Category Archives: Reviews
Ryan’s comics are one of the rare examples of a book that makes me want to dig through my old comics to reread everything else the artist has done. Because I like his books, sure, but also because he’s one of the few people working who keeps most of his comics in a self-contained universe; everything with “S.F.” on the cover or in the title is all part of the same story. Granted, he says that these are entirely new characters so you don’t need to go back to anything, but even if that’s completely true I still want to go back and see how everything that’s come before runs together if I read them all at once. So, once again, I’m accepting offers for unpaid interns who want to organize over a dozen long comic boxes full of mini comics. And a few assorted boxes. Possibly random bags here and there that somehow have comics in them too. Did I mention unpaid? <ahem> Hey, how about this comic? This is the story of a lonely lizard man who’s roaming the galaxy by himself. He eventually realizes that he’ll need fuel and runs through his options on how to get it; the short version is that all of his options come with varying levels of risk. So he lucks out and stumbles across an asteroid field with the ore he needs to refuel, but alas! It has been claimed with “dibs” from some human settlers. The lizard man isn’t clear on the exact definition of “dibs,” which leads to him breaking off a piece of ore for himself, which naturally leads to some irate humans coming after him with their space lasers. The rest of the comic is a lengthy space battle, occasionally broken up with talking as one side tries desperately to talk the other side down. And just in case I somehow haven’t mentioned it in previous reviews of his work, Ryan’s use of colors is unmatched by damned near anybody that I know of. That cover alone should give you some idea, but everything in here is gorgeous and it makes me hope that he goes back and colors some of the earlier work when the inevitable gigantic S.F. omnibus comes out. Hey, a guy can dream, right? $15
Sometimes during a move comics will end up getting shuffled off somewhere that leads to me not reviewing them in a timely manner. Or at all; I’m sure I’ve lost a comic or two during a move before. The good news is that when the comics reappear (like, in this case, by checking under a mound of other nonsense in my car), it’s like there’s a brand new Caitlin Cass book waiting for me. This comic tells an ambitious story in a tiny package: the entirety of history before civilizations. Caitlin takes us through the very first forms of life, the length of time it took for them to get up and running, the various setbacks to life that almost ended all life on this planet several times, followed finally by the extinction of the dinosaurs. Um, spoilers I guess, in case you thought the dinosaurs were still out there somewhere. She also designed it in the same manner as those old “find out whether the boy likes you” hand puzzles from grade school, meaning it was impossible to get a second sample up here to show you. But you know her work by now and that it’s always amazing, so I doubt you’ll need much more convincing this time around. It’s Caitlin telling the history of the world before people were in it, what more do you need to know? $6
Comics that are actually funny are more rare than you might think, and I say that as a guy who reads all kinds of comics for his “job.” And for fun. And this doesn’t pay anything, so it’s hard to call it a job with a straight face. Ahem. Anyway, this comic is genuinely funny, and that’s always a joy. This is a collection of short pieces, some of which seem like they might have come from his earlier mini comics (based on the titles of those books), and some of which seem new. So if you’ve been reading Brandon’s work for years, I guess you might have seen some of this before. But those were in tiny comic form and this is a giant oversized comic. Also, as a general rule, if you like the work of an artist (in just about any field), pay that artist for their work. Otherwise they might get bored and wander off, meaning you don’t get to enjoy their work any more. This is a lot of rambling before even getting to the comic; my apologies, I’ve been off for a few weeks and have yet to rediscover brevity. Stories in this comic include a conversation between two baddies in the Double Dragon game (who also have the self awareness to realize that they wouldn’t even make it to the level of a mini boss), an admonishment to eat food that turns into a discussion of the real father (and one of the funniest things I’ve read in ages), a bad veterinarian who would prefer to deal with healthy dogs that all those other potentially sick animals, a cat discovering that pooping in the sand seems to be the socially acceptable thing to do, an abstract nihilistic misery hole and what happens when you fall down it, how all of the cool people are going back to flip phones, and the story of a dandy fop who was once forced to wash dishes to pay for his meal. The art style sometimes reminds me of the old clip art David Rees used back in the day (for a few of you that will seriously age me, for the rest of you… look him up. His tv show was also delightful. He spent a whole episode searching for the perfect ice cube. But I digress…), and the stories themselves, as I may have mentioned, are genuinely funny. Reward him with your purchasing dollars! $8
