Archive for category Reviews
Tarn #3: Sans San
Well, we’re at the halfway point in the Tarn saga (I’m aware that it doesn’t make any sense to call five issues of a mini comic a saga, but I’m sticking with it anyway). And characters are starting to interact with each other a bit more, so it’s clearly all leading to a dramatic conclusion with them all pointing guns at each other. I haven’t read the last two issues yet, obviously, but I am so very hoping that that is true. Anyway, this time around we meet Sans San, and his thing is that he’s always late. And he speaks Japanese, or possibly gibberish (according to another character), but I’d need a translator to know for sure. He has a job interview, plenty of time to get there and he is determined not to be late for once. But! As he throws up his arms in celebration, his keys go flying off straight into the bag of the guy who eats butts from the first issue. Which might not have been that bad, but said guy was riding on a scooter at the time, so he’s out of earshot before Sans is even able to register what happened. The rest of the issue is a desperate chase involving a language barrier, the constraints of honor and an unexpected team-up. OK, maybe it’s expected because they’re both in this issue, but the way in which they teamed up was still unexpected. Another solid issue, one more reason for you to check out this series. $1
It’s a sad fact of my upbringing, but whenever I read a book like this I can’t help wishing that overly religious people were forced to read it. Not for punishment, but because I think it would help them understand humanity a bit more. Not that this book aspires to anything so lofty as all that, and you can tell the theme right from the title. These are the adventures in cruising from Brontez, told in full (and often hilarious) detail, and he has no interest in worrying about the delicate sensibilities of anybody. Which is great, as this book would have been ridiculous if it was censored. He writes a story of whatever happened on one side, and Janelle Hessig illustrates them on the other. The image of his drunken face, covered in cum and heading back out to a wedding, was my favorite, but there are lots to choose from. Subjects of these stories (and he’s nice enough to include a map of these encounters in the front) include his finally hooking up at a punk bar, getting fucked by Santa, the reality of a job working in a bathhouse, the family guy with all the warts on his dick, the straight guy and his trouble with condoms, all of the shit that guys with big dicks think they can get away with, getting fucked by a ghost, the homeless guy (and how it was bad to discriminate), the locker room guy, and fisting while on shrooms. And more, but I should leave some surprises for you. If you’re prone to fainting spells and fits of nervousness then maybe you shouldn’t read this, but for everybody else this book had me laughing plenty, those illustrations by Janelle made great stories even better and I even learned a few new terms which, considering all the gay friends I’ve had over the years, I didn’t think was even possible. Buy it and enjoy, is what I’m trying to tell you. $10
Has the theme of falling on your face/ass/other ever been the subject of a comics anthology before? I can’t think of one, but it’s such a natural fit. This naturally made me think of various falls in my life, and I kept coming back to one what wasn’t really a fall and also wasn’t me. I was walking with a couple of friends on an icy road years ago. One of these friends is 6’6”, and my other friend and I noticed him start to slide. This is one of those moments when time slows down, but after the fact we would both swear that he had fallen far enough backwards for the back of his head to slide on the ground, but he somehow more or less kept his balance and never did completely fall. Not sure even today if that’s a good story or a “you had to be there” story, but it’s notable that I still remember it maybe 15 years later. Anyway! The point of that story is that it’s impossible to read this comic without thinking of pratfalls you know and love, and Rob has assembled quite a talented bunch here to tell their stories. There’s Carrie McNinch’s story of getting her thumb slammed in the door (and her mother driving away with said thumb stuck in the door), Becky Hawkins and her amazing collection of bruises and cuts (not the mention her ridiculously unlucky landing spot), Aron Nels Steinke almost knocking his eye out, Tessa Brunton’s spectacular rolling fall, John Porcellino’s skateboarding mess, Jason Viola’s trip to Russia and the impression he must have left with some of those people, Noah Van Sciver and his preventative precautions taken to prevent ever being hurt again, Cara Bean’s skiing “mishap”, MariNaomi’s bowling injury (yes, it is possible), the cat of Gabrielle Gamboa taking her eyebrow, Tony Breed getting away with one, Max Clotfelter getting seriously punched, and the causes of Rob Kirby’s various scars from waiting tables. With a list of talent like that I doubt that I have to do much convincing, so just do yourself a favor and pick this up. Then, if you haven’t already, work your way back through the older comics of these folks. You deserve it! $5
