Category Archives: Reviews
The Island of Dr. Miro
Note: Grant’s website seems to be down, but he linked to it in a Twitter post a few days ago, so I’m guessing it’s just a temporary stop. Or my computer is messed up. Now on to the comics review! It’s going to be a short one, because this is a very short and wordless comic. It’s a fold-out book, so the comic itself is two long images and one single panel frame to wrap things up. He lists three inspirations to the work, but maybe it’d be more fun for you to figure them out for yourselves, so I won’t give them away. I did think I detected just a hint of Jim Woodring (not mentioned in his letter), so I’ll give you that. The comic itself is the story of an adventure in a bizarre world… or is it? It’s visually stunning, which is the most important factor for wordless comics. If this is your first time hearing Grant’s name maybe start with one of his more traditional comics, if you already know his stuff this is yet another worthy addition to the catolog. $4
Note: the binding for this book was too tight for me to scan a sample image, so all you get is that fantastic cover. Besides, who wants the hotness or notness of even one 20th century male artist spoiled in a review? Nobody, that’s who. Once you get down to it this is one of the more straightforward comics out there: Jessica looks at a work of art from a dude, guesses their relative hotness and then has her suspicions confirmed or denied with (I’m guessing) a Google image search. I haven’t laughed this hard this many times while reading a comic for ages, and this gets as high of a recommendation as I can give for that alone. Not sure what that means, exactly, but I’m really putting my back into wishing that everybody out there buys a copy of this and laughs their ass off. Anyway! Now that that’s sorted, there’s still more to the comic than that! The start and end, where this is all being talked about in the context of Jessica giving a talk, is a few extra pages of hilarity. That last panel alone is a thing of brilliance. One final thing, in case you can’t stoop to buying something with a title of “Hot or Not” unless it’s ready to throw down with a seriously scholarly introduction, you’re in luck! I didn’t know what to expect after reading two dense pages of text about these artists, which made the comic itself even more delightful. In case you only read the last sentence of reviews, you should definitely get a copy of this comic. You’ll become the new authority in your peer group on the bangability of artist dudes from relatively recent history. $10
The Audra Show #4
Both stories are featured in this issue, with roughly half of the issue devoted to Oliver’s story in 2008 and half to Bea’s story in 1988. In Oliver’s tale we finally dig into just where those octopus arms of his might have come from, and he learns just how long it is that he’s been missing. Bea’s story has her getting increasingly sick of Jonah and his shenanigans and a long phone conversation between her and Owen. One of these stories actually got me to laugh out loud, which is always a welcome surprise, but I’ll leave it up to you to figure out which one. Maybe you’ll laugh at the other one, who knows? I do think that now is the time for Audra to maybe start putting recaps at the start of the book; four issues is about where I start losing track of what happened in the previous issues and missing some of the little bits. Of course, I also read comics constantly, so maybe most people don’t have that problem of retaining information. If so, just keep all the issues handy and reread them when the new issues come out, that also solves the problem. In a lot of ways this felt like a transitional issue, as we learn a bit about what happened to Oliver but not the whole story, and Bea is still feeling trapped in her life. Still, I’m fascinated by the Audraverse (yep, still using it, even if I’m the only one on Earth), and can’t wait to see what happens next. $5
Just so it’s clear, Dave wrote these stories and Cole drew them. In case anybody thought they went back and forth, as they’re both amazing artists. I went into this with the assumption that it’d be stories of their actual exes, as both have done some autobio comics in the past. Nope! This mini has three stories, and none of them feature an actual ex. Um, spoilers, I guess. First up is a piece about a grunge kid in the 90’s who’s debating whether or not he should dress up for his father’s wedding. His best friend Donny wears a suit every day, after all, and our hero has quite the crush on Donny, even though he knows it’s hopeless. Next up is the story of a woman who’s stopped on a bike path by a guy who says she’s the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen. Neither of them have a pen so they can’t exchange numbers, but at least in this story the woman has a boyfriend waiting at home. Finally there’s the story of a lost dude who has recently broken up with his girlfriend and whose friends are all married. He’s reached an age where he doesn’t want to hang out with relative kids any more, but he’s at a loss as to what to do with himself. And when a group of underage kids approach him, he has his own theories as to why that might be happening. This comic is steeped in wisftulness, so if you’re feeling nostalgic about any missed chances in your life, this would be a perfect comic to read. If not, there are still three great stories in here. Also this is currently (May 2020) listed as out of stock on the Spit and a Half website, so I might have bought the last copy in existence? If so, sorry, but it also might mean that you have to search a little harder to find it. The internet is your oyster! $2
