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Quantic, David & Bonvillain, Tamra – Bakersfield, Earth #1

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Bakersfield, Earth #1

I have one tiny problem with this comic, and I absolutely loved the rest of it. For a change, I’m going to talk about all the good stuff first, just in case anybody wanders off in the middle of the review. This is the story of an alien from Jupiter who has lived on this planet since before the start of recorded human history by taking over the bodies of humans moments after they die. Why did he/she stay for so long? Mostly cheese fries. Which implies that cheese fries were invented thousands of years before anybody thought, which would explain a lot. That timeline David gives of the important events in human history is packed with funny, so don’t just skip over the page. Anyway, life goes on for hey I just realized that we never learned the real name of our hero. Huh. So life goes on for this creature until we finally make it into the 70’s, where it hops into the body of a transgendered man. Some altercations take place before our hero finally stands up for him/herself, at which point he/she decides to start standing up for the little guy on a regular basis. This, unfortunately, attracts the attention of a mercenary whose job is to bring back missing aliens, and things get ugly from there. All of this was compelling as could be, and here is where I’ll put my complaints. Please note that actual complaints are about the quality of the comic itself, and I have no issues there (writing was solid and Tamra did a great job with the art). So, my “complaints”: he left so much out! So many lives that were all glossed over, then the events of the ending (which I don’t want to spoil) that were glossed over so quickly. We never see Jupiter and there is still so much to learn about it. Which I guess means that it’s a good thing that this is marked with a “#1″, right? I mean, it’s not like they could have had a 500 page debut comic to tell all the backstory. Well, I’d read it, but I’m a weirdo when it comes to this stuff. So, a solid first issue that left me wanting much more story than I got. Sounds like a pretty solid recommendation to me. $5

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Vaivare, Anna – Mini Kus #24: Swimming Pool

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Mini Kus #24: Swimming Pool

I’ve long had a fascination with the people who work behind the scenes, the ones who almost nobody notices in their day to day lives. Janitors, customer service people, lifeguards, anybody who is only noticed if they mess up while doing their jobs. This comic is all about a woman who lives at a swimming pool by night and keeps everything about it clean by day. Along the way she talks about the various people she encounters on a daily basis, bits of her life that led up to her taking this job, and the dread she feels at the thought of going back to any part of her old life. It all leads up to a big reveal at the end that I’m not going to get into, as that would be cheating. Still, Anna does an excellent job of planting the seeds for the reveal along the way, and things end on a genuinely sweet moment. The art is gorgeous, as it’s all painted and she does a great job of showing the various types of people who use a pool along with the fact that the water is never completely still from all the activity. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable story and you should give it a look. $6

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Eronen, Roope – Mini Kus #25: Magnetism

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Mini Kus #25: Magnetism

People who read science fiction stories expecting the science to make total sense, please stop reading now. People who are able to read a science fiction story and think of it as a allegory for other aspects of life without getting too bogged down in the specifics, read on! This one starts off with an obviously sad young woman at a coffee shop. She is unable to get coffee and has to settle for cold water, and the place is practically deserted. Despite this fact a young man asks if he can sit with her, and she reluctantly agrees. This is when we learn that things have gone horribly wrong on this planet and that she’s willing to try almost anything to get away from it. This young man was actually a businessman with a unique product: a magnet that will take you to a different place in the universe. He calculates some basics about the planet to see if it has the basic elements necessary for a human to survive, teleports one magnet to the location, and has the customer swallow the other magnet to get there. Surviving the trip is not explained, but please refer back to the first sentence of this review if you have any qualms about that. Anyway, this somehow manages to be a cute story about utter desperation, and that final image of ____ (thought I was going to slip there, didn’t you?) ended things on a hilarious note. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed. $6

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Kern, Gail – Memoirs of a Muse #4: Akhenaten

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Memoirs of a Muse #4: Akhenaten

