Category Archives: Reviews

Reviews

Kamison, Michael & Arnold, Steven – Heel on the Shovel #2

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Heel on the Shovel #2

Sweet Christmas, this is one behemoth of a comic. Can a comic be a graphic novel based purely on size? Because if this wasn’t the second issue of a three issue series, this 80 page beast would definitely qualify. I hope you’ve read the last issue, because this is going to be impossible to review without spoiling how that story ended. Which was by (last chance to bail if you don’t want any spoilers for the first issue) Muriel, the wife and one of three main characters (the other being the husband and the small child), dying. In rather slapstick fashion too, which was particularly brutal considering all the character growth she’d undergone. This one starts off with her funeral, which we get to see entirely from her perspective. Meaning lots of people saying their final goodbyes to her body, and her child just thinking she was sleeping and not getting the whole death thing at all. This time around we spend a lot of time with Klaudia and Rocky, a couple that had broken up in the first issue (which each of them being friends of one of the main characters). This is by necessity, as Adler (husband) has fallen into a deep depression, so most of his scenes in the first half of the comic are with him being completely immobile. Daniel gradually comes to accept what happened, but by then he’s been half adopted by another family who’s willing to take care of him while Adler tries to work through his grief. Still, this all seems fairly normal, and if you look at that cover you see a pretty solid indication that things are going to get weird. Adler, throughout his depression, has been watching several movies over and over again. One of them is called Re-Animator, and if you’ve seen that I don’t have to tell you where this is going. If not, see if you can work it out from the title alone. It’s fairly straightforward! The rest of the issue deals with the complications of making that happen, and naturally that also gets the police involved, which sets everything up nicely for the big finale issue. Well, small finale issue, as I’ve seen it and it’s nowhere near the size of this one. Maybe I’ll get to that one sooner rather than later, as I’m really curious to see how this is all wrapped up. This one could work on its own, I suppose, but I’d really recommend getting both issues. There is SO much here that I’m gliding right on by. Several damned near brilliant sequences with the kids, with the sad cop that gets drawn into things, with the relationship troubles of Klaudia and Rocky… lots of great stuff in here. $10

Gallardo, Valentine – Long Live the Witches

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Long Live the Witches

Finally, a new approach on witches! Sure, dopey historical figures have tried burning, stoning and drowning them. But has anybody considered the healing powers of music? Oops, I’m already into spoiler territory. Eh, sort of, anyway. This one starts off with a young girl picking some herbs in the forest. On the way back she’s bullied by some local kids, and we soon see that she’s living with a “witch.” Meaning an older lady who knows the basics about which herbs help with certain ailments. From there we meet the other important members of the story: a traveling doctor (who speaks for the Lord, which goes about as well as that sort of thing usually does), a musician and the various other inhabitants of the town. There’s a town meeting, what happens when you question somebody who thinks he speaks with a divine voice, and something distinctly resembling a mob. It’s an engaging tale with a few twists that I should shut up about, proving once again that the only reason this website exists is to point in various directions and say “Look! Read this comic!” while not giving much away about the actual comic. Oh, and not for nothing, but this is mini kus #100, which I think legally means they’re allowed to take over the world now. But honestly, who would want it? $7

