Update for 10/18/18

New review today for Trolls by Michael Aushenker. And if you live in Ohio, you know that you can vote already, right? Early voting is every weekday from now through the election, so go do that.

Aushenker, Michael – Trolls

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Trolls

So as I was reading this I knew that I had seen this art somewhere before. Michael has been working for years on a variety of projects, but all I could think about was Duplex Planet. And, sure enough, in his bio he mentioned making a story for them years ago. Maybe I just have too many comics taking up space in my brain? Because if this is a skill it surely isn’t lucrative. Oh hi, I’m supposed to be talking about the comic! This is mostly a story about Edward and Wayward, two dopes who are air traffic controllers. Their boss doesn’t like them, one of them is on the run from his pot dealer and his landlord has decided that he’s going to kick him out. Throughout it all neither of them takes anything all that seriously (except for the bit where the pot dealer seems like he’s going to murder Edward), and the whole thing reminded me quite a bit of the old stoner comics of the 70’s. Which was great! Those types of books just aren’t around much anymore, and I’ve always wondered why that’s the case. The two of them end up being forced to work the entire weekend shift as air traffic controllers, and they only have one idea as to how they’re going to stay awake all weekend: throwing a big old party. The rest of their story is nonstop debauchery with more than a little bit of surreality thrown in as the sleep deprivation catches up to them. But wait, there’s more! There’s also two short stories in here, one dealing with two other characters working at a McDonald’s in the middle of nowhere (that one also turns into a party with the hobos taking over) and two other characters getting invited to a model party and assuming they got the meaning wrong when they show up to see an array of model airplanes and that sort of thing scattered about. So, naturally, they sniff glue to get away from it all… but there’s a twist! Honestly, I loved this book, and am looking forward to reading the other books he was nice enough to send along. Check it out, or just go to his website and pick out some comics. He has a whole lot to choose from! $4

Update for 10/16/18

New review today for Worms, Clouds, Everything by Lote Vilma Vitina. That wraps it up for the mini kus crop this time around, but don’t fret! They’re 70 issues in and have kept up a regular schedule for years, new issues will be here before you know it.

Vilma Vitina, Lote -Worms, Clouds, Everything

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Worms, Clouds, Everything

This one starts off in a thoroughly charming fashion, with us looking at an empty stool. Our narrator then enters from off the page, addressing the reader throughout. If you’re wondering about the topic, it is given away on the cover, just not in the title: it’s mushrooms. Our narrator is obsessed with them, and the highlights of his life are when he’s wandering through the fields and finds a bunch of them in one place. He may have his problems the rest of the time, but this is when all is right with the world. Maybe this is the secret of happiness for everybody? As long as you have your version of mushrooms in your life, the one thing that brings you absolute joy, everything else can fall into place. Our narrator is a hermit, doesn’t seem to get much if any contact with the outside world, but it seems like he wouldn’t have it any other way. Give this book a shot if you’ve ever felt any existential sadness, as it appears to have the solution for such a problem inside. $6

Update for 10/11/18

New review today for King Cat #78 by John Porcellino!

Porcellino, John – King Cat #78

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King Cat #78

So I just glanced through older King Cat reviews and realized that I somehow never got a copy of #74. Just so you know, it’s taking all my willpower to write this review instead of tearing through all my old comics to see if I have a copy somewhere that fell through the cracks. That being said, it’s time for a new issue of King Cat! For lots of you, that’ll be all you need to read; I understand completely. For the rest of you, I’m running out of ways to convince you that King Cat is required reading. I’ve mentioned that there almost certainly wouldn’t be a website without John and the inspiration of his Spit and a Half distro, I’ve talked about the influence he’s had on a whole generation of comics artists, I’ve mentioned the feeling of calm that comes over me whenever I read one of his comics… I know! I can talk about this particular comic. If the rest of the arguments didn’t grab you it’s a long shot, but it’s all that’s left for me to do. This time around stories deal with his two dogs and two cats (and their interactions with each other and him), nature facts that he’s learned recently, how the smell of mothballs make his nostalgic and the terrifying warning label he found on an old box of them, and a walk in the woods. There’s also his top 40 list (which has quite possibly never been exactly 40 things) and the best letters page in comics. As always, this is my simplistic synopsis of what’s contained in this comic and, as always, you’d get a whole lot more out of it if you read it for yourself. This issue right here, #78? Give it a shot. $5

Update for 10/9/18

New review today for a returning old favorite (Pat Aulisio): Ghosted.

