Update for 11/13/19

New review today for Meat Grinder by Rob Jackson, who would have his own wing in this place if it was a mansion and not a website. Hey, who do I have to make a wish with to make that happen?

Jackson, Rob – Meat Grinder

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Meat Grinder

More than once I’ve thought that I should gather up all my old Rob Jackson comics and read them again. The man has been doing this for quite a while now; I’m curious to see what’s changed. If you knew my (nonexistent) organizational system you’d know why that always up just being an idea, but today a second thought struck me: maybe I should go back and read just my reviews for his books. I have to have written at least a couple of dozen reviews of his work over the years, and I’d be astounded if I hadn’t repeated myself in that time, probably several times over. For example, one of the first things I thought while reading this was how impressive Rob’s ability was to create a fully formed world, then move onto something completely different in his next comic and do it all again. This one is filled with characters that bring up a lot of questions, but chances this is all we’ll ever see of them. I should probably get to the comic, right? Right. This is basically one long cooking contest, with the stakes being pretty damned high if our heroes end up as losers. There’s the glutinous ruler, the other contestants, the judges, our hero the clown and his two helpers. Then there’s the meat itself, which is a delightful source of suspicion all the way through the ending. As always with one of Rob’s comics, there was suspense, surprises and more than a few funny bits. Seriously, if you can get through that sample page without laughing, you might be dead inside. Check it out, give the man some money so he keeps making these things. Probably around $6, but I don’t know the exchange rate at the moment…

Update for 11/11/19

Long time readers may remember that I work for a Board of Elections, meaning that late October/early November are often dead times around the website. For the rest of you, my apologies for my sudden absence! I’m back now. New review today for Neverending Race by Liana Mihailova, another from the rapidly dwindling mini kus pile.

Mihailova, Liana – Neverending Race

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Neverending Race

Dog shows! There’s a whole lot that goes into them, the care and feeding of the dogs specifically. This comic compares and contrasts the dog to their handler, tying a link between each of their ambitions and goals. Is there also a subtle dig at the treatment of these animals and what they get out of the process versus the handler? Eh, maybe, if you look at the last page. Or I’m putting my own biases into it, which is a constant problem. Liana does a masterful job of blending the dog and the handler into one, sometimes leaving the reader unable to tell where one ends and the other begins. The dog putting its handler through the paces, for example, is an image that’ll stick with me. This comic is at times adorable, haunting and seemingly inevitable. An odd mix, but it all blends together more seamlessly than you might think. Give it a shot and you might earn yourself a treat! $6

Update for 10/17/19

New review today for Artema #2: The Beast by Rachel Cholst & Angela Boyle. Or possibly Artema: The Beast #2. But I think I was right the first time.

Cholst, Rachel & Boyle, Angela – Artema: The Beast #2

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Artema: The Beast #2

Here’s a questions for the pedants in the audience, since clearly this series is going places and I’m going to have to figure this out eventually: is it best to list this as “Artema #2: The Beast,” since each title is apparently going to have a different subtitle? After all, this isn’t “The Beast #2.” Oh, the worries you have when you’re running a small press comics review website! Yep, the struggle is real. Anyway, the subtitle is accurate this time around, as Artema goes full beast here. Her fighting skills make any sort of combat a joke for whoever she’s fighting (except for the fact that she’s killing whoever she’s fighting); towards the end of the issue she takes out 1000 soldiers more or less by herself. Along the way she meets a few more people that I assume are going to become more of a factor as time goes on, and ensures that she makes a lifelong enemy out of the enemy commander. Still more questions than answers for me, but since this is only the second issue that’s still the way things should be. Rachel and Angela are on a good pace here, seem to be getting the support they need from their Kickstarter (and hey, chip in if you like them; I’d link but they’re on Facebook, so just follow the link through the website for Artema). I’m especially intrigued by the title of the next one being “The Lover” after so much mayhem in this issue, so here’s hoping they don’t stop now! $5


Update for 10/15/19

New review today for The Brooklyner by Michael Aushenker, as this week I’m getting back to the mail bag.

