Update for 8/16/22

New review for I Miss You So Much by Nhozagri, and this mini kus pile is starting to look a bit slim. Maybe I’ll take a break and dig through other piles for a bit. Anybody want to be an Optical Sloth intern and go through all this stuff for me? Pay: zero. Opportunities for advancement: ha! But hey, you’d get to read all the comics you’d like. There are worse jobs!

Nhozagri – I Miss You So Much

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I Miss You So Much

When that magical day ever comes that I gather all my old mini kus books together to see what I’m missing, maybe I’ll be able to get an accurate number for this prediction, but I’m thinking that roughly 1 out of every 10 of these books baffle me. Maybe it’s a language barrier, maybe my own brain is at fault (it’s almost certainly that one), but sometimes these just fly over my head. If you’re guessing that I’m also talking about this issue, congratulations! It has some of the cutest creations that I’ve ever seen (along with some understandably nervous raindrops), several pieces of art on the wall that come to life, and an awfully sweet ending. All that being said, I’m not sure that it’s possible for me to sum up the story. Don’t I usually try and end up making a fool out of myself? Yes, hypothetical voice, that is true. But this time around I did some digging through their website, which was also adorable, and figured out that they’re seemingly more of a physical artist (meaning sculptures and 3D pieces, not so much the comics that I could see), and that this is one of those rare instances where it might make more sense if I walked through a room with these pieces in front of me, all laid out. This is the part where I recommend a book (or not), so this time around I’d say take in the artwork from the samples, see what you think and make up your own mind. If you also think it’s darned near the cutest thing you’ve ever seen, give it a shot! Either way, check out their website, as it’s delightful. $7.95

Update for 8/12/22

New review for Mole #6 by Andrew Pilkington, so we’re wrapping up international week with Australia. Happy weekend everybody!

Pilkington, Andrew – Mole #6

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Mole #6

If you like any combination of funny, bizarre and spectacularly gross stories, have I got a comic for you! Andrew has clearly been at this awhile, as he has 7 issues of this series (as of August 2022) along with a few other comics available, and this one has a number of images that are probably going to stick with me for a bit. I barely know where to start, so why I don’t do the traditional vague indication of the content of the stories and see how it goes? There’s one about how the lines on your face are actually literal lines of tiny people, which is probably the most “normal” one of the bunch. Then there’s a profoundly impractical tip for how to unblock your nose, one for how to get rich, and another about someone getting ready to go out. The bulk of the book is made up of a few longer stories, and telling you about these without giving anything away is going to be tricky. First up is the story of a fast food manager who trips on his way out, with his keys flying out of his hand and ending up in the fryer. Obviously he’s not going to dig them out himself, so who does that leave? It goes to a terrible place after that, is all you’re getting out of me. Then there’s Moleboy, which may be a continuing story? It’s “to be continued” after this, anyway. This was another deceptively normal tale about a couple of kids exploring and tagging the sewer, which again took a real turn at the end. Finally there’s the bulk of the book, which gives you no illusions about it being a comforting and quiet tale, about a guy whose face gets up off of his head while he’s sleeping, grows arms and legs and then goes exploring. This might end up being fine if the dude stayed asleep, but… he did not. There’s a lengthy sequence involving a faceless dude trying to make his own way to a doctor, full of hijinx that will amuse and terrify you. And possibly make you sick, I don’t know whether or not you have a strong stomach. So clearly this one is not for the easily grossed out, but for the rest of us there’s some really inventive stuff in here. It’s also not going to fool anybody who is easily grossed out, as that cover says it all, really. Give it a look, I say. $10

Update for 8/10/22

It’s time for another mini kus book! This time the review is for Dawn of the Living Dead Near Kotka Morgue by Marko Turunen, and since he got funding for this one in Finland, international week continues!

