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Reviews

Bravo, Kyle – Forever and Everything #8

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Forever and Everything #8

It’s the further adventures of Kyle and his family! This time around he’s calling it the “hashtag dadlife” issue, and that makes sense. The bulk of the strips do deal with his family (or his brief, futile efforts to get some time to himself), and here I am using a sample image that’s him all by himself. Look, the rule around here for sample images is that same as it’s always been: did it make me laugh? If so, in it goes. If not, meh. Anyway, digression aside, what’s in this particular issue of the series? Kyle talks about ignoring longstanding problems, finding a rat outside, things going drastically wrong with the edge trimmer, that screen life, the most solid reason I’ve ever heard to be afraid of Scooby Doo, time with his therapist, that moment at the post office when he really should have checked the price of first class shipping, and the hunt for what’s making that beeping noise at work. If you can’t relate to that last one, congratulations on never working in an office environment! It’s another solid issue, with one slight caveat from me, that isn’t even necessarily a bad thing. Kyle starts his bio at the back of the book by saying that he’s tired, and that fact is evident throughout the comic: this man is exhausted. That’s not to say that there are no funny or insightful strips; several of both can be found in this issue. And who can blame the guy for being tired? He has two small children! EVERYBODY in that situation is tired, all the time. But the real theme for this issue is exhaustion. Here’s hoping he finds that mythical work/life balance, because he’s trying to get to work on two larger projects that both sound potentially fascinating. Give this one a shot, exhausted dads! Either you can get some pointers in here, or you can just commiserate with the man about the ongoing lack of sleep. $7

Hiebert, M. Elias – Meditation Funnies #1

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Meditation Funnies #1

Meditation! Who does it? Do you? I clearly don’t, as I’m already rambling at the start of this review, which can’t be the sign of a calm and collected mind. This comic, as you may have guessed from that title, is based on a meditation session. Or it’s fictional; no further clues are given past that title. In this meditation, our hero is constantly interrupted and harassed by a malevolent imp, although he seems to have enough trouble meditating even when he’s left completely alone. As you can see from the sample image, the art style screams “stuck in a work meeting, trying to look like you’re taking notes,” although maybe “minimalist” would be a nicer way to phrase it. Elias (or maybe he goes by M.?) sent along a gaggle of his mini comics, so I’ll get a more complete idea of his work over the coming weeks and months. Based on one issue? It’s… fine. A couple of funny bits, some interesting interpretations of the idea of meditation, and you’re done. Which is fine! It’s a shortie, and (as you can see on the cover), it’s free. So for the meditating people in the audience, give it a shot why don’t you? I’m assuming he’ll at least want you to cover postage, so if you’re interested check to see what the deal is.

Porcellino, John – King Cat #81

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King Cat #81

It’s a new issue of King Cat, which means most of this review is going to be me fighting with myself not to leave the review with that simple fact. What, you want more information other than the fact that there’s a new King Cat in the world? I mean, OK, but you and I both know that I’m never going to give a bad review to this man, unless his brain snaps and he goes full Trumper. And since he’s damned near the last person on Earth who that would ever happen to, there are no worries here. So what’s this particular issue about? There’s John’s intro, and life has gotten him down this time around, which I don’t like to see. I get it, what with [gestures arms wildly at the world in general], but John has a seemingly effortless ability to find joy and beauty in the little things, so I hope that’s getting him through. Stories in here deal with a few of those quiet, joyful moments, finding the beauty in his medicine cabinet of all things, some of the landmark groundhogs he found driving around in 2020, a few more simple moments, an absolutely adorable strip called “Where’s Miss Moo” in which we all try to spot his cat, and how sparrows handle rain. Among a few other things, because as always I’m not going to tell you every story. A couple of the highlights are the piece about how Saturdays have evolved for him over the years (starting as the best day of the week, to just another day once he entered retail work, and finally drifting back to the best day of the week) and a brief but hilarious history of his eyebrows. John’s in his early 50’s, and anybody around there will be able to relate with how eyebrows get absolutely ridiculously out of hand as you age. There’s also the usual text highlights of his comics: a list with brief descriptions of some of his more notable dreams, his top 40 list (that, as always, is as many actual numbers as he wants, which may or may not be 40) and his reader letters. It’s still one of the more complete mini comics around, he’s still putting them out, all these years later. Get it, think about life, and enjoy. $5

