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Sorry about the lack of updates, but I’m still “essential personnel” because of the upcoming election. Check out the archives if you’re bored at home, I’ve been rambling here for almost two decades now. New review today for Forever and Everything #5 by Kyle Bravo!
Forever and Everything #5
I’ve become a fan of Kyle’s method of taking exactly as many panels as he needs to tell each story (then just starting the next story in the next panel), but boy howdy does it make it tricky for sampling purposes. It’s almost like that’s not his top priority in making his own comic! This is another solid entry in Kyle’s personal story, and I laughed out loud quite a few times in this one, which is always a good sign. Odd, because a good chunk of this is about suicidal thoughts and depression, but there it is. My impression is that he didn’t come close to actually harming himself, but the thoughts were there; his concern was mostly the loss of options for himself in his life as he raised two children with his wife. And turning 40. Both natural things to be thinking! Other subjects in this issue include seeing a new therapist and getting new meds (then quitting said therapist and meds, then getting back together with the therapist and meds), lots of short pieces about aspects of depression, falling into old habits when he finally has a night to himself, his anarchist child, thinking about moving, installing a headlight and putting together a treehouse, noticing gradual improvements in his mood, getting his car broken into (and only having a phone charger and a book on making comics stolen), the instant rage he sees at noticing a Trump bumper sticker, making a damned odd sandwich, and a few more stories I’ll leave as a surprise. It’s another solid issue, and he talked about putting together a “best of” book with pieces from the first 4 issues, so if you missed them, maybe hold out for a bit longer and you can still get all the best bits. But that doesn’t include this issue, so give it a shot!
New review for Square Head! by Jep. You know, it just occurred to me that I usually set these reviews to autopost at the start of each week, and if I got the ‘Rona I could pass away and still have reviews posting. Ew, creepy. Hey, if that happens, somebody get my mini comics to the Billy Ireland museum in Columbus. They’re bound to be able to find some use for the rarer books…
Jep’s true name has been revealed! But I’m keeping it a secret, just in case the guy is on the run or something. Hey, he didn’t specify, and if somebody uses a psuedonym that’s always my first guess. This is Jep’s first attempt at a long single comic story, and it’s safe to say that he nails it. This is the tale of his time as an exchange student with a French family when he was 13. The deal was that he spent some time with that family, then the kid of the same age would come spend time with Jep. At first he was thrilled, since he was a quiet kid at school and this gave him a new kind of social cachet. But once he arrived at his new home for the next couple of weeks, it didn’t take long for him to discover that this kid was a total asshole and that they had nothing in common. There were a lot of moments when this comic could have devolved into a cliche, and I’m happy to say that Jep pulled the story away from that direction at every turn. There were the beautiful sisters at his new home (potential sad unrequited love story), the fact that he could have wallowed in misery once he saw exactly what he was in store for with this asshole kid, the whole “fish out of water” thing with him only being able to understand a few words of French… this comic could have turned grim and depressing a number of times, and it would have made complete sense. Instead, Jep recounted his (early for his age) fatalism about the whole thing, how he knew that this was a finite trip and that he should take what he could get from the whole experience. The only moment of genuine panic is when he misses his flight back, and it’s completely earned. His depiction of the kid coming back to stay with him was much shorter, and it’s for a very simple reason: the kid pouted on the couch the whole time. Hard to make much of a story out of that! Even with the language barrier there were still a few poignant moments here, and I’ve spoiled enough already. I’ll just say that the guy knows how to write a compelling comic, and that anybody who had to deal with any kind of exchange student should give this a shot. Or anybody who was ever a confused 13 year old boy. That’s a pretty solid chunk of the population right there…
What a difference a week off makes, huh? You might think that you’d be seeing more reviews from me, what with the country more or less on pandemic lockdown. Sadly, Board of Elections employees are considered “essential staff” (which sounds a whole lot nicer than “expendable”), so my work schedule is still normal. If that changes, I just got a box of comics from Spit and a Half and I’d be happy to ramble on about all of the comics. New review today for Sremmeh Fo Dog by Dustin Holland!
