New review for Tinderella by M.S. Harkness, and if you haven’t already opened up another tab to buy it for that title alone, I don’t know what’s wrong with you. Happy weekend everybody!
Did I have an assumption about this graphic novel from the title? Sure, in no small part because it’s a great title. I thought it would be a series of disastrous Tinder dates, maybe with a “happy” ending but who knows. Nope! Tinder plays a role in this, yes, but barely. This one starts off with her hilariously aggressive pickup technique at a gym and goes right from there to her having lunch with her brother. She’d ended up having sex on a tanning bed, so now she was half tanned and half pale. She takes her time narratively with her walk home, then in her chat with her roommate she goes through the pros and cons of the guys already on her phone. Finally it comes to Tinder, and the avalanche of messages she got right away. Which didn’t come across as a brag; based on the word of my single female friends it’s really a buyer’s market for ladies. Several mundane or horrible comments later, she finally found what she was looking for, arranged a date and had something going on that seemed to be exactly what both of them wanted. Was it? No spoilers here. Other subjects in the rest of the book deal with pink eye, spending Christmas alone, the booty call that she can never resist, Shane vs. Vince McMahon, even the origin of her last name, which I didn’t even know was a mystery. I don’t think I conveyed it properly, but this book is hilarious; her “come hither” look (that’s flirting for you young’uns) has to be seen to be believed. It’s a hell of a book, so I have no complaints. Well, one tiny one: after her wrestling comic (from SPACE 2015 if I remember correctly) and this one, now I have to go back and pick up all of her other comics. Is that a complaint? I don’t think that’s what the word means. Anyway, give this book a shot, you won’t be disappointed. $15
New review today for The Island of Dr. Miro by Grant Thomas. First person who sends me a corona-themed comic gets a prize! Because I’m just assuming that artists are using this extra time to work on comics. What else would they be doing for the end of the world?
The Island of Dr. Miro
Note: Grant’s website seems to be down, but he linked to it in a Twitter post a few days ago, so I’m guessing it’s just a temporary stop. Or my computer is messed up. Now on to the comics review! It’s going to be a short one, because this is a very short and wordless comic. It’s a fold-out book, so the comic itself is two long images and one single panel frame to wrap things up. He lists three inspirations to the work, but maybe it’d be more fun for you to figure them out for yourselves, so I won’t give them away. I did think I detected just a hint of Jim Woodring (not mentioned in his letter), so I’ll give you that. The comic itself is the story of an adventure in a bizarre world… or is it? It’s visually stunning, which is the most important factor for wordless comics. If this is your first time hearing Grant’s name maybe start with one of his more traditional comics, if you already know his stuff this is yet another worthy addition to the catolog. $4
Ach, another gap in reviews, sorry. Work is still busy, although that should be calming down next week. Meaning that if I can keep myself plague-free, I should be putting a lot more reviews up in the near future. New review today for Hot or Not: 20th Century Male Artists by Jessica Campbell!
Note: the binding for this book was too tight for me to scan a sample image, so all you get is that fantastic cover. Besides, who wants the hotness or notness of even one 20th century male artist spoiled in a review? Nobody, that’s who. Once you get down to it this is one of the more straightforward comics out there: Jessica looks at a work of art from a dude, guesses their relative hotness and then has her suspicions confirmed or denied with (I’m guessing) a Google image search. I haven’t laughed this hard this many times while reading a comic for ages, and this gets as high of a recommendation as I can give for that alone. Not sure what that means, exactly, but I’m really putting my back into wishing that everybody out there buys a copy of this and laughs their ass off. Anyway! Now that that’s sorted, there’s still more to the comic than that! The start and end, where this is all being talked about in the context of Jessica giving a talk, is a few extra pages of hilarity. That last panel alone is a thing of brilliance. One final thing, in case you can’t stoop to buying something with a title of “Hot or Not” unless it’s ready to throw down with a seriously scholarly introduction, you’re in luck! I didn’t know what to expect after reading two dense pages of text about these artists, which made the comic itself even more delightful. In case you only read the last sentence of reviews, you should definitely get a copy of this comic. You’ll become the new authority in your peer group on the bangability of artist dudes from relatively recent history. $10
New review today for The Audra Show #4 by Audra Stang, and if anybody is using all this quarantine time to make comics, send them my way and I’ll talk about them. Currently no waiting! Unless I find a stash of comics I missed and have to quickly review them to make up for lost time. Happy weekend!
