New reviews today for Sugar Booger #2 by Kevin Scalzo and Ultimate Lost Kisses #15 by Brian John Mitchell & David Branstetter. More tomorrow if I get any free time, if not I’ll get at least a couple of reviews up next week before I leave town for the holiday.
The horrific but somehow kid-friendly adventures of Sugar Booger continue! In case you missed the last issue, the premise is simple enough: Sugar Booger eats sweets and pours out a better version of the candy through his nostrils. At least I assume that it’s a better version, as it doesn’t make much sense otherwise. Hah, there I go, trying to make sense of this idea. Anyway, this issue starts off with Sugar (if you’re OK with me calling him by his first (?) name) realizing that all of the candy that he’s made is causing a problem, as it’s not possible for the residents of this land to eat it as quickly as he makes it. Luckily a Gloomy Globby monster comes along and is ravenously hungry, so it looks like both of their problems will be solved. But Sugar isn’t counting on the hunger of this monster being insatiable, so steps must be taken to reign in the problem. The art in this is ridiculously joyous, but the hints of the horror of this creature do seep through here and there. Or maybe it’s just me, who knows? But in a world where Adventure Time can take over cartoons, I see no reason why this couldn’t be a fantastic cartoon in its own right. Assuming Kevin would even want to go in that direction, that is. His use of color is also damned near unparalleled, as so many small press color comics are content to just throw in a few colors and call it a day. Kevin uses every color of the rainbow, often not in places that you would not expect, and the results are utterly unique. And don’t even get me started on the various smaller creatures that inhabit this land, because those walking brains that also serve as bouncy shoes are the tip of the iceberg. Get this comic, is what I’m trying to say. I can say this and have it be literally true: you’ve never seen anything like it. $5.95
Ultimate Lost Kisses #15
Did you ever have some completely happy news on your end torn apart by the person that you’re relaying the news to? That’s the subject of this comic in a big way, as the star of the story is a young married woman in her 20’s who calls her mother to tell her that she’s having a baby. This is almost universally a cause for celebration (at least to somebody in a stable relationship and living situation), but her mother immediately tells her to get rid of it, that it will destroy her life and her figure. It’s impossible to ignore the obvious implication: her mother feels like having her 20+ years ago ruined HER life. The rest of the comic is a tour through the childhood of the pregnant woman, her feelings about that and the reaction, and how she decides to go forward from there. It’s an intriguing story, and a good reminder that relaying news to loved ones can often uncover some unpleasant truths. $1 as usual, and as usual you should go nuts and get at least a handful of these comics when you’re ordering, as they are tiny.
New review today for Short and Merciless Stories by Marco Taddei & Simone Angelini. Speaking of that, I’m thinking of putting up some older posts of some of my favorite books of the year, probably in the last week of the year when everybody else is doing them. As this was a sparse year for reviews (by my standards), we’ll see what I can come up with, but a top 5 is easy, maybe even a top 10. Sure, it’s technically “reruns,” but at least you’ll have something else to look at while you’re stuck at work for that stupid week between Christmas and New Year’s where everybody would be off if the world was a just place.
If there’s one thing that has remained the same over my years of writing about comics, it’s my absolute abhorrence for spoilers of any kind. And yet, for the 8 stories in this volume, all I want more than anything is to talk about the endings and how brilliant each and every one of them is. I won’t, of course, but man is it tempting. The stories in here involve the circumstances behind the disappearance of a young woman, a man who wakes up one to discover that he is missing a head but somehow still living (and what he does about it), a man who is the only one to see plumes of smoke rising up from over the hills, the death of a solitary man and the life of a creature who remains in that house, the focus group tested message going out from a shady military group, the rules of hell and “living” in it on a day to day basis, a man with the remarkable gift to transform anything he sees into anything he wants and what he does with it, and Death itself giving an interview to promote an autobiography. Summarizing these stories like this may make them seem simple, and that is the furthest thing from the truth. There are layers to each of them, and good luck reading this without having at least a few of them stuck firmly in your mind, waiting to pop back into your consciousness. The art is perfectly suited to the writing and, even though I didn’t know about these two before reading this book, I really hope there’s more out there from them, as this book is absolutely captivating. And for only $12.99, it’s even a bit of a deal. For whatever it’s worth, this is one of my favorite books of the year. Buy it for yourself and see if I am correct! $12.99
New review for Irene #5 by an assortment of artists. Happy weekend everybody!
