Category Archives: Reviews
Previously on this review website, I mentioned wondering how Josh would follow up the first issue of Goiter. It turns out that the second issue doesn’t have much to do with the first (or does it and I missed it? Always possible!), but it is a step up in quality. Not that the quality of the first issue was poor, but Josh has a lot more room to play around with panel structure, silent moments, and a mystery. None of which are mentioned on the cover, although I guess there is a death. Um, spoiler alert. I always say that part too late. Anyway, this is the story of Henry Kildare, a ventriloquist from Chicago who’s stopped at a small town to play a gig. He tries several times to contact a missing girlfriend (or at least a girlfriend who doesn’t want to speak to him), gets several comments about Chicago from people who have obviously never been there, has a middling to bad show and takes mushrooms with the bartender. Things take a real turn after that, as he gets stuck in the middle of a missing persons case, and this is probably the part where I should stop talking about the story. The rest of it, including the ending, is delightfully enigmatic, with all kinds of room for interpretation if you’re so inclined. Both issues of Goiter were delightful in their own mildly unnerving way, so here’s hoping Josh keeps putting out Goiters for us all to enjoy!
The Last Human Alive
Nuclear war has come, and the only thing to survive (apparently) was a small group of voles. Unless I missed an issue or two where this was explained in more detail, that is. As you may have guessed from the title, the voles think they’ve spotted a human, the creature that they all know was responsible for the end of the world. Do they mind the end of the world since they’re now basically in charge of it? Unknown! The voles react to this news in different ways, with most of them forming an army to take out the human before it takes them out. One of them goes off to see a village elder of sorts, who tells the story of how the world ended, mostly by using the word “ass” a lot (yes, it’s still a coherent and concise explanation). Right around the halfway point of the book, the army confronts the human that they’ve spotted, with the rest of the issue being a desperate battle against it. Sort of. Look, if I cleared it up I’d take away the mystery, and who wants that? It’s a fun story, with Joseph once again providing the Korean translation at the back of the book for interested parties. At this rate I figure I’ll be able to write Korean in… never. Still just about never. But if you have a passing familiarity with it, maybe this will refresh your memory. If you only speak Korean and have stumbled across this review (by some hilariously garbled Google translator, no doubt), you’re in luck! $5
L. has been making comics for quite a few years now (go check the archives here if you don’t believe me, although I really wish the years of the reviews still showed up), but this might be the best thing he’s ever done. Granted, I’d have to go back and read several old issues of Jumbly Junkery to be sure… you know what, I should probably do that anyway. Anyway, Flocks is the story of his life. L. was gender assigned as female at birth and raised by a strictly religious family. Meaning that when she (at the time; please forgive me if I mess up the pronouns and/or correct me so I don’t do it again) was growing up and started to get feelings that didn’t coincide with the feelings church/her family/her school told her that she should be getting, L. had nowhere to turn for better advice. Instead she had crippling self-doubt, what seemed at times to be an inner loathing as she tried to make herself behave the way she was supposed to and like who she was supposed to. L. spares no detail in Flocks, and the details are almost uniformly grim. She did have supportive parents in other areas (specifically scholastic), and she did have supportive teachers, but it wasn’t until she was able to go away in her later high school years that she was able to start to put it all together. It’s a riveting and heartbreaking journey, and he seems to have arrived at a moment now where all is right with the world: loving wife, two kids, happy in his own skin, he even finally found a church that was supportive and loving instead of the hateful mess he had growing up. I guess all that constitutes a spoiler, but since we’re dealing with L.’s life, I thought it was allowed. For anybody out there is struggling with who they are, this comic will speak to you in a profound way. This is especially true if you’re in one of the backwaters of America or anywhere around the world where intolerance is still considered the right way to be. Whatever you’re going through, it can all work out; it’s just a matter of getting through the rough parts first. $21.95