So as I was reading this I knew that I had seen this art somewhere before. Michael has been working for years on a variety of projects, but all I could think about was Duplex Planet. And, sure enough, in his bio he mentioned making a story for them years ago. Maybe I just have too many comics taking up space in my brain? Because if this is a skill it surely isn’t lucrative. Oh hi, I’m supposed to be talking about the comic! This is mostly a story about Edward and Wayward, two dopes who are air traffic controllers. Their boss doesn’t like them, one of them is on the run from his pot dealer and his landlord has decided that he’s going to kick him out. Throughout it all neither of them takes anything all that seriously (except for the bit where the pot dealer seems like he’s going to murder Edward), and the whole thing reminded me quite a bit of the old stoner comics of the 70’s. Which was great! Those types of books just aren’t around much anymore, and I’ve always wondered why that’s the case. The two of them end up being forced to work the entire weekend shift as air traffic controllers, and they only have one idea as to how they’re going to stay awake all weekend: throwing a big old party. The rest of their story is nonstop debauchery with more than a little bit of surreality thrown in as the sleep deprivation catches up to them. But wait, there’s more! There’s also two short stories in here, one dealing with two other characters working at a McDonald’s in the middle of nowhere (that one also turns into a party with the hobos taking over) and two other characters getting invited to a model party and assuming they got the meaning wrong when they show up to see an array of model airplanes and that sort of thing scattered about. So, naturally, they sniff glue to get away from it all… but there’s a twist! Honestly, I loved this book, and am looking forward to reading the other books he was nice enough to send along. Check it out, or just go to his website and pick out some comics. He has a whole lot to choose from! $4
This one starts off in a thoroughly charming fashion, with us looking at an empty stool. Our narrator then enters from off the page, addressing the reader throughout. If you’re wondering about the topic, it is given away on the cover, just not in the title: it’s mushrooms. Our narrator is obsessed with them, and the highlights of his life are when he’s wandering through the fields and finds a bunch of them in one place. He may have his problems the rest of the time, but this is when all is right with the world. Maybe this is the secret of happiness for everybody? As long as you have your version of mushrooms in your life, the one thing that brings you absolute joy, everything else can fall into place. Our narrator is a hermit, doesn’t seem to get much if any contact with the outside world, but it seems like he wouldn’t have it any other way. Give this book a shot if you’ve ever felt any existential sadness, as it appears to have the solution for such a problem inside. $6
King Cat #78
So I just glanced through older King Cat reviews and realized that I somehow never got a copy of #74. Just so you know, it’s taking all my willpower to write this review instead of tearing through all my old comics to see if I have a copy somewhere that fell through the cracks. That being said, it’s time for a new issue of King Cat! For lots of you, that’ll be all you need to read; I understand completely. For the rest of you, I’m running out of ways to convince you that King Cat is required reading. I’ve mentioned that there almost certainly wouldn’t be a website without John and the inspiration of his Spit and a Half distro, I’ve talked about the influence he’s had on a whole generation of comics artists, I’ve mentioned the feeling of calm that comes over me whenever I read one of his comics… I know! I can talk about this particular comic. If the rest of the arguments didn’t grab you it’s a long shot, but it’s all that’s left for me to do. This time around stories deal with his two dogs and two cats (and their interactions with each other and him), nature facts that he’s learned recently, how the smell of mothballs make his nostalgic and the terrifying warning label he found on an old box of them, and a walk in the woods. There’s also his top 40 list (which has quite possibly never been exactly 40 things) and the best letters page in comics. As always, this is my simplistic synopsis of what’s contained in this comic and, as always, you’d get a whole lot more out of it if you read it for yourself. This issue right here, #78? Give it a shot. $5