Purins, Ansis – Super Magic Forest

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Super Magic Forest

This is one of those books that’s going to be impossible to properly review. Which is odd, as there is a coherent quest at the center of it, one of them there “heroic journeys” you read about. But when it comes to the page by page specifics of this book, there’s too much to talk about in any kind of coherent fashion. Would you like to play “spot the stamp” with his panels? Because you could; there are several tiny stamped images strewn throughout the book. Not on every panel though, as that would be too easy. Zombre, the anchor of so many of his past books, has a brief cameo in this one, but that’s about it. There are SO many panels with SO much going on in them; I just flipped the book open randomly to the image of two sleeping bears, and even on that image I just now found a tiny bug, seemingly serving as a watchman of sorts, on one of their paws. Missed it entirely the first time around. So if you’re one of those people who measures quality of a comic by how much time you can spend with it discovering new things, this one is damned near priceless. Every page that has a crowd shot has a ridiculous amount of things happening in the background. Eh, I probably should talk about the story. We start off with an elf (Twit Leaf) gathering berries. Somebody pulled a prank on him and the bucket has a hole in it, so most of his berries have been eaten by birds that were following him around. Still, he needs berries for the banquet, which means he has to look for them in a more dangerous area. This leads him to an abandoned pocket video game system, which might as well be magic as far as he’s concerned. After a few more events he makes his way to the banquet, hoping that the game system will make up for his lack of berries. This is the meaty center of the book, where we get to spend some quality time with the whole extended civilization going on and the bizarre cast of characters. Which is why I used them for the sample image, and the ones shown below are only a small minority of the oddities. Twit Leaf eventually decides to go out for more berries, which is where he runs into a Cryptmunk Slayer (he had thought them to be extinct). Oh, and there’s his elf friends. And the demon. And the floofy monster that’s capable of killing all other monsters in horrific fashion. And so, so many others. I’m wrapping this up here, but to be perfectly clear: this is the opus of Ansis Purins, at least so far. It’s his crowning achievement, and whether or not you were already a fan, you should absolutely check it out. You’re unlikely to see anything this thoroughly, delightfully inventive anywhere else, and this is coming from a guy who reviews delightfully inventive comics on a damned near weekly basis. Check it out, spread the word, and enjoy. Oh, and this behemoth is also somehow only $16.95; I’m a cheapskate and my guess would have been $30. Gather those pennies and buy this book!

Gaspar, Ema – Flowers Intertwined

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Flowers Intertwined

Do you know why I love the mini kus books, even though they’re almost all from different authors, with dozens and dozens of different approaches to the art form? It’s because of a book like this one, where I spent a good chunk of it thinking it was going to fall into the “visually gorgeous but narratively baffling” category where these books occasionally land, only to have it all come together with perfect clarity in the last several pages. Well, it is me, so there’s a solid chance that I still didn’t read it correctly, but it all came together in a lovely and satisfying way. If you don’t get there, it’s fine! This book is a true joy to look at, and you’ll have that regardless. This one starts off with a woman watering a vase, which she is tired out doing but feels is necessary to keep her shadow side at bay. She eventually realizes that this is all related to a terrible memory of hers and decides that she has to steel herself to do something about it. In between all of that are several images of what she sees, what she imagines and how things could be. Yes, I’m being vague, as I will forever be if the other choice is to walk people through a comic. This is the 99th issue of mini kus, after all, so most people probably already know if they’re on board with the general idea. I thoroughly enjoyed it, anyway. Now I just have to fine some place to put it where my increasingly agile kitten won’t chew on it, like what happened with the last issue… $7

Neal, Andrew – Meeting Comics #1

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Meeting Comics #1

One thing they skip over in reviewer training (it’s an intensive course over several months but I, like all reviewers, are sworn to secrecy on the specifics) is what to do when somebody sends you their entire collection of published comics all in one chunk. Andrew is up to 20 issues of this series already, so he sent along quite a stack. Stay tuned while I figure out how to review them all! Anyway, the instantly worrying thing about receiving such a large stack is simple: what if the first issue is terrible? Not unheard of, after all; just think how many of your favorite small press comics had rough first issues before finding their way a few issues in. Well, no worries this time around, as the first issue had me literally laughing out loud several times. This is a collection of four panel strips that were done while Andrew was on his lunch break at work. While he doesn’t specify his specific job, probably for a very good reason, it’s clear that he has spent a lot of time in maddening meetings and/or dealing with office culture. So if that’s something you have to deal with too, chances are you’re going to love this one. The strip about a guy repeatedly asking further questions after the “we’re done here unless there are any questions” message from management and the staring of daggers by the coworker who couldn’t believe that the guy would not shut up has certainly happened to me before. Maybe you’re lucky enough to work in an office where nobody does that, in which case please let me know if they’re hiring. As these were mostly done on a lunch break, some of the art can be a little rough (just look at the panel borders in the sampled strip), but it doesn’t do a thing to take away from the humor. The version I got is the second printing, which is probably what enabled Andrew to include letters from people, and there’s also a pretty damned funny introduction by Jamar Nichols. What about the strips, you say? Well, keeping in mind that describing humor is a good way to murder it, subjects in here include the bare minimum required to sell your soul, who can and can’t quit on a dime, how casual Fridays can get, the physical manifestations of the soul crushing nature of work, and the HR robot and his preferences. And a whole lot more; there’s a lot of comic here. If you’ve ever had an office job you’re going to love this, if not I envy you like you wouldn’t believe, but you’d still find a lot to laugh at in here. $5

