Update for 3/31/23
New review today for The Stoneware Jug by Stefan Lorenzutti & John Porcellino, who you may remember as the king of cats.
Porcellino, John & Lorenzutti, Stefan – The Stoneware Jug
There’s this disconnect in my brain, and I’m becoming more and more aware of it as I get older. I think of myself as somebody who doesn’t enjoy poetry, and I’m certainly not somebody who seeks it out. But when a book like this lands in my lap, and I enjoy literally every poem in it, with the only problem being that I wish that it was longer, well, what am I supposed to take away from that? But hey, this is not about me, even though my rambling in reviews may make that difficult to determine. These are poems written by Stefan and illustrated by John. If you’ve seen John’s work over the years (and I’m just assuming that everybody reading this has), then you’d know that his sparse, expansive artwork would be perfect for short poems like this. I’m not familiar with Stefan at all, but after reading this I’m thinking that maybe I should fix that. There are so very many books on his website, and I have no idea where to start, so maybe I’ll just do a blind buy one of these days. Anyway! These poems range from one to several panels (although none longer than a page), with the page title on the otherwise blank page opposite the image. It’s fair to say that “quiet contemplation” is the overall theme, but subjects include the right drink for the right season, the quiet walk to the cemetery, a silent fire on a hillside, tractors, peace in heat, and the various types of orange heat. These are intentionally vague descriptions, of course, as I could easily put all of the text from this comic in place of what I’ve written so far and it would probably be about the same word count. So basically if you already like poetry, well, here’s John Porcellino illustrating some of it, so you’re obviously ordering this right now. If you’re like me and think you don’t like poetry, read this one specifically. Maybe you’ll also either find out that you were wrong about that, or you should at least put more thought into that opinion. Oh, and the profits for this go towards children traumatized by the war in Ukraine, which is one more huge reason to support it. $8
Update for 3/29/23
New review today for The Fifty Flip Experiment #30 by Dan Hill. One more issue for these weekly reviews, unless I missed something else that he sent me, which is entirely possible. Suspense!
Hill, Dan – The Fifty Flip Experiment #30
The Fifty Flip Experiment #30
As these weekly reviews roll on, I feel like I’m telling you all less and less of the actual story. The subconscious reasoning is simple: these are a joy to read, with constant twists, turns and unexpected detours, so what kind of miser would I be if I took that experience away from you? Granted, as he admits in his outro, certain bits might get away from him or end up leading nowhere, but this is one of those cases where the journey is the thing. For example, could this story have survived without the line “My feet are changed to cheeseburgers!”? I suppose so; events would have barreled on without it. But oh, what a better experience for all involved, when that line and the subsequent image of it just there, waiting for anybody to pick this up. OK fine, so what’s going on this time around? Dan once again has his introduction, and I think (combined with the outro text that gets so small that it almost fades away) that this might be the most he’s written in this area. It’s fascinating stuff too, as he muses about money, how much more productive he’d be if he had more of it (but not TOO much more, as too much money makes people terrible), the general idea of the wisdom of enriching the artist, and how he feels like he’s really reached the top of his game lately. I’d agree with that assessment, especially now that I know that that impression holds true whether I’m reading his issues once or twice a year or all in a row like I’m doing currently. That’s scratching the surface (the man wrote A LOT), but I must move on to the comic. A woman named Gig Christmas has a plan to replace all the bug juice in middle school cafeterias with healthier kombucha. Chimbly Daddy is trying to stop her plan, but there’s more to the both of them than you’d expect, as we eventually take a detour to see that they area actually two parts that make up a whole, and an explanation of that idea is necessary, so off we go. Gig also has a team, and although each member could have used a bit more backstory (look, a complaint!), they did a lot with the page time that they had. One more suggestion, although I’m guessing cost would be a problem: I do wish that these comics could be magazine-sized, like the original Love and Rockets series. This art, in places, could use some room to breathe. Ah well, I can dream, can’t I? Yes of course you should check this out, and since he mentioned that he could put more of these out with more money coming in, that also sounds like a clue to pick up a few of this back issues. $5
Update for 3/27/23
New review for Farewell by Joao Fazenda, which concludes this current batch of mini kus comics. Always a sad day, granted, but since this is #114 of their series, I think we can safely expect to see more of these wonders in the future.
