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Update for 11/23/22

New review today for Forget Me Not by Gabriel Howell! Quick note for anybody who has tried to email me over the last several months: unless you were very creative in your subject line, maybe send it again? I’ll be changing my email soon, but meanwhile I’m cleaning out the old one, and boy howdy is it ever overrun with spam. What could any one man do with that many ball bearing, I ask you?

Howell, Gabriel – Forget Me Not

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Forget Me Not

Fair warning here: this is going to be one of those reviews where I try to interpret some fairly abstract stuff, while also engaging a book that’s at least a little bit about how much you should put yourself out there while also maintaining your own health and sanity. As I’m somebody who doesn’t use any social media and has no advertising for this website (meaning that I’m basically content to shout my opinions into the void, with little to no idea how it’s being received until I meet people at conventions), this makes me uniquely unqualified to talk about this graphic novel. And yet! Page by page, message by message, I found myself being pulled into this story and wishing there was any reasonable way for things to get better for the dirty moppets depicted in it. The main characters are introduced as Complications, Heartache, Rebellion and Commitment, to give you some idea of where things are headed right away. The art style reminds me a lot of Dame Darcy, but her work usually had a playful edge that is not present here. Which is why it’s always folly to compare artists doing their own thing roughly two decades apart, I suppose. I’ll confess to not being all that invested in the ongoing narrative of this book, but several pages struck me as being full of wisdom, and not the usual motivational poster level of “wisdom” that’s often mislabeled as such, but beautiful and true things that people should be following in their daily lives. Is there a more tiresome thing that a reviewer quoting such things? Fine, I’ll only indulge myself once: “I’m not an algorithm, I’ll fucking stab you.” Most of them were more about life, muddling through it and being judged by others, but that one really spoke to me. If this seems like a so-so review, it’s more because of my style than the book. If I go back and flip through something a few times after finishing it, like what happened with this book, the author did something very right. Check it out when you’re in an introspective mood, or if you’re ever feeling like being a happy creative person in a constant spotlight is an impossibility. $19.95

Update for 11/21/22

Back from my work break, just in time for a holiday week. New review today for Applewood Canyon #6-8 from Brian Canini, and yes, that means that I’m reviewing some books in chunks now. Progress?

Canini, Brian – Applewood Canyon #6-8

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Applewood Canyon #6-8

Well, it’s official: Brian broke the website. His productivity did it, specifically, and it’s not like he held a gun to my head so I’d review his books a few at a time. Still, this might have to be the norm for a few of his series. When you last saw me talking about Applewood Canyon, I was assuming that that was it for the series and that it had wrapped up in fairly confusing fashion after five issues. I was wrong, which is a thing that happens on a regular basis, and Brian was nice enough to give me the next few issues at CXC in Columbus last month. So, breaking this down by issues, #6 had the escape of our “heroes” (probably need to come up with a better descriptor for casual murderers and a dummy) through the sewer system along with some narration that described what they were all going through, #7 showed them the horrifying truth about Coconut Valley, and #8 had their new plan after being denied entry back into Applewood Canyon. I can instantly see that my problem with spoilers is going to be a big deal while covering a few issues at a time, so let’s just say that any review with more than one issue involved is going to have at least a few spoilers. I liked their trip through the sewer, as we learned a lot more about the characters through an issue of conversation and narration. I would have liked to have learned more about Coconut Valley in the seventh issue, but I get why he’s trying to keep it vague for the time being. And #8 was great for showing just how diabolical this crew could be, with some mayhem sure to follow in future issues. I’m no longer making guesses for how long this series will last, but I am enjoying the ride.

$1.99 (per issue)

Update for 11/3/22

New review today for Wrestling and Mania Part Two by Andrew Neal, which concludes my brief return to the world of weekly reviews of the Meeting Comics series. That’s it for me for a week or so (depending on what happens at work), so dig through the archives for a bit, and vote!

Neal, Andrew – Wrestling and Mania Part Two

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Wrestling and Mania Part Two

It’s time for a rasslin’ show! Andrew starts this off with something that I didn’t know I needed: a flow chart of every character, with links to their exes, friends, enemies, casual hookups, and secret identities. Things were getting a little out of hand, so this is welcome information to have all in one place. A big old wrestling show needs an opening number, which involves Kevin maybe letting his hatred for the police get the better of him. The matches themselves start off friendly enough (between two new characters, who I’m guessing we never see again, but who knows in this comic?), but things get personal in a hurry when it’s Marisol versus Tina. A double page center spread of some wrestling action follows (as is almost mandatory for this particular clash), and it ends in the only way it really could, but I’m not spoiling a bit of that perfection. Also Dick Punch (the former mayor) is scheming behind the scenes, so you’d better believe that that comes into play later. There’s one final match, a few characters really pour their hearts out, and that’s the end of that. I honestly have no idea where Andrew is going from here. This feels almost like it was wrapping things up, but there are still dangling plot lines all over the place, so who knows? It’s definitely a satisfying conclusion to this little wrestling storyline, and I’d very much recommend getting these two books at a minimum. He even catches new readers up! $5

