Category Archives: Reviews
King Cat #77
You know what the clearest sign would be that I had somehow become the leader of the free world? If every new issue of King Cat became a national holiday. Why not? It would give everybody the day to go to their favorite coffee shop or park, read the book and contemplate what they just read. There I go again, dreaming of a better world. As always, this review is not going to be particularly objective, because I doubt very much that this website would exist without King Cat. For this title I have no cynicism. This time around John talks briefly about his recent health and family problems, various interactions he’s had with neighborhood animals (he even includes footnotes if you wonder where he got some of his research), his latest top 40 (which, as always, is not exactly 40 things), and includes another lengthy and thought provoking letters page. But wait, there are also comics! It’s actually mostly comics, as always. Those stories include the time that his dogs caught a possum (and how he ended up saving it), the other time his dogs cornered a possum and caused it to play dead (which led to him googling how long “playing dead” took; it’s about 40 minutes to 4 hours if you’re curious), his toad Vincent from when he was a kid, that time when he took a caterpillar home as a kid and how it became a butterfly, the frogs that he kept a kid, how he kept spotting big cats in Illinois and how the authorities were oddly hesitant to admit that there was a problem, and his other time spotting a big cat in Wisconsin. Yep, a lot of nature this time around, as he’s clearly been doing some exploring. OK, what are you waiting for? There’s a new King Cat out, go buy it! $5
SnowCone City: Rocket to Pluto
Hey look, SnowCone City has given up numbering the issues! Joseph explained that these are mostly self-contained anyway, but then kind of talked himself out of that (in the letter he sent with the comic) because this one ends on a cliffhanger. So who knows what the next issue will bring! This time around our heroes have decided to take the fight to the big bad guy who has been sending them weekly monsters to fight instead of just defending the city against all the monsters. They get into a ship, head off into space and everything goes fine, the end. Or possibly they have a series of adventures before finally confronting their nemesis, you tell me what would make the better comic. There’s a lot to like about their encounter with the sentient space tofu and the space rabbits, as they naturally assume that the cute ones are the victims and vice versa. When they finally do land at their destination they encounter a miniature version of their own city, complete with tiny penguin figurines. This leads to another confrontation and a pretty great godzilla-style fight among the tiny buildings. Then there’s the nemesis, but I can’t say anything about that, because come on now. I’ll just say that it turns everything you thought you knew about this series on its ear, leaving a whole lot of explaining for the next issue. It’s still a fun book, there are still plenty of funny bits, so check it out if you’re a fan of power rangers/space fights/sentient penguins. $5
I’ve been threatening for months (years?) now to just post the synopsis on the back of the mini kus comic as the review, as they’re usually more concise and insightful than I am. Well, in this case it might just be self defense, because I don’t have the slightest idea how I’m supposed to review this comic. It’s samples (hence the name of the artist) and dialogue boxes from other comics, all put together to form a story. Sort of. I think. Basically picture if Jack Kirby was tripping his balls off and he got ahold of some old EC comics dialogue to put on top of some of his art. I’m doing a hilariously poor job of describing this so, without further ado, I give you the synopsis from the back of the comic. “What if an old discarded comic book was suddenly bitten by a radioactive, genetically modified spider? Would the cover drawing, or those inside the book, start behaving strangely? Would the dialogue suddenly grow s(tu)pider and s(tu)pider? Would the paper start to melt? Would the story devolve to the point of meaninglessness? None of the questions will be answered in this minicomic.” See? What else do you need to know? I’m genuinely not sure how much this story holds together in a strict linear sense, but it’s quite a ride, and these mini kus books sure do have a knack for nailing the endings. $6
Look, there’s no reason to sugarcoat it: things are shitty these days (5/17/17, future readers). We’ll be lucky to get through this current mess as a country, and if it does all fall apart we’ll probably take the rest of the world with us. What we need at this moment in history is a little perspective. A reminder that the history of the world is long, and human civilization is a blip on that history. With that in mind, Caitlin was kind enough to provide us a peek into the mind of a rock. Wait, don’t run away! If you haven’t seen her other comics I understand why you’d be a little skeptical. You’ve also been missing out on a remarkable artist, but this comic in a vacuum is a dubious proposition. But you’re wrong, as this comic is delightful. The rock in question does take the long view of history, and worries about how things will change once people are gone. There are things that he’ll… ok, I can’t assign a gender to a rock. “It” sounds mean after reading the thoughts of this rock, but it’ll have to do. Anyway, there are things that it will miss about humans, and about dogs. But this rock is also well aware that it’s immortal, and that none of us can match the perspective of this rock. And it is correct, assuming that rocks were sentient. Yikes, what a life that would be. I’m digressing big time here, so I’ll just wrap it up by saying that this is a funny and insightful comic, with the absolutely perfect ending for a story like this. $5
