Update for 8/15/19

Kelly Froh has a new graphic novel out! New review today for her Walking Uphill.

Froh, Kelly – Walking Uphill

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Walking Uphill

Is this really Kelly’s first graphic novel? Looking over her comics here and on her website, it sure looks that way. Well, if you’re one of those weirdos who only reads graphic novels and turns your nose up at mini comics, you’re in for a treat here, as Kelly has been doing her thing for over a decade now, honing her craft. Yes, you should also check out her mini comics too, and not reading mini comics is just damned odd, straw person I made up in my head. There’s a lot going on here, so much so that I started the book over after finishing it. If you have a short attention span, that’s all the review you need right there: I read most of this book again right away. Obviously I loved it! Things start off with Kelly and her friend Missie (name possibly changed) in Portland in 1994, living in a hostel, barely getting by and not at all sure that they made the right call in coming to Portland. Next we get to see what brought her to that moment, how she became friends with Missie in Wisconsin, their experiences with drugs and parties, how they already seemed to start veering off into different personal directions before they left town. There’s a whole lot more to the chapter than that, but why spoil all the surprises? The last chapter shows them moving to Seattle, the trouble they had again settling in (better than Portland, but barely) and how the reality of them drifting apart became unavoidable. Nothing is belabored here; it’s all subtle enough that I read it again when I was done, after all. The awkward moments at parties, how her friend saved her at least once from creeps, that devastating moment at a party when some guy said horrible things to her while she was on acid (having been there, very few things can more quickly strip you down to a blubbering mess, existentially at least)… there’s a whole lot to love here. It doesn’t hurt that Kelly was born in the same year as me, so I can personally relate to the atmosphere and music, but don’t be afraid, kiddos! Not knowing what the fuck you’re doing with your life in your early 20’s is a universal condition. Buy this book, and know that once you realize how much you like it, there’s a whole library of her past comics just waiting for you to discover. $14

Update for 8/13/19

New review today for Sportsbar, New York Part 1 by Martin Pohl. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this recently, but it never hurts to repeat myself: I’m running very low on review comics, and I’m going to stock up at Cartoon Crossroads here in Columbus at the end of September. Meaning that now is your window if you have stuff you’d like reviewed!

Pohl, Martin – Sportsbar, New York Part 1

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Sportsbar, New York Part 1

18 years into this reviewing gig and I can still get baffled by a comic. It’s what keeps me going, folks! Long time readers should know by know that “baffled” is not synonymous with “disgusted;” it’s much more likely to mean “delighted but confused.” This one starts off with a long introduction that is damned clever and funny. Takes the reader on quite a journey before even getting to the comic. That’s after a table of contents that I almost used as the sample page because of its sheer absurdity: chapter 1 is on page 1, chapter 2 is on page 2, all the way to chapter 28 on page 28. And both the pages and the chapters are numbered on every page! Boggles the mind. Anyway! This is a series of single page strips, which built up into a decent narrative when all was said and done. Initially it seemed like it would be a series of mildly amusing punchlines, but then things got weird. Our heroes, theoretically, are two rabbits who have some anger (and boredom) issues. They watch a show called Two Morbid Pigeons (which is basically like watching themselves on television), suspect that they’re being watched by some agency (and they’re right), and sometimes there are humans involved. In their own strips, that is. Unless the rabbits have become human? Nah, I’m probably overthinking it. It won me over by the end, that’s for sure. $5

Update for 8/8/19

New review today for Novelty by Mohar Kalra.

Kalra, Mohar – Novelty

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Novelty

Depression! Who’s got it? Let’s see, show of hands… yep, that’s pretty much everybody, so some extent at least. This is an occasionally dream-like comic about Mohar’s troubles with depression, or possibly a fictional tale of depression and how to handle it. I’m assuming it’s based on real life because of how pieces of it so perfectly mirror the depressed mindset that I don’t see another way to get it down on paper so accurately. For example, there’s a page that’s only Mohar’s attempt to respond to a text message about a party that’s just devastating. First he starts to ask what he can bring, deletes it, starts to say that he can’t make it, deletes THAT, and finally texts that he’ll be there. Anybody who’s ever wondered if they can face the outside world for another day can relate to that roller coaster. Things start off here with Mohar being “fired” by his therapist. He suggests group therapy, but Mohar is already down the depression hole after hearing this news. He portrays this as literally melting down, with the slightest disruption (in this case seeing a gecko in his fridge) enough to send him spiraling. He sees moments of real beauty in his quest to live in the world, and these are enough to sustain him here and there. But then a genuine tragedy occurs in front of him and he does nothing to stop it, which crushes any progress he’s made. Is he able to turn it around? Does he live happily ever after? Well, no. That’s not how depression works. But you’ll have to read it for yourself to see how he deals with it. Obviously I liked it, and if you’ve ever been depressed you’ll find something familiar here.