Update for 11/1/22

New review today for Dodo Comics #7 by Grant Thomas, and this will almost certainly be the last week of comics reviewing until after the upcoming election. If you live in a state where you can, vote early already. And if you’re a woman who’s still biologically able to have children, or if you know anybody like that, for the love of all that’s good in the world, vote for Democrats down the line. Or if you like state mandated pregnancies forced to be carried to term, don’t vote at all and please fuck off from this website forever. Thanks bye!

Thomas, Grant – Dodo Comics #7

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Dodo Comics #7

Grant’s back to working on Dodo comics, after roughly two years away. Not that there was a pandemic in the middle of that that might account for a delay or anything, right? Right away I want to mention something he does perfectly here, and that’s the recap. With this long of a gap between issues, and a fairly complex story, (including a fight over potable water and basically the origin story of Medusa), something to remind readers of what happened before is essential. Take note, other comics people with ongoing stories who take long gaps between issues! This one is mostly silent, and it deals with an attempted theft in the temple of Hermes. It’s also ten pages long, which isn’t much space for the story to progress, if you’re wondering if I have any quibbles about the comic. “Want more comic” is generally a good problem for a writer/artist to have, but it makes it tough to review anything specific without giving the whole thing away. So I’ll just say that it moves the story along a bit, and sooner or later this will be one of those series where I read the whole thing in a chunk rather than counting on this lousy memory of mine. Also included in here are a few pandemic strips, from the early pandemical times of 2020. They’re brutal, as far as pandemic stories go. There’s one funny strip out of four of them, the rest deal with the death of this grandma (whose husband wasn’t allowed to be with her when she died because of fears that he’d take covid back to his nursing home) and the death of a friendly neighbor of his. Now I’m wondering if he did more covid strips, but if they’re all this grim they’d probably be a tough read. Not that that’s a bad thing. I’m as cynical as anybody and even I’m shocked at how quickly any and all precautions (and memory!) of the pandemic have vanished. I at least thought everybody would remember that there was absolutely no reason for work meetings to still be held in person, but now I’m just rambling. I’m a bigger fan of his My Life in Records comics, to be honest, but I do think he’s building something here too, so check it out. $3

Update for 10/27/22

New review today for It’s Oola! by Karl Christian Krumpholz, meaning that CXC week is now two weeks long. It’ll end up being longer too, before it’s all said and done. What can I say, I’m terrible at math.

Krumpholz, Karl Christian – It’s Oola!

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It’s Oola!

Less than a year in their household, and Oola already has her own comic. I see big things ahead for this cat! If you’re not familiar with Lighthouse in the City (Karl’s ongoing daily strip series), Oola came onto the scene in November of 2021, several months after both of the cats who had been with them for many years passed away. She made an instant and gigantic impact in their (the other half of “their” is Kelly, his partner) lives, so naturally Karl decided to put together this collection of strips where she was the star of the show. Is it technically kosher for me to review a book where I’ve probably already read half of the strips in other comics? Well, since I don’t have a boss, the only one to decide that is me, and my answer is: when it comes to cats, all rules go out the window. Reviewing something like this, as is the case with the vast majority of comics involving cats, my objectivity goes out the window, so if you’re looking for a detailed, erudite review about the linework and the meaning behind certain strips, move right along. What does that crazy cat get up to in here? Without giving too much away, there’s her introduction to the house, some odd leftover behaviors from her early life on the street, her Halloween cat arched back (the same thing my old cat, Sassafrasquatch (20 year mascot of this website), used to do), the futility of their trying to sleep when she wanted to play, her great escape, her SECOND great escape, what always happens when glass items on a mantle and a cat come together, and several strips based on great comics artists from when Karl was overdosing on comics with just himself and Oola in the house. I was also fascinated by the single image strip of her sitting on a hardcover collection of comics with one of those fabric bookmarks attached to the spine. Somehow she was just sitting there and NOT attacking the bookmark, so I can only assume that he was taking some artistic liberties with that strip. It’s a funny and adorable comic, what more do you want? Check it out already! Unless you hate cats, in which case I can’t believe you read this far into the review. Oh, one last note for Karl and Kelly: I noticed a small continuity error. In the first strip, while you two were discussing whether or not the time was right for another cat, you mentioned getting a pair of cats. But (as of this writing, anyway) you still just have the one cat. Any plans to rectify that? $6

Update for 10/25/22

New review today for Wrestling and Mania Part One by Andrew Neal, so it’s technically still reviews from the CXC show a couple of weeks back. Nope, work hasn’t swallowed me up yet!

