Archive for category Reviews
(Images were taken from Bryan’s website due to my still-busted scanner)
After spending the last few years reading Bryan’s tales of becoming an MMA fighter, I had a pretty clear guess on what a comic of his called “Slump” would be all about. And, as is usually the case when I make guesses like this, I was completely wrong. This is the story of the death of Bryan’s mother and how he coped with it. The answer, which should be obvious to anybody with human emotions: not well. He was guilty about perceived faults along the way, about not taking her earlier illness seriously enough, and about not spending enough time with her. And he makes a very important point in here, which is why I used the sample image that I did. The “five stages of grief” that everybody talks about are always discussed like they’re linear, that once you get through the last one that you’re free and clear. But anybody who has lived through the death of a close family member knows that any one of those stages can come up again at almost any time. Bryan, for instance, spent weeks reaching for his phone to call his mother about some mundane aspect of his life or a question he had for her, only to realize all over again that this just wasn’t possible any longer. This is a heartbreaking book, but it’s also hopeful, and it doesn’t take any shortcuts to get there. Time helps, a little, and so does input from family and friends. I could see this being a very helpful book for somebody who is struggling with their own grief. And, if nothing else, you could always buy his comic about monsters fighting each other to go along with this one. Two very different ways of dealing with grief, but any relief is good relief, right?
A Witch Named Koko #2
Sorry once again for the lack of sample images, but Charles’ website has you covered if you’re curious. You can also see sample images on past reviews of his comics, but you already knew that. This issue is mostly all about getting to a train station and taking a train ride, so naturally you’re going to get a scene where a damsel in distress is tied to some train tracks. Charles had an innovative solution for getting her free with the least amount of fuss, I’ll give him that. I’ll also be honest here and admit that I didn’t really get the ending, as it seemed like things just petered out after the train got it their destination, but maybe I missed something. There were a few funny bits to this one, as always, but overall it felt more scattered that most issues. Still worth taking a look, but there are funnier issues of his out there to check out. His pace is ridiculous, so when I say that there are other issues out there, I mean that there are lots of other issues out there. Go on, check out his website, see if I’m wrong… $2
King Cat #76
IMAGES WERE TAKEN FROM JOHN’S WEBSITE DUE TO MY BROKEN SCANNER. Sorry about the shouting, but I wanted to make that perfectly clear. In the future there will probably be some way to ID him just through the picture of his hand, which is one of the many reasons I don’t want it to look like I’m trying to pull one over on the guy. That and my 20+ years of the utmost respect for his work. OK, maybe it’s mostly that one. Anyway, look everybody, it’s a new issue of King Cat! I always feel like I should end the reviews there, because what else do you need to know, but that would be cheating. This comes out at a time after when John was dealing with a few serious health issues and had to cancel a few conventions to give himself a chance to heal up a bit. Fun trivia fact for just about nobody: if John had gone to SPACE this year, I would have been his table neighbor, as I was there registering voters for the local Board of Elections. Which would have been a ton of fun on my end, but I’ll take him getting healthy and making comics for another few decades over that any time. Going along with his mood and troubles, this issue is maybe even more contemplative than most, which is saying a lot. Subjects include sketching while waiting for car repairs, seeing an old couple eating from his car, memories of his old and constantly freezing apartment, and several short pieces that are his trademark illustrated poems. There are also quite a few letters, with several familiar names checking in (just in case you’ve been reading comics for as long as I have and wonder what people like Jeff Zenick, Ariel Bordeaux and Jenny Zervakis are up to). He also got a few responses to his Maisie tribute issue in #75, so if you thought you had no more tears left after reading that one, trust me, you’ll find a few more after reading some of these letters. I just reminded my 15 year old cat that she’s immortal, so I’ll stay in denial about that one for as long as is humanly possible. So yeah, obviously you should get this issue. You should get every issue of King Cat. That’s clear by now, right? If nothing else comes from 15 years of this website, I hope that sticks. John is also hurting a bit for money and has set up a Patreon page to try to help with his monthly expenses. Looks like he’s up to 224 people as of this writing, so why not help him out? You can even think of it selfishly if that helps, as if you donate over $6 a month that gets you physical copies of any comics/zines he makes. Help the guy out! Screw giving him just enough to get by every month, we should try to make him filthy rich. $5
