Category Archives: Reviews

Reviews

Nall, Alex – School Approved

Website

School Approved

Here’s a fun mini with Alex teaching some of his kids in a computer lab. For those of you who are just seeing his name for the first time, Alex has done a few books about his experiences teaching, and they’re pretty much essential reading for any teachers or anybody who is thinking about becoming a teacher. This one is short but effective. Things start off with Alex reminding the kids of the rules for the lab (don’t go to non-approved websites, don’t kick the table because you might bring the whole computer down on top of you), but those rules seem to go out the window pretty quickly. Well, the rule about non-approved websites, anyway. A few of them play a computer game, and another asks Alex about his experiences with chat rooms. This leads to a flashback of his actual experiences with chat rooms growing up (since you’re reading this on a computer of some sort and I’m guessing it’s not your first time online, I’m guessing you can imagine it), which obviously leads to Alex lying to them about it. The rest of the book is all about Alex being in awe of these kids (and maybe a little jealous) because they’re starting their lives in the online world, so who knows what they’ll be able to do with it when they’re grown up? It’s a cute and hopeful story, and those are always good to see. This isn’t listed on his Tumblr page, but I’m guessing you can contact him about pricing. I’d guess $4, but I’m notoriously terrible at guessing such things…


Cornella, Joan – Zonzo

Website (of some strips, his website isn’t working as of this date)

Zonzo

Sometimes you really can judge a book by its cover! Eh, sort of, anyway. If you find that cover image horrifically offensive and want to immediately write a letter to the editor, any editor, you should quit reading right now, because that’s one of the least offensive strips in the book. Joan’s strips are (almost) all single page silent strips, each filled with vibrant colors, and each at least mildly horrifying. Oh, and hilarious. Did I mention that part yet? The theme, if I could even hope to assign a theme, is mostly escalating madness. Things seem slightly off in the first panel, we pull back to see that it’s even worse than that in the second panel, the third panel might begin to drag the reader back to sanity before the fourth panel completely blows that away. And there are usually still two panels left at that point. Picking a sample image took longer than usual, mostly because so many of them are so funny and/or alarming. Again, it’s probably one of the tamer strips in here. Multiple babies die in here, and it’s played for laughs every time. On a personal note, the local library system here has this book in their catalog because I recommended it (anybody can do it, it’s not like I’m the master librarian for Columbus Ohio), so I feel pretty good about warping some minds. If you liked this strip (or any of the strips in the website link), give this book a shot. It’ll mess with your head, but what’s wrong with that? $14.99

Jackson, Rob – Merchants

Website

Merchants

I’m not sure if I’ve ever offered an alternate title for a comic in a review before (it’s pretty low down on my list of priorities for a great comic), but I’m surprised that Rob didn’t go with the obvious one here: Lute Brute! Granted, you’d have to read the comic for it to make sense, but Rob created a star here, and I for one would love to see an origin comic. Granted, the Lute Brute plays a small part in the proceedings here, but his reign of lutey terror effects just about all of the other characters in one way or another. This is (maybe?) Rob’s first graphic novel, but that’s based on my famously shoddy memory. He had a few series that could have easily been collected into graphic novels, but this is the first one I remember that came out all at once like this. It’s the story of a cast of characters (helpfully labeled on the inside front cover), their dealings with their bosses/rulers, the motivations of the rulers/bosses themselves and how difficult it can be to find good help or competent people in positions of power. Still, one of the main images that’ll stick with me is that of poor Edwardo being terrorized by the “pling” and “plong” sound effects of a lute being angrily wielded. One thing that this page count (roughly 100) does it allow Rob some room to breathe; he’s usually quite verbose, but this time around there are several sections with little to no text, where the action or the setting speaks for itself. It was a thoroughly entertaining read with a few sections where I laughed out loud, which is always a welcome surprise. Give it a shot, one of the most prolific artists in comics today could use your support! $12 (ish)

