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New review today for The Lighthouse in the City Volume 5 by Karl Christian Krumpholz. Stay inside, y’all! It’s January, so it’s too cold to be doing stuff anyway…
I’m going to get a bit nitpicky here at the start, so if you don’t want to read it, just skip ahead a few lines. Or if you don’t even want to be bothered doing that, I thoroughly enjoyed this, so take that information and go about your day. See that “Volume 5” up there? Yeah, I did that. It’s not listed on the cover, on the spine, not even on the inside with the title. But this IS the fifth volume, and since this is a collection of daily strips, that seems relevant if you were looking for the whole journey. Even worse, I don’t know if you can even get all the volumes. The first volume is listed through Birdcage Bottom Books, the fifth through Kilgore, but as for everything in the middle, a quick Google search has failed me. Maybe the thinking is that only obsessives read small press comics, so those types of folks would research before buying. It might even be correct! It just strikes me as odd, as a needless way to confuse people. See all that complaining? Didn’t mention the quality of the book even one time, did I? That’s because it’s delightful, right around the best of the daily strips I’ve seen. That’s for a simple reason: Karl doesn’t force it. This might seem basic, but some people who do daily strips seem like they’re performing at times, or pushing for something funny and/or insightful when the truth is that they don’t have much to say on that particular day. And that’s fine! Karl’s solution is given away a bit on that cover, as he has no problem silently narrating a small happening from the day, or the absolute lack of anything happening. He’s also not boxed in by the same format (generally four panels, single page with these sorts of things), as some strips are a few pages, some are a single panel, some are all over the place. Flipping through this book before I started reading it I assumed it was a regular graphic novel (this is also where the lack of numbering failed me) just from the wildly different looks of the pages. Anyway, finally, this book covers the period from January through March 2021, which is less than a year ago as I’m writing this. Some shit went down during this period, to put it mildly, but since everybody reading this went through it too, I won’t go through it again. It’s an engaging collection, with funny and sad strips (and everything in between), and it makes me want to scour the internet to find those missing volumes. Give it a shot, and yes, that’s especially for people who are sick of the daily diary strip format. This proves that it still can be done well with a little ingenuity. $12
New review today for Meeting Comics #10 by Andrew Neal. Everybody back in their covid crouch? Because based on the current numbers, you really should be. Me? Oh, I have a work conference scheduled for this week, with people coming from all over Ohio. Will it be canceled? Postponed? Or do they really not care at all? Stay tuned!
That cover has a pretty big spoiler. Can you spot it? No, it’s not the slight white marks from where I accidentally gave the comic an elbow drop. Funny story! Anyway, the series has made it to double digits, and the fun thing about reading comics from the past is you can see dreams being broken in real time. Andrew has an announcement here that the collected edition was going to be coming out in February of 2020, and I’m sure he had cons and all sorts of other promotional activities planned. Sorry, but covid had other plans. This issue also had some sort of printing problem, as several strips were lighter than others, but everything is still legible, so don’t worry, you’ll still get all the jokes. What’s the story this time around? Val pays off a bet in which she has to shake out her hair like a sexy librarian, we meet Dolores (who’s been a temp for 14 years), Kevin does some just on the borderline of racist rapping, they learn that the new Fantastic Four will be a rap battle (and boy was I ever tempted to put that as the sample image, but it was just too good to ruin), the Ribbon Cutter goes on hiatus, and Kevin’s baby briefly goes missing. Much, much more, as always, and it’s not like Andrew lost his funny since the ninth issue, so you’ll get some solid laughs this time around too. Go on, buy a copy, help the poor guy make up for the accidentally terrible timing of his book release date. Actually, that book is probably the way to go, as it collects the first six issues. But if you’re not willing to risk it, exactly zero of these first 10 issues were terrible, so I like your chances. $5
It’s time for the weekly Meeting Comics review! This time it’s for #9 (by Andrew Neal, of course). I was thinking about switching to reviewing one of these every two weeks, but the review comics pile is looking a little sparse, so I’ll keep this up. Unless some of you wanted to send some review comics of your own my way so I can change things up…
Anybody else enough of a former Marvel comics geek that they tried to get a No-Prize, that joke prize for finding mistakes in comics that I sadly didn’t understand until I was an adult? Well, the inside cover for this one says it’s #8, but it’s actually #9! …do I win anything? I’ll just wait for my award in the mail. Speaking of Marvel, Andrew really messed up by not putting some version of “in this issue, someone dies!” on the front cover. Silhouettes of some of the characters, gravestone in shadow, that sort of thing. Because this one does start off with a death, even if it doesn’t mean all that much to the story. One of the horde of people at Kevin’s house, his father, starts the issue off by croaking. Spoiler, I guess, but it’s literally the first strip. Anyway, Kevin didn’t much like the guy, and and even when he passed away it didn’t exactly bring up a wellspring of emotions. At the funeral it quickly becomes clear that the feeling is widely shared, which is a nice and honest change of pace from the way deaths are usually handled in four panel gag strips. Unless deaths aren’t usually handled at all in such strips and I’m just making things up, which is entirely possible. Also the image of their baby going all emo after witnessing the death got a real laugh out loud from me, and I just realized that I just used “emo” in both reviews this week, despite probably never saying that word out loud. Huh. Other subjects in this here funny book include Gil hitting on the boss’s granddaughter, finding out what’s under the beard, finding out what’s under the hat, a real “oof” of a strip about adopting a cat while passing an ICE center, flex out a tiddy, how quickly an angry mob forms if a cartoon is rebooted with the lead character having a different race than the original, and the new girl. And lots more, of course; as usual I’m only mentioning roughly half of the strips. As always, check out a few samples on his website if you’re still on the fence, otherwise this is another solid issue. $5