I try to keep up with the comics from the people I enjoy, I really do. But there are people like Kelly out there, putting out quality comics on a steady basis, and it’s just impossible. I mention this because this comic is from 2012 (it’s 2020 as I write this, roughly a few years before the U.S. breaks down into several nation states), and taking one look at Kelly’s website shows me that there are at least another half dozen books that I missed. Where oh where is my benevolent billionaire who’s willing to fund me making reading and reviewing comics a full time job? Ah well. Samson! As the title suggests, this is the story of Samson, a gorilla from the Milwaukee zoo who was a huge hit for 30 years. Kelly has some strong memories from when she was a kid, everything else in here is research or stories from relatives who were around longer. It’s not a particularly uplifting tale, although I should mention that I haven’t been to a zoo since I was a kid and am absolutely biased against the concept. Samson’s companion died young, they tried to put him with another female gorilla but they never really got along, he got really obese from lack of activity, and regularly bashed the glass walls of his cage. His death was sad, naturally, as was the way the zoo botched the handling of his body so it wasn’t possible to use taxidermy. There’s also one hell of a kicker at the end, but I’ll leave that surprise for the readers. It’s another great story from Kelly, and I clearly need to leave myself a reminder to catch up on all of her newer comics. You should too! $2
Dodo Comics #6
(Note: Grant’s website seems to be down at the moment, so I linked to his Patreon page instead. In case anybody was wondering…)
As far as origin stories for Medusa go, yeah, I kind of always figured it would be along the lines of a woman scorned. Again, I don’t know the actual story of her origin, if she has one and wasn’t always just a lady with snakes in her hair in the old tales. This issue picks up where the last one left off; no recap for those of us who read entirely too many comics and can’t keep this stuff all that straight, but you can pick it up from the context. She’s being led to a new source of water by a snake, finds said source of water and returns to her man, overjoyed. Then the image I sampled below happens, we see the frankly devastating first person transformed to stone, and we get the awful surprise of Perseus (as a Trump substitute) giving a political speech. It’s always alarming to see that ugly mug without a warning. So it looks like that story will continue, to which I say: recap before the next one please! A line or two will do. Things are starting to get complicated. The rest of the comic is a few short pieces about the Florida Everglades, both the animals in them and a brief bit about their history and preservation. It’s intriguing stuff; I didn’t know it and I’ve actually ridden around on one of those fan boats. Not that you become an automatic expert from riding on those boats, but you know what I mean. $3
Forever and Everything #5
I’ve become a fan of Kyle’s method of taking exactly as many panels as he needs to tell each story (then just starting the next story in the next panel), but boy howdy does it make it tricky for sampling purposes. It’s almost like that’s not his top priority in making his own comic! This is another solid entry in Kyle’s personal story, and I laughed out loud quite a few times in this one, which is always a good sign. Odd, because a good chunk of this is about suicidal thoughts and depression, but there it is. My impression is that he didn’t come close to actually harming himself, but the thoughts were there; his concern was mostly the loss of options for himself in his life as he raised two children with his wife. And turning 40. Both natural things to be thinking! Other subjects in this issue include seeing a new therapist and getting new meds (then quitting said therapist and meds, then getting back together with the therapist and meds), lots of short pieces about aspects of depression, falling into old habits when he finally has a night to himself, his anarchist child, thinking about moving, installing a headlight and putting together a treehouse, noticing gradual improvements in his mood, getting his car broken into (and only having a phone charger and a book on making comics stolen), the instant rage he sees at noticing a Trump bumper sticker, making a damned odd sandwich, and a few more stories I’ll leave as a surprise. It’s another solid issue, and he talked about putting together a “best of” book with pieces from the first 4 issues, so if you missed them, maybe hold out for a bit longer and you can still get all the best bits. But that doesn’t include this issue, so give it a shot!
