostly in her apartment, mostly drunk, and spending endless amounts of time together, which also includes burning each other with cigarettes. The dude half has a crush, because this is how these things work in the real world, but is resigned to being friend after a decade of that being the case. “Resigned” is maybe too strong a word; the guy seems content with the situation as it is. From there we get a sudden shift to the perspective of the lady as she tries on old swimsuits and wonder why her body seems to be wasting away. There’s some sadness in both halves, but what I mostly came away with was the story of two people who were bored alone but happy together, even if neither one of them seemed to fully understand that. The full page panels and the sparse text also make it feel a bit like a visual poem. I’m not seeing any samples online but it is available to buy, so maybe check out a few of their strips and then take a chance on this comic. $5
Here’s a sometimes surreal collection of stories by Mooney, translated into English by her husband (who did a really solid job, especially on the baby talk, as it’s often hard to tell what they’re trying to convey in comics form). Things start off with a silent piece about a young girl who looks to be exploring the things that make her a girl, starting with an open porn magazine and leading her to a covered bed, where she sees a pine cone that is actually a tiny fairy in hiding. The perspective shifts down to the fairy, who is stripped by the young girl, out of curiosity I guess? From there the fairy does some self-renovation, a fisherman finds the results of this experiment and has a good laugh with his wife about it later in the day. Next up is a shorter piece about racing to or from the past, how dreams as a child can reappear to you as an adult with no warning, and what can be seen and what’s just assumed about time passing. Yeah, maybe I’m making it sound lofty, but there are some big ideas in that story and I didn’t want to gloss over them. Finally there’s some whimsy, as we see a two hour stretch of a Monday morning shown basically from the perspective of a 2 year old (ish; still in diapers anyway) child. This is where her husband nails the dialogue, or maybe she’s familiar enough with the baby talk to do it herself, but either way it’s dead on. The little terrors, the little joys, the pooping and peeing in inappropriate places, and the joy that’s taken from damned near everything in the world from that perspective is on clear display. It’s an eclectic mix of stories, but they all come together to form a compelling comic. $5
Two new reviews again today, this time for Never Stop Drinking by Derek Baxter & Brian Canini and Vagabond Comics by a bunch of (mostly?) Ohio artists.
The theme for this anthology is foods (and drinks, technically), which is maybe obvious from the cover, at least until you examine more closely what exactly is in that jello. First up (by Sequoia Bostick) is a story about the joys and obvious effects of drinking too much coffee, told so lovingly that it was impossible not to enjoy. Unless you hate coffee, I guess, but if that’s the case then how do you get through the day? No, seriously, I really want to know. Next up (by Clare Holat) is the confession of a former pie blogger, and she was nice enough to use an actual pie recipe if you’re interested in baking a pie. Zach Sabatino has the next piece, about the quest for the mythical Starburger and the lengths that people will go to to get it. Julia Simmons follows that up by showing us the horrors of a vegetable and fruit platter from the perspective of the sole surviving member. And if plants really do have a rudimentary intelligence like recent science (that I may or may not have read correctly) suggest, good luck vegetarians! Luke Grabber then has one of the longer pieces in the book, an extended story about the quest of a young man to get just one bite of candy out of the candy bar of a stranger. Lindsey Bryan follows with the shortest story in the book, a literal tale about her ability to make a mean burger. Fabienne Duteau is next with the efforts of a vampire and her friends to make a soup of some kind, helped along by using some potions. Possibly these were anime characters that I didn’t recognize, or possibly they were Fabienne’s own characters, in which case never mind; it’s just that I didn’t know their story. Anyway, it turns out that using potions in making food can get a bit tricky, but I should say no more than that. Finally there’s a tale (by Salem Powell) about the workaday life of a pigeon and his family. I’ll confess that this one didn’t do a lot for me, but then again maybe I’m still suffering flashbacks from recently watching that awful HBO show “Animals,” the one about the pigeons in particular. Either way, it’s just my opinion, and I’m often wrong. Overall it’s still a solid mix of stories, and this comic was nicely put together in every possible way. $10
Huzzah, a book of (mostly) single panel strips! Yeah, I go back and forth on the concept, but I always like them when they’re funny, and the bulk of these are funny. Sometimes I missed the references (there’s an recurring gag with what the characters of “Doug” are up to today, but I don’t know what that was so the humor was lost on me), but overall this is a really solid bunch of strips. I don’t fully get the mechanics of having a writer and an artist for single panel strips, but then again these were mostly done in bars, so I’m probably overthinking it. Subjects include a recurring gag where a kid eats from a different type of cereal every day (the joke is in the title of the cereal and his reactions), where all those barrels came from in Donkey Kong, a better ending for Lost, the Crest Cavity fighters taking care of some prisoners, recurring strips of the inner monologue of a dumb dog, Hammy Sagar, trying to avoid a nemesis, the descent into madness of a piece of ravioli, the good of a cure of all the diseases after looking at actual people for a bit, Sue Storm as a stripper, and the master plan of Aquaman. And all kinds of other subjects, as this book is packed, but what’s the fun of me spoiling the subjects of strips when they’re mostly only a panel long? I won’t be a party to that madness. This is also in full color, so the strips look great (drunkenness aside), and a number of them have beer rings (I’m assuming) like the dog image you see on the cover. Authentic! But yeah, if you’re a fan of funny things then there’s plenty for you to enjoy in here. $17
New reviews today for Cemetery Plots #1 by a bunch of writers and artists (otherwise known as an anthology) and Bad Sex by Lauren McCallister. Happy weekend everybody!
