Cholst, Rachel & Boyle, Angela – Artema: The Exile #1

Website

Artema: The Exile #1

Ah, the first issue. Difficult to review, because I know so little about the world in the comic so far. Well, I guess there are some #1’s that are easy to review: terrible comics. And this isn’t a terrible comic, so that’s out. This is the very beginning of the story of Artema. The story actually starts at the end (or at least further along), as the first thing we see is a noticeably older Artema reaching the end of what has obviously been a long, difficult journey, but without a clear idea of what to do now that she’s made it. From there we see a bit about the unique view of time as believed by Artema and her people, and then we’re taken back to see how Artema got her name. We next see her in training, and it’s obvious that she’s chafing under all the rules. This is a part where I could have done with a few more specifics, but since this is only the first issue it’s entirely possible we’ll learn more later. The rest of the issue, without giving too much away, deals with Artema struggling to fit into this world, her reaction to that defeat and the consequences of that action. It’s an intriguing start, that’s for sure. Rachel has a great grasp of pacing and leaving breadcrumbs to be uncovered later (who is that painted warrior?), and Angela does some solid work letting the faces tell the story in some otherwise silent panels. It’s definitely worth a look, and a solid first issue for two people who are apparently new to comics. One piece of advice: get that second issue out quick! Don’t join the vast pile of comics that only ended up with one issue. You’ve got me hooked early, so keep up the pace! $5

Update for 9/18/18

New review today for Behind Thick Glass, I Saw the Stars by perennial favorite Rob Jackson. And I was so caught up in everything else that I didn’t even notice the website’s anniversary this year, so…. happy 17th anniversary to Optical Sloth a couple of months back! Thanks to anybody who’s been here from the beginning (assuming you exist), to new visitors, and to everybody who checks in to dig through the archive whenever they’re bored at work. I have no plans to quit any time soon, which is probably good news if you like the site! If you don’t, why are you reading this? Life’s too short. Thanks again everybody!

Jackson, Rob – Beyond Thick Glass, I Saw the Stars

Website

Beyond Thick Glass, I Saw the Stars

It never ceases to amaze me how far Rob can get from the humble beginnings of a story. This one, for example, starts off simply enough, with a gang of guys waiting for the right moment to strip a car of its tires. Right away the title doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, right? Yeah, you have to wait for the payoff on that one. Anyway, we learn that these guys had been saving money, and they finally have enough to go to “Big Town.” From here we learn that this gang is actually made up of tiny people, and there’s some serious friction with the larger folk. But we also soon learn that there are even larger people involved, and eventually we start to piece together exactly what kind of a society we’re dealing with. They’re forced to retreat to yet another society, which is where we learn exactly how people ended up as different sizes, with different expectations as to what roles they’re meant to fill in society. Oh, and at this point the comic isn’t even halfway done yet. Rob has always excelled at filling his comics with imaginative details, which is even more impressive when you consider that (outside of a few exceptions) he works in single issues, meaning he’s starting over from scratch every time. Anybody who’s looking to excel in comics should take a look at his workload and history, there’s a lot here that should be emulated. About the only negative thing I have to say is the same thing I’ve said a bunch of times probably by now: I wish he had a better command of the your/you’re differences. Oddly, I enjoy his comics so much that I’ve made peace with it. And if you knew how much I enjoyed being a pedant about that sort of thing, you’d understand why that’s such a big deal. Prices are listed in Euros, so in American dollars for this 52 page book I’m guessing… maybe $10? Somewhere around there, anyway. It’s worth a look, so go look at conversion rates. If you give him too much money, just ask him to send along some of his other books to make up the difference…

Update for 9/14/18

New review today for Lawns by Alex Nall, happy weekend everybody!