OK, I hate to start one of these off with a complaint, but there are more than a few pages in this one where the copy cuts off words on the edge of the page. Which isn’t the worst thing in the world, granted, but by the fourth issue of a series you should really have that sort of thing figured out. That’s a lesson to everybody making comics, free of charge: get the basics right please! All kinds of people (me included) could pick this up in a comics store, notice something like that and put it right back down. Of course, these are review copies, so I didn’t have to worry about the price. Anyway! In this issue the Muse is still waiting for a Pharaoh to come along with some artistic talent so that she can join her love in the afterlife. The visuals in this one were striking, definitely the best of the series, but I must confess that I’m losing the thread of the story a bit. The Muse is taken from a guy who gets assassinated and bides her time to find the right pharaoh, so we see quite a bit of time passing. Eventually she finds her man, but he starts going blind, which complicates her plans. From there we see a conversation between her and the god who had agreed to help this blind pharaoh, which is all done against a sheer black background, which is also a chance for some of the conversation to seep out the sides of the pages. Things get a bit chaotic from there, and in theory the next issue will be set in Greece. I’m still intrigued to see where this whole thing is going, but it’s hard to escape the sense that it’s meandering a bit. As I can’t find a hint of these books online that may be a moot point, but I’m interested in seeing more if any more are forthcoming.

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Daubure, Ruta & Anete – Mini Kus #23: Domino

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Mini Kus #23: Domino

What happens if the person who was responsible for maintaining the balance in the world took a day off? That’s the premise here, as our hero Rober generally does what he can to keep things even. He can use any object, great or small, to maintain this balance. He’s never seen, but he is crucial, and one day he decides to rest. He eats cookies on a train because, as the text says, “he thinks that is what the usual people do.” He notices something that could be his concern, but he leaves it alone, as it’s his day off. Then somebody stops him as he’s getting off the train to give him his hat… but Rober didn’t own a hat. And with that, the balance is thrown off with the guy who is supposed to be keeping the balance, but Rober is helpless in the face of what comes next. We also get to meet the “bad guys” and hear a bit of their reasoning for why they do what they do. It’s a fascinating story, but I have to at least mention how incredible the artwork is here. Ruta is all about big, expressive colors, and every page of this teems with life. Granted, Ruta and Anete are sisters so them having a clear connection isn’t the oddest thing in the world, but it does make this book what it is. If you do get this (and you should), take a few extra minutes to let the images soak into your head. Trust me, it’s worth it. $6

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Pavlovskis, Oskars – Mini Kus #22: Lucky

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Mini Kus #22: Lucky

We’ve all gotten to see various “interview” shows in recent years (The Office, Parks & Recreation) where we get to know fundamentally decent people. Oh sure, they’re wacky because they’re on tv, but you know, you’re unlikely to find a genuinely terrible person in those types of shows. Well, meet Lucky. This one starts off with Lucky being interviewed by an unseen person. Lucky tells us a bit about his average day and his basic philosophy in life, but we don’t really see it in action until Lucky tears the side mirror off a car. From here he uses one of several phones (or an internet cafe) to sell the mirror online and, as he’s stealing them off cars, there’s always somebody in the area who can use a mirror. Things go downhill for Lucky from there, as we also see him mugging a guy and pretending to get injured after being “hit” by a car, and all the while his interviewer is trying to get Lucky to see what he’s doing to other people and to change his ways. Finally the two of them have a confrontation, and I can say no more without giving away the whole thing. I’ll just say that you’re not going to see it coming, and I feel confident in saying that even if my saying that will instantly put you on your guard, expecting a twist. Even so, you will no see it coming. That ending is more than a little bit haunting, but Oskars earns every bit of it. Check it out if you want to learn how to be a professional asshole, or if perhaps you just want a little more insight into their existence. $6

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Jackson, Rob – Slaves of the Megapode #3

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Slaves of the Megapode #3

Oh Megapode, what exactly are you? That question is answered in this final issue, more or less, and Rob even manages to sneak in an alarming epilogue on the back cover, but I’m getting ahead of myself. In the last issue our heroes were confronted by some Roman soldiers, although that fizzles out without a struggle. They’re arrested and kept under heavy guard, but there are many hidden passages and they manage to escape to get a better look at what’s really happening. From there they uncover where the conspiracy is coming from, which also explains why it’s impossible to do much of anything to stop it. This is also the point where I have to stop talking about the plot or I’ll get into spoilers, and nobody wants that. I’ll say instead that Rob wraps this up in a thoroughly satisfactory fashion; he has more or less mastered the art of the comics trilogy. Unless he’s implying that there’s more to come with that epilogue, in which case never mind. I like to think that he went with that last page to preserve some ambiguity, but I am most definitely not the author, so that’s just a guess. I wonder if Rob has ever considered some sort of personal omnibus? Marvel and DC have been releasing 1000+ pages of certain titles or crossovers, and it’s nice to have everything in one place. Rob certainly has a large enough back catalog that he could put out his own edition. Of course, money would be a big factor, but that’s why Kickstarter exists, right? Anyway, it’s another solid series from the man, and another one that you should check out immediately if you have not already done so.