Turunen, Marko – Dawn of the Living Dead Near Kotka Morgue

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Dawn of the Living Dead Near Kotka Morgue

It seems like it was only a few months ago that I was wondering where all the coronavirus stories were, but look out! They’re coming fast now. Of course, this is a mini kus book, so you’re not likely to get a straightforward tale about isolation, thoughts of mortality or when to get the vaccine. No, this is the tale of a young man and his dog as they wander through a world of maskless or poorly masked people and are then left to panic about whether or not they were exposed. It’s also a stretch to call them “people,” as the first exposure our hero gets is by an octopus with a mask under their chin, which he meets after walking through a bleak landscape of giant coral, traffic and a moose that’s bigger than the cars. I get the feeling I shouldn’t spoil any more, but it’s fighting hard with my desire to mention the giant cat with the erection who’s reciting the current covid figures and the Donkey Kong on top of the building with a giant skull on it. Dammit, looks like the second impulse won out. It probably would have helped if the actual pandemic was as surreal as this, but since we all got stuck in the real world the best way to remember those times is to get this book. If you’re lucky, these images will replace the images of the actual pandemic, which will help make it a more whimsical, unnerving time in your head. $7

Update for 8/8/22

New review today for Curse of Brick by David Craig, as (unintentional) international week begins with Canada!

Craig, David – Curse of Brick

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Curse of Brick

I’m sure David’s already thought of this, but if he doesn’t eventually put all these brick stories into a giant omnibus edition that’s shaped like a brick, he’s a fool. A fool I say! While we’re all waiting for that happy eventuality, he’s out with another hefty collection of stories about our hero, who just happens to be a sentient brick. Or is it about different bricks who all look the same? Anyway, this one is chock full of stories, and the subjects include being in the Olympics (a couple of those, actually, which makes me think he made those during the actual Olympics), trying to figure out the weakness of a hockey goalie who’s a cinderblock, a barber trying to figure out how to give Brick a shave and a haircut, feeding the wildlife, taking a union job, the price for eating too much candy on Halloween, the magical world Brick discovers under him after he hibernates for the winter (with art by Montevarious), Brick in space (with art by James Spencer, and after seeing him wearing a spacesuit I’m suddenly confused by whether or not he needs to breathe, which means I’m thinking too much), and a too brief glimpse into some of his friends, each one of whom seems like would be capable of having their own stories told. Finally there’s the sprawling title story, which starts off as an Indiana Jones parody, wanders in to a flashback dealing with how the pyramids were actually made, and ending with a cliffhanger that throws all of human history into question. Unless, once again, I’m thinking too hard, in which case it’s just funny. It’s another solid collection of stories, and once again I’m impressed and amazed at how much story David seems to get out of a literal brick. He also has plenty of samples on his website if you’re skeptical, but give it a shot why don’t you?

Update for 7/27/22

New review today for Lemonade Tango #3 by Henry Uhrik. There’s an election less than a week away in Ohio (it’s a little one, tell all your friends to vote and you could maybe actually get a dark horse candidate of your choosing to win), so this may be it for reviews until that’s over. Probably, actually. But we’ll see!

Uhrik, Henry – Lemonade Tango #3

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Lemonade Tango #3

It’s time for the exciting conclusion to the “Bonjour Paris” saga! Is it a saga if it’s a three part story? Eh, either way. He also starts a new story called “Out of Tune” that I’ll get into in a bit, but I’m going out of order with this one. That’s right, there are no rules here! If you haven’t read the other parts of “Bonjour Paris” you’re going to be a little confused, but that’s the case for all the reviews I do of ongoing stories. Rick has decided that he’s going to climb that tower to be with Martha when and if the aliens do come, so they end up waiting for the end as a couple. Without getting into specifics, it’s a lovely, quiet moment full of doubt and yearning, and a solid (if ambiguous, which I imagine was the point) ending to their story. “Out of Tune” is a bit more of a puzzler to me, at least as an ongoing story. It works great as a single piece, but I am curious where it goes from here. It’s the story of three musicians who get hired to play at a creepy old mansion. As they’re playing the owner of the house coaxes his wife out of hiding, and it’s an open question whether she’s enjoying the music or just likes crying. Later, while they’re bowling, a new theory emerges for the couple, and I guess that’s the direction things will be taking in future installments. Henry’s afterward was damned near brilliant, like they all have been so far, and it’s an extended meditation on bowling and yes, it does also end up as a metaphor for life. So I’m cautiously optimistic about the new storyline and completely happy about the ending to the old one. Sounds like a recommendation to me! $7.99

Update for 7/25/22

New review today for Meeting Comics #22: The Musical by Andrew Neal. Sure, I may have stopped doing weekly reviews of his book, but I still have a few left to talk about. Also I just saw his new stickers on his website, and two of them made me laugh out loud, so go there are see if you can guess which ones!