Neal, Andrew – Wrestling and Mania Part One

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Wrestling and Mania Part One

I finally got to meet Andrew at CXC this year (2022, future readers), and he was delightful. Not that that matters to y’all, but in the unlikely event that you were holding back on checking out his comics because of a previous terrible Andrew in your lives, this one seems nice. As for the comic, it’s about wrestling! And a spectacularly convoluted and manipulative plot that I’m not even going to get into a little bit, in the hopes that it catches you by surprise too. Except for the fact that now you’ll be looking out for a plot. Ah well. The internet porn company that employs roughly half the cast from the original Meeting Comics has decided to branch out into wrestling, but they have a small staff, so things start looking dicey when Laura breaks her ankle while practicing. Who could possibly take over such a job on short notice? Well, Thomas is on the staff, and his ex-wife did do a lot of superhero work, which also involves some extreme physical activity. But things have been tense between them, what with her leaving him for Kevin’s wife, and him ending up with his former nemesis. If you’ve been waiting for all of that to get resolved, this issue goes a long way towards making that happen. I don’t know if something like that could ever be fully resolved, but the involved parties spend some time talking to each other, and things certainly end up in a better spot than they were before that broken ankle changed everything. Other than that we have wrestling, horniness, Val, partying, and an alarming revelation about some lapsed medication and what it may mean for one of the relationships. Vague but enticing, that’s my goal. The big wrestling event is actually occurring in the next issue, which means I just might go back to my old ways and review it next week, as I’m really curious to see how that all plays out. Of course, since it’s the busiest time of the year at work, “next week” might end up being in a few weeks anyway. If you were nervous about this issue because you hate wrestling (you weirdo, give it a shot, it’s just a big goofy athletic soap opera), there are still lots of parts with the old Meeting Comics crew that you know and love. Try it out, if you aren’t already on board. $5

Update for 10/21/22

New review today for Bird With Tits by Max Schaller! Public service announcement: regular readers of the website know that reviews tend to get a little scarce around here in the Fall of even numbered years, what with my job working in elections in Ohio and all. I’ll get some reviews in when I can, but it may be even more haphazard than usual for a few weeks. Also early voting has already started, so why don’t you do that in your area today?

Schaller, Max – Bird With Tits

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Bird With Tits

Yes, of course this stood out to me at CXC this year! Look at that cover, that’s all kinds of wrong. Max graduated from CCAD here in Columbus this year (I just checked his resume on his website), so he’s had a few years to practice making comics. This one takes a while to get to the cover image, and there is actually a (fairly) reasonable explanation for it, as far as these types of things go. Things start out with our bird hero resting on a park bench, smoking a joint. A kid walks by, tosses a baseball over his shoulder in the general direction of the bird, which hits him square in the eye and causes him to drop his joint. This, naturally, calls for revenge, so he tries to ask another man in the park if he’s seen this kid, but notices that this man already has two black eyes (to his one from the baseball) and is talking to an ice cream sandwich. What I can only hope is a hallucination follows, and he wanders off to spot somebody else with marijuana in the distance. A brief conversation ensues, he smokes something that is very much not marijuana, and he’s immediately off on a psychedelic adventure that, yes, involves him growing breasts as a side effect. It’s a fun story, although if you’re looking for one of those grand morals to tie it all together you probably shouldn’t look in a comic called “Bird With Tits.” But it’s worth checking out, and hey, the guy is more or less just starting out in comics, so throw some encouragement his way! In the form of money. For his comics. $5

Update for 10/19/22

New review for a returning star to the website: Caitlin Cass! I reviewed Postal Constituent: Zitkala-Sa/Gertrude Simmons Bonnin. Any errors in the order of the words or the actual title come from me alone.

Cass, Caitlin – Postal Constituent: Zitkala-Sa/Gertrude Simmons Bonnin

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Postal Constituent: Zitkala-Sa/Gertrude Simmons Bonnin

