Since I’m obviously still flailing a bit with my interest level in comics these days, I thought I’d do something different for a couple of weeks. Brian Canini just sent me the complete run (13 issues) of his Ruffians series. Somehow I had only reviewed the first seven of them here up until now, so I’m going to post those reviews on the front page again and then spend next week reviewing all the issues I never got to. I’ll add new comments to the reviews when it seems necessary, but hey, most shows are in summer reruns anyway, so think of these reviews like that. And if you’ve never read them, they might as well be new reviews, right? Reviews today for Ruffians #1 and #2 by Brian Canini!
Ruffians #2 Now Available! $1.50
OK, I’m offically over my problems with the main character of this story being a three foot tall bear. Watching him getting his ass kicked for the better part of an issue will do that for me, apparently. While the last issue set up the story, this one was all action, with Scar confronting the assassin who killed his friend (a giant gorilla named Malt) and them both shooting and stabbing their way through each other and the issue. Great pace, good fight scene, nothing to complain about here, unless you wanted more character development or something, in which case move along. I just got issue #3 and 4 today, so obviously things are going to move right along from here. And kudos on the choice to drop it down to $1.50 and lose the color cover. Sure, it looks a whole lot better the other way, but this way there’s more of a chance for people to just pick it up and give it a chance. Besides, the eventual collected edition can have a fancy color cover to make up for it…
Ruffians #1 Now Available! $2.95
Oof, look at all those old timey scans down there. If I had all the free time in the world I would rescan all that nonsense, but that’s exceedingly unlikely. I always love getting stuff from people whose work I saw years ago, whether or not I liked the old stuff, because it always does me some good to see that people really do stick with this comics thing through thick and thin. This one is an uneven effort, but it has its moments. This is the story of Scar, an assassin that’s pictured on the cover. Yes, the giant blue bear with the boxing gloves, which is a large part of the problem. He’s portrayed as a hardcore killer who doesn’t blink to torture a man for information about his murdered friend, but… well, just look at him. Terrifying isn’t the first word that comes to mind. The story, if you can ignore the teddy bear aspect, is done really well. Scar finds his friend (another assassin) dead to start the comic, and Brian makes excellent use of flashbacks interspersed with the real time action in a bar, keeping everything moving at a good pace. We learn a bit more of the backstory of his murdered friend, get to see him torturing a guy in a bathroom for information, and get a solid impression of Scar as a tortured soul. The art, though, was the best pleasant surprise of the book. If you look at the other samples they look somewhere between amateurish and so-so, with backgrounds existing only in your mind. This time around there the settings are tremendously detailed, the people look more like actual people and everything is just… bigger. This makes you believe that it’s happening in the real world. Until, that is, you get back to the big teddy bear, which is obviously something I wasn’t able to fully get over. Maybe it gets explained to some satisfaction in later issues, and he did send #2 along with this, so I should have a review for that one up in the coming weeks to help clarify. If you can get past the bear and like a (potentially) good mystery/suspense/action story, it’s well worth a look. $2.95
Hey everybody, there’s a new King Cat out! New review today for King Cat #77 by John Porcellino.
King Cat #77
You know what the clearest sign would be that I had somehow become the leader of the free world? If every new issue of King Cat became a national holiday. Why not? It would give everybody the day to go to their favorite coffee shop or park, read the book and contemplate what they just read. There I go again, dreaming of a better world. As always, this review is not going to be particularly objective, because I doubt very much that this website would exist without King Cat. For this title I have no cynicism. This time around John talks briefly about his recent health and family problems, various interactions he’s had with neighborhood animals (he even includes footnotes if you wonder where he got some of his research), his latest top 40 (which, as always, is not exactly 40 things), and includes another lengthy and thought provoking letters page. But wait, there are also comics! It’s actually mostly comics, as always. Those stories include the time that his dogs caught a possum (and how he ended up saving it), the other time his dogs cornered a possum and caused it to play dead (which led to him googling how long “playing dead” took; it’s about 40 minutes to 4 hours if you’re curious), his toad Vincent from when he was a kid, that time when he took a caterpillar home as a kid and how it became a butterfly, the frogs that he kept a kid, how he kept spotting big cats in Illinois and how the authorities were oddly hesitant to admit that there was a problem, and his other time spotting a big cat in Wisconsin. Yep, a lot of nature this time around, as he’s clearly been doing some exploring. OK, what are you waiting for? There’s a new King Cat out, go buy it! $5
Sorry about yet another long gap between reviews, but I clearly need a comics muse in the worst way right now. If all goes according to plan when I get paid on Friday I’m going to give John Porcellino’s Spit and a Half catalog a whole pile of cash to get a bunch of comics. You should too! That complete Strange Growths by Jenny Zervakis looks indispensable. Oh, and there’s a new review today for SnowCone City: Rocket to Pluto by Joseph Hewitt. Still with full Korean translation included if you only speak Korean or are trying to learn!
