Category Archives: Reviews

Reviews

Jep – Square Head!

Website

Square Head!

Jep’s true name has been revealed! But I’m keeping it a secret, just in case the guy is on the run or something. Hey, he didn’t specify, and if somebody uses a psuedonym that’s always my first guess. This is Jep’s first attempt at a long single comic story, and it’s safe to say that he nails it. This is the tale of his time as an exchange student with a French family when he was 13. The deal was that he spent some time with that family, then the kid of the same age would come spend time with Jep. At first he was thrilled, since he was a quiet kid at school and this gave him a new kind of social cachet. But once he arrived at his new home for the next couple of weeks, it didn’t take long for him to discover that this kid was a total asshole and that they had nothing in common. There were a lot of moments when this comic could have devolved into a cliche, and I’m happy to say that Jep pulled the story away from that direction at every turn. There were the beautiful sisters at his new home (potential sad unrequited love story), the fact that he could have wallowed in misery once he saw exactly what he was in store for with this asshole kid, the whole “fish out of water” thing with him only being able to understand a few words of French… this comic could have turned grim and depressing a number of times, and it would have made complete sense. Instead, Jep recounted his (early for his age) fatalism about the whole thing, how he knew that this was a finite trip and that he should take what he could get from the whole experience. The only moment of genuine panic is when he misses his flight back, and it’s completely earned. His depiction of the kid coming back to stay with him was much shorter, and it’s for a very simple reason: the kid pouted on the couch the whole time. Hard to make much of a story out of that! Even with the language barrier there were still a few poignant moments here, and I’ve spoiled enough already. I’ll just say that the guy knows how to write a compelling comic, and that anybody who had to deal with any kind of exchange student should give this a shot. Or anybody who was ever a confused 13 year old boy. That’s a pretty solid chunk of the population right there…

Holland, Dustin – Sremmah Fo Dog

Website

Sremmah Fo Dog

There’s this thing I do at the start of reviews of comics I didn’t particularly enjoy, and it’s to find the silver lining to it and compliment what I can. What’s that? That’s a terrible trait for a reviewer to have? Yeah, well, that might explain why this is still a hobby 19 years after my first review. Anyway! This comic has a number of visually inventive touches, with some occasional subtle mixes of art and pictures of real objects. And… yeah, that’s about it. The best thing I can say for this comic is that I never got into it as a story, and it’s entirely possible that it’s on me. But the writing for this was damned near impenetrable, and I don’t think that’s entirely my fault. Do you remember those poetry magnets that people used to put on their refrigerators? They were just a series of unconnected words and phrases that you were supposed to put together to make your own poems. This book feels like nothing less than a complete volume of those poems. Go ahead, check out the sample page and tell me I’m wrong. As for the story, I legit have no idea. As you can tell from the title, this is about the god of hammers, and you can tell that because the title is “god of hammers” backwards. I just read a whole book about the dude and I couldn’t tell you what he does. There was plenty of violence, a character that also talked backwards (and that’s a terribly awkward way to read dialogue, especially when they’re talking in full sentences), and the second half of the book was almost entirely double page spreads of a place called Motorcycle City. Also he has more than a few spelling errors in here, which is death for a book where the dialogue takes a lot of work to understand to begin with. Look, this is the first comic I’ve seen from Dustin, so I don’t want this to seem like a thorough trashing. I did enjoy some of the imagery and that alone tells me that he definitely has potential. How about this: if you like your comics abstract, give this a shot. Otherwise give him another comic or two, then check back in to see where he’s at. That’s my plan!

P.S. (Yes, I know reviews don’t have postscripts. Bear with me.) Since artists often send me their own comics to review, chances are the artist also reads the review when it goes up. So I’d like to remind Dustin or anybody else just starting out: don’t let any reviewer make you feel like you’re not doing good work, or that it’s not worth the effort. If you’re making great art, the rest of the world will come around. If you’re making art and it feels like only you thoroughly enjoy it, there’s immense value in that too. Still, find a friend that’s excellent at spelling and grammar, and pass your book around to a few friends before putting it out into the world and see how they felt about it. Have them ask questions about the plot and story structure. If you can answer their questions and satisfy them, you’re on the right track. If not, take another pass, see if clarification really is needed. Um, also, eat your vegetables. Bye!

