Category Archives: Reviews
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.
Previously on this review website, I mentioned wondering how Josh would follow up the first issue of Goiter. It turns out that the second issue doesn’t have much to do with the first (or does it and I missed it? Always possible!), but it is a step up in quality. Not that the quality of the first issue was poor, but Josh has a lot more room to play around with panel structure, silent moments, and a mystery. None of which are mentioned on the cover, although I guess there is a death. Um, spoiler alert. I always say that part too late. Anyway, this is the story of Henry Kildare, a ventriloquist from Chicago who’s stopped at a small town to play a gig. He tries several times to contact a missing girlfriend (or at least a girlfriend who doesn’t want to speak to him), gets several comments about Chicago from people who have obviously never been there, has a middling to bad show and takes mushrooms with the bartender. Things take a real turn after that, as he gets stuck in the middle of a missing persons case, and this is probably the part where I should stop talking about the story. The rest of it, including the ending, is delightfully enigmatic, with all kinds of room for interpretation if you’re so inclined. Both issues of Goiter were delightful in their own mildly unnerving way, so here’s hoping Josh keeps putting out Goiters for us all to enjoy!
The Last Human Alive
Nuclear war has come, and the only thing to survive (apparently) was a small group of voles. Unless I missed an issue or two where this was explained in more detail, that is. As you may have guessed from the title, the voles think they’ve spotted a human, the creature that they all know was responsible for the end of the world. Do they mind the end of the world since they’re now basically in charge of it? Unknown! The voles react to this news in different ways, with most of them forming an army to take out the human before it takes them out. One of them goes off to see a village elder of sorts, who tells the story of how the world ended, mostly by using the word “ass” a lot (yes, it’s still a coherent and concise explanation). Right around the halfway point of the book, the army confronts the human that they’ve spotted, with the rest of the issue being a desperate battle against it. Sort of. Look, if I cleared it up I’d take away the mystery, and who wants that? It’s a fun story, with Joseph once again providing the Korean translation at the back of the book for interested parties. At this rate I figure I’ll be able to write Korean in… never. Still just about never. But if you have a passing familiarity with it, maybe this will refresh your memory. If you only speak Korean and have stumbled across this review (by some hilariously garbled Google translator, no doubt), you’re in luck! $5
L. has been making comics for quite a few years now (go check the archives here if you don’t believe me, although I really wish the years of the reviews still showed up), but this might be the best thing he’s ever done. Granted, I’d have to go back and read several old issues of Jumbly Junkery to be sure… you know what, I should probably do that anyway. Anyway, Flocks is the story of his life. L. was gender assigned as female at birth and raised by a strictly religious family. Meaning that when she (at the time; please forgive me if I mess up the pronouns and/or correct me so I don’t do it again) was growing up and started to get feelings that didn’t coincide with the feelings church/her family/her school told her that she should be getting, L. had nowhere to turn for better advice. Instead she had crippling self-doubt, what seemed at times to be an inner loathing as she tried to make herself behave the way she was supposed to and like who she was supposed to. L. spares no detail in Flocks, and the details are almost uniformly grim. She did have supportive parents in other areas (specifically scholastic), and she did have supportive teachers, but it wasn’t until she was able to go away in her later high school years that she was able to start to put it all together. It’s a riveting and heartbreaking journey, and he seems to have arrived at a moment now where all is right with the world: loving wife, two kids, happy in his own skin, he even finally found a church that was supportive and loving instead of the hateful mess he had growing up. I guess all that constitutes a spoiler, but since we’re dealing with L.’s life, I thought it was allowed. For anybody out there is struggling with who they are, this comic will speak to you in a profound way. This is especially true if you’re in one of the backwaters of America or anywhere around the world where intolerance is still considered the right way to be. Whatever you’re going through, it can all work out; it’s just a matter of getting through the rough parts first. $21.95