Neal, Andrew – Meeting Comics #20

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Meeting Comics #20

It’s the final issue of Meeting Comics! … is what I thought before I hovered my cursor over the next few comics Andrew released, as all of them have their own distinct titles but are secretly also considered to be part of this ongoing story. Probably not an issue for anybody who isn’t a reviewer, but I run a full service rambling station here. So what’s going on this time around? We start off with two musical strips about the covid vaccine as sung by a clown doctor and yes, they’re as glorious as you might have guessed. Other stories include Don dealing with some money problems, Gil taking over the company, Val explaining the secret of her sexiness (it’s all about maximizing the hottest shape around), using their porn studio to film a breakup for the drama, Val trying to set up an NFT (that’s really just a setup for a really solid punchline), and Val finally finding her dream woman, among other strips that I’m not going to mention so as not to be a spoiling monster about it. We also finally get to see Thomas and Tina have a conversation, and no matter how awkward you think it’ll end up going, you can probably add a few more points of awkwardness onto that. Did I mention that both of them brought their current girlfriends to the meeting? Yep. Oh, and there’s also a Val centerfold by Adam Meuse, just in case there’s never enough Val in your life. It looks like the issues are getting a bit more self-contained after this, says the guy who’s over here judging books by their covers. Find out what happens along with me! Unless you’ve already bought all these issues, in which case read along with me to have your own opinions validated/get enraged by how thoroughly I’m missing the point! $5

Mirsky, Robb – Sludgy #4

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Sludgy #4

It’s everybody’s favorite constantly melting creature who’s just trying to have a good time, Sludgy! Which, in case you’re new to this, is actually more than one creature, and they can make more Sludgys through various bodily excretions. Vomit, specifically, at least as far as this issue is concerned. This one has three stories in it, each showing off a different aspect of life as a Sludgy. First up are two Sludgy friends as they travel through the forest. They get hungry and end up eating some mushrooms that have pretty extreme hallucinogenic side effects. Remember, these creatures can make conscious, sentient duplicates out of themselves, which is problematic enough when you’re not tripping in the forest. As it is, there’s some serious questions about which Sludgy is which and what aspects of what they’re seeing are actually happening. Next up in the story of a Sludgy whose home is in danger of being flooded, and since water can dissolve a Sludgy things get tense in a hurry. Finally there’s the Sludgy who just wants to introduce himself to a pair of young lovers. He stops himself, realizing that his appearance might cause a panic, and thinks he’s come up with a better way to say hello. I’ll leave it to the reader to discover whether or not he was correct. These comics are a hoot, and seemingly every story raises more questions about what exactly is going on with these creatures, so I’m curious to see what happens next. Bring on the Sludgys! $6

Neal, Andrew – Meeting Comics #19

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Meeting Comics #19

Before I get to the comics, I just wanted to commend Andrew for how he’s portraying the whole Tina and Ellie/Kevin and Ellie/Thomas and Tina romantic mess. It would have been the easiest thing in the world to turn it into a big old drama explosion, but he’s instead treating it like a group of adults who are confused by their new feelings but are all crystal clear that they don’t want to hurt anyone involved. It’s refreshing and realistic. Well, up until Tina and Ellie spend the bulk of the issue trying to exorcise the Dark Lord, anyway, but it’s not like he could leave that story thread just hanging out. So, what’s this issue about? The bit on the cover gives it away, and technically the back cover is even a bit of a spoiler. But you can’t see if here, so it’s still a mystery to you! Other stories include Thomas and Marisol being forced to quarantine together (and it’s a testament to Thomas’s restraint that it takes a few strips before they start going at it; that sexual tension has been flying off the page since they first met), Tina and Ellie trying to figure out their relationships, Gil’s secret twin brother Al, and Marisol taking a new job. Still, the bulk of the book is all about trying to get Gil free from the Dark Lord, and you’d better believe that that exorcism does not go exactly as planned. And you’d also better believe that I’m not giving away the ending here, as that’s been an underlying storyline for the bulk of the series run. This one may be a bit less laugh out loud funny than previous issues (although it still does have more than a few hilarious moments), but that’s only because there’s some unexpected heart here. It’s great, and a satisfying conclusion to that whole arc. It’s also apparently the first issue that Andrew didn’t post online for free, so if you’ve been mooching up until now, buy this one to see how the story ends! $5

