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New review today for Land of the Sons by Gipi. And thus concludes an unintentional week of reviews for artists with only a single name.
I genuinely do not know where to start with this one. How a book with 280 pages (give or take) doesn’t have a wasted panel in it? How it starts off like a fairly simple story of the few remaining survivors of civilization (years after the fall) and balloons out into a complex, terrifying tale? The fact that so many answers are given with so few words? Not that it’s a wordless comic; far from it. Just that some of the most important scenes don’t have a lot of chatter involved. OK, how about this: the book starts off with a young man casually walking through a field. He’s trying to call out for his brother, and we spend several pages seeing his hunt. Finally he sees his brother struggling with an animal, and we learn later that his brother has killed a dog for the sake of trading it to the only local merchant. Why does he so casually kill a dog? Because he’s never learned that dogs (or cats) were around for anything other than meat and their skin. So clearly it’s been awhile since the end of the world, but we’re never given a solid reason for why it happened. It’s irrelevant, really. Civilization has fallen, this is what’s left. The brothers bring this dog to their father, who chastises them for the method of killing the dog, their lack of preparation in keeping it fit for trade, etc. We soon see that he is hard on these kids constantly, but it’s because he’s trying his best to keep them alive in this harsh, unforgiving world. There’s an unpleasant but successful interaction with the trader, the boys make a few attempts to read the journal that their father is keeping (neither has learned to read) and the bulk of the remainder of the book deals with their ongoing attempts to get somebody, anybody, to read the book for them. Along the way we get to see more of this world, and the more we see, the worse it gets. It’s goddamn horrifying at times, and once you pass a certain part of the book the tension is pressing and constant. I don’t know if this book won any awards (Gipi is an Italian artist and this is apparently his second book), but it should have. I’ve been flipping back through various scenes since I finished it, and that’s not the norm with me and graphic novels. Give it a look, I can’t recommend it highly enough. $29.99
Happy new year! Yeah, I’m still here, but I’ve either been out of town for the holidays or stuck with a cold that just won’t quit, so sorry for the lack of reviews. New review today for Beyond a Cure by Fenta, another issue from the mini kus pile.
Do you have any idea how tempting it is to just put the synopsis from the back of the comic in the place of a proper review and call it a day? As always, it’s succinct, and it manages to say nothing and everything at the same time. Instead I get to ramble on for a few hundred words in the hopes of making a different kind of sense of it. Oh, woe is the fate of the random internet comics reviewer! In the case the sarcasm there wasn’t crystal clear… yeah, sarcasm. Hey look everybody, it’s a new issue of mini kus! #72, to be exact, and I can only hope that when they reach #100 their plan for world domination will be complete. This is the story of two brothers… or two aspects of the same person… or possibly just two guys who know each other? Yep, I’ve got this one nailed down. One of the brothers is sick and has decided to end it all, and has already dug a hole in the backyard for his body. All his other brother has to do is come over at the appointed time and bury him. While the healthy brother is contemplating this state of affairs he has visions of the past, or possibly prophetic visions. When the time is right he comes over to bury his brother… but the visions don’t stop, and what exactly happened is very much open to interpretation. It’s the sense of a half-remembered dream put on paper, with a pervasive sense of foreboding and hopelessness throughout. In other words, it’s another completely unique story to add to the mini kus collection. $6
New review today for The Index #6: The Crowd by Caitlin Cass. If you’re wondering why there’s a second issue six in the series, please disregard the last one, per the artist.
The Index #6: The Crowd
It’s back, The Index is back! Sorry, that probably seemed unprofessional. I apologize to those of you who still somehow see me as a professional. Before I get to the contents of this comic, I have to point out that there was another #6 of this series, but Caitlin says at the start of this issue that we’re meant to disregard it entirely. Checking through my past reviews I see that I never reviewed it; checking through her store I can see that the older issue is still for sale and that it’s described as having to do with our two heroes asking Virginia Woolf for advice on their situation. This sounds fascinating to me, but apparently Caitlin disagreed. Why? What scandalous materials are discussed in this issue? I have no idea, but if you’re curious you’d better order a copy before she notices that they’re still for sale. Oh, and she also has a collected edition of the first five issues available there, if you’re interested, which you should be. Does that mean that I can finally talk about this comic? It does! In this issue John eats a sandwich while Susan calls several of the greatest minds in history to help them with the problem of the burning library. Maybe that’s why Caitlin ditched the last issue: she preferred the conversation of several of them (Virginia Woolf included) rather than just Woolf on her own. Anyway, they decide to watch how they handle the crisis without interfering, which inevitably leads to them interfering to try to get things kicked off. Does this help the greatest minds in history solve the problem? Or have they made a terrible mistake? Tune in next time to… no, you probably will have to tune in next time, as there are still problems to be solved. But since Caitlin has solved whatever narrative bugaboo was holding her back with this second sixth issue, and since she’s already one of the most prolific artists I know, I have a feeling we’ll be seeing an issue seven before too long. If you haven’t listened to me yet to buy her comics, well, shame on you, but now that there’s a collected edition of the first five issues you really have no excuse at all. Buy it, catch up, live better!