Sremmah Fo Dog
There’s this thing I do at the start of reviews of comics I didn’t particularly enjoy, and it’s to find the silver lining to it and compliment what I can. What’s that? That’s a terrible trait for a reviewer to have? Yeah, well, that might explain why this is still a hobby 19 years after my first review. Anyway! This comic has a number of visually inventive touches, with some occasional subtle mixes of art and pictures of real objects. And… yeah, that’s about it. The best thing I can say for this comic is that I never got into it as a story, and it’s entirely possible that it’s on me. But the writing for this was damned near impenetrable, and I don’t think that’s entirely my fault. Do you remember those poetry magnets that people used to put on their refrigerators? They were just a series of unconnected words and phrases that you were supposed to put together to make your own poems. This book feels like nothing less than a complete volume of those poems. Go ahead, check out the sample page and tell me I’m wrong. As for the story, I legit have no idea. As you can tell from the title, this is about the god of hammers, and you can tell that because the title is “god of hammers” backwards. I just read a whole book about the dude and I couldn’t tell you what he does. There was plenty of violence, a character that also talked backwards (and that’s a terribly awkward way to read dialogue, especially when they’re talking in full sentences), and the second half of the book was almost entirely double page spreads of a place called Motorcycle City. Also he has more than a few spelling errors in here, which is death for a book where the dialogue takes a lot of work to understand to begin with. Look, this is the first comic I’ve seen from Dustin, so I don’t want this to seem like a thorough trashing. I did enjoy some of the imagery and that alone tells me that he definitely has potential. How about this: if you like your comics abstract, give this a shot. Otherwise give him another comic or two, then check back in to see where he’s at. That’s my plan!
P.S. (Yes, I know reviews don’t have postscripts. Bear with me.) Since artists often send me their own comics to review, chances are the artist also reads the review when it goes up. So I’d like to remind Dustin or anybody else just starting out: don’t let any reviewer make you feel like you’re not doing good work, or that it’s not worth the effort. If you’re making great art, the rest of the world will come around. If you’re making art and it feels like only you thoroughly enjoy it, there’s immense value in that too. Still, find a friend that’s excellent at spelling and grammar, and pass your book around to a few friends before putting it out into the world and see how they felt about it. Have them ask questions about the plot and story structure. If you can answer their questions and satisfy them, you’re on the right track. If not, take another pass, see if clarification really is needed. Um, also, eat your vegetables. Bye!
New review for King Cat #79 by John Porcellino, the 30th anniversary issue! I already said I’d most likely be out next week for the election, but I’ll mention here too that you should buy what you can from John’s Spit and a Half comics distro as soon as you can, as the man is talking about retiring. Get them comics while you can!
King Cat #79
30 years! This is the 30th anniversary of King Cat, and it’s yet another great issue. It’s packed with nostalgia, exactly as a 30th anniversary issue should be, and a fair chunk of it is relevant to me on a personal level, so I’ll most likely do my best to keep myself out of it and fail completely. Anyway! I put John’s comic origin story as the sample page, for those of you who are curious. I went to Record Service (in Champaign Illinois) dozens of times myself, but my comics origin story was at a different location… dammit. Didn’t take long to mention my own stuff, did it? Maybe I should stick to saying what the comic is about. Stories in this one deal with his time camping with the cub scouts (and the inevitability of his getting the worst burger when it was his turn), several stories about his time in school with the science club and their many field trips, a few illustrated poems, his patented (but not really) top 40 list, letters from readers, the story of his tamed squirrel and her kids, an old story about the kindness of his grandfather, and the mystery of the gravity hill. Look it up, it’s damned odd! Other bits in here include a story about John from Gabrielle Bell (who you already know if you know anything about comics) and an epilogue to his comics origin story that was somehow both inevitable and shocking. I know, I didn’t think it was possible for a thing to be both either! John also mentioned a couple of times that he’s planning on retiring in the near future. I really, REALLY hope he’s just talking about Spit and a Half and not King Cat as well, but 30 years is a long time to do anything. Speaking of his comics distro service, I just placed a big old order with them in case he closes up shop suddenly (and because I got a raise recently, and what else would I spend that money on but comics?), and I’d highly recommend that y’all do that too. A number of items were sold out, so get what you can while you can. As far as recommendations go, of course you should read it! It’s an issue of King Cat. Always get the new King Cat! $5
New review today for Dr. Carl Willendorf: Psychoanalyst of Creatures, Monsters and Other Beasts by Grant Thomas. One more review this week, then it’s most likely radio silence until after the election. Vote!