While I was looking up Edie’s website I chanced upon some artwork he has for sale, and was once again reminded that I’m not wealthy enough to appreciate fine art. Sigh. If you have money lying around, some of those pieces are absolutely incredible and you should buy one. Or buy me one; I’m certainly not proud enough to reject it. Hi, you’re here to read about this graphic novel, and here I am complaining. If you’re familiar with Edie’s work you probably already do and do not know what to expect, as he manages to shock and amaze me every time out at least a few times. It’s no different with this collection, and once again I’m going to try to encapsulate what cannot be… capsulated. That can’t be right. Stories in here deal with an alphabet snake and its quest for a body, its trip to the convenience store, some of the sexiest food prep you ever will see, more food prep but this time with a sense of existential panic, the pumpkin’s revenge fantasies, gender fluidity in said pumpkin, what you might see if you peek through a window while someone has their pants down, fucking with venereal leeches, trying to get blood from tiny veins and using it in serving sizes, and sexy cow milking. Also about a dozen other stories, if not more, and the descriptions I already gave you are almost certainly wrong at points. Yep, this is another case where you’ll have to buy it for yourself to see what I messed up. Luckily reading this will most likely make you a better person, so it’s worth the money from your end. Unless nudity and sex scares you, in which case get thee to a church as soon as possible and away from this book. For the rest of us, there’s plenty here to enjoy. $21.95
I just got lost for a minute trying to count the faces in that cover. Go ahead, try it yourself! This is another collection of short pieces by Max, mostly (if not entirely) pulled from small anthology comics. And since I do this “for a living” (i.e. make no money but keep doing it anyway) and haven’t seen most of these stories before, I’m guessing you haven’t either. The strip I sampled sums up my general mood on America in the middle of 2018; if you’re reading this in the future, the main subject of controversy right now is prison camps for immigrant children. Check around to see if things have gotten better or worse since this moment! Other strips deal with the steps Max has taken throughout the years to make himself almost entirely disguised, a few FEMA funnies strips, the story of a dog breeder who had some creative methods for convincing others that his dogs were pure bred, an alarming double page spead pinup of his Aunt from the 60’s, the time that he learned a valuable lesson about bullying, and a few other short pieces that I’ll leave as mysteries. Hey Secret Acres, Max is bound to have enough strips around by now to warrant a collection of his work. You’re on a roll with what you’ve been putting out, maybe give his stuff a shot? For you, gentle reader, yes, I’d recommend giving this a shot. I’ve been reviewing his stuff almost since I started this website in 2001, and it’s still an unnerving delight every time I see it. $2
The Fifty Flip Experiment #23
More and more, Dan’s books defy any sort of conventional analysis and, more and more, reading them makes me want to sit in a corner and think about whether or not reality is really how I see it or how Dan sees it, and what it means if it’s more like Dan’s version. So I’d like to start with a quote from the letter Dan sent me along with this comic; the only background you need to know is that in 2018 I spent some time away from reviewing comics because my back was in excruciating pain pretty much constantly over a few months. “It is too bad that we have to carry around heavy brains wiggling around on top of a frail super-extended spine.” Yes… yes it is. Dan starts off with a long text piece that is on both inside covers, in which he describes the contents of the comic. Sort of, while also leaving plenty of room for your own interpretations, and mentioning several things that don’t seem to happen in the comic itself. Maybe I shouldn’t have read that first, but it was right there on the inside front cover! I had to read that first, right? Anyway, I’ll give this is a shot, fraught with peril though it may be. This is the story of Gerard, who’s an average dude. He gets ice cream with sprinkles, then decides that he wants rainbow tears. A Rascal is brought into the mix, then burnt orange wax. Suddenly, a ramp and a crash! Mortality sets in, and is begrudgingly welcomed. All that is needed after that is a golden coin. Huh. It’s only with Dan’s comics that I’m genuinely not sure if I spoiled the ending, or how much it would matter if I did. His comics are about the journey, not necessarily the destination, except that’s probably not what they’re about, and I’ll never know fully what they’re about, as I’m me and not Dan. Sometimes I hope that Dan’s comics are all that survives after the (choose your own favorite type of) apocalypse happens. I’d love to see the world that aliens would put together using only the information contained in these 23 issues. $5