Jackson, Rob – Trashcan Private Eye

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Trashcan Private Eye

I won’t tell you why, but I will tell you that this comic ends with a song. And still I somehow resisted the temptation to not use that final page as the sample image! Sometimes this reviewing thing is a sheer test of willpower. So what’s up with this one? It’s a sprawling conspiracy, all with our hero Trashcan P.I. at the center of everything. Things start off with our hero creepily sizing up a young lady who’s come by his office… er, trash can, trying to get help in locating her missing brother. This is where a traditional noir story would begin their romance, but this comic doesn’t go anywhere near that. Possibly because the dude lives in and conducts business out of a bin, which traditionally has been a bit of an impediment in the romance department. So our hero tracks down leads, gets knocked out (which I’m using as a sample image purely because I’ve also often wondered why it’s so accepted in movies to bludgeon people into unconsciousness), and generally spends the bulk of the comic trying to get to the bottom of things. It all spirals into a vast connected gaggle of characters, and you’d better believe that things end in mayhem. I recently watched The Maltese Falcon and was a bit surprised how many of those tropes made it into this issue. Of course, noirs all have at least similar events happening (femme fatale, double crosses, bad guys accidentally telling the detective too much, etc.), so it’s not like I’m assigning any nefarious intent. Besides, all of the ladies loved Sam Spade, so that’s a pretty substantial difference right off the bat. And since I’m not going to tell you all the bits leading up to the dramatic conclusion, I’ll have to content myself and you by revealing a few of the (fantastic) names that Rob has come up with. Wall Face! Big Orange! Smart Guy Eddie! Big Jim Tuckshop! OK, that last one doesn’t even have a cameo, but what a name to put on a mailbox. If you’re already a fan of Rob’s, of course you should give this one a shot. You probably knew that already, as it’s not like the guy makes a lot of stinkers. If you’re new to his work, I’d recommend one of the heftier titles, but if you’re also on a budget and love noirs, you could do a lot worse than this one. If my internal currency converter is even close to correct (it almost certainly is not), then this is roughly $6.

Canini, Brian – Applewood Canyon #2

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Applewood Canyon #2

The creepy tension from the first issue continues here, overlaid with that wholesome narrator telling an unseen audience about the charms of this town. If you didn’t read the review (or the comic) of the first issue that might be a little confusing, but who would just jump in at the second issue? In the previous issue we saw a bit of the town, and this time around we focus on one house in particular. Our narrator checks the door and, as it’s such a trusting town, finds it unlocked. We get a brief tour, have the residents of the house explained based on a large family portrait, and are suddenly distracted by a loud noise coming from downstairs. Any more than that and I’m well into spoiler territory, which is a constant concern anyway while reviewing 8 page mini comics. Maybe I can get away with saying this: it’s going to be extremely tricky to continue the unseen narrator action going into the third issue. But that’s fine! Two issues in and I’m completely hooked on the mystery, and Brian is doing an excellent job of ratcheting up the tension. Some of the asides are also brilliant; after getting detailed bios of two of the people in that family portrait, we land on the third one and the only piece of information the narrator is willing to dole out is “deceased.” Raises a whole lot of questions, huh? I’d recommend this series pretty highly so far, and since Brian is the man of a thousand comics series, I’ll even go ahead and say that you should start with this one. I suppose it could still fall apart, but it’s certainly off to one hell of a start. $2