New review today for Doghair by Ganmu. Rejoice, as this means more mini kus books have arrived!
Oh mini kus, don’t ever change. This is another selection in their series (#71, for those keeping track of such things) and this time around the story deals with a young man and his dog. Dogs. It’s not entirely clear if both dogs are his, but it’s not particularly relevant. He only has eyes for the dogs, which leads to a bit of trouble at home. His wife (or roommate, although the implication is definitely wife) berates him over dinner and then leaves the house, but his concern is still for the dogs, failing to notice that she’s spending less and less time at home. Finally he looks out the window and sees his wife, while walking the dog, talking to another man in the street. Naturally, this causes him to spring into action… and you’ll have to read the comic to see what happens next. This is mostly wordless, so the glances and body language are doing most of the work. It’s occasionally haunting and the ending is grim, in a “Boy and his Dog” sort of way. See, if you know what I’m talking about that is a bit of a spoiler. Hooray for your literacy! $6
New review today for Poochytown by Jim Woodring, and you should all drop whatever you’re doing and read it immediately.
I’ve been reviewing comics for over 17 years here now, and do you know why I’ve never reviewed a Jim Woodring book, despite the fact that he’s long been one of my top 5 favorite comic artists? Because I never knew how I could do one of his books justice. Well, I’m here today to tell you that… I still haven’t solved that problem. I don’t think it is possible to say something revelatory about his work, because it so obviously speaks for itself, and it so obviously speaks in its own, unique language. I’m mostly doing this to tell people who stopped reading Jim’s work in the mid 00’s, when he wasn’t putting out much if any new material, that there are now several books of his that you could get. Congress of Animals, Fran, Weathercraft, they’re all probably new since the last time you checked. If you’re completely new to the world of Jim Woodring and are wondering if you should jump in with Poochytown, well, no. I mean, you could; every Frank story (oh, newbies, that’s what this is, a story about Frank) could be the first or last Frank story in the chronology. But no, if you’re looking to dive into the Frank mythos, start with the giant hardcover “The Frank Book.” The story this time around deals with a wealthy… man? Thing? It doesn’t seem to have a face. Anyway, this creature is in a balloon, whiling his day away. Meanwhile, the man in the moon (on the ground) is annoyed that the balloon casts a brief shadow over him, which causes the creature in the balloon to stick him tongue out at him. He only really has the tongue, other than that he’s quite faceless. Anyway, the moon man on the ground throws a rock at the balloon, causing it to start sinking rapidly. To help his situation, he starts throwing his goods overboard, desperate to avoid a crash. It’s at this moment that we see Frank, as he’s been roused from his home due to the commotion. Frank and his two pals rummage through the debris, eventually finding a large… tuba? Frank and one friend are unable to get the tuba to do much, but his other friend creates an entirely new floating city, full of offshoots of the creature that made it. Sadly, the two of them drift away in the floating city, leaving Frank very much bereft and desperate to find his friends again. I just read through that description again and yep, that’s accurate. The rest of the comic involves that search, finding an unexpected ally, and a revelation about how Frank heals himself from injuries. Of all the silent comics in all the world, none of them take longer for me to read then a new Frank book. Partially it’s just because I want to savor it, granted, but I’d defy any of you to look at any one of his two page spreads and then spend less than a couple of minutes gaping at it in awe. There’s nobody out there like Jim Woodring and there’s nothing out there like Frank, and you owe it to yourselves to thoroughly explore both. $19.99
It’s graphic novel review week! OK, fine, it’s only two reviews, but these are books you shouldn’t miss. Um, spoilers. New review today for Sabrina by Nick Drnaso.