Update for 8/6/19

New review today for The Backstage of a Dishwashing Webshow by Keren Katz. Anybody know any good underground vaults that I could donate my comics to when civilization collapses? No reason that’s been on my mind lately, I guess…

Katz, Keren – The Backstage of a Dishwashing Webshow

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The Backstage of a Dishwashing Webshow

A friend of mine recently asked about the best way to get into comics, that she had a lot of trouble with the flow of panels, how you’re meant to read along, how long you’re “supposed” to look at the art, etc. All questions that hadn’t really occurred to me, as I’ve been reading comics for about as long as I’ve been reading. Still, to anybody reading this who has similar concerns, or feels at all like you’re still a beginner in the world of comics? This one is for the advanced class. Keren does work with images, pacing and script that are all graduate level stuff, and the description on the back of the book was mini kus-esque (I mean that in the best possible way, of course), so not much help there either for the beginner. I couldn’t hope to accurately describe this story or encompass the “gist” of it for you; it’s truly one of those graphic novels that you have to see for yourself. Things start off with a prologue involving a stage where all of the operas that are yet to be performed are all arranged. The actors go back and forth among the operas, picking up the appropriate props from barrels placed around the stage, while avoiding the temptation of being drawn into another story. What could be described as a frenzy of images follows, but Keren is one of those people who slow me down while I’m reading, making me take time with the images constantly. From there the real story starts, if there is such a thing. It deals with two roommates at a school where “everybody reverts to who they were before.” One of the roommates, as you might have guessed from the title, has a dishwashing webshow. With a side game involving loose grapes that are placed around campus and eaten by her fans. There’s also a gentleman caller, sort of. And that’s as far as I’m going to even try to go with this. I’m not even going to guess the feelings you’re going to get from this story, as mine were all over the place. Still, give this a shot and it’ll be easy to see why she’s winning all sorts of awards lately. She’s one of those people who you could unironically call the future of comics, but it’s a future that’s already arrived. $21.95

Update for 8/2/19

New review today for But a Dream! by David Robertson. According to Google there’s a Canadian comic person by that name too, but this isn’t that guy. It’s the original, the one who’s been on this site for over a decade now. Accept no substitutes!

Robertson, David – But a Dream!

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But a Dream!

This might be a turn of phrase that I’m not supposed to use as an American, but I’m going for it anyway: this one did my head in. David’s comics can get abstract occasionally, sure. But to do an entire comic on dreams, and to have it end up as… um… dreamy as this one? It’s impressive as hell. Partially that’s because it can be tricky to tell when some of his stories end and the next one begins; he’s not a big fan of a title page indicating the start of a new story, and in this one there aren’t even page numbers to keep you grounded. It’s just stories of dreams, some bound by a loose connection, others not at all. To give you some idea of why this messed with my brain, here’s an example. One of the stories deals with an ape man who’s chasing David. He throws bananas to distract it as they climb up the side of a building, then enters the rocket ship on the roof. The ape man fires his gun at the rocket, which discharges a bullet that’s bigger than the ship. In the next panel David hears a bang, which he determines came from his kitchen. Even though he was in a rocket in the previous panel. That kind of thing happens a lot in this comic. It’s skillfully done, but occasionally unnerving. Usually this is the part where I’d tell you what these stories are about. It’s tradition, so I guess I’ll give it a shot, but be warned: this will make even less sense than usual. Stories in here deal with a giant purple naked man who’s the year 1994, running to catch a show and then dissolving literally into laughter, wordless Star Trek, trying to determine the appropriate height to fly in a dream, being in the room for a Tony Blair interview, the Star Wars actors getting stuck in an Ewok TV show, and having his spaceship overrun by giant naked men. Even that doesn’t do this issue justice, so I’ll just say that if you’ve enjoyed his previous work, you’re bound to love this too. Or possibly be very confused by it, but I think that’ll settle into love.

Update for 7/31/19

New review today for Trolls: Operation Great Wall by Michael Aushenker. Hey, guess what? I’ve been writing comic reviews on this website for 18 years now. Should I have more of a celebration than a random aside on a post that isn’t even a review? Eh, maybe. Thanks for reading along all these years, or months or days maybe! I’m still mildly annoyed that I don’t have any millionaire readers who are willing to bankroll this into a full time project, but what are you going to do.

Aushenker, Michael – Trolls: Operation Great Wall

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Trolls: Operation Great Wall

This issue is a little less completely insane than the last one I read, but considering the fact that that was about a drunken party in an airport (among other places), there was bound to be at least a slight return to “normal.” Although you can look at the sample image below and see that there’s no such thing as a normal, quiet day in this world. We join our heroes in the Honolulu airport, where they’re casually chatting about Wayward’s girlfriend and what he can possibly see in her. She’s a bit on the dramatic side and comes from a conservative family. After nearly getting into an accident her parents take her to China, the Great Wall specifically (title might have given that away, huh?), and our heroes decide that they have to rescue her. But they’re air traffic controllers, not pilots, so you can probably guess how well that turned out. The rest of the comic has hijinx all over the place, what with the international incident and all. It also has an appearance by a former president, which isn’t the president I would have guessed in a comic with “wall” in the title. The previous issue may have this one beat for pure insanity, but this is quite the enjoyable read too.

