Category Archives: Reviews
When I get a comic or graphic novel to review and it takes me several weeks to review it, one of a few things happened. Maybe I lost track of it and found it later. Maybe I just had a backlog of things to review and got to it as soon as I could. And, once in a great while, I’ve been sitting with a book, keeping it around so I can check on things when they pop into my brain, because I just can’t get the book out of my head. For Persephone’s Garden (which arrived months ago), that last one is the answer. I kept thinking I knew what I wanted to say, then I’d think of some story or strip from the book, go back and read it and completely lose what I wanted to say. But since I can either do that forever or say something about this remarkable book, it’s time to ramble! This is, on a basic level, the story of Glynnis, her kids, husband and parents. This book is packed with adorable stories about kids, about the crazy things they say and do, and about their perpetual suffering through vacations and meals that would awe most adults. It’s also about dealing with her mother, who has had alzheimer’s for the last few years, and how the mother/parent roles have been reversed. Her mother made tapestries for years, using incredibly elaborate patterns, and watching as her skills gradually left her was devastating. There’s also stories about Glynnis and her job, which is to travel to different locations and make illustration of different pieces of pottery so they’re not lost to history. All of these things would make for a complex and vast graphic novel, but it’s the way that she ties them all together that’s truly brilliant. It all comes together in the most natural and amazing way by the end, and once again I feel compelled to leave it the reader to find out what that means. You can read this on a surface level and get plenty out of it; by that criteria alone this should be considered one of the best books of the year. But when you get down into how it all ties together, it’s possible this book should be elevated even higher than that. Read it, in other words. Now I’m going to go back to contemplating various bits of it, possibly forever. $21.95
Could this be the most straightforward of the mini kus comics? Nah, the ending alone blows that idea out of the water, but it’s bad form to talk about the ending of a book, so I won’t do that. But the bulk of it is a narrative that’s easy to follow, so maybe this is the mini kus book you should keep on your coffee table to get people hooked when they come over and thumb through the random comics you leave out. Anyway, the story here is about our hero, as she just wants a night out after a rough week of working on a comic about sexual abuse. She meets up with a friend, they get a drink, move on to another location and meet up with a couple of guys (it’s not clear if they were waiting for the ladies to show up or were just friendly strangers; it also doesn’t matter a whole lot). After they’re seated they have a fascinating conversation that’s interrupted by some cops with their guns drawn, looking for a burglar. Finally the evening comes to a close and the three other people take an Uber together, while Paola heads home on her bike. This is where the mildly confusing ending happens, but I think I’ve figured it out while I was writing this. Maybe. Give this one a look, if you’re bothered by how open to interpretation some of these mini kus books can be, this one should ease your worries. $6
Double Dip #2
When I saw in the intro for this book that it had been 8 years since the last issue, my first thought was simple. Did I review the first issue 8 years ago? Yep, I sure did! OK, so did I like it? Yes again! OK, so what do I remember about it? Um… not much. Hey, you try remembering every comic you’ve ever read when you write at least a few reviews a week (and five a week for several years). Anyway, one thing I mentioned in the last review was that I had no idea how to follow Dale’s Watusi story, as he referenced several things that were clearly part of a past series. Well, this time around he uses footnotes to explain exactly when the past action happened, so at least it’s a mystery that can be solved now. The man has 39 issues of his Watusi series out (not to mention his other comics), so it’s easy to see why things get hard to keep track of. His story picks up directly from #1 and deals with the shape shifting creature, how he got here, what he did on previous trips to visit, and a demonstration of his skills. Next issue we get his full origin, so here’s hoping it’s not another 8 years before that happens. There’s also Tom’s story, which is a self-contained story about a boy who invents his own curse word to avoid getting into trouble. Throw in a giant robot that’s out to destroy the world and things end up coming together quite nicely. It’s a measly $2, give it a shot you cheapskates!