Happy New Year! I wanted to get things off on the right foot, so here’s a review for Go Fuck Myself: The Fuckpendium by Mike Freiheit. He was nice enough to put little hearts over the “u” for both of them, but this keyboard doesn’t have that technology, so feast your delicate eyes on those swears. Feast!
What a delightfully odd book! Forgive me for starting a review for a book with two “fuck”s in the title in such a prim and proper way, but I’m still processing. Also I just looked up his website and he has a book called “Monkey Chef” about his time in a South African monkey sanctuary, so you’re lucky I’m writing this at all and not running out to the closest comic shop to read that sucker. As for this one, I was bracing myself for mopey nonsense. Which doesn’t have to be a bad thing! But I was ready for shit to get real emo, real fast. Instead I found out that this is mostly a delightful romp through past and future versions of himself, both trying to survive and/or impress his lady by being a halfway decent caveman and trying to survive in a distant future where everybody has everything (except, much to his chagrin, the cure for baldness). All of that is somehow seamlessly tied together with his observations from his actual life. Yes, he does talk briefly about depression, but in such a hopeful and helpful way that I’d be hard pressed to call that mopey. This is a collection of all three issues of his series of the same name, but even if you are one of the people who grabbed the first two issues, this also has a third issue that is only available here, so you’re not getting out of this that easily. There’s also both a foreword and an afterward, both amazing in entirely different ways. And this might be a first, but no, I’m not even going to spoil those bits. I guess I should still try to write whatever it is that’s a regular review for me, so here goes. In this book Mike talks about the misery of running, life doing a real number on him, guesses as to what’s under his beard, a few fairly ridiculous questions for his wife that she apparently takes in stride (ain’t love grand?), fax cat, eye meat, a tree with a gun, dreams of the hairstyles he’d like to try and, of course, Sky Beast. You’ll notice that I didn’t get into the future or past stuff, because those are for you, dear reader! I thoroughly enjoyed this one and have no trouble at all saying y’all should give it a shot. Or maybe you should go for the Monkey Chef book first, because even without reading it I’m going to go ahead and call that one a masterpiece. $20
It’s the final review of the year, and it’s Booze Ha Ha by David Robertson! Happy happy and all that, I have no resolutions to leave all this behind, so you’re most likely stuck with me for another year. Or not, as you can stop reading this at any time, but that’s on you. Feliz Navidad!
I realize that nothing is promised to anybody in this life, but it really feels like there needed to be at least one great drunken story in here. Alas! This is yet another really solid entry into David’s personal library, and he’s once again backed up by a solid crew of artists. They’re all listed in the tags and I’ll mention them when I talk about specific stories, so don’t fret. As always, you get your money’s worth and then some with his comics, as it also includes exhaustive end notes on the stories (which I always find fascinating) and a couple of interviews he’s done recently on top of a whole bunch of stories. Star Wars is covered again in a few different stories, as we see some of his doubts about the accuracy of Han’s demolition work in Return of the Jedi, see his brief meeting with Dave Prowse (the man in the Darth Vader costume), and see an alternate ending for RotJ where Obi Wan Kenobi finally gets to make some sense out of his cryptic final words. There’s also a brief bit about an interview he saw with Harrison Ford in 1990, where he was asked about working with somebody who was only 12 years older than him an playing his father in the third Indiana Jones movie. I had no idea as a child, but seeing it now it’s pretty obvious. I’m not going to go story by story here, what with my constant bias towards leaving some surprises in comics, but some subjects include how meaningless “now” gets after time travel has been invented, a lockdown fairy tale (with an appropriately ghoulish ending), how quaint Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” looks after 30 years of his generation not doing much of anything to fix things, the blending of binging with reality (art by Abi Wye), fighting with the internet to get a good description of why women get rejected (art by Ali Hodgson), taking lessons learned from teaching about how much students love stickers to realize how accurately it applies to internet adults today, reimagining Back to the Future with a time traveling Chuck D singing Fight the Power (and good lord would that be an amazing movie (art by Mike Sedakat)) and the thrill of getting the last one of something and the likelihood that you’re being scammed with that information (art by Zu Dominiak). And, as always with this man and his comics, much more! Maybe the David Robertsons of the world (and the Brian Caninis, Simon Hanselmanns, etc) should offer some motivational speaking for comic creators, some words of wisdom to keep them half as productive as they are. Hey, it might be worth a shot! As for this one, in case it isn’t already clear, yeah, it’s worth a look, it’s pretty great throughout. And if you do like it, you have a vast back catalog of his comics to look forward to!