How’s your grip on reality going? Feeling pretty solid? If so, do I have a comic for you! If not, this might be the thing that pushes you over the edge, so I’d recommend soothing music of ocean waves instead. What’s so alarming about this comic? It’s the story of a man who is trapped in one very yellow room, with no obvious means of exit or indication of what put him there. We see him wandering around, killing time, and he ends up hurting himself a few different ways. He also makes a real mess out of the bathroom, as either a silent protest or just because he’s a slob. Finally his boredom and desperation can’t take it any more and he puts a tiny hole in his prison. But hey, sometimes what feels like a prison is just keeping something dangerous out from the outside world, right? Yeah, that hint is as close as I get to an intentional spoiler. It’s a haunting little story, and (in the context of the story, obviously, and not real life) we’re left with lots of questions about what actually happened here. But at least booze makes an appearance! $6
OK, I can’t resist quoting at least part of the back cover blurb this time around: “Acquisition stages a proof test conducted by an absent master and a semi-present assistant to a candidate in the best tradition of clownish pixelated Kabbalah.” Again, I’m not sure how I can improve on that, but I’ll at least add a bit of description. First we see some idle chatter at the university, with nothing being presented as a particularly odd day. Then the computer is started and poses the question, “what does the duck say?” The answer is, of course, “quack quack.” No, not just one quack, because who has ever heard a duck quack just one time? But this phenomenon has to be explained to the computer, which is not an easy task. Once this is established, it’s more descriptive to call it “quackery,” which leads to replacing the letters in the word with numbers. But based on ducks themselves, a few of the letters can be disregarded. Are you following along? Don’t worry, I wasn’t entirely either. It’s still a fascinating series of questions, and the images that go along with the otherwise sedate and docile computer really punctuate the questions. I don’t think will lead to many conversions to Kabbalah, but I am frequently wrong, so what do I know? If I am wrong it is my fondest wish that this ends up becoming a sacred text of Kabbalah in 50 years.
Well, best to get this bit out of the way early: this comic leans way, WAY into religious overtones, which do absolutely nothing for me. There’s a montage early on that shows the secular world and how “it is filled with people who do not know god and has the scent of the fires of hell about it,” and said montage has Darwin and pro-choice protestors as some of the symbols of evil. Since this is one (ok, two) chapters in the ongoing sage of how music has impacted Grant’s life, I don’t know if he eventually came out of all this to see the actual joys of the secular world or if those images were ironic, so I’ve decided to ignore them altogether. Meaning that I disagree with his spiritual points and personally ended up in a very different place, but I’m here to talk about the merits of his comic, not the merits of his spiritual opinions. And on that front, this comic is another winner. Grant more than knows what he’s doing when it comes to panel and page composition and maintaining a brisk pace for his stories. There are two stories in this one. The first one deals with Grant’s early experiences with Christian rock and a concert he attended where the band was miserable when they gave out autographs afterwards. The concert also had a speaker who talked about how people would make fun of you if you tried to convert others, but that a little mockery was nothing compared to eternal damnation. I’ll give young Grant some serious credit here: when a girl from his high school who he had a crush on made fun of his crucifix, the easy choice was to make fun of it too in the hopes of getting her to like him somehow. But he tried to explain the crucifix honestly and lost any chance he might of had with her. The next story is all about the Christian bands who were supposed to sound just like the popular rock artists of the time (I kind of wish I could have seen more of the list, honestly) and Grant’s experience in a church band. It was an eye-opening experience for him, and not in a particularly religious way. Things turn around for Grant again by the end of the book, sort of, so there’s clearly more to the story yet to come. It’s says a lot for Grant’s skills that I still thoroughly enjoy his comics, even when the religious angle is something I don’t agree with at all. I’m really curious to see how this story reads as one big epic too. Before the next issue comes out I’m going to try to gather all of the issues together to see how it flows. If you knew anything about my comics “organizational” system, you would find that prospect just as hilarious as I do… $7.50
As always, the temptation with a review for a mini kus book is to just post the snippet of text on the back of the comic and call it a day. That’s usually more succinct than what I do here, and often more descriptive. But what’s the fun in that? This is the story of an unsettled man who starts off his tale by talking about how he feels the most like himself while he’s traveling. From there we see how miserable he is at home, how he goes about an average day, and how he always feels like he’s waiting for something to happen, but has no idea what that might be. After a fair amount of self reflection, our hero discovers a talking mirror in his apartment. This mirror, at the very least, offers a change of pace from what our hero is used to, so eventually he accepts it as an agent of change and steps inside. Oh, didn’t I mention that the mirror was also a portal? Anyway, I’m getting into spoiler territory if I go even a little bit further, so I’ll leave the rest of it up to you. If you’re thinking “I’ve read dozens of ‘the author is existentially bored/unsettled stories'” and are wondering if there’s anything unique that this one brings to the table, yes, there is! I just can’t tell you here. It’s all about perspective and trying to learn the right lessons from the greats who came before. $6
The 50 Flip Experiment #19
