Archive for category Reviews
People who have been reading this website for a long time have probably figured out by now that comics based on poems are usually not my favorite thing. Not always, as very few rules are universal, but mostly that’s the case. Oddly, that rule does not apply to zen Buddhist poets. Who knew? This is a collection of five poems from Ryokan, a man who studied under zen Buddhism but then spent the second half of his life living in a hut, happily interacting with the people around him and, by all accounts, leading a pretty damned great life. It’s great that Graeme went to such trouble to include details about the life of that man, as that information really helped flesh out what would otherwise have been an ephemeral collection of stories. He even includes a self-portrait that the monk did, most likely in the early 1800’s; that smile alone helps show why Graeme was fascinated by the man. Anyway, it’s difficult to review five illustrated poems without telling you exactly what they’re about, so I’ll just say that he wrote about what he knew: life in his hut, his surroundings, and fleeting memories of his past. It’s all very minimalistic, the brief sentences and the imagery, and they go well together. For everybody who wants to go live in a hut by themselves but doesn’t want to be cut off from society completely, check this out and see what it’s like! For everybody else who likes the idea of uninterrupted contemplation time, you’d also enjoy this.
Hey wait a minute, I thought that title looked familiar! MK wrote and drew this story years ago, probably with a few changes, under a series of mini comics called Pale Fire. Now it’s drawn by Farel Dalrymple and called Palefire. In case you hang out at the oddest/best bar in the world, there’s a trivia question answered for you. I looked back at a few pages I posted in older reviews and the dialogue is almost identical. So if this is basically a remake of a comic that’s already out there (if out of print), is it worth checking out? Assuming you’re one of the dozens (or hundreds; I’m just going with the average mini comic audience size) of people who have the entire original story, yes it is. Because Farel Dalrymple is the artist, and he can do amazing things with facial expressions. And MK writes some of the most realistic dialogue in comics. Put those two things together and you have a hell of a powerful comic. Oh right, I haven’t even told you what it’s about yet. It’s about a high school girl named Alison who has a crush on a kid who is known around school as a firebug, as a kid who blew up the hand of his own brother with fireworks. Naturally, her mom doesn’t care for this idea, but instead of stating that fact as a stereotypical parent who finally gives an ultimatum before being ignored completely, MK is able to write all of these people as humans with recognizable motivations. That doesn’t sound like a strange thing, but as somebody who reads a whole bunch of comics/books, the teenage kid/parent/sibling dynamic is difficult to get sounding natural, and MK nails it. Anyway, Alison meets up with this firebug at a party (along with three other potential suitors who each underwhelm her in different ways), we get to see various interactions with these people, and finally we get to the image from the cover: Alison in a secluded spot with the firebug, with him going off into the woods with a can of gasoline. That’s about as close to a spoiler as I care to get, but this is one of those comics that just makes me happy. Mostly because it’s a great comic by itself and needs no other qualifications, but also because I’ve been reading minis from MK for over a decade now and this reads like a natural evolution of her talents, and the high point of her work. For now, I should add, because I only see bigger and better things in her future. Especially if she’s sticking to just writing these days, as that’s bound to cut down on production time. That’s how all that works, right? Never any issues with artists not getting the pages in on time? Yep, that’s what I thought. $12
This is an anthology with mostly artists from the area around Big Planet Comics, meaning mostly the Washington D.C. area. I’ll start this review with a complaint about anthologies in general and this one in particular, and this is a complaint I’ll be putting in all anthology reviews until comics society as a whole fixes it. For an anthology you have three ways to let readers know who did each story. You can list the title and author at the bottom or top of each page (still my preferred method), list a table of contents with the page numbers clearly listed there and on each page (that last bit trips up more people than you would think) or you could have the writer/artist clearly take credit for each story either at the beginning or the end of it. This anthology went with the second option, mostly, choosing instead to include a table of contents with page numbers listed… and no page numbers listed on each page. It’s not the worst thing in the world for a 48 page anthology, but it’s still annoying. Anyway! This was still a solid anthology overall, and a nice sampler of the work of some of these artists. Highlights for me included the Horse Story by Jensine Eckwall, a Mark Burrier comic that I hadn’t seen (check the archives, the man has been around for ages), Saman Bemel-Benrud’s tale of internet culture mixing with real life, Robin Ha and the horror of The French Cows, Box Brown’s horrifying tale of what magic is, Angelica Hatke’s story of a hen laying a football egg and what comes after, and Jared Morgan’s harrowing tale of life inside the first level of a video game. I didn’t actively hate any of the stories here, always a plus, and it was a nice mix of talent. Just maybe make it easier to find each individual story next time? Comicland, maybe we can get together and make a law on this. $5