Daniels, Ezra Claytan – Upgrade Soul

Website

Upgrade Soul

It seems like I’m on a roll recently with reconnecting with comics artists past, people whose work I’ve enjoyed but lost track of over the years. I loved Changers, another series of Ezra’s, but it seemed to vanish. Well, after reading his website I now know that it just moved on to a series of other mediums, much like this story was apparently an interactive app for years before the book was published. I’m very much a “published work” kind of guy, so I’ll just focus my comments on that. Because when it comes to the story itself, this one is in a league of its own. Stunning, inventive, viscerally disturbing, oddly hopeful at times while completely hopeless at others, it’s yet another difficult book to talk about without giving some things away, and this time I’m going to do that. So if you’re just looking for the gist: this is an incredible science fiction story that everyone who can read should check out. Clear enough? This is the story of a retired couple with money who end up funding a controversial project with the condition that they be the first test subjects. The project? Human cloning. But upgraded human cloning, meaning the new versions would be better in every way than the old ones. This is slowly established (unless you’re one of those dummies who reads the back of the book first; don’t do that to yourself), and the slow burn is what makes it all the more horrifying. As this is the first test of the process, things go wrong in unexpected ways. The clones come out (for lack of a better term) half-baked, not fully formed, looking more like potatoes than people. And there’s also the unexpected fact that they can’t be very far from their clones without both of them falling ill and possibly even dying. The bulk of the book is about the elderly, frail humans getting to know their other selves; the differences, the similarities, where it all went wrong in their lives and how their clones could do better. I’d recommend this book for the conversations alone (neither of the humans are dummies, but they’re still outclassed compared to their clones), but every aspect of the story comes together so beautifully, I’m able to unreservedly recommend the whole thing. I’ve never read anything quite like it, and this is coming from somebody who’s sick of clones in stories and thought there was no new narrative ground left to cover. Wrong again! $19.99


Walden, Tillie – On A Sunbeam

Website

On A Sunbeam

I almost always choose a sample image that I feel is most representative of the story, but in a case like this, when I’m dealing with an epic with countless moving parts, I just choose a page at random. A peek behind the curtain! This is Tillie’s third (or fourth) book, which started off as a webcomic and ended up becoming a 530ish page science fiction masterpiece. Yeah, I said it. There’s so much going on here that’s impossible to encapsulate in any review, so I’ll try to at least hit some of the high points. At a very basic level this is the story of Mia, told through two different stories: her back in 9th grade and her friendship with Grace, and her five years later with a spaceship crew whose job is to go around the galaxy, fixing up old and damaged buildings. So right off the bat we have a science fiction concept that was new to me, and I’ve read a ton of the stuff. In going back and forth between the two stories we gradually learn more about Mia, her friends at school, her co-workers (and eventual friends) on the ship, and what led her to that ship. Tillie, maybe more than any other skill (and she has bunches), seems to intuitively know when to tell, when to show, and when to just let something go for the sake of the story. For example, there are no men in the story. It’s not mentioned anywhere (unless I missed something, but I don’t think so), but we’re far into the future, so it’s not like it would be a constant topic of conversation, so it just never comes up. She also has a knack for making things seem effortlessly alien. Amazing things in the background that are glimpsed briefly but never seen, all of the other oddities (to modern eyes) that are just clearly part of their daily lives. There’s a lot more tension and drama than I’m mentioning here, but since we don’t see that until we’re about 300 pages in, I’ll leave it to you to uncover. To wrap up I’ll just say that I’ve read two of her books so far, and they’re both among the best comics I’ve ever read. And, if nothing else, I’ve read a whole lot of comics in my life. If you have any interest in science fiction, or just a really amazing story, you owe it to yourself to give this a shot. $32.99