While I was looking up Edie’s website I chanced upon some artwork he has for sale, and was once again reminded that I’m not wealthy enough to appreciate fine art. Sigh. If you have money lying around, some of those pieces are absolutely incredible and you should buy one. Or buy me one; I’m certainly not proud enough to reject it. Hi, you’re here to read about this graphic novel, and here I am complaining. If you’re familiar with Edie’s work you probably already do and do not know what to expect, as he manages to shock and amaze me every time out at least a few times. It’s no different with this collection, and once again I’m going to try to encapsulate what cannot be… capsulated. That can’t be right. Stories in here deal with an alphabet snake and its quest for a body, its trip to the convenience store, some of the sexiest food prep you ever will see, more food prep but this time with a sense of existential panic, the pumpkin’s revenge fantasies, gender fluidity in said pumpkin, what you might see if you peek through a window while someone has their pants down, fucking with venereal leeches, trying to get blood from tiny veins and using it in serving sizes, and sexy cow milking. Also about a dozen other stories, if not more, and the descriptions I already gave you are almost certainly wrong at points. Yep, this is another case where you’ll have to buy it for yourself to see what I messed up. Luckily reading this will most likely make you a better person, so it’s worth the money from your end. Unless nudity and sex scares you, in which case get thee to a church as soon as possible and away from this book. For the rest of us, there’s plenty here to enjoy. $21.95
I just got lost for a minute trying to count the faces in that cover. Go ahead, try it yourself! This is another collection of short pieces by Max, mostly (if not entirely) pulled from small anthology comics. And since I do this “for a living” (i.e. make no money but keep doing it anyway) and haven’t seen most of these stories before, I’m guessing you haven’t either. The strip I sampled sums up my general mood on America in the middle of 2018; if you’re reading this in the future, the main subject of controversy right now is prison camps for immigrant children. Check around to see if things have gotten better or worse since this moment! Other strips deal with the steps Max has taken throughout the years to make himself almost entirely disguised, a few FEMA funnies strips, the story of a dog breeder who had some creative methods for convincing others that his dogs were pure bred, an alarming double page spead pinup of his Aunt from the 60’s, the time that he learned a valuable lesson about bullying, and a few other short pieces that I’ll leave as mysteries. Hey Secret Acres, Max is bound to have enough strips around by now to warrant a collection of his work. You’re on a roll with what you’ve been putting out, maybe give his stuff a shot? For you, gentle reader, yes, I’d recommend giving this a shot. I’ve been reviewing his stuff almost since I started this website in 2001, and it’s still an unnerving delight every time I see it. $2
The Fifty Flip Experiment #23
More and more, Dan’s books defy any sort of conventional analysis and, more and more, reading them makes me want to sit in a corner and think about whether or not reality is really how I see it or how Dan sees it, and what it means if it’s more like Dan’s version. So I’d like to start with a quote from the letter Dan sent me along with this comic; the only background you need to know is that in 2018 I spent some time away from reviewing comics because my back was in excruciating pain pretty much constantly over a few months. “It is too bad that we have to carry around heavy brains wiggling around on top of a frail super-extended spine.” Yes… yes it is. Dan starts off with a long text piece that is on both inside covers, in which he describes the contents of the comic. Sort of, while also leaving plenty of room for your own interpretations, and mentioning several things that don’t seem to happen in the comic itself. Maybe I shouldn’t have read that first, but it was right there on the inside front cover! I had to read that first, right? Anyway, I’ll give this is a shot, fraught with peril though it may be. This is the story of Gerard, who’s an average dude. He gets ice cream with sprinkles, then decides that he wants rainbow tears. A Rascal is brought into the mix, then burnt orange wax. Suddenly, a ramp and a crash! Mortality sets in, and is begrudgingly welcomed. All that is needed after that is a golden coin. Huh. It’s only with Dan’s comics that I’m genuinely not sure if I spoiled the ending, or how much it would matter if I did. His comics are about the journey, not necessarily the destination, except that’s probably not what they’re about, and I’ll never know fully what they’re about, as I’m me and not Dan. Sometimes I hope that Dan’s comics are all that survives after the (choose your own favorite type of) apocalypse happens. I’d love to see the world that aliens would put together using only the information contained in these 23 issues. $5