Porcellino, John – King Cat #79

Website

King Cat #79

30 years! This is the 30th anniversary of King Cat, and it’s yet another great issue. It’s packed with nostalgia, exactly as a 30th anniversary issue should be, and a fair chunk of it is relevant to me on a personal level, so I’ll most likely do my best to keep myself out of it and fail completely. Anyway! I put John’s comic origin story as the sample page, for those of you who are curious. I went to Record Service (in Champaign Illinois) dozens of times myself, but my comics origin story was at a different location… dammit. Didn’t take long to mention my own stuff, did it? Maybe I should stick to saying what the comic is about. Stories in this one deal with his time camping with the cub scouts (and the inevitability of his getting the worst burger when it was his turn), several stories about his time in school with the science club and their many field trips, a few illustrated poems, his patented (but not really) top 40 list, letters from readers, the story of his tamed squirrel and her kids, an old story about the kindness of his grandfather, and the mystery of the gravity hill. Look it up, it’s damned odd! Other bits in here include a story about John from Gabrielle Bell (who you already know if you know anything about comics) and an epilogue to his comics origin story that was somehow both inevitable and shocking. I know, I didn’t think it was possible for a thing to be both either! John also mentioned a couple of times that he’s planning on retiring in the near future. I really, REALLY hope he’s just talking about Spit and a Half and not King Cat as well, but 30 years is a long time to do anything. Speaking of his comics distro service, I just placed a big old order with them in case he closes up shop suddenly (and because I got a raise recently, and what else would I spend that money on but comics?), and I’d highly recommend that y’all do that too. A number of items were sold out, so get what you can while you can. As far as recommendations go, of course you should read it! It’s an issue of King Cat. Always get the new King Cat! $5

Thomas, Grant – Dr. Carl Willendorf: Psychoanalyst of Creatures, Monsters and Other Beasts

Website

Dr. Carl Willendorf: Psychoanalyst of Creatures, Monsters and Other Beasts

It’s election season around the website, meaning that I have a tendency to go for the shorter mini comics, knowing that I have limited time to talk about comics. I know, I hate it too! Anyway, Grant sent along a couple of his latest comics recently, and this one was tiny. This usually means that there’s not much time to form an opinion one way or the other; it’s generally a quickly amusing tale or something that comes and goes without leaving an impression. It’s just the nature of the beast when you’re talking about a comic with 8 panels; no disrespect intended to people who make such books. Anyway, I wanted to make one thing perfectly clear: I absolutely love this concept and hope that Grant makes dozens more books like this. Or bigger, so we can really dig into it. What’s it about? The title should make it obvious, but it’s a psychoanalyst talking to monsters. Or, for the purposes of this comic, one monster: the minotaur. It’s great! Insightful, funny, even a little alarming, all in 8 panels. There are a whole lot of monsters out there, so I hope Grant takes this concept and runs with it. Check it out, it’s a measly dollar and you’ll love it!

Nall, Alex – Kids With Guns #2

Website

Kids With Guns #2

The title starts coming into play this time around, and it’s as depressing and realistic as I figured. There’s a lot happening this time around, which I’ll get to in a minute, but there’s also the constant background noise of another school shooting being covered. As the comic goes on we learn more about what happened, who died, how even a former army veteran wasn’t able to stop the rampage… and nobody involved in the story bats an eye. Nobody acknowledges it, nobody seems to change their behavior at all, it’s just an accepted part of the background. Which is a damned accurate summation of the general American opinion on mass shootings in 2020, grim and hopeless though it may be. A lot of the rest of the comic is just regular life going on, so we get Milo going to visit his grandma and his (maybe mildly autistic?) brother, watching cartoons and eating dinner, while Melvin flashes back once again to his days in the war before trying to get out of speaking to a veteran’s group. Once again I feel like I’m not accurately conveying the complexity of what’s happening, but you’ve read some of Alex’s books by now, so you know what he’s capable of, right? He’s also gotten really good over the years at panel angles (is that a term?), of keeping a static scene looking dynamic through different areas of focus and perspective. Give it a shot, or if you’re lucky maybe if you wait a few years he’ll put this whole thing into a collected edition. Meanwhile, this one is $8.