MacFarland, Matt – My Troubles With Crumb #1

Website

My Troubles With Crumb #1

Full disclosure here: I was a big Robert Crumb fan back in the day. How could you not be? He’s long been one of the best comic artists to ever live (I can’t draw my way out of a paper bag and even I know about the wonders of his crosshatching skills) and he influenced more than one generation of cartoonists. Still, his portrayals of women and minorities was more than a little problematic. I’ve been meaning to go back through his comics but haven’t done it yet, meaning I’m just going to review this comic and not all of Crumb’s work. This is a shorter comic than I was expecting (6 pages; Matt does list that fact on his website, so that’s my fault), and a good chunk of it is Matt’s history with the man and his art. As it should be; it wouldn’t be much of a comic if it didn’t show his perspective. One thing I was hoping for here were more direct examples of Crumb’s problematic work. I get it if he’d rather not draw his own versions of those problems, as that would just perpetuate it. But I was looking for references to a few comics/graphic novels that were particularly problematic, and he doesn’t list any of them here. Well, he does list one story, but that’s only to illustrate that Crumb has apologized for some of his past stories. So should Crumb’s work be consigned to the dustbin of history? Based on this comic alone, no. But Matt also has a second issue where he deals with the racial aspect of his work, so my conclusion could change after that one. As for this one, it’s still an intriguing and thoughtful read, but it would have been helped by some specificity. $7

Kostecka, Chris & Smith, Dietrich – The President Killed My Dog #2

Website

The President Killed My Dog #2

There was always a chance that this series would lose me, and it sure looks like that process started with this issue. I still mostly like the premise, although it would have been a more solid connection if the President’s limo was directly responsible for the death of her dog, instead of it just being basically a traffic jam that did it after some random asshole hit her. This time around we learn more about her history with her dog, her husband and his very convenient underground escape tunnel, and her quest to either get bullets for her gun or a new gun. A lot of it felt like wheel spinning, to be honest. Killing time until the real action of trying to get to the President starts. And it’s not terrible, it’s just that my suspension of disbelief was failing me completely by the end. That’s saying a lot when I’m already on board for the “out for revenge against the President and his dog” concept. But… OK, there’s no way to do this without spoilers, so off I go. Generally speaking, if you liked the first issue there’s enough here to keep going with this issue. But there’s a moment when Mary crashes her car into the gun shop after hours to take what she needs, and it’s just absurd. The idea that there were no cameras or security alarm was shaky enough, but even giving them that there’s still the fact that cops surround her house in the morning. Because she hadn’t been paying her mortgage, nothing to do with the gun shop. Anyway, she starts shooting at them, either hitting three of them or picturing it so vividly in her mind that it left me confused as to whether or not it actually happened. Which would take her completely out of the moral high ground. Even if that was just her picturing what could happen, her house still explodes in a great ball of flame at the end, meaning she definitely killed some cops (and repo men) when that happened. So now she’s going to be a fugitive going after the President, and I can’t imagine my problem with the believability of what’s happening is going to improve when that’s going down. So yeah, maybe it picks up after this, or maybe it starts making sense. It’s also possible that it gets thoroughly ridiculous from here on out. We’ll see! $6.99

Schumacher, Alex – Defiling the Literati

Website

Defiling the Literati

I’m often confused by the lack of comics about current affairs and/or politics and, as always, I’m also confused as to whether there’s a vast array of them out there somewhere that I haven’t seen, or if they really are just a rarity. Either way, it’s always welcome to see a comic like this, where current events are addressed with some skill and a message. The sample image is from a simpler time, when it was obvious to all that the American people as a whole were not dumb enough to fall for a man who was only famous for being a con artist for decades. Oh, and for a catch phrase on a scripted “reality” show. Sigh, the good old days. The rest of the book is a mix of strips with a message and other strips that are just funny. There’s room enough in this world for both! Subjects include tricking hipsters with laced weed, where obsolete pieces of tech end up, managing time online (along with several other observations about aging), and the messages of Satan (in the form of a homeless woman). There are also several strips about Mr. Butterchips, a drunk monkey, and I was nervous about those, and that type of strip can go wrong in a hurry. But the bulk of these were funny with some accurate and heartbreaking messages, as Alex seems to have a pretty firm grip on what he’s doing. Subjects include the low wages of an organ grinder, getting dumped, dealing with people knocking on your door and asking for political support, the struggle to not comment when somebody posts something bigoted and/or stupid online, getting help when you need it for suicidal thoughts, several tragedies that seemed to happen right in a row, and a devastating suicide note from a sexually harassed woman. So yeah, once again there are funny bits and bits with a message; not that those bits can’t be funny too. It’s an eclectic mix that works well together, and I’d recommend it highly for anybody who thinks comics need at least a dash of more real world events and opinions. $7