Neal, Andrew – Meeting Comics #18

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Meeting Comics #18

Could it be that things have finally started to calm down for our heroes? Eh, not really. I mean, sort of, but only a little bit. We start off with several strips in a row about Tina and Ellie, as they’re both coming around to the idea that their fling might actually be more than that. Oh, and they also chat quite a bit with Gil/The Dark Lord, as they’re trying to find some way to get them separated. We get to see a bit more of the new office dynamic at the porn studio. How’s Val handling not being the boss? You’ll be amazed! Well, I don’t know what amazes you, but it is pretty damned funny. Although I guess I don’t know your sense of humor either. Eh, trust me already, or why else are you still reading this review? In other strips Thomas get ready for his porn premier (as the Ribbon Cutter, of course), but a new nemesis pops up that could make things tricky. He also has possibly the best super villain name of all time, but I’m not going to spoil that here. Also, if Thomas can’t make his porn shoot, who could possibly step in? The story may have shifted almost completely from the early issues, but it’s still funny as hell, which is all anybody can ask for in this world. No, not free health care or a world without war, you shut up about that. Just the idea that comics that are supposed to be funny actually are funny. Like this one! $5

Canini, Brian – Applewood Canyon #1

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Applewood Canyon #1

Here’s another intriguing start to a series from Brian, the Cal Ripken of comics! Uh-oh, an extremely dated reference. See kids, Cal Ripken is famous mostly for his streak of consecutive baseball games played in a row, which I think was way over 2,000. Google has just told me 2,632, which is insane. Anyway, my point is that Brian has been making comics for a whole lot of years, and in that time he has produced a whole lot of comics. OK fine, so it’s a flawed analogy! I was shooting for a compliment. This follows Brian’s usual (?) format of an eight page mini, and as a first issue the whole point is to get the reader hooked on what might happen next. He succeeded on that front, as I’m very curious. This issue is done like an olde timey tourist commercial for why somebody should visit a town, but it’s peppered with imagery that adeptly disrupts any sense of comfort you might have with this seemingly quaint little burb. As it’s a shortie, it’s tough to say much about it without ruining something for the reader, but putting a panel of a 30 foot high wall (with “expertly equipped guard towers”) in between a panel showing quaint stone walkways and a serene dog park was an excellent way to bat away any expectations I already had going for how the series might develop. This “commercial” ran for the whole comic, so we got to meet a few characters and even learned about a rival town, so I think everything is set up quite nicely for future issues. Brian being Brian, he already sent me the first 5 issues of the series, so I’ll be able to check for myself very soon. And I still have to go back to Plastic People and see how that’s going, but that’s more a note for myself than part of the review, so please ignore this last sentence if you’re not me. Check it out, get in on the ground floor! $2

Neal, Andrew – Meeting Comics #17

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Meeting Comics #17

It’s impressive (especially in hindsight) how on track Andrew was able to keep his series during the pandemic. It also caused a few great issues dealing with some of the funnier bits of it, but with this issue covid has gone into the background and he’s back focusing on his people. I’m assuming covid pops up again, what with knowing that these strips were produced right before the 2020 presidential election and the covid surge after it, but this is as close to “back to normal” as this comic has been lately. Of course, that still means that lots of thing are batshit insane, but that’s just Meeting Comics for you. Tina and Ellie’s affair does get discovered, in absolutely hilarious fashion, but the response from Kevin and Thomas is still being worked out. I was also surprised that it was an ongoing thing and not just a “victory lap” after they solved their case, so we’ll see later how that affects things. The Dark Lord gets more screen time here than usual, but right now he’s not having a huge impact on the story. Kevin has his own secret, which may or may not come up later. Job offerings are hitting the gang, and a good chunk of them have decided to work for their budding porn empire. Andrew also includes The Last Garbageman on Earth, which I’m assuming was its own mini, and the title kind of says it all. He does manage to include the (at the time) upcoming presidential election in the discussion, and if only fixing that problem was as easy as he depicts it here! My apologies if this has gotten boring for the reader, but yes, this is another solid issue, and yes, you should really be giving this series a chance. Before it would mostly apply to people with horrible office jobs, but at this point it’s covering so much ground that it’s damned near for everybody. Well, except the prudes. I’m guessing all the casual sex and working for a porn startup wouldn’t meet with too much approval in that joyless crowd… $5