The Audra Show #4
Both stories are featured in this issue, with roughly half of the issue devoted to Oliver’s story in 2008 and half to Bea’s story in 1988. In Oliver’s tale we finally dig into just where those octopus arms of his might have come from, and he learns just how long it is that he’s been missing. Bea’s story has her getting increasingly sick of Jonah and his shenanigans and a long phone conversation between her and Owen. One of these stories actually got me to laugh out loud, which is always a welcome surprise, but I’ll leave it up to you to figure out which one. Maybe you’ll laugh at the other one, who knows? I do think that now is the time for Audra to maybe start putting recaps at the start of the book; four issues is about where I start losing track of what happened in the previous issues and missing some of the little bits. Of course, I also read comics constantly, so maybe most people don’t have that problem of retaining information. If so, just keep all the issues handy and reread them when the new issues come out, that also solves the problem. In a lot of ways this felt like a transitional issue, as we learn a bit about what happened to Oliver but not the whole story, and Bea is still feeling trapped in her life. Still, I’m fascinated by the Audraverse (yep, still using it, even if I’m the only one on Earth), and can’t wait to see what happens next. $5
New review today for Exes by Dave Kiersh and Cole Johnson, also from 2013. Have you fallen into a time warp where it’s actually 2013 again? I don’t know, check out your window. Do you see people with masks walking around? If so, it’s still 2020. If not, then maybe! Or you might just live in a neighborhood full of assholes. Hard to say!
Just so it’s clear, Dave wrote these stories and Cole drew them. In case anybody thought they went back and forth, as they’re both amazing artists. I went into this with the assumption that it’d be stories of their actual exes, as both have done some autobio comics in the past. Nope! This mini has three stories, and none of them feature an actual ex. Um, spoilers, I guess. First up is a piece about a grunge kid in the 90’s who’s debating whether or not he should dress up for his father’s wedding. His best friend Donny wears a suit every day, after all, and our hero has quite the crush on Donny, even though he knows it’s hopeless. Next up is the story of a woman who’s stopped on a bike path by a guy who says she’s the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen. Neither of them have a pen so they can’t exchange numbers, but at least in this story the woman has a boyfriend waiting at home. Finally there’s the story of a lost dude who has recently broken up with his girlfriend and whose friends are all married. He’s reached an age where he doesn’t want to hang out with relative kids any more, but he’s at a loss as to what to do with himself. And when a group of underage kids approach him, he has his own theories as to why that might be happening. This comic is steeped in wisftulness, so if you’re feeling nostalgic about any missed chances in your life, this would be a perfect comic to read. If not, there are still three great stories in here. Also this is currently (May 2020) listed as out of stock on the Spit and a Half website, so I might have bought the last copy in existence? If so, sorry, but it also might mean that you have to search a little harder to find it. The internet is your oyster! $2
Sorry about that, it’s not exactly a great time to go dark on the website for a few weeks. I’m fine, just overly busy from the recently concluded Ohio election, so things should be back to sporadically normal around here. New review today for Samson by Kelly Froh!
I try to keep up with the comics from the people I enjoy, I really do. But there are people like Kelly out there, putting out quality comics on a steady basis, and it’s just impossible. I mention this because this comic is from 2012 (it’s 2020 as I write this, roughly a few years before the U.S. breaks down into several nation states), and taking one look at Kelly’s website shows me that there are at least another half dozen books that I missed. Where oh where is my benevolent billionaire who’s willing to fund me making reading and reviewing comics a full time job? Ah well. Samson! As the title suggests, this is the story of Samson, a gorilla from the Milwaukee zoo who was a huge hit for 30 years. Kelly has some strong memories from when she was a kid, everything else in here is research or stories from relatives who were around longer. It’s not a particularly uplifting tale, although I should mention that I haven’t been to a zoo since I was a kid and am absolutely biased against the concept. Samson’s companion died young, they tried to put him with another female gorilla but they never really got along, he got really obese from lack of activity, and regularly bashed the glass walls of his cage. His death was sad, naturally, as was the way the zoo botched the handling of his body so it wasn’t possible to use taxidermy. There’s also one hell of a kicker at the end, but I’ll leave that surprise for the readers. It’s another great story from Kelly, and I clearly need to leave myself a reminder to catch up on all of her newer comics. You should too! $2
New review today for Dodo Comics #6 by Grant Thomas. Hey, are there any web developers out there who suddenly have a lot of free time? Because I’d like to upgrade the website, and as one of the few people in the country who still has a job I could actually pay for it. Let me know at email@example.com if you’re interested!