New review today for that old weekly favorite, Meeting Comics #8 by Andrew Neal! You know, if I was able to plan ahead even a little bit I’d have the last issue of the series scheduled for the last week of the year, but instead I still have 11 issues left. Ah well…
I tell you what, I had some doubts about the wisdom of reviewing every single issue of this series (that Andrew was nice enough to send me) instead of just doing the collected edition and a few random issues. Seeing it all unfold this way is just ridiculously impressive, as this is not a collection of characters that I would have guessed would turn into a coherent story. And yet! So far he’s balancing the demands of the gag strip (and keeping them funny, which is incredibly easy to fail at over time) with developing these characters. Not since the days of Garfield has anybody… ah, just checking to see if anybody was still reading my usual rambling before the proper review thing. If you’re the type to start reading a series with #8, like maybe it’s your favorite number or you lost a bet, you’ll still be OK here, but you will be missing a whole lot of context. Subjects in this issue include trying to corner Val about her thoughts for the future, the best way to avoid going home, the Ribbon Cutter losing his battle with temptation (particularly with Lassoline), getting a head count of the people in Kevin’s house, a ska joke that killed with me (but your reaction may depend on your historical ska levels), ethically debating going to see another shoot ’em up movie, a date with god, having HR describe all the personal pronouns, and the ecstatic dance of the childless. Once again that’s about half of the strips, so once again you’ll have plenty to be surprised by here, and it’s not like the other descriptions were all that descriptive anyway. Vague blathering while pointing the readers in the direction of worthwhile comics, that’s the Optical Sloth promise! $5
Well, so much for that master plan my of reviewing schedule, huh? Blame a cascade of pot petitions at work. New review for Goiter Comics #6 by Josh Pettinger!
Looks like I have a bit of a Goiter gap (I didn’t pick up #4 or 5) on this here website, proving once again that it’s not possible for one person to follow every single comic artist that’s worthwhile, or even most of them, or even more than a few of them. Once again, if there’s a single billionaire reading this that wants to give me a measly few million dollars to do all this full time until I drop, I’m ready at any time. Anyway! The earlier issues of Goiter were solid, but this seems like a leap up in quality. Several stories in here, in a comic that’s the size of a regular comic book, so the whole thing feels a bit nostalgic. Until you see the (perfectly reasonable) price tag of $8, which kills that nostalgia dead. Stories include a mopey man who learns quite a bit about the history of pilates, the terrifying feeling of watching your dog run away from you after they get off their leash and not knowing if you’ll ever see them again in one piece, the spectacularly questionable viewing habits of a young Josh and his mother, and finally the bulk of the comic. This one is grim, and just barely fiction, in that Black Mirror “if this isn’t happening exactly this way right now, just give it a few years” kind of way. Our hero is a worker drone in an Amazon warehouse (in all but name), where every aspect of his job and life are monitored. Sleep patterns, television habits, recreational activities, all are monitored and all are factored in whenever a dip in performance is detected. It’s hard to read because (outside of a few fantastical elements) Amazon is already doing at least half of this to their workers, and we’re all just waiting for confirmation that an Alexa in the house is basically a license to spy. Terrifying but engrossing, that’s what I’d call that story, and you might as well read up on it, as it’s the likely future for all of us. Unless climate change gets us first. On that cheery note, better wrap things up, so yes, I’d absolutely recommend this comic, and it doesn’t seem to be connected to past issues, so don’t worry about being lost. $8
New review today for It Ends Badly #1 by Barry Southworth, which should be a familiar name if you’ve been reading this website for a decade or so. Oh, and far as holiday reviews go? Next week I should be able to write at least a couple, ditto for the week after that, but this week is a real mystery. Let’s find out together, shall we?