Yes, you can tell from the cover scan that this is a library copy. What, you think running this website makes me independently wealthy? Also, hey, support your local libraries! I usually just get graphic novels and read them for myself (yes, it’s true, there are many comics that I read without saying a word about it on this website), but I had to say a few things about this amazing book, just in case you hadn’t heard about it yet. It was the first graphic novel to be nominated for the Man Booker Prize, which, granted, I had to look up, but the list of past winners is ridiculously impressive. It’s also not quite like anything else I’d ever read, with some hints of Chris Ware sprinkled in with Adrian Tomine, but I’m not going to claim that he is all influences. No, this is a uniquely original book, which is probably a big part of the reason why it’s up for awards. What’s it about? Things start off slowly with a conversation between two women, ending with a gross story of a near miss on a sexual assault. From there we turn our attention to a young man with long hair who’s being picked up at the airport by a friend he obviously hasn’t seen in years. We gradually learn that he’s there because his girlfriend has gone missing and his parents, having no idea what else to do to help, sent him to an old friend. We then follow this old friend to his job in the Air Force, where we learn a few more details about the missing woman. The action mostly focuses on three characters: the young man with the missing girlfriend, his friend and how it’s affecting him (and his own attempt to reconcile with an estranged wife and daughter) and, to a lesser extent, the sister of the missing woman. It’s absolutely unflinching in its portrayal of grief; there were several moments when I wished the “camera” would turn away so I could get a break from the misery. The boyfriend can barely function (he’s usually only wearing underwear and there are a few times when his friend has to feed and clothe him) and there’s a particularly heartbreaking scene where the sister manages to find a brief moment of peace through meditation, but the second she comes out of it the misery comes pouring back in. The resolution to the disappearance is grisly, and the rest of the book turns into an examination of how quickly conspiracy theories get spread (he spends some time on the Sandy Hook conspiracy, among others, and shows how quickly the media turns to the next, bloodier story). It’s the tail end of 2018 as I’m writing this and the message couldn’t be more timely. You’re going to be seeing this book turn up on a lot of “best of” year end lists, and you know what? They’re right. This is one of the best, most disturbing books I’ve read all year, and I couldn’t recommend it more highly. $27.95
New review today for The Fifty Flip Experiment #22 by Dan Hill, happy weekend everybody!
I’ve officially been reviewing these comics for so long that I’ve completely forgotten what the title was supposed to mean. Seems like there was an explanation in the early days, but we’re talking over a decade here, so it’s apparently left my brain. Obviously to make room for more important stuff and not just because I’m gradually losing my marbles, right? Right. This is the rare issue of The Fifty Flip Experiment that actually looks simple on first glance. The basic story is that there’s a card game going on (in an old timey saloon, naturally), one of players wins the game in a suspicious fashion, and another player calls him out, leading to the prospect of some inevitable gunplay. But this is Dan we’re talking about, so obviously things aren’t going to be that easy. His missive on the front and back inside cover details the allegorical nature of each of the participants (I’d recommend reading it after finishing the story; I split the difference by reading the inside front cover, the story and then the inside back cover. Do not do this!), and each of them has a lot more going on than you may have guessed. There’s also the nature of the angry confrontation after the cheating has been discovered; I abhor spoilers but I will say no guns are fired during this comic. And that ending… well, you haven’t lived a full life until you’ve seen the final panel of this story. In case that somehow wasn’t enough for you, there’s also a short bonus piece with 14 different science fiction ideas, and if you know anything about this comic, 14 new ideas about anything coming from this brain are always welcome. Buy it, love it, be it! $7
New review for After School Special by Dave Kiersh and, believe it not, I actually found time for three reviews this week, so there’s another one coming on Friday. Can you believe your luck?
One of the problems with the constant need for people to escape into nostalgia is that the thing they’re nostalgic for probably never happened. Or if it did happen, it wasn’t nearly as great as the person remembering it may have thought. Don’t believe me? If you’re out of your 20’s, go back and listen to the bands you loved when you were a teenager. Or watch a few movies that changed your lives. Watch/listen to them objectively. Sure, a few of them will hold up, but far more of them will fall apart upon inspection. That’s fine! That’s just your own personal growth; your tastes theoretically improve as you gather more experience. Well hello tangent, wasn’t there a comic here I was supposed to be talking about? Yep, and that little rant should show you the effect this book had on me. This is the story of two socially lost kids who find each other and end up dating. There’s Lisa, who had an abortion during high school and Jed, who’s recently moved to town and has no friends. Lisa had friends and lost them while Jed is just trying to find something to hand onto. He’s singing for old folks even though he has his own music he’d rather be playing, which is where his rant about nostalgia comes in. It’s endearing how quickly Lisa and Jed fall for each other; even though both of them have reason to distrust people, they can instinctively see each other as kindred spirits. Even when Lisa throws a giant party when her parents go out of town you still get the impression that Lisa and Jed only care about each other. This book is also packed with little moments of loneliness, hope, resignation, and yeah, more than a little bit of nostalgia. It’s all set in the mid 90’s, but it has very little bearing on the story, outside of the lack of ubiquitous cell phones. John Porcellino refers to this as Dave’s masterpiece on his website, and I’d be hard pressed to argue with that. If you’ve liked his work, this is the culmination of years of effort, of his researching after school specials at libraries in the hopes of finding one that would speak to him. If you’re somehow new to his work, this is an excellent place to start. $10
New review today for My Pretty Vampire by Katie Skelly, which has already been out for awhile but hey, maybe you missed it like I did when it first came out. Now’s your chance to fix that mistake!