How much would you get out of returning to your childhood home 25 years after you left? Or did you ever leave? Let’s assume for the sake of this theoretical conversation that you did. What would pop back into your mind when you returned? This comic deals with Sean going back to his childhood home (I assume it’s Sean, as it’s described as being “his most intimate book so far,” but I don’t know whether or not every single thing in here really happened to him) and immediately getting looked at suspiciously because he lingered too long outside of his childhood home (the new owner seems like the suspicious sort). From there Sean goes to a quiet place and lets his mind wander, where he remembers about a half dozen things that happened to/around him as a kid. Nothing terribly traumatic, just little snippets of his life that stuck with him over the years. There’s his chance encounter with a kid from the local boy’s home, coming across a pretty great hut in the woods and smashing it to bits (and what came from that), being so proud of building a small brick wall and the reaction of his grandfather, scaring himself with a friend in the woods after watching a movie about Bigfoot (I think?) and the consequences of running face first into barbed wire, getting an unfortunate present at their fort and how little it did to ruin their day, and trying to hang with the big kids on a rope swing. Each of these tales is punctuated by his current thoughts about it, what he learned from it and questions about whatever happened to the other kids in the story, whether or not any of them still thought about that day. There’s also a pretty great outro that ties the whole story together, but I’ll leave that one a complete mystery. Hanna does a fantastic job conveying subtle emotions, meaning that Sean doesn’t have to write a point into the ground when Hanna can show the same point without a word. I’m curious to see more from both of them now, and this is yet another amazing comic from the Big Ugly Robot people. $6.50
Note: all images have been taken from the Big Ugly Robot website due to my broken scanner. Please buy some of their comics to alleviate my guilt. Also because they have a ridiculously impressive record of publishing quality comics, so you could literally just blindly buy a few comics and be in for a treat. I’m a dummy so I started reading this book backwards (or forwards to America readers; at least you can see how I made that mistake), so I saw the dedication of this book before I started the story. It’s dedicated to suicidal people, both the ones who recovered and the ones who went through with it. Mulele himself was suicidal for years, and he’s clearly speaking from experience in here. Also connected to that story is the cat pictured on the cover, how it has been reincarnated and the human that it’s supposed to be helping. Along the way we get to see snippets of its former life, what it loved and how it managed to save its humans from a house fire. Personally, I’d be thrilled to see an entire comic dedicated to the philosophical discussion that the dead cats had in between lives, but I’m a weirdo like that. This is a heartfelt and moving comic, and we should all be so lucky as to have a reincarnated cat watching over us at our lowest moments. Or hell, maybe those of us with cats already do. I’ve always had the impression that my cat would start eating my face about three minutes after I died, but then again she is awfully comforting for those low moments. Anyway, if you’ve ever had any dark moments where suicide seemed like a genuine possibility, for one thing ALWAYS give it some time (there’s no taking back suicide), and this comic may genuinely do you some good. #6
See, here’s where my lack of a working scanner really hurts the review: Jaime doesn’t have a working website. So no free samples to be had there to help you make up your mind. Then again, how much convincing do you really need? Jaime has been making quality comics for 25ish years and he has a new issue out! What more do you need to know? And yes, it would be cheating if I bailed on the review right there. Jaime has had a rough few years (which accounts for the delay between issues), but he hasn’t lost a step with his comics skills. This one has four stories, and the subjects include observational evidence that the worst drivers all own gold cars (which is not something I’ve ever noticed, but it’s certainly going to be on my mind while driving from now on), an especially obnoxious local drunk who eventually motivates the town to pool their resources to get a one-way ticket to get him out of town (and what happens next), Jaime’s efforts (as a child) to help a friend sell some candy bars so they’d be free to play and their chance encounter of a celebrity, and Jaime’s history of skateboarding and surfing. Oh, and in regards to that celebrity, I’m not going to spoil it, but there story is set in the 70’s, so let your imagination run wild in your guesses. Jaime is also still working on a big old graphic novel that I can’t wait to see, and he’ll even be in Columbus for Sol-Con from October 13-16th (2016, in case you’re reading this in the future). That lineup of guests is ridiculously stacked, so come to Columbus for the show! In the meantime, buy this comic. You know that lack of a sample image is driving you nuts, and there’s only one way to learn what celebrity he ran into in the 70’s… $4
