Update for 11/26/14

New reviews today for Mimi and the Wolves Act I by Alabaster and Dark Tomato by Sakura Maku. Happy holiday everybody!

Alabaster – Mimi and the Wolves Act I

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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

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Maku, Sakura – Dark Tomato #1

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Dark Tomato

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

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Update for 11/24/14

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.

Quantic, David & Bonvillain, Tamra – Bakersfield, Earth #1

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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

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Update for 11/19/14

Wow, has it really been almost a month since the last update? Oof, sorry. Been busier than I thought. Two new reviews today from the Mini Kus pile: Swimming Pool by Anna Vaivare and Magnetism by Roope Eronen. This week might still be a little crazy but here’s hoping that I can at least get one more review up. But either way, no, I am not quitting the website. Just paid for it for another year, actually, so I’m not going anywhere.

Vaivare, Anna – Mini Kus #24: Swimming Pool

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Mini Kus #24: Swimming Pool

I’ve long had a fascination with the people who work behind the scenes, the ones who almost nobody notices in their day to day lives. Janitors, customer service people, lifeguards, anybody who is only noticed if they mess up while doing their jobs. This comic is all about a woman who lives at a swimming pool by night and keeps everything about it clean by day. Along the way she talks about the various people she encounters on a daily basis, bits of her life that led up to her taking this job, and the dread she feels at the thought of going back to any part of her old life. It all leads up to a big reveal at the end that I’m not going to get into, as that would be cheating. Still, Anna does an excellent job of planting the seeds for the reveal along the way, and things end on a genuinely sweet moment. The art is gorgeous, as it’s all painted and she does a great job of showing the various types of people who use a pool along with the fact that the water is never completely still from all the activity. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable story and you should give it a look. $6

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Eronen, Roope – Mini Kus #25: Magnetism

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Mini Kus #25: Magnetism

People who read science fiction stories expecting the science to make total sense, please stop reading now. People who are able to read a science fiction story and think of it as a allegory for other aspects of life without getting too bogged down in the specifics, read on! This one starts off with an obviously sad young woman at a coffee shop. She is unable to get coffee and has to settle for cold water, and the place is practically deserted. Despite this fact a young man asks if he can sit with her, and she reluctantly agrees. This is when we learn that things have gone horribly wrong on this planet and that she’s willing to try almost anything to get away from it. This young man was actually a businessman with a unique product: a magnet that will take you to a different place in the universe. He calculates some basics about the planet to see if it has the basic elements necessary for a human to survive, teleports one magnet to the location, and has the customer swallow the other magnet to get there. Surviving the trip is not explained, but please refer back to the first sentence of this review if you have any qualms about that. Anyway, this somehow manages to be a cute story about utter desperation, and that final image of ____ (thought I was going to slip there, didn’t you?) ended things on a hilarious note. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed. $6

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Update for 10/23/14

Yep, things got very busy again, how did you guess? New review today for Memoirs of a Muse #4: Akhenaten by Gail Kern. Also I have one small press t-shirt for that big Wizard convention at the end of the month, but that still leaves a couple of days without anything in particular in mind. Just in case anybody wanted some free advertising for their comic/to give me a free t-shirt.

Kern, Gail – Memoirs of a Muse #4: Akhenaten

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Memoirs of a Muse #4: Akhenaten

OK, I hate to start one of these off with a complaint, but there are more than a few pages in this one where the copy cuts off words on the edge of the page. Which isn’t the worst thing in the world, granted, but by the fourth issue of a series you should really have that sort of thing figured out. That’s a lesson to everybody making comics, free of charge: get the basics right please! All kinds of people (me included) could pick this up in a comics store, notice something like that and put it right back down. Of course, these are review copies, so I didn’t have to worry about the price. Anyway! In this issue the Muse is still waiting for a Pharaoh to come along with some artistic talent so that she can join her love in the afterlife. The visuals in this one were striking, definitely the best of the series, but I must confess that I’m losing the thread of the story a bit. The Muse is taken from a guy who gets assassinated and bides her time to find the right pharaoh, so we see quite a bit of time passing. Eventually she finds her man, but he starts going blind, which complicates her plans. From there we see a conversation between her and the god who had agreed to help this blind pharaoh, which is all done against a sheer black background, which is also a chance for some of the conversation to seep out the sides of the pages. Things get a bit chaotic from there, and in theory the next issue will be set in Greece. I’m still intrigued to see where this whole thing is going, but it’s hard to escape the sense that it’s meandering a bit. As I can’t find a hint of these books online that may be a moot point, but I’m interested in seeing more if any more are forthcoming.