Dr. Carl Willendorf: Psychoanalyst of Creatures, Monsters and Other Beasts
It’s election season around the website, meaning that I have a tendency to go for the shorter mini comics, knowing that I have limited time to talk about comics. I know, I hate it too! Anyway, Grant sent along a couple of his latest comics recently, and this one was tiny. This usually means that there’s not much time to form an opinion one way or the other; it’s generally a quickly amusing tale or something that comes and goes without leaving an impression. It’s just the nature of the beast when you’re talking about a comic with 8 panels; no disrespect intended to people who make such books. Anyway, I wanted to make one thing perfectly clear: I absolutely love this concept and hope that Grant makes dozens more books like this. Or bigger, so we can really dig into it. What’s it about? The title should make it obvious, but it’s a psychoanalyst talking to monsters. Or, for the purposes of this comic, one monster: the minotaur. It’s great! Insightful, funny, even a little alarming, all in 8 panels. There are a whole lot of monsters out there, so I hope Grant takes this concept and runs with it. Check it out, it’s a measly dollar and you’ll love it!
New review today for Kids With Guns #2 by Alex Nall! Also I’m hoping to keep the reviews steady through the primary on March 17th (vote!), but if I vanish from time to time, that’s the reason. If that happens just dig through the archives a bit, you’re bound to find some amazing comic that you missed when I reviewed it the first time around…
The title starts coming into play this time around, and it’s as depressing and realistic as I figured. There’s a lot happening this time around, which I’ll get to in a minute, but there’s also the constant background noise of another school shooting being covered. As the comic goes on we learn more about what happened, who died, how even a former army veteran wasn’t able to stop the rampage… and nobody involved in the story bats an eye. Nobody acknowledges it, nobody seems to change their behavior at all, it’s just an accepted part of the background. Which is a damned accurate summation of the general American opinion on mass shootings in 2020, grim and hopeless though it may be. A lot of the rest of the comic is just regular life going on, so we get Milo going to visit his grandma and his (maybe mildly autistic?) brother, watching cartoons and eating dinner, while Melvin flashes back once again to his days in the war before trying to get out of speaking to a veteran’s group. Once again I feel like I’m not accurately conveying the complexity of what’s happening, but you’ve read some of Alex’s books by now, so you know what he’s capable of, right? He’s also gotten really good over the years at panel angles (is that a term?), of keeping a static scene looking dynamic through different areas of focus and perspective. Give it a shot, or if you’re lucky maybe if you wait a few years he’ll put this whole thing into a collected edition. Meanwhile, this one is $8.
Sorry about the gap in reviews, long time readers will know that I tend to get awfully busy around election season, what with my job in elections and all. Also go vote! If you’re not motivated now I honestly don’t know what would do it. New review today for The Audra Show #3 by Audra Stang!
The Audra Show #3
The mysteries of the Audraverse are slowly being revealed! That’s right, I’m sticking with my made-up name for Audra’s comics, in the hopes of her eventually getting a Marvel-esque multi picture deal out of it. Don’t forget me when you’re incredibly rich, Audra! As for the rest of you, you’re probably here to read about the comic, and this is the issue where Audra spells out why there are two sets of characters: Bea and her friends/coworkers are in 1988, and Adelaide and her friends/celebrity crush are in 2008. What connects them exactly is still unknown, but she’s clearly getting there, so I’d advise patience. In the 1988 section we have Bea being miserable at her job, Dan hitting on her before being forced to clean the bathrooms, Flower deciding to take a hike, Owen missing Bea, and Dan being all Dan to everybody. The 2008 section gets less space so it’s more of a transitional story, as everybody arrives at Adelaide’s house after the events of the last issue and get into a brief discussion about refreshments. Like I said, the main action is in the first story this time around. Have I mentioned that the mystery has me hooked? Because it has, even though I’m not even completely sure that there’s much of a mystery to be resolved. But I’ve grown attached to the characters, which makes this series a success in my book. Check it out, here’s hoping there’s a fourth issue when I next see her at a convention… $4
New review today for Open Molar by Lille Carre, a mini kus book that almost slipped through the cracks. You can’t escape me, mini kus!