Thomas, Grant – Dodo Comics #5

Website

Dodo Comics #5

If anybody out there is a student of mythology, I have no idea if this version of Medusa is “correct.” As it’s a myth, it’s open to interpretation anyway, right? Grant has the first part of his series about Medusa in this issue, and we start off with her on a throne, with snakes coiling around her feet. From there we flash back three years to see her in a quieter time. Water is scarce and there are only three sources, each with their own conditions for access. Medusa eventually falls in love with a man who’s in charge with one third of the water, which leads to other women helping out, which leads to guys being assholes about women being in charge. Yep, that has been an awful, stupid constant throughout history. Anyway, I’ve already given away large chunks of the story, but this is the first part of an unknown number of parts, so there’s a lot more of this story to come. Grant’s books are consistently engaging and this one is no exception. I’m curious to see where this one is going, so give it a look if you have any interest in mythology or just happen to like Grant’s other comics. $3

Knisley, Lucy – Kid Gloves

Website

Kid Gloves

Future readers of this review, I’m writing this a couple of days after finishing Lucy’s last book (“Something New“), and I’m still mildly feverish from a cold. One of those facts will be useful for some context, while the other is more of an excuse if I start to ramble more than usual. This book is a direct follow-up to her last; that book tells the tale of all the planning that went into her wedding and finally the wedding itself, while this one is all about all the planning and troubles that went into conceiving and eventually having a child. I recommended the last book to anybody even thinking about planning a wedding, so you’d think I’d recommend this book to anybody even thinking about having a baby. And I do! I very much do. Lucy did an amazing amount of research. But I also very much recommend this book to anybody who thinks that they have a valid opinion about pregnant women, types of birth control, the history of medical research into pregnancies, or just the reality of living while pregnant. I read constantly so I already knew a lot of these facts, but frankly there were even more that I didn’t know. Morning sickness, for example. As Lucy shows, we mostly know it from sitcoms, where the pregnant lady excuses herself for a quick barf before rejoining the group for their adventures/hijinx. In real life it’s more like weeks if not months; some women have to be hospitalized for the entirety of their pregnancies because of it. And it’s not one quick barf, it’s constant, overpowering nausea. It also often has to be dealt with with a smile, as this is usually before a pregnancy is announced to family and friends. She describes it as akin to the worst hangover morning she’s ever had… but for weeks. Let that one sink in, drinkers. It’s also rarely mentioned in popular culture just how common miscarriages can be (1 in 4 pregnancies!), which can serve to make women think they should be ashamed of their miscarriage, or that they must have done something “bad” to cause it. And the state of research into pregnancy, really right up until the 1900’s! Just think of how misogynistic society as a whole was for most of those years, then try to picture any serious research being done into the mysterious but “evil” lady parts during that time. Somehow, the reality is even worse than that. Labor pains were seriously thought of as something that women deserved because of the myth of “original sin.” Doctors said that kind of shit! Agh, sorry, I’m getting off track, and mildly enraged. Lucy didn’t have an easy go of it with the pregnancy, nor with the depression that came from some of the complications. But her honesty and humor in dealing with it all made this book a complete joy to read. I laughed out loud several times while reading this book, which I wasn’t expecting given the subject matter. Look, I can’t order everyone to read every book I like. Would that I could! But before you even think about offering advice to the pregnant lady at the bus stop on whether or not she should be carrying that thing, read this book, or at least do some research. Believe me, they probably don’t want to hear from you, and you probably don’t have as much useful information to give as you might think. $19.99