Jep’s true name has been revealed! But I’m keeping it a secret, just in case the guy is on the run or something. Hey, he didn’t specify, and if somebody uses a psuedonym that’s always my first guess. This is Jep’s first attempt at a long single comic story, and it’s safe to say that he nails it. This is the tale of his time as an exchange student with a French family when he was 13. The deal was that he spent some time with that family, then the kid of the same age would come spend time with Jep. At first he was thrilled, since he was a quiet kid at school and this gave him a new kind of social cachet. But once he arrived at his new home for the next couple of weeks, it didn’t take long for him to discover that this kid was a total asshole and that they had nothing in common. There were a lot of moments when this comic could have devolved into a cliche, and I’m happy to say that Jep pulled the story away from that direction at every turn. There were the beautiful sisters at his new home (potential sad unrequited love story), the fact that he could have wallowed in misery once he saw exactly what he was in store for with this asshole kid, the whole “fish out of water” thing with him only being able to understand a few words of French… this comic could have turned grim and depressing a number of times, and it would have made complete sense. Instead, Jep recounted his (early for his age) fatalism about the whole thing, how he knew that this was a finite trip and that he should take what he could get from the whole experience. The only moment of genuine panic is when he misses his flight back, and it’s completely earned. His depiction of the kid coming back to stay with him was much shorter, and it’s for a very simple reason: the kid pouted on the couch the whole time. Hard to make much of a story out of that! Even with the language barrier there were still a few poignant moments here, and I’ve spoiled enough already. I’ll just say that the guy knows how to write a compelling comic, and that anybody who had to deal with any kind of exchange student should give this a shot. Or anybody who was ever a confused 13 year old boy. That’s a pretty solid chunk of the population right there…
Sremmah Fo Dog
There’s this thing I do at the start of reviews of comics I didn’t particularly enjoy, and it’s to find the silver lining to it and compliment what I can. What’s that? That’s a terrible trait for a reviewer to have? Yeah, well, that might explain why this is still a hobby 19 years after my first review. Anyway! This comic has a number of visually inventive touches, with some occasional subtle mixes of art and pictures of real objects. And… yeah, that’s about it. The best thing I can say for this comic is that I never got into it as a story, and it’s entirely possible that it’s on me. But the writing for this was damned near impenetrable, and I don’t think that’s entirely my fault. Do you remember those poetry magnets that people used to put on their refrigerators? They were just a series of unconnected words and phrases that you were supposed to put together to make your own poems. This book feels like nothing less than a complete volume of those poems. Go ahead, check out the sample page and tell me I’m wrong. As for the story, I legit have no idea. As you can tell from the title, this is about the god of hammers, and you can tell that because the title is “god of hammers” backwards. I just read a whole book about the dude and I couldn’t tell you what he does. There was plenty of violence, a character that also talked backwards (and that’s a terribly awkward way to read dialogue, especially when they’re talking in full sentences), and the second half of the book was almost entirely double page spreads of a place called Motorcycle City. Also he has more than a few spelling errors in here, which is death for a book where the dialogue takes a lot of work to understand to begin with. Look, this is the first comic I’ve seen from Dustin, so I don’t want this to seem like a thorough trashing. I did enjoy some of the imagery and that alone tells me that he definitely has potential. How about this: if you like your comics abstract, give this a shot. Otherwise give him another comic or two, then check back in to see where he’s at. That’s my plan!
P.S. (Yes, I know reviews don’t have postscripts. Bear with me.) Since artists often send me their own comics to review, chances are the artist also reads the review when it goes up. So I’d like to remind Dustin or anybody else just starting out: don’t let any reviewer make you feel like you’re not doing good work, or that it’s not worth the effort. If you’re making great art, the rest of the world will come around. If you’re making art and it feels like only you thoroughly enjoy it, there’s immense value in that too. Still, find a friend that’s excellent at spelling and grammar, and pass your book around to a few friends before putting it out into the world and see how they felt about it. Have them ask questions about the plot and story structure. If you can answer their questions and satisfy them, you’re on the right track. If not, take another pass, see if clarification really is needed. Um, also, eat your vegetables. Bye!