DiPasquale, Tony – Nugget #2

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Nugget #2

What a spectacularly unnerving comic. I mean that in the best possible way, of course! Otherwise I’d be curled up in a ball in a corner, too traumatized to even write a review. Apparently I missed making this comparison the first time around, but his work does remind me a little of Jim Woodring’s Frank. Outwardly cute protagonist, silently wandering around a world that’s trying to kill him in all sorts of creative and disturbing ways. Still, that’s where the similarity ends, and it’s possible that Tony never read Jim’s comics. Anyway! This is another collection of a few short pieces, and I’m not going to try quite as hard to avoid spoilers this time around, so look out! First up is Dogs, about our hero (I’m just going to assume his name is Nugget) narrowly avoiding being eaten by a monster at sea. He heads home for a peaceful nights sleep, which may or may not be what he ends up getting. Next up is Cake, which is too horrific for me to talk about. I’m still getting chills when I think about that one. Mother is up next, which is only marginally less disturbing, and even then it’s an obvious matter of opinion. Nugget does end up meeting his mother, or maybe he does. But, like everything else that happens to him in an average day, he’d probably have been better off never leaving the house. Finally there’s Bubbles, which is the sample image I used below. Balls of goo dropping from the sky interrupt Nugget’s card game, and they have a profoundly negative effect on his friend. He and his other friend make a run for it, but how do you fight black goo balls falling from the sky? If anybody is looking for a quote to sum up my thoughts, how about “adorably nightmarish”? That seems to be the long and short of it, which is one of those phrases I’ve never fully understood, but I’m still sticking with it. Once again I should point out his spectacular cover, and once again I hope that convinced some people seeing it at comic shops. Check it out, unless you demand happy endings in your comics.

Clotfelter, Max – Andros #9

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Andros #9

Here’s a little bit of trivia for y’all who have stumbled across this website for the first time: way back in the day (and my memory is not specific, so please allow some leeway here), maybe in my third year of reviewing comics (so around 2003), I ran a review for the third issue of this series, and it looks like I was undecided at the time. It was an anthology back then too, which probably had something to do with it, but the years have made one thing clear: I’m a fan of Max’s work. Even when it’s stuff that I don’t get, there’s something so compellingly grimy about his art that it’s impossible to look away. And if you’re taking “grimy” to mean sloppy, just look at that sample and try that one again. There are several stories in this one, a few of which were already in various small press anthologies, so if you’re somebody who reads every single one of those, I guess you might have seen one or two of these before. For everybody else this will all be brand new, and even if you’ve seen those pieces there’s still plenty in here to recommend it to you. There’s a hilariously tragic story of the time he went to a seedy strip club with information that for $80 they would “do anything” to him. Not to spoil anything, but it didn’t end all that well. There’s another piece about how he slandered a girl when he was a kid with a story about how she had sex with the whole football team at a party (he wasn’t even at the party), which morphs into a tale of how he could protect himself from her irate brother. As always, there’s his centerfold, which should forever ruin any sexy connotations from that word usually being applied to Playboy and the like. The level of detail here is insane, and I don’t know if it’s a good or a terrifying sign that I understood the meaning behind it right away. There’s another story where he talks about a tape that he made in the early 90’s featuring his “burp solos,” and there’s still even a copy of it out in the world as of this writing. Finally there’s a longer strip that talks about his early troubles with panic attacks, a toxic relationship he lived through and even a small glimpse into the origin story of his long term relationship with Kelly Froh, who is also an incredible cartoonist and somebody whose work you should be seeking out. There are also a few single page strips with his redneck characters from past issues, sort of like if Hee Haw got run through a David Lynch filter. I’m clearly biased, but there’s some great stuff in this issue, and it’s only $1 more than the issue I reviewed way back in 2003. Check it out already! $3