Huh, I can honestly say that I never thought I’d put “Bruce Springsteen” into the tags for any review. This is Robert’s adaptation of one of his songs, and he does take care to credit Bruce every step of the way in here. I’m assuming Bruce would be fine with something like this? I can’t see why not, but it’s not like I know the guy. This song is the story of two immigrant brothers who worked on farms for awhile before being given a chance to work with meth. They couldn’t pass up the money, but inevitably an accident happened that changed everything. Should I be worried about spoilers in a comic based on a song from 1995? Almost certainly not, but the habit is too ingrained in me to stop now. Robert also includes a history of the song, where it lands in Bruce’s discography and the inspiration for it. In other words, if you’ve ever had questions about this song specifically, or just how Bruce gets inspired in general, chances are that you’ll learn something from reading this. If you have no interest in either of those things, I guess you could still get something out of this as another cautionary tale about not cooking meth. Oh, and apologies to Robert for straight up lifting these images from his website, but my scanner is still broken, and aren’t reviews better with images? $4
You Don’t Get There From Here #36
Ten years! That’s how long Carrie has been doing daily diary strips as of this comic. Which covers December of 2014 to March of 2015, so technically it’s more like 12 years that she’s been doing daily diary strips by now. Assuming that she didn’t take an extended break somewhere, as her website has images of her of the cover of #38 recently. But I think Carrie has a solid track record of doing this by now. If you have no idea what this is, shame on you a little bit, but it’s exactly what is sounds like: Carrie does mostly three panel strips detailing notable events from her day. At this point in her life she’s getting annoying hot flashes, dealing with a father with Alzheimer’s, babysitting the child of a friend (pictured on the cover, and clearly one of the great joys of Carrie’s life) and dealing with the sudden kidney problems of one of her cats. Her father seems to be what’s mostly on her mind, although her mother refuses all offers of help and Carrie isn’t dealing with it on a daily basis. Still, she has plenty of memories of her father when he was in his right mind, and they don’t seem to be all that happy, which complicates the recent illness even further. She also loves her cats dearly, and I can certainly relate to trying to research and figure out the best possible diet for a cat while also panicking about possibly making the wrong choice. It’s another solid issue from Carrie, and I’d say that 36 issues (plus however many other comics based on other subjects) makes for a pattern by now, wouldn’t you? She has a new book out with strips about various nonfiction books that she’s read that looks interesting, but you could pick just about any comic that she has available randomly and be in for a treat.
A Witch Named Koko #1
Yep, without a working scanner this is what I’ve been reduced to: pilfering scans off of the artist’s website. Even though it’s of the first three issues of a series where I’m only reviewing the first issue (today, anyway). Sigh. If anybody out there is independently wealthy and would like to send me a pile of money for a new scanner, please feel free to use that email address for some Paypal cash. Also, use the rest of your fortune for good, as most rich people are profoundly boring in how they spend their money. Oh hi, comic book I haven’t started talking about yet! It’s another funny book from Charles, and it’s another one that the kids could enjoy as much as the adults. This time around Koko finally hears of the witching hour (midnight on a full moon) and how that is when the power of witches is at their highest. Koko has never experienced this before, as she goes to bed early, so the rest of the issue deals with her trying to stay awake (with the “help” of her sister) and eventually dealing with her new power level. There’s also an important public service announcement on the back about skeletons and whether or not you have one, so don’t forget to flip the book over when you’re done. $2
Zero Sum Bubblegum
My bias is showing again, but I’m always delighted to get another comic from David. Mostly because I know that it’s most likely going to be a collection of short stories, and that it’s damned near a certainty that at least a few of those stories are going to amaze/amuse/befuddle me, and in the best possible way. The other way, in case you were curious, is the “what the hell did I just read and why did I read it?” reaction. Not a problem here! Anyway, this time around subjects include picking your best possible funeral song (which I would have used for the sample image if my scanner was still working), the history of “A Book With Death in the Title” and what happens to the people who read it, an attempted school assembly and the shenanigans going on, tiddlywinks, Bruce the Rat, the fact that nobody is going to keep track of whether or not you give up your seat on the bus for an old lady, trying to finish a comics page vs. trying to comprehend the new mandatory Windows upgrade, sexy Frankensteins, sexy cavemen, scanning for wedding rings on the ride home, that Iron dude in that one suit, having the conviction