Tarn #2: Pigboss
Oh, so THAT’S what Tarn is. Not that I have any idea of the larger significance of it, or how it ties in to all of these comics, but at least this issue mentions Tarn. Oh hi, did you not read the first issue and/or the review for the first issue? Well, in that case this might be a little confusing to you, even if this issue features an entirely different cast of characters from the first issue. This time around it’s Pigboss, who is filming the final scenes for some kind of action movie. He’s more than a little bit of an asshole, and he says his catchphrase whether or not the cameras are rolling. Still, things are going pretty well for him, except the occasional minor annoyance like not having the right food at the craft services, until he gets a letter from the head of the movie studio. This letter does not go over well at all with Pigboss, and it’s clear that a confrontation of some kind is in the cards. I’m still thoroughly enjoying this series, which is not a shock, as I’ve loved everything else Sam has done. It’s probably a bit early for me to tell you to go ahead and buy this whole series when I’ve only read the first two issues, but eh, what the hell, buy the whole series. It’s only $5, and unless Sam’s brain fell out along the way I feel confident in saying that it’ll be worth it in the end. $1 ($5 for the set)
Time and Money
I sometimes wish that more people listed the circumstances that led to the creation of their comics. This one, for example, was made over the course of two days, live on her blog, based on an idea from Jeff Lilly. Not that that has affected the quality, but I do get curious about such things. Then again, “created over the course of two years in fits and starts, then put into a closet for six months, then taken out and reworked, then published” would get pretty old as a description. Oh hello cynicism, and a good morning to you! Anyway, this one is a fairly simple tale of Ms. Ginsberg getting prodded into a quest by a walking piggy bank. They need payment to get into a tower, she refuses to use her obvious resource., but they reach another solution and see the result of their quest. Yeah, this all has to be pretty vague, as it’s a damned short comic and I don’t want to give it all away. It plays a little with perceptions and what your brain absorbs of your surroundings, with a nice little touch of mystery about reality thrown in at the end. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it and it’s really about where that hat came from. $1
Memoirs of a Muse #3: Epygt
I may be dealing with an expectations problem here. These occur when I think/wish that a story was going in a different direction, but it turns out that the writer/artist had other ideas. This is entirely on me, as I’m the one passively consuming the comic while the artist is the one actively making it, but I wanted to make it clear right away that most of the problems I had with this book come from that, and through no fault of the artist. Now that that disclaimer is out of the way, I thought this was going to be a set of detailed examples of ancient Egyptian art, how it came about and who made it. Instead Gail is mostly focused on getting her muse back to Enoch. Which makes sense, as that’s the story she has been telling all along, so never mind me. Things start off with the muse getting to Egypt, and the muse helps her host gain some recognition for her skills. Once she is done there we get to see those ancient artifacts that I was so interested in, with my only complaint being that we see them too briefly. From there I don’t want to give too much away, but we do get to see some mummy action before it’s all said and done. Aesthetically I do have a few complaints, as the blacks from some of the art occasionally made text practically illegible. This issue also wins the prize for “most spelling errors in the series,” which is not a good prize to have. Not that it’s out of control, as it was still a relative few, but as it’s never been easier to make sure you’re spelling words correctly, my willingness to let stuff like that slide has been going downhill for years. It would also have helped if her asterisk system had been explained (or numbered as footnotes), as the information she was trying to direct the reader to is all piled up in the back, with no reference for which is which in case you lost track/missed an asterisk or two. All that being said, I’m still thoroughly enjoying the adventures of this muse through time. Weird, right? You’d think all those complaints would lead to a bad review, which is a testament to Gail’s abilities as a storyteller. If you’re interested in art and where it comes from (and chances are that you are if you’re reading this) then this remains a fascinating series to watch unfold.
