Update for 5/2/16

Two new reviews again today, this time for Never Stop Drinking by Derek Baxter & Brian Canini and Vagabond Comics by a bunch of (mostly?) Ohio artists.

Various Artists – Vagabond Comics #2

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Vagabond Comics #2

The theme for this anthology is foods (and drinks, technically), which is maybe obvious from the cover, at least until you examine more closely what exactly is in that jello. First up (by Sequoia Bostick) is a story about the joys and obvious effects of drinking too much coffee, told so lovingly that it was impossible not to enjoy. Unless you hate coffee, I guess, but if that’s the case then how do you get through the day? No, seriously, I really want to know. Next up (by Clare Holat) is the confession of a former pie blogger, and she was nice enough to use an actual pie recipe if you’re interested in baking a pie. Zach Sabatino has the next piece, about the quest for the mythical Starburger and the lengths that people will go to to get it. Julia Simmons follows that up by showing us the horrors of a vegetable and fruit platter from the perspective of the sole surviving member. And if plants really do have a rudimentary intelligence like recent science (that I may or may not have read correctly) suggest, good luck vegetarians! Luke Grabber then has one of the longer pieces in the book, an extended story about the quest of a young man to get just one bite of candy out of the candy bar of a stranger. Lindsey Bryan follows with the shortest story in the book, a literal tale about her ability to make a mean burger. Fabienne Duteau is next with the efforts of a vampire and her friends to make a soup of some kind, helped along by using some potions. Possibly these were anime characters that I didn’t recognize, or possibly they were Fabienne’s own characters, in which case never mind; it’s just that I didn’t know their story. Anyway, it turns out that using potions in making food can get a bit tricky, but I should say no more than that. Finally there’s a tale (by Salem Powell) about the workaday life of a pigeon and his family. I’ll confess that this one didn’t do a lot for me, but then again maybe I’m still suffering flashbacks from recently watching that awful HBO show “Animals,” the one about the pigeons in particular. Either way, it’s just my opinion, and I’m often wrong. Overall it’s still a solid mix of stories, and this comic was nicely put together in every possible way. $10

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Baxter, Derek & Canini, Brian – Never Stop Drinking

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Never Stop Drinking

Huzzah, a book of (mostly) single panel strips! Yeah, I go back and forth on the concept, but I always like them when they’re funny, and the bulk of these are funny. Sometimes I missed the references (there’s an recurring gag with what the characters of “Doug” are up to today, but I don’t know what that was so the humor was lost on me), but overall this is a really solid bunch of strips. I don’t fully get the mechanics of having a writer and an artist for single panel strips, but then again these were mostly done in bars, so I’m probably overthinking it. Subjects include a recurring gag where a kid eats from a different type of cereal every day (the joke is in the title of the cereal and his reactions), where all those barrels came from in Donkey Kong, a better ending for Lost, the Crest Cavity fighters taking care of some prisoners, recurring strips of the inner monologue of a dumb dog, Hammy Sagar, trying to avoid a nemesis, the descent into madness of a piece of ravioli, the good of a cure of all the diseases after looking at actual people for a bit, Sue Storm as a stripper, and the master plan of Aquaman. And all kinds of other subjects, as this book is packed, but what’s the fun of me spoiling the subjects of strips when they’re mostly only a panel long? I won’t be a party to that madness. This is also in full color, so the strips look great (drunkenness aside), and a number of them have beer rings (I’m assuming) like the dog image you see on the cover. Authentic! But yeah, if you’re a fan of funny things then there’s plenty for you to enjoy in here. $17

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Update for 4/29/16

New reviews today for Cemetery Plots #1 by a bunch of writers and artists (otherwise known as an anthology) and Bad Sex by Lauren McCallister. Happy weekend everybody!