Stang, Audra – The Audra Show #3

Website

The Audra Show #3

The mysteries of the Audraverse are slowly being revealed! That’s right, I’m sticking with my made-up name for Audra’s comics, in the hopes of her eventually getting a Marvel-esque multi picture deal out of it. Don’t forget me when you’re incredibly rich, Audra! As for the rest of you, you’re probably here to read about the comic, and this is the issue where Audra spells out why there are two sets of characters: Bea and her friends/coworkers are in 1988, and Adelaide and her friends/celebrity crush are in 2008. What connects them exactly is still unknown, but she’s clearly getting there, so I’d advise patience. In the 1988 section we have Bea being miserable at her job, Dan hitting on her before being forced to clean the bathrooms, Flower deciding to take a hike, Owen missing Bea, and Dan being all Dan to everybody. The 2008 section gets less space so it’s more of a transitional story, as everybody arrives at Adelaide’s house after the events of the last issue and get into a brief discussion about refreshments. Like I said, the main action is in the first story this time around. Have I mentioned that the mystery has me hooked? Because it has, even though I’m not even completely sure that there’s much of a mystery to be resolved. But I’ve grown attached to the characters, which makes this series a success in my book. Check it out, here’s hoping there’s a fourth issue when I next see her at a convention… $4

Carre, Lille – Open Molar

Website

Open Molar

Long time readers of this site will know that every now and then a mini kus book will leave me with not much of anything to say. It’s not that I hated it or loved it, it will just leave me baffled. I’ll still try to cast around for something meaningful to say, some insight, but in these occasions I’ll usually end up beaten. It’s been awhile, but Open Molar, come on down! Ya done beat me. Here, I’ll paste the description on the back of the book, maybe that’ll help: “A list of instructions for this afternoon. Learn to create a drop-shape for slow relief. This solution is only intended for gapped interiors. Do not skip the first step.” There you go! You now know as much as I do. I should point out that the text is so faint that it apparently didn’t come through in the scan, but on the sampled page it says “Set it as you would your watch. Warmth can lead to excessive foam.” Does that help you? Perhaps there are clues to be had in the title. As a good chunk of this deals with teeth, this feels like the right track! Alas, I still can’t make it form a coherent whole. To be clear, this would drive a lot of people crazy, but I love it. Baffle me, mini kus! Leave me books to have around just so I can show them to friends and try to get them to make sense out of them. As to you, reader, who is just trying to read some good comics with maybe a suggestion or two from this end, should you give this a shot? There are at least a dozen mini kus books I enjoyed more, so I’d check back through those reviews and start there. But for anybody who loves a challenge, I present to you… Open Molar! $7