Telgemeier, Raina – Smile

Website

Smile

It’s been at least a decade since I reviewed one of Raina’s comics. That’s been one of the weirdest parts of running a comics review website for so long: I tend to lose track of artists, even the ones I really like, because I get buried in review comics and/or don’t have the resources to buy all the graphic novels in the world. It’s true, this isn’t a lucrative gig! Still, I reviewed the first Smile mini comic in 2008 (ish? The actual date is lost to time; too many site rebuilds), thought it showed a lot of promise and that it might end up being her best work yet, and then… nothing. As I don’t have kids, I had no idea for years that Raina became a rock star in the young adult book world, with several different graphic novels and a devoted fan base. And she’s a legit #1 New York Times best seller! Don’t mind me, I’m just always happy to see ridiculously talented artists make a living off their work, let alone become famous with it. Anyway, I’ve always wondered what the finished Smile would look like, and since I now live a block away from a library (in one of the best library systems in the country), I can find out. No big surprises here, but it’s pretty great. The mini comic I reviewed ages ago basically just covered her injury and initial reaction; obviously this is able to get into much more detail. The basic story is that Raina knocked out her two front teeth when she was in 6th grade. Well, she knocked out one tooth and knocked the other one up into her gums. Yeah, take a minute with that one if you need to. Anyway, this is the story of the next four and a half years of her life, of all the various procedures, operations and headgear she’d have to deal with to fix her teeth. Obviously this would all be rough enough at any time, but she made the transition from middle school to high school while all this was happening, and all the gory details are included. I can also see why she’s become such a star with the kids, as this book dragged me right back into my own middle school experience. She has to deal with crushes on boys, boys having crushes on her, her friends both having her back and not having her back, and an occasionally obnoxious little sister. This is one of those times when you REALLY don’t need me to tell you to check an artist out, as most people reading this have undoubtedly already read her work. But just in case you’re one of the few people who haven’t, maybe start here? As for me, I’m going to go back and see what else I missed from her over the years. $24.99

Knisley, Lucy – Something New

Website

Something New

I feel the need to start this review off with a disclaimer or two: I’ve never been engaged (meaning I’ve never been all that close to getting married), I have serious concerns about the whole concept of monogamous marriage and I’ve had a cold for the last couple of days, meaning that I’m feverish and mildly delirious. The perfect conditions to write a review! This is the story of Lucy’s relationship, the bizarre path taken to a proposal, and every little thing that goes into planning a wedding. Lucy also has the same inherent mistrust of the wedding process as I do (if anything, her concerns dwarf mine), meaning that she was examining every aspect of it as it came up and decided, bit by bit, which aspects she wanted to keep, which she wanted to change and which things to make entirely her own. If you’re planning on getting married any time soon (but not too soon, or your plans will already be completely locked in), I can’t recommend this book enough. Lucy lays out several areas where she was able to shave costs off the ceremony. Granted, these might now all be possible for you if you’re not surrounded by amazing artist friends and family, but a few of these steps are universally applicable. As for the graphic novel itself, the sheer amount of information I learned here was staggering. I knew that getting a wedding dress was arduous, but I had no idea the scope of it, or that it often took 6 months (!!!) after finding the perfect dress to have it in your hands. The number of steps involved, the number of people involved, the impossibility of keeping everyone happy… this book did more than anything else I’ve read to explain why it takes about a year to actually plan a wedding. And as for the various wedding traditions? Lucy seemingly researched all of them, and the sample image below shows just a few of the creepy and/or horrific origins of them. For example, that thing about it supposedly being bad luck to see your fiance on the wedding day before the wedding itself? That goes back to arranged marriages, where it was though that the sight of this stranger could cause the fiance to flee. So… not much use in modern times, right? There was even a fairly adorable scene where Lucy and her fiance intentionally woke up together on the wedding day, because both knew they’d be too busy to see each other for most of the day. As there’s so much here I feel like I could go on forever, but I’ll wrap this up by saying it also works really well as a sustained narrative, not just for the piles of piles of practical information. She’s also effortlessly funny, and this book was a good reminder that (outside of a few anthologies), this website is mostly Lucy Knisley-free. After reading this, I’ll be fixing that mistake sooner rather than later. $20