Aulisio, Pat – Ghosted

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Ghosted

Pat sent along a note with his most recent batch of review comics that really blew my mind: he’s been sending me comics since he was 14, and he’s 32 now. So, basically, he’s been sending me comics for almost as long as the website has been around (I started in the middle of 2001). Of little interest to anybody besides myself and Pat? Yeah, probably, but maybe a few people wonder what goes on around the scenes. Eh, or not. Hey, let’s talk about the comic! This is a tale of two stories, as the text bubbles deal with an (I’m guessing) actual conversation on Tinder or one of the dating apps. There’s the awkward getting to know each other, the explanations that always come whenever you mention “comics” anywhere on your profile, the stall in communications that leads to the request for an actual date before it all falls apart, the agreement to said date, and the inevitable ghosting. I’d say spoilers here, but it’s right in the title. The drawn bits of the comic are the usual Pat Aulisio visual insanity, if it’s ever even appropriate to refer to such a thing as “the usual.” Our hero drives his… car (?) through the void and gets out. From there it’s a visual journey that I won’t even attempt to describe; as always you’re missing out if you don’t read it for yourself and let the whole thing wash over you. Pat sent along quite a few comics (the guy just never seems to slow down), so his name should be popping up here quite a bit in the near future. Thanks for all the comics over the years Pat, here’s hoping I’ve directed at least a few sales your way in that time. For the rest of you, check out his books! $3

Update for 10/4/18

New review today for Maud by Marlene Krause, another one of those dastardly mini kus comics. I don’t think I’m using that word correctly…

Krause, Marlene – Maud

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Maud

Oh these mini kus books, they do keep you guessing. Just when you get used to the idea of them mostly being abstract journeys where everything is open to interpretation, along comes a comic that’s almost a straight up biography. The story starts in 1908 with a young woman getting an official portrait done. As she removes her coat, the portrait artist can’t help but be a little shocked by the tattoos that this reveals. From here we bounce back a couple of years to see how this all came about, and from there we see snippets of her life as she becomes one of the most accomplished tattoo artists in the world (although she’s overshadowed by her husband, mostly due to the era she was living in) and raises a daughter who she has forbidden from getting any tattoos. Marlene spends some real time showing how they fell in love with each other, and it’s beautifully done in two two-page spreads, presented as conversations between people who are growing increasingly comfortable with each other. It’s a fascinating story, and another triumph for a mini kus company that can seemingly do no wrong when it comes to comics. $6

Update for 10/2/18

New review today for Last Chance For Love by Dave Kiersh, an old favorite.

Kiersh, Dave – Last Chance For Love

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Last Chance For Love

One of the problems I didn’t anticipate when I started this website (17 years ago) was that I would lose track of so many artists. I have no excuse, everybody is a Google search away these days, but between the volume of review comics that come in and life in general, some artists that I like a whole lot slip through the cracks. Oh look, what’s this, it’s a package from Dave Kiersh! If you’ve been reading this site for years, you already know that I’ve reviewed plenty of his comics over the years, going back to my earliest days here. Go ahead, click on his name in the tags (or just use the search bar) if you don’t believe me! You’ll also notice that he uses “Last Chance For Love” a lot as a title, often with no numbering, so good luck with keeping all those straight, future comics historians! This is a collection of some of his selected drawings from 2015-2017. Beautiful women, heartbreak and lust have always been big themes in his work, and the same holds true here, along with a few self-portraits. There’s no story for me to review here, but the images have the same haunting but sexy quality to them as always, and this will be a welcome sight to people (like me) who may have lost track of his work over the years. He also sent along his latest book, so that’ll be up here soon enough. In the meantime, the man knows his stuff, so give this book a shot. If you’re new to his work maybe start with one of his more conventional comics (go through the archive here if you’d like a recommendation), otherwise this one is $6.

Update for 9/20/18

New review today for Artema: The Exile #1 by Rachel Cholst and Angela Boyle. Hey, if you happen to have comics for sale in my store, please get in touch with me. I’ll be contacting everybody, but since the store barely works anyway, I’ve been thinking about shutting it down and getting your comics back to you. Meanwhile, if you want something from the store, I’d hurry. If all goes as planned I’ll shut that down by the end of the year…

Cholst, Rachel & Boyle, Angela – Artema: The Exile #1

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Artema: The Exile #1

Ah, the first issue. Difficult to review, because I know so little about the world in the comic so far. Well, I guess there are some #1’s that are easy to review: terrible comics. And this isn’t a terrible comic, so that’s out. This is the very beginning of the story of Artema. The story actually starts at the end (or at least further along), as the first thing we see is a noticeably older Artema reaching the end of what has obviously been a long, difficult journey, but without a clear idea of what to do now that she’s made it. From there we see a bit about the unique view of time as believed by Artema and her people, and then we’re taken back to see how Artema got her name. We next see her in training, and it’s obvious that she’s chafing under all the rules. This is a part where I could have done with a few more specifics, but since this is only the first issue it’s entirely possible we’ll learn more later. The rest of the issue, without giving too much away, deals with Artema struggling to fit into this world, her reaction to that defeat and the consequences of that action. It’s an intriguing start, that’s for sure. Rachel has a great grasp of pacing and leaving breadcrumbs to be uncovered later (who is that painted warrior?), and Angela does some solid work letting the faces tell the story in some otherwise silent panels. It’s definitely worth a look, and a solid first issue for two people who are apparently new to comics. One piece of advice: get that second issue out quick! Don’t join the vast pile of comics that only ended up with one issue. You’ve got me hooked early, so keep up the pace! $5

Update for 9/18/18

New review today for Behind Thick Glass, I Saw the Stars by perennial favorite Rob Jackson. And I was so caught up in everything else that I didn’t even notice the website’s anniversary this year, so…. happy 17th anniversary to Optical Sloth a couple of months back! Thanks to anybody who’s been here from the beginning (assuming you exist), to new visitors, and to everybody who checks in to dig through the archive whenever they’re bored at work. I have no plans to quit any time soon, which is probably good news if you like the site! If you don’t, why are you reading this? Life’s too short. Thanks again everybody!