Man, talk about a comic that takes you on a journey. Or me, anyway; I have no idea what journey you’ll have on reading this book. I should point out that I’m single and childless, meaning that a book full of diary strips detailing a pregnancy and the early days of a baby wasn’t something that I was really looking forward to reading. Those negative thoughts were confirmed by the early strips which, frankly, looked like garbage. Lousy images, text that spilled all over the place, they were just a mess. An obvious hazard of doing a daily strip, where quantity always wins out over quality, but I almost stopped reading this about a dozen pages in. And yet, by the time it was all said and done, I’ll really glad I stuck with it. The art improved, for one thing. It was a gradual change, but it was also obvious that Kyle was taking more time on it, and that gradual improvement of the quality continued all the way through the end of the strip. I would have understood if it hadn’t, as I expected it to stop altogether once the baby was born, but instead it kept getting better all the way up to the end. Oh right, I should give you a synopsis of the book that I’m reviewing. Kyle and his wife Jenny are about halfway through her pregnancy when this book starts up. We see lots of different happenings, their uncertainties about what they’re in for, picking out a baby name (although naming the book after the baby took a bit of the drama out of those strips), planning out future work obligations, finding a doctor, etc. Then the baby is born, and we get to see roughly a month of life with a new baby. Kyle even wraps it up with a six page afterward, detailing why he did the comic, how he got into comics at all, and what he has planned now, if anything. He even mentions that he read American Elf (the daily strip by James Kochalka) AFTER he finished his series, which is kind of hilarious. I go back and forth on the value of daily strips all the time, as is evidenced by even a quick search through the archives here of my reviews of other daily strip collections. Sometimes they seem to go on for years past when they make any sense, sometimes I never see the point of them to begin with, and sometimes they’re perfect little sections of time with a fascinating story to tell. I wasn’t expecting this book to fall into the latter category, but it completely won me over by the end. And if you’re having a kid or planning to have a kid, I have to imagine there’s plenty for you to learn from this book. And if Kyle is stuck on a comics project to start next, he could always tell the story of how he became religious in his mid 30’s. That was a throwaway fact from a few strips, but it’s the kind of thing that always makes me curious. $10
Amiculus: A Secret History Volume 1
A word of warning before I move onto the comic: Travis’ website seems to be down at the moment, which can be a worrying sign for a young comic series. Maybe it’s fine, in which case I’ll cut this line out of the review before I post it. If it it still here, that’s probably a bad sign, especially for a series that has me hooked after only one volume. If you’re not a fan of ancient Roman history and/or speculative historical fiction, it’s possible that you won’t get much out of this series. Still tough to say for sure, as this volume is very much about getting all the ducks in a row for future volumes. But for those of us with an interest in the history, this first volume is fascinating. The gist of it is (and Travis helpfully lays this out in the introduction) that the western Roman empire ended in 476 AD, while the eastern Roman empire survived for much longer. This story details what happens with Romulus, the last emperor on the western side and somebody who ended up as a footnote in the history books. Which, as Travis is happy to point out, means that he has plenty of room to tell the story of Romulus, how he eventually lost power and the players involved. This book is broken down into three sections: the historian who leaves a large battle 60 years after the fall of the western Roman empire to learn the real history of Romulus, Romulus as a child ruler who was given strict rules to follow, and the start of that final battle. Along the way we meet a few characters of various levels of mysteriousness, all of whom I’m going to leave out of this for now until we learn more. But the point is that the mysteries are compelling and I’m very curious to see what happens next, which is all you really want out of a first volume. As for the basics, the writing is solid and compelling, the art does remarkable work depicting the chaos of battle scenes after the fact and more subtle moments of character expressions, even the colorist does great work. Like I said, the only way you’d have a problem with this is if you were against historical fiction, which I don’t think describes a lot of humans. But I could be wrong! $15, give the man some money so he can finish this saga and it doesn’t end of being one of those series where I always just have to wonder what would have happened next.
