New review today for Get Over It by Corinne Mucha. That’s two new reviews in a row, which shouldn’t be noteworthy, but I’m well aware that it’s been sporadic as all get out around here lately. Cautiously optimistic that I can make it three days in a row tomorrow!
It seems incredibly reductive to call this a break-up comic but, well, it is a graphic novel that goes through Corinne’s break-up with a serious boyfriend in detail. If you hate such things I guess you should avoid this, but that can only be the case if you’ve solved the mysteries of all relationships and have no use for such things any more. And if you’ve done that, please share your wisdom with the rest of us! Ahem. This one starts off with Corinne setting the stage, explaining how she moved across the country to be with her boyfriend and how there’s nothing neat about a break-up and that the very term should probably be changed. From there we see her pinpoint the exact moment when things started going bad, and it’s a doozy. She asked him where he saw the relationship going (this was after three years of dating) and he made it perfectly clear that he could never see them getting married, and that even though he definitely wanted kids he could not see them having kids together. Unsolicited relationship advice for the youngsters: this right here is the moment that you run. Three years is a long time to be dating, and if this is still the perspective of your significant other while you think this is the person that you’re going to be spending the rest of your life with, run for it! He/she can’t lay it out for you any clearer than her boyfriend did here. Still, that would be a very short comic, and she already explained that break-ups are never as neat as the term implies, so after breaking up a few months later she spent the next few years pining over him, pestering her friends with stories about it, and trying to break things down so that the whole relationship made some kind of sense. This is where the comic really shines, as she goes to great lengths to show that reason is often not to be found in a situation like this, no matter how hard she tried. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but she seems like a much more grounded person these days, and that’s one of the few benefits of getting your heart broken. I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of this, cringing at a few bits that struck too close to home while laughing at others for the very same reason. If you know someone who has recently been dumped and they’re going through something like this, buy them a copy (or go to a local library, you cheap bastard) and they will thank you for it. Reading this might not make the pain go away, but it will make a break-up easier to live through. $15
New review today for Towerkind #2 by Kat Verhoeven, which will probably be a fairly regular occurrence until I work my way through her series. More to come this week, unless things get crazy at work again, which does tend to happen around election season…
Two issues in and I’m already starting to think that I’m going to have to review these issues more quickly than just once a week. Or maybe just review more than one of them at a time? I’ll figure something out, but it’s clear already that things are going to happen slowly and that it would probably be a more rewarding experience if I read this series in bigger chunks. That being said, what’s going on this time around? Our hero from the last issue (the kid who was reading and wouldn’t bow to the “king”) slinks away from his confrontation in tears. He runs into a German priest (who is speaking German, so I have no idea if he tried to give advice or was just talking about the weather), then goes back up to his apartment. A tin can comes down to him as he sits on his balcony, and he starts chatting with a neighbor girl who isn’t allowed to use a cell phone. The rest of the issue is them going off on an adventure, once again raising the question of what powers the people in this complex actually have and how much of this is the illusions of kids with plenty of imagination and a lot of free time on their hands. I’m clearly enjoying this quite a bit, as it’s not like I’d be clamoring to review something more often that I was hating, but I still have no idea where it’s going. Maybe that’ll end up being a letdown, but it’s always hard to tell this early, and either way it looks like the ride is going to be a blast.
New reviews today for Number 1 by Box Brown and Wicked Chicken Queen by Sam Alden. Also I missed SPACE this weekend, due to the second worst stomach bug/food poisoning I’ve ever had. That’s what I get for not just going on Saturday, I guess. I’ll contact the people I usually talk to over the next few weeks, but I really hate not getting to see the great new stuff that I’ve never heard of. If you went to the show and have favorites, please let me know!