Kim, Jooyoung – World Ceramic Fair

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World Ceramic Fair

I would not have guessed that you could get this much of a story out of a ceramic’s fair, but Jooyoung has proven me wrong. This starts out as a general overview of a ceramic fair, with the different types of booths, people running the booths and the types of people who come to them asking questions (and occasionally “accidentally” smashing ceramics). This is all a prelude to the main event, which is a large booth that two attendees stumble on at the end of their long day. The proprietor informs them that she makes ceramics “to talk about racism with the audience.” This causes said attendees to make a run for it, but don’t fret! A couple of dummies come by the booth next, and they don’t have nearly the amount of self-awareness necessary to figure out that engaging might be a bad idea. As they question each piece the ceramist (yes, it was just today that I learned that this was the term for people who make ceramics) engages them and tells them the bits of racism that she’s experienced that inspired the pieces. Ever oblivious, what follows is a grimly funny example of the cluelessness of racists, the unwillingness to learn anything about it, and even them going through comments and suggestions that they really think are helping. There’s also a big surprise towards the end, but you’ll get no spoilers from me! This was a cleverly done tale and who knows, maybe it’ll reach a few people who need to see it? We can only live in hope. Give it a shot, or maybe just give it to the racist in your life that you can’t completely disavow because they’re a close relative. If you have a racist friend, I’d just refer you to the They Might Be Giants song on the subject from the early 90’s (My Racist Friend).

BLINK – Lopez Lam, Martin

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BLINK

One thing I’ve discovered about the mini kus books, and it seems to happen like clockwork: roughly once in every dozen comics, I’ll come across one that either doesn’t do a thing for me or that I simply don’t get. They almost universally have something else going for them if the story doesn’t hit home, like some artwork that looks like nothing I’ve ever seen, an intriguing idea or two, etc. Well, folks, you’ve guessed it: I don’t get this one! There, I said it. Here, I’ll use my old trick of pasting the back cover blurb to see if maybe this helps: “One day you pop up from the ground and the next you’re thrown over the world. BLINK is a loop world full of lazy and libertine monsters.” Clear as day, right? There are few to any words in this one, every image (outside of the first and last) is a two page spread, and as spreads I have to say that they are magnificent. I mean, look at that sample! I used the one from the dead center of the book, and I’d love it if you could tell me what was going on. That lady (?) running away on the far right is the seeming protagonist, but with very few words and very little sense of forward momentum, I don’t know what she was running from or why. Angry citizens, it looks like, but why were they angry? Who were they? I mean, I could keep going, but I’d always circle back to the same point, which is that I didn’t get this one on a very fundamental level. If a series of genuinely incredible images is enough for you, sure, give this one a go. If you like a challenge, or the idea of saying “I’ll show this dumb reviewer what this comic is about” gets you going, by all means, give this one a shot! In fact, go back through my mini kus reviews and only buy the ones that baffled me. Prove that I’m a dummy! If, however, you’re looking for a solid linear story, maybe go with a different mini kus book this time. $7

