New review today for House to House by Hironori Kikuchi, which is the last of the current pile of mini kus books. Ah, they go by so fast…
This is one of those times when the synopsis on the back cover was a lifesaver, as it revealed a key fact that I somehow missed. Was it obvious in hindsight, or even regular sight? You bet! I missed it anyway. This is a silent tale from an old favorite; Hironori is on this website in a couple of anthologies, but a clear sign of my opinion of him at the time is that I used his stories for sample images for each comic. Anyway, this is the story of a young boy who sets out to visit the house down the street. He is joined by the kid (?) on the cover, they stick around for coffee and doughnuts, and finally agree to bring a book to another house up the hill. This particular house gave me Jim Woodring flashbacks, and I only mean that in the best possible way. The intended recipient is sick (or possibly just sleeping? These are the ambiguities that come from a silent comic), but they manage to deliver the book, and I should probably stop describing the story now, because there’s not much of it left. His art style is adorable while still being vaguely unsettling, which is not an easy line to walk. Yep, the conclusion is inescapable: it’s another winner from the fine folks at mini kus. They should really put out a stinker just to keep me on my toes… $6
New review today for Hot Dog Taste Test by Lisa Hanawalt, but this is really just a sneaky excuse for me to recommend her Netflix show, Tuca & Bertie, to everybody who likes her work. She’s the head writer and it’s amazing; I know it’s easy to miss new shows on Netflix because they all come out so fast, but don’t let this one pass you by.
How is it possible that I’ve been writing reviews on this website for 18 years now and there’s nothing here by Lisa Hanawalt? It boggles my mind. Granted, most of you already know who she is and buy her books, so this won’t be new information to you. But even if you’ve already read this, read it again! Trust me, it’s as funny as you remember. No, this is more for the few who have somehow never heard of her, who have never seen Bojack Horseman (you’ve had plenty of time to see that by now, come on people) or her new show Tuca & Bertie. She’s A writer on Bojack, but she’s the HEAD writer for Tuca & Bertie, meaning it’s a lot more like her humor, and you should all watch it. Good lord, have I really not mentioned her comic yet? Yeesh. Hot Dog Taste Test is a collection of strips and stories, roughly 90% of which had me laughing out loud. Yes, literally! I could only read so much of this book at once, as it was causing me physical pain from laughing. If there’s a stronger recommendation to be had, I don’t know what it could be. It’s tough to even describe her style, but I’ll make a fumbling attempt at it. Some pieces in here are food reviews of a sort, mostly in text but with illustrations, of her trip to Las Vegas, her family vacation to Argentina, her time swimming with otters (and how she knows that she’s experiencing the high point of her life while she’s swimming with them), a review of some of the many street vendors in New York City, and her day spent at one restaurant and its owner. There are also paintings (I’m currently trying to limit myself to just buying two of them), several pieces that are all text (like her attempt at corporate logos or her famous baking tips), and what sure looks like the first appearances of Tuca in Bertie in raw form. I haven’t read a book this funny in ages, so this absolutely gets the highest possible recommendation from me, whatever that is. Huh, turns out I really should have made up a ratings system years ago. Whoopsie! $24.95
New review today for Motel Universe by Joakim Drescher, happy weekend everybody!
Pandemonium! If I only had one word to describe this graphic novel, I’d probably go with that one. This is the story of a civilization that’s going through some serious changes and strife. Vague? Sure! It starts off as the story of a father and his daughter after they get kicked out of their protective custody. They’re on the run because their skin is a highly sought after commodity, and they would both obviously very much prefer to keep their skin. From there we learn a bit more about these two before they’re captured by a ship full of Jeffs, which is apparently what each dog (that walks like a man) is called. They meet several more of their kind and are released into the wild for the purposes of being hunted by rich people. Well, rich creatures of various types, anyway. They have maybe the most cruel weapon I’ve ever seen: a gun that neatly removes the skin, then compels the skeleton to hand the skin to the shooter before it disintegrates. I’d probably better quit with the descriptions or you’re going to be completely spoiled, but I will say that I haven’t even mentioned the Hermans, B. Flump or Caligula, despite the large roles they play. Or Captain Littlehead! Calling something a “wild ride” is about as cliched as it gets, but damned if that doesn’t describe this comic. The constant battles with creatures great and small (and terrifying), the struggle for civilization (such as it is), even the emergence of a villain that bears an uncomfortable resemblance to our current main villain in charge of the U.S., all of it is harrowing, and gorgeously drawn. If you’re up for having your brain messed with, give this one a shot. $21.95
New review today for Look Back and Laugh: Journal Comics by Liz Prince. Since this book is a collection of her strips from 2016, she’s going to need a few new titles soon to cover the inevitable collections from 2017, 2018, 2019…
