Update for 5/19/15

New review today for Inside Salmeck by Vincent Fluckiger. Yes, I’m still dealing with a pile of work from after the election, which is slowing down reviews in a big way, and yes, it was stupid of me to think that that wouldn’t be the case. Live and learn! Or live and make the same mistakes, over and over again…

Fluckiger, Vincent – Inside Salmeck

Website

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Inside Salmeck

How much do you know about where you live? Granted, if you live in your childhood
home, or never left your hometown, chances are you know quite a bit. But if you
moved away when you were younger, have gone from apartment to apartment a few times,
and wound up wherever you are now, how much do you really know about your
surroundings? Know any neighbors? This comic is an exploration of Vincent’s
immediate surroundings. That much is obvious right away, as his image of the
building he lives in has notations for which neighbors live where and the nature of
the building itself, including the history of it and the styles of construction in
various parts of the building. From there we get to learn a tiny bit about his
neighbor (who killed himself; when his mother came by to clean up she gave Vincent’s
daughter the childhood toy from her son, which he was rightly creeped out by), then
into Vincent’s apartment. From there he has a close view of his neighbors across the
street, and each of them has their own story (or story that he made up after
observing them for a time). It never gets too voyeuristic and we learn precious
little about Vincent’s life, but it serves as a fantastic portrait of a place and of
the time in which it’s being observed. Check it out, then just try not to look
around at your own place and wonder what else is going on around you that you’ve
never seen. $2

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Update for 5/13/15

New review today for Crawdads by Adam Pasion. I seem to be crawling out of the election black hole (unless there are recounts, which is possible), so in theory more regular reviews again? I’m an optimist so I’ll go with that.

Pasion, Adam – Crawdads

Website

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Crawdads

Who loves teenage angst? Everybody, that’s who! Well, maybe everybody outside of
parents of teenagers, as they’re sick of dealing with it. And angsty teenagers
themselves, who are convinced that their angst is the one true angst and that nobody
has ever suffered as much as they have. Well, if you’re not in one of those groups,
you’ll probably thoroughly enjoy this comic. This is the story of a 16 year old boy
who gets talked into taking a family trip, complaining all the way. Also along on
this trip are the father (who is annoyed with the boy but gets the whole teenage
thing), the mom (who is also annoyed and much less forgiving) and his younger sister
(who is trying to emulate him out of a clear desire to keep him around for as long
as she can). The bulk of the comic is the conversations between various members of
this group, but the highlight comes from the title, as the two kids notice some
crawdads in the lake and decide to catch one. They end up catching two and, because
of the book our hero is reading at the time, he thinks they might be delicious. So
they cook them up, probably in about the most humane way that they could
(considering that they didn’t know what they were doing), and discover that they are
delicious. But this is when the mom catches them, and instead of joining in in this
moment of family bonding, things take a very different turn. There are lots of cute
and/or insightful little moments in here, and there’s a good chance that this could
even serve as a bit of an instructional guide if you are a parent of a teenager, or
somebody who will soon be a teenager. Either way, there’s a lot to like here for
just about anybody.

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Update for 5/4/15

New review today for Eyelash Out by Ben Sea. The lack of posting lately has been due to there being an election tomorrow and, as I may have mentioned a few times around here, even the tiny elections tend to be a bit overwhelming when you work at the local Board of Elections. If all goes perfectly “normal” reviews will resume this week. Since that never happens, chances are better that normal reviews will return next week.