I guess there are probably a few people out there in the world whose lives have never been touched by any sort of depression or mental illness (either their own or that of loved ones). I mean, it must have happened out there somewhere, right? But for the rest of us, who will never forget the sight of _____, or the sound of _____ as _____ (details removed to protect anybody from figuring out any real part of the scarring events mentioned), either mental illness or the aftereffects of it will always be around. This is Katherine’s story of her 2015, spent in a psych ward and/or trying to figure out effective types of medication. She says that the images in here are the sum total of her artistic output from that year, as she tried to figure out reasons for staying alive, to live, to make it through each day. She mentions other people in the same ward (all names removed, of course, although she says it’s because she can’t remember any of them) and their troubles, the difficulty in trying to relax when somebody checks on you literally every 15 minutes every single day, and the slow realization that every single thing in her room was designed to prevent someone from hurting themselves. Saying something is “deeply personal” has maybe been overused over the years, but it’s hard to imagine a more deeply personal book than this. She talks frankly about every aspect of this process, before and after, and refuses to plaster any sort of happy ending onto it. Mental illness is a constant struggle and she doesn’t sugar coat it, although I am glad that she knows of Maria Bamford (who talks frankly about thinking of killing herself in her act but somehow remains hilarious). If you have any of these issues yourself, or know somebody who does, I honestly can’t recommend this book enough. It’s mostly text, and it’s riveting; don’t go into this expecting a normal comic where you get to relax with laugh lines here and there. I’m sitting here now and thinking of more lines that cut right to the core of me or broke my heart a little, so I’d better end it now. Get a copy of this, and then do what I’m going to do: loan it out to loved ones, but don’t be pushy about it. A lot of people could be helped by what’s in between these covers. $7
New review today for Humans in Peril by Caitlin Cass, who puts out quality comics at a pace that should shame at least a few of you. Hell, it even puts my reviewing schedule to shame. Enjoy!
For any artists out there who have been daunted by Caitlin’s productivity, especially considering the amount of research she has to do for most of her comics, but were perhaps selfishly holding out hope that maybe she wasn’t funny: sorry, this comic should kill off that hope for you. And really, you should be worried more about your own work than comparing yourself to others. That’s just common sense! This is a collection of 50 strips about humans in some sort of peril; more often than not the peril is existential, but there’s some physical danger thrown in here and there as well. These are all single panel strips, mostly reminiscent of New Yorker strips, but funnier than the average example of that type than I’ve usually seen. And bleak as hell, mostly, so adjust your expectations accordingly if you’re expecting a wacky laugh riot full of outlandish hijinx. Subjects include… ugh, is there anything worse than describing the basic outline of single panel jokes? I might as well be telling you where the punchline is heading for verbal jokes. Subjects include ennui, dissatisfaction at the state of the universe and your place in it, an unwillingness to disconnect from the virtual world to join the actual world, the futility of engaging with reality with forced cheer, and kittens falling asleep. One of those things is not discussed in this book of strips, but I’ll leave it to you to suss out which one was the lie. $6
This is one of those cases where I’m tempted to leave the review blank, except perhaps for a brief note telling you to let the sample image speak for the comic. That’s cheating, and I don’t want to run afoul of the independent comics reviewers review board (you wouldn’t like them when they’re angry), so I’ll soldier on with a few more thoughts. This one came out of the blue, which is always a delight; yes, that’s also true when the comics aren’t that great. This is the first of two issues with the same title, but I don’t know yet if the story continues in the next issue or if it’s something entirely different. The story of this mini is, again, encapsulated in that sample image: a man finds someone to help him fulfill a niche sexual desire of his on an internet message board, with said fantasy involving a fake mugging. The comic shows the mundane aspects of his life, how he gets through an average work day, and the specificity with which he plans out his mugging, including what he can bear to part with in his wallet when he does get robbed. Things take a turn towards the end, which I suppose could be said of most works of fiction, so I don’t think that’s giving too much away. It’s a quietly haunting mini and something that leaves me intrigued to see what Josh does with the much larger follow-up issue. Check in here in a few weeks to see how that goes, or you could cut out the middle man and just order comics from Josh himself, which is something you should think about doing regardless. I don’t see the first issue mentioned on his etsy shop at the moment, so I’ll guess the price is… $5.