Does it really matter if you review anthologies out of order? I’m pretty sure it doesn’t, but if it turns out that there are continuing stories from #4 of this series (which was also sent my way) then I apologize. Anyway, this is a pile of stories and drawings by a little over a dozen artists. As always, some of them were more compelling to me than others and, as always, your opinions on which stories are more compelling probably varies wildly from mine. This does seem to be a regularly published anthology series, and the packaging does look gorgeous, so if you’re looking for that sort of thing, maybe check in with them from time to time? Anyway, highlights include the story of how he used to give story ideas to his father every night before he went to sleep and how he couldn’t sleep without the ensuing story by Andy Warner, a trip into (and discussion of) Mexico by Dave Ortega, Luke Healy’s story of following a woman up onto a mountain to see what happened to her (there’s more to it than that, but I’m certainly not going to give it away here), James the Stanton and the search for a Guru, Pat Barrett’s tale of the last days of a space explorer as she tries to save an alien (or are they really the last days?), Jon Chad and the best way to get intergalactically pwned, and Dakota McFadzean’s memories of being a kid, flying, and creating life (sort of). I should also mention the various single pages by Lindsay Watson, as they appeared between the stories and brought a life to the whole anthology that might not have been there otherwise. My absolute highlight for the stories was the piece by The FDZ (writer) and Fouad Mezher (artist). It starts off as a fairly simple story of a man living his last night in Lebanon and an unfortunate encounter with a guard dog, but things take an absolutely brutal turn from there and, once again, I shouldn’t really be talking about it. All kinds of good stuff in here, and it’s 160 or so pages, so you’ll be getting value for your $15.
New review today for Bixtone Productions 24 Hour Comic Madness Extravaganza by Kevin and Arthur Bixby. Oh, and if you’re reading this you’re probably already aware that I moved roughly six months ago, and that you should always check the address at the sidebar so that any comics sent actually make it to me. I mention this because my old apartment complex just called and they have maybe half a dozen packages waiting for me. Which, come to think of it, is probably true for many of my old apartments, they’re just the only ones nice enough to let me know about it…
Website (for Kevin’s Facebook page)
Bixtone Productions 24 Hour Comic Madness Extravaganza
Ah, the 24 hour comic. When successful, it’s usually obvious to tell that it was done quickly, as the art is a step below the usual output of the artist. But when it’s not successful (meaning only that it wasn’t finished in 24 hours, not a knock on the quality) there’s a substantial amount of guesswork going on with the reader. Is this the way it looked on the day of the challenge or has the art/writing been touched up since then? I’m going to guess that at least the art has been touched up, but as Kevin makes it clear that these are three stories that didn’t quite meet the challenge of 24 hours, I think that’s still allowed. The stories in this one include a zombie outbreak (which I think is legally mandated material for all comics artists on 24 hour challenges to try at least once), the revenge of a villain who is currently posing as a hero after “foiling” a kidnapping plot, and Kevin giving up the reins of another challenge to a 6 year old nephew so he can plot out a story. Not really, of course, but it made for a good excuse on the art for that one. Let’s go through them in order! The zombie outbreak was a lot of fun. Not much new ground was broken, but I’m always up for scenes of human-on-zombie violence. The Devilman story was by far the most plot-heavy of the stories, but it also ends on a cliffhanger with no sign of the story ever being finished. Still, another fun read with some solid action. Finally there’s the utterly random story, which somehow managed to be the most enjoyable of them all. There’s no real way to summarize it, but I will say that it involves Pokeman eating Thor (and becoming Pokemon Thor) and a giant Batman robot fighting Godzilla through “yo mama” jokes. See? Random. My only minor quibble was that I could often see the pencils of the text bubbles, as they weren’t erased thoroughly in spots, but that kind of thing is far from a dealbreaker. It’s good clean fun and the three stories makes for a hefty book, so give it a look why don’t you?
Since I seem to have no end of trouble with weeks getting away from me, why not put a bunch of reviews up early in the week instead of hoping for the best at the end of the week? I’m trying that out this week, so two new reviews today: Trepanation by Emi Gennis and Colossal: Before Curious Machines by Jason Ludtke. I do plan on doing regular reviews the rest of the week too, but if that turns out to be wrong then at least I got a couple of great comics up this week, right?