Nall, Alex – Lawns

Website

Lawns

Just a quick note before I start talking about what might be Alex’s best book (and I’ve liked several of his other books quite a bit): it looks like his website hasn’t been updated since he linked to the review I did of his last book over a year ago. But you can still buy this book through the link on the title (going to the Kilgore Books website), so don’t panic. Well, I already gave the game away on my opinion on this one, but what can I say? It’s a goddamn amazing book. On the surface, this is the story of a mayoral election in a small town that gets a little tense, but there are so many little factors at play that that description feels like cheating. There’s Roger and his dog; Roger is a simple guy who doesn’t mow his lawn and doesn’t keep his dog on a leash. Anybody who’s ever lived in a small town already knows what kind of trouble petty things like that can bring. Roger’s dog has also bit a few neighborhood kids, although we eventually see that there’s more to the story. There’s Carl, Roger’s neighbor, who is fed up with the whole thing and eventually uses it as a platform to run for mayor (that and “Fuck Chuck,” referring to the current town mayor). Carl also got dumped by his wife recently and is living with a much younger woman. There’s Mildred, a reclusive older woman who writes regular letters to a dead beau; she’s also possibly Roger’s only friend. There’s Josh, a boy who’s gotten bitten by Roger’s dog, and the mischief he’s getting into. Finally there’s Chuck, the current mayor and somebody who’s just fine with the status quo. All of those people are explored thoroughly throughout the book, several of them make some pretty big life changes, and the whole thing comes together beautifully by the end, even the little bits that I was ready to write off as going nowhere. Josh trying to get even with Roger and his dog, Carl’s escalating rage that’s all made clear by something he says in this sleep, Roger just trying to live his life, they’re all given time and space to develop. This feels like one of those books that ends up winning awards, but even if that’s somehow not the case, this is an amazing book and I’m so happy that Alex is a teacher. It helps to know that he’s passing these skills on to the next generation. $10

Update for 9/12/18

New review today for Weekend by Erlend Peder Kvam and, if that name wasn’t enough of a hint, it’s another one of the fabulous mini kus comics!

Kvam, Erlend Peder – Weekend

Website

Weekend

How can something with this many vibrant colors be this nightmarish? Eh, maybe it’s just me. This is all about the weekend, after all, which is the happiest time of the week. What horrors could possibly be mined out of such a thing? This is the story of a man who loves his job a whole bunch, but we meet him right as work is getting out and his weekend is beginning. Upon arriving at his home he sends out a smoke signal to his children, asking what they’d like to have for dinner. Suddenly filled with purpose, a messenger bird delivers their answer, and the children return home from their wanderings. The kids have dinner, the father heads out to the gym, and upon his return to the home he’s shown art projects from each of his children. He steels himself to keep an open mind, and this is about where I have to check out to avoid spoilers. Yes, I’m avoiding giving away the reactions of a fictional father to the art projects of his fictional children, and in this context I feel pretty good about not giving away anything further. How the mini kus folks have managed to maintain this level of quality and originality for 70 issues (as of this writing, anyway) is beyond me, but we’re all lucky that they do. $6

Update for 9/10/18

New review today for another one of the monthly Poopsheet comics, and this time around it’s Larva Pimp by David Miller. Should be a regular week of reviews around here (which is about 3 these days), so hey, you have that to look forward to!

Miller, David – Larva Pimp

Website

Larva Pimp

OK, I’ll confess, I officially have no idea whether or not these “monthly” Poopsheet books have actually been coming out monthly, and trying to narrow it down to just the subscription comics on the Poopsheet website is a bit baffling. But really, what difference does it make? If Rick can manage to put 8 “monthly” books out a year, that’s still a pretty impressive achievement in the small press comics world. Meanwhile, I’m supposed to be talking about the comic itself and not the subscription service. It’s a simple but cute little story this time around. A pimp (a larva pimp, to be exact) decides to be lenient with a guy who owes him money. Word of his lenience gets back to his boss, and the reason for his change of heart soon becomes apparent. Which is, once again, just about all I can say without getting into spoilers, although with a mini this short there’s really only one big spoiler to avoid. Anyway, it’s a funny little comic, and you should be supporting the whole monthly mini comic idea regardless. If this makes Rick Bradford rich, maybe he’ll start hiring a bunch of small press comic artists to take over the world! Hey, you never know…

Update for 9/4/18

The mini kus people are back! It’s always good to see the package with Latvian stamps arrive. New review for Day Tour by Mariana Pita!