Fazenda, Joao – Farewell
For the last of this current batch of mini kus comics we get a simple, heartfelt tale where the title does a wonderful job of summing things up. It’s the story of a family going back to their childhood home, which just so happens to be on a peninsula that’s soon going to be underwater. There’s a plan in place to use all of the materials from the house so that nothing is wasted, but what’s going to happen to the things inside of it, the items that might trigger memories from its former inhabitants? Three generations meet up to figure things out, and there’s the added factor of a possible tiger lurking in the woods. Joao does impressive work here with light and shadows, particularly the scene towards the end where they get lost in the woods in the dark on their way back to their boat. As for the story itself, it’s a thoughtful piece, where everybody has their specific things that they’d like to take back with them, but there’s also an overall acceptance of the state of things. Does this mean that I’d call this yet another solid mini kus book to add to the gigantic pile of them, and that anybody reading this could do a whole lot worse than to check this out? Reader, you know it does. $7.95 for the issue, but I still say the $22 offer for four of them is a much better deal.
Update for 3/23/23
New review today for The Fifty Flip Experiment #28 by Dan Hill. I also saw on his website that a new issue is coming out soon, so now it’s a race against time to see if I can get through these weekly reviews before it comes out. Place your bets!
Hill, Dan – The Fifty Flip Experiment #28
Have I mentioned yet that it’s alarming that my reviews of Dan’s work appear on a Google search way above his own website? The friends who set this website up oh so many years ago really knew what they were doing, but reviews should never come before the work itself. Do better, Google! Meanwhile, hey look, a comic! If you’re anything like me, you read that cover image and instantly thought “Marge’s hair… does he mean Marge from the Simpsons?” In which case you would have been completely correct, as the villains of the piece are… ooh boy. They have the bodies of turtles (with little wings on their shells) and crab claws instead of hands. And the heads of many a Marge Simpson. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Dan starts, as always, with an essay, this time about whether or not the company that made his new pen was historically terrible, and whether or not his depictions of birds, on some unconscious level, may have been based on awful racist cultural stereotypes. I don’t see it, but it’s an interesting essay, and nobody on this planet should consider me an authority on that subject. He also revealed a bit about his creative process, and had one line that was too good not to share: “I hope the fun of sitting down and writing nonsense comes across.” It does, Dan! It absolutely does. The comic itself shows the story of how the two creatures depicted in that statue managed to die at the exact same time, and yes, it does explain the quote about Marge’s hair on the column. It’s a sort of love story/training montage/drug run/brief musical montage/doomed final battle kind of thing, and it is as delightful as you might expect with all of those things blended seamlessly together. There’s also a kicking bazooka involved. Also, you may not expect a happy ending in a comic that starts of telling you that the main characters are going to die, but you know what? You just might get one anyway. Give it a shot, I say, and I also say you should send him enough money for a few issues so you can get some idea of the sheer range of ideas that passes through this man’s mind. One comic by itself is simply not enough to give you that context $5 (or $7 with postage through his website)
Update for 3/21/23
New review today for Eyeland #2 by Nick Forker. I was debating doing weekly reviews of his stuff too, as he sent me several comics, but so far I’m leaning against it. Mostly because I like variety, and doing more than one of those sets of weekly reviews at a time would make things seem pretty repetitive around here. Maybe in a month or so…
Forker, Nick – Eyeland #2
I have got to find a way to review comics more quickly. Looking around the internet doesn’t reveal any available copies of this issue, and Nick himself doesn’t have anything available until #5. But what am I supposed to do, NOT read these in numerical order? Madness. So far in these Eyeland comics the title on the cover is a pretty big hint: the first issue was mostly funny, this issue is mostly introspective. Things start off with a fascinating color strip on the inside cover questioning what exactly moves people to make decisions. Experience, gut, or something yet undiscovered? Now that the possibility has been brought up, you’re thinking about it too, right? If that intrigues you, get ready for an issue of existential questions. From there we get a strip on the absurdities of modern life (with a special emphasis on doom rectangles) and a series of three panel strips on the basis of reality. The rest of the comic is presented as single or double page stories, but it’s really one continuing narrative about our hero wondering about how not doing anything frees him from having anything by which to judge his self worth, finding a way to accept himself, and building his own work on the work of others to make something new. Am I missing a meaning somewhere, or misinterpreting something? There’s a solid chance, as I find myself becoming less and less introspective as I get older. Which is maybe a bad sign, but it’s not the issue at hand. The rest of the issue depicts his philosophical journey as a physical trip, which does involve an actual wizard and ends with an extremely disquieting finale. I’m enjoying these comics, and I saw on his website that he made 10 of these issues in 2022, which is incredibly impressive. Give it a shot, and with these two issues you have a stark choice to make: do you want funny, or do you want philosophical? Keep in mind that neither issue is 100% of one or the other…
Update for 3/16/23
New review today for The Fifty Flip Experiment #27 by Dan Hill, as I continue his weekly reviews. But wait, you might be thinking if you’re reading these as they come out. Didn’t you just review #29 last week? I can’t put anything by you: it’s true. I found two more older issues in an unexplored section of my apartment. I’m honestly thinking about hiring a spelunker to get to the comics that have been unintentionally buried over the years. Anyway, that just means more reviews of his comics, so everybody is a winner!
