Archive for category Reviews

Yost, J.T. – Losers Weepers #3

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Losers Weepers #3

It’s been a few years since I reviewed an issue of this series, so it’s best if I catch everybody up on the “rules” for it. J.T. finds letters or journals (or his friends find them) and he, without any context of what they were really about, turns them into comics. And a fine job he does with them too! The stories in this one come from a flyer, a letter and a cryptic phrase. That last one is the only one that feels like it was shoved into this story, as it doesn’t have much to do with the overall theme, but it also serves as a coda to the story so there’s no harm done. The flyer was an advertisement to learn Spanish with a few ridiculous typos/spelling errors that should make anybody thinking about calling the guy think twice. For that portion of the story we see our hero getting copies of his flyer and dealing with the copy shop employees. From there he finds out that his mother is in jail and needs bailing out, and when he goes to ask his girlfriend if he can borrow some money he finds a letter to her from a man in the same jail. This letter is the real highlight of the comic, as the prisoner is losing his mind more than a little bit and wonders why this lady hasn’t talked to him since he went to jail. As this letter was addressed to his girlfriend, this sends our hero into a bit of a rage and he goes out in that mood. As is often the case, that’s when he happens to run into a cop. J.T. still types the letters into the appendix in the back in case you have trouble with the handwriting (although this around I didn’t need it), so no worries if you have trouble with certain types of handwriting. It’s another solid issue, and I continue to be amazed at how he ties such disparate letters together into a coherent and compelling story. $5

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McNee, Graeme – Kumayama Mountain, 1993

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Kumayama Mountain, 1993

OK, I’ll admit it: I wandered around the internet for a bit after reading this to find out if the story was true. I couldn’t find anything, which is either my fault for not looking hard enough or this is a fictional book with a very specific title and premise. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! This one starts off with a blurb mentioning three children who disappeared in a forest in 1993. A group of kids are on a field trip and are told to stick to the park, as there are bears in the woods. Most of the kids don’t believe this, but there’s enough doubt about the story to keep them out of the woods, which was probably the point of the story in the first place. A few of the kids trade some bits of their lunches, one of the kids angrily doesn’t want the treats that are being shared, and he storms off into the forest. Two other kids decide that the risk of them getting blamed for losing this kid is worse than the risk of them getting eaten by bears, so they wander off into the forest to find him. From there we get some tense and creepy scenes (including something loud creeping through the shadows), and that’s as far as I can go while still avoiding spoilers. I liked the simplistic way that Graeme drew the kids, and his lingering on the creepier areas in the woods really helped bring home the unease the kids were feeling as they got further and further away from the camp. It’s a really solid story so maybe you should give it a try!

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Brubaker, Charles – Smallbug Comics #6

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Smallbug Comics #6

This issue is just plain fun. Is that too simplistic for a review? Eh, probably, but it’s true. This comic has about half a dozen “Dear Cat” strips (which is exactly what it sounds like: hypothetical questions answered by a hypothetical cat) and a longer story involving one of the characters getting her glasses broken and needing a new pair. That sounds like one of the duller possible setups for a story, but this is a land of magic and magical equipment, so every pair of glasses has its own unique abilities, happily played up for their comedic effect. There’s magnifying glasses, marketing executive glasses, glass for minotaurs, and several others that I’ll leave a surprise. That last pair of glasses was hilarious and I’m left wishing such a thing existed in the real world. As for the cat questions, they deal with subjects like why cats need the same door opened several times a day, what they have in common with dogs, why they can be jerks, and why they sit on the keyboards of laptops. If Charles has enough cat questions I really liked this format (roughly 2/3 one big story and the other 1/3 cat questions), and he was even nice enough to put a little bonus strip on the back cover. Like I said at the top, this comic is a pile of fun, and you should check it out if you are favor of such a thing. $2

