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New review today for Something New by Lucy Knisley. I am trying to keep these gaps between reviews to a minimum, honest. Life just has a way of making that tricky sometimes is all…
I feel the need to start this review off with a disclaimer or two: I’ve never been engaged (meaning I’ve never been all that close to getting married), I have serious concerns about the whole concept of monogamous marriage and I’ve had a cold for the last couple of days, meaning that I’m feverish and mildly delirious. The perfect conditions to write a review! This is the story of Lucy’s relationship, the bizarre path taken to a proposal, and every little thing that goes into planning a wedding. Lucy also has the same inherent mistrust of the wedding process as I do (if anything, her concerns dwarf mine), meaning that she was examining every aspect of it as it came up and decided, bit by bit, which aspects she wanted to keep, which she wanted to change and which things to make entirely her own. If you’re planning on getting married any time soon (but not too soon, or your plans will already be completely locked in), I can’t recommend this book enough. Lucy lays out several areas where she was able to shave costs off the ceremony. Granted, these might now all be possible for you if you’re not surrounded by amazing artist friends and family, but a few of these steps are universally applicable. As for the graphic novel itself, the sheer amount of information I learned here was staggering. I knew that getting a wedding dress was arduous, but I had no idea the scope of it, or that it often took 6 months (!!!) after finding the perfect dress to have it in your hands. The number of steps involved, the number of people involved, the impossibility of keeping everyone happy… this book did more than anything else I’ve read to explain why it takes about a year to actually plan a wedding. And as for the various wedding traditions? Lucy seemingly researched all of them, and the sample image below shows just a few of the creepy and/or horrific origins of them. For example, that thing about it supposedly being bad luck to see your fiance on the wedding day before the wedding itself? That goes back to arranged marriages, where it was though that the sight of this stranger could cause the fiance to flee. So… not much use in modern times, right? There was even a fairly adorable scene where Lucy and her fiance intentionally woke up together on the wedding day, because both knew they’d be too busy to see each other for most of the day. As there’s so much here I feel like I could go on forever, but I’ll wrap this up by saying it also works really well as a sustained narrative, not just for the piles of piles of practical information. She’s also effortlessly funny, and this book was a good reminder that (outside of a few anthologies), this website is mostly Lucy Knisley-free. After reading this, I’ll be fixing that mistake sooner rather than later. $20
The saga of the leather pants continues! And I hate to skip right to the end (or technically right past the end), but Matt mentions that the next issue is going to be about the origin of the pants, so we all have that to look forward to. I get that the written word can sometimes come across as unintentional sarcasm, but I’m genuinely curious about the story of these pants. Anyway! This time around the pants find their way to Lisa, an older (i.e. 40’s or 50’s) lady with a couple of kids, an obnoxious and needy partner and a yoga instructor that’s the source of many of her sexual fantasies. We don’t see the pants for roughly the first half of the book, which is where we learn all about her life and how desperately trapped she feels in it. Not that she hates being a mother, she just always imagined something more in her life. Once the pants show up, as with past comics, everything changes. She’s noticed where she was previously invisible and has the newfound confidence to go along with it. Her yoga teacher notices too and asks her out, which is the subject of the rest of the book. These Dark Pants books are fascinating for the look they take into what people would do if they felt like they could get away with anything, whether or not acting on their fantasies would help them in the long run, and whether or not they even want to go through with their fantasies when the moment strikes. And hey, next time we get to see what it’s all about, maybe. There’s a lot to this series, and it’s well worth a look. I also saw on Matt’s website that he’s made a couple of comics about his problems with R. Crumb, and I’ve been thinking along the same lines lately, so I might buy some copies of those to see what he’s thinking. Not that I needed to mention that in a review of another of his books, so check out Dark Pants! $10
New review today for The Elements of Rough #2 by Max Clotfelter. Looks like things might be picking up at work soon, meaning that if you have review comics you’d like to send my way, soonish would be a good time…
The Elements of Rough #2
For anybody who missed the last issue (or the last review), this series is dedicated to answering the question of why Max’s comics are perceived as being “so rough.” Meaning that he’s telling the story of his life, or at least the interesting/relevant bits. Last time around we got a good look at his father, this time around we spend some time with his mother and sister. And a few of the assorted people who were in their orbits when Liz had her 35th birthday party, which is the star of the comic. We see the terror that Beth (his girlfriend at the time) showed at the idea of being at a party with his family, how much booze goes into planning such a thing, the efforts made to help Liz get help with her sobriety (making it odd indeed that their was so much booze at the party, but her mother was a terrible enabler), and finally Liz’s boyfriend, who was also an ex of her mother. There’s oddly little drama over that last fact, which is odd, at least to me. But the guy got her a rabid raccoon for her birthday, and that went about as well as you might expect. There’s more to the party and to the people at the party than I’m sharing here, but hey, a journey of discovery means that you have to have something left to discover, right? Check it out, if you have questions about Max or his comics this series is an invaluable peek into how it all started. $3
New review today for So Buttons: Man Of, Like, A Dozen Faces by Jonathan Baylis and a gaggle of assorted artists, some of which you already love.
