Category Archives: Reviews

Reviews

GG – Valley

Website

Valley

Well, kudos to GG. I figured I would have an impossible time finding contact information for him or her online, but it came right up. Who would have thought? This is a comic that’s almost entirely about mood, so it’s inherently difficult to review. A woman gets a message from a group of her friends who have gone camping that they’ve run out of food and they’re hoping that she’ll be willing to drive more food to their location. She’s miffed, as she would have liked to have been invited initially, but she gets over it and decides to help them out. But this is all in the wilderness, so communication and cell phone service is unreliable at best. She ends up getting lost herself, but in a warm area with fog and what looks like a natural hot spring. She eventually hears back from them that they’ve decided to go home, but she’s in a state of bliss, so… what’s the rush? It’s more quiet and understated than that, but that message is beautiful. We should all be required to get lost at least a few times a year to keep our heads on straight. Oh, if only I was the ruler of the world. Anyway, this book is beautiful, so give it a look.

Contrary, Carrie Q. – Hot Dork Love #1

Website

Hot Dork Love #1

There’s naked people and some fucking in this comic, so if such a thing is a dealbreaker for you, watch out for this comic! How anybody could live their daily lives in this current (the hellscape of 2017, future readers) mess and have nudity be a bridge too far is beyond me, but what do I know. Now that all the puritans are gone, what’s in this comic for the rest of us? There are a few stories in here, involving sex in one way or another. The first bit is about a young lady who wanders into a Dungeons and Dragons game and finds herself turned on by the dungeon master. It takes awhile to clear the room, but they get to business eventually. Spoiler alert? Does that count in porn? Internet pedants, discuss. Other stories involve enjoying the shower a little too much, letting your mid get away from you while focusing on a nude male model, and trying to figure out the best speed to seduce a first date without scaring him away for being too aggressive. Sure, there’s plenty of sexiness here, but Carrie throws in plenty of funny lines as well. The punchline on the artist story was hilarious, as were the troubles of the woman who couldn’t seem to find the right pace for her dates. So yeah, this is definitely worth checking out. There’s more here than just sex, but if that’s all you’re after there’s plenty of it as well. $4

Cass, Caitlin – Burning Rivers

Website

Burning Rivers

For those of you who are too young to remember it (myself included), the title of this comic refers to a real thing. There were a few rivers, particularly in the 50’s and  60’s, that were so polluted that they would sometimes burst into flames. Yes, really! This comic briefly details the history of the Cuyahoga River, Chicago River, the River Rouge in Detroit, and the Buffalo River. These rivers were spectacularly disgusting, the the Buffalo River being so bad that some fishermen would intentionally take their boats through the water because it was so acidic that it would burn the barnacles right off the hull. See, and people say that pollution is harmful. Caitlin really packs a lot of information into this comic, as is her way, and once again I learned a lot that I didn’t know/had no idea existed. Each city had their own ways of dealing with the problem, with the Chicago River still being over a decade away from being really fixed. The reactions of the locals was also fascinating, as the man in the street seemed more worried about the perception of them being seen as dummies for letting their rivers get this bad more than anything else. Hey, whatever works, and shame is a potent weapon against dummies. Not always immediately (the words “President Trump” spring to mind), but it eventually catches up to ever the most thick-headed of people. This is well worth checking out, so go buy it from her! Buy as many of her other comics as you can while you’re there too. Eventually she’ll have enough of these books that there could be a whole college class dedicated to expanding on her findings in these books. $4

Katz, Keren – The Academic Hour

Website

The Academic Hour

Longtime readers of this website know that I occasionally have nothing to say about a book. Or at least nothing coherent and/or remotely insightful, but I usually bluster through it by offering a series of impressions or apologies about my deficiencies. And… here we are again! This is a remarkable book, all angles and ideas, thoughts about impossibilities and how to get over them (if they can be overcome), and a doomed love affair that never seems all that passionate. Most of the images look they were finished by an act of will; Keren could have just kept going with some of them until they filled the page, or spilled through the pages onto the rest of the book, or drawn onto and even into you if you sat still long enough. I rarely flip back through a book immediately after finishing it, but I did that here, taking time to ignore some of the captions just to see if I could get where she was going with the images alone. In most cases I could! Or at least I could get to where I thought she was trying to go, imperfect though my thoughts might be. It makes quite an impression, there’s no denying that. Subjects in here include a trapped horse and how to get him down, polishing bones with your moustache, whether or not the planned buried railroad cars exist, telling stories to get the person to fall in love with you, a young lover wondering when and if her teacher was watching her, and the watching witch. This book reminded me, above all else, of the feeling people sometimes gets that everything and nothing are both just a little bit off to the side, out of reach but not impossibly so. It’s all right there, if you tilt your head just right, angle your arms just so that they can slip through that veil and grab a bit of what’s on the other side. If you angle too far you’ll slide right through and never return, and if you don’t angle them enough you’ll never see a thing. Get yourself and your mind into exactly the right position, take a deep breath and dive right in. $19.95

