Category Archives: Reviews
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
R. R. Whitehead
It’s history lesson time! Wait, artists, don’t go! This one could affect you directly. Caitlin mentions that there’s some confusion and inaccuracies with regards to the history of the man, but she does an excellent job of going through what it confirmed in this comic. He was a man with a dream, and that dream was to start a colony for artists. Well, that was eventually his dream, anyway, but we learn all about the story here. He eventually married into wealth (after he got over his little problem of already being married, which could maybe have used another few pages but I get why Caitlin didn’t want to make that the focus of the book), which enabled his dream to really take off. We get to see the beginnings of the place, how they tried to make money (making goods while eschewing advertising), how it gradually grew and how people came together from living there. It’s a fascinating story, and the kicker is that Caitlin made this comic while living at Byrdcliffe (the name of the colony), so it’s still a place for artists to visit and create even today. So check it out, artists! Get away from the real world and make some art!
So while I was reading Mark’s intro for this book I misread one bit of it and thought he said that this was a “scream of consciousness” book. That’s obviously not what he was going for, but it oddly fits the tone of this book, so let’s go with that. This is the story of two amorphous blobs who go on a bunch of adventures, often accidentally, as they also will themselves to evolve the various physical tools needed to complete those adventures. Huh, and here I thought I’d had some serious trouble describing the plot! There’s more to it, of course, but that’s about where the coherent descriptions from me stop. It’s chaotic fun through and through, with lots of funny lines and situations, which is all you can ask for from two rapidly evolving blob people. I don’t have the slightest idea how this idea can continue to escalate indefinitely, but Mark was nice enough to include #4 of this series, so he clearly managed. I’ll be solving that mystery in the coming weeks, but meanwhile there’s a lot to love here. $3
You Don’t Get There From Here #39
The majority of this issue is basically Carrie holding her breath over a couple of serious issues in her life: the condition of her ailing father and the condition of her ailing cat. Her cat has some sort of kidney disease and Carrie has been trying all sorts of methods to get her to eat more, with varying degrees of success. As somebody with an aging cat (16!), I can relate, even if mine is more or less healthy. That doesn’t stop every little possible health scare from being a major source of panic. As for father, that’s a complicated relationship in her life, as he’s never been the best father to her, and his condition is destroying the quality of life of Carrie’s mother… but he’s still her dad, with all that comes with it. This constant worrying, the lack of free time and her own depression comes through in her strips, which are usually three panel daily stories/summaries, but in this case transform into odd flowing images and lines, punctuated with her thoughts of the day in question with very little concrete imagery to hold on to. It’s a haunting depiction of that mindset, and should be instantly familiar to anybody who’s ever had to go through waiting with a terminally ill relative. As always, this issue is worth seeking out. This one is just a bit more raw than most. $2
Magic Whistle #3.2
Oh, Magic Whistle. The world can’t be all bad as long as you’re still around. This is another issue of the latest iteration in the series, in which Sam keeps doing his thing but he brings in other cartoonists to also do their thing, which lets him put comics out on a more regular basis to keep the rest of us happy. I’m just assuming everybody in America is reading this by now; since it’s been around since the mid 90’s there’s no excuse not to be reading it. This time around we have Tom Van Deusen with a tale of how great life is for Jeff Bezos, and Seth Cooper with another story of Zissy and Rita, which is a series he’s been working on since the early 90’s. I’d tell you more about the other strips by people not named Sam Henderson, but there’s no table of contents and nobody else signed their work, so other stories (that may be by Brigid Deacon, Devin Flynn or Amy Lockhart) include an adorable puppy and the incredible shrinking man who takes an unhealthy liking to it, how everybody wants to have sex all the time in the hopes of briefly distracting themselves from the inevitability of death, and three single page strips, each with a different theme. I’m pretty sure I’ve guessed who did which strip, but I’m not positive and I’d rather not get it wrong. And then there’s Sam’s strips, dealing with single panel gags, the continuing story of Cappy Jenkins, a dropped piece of pizza, and a billionaire trying to find somebody worthy to leave all his money to. So yeah, it’s Magic Whistle. Of course it’s funny and you’ll love it. If that ever changes, I’ll let you know! $6
The True Adventures of Jep Comix #6
The story of Jep falling away from (or escaping, depending on your perspective) continues in this issue! And possibly concludes; Jep seems like he’s running out of steam, but I don’t think he’s completely done with this story yet. The other big story in this issue is his version of an older story he wrote 20 years ago, mostly because he got a new iPad and wanted to use its features for the story. It deals with a man dying in a car wreck, getting to heaven (all messed up, which requires some healing time even in heaven apparently), and getting a chance to get reincarnated and possibly find the woman he still loves, as she survived the crash. It was an interesting story, but the part I was most curious about is where Jep says that the story was headed next. Which I won’t say here just in case it does go there next, even though it sounds like he’s done with it, which would be a shame. But going back to his strips about religion, subjects include getting disowned from his father (he makes it seem like a compromise would be possible, but he’s just not willing to give in), going off to school right after that happened, being broken and depressed at school, finding Richard Bach while looking for a new religion (somebody I’d never heard of), adjusting to life without a family or religion, and the moment when he completely gave up on his idea of becoming a priest. There’s more, and it’s educational to see him express his doubts about the direction of the story and what he wants to say with it on the page, but it’s starting to lead to the story floundering a bit. Maybe the traditional four panel strip format is boxing him in, or maybe it’s just that there is no perfect message to end this story on or life lesson to be learned. There are a number of fascinating pieces to this story so far, but here’s hoping he’s able to tie it all together before it’s all said and done.