Right off the bat, Lauren might have my favorite disclaimer to keep the kids away ever: “Not for kids. What’s wrong with you!!!!” I mean, yeah. If the title alone doesn’t make the content clear then there’s not much else she can say to make it clearer. As for that content, yep, that title doesn’t lie. A few of these stories scream out for another page or two, but that’s mostly because I cannot imagine what happened next. Bad sex occasions include (and I’ll try not to spoil too much) drunken friend sex at a party, “stop moving so much” as a command during sex, a condom problem that turns a whole lot grosser by the end of the strip, blow job commands and “I can just pull out, don’t worry,” possibly the biggest asshole in the world (again, I don’t want to spoil it, but just an all-around asshole), and “Lost Boy” sex. Nope, not going to explain that. I also couldn’t help but notice that there was no cunnilingus depicted in here at all. Granted, I’m fairly out of touch with the youth of today, and maybe Lauren just didn’t want to draw it, but guys, that shit is supposed to come standard. 0 for 6 on the stories in here is a pretty terrible sign. Unless that’s just another reason for the title, in which case don’t mind me. Oh, and a fun fact: I bought this from Lauren at SPACE, and if you’re wondering if it makes you feel a bit like a creep to buy a comic called “Bad Sex” from the lady who had all that bad sex, a little bit, yeah! Stupid small town upbringing. Besides, I had been reading her True Life strips online, so the Bad Sex comic was what was new to me. Anyway, I absolutely recommend reading this. If you’re having sex you’re bound to relate to some of these strips, and if you’re not having sex this comic might make you decide that that’s not the worst thing in the world after all. $5
Cemetery Plots #1
I assume there will be some point in the future where I get sick of the concept of horror anthologies in the vein of Tales From The Crypt, but that day certainly hasn’t arrived yet. This one has about half a dozen horror stories, some better than others, as this is an anthology, after all. First up (by Rob Gant) is a zombie story called “Chomp”with a twist: we see it from the perspective of the zombie as he turns. He retains his mind, at least for a little while, but is utterly unable to communicate with anybody. Next is “Head Games” by Dan Johnson and Gary O’Donnell, which is told from the perspective of a severed head in a jar. He shares a mental link with the few other heads in the vicinity and has a front row seat to a mad doctor conducting different kinds of experiments. “Three Way” by Dan Johnson and Steve Casper is next, and while that title is literally true, there is naturally a twist on it, which I can’t exactly give away here. Search your memories for TFTC stories and you might guess it! Next is a werewolf story, which seems to be in short supply these days, called “The Unfaithful” (by Alexter Albury and Gary O’Donnell). It takes a few pages before I fully understood what was happening, but I can tell you that if you love werewolf mayhem then you’re bound to enjoy this one. “Rest in Pieces” (by Dan Johnson and Eric Bowen) was the shortest and simplest story of the bunch, dealing with a man trying to raise the dead and the fairly obvious problems with making that attempt. Finally there’s a single page strip called “Dr. Frank and Higgins” (by Robert Watson and Rob Gant) that helps end the book on a funny note. I thoroughly enjoyed the crossover bits with D.O. Mann (their answer to the Crypt Keeper) and his terrible puns, but your mileage may vary on that. Again, if you enjoyed TFTC then I can’t see how those puns would bother you. So overall this is a fairly solid collection of horror stories, and frankly the world always needs more of these comics. And all for a measly $3!