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Various Artists – Irene #4

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Irene #4

As far as I can tell there’s no editor listed for this anthology (unless I’m supposed to assume that Amy Lockhart is the editor because she’s the first person named on the credits page?), but whoever put this thing together deserves a medal for having Ben Juers do single page strips in between the other stories. They never fail to be at least amusing, and most of them are hilarious, which is a welcome break from some of the stories in here. They can get a bit depressing which, as some of them are based on real life, is the way things actually happened, so it’s hard to complain about it. But between those comics, the true life stories and the more abstract pieces, this is a damned well-rounded collection. As always, I’m not going to go through and review every bit of this anthology, as that’s half the fun for people who are going to be reading this for themselves. But I will mention my favorite bits! Emi Gennis starts things off with the story of Lake Nyos in Cameroon and what happened there in 1986. Over a million tons of carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere around the lake, which led to only six inhabitants of the nearby town waking up the next day, unsure if the world had ended. On the other end of the spectrum, Andy Warner has one of the best opening page brawls that I’ve ever seen in a comic, and follows through with a wordless tale about a band against some “bad guys.” James K. Hindle has a thoughtful piece about a young boy, a young girl he meets, a fire in the town and how it all comes together. Laura Terry’s story starts off where it ends, and we slowly come to meet and understand the “dark” being she keeps seeing that won’t leave her alone. Mazen Kerbaj lets us in on the secret thoughts of boats, Jackie Roche tells the story (that I’d never heard) of where Lincoln was taken after he was shot but before he died, Georgia Webber refers to her recently losing her ability to speak and how much social media has meant to her since then, and things wrap up with Jan Berger’s piece on awakenings, seeing what’s real and how to save the world. I’m leaving a bunch of stuff out, as this is over 150 pages and, as is usually the case in anthologies, there were a few stories/pages that didn’t do a whole lot for me. But the good vastly outweighed the not-so-good (I won’t even call them “bad”), and there’s plenty in here to recommend it to people. $15

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Thomas, Grant – My Life in Records: Hell’s Bells

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My Life in Records: Hell’s Bells

Have you ever wondered just how many people started listening to rock/rap/metal music purely because they were told by their church that they shouldn’t listen to it? The thought has crossed my mind more than a few times, and Grant documents his experience with it in this issue. His brother had saved up and bought a radio alarm clock (they were kids, remember, and such a thing was rare in those days), and after experimenting with waking up to classical music (and realizing that it was only putting him back to sleep), he switched over to the Jesus station. Grant would sometimes listen outside of his room, and then later he’d listen with his brother, which was where he first heard about the evils of rap music. Which, hilariously, he learned about because the station played a 2 Live Crew song (kids, ask your parents) and they couldn’t even make out the words through all the bleeps. Of course this would make a kid curious about that kind of music! Stupid Jesus station. Anyway, he also started hearing about the evil types of music in Sunday school, and it eventually sunk into him that he LIKED this type of music. The rest of the comic has him dealing with that (a bit, anyway). There’s also a short story at the beginning dealing with his early days in the school band and the monotony of having to practice while still not making much headway in advancing in the band. It’s another solid issue showing Grant’s musical development and his gradually powering through despite growing up in a pretty religious household. $7.50

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Drawdoer, Jon – Past Coasts

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Past Coasts

I’m going to break the rules and cut and paste a definition here to start the review, as I looked this up myself after reading this comic just to be sure that I had it right:

Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.

For those of you who are annoyed and confused by my educating you, don’t worry, it is all relevant to the comic. But it sounds like a great way to live, right? Anyway, there are three main parts to this comic, that I will address is a random order because I feel like it. First up is an hour of Jon’s life and all the thoughts that pass through his head, as he documents everything on a notepad while he’s thinking about/it’s happening. It was more fascinating than I would have guessed, and now I think that everybody should give it a shot. Of course, it would require an attention span, and the number of people I know who still have one is dwindling, but I still think people should give it a try and write about their experiences. Next up is a science fiction story dealing with a breathing ship, the wonderful visual effects of having your thoughts outside of your own head and the random, revealing things that are in there, and finally learning not to guess what a loved one is thinking but instead to just ask them about it. Finally there’s a piece at the end about thoughts, putting everything in boxes (and whether or not that’s isolating), your thoughts bringing you to a moment but then not leaving you alone when you reach that moment, and the letdown involved in everything going according to plan. It’s a damned thoughtful pile of stories, and my brain is currently split into thirds as I digest the various portions of this comic. Check it out if you’re a fan of thinking! $5