Is this still a movie that can be parodied in 2019? I’m genuinely curious if the kids today remember a movie that came out in, what, 1995? It just occurred to me that I’m connected to the internet, so it turns out it was 1997, with one sequel. Eh, who knows. I thought it was terrible when I saw it (full disclosure: in the theaters; yes, I’m ancient), but it’s not like that’s enough to stop a movie from becoming a cult classic. Anyway, you’ll get more out of this comic if you’ve seen the movie, but either way it’s a fun little romp of teenage panic, unsupported assumptions and mistaken identity. I can’t say much more about that without giving the whole plot away, but I will say it’s not just a retelling of the film, this comic has its own thing to say. I laughed a few times, I didn’t see the ending coming, what more can you ask for? I am curious about what exactly happened to Tom, but it’s irrelevant really, and me finding out would have ruined the surprise a bit earlier. Give it a shot, especially if you’re as amazed as I am to find out that that movie has any kind of staying power. $6.90
When I get a couple of issues of a series to review, there’s a system I like to use when reviewing them. I try to get the first issue reviewed quickly, to help get the word out in whatever tiny way it happens around here. Then I give it several months before getting to the next review. Not always! If I’m completely out of books to review, or if I’m really into the series, I’ll be quicker. But that’s the general idea, and it’s for one simple reason: that’ll give time for the creator to get another issue out, which is a good sign for me to take a series seriously. And sometimes I just lose a comic in the general chaos of my life, but let’s ignore that possibility. Anyway, Von has 2 new issues ready as of this review, so he’s very clearly taking this all seriously. Read the last review if you don’t want to get completely lost here, although why you’d only read the review for a second issue of a comic is beyond me. Or just the second issue of a comic. This time around that rich scientist is still trying to get his AI back, Lauren’s mom is still hiding it and having health problems, Lauren is dealing with her terrible job and the consequences of her actions in the last issue, and Sanko is still looking for belly rubs. There’s a lot going on here, which is why I’m being mostly vague. Damn near anything I could mention would be a spoiler, so why don’t I make things simple. I’m all in on the mystery here; I’m even starting to like some of the side characters who are supposed to be assholes, and Von clearly has a master plan here, even if the big surprise towards the end seemed to even take him by surprise (according to his notes in the back). I’m hooked, is the point, and I think most people who are willing to give this a shot would find themselves similarly hooked. $9
Sometimes I get books to review that are perfectly fine books, they’re just not for me. Where I’m at in my life, the mood I’m in at the time, it just happens sometimes. For example, this is a book that’s about 2/3 giant fight scene between an army of hippos and an army of crocodiles. Right away I’m guessing a good chunk of you either really want to see what it’s all about, while the rest of you just have no interest in such a fight. I’m in the latter camp. The fight scene felt like it went on WAY too long, and if you’re just coming along for a wide variety of gore, most of the kills were pretty basic. So what’s the story? Things start off with our heroes (the king, his wife and his son) meeting up with another clan that’s having a harder time. We also meet the squirrels who are living in the king’s hair and the king of the sea, who appears to be a puffer fish who also uses a cane. Underwater. While also having no legs. Is it odd to fixate on that one aspect of the book? Because it strikes me as something that never got past the “looks kind of cool” stage. Not necessarily a bad stage, but if your fish king uses a cane, at some point you should probably explain that. Anyway, from there we learn that the king hippo (Khipo) literally shits chimichangas and burritos. Yes, and we see this happen in great detail, along with the vomit that comes from a reaction, along with the slipping and sliding on said vomit… yeah, it’s a gross book. Next they’re building a wall to keep all the “illegals” out, and I was expecting some social commentary here, either for or against, it being 2019 and all, but nope, it’s just a wall. Most of the rest of the book is that very long fight scene, meaning it’s time to wrap this up. Despite my overall indifference, there are people reading this who are intrigued by the story or concept, and you people, you’ll probably love this! I could take it or leave it, but I’m also well into the “getting too old to be reviewing comics” stage. Why are you taking comics advice from a curmudgeon? $16
Is this the most narratively straightforward comic that Pat has ever done? Eh, probably not. The dude has made all kinds of comics over the years! Still, if you’re looking for an entry point into his very odd and unique world, this is a pretty solid place to start. It’s the year 300,000,000, and things are rough. Humans killed themselves off millions of years ago, reptilians came around and took over but they’re gone now too, and it looks like it’s down to just some scattered groups of creatures here and there. And there’s the boy and his dad, trying to (as the title implies) survive in this harsh world. Right away they’re accosted by a group of green… people? Probably not. They choose not to engage them, and later this group is attacked by a large bear. The bear kills one of them, the boy and his dad kill the bear from a distance, and follow that up by killing the survivors of the group that was attacked. That’s your introduction to this world, so it’s clear what it takes to make it there. A lot of the rest of the book is them traveling through various landscapes, dealing with whatever dangers they find along the way. Things end on quite the cliffhanger, but this is Pat Aulisio we’re talking about; he already has the next part available on his website. I’m still not entirely sure where the whole thing is going, but there’s nothing wrong with that after only reading the first part. It’s definitely worth a look, and as of August 2019 he was selling both parts for $16 altogether. If you just want this part it’s $12, so I’ll leave it up to you to figure out the better deal.