New review today for Chlorine Gardens by Keiler Roberts, which is another chance for me to tell you to support your local libraries. I wouldn’t have nearly the access I do to graphic novels without them.
Years ago I made the decision here to only review physical comics, mostly so I could manage the review submissions. And due to my looking forward to eventually dying after being smothered by a giant stack of toppled comics. Anyway, due to this policy I rarely know how a comic came about unless the artist mentions it somewhere, which is all a long way to go to say that I don’t know how Keiler put together this book. Parts of it seem like they may have come from weekly strips , other bits are longer and more complex. All this makes it tough to judge as a whole, because I don’t know how it came about. So I’m going to ignore that question altogether and instead tackle the quality of the contents. It’s pretty great, everybody! This is a collection of loosely connected stories covering a wide range of events in Keiler’s life. Things start off with the story of the birth of her daughter Xia, how she didn’t get the best advice beforehand, the antics of her doctor and why she put up with him. From there the stories get a bit more scattered (where I’m assuming they’re weekly single page strips), with subjects dealing with when she had to put down her old dog (her line to the other lady in the waiting room has hilariously dark), her various family members and bits of her childhood, and raising Xia and some of her hijinx. From here things get serious, as Keiler gets diagnosed with M.S. This could have been a horrific moment, and it was still deadly serious, but Keiler managed to make a few jokes and her sense of humor about the whole thing (beautifully conveyed through a few conversations with her sister) was fantastic. The diagnosis and her attempts to get other opinions hangs over the rest of the book, but the stories themselves deal with the last days of her grandfather and how she handled it and how she dealt with taking a trip. Even if the format seemed a bit jumbled to me at times, the book as a whole is engrossing, hilarious while being occasionally heartbreaking (sometimes in the same panel) and just a damned entertaining read. If it hasn’t already been nominated for something, there’s a solid chance that you’ll be seeing this title when various awards come back around. $12
New review today for the complete Jam in the Band by Robin Enrico, which was a long time coming but well worth the wait. Um, even though it was technically released in 2017…
Memory is a tricky thing. Bear with me; I’m reading a book now dealing with how you can convince yourself of fake memories because of repetition and doing whatever is necessary to put you in a better light, so I’ll just say that I thought that I’d been reviewing Jam in the Band issue by issue, piece by piece for a solid chunk of the last decade (which is how long Robin has been working on it). Turns out that I reviewed the preview comic (which I wasn’t thrilled with) and the first book (which I loved, but had a few complaints that were addressed with this completed volume). So yeah, bottom line: always get corroboration when your only source for something is your own memory. But hey, Jam in the Band! This is the complete story, and any doubts I had in the previous two reviews are wiped away with this completed epic. I was worried about Bianca (the lead singer) getting all the attention in the first book, but from then on the two other band members (Tiara and Corbin) take over, along with other characters, and Bianca fades into the background. Not completely though, as she has maybe the best story arc of the bunch. This one starts off with three young women in a band deciding to get out of their small town, with Bianca very much the ringleader of this plan. They get into a van and go on tour, things go reasonably well but two of them are still getting sick of the arrangement, when they get a lucky break and things start going their way. From there we see the three of them navigating this newfound fame, each in their own way before things take a turn for the worse. I’m not going to get too much more into the overall plot because it could be summed up pretty simply and spoiler-y, and because the real joy of this book is in the details. The various gigs they play, the people they meet along the way, the connections to their lives that they pick up and drop off, and how they each change and grow is a wonder to behold. I’m guessing that Robin probably wishes that he spent less than a decade on this book, but I don’t see how it could work any other way. Robin in his intro mentions that he changed plenty during that decade as well, and that experience carried over to this characters. If you’ve liked his past work you probably already have this (it came out in 2017 but I somehow lost track of my review copy until now), but if you missed this when it came out or have heard of Robin but never tried his stuff… you’re not going to regret giving this book a shot. $19.99
New review today for The Fuzzy Princess by Charles Brubaker, which is different from his past issues of the same name, so don’t be fooled.
