Update for 8/20/14

OK, some sort of weird stomach bug has been knocking me around for the last few days, so here’s a couple of reviews to try and make up for lost time: DemonDust #16 by Bernie McGovern and Blueberry Boy of Asbury Park by Bryan G. Brown & Dre Grigoropol.

Brown, Bryan G. & Grigoropol, Dre – Blueberry Boy of Asbury Park

Website for Bryan

Website for Dre

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Blueberry Boy of Asbury Park

And here I thought that I had heard all of the comics convention stories that were weird/entertaining enough to be worth mentioning. Wrong! So completely, terribly wrong. Before I get into this, just take a moment to look at the title to this comic. Combine that with the fact that this happened at a convention, and take a wild guess in your head regarding what that title is referring to. Got it? Well, you’re wrong. Or you’re the person who requested this sketch, as I can’t imagine there being two of you out there. Anyway, this is the story of Bryan and Dre (not sure who wrote or drew which bits) attending a convention in a bowling alley. After a rough start things were going pretty well, and at the end of the day a gentleman walked up to the two artists (who, it must be mentioned that they were advertising that they were willing to draw things for attendees) and asked them for an image of the girl from the Willy Wonka movie who blew up like a blueberry. Except he wanted a version of her as an adult. And dressed in a bikini. And… well, it just gets weirder from there. The reactions from the two artists were both priceless, as they each tackled this problem in their own way. Kudos to the both of them, I think, or shame on them for giving this guy the one last thing he needed to start his killing spree. Hard to say for sure. Either way, this is well worth checking out, just in case you were wondering what exactly was the limit for what you’re able to request from the artists at cons. It turns out (if the artist is game) that there really isn’t one! $5

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McGovern, Bernie – DemonDust #16

Website

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DemonDust #16

It’s time for a peek behind the curtain here at Optical Sloth headquarters! Bernie sometimes sends his tiny comics to me in regular old, smallish envelopes. Sometimes, or at least one time, said envelope slides down a crack into a strange nether realm, only to reappear after I have moved into a new apartment at least a year later. Just in case anybody out there keeps up with all of this in real time and wonders why #16 is getting reviewed after #17-19. Anyway, the impetus behind this particular volume was Bernie asking the internet the following question: “how do I deal with an existential crisis?” He scatters a few answers here and there, but I’m not going to give away the answer, as Bernie does uncover the basic secret of our existence, but you know how I hate spoilers. As always, the text epilogue in the back is invaluable, and you should really be reading these, even if you have to go back in time to March 2013 (when this came out) to do so. $1

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Update for 8/14/14

New review today for Ohio Is For Sale #2 by Jon Allen. Well, I pledged to put up 20 reviews this month. It’s the 14th and I have 8 up, so I think that means I have some catching up to do. And you thought I forgot all about it…

Allen, Jon – Ohio Is For Sale #2

Website

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Ohio Is For Sale #2

Now I’m starting to possibly see why Jon didn’t bother with numbering either of these issues: it doesn’t matter which order you read them in. OK, sure, you’re introduced to the characters in the first issue, but it’s not like you learn the stories of their lives or anything. And this issue would have been just as entertaining (and make no mistake, it was damned near perfectly entertaining) if I had no idea of the identity of any of these characters. But hey, I’ll list the issue numbers anyway, just because. The face on that cover, in case you were wondering, is the face of the devil. This issue starts off with two of the friends using a baseball bat to hit rocks into the windows of an abandoned building. They’re having a great time with it when one of them misses the rock and instead clobbers Leonard (who I believe is the only character named), killing him instantly. It could have gotten grim from there, but I laughed more than a few times reading through the rest of the book. Leonard goes to hell and gets a tour of the place before finally meeting the devil, who is overjoyed to finally meet somebody who he thinks is cool (he also loves smashing windows for no reason), but their differences start to become apparent pretty quickly. Meanwhile, Leonard’s killer calls his other friend and they hatch a plan to avoid getting in trouble for killing Leonard, while one of them is a lot more broken up about the whole thing than the other guy. Jon’s depiction of hell is brilliant (are the demons really blacked-out versions of the shopkeeper and his wife from the last issue?), and somehow he even managed to give the devil’s room a bit of a homey feel. It’s damned brilliant is what it is, and you should read it. If you only have enough money for one issue of this series, get this one. I thoroughly enjoyed the first issue too, but this one is the champion. $6

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Update for 8/13/14

Two new reviews today, and both for people you already know if you’ve read this website for any length of time: Slaves of the Megapode #1 by Rob Jackson and Lost Kisses #26 by Brian John Mitchell.