Pat sent along a note with his most recent batch of review comics that really blew my mind: he’s been sending me comics since he was 14, and he’s 32 now. So, basically, he’s been sending me comics for almost as long as the website has been around (I started in the middle of 2001). Of little interest to anybody besides myself and Pat? Yeah, probably, but maybe a few people wonder what goes on around the scenes. Eh, or not. Hey, let’s talk about the comic! This is a tale of two stories, as the text bubbles deal with an (I’m guessing) actual conversation on Tinder or one of the dating apps. There’s the awkward getting to know each other, the explanations that always come whenever you mention “comics” anywhere on your profile, the stall in communications that leads to the request for an actual date before it all falls apart, the agreement to said date, and the inevitable ghosting. I’d say spoilers here, but it’s right in the title. The drawn bits of the comic are the usual Pat Aulisio visual insanity, if it’s ever even appropriate to refer to such a thing as “the usual.” Our hero drives his… car (?) through the void and gets out. From there it’s a visual journey that I won’t even attempt to describe; as always you’re missing out if you don’t read it for yourself and let the whole thing wash over you. Pat sent along quite a few comics (the guy just never seems to slow down), so his name should be popping up here quite a bit in the near future. Thanks for all the comics over the years Pat, here’s hoping I’ve directed at least a few sales your way in that time. For the rest of you, check out his books! $3
Oh these mini kus books, they do keep you guessing. Just when you get used to the idea of them mostly being abstract journeys where everything is open to interpretation, along comes a comic that’s almost a straight up biography. The story starts in 1908 with a young woman getting an official portrait done. As she removes her coat, the portrait artist can’t help but be a little shocked by the tattoos that this reveals. From here we bounce back a couple of years to see how this all came about, and from there we see snippets of her life as she becomes one of the most accomplished tattoo artists in the world (although she’s overshadowed by her husband, mostly due to the era she was living in) and raises a daughter who she has forbidden from getting any tattoos. Marlene spends some real time showing how they fell in love with each other, and it’s beautifully done in two two-page spreads, presented as conversations between people who are growing increasingly comfortable with each other. It’s a fascinating story, and another triumph for a mini kus company that can seemingly do no wrong when it comes to comics. $6
One of the problems I didn’t anticipate when I started this website (17 years ago) was that I would lose track of so many artists. I have no excuse, everybody is a Google search away these days, but between the volume of review comics that come in and life in general, some artists that I like a whole lot slip through the cracks. Oh look, what’s this, it’s a package from Dave Kiersh! If you’ve been reading this site for years, you already know that I’ve reviewed plenty of his comics over the years, going back to my earliest days here. Go ahead, click on his name in the tags (or just use the search bar) if you don’t believe me! You’ll also notice that he uses “Last Chance For Love” a lot as a title, often with no numbering, so good luck with keeping all those straight, future comics historians! This is a collection of some of his selected drawings from 2015-2017. Beautiful women, heartbreak and lust have always been big themes in his work, and the same holds true here, along with a few self-portraits. There’s no story for me to review here, but the images have the same haunting but sexy quality to them as always, and this will be a welcome sight to people (like me) who may have lost track of his work over the years. He also sent along his latest book, so that’ll be up here soon enough. In the meantime, the man knows his stuff, so give this book a shot. If you’re new to his work maybe start with one of his more conventional comics (go through the archive here if you’d like a recommendation), otherwise this one is $6.