King Cat #79
30 years! This is the 30th anniversary of King Cat, and it’s yet another great issue. It’s packed with nostalgia, exactly as a 30th anniversary issue should be, and a fair chunk of it is relevant to me on a personal level, so I’ll most likely do my best to keep myself out of it and fail completely. Anyway! I put John’s comic origin story as the sample page, for those of you who are curious. I went to Record Service (in Champaign Illinois) dozens of times myself, but my comics origin story was at a different location… dammit. Didn’t take long to mention my own stuff, did it? Maybe I should stick to saying what the comic is about. Stories in this one deal with his time camping with the cub scouts (and the inevitability of his getting the worst burger when it was his turn), several stories about his time in school with the science club and their many field trips, a few illustrated poems, his patented (but not really) top 40 list, letters from readers, the story of his tamed squirrel and her kids, an old story about the kindness of his grandfather, and the mystery of the gravity hill. Look it up, it’s damned odd! Other bits in here include a story about John from Gabrielle Bell (who you already know if you know anything about comics) and an epilogue to his comics origin story that was somehow both inevitable and shocking. I know, I didn’t think it was possible for a thing to be both either! John also mentioned a couple of times that he’s planning on retiring in the near future. I really, REALLY hope he’s just talking about Spit and a Half and not King Cat as well, but 30 years is a long time to do anything. Speaking of his comics distro service, I just placed a big old order with them in case he closes up shop suddenly (and because I got a raise recently, and what else would I spend that money on but comics?), and I’d highly recommend that y’all do that too. A number of items were sold out, so get what you can while you can. As far as recommendations go, of course you should read it! It’s an issue of King Cat. Always get the new King Cat! $5
Dr. Carl Willendorf: Psychoanalyst of Creatures, Monsters and Other Beasts
It’s election season around the website, meaning that I have a tendency to go for the shorter mini comics, knowing that I have limited time to talk about comics. I know, I hate it too! Anyway, Grant sent along a couple of his latest comics recently, and this one was tiny. This usually means that there’s not much time to form an opinion one way or the other; it’s generally a quickly amusing tale or something that comes and goes without leaving an impression. It’s just the nature of the beast when you’re talking about a comic with 8 panels; no disrespect intended to people who make such books. Anyway, I wanted to make one thing perfectly clear: I absolutely love this concept and hope that Grant makes dozens more books like this. Or bigger, so we can really dig into it. What’s it about? The title should make it obvious, but it’s a psychoanalyst talking to monsters. Or, for the purposes of this comic, one monster: the minotaur. It’s great! Insightful, funny, even a little alarming, all in 8 panels. There are a whole lot of monsters out there, so I hope Grant takes this concept and runs with it. Check it out, it’s a measly dollar and you’ll love it!
The title starts coming into play this time around, and it’s as depressing and realistic as I figured. There’s a lot happening this time around, which I’ll get to in a minute, but there’s also the constant background noise of another school shooting being covered. As the comic goes on we learn more about what happened, who died, how even a former army veteran wasn’t able to stop the rampage… and nobody involved in the story bats an eye. Nobody acknowledges it, nobody seems to change their behavior at all, it’s just an accepted part of the background. Which is a damned accurate summation of the general American opinion on mass shootings in 2020, grim and hopeless though it may be. A lot of the rest of the comic is just regular life going on, so we get Milo going to visit his grandma and his (maybe mildly autistic?) brother, watching cartoons and eating dinner, while Melvin flashes back once again to his days in the war before trying to get out of speaking to a veteran’s group. Once again I feel like I’m not accurately conveying the complexity of what’s happening, but you’ve read some of Alex’s books by now, so you know what he’s capable of, right? He’s also gotten really good over the years at panel angles (is that a term?), of keeping a static scene looking dynamic through different areas of focus and perspective. Give it a shot, or if you’re lucky maybe if you wait a few years he’ll put this whole thing into a collected edition. Meanwhile, this one is $8.