McCallister, Lauren – Bad Sex

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Bad Sex

Right off the bat, Lauren might have my favorite disclaimer to keep the kids away ever: “Not for kids. What’s wrong with you!!!!” I mean, yeah. If the title alone doesn’t make the content clear then there’s not much else she can say to make it clearer. As for that content, yep, that title doesn’t lie. A few of these stories scream out for another page or two, but that’s mostly because I cannot imagine what happened next. Bad sex occasions include (and I’ll try not to spoil too much) drunken friend sex at a party, “stop moving so much” as a command during sex, a condom problem that turns a whole lot grosser by the end of the strip, blow job commands and “I can just pull out, don’t worry,” possibly the biggest asshole in the world (again, I don’t want to spoil it, but just an all-around asshole), and “Lost Boy” sex. Nope, not going to explain that. I also couldn’t help but notice that there was no cunnilingus depicted in here at all. Granted, I’m fairly out of touch with the youth of today, and maybe Lauren just didn’t want to draw it, but guys, that shit is supposed to come standard. 0 for 6 on the stories in here is a pretty terrible sign. Unless that’s just another reason for the title, in which case don’t mind me. Oh, and a fun fact: I bought this from Lauren at SPACE, and if you’re wondering if it makes you feel a bit like a creep to buy a comic called “Bad Sex” from the lady who had all that bad sex, a little bit, yeah! Stupid small town upbringing. Besides, I had been reading her True Life strips online, so the Bad Sex comic was what was new to me. Anyway, I absolutely recommend reading this. If you’re having sex you’re bound to relate to some of these strips, and if you’re not having sex this comic might make you decide that that’s not the worst thing in the world after all. $5

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Various Artists – Cemetery Plots #1

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Cemetery Plots #1

I assume there will be some point in the future where I get sick of the concept of horror anthologies in the vein of Tales From The Crypt, but that day certainly hasn’t arrived yet. This one has about half a dozen horror stories, some better than others, as this is an anthology, after all. First up (by Rob Gant) is a zombie story called “Chomp”with a twist: we see it from the perspective of the zombie as he turns. He retains his mind, at least for a little while, but is utterly unable to communicate with anybody. Next is “Head Games” by Dan Johnson and Gary O’Donnell, which is told from the perspective of a severed head in a jar. He shares a mental link with the few other heads in the vicinity and has a front row seat to a mad doctor conducting different kinds of experiments. “Three Way” by Dan Johnson and Steve Casper is next, and while that title is literally true, there is naturally a twist on it, which I can’t exactly give away here. Search your memories for TFTC stories and you might guess it! Next is a werewolf story, which seems to be in short supply these days, called “The Unfaithful” (by Alexter Albury and Gary O’Donnell). It takes a few pages before I fully understood what was happening, but I can tell you that if you love werewolf mayhem then you’re bound to enjoy this one. “Rest in Pieces” (by Dan Johnson and Eric Bowen) was the shortest and simplest story of the bunch, dealing with a man trying to raise the dead and the fairly obvious problems with making that attempt. Finally there’s a single page strip called “Dr. Frank and Higgins” (by Robert Watson and Rob Gant) that helps end the book on a funny note. I thoroughly enjoyed the crossover bits with D.O. Mann (their answer to the Crypt Keeper) and his terrible puns, but your mileage may vary on that. Again, if you enjoyed TFTC then I can’t see how those puns would bother you. So overall this is a fairly solid collection of horror stories, and frankly the world always needs more of these comics. And all for a measly $3!

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Update for 4/28/16

Two new reviews today, one from SPACE (Dating Jesus Stories by Josh White) and one from Japan (The Longest Sentence by Brian Reyes). More tomorrow probably!

Reyes, Brian – The Longest Sentence

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The Longest Sentence

Once I’m again I sit here with a comic that is very difficult to talk about without spoiling too much of the contents, and once again I’m going to dance around it as best I can. But to make it easy for you, if you find that cover and title intriguing, the inside of the book is equally intriguing and I was fascinated by the journey all the way through. With that being said, unintentional spoilers ahead! This one starts off with a shackled man being dragged along by two guards wearing helmets that completely obscure their faces. He’s dragged through a gigantic open area, filled with doors and stairs, before coming out into the open on a long bridge. The group then stops for water and our hero makes the mistake of asking how far he has to go (he’s on his way to receive judgment from a king that he has heard isn’t particularly fair, meaning he doesn’t like his chances regardless), but he’s just getting started. There are all kinds of hazards and areas that are difficult if not impossible to traverse without help, and this is where you’re losing me as reviewer because I don’t want to tell you the nature of all of these hazards. I was thoroughly engaged for the whole journey, I’ll say that much, and we do eventually learn a bit more about the guards and the nature of this kingdom. If that’s enough to intrigue you, it’s well worth checking out so you should probably do that. If you need more, the internet exists so there are always more samples out there. $5