What would you do if speaking caused you physical pain? Suddenly, today, you woke up and found out that it hurt to talk? I’d imagine that most of you would do what Georgia did for quite a while: tell yourself that you were going to take it easy on the speaking, only to find that it really wasn’t possible in daily life. She was still going out to (loud) bars, still working her job at the (loud) cafe, and the problem kept getting worse. Finally she was able to make an appointment to see a doctor, but she even had to wait more than a month for that, meaning that by the time she finally saw somebody she had been dealing with this problem for about six months. It turned out to not be all that serious (relatively speaking, meaning no cancer), but the therapy needed for her to get better basically meant she had to completely change her life. Generally I don’t give out spoilers, which I guess is what you could consider that description, but these are only the first two issues of her series (which is up to #10 according to her website), so you need a little backstory to get started. That was most of the #1 right there, and #2 deals with her taking the steps needed to get better while also making enough money to live, and all the while fighting with herself to change her life as little as possible. I really liked the way she conveyed her thoughts and feelings about what was happening to her with wordless chatter and little expressions of pain while doing normal daily things, and how all of it kept getting gradually worse. This collection is clearly only the first part of her recovery, but I’m curious to see how she handles all these changes over the long run. If this collection is any indication it will be a fascinating read. $8
The Amazing Cynicalman Volume 2
For everybody out there who has ever wanted to start a comic or comic strip but has figured that it was impossible because of their lack of artistic talent, I give you Cynicalman! It’s not a completely fair comparison, granted, as it’s clear that Matt could put more detail into his strips if he wanted. But he’s managed to build up a distinctive cast of characters over the years, and they’re all stick figures. This collection covers roughly 2008-2012, so it’s a fun peek pack into how much everything was effected by the presidential election of ’08 and was compelled to comment on it. Other than that Matt’s strips have stayed apolitical as far as I can tell, and even then he didn’t expressly endorse anyone or any particular viewpoint. But in those glorious days, the entire country understood that George W. Bush had messed up on a colossal scale and that it would take a miracle to put everything back together again. And if you think I’M biased, the dude had a 22% approval rating when he left office. That is tough to do! Anyway, mini rant over. What are these strips about? There’s a league of amateur superheroes that doesn’t seem to do much in the way of saving people (or maybe we only see them in their weekly meetings), Stupid Boy and his hilariously stupid happenings, random coffee shop conversations, various assorted jokes about office life, snow hijinx, Maw and Paw Headbanger (about an older couple whose hearing was destroyed by loud rock music in the 70’s), the artiste Marlene Brando and her efforts to get a film career going (and the reactions of the people to those efforts), and countless strips on the foibles of daily life. This is a nicely rounded collection, never sticking with any character long enough for you to get sick of them. These are also all six panel strips and, as is always the case with such strips, some of them are funnier than others, and your opinion on which is which will vary from person to person. If the idea of jumping right into a collection of Matt’s work alarms you, he has plenty of mini comics from his many years in the medium, so you could always start there. But screw it, go for the collection, that’s what I say. The man has been doing mini comics since the early 90’s at the very least and possibly since the 80’s, support his work and get some laughs in the process! $15
I have rarely been as divided in my opinion of the contents of an anthology as I am with this one. They’re mixed bags the vast majority of the time; that’s just the nature of putting a bunch of artists in the same comic together. And my problems with this one have nothing to do with the content of any of the stories, which I really enjoyed overall. But roughly half of the stories in here have no resolution, and that’s just a flatly annoying thing to read in an anthology. For example, the first story (by Matt Aucoin and Holly Foltz) is a great tale of empowerment and having a bully finally get what’s coming to him. But it ends with the introduction of a new character and is clearly going to go on in some other venue. Which would be fine if there was any indication that this was meant to be a sampling of work from different artists, or if I could figure that out because all of the stories were “to be continued.” But that’s not the case