Since this book came out in 2012, has this really been lost among the comic stacks here for 7 years, or did Joseph include it with some more recent review comics? A peek behind the curtain, just in case anybody still somehow had the idea that I was organized. I think he sent it fairly recently, but who knows? The archivist is imaginary, which makes it hard to keep track of such things. Anyway, this is the story of The Vole with No Name breaking into the Scum Hive to steal a priceless sword. The first half of the book has exactly three spoken words and it does an excellent job of showing our hero sneaking into this place and the various pitfalls he encounters along the way. The rest of the is a desperate attempt to escape, primarily from a very large sentient jar full of brains. It’s more nimble than you’d think! There’s also a brief story in the back of the book dealing with a vole and his son picking berries. They discover a human skull (from ages ago when all the humans were killed; haven’t you been reading his comics?) and get into a discussion about what happened to them and death in general. It’s a thoroughly engaging comic all around, give it a shot why don’t you? $3
Is this really Kelly’s first graphic novel? Looking over her comics here and on her website, it sure looks that way. Well, if you’re one of those weirdos who only reads graphic novels and turns your nose up at mini comics, you’re in for a treat here, as Kelly has been doing her thing for over a decade now, honing her craft. Yes, you should also check out her mini comics too, and not reading mini comics is just damned odd, straw person I made up in my head. There’s a lot going on here, so much so that I started the book over after finishing it. If you have a short attention span, that’s all the review you need right there: I read most of this book again right away. Obviously I loved it! Things start off with Kelly and her friend Missie (name possibly changed) in Portland in 1994, living in a hostel, barely getting by and not at all sure that they made the right call in coming to Portland. Next we get to see what brought her to that moment, how she became friends with Missie in Wisconsin, their experiences with drugs and parties, how they already seemed to start veering off into different personal directions before they left town. There’s a whole lot more to the chapter than that, but why spoil all the surprises? The last chapter shows them moving to Seattle, the trouble they had again settling in (better than Portland, but barely) and how the reality of them drifting apart became unavoidable. Nothing is belabored here; it’s all subtle enough that I read it again when I was done, after all. The awkward moments at parties, how her friend saved her at least once from creeps, that devastating moment at a party when some guy said horrible things to her while she was on acid (having been there, very few things can more quickly strip you down to a blubbering mess, existentially at least)… there’s a whole lot to love here. It doesn’t hurt that Kelly was born in the same year as me, so I can personally relate to the atmosphere and music, but don’t be afraid, kiddos! Not knowing what the fuck you’re doing with your life in your early 20’s is a universal condition. Buy this book, and know that once you realize how much you like it, there’s a whole library of her past comics just waiting for you to discover. $14
Sportsbar, New York Part 1
18 years into this reviewing gig and I can still get baffled by a comic. It’s what keeps me going, folks! Long time readers should know by know that “baffled” is not synonymous with “disgusted;” it’s much more likely to mean “delighted but confused.” This one starts off with a long introduction that is damned clever and funny. Takes the reader on quite a journey before even getting to the comic. That’s after a table of contents that I almost used as the sample page because of its sheer absurdity: chapter 1 is on page 1, chapter 2 is on page 2, all the way to chapter 28 on page 28. And both the pages and the chapters are numbered on every page! Boggles the mind. Anyway! This is a series of single page strips, which built up into a decent narrative when all was said and done. Initially it seemed like it would be a series of mildly amusing punchlines, but then things got weird. Our heroes, theoretically, are two rabbits who have some anger (and boredom) issues. They watch a show called Two Morbid Pigeons (which is basically like watching themselves on television), suspect that they’re being watched by some agency (and they’re right), and sometimes there are humans involved. In their own strips, that is. Unless the rabbits have become human? Nah, I’m probably overthinking it. It won me over by the end, that’s for sure. $5
Depression! Who’s got it? Let’s see, show of hands… yep, that’s pretty much everybody, so some extent at least. This is an occasionally dream-like comic about Mohar’s troubles with depression, or possibly a fictional tale of depression and how to handle it. I’m assuming it’s based on real life because of how pieces of it so perfectly mirror the depressed mindset that I don’t see another way to get it down on paper so accurately. For example, there’s a page that’s only Mohar’s attempt to respond to a text message about a party that’s just devastating. First he starts to ask what he can bring, deletes it, starts to say that he can’t make it, deletes THAT, and finally texts that he’ll be there. Anybody who’s ever wondered if they can face the outside world for another day can relate to that roller coaster. Things start off here with Mohar being “fired” by his therapist. He suggests group therapy, but Mohar is already down the depression hole after hearing this news. He portrays this as literally melting down, with the slightest disruption (in this case seeing a gecko in his fridge) enough to send him spiraling. He sees moments of real beauty in his quest to live in the world, and these are enough to sustain him here and there. But then a genuine tragedy occurs in front of him and he does nothing to stop it, which crushes any progress he’s made. Is he able to turn it around? Does he live happily ever after? Well, no. That’s not how depression works. But you’ll have to read it for yourself to see how he deals with it. Obviously I liked it, and if you’ve ever been depressed you’ll find something familiar here.