Ah, the first issue. Difficult to review, because I know so little about the world in the comic so far. Well, I guess there are some #1’s that are easy to review: terrible comics. And this isn’t a terrible comic, so that’s out. This is the very beginning of the story of Artema. The story actually starts at the end (or at least further along), as the first thing we see is a noticeably older Artema reaching the end of what has obviously been a long, difficult journey, but without a clear idea of what to do now that she’s made it. From there we see a bit about the unique view of time as believed by Artema and her people, and then we’re taken back to see how Artema got her name. We next see her in training, and it’s obvious that she’s chafing under all the rules. This is a part where I could have done with a few more specifics, but since this is only the first issue it’s entirely possible we’ll learn more later. The rest of the issue, without giving too much away, deals with Artema struggling to fit into this world, her reaction to that defeat and the consequences of that action. It’s an intriguing start, that’s for sure. Rachel has a great grasp of pacing and leaving breadcrumbs to be uncovered later (who is that painted warrior?), and Angela does some solid work letting the faces tell the story in some otherwise silent panels. It’s definitely worth a look, and a solid first issue for two people who are apparently new to comics. One piece of advice: get that second issue out quick! Don’t join the vast pile of comics that only ended up with one issue. You’ve got me hooked early, so keep up the pace! $5
Beyond Thick Glass, I Saw the Stars
It never ceases to amaze me how far Rob can get from the humble beginnings of a story. This one, for example, starts off simply enough, with a gang of guys waiting for the right moment to strip a car of its tires. Right away the title doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, right? Yeah, you have to wait for the payoff on that one. Anyway, we learn that these guys had been saving money, and they finally have enough to go to “Big Town.” From here we learn that this gang is actually made up of tiny people, and there’s some serious friction with the larger folk. But we also soon learn that there are even larger people involved, and eventually we start to piece together exactly what kind of a society we’re dealing with. They’re forced to retreat to yet another society, which is where we learn exactly how people ended up as different sizes, with different expectations as to what roles they’re meant to fill in society. Oh, and at this point the comic isn’t even halfway done yet. Rob has always excelled at filling his comics with imaginative details, which is even more impressive when you consider that (outside of a few exceptions) he works in single issues, meaning he’s starting over from scratch every time. Anybody who’s looking to excel in comics should take a look at his workload and history, there’s a lot here that should be emulated. About the only negative thing I have to say is the same thing I’ve said a bunch of times probably by now: I wish he had a better command of the your/you’re differences. Oddly, I enjoy his comics so much that I’ve made peace with it. And if you knew how much I enjoyed being a pedant about that sort of thing, you’d understand why that’s such a big deal. Prices are listed in Euros, so in American dollars for this 52 page book I’m guessing… maybe $10? Somewhere around there, anyway. It’s worth a look, so go look at conversion rates. If you give him too much money, just ask him to send along some of his other books to make up the difference…
Just a quick note before I start talking about what might be Alex’s best book (and I’ve liked several of his other books quite a bit): it looks like his website hasn’t been updated since he linked to the review I did of his last book over a year ago. But you can still buy this book through the link on the title (going to the Kilgore Books website), so don’t panic. Well, I already gave the game away on my opinion on this one, but what can I say? It’s a goddamn amazing book. On the surface, this is the story of a mayoral election in a small town that gets a little tense, but there are so many little factors at play that that description feels like cheating. There’s Roger and his dog; Roger is a simple guy who doesn’t mow his lawn and doesn’t keep his dog on a leash. Anybody who’s ever lived in a small town already knows what kind of trouble petty things like that can bring. Roger’s dog has also bit a few neighborhood kids, although we eventually see that there’s more to the story. There’s Carl, Roger’s neighbor, who is fed up with the whole thing and eventually uses it as a platform to run for mayor (that and “Fuck Chuck,” referring to the current town mayor). Carl also got dumped by his wife recently and is living with a much younger woman. There’s Mildred, a reclusive older woman who writes regular letters to a dead beau; she’s also possibly Roger’s only friend. There’s Josh, a boy who’s gotten bitten by Roger’s dog, and the mischief he’s getting into. Finally there’s Chuck, the current mayor and somebody who’s just fine with the status quo. All of those people are explored thoroughly throughout the book, several of them make some pretty big life changes, and the whole thing comes together beautifully by the end, even the little bits that I was ready to write off as going nowhere. Josh trying to get even with Roger and his dog, Carl’s escalating rage that’s all made clear by something he says in this sleep, Roger just trying to live his life, they’re all given time and space to develop. This feels like one of those books that ends up winning awards, but even if that’s somehow not the case, this is an amazing book and I’m so happy that Alex is a teacher. It helps to know that he’s passing these skills on to the next generation. $10