The Audra Show #3
The mysteries of the Audraverse are slowly being revealed! That’s right, I’m sticking with my made-up name for Audra’s comics, in the hopes of her eventually getting a Marvel-esque multi picture deal out of it. Don’t forget me when you’re incredibly rich, Audra! As for the rest of you, you’re probably here to read about the comic, and this is the issue where Audra spells out why there are two sets of characters: Bea and her friends/coworkers are in 1988, and Adelaide and her friends/celebrity crush are in 2008. What connects them exactly is still unknown, but she’s clearly getting there, so I’d advise patience. In the 1988 section we have Bea being miserable at her job, Dan hitting on her before being forced to clean the bathrooms, Flower deciding to take a hike, Owen missing Bea, and Dan being all Dan to everybody. The 2008 section gets less space so it’s more of a transitional story, as everybody arrives at Adelaide’s house after the events of the last issue and get into a brief discussion about refreshments. Like I said, the main action is in the first story this time around. Have I mentioned that the mystery has me hooked? Because it has, even though I’m not even completely sure that there’s much of a mystery to be resolved. But I’ve grown attached to the characters, which makes this series a success in my book. Check it out, here’s hoping there’s a fourth issue when I next see her at a convention… $4
Long time readers of this site will know that every now and then a mini kus book will leave me with not much of anything to say. It’s not that I hated it or loved it, it will just leave me baffled. I’ll still try to cast around for something meaningful to say, some insight, but in these occasions I’ll usually end up beaten. It’s been awhile, but Open Molar, come on down! Ya done beat me. Here, I’ll paste the description on the back of the book, maybe that’ll help: “A list of instructions for this afternoon. Learn to create a drop-shape for slow relief. This solution is only intended for gapped interiors. Do not skip the first step.” There you go! You now know as much as I do. I should point out that the text is so faint that it apparently didn’t come through in the scan, but on the sampled page it says “Set it as you would your watch. Warmth can lead to excessive foam.” Does that help you? Perhaps there are clues to be had in the title. As a good chunk of this deals with teeth, this feels like the right track! Alas, I still can’t make it form a coherent whole. To be clear, this would drive a lot of people crazy, but I love it. Baffle me, mini kus! Leave me books to have around just so I can show them to friends and try to get them to make sense out of them. As to you, reader, who is just trying to read some good comics with maybe a suggestion or two from this end, should you give this a shot? There are at least a dozen mini kus books I enjoyed more, so I’d check back through those reviews and start there. But for anybody who loves a challenge, I present to you… Open Molar! $7
Would you believe that that cover actually tells you the whole story? OK, maybe not totally, but a good chunk of it. After you read it maybe you’ll agree, but I’m not going to explain why here. Oh right, the review! This is set in 2054, right as a lunar eclipse is happening in Alaska. The story is not set in Alaska, but our hero (Eliza) is able to watch it on Starbucks Live Cam. Yes, this is another story about a dystopian future that’s all too plausible based on where we are today (early 2020, future readers, assuming humanity survives that long), but Ines packs all kinds of new ideas into this formula. Most of life in 2054 is lived online, through various types of virtual reality. People do still have jobs, but they’re quickly becoming automated, with very little thought given to what happens to those workers when the jobs are fully automated. Hey, just like today! They’re able to do and see literally anything their heart desires (they have a concert in their living room, go to a rave from 1997, go see Jimi Hendrix in the 60’s, etc.), to the point that they sometimes forget to buy food. They go on like this for a bit, until eventually what she suspects to be an AI breaks through and forces her to communicate. She’s freaked out by this, especially when this keeps happening and she has no control over it, and it culminates (after she’s able to access her medical history which, horrifically, is controlled by McDonald’s) in her finding out she’s pregnant. Despite not having had sex with her boyfriend in at least a year. Things get fucking weird from there, but I’ve spoiled more than enough of this journey. I’ll just say that several parts of this have really stuck with me (I finished this a few days ago and I’ve been gathering my thoughts, which maybe makes this more coherent than usual but probably not), and this is very much worth your time. If you’re optimistic about the future somehow this should cure you, and if not you’ll feel right at home. $19.99