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Various Artists – Cringe

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Cringe

Quick, think of the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you. Now imagine yourself writing and drawing a comic story about it. That right there should make you cringe, which means you’re in luck, as that’s what this anthology is all about! This book has right around 30 small press artists, some new and some who have been around for awhile, who are willing to share some shameful incident from their past. I don’t think anything in here will get anybody put in jail, but it’s hard not to cringe while reading some of these. I’m not going to review every story because there are so damned many of them (and for a measly $8!), but the highlights include Shaenon K. Garrity wetting herself while out with a group of other cartoonists (including a big name guy, but I won’t spoil the surprise; I particularly loved the way she ended her strip), Sam Spina’s unfortunate method for drinking a rum shot when he met the Bacardi girls, Adam Pasion’s particularly gruesome retelling of an incident involving a finger in the eye, Geoff Vasile dodging a bullet (not literally), Chad Essley and his series of embarrassing moments (hard to top the one where he volunteered to breakdance at school on stage), Fred Noland’s theories on some crayons he used to own, Chad Woody and his racist former roommate, Box Brown and his former habit of eating light bulbs (it’s not quite as life-threatening as it sounds), Stephen Notley and his experience of being “that guy” at a comic convention (you know the one, the guy who gets up to ask a rambling and pointless question and has no idea how to get out of it once he gets started), and Sam Henderson’s experiences with having seizures while surrounded by strangers. It’s a damned fine mix of stories, and at a ridiculously cheap price. Save yourself the embarrassment of not owing this anthology of embarrassment! Ugh, I feel dirty for saying that. I’ll let myself out… $8

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Reints, Matt – Against the American Dream

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Against the American Dream

Most of the time I’m just fine with artists going from story to story without holding the hands of the reading audience. More often than not we can tell when the story changes so, you know, do your thing! However, sometimes comics like this happen, where the story bounces all over the place, and in those cases slowing things down a bit is not a bad idea. A lot of this is me guessing, but I’ll try to walk you through this. The comic is, overall, a collection of wrestlers and a wrestling manager talking trash about (the recently deceased) Dusty Rhodes. I know this because I recognize Jim Cornette, one of the more famous former wrestling managers. But I’ll bet that lots of other people don’t know that, and he’s not identified anywhere by name. There are also quotes from three other wrestlers, and my best guesses for those are “Superstar” Billy Graham, Mr. Fuji (manager, I think, but maybe he wrestled too?) and… some other guy. You could have a table of contents on one of the inside covers, or you could list who they are in the same panel, but it’s mean to not identify them anywhere, and bad storytelling. Other stories interspersed with these speeches include three explorers who try to go to Area 51 (but the story peters out before we learn what happened, if anything), a dreamy piece on wishing for a better life, and photos of Lake Street in Minneapolis. That last one baffled me, as it didn’t seem to have much of a point, but it’s also entirely possible that I just missed it. Overall this comic was kind of a mess, which is a shame, as a comic based on people trash talking Dusty Rhodes had all kinds of potential. Luckily Dusty Rhodes had famous feuds that lasted years, so there could always be other issues with this basic idea.

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Jacotey, Marie – BFF

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BFF

I should mention that there’s a technical glitch in this comic before I get started on the actual contents. About a third of the way through the comic a page repeats (the same page that appeared two pages previously). It really throws off the rhythm of the book, especially considering the fact that there are flashbacks and asides that make things hard enough to keep track of. I worked through it and ended up quite enjoying the comic, but if such things are a deal-breaker, you have been warned. Anyway! This is the story of two friends and the woman that gets between them. Rob comes over to visit his friend Stan one morning, and Stan can’t help but show off his latest conquest to Rob. Rob, horrified, recognizes the woman as Amy, who was basically “the one that got away” for him. They had never officially gotten together but he still thinks about her and is still obviously hung up on her, but he does the good friend thing and tells Stan that he should keep seeing her if they like each other. Still, he has to get out of there after Amy gets up and sees him, which leads to Amy following him out the door, and that’s as far as I go because of obvious spoilers. I completely loved how their important, dramatic conversation was interrupted by two young ladies on the bus and their conversation, as it’s always nice to be reminded that the universe doesn’t think that the events of your life are enough to stop things from being ridiculous. Sometimes the cursive writing was a bit hard to read, but overall it was a gorgeous book with a compelling story.