to play the scrabble words that you’re given, kitten brains vs. lady brains, getting it all out on the deathbed, Princess Leia’s troubles with men, intimidation in the testing room (with Pam Dye), the victory lap (with Paddy Johnston), a lack of comprehension on stamps (with Tim Kelly), the art of engaging in television (with Neil Paterson), looking for that lost thing (with Eileen Budd), taking the lack of a Facebook reply too personally (with Ludi Price), random cruelty on a carnival ride, a dedicated punker, and falling silently through space to your death. Well, not your death specifically, but you know what I mean. Once again this is a really solid collection of stories; that Princess Leia piece should lead off the next movie as far as I’m concerned. How she trusts any men at this point is beyond me. David also has an extensive afterward as usual, so any questions you might have about these stories have most likely been answered (I know they were for me). So yeah, once again you should buy his book. Sure, you could get a few samples for free, but rarely the whole story, and wouldn’t you rather have the whole story? Not to mention the very idea of supporting an artist whose work you enjoy with your money. You still do that, right? Because it’s easy to forget to do it. And it’s roughly $5, assuming I have the exchange rate right in my head, which I almost certainly do not.
A couple of points before I start rambling about this comic:
1. It’s still the writer first and then the artist in terms of the order on the cover, right? Or am I the only one who even thinks about such things? and
2. It took entirely too long for Google to think I was typing anything other than “Alabaster Pizza Hut.” That’s not a real thing, right? I refuse to do even the minimal research required to find out if that’s a thing.
So hey, this comic? It’s hilarious. It’s insightful, it’s unsettling, it’s occasionally baffling (in the best possible way) but the most important fact is that it’s hilarious. Which is an impressive fact when you consider than at least a few of these stories are just pages of verbatim conversations taken from Kaeleigh’s phone. This is yet another one of those cases where I don’t want to ruin anything about this book while reviewing it, which increasingly makes me wonder why I’m still doing this, but since all of humanity isn’t going to buy every book that I say they should buy (even though that sample image should reel everybody in), I’ll slightly describe a few things. Fair enough? Subjects include problems in her life that she’s learned to live with, text typos changing meaning, ideas for rebranding herself, the new shoes for the people in Heaven’s Gate, her baffling habit of staring into an empty fridge, all the red flags in her co-worker’s recent engagement, all the dark places her mind goes while working on an edit test for sunglasses, her existential crisis while waiting for people to “like” a photo, the pro (s) and cons of sex, and Siri getting passive aggressive on her. That’s only bits of the first half of the book, the rest is up to you. Kaeleigh also has lots of sample images at her page, including conversations she had after the book came out a few months ago, so convince yourself if you have to, but find $10 and buy this comic. You need it. $10
Mutant Punks Fuck Off #1
Call me an old timey punk if you want (or maybe just old), but doesn’t it undermine your case of being a punk book when you cross off “fuck” from the title? Yeah, it’s an odd thing to be cranky about, and the book itself is chock full o’ fucks, but it struck me as odd. Anyway, how about that comic? It’s basically an excuse for an extended fight scene, but it was a pretty great fight scene. The Vomit Lords are leaving a punk show when they go to the local fish market. One of the shopkeepers is despondent because the fish are mutating and he’s barely able to make a living, which is when The Nimrods come onto the scene with an ultimatum: that whole area belongs to the same people who are polluting the river, and the market has to get out of town in a hurry. The Vomit Lords disagree, and the rest of the comic is the aforementioned fight scene. And what sets off the fight scene? Just the most awful word for any punk band to ever hear. It’s a fun comic overall, and my quibble about that title is a very minor thing indeed. If you like mayhem and/or punks you’ll have a lot of fun reading this. $3
Satan Cat #2
Cat people, gather round! Dog people and weirdos who don’t like any pets at all, this one probably isn’t for you. Or maybe it is, if you’re intrigued by the concept of a cat literally thinking that it’s Satan. But is it actually Satan, or is the cat crazy? That’s the premise of this unexpectedly complex issue. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all still easy enough to grasp, but the bulk of this comic is a conversation between the cat and a mouse toy, with the mouse toy playing the role of the sane one of the two. This toy also points out the absurdity of it being the rational one and that the cat should think about that, at which point the comic almost collapses in on itself. It’s another funny issue but, as is often the case with a mini this small, there’s not a whole lot for a reviewer to talk about outside of the basic “yea or nay” issue. So… yea! It’s always fun to watch one of the most smug creatures on the planet question its own sanity.
