Category Archives: Reviews

Reviews

Carlier, Chris – Spaboon

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His website about mascots

Spaboon #1

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

Sergel, Robert – Bald Knobber

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Bald Knobber

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

Wirick, Katherine K. – Nervenkrank #2

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Nervenkrank #2

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

Psaltis, Reid – Kingdom/Order

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Kingdom/Order

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.

Muradov, Roman – Resident Lover

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Resident Lover

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

Sousa Lobo, Francisco – Master Song

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Master Song

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

Scheer, Rachel – The Hanukkah Fire, 1992

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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?

Franz, Pedro – Collection

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Collection

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

Diaz, Abraham – Nausea

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Nausea

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

Cass, Caitlin – Projections on a Monument

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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.

Spina, Sam – Spinadoodles #8: Mooz Boosh

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Spinadoodles #8: Mooz Boosh

On the short list of things in this life that are guaranteed to bring me joy, a new Sam Spina comic is right up there with finding a sack of money in the woods. Um, spoiler alert for how the review is going to go, I guess. Yes, it’s time for a new collection of Sam’s diary strips for the year, with several pages of sketchbook doodles thrown in. Sam has been working at Cartoon Network for a few years now, meaning he has less time for his comics. And sure, he’s financially stable now, which is better for him than the alternative, but I’m right around selfish enough to wish for more comics for me and more misery for him. Not quite selfish enough to say that, mind you, but close. It does look like Sam posted his first new diary comic recently (February 2018), so at least he hasn’t given up entirely, but enjoy this one, as it might be his only comic for a year or so. Luckily, it’s a great comic! Subjects include various conversations with this girlfriend Samantha, getting stung by a bee while riding his bike, trying to keep his cats from killing themselves by walking on high railings, drunken tales from SPX 2016, accidentally putting salt in his coffee, a recap of November, only liking Harry Potter a little bit, going on a hike, and New Year’s 2016. And a whole bunch of other stories, but since half the fun is discovering them yourselves, I’m not going to ruin that for anybody. The comic also covers Sam’s rejection of a cartoon he’d been working on for years, which is a terrible thing, since this world would automatically be a better place with a Sam Spina cartoon in it. Anybody out there reading this run a television network in need of a great new animated show? Just checking. It’s another ridiculously hilarious selection of strips and images from Sam and, like all the rest of them, it’s required reading for anybody who likes anything funny. $10

Feldman, Steve – Shortcut

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Shortcut

A piece of advice for anybody out there who might still do this: never read the back of a book before you read the book itself. I flipped this comic over when I finished it and it mentioned something that happened on the final couple of pages, something that I hadn’t seen coming. So if you get nothing else from this review: break yourself of that habit! This is the story of a young couple whose car breaks down out in the middle of nowhere, while they’re taking a shortcut. They’re reasonably outdoorsy people, so they set out to find their way back to civilization and come across an old diary. A very old diary (turns out it’s from 1839), and it tells the tale of a group of settlers and the difficulties they encountered along the way. Eventually their troubles start to mirror the troubles of our heroes, and this is about the point where I have to stop talking about the specifics to avoid spoilers. It was a tense story, but I could have used a bit more time with the modern component of the story. One half of the couple really got played up as the one who complained about every little thing, to the point where I couldn’t tell if she had survival skills of her own or if she was just being dragged along for the ride. Maybe it was intentionally left ambiguous because of what came later? Sure, let’s go with that. It’s a solid comic with a creepy ending, what more could you ask for? $7

Skrzynski, Mike & Ryono, Colin – Detainees

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Detainees

This is one of those comics where I’m really glad I read what looked like the legalese at the start of the book, because that’s where Mike mentioned that this is all based on a dream. Without that information I would have had a whole lot of questions. This one starts off with three soldiers burying some bodies. We never see the bodies, we don’t know what happened, and we’re not entirely sure what the story is of these soldiers. It sets the mood nicely for the rest of the comic, as there’s a sense of ambiguity and/or danger hanging over everything. We learn a few things about these soldiers, then they notice a child watching them from the bushes. One of them is so tense that he takes a shot at the kid, but from there they’re determined to find him and help him. They trace him back to a bunker where (after determining that it’s not a trap), they talk to him and see another woman who looks like she’s trapped in a cell. They try to get her out but are unsuccessful, which leads to them all spending the night in the bunker. This is the point where things start getting really weird, or possibly just awful, but I’ll leave that to the reader to discover. Mike and Colin have a nice sense of pacing, and the casual way some of the horrors are discussed really sticks with you. That conclusion is brutal, and completely earned by what comes before. Honestly, knowing it comes from a dream makes it a little easier to take, even knowing that horrible things happen in war all the time. It’s a solid story, in other words, and it’s well worth checking out.