O’Brien, Keith (and Various Artists) – Samurai Slate in Punch Drunk or Bowl Me Over

Website (for Tom Cherry, can’t find one for Keith)

Samurai Slate in Punch Drunk or Bowl Me Over

So what exactly is your tolerance level for word puns? If it’s your favorite thing in the world, boy howdy do I ever have a comic for you! If you can barely stand them, you might want to save yourself some time and move on to the next review. Keith wrote these stories, all either one or two pages, and they all feature a comedic theme based on a specific type of wordplay. The strip I sampled (where the story works in using every day of the week) is the clearest example of it, but other stories in here use puns based on books, punctuation, cows, India, chess and minerals. If your eyes naturally roll to the back of your head every time you/read hear a pun, this book might just kill you. If not, there are some genuinely funny bits here and there, and just seeing how they manage to work all these words into each story can be interesting. So… get this with your eyes wide open. I doubt there will be much middle ground for an opinion here, but you might just love it. No price listed, but I’m guessing it’s a buck or two…

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #13

Website

Ruffians #13

OK, one thing first, just to make sure you get it: I’m going to talk about spoilers here, because this is the last issue of a series so of course I’m going to talk spoilers, either read the series before reading this or don’t read the series ever, in which case spoilers will never effect your life. But it’s a fun series overall, so you might want to read it. Anyway! My main conclusion after reading this last issue, ambiguous Soprano’s-style ending notwithstanding? Scar might be an immortal. Sure, he’s a three foot tall blue bear, so the rules for his existence were never clearly defined, so maybe that’s on me? But he was shot eight times in the back (and arm) in the last issue, and it is never mentioned or addressed in this issue. Thanks to Erin, he manages to escape what seems to be certain death in that nightclub, not seeming to be slowed down in the least, and then goes to a diner to get some food and talk some more to his dead friend Black Jack. So are we to assume that he was hit with a paint gun? That he had body armor that covered his back? Which wouldn’t do a thing to explain those 8 bloody bullet holes we see in the last issue. If it seems like I’m focusing too much on this aspect, hey, maybe you’re right! But if you or I were shot eight times in the back, maybe we could get a burst of adrenaline off long enough to take a few more assassins out (in real life we’d almost certainly just be dead), but once the adrenaline wore off that would be it. It seems like Brian sacrificed the natural flow of the story for a more dramatic gunfight in the last issue, and considering the care he took with the rest of the series, it strikes me as a misstep. Still, putting aside that one aspect (with great difficulty, obviously), we do get a final battle with Scar and Malt, we get to see him confront Cypris, and we finally get the real answer of what happened to Black Jack. I was wrong in my guess, which is always gratifying as a reader. And I’d still recommend this series as a whole. There’s intrigue, betrayals, an overarching mystery… a lot to love here. There were a couple of missteps here and there, but there’s more than enough good here to overshadow those things. $3.99

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #12

Website

Ruffians #12

It’s the penultimate (I love being able to use that word and have it fit) issue in the series, so you can be sure that there’s a lot of gunplay going on in this one. Brian doesn’t waste any time with it either; our hero tosses back a few more drinks, gets warned off one more time by the ghost of Black Jack, then puts a gun to the head of Cypris. Unfortunately his mustache disguise fell off during those drinks, so now all the assassins at this party recognize him. It’s one of the more baffling aspects of this story, the fact that that disguise worked so well, but it’s not much of a stretch to think of most of these assassins as not being all that bright. Oh, and Erin (Scar’s lawyer/lover) is there as well, and she’s armed, so she also gets a few murders in, although I lost track of her in all the chaos. Things take a turn towards the end of the issue, as Scar is finally tagged with some gunfire. 8 bullets in the back to be exact, which seems like enough to murder just about anybody. But who kills off the hero before the last issue? So Scar is still standing, if just barely, as he tries to summon the strength to find and kill Cypris (who ran away in all the confusion). One issue left to go, then I’ll have some thoughts about the whole series to wrap it all up. If you’re a weirdo who only buys one issue of a series and doesn’t care about the larger story but loves guns, this would be the one to get. $2.99