Trepanation! Who out there has thought about doing it? I’m guessing the total is right around zero for those of you who know what it is. If you don’t know what it is, that’s probably because it hasn’t been used with any kind of regularity for at least a hundred years. Basically it involves having someone drill a hole in your hear to either relieve pressure from headaches/stress or release the demon inside you, depending on whether there was even a little bit of science involved with it. Makes it pretty obvious why this has fallen out of favor, right? Anyway, this is the story of the handful of people who have had this done and/or are advocating for more people to get it done to themselves. It is illegal to do this in the United States (which makes sense until you think about some of the plastic surgeries that are still somehow legal), but the “movement” to get it legalized isn’t much to speak of. The people quoted in this comic universally have good things to say about the procedure, but at least one of them still has the presence of mind necessary to know that he is also unable to compare it to anything else, as it’s not exactly a process that you can get undone. Doctors have come to their own conclusion, and you might not be at all surprised to learn that any benefits people experience are due to it being a placebo effect. Meaning that they were so convinced that good things would come from this process that they ended up having good things happen come from this process. Also included in this comic are some examples of when it was used in the past and how the process has become less obviously barbaric in the intervening years. Sure, it’s still drilling a hole into the head of another human, but you should see some of the tools they used in the past. And you will see them if you read this comic, which you should do. It’s a fascinating subject, and whether or not you knew about it before reading this review there’s no way that you aren’t curious about it now. Read it and enjoy, and if you end up converted there’s contact info for some of these lunatics included in the comic… $4
Colossal: Before Curious Machines
Regular readers of the website may remember this comic, as I praised the pants off of it for the last issue that I’d read. It also seems like I may have missed an issue or two, or maybe it’s just the fact that I haven’t read the last issue for a couple of years and my memory is a garbage pile. One or the other! Anyway, the basic gist is that a giant robot wakes up in a desolate world with very little idea of what it is or what’s going on. In this issue the robot and his bird friend are looking for clues and run across a group of deer (herd?). There’s a fantastic philosophical discussion on whether or not the robot is alive or has consciousness, then they tell the robot where it should next go to get more clues. We also get to see a regular dream of this bird (which shows some great hints about its place in the universe) and we see more and more clues about what is left of this world. For example, at this point they’re in what used to be Milwaukee. No humans are to be seen, but the bird has seen a few in its past, and we also see the first (?) genuinely hostile act against the robot, but I shouldn’t get into what that was all about. My only complaint is that there were a few typos (all of the dialogue is typed), which is the sort of thing that you really should work past after a couple of issues. Nothing that broke the story, and possibly nothing that nobody else noticed, but the typos, they do stick in my craw. I remain fascinated in this story and very much wonder where it’s all heading, which is all that you can ask out of an ongoing book like this.
Two new reviews today, for Smallbug Comics #2 by Charles Brubaker and Short Run: On Your Marks by about a half dozen Seattle artists. Maybe I’ll manage to get a regular weeks worth of reviewing up finally? It’s possible!
Smallbug Comics #2
13 years into me running this website, do you think it’s too late for me to put some of these comics into categories? Yeah, I figured it was too late too. Anyway, this comic would be considered “all ages,” and I tend to review those a little differently than other comics, as I no longer have the mind of a child <insert obvious joke about my mind here>. I think kids would probably enjoy this quite a bit. The basic story involves a king who is so unremarkable in every way that he finally comes up with an idea to get people to remember him: he has a special crown made of a golden cat. It’s such a ridiculous crown, the theory goes, that people are bound to remember it. And it works, but it doesn’t exactly cast him in the best light, for obvious reasons. As this is going on a young brother and sister are arguing, as the younger one wishes more people would pay attention to him. Things happen and, as this is a comic, the crown ends up falling on the head of the younger brother. Soon people are paying attention to him, but it ends up being unwelcome attention in some cases, and the king is also soon on the lookout for his missing crown. Hilarity ensues! I liked the attention to detail on some of the panels, especially the one full page panel of an outdoor market. All kinds of stuff going on there if you look for the little things. And it looks like Charles has done a good job of building up a credible world with interesting characters in it, or at least a wide variety of people. So there, it has been established that kids would probably like this just fine. What about adults? Um, probably? It might be considered a little cutesy by some people, as some people are very cynical, but I consider myself pretty cynical and I liked it. I even laughed a few times, which is always welcome. So yeah, I’d say it’s worth a shot for everybody. For $2, why not?
Is it too late for me to move to Seattle? Because the idea of a local community group like Short Run that “celebrates and strengthens” the local small press community sounds really fantastic to me. Oh right, you’re here to read about a comic, not join me on my mid-life crisis. This one is an anthology featuring six local artists, or at least I’m assuming they’re local because they’re all in this Seattle anthology. I also wish that the stories had titles, mostly for one story in particular, but I’ll leave you guessing as to which one I’m talking about. Stories in here include a piece by Drew Miller about a lonely survivor who is surrounded by people who won’t come out of their shells (literally), Yumi Sakugawa’s take on the dream of smashing all electronics and riding off into the sunset, Jaime Coe’s frankly adorable tale of Hercules playing with a puppy Cerberus, and Scott Longo’s piece on one particular part of the disappearing water supply. I also enjoyed Suzette Smith’s piece on the possibly irrational fear of black men as a couple gets off the bus, but one panel is mostly blurred out. If this is a printing error it’s in a very unfortunate place, if it’s intentional then it’s a pretty damned smart place to show why the conversation about getting a gun can fall apart in a conversation with a couple. I also didn’t get the piece by Anna Saimalaa, but I’m guessing that’s more my fault than the fault of the artist. $7 might seem a little steep for this, but come on now, that’s still 6 stories for $7. And they use blue!