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Gasiorowska, Renata – Mini Kus #21: Jungle Night

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Mini Kus #21: Jungle Night

Does it make you crazy or depressed if you just want to be alone after a certain amount of time spent with a large group of friends? That’s the question that Renata asks in this comic, and I think she comes up with a pretty compelling answer. This one starts with our hero, Lili, waking up in the hospital. She has just been found after three days of being lost in the forest and spends the comic trying to explain why she “ran away,” and why she doesn’t think of it as running away. There’s a tradition of the youth all going into the forest together to reconnect to their roots. All of these characters are animals that have evolved to walk upright, wear clothes and talk, so the adults think that it’s important to keep this tradition. The kids, as kids do, see it more as an excuse to go into the forest with a large group of friends to drink and have fun. Anyway, all is going well, the kids are having fun, but Lili is feeling more and more disconnected to the group. Finally she has that moment at the party (that I think most people have at least a few times in their lives) where she notices that everybody else has paired up or is talking to each other, but she’s off on her own. Which makes her think that she could just get up and walk away without anybody noticing, so that’s what she does. But does that make her depressed? She clearly doesn’t think of herself that way, and it’s certainly a natural enough instinct. Your opinions may vary, but I know where I stand on this one. $6

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de Wet, Jean – Mini Kus #20: Crater Lake

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Mini Kus #20: Crater Lake

Oh silent comics, you do vex me so. For those of you who are new to the site, I’ve showed my ignorance on the meanings of certain silent comics several times over the 13+ years that I’ve been reviewing comics. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don’t, and sometimes I think I do but actually don’t. That last option is the most amusing, at least in hindsight. Anyway, this is all stalling so that I can avoid talking about this comic, as I had very little idea of what was happening before I read the back. The comic itself is a series of scenes, told mostly over two page spreads, of several happenings around a town as a meteor shower (?) is happening. Most of these scenes are shown at such a distance that you could plausibly come up with several reasons for why they’re doing what they’re doing and then, to me at least, things ended rather abruptly. The back of the comic helpfully mentions the various things that they’re doing, but I had a hard time going back into the comic and picking out which pages depict which events. It’s still a gorgeous book, but I was more impressed with the ideas going on than I was with the execution of them. Then again, I do have a sporadic and inconsistent dislike of silent comics, so take that into consideration when reading this review. $6

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Spina, Sam – Tarn #5: Bich Bird

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Tarn #5: Bich Bird

Warning! Don’t flip this comic over unless you want to have the ending spoiled for you. Such as it is, and it’s not like knowing this one detail would ruin your enjoyment of the rest of the series, but I thought I’d better throw that out there. Anyway, the secret of Tarn is revealed here, at least a little bit. Either that or it was never really a mystery, it was just a reading comprehension problem on my end. Things start off with the aftermath of the crash of Titanic 2, and all of our heroes have managed to survive the flight. Just barely in some cases, but they all made it. The Bich Bird comes down to make fun of the guy who planned Titanic 2, Sans finally gets somebody to understand him, Pigboss finds love, and Mr. Futts (after coming back from the dead) runs off in search of as many butts as he can find. Frankly, I see a spin-off comic for Mr. Futts, as we don’t see him again until the end of the comic, and his entire rampage is left to the imagination of the reader. Sam did a nice job of bringing this odd crew together and somehow managing to end all of their stories in a satisfying fashion. I’m still waiting for him to make a crappy comic, but so far the man has been a damned comics master, and you should be buying his new books as they come out to keep giving him reasons to make these funny books. Because sooner or later he’ll take his talents to a field where he is financially compensated in a manner appropriate to his talents, so let’s delay that day as long as possible! $1 (I think $5 for the set, that makes sense anyway)

