Yeah, I took Thanksgiving week off, but I have a good excuse: I was watching Fellini movies instead. New review today for Lemonade Tango by Henry Uhrik!
I have to be the last person who reads comics and even notices things like this, but maybe people shouldn’t bother putting “#1” on their books at all and just start with “#2” if they make it to a second issue. Aw, why am I starting this out by being all cynical? This comic was a delight. It’s just that I’m entering (or I’ve been there for years, depending on your perspective) old crank status as a small press comics reader, and boy howdy could I ever show you a giant stack of comics that never made it past the first issue. Still, this one has an ongoing story and a call for reader’s letters on the back inside cover, so I’m going to smother my cynicism and say that this one will definitely continue. Besides, he has a number of other comics on his website, so he’s stuck on this comics crazy train with the rest of us. So anyway, what’s this one about? Two main stories, and one single page story that I went ahead and used as a sample image. What, nobody out there can relate to that story? First up is the ongoing story, and it starts off with Rick trying to get Martha out of the house for their planned trip to Paris. Martha is not going, and she has one heck of a story as to why that’s the case, but I’m not going to tell you about it. Then there’s the l’il story, followed by a Thanksgiving poem (hey, timely! Future readers, this review came out the week after Thanksgiving 2021. Even farther future readers, Thanksgiving used to be a holiday before we all realized what a ghastly thing that whole idea was to celebrate). This poem is all about the robot who’s cooking and serving a family for the holiday, along with his terrible decision to follow the advice of a drunken uncle. The inside back cover was pretty funny too, as we get a peek into the mind of Henry as he decides what to do with the inside back cover. Meta, I know, but also hilarious. Like I said, I enjoyed it, and if he hasn’t written himself into a corner already I’m looking forwards to seeing what happens next. Which is the whole point of a #1, right? $6.99
New review today for Ruining Your Cat’s Life by Lauren Barnett, and this concludes the graphic novel sandwich. Happy weekend everybody!
I found it! It’s the best graphic novel to come out of the pandemic! Go ahead, other comics artists, just try to top this. As you can tell from the title, a lot of this is about Lauren’s cat, but even more of it is about navigating pandemic life. And, just to throw this out there, it had me laughing so much that my sides are still hurting as I type this. A first in my reviewing days? Eh, maybe. Either way, it’s hard to pay a funny graphic novel a higher complement. Where do I even begin with this majestic beast of a book? Well, for one thing, it reminded me that I’ve missed a couple of her books, so I’m going to fix that toot sweet. But what about this specific book? It’s made up of either single page strips or l’il stories. The single page strips are either about the pandemic, her cat or fighting off depression because of the pandemic or her cat. We’re talking picking out a pandemic outfit, the cat’s perspective on the humans suddenly never leaving, the drop-off from ambition to actuality in making breakfast, and so many other things that I’m not even going to ruin even a bit of it. I’ve already said that this is my favorite pandemical book so far, so I’m basically just filling space here for the few of you who haven’t already rushed off to buy a copy or the others who have given up because they have no joy in their lives and can’t understand “funny.” For the rest of you, a bonus! Longer stories deal with sweatpants, the snackmaster, kids’ party games in the time of covid, how to deal with assholes not wearing masks as you’re trying to take a walk, the differences in the lives of indoor cats and outdoor cats, doing the chores that the cat allows, and how to live life as a cat. I feel obligated to mention that I just chuckled writing the last bit of that sentence, as even the MEMORY of that story is enough to make me laugh. That’s some concentrated funny right there. If you need some joy in your life and have already tried drugs and booze, the answer is right here! It’s this particular graphic novel. Buy it and learn to laugh again! $20
New review today for Meeting Comics #5 by Andrew Neal. That’s right, I’m still sticking to the weekly reviews.