Madden, Matt – Bridge

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Bridge

I’m always confused in how to review 24 hour comics that end up being released in fancy, professional looking comics (like this, the 96th issue of the ongoing mini kus series). How much has it been polished for release, and how much is exactly how it looked right at the end of those 24 hours? I ask because this comic, as it is now, is damned near a masterpiece. Since anything I have to say about the 24 hour aspect would be sheer guesswork, how about I just leave that angle alone? Yeah, that seems fair. After all, I wouldn’t even know about the time frame if it wasn’t for the blurb on the back cover. OK, one more thing about the 24 hour comic idea: this was made with the condition that every page would have to be set a decade after the previous page, which is a hell of a condition to still end up with a coherent story. This one starts off with the fleeting memory of a young boy’s childhood, in which a mysterious old woman tells him about a mysterious bridge. He ended up spending his life in pursuit of this bridge, using whatever means he had available, and ended up falling short. Still, he passed his knowledge and his notes on to a ward, who then proceeded to spend his life in pursuit of the same bridge. He finally came to the conclusion (after a dream in which he saw himself on the bridge, along with the boy and the old woman) that the bridge had destroyed all of them, and so he destroyed all of his notes and attempted to end the whole thing there. Still the story was not over, as a girl in school stumbled across a trunk with many old notes about the bridge, which started the whole thing up again. I’ve already said more than I should, but the way this comic ends up a perfect circle was masterfully done, one of those “I can’t believe I didn’t see this coming” kinds of endings that are so rare in just about any medium. It’s a big comfort to know that Matt has been teaching comics to students for what, going on 15 years now? Maybe even longer. This is a guy with a lot to teach, and I can only hope that his students pick up on the good stuff. So yeah, I’d say this one is well worth a look, if you’re at all interested in seeing what the medium is capable of. Another mini kus winner! $7

Mirsky, Robb – Sludgy #3

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Sludgy #3

Well, this comic certainly lives up that tagline. Robb had a recap on the inside front cover dealing with what exactly a “Sludgy” is, which was a big help to somebody like me who was jumping in cold. The storyline itself didn’t seem like it needed much of a recap; this feels more like a series of adventures starring Sludgy, not some grand adventure where Sludgy saves the world at the end of it. Of course, if that does end up happening I’m going to end up feeling like a real idiot. This one starts off in fairly serious fashion, as two guys are digging a grave out in the swamp for a guy who’s currently in their trunk. When one of them goes back to retrieve the body he hears a voice from the woods and sees a shadowy figure. The man, what with him currently committing a crime at all, shoots at this shadow, which brings his partner to him. Then they both see the shadow, come to the same conclusion and shoot him a whole bunch of times. After that they split off to chase him, and mayhem ensues (yep, this is the point where I figure I’m getting to close to spoiler land). That covers a little more than half of the comic, but wait, there’s more! There’s an ongoing series of stories dealing with a mosquito who’s sucked up some toxic waste and the trail of destruction he leaves behind him, the natural result of a Sludgy sliding down a hill (and the hilarious conclusion), and the end result of a Sludgy trying to fly. As these creatures can split off from each other to make new Sludgys, there’s certainly a conversation here to be had about the nature of consciousness, whether or not the same consciousness in a different body is a new person or the same person, etc. But I’m not going to get into any of that, as it’s so clearly against the nature of this book, which is simply to have fun. That’s what ends up getting Sludgy into trouble every time, and it’s frankly refreshing to see in a comic about a toxic sludge monster. So yes, if you’re in the mood for some adorable horror (and you can keep those two ideas in your head without your brain exploding), this one is definitely worth a look. $6

Collier, David – Before the Pandemic There Was a Touch Football Tourney

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Before the Pandemic There Was a Touch Football Tourney

It’s always such a delight to read one of David’s comics. Did I give away the ending of the review already? Eh, it’s fine. The man has been making comics for 30 years (maybe longer?) now, and his mastery of the medium shows in books like this. You might think from that title that it’s all about a touch football tournament, but that actually only shows up for a few pages at the end. Before that the comic is about the last trip he took before the pandemic (to visit his son at college; it also shows his bemusement at now being the “old” person at a zine fair. There’s also a chunk with his son’s old artwork and a heartbreaking little bit about the death of his dog large in 2004 and the suddenness of it all. Then in two pages towards the end he manages to include ruminations on the necessity of clipping newspaper headlines in a digital age, his son’s covid scare at school, and how his scrapbooks are going to be the thing that gets him motivated for his next project. It’s damned near a graphic novel’s worth of stories,. just compressed and shortened into a mini kus book. Which is another thing that’s been an incredible mainstay in comics for decades, although David did get a bit of a head start on them (this one is #95 in the mini kus series, in case you were curious). Give this one a shot, it’s either a great introduction to David’s work for the newbies and another excellent comic from the man if you’re already a fan. $7