Full disclosure time to new readers: I’ve been a fan of James Kochalka since the days of his mini comic and Little Mister Man in the 90’s. Eventually lost interest in the daily strip and he went in a direction of comics more geared towards kids (like the Johnny Boo series), so I’ve lost touch with his stuff over the years. Except for Superfuckers, which was great. Anyway, this isn’t about me, much as it might seem like it from that intro, it’s about Elf Cat in Love! Which is another of his “all ages” books, so again not one that’s geared towards adults, but it still retains that Kochalka charm. It’s broken down into three chapters and is basically the love story between Elf Cat (a magical (?) cat) who’s afraid of girls but thinks an awful lot of himself and a talking, flying tennis ball. Maybe I missed an origin story somewhere, but how much of an origin do you need for such a pairing? The first chapter deals with Elf Cat on a quest to save a princess that doesn’t go at all as planned, the second deals with his quest to heat up a hot dog, and the third is basically the two of them coming together. Even though they’ve been together for the whole book, but you know what I mean. Their mutual reluctance to admit any kind of attraction was fairly adorable, and their escape from the monster/princess in the first chapter was certainly memorable. Overall it fell a little too much on the kids side of all ages for me to think of it as great (but I’ll remind everybody again that that line is crazy subjective), but it was still a fun read, and I’d have to think that most kids would find it adorable. $15
There’s a long list of things I would do if I was a rich man, but high up on that list would be funding comics journalism, or graphic journalism. Whatever it is that Joe Sacco established roughly 20 years ago, anyway. This is a rare occasion where I’ll cite Wikipedia, but they list Emi Gennis, Jen Sorenson, Dar Archer, Matt Bors and Josh Neufeld (among others), and I’m constantly surprised that this isn’t more of an established thing by now. As Anne makes clear in the introduction, that’s mostly because funding is incredibly difficult to come by, especially with a project like this one that covers years of interviews, travel and multiple artists. I’m only going to briefly summarize these sections, as they’re chock full of details (and footnotes after the fact), so the only way to really do them justice is to read them yourself. The title gives you the basics of what’s covered in here, and it’s broken down into four sections. First up is The United States, which deals with fast fashion, the real life of a model, clothing stores, thrift stores, warehouses full of clothes to be recycled, and the trade agreements that “govern” this whole mess. The story of the model (and her description of the ones that were best able to adjust to the environment and the ones who weren’t) is heartbreaking, as is the general waste and pollution caused by the thrift industry (and how little of the profits actually make it to charities). The second section deals with Austria and the history of textiles and fashion, including stories from people who have lived their whole lives in the industry and are seeing it start to vanish due to competition from the larger clothing chains. The third section tells the story of Cambodia, the working conditions and wages of the factories, how that sometimes turns into sex work and how it can cycle back into garment work due to a lack of other options. The fourth section is The World, and it’s probably going to be the most surprising chapter for people who only have a passing knowledge of the sex trade industry and trafficking. The shocking bits (to me, anyway) detail how sex trafficking (slavery, basically) is treated the same in the US as voluntary sex work, and how funding for getting rid of sex slavery often gets tied up in ridiculous moral rules that come from the hyper-religious types. Fighting these moralistic scolds is incredibly difficult because they’re successfully blurred the lines for years, and money that could be more effectively put into housing and counseling for actual victims instead goes into advertising to convince people that their children will be sold into slavery if they leave their parents’ sight for a few minutes. It does conclude on a hopeful note, with some practical advice on how to change things for all of the various problems they’ve documented, but it’s daunting to say the least. Even if you think you’re an expert on this subject I guarantee that you’ll find new information in here, and the comics are drawn by the some of the best artists working today. If you know any millionaires please tell them to throw some money at people who are looking to do this type of graphic journalism, because the world needs more of it. $13.95
Billy Demon Slayer: Complete Series 2 Collection