Hill Dan – The Fifty Flip Experiment #27
Here it is, the exciting conclusion to his three part extravaganza! Does it matter that I’ve mostly forgotten the first two parts, since it’s been at least a couple of years since I read them? It does not, because Dan was nice enough to put a little recap in the inside front cover. And also because this issue basically stands just fine by itself anyway, except for all that lovely context you get from reading the whole story. Basically there’s an android (whose story was told in the second part) who’s trying to get to Captain Loopback (whose story was told in the first part). He (the android) has hijacked a space bus to reach her (Loopback), which is where things kick off. First we get a listing of the characters on the bus, who just so happen to be dangerous space criminals. Not ideal travel companions, to be sure, but they’re all wrapped up tightly in saran wrap, so he’ll probably be fine. Oh no! The android, who was trying to drive the bus, accidentally released them all from their wrappings! Do you think that a melee is coming? Well, it is, and it does, and it leads to a crash, with only our hero and the flight attendant lady surviving. If you’re wondering whether this leads to a love connection, well, it absolutely does. Still, our hero only has roughly half of an issue left, and he still has to get to Loopback! Can he make it, and what’s likely to happen to them both if he does? Eh, you’ll figure it out when you read it. I’d also invite everybody to read that panel in the spacebus sample image, as there are jokes all over that thing. Another bonus is his essay about one of those “50 games in 1” dealies where you get 50 crappy games for a very low price. He’s put more thought into the concept than I ever did, and while I’m not sure if he ever came up with a satisfying answer, it sure did raise a lot of questions about the creators of the games, who they’re for, the religious angle of them, etc. And that’s just a bonus to the comic itself. As always, you’ll be happy that you read one of his comics, if you have the guts to do it. C’mon, what’s stopping you? C’mon. $5 (with $2 for shipping)
Update for 3/14/23
New review today for SRY not Sorry by Michael Fikaris, and yes it’s true, it’s another mini kus book! Enjoy it, as I’m down to just one new one to review after this one.
Fikaris, Michael – SRY not Sorry
Who’s in the mood for a nice, quiet little meditation on the ways we communicate, why we communicate and the virtue of time saved? Or the idea of making and maintaining human connections? If you’ve said no, so long! I reckon there are plenty of shoot ’em ups available for you to watch/read instead. This comic does start off with an assumption, and since I’m one of the people who disproves it I’d like to remind everybody again that it’s not true for everybody. Michael starts by saying that “they say” that your age can be determined by how you use your phone, but I know from my friend group (generally mid 40’s and above, with plenty of exceptions) that it’s all over the place. I was an early adopter of texting whenever possible, basically as soon as I figured out that my phone could do it. Other people my age still call. Was I going somewhere with all that? Be careful of assumptions, I suppose. From there this becomes a comic that I really can’t say much about, even more so than usual, as there’s very little text. More of a message throughout, of conflict and grabbing tightly onto someone for comfort, living through cycles, doing what you need to survive, and the question of whether or not a new contribution to the world is possible. It’s fascinating overall, and the sort of thing that’ll lead to all sorts of questions popping up in your mind on a lazy afternoon. Which is fine by me, since I generally write these on Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Maybe don’t read this one on the bus, I guess is what I’m saying. But do give it a shot. $8 (or 22 for a bundle of the latest four issues)
Update for 3/10/23
New review today for Screaming Mimi Kids Volume 1: Ghosted by Patrick Lay. That might be the last of the CXC comics to review, but as soon as I type this I’ll probably find a few more buried comics. Happy weekend y’all!