Long time readers of this site will know that every now and then a mini kus book will leave me with not much of anything to say. It’s not that I hated it or loved it, it will just leave me baffled. I’ll still try to cast around for something meaningful to say, some insight, but in these occasions I’ll usually end up beaten. It’s been awhile, but Open Molar, come on down! Ya done beat me. Here, I’ll paste the description on the back of the book, maybe that’ll help: “A list of instructions for this afternoon. Learn to create a drop-shape for slow relief. This solution is only intended for gapped interiors. Do not skip the first step.” There you go! You now know as much as I do. I should point out that the text is so faint that it apparently didn’t come through in the scan, but on the sampled page it says “Set it as you would your watch. Warmth can lead to excessive foam.” Does that help you? Perhaps there are clues to be had in the title. As a good chunk of this deals with teeth, this feels like the right track! Alas, I still can’t make it form a coherent whole. To be clear, this would drive a lot of people crazy, but I love it. Baffle me, mini kus! Leave me books to have around just so I can show them to friends and try to get them to make sense out of them. As to you, reader, who is just trying to read some good comics with maybe a suggestion or two from this end, should you give this a shot? There are at least a dozen mini kus books I enjoyed more, so I’d check back through those reviews and start there. But for anybody who loves a challenge, I present to you… Open Molar! $7
New review today for Alienation by Ines Estrada, and that should do it for the graphic novel reviews for now. Unless I find another “best of” list full of amazing books I hadn’t read, so I guess I’m making no promises…
Would you believe that that cover actually tells you the whole story? OK, maybe not totally, but a good chunk of it. After you read it maybe you’ll agree, but I’m not going to explain why here. Oh right, the review! This is set in 2054, right as a lunar eclipse is happening in Alaska. The story is not set in Alaska, but our hero (Eliza) is able to watch it on Starbucks Live Cam. Yes, this is another story about a dystopian future that’s all too plausible based on where we are today (early 2020, future readers, assuming humanity survives that long), but Ines packs all kinds of new ideas into this formula. Most of life in 2054 is lived online, through various types of virtual reality. People do still have jobs, but they’re quickly becoming automated, with very little thought given to what happens to those workers when the jobs are fully automated. Hey, just like today! They’re able to do and see literally anything their heart desires (they have a concert in their living room, go to a rave from 1997, go see Jimi Hendrix in the 60’s, etc.), to the point that they sometimes forget to buy food. They go on like this for a bit, until eventually what she suspects to be an AI breaks through and forces her to communicate. She’s freaked out by this, especially when this keeps happening and she has no control over it, and it culminates (after she’s able to access her medical history which, horrifically, is controlled by McDonald’s) in her finding out she’s pregnant. Despite not having had sex with her boyfriend in at least a year. Things get fucking weird from there, but I’ve spoiled more than enough of this journey. I’ll just say that several parts of this have really stuck with me (I finished this a few days ago and I’ve been gathering my thoughts, which maybe makes this more coherent than usual but probably not), and this is very much worth your time. If you’re optimistic about the future somehow this should cure you, and if not you’ll feel right at home. $19.99
New review today for Hot Comb by Ebony Flowers. If nothing else here’s hoping all these graphic novel reviews are giving you some ideas for library books…
This is really her first book? Really? Well, consider the bar raised, everybody else who’s putting out their first graphic novel! This is a collection of stories about growing up and just generally living while black. Starting things off is the title piece, which deals with Ebony convincing her mother to let her get a perm as a kid, and exactly what goes into it. White people who have never considered such a thing, it’s excruciating, and she goes into detail here. Other stories are about dealing with a crazy lady on the train, the flood of memories that hits her at the funeral for an elderly relative (and her conversation with another relative that caused the older lady no end of grief), a particularly odd reaction to her hair from a child, her little sister and how her relationship to her softball team changed her life (her hair changed when she went into the pool, which caused her to become a sort of “good luck” symbol for the team, which is not something she wanted, to put it mildly), her playing with ducks and the utter lack of patience from her mother when she was playing, and (maybe the highlight of the book, although it’s tough to choose) a long conversation with three friends that goes over several locations. It’s difficult to describe why it was riveting without going into minute detail, which would ruin your reading experience, so just trust me on this one, OK? Bottom line, it’s a pile of great stories from an author I’m assuming we’re going to be hearing a lot from going forward, so get in on the ground floor before she takes over the world! $21.95