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Berliac – Mini Kus #19: Inverso

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Mini Kus #19: Inverso

What’s worth blowing up your relationship over? If your job is to locate and place tracking collars on young jaguars in an effort to increase their population, finding more jaguars would seem like a typical day at the office. But if you had credible reports of something the natives were calling a negative jaguar, well, that might be enough to torpedo the relationship. Things start off in this one with an argument with the couple (although we never see the lady), which ends when the male leaves town to try and find this jaguar. From there he goes deeper and deeper, both mentally and physically, in his efforts to learn more about this creature and to canvas the jungle to narrow down the places where this beast could be living. Theories of what this thing might be abound, and quixotic hunts like this rarely end well. Then again, this is a hunt for a beast that can only be seen by its spots, and then only at night. It’s a thoroughly engaging story, and it leaves you with a lot to think about when you’re done. Give it a chance, is what I’m saying. $6

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Jordan, Michael – Mini Kus #18: This No Place To Stay

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Mini Kus #18: This No Place To Stay

OK, it’s almost certainly cheating to put the synopsis on here from the back of the comic, but I just can’t resist. So: “This No Place To Stay is a semi-fictional, semi-biographical story by the German artist Michael jordan. His bearded alter ego travels through a coffee cup into a labyrinth inside a hospital laboratory. Hopefully the wound in the nurse’s hand can rescue him…” And no, those ellipses are not me letting the synopsis trail off, that’s just how they ended it. Why put the entire thing in the review? Because I couldn’t have put it better myself, and because it raises many more questions than it answers. Things start off with our bearded hero (and I am dying to know which parts of this are biographical) going up a long staircase to enter a cave/mountain wall/waiting room. From here he is meant to be processed, but is told to wait in the cafe, where he sees other sleeping people, is told that sleeping is not allowed, and wakes up in a hospital with his arm in a sling. From here we see the creepy people in charge of the hospital, the nurse who wants to help (it also features a few nurses who see no point in helping), and our hero’s eventual attempt at escape. The whole thing is delightfully surreal and more than a little claustrophobic. No, I’m not sure how that happens in a comic with plenty of wide open spaces either, but trust me, that’s what I was feeling. It’s gorgeous, it’s haunting and I’m not entirely sure what to make of it. Sounds like the perfect comic to me! $6

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Spina, Sam – Tarn #4: Titanic 2

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Tarn #4: Titanic 2

Oh, so that’s where all this was heading. Still no clue about the title, but there’s still one more issue to figure that out. This time around we meet Mr. Harland, the shirtless person (?) from the front cover. He has commissioned the Titanic 2, which is the largest airplane ever built. When asked about the negative connotations of that name, he merely points out the box office totals from the film with the name “Titanic” to prove his point that it’s a good idea. From there we learn that the entire cast of characters has ended up on this flight by one way or another, and we get the first hilarious interaction between the three characters from the earlier issues. The comic ends with the airplane very shakily taking off, and with a name like that I can’t imagine that the flight is going to end well. But that’s all to be discovered in the next issue and, once again, there’s no reason in the world for you not to be reading this. Find $5 in the couch cushions or something, send it to Sam, and enjoy. But maybe make it paper money first, as otherwise the postage would get ridiculous… $1

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Mitchell, Brian John & Badon, Joe – Built #3

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Built #3

Is it possible for a comic to be one long “awwwww!!!” And just to clarify that, I mean that sound effect to indicate cuteness, not terror. This time around our hero the free robot has taken refuge with a lady who seemingly likes to take in strays. As such, in this issue the robot gets to know a stray cat she has taken in, and gets to observe the behavior and speech patterns of this creature. The bits about it not functioning properly (as it’s a bit panicked about being taken in initially) and it malfunctioning but being strangely endearing regardless (while purring) were hilarious. I’m generally against spoiling such moments in a review, but there are more than a few of them sprinkled in here. I have no idea of the direction of this series overall, as this entire issue was confined to the house, but I’m still intrigued to see where this is going. This issue, all by itself, is adorable, and one of those issues that you could show non-comics reading people to get them on your side. $1

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Spina, Sam – Tarn #3: Sans San

