Update for 8/8/22

New review today for Curse of Brick by David Craig, as (unintentional) international week begins with Canada!

Craig, David – Curse of Brick

Website

Curse of Brick

I’m sure David’s already thought of this, but if he doesn’t eventually put all these brick stories into a giant omnibus edition that’s shaped like a brick, he’s a fool. A fool I say! While we’re all waiting for that happy eventuality, he’s out with another hefty collection of stories about our hero, who just happens to be a sentient brick. Or is it about different bricks who all look the same? Anyway, this one is chock full of stories, and the subjects include being in the Olympics (a couple of those, actually, which makes me think he made those during the actual Olympics), trying to figure out the weakness of a hockey goalie who’s a cinderblock, a barber trying to figure out how to give Brick a shave and a haircut, feeding the wildlife, taking a union job, the price for eating too much candy on Halloween, the magical world Brick discovers under him after he hibernates for the winter (with art by Montevarious), Brick in space (with art by James Spencer, and after seeing him wearing a spacesuit I’m suddenly confused by whether or not he needs to breathe, which means I’m thinking too much), and a too brief glimpse into some of his friends, each one of whom seems like would be capable of having their own stories told. Finally there’s the sprawling title story, which starts off as an Indiana Jones parody, wanders in to a flashback dealing with how the pyramids were actually made, and ending with a cliffhanger that throws all of human history into question. Unless, once again, I’m thinking too hard, in which case it’s just funny. It’s another solid collection of stories, and once again I’m impressed and amazed at how much story David seems to get out of a literal brick. He also has plenty of samples on his website if you’re skeptical, but give it a shot why don’t you?

Update for 7/27/22

New review today for Lemonade Tango #3 by Henry Uhrik. There’s an election less than a week away in Ohio (it’s a little one, tell all your friends to vote and you could maybe actually get a dark horse candidate of your choosing to win), so this may be it for reviews until that’s over. Probably, actually. But we’ll see!

Uhrik, Henry – Lemonade Tango #3

Website

Lemonade Tango #3

It’s time for the exciting conclusion to the “Bonjour Paris” saga! Is it a saga if it’s a three part story? Eh, either way. He also starts a new story called “Out of Tune” that I’ll get into in a bit, but I’m going out of order with this one. That’s right, there are no rules here! If you haven’t read the other parts of “Bonjour Paris” you’re going to be a little confused, but that’s the case for all the reviews I do of ongoing stories. Rick has decided that he’s going to climb that tower to be with Martha when and if the aliens do come, so they end up waiting for the end as a couple. Without getting into specifics, it’s a lovely, quiet moment full of doubt and yearning, and a solid (if ambiguous, which I imagine was the point) ending to their story. “Out of Tune” is a bit more of a puzzler to me, at least as an ongoing story. It works great as a single piece, but I am curious where it goes from here. It’s the story of three musicians who get hired to play at a creepy old mansion. As they’re playing the owner of the house coaxes his wife out of hiding, and it’s an open question whether she’s enjoying the music or just likes crying. Later, while they’re bowling, a new theory emerges for the couple, and I guess that’s the direction things will be taking in future installments. Henry’s afterward was damned near brilliant, like they all have been so far, and it’s an extended meditation on bowling and yes, it does also end up as a metaphor for life. So I’m cautiously optimistic about the new storyline and completely happy about the ending to the old one. Sounds like a recommendation to me! $7.99

Update for 7/25/22

New review today for Meeting Comics #22: The Musical by Andrew Neal. Sure, I may have stopped doing weekly reviews of his book, but I still have a few left to talk about. Also I just saw his new stickers on his website, and two of them made me laugh out loud, so go there are see if you can guess which ones!