Coldheat Special #10
It’s been too long since I’ve gotten a chance to read a William Cardini fever dream (otherwise known as a “comic”). As always, it’s hard to talk too much about it without giving too much away, but luckily it’s impossible to give away how you’re going to feel looking at those visuals, so in that way it’s impossible to spoil. The gist of this seems to be the story of a man on a quest to kill a minotaur. Or maybe he’s just trying to get through a maze and the minotaur is a guard? Anyway, even that isn’t clear on the first page (clearly getting ahead of myself), as the first thing we see is an enigmatic creature with three eyes shifting into a large spider. From there we join our hero as he tries to track down the minotaur, until he eventually finds the already deceased creature. Which would be the end of things in a normal comic, but in this case our hero sees something wriggling around in the belly of the minotaur, and that’s when things really get rolling. This is jsut a touch less abstract than some of William’s other comics, but don’t worry, the last three pages will satisfy any cravings you have in that regard. And for the people who genuinely wonder about such things, I saw no indication that there were 9 previous issues of this series, but it’s still listed as a #10. Check it out, see what that spider thing is all about! $5
OK, new policy: I’ll be reviewing the remaining four issues of this series every Thursday until it’s done. Hell, I may convince myself to review them all today before I finish writing this review. Can Sam Spina do no wrong? It certainly seems that way. This is the story of Mr. Futtts. What’s his deal? He eats butts. So simple, yet so beautiful. Things start off a little rough, as Mr. Futtts is trying to psyche himself up to some unknown task. We soon learn that he’s a substitute teacher for the day, and his only duty is to get the kids to read. We also quickly learn that he has a criminal record for previously eating butts, so this job looks like a last chance for him. He takes over the class, panicked, trying to reason with himself, but things quickly fall apart from there. And then he sees an old lady, butt in the air, tending to her garden… and that’s where I have to stop talking about the story, as this is a wee little comic, after all. What does Tarn mean? Why do the other issues seem to have brand new characters in them? How does all of this come together into a series, or does it? These are all questions to be answered later, starting next week. In the meantime, if this was the only comic of this series, or indeed the only comic that Sam had ever made (luckily for us that is not the case), I’d still tell you to read it an enjoy. So do it! $5 (for the whole set of five books)
Website (for Alan Moore’s wiki page)
There’s no way I’m going to be able to talk about this one without giving out a little bit of personal history, so bear with me. Back in my youth, I had terrible taste in comics, sticking mostly with garbage Marvel superheroes. So did most of you, if you’re being honest about it. Or maybe not, as it’s never been easier to find quality comics than it is now. Anyway, eventually I started to grow out of it and look for other, better comics to take their place (giving up on comics altogether wasn’t really a consideration). I knew that THE books to get were The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen, so I got them both and loved them. This led me to look for more from both authors, so I was able to get a few random old issues of Daredevil by Frank Miller and The Bojeffries Saga by Alan Moore. In hindsight this was damned odd, as he certainly had more popular and better known books out there, but I lived in a very small town and took what I could get. I’m not going to be able to get through this review without a fair amount of hyperbole, but it’s safe to say that that book influenced my sense of humor in a big way. I didn’t get the accents (Moore writes his characters in this book with heavy, thick accents that you practically have to sound out to understand), and I didn’t get a number of the references. But I could tell that it was funny, and the more universal bits made me laugh right away, so I researched the bits that I didn’t understand, which made those a whole lot funnier, until finally there was a solid decade there when I would have called it my favorite comic, even above the books that led me to it. That was longer than I intended, but you get the idea: an objective review of this comic is impossible, so what you’re getting is a subjective review, impressions that I have now after reading this again for the first time in a decade (ish) after reading it maybe a dozen times in the past. My first impression was amazement at how short the stories seem now. It seemed like every page (and damned near every panel) was crucially important at the time. But then the funny started to come at me, and large chunks of this haven’t aged a day. The opening story with the rentman was a fantastic introduction to the cast of characters, and him constantly coming up with titles to the story of his life in his head while doing his job had me laughing out loud constantly. Raoul’s Night Out, the batfishing story (and that closing line to it!), every single thing said by Ginda, the slapstick comedy of Festus dying over and over again, there’s just so much here that hasn’t aged a day. Outside of a reference or two, that is, but that’s inescapable. Finally there’s a new 24 page story to bring everybody up to date on the family, and just in case this is your first introduction to them, I won’t spoil a single bit of it. Sometimes new stories in old collections feel tacked on, but that is not the case here, as it just makes the whole thing more complete. I recommend a lot of comics, but even 20 years after seeing this for the first time, there isn’t a single comic out there that I would recommend more highly than this one. Buy it, read it, make your life better instantly. $15