Aushenker, Michael – The Brooklyner

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The Brooklyner

Here’s the thing about humor: it’s subjective. I know, pick your jaw up off the floor, but some people actually think Adam Sandler is still funny, or that those “Scary Movie” films are the height of hilarity. They’re wrong for me, but they’re not wrong for them. Even though I think they could do better, that part of what makes us better people is challenging ourselves to grow and expand our horizons, that garbage is still, to them, funny. I bring all this meandering nonsense up so I can seamlessly segue into talking about this comic, which is a collection of rejected strips that Michael sent to The New Yorker. Now, I haven’t read a New Yorker strip in years, outside of the few that run alongside other articles I’m reading online. It’s been ages since I’ve found them particularly funny, and Michael felt the same way, seeming to notice a dip in quality over recent years. So he thought something along the lines of “hey, I can at least be as funny as these strips,” and sent these along in 2018. They were all rejected, so now his question is this: are these rejected strips funnier than what’s currently running in their magazine and, if not, are they even funny at all? This is all from his afterword, by the way; I’m not the first successful mind reader in history. So, based on all that I said above, including my ignorance of the current New Yorker strips, are they that funny? Well, I never laughed out loud reading this, but I rarely do for their strips either, so I’ll give them a tie. But several of these strips wouldn’t feel out of place if I first saw them in their magazine, so in that sense I’d say these were successful. Read it for yourself to make up your own mind, you don’t need me to tell you what you think is funny. $3

Update for 10/11/19

New review today for Pinky & Pepper Forever by Ivy Atoms, and that’s it for this short week of Cartoon Crossroads reviews. Happy weekend everybody!

Atoms, Ivy – Pinky & Pepper Forever

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Pinky & Pepper Forever

Where to even begin talking about this comic? It’s amazing, sure, but I’m not nearly as talented as Ivy, so how do I convey that on this page? This is the story of Pinky and Pepper (duh), two lesbian art students who end up in hell. See, that already feels like a spoiler! But it’s also in the synopsis on the back cover, so maybe it’s not a bad thing to mention. Anyway, Pepper is open about using Pinky as her muse for most of the projects, but Pinky is trying to forge her own path, which eventually leads to her final art project that ends up with her in hell. Pepper tries to live her life without her, but eventually she realizes she cannot and ends up in hell too. She thought she might end up in the other place, but alas. Naturally she tries to find Pinky, but when she does manage that things don’t exactly go as she expected. There are all kinds of clever touches here about art school life, conversations with the parents when you’re living with your same sex partner (“Again, she’s my girlfriend, not my roommate”), how they’re each seen by their peers, digging into their past sexual histories to examine what they’re currently doing… there’s a lot here, and that’s in the half of the book where they’re still in the real world. I’m leaving the entire section of them in hell for you to discover, and wow is there a lot to discover. Ivy won a grant at Cartoon Crossroads for this book (reports differed but one thing I heard was that she got $5000? I hope that’s true) and, as this is my early winner of “best book in show,” she earned it. Check it out, get in on the ground floor with this one, as she’s going to be a big comics star if she keeps this up. $12

Update for 10/9/19

New review for Couldn’t Afford Therapy So I Made This by Lawrence Lindell, another Cartoon Crossroads book.

Lindell, Lawrence – Couldn’t Afford Therapy So I Made This

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Couldn’t Afford Therapy So I Made This

Sometimes at comic conventions there are titles that stand out from everything else, even at a show like Cartoon Crossroads where there were amazing books everywhere I looked. This title? I’m not sure if I even slowed down. The money was in my hand as I said hello to Lawrence, and the comic lived up to the title. This comic is a list of his mental health disorders, how he navigates the world on a daily basis (and a few tips for friends and family to keep in mind if he’s running late or behaving “oddly”), the manic and depressive phases, personal space concerns, how he constantly relives the night he got robbed (whether he should have tried to stop them, the order he could have attacked them, how he would have fought back if he was alone but he had others to consider), and the PTSD that comes with it. He’s in a near constant state of hypervigilance, which sounds absolutely exhausting. It also reminds me that I had a long conversation with Jaime Crespo, who had a table right near him, after buying his book, and how the average con must be a very different place for him than it is for me. Still feels like I’m just scratching the surface of everything he talks about in here, so the only obvious solution is for you to get a copy for yourself. If you have any mental health issues (and doesn’t everybody, to some degree?), you’ll find some useful information in here. If you’re the picture of mental health, you’re not reading a website with reviews about comics dealing with mental health problems anyway, so I’ll just let this sentence implode in on itself now. $7

Update for 10/7/19

Well, obviously my plan to talk about Cartoon Crossroads comics last week fell apart, meaning that’s what this week is about! All comics reviewed this week came from the con, after that I’ll just be sprinkling them in with the other comics reviewed. Don’t worry, I’ll still mention which books I got at the con so you can feel shame about not coming. New review today for The Audra Show #1 by Audra Stang!