Estrada, Ines – Alienation

Website

Alienation

Would you believe that that cover actually tells you the whole story? OK, maybe not totally, but a good chunk of it. After you read it maybe you’ll agree, but I’m not going to explain why here. Oh right, the review! This is set in 2054, right as a lunar eclipse is happening in Alaska. The story is not set in Alaska, but our hero (Eliza) is able to watch it on Starbucks Live Cam. Yes, this is another story about a dystopian future that’s all too plausible based on where we are today (early 2020, future readers, assuming humanity survives that long), but Ines packs all kinds of new ideas into this formula. Most of life in 2054 is lived online, through various types of virtual reality. People do still have jobs, but they’re quickly becoming automated, with very little thought given to what happens to those workers when the jobs are fully automated. Hey, just like today! They’re able to do and see literally anything their heart desires (they have a concert in their living room, go to a rave from 1997, go see Jimi Hendrix in the 60’s, etc.), to the point that they sometimes forget to buy food. They go on like this for a bit, until eventually what she suspects to be an AI breaks through and forces her to communicate. She’s freaked out by this, especially when this keeps happening and she has no control over it, and it culminates (after she’s able to access her medical history which, horrifically, is controlled by McDonald’s) in her finding out she’s pregnant. Despite not having had sex with her boyfriend in at least a year. Things get fucking weird from there, but I’ve spoiled more than enough of this journey. I’ll just say that several parts of this have really stuck with me (I finished this a few days ago and I’ve been gathering my thoughts, which maybe makes this more coherent than usual but probably not), and this is very much worth your time. If you’re optimistic about the future somehow this should cure you, and if not you’ll feel right at home. $19.99

Flowers, Ebony – Hot Comb

Website

Hot Comb

This is really her first book? Really? Well, consider the bar raised, everybody else who’s putting out their first graphic novel! This is a collection of stories about growing up and just generally living while black. Starting things off is the title piece, which deals with Ebony convincing her mother to let her get a perm as a kid, and exactly what goes into it. White people who have never considered such a thing, it’s excruciating, and she goes into detail here. Other stories are about dealing with a crazy lady on the train, the flood of memories that hits her at the funeral for an elderly relative (and her conversation with another relative that caused the older lady no end of grief), a particularly odd reaction to her hair from a child, her little sister and how her relationship to her softball team changed her life (her hair changed when she went into the pool, which caused her to become a sort of “good luck” symbol for the team, which is not something she wanted, to put it mildly), her playing with ducks and the utter lack of patience from her mother when she was playing, and (maybe the highlight of the book, although it’s tough to choose) a long conversation with three friends that goes over several locations. It’s difficult to describe why it was riveting without going into minute detail, which would ruin your reading experience, so just trust me on this one, OK? Bottom line, it’s a pile of great stories from an author I’m assuming we’re going to be hearing a lot from going forward, so get in on the ground floor before she takes over the world! $21.95

Jacob, Mira – Good Talk

Website

Good Talk

Hey, who wants another debate about what exactly makes a book into a comic? Nobody? Yeah, me neither, but since this is mostly a collection of still drawings over real backgrounds, I’m sure somebody has brought it up by now. So instead let’s just call it a book and talk about how incredible it is, OK? This is, as it says right there on the cover, a memoir in conversations. Mira is an Indian who was born in America, which becomes relevant quickly or I wouldn’t mention it, and since this is the America of 2020 at the moment, there are entirely too many assholes out there who are concerned with such things. Stories in here include her parents’ arranged marriage (how it came about, how they both always championed it as a concept despite their not being in love, and how for a while there they hoped for something similar for Mira), how Mira was seen differently in her own family because her skin was the darkest of the bunch, her adventures in dating while constantly worrying about whether or not she was thought of as a fetish object, and her reactions to the 9/11 attacks while living in Brooklyn. And yes, the realization that anybody with brownish skin would have a tough time of it afterwards hit her very quickly. The most powerful story that runs throughout the book is her conversations with her son (around 6 when they started) and how that all paralleled with the rise of that dickhead in the White House. It’s a horror story where we all know the ending, and she naturally made promises to her son that the country wasn’t awful enough to elect the man. Whoops! She also married a white Jewish man along the way, meaning their kid was mixed race, meaning the news that her white stepparents supported the racist was devastating to her and to her whole family. This was a conversation that played out thousands of times over the course of the campaign, but it doesn’t make it any less depressing to see again. They knew he said racist things, of course, but they didn’t think he meant it. And besides, that Hilary woman sure was awful, wasn’t she? Mira tried repeatedly to convey the pain they were putting them through, their son tried to convey the damage it was doing to their connection (which was very strong up until then; Mira had started called her stepmother “Mom” pretty much right away), even talking about how it was affecting their son didn’t change their minds. The book ends on a hopeful (ish) note, as they’re all on a flight in early 2017 to go visit the stepparents, with Mira unsure what to expect and all of them a little nervous about it. I’m obviously curious about what happened next, but that’s left to the imagination. Maybe they came around? Maybe they’re still making excuses for the racism even today, as so many are? Regardless, this book is chock full of fascinating stories (I’m only mentioning maybe half of them, this book is hefty), and very much worth checking out. $30