I guess there are probably a few people out there in the world whose lives have never been touched by any sort of depression or mental illness (either their own or that of loved ones). I mean, it must have happened out there somewhere, right? But for the rest of us, who will never forget the sight of _____, or the sound of _____ as _____ (details removed to protect anybody from figuring out any real part of the scarring events mentioned), either mental illness or the aftereffects of it will always be around. This is Katherine’s story of her 2015, spent in a psych ward and/or trying to figure out effective types of medication. She says that the images in here are the sum total of her artistic output from that year, as she tried to figure out reasons for staying alive, to live, to make it through each day. She mentions other people in the same ward (all names removed, of course, although she says it’s because she can’t remember any of them) and their troubles, the difficulty in trying to relax when somebody checks on you literally every 15 minutes every single day, and the slow realization that every single thing in her room was designed to prevent someone from hurting themselves. Saying something is “deeply personal” has maybe been overused over the years, but it’s hard to imagine a more deeply personal book than this. She talks frankly about every aspect of this process, before and after, and refuses to plaster any sort of happy ending onto it. Mental illness is a constant struggle and she doesn’t sugar coat it, although I am glad that she knows of Maria Bamford (who talks frankly about thinking of killing herself in her act but somehow remains hilarious). If you have any of these issues yourself, or know somebody who does, I honestly can’t recommend this book enough. It’s mostly text, and it’s riveting; don’t go into this expecting a normal comic where you get to relax with laugh lines here and there. I’m sitting here now and thinking of more lines that cut right to the core of me or broke my heart a little, so I’d better end it now. Get a copy of this, and then do what I’m going to do: loan it out to loved ones, but don’t be pushy about it. A lot of people could be helped by what’s in between these covers. $7
New review today for Humans in Peril by Caitlin Cass, who puts out quality comics at a pace that should shame at least a few of you. Hell, it even puts my reviewing schedule to shame. Enjoy!
For any artists out there who have been daunted by Caitlin’s productivity, especially considering the amount of research she has to do for most of her comics, but were perhaps selfishly holding out hope that maybe she wasn’t funny: sorry, this comic should kill off that hope for you. And really, you should be worried more about your own work than comparing yourself to others. That’s just common sense! This is a collection of 50 strips about humans in some sort of peril; more often than not the peril is existential, but there’s some physical danger thrown in here and there as well. These are all single panel strips, mostly reminiscent of New Yorker strips, but funnier than the average example of that type than I’ve usually seen. And bleak as hell, mostly, so adjust your expectations accordingly if you’re expecting a wacky laugh riot full of outlandish hijinx. Subjects include… ugh, is there anything worse than describing the basic outline of single panel jokes? I might as well be telling you where the punchline is heading for verbal jokes. Subjects include ennui, dissatisfaction at the state of the universe and your place in it, an unwillingness to disconnect from the virtual world to join the actual world, the futility of engaging with reality with forced cheer, and kittens falling asleep. One of those things is not discussed in this book of strips, but I’ll leave it to you to suss out which one was the lie. $6
This is one of those cases where I’m tempted to leave the review blank, except perhaps for a brief note telling you to let the sample image speak for the comic. That’s cheating, and I don’t want to run afoul of the independent comics reviewers review board (you wouldn’t like them when they’re angry), so I’ll soldier on with a few more thoughts. This one came out of the blue, which is always a delight; yes, that’s also true when the comics aren’t that great. This is the first of two issues with the same title, but I don’t know yet if the story continues in the next issue or if it’s something entirely different. The story of this mini is, again, encapsulated in that sample image: a man finds someone to help him fulfill a niche sexual desire of his on an internet message board, with said fantasy involving a fake mugging. The comic shows the mundane aspects of his life, how he gets through an average work day, and the specificity with which he plans out his mugging, including what he can bear to part with in his wallet when he does get robbed. Things take a turn towards the end, which I suppose could be said of most works of fiction, so I don’t think that’s giving too much away. It’s a quietly haunting mini and something that leaves me intrigued to see what Josh does with the much larger follow-up issue. Check in here in a few weeks to see how that goes, or you could cut out the middle man and just order comics from Josh himself, which is something you should think about doing regardless. I don’t see the first issue mentioned on his etsy shop at the moment, so I’ll guess the price is… $5.