MacFarland, Matt – Dark Pants #4

Website

Dark Pants #4

The saga of the leather pants continues! And I hate to skip right to the end (or technically right past the end), but Matt mentions that the next issue is going to be about the origin of the pants, so we all have that to look forward to. I get that the written word can sometimes come across as unintentional sarcasm, but I’m genuinely curious about the story of these pants. Anyway! This time around the pants find their way to Lisa, an older (i.e. 40’s or 50’s) lady with a couple of kids, an obnoxious and needy partner and a yoga instructor that’s the source of many of her sexual fantasies. We don’t see the pants for roughly the first half of the book, which is where we learn all about her life and how desperately trapped she feels in it. Not that she hates being a mother, she just always imagined something more in her life. Once the pants show up, as with past comics, everything changes. She’s noticed where she was previously invisible and has the newfound confidence to go along with it. Her yoga teacher notices too and asks her out, which is the subject of the rest of the book. These Dark Pants books are fascinating for the look they take into what people would do if they felt like they could get away with anything, whether or not acting on their fantasies would help them in the long run, and whether or not they even want to go through with their fantasies when the moment strikes. And hey, next time we get to see what it’s all about, maybe. There’s a lot to this series, and it’s well worth a look. I also saw on Matt’s website that he’s made a couple of comics about his problems with R. Crumb, and I’ve been thinking along the same lines lately, so I might buy some copies of those to see what he’s thinking. Not that I needed to mention that in a review of another of his books, so check out Dark Pants! $10

Clotfelter, Max – The Elements of Rough #2

Website

The Elements of Rough #2

For anybody who missed the last issue (or the last review), this series is dedicated to answering the question of why Max’s comics are perceived as being “so rough.” Meaning that he’s telling the story of his life, or at least the interesting/relevant bits. Last time around we got a good look at his father, this time around we spend some time with his mother and sister. And a few of the assorted people who were in their orbits when Liz had her 35th birthday party, which is the star of the comic. We see the terror that Beth (his girlfriend at the time) showed at the idea of being at a party with his family, how much booze goes into planning such a thing, the efforts made to help Liz get help with her sobriety (making it odd indeed that their was so much booze at the party, but her mother was a terrible enabler), and finally Liz’s boyfriend, who was also an ex of her mother. There’s oddly little drama over that last fact, which is odd, at least to me. But the guy got her a rabid raccoon for her birthday, and that went about as well as you might expect. There’s more to the party and to the people at the party than I’m sharing here, but hey, a journey of discovery means that you have to have something left to discover, right? Check it out, if you have questions about Max or his comics this series is an invaluable peek into how it all started. $3

Baylis, Jonathan & Various Artists – So Buttons: Man of, Like, a Dozen Faces

Website

So Buttons: Man Of, Like, A Dozen Faces

One sign that I’m reading an amazing book? When I pick about a dozen pages in my head to be my sample page, then realize when I’m done that I could really use just about any page. An embarrassment of riches, I believe it’s called. If you’ve been living under a rock (like me) and have somehow never heard of “So Buttons” even though you already know almost all of the artists involved, you’re in luck! This book collects stories (possibly all of the stories? It’s not clear) from the first 7 issues of his comic series. He uses several different artists, with a few names popping up several times. These strips are all autobiographical, and (this is important for people thinking about making an autobio comic) each of them had something to say. Even the ones about mundane aspects of his life; it’s clear that the guy has seen a lot and/or known people who have seen a lot, which is when it’s advisable to make an autobio comic. Not to name any names of people who make autobio comics for years with seemingly little to nothing to say. Ahem. Anyway, this one starts off with a comic about Jonathan’s first day working for Marvel in 1994, which happened to be the day that Jack Kirby died. He was there when John Romita Sr. did the tribute art for Jack, and he was the one who had to tell him to improve his Thor drawing. Which was a little intimidating, to put it mildly; if you’re not familiar with comics history, those were two legends and it was his first day. This story was also drawn by Fred Hembeck, which is not a name that I’d ever thought would be on my website because he’s a Marvel guy through and through, but here he is. There’s a real danger of my saying either too much or too little about the remaining stories, but I’ll give it a shot. Subjects include taking a trip to take in some art, overdoing it on the Halloween makeup before getting into an auto accident, his kinda sorta connection to R. Crumb, the dangers of meeting your heroes (in this case Robert Redford), meeting Jackie Mason, the perfect joke after seeing Schindler’s List, trying to find the secret to the perfect brisket, how he manages to love both New York baseball teams, how we went from bully to bullied in one word, his Annie tryout in grade school, his unfortunate reaction to the news that John Lennon had been killed, hanging out with his dad and learning that the guy wasn’t as predictable as he thought, bringing out a traumatic memory of the war from his uncle, and almost meeting Jim Jarmusch. There is also almost an entire half of the book that I didn’t mention at all, so obviously there’s a lot here to love. The artists do amazing work with the material they’ve been given and Jonathan is an incredibly gifted writer. Yeah, I don’t have a single bad thing to say about this one. Check it out! $20