Froh, Kelly & Clotfelter, Max – Stewbrew #5

Website for Kelly

Website for Max

Stewbrew #5

Hey everybody, let’s take a road trip with two of the most talented cartoonists around! OK, it’s a virtual road trip, in that it’s you reading a comic about the trip that they took, but you get what I mean. Kelly’s Mom has agreed to give Kelly her old car, but she lives in Wisconsin and Kelly lives in Seattle, meaning the only way to get the car back is via a very long 4 day road trip. So Kelly and Max set out together, got on a flight to Wisconsin and then drove back, drawing stories all the way. OK, they probably did most of them when they got back. I’ve really got to stop leaving myself open to such literal misinterpretations. The front and back of this book are filled with postcards, receipts and various bits of trivia that they found along the way. The bulk of the book is full of comics about their journey, with subjects like forgetting the exact date while driving (sometimes that’s more important than others, apparently), the inherent overthinking that goes into visits with the family, taking in the sights of the small towns, finding out that prairie dogs are poisonous (who knew?), a list of various foods eaten and bands listened to, an irresistible hat, and finally getting back home. I undersold the “taking in the sights of small towns” thing; that’s a solid chunk of the comics. But they ran into an awful lot of oddities, so I didn’t want to delve into too many of them before you read the book. I also found out on the back cover that they were nominated for an Ignatz for this series, so kudos to the both of them! It’s well deserved, even if that means some other asshole probably won if they’re only mentioning the “nominated” part. I kid, obviously, I’m sure whoever won was great. But give these people some awards! And if you’re reading this and can’t give them awards, at least give them some money for the comics, because they’re great. $4

Cardini, William – Sphere Hear

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Sphere Hear

How is it possible that I missed yet another artist at CXC last year (2017)? I’ll get to the review in a second, but William mentioned that in the letter with this comic, and I clearly need a new plan for actually meeting the people who are at conventions. Do I need a checklist? Gah, I swear I must have missed an entire room full of artists. Anyway! That’s not your problem, it’s mine. Isn’t there a comic I’m supposed to be talking about? Why yes, there is! This is the story of a gigantic space being who ruins a planet with his excessive pyramids. He removes the eye from his body (which apparently carries his consciousness) and escapes the planet entirely. But he can’t resist taking a look back at what he’s done, which leads to some dire consequences for the planet. Or are they fantastic consequences? Welcome to the world of William Cardini! If you’ve never read one of this comics, you may have a bit of an adjustment period. I love the fact that William has been living in this Hypercastle world for roughly a decade now, and he shows no signs of slowing down. Or of making his work more “commercial,” although I have no idea what that would look like in this universe. I literally cannot picture a Hypercastle cartoon or action figures. But yes, the point of this review is that this is another fine entry in that world, and another peek into what makes the whole thing tick. $5

Van Deusen, Tom – The Big Me Book

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The Big Me Book

In a world where there are so many actual assholes, where the news constantly seems to be life or death stuff, where all decent folks are rallying together, implicitly or explicitly, Tom has chosen his lane: autobiographical comics asshole. It’s nuanced, it’s hilarious, and it’s almost certainly not who he is in real life. But in an age where subtlety has passed us by, I love the fact that he’s sticking with it. There are a few stories in this comic, all roughly related to his overall theme. First up is a piece about him having a dinner with his parents, unable to stop and have a conversation with them while being obsessed with the lack of “likes” his picture of said dinner is getting. There’s a hilarious bit where he tries to defend his work at a convention when an unfortunate medical condition springs up: Tom’s thought bubbles over his head are visible to the outside world. That condition powers a couple more short strips, with a trip to a doctor about his condition and the “cure” that he comes up with. Then there’s the heart of the book, the part where I stop talking about the actual contents of the stories because it’s such a delight that I don’t want to give anything away: Tom gets three wishes from a magical talking cat. How he gets the wishes, what he does with the wishes (remember, comic Tom is a full blown asshole), and the way the strip ends, all those delights I’m leaving to you to discover, gentle reader. If you’re able to stop taking everything so seriously for a few minutes, to avoid the temptation of turning everything into an outrage, I can’t recommend this book enough. There are sadly few comic artists around these days that are capable of making me literally laugh out loud, and Tom is one of them. Never change, you (hypothetical) jerk you! $6