It’s a little hilarious to go back through my old reviews of this series, note how many times I said I was going to go back and read the series in a chunk (as I reviewed the issues more or less when they came out and forgot a lot of the details between issues), and then somehow I never reviewed the final issue. Or I never got it? Nah, I’ll go ahead and blame me for dropping the ball on that one. Anyway, I was right: this series makes a whole lot more sense when it’s read all at once. Which is the nature of serialized comics, and most people don’t read as many comics as somebody who reviews them does, meaning that they have an easier time keeping all the little details straight. Anyway! For those of you who haven’t read this series (or those reviews when they came out a few years ago), this is the second series, meaning things start off with a recap of what happened in the first series. It was pretty comprehensive, and the only thing I really felt like I was missing out on was some of the more obscure cameos. In this complete volume we start off with a flashback to a couple of swords that are obviously going to be crucial later on, then jump back into life that has more or less gone back to normal after the events of the first series. But things don’t stay normal, as we get a killer hamster to start off with and it’s quickly followed by a mysterious (and, in a hilarious recurring gag, obviously stinky) fog envelops the town and turns almost everybody evil. We even lose our hero for a bit there in the middle, although I’m not going to spell out what that means exactly. Things get pretty dark in this series, but there are quips throughout and (from the afterward) it’s clear that the first series was much more lighthearted and this one ended up darker because that’s just where the story was naturally headed. Buffy and the Evil Dead series were obvious influences, but those are two pretty great influences to have. If you enjoyed those two universes, you’re going to find plenty to love in here. My only complaint is that the two friends of Billy were barely characters at all, which lessened some of their struggles, but again that’s most likely on me for not reading the first series. Other than that I pretty much loved this book. $25
Drawing Under the Influence
Is it possible for a really great collection of comics to be undermined by its premise? That might not make any sense, so let me try again: this comic collects a bunch of strips that Derek and Brian did for their website when they realized that it had been left without being updated for ages (I can relate). In the interests of getting a bunch of strips up quickly, they decided that Brian would do a number of simple stick figure drawings to keep things regularly updated. But by the time this plan came together they had more or less abandoned the stick figure idea and had come up with a few dozen mostly full color strips, sometimes one page long and sometimes longer. And those are almost universally great! But there’s a large chunk in the middle of this book called The Adventures of Bugman that looks awful and drags the rest of the book down. But (extra but) it’s the only chunk of the book that literally looks like it was drawn under the influence. So if you’re looking for authenticity, go straight to that story! If you’re looking for stories that will get you literally laughing out loud (and getting odd looks because you’re reading it at work, at least if you’re me) then I can highly recommend the rest of the book. Subjects include the origin of the Drunken Cat (and, in hindsight, it’s hilarious that they thought this origin would be an epic tale), recurring strips about the smartest caveman learning that it wasn’t a good time to be all that smart, recurring strips about a maggot giving advice to kids who didn’t understand his ulterior motives, recurring strips of Big Puff and his unwelcome advice about being better people, the tragic tale of peanut butter and jelly, Drunken Cat and his adventures (that rarely end well, although I would think all the booze would help him better tolerate a lady who says “like” all the time), the redshirts finally getting their revenge on Kirk, and a longer story about the importance of air, told in old timey special speak. Like I said, overall it’s pretty damned great, and it’s hard to bitch too much about the sloppiness of one long drunken comic in a book where that is literally in the title. $16.99