Neal, Andrew – Meeting Comics #22: The Musical

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Meeting Comics #22: The Musical

In case anybody is going into this being all pedantic about the fact that there are no audible sounds in comics, yes, Andrew does address this in his afterward. For the rest of us who just like a good time, boy are you ever in luck! I’m known around these parts (i.e. my website) as a crank who rarely enjoys poems or song parodies in comics, although I seem to be softening on the subject in my advancing years. Case in point: this comic, which is delightful. It’s also not 100% a musical, as since there has to be some story-related reason why this entire crew would start singing, things start off with a phone alert announcing a “musical storm warning.” After a brief conversation about which one is more imminent, a watch or a warning (it’s a warning, and Val’s mnemonic device to remember it should become the industry standard), our heroes find out that they’re too late to escape the onslaught, and they all eventually burst into song. Regular readers of the comic may also remember how messy the relationships in the series have become, and what better time to make an attempt to sort all that out than through song? That’s the part that makes my comparing this to the musical episode of Buffy unavoidable, as they both sort through some issues that couldn’t be addressed in casual conversation. Other highlights include Val running away and ending up in a “solo” song with a mirror version of herself, and the remaining guys breaking into their own song, which may or may not end up with everybody working back at the office. So if anybody out there is silently (or loudly) fuming about how the overall story has gotten away from office culture, you may be in luck! Anyway, yes, the streak of quality issues of this series continues. Andrew also mentioned in his afterward that all of the verses would work as songs, if anybody wanted to throw him enough money to hire some musicians to play them. So if there are any eccentric millionaires out there, go for it. I’d also appreciate it if you gave me enough money so that I could live out the rest of my life doing this instead of working an office job, if you’re going to be throwing cash around… $5

Update for 7/21/22

It’s another one from the mini kus pile, and this time it’s Li’l Jormly by Christopher Sperandio!

Sperandio, Christopher – Li’l Jormly

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Li’l Jormly

Look, I’ll make this review very simple. If you’re a fan of the mini kus books, of course you should get this one too. And the less you know about it, the better. OK? If that’s good enough for you, please click right on that link and buy it. For everybody who wants some (ok, any) details, let’s get into it! Right off the bat, even though you can only see half that cover, it’s obvious that there are some horrors that don’t quite match the whimsical nature of the artwork. Jormly has chicken feet, and what appears to be an octopus hand. And is he a cyclops too? Yep, sure enough. Things start off with one of those fake “back of the comic” ads that I thought were played out at this point, but it made me laugh, so I’m not going to spoil what it’s about. The comic itself starts with one of the denser recaps I’ve seen in a tiny text caption, as we learn that there were three apocalypses that led to this current moment, with some brief detail of each. We also learn that Jormly was “orphaned into the broken world”, and he’s had a miserable life. Don’t let that jolly look fool you! He soon asks a friend where he originally came from, and decides on a quest to return to that location. And then… the comic turns into a children’s activity book, complete with the word jumbles, mazes, etc. that you would normally find in such things, but of course more horrific because of the circumstances. We get some brief updates from our hero along the way, who’s looking a bit worse for wear each time. Basically if you’d rather work on an activity book, this one has you covered, and if you’d like to wallow in a bleakly hopeless future by living vicariously through a pantsless pig, you’ll be doing plenty of that too. Give it a look, is what I say. $7

Update for 7/19/22

Probably not the greatest idea to mention my covid positive status and then take a week off reviewing, huh? I’m fine, outside of maybe some long covid I haven’t found out about yet. But enough about me! New review today for Applewood Canyon #5 by Brian Canini.