Neal, Andrew – Meeting Comics #22: The Musical

Website

Meeting Comics #22: The Musical

In case anybody is going into this being all pedantic about the fact that there are no audible sounds in comics, yes, Andrew does address this in his afterward. For the rest of us who just like a good time, boy are you ever in luck! I’m known around these parts (i.e. my website) as a crank who rarely enjoys poems or song parodies in comics, although I seem to be softening on the subject in my advancing years. Case in point: this comic, which is delightful. It’s also not 100% a musical, as since there has to be some story-related reason why this entire crew would start singing, things start off with a phone alert announcing a “musical storm warning.” After a brief conversation about which one is more imminent, a watch or a warning (it’s a warning, and Val’s mnemonic device to remember it should become the industry standard), our heroes find out that they’re too late to escape the onslaught, and they all eventually burst into song. Regular readers of the comic may also remember how messy the relationships in the series have become, and what better time to make an attempt to sort all that out than through song? That’s the part that makes my comparing this to the musical episode of Buffy unavoidable, as they both sort through some issues that couldn’t be addressed in casual conversation. Other highlights include Val running away and ending up in a “solo” song with a mirror version of herself, and the remaining guys breaking into their own song, which may or may not end up with everybody working back at the office. So if anybody out there is silently (or loudly) fuming about how the overall story has gotten away from office culture, you may be in luck! Anyway, yes, the streak of quality issues of this series continues. Andrew also mentioned in his afterward that all of the verses would work as songs, if anybody wanted to throw him enough money to hire some musicians to play them. So if there are any eccentric millionaires out there, go for it. I’d also appreciate it if you gave me enough money so that I could live out the rest of my life doing this instead of working an office job, if you’re going to be throwing cash around… $5

Update for 7/21/22

It’s another one from the mini kus pile, and this time it’s Li’l Jormly by Christopher Sperandio!

Sperandio, Christopher – Li’l Jormly

Website

Li’l Jormly

Look, I’ll make this review very simple. If you’re a fan of the mini kus books, of course you should get this one too. And the less you know about it, the better. OK? If that’s good enough for you, please click right on that link and buy it. For everybody who wants some (ok, any) details, let’s get into it! Right off the bat, even though you can only see half that cover, it’s obvious that there are some horrors that don’t quite match the whimsical nature of the artwork. Jormly has chicken feet, and what appears to be an octopus hand. And is he a cyclops too? Yep, sure enough. Things start off with one of those fake “back of the comic” ads that I thought were played out at this point, but it made me laugh, so I’m not going to spoil what it’s about. The comic itself starts with one of the denser recaps I’ve seen in a tiny text caption, as we learn that there were three apocalypses that led to this current moment, with some brief detail of each. We also learn that Jormly was “orphaned into the broken world”, and he’s had a miserable life. Don’t let that jolly look fool you! He soon asks a friend where he originally came from, and decides on a quest to return to that location. And then… the comic turns into a children’s activity book, complete with the word jumbles, mazes, etc. that you would normally find in such things, but of course more horrific because of the circumstances. We get some brief updates from our hero along the way, who’s looking a bit worse for wear each time. Basically if you’d rather work on an activity book, this one has you covered, and if you’d like to wallow in a bleakly hopeless future by living vicariously through a pantsless pig, you’ll be doing plenty of that too. Give it a look, is what I say. $7

Update for 7/19/22

Probably not the greatest idea to mention my covid positive status and then take a week off reviewing, huh? I’m fine, outside of maybe some long covid I haven’t found out about yet. But enough about me! New review today for Applewood Canyon #5 by Brian Canini.

Canini, Brian – Applewood Canyon #5

Website

Applewood Canyon #5

It’s the grand finale for the series, as our “heroes” still have to figure out some way to get the dead body out of town. There’s the north entrance, which is guarded 24 hours a day, so that’s out. And the south entrance is a literal minefield. What can they do? Obviously I’m not going to tell you, as it would be a gargantuan dick move to wait until now to spoil the ending. It’s always tricky when I can’t get into such things, so I’ll just say that I thought the ending was… fine, I guess? It solved their central problem, but it also felt like the ending just kind of happened and that was that. Which, granted, is how endings work, and you can throw this whole review away if there are further issues planned. Honestly, it’s probably one of those things where I was anticipating a zig and Brian instead zagged. Who can’t relate to that! I also thought we were going to get into further detail about the nature of the town (what kind of town has guards at one end and a minefield at the other?), but that never happened. Which I get in one sense, as that probably would have required a whole other series. And since Brian is a comics making machine, there’s every chance that he has such a series in mind or is already working on said series. Overall this was still a really fun and/or disturbing series and I think that fans of his work should definitely check it out. $1.99

Update for 7/8/22

New review today for Poem by M.D. Usher and T. Motley, and you may remember that second name because I’ve been reviewing his stuff since the earliest days of Optical Sloth. Happy weekend y’all!