Jackson, Rob – Slaves of the Megapode #1

Website

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Slaves of the Megapode #1

Are you ready for a mystery involving the Romans set way back when they were a thing? Well, THE thing, really, as their empire lasted for centuries, but in theory you already know that. Anyway! A caravan of Romans arrives to investigate some killings and disappearances. The local authorities are baffled, but a slob of a trained slave (with impeccable training and credentials) comes along to try and help them solve the mystery. As a local official says of the suspects, “I tried crucifying them, I tried not crucifying them. I’m at my wit’s end.” An examination of the body turns up traces of poison, and the chef of the poisoned man kills himself while leaving a note confessing to the crime, but it all feels just a little too convenient. So the investigation continues, a strange substance is discovered, and all that’s left to do is to try it out on a suspect. Best not to say much more about the story for now, but Rob has turned into a master of endings, and this one is no exception. Those last two pages are something else, and they have me all kinds of intrigued to see just what this Megapode is supposed to be. He was also nice enough to send me the entire series, so I’ll be reviewing the next two issues over the next couple of weeks. That breaks with my usual policy of spacing out reviews from the same author, but I’m curious to see where this is going and you’re not the boss of me, so I’ll do what I want! Not that anybody ever actually complained about it or anything…

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Mitchell, Brian John – Lost Kisses #26

Website

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Lost Kisses #26

How great/awful would it be to have the ability to travel back into points of your own past? Most people seem to think that they could fix things, but chances are that you would just make things worse. This issue starts with a summary indicating that the hero of the comic is going back to “change the past & save the future”, and this issue starts with him returning to his 14 year old self, while he is tripping on LSD. As he knows his future, he’s able to see that this is a low point for him in a lot of ways (for example, a suicide attempt leads to his not drinking lemonade for a decade because that’s what he used to wash down some rat poison), but he also thinks about his son and her mother, which makes things a bit narratively confusing. After all, he’s his 14 year old self at this point, but he’s also thinking about how he never expected to see his son or the mother again, and how he was wrong about one of them. Anyway, he realizes her importance a bit more as the book goes on, and by the end he has a clearly defined mission for what he is going to do with this ability to travel through his own timeline. I guess future issues will determine whether or not he was correct. Oh, and just because I can’t praise this enough whenever it happens, kudos to Brian for putting a synopsis on the inside front cover. If all comics did that then the world would be a better place. Yes, the whole world! $1

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Update for 8/11/14

New review today for The Rats Were Bad That Year by Alan King & Jamie Vayda. Happy grim and rainy Monday!

King, Alan & Vayda, Jamie – The Rats Were Bad That Year

Website for Jamie Vayda

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The Rats Were Bad That Year

Are you terrified of rats? Would you like to be terrified of rats? Then I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Granted, the circumstances of this rat infestation are not likely to match your current living situation, but if they do, good luck ever sleeping again. Anyway, this is the story of a brief period of Alan’s life when he was a kid. His father was working on buying a house, but some problem with the finances was tying things up, so his only choice was to rent a house next to his grandmother. Reports are varied on who lived there before him, but their time living there was a lovely learning experience for Alan about rats. It’s hard to say if the reality of the rats (their tearing through cereal boxes and anything in the cabinets, leaving turds all over the place) was more terrifying than the idea of them (eating children that slept in cribs), but let’s just agree that they’re both pretty awful. Things eventually build to a killing spree, as you probably figured, and no details are spared of the carnage. I should point out that there are no word balloons, as the text is a story from Alan and the art is illustrations from Jamie, which only serves to create the tiniest bit of distance between the two needed to make the whole thing genuinely terrifying. Oh, and the capper (pun very much intended) is also guaranteed to make you think. And, quite possibly, feel a little bit bad for the rats. And all this for a measly $2!

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Update for 8/7/14

New review today for Memoirs of a Muse Volume II: The Ancient World by Gail Kern.

