Update for 9/7/21

New review today for Long Live the Witches by Valentine Gallardo, which also just so happens to be mini kus #100! They chose to go low key for the milestone issue, even though by comic book law they were legally able to include a crossover with Green Goblin or Venom. Their loss!

Gallardo, Valentine – Long Live the Witches

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Long Live the Witches

Finally, a new approach on witches! Sure, dopey historical figures have tried burning, stoning and drowning them. But has anybody considered the healing powers of music? Oops, I’m already into spoiler territory. Eh, sort of, anyway. This one starts off with a young girl picking some herbs in the forest. On the way back she’s bullied by some local kids, and we soon see that she’s living with a “witch.” Meaning an older lady who knows the basics about which herbs help with certain ailments. From there we meet the other important members of the story: a traveling doctor (who speaks for the Lord, which goes about as well as that sort of thing usually does), a musician and the various other inhabitants of the town. There’s a town meeting, what happens when you question somebody who thinks he speaks with a divine voice, and something distinctly resembling a mob. It’s an engaging tale with a few twists that I should shut up about, proving once again that the only reason this website exists is to point in various directions and say “Look! Read this comic!” while not giving much away about the actual comic. Oh, and not for nothing, but this is mini kus #100, which I think legally means they’re allowed to take over the world now. But honestly, who would want it? $7

Update for 9/3/21

New review today for Super Magic Forest by Ansis Purins. See if you can spot the Zombre!

Purins, Ansis – Super Magic Forest

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Super Magic Forest

This is one of those books that’s going to be impossible to properly review. Which is odd, as there is a coherent quest at the center of it, one of them there “heroic journeys” you read about. But when it comes to the page by page specifics of this book, there’s too much to talk about in any kind of coherent fashion. Would you like to play “spot the stamp” with his panels? Because you could; there are several tiny stamped images strewn throughout the book. Not on every panel though, as that would be too easy. Zombre, the anchor of so many of his past books, has a brief cameo in this one, but that’s about it. There are SO many panels with SO much going on in them; I just flipped the book open randomly to the image of two sleeping bears, and even on that image I just now found a tiny bug, seemingly serving as a watchman of sorts, on one of their paws. Missed it entirely the first time around. So if you’re one of those people who measures quality of a comic by how much time you can spend with it discovering new things, this one is damned near priceless. Every page that has a crowd shot has a ridiculous amount of things happening in the background. Eh, I probably should talk about the story. We start off with an elf (Twit Leaf) gathering berries. Somebody pulled a prank on him and the bucket has a hole in it, so most of his berries have been eaten by birds that were following him around. Still, he needs berries for the banquet, which means he has to look for them in a more dangerous area. This leads him to an abandoned pocket video game system, which might as well be magic as far as he’s concerned. After a few more events he makes his way to the banquet, hoping that the game system will make up for his lack of berries. This is the meaty center of the book, where we get to spend some quality time with the whole extended civilization going on and the bizarre cast of characters. Which is why I used them for the sample image, and the ones shown below are only a small minority of the oddities. Twit Leaf eventually decides to go out for more berries, which is where he runs into a Cryptmunk Slayer (he had thought them to be extinct). Oh, and there’s his elf friends. And the demon. And the floofy monster that’s capable of killing all other monsters in horrific fashion. And so, so many others. I’m wrapping this up here, but to be perfectly clear: this is the opus of Ansis Purins, at least so far. It’s his crowning achievement, and whether or not you were already a fan, you should absolutely check it out. You’re unlikely to see anything this thoroughly, delightfully inventive anywhere else, and this is coming from a guy who reviews delightfully inventive comics on a damned near weekly basis. Check it out, spread the word, and enjoy. Oh, and this behemoth is also somehow only $16.95; I’m a cheapskate and my guess would have been $30. Gather those pennies and buy this book!

Update for 9/1/21

New review today for Flowers Intertwined by Ema Gaspar, which just so happens to be the 99th issue of mini kus. Collect them all!