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Tarn #3: Sans San

Well, we’re at the halfway point in the Tarn saga (I’m aware that it doesn’t make any sense to call five issues of a mini comic a saga, but I’m sticking with it anyway). And characters are starting to interact with each other a bit more, so it’s clearly all leading to a dramatic conclusion with them all pointing guns at each other. I haven’t read the last two issues yet, obviously, but I am so very hoping that that is true. Anyway, this time around we meet Sans San, and his thing is that he’s always late. And he speaks Japanese, or possibly gibberish (according to another character), but I’d need a translator to know for sure. He has a job interview, plenty of time to get there and he is determined not to be late for once. But! As he throws up his arms in celebration, his keys go flying off straight into the bag of the guy who eats butts from the first issue. Which might not have been that bad, but said guy was riding on a scooter at the time, so he’s out of earshot before Sans is even able to register what happened. The rest of the issue is a desperate chase involving a language barrier, the constraints of honor and an unexpected team-up. OK, maybe it’s expected because they’re both in this issue, but the way in which they teamed up was still unexpected. Another solid issue, one more reason for you to check out this series. $1

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Purnell, Brontez & Hessig, Janelle – The Cruising Diaries

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The Cruising Diaries

It’s a sad fact of my upbringing, but whenever I read a book like this I can’t help wishing that overly religious people were forced to read it. Not for punishment, but because I think it would help them understand humanity a bit more. Not that this book aspires to anything so lofty as all that, and you can tell the theme right from the title. These are the adventures in cruising from Brontez, told in full (and often hilarious) detail, and he has no interest in worrying about the delicate sensibilities of anybody. Which is great, as this book would have been ridiculous if it was censored. He writes a story of whatever happened on one side, and Janelle Hessig illustrates them on the other. The image of his drunken face, covered in cum and heading back out to a wedding, was my favorite, but there are lots to choose from. Subjects of these stories (and he’s nice enough to include a map of these encounters in the front) include his finally hooking up at a punk bar, getting fucked by Santa, the reality of a job working in a bathhouse, the family guy with all the warts on his dick, the straight guy and his trouble with condoms, all of the shit that guys with big dicks think they can get away with, getting fucked by a ghost, the homeless guy (and how it was bad to discriminate), the locker room guy, and fisting while on shrooms. And more, but I should leave some surprises for you. If you’re prone to fainting spells and fits of nervousness then maybe you shouldn’t read this, but for everybody else this book had me laughing plenty, those illustrations by Janelle made great stories even better and I even learned a few new terms which, considering all the gay friends I’ve had over the years, I didn’t think was even possible. Buy it and enjoy, is what I’m trying to tell you. $10

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Kirby, Rob (editor) – Pratfall

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Pratfall

Has the theme of falling on your face/ass/other ever been the subject of a comics anthology before? I can’t think of one, but it’s such a natural fit. This naturally made me think of various falls in my life, and I kept coming back to one what wasn’t really a fall and also wasn’t me. I was walking with a couple of friends on an icy road years ago. One of these friends is 6’6”, and my other friend and I noticed him start to slide. This is one of those moments when time slows down, but after the fact we would both swear that he had fallen far enough backwards for the back of his head to slide on the ground, but he somehow more or less kept his balance and never did completely fall. Not sure even today if that’s a good story or a “you had to be there” story, but it’s notable that I still remember it maybe 15 years later. Anyway! The point of that story is that it’s impossible to read this comic without thinking of pratfalls you know and love, and Rob has assembled quite a talented bunch here to tell their stories. There’s Carrie McNinch’s story of getting her thumb slammed in the door (and her mother driving away with said thumb stuck in the door), Becky Hawkins and her amazing collection of bruises and cuts (not the mention her ridiculously unlucky landing spot), Aron Nels Steinke almost knocking his eye out, Tessa Brunton’s spectacular rolling fall, John Porcellino’s skateboarding mess, Jason Viola’s trip to Russia and the impression he must have left with some of those people, Noah Van Sciver and his preventative precautions taken to prevent ever being hurt again, Cara Bean’s skiing “mishap”, MariNaomi’s bowling injury (yes, it is possible), the cat of Gabrielle Gamboa taking her eyebrow, Tony Breed getting away with one, Max Clotfelter getting seriously punched, and the causes of Rob Kirby’s various scars from waiting tables. With a list of talent like that I doubt that I have to do much convincing, so just do yourself a favor and pick this up. Then, if you haven’t already, work your way back through the older comics of these folks. You deserve it! $5