Pita, Mariana – Day Tour

Website

Day Tour

This is #67 of the mini kus books. I mentioned the issue number a few times back in the day but stopped, mostly because every issue has a different writer/artist. Is there another anthology series of comics that you can think of that’s been this successful? Granted, “successful” is a relative term in this field (I’m guessing everyone who’s put out one of these books didn’t receive a small island as payment), but still, kudos to the folks who run this project. Meanwhile, what about this particular comic? This is the story of a young woman who is called a hero by somebody she barely knows on social media. Her talking dog calls her out on this, saying that she’s no hero and that the social media person wasn’t even real. She is determined to prove her heroism, and happens across an ad online for giving blood. Seeing a good and easy way to become a hero, she sets off to give some blood, which naturally isn’t as simple as it sounds, or there wouldn’t be much of a comic, now would there? We get to see the whole grand adventure of getting to the blood clinic, what happens when she gets there, and the side journey of her dog just trying to find a good spot to watch the football game. The watercolor art of Mariana is gorgeous; mini kus putting these comics out in full color really pays off with this issue. Give this comic a shot, come along on a grand yet mundane adventure. And check your back issues to see how many issues of mini kus comics you have. That’s what I’m going to do one of these days… $6

Update for 8/28/18

New review today for Cats of the White House by Rachel Scheer and Danny Noonan!

Scheer, Rachel & Noonan, Danny – Cats of the White House

Website for Rachel

Cats of the White House

Before I get started, one more warning sign about the current President (it’s 2018 right now, future readers)? Dude never had any pets. Like, ever. To reach 70 years old without ever having a pet is a gigantic red flag. Anyway, this is a nice comic that contains no politics at all, and here I had to go messing that up. They even managed to make the various events that elevated Ford to the White House into “a scandal” and “another scandal.” This is the story of 10 presidential cats, what they were known for, how they made it to the White House, and how they ended up. These are some surprisingly deep veins for stories, with some of the highlights being the very first Siamese cat given to Rutherford B. Hayes, Lincoln’s long conversations with his cats, Theodore Roosevelt allowing his cats to have such free reign that the servants were instructed to allow the cats to sleep wherever they liked, Kennedy’s cat allergy, Clinton’s famous cat Socks and how it was eclipsed once he got a dog, and the forgotten cat of George W. Bush. It’s a fascinating list and they’ve clearly done some serious research. There’s also a section in the back where they mention the various other types of White House pets; if they’re not working on a sequel to this involving the hippo and alligator mentioned, they’re crazy. $3

Update for 8/22/18

New review today for Rest Stop Brochures for the Not-So-Distant Future by Caitlin Cass. That’s probably it for reviews this week, but keep those comics coming. I’m hoping to make this a more regular thing for a month or so before work takes over again…

Cass, Caitlin – Rest Stop Brochures for the Not-So-Distant Future

Website

Rest Stop Brochures for the Not-So-Distant Future

Hey look everybody, it’s basically four new comics from Caitlin on one convenient package! Yes, I’m only showing the cover for two of them here, but that’s because I’m sneaky. This is a set of four faux rest stop brochures bundled together, each covering a different topic. There’s Digital Red Tape, where people sign up to be forced to fill out forms and complete busy work to use their phones, which leads to less usage of their phones and a way to gradually reclaim their lives. Next up is Rainbow Boat Tours, where the nicest possible spin is put on a boat tour that takes you through waters that are clogged with floating plastic garbage. Drone Eyes shows you the wonders of experiencing different parts of the world through a drone; these stations are set up at rest stops to help you forget about how much time is still left on your actual journey. Finally there’s The Forum, a place where you can say whatever terrible or objectionable thing that you’d like, and the hand picked audience will still cheer and give you validation. Sure, it’s bleak at times, but these are still some darkly hilarious comics. And if you can’t laugh at times like these… well, that’s probably healthy. Still, you should at least try to laugh.