Any questions you might have had about that title were taken care of on the cover: Spaboon is half spoon and half baboon. What more do you need to know? Plenty, as it turns out, but have no fear, this comic will answer all of your questions! Except maybe for how he came into being, but if we’re lucky #2 will be an origin story. This comic seems to have come about because of Chris’s fascination with mascots (I included a link to his website about mascots because it’s amazing) and it tells the story of Spaboon after he is fired from his job as the mascot of a large corporation. They merged with another company and decided to stick with the other mascot, a large capsule named Capsuro. Spaboon runs into him as he’s getting fired, a brawl ensues, and some local protesters mistake this fight as a sign that Spaboon is on their side in protesting this corporation. Plans are hatched, Spaboon is introduced to drugs, and a raid is conducted at a testing facility. This goes extremely poorly, but we do get to see a lab with some rejected mascots in it. I’ll leave the rest of the story to the readers, because I’m assuming I had most of you at “half spoon, half baboon.” It’s funny and disturbing, with just a dash of social commentary thrown in here and there. Me, I’m just hoping this is the first of many comics about mascots, either entirely centered on Spaboon or each featuring different mascots. There are so many to choose from, not the mention the horrors that could be made up entirely. $5
Two years ago I reviewed Robert’s last book (Space, a collection of short stories, and something everybody should read). At the time I made a mental note to keep an eye on what else he had coming out, so naturally I forgot all about it until getting this book in the mail, which is a collection of his six issue series of the same name. Anybody want to be a personal assistant/secretary who reminds me of stuff like this? I can’t pay you in money, but I’m very generous in comics payments. Anyhow, Bald Knobber. I’m guessing some of you are making assumptions based on that title, and unless you’re versed in vigilante gangs of the 1880’s, chances are you’re incorrect. This is the story of Cole, a young boy who’s giving a book report about the Bald Knobbers to his class. Cole’s parents have recently divorced and it was obviously ugly. His dad hates his mom and his mom is seeing another man. The Bald Knobbers, as I mentioned briefly above, were a vigilante gang in the 1880’s who seemed to set out with noble intentions but eventually lost their way. The comic is told with his book report as text dialogue contrasting with the events taking place in his life, including his life split between his parents, his drunken father, his mother just trying to have him give her new boyfriend, and said new boyfriend seemingly not making much of an effort. Cole also deals with a bully, takes his cat for a walk whenever things get too tense, the fire at his mom’s house and the suspicions that immediately get raised as to who or what might have caused it. The story of the Bald Knobbers alone is engrossing, but the contrast with Cole’s life is also fascinating. Robert does a seamless job of weaving these elements together, especially towards the end in the bits I’m not going to mention because of spoilers. This is another impressive book by somebody who I’m definitely going to keep a close eye this time without real life getting in the way at all. Hey, it’s good to have goals, right? Check it out, you won’t be sorry. $15.95
This has nothing to do with the comic (do my reviews ever start any other way?), but I do always love to see a #2 in a series after a bit of a time gap. Life gets in the way, shit happens, but Katherine has a story to tell here and it looks to be back on track with this issue. If you haven’t read the first issue you might be a little lost here, but that’s on you for skipping it, you weirdo. We get to see a sick ward and the level of care that these wounded soldiers get, which is dismal; they’re kept in rows of beds under stained sheets. He starts smuggling a little bit of food out while writing letters to his brother before the two of them are reunited. John’s brother Wieland has been dishonorably discharged and John is much improved from the last time they saw each other, but still skittish and unwilling to put himself out into the world. Wieland attends a small party, and I’m in danger of giving away the entire comic in a review, but he gets into a fascinating conversation. From there he convinces John to go with him to meet an artist he’s heard of but not seen, and anybody familiar with John’s life story would know the importance of this meeting. Which I assume we’ll see in the next issue, coming right up (probably)! Katherine is slowly and meticulously building up these people and their place in this world, and I’m constantly amazed by how much she can convey in a single wordless panel. The look on Wiel’s face when he’s reunited with his brother, the joy but also the concern about how or if he’s recovered, that’s what comics can be when done right. It’s well worth a look, so get both issues and get caught up! $5