Kern, Gail – Memoirs of a Muse Volume II: The Ancient World

Website

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Memoirs of a Muse Volume II: The Ancient World

The journey of the muse continues in this issue, and we all get to learn a little bit more about ancient history as it goes. The muse is still looking for Enoch, so it takes up residence in a mask made by an artist and stays there for many years until it is forced into the body of a general from Babylon. Her artistic message was garbled at this point, but the muse came up with a way to get away from this existence, and that’s where we spend the bulk of the second half of the comic. If I had one complaint about this series so far it’s that I wish that Gail would put at least ballpark figures for the years involved in these books. I know a general sense of them, but that covers a wide range of years and would love to narrow it down a bit. I loved the idea of the carrier of the muse being able to pervert the purpose of the muse itself, and think that could be carried over to cover all sorts of people. Hitler is always the ballpark analogy for worst human ever, but it could be argued that the paintings Hitler created had to come from some sort of muse. A twisted, monstrous muse, but he had to have some sort of inspiration to paint at all. Unless I’m mixing Hitler up with some other historical dirtbag who painted, in which case never mind. The next issue is all about Egypt, and I’m very intrigued to see that journey. If you have any curiosity at all about the creative process, ancient history or both, you should really be checking this series out.

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Update for 8/6/14

New review today for Ohio Is For Sale #1 by Jon Allen, and once again I managed to get a review up between power outages. Huzzah!

Allen, Jon – Ohio Is For Sale #1

Website

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Ohio Is For Sale #1

Petty criticism alert: when you send me more than one issue of your comic, and when it’s the same title, maybe put an issue number somewhere in at least one of those comics? I get why you maybe don’t number the first issue, like if you’re not sure you’re going to keep going with the series, but there’s no reason not to put a “#2″ somewhere in/on the second one. And that right there is my only complaint with this as a comic, because as far as the story was concerned I absolutely loved it. This is all about a dog-like creature who is writing the Great American Novel. It keeps getting longer and longer but doesn’t seem to be heading towards any kind of conclusion, which leads to a bit of a freakout pretty early on. Then two friends come visit our hero (pretty sure nobody was given a name of any kind; they were easy enough to keep track of in the comic but this might get a little confusing in the review) and they head out to the local 7/11. And that’s where we meet the character depicted on the cover, as he’s working at the 7/11 and very clearly on all of the drugs/crazy or both. From here an unfortunate accident takes the vehicle of the friend of our hero out of the picture, which leads to our friend having to get a job, and what a job it is. This may be my personal favorite representation of the ultimate pointless data entry job, but I’ll leave it to you to discover exactly what I mean by that. All kinds of little touches in here that add up to a thoroughly entertaining first issue. There’s the crew noticing a creature wearing only socks at the 7/11 (odd because these are all anthropomorphic creatures not wearing clothes and I had no idea where he was going with it), the co-worker who I was pretty convinced was somehow a sock puppet for the first few panels, and the picture of his wife that got the rare “laugh out loud” (see, I have time to type out all three words) out of me. It’s an engaging and intriguing first issue and yes, the cover for the second issue is somehow as great as the cover for this one. $8

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Update for 8/5/14

New review today for Spider Monkey #1 by Jesse McManus & Austin English. Out of curiosity, does anybody go to the big comic cons, the Wizard Cons and whatnot? I was thinking about going to the one in Columbus this year (starting on Halloween) and wondered about general impressions that anybody has gotten of the show.

English, Austin & McManus, Jesse – Spider Monkey #1

Website for Jesse McManus

Website for Austin English

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Spider Monkey #1

Why hasn’t the world put Austin English (writer) and Jesse McManus (artist) together before now? Stuff like that always seems so easy in retrospect. I should also point out that this is the first issue of a series, that it came out in 2011 and that it is now the middle of 2014 without another issue in sight. And yes, there is a continuing story, so that’s annoying, but it’s easy enough to take this as a self-contained story. This one starts off with a young boy who is able to talk to animals. The method that he uses to talk to animals is a little hard to explain, so I’m not going to bother, but I’ll just say that it’s a unique solution to the problem. Granted, I didn’t understand why his sister heard him talking to his mouse friend and only heard a series of “meows”, but maybe that’s just how all people/animal conversation sound. His sister has a unique way of connecting with the house whenever she gets home, which should also be seen to be believed, and I realize I’m dangerously close to not fulfilling any sort of useful function as a reviewer here. How about if I point out that Jesse is the perfect artist to show both things: the infestation of black lines from the animal conversations and the way reality seems to bend around Spider’s sister after she completes her route. Anyway, these two live in a strange town of some kind where they can also go see a man who custom makes masks and tells stories in them and of them. It also appears that people can get their heads split open and fix up the wound with tape, which sounds like a cartoon, although in cartoons you can’t see their brains. Mix all this together, throw in a school, some history about a performer who worked in squiggly lines and a performance from the mask maker and you have yourself a comic. It’s all a bit more linear than I made it sound, and I do hope that this isn’t yet another series that never makes it past the first issue (as I do have questions that they seemed to be on their way to answering with future stories), but either way this is well worth your time to seek out. And for $5 for this much comic there’s really no reason not to!