It’s my first book from Caitlin in ages (finally got to meet her at CXC in Columbus this year) and I had completely forgotten how tricky some of these titles were. Which is a problem to exactly nobody outside of me, so I’ll stop talking about it. Postal Constituent was/is a series of small comics done by Caitlin over ten years; I’d highly recommend going to her website and looking at the display for her event in 2019 if you need more details. The short version is that she has done a whole lot of these over the years, and all the ones I’ve seen are meticulously researched (this one has a bibliography with 7 sources). This one is the story of Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, who gave herself the name Zitkala-Sa later in life. It recounts the peaceful portion of her childhood, how that ended abruptly when she left Indiana to go to school 700 miles away when she was 8, and her time training herself to be an effective public speaker. She was a big speaker in the fight for women getting the right to vote, using her story to bring a unique and often forgotten perspective to the proceedings. Apparently there’s still come controversy over her methods and intentions, which seems silly 100 years later, but people can get worked up about damned near anything. Including offhand remarks in reviews by a dummy like me, but that’s just a fun story I heard at CXC and completely unrelated to this comic. This is a fascinating read, with a real gut punch of a final line: “The fight to ensure native American voting rights continues to this day.” Spectacularly depressing that that’s still a problem, but she’s right. Check it out, learn some history before the country slides any further backwards when it comes to voting rights. I’m not seeing this listed on her website currently, but maybe just email her to ask about it. I bought it less than two weeks ago, so there are copies around somewhere…

Update for 10/17/22

It’s CXC week at the website! Which should have happened last week, but things got out of hand in real life, so here it is. New review today for Lamp Quest by James Spencer!

Spencer, James – Lamp Quest

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Lamp Quest

So, who out there played point and click text adventure games back in the day? That might not even be the correct term, but they were computer games mostly in the late 80’s and 90’s where you had to type in commands to solve a mystery or complete a task of some sort. My touchstone is Day of the Tentacle (with a few Spacequest games thrown in), so just look that one up if you’re still baffled. Anyway, this is an entirely too accurate recreation of the feeling of playing one of those games, and I mean that in the nicest possible sense. This one starts off with the main character sitting in a chair at home, with no obvious clues of what to do or where to go next. He enters “take lamp,” is informed by the omniscient and maddening narrator of all such games that he already owns the lamp, and then switches his command to “pick up lamp.” But the lamp is still connected to the cord, so he can only walk so far from his starting position. To continue the game he decides to drop the lamp, which has disastrous consequences. Does this story seem ridiculous? Welcome to the world of those games! Just imagine trying to figure out what was happening in those things with no internet around to help you. The character continues on to the haunting page I sampled below, and then he has to get to work on figuring out that mysterious door. Honestly, my only quibble with this comic is that it ends a bit abruptly. Unless it’s meant to convey the real life moment when you’d just stop playing a game like this out of sheer frustration, in which case it was perfectly done. If you’re familiar with this type of game you’re going to love this, although I can’t be held responsible for any feelings of gaming PTSD you get while reading it. If this type of game is an alien concept, give the comic a shot! You can see what life used to be like in the gaming world. Or just play the remastered Day of the Tentacle that’s currently on Playstation (and I think Steam). Try that sucker out and see how far you get without cheating. $5

Update for 10/6/22

New review today for Mole #7 by Andrew Pilkington. One last heads up about Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, happening from October 6th through 9th. If you’re in Ohio, or near enough to drive, just take one look at that guest list and tell me it’s not worth the trip. My biggest challenge is always not to spend all my money at the Fantagraphics table, so this time around I’m going to try not to look at it at all. If you see a blond dude wandering around in (most likely) a Tortilla Comix or King Cat shirt, it’s me, so say hi! You’ll freak me right out, guaranteed.

Pilkington, Andrew – Mole #7

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Mole #7

To the readers who are faint of heart and/or stomach: this one isn’t nearly as disgusting as the previous issue, so maybe this is where you should give Andrew’s stuff a shot? Spoilers for the end of the review where I say whether or not I like the comic, I guess. The bulk of this issue is once again the story of Moleboy, and he’s put together a quick and informative “previously on” section for new readers/people like me with short memories. All other small press comics creators with ongoing series, take note! In the last issue our hero had recently rescued some bird eggs with plans to put them in his own backyard and had been going around town making art in the sewer tunnels. This one starts off with him smoking pot with a friend and quickly realizing that he is hopelessly inexperienced compared to his friend when it comes to talking about the ladies. From there they go to a local convenience store but have the bad luck of running into a couple of cops who, sadly, have a keen enough sense of smell to tell what they’ve been up to recently. A quick conversation ends as these things usually do (with the cops searching their bags for little to no reason), and they’re both informed that they’ll be bringing tickets to their homes the following day. This means that their parents are going to find out, which is obviously a thing to be avoided. One set of parents find out, but one friend is able to phone the other one to give them a quick warning. But it turns out that this is happening at the worst possible time for a growing teenage boy! Oh, there’s also a spectacularly awkward scene at school where Moleboy is picked as the volunteer to work with a female self defense instructor, but that’s best left for you to discover. Also included are several short strips of varying degrees of funny, horrific and disgusting, but I’ll leave you to label them all according to your own personal preferences. I’m enjoying the series, but I’m also a well known weirdo. You know the drill: go to his website, check out some samples. $10