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White, Josh – Dating Jesus Stories

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Dating Jesus Stories

This one is a collection of short stories, and there was a definite theme early on (stories of the past that he regretted with the benefit of hindsight), but that shifted a bit over the course of the comic and it ended up being about a variety of different subjects. Subjects include the time that the lead character (I assumed that these were all about Josh, but looking through it again at least a large chunk of these stories have to either be fictional or about other people) caught his fiancee having sex with another man on top of his favorite blanket (which was obviously too much to take), how his buying a cheap used A/C unit led to a roach infestation and his revenge on the guy he bought it from, the power of first love and first orgasm (story partially by Elena Costello), how another character was able to eventually decipher bathroom code to have more mostly anonymous gay sex in a repressive small town (and how it went wrong), tree climbing and sleeping in trees, and a mysterious lady who’s eating alone in a restaurant and wants to buy a specific painting. There’s also the title story, which deals with a once devout (and deeply misguided) young man who turns down sex more than once because he’s waiting for marriage… until he takes a shower with a different lady and discovers what a blow job is. Yep, that’ll do it every time. It’s a nice wide range of stories, and them all being in color didn’t hurt a thing either. Check it out, learn all about how Jesus doesn’t stand a chance against shower sex.

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Update for 4/26/16

New reviews today for Sleepless #1 by Chris Charlton and a few different artists and Miserable Americans #1 by Evan Derian. Hey, does anybody out there speak Russian? I got a comic recently that’s in French and Russian. French I can handle (or my friend can, anyway) but Russian is beyond the both of us. If not, expect a hilariously wrong review of a book where I can only understand about half of it in the weeks to come!

Charlton, Chris & Various Artists – Sleepless #1

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Sleepless #1

I’ll get to the quality of this book in a minute, but when you review comics for as long as I have you start to develop some serious pessimism when there’s a long lag between issues of a series. In this case this comic came out in 2012, a #2 was mentioned (but, in fairness, no date was promised) and now it’s April 2016 with no second issue. However! This same writer has six issues of another series (Binary Gray) done and available, and two issues of another series (Black of Heart) available, so it’s not like he’s slacking. Maybe he’s just having trouble coming up with more stories for this theme. Which, in case you’re wondering and haven’t wandered off by now, is basically horror stories in the vein of Twilight Zone or Skeleton Crew (according to Chris in his afterward). Four stories in this, and first up is a fairly standard zombie story about a man who has given up hope and has his back against the wall. I kind of saw the ending coming, but I’ve read far too many zombie stories over the years, so good luck surprising me on that stuff. Next up is the story of a man who has waited out the apocalypse all by himself, listening for radio signals and coming to the end of his food reserves. The third story has a pretty drastic tonal shift, as it’s all about a redneck who gets himself abducted by aliens and his fight to escape, with a pretty great last couple of pages that turns it in an unexpected direction. Finally there’s the tale of a young boy who is tormented by bullies at school and his overprotective mother. Again, I did not see that ending coming, which is always appreciated. A different artist draws each story, and they all bring a unique touch to it, with my favorite being David Hollenbach because of his gorgeous, haunting artwork about the man who is living alone through the apocalypse. So yeah, I may not have loved the whole book, but there’s more than enough good stuff here to make it worth recommending. $6

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Derian, Evan – Miserable Americans #1