How can something with this many vibrant colors be this nightmarish? Eh, maybe it’s just me. This is all about the weekend, after all, which is the happiest time of the week. What horrors could possibly be mined out of such a thing? This is the story of a man who loves his job a whole bunch, but we meet him right as work is getting out and his weekend is beginning. Upon arriving at his home he sends out a smoke signal to his children, asking what they’d like to have for dinner. Suddenly filled with purpose, a messenger bird delivers their answer, and the children return home from their wanderings. The kids have dinner, the father heads out to the gym, and upon his return to the home he’s shown art projects from each of his children. He steels himself to keep an open mind, and this is about where I have to check out to avoid spoilers. Yes, I’m avoiding giving away the reactions of a fictional father to the art projects of his fictional children, and in this context I feel pretty good about not giving away anything further. How the mini kus folks have managed to maintain this level of quality and originality for 70 issues (as of this writing, anyway) is beyond me, but we’re all lucky that they do. $6
OK, I’ll confess, I officially have no idea whether or not these “monthly” Poopsheet books have actually been coming out monthly, and trying to narrow it down to just the subscription comics on the Poopsheet website is a bit baffling. But really, what difference does it make? If Rick can manage to put 8 “monthly” books out a year, that’s still a pretty impressive achievement in the small press comics world. Meanwhile, I’m supposed to be talking about the comic itself and not the subscription service. It’s a simple but cute little story this time around. A pimp (a larva pimp, to be exact) decides to be lenient with a guy who owes him money. Word of his lenience gets back to his boss, and the reason for his change of heart soon becomes apparent. Which is, once again, just about all I can say without getting into spoilers, although with a mini this short there’s really only one big spoiler to avoid. Anyway, it’s a funny little comic, and you should be supporting the whole monthly mini comic idea regardless. If this makes Rick Bradford rich, maybe he’ll start hiring a bunch of small press comic artists to take over the world! Hey, you never know…
This is #67 of the mini kus books. I mentioned the issue number a few times back in the day but stopped, mostly because every issue has a different writer/artist. Is there another anthology series of comics that you can think of that’s been this successful? Granted, “successful” is a relative term in this field (I’m guessing everyone who’s put out one of these books didn’t receive a small island as payment), but still, kudos to the folks who run this project. Meanwhile, what about this particular comic? This is the story of a young woman who is called a hero by somebody she barely knows on social media. Her talking dog calls her out on this, saying that she’s no hero and that the social media person wasn’t even real. She is determined to prove her heroism, and happens across an ad online for giving blood. Seeing a good and easy way to become a hero, she sets off to give some blood, which naturally isn’t as simple as it sounds, or there wouldn’t be much of a comic, now would there? We get to see the whole grand adventure of getting to the blood clinic, what happens when she gets there, and the side journey of her dog just trying to find a good spot to watch the football game. The watercolor art of Mariana is gorgeous; mini kus putting these comics out in full color really pays off with this issue. Give this comic a shot, come along on a grand yet mundane adventure. And check your back issues to see how many issues of mini kus comics you have. That’s what I’m going to do one of these days… $6
Cats of the White House
Before I get started, one more warning sign about the current President (it’s 2018 right now, future readers)? Dude never had any pets. Like, ever. To reach 70 years old without ever having a pet is a gigantic red flag. Anyway, this is a nice comic that contains no politics at all, and here I had to go messing that up. They even managed to make the various events that elevated Ford to the White House into “a scandal” and “another scandal.” This is the story of 10 presidential cats, what they were known for, how they made it to the White House, and how they ended up. These are some surprisingly deep veins for stories, with some of the highlights being the very first Siamese cat given to Rutherford B. Hayes, Lincoln’s long conversations with his cats, Theodore Roosevelt allowing his cats to have such free reign that the servants were instructed to allow the cats to sleep wherever they liked, Kennedy’s cat allergy, Clinton’s famous cat Socks and how it was eclipsed once he got a dog, and the forgotten cat of George W. Bush. It’s a fascinating list and they’ve clearly done some serious research. There’s also a section in the back where they mention the various other types of White House pets; if they’re not working on a sequel to this involving the hippo and alligator mentioned, they’re crazy. $3
Rest Stop Brochures for the Not-So-Distant Future
Hey look everybody, it’s basically four new comics from Caitlin on one convenient package! Yes, I’m only showing the cover for two of them here, but that’s because I’m sneaky. This is a set of four faux rest stop brochures bundled together, each covering a different topic. There’s Digital Red Tape, where people sign up to be forced to fill out forms and complete busy work to use their phones, which leads to less usage of their phones and a way to gradually reclaim their lives. Next up is Rainbow Boat Tours, where the nicest possible spin is put on a boat tour that takes you through waters that are clogged with floating plastic garbage. Drone Eyes shows you the wonders of experiencing different parts of the world through a drone; these stations are set up at rest stops to help you forget about how much time is still left on your actual journey. Finally there’s The Forum, a place where you can say whatever terrible or objectionable thing that you’d like, and the hand picked audience will still cheer and give you validation. Sure, it’s bleak at times, but these are still some darkly hilarious comics. And if you can’t laugh at times like these… well, that’s probably healthy. Still, you should at least try to laugh.