Gaspar, Ema – Flowers Intertwined

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Flowers Intertwined

Do you know why I love the mini kus books, even though they’re almost all from different authors, with dozens and dozens of different approaches to the art form? It’s because of a book like this one, where I spent a good chunk of it thinking it was going to fall into the “visually gorgeous but narratively baffling” category where these books occasionally land, only to have it all come together with perfect clarity in the last several pages. Well, it is me, so there’s a solid chance that I still didn’t read it correctly, but it all came together in a lovely and satisfying way. If you don’t get there, it’s fine! This book is a true joy to look at, and you’ll have that regardless. This one starts off with a woman watering a vase, which she is tired out doing but feels is necessary to keep her shadow side at bay. She eventually realizes that this is all related to a terrible memory of hers and decides that she has to steel herself to do something about it. In between all of that are several images of what she sees, what she imagines and how things could be. Yes, I’m being vague, as I will forever be if the other choice is to walk people through a comic. This is the 99th issue of mini kus, after all, so most people probably already know if they’re on board with the general idea. I thoroughly enjoyed it, anyway. Now I just have to fine some place to put it where my increasingly agile kitten won’t chew on it, like what happened with the last issue… $7

Update for 8/30/21

New review today for Meeting Comics #1 by Andrew Neal, for all the employed and trapped in an office environment readers out there. Like me!

Neal, Andrew – Meeting Comics #1

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Meeting Comics #1

One thing they skip over in reviewer training (it’s an intensive course over several months but I, like all reviewers, am sworn to secrecy on the specifics) is what to do when somebody sends you their entire collection of published comics all in one chunk. Andrew is up to 20 issues of this series already, so he sent along quite a stack. Stay tuned while I figure out how to review them all! Anyway, the instantly worrying thing about receiving such a large stack is simple: what if the first issue is terrible? Not unheard of, after all; just think how many of your favorite small press comics had rough first issues before finding their way a few issues in. Well, no worries this time around, as the first issue had me literally laughing out loud several times. This is a collection of four panel strips that were done while Andrew was on his lunch break at work. While he doesn’t specify his specific job, probably for a very good reason, it’s clear that he has spent a lot of time in maddening meetings and/or dealing with office culture. So if that’s something you have to deal with too, chances are you’re going to love this one. The strip about a guy repeatedly asking further questions after the “we’re done here unless there are any questions” message from management and the staring of daggers by the coworker who couldn’t believe that the guy would not shut up has certainly happened to me before. Maybe you’re lucky enough to work in an office where nobody does that, in which case please let me know if they’re hiring. As these were mostly done on a lunch break, some of the art can be a little rough (just look at the panel borders in the sampled strip), but it doesn’t do a thing to take away from the humor. The version I got is the second printing, which is probably what enabled Andrew to include letters from people, and there’s also a pretty damned funny introduction by Jamar Nichols. What about the strips, you say? Well, keeping in mind that describing humor is a good way to murder it, subjects in here include the bare minimum required to sell your soul, who can and can’t quit on a dime, how casual Fridays can get, the physical manifestations of the soul crushing nature of work, and the HR robot and his preferences. And a whole lot more; there’s a lot of comic here. If you’ve ever had an office job you’re going to love this, if not I envy you like you wouldn’t believe, but you’d still find a lot to laugh at in here. $5

Update for 8/25/21

Busy busy week, so you’re only getting one review: World Ceramic Fair by Jooyoung Kim. That’s right, it’s more mini kus! Don’t worry, I have a few books here that need reviewing, and I’ll get to them soon. I just need a few more hours in the day…

Kim, Jooyoung – World Ceramic Fair

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World Ceramic Fair

I would not have guessed that you could get this much of a story out of a ceramic’s fair, but Jooyoung has proven me wrong. This starts out as a general overview of a ceramic fair, with the different types of booths, people running the booths and the types of people who come to them asking questions (and occasionally “accidentally” smashing ceramics). This is all a prelude to the main event, which is a large booth that two attendees stumble on at the end of their long day. The proprietor informs them that she makes ceramics “to talk about racism with the audience.” This causes said attendees to make a run for it, but don’t fret! A couple of dummies come by the booth next, and they don’t have nearly the amount of self-awareness necessary to figure out that engaging might be a bad idea. As they question each piece the ceramist (yes, it was just today that I learned that this was the term for people who make ceramics) engages them and tells them the bits of racism that she’s experienced that inspired the pieces. Ever oblivious, what follows is a grimly funny example of the cluelessness of racists, the unwillingness to learn anything about it, and even them going through comments and suggestions that they really think are helping. There’s also a big surprise towards the end, but you’ll get no spoilers from me! This was a cleverly done tale and who knows, maybe it’ll reach a few people who need to see it? We can only live in hope. Give it a shot, or maybe just give it to the racist in your life that you can’t completely disavow because they’re a close relative. If you have a racist friend, I’d just refer you to the They Might Be Giants song on the subject from the early 90’s (My Racist Friend).

Update for 8/20/21

New review today for another mini kus book, BLINK by Martin Lopez Lam. If you like my reviews where I ramble and dissemble to try to cover up the fact that I didn’t really get a particular book, you’ll love this one!