Two new reviews today, one from SPACE (Dating Jesus Stories by Josh White) and one from Japan (The Longest Sentence by Brian Reyes). More tomorrow probably!
Once I’m again I sit here with a comic that is very difficult to talk about without spoiling too much of the contents, and once again I’m going to dance around it as best I can. But to make it easy for you, if you find that cover and title intriguing, the inside of the book is equally intriguing and I was fascinated by the journey all the way through. With that being said, unintentional spoilers ahead! This one starts off with a shackled man being dragged along by two guards wearing helmets that completely obscure their faces. He’s dragged through a gigantic open area, filled with doors and stairs, before coming out into the open on a long bridge. The group then stops for water and our hero makes the mistake of asking how far he has to go (he’s on his way to receive judgment from a king that he has heard isn’t particularly fair, meaning he doesn’t like his chances regardless), but he’s just getting started. There are all kinds of hazards and areas that are difficult if not impossible to traverse without help, and this is where you’re losing me as reviewer because I don’t want to tell you the nature of all of these hazards. I was thoroughly engaged for the whole journey, I’ll say that much, and we do eventually learn a bit more about the guards and the nature of this kingdom. If that’s enough to intrigue you, it’s well worth checking out so you should probably do that. If you need more, the internet exists so there are always more samples out there. $5
Dating Jesus Stories
This one is a collection of short stories, and there was a definite theme early on (stories of the past that he regretted with the benefit of hindsight), but that shifted a bit over the course of the comic and it ended up being about a variety of different subjects. Subjects include the time that the lead character (I assumed that these were all about Josh, but looking through it again at least a large chunk of these stories have to either be fictional or about other people) caught his fiancee having sex with another man on top of his favorite blanket (which was obviously too much to take), how his buying a cheap used A/C unit led to a roach infestation and his revenge on the guy he bought it from, the power of first love and first orgasm (story partially by Elena Costello), how another character was able to eventually decipher bathroom code to have more mostly anonymous gay sex in a repressive small town (and how it went wrong), tree climbing and sleeping in trees, and a mysterious lady who’s eating alone in a restaurant and wants to buy a specific painting. There’s also the title story, which deals with a once devout (and deeply misguided) young man who turns down sex more than once because he’s waiting for marriage… until he takes a shower with a different lady and discovers what a blow job is. Yep, that’ll do it every time. It’s a nice wide range of stories, and them all being in color didn’t hurt a thing either. Check it out, learn all about how Jesus doesn’t stand a chance against shower sex.
New reviews today for Sleepless #1 by Chris Charlton and a few different artists and Miserable Americans #1 by Evan Derian. Hey, does anybody out there speak Russian? I got a comic recently that’s in French and Russian. French I can handle (or my friend can, anyway) but Russian is beyond the both of us. If not, expect a hilariously wrong review of a book where I can only understand about half of it in the weeks to come!
I’ll get to the quality of this book in a minute, but when you review comics for as long as I have you start to develop some serious pessimism when there’s a long lag between issues of a series. In this case this comic came out in 2012, a #2 was mentioned (but, in fairness, no date was promised) and now it’s April 2016 with no second issue. However! This same writer has six issues of another series (Binary Gray) done and available, and two issues of another series (Black of Heart) available, so it’s not like he’s slacking. Maybe he’s just having trouble coming up with more stories for this theme. Which, in case you’re wondering and haven’t wandered off by now, is basically horror stories in the vein of Twilight Zone or Skeleton Crew (according to Chris in his afterward). Four stories in this, and first up is a fairly standard zombie story about a man who has given up hope and has his back against the wall. I kind of saw the ending coming, but I’ve read far too many zombie stories over the years, so good luck surprising me on that stuff. Next up is the story of a man who has waited out the apocalypse all by himself, listening for radio signals and coming to the end of his food reserves. The third story has a pretty drastic tonal shift, as it’s all about a redneck who gets himself abducted by aliens and his fight to escape, with a pretty great last couple of pages that turns it in an unexpected direction. Finally there’s the tale of a young boy who is tormented by bullies at school and his overprotective mother. Again, I did not see that ending coming, which is always appreciated. A different artist draws each story, and they all bring a unique touch to it, with my favorite being David Hollenbach because of his gorgeous, haunting artwork about the man who is living alone through the apocalypse. So yeah, I may not have loved the whole book, but there’s more than enough good stuff here to make it worth recommending. $6