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #11

Website

Ruffians #11

Boy, Brian has really picked up the pace on his release schedule as the end is in sight (says the guy who is reading the last half dozen issues in a chunk). This one came out in March 2016 and #10 came out in February of the same year. In small press comics that is lightning fast! Things start off this time around with Scar having a drunken/hallucinating conversation with Black Jack, who he pictures as the bartender. During that conversation we learn that Scar really doesn’t want to have to kill the man who raised him, and that the ghost of Black Jack (as imagined by Scar) doesn’t want Scar to get himself killed trying. Our hero makes his way to the bathroom, where we learn that he is definitely drunk, and his washing his face to try to sober himself up ends up making his terrible disguise fall off. Oh, and one of the hitmen is also in the bathroom, and was apparently completely fooled by said disguise. A pretty brutal fight follows, and Scar gets out of the bathroom just in time for Cypris to get introduced. Two issues left in this story, and I’m guessing they’re going to be bloody messes, but this relatively quiet issue was a good chance to get in Scar’s head one last time before everything falls apart. Or unless everybody gets a happy ending, which is not something I’d bet any money on. $2.99

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #10

Website

Ruffians #10

Scar has one very immediate problem to take care at the start of this issue: who sold him out during his escape in the last issue? He uses some casually psychotic methods to get to the bottom of it, but he gets there: it was Cypris, biggest crime boss in the city, and the guy in charge of all the hitmen. Oh, and the guy who more or less raised Scar. So this is a problem! Scar manages to come up with one of the worst disguises I’ve ever seen (how do you hide a three foot tall blue bear?), gains access to the birthday party for Cypris, and tries his best to blend in. As of the close of this issue (back in dicey spoiler territory here, I know), the disguise is still working, but Scar comes across a familiar face tending bar. This is probably the closest this series has come to slowing things down a bit, as only one person gets killed (granted, it’s not a pleasant death), and there’s not even a cliffhanger to speak of. Catch your breath here, as I’m guessing our hero being in at a birthday party, surrounded by hitmen on all sides, is not something that’s going to work itself out peacefully. Just a hunch! $2.99

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #9

Website

Ruffians #9

When we closed out the last issue, our hero was getting stabbed at the end of a prison riot. As we open up the new issue, our hero is getting zipped up into a body bag. I’d say that things were looking a little grim for him, but luckily he still has a few friends out in the world. And one of them had a master plan for getting him out of prison that (spoiler alert, I guess, which is a tricky concept when I’m reviewing an entire series in two weeks) actually involved him getting stabbed by somebody on the inside who knew how to make it look good without killing him, so it’s all fine. Some smart writing from Brian and some great work keeping the tension high. After Scar regains consciousness he gets the whole story from his lady lawyer friend and her two accomplices, right before someone starts shooting up the ambulance that he’s escaping in. Hey, why make things easy on the guy? The rest of the issue involves a whole lot of gunplay, a few people getting shot and some solid suspicions of betrayal, which keeps the story moving right along.  No time to waste, I have more comics to read! $2.99

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #8

Website

Ruffians #8

It’s prison riot time! Scar sees everyone in the prison as the man (OK, gorilla) who killed his friend Black Jack, so he has no trouble taking his rage out on all of them. The vast majority of this issue is pure mayhem, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that not much happens with the plot this time around. Still, there’s a brief sequence where Scar remembers a mental image of Black Jack, lying bloody on the ground… with Scar standing over him. Delusion caused by multiple blows to the head? Guilt at failing to prevent the death of his friend? Or something more ominous? Guess we’ll find out at some point over the next half dozen issues, huh? Other notable happenings this time around include a whole lot of punching, more than a little bit of stabbing and the unfortunate occurrence of our hero ending the issue on what looks like a fatal note. I guess we won’t know whether or not that’s true until the next issue. Since that would mean that we’d have the next five issues without a protagonist I’m guessing he pulls through, but tune in for the next review to find out! Or just read the comics. Technically the series is over while I’m writing this, so this only has to stay a mystery to you if you prefer it that way… $1.99

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #7

Website

Ruffians #7 Now Available! $1.50

Here we go, back to the story we all know and love. Or at least you love it if you’re fond of figuring out what’s going to happen between the gorilla and the bear like I am. Scar’s still in prison, but his briefly “peaceful” existence is coming to an end, as tensions are about to boil over. Various factions are going to go at it, nobody knows who’s going to come out on top or what’s going to happen. Brian does a nice job here bringing things slowly to a boil and then bringing on the mayhem towards the end of the book. It’s well worth a look, as are most of the other issues in this series, and now you have the chance to catch up through this website (if I may toot my own horn for just a moment). $1.50