A friend of mine recently asked about the best way to get into comics, that she had a lot of trouble with the flow of panels, how you’re meant to read along, how long you’re “supposed” to look at the art, etc. All questions that hadn’t really occurred to me, as I’ve been reading comics for about as long as I’ve been reading. Still, to anybody reading this who has similar concerns, or feels at all like you’re still a beginner in the world of comics? This one is for the advanced class. Keren does work with images, pacing and script that are all graduate level stuff, and the description on the back of the book was mini kus-esque (I mean that in the best possible way, of course), so not much help there either for the beginner. I couldn’t hope to accurately describe this story or encompass the “gist” of it for you; it’s truly one of those graphic novels that you have to see for yourself. Things start off with a prologue involving a stage where all of the operas that are yet to be performed are all arranged. The actors go back and forth among the operas, picking up the appropriate props from barrels placed around the stage, while avoiding the temptation of being drawn into another story. What could be described as a frenzy of images follows, but Keren is one of those people who slow me down while I’m reading, making me take time with the images constantly. From there the real story starts, if there is such a thing. It deals with two roommates at a school where “everybody reverts to who they were before.” One of the roommates, as you might have guessed from the title, has a dishwashing webshow. With a side game involving loose grapes that are placed around campus and eaten by her fans. There’s also a gentleman caller, sort of. And that’s as far as I’m going to even try to go with this. I’m not even going to guess the feelings you’re going to get from this story, as mine were all over the place. Still, give this a shot and it’ll be easy to see why she’s winning all sorts of awards lately. She’s one of those people who you could unironically call the future of comics, but it’s a future that’s already arrived. $21.95
But a Dream!
This might be a turn of phrase that I’m not supposed to use as an American, but I’m going for it anyway: this one did my head in. David’s comics can get abstract occasionally, sure. But to do an entire comic on dreams, and to have it end up as… um… dreamy as this one? It’s impressive as hell. Partially that’s because it can be tricky to tell when some of his stories end and the next one begins; he’s not a big fan of a title page indicating the start of a new story, and in this one there aren’t even page numbers to keep you grounded. It’s just stories of dreams, some bound by a loose connection, others not at all. To give you some idea of why this messed with my brain, here’s an example. One of the stories deals with an ape man who’s chasing David. He throws bananas to distract it as they climb up the side of a building, then enters the rocket ship on the roof. The ape man fires his gun at the rocket, which discharges a bullet that’s bigger than the ship. In the next panel David hears a bang, which he determines came from his kitchen. Even though he was in a rocket in the previous panel. That kind of thing happens a lot in this comic. It’s skillfully done, but occasionally unnerving. Usually this is the part where I’d tell you what these stories are about. It’s tradition, so I guess I’ll give it a shot, but be warned: this will make even less sense than usual. Stories in here deal with a giant purple naked man who’s the year 1994, running to catch a show and then dissolving literally into laughter, wordless Star Trek, trying to determine the appropriate height to fly in a dream, being in the room for a Tony Blair interview, the Star Wars actors getting stuck in an Ewok TV show, and having his spaceship overrun by giant naked men. Even that doesn’t do this issue justice, so I’ll just say that if you’ve enjoyed his previous work, you’re bound to love this too. Or possibly be very confused by it, but I think that’ll settle into love.
Trolls: Operation Great Wall
This issue is a little less completely insane than the last one I read, but considering the fact that that was about a drunken party in an airport (among other places), there was bound to be at least a slight return to “normal.” Although you can look at the sample image below and see that there’s no such thing as a normal, quiet day in this world. We join our heroes in the Honolulu airport, where they’re casually chatting about Wayward’s girlfriend and what he can possibly see in her. She’s a bit on the dramatic side and comes from a conservative family. After nearly getting into an accident her parents take her to China, the Great Wall specifically (title might have given that away, huh?), and our heroes decide that they have to rescue her. But they’re air traffic controllers, not pilots, so you can probably guess how well that turned out. The rest of the comic has hijinx all over the place, what with the international incident and all. It also has an appearance by a former president, which isn’t the president I would have guessed in a comic with “wall” in the title. The previous issue may have this one beat for pure insanity, but this is quite the enjoyable read too.