Usher, M.D. & Motley, T. – Poem

Website

Poem

So there I was, reading the introduction for this book, where M.D. (I’m assuming he wrote the intro; it’s unsigned) talks about how this book is sui generis, how there’s never been anything quite like it produced. And, unlike my usual habits, I even read the back of the book first, which also made similarly bold claims. Well, I’m a crusty old reviewer who’s seen it all! I dare this book to impress me, much less make good on such a lofty claim! Well… yeah, they were right. Completely, utterly right. Any long time reader of this website will know that I often turn my nose up at “illustrated poems,” and poetry in general just isn’t my thing. So when this book was described as a “pastiche introduction to the conventions of poetry,” that it would yield “new rhythms and rhymes and give the poetry of the verbatim original a new dimension,” well, you could probably see my skepticism from space. But Tom (sorry if I outed him and he’s officially going by “T.” now) illustrated it, and he’s always solid, so what the heck, I’d give it a shot. And honestly, it completely blew me away. Maybe one other way to describe this is as a medley of lines from various poems, all expertly mashed together and made into something entirely new with T. Motley’s images. It’s rare for me to go back through a book right after I read it, but I did that here, flipping through pages with a general “how did they DO that” bemusement for the juxtaposition of the words and images. Understand also that some words became images, or maybe it’s the reverse, and that level of ingenuity delighted me. There was also an extensive listing of the various poets included in the back, with biographies that were actually fun and witty, often including some of their lesser known poems with that information. I’m always happy to be proven wrong, and I was wrong to be skeptical here. This book is a delight, and if you have any interest at all in poetry it’s essential reading. If you’re like me and don’t have much of an interest in poetry, give it a shot anyway! You may come away from it with a new appreciation for poetry, or at the very least what can happen when two people who clearly love the genre put their heads together and come up with something completely new. $20

Update for 7/6/22

New review today for Shooting by Pedro Burgos, as I try but fail to go a week without reviewing one of the mini kus books. Oh, also I have covid, so please don’t breathe in too close to your screen. It took two and a half years, but it finally got me (I’m doing fine, please don’t fret).

Burgos, Pedro – Shooting

Website

Shooting

Ah, the world of modeling. It’s horrific, and it seems like there’s a better than even chance that the photographer is going to be somewhere between a general jerk or a misogynist. This is a short but brutal tale about a guy who’s trying to get good shots of his model, but his true thoughts come through after she collapses while striking a pose. He’s overheard by a young lady who’s also watching the shoot and is instantly dismayed to find the camera turned back on him. The rest of the comic is the open question of whether there’s any consequences for a person like that, and if so who should give it to him. Or I’m reading it wrong, which is always a possibility, especially with the mini kus books. Pedro uses a full page for every image, allowing plenty of room to breathe for what is a fairly claustrophobic profession. No matter how much wide and open a space the models are given to pose, the lights see everything and even the food they eat while not on a shoot affects their ability to get work. It’s in intriguing and more than slightly disturbing tale, which is probably as it should be when covering a world like this. It’s worth a look, especially if you have any experience in that field, on either side of the camera. $7.95

Update for 7/4/22

New review today for The Lighthouse in the City Volume 8 by Karl Christian Krumpholz! Sure, it’s a holiday, but I’m stuck at home with covid so you get a review. Yep, way after it’s fashionable I finally got hit by the pandemic. Always late to the party!