New reviews today for Mimi and the Wolves Act I by Alabaster and Dark Tomato by Sakura Maku. Happy holiday everybody!
Mimi and the Wolves Act I
All of these years reading comics and I think my favorite thing about them is still having my expectations utterly subverted. This one briefly shows all the characters before the action gets started, and most of them look cute or possibly even a little wacky. But, as you may have guessed, that’s not the direction this one ended up in at all. Things start off with a slow build, as we see a mysterious figure in the forest before finally meeting our heroine (Mimi) and her mate (Bobo). We see them going about the daily lives, happy as can be, before they go to bed for the night. Mimi has been having dreams her entire life, and they make her profoundly uncomfortable to think about, apparently because they involve some horrific creatures/images and seem to end with her quite enjoying something sexual (it’s all still a little vague). Mimi arranges to have a lucid dream so she can confront the woman she keeps seeing in this dream, and that conversation leads to her hanging up icons around the forest. These icons bring the attention of the wolves that are mentioned on the cover, and their intentions seem good, but it’s probably too early to say for sure. The rest of the comic deals with stuff I shouldn’t be talking about, so I won’t. See how easy that was? It’s a solid start to a series that I am very much looking forward to. The art is tremendous and evocative, the writing fits the images perfectly, and it was a blast to read. So maybe you should too! $12
I know the rules of the small press publishing world by now (more or less), and I know that it’s impossible to publish most of these comics in color. Still, this one is crying out for color, and stuffing this into a black and white world hurt it more than a little bit. Of course, for all I know this is how it was meant to be seen and I’m an idiot, but this story is more (for lack of a better or more accurate word) colorful than all this. Not to mention the fact that the text sometimes gets lost in the various shades of grays, but that’s a technical problem. This is the story of Prince Tamlin Tomato, a woman who runs a subway train. It deals with the people she sees and various aspects of her life, which seems like too simplistic of a way to put it, as there’s a lot going on in every page. There’s her rather one-sided chats with her grandmother about the various odd things that she sees, and of course the things in the dark that she can’t quite make out. This is one of those cases where I bail out in the middle of the review, as I honestly don’t know what to say about it. It’s an utterly unique tale, more of an illustrated poem than anything, but it also defies any sort of conventional analysis. Check through her art on her website to see if it appeals to you, and if the answer is anywhere near yes, then this is very much worth a look. Provided that you can see past the “what might have been” aspect of this potentially existing in full color, that is. $5
Yep, a review on a Monday. I’m trying to get back into a routine here, even if the holiday week is going to make a mess of things this week. Still, why not get a few reviews in, right? New review today for Bakersfield, Earth #1 by David Quantic & Tamra Bonvillain.
Bakersfield, Earth #1
I have one tiny problem with this comic, and I absolutely loved the rest of it. For a change, I’m going to talk about all the good stuff first, just in case anybody wanders off in the middle of the review. This is the story of an alien from Jupiter who has lived on this planet since before the start of recorded human history by taking over the bodies of humans moments after they die. Why did he/she stay for so long? Mostly cheese fries. Which implies that cheese fries were invented thousands of years before anybody thought, which would explain a lot. That timeline David gives of the important events in human history is packed with funny, so don’t just skip over the page. Anyway, life goes on for hey I just realized that we never learned the real name of our hero. Huh. So life goes on for this creature until we finally make it into the 70’s, where it hops into the body of a transgendered man. Some altercations take place before our hero finally stands up for him/herself, at which point he/she decides to start standing up for the little guy on a regular basis. This, unfortunately, attracts the attention of a mercenary whose job is to bring back missing aliens, and things get ugly from there. All of this was compelling as could be, and here is where I’ll put my complaints. Please note that actual complaints are about the quality of the comic itself, and I have no issues there (writing was solid and Tamra did a great job with the art). So, my “complaints”: he left so much out! So many lives that were all glossed over, then the events of the ending (which I don’t want to spoil) that were glossed over so quickly. We never see Jupiter and there is still so much to learn about it. Which I guess means that it’s a good thing that this is marked with a “#1″, right? I mean, it’s not like they could have had a 500 page debut comic to tell all the backstory. Well, I’d read it, but I’m a weirdo when it comes to this stuff. So, a solid first issue that left me wanting much more story than I got. Sounds like a pretty solid recommendation to me. $5