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Vayda, Jamie (and Various writers) – Loud Comix #4

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Loud Comix #4

Oh Loud Comix, if only all anthologies could be as entertaining as you. As always with anthologies, some stories are better than others, but even the weaker bits at least have a few good lines and/or a great closer. Five stories this time around, all of them drawn by Jamie Vayda, which I wasn’t sure of but looked it up to make sure. Thanks internet! First up is a piece by Sonny Joe Harlan about a hardworking and hard rocking man who would work and then rock (on the weekends) to the point of exhaustion, and it was such a deep sleep that not much could get him out of it. He’d occasionally go to the bathroom and eat while still sleeping. Well, this is a story about a night when that went wrong, as otherwise why would there be a story at all? Next up is a story of a punk rock detective by Jack Grisham and a case of his involving finding a missing punk girl. Lest you think this gets all grim and serious, don’t worry, it does not, and it’s probably the most thoroughly entertaining piece of the bunch. Alan King is up next with Ugly Dennis, which isn’t really about Ugly Dennis, but that does make for a great title. Mostly it deals with a bootlegging ring the author had worked as a much younger man, the ridiculous amount of money he made at it and the adventures along the way. Jeff Clayton has the shortest piece next, dealing with something getting thrown on stage during a show and the effect that said item had on the set. Finally there’s a story about Danielle (written by Alan King with art by Jamie Vayda), about young love involving the author and a crazy lady. Which, as he points out, is the best kind of affair to have when you’re that age, when you have no idea what to expect next but don’t particularly care in the pills and booze haze. The author had been living in a situation where his family could have dropped by at any time (even though they hadn’t for months), and this story is all about that happening at the worst possible time. Still, that ending was amazing, and we should all be lucky enough to live through something like that. It’s a solid mix of stories, and it sounds like they already almost have enough stories for #5, so this will keep going strong for the immediate future. If you have any interest in tales of drunken/stoned punk rockers/rockers in general, you’re going to love this. $6

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Knetzger, Laura – Sea Urchin

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Sea Urchin

Have you ever had any questions about the meaning of things, or why you should plan out your life, or why you shouldn’t, or why you can’t, or the through-line of life that started way before you and will (theoretically) go on long after you’ve gone? If so, Laura asks all of those questions here and many, many more. If not, one of those philosopher dudes once said (paraphrasing) that the unexamined life is not worth living, so you should look into that. This comic is basically one long, uncertain primal shout at the universe and at everything around her and about her inability to get out of her own head. She doesn’t come right out and discover the meaning of life, but that’s not really her concern. This comic is all about exploring her own mind, her feelings of inadequacy and/or not having anything original to say, but then powering through that and being determined to have her own say regardless. It’s inspiring in a lot of ways, and early on there’s a great example of the dangers of answering the “how are you?” question too honestly. Nobody really cares, and there’s rarely if ever any follow-up, but it’s become the thing to say to other humans, so we all go along with it. If any of you work in an office like I do you must have experienced somebody asking you that while not even slowing down as they’re walking back to their desk. It’s a ridiculous thing to say, and it was a joy to see her take it apart. I don’t want to dig into the specifics, as there are a number of really beautiful scenes that you can discover on your own, but her comments about looking for stray cats every time she walked home and that sequence where she tried to work up the courage to pet a dog were fantastic. If you’ve ever unleashed a primal scream into your pillow, this comic will fill a hole in your life that you didn’t even know was there. And, again, if you’ve never thought of any of these things, maybe now is a good time to start? $8

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Mazur, Dan – The Jernegan Solution

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The Jernagen Solution

OK, I’ll just tell you up front that this will be one of those cases where I dance around the substance of the story, as I’d like to leave it as a surprise for anybody reading it. Yes, even though the events of this comic should make it clear where things are headed. It’s based on events from 1898, which is far enough removed that nobody living then is still with us today (or if they are they almost certainly were too young to remember this), so why not leave it a surprise? Even if it is kind of a surprise that you can see coming? Let me just put my dancing shoes away and get down to it. This is the story of a revolutionary kind of technology that was discovered in 1898. A reverend (who claimed to have had a vision from god) and a chemist got together and found a way to extract gold from ocean water. As this would lead to gold being available in almost limitless supplies, they then went out to attract donors so that they could build more facilities and extract more gold. The story is told mostly from the point of view of a local journalist (Dan does a fantastic job on the back cover of going over which bits were real and which bits were based on his best guess, and he had to guess the personality of the journalist) and how he goes from skepticism to belief after seeing the process in action. He also documents the change that occurs over the town, as that much money coming in that quickly would be bound to cause some upheaval. There’s a bit of a twist towards the end, which you probably see coming even from reading this review, but I’m not going to be the one to spell it out for you. This is a thoroughly engaging comic that details a bit of American history that I was completely unaware of, and what better reason is there for a historical comic than that? Frankly, I wish more people did comics based on true events (Emi Gennis seemingly has a near-monopoly on it these days), as your options are damned near limitless. It’s a pricey $10, but it’s also a hefty book, so check it out why don’t you? $10