The True Adventures of Jep Comix
Huzzah for mini comics full of random stories! That may seem an odd thing to huzzah about, but I am easily overjoyed. Apparently the name of the author is also Jep, or maybe jep, or maybe JEP, or maybe Mister Jep. Initials? Secret code? His website doesn’t clarify it, but it’s also not like it’s a big deal. Anyway, there are a wide range of stories in this one, and I’ll save the best one for last. Runners-up in this unofficial contest of “best story in comic” deal with the simple joys of playing Altered Beast with a friend at a Dairy Queen (and recalling a question about religion in class that I’ve still never heard a good answer to), being paranoid while walking in a park, filling your basement up with water for better baths (and the humorlessness of Catholics), drawing an odd line at sharing a glass with your significant other, a stranger in a bathroom going by sound to tell you that you have a fake bladder, and learning guitar. And finally, there’s Roger. The story, and also the person, I guess. Jep had a gay couple living next door to him, and he knew them both casually. By “knew” I mean “knew their first names and said hello to on the street.” As far as he was concerned, that was more or less the end of it. Then Jep got married (to his girlfriend) and ran into Roger in a grocery store. Everyone else had been congratulating Jep once he shared the news, but the reaction from Roger was odd. He confessed to having a crush on Jep and asked Jep what he (Roger) was supposed to do now. The two pages that show the thought processes that went through Jep’s head here are priceless, and I’ll say no more about the story so you can discover it all for yourself. I will only add that sometimes there are no good answers, and guilt doesn’t help anybody. Anyway, check it out for yourself, you’ll love it. No idea on the price, as he doesn’t have one listed on the comic or his website (where you can find all kinds of stories for free), but I’ll guess $4.
Dodo Comics #4
I don’t know how people with kids have any time to make comics (I have no kids and barely have the time to review comics), but Grant seems to be making it work. Granted, he says he makes comics “before daybreak, on weekends and while his children nap,” but he’s managed to maintain a pretty high level with his work. He also included another comic that I’ll be getting to soon, which makes him more prolific than lots of comics creators who don’t have kids. Now that I have shamed those people for the lazy folks (who don’t know how good they have it) that they are, how about the contents of the book? Three stories in this one. The first is the story of how the raven and the loon got their colors, and kudos to him for picking two birds with black and white tones for a black and white comic book. Next is his attempt to find the meaningful thing between things, and his conclusion strikes me as more than a bit autobiographical, but maybe I’m reading too much into it. Finally there’s the story of a man who kept a stone in his mouth for three years to teach himself silence, and a quick history of some of the interactions he had during that time. The art for each story is unique and distinctive for the story being told (and I didn’t even notice the family of birds growing for that third story until just now), and it’s just a thoroughly engaging comic from top to bottom. His letter lists it as $4 while the cover lists it as $3, so just stick with the higher price and know that if you’re wrong, at least you gave an extra dollar to a small press artist.
Slaves of the Megapode #2
“It’s all fun and games until someone is crucified.” You know, sometimes I think I should start these reviews with a quote from the comic, or at least I should when a comic has as many quotable lines as this one. The second issue starts off a little bit after the events of the last one, with our two heroes waking up, unable to be sure about which parts of what they just saw was a dream and what was real. After a conversation about the night in question they eventually find a good place to get a little bit of sleep, where they once again see the Megapode in their dreams. One of them is woken up by a woman who claims to have inside knowledge of it, but she’ll only tell him what is really going on when his cravings get too great to control. He’s already tasted the fruit of this thing, so in theory it’s only a matter of time until the succumbs to it. The rest of the issue has an armed confrontation on the road, the two heroes infiltrating the Megapode cult (and getting exposed to some gas), trying to convince his Roman army that they really should investigate further despite them possibly imagining it all because of the gas, and an ending that I did not see coming at all. Should set things up nicely for the final issue, which I’ll most likely be reviewing next week if all goes according to plan on my end. Which rarely happens, but I live in hope. Either way, this series is another winner from Rob, and when you buy this be on the lookout for the winged penis statue. Yes, it’s in there.