here, which makes the whole comic a maddening read, as I never know if there’s going to be any resolution until I finish the story. Maybe that was the point? I don’t know, but since I like the content of the stories a bunch I’m just going to comment on that from here on out. Other stories include David Yoder time traveling with himself (in a continuing story that tricked me because it continued later in the anthology), a great piece on Skeleton Girl by Denis St. John (or the first chapter of it), the origin story of a band with a bad name by Ryland Ianelli and Marisa Chapin (or the first chapter of it), a hilarious story on the true mission for a giant space robot that comes to the planet by Joseph Hewitt, Jarod Rosello’s fascinating story of a boy who tries to make friends with a monster and the characters that are egging him on to attack it (all while commenting on the nature of friendship and humanity), and a small piece of a Kevin Kilgore story (along with an interview with the man) that did get me intrigued about his story but couldn’t be called a complete story here. The highlight of the book was Fight Hero Fight by Matt Aucoin, which is probably a lot funnier if you’re familiar with the Zelda lore but works either way. A young adventurer gets his quest, but he has to fend for himself when it comes to gear and money and has no idea of the skill levels of the various enemies he encounters in the wild. Way too many great touches for me to point them all out, but trust me, any gamers will think it’s hilarious, as should most other people with a sense of humor. So overall it would be impossible not to recommend this anthology for that last story alone, but don’t expect everything to be self-contained. It’s not the worst thing in the world if these pieces of larger stories lead to people tracking down these artists, I just wish that had been indicated somewhere in the book. $9
RIP to Dump, as David says in the afterward that this is the last issue. But he is starting off another comics series and is going to put out the collected Berserkotron, so if you’re a fan you have nothing to fear. If you’re not a fan, why hello there, allow me to try to convince you that you’re missing out! This is a collection of stories, all written by David, with roughly 2/3 of them illustrated by David too and the other 1/3 illustrated by other artists. The final chapter of Dump and the experimental story “November” take up about half of this hefty comic, but I’ll get to those in a minute. Subjects of other stories include whether or not you give a fuck, the consequences of spying on people at 3am, an excellent closed loop of a nostalgic time travel story, running into the former most popular kid in high school many years after the fact, an orb, whether or not it is good to feel pain, that thing you sense in your room while you’re sleeping, being attracted to a random stranger on tv, the Bum Monster, dreaming of teeth, making a wish, playing the music festivals, the decline of sales of televisions and wishing to be enveloped by another human. That’s all suitably vague and enticing, right? Nothing to alarm anyone with possible spoilers. I thought the Dump story had a damned fine ending to the overall story, but my memory of continuing stories in comics that only come out every few years can be hazy, so who knows? It worked just fine on its own regardless. Finally there’s November, which is a collection of strips from November (duh) that I really wanted to like more than I did. Oh, I liked the content of them just fine; the one about his old cat, the Garfield parodies, being trapped in a car with a farter, how Do The Right Thing is just as relevant now as when it was released, etc. The problem is that all the strips were done in pencil (undoubtedly to make it easier to meet the requirements of a strip a day), which is just plain old uglier in collected form, especially compared against the other stories in the comic. Still, some slight aesthetic problem I have with it is no reason to scare anyone else away, as if you can get past that the actual strips in that section were thoroughly engaging. It’s a fine end to a fine series, and David really might want to consider giving this series the collected treatment too in a few years. In the meantime, enjoy the finale! $5