I wonder sometimes how many people are still here from the early days of this website (it goes back to 2001, in case you were curious). I wonder that today because I started reviewing this series way back in 2003 (or was it 2004?), and here it is, 2017, and a new issue is available. And, remarkably, it’s only gotten weirder over the years, and I obviously mean that only in the best possible sense. Things start off here with three naked people who are stuck on a lifeboat. One of the naked people has what appears to be a brain in a jar on her head, another is asking the other people on the boat to imagine that he’s a bear, and the second woman is getting her hair brushed by an invisible force while also wearing what appears to be chickens on her head. And that right there is the first panel, to give you some idea of what you’re in for. Our heroes chat about their predicament, they seem to free themselves… and then we’re moving on to the next story. Yes, I left out the bit about them possibly being time travelers, I have to leave some mystery for you to uncover. From there we get a group of students who are at the beach for their last summer together. Also a seabeast. And hot dogs in a fanny pack. And the Queen. And the fact that whoever touches the dead Queen first becomes the next Queen. This is a delightful array of philosophy, nihilism, hijinx and beach horniness. If you can’t imagine how all those things could possibly go together, well boy howdy are you in for a treat! $6
A Witch Named Koko #10
Could this be the end of A Witch Named Koko? Yes, actually; Charles is pretty clear about that in the issue itself. And yes, people reading in real time, I jumped around a bit with the reviews. Otherwise reviewing his comics would be a full time job, because the man is ridiculously prolific. So what’s the final issue of this series all about? Well, it’s an all ages book, so the bloody violence is kept to a minimum. As for the story itself, about half of the book is strips and half of it is full page spreads by a bunch of guest artists who were asked to send along their interpretation of the characters. The strips deal with the tooth fairy getting captured, the actual agenda of the tooth fairies, and a love potion (along with, naturally, a hate potion). Jim Siergey does his own Koko strip, so he deserves a special mention here. As always it’s a pretty funny bunch of comics, and now the series is done if you’re one of those weirdos who waits until something is finished to start reading/watching it. $1
Oh, Magic Whistle. What do you have against a table of contents? If you’re intimately familiar with all the artists listed in the tags, you’re in luck! If, like me, some of the names were at least mildly unfamiliar, best of luck to you in determining who did which story. Except for the Sam Henderson bits, of course. If you’re not familiar with his style, I don’t understand why you’re buying Magic Whistle anyway. Or how you can draw breath without a functioning sense of humor, but that’s your problem, not mine. So we’ve established that all right thinking people love Sam Henderson, what can I tell you about this issue specifically? There’s the Lonely Robot Duckling story by Steven Weissman, a haunting tale of living too much in the digital world and getting advice about disconnecting from it all. Also featuring horrific violence, of course. There are a couple of strips done in old timey comic strip art, with boxy panels and tiny writing underneath. Possibly by Jim Campbell? They were also my clearest indicator yet that I am seriously getting old, as the tiny text was too tiny for me and I gave up on both of the strips. But if you’re still young and healthy and haven’t had terrible eyesight for most of your life, have at them! Stay Out of the Closet by Jen Sandwich tells the story of the time she ruined Christmas, but mostly it let us peek into the world of her family, her parents, and the various tricks they all played on/to each other around the holiday. Yellowed Kid by Roy Tompkins shows us a “3D” space adventure featuring Frankenstein’s monster and a planet filled with cheese. Finally Honey by ____ shows us a disturbed peeper (more disturbed than most based on the subject matter of his peeping), the ways that the family deals with said peeper and their delightful holiday meal. And I haven’t even gotten to Sam’s bits yet! There’s the immaculate conception of Dirty Danny, a sentient snowman discovering heroin, even the return of Gunther Bumpus and his cat door. And lots more (Sam probably contributed to about half of the comic), but why spoil it? If you’re already a fan you either already have this or are going to get it now that you know it exists. For the rest of you… take a chance on laughter! $9.99
How to be Human Day One
This one got off to an intriguing start, as we learn that our hero is an existential investigator very quickly. We learn this because the case we observe is one in which he’s trying to discover when a client lost her innocence,and he’s able to track down the exact date along with the contributing factors that led to its demise. We also quickly learn of his next job: tracking down an old tape called “How to be Human,” which is exactly what it sounds like: an instructional tape on how to be human. He’s allied with a crew of misfits who have also never seen the tape, and the tape is lost because nobody ever thought to digitize it. Which is quite a hook, as there are countless movies/shows/ads/etc. from the 70’s and 80’s that you kids have never seen because nobody bothered to upload it. Think of all the culture you’re missing! OK, granted, that was mostly a cultural wasteland. But think of all the hilariously earnest and/or just plain weird videos that you never got to see! Anyway, most of the rest of the comic is introducing us to the wide and varied cast of characters for future issues (including a drug-sniffing dog, a granny who isn’t easily frightened, those six misfits and a vampire), so there are more chapters coming to clear that up. After all, we haven’t even gotten a good look at the bad guy yet, even though he’s already up to shenanigans. Is murder considered a shenanigan? Oops, I’ve said too much. It’s an intriguing story about looking past the obvious to solve mysteries, and I’m on board to see what happens next. It’s odd that this isn’t listed at Joseph’s website at the moment, but send him an email, I’m sure he has a few copies of this around. Probably. Better hurry to be sure!