Once again I’m going to cheat a bit and quote directly from the disclaimer on the back of the book: “This book is not recommended for children or the self-satisfied.” That might seem to be a confusing description about a comic dealing with a sickness, but boy does it ever make sense after you read it. This starts off as the story of Gabby (aka Ken Dahl) as he deals with a sudden illness. He starts off with the same plan as everybody with no health insurance: wait it out, drink lots of fluids and hope for the best. But his illness keeps getting worse and worse, so he finally breaks down and heads to the local emergency room (despite that same emergency room being recently sued for letting somebody die in their waiting room after leaving them there for 24 hours). 22 hours into his stay he gets in to see a doctor… who doesn’t help him out even a little bit. From there he goes back to his original plan of waiting it out, even though it had clearly gotten pretty terrible for him to head to the hospital in the first place. But as the days went on and he didn’t get any better, he started pondering the reasons for living, and what was or wasn’t worth fighting for. From there he thought of all of human history and the delusions that we all must tell ourselves to enjoy our lives in a place of such rampant corruption, disease and hopelessness. He came away with a damned near irrefutable case against humanity in all its forms, unless you were willing to stick to that plan of willful ignorance, but you can read this yourself to see the case that he made. Granted, his mind was in a sick and dark place when he thought all this through, but I defy anybody to read this without agreeing with a good chunk of what he said. If you’re content in the bubble that you’ve made of your life and have no interest in seeing if anything could break through, stay away from this book at all costs. If you can accurately see your surroundings already and want to live as closely examined of a life as possible, there are few books better than this to help in that task. $21.95
Local comics often have a deeper meaning for the people in the area covered, and that is certainly the case in this book. This comic is the silent story of a cat on its travels through Shioya, which is a small town near Kobe, Japan. Several local stores and buildings are featured, and Graeme was nice enough to include a letter with his feelings on those locations to help me along a bit as a reviewer. It’s clear that they’re near and dear to him, but if you’re one of the people reading this who aren’t familiar with the location (and I’m guessing that’s most of you), you’re in luck! It’s also a completely adorable story about a cat wandering around the city and its interactions with the local animals and people. It starts with its casual escape from its home (it was unclear if it was escaping or just an outdoor cat), as it follows a bird, then a bug, and the stumbles across an ominous larger cat. Not to worry though, no violence here, as it then moves along to a charmed (and sleeping) construction worker, an indifferent smoker and a cranky old man who’s just trying to rake some leaves in peace. I’ll leave the rest of the journey for you to discover, but it’s never anything less than thoroughly charming throughout. If you ever find yourself in this part of the world I’d recommend taking this book and do a little walking tour, as it sure looks like Graeme did his research. I should also mention that this originally started out as an exhibition requested by the city, as they wanted a way to showcase the town, and he (wisely) added the cat (which is “Neko” in Japanese) to it. Hey look, you learned something today!
Somewhere out there (assuming comics like these are still even sold in physical stores), somebody bought this thinking they were getting an alien abduction story. Too bad, suckers! Instead you got a comic about the slow dissolution of a marriage as experienced through the eyes of the young daughter of the couple. Oh, and some unexplained lights. Those lights were a really innovative way to start the book, as it was a typical ride home with the kids in the back seat and the parents in the front (singing along to the radio, so clearly they weren’t always unhappy). Suddenly they saw lights floating above the car, causing them to stop for about 10 minutes (as remembered by Laura, assuming this is autobiographical). From there things took a sharp turn at home, with the parents increasingly arguing with each other until they eventually take the kids aside and tell them that the father is going to rent an apartment alone. All along the way this is taking a toll on Laura at school, as she kind of likes a boy at school, but not as much as the music her parents were listening to would indicate. As the marriage falls apart she also concludes that all love is hopeless anyway, so there’s no point in liking that boy anyway. Laura develops a fascination with all things related to aliens and also tries to come up with a plan to get her parents back together, all while getting constant “helpful” books from other friends and family dealing with how to cope with divorce. Laura going back and asking her parents about those strange lights they saw before the divorce is the kicker, but you can find out how that went for yourself. It’s a perspective on divorce that you don’t usually see, and it was a story that was very well told.