Simon, Anne – The Empress Cixtisis

Website (sort of)

The Empress Cixtisis

Watch out, this is a sequel to The Song of Aglaia! Which isn’t that big of a deal, as this stands alone quite nicely, just a public service announcement. This one is going to be difficult to sum up, despite being a lot more linear than a lot of comics that befuddle me. Cixtisis and Aglaia each rule their respective kingdoms, but Cixtisis has a much larger army, so she can more or less have her way with them. The book starts off with Cixtisis on a very long journey for negotiations with Aglaia, as Cixtisis has kidnapped most of her male population. Cixtisis seems to be an absolute monster in every other way, but it’s still shocking when she announces that the men that she kidnapped have all been castrated. Which is maybe a bit of a spoiler, but it happens early, and “I’VE CASTRATED THEM ALL” is in large letters on the back cover. Anyway, negotiations obviously take a turn for the worse at this point, but she had noticed that there was a pregnant woman at court, which is confusing since she thought they had all the males. A brief search later, the hideout is found, and the rest of the book is dealing with the fallout/preparing for war. With the hopes of convincing an army of french fries to help them. Yeah, you thought it all seemed normal enough before that, right? This book is also relentlessly funny, although often in a grim sort of way. I’m going to go back and read the first book immediately, and there’s a sequel coming called Boris the Potato Child, and good luck keeping me from reading that one. As for this book, yes you should read it, of course you should. $16.99

Davis, Eleanor – The Hard Tomorrow

Website

The Hard Tomorrow

I really have to fix this shanty town of a website. Thought I’d check to see exactly how long I’ve been reviewing Eleanor’s comics, but unfortunately it just lists the date and not the year. And that’s not even getting into when I lost a bunch of review dates with a site rebuild. Holy crap do you have no interest in any of that, so how about we talk about maybe Eleanor’s best book yet? My guess is since roughly 2004 for the reviews, by the way. One thing a book, movie, show, whatever needs to be engaging, at least for me, is to have characters that come to life even off the page/screen. Sure, it’s not going anywhere if they’re boring on the page, but to have something really feel lived in, I need to be wondering what these characters are doing when they’re not the focus. Everybody has seen shows where it looks like characters are just waiting for the scene to start, and you can’t picture any of them engaging in small talk. I had questions about damned near everybody in this, and that’s a hard feat to pull off. What’s it about, you ask, several sentences into perhaps even more rambling than usual? It’s the story of Hannah and Johnny, a couple who’s living off the grid, trying to make a baby while fighting back against the ways that the world is turning awful however they can. There’s also Hannah’s job and her best friend Gabby, Johnny’s paranoid friend, the marches, and the one good cop in the world (which comes back into play later). Hannah’s getting a lot of grief from her friends about trying to have a baby with the world the way it is, which coincides with Eleanor having a recent baby of her own. It’s a good question, and it’s something I struggle with. But I have the luxury of struggling hypothetically, which she does not. There are so many good scenes here, but I’m not going to spoil any more of them. If you’re even mildly liberal and wonder why we fight against the relentlessly terrible news these days, this book will speak directly to you. Like I said, I think it might be her best, so obviously you’d be cuckoo bananas not to get it. $24.95