Canini, Brian – Plastic People #8

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Plastic People #8

It’s an eventful issue of Plastic People! As always, if you haven’t been reading this then number eight is an odd place to get started, but maybe your thing is to read reviews out of order of books you haven’t read. Who am I to judge? This time around we get an interview with the ex of the murdered woman and a better sense of what exactly was going on in her life when she was killed. The back half of the comic deals with a big old movie star going about his daily business, ending on one heck of a cliffhanger. Is Brian building up to something or is he making it up as he goes along? My money is on the first option, based on his past series like Ruffians. And based on the fact that he’s up to #15 of this series on his website, so he might actually be done with it for all I know. Check out one of those beefier 3 issue compilations, that’ll give you a chance to read a chunk of the story at once. Or get the single issues like this one for $2. You do you!

Cardini, William – Reluctant Oracle #1

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Reluctant Oracle #1

Once again I’m reviewing a book before it even hits the creator’s website, so clearly this is THE place to be for new comic reviews. This makes maybe a half dozen times already this year! OK, granted, several websites post updates daily, and they’re dedicated to everything new that’s coming out, and… hey, look over there! This is another tale set in the Hyperverse, as William has put together a stealth universe all his own. It starts off wonderfully, as a great and powerful oracle has been beheaded and left for dead. The only times he regains consciousness is when a group of local rats powers him up and asks advice about their crops, which is not a subject that holds a great deal of interest for him. Eventually the Floating Crystal Witch finds him and makes him an offer he can’t refuse (you may have guessed from that cover that it involves getting a working body for him). She’s not entirely truthful in her offer, and he’s not entirely truthful in his response, so who’s going to come out on top? As always with one of Will’s comics, this one is absolutely gorgeous, and the full color spread really brings his comics up another level. He’s a master at drawing things that obviously couldn’t belong in this world or any other, but if you squint at them just right, don’t they look a little… familiar? It’s difficult to describe, and it’s possible that my brain just isn’t like other brains to elicit this response. Probable, even. Still, one of these days I want to gather all of his comics together and see how well it holds up as an epic. He clearly has a bigger plan in mind (and he did label this one as #1 after all), but since they come out so infrequently I’m curious how well the whole thing holds up. Until then, this is still a damned solid issue all by itself. I only wish he’d spent more time with the rats, because that stuff was comedy gold. $12

Davidson, J.T. – Addicted

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Addicted

Hey, it’s the third J.T. on the website! Relevant to exactly nobody but me, granted, but I thought it was odd. This is one of the mini comics that came in a pile from …? I wish I could say I remember exactly who sent me everything, even after months or years, but that is not even close to true. I remember it came in a bundle with several minis by different artists, and almost all of the ones I checked had no web presence at all. Makes it tricky to link for reviewing purposes, even if I do applaud them for staying true to the “trade and share” tradition of how mini comics uses to be found. Have I said a thing about the comic yet? Nope. Anyway, I did find J.T. online, although you’ll have to ask him about the comics, as there was no online store. This is a simple 8 page mini with a single panel per page, which is also maybe another reason why I’m rambling so much before getting to it. It’s all about J.T. questioning whether his grueling work routine is worth it, as he’s occupied seemingly every minute of the day. He’s also clearly responsible for quite a bit, so passing the buck doesn’t seem to be available to him as an option. Still, his question is answered when he gets home after work and sees what it’s all been for. I guess I won’t spoil the conclusion, even though it’s fairly obvious where it’s headed? Eh, maybe it’ll surprise somebody, who knows. It’s quick, but it’s a heartfelt story, and sincerity can be rare in the comics world. Like I said, I didn’t see a simple way to order this or his other comics through his website, but I’ll bet if you contacted J.T. he would have some ideas…