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Leth, Kath – Ink For Beginners

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Ink For Beginners

Tattoos! Going into this comic, I only had one opinion about them: eh, not for me. I thought for years that I would eventually find something that I wanted on my body for the rest of my life, but still haven’t come up with anything yet, so I figure the odds of it happening are decreasing rapidly by the year. That being said, I make no judgments on people who do get tattoos. It’s not my place, and I’ve seen some tattoos that are genuinely awe-inspiring. Anyway, now that you know my personal opinions going in, this comic is exactly what that title implies: a guide for people who are thinking about getting their first tattoo. Some of the advice may seem obvious, and Kate even admits as much, but it’s really best to think for a long time as to whether or not you want this image/message on your body for the rest of your life. Getting a tattoo with the name of a loved one on it? If it’s a sibling or somebody directly related to you, probably not the worst idea. If it’s whoever you’re dating/married to at the time, chances are that you’ll come to regret it eventually. She also has a helpful body chart, front and back, that shows the most and least painful areas to get tattoos. Some of them were obvious, others not so much. Kate also mentions that she heard from a number of artists that they spend roughly half their time covering up tattoos from other, crappier artists, so it’s clear that a large number of people go into this without doing much of anything in the way of research. She mentions tipping, what to bring the day of the tattooing, how to care for it after the fact… basically everything you would need to know if you’re looking into this at all. Overall this is a damned comprehensive guide for anybody who’s thinking about getting a tattoo, so I’d highly recommend this before you take the plunge, or as a gift for anybody you know who is thinking of doing so. The one thing I’d want to repeat is something that won’t get heeded by the people who need it most, because they are convinced they know it all: if you’re a teenager, maybe don’t get the lyrics for some Justin Bieber song tattooed on your arm? Chances are that you’ll regret that very quickly. $4

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Yost, J.T. – Thanger Danger

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Thanger Dangers

Just so you know, the title makes a little more sense when you actually read the comic. Not much, but a little. This is a collection of short pieces that J.T. has done for various anthologies for the last few years, so if you track down every single one of his stories, you may have already seen them. Well, except for the first story, as that is unpublished (at least as of the publication date of this comic). For everybody else, this is a nice mix of stories. First up is the story of his odd habit of curling up his tongue when confronted with something too cute, to help prevent himself from hugging or grabbing said cute creature too tightly. I’ve never heard of this, but am equally confused by the reaction of people confronted with overwhelming cuteness who proclaim their desire to murder said cute creature in various horrible ways. Next up is the mysterious case of the lead masks, which I read in another anthology, making this the only story in here that I’d seen before. For everybody else, it gets into two men who died mysteriously with no signs of foul play, mysterious journal entries leading up to it and all kinds of weird theories as to what may have happened. From there we get a short history of the mohawk, followed by the angst of a female preying mantis as she tells her partner what is going to happen to him when they have sex. Next is the “you should take some drugs while reading this” story of the batch, as Little Orphan Annie morphs into the Popeye comic strip, but not in the way you might expect and not completely. Eh, this one you’ll just have to see for yourself. Finally there’s Jon having an honest conversation with Garfield, and Garfield gives him the advice we’ve all been wanting to give him for many years now. There are also a few shorter joke pieces, but I’ll leave those a surprise. I laughed for some of them and didn’t laugh for others, which is how these things usually go, but humor is subjective, so your opinion may vary in either direction. It’s a solid collection of stories, and it’s pretty cheap at $3. You should probably buy it and see what you think of it. $3

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MacFarland, Matt – Dark Pants #2