Lay, Patrick – Screaming Mimi Kids Volume 1: Ghosted
Screaming Mimi Kids Volume 1: Ghosted
I have to confess, I’m still a little confused on that title. Screaming Mimi is (in the comic) a possible urban legend, a ghost who only shows up at a specific time at a specific bridge. So it’s in reference to the kids on the cover? Screw it, I’m overthinking this, and I don’t want to get bogged down in nonsense, as I did enjoy the book overall. This starts out at the aforementioned bridge with Lisa, her brother Seth and their mutual friend Christine. They have to honk the horns at midnight near the bridge to get the ghost to appear (so the legend goes), but they arrive a little early, so there’s time for shenanigans. Lisa has a crush on Christine, and she’s told her brother Seth about it, so imagine her disgust when she gets back from a trip to pee just in time to see the two of them making out. Furious, they all leave, but since they’re there anyway, she honks her horn as they’re going. Behind them a spectral figure appears, which does a wonderful job of making them all forget the previous drama. The next thing we see is Seth waking up, where he immediately learns that one of the two other people at the bridge has died overnight. From there we get a bit of high school drama (and the phoniness of people who hated this dead student crying about her in front of an assembly) before Seth decides to head back to the bridge, just in case. One thing that struck me reading this was that it was a damned confident comic, by which I mean that Patrick really takes his time to let the story open up. I got this at a convention, so I know that he has a few more issues out already; that kind of slow pace would be a bad look if it petered out after one issue. But he clearly has more in mind, and after this I’m curious to see what that could be. It’s an intriguing start, and it also fits squarely in the “all ages but that doesn’t have to mean simple” category of comics that’s perfect for younger readers, for any of you who want to get your kids into reading comics. You monsters! $6
Update for 3/8/23
New review today for The Fifty Flip Experiment #29 by Dan Hill. Speaking of Dan, I noticed that his comics were getting backed up here, so I’m doing that thing where I review an issue a week for a few weeks. Maybe this will help me get more into his general mindset, which may or may not be a good idea. But it should at least be interesting!
Hill, Dan – The Fifty Flip Experiment #29
I encourage every one of you to visit his website, as it’s the geocities-ing-est website around. That joke will make sense to very few of you, but I still think it’s worth it. Dan starts this one with his trademark wall of text, which starts off vaguely enough before breaking down into a detailed history of the characters we’re about to meet. He’s also back to doing single issue stories, if you’re warping here from my last review of his series (#26, another gap I have to fill some day). As always, I’d rather let his comic speak for itself, but it does concern the origins of the Jamboree. And frogs. A whole lot of frogs. Say, if I don’t want to talk about the comic, what am I going to mention in the review? Well, I’m going to go back on that statement immediately. Things start off with a positively joyful jamboree, then we learn about how the frogs took power based on their dominance of the three legged races. What does a pie eating contest have to do with this? Plenty! If you’ve ever wanted to go down the line in a pie eating contest to see what each contestant was thinking at that moment, Dan is your man. Do wooden arms help with pies? Unclear, but seemingly no. What about Landwhale Jeff, does he get the better of Skeleton Bear? As if I’d give something so important away here! That does it, I’m going back to not talking about specifics. There’s plenty more, including the cutest little sailor suit you ever did see on the back cover, but the next step in your journey is to buy your own copy to see what you make of all this. Dan also sent a very nice letter along with this comic (or possibly a later issue, as I’m reviewing more of these soon), but I did want to offer one gentle correction to him: this website is actually almost 22 years old, not 15. There have been a few crashes, so it’s kind of lost to history, but this all started in August of 2001. OK, go buy his comic. $7
Update for 3/6/23
New review for You’re the Center of Attention by Gina Wynbrandt, which is another one from the mini kus pile.
Wynbrandt, Gina – You’re the Center of Attention
You’re the Center of Attention
Thanks once again to mini kus, as they have introduced me to an artist I clearly should have already heard of by now. I desperately need to get back to Chicago one of these days to ransack Quimby and/or Chicago Comics. Assuming they both survived the pandemic, and I don’t even want to think of a world where that’s not the case. Anyway! This is the story of a fictionalized version of Gina (can’t really say how close it is to the real her, as this is the first comic of hers I’ve read) and she’s competing on a game show to win some money and become famous. The money is clearly an afterthought to becoming famous, which drives everything she does in the comic. Things start off with her fantasies of what famous life would be like before the actual show begins. She also meets a bug named George who encourages her, and yes, this is relevant information later, because we wouldn’t have one of the great comics finales of all time without him. Getting ahead of myself, I guess. The game show itself is a series of escalating embarrassments for Gina, seemingly designed to get people to give up. But she does the chicken dance, runs around on all fours and sings (poorly), all in good spirits. Still, things are just getting started. Will she have the willpower to read her most recent internet searches aloud in front of the studio audience and the world? What about… eh, that’s enough specifics. Let’s just say that she’s tested personally and professionally. It’s a hilarious peek into somebody who’s obsessed with fame without having the sense of shame that might tell them to slow things down before they do something that’ll haunt their lives forever. So it looks amazing, has more than a few funny bits and an all-time great final panel. What more do you need? $7.95 (or you could always get this in a set with the other three most recent mini kus issues)