Jackson, Rob – Beyond Thick Glass, I Saw the Stars

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Beyond Thick Glass, I Saw the Stars

It never ceases to amaze me how far Rob can get from the humble beginnings of a story. This one, for example, starts off simply enough, with a gang of guys waiting for the right moment to strip a car of its tires. Right away the title doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, right? Yeah, you have to wait for the payoff on that one. Anyway, we learn that these guys had been saving money, and they finally have enough to go to “Big Town.” From here we learn that this gang is actually made up of tiny people, and there’s some serious friction with the larger folk. But we also soon learn that there are even larger people involved, and eventually we start to piece together exactly what kind of a society we’re dealing with. They’re forced to retreat to yet another society, which is where we learn exactly how people ended up as different sizes, with different expectations as to what roles they’re meant to fill in society. Oh, and at this point the comic isn’t even halfway done yet. Rob has always excelled at filling his comics with imaginative details, which is even more impressive when you consider that (outside of a few exceptions) he works in single issues, meaning he’s starting over from scratch every time. Anybody who’s looking to excel in comics should take a look at his workload and history, there’s a lot here that should be emulated. About the only negative thing I have to say is the same thing I’ve said a bunch of times probably by now: I wish he had a better command of the your/you’re differences. Oddly, I enjoy his comics so much that I’ve made peace with it. And if you knew how much I enjoyed being a pedant about that sort of thing, you’d understand why that’s such a big deal. Prices are listed in Euros, so in American dollars for this 52 page book I’m guessing… maybe $10? Somewhere around there, anyway. It’s worth a look, so go look at conversion rates. If you give him too much money, just ask him to send along some of his other books to make up the difference…

Update for 9/14/18

New review today for Lawns by Alex Nall, happy weekend everybody!

Nall, Alex – Lawns

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Lawns

Just a quick note before I start talking about what might be Alex’s best book (and I’ve liked several of his other books quite a bit): it looks like his website hasn’t been updated since he linked to the review I did of his last book over a year ago. But you can still buy this book through the link on the title (going to the Kilgore Books website), so don’t panic. Well, I already gave the game away on my opinion on this one, but what can I say? It’s a goddamn amazing book. On the surface, this is the story of a mayoral election in a small town that gets a little tense, but there are so many little factors at play that that description feels like cheating. There’s Roger and his dog; Roger is a simple guy who doesn’t mow his lawn and doesn’t keep his dog on a leash. Anybody who’s ever lived in a small town already knows what kind of trouble petty things like that can bring. Roger’s dog has also bit a few neighborhood kids, although we eventually see that there’s more to the story. There’s Carl, Roger’s neighbor, who is fed up with the whole thing and eventually uses it as a platform to run for mayor (that and “Fuck Chuck,” referring to the current town mayor). Carl also got dumped by his wife recently and is living with a much younger woman. There’s Mildred, a reclusive older woman who writes regular letters to a dead beau; she’s also possibly Roger’s only friend. There’s Josh, a boy who’s gotten bitten by Roger’s dog, and the mischief he’s getting into. Finally there’s Chuck, the current mayor and somebody who’s just fine with the status quo. All of those people are explored thoroughly throughout the book, several of them make some pretty big life changes, and the whole thing comes together beautifully by the end, even the little bits that I was ready to write off as going nowhere. Josh trying to get even with Roger and his dog, Carl’s escalating rage that’s all made clear by something he says in this sleep, Roger just trying to live his life, they’re all given time and space to develop. This feels like one of those books that ends up winning awards, but even if that’s somehow not the case, this is an amazing book and I’m so happy that Alex is a teacher. It helps to know that he’s passing these skills on to the next generation. $10

Update for 9/12/18

New review today for Weekend by Erlend Peder Kvam and, if that name wasn’t enough of a hint, it’s another one of the fabulous mini kus comics!

Kvam, Erlend Peder – Weekend

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Weekend

How can something with this many vibrant colors be this nightmarish? Eh, maybe it’s just me. This is all about the weekend, after all, which is the happiest time of the week. What horrors could possibly be mined out of such a thing? This is the story of a man who loves his job a whole bunch, but we meet him right as work is getting out and his weekend is beginning. Upon arriving at his home he sends out a smoke signal to his children, asking what they’d like to have for dinner. Suddenly filled with purpose, a messenger bird delivers their answer, and the children return home from their wanderings. The kids have dinner, the father heads out to the gym, and upon his return to the home he’s shown art projects from each of his children. He steels himself to keep an open mind, and this is about where I have to check out to avoid spoilers. Yes, I’m avoiding giving away the reactions of a fictional father to the art projects of his fictional children, and in this context I feel pretty good about not giving away anything further. How the mini kus folks have managed to maintain this level of quality and originality for 70 issues (as of this writing, anyway) is beyond me, but we’re all lucky that they do. $6