This is really her first book? Really? Well, consider the bar raised, everybody else who’s putting out their first graphic novel! This is a collection of stories about growing up and just generally living while black. Starting things off is the title piece, which deals with Ebony convincing her mother to let her get a perm as a kid, and exactly what goes into it. White people who have never considered such a thing, it’s excruciating, and she goes into detail here. Other stories are about dealing with a crazy lady on the train, the flood of memories that hits her at the funeral for an elderly relative (and her conversation with another relative that caused the older lady no end of grief), a particularly odd reaction to her hair from a child, her little sister and how her relationship to her softball team changed her life (her hair changed when she went into the pool, which caused her to become a sort of “good luck” symbol for the team, which is not something she wanted, to put it mildly), her playing with ducks and the utter lack of patience from her mother when she was playing, and (maybe the highlight of the book, although it’s tough to choose) a long conversation with three friends that goes over several locations. It’s difficult to describe why it was riveting without going into minute detail, which would ruin your reading experience, so just trust me on this one, OK? Bottom line, it’s a pile of great stories from an author I’m assuming we’re going to be hearing a lot from going forward, so get in on the ground floor before she takes over the world! $21.95
Hey, who wants another debate about what exactly makes a book into a comic? Nobody? Yeah, me neither, but since this is mostly a collection of still drawings over real backgrounds, I’m sure somebody has brought it up by now. So instead let’s just call it a book and talk about how incredible it is, OK? This is, as it says right there on the cover, a memoir in conversations. Mira is an Indian who was born in America, which becomes relevant quickly or I wouldn’t mention it, and since this is the America of 2020 at the moment, there are entirely too many assholes out there who are concerned with such things. Stories in here include her parents’ arranged marriage (how it came about, how they both always championed it as a concept despite their not being in love, and how for a while there they hoped for something similar for Mira), how Mira was seen differently in her own family because her skin was the darkest of the bunch, her adventures in dating while constantly worrying about whether or not she was thought of as a fetish object, and her reactions to the 9/11 attacks while living in Brooklyn. And yes, the realization that anybody with brownish skin would have a tough time of it afterwards hit her very quickly. The most powerful story that runs throughout the book is her conversations with her son (around 6 when they started) and how that all paralleled with the rise of that dickhead in the White House. It’s a horror story where we all know the ending, and she naturally made promises to her son that the country wasn’t awful enough to elect the man. Whoops! She also married a white Jewish man along the way, meaning their kid was mixed race, meaning the news that her white stepparents supported the racist was devastating to her and to her whole family. This was a conversation that played out thousands of times over the course of the campaign, but it doesn’t make it any less depressing to see again. They knew he said racist things, of course, but they didn’t think he meant it. And besides, that Hilary woman sure was awful, wasn’t she? Mira tried repeatedly to convey the pain they were putting them through, their son tried to convey the damage it was doing to their connection (which was very strong up until then; Mira had started called her stepmother “Mom” pretty much right away), even talking about how it was affecting their son didn’t change their minds. The book ends on a hopeful (ish) note, as they’re all on a flight in early 2017 to go visit the stepparents, with Mira unsure what to expect and all of them a little nervous about it. I’m obviously curious about what happened next, but that’s left to the imagination. Maybe they came around? Maybe they’re still making excuses for the racism even today, as so many are? Regardless, this book is chock full of fascinating stories (I’m only mentioning maybe half of them, this book is hefty), and very much worth checking out. $30
Watch out, this is a sequel to The Song of Aglaia! Which isn’t that big of a deal, as this stands alone quite nicely, just a public service announcement. This one is going to be difficult to sum up, despite being a lot more linear than a lot of comics that befuddle me. Cixtisis and Aglaia each rule their respective kingdoms, but Cixtisis has a much larger army, so she can more or less have her way with them. The book starts off with Cixtisis on a very long journey for negotiations with Aglaia, as Cixtisis has kidnapped most of her male population. Cixtisis seems to be an absolute monster in every other way, but it’s still shocking when she announces that the men that she kidnapped have all been castrated. Which is maybe a bit of a spoiler, but it happens early, and “I’VE CASTRATED THEM ALL” is in large letters on the back cover. Anyway, negotiations obviously take a turn for the worse at this point, but she had noticed that there was a pregnant woman at court, which is confusing since she thought they had all the males. A brief search later, the hideout is found, and the rest of the book is dealing with the fallout/preparing for war. With the hopes of convincing an army of french fries to help them. Yeah, you thought it all seemed normal enough before that, right? This book is also relentlessly funny, although often in a grim sort of way. I’m going to go back and read the first book immediately, and there’s a sequel coming called Boris the Potato Child, and good luck keeping me from reading that one. As for this book, yes you should read it, of course you should. $16.99