Good news everyone! The brief lull in quality from the last issue (that was almost certainly more about what was going on in my own life and not the actual quality of the comic) has ended! Yeah, I was probably just in a lousy mood. Which is bound to happen when you review as many comics as I do, and it’s not like I’m able to go back and re-review everything I read when a good mood hits me. Life is finite and all that. Anyway, this is another comic that had me literally laughing out loud several times, so all is right with the world of Meeting Comics. What happens in this one? More importantly, can I tell you about in a vague enough way to get you intrigued without going overboard and having you lost interest because I’ve spoiled it all? Join me out on this tight rope and let’s find out! Subjects in here include Val on Black Friday, trying to find the answer to “what the fuck did he do this time” on NPR, an unfortunate gender reveal party, fun visits at the nursing home, getting permission to celebrate Thanksgiving, Don in Nam, finding the key to Val’s heart, Jay settling for the corporate life, and being visited by three ghosts. Vague but enticing? Here’s hoping! It says a lot for a series when you can pretty much pop in, buy whichever issue you’d like and still be safe in hoping for some solid laughs. So try that, why don’t you? $5
It’s a graphic novel sandwich of reviews this week! First up is Are Comic Books Real? by Alex Nall.
It just occurred to me that some of you may be reading this without already being familiar with any of Alex’s previous comics, so I’ll just get this out of the way: no, this is not a lengthy graphic novel about that nature of existence and whether or not anything we experience is actually reality. The title comes from close to the end of the book, when a student in Alex’s class asks him that literal question. From there it turns into as philosophical a discussion you can get when dealing with… third graders maybe? I don’t recall the exact grade he teaches. It’s also questions that he’s asked himself, which leads to some serious introspection when he’s home. Oh, you were probably also curious about the book in general, right? Let me start again. Alex has been chronicling his time as a teacher for several years now, and this one is maybe the best of the bunch. Full disclosure: I have no kids and all I know about school is based on my memories, but I do think that his book would be an excellent start for any teacher out there who’s looking to get their students interested in art. This was done in the pre-covid world; I’m really curious how he and his students handled things a couple of years after this book. It’s also a peek into the highlights and lowlights of a school year, so the stories can wander a bit. I mean that in the best possible way! Subjects include finding the source of that terrible smell (and handling it as diplomatically as possible), how he’ll be remembered by his students, accidentally making fun of Luigi, the bestest climber, trying to help students with their math problems when he was a terrible math student, learning from his students, trying to keep them focused while not shorting their recess time, making a class play, and getting schooled about where polar bears hang out. There were also a couple of short pieces that referenced how he wasn’t able to call Halloween by name to his students, which is just bizarre to me. Maybe he teaches at a religious school? Even so, that’s an unstoppable juggernaut to kids and you’re not going to make them forget about dressing up and getting free candy just by leaving the name out. Not his fault, as he’s just following the rules, but wow, what a fantastically stupid rule. Anyway, this has a lot to offer students who are interested in comics, and there are enough stories told from his grown-up angle that any adult can get a lot out of it too. Also I just lifted the book, so clearly comics are real. Duh! $20
New review today for The Domesticated Afterlife by Scott Finch. What, you never thought about it?