Update for 7/29/19

New review today for So Buttons #8 by Jonathan Baylis and a gaggle of artists.

Baylis, Jonathan – So Buttons #8

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So Buttons #8

To those of you who read these reviews in order, yes, I did review a collection of the first 8 issues of this series already. And I wrote a review of #9. But he was also nice enough to send along a copy of #8 for review, and roughly half of the stories in here weren’t included in the collection, so it’s kind of like new! To those of you who don’t care at all about such minutiae, my apologies. I’ll treat it like a regular old comic and won’t even mention which of these stories were in the collection, how about that? Partially because my memory is garbage and I’m not completely sure without looking back at the book. Stories in this collection include (after the American Splendor homage cover by Noah Van Sciver) his struggle with pork (he’s Jewish) and the best dumplings in New York, his early years experimenting with gory special effects (and the time he got into a fender bender while wearing gory face makeup), what almost turned out to be the perfect day, and the story of his history with pets, up to an including the tragic story of the first dog he adopted. So if you were curious if just getting the collection would cover you for the first 8 issues worth of stories, sorry! That was merely a “best of” collection. Plenty of great stories still around in these individual issues! $5

Update for 7/19/19

New review today for Andros #8 by Max Clotfelter. I should have probably gotten to this months ago, but it fell into the comics swallowing vortex that follows all reviewers around. Why else do you think it takes so long for certain comics to get reviewed?

Clotfelter, Max – Andros #8

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Andros #8

There’s something profoundly unnerving about the stories in here between the stories about Max’s past. Or are they just disturbing because they’re inherently disconcerting? That’s a question that’s above my pay grade. This is a mix of autobiographical tales and those old timey Hee Haw skits if they were done by David Lynch on a bender. Those stories are best read by you without any clue of what’s coming, but subjects include (being as vague as I can here) spicing up a meal, falling in love, a pun, making your own bait, and excessive fingernails. There, good luck making sense of all that. His other stories are a lot more grounded, and they deal with his getting his first gun (and then a bigger gun, and what happened when he finally got around to firing it), catching fish with his dad (and what happened to the fish afterwards), the true story behind a group of ghosts that he saw, and his brief time with one of the worst temp jobs I’ve ever seen, and I have been through some temp jobs in my day. It’s another solid mix of stories by a man who’s been doing this long enough to have his (artistic) shit thoroughly together by now. Give it a shot, unless you’re easily grossed out. In that case, give it a shot anyway. That way you’ll know that your previous bar for being grossed out was probably too low. $2ish


Update for 7/17/19

New review today for Urscape #1 by William Cardini. What could possibly happen in a second issue of this series? Who knows!

Cardini, William – Urscape #1

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Urscape #1

Sometimes I wonder what would happen to me if I gathered all the William Cardini comics I’ve picked up over the years, took an afternoon and read them all in a row. I’m honestly not sure what that would do to a person. I mean that in the best possible way, of course; comic-induced madness always seemed like a likely fate for me. This is the story of… you know what? I’m cheating on this one. Here’s the description lifted from his website: ” The Miizzzard descends into the Urscape and gets slabbed. Take a psychedelic, enigmatic journey with the Miizzz through 20 pages of textural, intricate drawings at the speed of one panel per page.” Yep! Trying to read one of his books quickly, without taking some time on each page to soak in everything that’s happening, is really a waste of an amazing comic. Can you describe it to a friend over lunch? Not coherently, no. But reading his comics tweaks that certain something in your brain that’s convinced that other worlds and realities are always there, just out of the corner of your eye. If you’re interested in a peek into that world, this guy is one of the few people out there who seems able to see it clearly. Give it a look, see if you still perceive the world entirely the same way when you’re done. $6

Update for 7/15/19

New review today for Palm Tree by Grant Thomas, as there don’t seem to be any laws against reviewing an Easter comic in July.

Thomas, Grant – Palm Tree

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Palm Tree

This is a wee thing of a mini comic, which means it’ll most likely be a short review. It’s been decades since I was raised religious (Roman Catholic), so I can remember the gist of the story in this comic, but I’ll get enough wrong so that this might be funny/enraging to anybody who takes it seriously. Palm Sunday is a Christian holiday. I think it’s before Easter? Followers wave palm fronds to signify… something something Jesus. How did I do? Eh, that’s why Google exists; if you’re curious, go nuts with the searching. Anyway, this comic is the silent tale of Grant (or a stand-in) getting a palm tree, caring for it, having some issues with it and finally having it grow into a full tree. There’s a brief shot of Jesus with people waving palm fronds at him, so I guess it’s triumphant? Again, I’m long out of the religious world. Anyway, this would probably mean a lot to a religious person in your life, maybe as a stocking stuff, but for Easter. You know, this is actually small enough to fit into a plastic egg, with a little creative folding. Perfect!