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #6

Website

Ruffians #6 Now Available! $1.50

Aw, dammit! I was having such a good time with this series, really getting into the characters and wondering where this whole thing was heading. Then Brian had to go and put himself in the comic. This has always struck me as a fairly ridiculous thing to do, especially in a case like this where it’s a fictional comic. Sure, Dan Clowes or Chester Brown showing up in a story of theirs isn’t the worst thing in the world, at least in the autobio stuff. But this… blech. This issue starts off with Scar walking up to the front door of the home of Brian Canini. You may be thinking that we get all sorts of answers to the story here, or at least his presence moves the plot along. No and no. Brian does mention the origin of why Scar looks the way he does (he looks like a teddy bear Brian had as a child), but that’s the extent of the useful information we are given here. Unless you’re curious about the life of Brian, as he does go into why he moved out of Ohio, which is fine if that had the slightest bit to do with the actual story. At least there’s a big old prison brawl in the last few pages (after Scar “wakes up” to find himself back there), but it can’t save this issue. At the end of the issue you’re exactly where you were at the end of the last issue, and that’s a hard thing to ignore in an ongoing series like this. Maybe when all is said and done this will have some significance to the storyline and I’ll be proven an idiot (not the first time), but for now I say again, blech. Oh, and don’t think this means I’ve given up on this. Not by a long shot, it’s still a lot of fun and I’m still wondering where this is all headed. This issue by itself just didn’t do a thing for me, that’s all. $1.50

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #5

Website

Ruffians #5 Now Available! $1.50

This issue seems to represent a bit of a lull in the series, which I suppose makes sense if you consider the fact that it’s entirely inside the prison, so what exactly can a hitman, bent on revenge, do in there anyway? In this issue Scar wins some cigarettes, gets the crap beat out of him, and meets his “lawyer”, in which we get some hope that he might get out of all this yet. All in all a decent issue, not something that does a whole lot for me on its own, but probably as a piece of a larger whole it’ll make everything run together more smoothly. That’s assuming, of course, that the series is going to keep moving right along. The steady pace of these things coming out has kept me, cynical as I can be about people giving up on their various comic series, hopeful about there being a beginning, middle and end here, as well as a will to keep it all moving. Go Brian go! $1.50

Update 6/30/17: The pessimist in me was hard at work when I first reviewed this about a decade ago, but Brian proved me wrong and finished his series. Young artists who are stuck at #2 or #3 in their series, follow his lead!

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #4

Website

Ruffians #4 Now Available! $1.50

Things just keep getting worse for Scar, as this issue shows him entering prison and immediately picking a fight with one of the most powerful guys in the place. Which I’ve heard is sometimes sound advice if you find yourself stuck in prison, although maybe not the best idea for an unarmed three foot tall bear. There are also a few flashbacks in here, showing us a bit more why Scar cares so much to avenge the death of his friend, and a few new characters get introduced who are already in prison. Hey, the guy’s a hitman, it makes sense for him to already know people in the place. What can I say, I still can’t wait to see what happens in the next issue, and that’s all I can ever ask from a series. $1.50

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #3

Website

Ruffians #3 Now Available! $1.50

What, did you really think that fight scene was over with just because it got interrupted? This issue has the best of both worlds, as there’s plenty of mayhem to go around and we get the answers to some burning questions. Like why the hell does Scar wear those giant boxing gloves anyway? Did Malt have something against Black Jack? And who is the woman who comes to his door? OK, one of those questions has no relevance to the larger story, but it’s up to you to figure out which one. Another excellent, fast-paced issue, nothing to complain about here once again. $1.50

Update 6/26/17: How did I not mention that ending the first time around? It’s just about the last way you’d think a prolonged fight (featuring multiple gunshot wounds and stabbings) between two professional hitmen would end. Kudos to Brian for that one.