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Spina, Sam – Tarn #2: Pigboss

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Tarn #2: Pigboss

Oh, so THAT’S what Tarn is. Not that I have any idea of the larger significance of it, or how it ties in to all of these comics, but at least this issue mentions Tarn. Oh hi, did you not read the first issue and/or the review for the first issue? Well, in that case this might be a little confusing to you, even if this issue features an entirely different cast of characters from the first issue. This time around it’s Pigboss, who is filming the final scenes for some kind of action movie. He’s more than a little bit of an asshole, and he says his catchphrase whether or not the cameras are rolling. Still, things are going pretty well for him, except the occasional minor annoyance like not having the right food at the craft services, until he gets a letter from the head of the movie studio. This letter does not go over well at all with Pigboss, and it’s clear that a confrontation of some kind is in the cards. I’m still thoroughly enjoying this series, which is not a shock, as I’ve loved everything else Sam has done. It’s probably a bit early for me to tell you to go ahead and buy this whole series when I’ve only read the first two issues, but eh, what the hell, buy the whole series. It’s only $5, and unless Sam’s brain fell out along the way I feel confident in saying that it’ll be worth it in the end. $1 ($5 for the set)

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Bliss, Pam – Time and Money

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Time and Money

I sometimes wish that more people listed the circumstances that led to the creation of their comics. This one, for example, was made over the course of two days, live on her blog, based on an idea from Jeff Lilly. Not that that has affected the quality, but I do get curious about such things. Then again, “created over the course of two years in fits and starts, then put into a closet for six months, then taken out and reworked, then published” would get pretty old as a description. Oh hello cynicism, and a good morning to you! Anyway, this one is a fairly simple tale of Ms. Ginsberg getting prodded into a quest by a walking piggy bank. They need payment to get into a tower, she refuses to use her obvious resource., but they reach another solution and see the result of their quest. Yeah, this all has to be pretty vague, as it’s a damned short comic and I don’t want to give it all away. It plays a little with perceptions and what your brain absorbs of your surroundings, with a nice little touch of mystery about reality thrown in at the end. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it and it’s really about where that hat came from. $1

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Kern, Gail – Memoirs of a Muse #3: Egypt

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Memoirs of a Muse #3: Epygt

I may be dealing with an expectations problem here. These occur when I think/wish that a story was going in a different direction, but it turns out that the writer/artist had other ideas. This is entirely on me, as I’m the one passively consuming the comic while the artist is the one actively making it, but I wanted to make it clear right away that most of the problems I had with this book come from that, and through no fault of the artist. Now that that disclaimer is out of the way, I thought this was going to be a set of detailed examples of ancient Egyptian art, how it came about and who made it. Instead Gail is mostly focused on getting her muse back to Enoch. Which makes sense, as that’s the story she has been telling all along, so never mind me. Things start off with the muse getting to Egypt, and the muse helps her host gain some recognition for her skills. Once she is done there we get to see those ancient artifacts that I was so interested in, with my only complaint being that we see them too briefly. From there I don’t want to give too much away, but we do get to see some mummy action before it’s all said and done. Aesthetically I do have a few complaints, as the blacks from some of the art occasionally made text practically illegible. This issue also wins the prize for “most spelling errors in the series,” which is not a good prize to have. Not that it’s out of control, as it was still a relative few, but as it’s never been easier to make sure you’re spelling words correctly, my willingness to let stuff like that slide has been going downhill for years. It would also have helped if her asterisk system had been explained (or numbered as footnotes), as the information she was trying to direct the reader to is all piled up in the back, with no reference for which is which in case you lost track/missed an asterisk or two. All that being said, I’m still thoroughly enjoying the adventures of this muse through time. Weird, right? You’d think all those complaints would lead to a bad review, which is a testament to Gail’s abilities as a storyteller. If you’re interested in art and where it comes from (and chances are that you are if you’re reading this) then this remains a fascinating series to watch unfold.

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