It Ends Badly #1
So I always check online to find the current website for whoever I’m reviewing, and Barry’s first result was Optical Sloth. That is a man either without much web presence or, if he is around, a simple Google search is not going to get it done. For long time readers of the website, you may remember Barry from 2005 or so? I think that’s when he started sending me books, so he’s been around a while. Or it’s possible that this is Barry Jr., as this is dedicated to his father Barry Southworth, and it’s been long enough that this might be an entirely different person. Just wanted to throw that out there! This is a collection of stories, but basically it’s one long story (with more to come, if that ending and “#1” are any indication) with a few shorties. It’s all about the Forsaken, who are Rachel, Albert and Nic. Albert is the guy you see getting lit on fire in the sample image, so he’s off to a rough start in the series. Rachel has problems of her own when she goes after a serial killer, but I can’t say much more about that without spoilers. As for Nic, he’s the serial killer. So is he one of the Forsaken, or is he just included in the title? Unclear! But answers have been promised for the next installment, so we’ll see. The other stories are snippets of ideas and existential thoughts. What else can I say without giving away the whole thing if I try to review single page stories? It’s an engaging and intriguing main story, but most of the shorter bits left me cold, if I’m being honest. But Barry has long since proven that he can tell a compelling story, so I’m more than willing to see what’s next. Unless this is Barry Jr., that is, in which case all bets are off… $4
New review today for Lounger by Nick Mullins. Which made me wonder: how annoying would it be to put together a “best of” 2021 list for graphic novels? Seems like a hassle, but hey, maybe it would be fun? Uh, not to give away the tone of this review or anything…
I’m sure everybody out there has had a drunken conversation or two involving how you’d handle yourself in the event of the apocalypse. Or, if you’re not a drinker, at least you’ve gamed it out a bit. Some see themselves as natural leaders, some would just find anything that seemed like a safe place to hunker down for the duration. And then there’s the occasional person who thinks that, all things considered, crawling into a bottle would be the best thing for all involved. If you’ve ever been curious about the “adventures” of this last type, you’re in luck! Nick has put out this thoroughly darkly entertaining look into a survivor who doesn’t give a shit whether or not he survives. As the book goes on we see more and more of the history of Jack (our hero!) and the three other survivors who basically drag him along with him (after threatening to take his booze away). Each of them have their own journeys, we see a few other people come across them as time goes on, and it’s clear that whatever has infected most people doesn’t affect animals, because they seem to be all over the place. Also, what does it say about me that I didn’t even think to link this to covid before one of them literally says “global pandemic”? Oh well. I don’t want to give much of anything away. I came into this blind, and I’d highly recommend that anybody reading this does the same. Which makes this review tricky, as I’d put this on any “best of 2021” list that I was putting together. Thoroughly engaging from start to finish, and most of the mysteries are revealed in a “show not tell” way that is essential for a story like this. Give it a shot, is what I have to say. $15
New review today for Meeting Comics #7 by Andrew Neal, as the weekly reviews continue. Only 11ish more weeks left to go!
You’ve beaten me, Meeting Comics. I almost always stick to my usual formula of only using one sample image, but this time I just could not do it. I got a solid, literal “laugh out loud” moment from both the first and last strips of this issue, so after a few minutes trying to choose, I gave up. Go ahead, read ’em for yourself! If neither one gets a chuckle out of you, your humor glands may have atrophied completely. I’m thinking about printing up copies of that second strip just to hand out the next time somebody says the “I’m not racist but” magic words. Other than that, there were plenty of other strips in here, but what about those, huh? Maybe I only laughed the two times. Nope! Other subjects include the Ribbon Cutter getting renamed against his will, turning into a real super hero (and you’d be amazed at the variety of villains who can be defeated by a pair of scissors), and trying to come to grips with his undeniable costumed sex appeal. And that’s just for the Ribbon Cutter! There’s also another vague clue into the origins of Val, therapy, some solid rocking, a remake of Back to the Future, picking the interim manager, and talking about the war. Yes, it’s still funny, which is a good thing, as I’d look pretty damned silly doing weekly reviews of a mediocre comic. And there’s enough of a backstory going on for several characters that I’d even recommend a solid chunk of time binging the whole thing (or at least the whole thing through the seventh issue). Do we still say binging for comics? Eh, reading a bunch of them in a row, then. It’s hilarious, and if you haven’t read any of it yet, buy an issue or two! And if you’re too poor even for that, there are plenty of free samples on his website. As if the two I put below this review haven’t already convinced everybody… $5