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Miserable Americans #1

A fantastic concept can take a comic series a long way, and this series certainly has that in spades. This one starts off with two fugitives on the run, and you can already tell from that cover that they’re Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, but bloodied and armed. From there we learn who is chasing them, then gradually go back in time to see them waking up in their new environments. They’ve both been cloned (I think; that’s still a bit vague) and remember everything almost up to their deaths. They’re both given the cover story that their wives have been killed and that they’re both too injured to resume their presidential duties, and both of them gradually see things that lead them to believe that they’re being lied to. They’re kept separate, of course, and Kennedy is the first one to suspect those around him, as he was aware that there were rumblings about a coup while he was still alive and wasn’t sure who to trust after he “survived” the assassination attempt. Lincoln, meanwhile, has difficulty communicating with the staff, as his speech patterns don’t match up to modern day talk and the doctors can’t really keep up with him. Finally one of them is given help and, still not sure what exactly is going on, starts to explore the hospital. There are four issues of this series out as of April 2016, so it’s clear that Evan has a plan here, and the first issue moves along at a solid pace. We still don’t know exactly who is responsible for this or why they chose these two specific presidents (or people, for that matter), so there’s a lot of ground yet to be covered. It has me excited to see what happens next, which is all you can really ask for out of a first issue. $4

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Update for 4/25/16

Two new reviews again today (which is the plan for the whole week but we’ll see how it goes): October 2015 by M.S. Harkness and Role Play by Alissa Sallah.

Harkness, M.S. – October 2015

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October 2015

Wrestling fans, you’re going to love this one. Other people, well, it’s still a good story, so don’t dismiss it because it deals (tangentially) with wrestling. M.S. has been doing monthly autobio comics (she had several at her table at SPACE) and this one deals with a very special month. She woke up late one morning to find that her “gentleman caller” (yes, I am a time traveler from the 1920’s) had left while she was sleeping, but he left one important thing behind: a WCW tag team championship belt. Once and possibly future wrestling geek that I am, I immediately started wondering if it was legit, which era it was from, if it was discarded by a wrestler or sold at a pawn shop, etc. M.S. doesn’t get into any of that. She instead tells the story of how she knew that she was living on borrowed time with this belt and how she wanted to make the most of her time with it. It seemed to give her a whole new outlook on life, and that outlook was mostly that she was a badass for as long as she had this belt. She took on the cockroaches in her apartment, practiced her street dancing, rode a bike one mile to school that had no seat, and enrolled in a 5K marathon. Out of several funny bits the marathon was probably my favorite, purely because it looked like your average drunken get-together that nobody took seriously as a race, but she was in it to win it. In case it wasn’t obvious, I liked this one a lot, and autobio people take note: it’s perfectly OK to do your monthly autobio comic as one story. There’s no need to do daily recaps if you have nothing to say on certain days! I don’t know why I got shouty there, I just read a lot of comics. Oh, and as of today this comic is on her Tumblr page, so read it and see for yourself. Otherwise you can probably get this from her for a few bucks.

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Sallah, Alissa – Role Play

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Role Play

This comic does something I don’t think I’ve seen before (assuming I’m reading it correctly, which is often a dicey proposition): it treats the entire story as a stage play, told from the perspective of the actor who begins the show as a complete blank slate. It’s just him alone on a stage with a spotlight, trying to understand the basics of life with help from the cues of the audience and the other two actors. He tries to understand wardrobe, the purpose of said wardrobe, how to relate to the female actor who is there to love and be loved, and how to deal with “a manly way to show appreciation” by the male actor. Things get awkward quickly, meaning that it does an excellent job of mimicking real life. It’s a thoroughly engaging story, and it accomplished the rare comic feat of making me go back and read it over again after the first time through. Check it out, see if you think my interpretation of the story is completely wrong! It probably is. $5

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Update for 4/21/16

Two more new reviews today, this time for Genius Junkies by Brian John Mitchell & Nate McDonough and Soulcial Anxiety by Cailey Tervo. Yep, all SPACE all the time around here for the next few weeks.