Hayes, Leah – Not Funny Ha-Ha

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Not Funny Ha-Ha

Normally I avoid anything that could remotely be considered a spoiler in my reviews, but I’ll come right out and say it: this is a book about how to get an abortion. How to get one, how to figure out what type is best for you, how to best arrange transportation, what to realistically expect to deal with medically afterwards, how it’s normal to feel guilty after it’s done (or not feel guilty at all), etc. It is thorough, thoughtful, full of practical advice and completely free of judgement of any of the women making these decisions. It’s goddamned great, is what I’m saying, and this should be required reading for any women who can have kids, along with all the assholes who are trying to prevent women from being able to make these decisions, because maybe then they’d start to see these women as humans. I should make one other thing as clear as possible: this book is not intended for me! Granted, I learned a lot from it, and can now give some basic advice to women that I maybe couldn’t give before. But at the end of the day I’m a guy, and thus can’t get pregnant, so it’s never my call on whether or not somebody should get an abortion. So yes, this book is amazing and just about everybody should read it. That’s as clear as it could be, right? Good, because I have a couple of quibbles with it that I can’t resist mentioning. Let’s start with the most minor quibble: that cover. For a book that’s so open about being loud and proud about getting abortions and teaching everything that goes with it, maybe use the word on the cover? It’s clear on the back cover, and it’s easy enough to read through the lines, which is why it’s such a minor quibble on my part. My other quibble is a bit larger: nowhere in this book does it talk about the best strategies for dealing with the pro forced birth crowd. Oh, there are some bits of advice about volunteering to be one of the people who help escort women into Planned Parenthood through those throngs of assholes, which is sound and helpful advice. The trouble is that a lot of those assholes are elected officials now, and they’ve been chipping away at unfettered access to abortions for decades. So you can still technically get an abortion in every state, but bullshit health regulations have forced all but one clinic to close. Or the fact that some states force you to view an ultrasound of the fetus, no matter how tiny, and others will force you to wait for a legally mandated few days to “think about it.” This book does an excellent job of putting the reader in the place of someone who is considering an abortion and how hard the decision could be, but I wish there was a little space dedicated to how much harder it could be in those states, and some tips on how to overcome those obstacles. The likely answer is that there are no great answers for these women, which is depressing to think about. This is all me asking for the perfect abortion book all in one place, I know, but that’s why I get paid the big bucks to talk about comics (note: I get paid no bucks). Again, to be clear, I’m not trying to complain about a book that’s 95% perfect, I just wish there was more advice for the women with the misfortune to live in one of the shittier states. $16.99

Knickerbocker, Sean – Killbuck

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Killbuck

I’ll admit it: between that title and what looks like a suspicious glance on that cover, I had different expectations of this book. I was completely wrong, which is always nice. Subvert my expectations more often please, artists of all kinds! Instead we’re basically seeing a small chunk of the lives of a few high school students and the people in their immediate orbit. Things start off with three friends (one of whom is clearly much lower in the pecking order than the others) going to check out a cabin in the woods. The cabin belongs to people who go away for the winter, so these kids are thrilled by the idea of a private hideout stocked with booze and (to them) terrible music. I also get the impression this is set roughly around 2000, although don’t quote me on that. Anyway, they decide on throwing a party in this new place, but with only a few people to avoid getting caught. We then get to see a little of the home life of Jesse (the long haired member of the trio, along with Eric (the asshole) and Kris (the terrified younger guy)), quickly followed by an introduction to the two ladies they had decided to invite to this party, working their job at a diner. We get a good look into exactly why Eric is such an asshole, and then it’s time for the party to begin! Things don’t go well, but it’s not a complete disaster either, but it does cause a split in the group. And this is the part of the review where I arbitrarily decide that I shouldn’t share any more of the story with you. The rest of the book is about how the kids end up grouping together after the party, the plans they’re making (or not) for life after school, and what is holding some of them back. It’s a brief period of their lives, but it’s universal doubts and fears to anybody who grew up in a small town. Or most likely anybody who grew up at all, but since I come from a small town too it really spoke to me. One thing’s for sure, these graduates of the Center for Cartoon Studies sure seem to know their stuff… $10