It turns out that the nipples of vampires are invisible when they appear on the cover of a graphic novel. Who knew? They’re still visible on the inside, so relax, pervs. Why start out the review on a cynical note when the book is fantastic? Eh, who knows. Bad mood maybe? It’s just one more data point showing you that the opinion of reviewers is never meant to be fully trusted. Which is odd, as I’ve been reviewing Katie’s comics here for a decade maybe? And I couldn’t be happier that she’s getting books put out by Fantagraphics these days. This is the story of a vampire who’s being kept in a mansion by her creepy (to her) brother. She has all the comforts she could want, except she’s forced to live on ox blood, which is apparently terrible but able to keep vampires alive. After four years of this (and four years of being a vampire) she finally manages to escape, but she’s not used to the rules of being a vampire while being out in the open, not to mention having to worry about money, not getting noticed, etc. Oh, and she obviously needs a safe place to sleep every day when the sun comes up, which is more trouble than you might think. Meanwhile her brother has hired a private detective to bring her back, and she’s not particularly difficult to track with the trail of bodies she’s leaving behind. This isn’t the tale of a cunning ancient vampire who knows how to keep the body count to a minimum, Clover (the vampire lady) is basically feral, and when the need for blood hits her, she just lashes out, with very little regard for who sees or what else is around. It’s a tense story with atmospheric use of sound effects, subtle touches that you might not even notice the first time through (like the detective noticing the blood that one woman trailed into a bar), and a few genuinely horrifying moments. If you’ve been reading the website for long you’ve obviously already heard me sing Katie’s praises before, but if you’re new here or if you just never gave her a shot, here’s your chance. I don’t have a single bad thing to say about this graphic novel, so check it out. $19.99
New review today for Goiter #3 by Josh Pettinger. If you look inside you might find Nazis! Of course, if you look outside you might also see Nazis, so maybe the novelty has worn off…
When I was trying to find a place to buy this comic online (still not that easy if you’re not logged into Instagram), I came across a brief conversation between Josh and a fan. Josh mentioned that #2 was back in his shop, and the commenter asked about the availability of #1. Josh lamented that he had seen copies of it in the discount bin at Chicago Comics (so if you live in/near Chicago, now’s (11/29/18 as of this writing) your chance!) and said he was too embarrassed to ask for them back. To which I say… don’t feel bad about the discount comics bin! It has no bearing on the quality of the comic. Back in the day, when I was first getting into Fantagraphics/Drawn & Quarterly/mini comics, do you know how I got damned near every issue of Peepshow, Palookaville, Yummy Fur, Naughty Bits, Love and Rockets, even Eightball? Discount bins! This concludes my public service announcement to everyone who has comics in discount bins; you’re in good company. And there’s an even better chance that somebody without much money is going to pick up your book. Sure, it sucks now, but in the long run you probably gained a few fans. Isn’t there a comic somewhere in here I should be talking about? Ah, here is it, Goiter #3! This is the story of a fairly lonely young woman who’s stuck in a dead end job and has just turned 30. She could always move back home, but doesn’t want to admit that this is all there is. Sound familiar to anybody? If not, you’re one of the lucky ones. Anyway, our hero works this dead end job until one day a a giant head appears to her, acting like he has known her forever. Turns out that this giant head is Joe Murphy, or the only part of his that has come through from an alternate dimension. He’s also time traveling, so this version of him had already been dating our hero. She quickly falls in love with him, but meanwhile, things aren’t going so well on Joe’s end, both as a giant head (he has an unknown illness) and for his body back in the other dimension. The rest of the comic deals with those struggles and whether or not our hero can come to terms with the life she’s living. Josh also mentions in the back of the comic that while the book isn’t autobiographical, he also turned 30 and was working a dead end job while he was making this comic, so there are bound to be some elements that are true to his life. It’s a great story, both unnerving and somehow hopeful, so give it a shot, maybe you can find something in here to help with your own dead end job.