Williams, Erin – Commute

Website

Commute

Two things are true about this book: it’s going to make you uncomfortable at some point, and you should really read it. Yes, that includes the dudes. This is as open and raw a memoir as I’ve ever seen, and since I’m in year 19 of reviewing comics on this website, it’s safe to say that I’ve seen a whole lot of them. It’s also so packed with stories that I have no idea where to begin. The beginning, you say? Sure, let’s get literal. Things start off small, with a story about her daily routine before work, including the 16 step makeup process that’s supposed to make her look like she’s not wearing makeup. The next story is also fairly mundane, about walking her dog and the various things she sees along the way (for what it’s worth, I agree with her: she probably saw a meth lab). With the next story, though, everything gets weird, and it stays various degrees of weird the rest of the way. It starts off with a listing of the 6 other people on her daily bus ride, but when a new person gets on who reminds her of a fling, we get more details of that awkward mess. Which leads to a story of another mess, and we’re off to the races. Subjects in here include her method for telling if she had sex the night before (while she was an alcoholic; she’s since recovered), SO many observed creepy male gazes (either directed at her or others), trying to decide while on a train late at night which one of the two dudes on the train would try to rape her and which one would help her, the three Jims and what they taught her about men, the first dick she ever saw, the sliding scale of what constitutes sexual assault, talking about Freud with somebody who still believes in his bullshit, how half naked ladies are trying to sell her something everywhere she goes (mostly in billboards and ads), and how much was taken from her piece by piece. That last one is daily interactions with men, how thoughtless they can be at times (if not mostly), and how few of them really stop to think about what kind of effect their actions have on others. It’s an incredible book, and yet another example of my trying to save money by using the library ending up backfiring because I’m definitely going to get my own copy of this book very soon. Any woman who reads this will sadly find a whole lot that’s familiar, but maybe they’ll find some useful tips on how to help get through it. Any man who reads this… take it to heart. Even the “good ones” have room for improvement. $24.99

Scheer, Rachel – Around the Neighborhood

Website

Around the Neighborhood

Comic strips! Since the newspapers seem to be shutting down one by one (and the comics section is always the first to go, way before they actually shut down), you don’t see them as much in the local alternative papers. And the ones in the regular papers are the same strips from 50 years ago, so where can you get indie comic strips? Seems to be just down to mini comics at this point. Yep, you guessed it: this is a collection of Rachel’s comics, mostly single page strips with a few longer ones thrown in. She’s a relatively recent transplant to Seattle, so most of these deal in one way or another with her new surroundings. Subjects include the various thought bubbles going around while somebody else is singing karaoke, too many totes, some people who stopped by the yard sale, the joy of not getting hit on at the bar, the reactions she got from friends and family when she moved to a different side of the country, hats, what she did on her snow day, how to tell if the local sports team has won without watching the game, quick excuses when you want to avoid a conversation, baby’s first eclipse, getting back to the “good” air quality, and tales of bad haircuts. Plus more stories, but I’m obviously going to leave some as a surprise. Rachel’s pretty great with the observational humor, and since strips are as compact as stories can get, this is a more dense book than you might think. Check it out, and you can’t really go wrong just ordering a few books from her while you’re at it… $4