The Fuzzy Princess
One piece of advice I try to give out to people making comics is to make it easy for anybody jumping in late to get caught up, so I feel compelled to point out that this issue is just called “The Fuzzy Princess” with no issue numbers or other unique markers, which would absolutely be confusing to anybody coming in late. It looks like Charles did this issue as a sort of reminder about his ongoing Kickstarter campaign to put a book together (available at his website), which makes that a little better. As for the comic itself, this deals with Kat accidentally getting his tail chopped off and coming to love a new prosthetic tail that, naturally, has a lot more features than the old fleshy tail. We also learn about Kat’s mom, her life and the traveling she did through a variety of odd locales. I’d say more about it, but this is already a comic with 6 pages of story and I already sampled 1 of them. There’s still room for a few funny bits, so if you’re a fan of his previous work you’re sure to like this one too.
New review today for Entropy by Aaron Costain, which is something I should have reviewed months ago but it got misplaced during my move. From July. Again, if there’s anybody out there who’d like to organize over two decades worth of small press comics and doesn’t mind being paid in said comics, I’m hiring…
I barely even know where to begin with this one, which means that my best bet is probably my trademark start of a ramble with the hope that it turns into something vaguely meaningful. Oh shoot, I’ve just given away the reviewing game! Pretend you didn’t see that. This book is a decade in the making; Aaron has been putting parts of this out as chapters, but it also sounds like this is a complete reimagining of the overall story. Things start off with the overdressed figure you see on the cover talking to himself, out for a walk. He has a few philosophical thoughts, realizes that he’s lonely and decides to create life. This attempt goes poorly, a talking fox (all the animals in this world talk) comes by to rub it in, and finally a raven comes by to peck at his eyes. Finally our hero gets hit with a blinding light… and that’s it for the first chapter. Out of eleven. To put it mildly, there are lots of questions in here about what it all means, what constitutes life, how blame is apportioned out when something goes wrong, how life started in this world, whether or not to take advice seriously when given by a cat or potential angel, trying to help another golem talk (oh yeah, our hero is a golem, which is why he wears all the clothing, so that his writing doesn’t get rubbed off), and I feel like this sentence could go on forever if I don’t lock it down. This book combines mythologies and creation myths while telling us not to do such a thing, and if you’re even mildly philosophical about what it all means or why we go on, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. $19.95
New review today for The President Killed My Dog #1 by Chris Kostecka & Dietrich Smith. Keep those review comics coming, I’m planning on picking up the pace soon…
So here’s a warning that should already by obvious by the title: if you’re one of those people who is upset by depictions of violence to animals… you’re obviously going to want to give this one a pass. Not that there’s an excessive amount of violence, but you can tell what’s going to happen here, and that death scene, hooo boy. But hey, there’s more to the comic that a dead dog! We also learn about Mary, who’s been trying to get by through picking up junk. She’s getting over the death of her husband, which is where Cindy (the dog, named after their miscarried child) comes in. Mary and Cindy are inseparable for years, collecting junk and going about their lives, until, well, Cindy gets hit by a car. There’s not much to spoil here that the title doesn’t already take care of, but I will say that the way this dog died was different than I had guessed. See, there’s still a chance for surprise! There’s another issue after that, which you may have guessed is going to be a revenge story. How is that going to work when the bad guy is the president? Stay tuned to find out! $6.99
New review today for By Mom, By Me by Rachel and Karen Scheer. That title combined with those names is no coincidence!
This idea behind this comic right here? It’s fantastic. Rachel draws all the stories while comparing times in her life to times in the life of her mother. In this volume we see both of them get their first apartments, travel while in college and discuss one thing that they’ll never do again. Karen maybe had a few more adventures associated with her first apartment (honestly, based on the jobs she lists here, I’d be curious to read a lot more about her early life), seems to get closer to murdered during her college travels than Rachel (but I’d be interested in living the tour that Rachel depicts here, for whatever that’s worth) and it looks like Karen even came closer to getting murdered during her “one thing they’ll never do again” story. I don’t think this was the intention, but yes, it turns out that people of college age in the 70’s were more likely to get hurt in their adventures, or in any case it sure seems like they had more chances for something to go wrong. Does this mean that Rachel should have done more stupid shit in her youth? Nah, it shows that she knew better that when even her worst stories don’t put her in much danger. Which is also a sign that she was raised right, I reckon. Anyway, like I said, this is a great conceit for a comic series. I’d have to imagine that there are plenty of artists out there who could have a chat with their parents and end up with equally interesting tales… $4