Canini, Brian – Applewood Canyon #5

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Applewood Canyon #5

It’s the grand finale for the series, as our “heroes” still have to figure out some way to get the dead body out of town. There’s the north entrance, which is guarded 24 hours a day, so that’s out. And the south entrance is a literal minefield. What can they do? Obviously I’m not going to tell you, as it would be a gargantuan dick move to wait until now to spoil the ending. It’s always tricky when I can’t get into such things, so I’ll just say that I thought the ending was… fine, I guess? It solved their central problem, but it also felt like the ending just kind of happened and that was that. Which, granted, is how endings work, and you can throw this whole review away if there are further issues planned. Honestly, it’s probably one of those things where I was anticipating a zig and Brian instead zagged. Who can’t relate to that! I also thought we were going to get into further detail about the nature of the town (what kind of town has guards at one end and a minefield at the other?), but that never happened. Which I get in one sense, as that probably would have required a whole other series. And since Brian is a comics making machine, there’s every chance that he has such a series in mind or is already working on said series. Overall this was still a really fun and/or disturbing series and I think that fans of his work should definitely check it out. $1.99

Update for 7/8/22

New review today for Poem by M.D. Usher and T. Motley, and you may remember that second name because I’ve been reviewing his stuff since the earliest days of Optical Sloth. Happy weekend y’all!

Usher, M.D. & Motley, T. – Poem

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Poem

So there I was, reading the introduction for this book, where M.D. (I’m assuming he wrote the intro; it’s unsigned) talks about how this book is sui generis, how there’s never been anything quite like it produced. And, unlike my usual habits, I even read the back of the book first, which also made similarly bold claims. Well, I’m a crusty old reviewer who’s seen it all! I dare this book to impress me, much less make good on such a lofty claim! Well… yeah, they were right. Completely, utterly right. Any long time reader of this website will know that I often turn my nose up at “illustrated poems,” and poetry in general just isn’t my thing. So when this book was described as a “pastiche introduction to the conventions of poetry,” that it would yield “new rhythms and rhymes and give the poetry of the verbatim original a new dimension,” well, you could probably see my skepticism from space. But Tom (sorry if I outed him and he’s officially going by “T.” now) illustrated it, and he’s always solid, so what the heck, I’d give it a shot. And honestly, it completely blew me away. Maybe one other way to describe this is as a medley of lines from various poems, all expertly mashed together and made into something entirely new with T. Motley’s images. It’s rare for me to go back through a book right after I read it, but I did that here, flipping through pages with a general “how did they DO that” bemusement for the juxtaposition of the words and images. Understand also that some words became images, or maybe it’s the reverse, and that level of ingenuity delighted me. There was also an extensive listing of the various poets included in the back, with biographies that were actually fun and witty, often including some of their lesser known poems with that information. I’m always happy to be proven wrong, and I was wrong to be skeptical here. This book is a delight, and if you have any interest at all in poetry it’s essential reading. If you’re like me and don’t have much of an interest in poetry, give it a shot anyway! You may come away from it with a new appreciation for poetry, or at the very least what can happen when two people who clearly love the genre put their heads together and come up with something completely new. $20

Update for 7/6/22

New review today for Shooting by Pedro Burgos, as I try but fail to go a week without reviewing one of the mini kus books. Oh, also I have covid, so please don’t breathe in too close to your screen. It took two and a half years, but it finally got me (I’m doing fine, please don’t fret).

Burgos, Pedro – Shooting

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Shooting

Ah, the world of modeling. It’s horrific, and it seems like there’s a better than even chance that the photographer is going to be somewhere between a general jerk or a misogynist. This is a short but brutal tale about a guy who’s trying to get good shots of his model, but his true thoughts come through after she collapses while striking a pose. He’s overheard by a young lady who’s also watching the shoot and is instantly dismayed to find the camera turned back on him. The rest of the comic is the open question of whether there’s any consequences for a person like that, and if so who should give it to him. Or I’m reading it wrong, which is always a possibility, especially with the mini kus books. Pedro uses a full page for every image, allowing plenty of room to breathe for what is a fairly claustrophobic profession. No matter how much wide and open a space the models are given to pose, the lights see everything and even the food they eat while not on a shoot affects their ability to get work. It’s in intriguing and more than slightly disturbing tale, which is probably as it should be when covering a world like this. It’s worth a look, especially if you have any experience in that field, on either side of the camera. $7.95