Sea, Ben – Eyelash Out

Website

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Eyelash Out

You know how some reviewers refer to any comic featuring a drug trip as
“psychodelic” or just go with the easier “weird?” Yeah, I am very tempted to just
call this comic “trippy” and leave it at that. Still, that would be doing a
disservice to the comic, as there is so much more going on here. It is also trippy
as hell, and if you’ve done a large amount of LSD in your life there’s a chance that
various images in here could lead to flashbacks. That’s how that works, right?
Anyway, this comic starts off with a young man who is barging his way to the front
of a… contest? Selection process? Whatever it is, it’s the process of another
person (?) trying to determine who is worthy to have one of his/her/its eyelashes.
One person goes through the process and is awarded one, while the young man from the
first page bursts through the crowd and just takes an eyelash. The rest of the crowd
apparently doesn’t take this well, but from that point on all we see is the
(distorted, surreal) world through the eyes of these two characters, on whatever
analogy to a drug trip that they’re experiencing, so they don’t have to worry about
an angry mob. And man, that imagery. Every panel has at least a little bit of
floating imagery, often unconnected from anything that could be mistaken as coming
from the “real” world. I often wish for full color in my comics these days, but I
don’t know if my senses would have been able to handle it with this one. From there
we get to experience their trip in all its glory, until the male in the group
chooses a confrontation, and things spiral a bit from there. I’d say I’m avoiding
spoilers by not going any further with the story, but I could tell you the story
from beginning to end and I’d still recommend getting this book for the visuals
alone. If I had to pick a style it reminded me of I’d say early Ron Rege, sort of,
but also entirely its own thing, so not a helpful comparison. Here’s a test to see
if this book is for you: examine that cover image. Really dig into it. If you think
you know exactly what’s going on there, and want to see more, then pick this up
immediately. If you’re not sure what it happening, well, doesn’t that make you
curious to see what you’re missing? $4

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Update for 4/27/15

New review today from another one from the mini kus pile, this time R.A.T. by Lala Albert.

Albert, Lala – R.A.T.

Website

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R.A.T.

Do you maybe have a computer monitor that was made in the last 5 years or so, one of
the ones that has a webcam built into it? If so, have you ever wondered whether that
camera is ever really off? I don’t know what you’d call that, as it’s hard to say
“paranoia” when it’s a technology that’s so open to exploitation, but if you’ve ever
worried about that, this comic is for you! This one starts out with a creep who
watches a young woman through her webcam on her computer. She never turns the
computer off, so he always has an easy way to observe her. He still has his “rules,”
so he doesn’t use this technology to get her bank data or any other personal
information. Nope, this guy just uses it to watch her while she has no idea that
this is going on. From there we get a scene of our heroine out drinking with some
friends, and she finally comes across this R.A.T. program and decides to take a look
at it and at who is available on this network. What she finds isn’t all that
shocking if you read the first half of this review (and boy would you be a weirdo if
you only read the second halves of reviews), but it sets up a nice “confrontation”
for the end of the comic. It’s a problem with no easy answer (although I’ve heard
that duct tape over a webcam is surprisingly effective), but this comic is bound to
creep you out as you think about it. $5

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Update for 4/23/15

New review today for Drawn Onward by Matt Madden, which should be a familiar name to you if you’ve been reading these funny books for as long as I have. Get off my lawn!

Madden, Matt – Drawn Onward

Website

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Drawn Onward

Who likes some experimentation in their comics? Is it you? Do you prefer to have
some boundaries pushed, to see an attempt at something completely different? It’s
impossible to talk about this comic without at least giving away the concept, so if
that’s your thing, and if you have trust in Matt’s abilities since he’s been making
comics for 20 (ish) years now, then I’m going to go ahead and recommend this
unreservedly right now. It’s unlike any comic I’ve ever read, and that is saying
something. That right there is your last chance to just pick this book up without
knowing anything about it, although I suppose it’s likely that the description of
the comic on their website might give something away. If you can manage to read this
completely unspoiled, do so. Anyway, now I’m going to talk about the story, in case
you need more convincing and don’t mind at least little spoilers. This is described
as a “palindromic comic,” which eagle-eyed observers might have already figured out
from that title. Things start off with a young woman and a chance encounter on a
subway with a young man. This man seems overly familiar with the woman, but too
desperate for her to do anything but run away from him. She keeps meeting him on the
subway, and gradually she starts to become less and less afraid of him, until
finally she realizes that she’s looking forward to seeing him again. Things finally
break just right, they kiss… and everything changes. And nothing changes. It’s up
to you to decide which of those things is true, or if they’re both true. This is a
genuinely remarkable book, and one of those rare occasions where I went back and
read through it again right after I finished it. Matt is a member of a group called
Workshop for Potential Comics, and I’m going to look into that after I finish this
to see what else they have to offer. For now, read this comic, especially if you
need a reminder that the only constraints that are on this art form are what the
individual creator brings with them. $5

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Update for 4/22/15

New review today for Grampa by Jason Payne.