Krumpholz, Karl Christian – The Lighthouse in the City Volume 8

Website

The Lighthouse in the City Volume 8

For all that I sometimes give artists grief who only put out a book every few years, it’s even trickier as a reviewer to keep up with the people who constantly produce comics. Karl was nice enough to to send along a half dozen or so books after I reviewed his fifth volume earlier this year, which then leads to the problem of what to review next. Read them all in order and talk about them? Nope, this time around I decided to review the most recent volume, with the hope of getting back to the earlier stuff at some undetermined point in the future. That never seems to work with me, but I live in hope! This collection covers October through December of 2021, and it also wraps up his second full year of daily strips. The level of detail he packs in these strips is astounding; I get that he’s able to illustrate for a living, but this is not a man who follows a simple formula for daily strips. Generally speaking, the four panels then out format is the most common for daily strips, but Karl is fine making a three or four page story out of the events of that day if that’ll make a better story. Granted, he also has a few strips that are silent sketches, but he even puts so much detail into those that I’d hardly call them an off-day. So, what’s going on in this volume? If you’re reading this in the far future you may have forgotten, but things are rough all over these days, and this volume reflects that reality. The first strips starts off with a quote from The Thin Man (the book by Dashiell Hammett) that ties into the madness of the vaccine deniers, so he’s right off to the races. There are just under 100 other strips in this book, dealing with loss (way too many of his friends passed away during this time period), hope, trying to get back to normal (i.e. being comfortable going out with friends again with not everybody wearing masks), and the introduction of a new cat in their lives, and this cat naturally ends up being the star of the show. Sure, I’m biased towards cats, but I’m also right. This feels like maybe as vague as I’ve ever been in describing a comic, but I am completely fine with that. This is a guy who’s wrapping up his second year of daily strips and frankly seems like he’s at the top of his game right now. They’re unlike most other daily strips I’ve read (the level of detail especially, but it’s also rare for a book like this to not ever feel repetitive) and I’m pretty comfortable recommending this to anybody. As to the question of which volume you should start with, that’s quite a bit tougher. Maybe pick the most eventful chunk of three months or so from your own life over 2020-2021 and see how his life was in comparison? That way if you enjoy the book you can always go back and read what came before and after it. Or just pick a number between 1 and 8 and get one at random. Give it a shot, is what I’m saying. $12

Update for 6/30/22

It’s mini kus time! Just in case anybody thought they were going to call it a day after putting out the first 100 issues of their series, they’ve sent along everything up to #110. This one is #103, and it’s Grandad Reg by Patrick Wray and Clara Heathcock.

Wray, Patrick & Heathcock, Clara – Grandad Reg

Clara’s Website

Patrick’s Website

Grandad Reg

I was recently asking where all the pandemic comics were, but it seems like they’ve been coming a lot more quickly recently, and this is another solid addition to the list. This is the story of Clara’s grandad Reg, who passed away from covid in April of 2020, right around the first big wave. She goes through some of her favorite memories of her time with the man, but the main theme of the book is one of confusion. How do you mourn somebody when there’s no event to mark their passing? Everybody was quarantined at the time, so all she has is a few people to contact over Facetime. I was lucky during the pandemic (not that it’s over, at least as of June 2022) in that I never contracted it (or if I did it was an asymptomatic case) and no close friends or family members died from it. Reading about her experience, and how she had to piece together any sense of peace or closure from it, was heartbreaking, and a reminder of just how many people had to deal with this over the last two years. Patrick did a solid job with the artwork, conveying just how stuck in time Clara must have been while still showing a sort of grieving process for her and her family. Does this mean that I’m recommending yet another mini kus book? Yep. I’ll bet nobody could have seen that one coming! But this is another excellent reminder of the sheer range of the series and the artists involved. I’ll bet the next one will be a wordless tale of the life of a dollar bill, or something else completely unrelated to this one. Anyway, now I’m starting to review mini kus and not this comic, but yes, give this one a shot. Especially if you had your own losses during the pandemic, this one might help you process how it all went down. $8

Update for 6/28/22

New review today for Applewood Canyon #4 by Brian Canini. You’d think my stack of Brian’s comics left to review would be decreasing, but if anything I’m just holding steady. 21 years running this website, and he might be the one that pushes me to start doing bulk reviews, or at least a few issues at a time. How else am I going to finish Plastic People?

Canini, Brian – Applewood Canyon #4

Website

Applewood Canyon #4

It’s the penultimate (a word I just don’t get to use often enough) issue of this short series, and when we last left our heroes (?) they were bagging up a body and starting to take it away. The issue ended with a flashlight being shone on them, so in this issue we naturally see who was holding the light. It turns out it was… a small child. With a surprisingly quick grasp of the situation, to the point where it’s hard not to instantly wonder what else is going on with this kid. The rest of the issue deals with her making an offer to the two of them, their response to said offer and what happens once they try to take the body out of town (a town which we were previously told was locked down at night). So! Lots to wrap up in the final issue, and only 8 scant pages to do it. This one has gone a long ways from the faux documentary style of that first issue, that’s for sure, but I’ll make the prediction now that we’ll be left with many more questions than answers. I could very well be wrong, but I probably won’t be (this time). Mainly because I want to know the life story of that kid, and there’s just not enough time to deal with that while wrapping up the main plot. Either way, it’s been a blast of a series, and a pretty cheap one to get all the issues, in terms of Brian Canini series, anyway. $1.99