Update for 8/20/18

Oof, sorry about that, work has been crazy lately. You may have read about it if you follow political news at all; I work in one of THOSE Ohio counties. Anyway, new review today for Ask a Cat #9 by Charles Brubaker.

Brubaker, Charles – Ask a Cat #9

Website

Ask a Cat #9

You know, I’m starting to get the sense that there are only so many things you could plausibly ask a cat. Not that I want to start this off by ragging on Charles; if you’ve been enjoying his work up until now you’re going to like this one just fine. It’s just, well… “how do you save on travel?” isn’t something I’ve ever considered asking a cat. Maybe I should accept that this series has become a way for him to answer odd questions without getting too caught up on the “cat” aspect of it. Yep, apparently you’ve caught me in a pedantic kind of mood today. Questions that are asked of cats this time around include whether or not they wear Halloween costumes, their favorite supernatural being (this one was interesting, as it dealt with a ghost cat), how to get rid of a headache, if the cat has a life’s goal, do they always land on their feet, and how to stop sweating so much. Overall there were some funny bits and some less funny bits, and since I’m in such a pedantic mood I feel compelled that there were a few typos, which is rare with Charles. But the man certainly has a prolific work ethic, so check out his website to see the ridiculous amount of comics he’s produced over the last few years.

Update for 7/30/18

Yep, still chairless over here, so still only sporadic reviewing. New review today for Concerted Efforts by Mohar Kalra, and once again I’ll try to get another crouching review or two up during the week.

Kalra, Mohar – Concerted Efforts

Website

Concerted Efforts

Sometimes I receive books from people who say they’re just starting out in comics, and in those cases I really try to put my professional reviewer’s hat on (whatever that means), to get ready to get picky about little errors or basic things that the artist could do to improve. When I do this I try to make it clear that despite the number of comics I’ve read in my life, I’m still just some guy, and the opinion of people like me should never dissuade anybody from making comics. That being said… this comic was pretty great. The pacing, the story, the interplay of sound effects with the action, I don’t have a negative thing to say about any of it. I guess I wish he would have put up a link on his website where people could buy a physical copy of this comic, but maybe that’s just me showing my age, as he has it up for free if you’re curious. This is the story of Mohar going to his first concert (I learned this for sure on his website). First he has to motivate himself to attend, as going to any concert is a big hassle. Once he gets there he’s supposed to meet up with a friend, but his friend got there early and had made his way to the front. Mohar, however, as you can see from the sample image, had quite a journey ahead of him to meet his friend. I loved the descriptions of the different sections of the crowd (familiar to anybody who’s been to a big show), the wise old concert-goer who offered to help, the rage when people realized he wasn’t dancing… lots of great little touches in here. Overall I’d recommend this book to anybody who’s ever had to navigate a big concert crown. As far as any practical advice I might have? Keep doing what you’re doing, try to get in some diverse life experiences so you have interesting stories to tell, and you’ll be just fine.

Update for 7/23/18

Yep, I’m finally back! But it wouldn’t be me if there wasn’t drama along the way: I have no chair for my computer desk, so I’m awkwardly typing this while sitting on the floor. Meaning reviews might be scarce for a bit until I get this sorted and, due to getting hit with a few hilarious financial setbacks after moving, that might be a few weeks. But I’ll still get sporadic reviews up, like the one today for Noble Head Funnies #6 by Edward Parker Bolman, another of the Poopsheet Foundation subscription comics, so look into that, won’t you? Meanwhile, if you live near the Columbus area in Ohio and have a decent computer chair you’re looking to get rid of, let me know and I can trade you for some comics…