BLINK – Lopez Lam, Martin

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BLINK

One thing I’ve discovered about the mini kus books, and it seems to happen like clockwork: roughly once in every dozen comics, I’ll come across one that either doesn’t do a thing for me or that I simply don’t get. They almost universally have something else going for them if the story doesn’t hit home, like some artwork that looks like nothing I’ve ever seen, an intriguing idea or two, etc. Well, folks, you’ve guessed it: I don’t get this one! There, I said it. Here, I’ll use my old trick of pasting the back cover blurb to see if maybe this helps: “One day you pop up from the ground and the next you’re thrown over the world. BLINK is a loop world full of lazy and libertine monsters.” Clear as day, right? There are few to any words in this one, every image (outside of the first and last) is a two page spread, and as spreads I have to say that they are magnificent. I mean, look at that sample! I used the one from the dead center of the book, and I’d love it if you could tell me what was going on. That lady (?) running away on the far right is the seeming protagonist, but with very few words and very little sense of forward momentum, I don’t know what she was running from or why. Angry citizens, it looks like, but why were they angry? Who were they? I mean, I could keep going, but I’d always circle back to the same point, which is that I didn’t get this one on a very fundamental level. If a series of genuinely incredible images is enough for you, sure, give this one a go. If you like a challenge, or the idea of saying “I’ll show this dumb reviewer what this comic is about” gets you going, by all means, give this one a shot! In fact, go back through my mini kus reviews and only buy the ones that baffled me. Prove that I’m a dummy! If, however, you’re looking for a solid linear story, maybe go with a different mini kus book this time. $7

Update for 8/18/21

So for this anniversary review week (during which, sadly, I’m pretty busy in my regular life) I decided to also include a couple of mini kus reviews. Hey, why not? New review today for Bridge by Matt Madden.

Madden, Matt – Bridge

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Bridge

I’m always confused in how to review 24 hour comics that end up being released in fancy, professional looking comics (like this, the 96th issue of the ongoing mini kus series). How much has it been polished for release, and how much is exactly how it looked right at the end of those 24 hours? I ask because this comic, as it is now, is damned near a masterpiece. Since anything I have to say about the 24 hour aspect would be sheer guesswork, how about I just leave that angle alone? Yeah, that seems fair. After all, I wouldn’t even know about the time frame if it wasn’t for the blurb on the back cover. OK, one more thing about the 24 hour comic idea: this was made with the condition that every page would have to be set a decade after the previous page, which is a hell of a condition to still end up with a coherent story. This one starts off with the fleeting memory of a young boy’s childhood, in which a mysterious old woman tells him about a mysterious bridge. He ended up spending his life in pursuit of this bridge, using whatever means he had available, and ended up falling short. Still, he passed his knowledge and his notes on to a ward, who then proceeded to spend his life in pursuit of the same bridge. He finally came to the conclusion (after a dream in which he saw himself on the bridge, along with the boy and the old woman) that the bridge had destroyed all of them, and so he destroyed all of his notes and attempted to end the whole thing there. Still the story was not over, as a girl in school stumbled across a trunk with many old notes about the bridge, which started the whole thing up again. I’ve already said more than I should, but the way this comic ends up a perfect circle was masterfully done, one of those “I can’t believe I didn’t see this coming” kinds of endings that are so rare in just about any medium. It’s a big comfort to know that Matt has been teaching comics to students for what, going on 15 years now? Maybe even longer. This is a guy with a lot to teach, and I can only hope that his students pick up on the good stuff. So yeah, I’d say this one is well worth a look, if you’re at all interested in seeing what the medium is capable of. Another mini kus winner! $7

Update for 8/16/21

Happy 20th anniversary for Optical Sloth! I’m not sure of the exact date, but I know that it started in August 2001, so I figure this is close enough for a celebration, especially considering the fact that there isn’t a real celebration happening. If you’d told me 20 years ago that I’d still be doing this, and I’d still be making roughly zero dollars at it (there’s still the “once in a blue moon” comics orders, but it’s exceedingly rare at this point), I’d have said you were cuckoo bananas. But hey, I still like comics, so why not. I have a few ideas on where I’d like the site to go from here, but considering my lack of follow-through on several other ideas, I’ll just leave that to your imagination for now. And, as always, if any millionaires are reading this, send cash and I’ll turn it into more comics. Or send me a huge pile of cash and you can have your own in-house reviewer! As for the review, I debated picking somebody like John Porcellino who I’ve been reviewing the whole time, or maybe mini kus #100, as it is in my apartment. But in the end, a cute little mini came in last week from a guy I haven’t seen before, and what’s more in the spirit of the website than making that the 20th anniversary review? New review today for Sludgy #3 by Robb Mirsky!