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Update for 10/13/14

See? Back to reviews again. Two new ones today for more of the Latvian Mini Kus series: Lucky by Oskars Pavlovskis and Domino by Ruta & Anete Daubure. And hey, I got press credentials for Wizard Con here in Ohio at the end of the month. That’s generally a much larger con than I usually attend, but I figured why not, at the very least it would be an interesting look into how the rich and/or famous types live. I’ve been trying to think of ways to promote the small press stuff while I’m there, so I thought that if you had such a comic and also had t-shirts, maybe I could just wear that for a day? Yes, I’m aware of the fact that this sounds like I’m just asking for free t-shirts, which I guess is kind of true, but at least I also have good intentions. If you think this sounds like a great idea, e-mail me and we’ll figure something out.

Daubure, Ruta & Anete – Mini Kus #23: Domino

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Mini Kus #23: Domino

What happens if the person who was responsible for maintaining the balance in the world took a day off? That’s the premise here, as our hero Rober generally does what he can to keep things even. He can use any object, great or small, to maintain this balance. He’s never seen, but he is crucial, and one day he decides to rest. He eats cookies on a train because, as the text says, “he thinks that is what the usual people do.” He notices something that could be his concern, but he leaves it alone, as it’s his day off. Then somebody stops him as he’s getting off the train to give him his hat… but Rober didn’t own a hat. And with that, the balance is thrown off with the guy who is supposed to be keeping the balance, but Rober is helpless in the face of what comes next. We also get to meet the “bad guys” and hear a bit of their reasoning for why they do what they do. It’s a fascinating story, but I have to at least mention how incredible the artwork is here. Ruta is all about big, expressive colors, and every page of this teems with life. Granted, Ruta and Anete are sisters so them having a clear connection isn’t the oddest thing in the world, but it does make this book what it is. If you do get this (and you should), take a few extra minutes to let the images soak into your head. Trust me, it’s worth it. $6

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Pavlovskis, Oskars – Mini Kus #22: Lucky

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Mini Kus #22: Lucky

We’ve all gotten to see various “interview” shows in recent years (The Office, Parks & Recreation) where we get to know fundamentally decent people. Oh sure, they’re wacky because they’re on tv, but you know, you’re unlikely to find a genuinely terrible person in those types of shows. Well, meet Lucky. This one starts off with Lucky being interviewed by an unseen person. Lucky tells us a bit about his average day and his basic philosophy in life, but we don’t really see it in action until Lucky tears the side mirror off a car. From here he uses one of several phones (or an internet cafe) to sell the mirror online and, as he’s stealing them off cars, there’s always somebody in the area who can use a mirror. Things go downhill for Lucky from there, as we also see him mugging a guy and pretending to get injured after being “hit” by a car, and all the while his interviewer is trying to get Lucky to see what he’s doing to other people and to change his ways. Finally the two of them have a confrontation, and I can say no more without giving away the whole thing. I’ll just say that you’re not going to see it coming, and I feel confident in saying that even if my saying that will instantly put you on your guard, expecting a twist. Even so, you will no see it coming. That ending is more than a little bit haunting, but Oskars earns every bit of it. Check it out if you want to learn how to be a professional asshole, or if perhaps you just want a little more insight into their existence. $6

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Update for 10/9/14

New review today for Slaves of the Megapode #3 by Rob Jackson. I have mentioned that this time of year was going to be chaotic, right? Which means that reviews may be a little more scarce than usual for a few weeks. On the other hand, now is a great time to send me your comic to review, because I plan on tearing through that pile once I finally get some free time. I should have time for more next week, but it’s impossible to know for sure this close to an election.

Jackson, Rob – Slaves of the Megapode #3

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Slaves of the Megapode #3

Oh Megapode, what exactly are you? That question is answered in this final issue, more or less, and Rob even manages to sneak in an alarming epilogue on the back cover, but I’m getting ahead of myself. In the last issue our heroes were confronted by some Roman soldiers, although that fizzles out without a struggle. They’re arrested and kept under heavy guard, but there are many hidden passages and they manage to escape to get a better look at what’s really happening. From there they uncover where the conspiracy is coming from, which also explains why it’s impossible to do much of anything to stop it. This is also the point where I have to stop talking about the plot or I’ll get into spoilers, and nobody wants that. I’ll say instead that Rob wraps this up in a thoroughly satisfactory fashion; he has more or less mastered the art of the comics trilogy. Unless he’s implying that there’s more to come with that epilogue, in which case never mind. I like to think that he went with that last page to preserve some ambiguity, but I am most definitely not the author, so that’s just a guess. I wonder if Rob has ever considered some sort of personal omnibus? Marvel and DC have been releasing 1000+ pages of certain titles or crossovers, and it’s nice to have everything in one place. Rob certainly has a large enough back catalog that he could put out his own edition. Of course, money would be a big factor, but that’s why Kickstarter exists, right? Anyway, it’s another solid series from the man, and another one that you should check out immediately if you have not already done so.