Robertson, David – Wow! Retracted

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Wow! Retracted

To every comics artist out there who worries endlessly about putting out comics on a regular basis, you could do a lot more than emulating David. The bulk of his stories are short, usually only a few pages long. This lets him submit comics for all kinds of anthologies, and every year or so he has more than enough material to put out a book of his own. See how easy it is? Granted, lots of artists only deal with larger stories, but at least having the ability to work on shorter stories would be a nice change of pace for whenever you get stuck on whatever epic you’re working on. So hey, enough of the life advice, how about this comic? The bulk of these 40 (!) stories are written and drawn by David, with about a dozen of them coming from other artists. There’s no central underlying theme, just a big old pile of stories about all sorts of things. OK fine, his “I Live With a Killer” stories (about how his cat brings him pieces of various animals it’s killed) have a connecting theme, but they’re the exception here. Other highlights include the final thoughts of thelast two survivors from a plane crash, our first encounter with aliens, petty space station revenge, the man who’s always falling in love, the story and fate of Dolly the cloned sheep, a story of a missile attack (written by his son I think?), the concept of putting people in concerts who just want to talk for the whole show in their own section, exactly how much of your life you waste on vacuuming, skipping an internet video only to see it on the actual news later, a comic about making a comic that sort of eats itself (drawn by Zu Dominiak), the story a mouse brings back home after nearly being eaten, the robot and the monster, and the inner lives of a couple of flies. That’s what, not even half of the stories here? It’s another pretty fantastic bunch of stories from David, and if you’ve somehow gotten this far in life without seeing his work this is a solid chunk of comics to start with. No price listed, so I’m going to guess the arbitrary number of $10. Contact David and I’m sure he can set you straight…

Walden, Tillie – Spinning

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Spinning

If you’re anything like me, you scan the “best of” lists at the end of the year more to check to see if you missed something rather than looking for a reason to get outraged if your favorite didn’t make the list. Unless you’re an internet troll, I guess. Anyway, I hadn’t heard of this book before seeing it on a list (Onion AV Club maybe?), and wow am I glad that I didn’t miss it. This is Tillie’s graphic memoir (and at least her third book) and, as of this writing, she’s 21. Maybe you’re thinking that 21 is too young to put out a memoir, that a person that young wouldn’t have the perspective or insight to have much to say. Yeah, I might have guessed that too, and you and me both were very, very wrong. This is the story of Tillie’s life as she navigated being in constant training for competitive ice skating, starting at a very young age. She had to get up ridiculously early, was forced to socialize with people that she otherwise didn’t like (mostly), had her skating literally judged constantly, and otherwise tried to navigate growing up with all of that hanging over her. Oh, and she knew from a very young age that she was gay, but wasn’t sure when/how to tell anybody. She also had parents with wildly differing enthusiasm levels for what she was doing, along with all the problems that come with that. I feel like the laziest reviewer in the world when I constantly say that I don’t want to ruin a book by talking about, that it should be experienced by the reader with as few preconceived notions as possible. And hey, here I go again, doing that exact same thing! But this time I’m reviewing a book that is legitimately one of the best things I’ve read all year, and it’s not just me saying it! She’s a graduate of the Center for Cartoon Studies and it shows; she has some serious skills, especially when you consider the fact that most of her life was devoted to an entirely different field. In here she shows no fear, letting quiet moments become awkward when necessary, speeding through some of the parts that needed it, and just generally knowing when to go for an emotional gut punch and when to back away. I’m still stunned that she’s so young! It’s clear that the next generation of cartoonists is going to have a lot more training in the field before putting their books out. I guess purists/cranks might say that books lose a bit of their charm when they’re so expertly done (getting away from the punk aesthetic), but screw that. Mini comics by people who are making it up as they go are one of my favorite things in the world, but another favorite thing is seeing somebody put it all together and producing a masterpiece. Tillie managed that here, and everybody reading this who’s wondering what to splurge on with that holiday money should look no further than this book. $22.99