Kamison, Michael & Arnold, Steven – Heel on the Shovel #1

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Heel on the Shovel #1

Boy, this one takes you on a real journey. I got one set of expectations from that cover, another one from the first few pages (although the hints were there all along when I went back and checked), and then quite another set after I really got into it. This is the first issue of three, and don’t fret! They were nice enough to send me all three issues, so there’s no danger of another unfinished series dangling around out there. This is a story mostly focused on three people: Adler, Muriel, and Daniel. Adler and Muriel are married and Daniel is their three year old child. You’d think there wouldn’t be a whole lot going on with a three year old, but Mr. Kamison has other ideas on that front. Things start off with full frontal male nudity, so if you’re at all prudish, move along I guess? Why you’d be buying small press comics if you’re alarmed by a dick is another conversation. Anyway, from there Adler and Muriel each go to console one member of a friend couple of theirs who has just broken up. Muriel is distracted because she’s thinking about biting people, and Adler just finds the apartment gross and tries to reassure his friend that every marriage has problems, even one that seems as perfect as his. From there things get dicey in terms of me saying too much about it, as spoilers for a comic that has two more issues coming seems like a bad idea. I’ll just say that Muriel is tremendously dissatisfied in her life (we get a brief synopsis of her former hopes and dreams) and finally decides to do something for herself, Adler tries to roleplay his way into cracking the case of the bathroom smoker at his school and ends up in an entirely different scenario, and Daniel tries to understand grownup problems as well as his new playground friend who is significantly further along the “woke” scale than he is, what with being three years old and all. All of this is expertly drawn into a collision by the ending, with everything coming together to cause a shocking ending. But hey, two more issues to find out what’s going to happen next! I had my doubts about the first comic from these two that I reviewed, but this one right here, this is an absolute winner. If you’re curious about their work(as they have a lot of comics to choose from), so far I’d say that this is the place to start. $8

Lehmann, Brandon – G-G-G-Ghost Stories

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G-G-G-Ghost Stories

It’s a big old collection of Brandon’s comics! If you’ve read any of my past reviews of his work you’ll know that I find the man to be full of funny, and that fine tradition certainly continues in this collection. Looking over his website I think some of these stories were previously in mini comics. Maybe some are brand new to this collection? I don’t know, as for once I’m so timely with my review that he hasn’t even posted this book as being for sale yet (give it a week or so, I’m sure it’ll show up). These all have some sort of generally spooky theme (more or less), and there’s even an epilogue section with a brief follow-up to two of the previous stories that’s delightful. But I’m getting way ahead of myself if I’m already talking about the epilogue, huh? Stories in this one deal with getting some cash for spending the night in a haunted house, how one Lyft driver is getting awfully tired of ghosts requesting rides, a cursed book where the severity of the curse is mostly in the eye of the beholder, a haunted house for cats (which is where the sample image comes from; without that context it’s one baffling sample image), daily phone calls announcing the impending arrival of the Viper (with one of the dumbest endings ever, but hey, Brandon calls that fact out in real time), and the Okiku ghost and her very specific rules for how many plates you need in your house before triggering the curse. There’s also the meaty center of the book, in which a man who recently became a werewolf goes to the local Barnes and Noble for some advice on how to cure his curse. So many wonderful little details in that one, and the fact that it constantly escalates without really going anywhere has to be seen to be believed. And if you think that means I didn’t like that one, incorrect! It’s probably second only to the haunted house for cats, and that’s because I’m hopelessly biased towards cats being weirdos. So yeah, this one is an all around winner. The man is awfully prolific (again, going off his website) so I’ll most likely be checking out some of his other comics soon. I was already pretty well sold after the last two comics, but this one has me convinced that more people should be singing the praises of this guy. $15