Stang, Audra – The Audra Show #1

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The Audra Show #1

There’s more than you might think that goes into buying comics at conventions. For example, this particular comic. It looked intriguing, Audra couldn’t have been nicer at her table (she even chased me down to get me a better copy after I was oblivious and purchased her display copy of the first issue), but it was early in the show. Do you get all three comics on display for $10, or check out one issue for $4? I went with the cheaper option, and here I am, a couple of weeks later, regretting it. Gah, I’m a dummy. Oh well, I still have one issue to review. Obviously I liked it, so let’s remove all suspense on that front right away. This is another case where I’m not sure how far I should dig down into spoilers (especially since that cover and title make a lot more sense about 2/3 of the way through), so I’ll try to tiptoe around them. This is the story of three servers at a restaurant, helpfully listed on the back cover: Owen, Bea and Jonah. Owen seems like a nice guy, Bea is an oddball, and Jonah so far seems like a straight up creep. Owen get hassled by some customers, he and Bea have a chat about scars as he tries to determine whether or not he’s getting hit on, and Jonah annoys him by badgering Owen about his hitting on Bea. Then the shift is over and they go about their evenings, leading to Bea seeing Owen alone on a pier. Just as she’s approaching him to say hello, he jumps into the water. And doesn’t come up for air for a distressingly long amount of time. Which is as far as I can get without spoilers! I will say that this particular problem was resolved by the end of the issue, but now I can’t wait to see what happens next, and I was too shortsighted to get all three issues at the con. Use me as a cautionary tale, comic readers! If you have the cash to check out the first few issues of a series… do it! $4 (or $10 for issues #1-3)

“Update” for 9/26/19

OK, this week has obviously gotten away from me, but there’s still time for a reminder to anybody near the Columbus Ohio area: Cartoon Crossroads is this weekend! There’s a ridiculous lineup of artists attending, meaning that I should have comics to review for awhile after that. Come see the show!

Update for 9/18/19

New review today for Persephone’s Garden by Glynnis Fawkes, which is the last of the Secret Acres books I had left to review.

Fawkes, Glynnis – Persephone’s Garden

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Persephone’s Garden

When I get a comic or graphic novel to review and it takes me several weeks to review it, one of a few things happened. Maybe I lost track of it and found it later. Maybe I just had a backlog of things to review and got to it as soon as I could. And, once in a great while, I’ve been sitting with a book, keeping it around so I can check on things when they pop into my brain, because I just can’t get the book out of my head. For Persephone’s Garden (which arrived months ago), that last one is the answer. I kept thinking I knew what I wanted to say, then I’d think of some story or strip from the book, go back and read it and completely lose what I wanted to say. But since I can either do that forever or say something about this remarkable book, it’s time to ramble! This is, on a basic level, the story of Glynnis, her kids, husband and parents. This book is packed with adorable stories about kids, about the crazy things they say and do, and about their perpetual suffering through vacations and meals that would awe most adults. It’s also about dealing with her mother, who has had alzheimer’s for the last few years, and how the mother/parent roles have been reversed. Her mother made tapestries for years, using incredibly elaborate patterns, and watching as her skills gradually left her was devastating. There’s also stories about Glynnis and her job, which is to travel to different locations and make illustration of different pieces of pottery so they’re not lost to history. All of these things would make for a complex and vast graphic novel, but it’s the way that she ties them all together that’s truly brilliant. It all comes together in the most natural and amazing way by the end, and once again I feel compelled to leave it the reader to find out what that means. You can read this on a surface level and get plenty out of it; by that criteria alone this should be considered one of the best books of the year. But when you get down into how it all ties together, it’s possible this book should be elevated even higher than that. Read it, in other words. Now I’m going to go back to contemplating various bits of it, possibly forever. $21.95

Update for 9/16/19

New review today for I Couldn’t Stop by Powerpaola, as the mini kus books have returned! Also happy birthday Kathie!

Powerpaola – I Couldn’t Stop

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I Couldn’t Stop

Could this be the most straightforward of the mini kus comics? Nah, the ending alone blows that idea out of the water, but it’s bad form to talk about the ending of a book, so I won’t do that. But the bulk of it is a narrative that’s easy to follow, so maybe this is the mini kus book you should keep on your coffee table to get people hooked when they come over and thumb through the random comics you leave out. Anyway, the story here is about our hero, as she just wants a night out after a rough week of working on a comic about sexual abuse. She meets up with a friend, they get a drink, move on to another location and meet up with a couple of guys (it’s not clear if they were waiting for the ladies to show up or were just friendly strangers; it also doesn’t matter a whole lot). After they’re seated they have a fascinating conversation that’s interrupted by some cops with their guns drawn, looking for a burglar. Finally the evening comes to a close and the three other people take an Uber together, while Paola heads home on her bike. This is where the mildly confusing ending happens, but I think I’ve figured it out while I was writing this. Maybe. Give this one a look, if you’re bothered by how open to interpretation some of these mini kus books can be, this one should ease your worries. $6

Update for 9/12/19

New review today for Double Dip #2 by Dale Martin and Tom Cherry. Each one of them covers half of the comic, in case you were wondering.