Now that was one awkward love story. If I had known that I could have gotten to it a week ago and posted a Valentine’s review. This is a story that’s told as a series of diary entries by a lonely man who really thinks that he’s on the verge of getting a woman to go out with him. By the second diary entry the woman has mysteriously vanished, and after bugging her relatives for a few days he’s finally given a way to contact her. He does, they chat, and she manages to convince him to come work for the same company that just hired her. Hey look, they must live happily ever after! Yeah, not so much. He gets to the job and spends weeks without seeing the woman, surrounded by people who don’t speak his language, trying to understand what’s happening around him, and falling further and further down into a pit of despair, loneliness and confusion. That’s about the time when he gets promoted to be the guy who’s cutting off heads. That’s more information than I generally give away in a review, but this comic manages to be both mini and vast, so there’s plenty of story here yet to uncover. I’d almost say that this comic should be required reading for stalkers, but I doubt most of them could grasp the nuances here and understand that it’s a bad thing to fall too far down the rabbit hole of chasing a lady around. It’s alarming, occasionally grotesque, and a completely engrossing read. $6
Kay H & Zee
I am a sucker for these tiny, self-contained mini comics. I’m also a fan of longer series. Could it be that I just like comics? Huh, I might be onto something there. Anyway, this is one of those shorties that’s hard to talk about for long without giving the whole thing away. The basic setup is that two friends are hanging out and one of them (Zee) decides that he wants to show the other (Kay H) a secret. Once they find the tall, mysterious structure, they obviously have to climb it to see what’s going on. From there we get an epic stair climbing, followed by a peek at what’s on top of the structure. Sure, there are twists, and sure, there’s humor, but this is a short book and that’s the gist of it. I did have a slight technical issue with it, as it looks like the story was originally done in four panel strips, but now those strips are two on a page, making it look like one long story going across instead of two distinct sections being broken down into fourths. Eh, if you read the comic you’ll know what I mean, and at least Mark tried to make that clearer in places. Overall it’s just a fun little adventure comic, and the world could always use more of those.
Does this comic have the most adorable depiction of Cthulhu ever? Well, I’ve seen plushy dolls of Cthulhu, so no. But it comes pretty close! This comic is based on the story by H.P. Lovecraft; it’s been awhile since I’ve read it but I’m pretty sure that Martin uses direct quotes throughout. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, basically a group of sailors landed on a mysterious island. Everything is chaotic, to the extent that they can’t trust their senses, as some of them see a door as a flat trap door and some see it as a regular standing door. They finally manage to get the door open, are confronted with a horrible smell, and see Cthulhu rising from it. Cthulhu kills three of them before they even know what’s happening, and the rest of the book is a mad dash by the survivors to get away. More than anything this comic has me wanting to dig up my Lovecraft books to see if they hold up, but this comic is delightful and should be read by all potential fans and followers of Cthulhu. Or potential fans of Lovecraft, as the man had a florid quality with his writing that is often imitated but rarely duplicated.
Yet Another Ask a Cat
Charles has put out maybe a dozen comics over the last couple of years, so it’s not like he’s in need of any professional advice, but I’ll throw one out there anyway: if you have an open-ended series like this, and you plan on putting out an as-yet undetermined number of future issues, it’s time to give in and start using numbers for the issues. Unless this is the last issue of “Ask a Cat” ever, in which case never mind, but these comics are such a delight that I hope I’m wrong about that. And, as I’ve said before, you’re bound to get a lot more out of these comics if you’ve had cats as pets either currently or in the past, but there’s enough funny in these strips for anybody. Subjects this time around include the truth about their relationship to dogs, what cats would do if they had wings, how cats indicate that they want a divorce, what they think about snow, what cats think about mustard, whether or not they have strange dreams and (and this one hit home with me) why cats insist on poking you in the face while you’re sleeping. I’m pretty sure Charles came up with the actual answer on that one. There’s more, of course, but I’ll leave some surprises for you. I’ve noticed the questions got a lot more fantastical this time around, so maybe this series won’t last as long as I thought, but the man hasn’t run out of ideas yet, so enjoy! $2