Una – Becoming Unbecoming

Website

Becoming Unbecoming

There are times when I’d rather let the synopsis or a blurb speak to my thoughts on a book, and it’s tempting to leave it at that blurb on the front cover. But that’s cheating, so I’ll look straight at the horror depicted in this book instead and try to give you some coherent thoughts about it. On the surface, this is a memoir of Una’s childhood and how it intersected with the string of murders committed by the Yorkshire Ripper in the 70’s. The cops were completely out of their depth and focused on the wrong things; since they assumed he was targeting prostitutes, in a way they “deserved” it, right? And when other victims came forward that didn’t fit the profile, well, the killer must have messed up that time. It was a hell of a way to grow up, with visible evidence that adults didn’t value women. They certainly didn’t believe their stories. Una’s story is also grim, but the way she approaches her trauma almost makes it… there’s not an English word that would fit here. It comes at you in waves. She’ll mention a boy she met when she was younger, and then an older man, but it’s vague enough where you can hope that nothing horrible happened. Then she’ll come back to it and mention a couple more details, but you can still convince yourself that she escaped the worst of it. Then finally she describes the incident, and as the reader you have nowhere left to hide. Still, growing up in this environment left her with nobody to talk to, and since she had technically been involved in the acts, she got a reputation at school. Or, as she put it, she lost her reputation, before she ever really got a good look at it. The rest of the book details her environment with these killings going on; how she dealt with childhood, life, her family and her fellow students. It also offers advice to women reading it now, some scientific theories for how people could be that way, how there’s nothing that really separates men who rape from men who don’t in terms of upbringing or a “cause.” And the ending, with images of the lives these women might have led, and her own questions about how her life could have gone without these traumas… it’s devastating stuff. If you’ve ever dealt with trauma yourself, this book could do you some real good. If you’re just an average person (whatever that means), this will help you see certain aspects of reality in a new light. In other words, it’s very much worth a look. $23.95

Brosh, Allie – Hyberbole and a Half

Website

Hyperbole and a Half

You’ve seen Allie’s work. Go ahead, take one look at that cover and tell me you haven’t seen a meme with that artwork, or part of a story, or maybe even a whole story if you’re lucky. I was all set to write a review that basically badgered people into buying her book and giving her money, seeing as how the world has seen her work for free for years, but then I did some research into Allie. That website, for example? Seems to be dead, or at least full of viruses (according to my malware detector, anyway). She apparently went to reddit for a but, but ended up leaving that too. Basically she’s been “off the grid” (meaning internet; here’s hoping her actual life is going swell) since 2015 or so. Maybe if there’s a sudden surge of sales of her 2013 book she’ll return and give us all more stories? Hey, it’s worth a shot! If you’re one of the few people who haven’t seen her work, welcome to the internet! Thanks for somehow ending up on my website and this review before anything else. This book is a collection of stories from her website, with several that are entirely new. “Makes you laugh, makes you cry” is a cliche, sure, but that’s literally what happened here. There were several stories where I literally had to put the book down because I was laughing too hard to read it, and there were a few especially grim bits too. More funny than anything, if I had to put them on a weird story scale, but they cover damned near anything. I feel like I know her dogs (simple dog and helper dog), and I’ve rarely seen the quizzical doggie head turn done better. And she’s painfully open and raw in her discussions of depression, which to her ended up as a complete absence of emotions. Other stories deal with her discovering a time capsule from child Allie to her adult self (and the advice that she would give to several iterations of her younger self), how she tricks herself to get motivated, an epic quest to eat a cake after discovering sugar, how her mother got her lost in the woods when she was little, how she moved across country and how it affected her dogs, living a lie as a hot sauce fan, how a goose terrorized her house, the terrible parrot toy, and about a half dozen more that I’ll leave as a surprise. I checked this out of the library, but this is one of those books that I’m going to buy sooner than later, as I already want to revisit a few of these stories and/or show them to friends. And since her website is down, we have to go back to paper. Buy her book! There is absolutely no way you’ll be disappointed. Yes, I’m that sure! $17.99

Stang, Audra – The Audra Show #2

Website

The Audra Show #2

For those of you who read the last issue and/or review, you might notice that the entire cast is different from the first issue. My theory is that Audra is setting up one of those vast interconnected universes like the Marvel movies and that she’s going to cash in in a few years with the Audra-verse. Until then, I’ll just confine myself to talking about her comics, OK? Well, like I said, there doesn’t appear to be an obvious connection to the last issue, but I’m guessing they’re both in the same town. Or it told me that they were both in the same town and I managed to forget in the three months between reviews. Oof, here’s hoping it’s not that, my memory is terrible enough as it is. This issue starts off with Adelaide throwing rocks at what appears to be an abandoned food truck. Bryson joins her and starts throwing rocks too. They then decide to abandon this pursuit for their ice ray gun, but since it hasn’t been perfected yet, they end up firing a sparkler gun. This goes into the truck and starts a fire, and when she tries to put it out she discovers that Oliver Chance (famous lead singer for Sunset October) is stuck in the truck. Once they pull him out, they discover that he has too many limbs. Roughly eight too many, which might help you narrow down what happened to him. No more spoilers from here on out, but Adelaide has an excellent reason for why she doesn’t just flee from Oliver in terror. It’s another solid issue, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the next issue connects to these too. $4