Payne, Jason – Grampa

Website

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Grampa

Anybody who has been reading this website for more than a few days know that I abhor
spoilers, as all decent people should. But this time I’ll around I’m going to make
it clear that I’m going to be spoiling the ending for this book, mostly because I
just don’t get it. And if I do get it, I don’t care for it. This always leaves the
option that it’s over my head, which is always a possibility, but I wanted you to be
warned. So! This comic is all about a trip with two kids to see their Grampa. They
don’t care for the man, as he stinks, is mean and is kind of racist, but of course
their concerns are shouted down by their parents. Well, mostly the mother and a
nearly invisible father. Anyway, from that setup I was expecting them to either be
proven right or wrong once they reached their Grampa, but we skip over all that
stuff entirely. Instead the first look we get at Grampa involves him telling the
kids not to go into a house near his because it’s haunted. As a warning like this to
children is pretty much an incentive to go into said house, they wander away from
him and into the haunted house. He secretly follows them, notices their reaction (or
lack thereof) and bursts through the window to… really scare them? This is where
it lost me. They’re both all in white, so maybe Grampa cut an artery going into the
window and is now scaring them as a ghost? No, the kids are all white too. So why
would their Grampa busting through a window do anything to convince them that the
house is haunted? Agh, I don’t care for doing nothing but crapping on a comic, so I
should point out that I did enjoy the full color aspect of it and thought it mostly
looked terrific. That joke on the final page about how to be a grampa got a chuckle
out of me. And maybe this book is for little kids and I’m over-thinking it, but
narratively I don’t understand why the problems that the kids have with their Grampa
would be set up so meticulously only to never come to anything. It’s almost like
this comic started as the first half, got set aside for a few years and then started
again, by which Jason forgot or ignored the stuff he was setting up in the first
half. He sent along another book that’s an anthology of stories, and I’m looking
forward to it, but despite the bits that I liked I can’t really recommend this one.
$5.99

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Update for 4/20/15

New review today for Piggy by Niv Bavarsky. I already mentioned that everybody should watch that new Netflix Daredevil series, right? Just making sure. That mom and pop comic company Marvel need all help they can get!

Bavarsky, Niv – Piggy

Website

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Piggy

You know what we don’t see enough of when it comes to pigs? Pig rampages. Sure,
boars get mad and charge at people occasionally, but your average pig rampage is
rarely seen. That is corrected with this issue, as the main story is all about a
man, his post-coital attempt to smell some flowers, and the fierce reaction a pig
has to this fact. All in all the man stays fairly calm about it, which is not how I
would have handled something as shocking as being attacked by a pig. There are then
a series of single page images (at least a couple of which strongly imply that
things didn’t end well for that pig), a collection of ways that people say that they
would like to die, and a final story about a frantic attempt to plug up an active
volcano using a big boulder. Come to think of it, that’s probably how I’d like to
go: jumping into an active volcano. But only if I already knew that I had cancer or
something like that, and preferably holding onto the last remaining copy of Action
Comics #1. Yep, got it all planned out. Anyway, digression aside, I thoroughly
enjoyed the stories in here along with the single page images/stories, but I’ll
leave the details of those a mystery so you have something new to discover when you
buy this comic. $4

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Update for 4/17/15

New review today for It’s Tuesday by Amanda Vahamaki, another one from the rapidly diminishing mini kus pile. I swear that there has been no conscious decision to only review comics from other countries, but they do seem to be the ones sending me review copies these days. America, step up your game!