Tervo, Cailey – Soulcial Anxiety

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Soulcial Anxiety

OK, full disclosure time: I noticed the cover for this comic while I was working the Board of Elections table at SPACE this year (2016, for future readers or temporally confused time travelers) and couldn’t pass it up. I still think it’s mesmerizing, with the ghosts mixing with the other ghosts and the color changes. There’s also a clever pun, and those always draw me in when done well (and it’s so easy to not do them well), but I’m an objective reviewer, so no clever title/amazing cover is going to woo me! I shall only judge the contents of the book! And… yeah, I liked that a lot too. This is the story of a recently risen ghost (and/or recently dead person; I have no idea how long it takes for a theoretical ghost to appear) who rises up and tries to greet his or her fellow ghosts. Our hero is awfully cheery about the whole thing, but I do like the idea of starting any new undertaking with optimism. Did I throw a pun in there? I say no. Anyway, our hero tries to chat with other ghosts and discovers that they aren’t the chattiest bunch. From there we get some brief insight into what this ghost was like when it was still alive, followed by further attempts to make an impression on the other ghosts. I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s a compelling and wistful short comic that has me curious to see what else Cailey has done. She did mention that she’s a student at the local art college (CCAD), which makes this book even more impressive, as she’s still learning. I did grab her other comic too, so I’ll put a review up of that in the weeks to come, but I know for sure that I can wholeheartedly recommend this one.

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Mitchell, Brian John & McDonough, Nate – Genius Junkies

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Genius Junkies

Anybody else getting a serious “Bride of Frankenstein” vibe off of that cover? No? Just me, then. It’s actually a clever use of a giant pill behind one of the geniuses mentioned in that title. This is the story of two junkies that Brian has known over the course of his life and how easily they outsmarted everybody around them. First up is the local neighborhood junkie who is always asking people if they need help with any yardwork. That’s fairly common, and Brian was convinced that the guy was casing houses to rob later. It turns out that the guy was a little smarter than that, but why spoil it for you? Pretend to have a junkie brain and try to imagine what you would actually be up to with that scheme. He also relates the story of a girl he knew in school who used to make money babysitting various kids around the neighborhood. Her scheme may have been a bit more obvious than the other junkie, but I’ll bet you can figure out that one too if you think about it. As far as I can tell neither of them ever got caught with these schemes, or if they did Brian never heard about it, hence the title of the comic. Check it you, get some tips on how to be the best junkie you can be! $1

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Update for 4/20/16

Two actual reviews today, both comics that I picked up at SPACE: Caroline’s Catalog by E.J. Barnes and Middle-Aged Monster by Steve Steiner. There are still a few work deadlines that may trip me up, but overall I should be posting a whole bunch of reviews over the next month or so, as I sure got a lot of comics at SPACE and these need to be shared with the world. Or at least the portion of the world that reads my website. I can only control so much!

Barnes, E.J. – Caroline’s Catalog

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Caroline’s Catalog

Have you ever had one of those days when you realize that you don’t know as much about the universe as you thought you did? Or, rather, how the important bits of the universe were discovered? This comic is all about Caroline Herschel, who worked with her brother for years in the early 1800’s to discover and catalog comets, nebulas (nebulae?) and star formations where the people involved didn’t yet know what they were looking at. Her brother was an earlier tinkerer with different types of telescopes, constantly looking for better ways to view the stars and get a closer look at things that were very far away. A lot of those old telescopes look frankly ludicrous in modern times, but really it’s more the outside covering than anything else. Giant telescopes are still alive and well today, after all. Anyway, Caroline ends up helping her brother quite a bit, with their research almost becoming interchangeable over the years, and this book details the ways in which she was and was not recognized for her work. Frankly, I was expecting her plight to be worse, as it’s not like the early 1800’s were a particularly enlightened time in regards to women being recognized for their scientific achievements. She did get some slight recognition (nowhere close to the amount that her brother got, but there didn’t seem to be a systemic effort to take her achievements away) and had a comfortable life with the money she made doing this work. Oh, and her brother discovered Uranus. Maybe I should have led with that. This is a fascinating story to anybody who’s interested in the stars and how humans got really good at cataloging them and other celestial objects, told in a relatable way from the perspective of an older woman (she’s depicted as 82 here) who has had time to contemplate her life and work. Which isn’t a shock, as E.J. has been doing great work for years now, but it’s very much worth checking out. $3

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