Dupille, Natalie – In Spite of Ourselves

Website

In Spite of Ourselves

It’s the first review of 2020 and it’s for a book with a listed publication date of January 2020. This website has never been more current! Enjoy it for this one comic, because that’s not going to last. This is listed as a graphic novella; there was a time when I remembered the cutoff point between a novel and novella, but that information has since flown out of my brain. Anyway, this is a autobiographical tale of an Oregon bike ride with Natalie and her partner Allie. They have a clear plan for how they’d like things to go, events on the ground force them to change their plan very quickly, and they soon settle on a second plan. The comic does a nice job of bouncing back and forth between things that happen on the road (good and bad) and the tension that comes in any relationship when you’re on a trip together, particularly a trip where one half of the duo feels constantly less than their partner because one of them is the more accomplished cyclist. The people you meet along the way are always half the fun of road trips (or, if they’re not fun, great fodder for stories once you get back), and Natalie put more than a few memorable characters into this one. If you’re a fan of the comics travelogue format, this one is a welcome addition to the genre. Or if you’re just a fan of autobio, there’s enough drama and uncertainty to keep you happy. If, however, you’re a fan of robots, you’ll have to find another comic. I realize I could say that for almost any comic, so I’m not sure why I mentioned it here. Give it a shot, is my point. $15

Lacour, Kate – Vivisectionary

Website

Vivisectionary

Long time readers of the website will know that I sometimes have little to nothing to say about a book. Often that’s not a knock on quality, it’s just that it’s better to let it wash over you without getting bogged down in jargon or me trying to explain every little thing about it. In fact, if I have an overarching philosophy when it comes to comics, it’s that: point out that a great thing exists, then get out of the way. Well, there is nothing like this book out there right now. Absolutely nothing. Whether it’s something that will enrich your life is up to you, but if you’re a fan of the odd and bizarre, this book deserves to be on your bookshelf. OK, here’s the part where I try to explain this coherently. The sample image gives you some idea what to expect, but there’s also not another image in the book that resembles the sample, so maybe it doesn’t. These are a series of images, each a progression of a thing that could occur in nature, if nature was magical and/or mythical. Or perhaps some of these things have occurred and we just don’t realize it in modern times. I know I’ll never unsee that image of the square pigs. Is that happening? In 2019, probably not. In a few more years, who knows? Other images deal with hummingbirds feeding off fingers, fetus as a temporary head, how those snakes got on Medusa’s head, the construction of a third eye, love and fear coming together, and knitting a brain. That’s maybe 1/10 of the images in here, and those are some of the ones I could sum up, meaning the real oddities are still to be discovered by the reader. Check out some of the images on her website if you need further convincing, but I’ll just say that this book is a unique thing in this world, and everybody who’s a fan of that sort of thing should give it a look. $25

Canini, Brian – Plastic People #4

Website

Plastic People #4

Murder! Remember, that’s how the last issue ended, so naturally that’s where this one is going to start. Honestly, it’s like you’re not reading the issues in order. Anyway, we learned in previous issues that murder was rare, but we learn exactly how rare in this issue: it’s been decades since they’ve had one to investigate. And since everybody looks more or less the same (and perfect, according to their societal norms), any woman this doctor sees reminds him of the victim he has to autopsy. We also get couple of tantalizing hints as to what might be happening, but they’re only hints for now. As I’ve been saying, the man has at least 10 issues done already and this is only #4, so clearly there’s more of the mystery to be discovered. $2