I really have to fix this shanty town of a website. Thought I’d check to see exactly how long I’ve been reviewing Eleanor’s comics, but unfortunately it just lists the date and not the year. And that’s not even getting into when I lost a bunch of review dates with a site rebuild. Holy crap do you have no interest in any of that, so how about we talk about maybe Eleanor’s best book yet? My guess is since roughly 2004 for the reviews, by the way. One thing a book, movie, show, whatever needs to be engaging, at least for me, is to have characters that come to life even off the page/screen. Sure, it’s not going anywhere if they’re boring on the page, but to have something really feel lived in, I need to be wondering what these characters are doing when they’re not the focus. Everybody has seen shows where it looks like characters are just waiting for the scene to start, and you can’t picture any of them engaging in small talk. I had questions about damned near everybody in this, and that’s a hard feat to pull off. What’s it about, you ask, several sentences into perhaps even more rambling than usual? It’s the story of Hannah and Johnny, a couple who’s living off the grid, trying to make a baby while fighting back against the ways that the world is turning awful however they can. There’s also Hannah’s job and her best friend Gabby, Johnny’s paranoid friend, the marches, and the one good cop in the world (which comes back into play later). Hannah’s getting a lot of grief from her friends about trying to have a baby with the world the way it is, which coincides with Eleanor having a recent baby of her own. It’s a good question, and it’s something I struggle with. But I have the luxury of struggling hypothetically, which she does not. There are so many good scenes here, but I’m not going to spoil any more of them. If you’re even mildly liberal and wonder why we fight against the relentlessly terrible news these days, this book will speak directly to you. Like I said, I think it might be her best, so obviously you’d be cuckoo bananas not to get it. $24.95
Two things are true about this book: it’s going to make you uncomfortable at some point, and you should really read it. Yes, that includes the dudes. This is as open and raw a memoir as I’ve ever seen, and since I’m in year 19 of reviewing comics on this website, it’s safe to say that I’ve seen a whole lot of them. It’s also so packed with stories that I have no idea where to begin. The beginning, you say? Sure, let’s get literal. Things start off small, with a story about her daily routine before work, including the 16 step makeup process that’s supposed to make her look like she’s not wearing makeup. The next story is also fairly mundane, about walking her dog and the various things she sees along the way (for what it’s worth, I agree with her: she probably saw a meth lab). With the next story, though, everything gets weird, and it stays various degrees of weird the rest of the way. It starts off with a listing of the 6 other people on her daily bus ride, but when a new person gets on who reminds her of a fling, we get more details of that awkward mess. Which leads to a story of another mess, and we’re off to the races. Subjects in here include her method for telling if she had sex the night before (while she was an alcoholic; she’s since recovered), SO many observed creepy male gazes (either directed at her or others), trying to decide while on a train late at night which one of the two dudes on the train would try to rape her and which one would help her, the three Jims and what they taught her about men, the first dick she ever saw, the sliding scale of what constitutes sexual assault, talking about Freud with somebody who still believes in his bullshit, how half naked ladies are trying to sell her something everywhere she goes (mostly in billboards and ads), and how much was taken from her piece by piece. That last one is daily interactions with men, how thoughtless they can be at times (if not mostly), and how few of them really stop to think about what kind of effect their actions have on others. It’s an incredible book, and yet another example of my trying to save money by using the library ending up backfiring because I’m definitely going to get my own copy of this book very soon. Any woman who reads this will sadly find a whole lot that’s familiar, but maybe they’ll find some useful tips on how to help get through it. Any man who reads this… take it to heart. Even the “good ones” have room for improvement. $24.99