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #2

Website

Ruffians #2 Now Available! $1.50

OK, I’m offically over my problems with the main character of this story being a three foot tall bear. Watching him getting his ass kicked for the better part of an issue will do that for me, apparently. While the last issue set up the story, this one was all action, with Scar confronting the assassin who killed his friend (a giant gorilla named Malt) and them both shooting and stabbing their way through each other and the issue. Great pace, good fight scene, nothing to complain about here, unless you wanted more character development or something, in which case move along. I just got issue #3 and 4 today, so obviously things are going to move right along from here. And kudos on the choice to drop it down to $1.50 and lose the color cover. Sure, it looks a whole lot better the other way, but this way there’s more of a chance for people to just pick it up and give it a chance. Besides, the eventual collected edition can have a fancy color cover to make up for it…

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #1

Website

Ruffians #1 Now Available! $2.95

Oof, look at all those old timey scans down there. If I had all the free time in the world I would rescan all that nonsense, but that’s exceedingly unlikely. I always love getting stuff from people whose work I saw years ago, whether or not I liked the old stuff, because it always does me some good to see that people really do stick with this comics thing through thick and thin. This one is an uneven effort, but it has its moments. This is the story of Scar, an assassin that’s pictured on the cover. Yes, the giant blue bear with the boxing gloves, which is a large part of the problem. He’s portrayed as a hardcore killer who doesn’t blink to torture a man for information about his murdered friend, but… well, just look at him. Terrifying isn’t the first word that comes to mind. The story, if you can ignore the teddy bear aspect, is done really well. Scar finds his friend (another assassin) dead to start the comic, and Brian makes excellent use of flashbacks interspersed with the real time action in a bar, keeping everything moving at a good pace. We learn a bit more of the backstory of his murdered friend, get to see him torturing a guy in a bathroom for information, and get a solid impression of Scar as a tortured soul. The art, though, was the best pleasant surprise of the book. If you look at the other samples they look somewhere between amateurish and so-so, with backgrounds existing only in your mind. This time around there the settings are tremendously detailed, the people look more like actual people and everything is just… bigger. This makes you believe that it’s happening in the real world. Until, that is, you get back to the big teddy bear, which is obviously something I wasn’t able to fully get over. Maybe it gets explained to some satisfaction in later issues, and he did send #2 along with this, so I should have a review for that one up in the coming weeks to help clarify. If you can get past the bear and like a (potentially) good mystery/suspense/action story, it’s well worth a look. $2.95

Porcellino, John – King Cat #77

Website

King Cat #77

You know what the clearest sign would be that I had somehow become the leader of the free world? If every new issue of King Cat became a national holiday. Why not? It would give everybody the day to go to their favorite coffee shop or park, read the book and contemplate what they just read. There I go again, dreaming of a better world. As always, this review is not going to be particularly objective, because I doubt very much that this website would exist without King Cat. For this title I have no cynicism. This time around John talks briefly about his recent health and family problems, various interactions he’s had with neighborhood animals (he even includes footnotes if you wonder where he got some of his research), his latest top 40 (which, as always, is not exactly 40 things), and includes another lengthy and thought provoking letters page. But wait, there are also comics! It’s actually mostly comics, as always. Those stories include the time that his dogs caught a possum (and how he ended up saving it), the other time his dogs cornered a possum and caused it to play dead (which led to him googling how long “playing dead” took; it’s about 40 minutes to 4 hours if you’re curious), his toad Vincent from when he was a kid, that time when he took a caterpillar home as a kid and how it became a butterfly, the frogs that he kept a kid, how he kept spotting big cats in Illinois and how the authorities were oddly hesitant to admit that there was a problem, and his other time spotting a big cat in Wisconsin. Yep, a lot of nature this time around, as he’s clearly been doing some exploring. OK, what are you waiting for? There’s a new King Cat out, go buy it! $5

Hewitt, Joseph – SnowCone City: Rocket to Pluto

Website

SnowCone City: Rocket to Pluto

Hey look, SnowCone City has given up numbering the issues! Joseph explained that these are mostly self-contained anyway, but then kind of talked himself out of that (in the letter he sent with the comic) because this one ends on a cliffhanger. So who knows what the next issue will bring! This time around our heroes have decided to take the fight to the big bad guy who has been sending them weekly monsters to fight instead of just defending the city against all the monsters. They get into a ship, head off into space and everything goes fine, the end. Or possibly they have a series of adventures before finally confronting their nemesis, you tell me what would make the better comic. There’s a lot to like about their encounter with the sentient space tofu and the space rabbits, as they naturally assume that the cute ones are the victims and vice versa. When they finally do land at their destination they encounter a miniature version of their own city, complete with tiny penguin figurines. This leads to another confrontation and a pretty great godzilla-style fight among the tiny buildings. Then there’s the nemesis, but I can’t say anything about that, because come on now. I’ll just say that it turns everything you thought you knew about this series on its ear, leaving a whole lot of explaining for the next issue. It’s still a fun book, there are still plenty of funny bits, so check it out if you’re a fan of power rangers/space fights/sentient penguins. $5