Out of all the various series that Brian writes, this is the one that makes the least sense to me. Granted, that is mostly my fault, as I have #5 and #7 of the series and that’s just guaranteeing that I won’t know what’s going on, but I feel compelled to point that out before I get started. As a stand-alone issue this is fascinating, and it has a good message for people in general. It’s all about the meaning of names, where names come from and how you should try to live up to your name if you know what it means. There’s also a bit about how he’s not sure if he could ever picture himself getting married, but he could see himself with a son. See, here’s where I get confused: I’m not sure if this is Brian narrating a tale, or Brian speaking in the hypothetical voice or Robert E. Howard. Oh yeah, I should have also pointed that out up front: “R.E.H.” stands for Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan and a long time pulp writer. Anyway, the content of the comic is still well worth checking out (Andrew White does his part to make things feel a bit hazy and indistinct, which makes me think that this is all meant to be a fictional memoir by Howard), and it did compel me to check and see what my name means. Apparently mine means gentle, handsome and beautiful. That is absurdly complimentary, but I’ll take it. $1
This comic is reminding me more and more of Real Stuff, a Fantagraphics series written by Dennis Eichorn in the early 90’s and featuring art from damned near anybody who was anybody in the independent comics scene. Kids, ask your parents, but if you can find that series, do it. The big difference is that Dennis wrote everything while getting Julie Doucet, Jim Woodring, Peter Bagge and everybody else to illustrate it, while Loud Comix is all drawn by Jamie Vayda but written by various writers, but with a loose theme: they were all in bands of some kind, and they all have a damned interesting/messed up story to tell. This one starts off with “The Time I Shit My Pants at a Motorhead Show” by Alan King. Granted, that title tells you a lot of what you need to know, but the story itself digs into how it happened, what happened after, and how it played into Alan’s plan to finally ask a lady Motorhead fan (who went to all the shows like him) on a date. “Cocaine Fueled” by Eric Perfect is a delightful reminder of the dangers of paranoia combined with a loaded weapon, especially an unfamiliar weapon where you’re not completely clear on the pressure needed to pull the trigger. “Satan’s Fantastic Knockers” by Joel Rivers is all about a desperate search for proof of Satanism when the Joel made the whole thing up to get a chance to see said knockers, but I’m not ruining that one for you and it all makes sense if you read it. Other stories include a couple of short pieces called “Roxy & Molly” (dealing with hookers chatting about their pimp and black history month) and a short snippet of a story that’s going to be continued in the next issue. In this one there was only time to see what looks like quite a provocation of biker gang, so it’ll by fun to see how all that shakes out. These comics have been pretty damned entertaining so far and Jamie seems to be keeping to a fairly regular schedule. Those regular schedules are generally easier to keep if people buy his comics, so you should do that and enjoy them. Unless profanity scares you, in which case I don’t know why you’re on this website or reading small press comics, but I’m not the boss of you. $6
Blueberry Boy of Asbury Park
And here I thought that I had heard all of the comics convention stories that were weird/entertaining enough to be worth mentioning. Wrong! So completely, terribly wrong. Before I get into this, just take a moment to look at the title to this comic. Combine that with the fact that this happened at a convention, and take a wild guess in your head regarding what that title is referring to. Got it? Well, you’re wrong. Or you’re the person who requested this sketch, as I can’t imagine there being two of you out there. Anyway, this is the story of Bryan and Dre (not sure who wrote or drew which bits) attending a convention in a bowling alley. After a rough start things were going pretty well, and at the end of the day a gentleman walked up to the two artists (who, it must be mentioned that they were advertising that they were willing to draw things for attendees) and asked them for an image of the girl from the Willy Wonka movie who blew up like a blueberry. Except he wanted a version of her as an adult. And dressed in a bikini. And… well, it just gets weirder from there. The reactions from the two artists were both priceless, as they each tackled this problem in their own way. Kudos to the both of them, I think, or shame on them for giving this guy the one last thing he needed to start his killing spree. Hard to say for sure. Either way, this is well worth checking out, just in case you were wondering what exactly was the limit for what you’re able to request from the artists at cons. It turns out (if the artist is game) that there really isn’t one! $5