Who’s up for a good old fashioned science fiction anthology? If that’s not then you’d better move along, although I can’t imagine why you’d rule this out because of that. For one thing it’s Box Brown, who has a hell of a track record with the quality of his comics. Also “science fiction” basically means “any sort of fiction that also has science, real or imagined, in it.” That covers a lot of ground, even though it’s a definition I just made up. Anyway, this is a collection of a bundle of different stories from Box, covering a wide range of topics. The highlight is probably the cover story, because it so nearly wraps itself up by the end, but I can’t dig much more into it without spoiling it. Other subjects include a mysterious pizza tattoo, what happens when you forget your entertainment while piloting a mating giant robot, reliving a painful moment of your life through science, the essence of god on a waffle, being disconnected while taking comfort from the familiar, taking the long view on the effects of social media interactions, a good old fashioned quest, and getting yourself remade after your ego is destroyed. Not a single one of these stories is as simple as I made it appear through that synopsis, so I’ll just retreat to my fallback position of wanting to spoil as little as possible from this comic. Every single story made me either rethink an aspect of my perception of reality of feel all or some of the feelings, sometimes both at the same time. That seems like the best possible recommendation for reading a book, so why not do so? If you’re already familiar with Box’s work then you shouldn’t take much convincing. If you’re not, that’s a situation you need to rectify, and an anthology like this is the perfect place to do it. $12
Hey kids, or anybody who has started reading comics in the last few years? Are you interested in the history of mini comics, why they’re such a source of passion for so many people? Well, maybe not in numbers, but in level of interest and dedication in following certain artists? Your answer is this volume. If you have no interest in the history, away with you! This one can be for the old timers. This is a collection of the best of the “Not My Small Diary” anthology, and if you read small press comics in the 90’s and 00’s, you will recognize plenty of these names. In fact, good luck not getting lost in a Google hole or trying to figure out what so many of these people are up to these days. Notable names include (but are not limited to) Jeff Zenick, Dan Zettwoch, Patrick Dean, Raina Telgemeier, Jesse Reklaw, Carrie McNinch, Sam Spina, Roberta Gregory, Kurt Wolfgang… you know what, there are just too damned many names, and they’re all in the tags, so check that part out. If any of those names made you say “hey, I wonder what they’re up to these days” then this book is for you. These are mostly snippets of stories, but they’re all complete by themselves. Sometimes the stories follow a theme, like notable dates or moments in their lives, but really they’re all over the place. If it seems like I’m avoiding getting into specifics, that is entirely the case. If you were around for all these artists when they first started, you’re going to get lost in this instantly. If not, this is an excellent way for you to figure out what the big deal was about these people all along. I guess it’s possible that it’s the nostalgia talking and that people might not connect to these stories now, but screw that. These are tales of human weakness (and occasionally triumph), and those stories are universal and timeless. Most of the original issues of this series are out of print, so this is your best option all around. The book itself is $7.50 if you see Delaine at a convention, but if not $10 should be enough to cover the shipping, and I really can’t recommend this enough. It’s rare for any anthology not to have a weak story or two, but these are all golden.
Electric Transit #3
Can you read the title of that comic from the cover or was it just me who was completely unable to make it out? The back of the book mentions the previous volumes, otherwise that title was going to remain a mystery. And I don’t know if the pages were shrunken down from a larger source or if they just came from a terrible copy machine, but there were several places where this was just completely unreadable. It took me back to the days before computer printers or the several other options available for putting out your book. Maybe you’re nostalgic for those days, but I’m not. Wow, look at that pile of negativity to start a review for a book that I didn’t hate! I didn’t love it either, but I get unduly annoyed when the basics aren’t covered, and that’s with me leaving out the spelling errors on the first page. Anyway, there are several smaller stories in here and one larger story. It’s probably my fault that I had a lot of trouble following it, as that’s what happens when you jump into the third book of a series first, but a synopsis somewhere never hurt anybody either. That larger story deals with two people who are hitchhiking their way… somewhere. We learn eventually that they’re going to New York, or at least that’s where they end up at the end of this story. Um, spoiler alert? They met up with some interesting characters along the way, but this was also the section of the book that suffered the most from bad copies/shrunken images. Other stories are usually either a page or less than that, but subjects include being forced to socialize, a new baby, porkratamus, a zombie dog, non-organic chicken and a complete lack of the giant robot that was promised on the cover. Overall I’d put this one in the “so-so” category, although it probably would have been upgraded if I could have read the whole thing. Here’s to #4 being more legible!
Revolt to What?