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Dark Pants #2

A little note for future people who send me comics to review: if you include the phrase “a mysterious pair of trousers,” you have increased the chances of me liking your book exponentially. Of course, then you have to work up a plausible reason as to why there would be a mysterious pair of trousers in your comic, which is why it helps Matt that that’s already the subject of his comic (as the title may have implied). This is the second issue, but Matt assured me in the letter he sent with his comic that each issue follows a different person in different neighborhoods of Los Angeles as they each discover these trousers and experience some sort of life change associated with them. In this issue we start off with Milena, a young college girl who happens to be a virgin. Which wouldn’t be notable, but she’s also writing a sex advice column. Anyway, she’s still living with her family and is increasingly unsatisfied with the situation, and one night she finds the previously mentioned mysterious pair of trousers on her porch. They don’t belong to anybody in the house and nobody has any idea how they got there (although I’m guessing the previous issue might clear that up), but they increasingly weigh on Milena’s mind, until eventually she wears them and decides to go out on the town. The pants are a rousing success, or at least they are in regards to her finally hooking up with some random guy at a bar. From there we see her finally getting the nerve to ask out the creep on the bus that she has a crush on and what happens because of it. And far be it from me to give away the ending, but it looks like the pants will be moving on in the next issue to another person. Where do they come from? What do they do? Are they just pants? Maybe all these issues will get resolved, or maybe the pants are just a good excuse to tell a bunch of different stories. Either way, it was a thoroughly entertaining and engaging comic. That $10 price tag is a little steep, but there is a lot of comic here, and we do get some color before it’s over. Check it out, jump onto the journey of what exactly the deal is with those pants! $10

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Gennis, Emi – Baseline Blvd

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Baseline Blvd

This is going to be another one of those cases where I can’t say much about the comic without giving away the ending, so for those of you who enjoy watching me dance to avoid such a thing, get ready for some fun! Generally speaking you can count on a comic to be autobiographical if a character in the story looks like the author and is referred to by his or her first name, so when I saw another character refer to the female lead here as “Emi” I assumed that would be the case. But you know what they say about assuming, so I went to her website and it’s true, this is autobiographical, and clearly deeply personal. This is Emi’s longest work to date (unless I’m forgetting something, but it’s 64 pages), and long chunks of it are taken up with her driving through Missouri or flashbacks. The flashbacks detail a deeply troubled relationship, or at least that’s the bits of it we see, and I’ve read enough of these types of comics to think I knew was coming. I was completely wrong. The conclusion smacked me right between the eyes, and going by the chain of events that led up to it, I’m glad that was her reaction rather than crumbling up into a ball and shutting herself away from the world. I can’t say for sure that that wouldn’t have been my reaction under similar circumstances, but from everything I’ve seen she has no reason to feel even remotely guilty. I hope that this is an older story from her life, one where she’s had a bit of time to heal, but if it’s still raw, and if she does happen to read this, her reaction was exactly right. Those types of people take their power where they can find it, and they’d probably be delighted to know that they still had power over you even when they can no longer do you any harm. Knowing that conclusion even gives those driving scenes more power, as that drive must have seemed like it took an eternity with all the thoughts that must have been swirling around in her head. Everybody reading this who has ever had a problematic relationship should give this a read, as it answered a pretty big “what if?” question that was in my head. $8

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Steiner, Steve – Colonel MacTaggart in Colonel Cube

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Colonel MacTaggart in Colonel Cube

OK, granted, that cover image makes the lead character look an awful lot like another vaguely cubish character from a ridiculously popular cartoon. Assuming it’s still popular and, as I have no kids, I don’t know that for sure, so I’m talking about Spongebob Squarepants if it’s no longer popular or if you’re somehow reading this in the distant future. But what’s wrong with turning your lead character into a cube? It’s obvious even from the cover that this doesn’t really happen to him, that it’s just a dream, so where’s the harm? Who am I arguing with right now? Anyway, this is the story of a dream of the Colonel. We don’t see the reason for the odd dream until the end, but right away we see the Colonel coming to terms with his new form and learning that this form also allows him to transform other creatures (albeit with unpredictable effects). So our hero transforms a small lizard, turning it into a giant monster, and the monster is then killed by a tribe of “cone savages.” We get some solidly funny dialogue from the Colonel to this tribe, showing the delightful contempt that such explorers often showed for native people back in the day, which leads to their interaction taking a bit of a turn. I’m in danger of giving the whole thing away here, so I’ll just say that the eventual reason for his odd dream was brilliant. It’s a fun and funny book all around, and I’ll always agree with the idea that creatures who look like living candy corn should always be the villain. Oh, and it’s all in full and glorious color, assuming that such things matter to you, and why shouldn’t they?