SnowCone City: Rocket to Pluto
Hey look, SnowCone City has given up numbering the issues! Joseph explained that these are mostly self-contained anyway, but then kind of talked himself out of that (in the letter he sent with the comic) because this one ends on a cliffhanger. So who knows what the next issue will bring! This time around our heroes have decided to take the fight to the big bad guy who has been sending them weekly monsters to fight instead of just defending the city against all the monsters. They get into a ship, head off into space and everything goes fine, the end. Or possibly they have a series of adventures before finally confronting their nemesis, you tell me what would make the better comic. There’s a lot to like about their encounter with the sentient space tofu and the space rabbits, as they naturally assume that the cute ones are the victims and vice versa. When they finally do land at their destination they encounter a miniature version of their own city, complete with tiny penguin figurines. This leads to another confrontation and a pretty great godzilla-style fight among the tiny buildings. Then there’s the nemesis, but I can’t say anything about that, because come on now. I’ll just say that it turns everything you thought you knew about this series on its ear, leaving a whole lot of explaining for the next issue. It’s still a fun book, there are still plenty of funny bits, so check it out if you’re a fan of power rangers/space fights/sentient penguins. $5
New review for the last of the current batch of mini kus books, Bad Ball by Samplerman. No reviews tomorrow, so happy weekend everybody!
I’ve been threatening for months (years?) now to just post the synopsis on the back of the mini kus comic as the review, as they’re usually more concise and insightful than I am. Well, in this case it might just be self defense, because I don’t have the slightest idea how I’m supposed to review this comic. It’s samples (hence the name of the artist) and dialogue boxes from other comics, all put together to form a story. Sort of. I think. Basically picture if Jack Kirby was tripping his balls off and he got ahold of some old EC comics dialogue to put on top of some of his art. I’m doing a hilariously poor job of describing this so, without further ado, I give you the synopsis from the back of the comic. “What if an old discarded comic book was suddenly bitten by a radioactive, genetically modified spider? Would the cover drawing, or those inside the book, start behaving strangely? Would the dialogue suddenly grow s(tu)pider and s(tu)pider? Would the paper start to melt? Would the story devolve to the point of meaninglessness? None of the questions will be answered in this minicomic.” See? What else do you need to know? I’m genuinely not sure how much this story holds together in a strict linear sense, but it’s quite a ride, and these mini kus books sure do have a knack for nailing the endings. $6
New review for Rock Thoughts Volume Two by Caitlin Cass. If you’re a completionist who refuses to read a series out of order, I’m pretty sure the first volume dealt with a different rock, if that helps…
Look, there’s no reason to sugarcoat it: things are shitty these days (5/17/17, future readers). We’ll be lucky to get through this current mess as a country, and if it does all fall apart we’ll probably take the rest of the world with us. What we need at this moment in history is a little perspective. A reminder that the history of the world is long, and human civilization is a blip on that history. With that in mind, Caitlin was kind enough to provide us a peek into the mind of a rock. Wait, don’t run away! If you haven’t seen her other comics I understand why you’d be a little skeptical. You’ve also been missing out on a remarkable artist, but this comic in a vacuum is a dubious proposition. But you’re wrong, as this comic is delightful. The rock in question does take the long view of history, and worries about how things will change once people are gone. There are things that he’ll… ok, I can’t assign a gender to a rock. “It” sounds mean after reading the thoughts of this rock, but it’ll have to do. Anyway, there are things that it will miss about humans, and about dogs. But this rock is also well aware that it’s immortal, and that none of us can match the perspective of this rock. And it is correct, assuming that rocks were sentient. Yikes, what a life that would be. I’m digressing big time here, so I’ll just wrap it up by saying that this is a funny and insightful comic, with the absolutely perfect ending for a story like this. $5
New review today for Yellow by Liva Kandevica, the penultimate mini kus comic that I was sent recently. If only they couldn’t somehow increase their already ridiculous production schedule and put these things out weekly!
How’s your grip on reality going? Feeling pretty solid? If so, do I have a comic for you! If not, this might be the thing that pushes you over the edge, so I’d recommend soothing music of ocean waves instead. What’s so alarming about this comic? It’s the story of a man who is trapped in one very yellow room, with no obvious means of exit or indication of what put him there. We see him wandering around, killing time, and he ends up hurting himself a few different ways. He also makes a real mess out of the bathroom, as either a silent protest or just because he’s a slob. Finally his boredom and desperation can’t take it any more and he puts a tiny hole in his prison. But hey, sometimes what feels like a prison is just keeping something dangerous out from the outside world, right? Yeah, that hint is as close as I get to an intentional spoiler. It’s a haunting little story, and (in the context of the story, obviously, and not real life) we’re left with lots of questions about what actually happened here. But at least booze makes an appearance! $6
New review today for Acquisition by Catia Serrao, another from the mini kus pile. Happy weekend everybody!