Roberts, Keiler – Chlorine Gardens

Website

Chlorine Gardens

Years ago I made the decision here to only review physical comics, mostly so I could manage the review submissions. And due to my looking forward to eventually dying after being smothered by a giant stack of toppled comics. Anyway, due to this policy I rarely know how a comic came about unless the artist mentions it somewhere, which is all a long way to go to say that I don’t know how Keiler put together this book. Parts of it seem like they may have come from weekly strips , other bits are longer and more complex. All this makes it tough to judge as a whole, because I don’t know how it came about. So I’m going to ignore that question altogether and instead tackle the quality of the contents. It’s pretty great, everybody! This is a collection of loosely connected stories covering a wide range of events in Keiler’s life. Things start off with the story of the birth of her daughter Xia, how she didn’t get the best advice beforehand, the antics of her doctor and why she put up with him. From there the stories get a bit more scattered (where I’m assuming they’re weekly single page strips), with subjects dealing with when she had to put down her old dog (her line to the other lady in the waiting room has hilariously dark), her various family members and bits of her childhood, and raising Xia and some of her hijinx. From here things get serious, as Keiler gets diagnosed with M.S. This could have been a horrific moment, and it was still deadly serious, but Keiler managed to make a few jokes and her sense of humor about the whole thing (beautifully conveyed through a few conversations with her sister) was fantastic. The diagnosis and her attempts to get other opinions hangs over the rest of the book, but the stories themselves deal with the last days of her grandfather and how she handled it and how she dealt with taking a trip. Even if the format seemed a bit jumbled to me at times, the book as a whole is engrossing, hilarious while being occasionally heartbreaking (sometimes in the same panel) and just a damned entertaining read. If it hasn’t already been nominated for something, there’s a solid chance that you’ll be seeing this title when various awards come back around. $12

Enrico, Robin – Jam in the Band

Website

Jam in the Band

Memory is a tricky thing. Bear with me; I’m reading a book now dealing with how you can convince yourself of fake memories because of repetition and doing whatever is necessary to put you in a better light, so I’ll just say that I thought that I’d been reviewing Jam in the Band issue by issue, piece by piece for a solid chunk of the last decade (which is how long Robin has been working on it). Turns out that I reviewed the preview comic (which I wasn’t thrilled with) and the first book (which I loved, but had a few complaints that were addressed with this completed volume). So yeah, bottom line: always get corroboration when your only source for something is your own memory. But hey, Jam in the Band! This is the complete story, and any doubts I had in the previous two reviews are wiped away with this completed epic. I was worried about Bianca (the lead singer) getting all the attention in the first book, but from then on the two other band members (Tiara and Corbin) take over, along with other characters, and Bianca fades into the background. Not completely though, as she has maybe the best story arc of the bunch. This one starts off with three young women in a band deciding to get out of their small town, with Bianca very much the ringleader of this plan. They get into a van and go on tour, things go reasonably well but two of them are still getting sick of the arrangement, when they get a lucky break and things start going their way. From there we see the three of them navigating this newfound fame, each in their own way before things take a turn for the worse. I’m not going to get too much more into the overall plot because it could be summed up pretty simply and spoiler-y, and because the real joy of this book is in the details. The various gigs they play, the people they meet along the way, the connections to their lives that they pick up and drop off, and how they each change and grow is a wonder to behold. I’m guessing that Robin probably wishes that he spent less than a decade on this book, but I don’t see how it could work any other way. Robin in his intro mentions that he changed plenty during that decade as well, and that experience carried over to this characters. If you’ve liked his past work you probably already have this (it came out in 2017 but I somehow lost track of my review copy until now), but if you missed this when it came out or have heard of Robin but never tried his stuff… you’re not going to regret giving this book a shot. $19.99