Ask a Cat #9
You know, I’m starting to get the sense that there are only so many things you could plausibly ask a cat. Not that I want to start this off by ragging on Charles; if you’ve been enjoying his work up until now you’re going to like this one just fine. It’s just, well… “how do you save on travel?” isn’t something I’ve ever considered asking a cat. Maybe I should accept that this series has become a way for him to answer odd questions without getting too caught up on the “cat” aspect of it. Yep, apparently you’ve caught me in a pedantic kind of mood today. Questions that are asked of cats this time around include whether or not they wear Halloween costumes, their favorite supernatural being (this one was interesting, as it dealt with a ghost cat), how to get rid of a headache, if the cat has a life’s goal, do they always land on their feet, and how to stop sweating so much. Overall there were some funny bits and some less funny bits, and since I’m in such a pedantic mood I feel compelled that there were a few typos, which is rare with Charles. But the man certainly has a prolific work ethic, so check out his website to see the ridiculous amount of comics he’s produced over the last few years.
Sometimes I receive books from people who say they’re just starting out in comics, and in those cases I really try to put my professional reviewer’s hat on (whatever that means), to get ready to get picky about little errors or basic things that the artist could do to improve. When I do this I try to make it clear that despite the number of comics I’ve read in my life, I’m still just some guy, and the opinion of people like me should never dissuade anybody from making comics. That being said… this comic was pretty great. The pacing, the story, the interplay of sound effects with the action, I don’t have a negative thing to say about any of it. I guess I wish he would have put up a link on his website where people could buy a physical copy of this comic, but maybe that’s just me showing my age, as he has it up for free if you’re curious. This is the story of Mohar going to his first concert (I learned this for sure on his website). First he has to motivate himself to attend, as going to any concert is a big hassle. Once he gets there he’s supposed to meet up with a friend, but his friend got there early and had made his way to the front. Mohar, however, as you can see from the sample image, had quite a journey ahead of him to meet his friend. I loved the descriptions of the different sections of the crowd (familiar to anybody who’s been to a big show), the wise old concert-goer who offered to help, the rage when people realized he wasn’t dancing… lots of great little touches in here. Overall I’d recommend this book to anybody who’s ever had to navigate a big concert crown. As far as any practical advice I might have? Keep doing what you’re doing, try to get in some diverse life experiences so you have interesting stories to tell, and you’ll be just fine.
Boy howdy, this comics takes you on quite a journey. This is the first comic I’ve seen from Edward Bolman (and Poopsheet has quite a knack for publishing artists with little to no web presence, so no help there) so I had no idea what to expect. As usual, I’ll try to sum it up in my own vague, trying-not-to-give-anything-away way and, as usual, it’ll be up in the air as to whether or not I did more to help than harm. There are a number of distinct story nuggets in here, but most of them end up circling back around to the main story. Or maybe they all do and I missed it? Anyway, the main story deals with a dinner party in which the only 400 people in the city were scheduled to attend. But when one guest arrives she notices that the place is empty. She makes a call to complain, she is herself taken away, and the mystery is afoot! But the focus of the comic wanders to a few different areas after (and before) that, including a trampoline jump contest, chlurm, spiders and gorilla men, the moon kicking sand in the devil’s face, time travel with past issues, and a lovely dance. Oh, and let’s not forget the sassy nibbler. Edward also has quite the lyrical turn of phrase; if you know him I’d highly recommend that you get Patrick Stewart to narrate the comic as you read it. It kept me guessing and was hilarious at times, so I’d say that’s more then enough to recommend it to you discerning readers. $3, or check with Poopsheet about the monthly comics subscription program.