So there’s one thing I figured out for sure after finishing this book: trying to figure out how much of it is meant to be a dream versus how much of it is meant to represent reality is a waste of time. It’s irrelevant to the point of the story, and you’re bound to get different opinions anyway depending on who you ask. Meanwhile, here’s my subjective opinion! This starts off with us seeing nature, with each of the various creatures making a different type of sound, as represented by the various images in their word bubbles. Well, they’re usually word bubbles; this comic is wordless. Anyway, we establish the various ways these animals communicate, and we soon see a car drive through their environment, represented by a droning noise. One wolf in particular takes an interest in this vehicle, and we’re then taken to a large city, complete with pigeons and their own way of communicating. They try to make themselves known to a nameless man in the street, who gives the impression of being so beaten down by life that he can’t even register it when something amazing is happening around him. Rats in the subway finally get him to take notice, and this is where we could start having a debate about what is real and what’s imaginary, as he pictures himself following them down the tiny hole they used before being snapped out of it by his train arriving on the tracks. Our hero, back to normal in his own mind, takes the train to his car and starts to drive home, as we see small signs of the nature all around him, followed by bigger signs. Finally one of the crows takes matter into his own, um, hands I guess, dropping enough leaves on his windshield that he’s forced to stop out in the wilderness. He has a brief conversation (for lack of a better word) with the crow, tries to go back to his car and finds it completely disabled. All that’s left for him to do is try to make it home through the wilderness, which is where his real trouble begins. If you think that I gave too much away up there, how dare you! I wouldn’t do such a thing, and that only covers maybe the first 20 pages of this book. From there natures takes control, possibly of reality itself… or maybe none of it was real? Again, don’t ask such questions. Give this book a chance, as this might be all the “getting back to nature” that you really need.
Sometimes comics leave me feeling a certain way, and I’m never quite sure if that’s the intent of the artist or if it’s just what the comics brings out of me personally. Maybe somebody else reading this would come away feeling something else entirely, but for me when I set down this book a wave of melancholy hit me. The comic feels a bit like a dream, like the details might change if I were to go back and read it again. Not possible, granted, but we’re talking feelings here, not physical reality. This is the story of a young man who sets out with his lover, his former lover and her current lover. They all get to talking, and another former lover down the line was supposed to be good at bocce, but since the star of the comic had never heard of him, this set off an argument that led to him getting out of the car and leaving them to go on their way. Meanwhile, it left our hero alone in the dark at 3am, in the wilderness and surrounded by things that he was allergic to. He wandered until he made his way to a department store, and the surreal nature of the place led him to go up to the roof. The roof was covered in thousands of tiny candles, which led back to the story of the two women who put the candles up there every night, why they do it and how they came to that place at all. Which I’d rather not get into here, to preserve at least a little bit of mystery, but this really feels like one of those comics where you could know everything about it going in and still get plenty out of it. Check it out, and if you end up feeling anything other than melancholy when you’re done, let me know. Who knows what’s all in my head and what’s left over from a previous lovers’ quarrel? $6
Hey, who’s up for a comic that’s done entirely in verse? Wait, come back, it’s actually thoroughly engaging! This is the story of a young lady who’s just trying to live her life. Her life happens to be that of a sub who’s trying to find dominant men but unsure on how to go about it, and her life is also her being antisemitic while caring for Jewish children as a nanny. As far as antisemitics go she’s pretty self-aware about her issues, she even keeps a diary where she spells everything out. She’s also terrified of anybody seeing her diary, which makes sense. The overwhelming sense I got from this story was that M was an incredibly sad person; every aspect of her life seems like at least a little bit of a struggle. Still, it’s hard not to root for the lady, which is a little odd when you consider her (at the very least) mild racism. Maybe it was the rhyming that made her impossible to dislike? Or maybe it’s just the fact that it’s hard not to relate to anybody who’s in such a struggle to get by every day. Check it out, wrestle with your own moral dilemmas, it’s not like I can solve all the moral conundrums of the universe all by myself. $6
The Hanukkah Fire, 1992
It’s a pretty rare occurrence for a comic to also be shot on film, but that’s what you get with this one. Granted, that wasn’t the plan all along; the original film was from 1992, when the events in the title happened. No spoilers possible in this review! Rachel’s father had a new camera, and when the fire broke up he never bothered to put it down while dealing with the fire. So now, in 2018 (or whenever you’re reading this in the future, or the past I guess if you’re a really boring time traveler), you can check the video on her website after reading this comic. Still, there’s more to the comic than just putting out a fire decades ago. Rachel also talks about growing up Jewish, the early days of camcorders, how her parents ended up meeting each other and then quickly getting married and having kids, the best parts of Passover when she was a kid, the story of how her grandfather survived the concentration camps, learning how to drive, and how the number of Jewish activities she participated in declined as she grew up. So yeah, she’s packing quite a bit into this mini. That’s actually the only complaint I have about the comic, and it’s a minor one: it feels like parts of this might have better served with more room to breath. Still, if the worst thing I can say is “I wish there was more of this comic to read,” I’d call that a solid recommendation, wouldn’t you?