Bravo, Kyle – Forever and Everything #7

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Forever and Everything #7

The pandemic comics are finally starting to arrive, and this one covers a few areas that I had no experience with in my particular bubble. Early in-person voting, sure, I know all about that (98% of the people were great, but that 2% who weren’t, whooo boy), but what happened in schools was all hypothetical to me until reading this comic. This one reads more like a regular comic than most of his books, if that makes any sense. Kyle tends to keep his observations short in past issues, but this one started with the first time he heard about the coronavirus, how he dismissed it several times along the way and downplayed the severity of it when it did hit, all taking up maybe the first half of the book. It also showed how he tried to comfort his students, their reactions when they got the news that the school was shutting down (mostly centered around how anxious they were to be able to take their art supplies with them), and a bit about how he handled classes remotely. Other stuff in here is similar to how a lot of us had to deal with things, going from not being sure if it was OK to touch anything to figuring out how it was all about the masks. Other subjects include the oddity of fishing on a random Wednesday afternoon, trying to get some work done while being attacked by his children, going to the doctor for what he was sure was the corona, and dealing with a sudden glut of homemade masks. As we in America are mostly in the clear (this is July 2021, dear readers, so if the Mechagodzilla variant has hit by the time you read this, my apologies), there’s been just enough distance for all of this to be fascinating to me. Your mileage may vary! Maybe you’ve heard more than enough about the virus and want some distance. If so, give this one a while before checking it out. Otherwise, all I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Aushenker, Michael – The War on Dental

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The War On Dental

It’s always a good sign when a comic is actively hilarious, and this one more than crosses that bar. This is a story about dragons murdering dentists. If you’re understandably confused, relax, I’ll break it down a bit. Cast your minds back to maybe 2016 or 2017, when that one incredibly rich dentist flew to that one African country and murdered a very old lion that was a huge cultural symbol to the people. He was told not to, he did it anyway, and as far as I know the worst thing that happened to him was that some people called him mean names online (I just checked and it’s true. The lion was named Cecil, he was 13 years old, and the dentist is fine). That’s obviously a terrible story, and what would make it better is if the lions got together to pay this dentist a visit. This comic takes a different path: there’s still a dentist, but he kills a hibernating dragon and steals his fangs, which leads to the remaining lions coming up with a plan to take their revenge. Which, honestly, happens pretty quickly, as it’s not like a dentist has much of a chance against several enraged dragons. This isn’t quite satisfying enough for the dragons, who then kill his wife, his family, and destroy his business. From there the vendetta goes on to include all dentists, all people who kind of look like dentists, countries where the most dentists might come from, etc. So yeah, the rest of the book is complete mayhem. If you think it’s nothing but dragon murder, humans do briefly get their collective act together and find a couple of heroes (including the one listed on the cover, who must be from one of Michael’s other books?), which involves a giant mecha. It’s funny and more than occasionally brutal, what more could anybody want? I still don’t see an obvious way to order Michael’s books from his website, but go to it anyway and send the man an email. $5

Canini, Brian – Four Stories

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Four Stories

Four stories? In an eight page comic? Who would have thought that such a thing was possible? Granted, two of the stories are only a single page, but it’s still impressive. This is a really solid mini, and it even ends with a nice little update to the first story, which features a grimly realistic tale of a fish slowly developing the ability to walk on land and what happens to him when he gets there. All on one page! Next up is the meat of the comic, a tale about the hidden costs of dining out at a seriously upscale restaurant, which is a little too close to real life, and something that’s probably coming (if it’s not already here; I haven’t dined at a super fancy restaurant since before the pandemic, so I’m a bit behind the times). Next up we get the juxtaposition of a letter home from an aspiring star in Hollywood to the actuality of what she’s going through. And finally there’s a good old fashioned gag strip about how quickly time can pass you by and make you seem completely out of touch. As somebody who still has trouble grasping why it’s so terrible to use a period to end a sentence in a text message, boy howdy can I ever relate. It just means the sentence is done, not that I’m yelling at you! Ugh, kids today. Well, since those last two sentences aged me twenty years, I’d better wrap things up. This one has variety, a couple of surprisingly dense stories (especially considering the format), and a few laughs. All for a measly $2!