Mirsky, Robb – Sludgy #3

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Sludgy #3

Well, this comic certainly lives up that tagline. Robb had a recap on the inside front cover dealing with what exactly a “Sludgy” is, which was a big help to somebody like me who was jumping in cold. The storyline itself didn’t seem like it needed much of a recap; this feels more like a series of adventures starring Sludgy, not some grand adventure where Sludgy saves the world at the end of it. Of course, if that does end up happening I’m going to end up feeling like a real idiot. This one starts off in fairly serious fashion, as two guys are digging a grave out in the swamp for a guy who’s currently in their trunk. When one of them goes back to retrieve the body he hears a voice from the woods and sees a shadowy figure. The man, what with him currently committing a crime at all, shoots at this shadow, which brings his partner to him. Then they both see the shadow, come to the same conclusion and shoot him a whole bunch of times. After that they split off to chase him, and mayhem ensues (yep, this is the point where I figure I’m getting to close to spoiler land). That covers a little more than half of the comic, but wait, there’s more! There’s an ongoing series of stories dealing with a mosquito who’s sucked up some toxic waste and the trail of destruction he leaves behind him, the natural result of a Sludgy sliding down a hill (and the hilarious conclusion), and the end result of a Sludgy trying to fly. As these creatures can split off from each other to make new Sludgys, there’s certainly a conversation here to be had about the nature of consciousness, whether or not the same consciousness in a different body is a new person or the same person, etc. But I’m not going to get into any of that, as it’s so clearly against the nature of this book, which is simply to have fun. That’s what ends up getting Sludgy into trouble every time, and it’s frankly refreshing to see in a comic about a toxic sludge monster. So yes, if you’re in the mood for some adorable horror (and you can keep those two ideas in your head without your brain exploding), this one is definitely worth a look. $6

Update for 8/5/21

It’s mini kus time again! New review today for Before the Pandemic There Was a Touch Football Tourney by David Collier. #95 in the mini kus books, and they sent me a double batch for reviewing, which goes up to #100 and beyond. So yes, you’ll be seeing some mini kus reviews over the next couple of months, that’s for sure…

Collier, David – Before the Pandemic There Was a Touch Football Tourney

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Before the Pandemic There Was a Touch Football Tourney

It’s always such a delight to read one of David’s comics. Did I give away the ending of the review already? Eh, it’s fine. The man has been making comics for 30 years (maybe longer?) now, and his mastery of the medium shows in books like this. You might think from that title that it’s all about a touch football tournament, but that actually only shows up for a few pages at the end. Before that the comic is about the last trip he took before the pandemic (to visit his son at college; it also shows his bemusement at now being the “old” person at a zine fair. There’s also a chunk with his son’s old artwork and a heartbreaking little bit about the death of his dog large in 2004 and the suddenness of it all. Then in two pages towards the end he manages to include ruminations on the necessity of clipping newspaper headlines in a digital age, his son’s covid scare at school, and how his scrapbooks are going to be the thing that gets him motivated for his next project. It’s damned near a graphic novel’s worth of stories,. just compressed and shortened into a mini kus book. Which is another thing that’s been an incredible mainstay in comics for decades, although David did get a bit of a head start on them (this one is #95 in the mini kus series, in case you were curious). Give this one a shot, it’s either a great introduction to David’s work for the newbies and another excellent comic from the man if you’re already a fan. $7

Update for 8/3/21

New review today for Plastic People #8 by Brian Canini, meaning that I’m now over halfway done with the series. Man, that guy can put out the comics, that’s for sure.

Canini, Brian – Plastic People #8

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Plastic People #8

It’s an eventful issue of Plastic People! As always, if you haven’t been reading this then number eight is an odd place to get started, but maybe your thing is to read reviews out of order of books you haven’t read. Who am I to judge? This time around we get an interview with the ex of the murdered woman and a better sense of what exactly was going on in her life when she was killed. The back half of the comic deals with a big old movie star going about his daily business, ending on one heck of a cliffhanger. Is Brian building up to something or is he making it up as he goes along? My money is on the first option, based on his past series like Ruffians. And based on the fact that he’s up to #15 of this series on his website, so he might actually be done with it for all I know. Check out one of those beefier 3 issue compilations, that’ll give you a chance to read a chunk of the story at once. Or get the single issues like this one for $2. You do you!