Vahamaki, Amanda – It’s Tuesday

Website

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It’s Tuesday

Sometimes a title really nails the tone of a book, even when it’s a seemingly
nonsense title like “It’s Tuesday.” And, well, that’s what happens here. This is the
story of a typical Tuesday in (according to the back of the comic) “a small town
somewhere in southern Finland.” Once you get past that eye-catching explosion of
color on the front cover, things start off slowly and more or less stay that way,
much like it would in a typical small town on a random day. There’s a cat watching
some people gather apples from the ground, the apples being put out by the side of
the road for anybody who wants them, and we move to a flea market. A gentleman has
just dropped off five garbage bags filled with clothes, and the shopkeeper quickly
realizes that it would make more sense for her to wait until the day when her helper
works to start going through the bags. If all this sounds dull as can be, you’re
probably looking for another book entirely, one with explosions and robots, or
exploding robots. There’s nothing wrong with that, in moderation, but this one is
for the more contemplative moods. Anyway, there’s no sense in me going through this
beat by beat, but other bits I thoroughly enjoyed include the appraisal of a
painting by a moody teenager (and the scene later when this teenager reads over some
of her old diary entries and cringes in embarrassment), a babysitter trying to find
a polite way out of buying some clothes that she doesn’t want, and the creep who
tends to wander through the woods naked and is still on the loose. Translations are
always tricky in books like this, but I really appreciated the fact that Amanda went
through and put the English in for certain signs and locations around town, as it
really helped flesh this tiny world out. I thoroughly enjoyed this, in other words,
and bonus points to whoever did the coloring for this book, as it was stellar
throughout.

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Update for 4/15/15

New review today for Alone in Kyoto by Ian McMurray.

McMurray, Ian – Alone in Kyoto

Website

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Alone in Kyoto

What ever happened to all the small press travel comics? They pop up from time to
time now, but they seemed to be all over the place in the late ’90s. Or maybe that’s
just my confirmation bias speaking, as a lot of the artists I liked were doing them,
so obviously that meant that they were more common. Anyway! This is all about Ian’s
trip to Japan in 2003. He makes it very clear in the epilogue that this is a
non-fiction book, but only to the extent that his memory would allow. Meaning that
of course he was going to forget some of the finer points in the 10 years since his
trip, and he was going to misremember some locations, but the heart of it all and
its effect on him remained true. This basically covers three days of him wandering
around Kyoto and then returning to Canada at the end. He very much let events happen
to him on this trip, as he didn’t plan a hotel room or much of anything outside of a
few landmarks/gardens he knew he wanted to check out. He was a single guy at this
point, which left him plenty of time to quietly observe what was going on around
him, and maybe a little too much pure free time. As an aside, I will never
understand why somebody would travel all the way to Japan and then eat at KFC even
once, but as I’ve never been to Japan, maybe you reach a point when any reminder of
home is essential. This whole comic is contemplative by nature, and it’s a hefty 50+
pages. Highlights for me included his not being all that impressed with some of the
big temples that “everybody” recommended, his observations of a creepy guy who hit
on almost every woman he saw (with the custom in Japan apparently being to speed up
walking and keep your head down instead of slapping a guy, it sounds like a
creeper’s dream), and his being unable to just experience what was going on around
him when it mattered most instead of reaching for his phone. Overall it was
thoroughly absorbing, and yet another reminder that I don’t do nearly enough
traveling. If you need a virtual trip outside of your comfort zone or just wish you
could see something completely different without leaving your home, I can’t
recommend this highly enough.

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Update for 4/14/15

New review for Logbook by Terhi Ekebom, another in the mini kus series. Say, that new Daredevil Netflix series was thoroughly entertaining, if you were curious. Granted, I was required by law to watch it because I run a website about comics, but it was still well worth my time.

Ekebom, Terhi – Logbook

Website

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Logbook

So hey, death. That’s what this comic is about, basically, unless you have another
interpretation of it, in which case you may be right and I may be wrong. It
certainly wouldn’t be the first time! Anyway, this one starts off with a long
sequence involving large white pods bobbing to the surface in the ocean and the
process involved in collecting them and bringing them back to the lighthouse. They
are all quite large but appear harmless. Once these pods are brought into the house
we see why they were collected: there is a man on the bed, but he is covered in
literal darkness. Once these pods are split open a bright light shines through them,
enabling the family to see the condition of the man on the bed. Perhaps they thought
that these pods would be enough to assist this man, but they soon learn that the
darkness is not getting any smaller, with the rest of the comic involving them
dealing with this fact. It’s surprisingly haunting, probably because it’s impossible
to fight against it for long. Is that too grim for you? Eh, I could see that. Still,
the art is gorgeous, and this is one of those cases where full color really brings a
lot to the book. This is worth a look, assuming that you’ve made peace with your own
mortality. If not, you can also ignore the unspoken implications of the darkness, as
it’s not like Terhi smacks you over the face with the message. It’s there for you to
pick up on, or not.

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