OK, I can’t resist quoting at least part of the back cover blurb this time around: “Acquisition stages a proof test conducted by an absent master and a semi-present assistant to a candidate in the best tradition of clownish pixelated Kabbalah.” Again, I’m not sure how I can improve on that, but I’ll at least add a bit of description. First we see some idle chatter at the university, with nothing being presented as a particularly odd day. Then the computer is started and poses the question, “what does the duck say?” The answer is, of course, “quack quack.” No, not just one quack, because who has ever heard a duck quack just one time? But this phenomenon has to be explained to the computer, which is not an easy task. Once this is established, it’s more descriptive to call it “quackery,” which leads to replacing the letters in the word with numbers. But based on ducks themselves, a few of the letters can be disregarded. Are you following along? Don’t worry, I wasn’t entirely either. It’s still a fascinating series of questions, and the images that go along with the otherwise sedate and docile computer really punctuate the questions. I don’t think will lead to many conversions to Kabbalah, but I am frequently wrong, so what do I know? If I am wrong it is my fondest wish that this ends up becoming a sacred text of Kabbalah in 50 years.
New review today for My Life in Records #5: Not Ashamed by Grant Thomas. If you’ve been reading this site for years, that is a name that should be fairly familiar to you by now.
Well, best to get this bit out of the way early: this comic leans way, WAY into religious overtones, which do absolutely nothing for me. There’s a montage early on that shows the secular world and how “it is filled with people who do not know god and has the scent of the fires of hell about it,” and said montage has Darwin and pro-choice protestors as some of the symbols of evil. Since this is one (ok, two) chapters in the ongoing sage of how music has impacted Grant’s life, I don’t know if he eventually came out of all this to see the actual joys of the secular world or if those images were ironic, so I’ve decided to ignore them altogether. Meaning that I disagree with his spiritual points and personally ended up in a very different place, but I’m here to talk about the merits of his comic, not the merits of his spiritual opinions. And on that front, this comic is another winner. Grant more than knows what he’s doing when it comes to panel and page composition and maintaining a brisk pace for his stories. There are two stories in this one. The first one deals with Grant’s early experiences with Christian rock and a concert he attended where the band was miserable when they gave out autographs afterwards. The concert also had a speaker who talked about how people would make fun of you if you tried to convert others, but that a little mockery was nothing compared to eternal damnation. I’ll give young Grant some serious credit here: when a girl from his high school who he had a crush on made fun of his crucifix, the easy choice was to make fun of it too in the hopes of getting her to like him somehow. But he tried to explain the crucifix honestly and lost any chance he might of had with her. The next story is all about the Christian bands who were supposed to sound just like the popular rock artists of the time (I kind of wish I could have seen more of the list, honestly) and Grant’s experience in a church band. It was an eye-opening experience for him, and not in a particularly religious way. Things turn around for Grant again by the end of the book, sort of, so there’s clearly more to the story yet to come. It’s says a lot for Grant’s skills that I still thoroughly enjoy his comics, even when the religious angle is something I don’t agree with at all. I’m really curious to see how this story reads as one big epic too. Before the next issue comes out I’m going to try to gather all of the issues together to see how it flows. If you knew anything about my comics “organizational” system, you would find that prospect just as hilarious as I do… $7.50
And lo, a new batch of mini kus comics did arrive to break me out of my comics funk! I can always count on that crew randomly seeming to know when I need a little boost by showing me some amazing international art. New review today for Mirror Stage by Jaakko Pallasvuo.
As always, the temptation with a review for a mini kus book is to just post the snippet of text on the back of the comic and call it a day. That’s usually more succinct than what I do here, and often more descriptive. But what’s the fun in that? This is the story of an unsettled man who starts off his tale by talking about how he feels the most like himself while he’s traveling. From there we see how miserable he is at home, how he goes about an average day, and how he always feels like he’s waiting for something to happen, but has no idea what that might be. After a fair amount of self reflection, our hero discovers a talking mirror in his apartment. This mirror, at the very least, offers a change of pace from what our hero is used to, so eventually he accepts it as an agent of change and steps inside. Oh, didn’t I mention that the mirror was also a portal? Anyway, I’m getting into spoiler territory if I go even a little bit further, so I’ll leave the rest of it up to you. If you’re thinking “I’ve read dozens of ‘the author is existentially bored/unsettled stories'” and are wondering if there’s anything unique that this one brings to the table, yes, there is! I just can’t tell you here. It’s all about perspective and trying to learn the right lessons from the greats who came before. $6
New review today for The 50 Flip Experiment #19 by Dan Hill, an old favorite around these here parts. I’m out of comics (and time) for the week, so will I get a comic next week that restores my faith in the medium? Or will I lose interest in comics forever and start selling life insurance? Tune in next week to find out what happens!