What a journey! I thought I had it, turns out I did not have it, I had the “it” more or less explained to me so that I went into the tail of this having it, and then it veered in another direction and I didn’t have it again. Was that sentence too much for you? It all makes sense if you think about it, but if that effort felt like too much work, maybe this one isn’t for you. Not that I’m saying you’re stupid, I would never! It’s just that this is a dense, sometimes meandering exploration of the afterlife as experienced by pets and other animals. Does it make a difference whether or not you were ever domesticated? You bet it does. What’s the hierarchy like around here? Well, don’t mess with the cats, but REALLY don’t mess with the chickens. Hey, what are they doing here? Don’t all kinds of creatures eat chickens? And cats were actively worshiped for centuries, how does that fit in? I’ll get into it a bit more, but to simplify for those of you who are on the fence: do you enjoy philosophical discussions about the afterlife? About sentences? About the words in those sentences? How about the letters in those words? How far are you willing to go in these debates before you go rushing back to the familiar to avoid the feeling of losing your mind entirely? If you’re always up for a good discussion I couldn’t recommend this highly enough. I feel like I got about 1/4 of what he was going for on the first read. Having said that, how do I know that it’s a worthwhile endeavor and not meaningless, made-up claptrap with vague philosophical trappings? Because I thoroughly enjoyed and/or wanted to read more about the parts that I did get, and even the bits that kind of flew by me still gave me enough bread crumbs to be intrigued. What else… this is a dense brick of a book, I’m guessing around 250 pages (but it’s not numbered, so all you’re getting is a guess), with images and symbols that I’m still trying to unpack. Things start off with a cat helping a dog into the afterlife. Or is it a human? Whose hands are those? The dog then tries to understand the rules while also trying to fight his own dog instincts. But why are they all doing chores? And what happens when those instincts are directly confronted with a challenge? Oof, I really can’t say much without giving lots away. The story does come together eventually, more or less, which gives greater clarity to things that you might not fully comprehend while reading them. Still, as I said, this is one heck of a ride, and unlike any other graphic novel that I’ve read. Any day I can say that and mean it is a good day in my book. $18
Back from my extended working schedule (known around here as a “break” for some reason), so here’s a new review for Meeting Comics #4 by Andrew Neal. What’s this, two reviews in a row for the same person? Yep! Didn’t you see me mention that I’d be doing these weekly for a bit? What’s that? You assumed I would have flaked out by now? Historically, I get it. But not yet!
I spent most of the last two weeks stuck in an office (including 18 hours on election day, which is sadly about the historical norm for me), and still the first comic I’m reviewing after all that is a series of funny strips mostly about office life. I even held a meeting myself! Granted, it was short, there was a point, and I didn’t bother with visual aids, but still. I’m becoming one of the baddies! Sorry, where was I? Yeah, it’s a new issue of Meeting Comics! Well, an old issue, as I’m still more than a dozen issues behind. New to me, and I don’t see anybody else writing this review. Honestly, this issue is where the funny started wearing off a bit for me. Don’t ask me to explain it; I flipped back through the book in an effort to nail down this vague feeling and found myself laughing again at several strips. Is it because more of it deals with things other than office life this time around? Or is it my own general exhaustion from working so much lately where, all things considered, I’d rather be vegging out in front of the television? One of those little unknowable mysteries, I guess. Subjects this time around (after a great introduction from Barrett Stanley, and if Andrew is able to get intros for each of his comics he’s clearly doing something right) include hurricane coverage, visiting the family, happy birthday, what people are willing to put up with to get anything resembling a babysitter, seeing the protests you used to participate in on your way to work at the place being protested, threesome rules, the inevitability of straight white men to break bad, sharing a bed at a conference, the “can’t get with it” room, and dripping your whole life. Once again that’s only about half of the strips, and once again I gave you very little useful information. After looking through the book yet again I’m even more convinced that it’s my general malaise and not the quality of the book that has me feeling “meh” about it overall, but hey, we’ll find out next week after I review #5. What’s more likely: a book that’s at #18 and counting as we speak got significantly worse after the third issue, or it’s more something on my end? I’m voting for the second option. $5
New review for Meeting Comics #3 by Andrew Neal. What, did you think I wouldn’t follow through on the whole weekly reviews of this series idea? Yeah, fair enough, it’s happened before. Speaking of, it’s election time again, so there almost certainly won’t be any reviews next week. The week after that should be back to normal. Don’t forget to vote!