I don’t usually do this, but here’s a link to an old review of mine of one of Jim’s comics. Why am I linking this? Mostly because the review is at least a decade old (I really wish, and not for the first time, that the reviews still had actual publication dates on them), meaning the guy has been at this comics thing for quite a while, meaning that it’s a good idea to pay attention when a guy like that puts out a graphic novel. This is the story of… huh, it’s trickier to describe than I thought. It starts off with a group of teenagers hanging out, complete with some pretty great dialogue and some low-key flirting. They all decide to go to the beach, but one of them (Gabi) really doesn’t want to leave the car. When they wonder why that’s the case, she starts a hilarious running gag of attempting to tell them why they’re all in danger, but being such a poor storyteller (who is also stuck with friends with no attention span) that they keep interrupting her and shutting her down. Meaning that they don’t get around to learning what the potential danger is until they’re actually in danger, but that’s jumping ahead a bit. Before that they end up trapped on the beach after dark, see a few Nessie’s while they’re out (which is exactly what it sounds like: the mythical Nessie from Loch Ness), and are there zombies involved? There are certainly zombies involved. There’s also a professor who is the only one who knows how to stop things, Gabi’s family knowing how to combat those things but not being all that great at it, and just a touch of more flirting and some of them not being able to stand each other. Since I really don’t want to ruin the story bits, I’ll just add that the dialogue was consistently funny throughout, the story itself wrapped up very nicely, and Jim is really a master of facial expressions. With a few tweaks this could damned near be a wordless comic and you could follow along from their faces alone. Also if you’re one of the people who was buying this in comics form, don’t fret, as this book includes a few issues that look like they were never released as individual comics, so you’re finally getting the ending you were no doubt wondering about. For everybody else, you get Nessies, zombies, teenagers and possibly a mad scientist. What’s not to love? $19.99
Giant Fiend Comics
There’s a threat rising from the land of Scandinavia! OK, it’s really a tourist with too much vacation time on his hands. But when he comes to America and succumbs to the American habit of eating and drinking too much, he succumbs to… American’s disease! Is it possible to write an entire review using unnecessary exclamation points? Well, no, because I just blew it with that question mark. Dammit! So our tourist friend eats way too much and turns into a giant monster. Well, not really a monster, just a giant human being who’s drunk and stumbles a lot, causing all kinds of damage. Normal weapons don’t work, so the top scientists are forced to call… other giant monsters! Ah, I knew I had another unnecessary exclamation point in me. Another giant monster is called, it’s not enough, yet another giant monster is called, and soon the scientists have far bigger problems than just one giant flailing tourist. This one is a big pile of fun, unless you’re one of the rare people who doesn’t like to see giant monsters fight each other and knock down buildings. I’m assuming a few people like that exist out there, but I’ve never met one. For the rest of us, get ready to enjoy some monster punching! $4
The mystery of the missing two issues of Konehedz is revealed! Right there on the cover, actually, making it one of the quickest mystery reveals possible. And something I would have known if I had looked at it before I reviewed the last issue, but these things happen. This one picks up right after #1 (and after one of the more thorough and comprehensive recaps I’ve ever seen, so kudos to Mark for that; seriously, you could miss the first issue entirely and know exactly what’s happening here), with our heroes getting off the boat and confronting… a giant eyeball fish monster? Something along those lines. They find its weakness quickly, then run into zombies (?) with pincers, who may or may not be hostile, but our heroes ripping an arm off of one of them decides that allegiance for them. More chaos, more monsters, and one of our heroes discovers a giant robot suit. And yeah, you’d damn well better believe that the next several pages involve that giant monster suit causing all sorts of havoc. Eventually they meet some friendly aliens, or at least not outwardly hostile aliens, so they follow a series of them to their leader. Which is where we finally get some answers, but I’m not going to tell you them here. One quibble: Mark really needs to work on his spelling. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was just the occasional word here and there, but there’s some long chunks of text towards the end and he misspells several words in most of the text boxes. The quality of his artwork improves as the issue goes on, and spelling words correctly is much easier and quicker than drawing, so… don’t do that! Or do it less, at least. That goes for all you young (or older and spelling impaired) comics artists out there: have somebody else read it over if you have to, but it’s an easy fix. That was a longer digression than I intended, and it really didn’t do much to lower my enjoyment of the book (not much cause for words in some of those glorious fight scenes, after all), which is still very much worth you checking out. Large portions of this one are even in full color! $3