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Update for 8/4/14

New review today for Blackguard #5: Science by various artists, mostly but not entirely out of Australia. And yeah, I’m still sticking by that pledge to get 20 reviews up this month. Not to win any prizes, but so that kicks me back into doing that every damned month.

Various Artists – Blackguard #5: Science

Website

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Blackguard #5: Science

Before I get started, a note for anybody reading this from an alternate universe: this volume was supposed to include a story from ____, but because this took Stratu (the editor) so long to put together, he completely forgot to include it. And no, I am not going to list the name of the creator whose story didn’t get published, as I don’t want to be the one to break it to him or her. Anyway, the point is that shit happens, and I’m sure this story will see the light of day one way or another. As is implied by the title, this issue is all about science, filled with stories by artists who (by their own admission) may or may not know much of anything about science. Still, that doesn’t stop a good chunk of the stories from being fascinating in various ways. As always, your favorites will vary, but the highlights to me were the haunting horror of that cover (I don’t often mention the covers, but that is just amazing), successfully introducing a drug that added growth to the penis by Michael Amaral, Chris Mikul’s tale of his early interest in science and his attempts at experiments, Shaun Craike’s piece on various science fiction series that may or may not ever mention actual science (and he should probably prepare for angry mail from Star Wars fans, even though he’s dead right on the issue), Neale Blanden’s story of early experiments on a baby who was unlucky enough to have a mother who worked in the lab, Ryan Vella’s bleakly realistic take on what would actually happen to four explorers who landed on a strange alien world teeming with life, Bize and his explanation for how gas tanks work, Giles Kilham and Brett Weekes and their conversation with a young lady who thinks that she doesn’t like science, and somebody called Julie (hard to get much more anonymous than that) with her story of cutting up sheep eyeballs for a science class as a kid and the absolutely horrific mistake that she made. No, I won’t ruin the surprise. There are also two text pieces and a solid 8 pages of comics reviews. I learned about a few comics that I should probably check out, which is always helpful, but I have to confess that I skipped the text pieces. There, I said it. They always drag me down when I’m in the middle of a comic book, and this time instead of slogging through it I just passed them right by. Seems vaguely wrong to review a comic while ignoring content like that, but I did it and you can’t stop me. Maybe you would love them! Hell, maybe I would love them if I just gave them a shot. Anyway, there’s quite a bit here to enjoy, and quite a bargain for $5. Check it out why don’t you! $5

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Update for 7/29/14

New review today for A Memoir of Art Volume 1: Prehistory by Gail Kern. Send your review comics along to the new address up there in the upper left corner of the screen, because I really did mean it about putting a bunch of reviews up next month.

Kern, Gail – A Memoir of Art Volume 1: Prehistory

Website

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A Memoir of Art Volume 1: Prehistory

All these years of writing reviews (13 years, give or take) and I’m still not entirely sure how to handle reviews on comics that are a few years old. In this case Gail sent along the first four issues of this series, but this first issue was released in 2010, so chances are excellent that she already corrected the suggestions that I would normally make. Still, maybe not, and maybe the advice I give will help somebody else out, so I’ll go ahead with it. This is the story of the first muse in history, which is also presented as the only muse at this point in the story. It inspires Enoch and gives him the ability to convince his people to confront the Auroch and motivates Moombi (the ancestral mother of Kenya, according to legend) to fatten herself up so that she can have as many children as possible. It’s a fascinating story of the start of human creativity and I’m curious how she handles the concept for the next three issues. My complaint is more on the technical side of things, but typos in a story from the biggest artistic motivator in the world really should not happen. They shouldn’t happen in any story (everybody knows at least a few people who know how to spell, and even if you don’t it’s not difficult to find the correct spelling for words), but they really shouldn’t happen when you need to convey a solid authoritative narrative voice. But hey, chances are that this was caught and fixed for the next issues. Either that or I just trapped Gail into something that she is now completely unable to correct, in which case I’ll try to go easy on it in the next few issues. Still, this is a solid story about the birth of creativity, and there were only a few typos, so lighten up already, me. Check it out, learn about how inspiration started!

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