Most people probably have that moment as a kid when they learn that something that they believed to be real isn’t actually real. Mostly this is because our parents have lied to us (about Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny or “work hard your whole life and good things will happen to you”), but in the case of this comic this comes about when our hero meets a wrestler and learns about “kayfabe.” In wrestling terms, this is the acting out of the story, where the winners and losers have already been pre-determined, and pretending that this is all real life and they’re making it up as they go along. Once our hero learns of this it’s impossible for him not to apply it to the rest of the world around him. For example, when the anti-drug people came to his school and sprayed something that was supposed to smell like marijuana at them, he couldn’t help but notice that he had also smelled the same thing when he went to visit his father at work. From there the kayfabe theory spread into everything, and the only thing he had left to do was to start a magazine explaining his theories and the proper way to view the world at large. The rest of the comic deals with chasing his hero, expanding the business (by learning how to properly exploit the dopes who were willing to pay for it in the first place), and learning how wrestlers “blade” so that they can properly have a crimson mask for certain matches. It’s a damned fascinating mash-up of the hopefulness of starting a new business mixed with the bleakness of starting that business to tell everybody that the world is all bullshit, and the uncomfortable reality that a hero of his who inspired the entire thing can easily be forgotten by the world at large. There are also two one page strips at the end, showing a documentarian who goes about his daily life while not being entirely clear on how to interact with humans. The inside back cover showed that Box was working on the life story of Andre the Giant, which will be required reading for any human once it comes out. I don’t know if the full story of Andre has ever been properly told, but the idea of it coming from Box sounds just about perfect to me. As for this one, it’s well worth a look, but Box’s name alone should have been enough to clue you into that fact… $6
Wicked Chicken Queen
You know that part of the comic where things need to get wrapped up in some fashion, and you’re left wondering what exactly the creator was going for with that ending? Well, without giving anything away here, that’s where I am with the end of this comic. It seemed like the events of the end of this were going to get a bit of an explanation, then the comic literally just faded away. Boy howdy am I ever getting ahead of myself with this review, but that’s the last part that I read, so it’s the first part on my mind. This one starts off with a race of people relocating to a new island. They find a giant egg pretty early on, and it becomes a crucial event in the development of their society. The egg eventually hatches and the giant chicken is adopted by the king, eventually taking over as ruler of this land (as you may have guessed from that title). The chicken queen marries her best friend, they reign happily for many years, and her friend eventually dies of natural causes. From there the queen becomes different, mostly showing this by being more distant, but the violence does come eventually. While I may not have been totally happy about the ending, the individual pages were fantastic, as there’s plenty happening on every page. Each page is one panel, and they each show basically the entirety of the island and many things that are happening on it. I did like the bit towards the end describing the inability of the townspeople to communicate with the chicken and why that was the case, I was just a little underwhelmed with the ending. To me that still makes this a comic well worth reading, as I thoroughly enjoyed the ride and several little touches along the way. If you’re the type who has to have a completely satisfying ending to make it all worthwhile, maybe you should move along. Of course, there’s always the chance that other people will have a different opinion of the ending than I do. Shocking, I know! $5
I’m scrambling a bit to make up for lost time, so here are two new reviews, for Towerkind #1 by Kat Verhoeven and The Great Moments in Western Civilization Volume 5 Issue 1: Chicago by Caitlin Cass. Or at least I think that’s the title; I got a bit lost in all those words on the cover. More tomorrow probably, everybody go to SPACE in Columbus Ohio this weekend!
The Great Moments in Western Civilization Volume 5 Issue 1: Chicago
Ah, Chicago. This comic is all about how Chicago came to be a city, including all the gory details about their attempts to build a sewer system and their inability to get the meat packing plant to quit flushing the heads of pigs into said sewer. Oh, and this also talks about the fire (you know the one), while delightfully leaving off any speculation that it might have been started by a cow. I grew up about an hour south of Chicago and I didn’t know most of this, so huzzah for learning more about my heritage! Well, not really my heritage, as I didn’t grow up in Chicago, but it’s easier to just say that I’m from near Chicago when meeting people instead of telling them about my hometown of about 3,000 people. The bulk of this comic is done as a large fold-out page, with one side dealing with the origin of the town and the other dealing with the fire and the attempts to rebuild/the gifts received from well-meaning but sometimes unhelpful foreign dignitaries. It’s gorgeous and often funny, and probably should be taught in schools, if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s pretty unflinching with its depiction of the meat packing plant. Granted, they are horrible places, and they were significantly more horrible back in the day, but kids are probably not allowed to see such things in school, because why trouble their heads with unpleasant facts? Check it out, learn something about Chicago why don’t you!