It’s time for a peek behind the curtain here at Optical Sloth headquarters! Bernie sometimes sends his tiny comics to me in regular old, smallish envelopes. Sometimes, or at least one time, said envelope slides down a crack into a strange nether realm, only to reappear after I have moved into a new apartment at least a year later. Just in case anybody out there keeps up with all of this in real time and wonders why #16 is getting reviewed after #17-19. Anyway, the impetus behind this particular volume was Bernie asking the internet the following question: “how do I deal with an existential crisis?” He scatters a few answers here and there, but I’m not going to give away the answer, as Bernie does uncover the basic secret of our existence, but you know how I hate spoilers. As always, the text epilogue in the back is invaluable, and you should really be reading these, even if you have to go back in time to March 2013 (when this came out) to do so. $1
Now I’m starting to possibly see why Jon didn’t bother with numbering either of these issues: it doesn’t matter which order you read them in. OK, sure, you’re introduced to the characters in the first issue, but it’s not like you learn the stories of their lives or anything. And this issue would have been just as entertaining (and make no mistake, it was damned near perfectly entertaining) if I had no idea of the identity of any of these characters. But hey, I’ll list the issue numbers anyway, just because. The face on that cover, in case you were wondering, is the face of the devil. This issue starts off with two of the friends using a baseball bat to hit rocks into the windows of an abandoned building. They’re having a great time with it when one of them misses the rock and instead clobbers Leonard (who I believe is the only character named), killing him instantly. It could have gotten grim from there, but I laughed more than a few times reading through the rest of the book. Leonard goes to hell and gets a tour of the place before finally meeting the devil, who is overjoyed to finally meet somebody who he thinks is cool (he also loves smashing windows for no reason), but their differences start to become apparent pretty quickly. Meanwhile, Leonard’s killer calls his other friend and they hatch a plan to avoid getting in trouble for killing Leonard, while one of them is a lot more broken up about the whole thing than the other guy. Jon’s depiction of hell is brilliant (are the demons really blacked-out versions of the shopkeeper and his wife from the last issue?), and somehow he even managed to give the devil’s room a bit of a homey feel. It’s damned brilliant is what it is, and you should read it. If you only have enough money for one issue of this series, get this one. I thoroughly enjoyed the first issue too, but this one is the champion. $6
Slaves of the Megapode #1
Are you ready for a mystery involving the Romans set way back when they were a thing? Well, THE thing, really, as their empire lasted for centuries, but in theory you already know that. Anyway! A caravan of Romans arrives to investigate some killings and disappearances. The local authorities are baffled, but a slob of a trained slave (with impeccable training and credentials) comes along to try and help them solve the mystery. As a local official says of the suspects, “I tried crucifying them, I tried not crucifying them. I’m at my wit’s end.” An examination of the body turns up traces of poison, and the chef of the poisoned man kills himself while leaving a note confessing to the crime, but it all feels just a little too convenient. So the investigation continues, a strange substance is discovered, and all that’s left to do is to try it out on a suspect. Best not to say much more about the story for now, but Rob has turned into a master of endings, and this one is no exception. Those last two pages are something else, and they have me all kinds of intrigued to see just what this Megapode is supposed to be. He was also nice enough to send me the entire series, so I’ll be reviewing the next two issues over the next couple of weeks. That breaks with my usual policy of spacing out reviews from the same author, but I’m curious to see where this is going and you’re not the boss of me, so I’ll do what I want! Not that anybody ever actually complained about it or anything…
Lost Kisses #26
How great/awful would it be to have the ability to travel back into points of your own past? Most people seem to think that they could fix things, but chances are that you would just make things worse. This issue starts with a summary indicating that the hero of the comic is going back to “change the past & save the future”, and this issue starts with him returning to his 14 year old self, while he is tripping on LSD. As he knows his future, he’s able to see that this is a low point for him in a lot of ways (for example, a suicide attempt leads to his not drinking lemonade for a decade because that’s what he used to wash down some rat poison), but he also thinks about his son and her mother, which makes things a bit narratively confusing. After all, he’s his 14 year old self at this point, but he’s also thinking about how he never expected to see his son or the mother again, and how he was wrong about one of them. Anyway, he realizes her importance a bit more as the book goes on, and by the end he has a clearly defined mission for what he is going to do with this ability to travel through his own timeline. I guess future issues will determine whether or not he was correct. Oh, and just because I can’t praise this enough whenever it happens, kudos to Brian for putting a synopsis on the inside front cover. If all comics did that then the world would be a better place. Yes, the whole world! $1