Brubaker, Charles – The Fuzzy Princess

Website

The Fuzzy Princess

One piece of advice I try to give out to people making comics is to make it easy for anybody jumping in late to get caught up, so I feel compelled to point out that this issue is just called “The Fuzzy Princess” with no issue numbers or other unique markers, which would absolutely be confusing to anybody coming in late. It looks like Charles did this issue as a sort of reminder about his ongoing Kickstarter campaign to put a book together (available at his website), which makes that a little better. As for the comic itself, this deals with Kat accidentally getting his tail chopped off and coming to love a new prosthetic tail that, naturally, has a lot more features than the old fleshy tail. We also learn about Kat’s mom, her life and the traveling she did through a variety of odd locales. I’d say more about it, but this is already a comic with 6 pages of story and I already sampled 1 of them. There’s still room for a few funny bits, so if you’re a fan of his previous work you’re sure to like this one too.

Costain, Aaron – Entropy

Website

Entropy

I barely even know where to begin with this one, which means that my best bet is probably my trademark start of a ramble with the hope that it turns into something vaguely meaningful. Oh shoot, I’ve just given away the reviewing game! Pretend you didn’t see that. This book is a decade in the making; Aaron has been putting parts of this out as chapters, but it also sounds like this is a complete reimagining of the overall story. Things start off with the overdressed figure you see on the cover talking to himself, out for a walk. He has a few philosophical thoughts, realizes that he’s lonely and decides to create life. This attempt goes poorly, a talking fox (all the animals in this world talk) comes by to rub it in, and finally a raven comes by to peck at his eyes. Finally our hero gets hit with a blinding light… and that’s it for the first chapter. Out of eleven. To put it mildly, there are lots of questions in here about what it all means, what constitutes life, how blame is apportioned out when something goes wrong, how life started in this world, whether or not to take advice seriously when given by a cat or potential angel, trying to help another golem talk (oh yeah, our hero is a golem, which is why he wears all the clothing, so that his writing doesn’t get rubbed off), and I feel like this sentence could go on forever if I don’t lock it down. This book combines mythologies and creation myths while telling us not to do such a thing, and if you’re even mildly philosophical about what it all means or why we go on, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. $19.95

Kostecka, Chris & Smith, Dietrich – The President Killed My Dog

Website

The President Killed My Dog #1

So here’s a warning that should already by obvious by the title: if you’re one of those people who is upset by depictions of violence to animals… you’re obviously going to want to give this one a pass. Not that there’s an excessive amount of violence, but you can tell what’s going to happen here, and that death scene, hooo boy. But hey, there’s more to the comic that a dead dog! We also learn about Mary, who’s been trying to get by through picking up junk. She’s getting over the death of her husband, which is where Cindy (the dog, named after their miscarried child) comes in. Mary and Cindy are inseparable for years, collecting junk and going about their lives, until, well, Cindy gets hit by a car. There’s not much to spoil here that the title doesn’t already take care of, but I will say that the way this dog died was different than I had guessed. See, there’s still a chance for surprise! There’s another issue after that, which you may have guessed is going to be a revenge story. How is that going to work when the bad guy is the president? Stay tuned to find out! $6.99