Dodo Comics #6
(Note: Grant’s website seems to be down at the moment, so I linked to his Patreon page instead. In case anybody was wondering…)
As far as origin stories for Medusa go, yeah, I kind of always figured it would be along the lines of a woman scorned. Again, I don’t know the actual story of her origin, if she has one and wasn’t always just a lady with snakes in her hair in the old tales. This issue picks up where the last one left off; no recap for those of us who read entirely too many comics and can’t keep this stuff all that straight, but you can pick it up from the context. She’s being led to a new source of water by a snake, finds said source of water and returns to her man, overjoyed. Then the image I sampled below happens, we see the frankly devastating first person transformed to stone, and we get the awful surprise of Perseus (as a Trump substitute) giving a political speech. It’s always alarming to see that ugly mug without a warning. So it looks like that story will continue, to which I say: recap before the next one please! A line or two will do. Things are starting to get complicated. The rest of the comic is a few short pieces about the Florida Everglades, both the animals in them and a brief bit about their history and preservation. It’s intriguing stuff; I didn’t know it and I’ve actually ridden around on one of those fan boats. Not that you become an automatic expert from riding on those boats, but you know what I mean. $3
Sorry about the lack of updates, but I’m still “essential personnel” because of the upcoming election. Check out the archives if you’re bored at home, I’ve been rambling here for almost two decades now. New review today for Forever and Everything #5 by Kyle Bravo!
Forever and Everything #5
I’ve become a fan of Kyle’s method of taking exactly as many panels as he needs to tell each story (then just starting the next story in the next panel), but boy howdy does it make it tricky for sampling purposes. It’s almost like that’s not his top priority in making his own comic! This is another solid entry in Kyle’s personal story, and I laughed out loud quite a few times in this one, which is always a good sign. Odd, because a good chunk of this is about suicidal thoughts and depression, but there it is. My impression is that he didn’t come close to actually harming himself, but the thoughts were there; his concern was mostly the loss of options for himself in his life as he raised two children with his wife. And turning 40. Both natural things to be thinking! Other subjects in this issue include seeing a new therapist and getting new meds (then quitting said therapist and meds, then getting back together with the therapist and meds), lots of short pieces about aspects of depression, falling into old habits when he finally has a night to himself, his anarchist child, thinking about moving, installing a headlight and putting together a treehouse, noticing gradual improvements in his mood, getting his car broken into (and only having a phone charger and a book on making comics stolen), the instant rage he sees at noticing a Trump bumper sticker, making a damned odd sandwich, and a few more stories I’ll leave as a surprise. It’s another solid issue, and he talked about putting together a “best of” book with pieces from the first 4 issues, so if you missed them, maybe hold out for a bit longer and you can still get all the best bits. But that doesn’t include this issue, so give it a shot!