Neal, Andrew – Meeting Comics #16

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Meeting Comics #16

The pandemic continues, and the fallout from the last issue is hitting all kinds of people. You remember, that’s the issue that took place over one insane and ridiculous day? Of course you’ve already read it, what am I saying. There’s Kevin and Ellie trying to return home and being kicked out by everybody else, because their chances for covid are pretty high after that protest. There’s Val, maybe at her most Val, which is both saying something and a genuine joy. The Dark Lord is back, despite being mostly dead, and he’s taking some serious liberties. Kevin has some issues with his band being taken in a more corporate direction. The mystery of the bootleg Ribbon Cutter merchandise is revealed! Speaking of, the Ribbon Cutter is approached to do porn, which leads to an absolutely delightful duet with his nemesis. Once again, that’s not even half the stories, but things are moving right along, and they haven’t missed a beat after everybody got fired from their jobs. It’s almost like the comic was funny on its own, with or without making fun of corporate life! Also I’m just going to go out on a limb and say that if you haven’t read any issues up until now, this is as good a place as any to jump in. A few characters get new starts, and sure, you’ll still be missing some crucial context. But if you’re on a tight budget and don’t want to just buy the first collection of strips and/or read the many free sample strips on his website, maybe start with this one. $5

Scheer, Rachel – Just Can’t Shake Your Memory

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Just Can’t Shake Your Memory

Generally speaking, I just plop the sample image below the review and don’t mention it. But today I really want you to check it out, because it’s absolutely fascinating to me, and Rachel leaves it a mystery (or maybe she never found out), but… what the heck was that teacher thinking? Was it some lesson about restraint, taught to children in kindergarten? I mean, it had to be a test of some sort, right? Maybe just a lesson in cruelty? Ack, I’m already sidetracked, so much so that I’m talking like Cathy over here. This is a collection of three stories, and Rachel’s first comic in a few years, what with a new baby and a teaching gig and all. One is about an ex of hers who wouldn’t shut up about HIS ex, and how she eventually met her. She wanted to be annoyed about it, but was too fascinated by the chance to match the person to the stories to make much of a fuss about it. Next is a story about a Leonardo DiCaprio look-a-like who worked at a local coffee shop (at the height of Leo’s fame) and the many plans to sneak a peek at the guy. Finally there’s the story about the teacher, and I do apologize for using one page out of a two page story for the sample image but, once again, I have so many questions about it that I just couldn’t resist. The other page deals with an important life lesson, and kudos to her mother for putting it so bluntly and succinctly. Rachel also included a newsletter where she mentions that she’s been teaching for the duration of the pandemic and is loaded with good material, but she’s not sure how she can “make it funny.” She’s already probably figured this out, but some unsolicited advice? Don’t. Don’t make it funny. I mean, it doesn’t have to be the most tragic thing we’ve ever read, and there are bound to be moments of humor in there, but teaching for going on three years during a once in a century pandemic? At its core, that’s a serious story. Meanwhile, this comic is another solid addition to her pile of minis, and as good a place as any to hop on if you haven’t read any of her comics yet. $5