Meeting Comics #3
More Meeting Comics, more of me still laughing out loud! So the answer to “are you starting to get sick of these comics yet?” is still a resounding “no.” Can he keep this up for another dozen issues or so? I have no idea, but we’ll find out together. This time around I’ll just get right into it, OK? It starts off again with letters from readers, and once again they’re comedy gold. Then we see “Kevin throughout the years,” which seems like a waste of time since the comic had only been produced in 2018 at this point, but one look at those images shows you that it was indeed a worthy feature. How about those strips? Subjects include motherly love, getting your steps in (and every office in the world really does have at least one of those), Valerie’s type (which makes absolutely perfect sense), inviting your work buddies to your punk rock show, a meeting in roast format, hiring for a sociopath, the existential angst of joining management, the sin of even trying to bring up Dilbert, group beards, and trying to understand the youth. That’s only the first half of the book, and it’s more than I usually describe, what with my ongoing hatred of spoilers and all. That’s where these reviews for this one comic are going to get repetitive, right? When I talk about how I don’t really want to review them in depth because it’ll spoil the funny bits? Hm. Now I just have to find some way not to mention that again. Eh, the point is that these comics are funny as hell and that you should try them out if you enjoy funny things. It’s as true for #3 as it was for #1. More so, maybe. So check it out! $5
New review today for My Hot Date (And Other Embarrassments) by Noah Van Sciver. Those Kilgore Comics folks were nice enough to send me a half dozen of their newest comics, so expect to see more from that pile in the coming weeks.
My Hot Date (And Other Embarrassments)
For anybody who gets everything Noah puts out (which isn’t a terrible idea, as the man is awfully good at making comics) this is NOT the same as the previous edition of “My Hot Date.” I reviewed that one already, so I’d recommend reading it before digging into this review. It’s one of my old reviews that I can read without cringing, so it looks like I was having a good day. Ah, memories! The bottom line is that I thoroughly enjoyed the story, although this second time around his 90’s dialogue was almost completely unbearable. Historically accurate, from what I remember, but just unbearable. But still, it’s not like he’d bother putting this out again without some new material, which is why it’s still worth a review. Besides, Noah is maybe the most prolific guy out there (outside of Brian Canini maybe), so if anybody is entitled to poof up an old story a bit while adding new short pieces, it’s him. This one starts with a short piece about how poor he was back in the day and how hard it was for him to get Star Wars action figures (he made his own Millenium Falcon), and about how the whole “playing with toys” bit fails to impress other people right around the time you turn 14. Then there’s the main story, and I honestly can’t tell if he added any new material to it. Maybe? Check around the internet, I’m sure somebody out there knows. I don’t think “Lemon Juice in the Sun” (where he believes his sister when she tells him that lemon juice in his hair, along with sitting in the sun, will lighten his hair before his date) was in the previous edition, but I could be wrong. If I could ever be bothered to organize these mounds o’ comics I could check on things like that. He also included his top albums at the time (which are mostly cringe-worthy new, but not entirely), a depressing “where are they now” about a few of his old friends, and finally a comic called Holly Hill. This story is one hell of a bonus story, as it could easily be expanded into its own graphic novel based on what I’ve read. It’s the story of him trying to find ways to avoid becoming a “real” adult after leaving home, and it involves an extended stay in Florida along with some other couch surfing. How he manages to make things grim yet hilarious is always a wonder to behold, and this one is no exception. I just checked and saw that the original edition is sold out, so this is the only way left to get the story. And the extra bits more than make it worthwhile even if you do have a copy of the older comic. Why don’t you give that dusty old thing to a friend and get yourself of the new and improved version? $12
New review for O Human Star Volume Two by Blue Delliquanti. See? I told you I’d review somebody who I was hoping to see at Cartoon Crossroads this week!