OK Americans with no interest in history, bear with me on this one. Also please note that I am not assuming that no Americans have an interest in history, and particularly the people who read websites about small presses tend to have more eclectic interests than most. But the dumb American is a valid stereotype. I also know that lots of people from other countries read this website… ah, enough already. Remember when the Czech Republic formed in the early 90’s? I was a young student back then, so I knew the Soviet Union fell apart, but the details were hazy to me. Anyway, even if you did know the history and what came from it, this is still an entirely new perspective. Why? Because it’s based on a conversation set in a bar among a group of dissatisfied former revolutionaries who are more than a little sick about what came next. There’s a fair amount of philosophical chatter, and the question of how things could have turned out perfectly in any case lingers over the whole conversation, but it’s a fascinating chat involving stereotypes, the behavior of the victors, how quickly it all fell apart and the strong, constant state of drunkenness of much of the population, with no hope of any further positive steps. Still, the bar scene covers the gamut; I had no idea that the frat bros type was something that anybody else in the world actually aspired to, although it’s nice to see that it’s mocked universally. It’s a fascinating chat and it makes me wonder what else these two creators can do, so it’s a good thing for me that they were nice enough to send along another book for me to ramble about later. $5
A Story For Desmond
This one says on the back of the comic that it’s “the (sort of) epilogue to the Eisner-nominated graphic novel ‘Homesick,'” so if you haven’t read that yet, maybe do that. Also kudos to the man on the Eisner nomination, as it was very much deserved. I wrote my review for Homesick three years ago, so some of the details are a little hazy to this sad excuse for a memory of mine, but the heart of it stayed with me, and this is a sweet, perfect little epilogue to that story. And, like the best epilogues, the original story still works fine without it, but this unabashedly sweet story is the perfect capper to Homesick. If you haven’t read that, and are stubbornly avoiding it for reasons only you can understand (seriously, you could borrow a copy from most decent libraries, you cheapskate you), this comic still works just fine on its own. The story here is basically Jason trying to calm his very young son down during a crying fit. Nothing he tries is going any good, until Desmond spots a picture of Jason’s mother on the wall, which inspires Jason to tell his young son a story of what his mother left behind for Desmond and how that will help him get through life, all told in a way to appeal to a very young kid. Like I said, this is an excellent final chapter for the original story, optional though it may be. The only even slight issue I have with it is that the cover makes it seem a lot more grim and dour than it actually is (although the back cover of the toy monkey mitigates that quite a bit). Anyway, parents of young kids especially will enjoy this, but it’s really one of those rare “all ages” book that actually can be enjoyed by people of all ages. $5
Monkey Squad One #14
Oh Monkey Squad One, I am clearly going to need to spend an afternoon reading you all in a clump to set everything straight in my head. The series has been getting more, well, serialized as it goes on, with this issue being the second part of a (projected) six part storyline. Various characters are scattered, other fake versions are around, some heroes are underground and robots have taken over St. Louis. Oh, and their occasional Hulk is reluctant to even try to hulk out again. Welcome to the world of Monkey Squad One! Doug does put a synopsis at the start of each comic (and three cheers to him for doing it), but even with that it’s tough to keep track of all of the characters at this point. Anyway, this issue features a few single or even double page spreads, which is going to look fantastic in the completed edition but is a bit maddening when the story is coming is small bits like this. But hey, I can complain about just about anything, so don’t mind me. The story this time mostly deals with the robot invasion and what life is like for the remnants of Monkey Squad One (the ones who aren’t on the planet made up entirely of ladies). And, yeah, that’s most of what I can cover without giving important bits away. I loved the little throwaway gag of one character cheating in a video game while the other character’s back was turned; that doesn’t give anything away! And those full page spreads did have a story purpose, as they showed the vastness of the hideout and some of the things in the hideout, so it’s not like Doug was just killing pages with all that. As has been the case for several issues now, I recommend this series highly, although you’re better off buying a chunk of them. Actually, looking at their website I don’t even see an area to buy comics, but I do see that most of the older comics are available for free by clicking on the cover, so just do that I guess.
It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time #1: How to Draw Trevor
Have you ever wanted to draw Trevor Waurechen? Granted, this question is limited to people who know who Trevor is, but bear with me here. If you’ve ever wanted to know how to do that using (mostly) common household items, this is the comic for you. Hey, come to think of it, this is titled “how to draw Trevor” and it actually has nothing to do with actually drawing the man. It just shows you how to put together a rough composite of Trevor using a variety of oddities. False advertising! Anyway, for a comic this tiny it feels like cheating to actually list the items he uses to make a (pretty good, actually) approximation of his face, which doesn’t leave me much to work with as a reviewer. How about the fact that this comic somehow shifted to the bottom of my car and was only recently uncovered during a rare (obviously) cleaning of said car, making this comic possibly ancient? I know the reviews for the other issues of this series have already been posted. As for the comic itself, it’s funny and worth it for that last page alone. No price listed, but I’m guessing a buck or two.