Here’s a peek behind the curtain for the artists out there who have had books reviewed on this site: I usually forget what I wrote about the book pretty quickly. Not always, and not completely, but I review an awful lot of comics, and the specifics often fly right out of my brain in a hurry. Which can make things awkward at conventions when I’m asked questions about a past review, but I’m always willing to fess up about that fact. Why am I mentioning this? Because when I looked up Willard’s website, a review for a previous book of his came up right after his website, and it was from here, from a couple of years ago. Curious, I looked it up… and saw that I had basically cheated on it. The comic is question was so abstract that I just didn’t have a lot to say about it, so the review was one long stalling exercise. Well, that’s a cheat that I’m not going to use again. Granted, this comic is almost equally abstract, but there are a few stories in this one, not just the one wordless story that left me so little to go on. Stories in here include a truly terrifying number of stars, a story told without having a story (naturally, this one takes up the bulk of the comic), a man who is having a very difficult time finding the sun, and a monster trapped in a boat at sea. OK, I mostly guessed on the last one. There’s a lot to hurt your brain in this comic, but overall I liked it. That large story went on a bit longer than needed to get the point across, but it’s entirely possible that the excessive length was the point. It’s worth a look, is what I’m trying to say.
SnowCone City #3
If you’re looking for giant robot action, you’ll have to look elsewhere this issue (but not to worry, the preview for #4 indicates that it’ll be back next issue). This time around we meet The Raven, the SnowCone City equivalent of Batman. And, in this city, Batman is a teenage girl who has to sneak out on her parents to fight crime. With all the various iterations of Batman running around out in the DC multiverse, it’s odd that nobody ever depicted him as a teenage girl (that I know of; DC has an awfully long history to draw from). It fits the temperament of that character perfectly. We also get to meet the Raven’s new sidekick, even though said sidekick has some trouble picking out a good code name. The actual adventure this time around comes from the army of zombie penguins that crops up and their ability to turn other penguins into zombies using their spit. An evil mastermind also manages to trick the Raven into a trap involving a building full of these zombies and no possibility of escape. So everybody dies and the series is over. Kidding! It is entirely possible that the day was, in fact, saved. But I don’t want to get into spoilers. It’s another fun issue by Joseph, and a nice bit of world building to see what things are like away from the big superheroes of this world.
Death in Oaxaca #3
As you may have guessed from that fake post-it addition to the title, there’s a bit more hanky panky in this issue than there was in the first one (I missed the second one). Steve did put a recap at the start of this book but it’s a little light on specific details for the characters, but it’s still clear that this issue is mostly about these people trying to live their lives, with the occasional outside forces trying to complicate things. There’s Eduardo (the vampire with a heart of gold who has given up blood), Gertie (with her secret identity as the Lucha Bruja), and Caroline (trying to get in on some of that hanky panky with Eduardo), all going about their lives, and all on the verge of doing some serious damage to those around them. Still, that’s what’s going on behind the scenes, mostly. There are a lot of quiet moments that make up the bulk of this issue, like Rex getting some fresh tuna, the family gathering together for a meal, a jam night with some local musicians and a mysterious cave that seems to be able to let people fly. OK, maybe that last one was more fantastical than the others. It’s another solid comic and another step in the mystery completed. Steve has been a pro in this business for decades, so you can be sure that he knows what he’s doing when it comes to pulling all these loose threads together. Check it out why don’t you! $5