Have I mentioned that I love it when people send me entire series that they’ve already completed? Because if that’s a position that you find yourself in (with a finished or mostly finished comics series), you should maybe keep that in mind. Mostly because I’m always happy to have a theme day, so for the next three months I’ll be doing weekly reviews of this series. Unless I get really caught up in it and end up reviewing it in bigger and quicker chunks, but my plan is weekly for now. Anyway! All that rambling and not a word about the actual comic. This is a series about a group of young teenagers living in an overcrowded clump of high rises. In this issue one kid declares himself the king and asks the other kids to bow to him. This goes pretty well until one kid defies him, which leads to what can only be described as an act of super strength (unless dumpsters are insanely light in their neighborhood). It’s an intriguing start, especially because the violence does not go at all in the way that you might suspect after that act. These are a bunch of kids, after all, and most kids aren’t used to the consequences of any kind of violence. Lots more to come about this series, and it’ll be interesting to see which way this one goes. So far it looks like only subscriptions are listed at her website and not single issues, but I’ll check into that to make sure…
Of course I’d get really busy with work/life just as I said that reviews should get back to normal around here. My fault; I was asking for trouble to say something like that. Anyway, new review today for Picnic Ruined by Roman Muradov. Next week should be… nah, better not jinx it. Either way SPACE is next weekend and I should be able to pick up all kinds of new comics to review there. If you live in or near Columbus you should go too!
There are times when I have to admit that I have no idea what I can contribute to the conversation about a comic. No, this isn’t me getting all self-effacing and “aw shucks” about this website, as I think that I do contribute meaningful rambles about comics every now and then, or at least point at books that deserve more attention. It’s just that when I run across somebody like Roman, with his ridiculous list of credentials and clients, it’s clear that the guy is operating on a different plane than me. That’s the basic reason why I barely ever bother to review the new Dan Clowes book, or anything by the Hernandez Brothers, those sorts of things. They know what they’re doing, anything I say would be nitpicking, so why bother? So instead of treating this comic like that, I’m just going to treat it like any old comic and see what happens. This is a comic of shadows holding images and images holding shadows, thoughts that trail off into jumbled messes or moments of insight, thoughts of self-doubt turning into rueful acceptance and/or tolerance of the way things are and maybe even getting to a perfect moment. Or it’s about a guy who wanders aimlessly through his evening, including literally running into a tree while not paying attention. Or both! Things start off at either a really boring porno shoot or a naked art project, which leads our hero to wonder about what things in the world have a foreskin and what things should have a foreskin. Right away Roman has introduced something that I’ve never thought about, which was quickly followed by wondering why I never thought about it, so kudos to him for that. From there our hero flees out of fear of being photographed at this event and into a bookstore, where things get messy in a hurry (with a delightful curse thrown in). The rest of the comic deals mostly with his thoughts, his conversation with somebody who isn’t into indulging him on his shit, and dealing with his self-doubt. In other words, not the sorts of things that are easily reviewed, or are even helpful things to review. On an aesthetic level this is gorgeous, as you can take the linear approach or just follow the lines of dialogue to see if you can spot every random thought that pops into his head but is written down too quickly to be understood. If you’re looking for people punching each other to solve their problems then this book won’t do you any good, but if you’d rather wonder about the universe while wondering if that wondering is itself pointless, maybe you should give this one a shot. $6
Hey look, a new review! For SF v PN from Ryan Cecil Smith, and his title makes a lot more sense if you know what the initials stand for. As for more reviews, I put the call out to a few people, so if they get their comics here quickly I should be able to keep up a relatively normal schedule until SPACE next weekend. You can mail me your comics too, and I’ll talk about them for a bit.
SF v PN
Just to clear it up right off the back, the title really means “scientist fighters vs. profiteering nasties.” Which is what you guessed, I’m sure. Anyway, this continues Ryan’s masterful run in this universe, and I am greatly looking forward to the day when all of these fantastic smaller stories are bundled together into a big old book. These little snippets are thoroughly entertaining, don’t get me wrong, but it’s so clear that he has a much bigger vision in mind that it’s hard not to come away wanting more. This issue is basically one big old space fight, between the parties mentioned above. The pirates seem to have the firepower, but the scientists have, well, science on their side, and a secret weapon that they may or may not decide to use. So yes, obviously they’re going to use it. What’s the good of having a secret weapon if you don’t use it? If you’re completely new to the series you can safely enjoy this issue, completely unconnected from the rest of the series. If you’ve been following along, then you get a few more tantalizing hints of some of the characters you’ve been seeing in past issues. Check it out and enjoy!