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Update for 9/30/14

New reviews today for two more comics from the Mini Kus pile: Jungle Night by Renata Gasiorowska and Crater Lake by Jean de Wet. Renata’s website appears to be Latvian, so you might have some trouble with the language. But videos are universal, and she has a few of those posted. Things are still more than a little bit chaotic for me, but I’ll get reviews up whenever possible.

Gasiorowska, Renata – Mini Kus #21: Jungle Night

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Mini Kus #21: Jungle Night

Does it make you crazy or depressed if you just want to be alone after a certain amount of time spent with a large group of friends? That’s the question that Renata asks in this comic, and I think she comes up with a pretty compelling answer. This one starts with our hero, Lili, waking up in the hospital. She has just been found after three days of being lost in the forest and spends the comic trying to explain why she “ran away,” and why she doesn’t think of it as running away. There’s a tradition of the youth all going into the forest together to reconnect to their roots. All of these characters are animals that have evolved to walk upright, wear clothes and talk, so the adults think that it’s important to keep this tradition. The kids, as kids do, see it more as an excuse to go into the forest with a large group of friends to drink and have fun. Anyway, all is going well, the kids are having fun, but Lili is feeling more and more disconnected to the group. Finally she has that moment at the party (that I think most people have at least a few times in their lives) where she notices that everybody else has paired up or is talking to each other, but she’s off on her own. Which makes her think that she could just get up and walk away without anybody noticing, so that’s what she does. But does that make her depressed? She clearly doesn’t think of herself that way, and it’s certainly a natural enough instinct. Your opinions may vary, but I know where I stand on this one. $6

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de Wet, Jean – Mini Kus #20: Crater Lake

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Mini Kus #20: Crater Lake

Oh silent comics, you do vex me so. For those of you who are new to the site, I’ve showed my ignorance on the meanings of certain silent comics several times over the 13+ years that I’ve been reviewing comics. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don’t, and sometimes I think I do but actually don’t. That last option is the most amusing, at least in hindsight. Anyway, this is all stalling so that I can avoid talking about this comic, as I had very little idea of what was happening before I read the back. The comic itself is a series of scenes, told mostly over two page spreads, of several happenings around a town as a meteor shower (?) is happening. Most of these scenes are shown at such a distance that you could plausibly come up with several reasons for why they’re doing what they’re doing and then, to me at least, things ended rather abruptly. The back of the comic helpfully mentions the various things that they’re doing, but I had a hard time going back into the comic and picking out which pages depict which events. It’s still a gorgeous book, but I was more impressed with the ideas going on than I was with the execution of them. Then again, I do have a sporadic and inconsistent dislike of silent comics, so take that into consideration when reading this review. $6

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Update for 9/25/14

It’s the final Tarn Thursday! New review today for Tarn #5: Bich Bird by Sam Spina. Now I need to find some other ongoing series to review. Also, one more day for the Top Shelf sale! Me, I’m getting another copy of The Years Have Pants by Eddie Campbell just so I can have two of them in case I want to loan one of them out. Yeah, surprise, the guy who’s written comics reviews for 13+ years now is a bit of a comics geek!

Spina, Sam – Tarn #5: Bich Bird

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Tarn #5: Bich Bird

Warning! Don’t flip this comic over unless you want to have the ending spoiled for you. Such as it is, and it’s not like knowing this one detail would ruin your enjoyment of the rest of the series, but I thought I’d better throw that out there. Anyway, the secret of Tarn is revealed here, at least a little bit. Either that or it was never really a mystery, it was just a reading comprehension problem on my end. Things start off with the aftermath of the crash of Titanic 2, and all of our heroes have managed to survive the flight. Just barely in some cases, but they all made it. The Bich Bird comes down to make fun of the guy who planned Titanic 2, Sans finally gets somebody to understand him, Pigboss finds love, and Mr. Futts (after coming back from the dead) runs off in search of as many butts as he can find. Frankly, I see a spin-off comic for Mr. Futts, as we don’t see him again until the end of the comic, and his entire rampage is left to the imagination of the reader. Sam did a nice job of bringing this odd crew together and somehow managing to end all of their stories in a satisfying fashion. I’m still waiting for him to make a crappy comic, but so far the man has been a damned comics master, and you should be buying his new books as they come out to keep giving him reasons to make these funny books. Because sooner or later he’ll take his talents to a field where he is financially compensated in a manner appropriate to his talents, so let’s delay that day as long as possible! $1 (I think $5 for the set, that makes sense anyway)

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