So I’ve said before that I could just post the synopsis on the back of these mini kus books and have that serve as the review, but this time around it’s actually relevant to the content of the comic. “In 1975, Mexican artist Ulises Carrion founded Other Books and So, a bookshop gallery in Amsterdam that received, distributed, sold and exhibited artists’ publications and ephemera in many different formats. This collection is inspired by the bookshop.” See? Pretty relevant to the comic, wouldn’t you say? I didn’t read this before reading the comic (I never read the synopsis before reading a book/comic, and shame on you if you do), so I wasn’t working with that information when I was first forming an opinion. On the surface this book is a series of stories about scars and accidents of varying severity, but after seeing the blurb on the back the whole thing came together for me. Outside of those tales of injuries were also a few bits about rearranging 50 books on the floor in the hopes of getting an undefinable “something” out of it, a series of conversational statements by unknown speakers, and a damaged photograph that still retained the most important elements of it. It all comes together to form a really compelling comic, and adds another distant location to my list of places I’d like to visit one of these days. For anybody out there who thinks that some of these mini kus books are too short to really dig into, give this one a shot. There’s plenty to ponder here. $6
Once again, I’m tempted to just use the synopsis from the back of the comic as a review, but that’s still cheating, so I won’t do it. This comic is the nightmare version of Mexico City (or at least I hope it is), and it’s one the seediest things you ever will see. The story follows three separate things: a man who picks up groceries for dinner with his daughter (and this disgusting walk home), a couple who meet out and steal some booze before going home together, and a couple of robbers who spend the evening getting themselves ready to rob a convenience store where the other two story tracks briefly came together. Abraham does a thorough job of making the city and everything in it seem disgusting; I don’t think there was a single surface clean enough to eat off of in the whole comic. The father ran across horrors on his walk home and things weren’t much better when he actually got home, the couple really took in the sights before going home together, and the two robbers were so physically seedy that they almost made things around them seem slightly cleaner. So yes, in other words, I think this should be distributed far and wide as a tourist guide to anybody thinking of visiting Mexico City. Or if not, it’s also an unflinching look at some of the grosser aspects of society. $6
Projections on a Monument
Hey look, multimedia installation can be comics too! Caitlin originally made this for the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Douglass, and it was displayed in a much larger format for the Rochester Contemporary Art Center. Which must have been something to see, but since this is a website about comics, how does this translate to that format? Pretty well, as Caitlin is basically a master of the form at this point. It’s not much of a narrative story, it’s more of a collections of insights and historical facts from the time around the unveiling. We get to see some contemporary comments on the statue at the unveiling, the reaction of his daughter and a history lesson on what her life was like, the backstory on how the statue came to be (including how it was paid for, picking a location and dealing with problems when it ran behind schedule), a horrific lynching that took place two months before the unveiling and the comments made in real time about the incident, and the reactions of his son from the time (his son Charles was the model for the statue because of his resemblance to his father). So yeah, there’s quite a bit of information in here, including plenty of stuff that I didn’t know. On the off chance that you’re not just buying Caitlin’s books as they come out as this point, you’ll learn a lot if you pick this one up. You really should be getting all of her comics at this point, but if you’re not, then this is as good a place as any to start.