Buffalo: High Hopes & Dead Elm Trees
Three cheers for Caitlin, who I hope later makes a pile of money by getting these educational but still thoroughly entertaining comics into the school system somehow. This is the rough, stupid history of Buffalo which, come to think of it, is probably why it will never be taught in schools. It’s too grim for the kiddies to learn how stupid and shortsighted the designers of this city were after cars came along. To make a long story short, some dummy came along who didn’t live in Buffalo and then redesigned it around the cars, taking out most of the elm trees (one of the main claims to fame for Buffalo before that) and eventually taking out most of the houses around downtown. And then wondering why people were no longer walking to shops. The elm trees get their revenge later, sort of, but I’ll leave that for you to discover. She also goes into detail about President McKinley and his unfortunate visit to Buffalo, where he was assassinated. What I didn’t know about that assassination was that he was there for a fair, and after he was killed the enthusiasm for the fair had understandably dimmed. And that the financing for the fair was tied up pretty strongly in the future of Buffalo. Anyway, yeah, that’s a lot for a tiny comic to unpack, but she does a fantastic job of it. If you’re curious about the specifics of the printing, this is a fairly basic (but full color) mini comic, with a fold-out insert included. One side of it details the history of the elm trees, the other shows Mckinley’s assassination and the local aftermath. If you want to put both of them up on your wall, you’ll need to get two copies!
Where does all the bird crap go? That’s right, this week I’m apparently fixated on starting reviews with hypothetical questions. Most of it is washed away by rain, but what about all the places with minimal rainfall, or places like California that have been in a drought for years? I have no idea what happens in the real world and am frightened of the Google search that would answer that question for me, but in this comic, on a tiny island called Bomei, a man called Card Keeler deals with all of the bird shit. That involves cleaning it up, sure, but there’s also a lot of city planning that goes into where and how often birds shit on things, like gutter placement and the slope of roofs. Card liked his life, and he eventually met a woman on a boat ride that he later married. Their life was good; he did his thing and she was happy to stay at home. At first, anyway. She was reluctant to tell her friends what her husband did (it is a ridiculous job to say out loud) and he was out a lot, so they naturally started to drift apart. And that’s when a giant storm hit their island, bringing with it the mysterious vine that you see on the cover, which changed everything. Yep, that’s as far as I go in recapping the story, but I have to imagine that’s plenty. It’s a nicely understated tale of how the little things get in the way of a good life, how other little things can crop up to change things again, and how shouting into the void can cement a marriage. $5
Nude beach! Have you ever wanted to watch a talking dog, a golem (or maybe a Cyclops; the back of the book calls him Robot) and Kid Space Heater (who is able to cook hot dogs or play music) frolic about the beach, all seemingly indifferent to the seas of nudity surrounding them? If so, you’re in luck! Everybody has some fun, which seems to be the entire point of this comic. If that’s not enough of a comic for you, or if you’re looking for more substance, I guess the meaning of life was not uncovered in this comic. But there was hijinx, and dancing, and a very short fight. I’m fine with calling that a successful comic and had a blast reading it. Talking about it, on the other hand, is impossible much past this point, so… enjoy! Or don’t, I’m not the boss of you. But I have a hard time imagining somebody reading this without enjoying it.
OK, this comic looks gorgeous. That loopy art style, the shifting angles, the attention to little details on the characters, all damned solid. I want to emphasize that up front, because this comic really does have enough to get by on looks alone. As far the story goes, however, you really don’t get much more in this issue than you see in the title. It would make a great first chapter of a longer story (and I’m assuming that’s the plan), but as a stand-alone story there’s just not a whole lot of meat to this. The story here is about our hero as he gets a new upgrade for his vehicle. From there we see him speeding away, then we see him catch the attention of the local law enforcement. And that’s it, really. This would make a ridiculously compelling cartoon, and may very well make up a genuinely great graphic novel down the line, but as a single issue it doesn’t add up to a whole bunch. That little bit of negativity aside, I do still recommend that people buy this comic. Sounds crazy, right? But if people don’t support stories like this when they’re getting started, sometimes the creator thinks there’s no interest, and this joins the endless piles of comics series that starts and stops at #1. Don’t let that happen with Supercar!