Delliquanti, Blue – O Human Star Volume One

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O Human Star Volume One

So I just did a quick bit of research, and outside of a few shorts pieces in anthologies, it’s true: this is Blue’s first long comics series. Why did I feel the need to research this? Because it’s damned near flawless, and it will always be shocking to me when that’s true with anyone’s first try. Also, as I’m perpetually a day late and a dollar short, the third and final volume has been completed and should be coming out this year, so the story is over right as I’m getting into it. Ah well, I can still do my reviewers duty and get anybody who’s as constantly late as me on board. This is the story of Alastair Sterling, and it starts with him dying. Before you start making comparisons to Sunset Boulevard, no, he’s not dead for the whole story and narrating it. Well, he is dead. Ugh, I’m getting ahead of myself. He does die in the first few pages, true. But then he wakes up with his consciousness in the body of an extremely human-looking android and is told that this is because of his former assistant Brendan as he’s being driven to see him. Who’s driving him? Well, that ends up being a mystery, as he quickly learns that Brendan had nothing to do with this resurrection. Alastair was at the forefront of artificial intelligence technology before he died, and in the ensuing 16 years robots have become normalized and have their own rights. The bulk of this book is spent with Alastair trying to get a grip on this new reality, interspersed with flashbacks to show how the two of them met, how they researched their work and how they finally got it off the ground. Alastair also meets another synthetic life form, Sulla, whose personality was taken from his brain waves in one of Brendan’s failed attempts to bring Alastair back. Sulla, however, had requested to be a girl after her first few years, which raises all sorts of questions from Alastair. So how many mysteries are we up to? Mysterious benefactors, the questions about his robotic clone (not even close to the right term probably), how his relationship with Brendan is going to go after so long apart, a few more I’m definitely forgetting. So there’s all kinds of intrigue, but it’s also just so damned human. Sulla is a typical teenager, at least in temperament, and there’s the usual nervousness about trying to fit in with other teens, especially after a lifetime of home schooling has left her without many social graces. Alastair tries his best, but he’s clearly and consistently uncomfortable in this world. And Brendan’s collapse early on as he realized that this really was Alastair at his doorstep was devastating, as was his constantly walking on eggshells around Alastair and Sulla. I’m completely hooked and getting the second volume as soon as I wrap up this review, so expect a few words about that in the coming months. Maybe just in time for the third volume to be released so I can be at least mildly current? I live in hope. But yeah, in case I wasn’t clear: get this book as soon as you can. I guarantee that you’ll be hooked after the first few pages. $25

Kamison, Michael & Arnold, Steven – Bee-Man: The Death of Bee-Man

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Bee-Man: The Death of Bee-Man

Don’t you hate it when you randomly pick one comic from a new stack by a team of artists while you’re pressed for time, read it, then quickly flip through the other comics from the stack and become convinced that you inadvertently picked probably the weakest of the bunch? What’s that you say? The amount of people in the world who relate to that are probably in the single digits? Oh yeah. Anyway! These fine folks sent me about a half dozen comics (don’t fret, I’ll get to them), but look at the cover of this sucker! Of course I’m going to go with that one first. This is the story of a team of scientists who are trying to reverse the dying out of the bees, but their first attempt ended with them accidentally making “vampire bees.” Erwin (the hero of the piece) is by far the most dedicated of the bunch, but it comes at the expense of his home life and new child. He eventually starts to hallucinate that the vampire bees are talking to him (or possibly they are; I wasn’t entirely clear on that), which leads to him trusting the bees far too much and entering a controlled environment to prove that they aren’t dangerous. Multiple bee stings ensue, and the guy ends up in a coma for ten years. When he wakes up things have changed quite a bit, and that’s before he notices some gradual and then sudden changes to his own body. I honestly can’t decide if I should go into spoilers here for the rest of it. I mean, when you call your first issue “Death of Bee-Man,” the writing is very much on the wall. I’ll just say that they stuck to the science of what happens when a bee stings somebody, and even with that the ending seemed abrupt, like they had just had enough of the story. There were some funny bits and some solid quotes, but this felt like something that should have maybe been a few issues long to let it breathe. Either way, that is some cover, and I’m looking forward to getting to the rest of the books from their pile. $5