Uhrik, Henry – Lemonade Tango #2

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Lemonade Tango #2

Everybody out there is familiar with confirmation bias, right? It’s how people who read horoscopes read them for weeks, thinking nothing of it, until finally they do meet a tall dark stranger, just like it said they would! Granted, it wasn’t correct for all those other weeks, but all of that time is instantly discounted because it finally hit on something that happened in their life. Well, I have a sneaking suspicion (especially after going back and reading my review for the previous issue) that Henry is maybe making a reference to me in the brilliant essay on the back cover. Why? Because I used this innocent cartoonist as a springboard to rant about how so many series don’t make it past the first issue, and he references how it would be a shame that the second issue would never come out before going into (in a funny, satirical kind of way) how this issue came about. Did he even read my previous review and, if he did, did he think about it for more than a few seconds? Eh, probably not. But he’s talking about the thing I was talking about, so I got all confirmation bias-y over here. See? That mess right there is why I’ll never be a teacher. Since there’s also a comic here to talk about, this one has a few stories in it, including the continuation (ending?) of the story from the previous issue. Joan lives next door to a brilliant cellist who practices at the same time every night, for what she calls her “private symphony.” When the police come around asking about a murder after an evening where there was no music, how’s she going to handle it? Rick is still trying to convince Martha to go to Paris with him, because to him there’s no better place in the world to propose to her. But Martha has her own plans, and they’re all mixed up in waiting for aliens to come after she finishes her tower. There are a couple of short pieces too, including one about whether or not spelling bees are sports, but I’ll leave that to all y’all. And yes, his afterwards are hilarious. Not better than the comics, just in case I am getting through to him and I came across that way the first time around. Really the whole previous review (and this one) could be summed up as “keep doing what you’re doing,” but if that was all I wrote for a review then I’d be out of a job. And all the sweet, sweet reviewer riches that come with it.

Neal, Andrew – Meeting Comics #15

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Meeting Comics #15

And here I was thinking that Andrew would probably change his format to accommodate his teased storyline that covered a single day. Nope! Same four panel structure, but it all ended up coming together quite nicely. If anybody is coming into this review completely blind and is feeling a bit lost, well yeah, this is a review for the 15th issue of the series. I’m assuming you’re imaginary, but if you’re not, hop on that Meeting Comics train already! So what are the stakes this time around? Val has completely let herself go after finding out that her entire team has been laid off. Kevin has grown a pretty rough quarantine beard and enough time has finally passed for him to rejoin everybody else. The Ribbon Cutters find out about a bootleg mask operation that’s selling their likenesses as PPE for the covid. We find out that Mitch also has an old connection to Val. Tori finally goes off on her own. And since this issue was made during the summer of 2020, you know what that means! That’s right, protests. Not just protests, but the little things about them too, like how the cops used children for propaganda purposes (which I’ll be calling copaganda from now on, which I did not make up, since it sums up the idea in the name) and a Karen making everything about her. Throw all of those elements into a stew, and voila, you get a comic about a single day (that’s really about everything that happened while Andrew was making the comic about one day, but it still works). I guess if you’re an anti-masker and one of the dopes who think that BLM protestors burned down entire cities there won’t be a lot for you here, but if that’s the case I’m alarmed that you ever made it here to begin with. For the rest of us normal folks there’s a lot to love about this issue, just in case you thought he was going to fall on his face while attempting something new. Nope. Buy his comics, why don’t you? $5

Neal, Andrew – Meeting Comics #14

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Meeting Comics #14

The coronavirus cometh! Ugh, I already feel bad about writing that. But here I am, moving right along, leaving that terrible opening line up there for everybody to see. All I can do now is bury it under more words so that anybody who made it past that stomach punch of an opening line will eventually forget about it. So yeah, this one is all covid, all the time. Andrew mentioned in the afterward that he was annoyed about his storylines that had to get changed or abandoned because of the pandemic, but since the comic is supposed to reflect current events, he kind of had to. He did think it would be over sooner than it was, and keep in mind that this was in August 2020 and here in February 2022 the current covid wave is finally starting to ebb. Will that be the final variant? Eh, probably not, but who knows? In this issue, everybody is dealing with things in their own ways. Kevin’s house full of people is already basically isolating together, even the new addition of his ska band staying in the garage… until Kevin’s mother comes by unannounced, coughing, with some meatloaf for everybody. The Ribbon Cutters are compelled to go out because of the imitators, and they end up getting an offer they’d really prefer not to refuse. Rob is running errands for everybody and getting free rubdowns out of it. Val is holed up with Tori, who would very much like something to happen between the two of them, at least until something does actually happen. The Whole Foods detective ends up on the front lines, with everything that that entails. Gil has a meeting with a very sick Dark Lord. Don (along with his boyfriend Terry) pull his horrible mother out of the nursing home, and I’m just guessing that’ll be a larger story going forward. And the whole thing even ends on a cliffhanger, which clearly justifies the idea of my reviewing these weekly. Eh, like it’s a tough job or something. These are universally a treat, and watching him flip all these storylines on their heads without missing a beat is something to see. The next issue looks like it’s all about a single day, so a slight shift from the usual format. Um, just in case you needed any time to prepare, I guess. Anyway, now everybody reading this knows: if we get another variant and you’re trapped indoors again, the covid comics in this series start with #14. $5