There’s something profoundly unnerving about the stories in here between the stories about Max’s past. Or are they just disturbing because they’re inherently disconcerting? That’s a question that’s above my pay grade. This is a mix of autobiographical tales and those old timey Hee Haw skits if they were done by David Lynch on a bender. Those stories are best read by you without any clue of what’s coming, but subjects include (being as vague as I can here) spicing up a meal, falling in love, a pun, making your own bait, and excessive fingernails. There, good luck making sense of all that. His other stories are a lot more grounded, and they deal with his getting his first gun (and then a bigger gun, and what happened when he finally got around to firing it), catching fish with his dad (and what happened to the fish afterwards), the true story behind a group of ghosts that he saw, and his brief time with one of the worst temp jobs I’ve ever seen, and I have been through some temp jobs in my day. It’s another solid mix of stories by a man who’s been doing this long enough to have his (artistic) shit thoroughly together by now. Give it a shot, unless you’re easily grossed out. In that case, give it a shot anyway. That way you’ll know that your previous bar for being grossed out was probably too low. $2ish
Sometimes I wonder what would happen to me if I gathered all the William Cardini comics I’ve picked up over the years, took an afternoon and read them all in a row. I’m honestly not sure what that would do to a person. I mean that in the best possible way, of course; comic-induced madness always seemed like a likely fate for me. This is the story of… you know what? I’m cheating on this one. Here’s the description lifted from his website: ” The Miizzzard descends into the Urscape and gets slabbed. Take a psychedelic, enigmatic journey with the Miizzz through 20 pages of textural, intricate drawings at the speed of one panel per page.” Yep! Trying to read one of his books quickly, without taking some time on each page to soak in everything that’s happening, is really a waste of an amazing comic. Can you describe it to a friend over lunch? Not coherently, no. But reading his comics tweaks that certain something in your brain that’s convinced that other worlds and realities are always there, just out of the corner of your eye. If you’re interested in a peek into that world, this guy is one of the few people out there who seems able to see it clearly. Give it a look, see if you still perceive the world entirely the same way when you’re done. $6
This is a wee thing of a mini comic, which means it’ll most likely be a short review. It’s been decades since I was raised religious (Roman Catholic), so I can remember the gist of the story in this comic, but I’ll get enough wrong so that this might be funny/enraging to anybody who takes it seriously. Palm Sunday is a Christian holiday. I think it’s before Easter? Followers wave palm fronds to signify… something something Jesus. How did I do? Eh, that’s why Google exists; if you’re curious, go nuts with the searching. Anyway, this comic is the silent tale of Grant (or a stand-in) getting a palm tree, caring for it, having some issues with it and finally having it grow into a full tree. There’s a brief shot of Jesus with people waving palm fronds at him, so I guess it’s triumphant? Again, I’m long out of the religious world. Anyway, this would probably mean a lot to a religious person in your life, maybe as a stocking stuff, but for Easter. You know, this is actually small enough to fit into a plastic egg, with a little creative folding. Perfect!
Jaime has a new website! I just wanted to make that clear for everybody who only reads a sentence or two of my rambling reviews. And this is his first series to get to five issues, so congrats to him! He mentions in his intro that he attempted to make this an all humor comic, as he knows that some of his stuff gets heavy. Despite the fact that I usually love his stuff, every time an artist says something like that my immediate reaction is “I’ll be the judge of that” and, well, what can I say. I laughed out loud at the end of three of the stories and grinned at the end of the fourth, so I’d call that a successful humor comic. Stories in here include aliens demanding to see our leader (and while I usually hate giving away the gag on a sample page, this was just too good for me to resist), a tale from his childhood about him and a friend trying to avoid a bully that ends with the bully throwing a spear at them as they were fleeing (and probably my biggest laugh of the book), how he came to accept the spider in his house (OK, maybe the final panel of this one was the biggest laugh in the book), and a story about the teenage years of Jesus that he held off on publishing until his very Catholic mother passed away. So if you usually like his stuff but find him a bit heavy, this comic is for you! If you have good taste and already liked his stuff, you already know that you need this in your life. Oh, and if you managed to get a copy of Tortilla #1, he apparently lost the original artwork and the comic is out of print, so you might be sitting on a goldmine. Billionaires buy comics too, right? $4.50