New review for Square Head! by Jep. You know, it just occurred to me that I usually set these reviews to autopost at the start of each week, and if I got the ‘Rona I could pass away and still have reviews posting. Ew, creepy. Hey, if that happens, somebody get my mini comics to the Billy Ireland museum in Columbus. They’re bound to be able to find some use for the rarer books…
Jep’s true name has been revealed! But I’m keeping it a secret, just in case the guy is on the run or something. Hey, he didn’t specify, and if somebody uses a psuedonym that’s always my first guess. This is Jep’s first attempt at a long single comic story, and it’s safe to say that he nails it. This is the tale of his time as an exchange student with a French family when he was 13. The deal was that he spent some time with that family, then the kid of the same age would come spend time with Jep. At first he was thrilled, since he was a quiet kid at school and this gave him a new kind of social cachet. But once he arrived at his new home for the next couple of weeks, it didn’t take long for him to discover that this kid was a total asshole and that they had nothing in common. There were a lot of moments when this comic could have devolved into a cliche, and I’m happy to say that Jep pulled the story away from that direction at every turn. There were the beautiful sisters at his new home (potential sad unrequited love story), the fact that he could have wallowed in misery once he saw exactly what he was in store for with this asshole kid, the whole “fish out of water” thing with him only being able to understand a few words of French… this comic could have turned grim and depressing a number of times, and it would have made complete sense. Instead, Jep recounted his (early for his age) fatalism about the whole thing, how he knew that this was a finite trip and that he should take what he could get from the whole experience. The only moment of genuine panic is when he misses his flight back, and it’s completely earned. His depiction of the kid coming back to stay with him was much shorter, and it’s for a very simple reason: the kid pouted on the couch the whole time. Hard to make much of a story out of that! Even with the language barrier there were still a few poignant moments here, and I’ve spoiled enough already. I’ll just say that the guy knows how to write a compelling comic, and that anybody who had to deal with any kind of exchange student should give this a shot. Or anybody who was ever a confused 13 year old boy. That’s a pretty solid chunk of the population right there…
What a difference a week off makes, huh? You might think that you’d be seeing more reviews from me, what with the country more or less on pandemic lockdown. Sadly, Board of Elections employees are considered “essential staff” (which sounds a whole lot nicer than “expendable”), so my work schedule is still normal. If that changes, I just got a box of comics from Spit and a Half and I’d be happy to ramble on about all of the comics. New review today for Sremmeh Fo Dog by Dustin Holland!
Sremmah Fo Dog
There’s this thing I do at the start of reviews of comics I didn’t particularly enjoy, and it’s to find the silver lining to it and compliment what I can. What’s that? That’s a terrible trait for a reviewer to have? Yeah, well, that might explain why this is still a hobby 19 years after my first review. Anyway! This comic has a number of visually inventive touches, with some occasional subtle mixes of art and pictures of real objects. And… yeah, that’s about it. The best thing I can say for this comic is that I never got into it as a story, and it’s entirely possible that it’s on me. But the writing for this was damned near impenetrable, and I don’t think that’s entirely my fault. Do you remember those poetry magnets that people used to put on their refrigerators? They were just a series of unconnected words and phrases that you were supposed to put together to make your own poems. This book feels like nothing less than a complete volume of those poems. Go ahead, check out the sample page and tell me I’m wrong. As for the story, I legit have no idea. As you can tell from the title, this is about the god of hammers, and you can tell that because the title is “god of hammers” backwards. I just read a whole book about the dude and I couldn’t tell you what he does. There was plenty of violence, a character that also talked backwards (and that’s a terribly awkward way to read dialogue, especially when they’re talking in full sentences), and the second half of the book was almost entirely double page spreads of a place called Motorcycle City. Also he has more than a few spelling errors in here, which is death for a book where the dialogue takes a lot of work to understand to begin with. Look, this is the first comic I’ve seen from Dustin, so I don’t want this to seem like a thorough trashing. I did enjoy some of the imagery and that alone tells me that he definitely has potential. How about this: if you like your comics abstract, give this a shot. Otherwise give him another comic or two, then check back in to see where he’s at. That’s my plan!
P.S. (Yes, I know reviews don’t have postscripts. Bear with me.) Since artists often send me their own comics to review, chances are the artist also reads the review when it goes up. So I’d like to remind Dustin or anybody else just starting out: don’t let any reviewer make you feel like you’re not doing good work, or that it’s not worth the effort. If you’re making great art, the rest of the world will come around. If you’re making art and it feels like only you thoroughly enjoy it, there’s immense value in that too. Still, find a friend that’s excellent at spelling and grammar, and pass your book around to a few friends before putting it out into the world and see how they felt about it. Have them ask questions about the plot and story structure. If you can answer their questions and satisfy them, you’re on the right track. If not, take another pass, see if clarification really is needed. Um, also, eat your vegetables. Bye!