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McFadzean, Dakota – Last Mountain #2

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Last Mountain #2

Small press comics artists, take note: that is how you do a cover. I knew exactly what I was getting into before even opening the comic, and Dakota even added a subtle touch (that bug) that played a larger role than I would have thought in the story. The bulk of this comic is about a new kid at school, Danny, and his troubles fitting in. But we see the story mostly from the perspective of another kid, as she makes a few attempts to be his friend. The gist of the story is that Danny is a young man who had to leave his past school for mysterious reasons and that kids there called him “Buggy.” Just in case there are any children reading this who have a nickname that they’d like to get rid of and are moving on to a new school: don’t announce that nickname to your new class! Granted, with social media all nicknames are more or less permanent, but at least don’t make it easy on them. Anyway, Danny has a giant chip on his shoulder about all kinds of things, and his genuinely odd behavior around bugs doesn’t do a thing to ingratiate himself with the local kids. It’s a heartbreaking story where the biggest moments are played silently, giving you plenty of room to interpret some of the more ambiguous silences. There’s one other short story in here, basically dealing with working up the nerve to commit some vandalism when you’re a kid and the consequences that sometimes come with that. It’s a really solid comic all around and I’d recommend it for anybody who ever had issues fitting in as a kid or knew somebody who had those issues. So, everybody, basically.

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Fluckiger, Vincent – Inside Salmeck

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Inside Salmeck

How much do you know about where you live? Granted, if you live in your childhood
home, or never left your hometown, chances are you know quite a bit. But if you
moved away when you were younger, have gone from apartment to apartment a few times,
and wound up wherever you are now, how much do you really know about your
surroundings? Know any neighbors? This comic is an exploration of Vincent’s
immediate surroundings. That much is obvious right away, as his image of the
building he lives in has notations for which neighbors live where and the nature of
the building itself, including the history of it and the styles of construction in
various parts of the building. From there we get to learn a tiny bit about his
neighbor (who killed himself; when his mother came by to clean up she gave Vincent’s
daughter the childhood toy from her son, which he was rightly creeped out by), then
into Vincent’s apartment. From there he has a close view of his neighbors across the
street, and each of them has their own story (or story that he made up after
observing them for a time). It never gets too voyeuristic and we learn precious
little about Vincent’s life, but it serves as a fantastic portrait of a place and of
the time in which it’s being observed. Check it out, then just try not to look
around at your own place and wonder what else is going on around you that you’ve
never seen. $2

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Pasion, Adam – Crawdads

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Crawdads

Who loves teenage angst? Everybody, that’s who! Well, maybe everybody outside of
parents of teenagers, as they’re sick of dealing with it. And angsty teenagers
themselves, who are convinced that their angst is the one true angst and that nobody
has ever suffered as much as they have. Well, if you’re not in one of those groups,
you’ll probably thoroughly enjoy this comic. This is the story of a 16 year old boy
who gets talked into taking a family trip, complaining all the way. Also along on
this trip are the father (who is annoyed with the boy but gets the whole teenage
thing), the mom (who is also annoyed and much less forgiving) and his younger sister
(who is trying to emulate him out of a clear desire to keep him around for as long
as she can). The bulk of the comic is the conversations between various members of
this group, but the highlight comes from the title, as the two kids notice some
crawdads in the lake and decide to catch one. They end up catching two and, because
of the book our hero is reading at the time, he thinks they might be delicious. So
they cook them up, probably in about the most humane way that they could
(considering that they didn’t know what they were doing), and discover that they are
delicious. But this is when the mom catches them, and instead of joining in in this
moment of family bonding, things take a very different turn. There are lots of cute
and/or insightful little moments in here, and there’s a good chance that this could
even serve as a bit of an instructional guide if you are a parent of a teenager, or
somebody who will soon be a teenager. Either way, there’s a lot to like here for
just about anybody.

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