Jackson, Rob – The Haunted Hotel

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The Haunted Hotel

I tell you what, this Rob Jackson is one hell of a storyteller. Yes, if you’ve been around this website for a decade or so you already know that, or if you’ve just read his comics throughout the years. But I can’t think of another comic artist who has this wide of a range of the types of stories he puts out. He’s very high up on my own personal list of reasons why I really do have to organize these comics of mine at some point, as it would take me hours (honestly, probably days) to pull all his comics that I own together. Anyway! You’d think that the theme would be obvious from the title, and you’d be right, but only sort of. The hotel does play a role in things, but not until the very end, and it’s not like I’m going to talk about that. This is a collection of three stories that the concierge of the hotel tells as he tries to give some prospective guests fair warning about what they’re in for if they stay overnight. It’s more than that though, as all the stories come together to further contextualize the concierge, his family situation and how all the disparate threads come together. The first story deals with a group of previous guests, a rock band who’s touring in Venice. They’re a bit depressed by one bad review in the newspaper (well, the lead singer is anyway), and they find out that he’s also staying in Venice. This leads to the thought of a confrontation, and the drunk lead singer ends up in a mysterious bar drunkenly asking somebody to murder the reviewer. The second story concerns the lady who was asked to do the murdering and how she ended up in her situation, and the final story concerns the efforts to get her out of that service. The band story takes up the bulk of the comic, and it’s full of little personal touches that really flesh out the bandmates as characters. The concierge ends up being the star of the story, although it’s way too much of a stretch to refer to him as the hero. This is another worthy addition to the Rob Jackson library, so if you’re in the mood to be creeped out more than a little bit, give this one a shot.

Petre, Fake and Greg – Santos Sisters #1

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Santos Sisters #1

You’d really think that I’d have learned not to judge a book by its cover by now, right? 20+ years into rambling about comics, and I just assumed that this one was going to be one of those “funny animal” books. And they’re wearing karate gear, so I also assumed it could be a parody comic, meaning I passed it up for review a few times. Well, sometimes I’m a stupid head, and this was one of those times. Yes, those characters do appear in the comic, but as this is a hefty comic, they’re just in the one story, and they’re not even particularly obnoxious in it. So what’s the story here? This is a full color series of stories about these sisters; they get a cursory origin story but it’s not particularly important. The art style will almost certainly remind you of Archie comics, if those comics had swearing and occasionally spectacular violence. So what’s in these stories, you ask? Subjects include trying to give her sister advice about guys while murdering mercenaries, a story about a modern day Don Quixote (which is maybe the highlight of the book, but it’s a stiff competition), a glimpse into the cartoon “Boozy Bees”, a gunfight on jet skis (and an overly loquacious dolphin), a Halloween party with two Psylocke costumes and a murderous pair that come through the mirror, going camping with the gang (which is when a villain and those karate animals show up), a huge furry penis who’s terrorizing some skiers, a terrible dream about one of the Boozy Bees, and (in what is apparently their first story) an appearance by a werewolf cheerleader. Is that too many parenthetical asides for one sentence? Is there such a thing? So as a whole, this comic is always clever and occasionally hilarious, with the best possible asset if you find yourself not liking one of the stories: they’re all pretty short. Really, I didn’t find a stinker in the bunch, which is quite an achievement with something this size. The art is deceptively simple, but maybe that’s my preconceived notions because this looks like an Archie comic. It’s great stuff, and I’m really hoping this isn’t one of those joke “#1s” but instead leads to a proper series. $5