New review today for Agara Book One by S. Tyler Stafford. But it’s still not looking good for new review comics at the moment, so it might continue to be a little slow around here until after SPACE. If it’s still slow after that, then you can panic…
Agara Book One
Maybe it’s the fact that I’m reading Lone Wolf & Cub again (and if you love comics and haven’t read that series, shame on you), but I’m perfectly content at the moment to let a series take its time in opening up and revealing what’s going on. That being said, the first book of this Agara series came at the perfect time for me. Tyler spends something like the first 20 pages slowly showing this odd alien world and a young alien woman trying to master some kind of mental exercises. She has troubles, the other students get annoyed that they have to start over due to her failures, and a mental battle ensues. From there the story moves to a human man and his teenage daughter. He’s an archaeologist, she’s a mostly indifferent student, and we get to see them go about their days for a bit before he comes across an ancient find that he needs to investigate. Things are slow to get going but, like I said, in this case it’s a good thing, Sure, Tyler could have just said “and that thing over there is ____, while this alien society has been here for ____ years,” but it’s always better to show than to tell, and so far he’s doing a fantastic job of that. And don’t worry, there’s still lots of mayhem here, with some physical fights, some mental fights and some fights that fall somewhere in between. I have no idea how much he has planned for this world, but the mysteries on that first page alone could take a book to explain. The art is mostly gorgeous (although it does look a little rushed here and there) and this is a really solid first book. The one piece of advice I’d offer him is to maybe include a character listing at the start of the next volume, as that can get out of hand quickly in an expansive universe like this. It’s worth a look, is what I’m saying. $12 (also that crappy sample scan is the fault of my scanner, not the comic)
New review today for Welcome to Nursing HELLo by Joel Craig, and unless something comes in the mail tomorrow (or I finally get around to cleaning this damned apartment) I’m all out of review comics for the week. I’ll try to post a review over the weekend if possible. Just in case anybody was really curious about exactly what’s in my head right now…
Just for the record (assuming that anybody is taking a record of this, which is a bold assumption), that title went from being something that might be a typo to a pretty smart summation of Joel’s efforts to quit cursing so much at work. I always assumed that nurses were required to curse at work to help deal with the shit that they had to put up with, often literally, but apparently such words can still offend people who see horrific injuries all day. Anyway, this is another one of those cases where the story was fascinating and his struggle to maintain a connection to his artistic side while being consumed with work hit pretty damned close to home, but technical issues kept dragging me out of the narrative. Partially this is because I’m a firm believer in always getting the basics right in comics, as I’d much rather focus purely on the narrative, but, as always, this might bother me a lot more than other people who don’t read hundreds of comics a year. So, bad news first: some of the individual pages were lighter than others (making a few things tough to read). That’s probably a printing problem and not on Joel. But the word balloons were most likely his fault, and if you’re spilling out of those (or, worse, having the word balloons burst through the walls of the panel for no reason), then it tells me that you were making things up on the fly. Which doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but it is the sort of thing that should be corrected for the collected edition. There were also some misspellings that could have been fixed with an editor or a proofreader; not lots of them but enough to get my snooty attention. If this was a terrible comic, these little flaws could have dragged me right out of things, and it would have prompted a thoroughly nasty review. But I really enjoyed the story! It’s all about Joel deciding that he wants to be a nurse after studying the program for his husband, how much he learned in two years of nursing school (which he says should be a book all by itself, and I agree), his interactions with his co-workers and patients, and the basic overview of what happens in his life over those four years. He was aware enough to include definitions for all of the medical terms that he used, but it may have helped to repeat them a few times just to hammer them home. Oh, and he had Madonna to turn to as an imaginary friend a few times, and those conversations never failed to put a smile on my face. I brought up the flaws I saw with this mostly because I think he has all kinds of potential in comics and I’d love to see more of this story, which is mostly his life. But if I have one core message from this website (which I certainly do not), it’s to get the basics right. It makes everything else a lot easier. Even with those little problems this is still a thoroughly entertaining book, and you should still give it a shot. $15.99
New review for R.E.H. (Robert E. Howard) #5 by Brian John Mitchell and Adam White. One more month (ish) until SPACE!
Anybody out there know much about Robert E. Howard, the writer who was most famous for creating “Conan the Barbarian”? Besides that fact, I mean? Well, Brian has put out a series of minis featuring quotes from the man, so it’s easy enough to get to know him a little better. Or at least this one has a long quote from R.E.H., so I’m assuming that the issues I missed also have those quotes. Anyway, this time around the quote revolves around Robert talking about getting fan mail, and how he’d prefer to be a manual laborer who does back-breaking work all day to writing. Writing never came easy to him, and that combined with a complete unawareness of how writing worked to the people Robert interacted with had a tendency to make him a little crazy. I particularly enjoyed his comparing writing to boxing, but I won’t spoil why that was such an apt comparison. It’s a fascinating little peek into the mind of somebody who, I confess, I’ve never thought all that much about.