Just in case you don’t like suspense in your reviews, this is the graphic novel I was most looking forward to getting at Cartoon Crossroads in Columbus this year (before I found out the hard way that there wouldn’t be any in-person distributors), and it fully lived up to my expectations. For once I actually remembered to order the book from the artist instead of just saying that that was something I should do in a review. I also got the third volume, and as I’m already sneaking glances at the cover, chances are the review for that one should be up in the next week or so. Or maybe the day after this one, if I just give in completely. Anyway! I’m assuming you’ve already read the first volume, as it would be very odd to jump right in with a review of the second of three volumes. Most of the lingering mysteries from the previous volume are still left lingering when this one is over, which is fine, and the story has moved along nicely. We get to see significantly more context in regards to just how Alastair died and his relationship with Brendan at the time. Blue also dedicates some serious time and space to exploring their professional past, their relationships with other inventors and what gave them the ability to really get their big idea off the ground. We also see a significant progression in Sulla’s character, as she gets to spend more time her potential love interest (who still has no idea that she’s a synthetic being). There’s also an incredibly relevant short story in the back from an anthology that shows the moment when Sulla decided to transition, and even though it’s not technically part of the story proper I do hope that it sticks around in any future editions of the series. What else can I say without giving too much away… Brendan crosses several names off his list of the possible suspects who may have brought Alastair back without him knowing about it. We get to see significantly more of the apparently robust robot culture, and their reaction at seeing the man who they’ve always thought of as the father of robotics. And, while this may not be as important, the glimpse into Al’s “negotiating skills” was absolutely hilarious. It’s a thoroughly engrossing read with a compelling mystery and it deals with several questions involving identity seemingly effortlessly. I’d call it one of the best comics series of the year, and there’s a serious chance I’ll upgrade that to THE best series after the third volume. Either way, if you like comics, you’re only hurting yourself by not giving this a shot. $25
New review today for Meeting Comics #2 by Andrew Neal, and just in case you only read these blurbs and not the reviews (you weirdo you) I’m going to start reviewing these suckers weekly. Hey, if you have a dozen plus issues of your series out, send them to me in a chunk. Maybe I’ll start reviewing them weekly too! I’d hold off until next year though. Can’t be doing several weekly review series at the same time, otherwise when would I get the time to review other stuff? I’m just one man!
So if you read the review for the previous issue (I am, as always, assuming that anybody who has the time to read a single review here also has the time to read all several thousand of them), you’ll know that I was trying to figure out how I’d manage to review every issue of this series, as Andrew sent along a significant chunk of them at once. Well, I’ve figured it out: it’s time for another in my very occasional series of weekly reviews! So you can expect one of these reviewed every week probably for the rest of 2021. If you hate them, they’ll be easy enough to skip! Still, that’s pretty harsh. I’ve only written one and maybe a third of a review so far; it’s a pretty extreme reaction to hate them. Anyway, another problem with reviewing four panel funny strips is how to avoid spoiling the funny when you do inevitably buy a copy. One excellent method (and one I’ve honed over my two decades of reviewing comics) is to avoid the comic altogether, usually while rambling about some other subject, like the idea of reviewing these comics weekly. See? You’re way into this review and I haven’t said a thing about any specific strip. Useless, you say? I’m failing in my duty as a reviewer? Yeah, probably. Feel free to dock my $0 pay for each review. OK, fine, I’ll mention the comic. For the second time I had all kinds of trouble picking the sample image, as a solid dozen of them at least got a chuckle out of me, and several got a literal “laugh out loud” reaction. Once again, you’ll relate to this stuff a lot more if you’ve had or have an office job, but I think damned near anybody would enjoy them. Subjects in these strips include (see, I’m getting to some specifics) the charm of a people person, the lingering desire for death, pulling up the ladder after you’ve made it to the top, bitcoin, breaking through that glass ceiling, the percentage of pants being worn during teleconference meetings, fuck the police, the always helpful H.R. department, and taking a moral stand. There are also several strips I haven’t mentioned, and I might have been a little misleading on a few of the ones I did. Yep, ever helpful, that’s me! Look, it’s a solidly funny collection of strips that I’m thoroughly enjoying so far. What else do you need to know? $5