Please don’t ask me to explain my opinion on daily diary comic strips, because it turns out that I have no idea. I thought that I was over the format entirely, but here Liz is with a book of 366 strips from 2016 (it was a leap year Top Shelf Comix, fix your totals!), and I was delighted and amused throughout. Delighted at least in part because of the saga of her cats (they’re in the sample strip because, even though other strips might have been funnier, I love the way she draws cat so very much that I couldn’t pass it up), but there’s a whole lot to like here. She avoids the major pitfalls of the diary strips, where the creator would run out of things to say and then do a strip about how they had nothing to say. She maybe did that once or twice here, but even then she’d have something insightful to say about the reasons behind the lack of a story, or some other fact to keep things moving. Subjects in this collection include Liz getting engaged and then married (in as low-key a fashion as I’ve seen; it didn’t even take up the entire strip for either day), the ongoing struggle between her cats Dracula and Wolfman, buying a house and all that comes with it, making a big move, and keeping all of her various projects on track while doing daily strips. And, obviously, a whole lot more, but you probably already figured that out from the whole “366 strips” thing. As I said, this is from 2016, but as of early June 2019, it looks like she’s still going with the strips. I can’t read them all because you need to donate through Patreon to do it, but I can think of very few people more worthy than her to support with your comic monies. Hell, I’m probably going to end up getting one myself, mostly because the suspense of whether or not Dracula and Wolfman ever got along is going to bug me until I learn the answer. So yeah, it’s another amazing book from Liz. Buy it, make her rich! Or at least financially solvent… $19.99
New review today for Oops by Rebeka Lukosus, another selection from the rapidly dwindling pile of mini kus comics.
Well, it’s finally happened. In hindsight, it was bound to happen sooner or later with the mini kus books. As somebody who’s supposed to have something to say about all comics great and small, I find myself… speechless. Here, I’ll give you the synopsis on the back cover (always worth a look): “What happens if you are bored, live alone, have six arms and a magical imagination?” What follows is a wordless story depicting just that, with a finale that clarifies the meaning of the title. The images were often hypnotic; the undulating of her six arms reminded me of watching a spider or an insect with many legs walking around. Baffling as it may seem to those of us with two arms and two legs, having all those limbs would be natural if you had them your whole life, and Rebeka did a masterful job of conveying that impression here. Is it worth a look even if I’m more or less stumped? Absolutely! It’s a mini kus book, and I get the feeling that conclusion is going to pop into my brain at an unexpected moment in the future. $6
New review today for a returning old favorite: Wolf’s Head Volume 1 by Von Allan.
Von Allan! It’s been ages. To give you a peek into my life that nobody asked for, a few months back a bookmark of his old book (The Road To God Knows…), sort of shifted to the surface of one of my comic piles. Yes, it’s probably almost exactly what you’re picturing from somebody who’s gotten review comics on a regular basis for the last 18 years. Anyway, seeing that made me wonder what the guy was up to, and suddenly he sends me two new books (I’ll be writing about the sequel to this soon). Kismet! Or coincidence. Either way, good timing. So what’s this one about? It’s complicated. Or very simple, depending on how you look at it. This is the story of Lauren, Patty and Sanko. Lauren has just quit the police force, as she’s not able to put up with the abuse and corruption as a black woman. Patty is her mother and is dealing with complications with her heart following a fire in the laboratory where she cleans up at night. Sanko is a very good boy. Lauren’s story is what keeps everything grounded; she loves being a cop but can’t stand by with what’s happening, so she has no choice but to quit. The decision is clearly hurting her, as she listens to a police scanner in her apartment and ends up getting physical with a corner drug dealer after quitting, something that almost comes back to bite her later. Her search for a job, any job, is entirely too real, and heartbreaking. Things take a turn for the fantastical with Patty, as she grabbed something from the lab during the fire that seems possibly sentient and shows a protective streak towards Patty. This element plays a small role so far, but it seems like it’s going to come up more later. It’s an interesting mix of relentless realism (seriously, that job hunt was soul crushing) with a supernatural and/or alien component. I’m curious to see what happens next, which is always the goal with a first volume, right?
New review today for Maunder by Paula Puiupo, another one from the mini kus pile. Back to my regular sporadic reviewing this week, but I’ll admit that it was fun talking about comics daily again. Oh mysterious and imaginary rich benefactor, when will you free me from this office job so that I can ramble about comics at my leisure? I’ll just be holding my breath over here…
Once again, it’s taking all I have not to just paste the synopsis on the back of the book here instead of writing a proper review. When you pick up these mini kus books, don’t sleep on those synopses; each one of them is a work of art. And yes, I’m just assuming that you’re buying some of these books, because why wouldn’t you? Bright, vibrant tales of all sorts from all over the world? Seems like an obvious buy to me. Oh right, the comic. This one’s a little bit autobiographical, in that it starts with our author telling the reader about a heart condition of her mother, which also ended up being the same heart condition of her sister. From there things get more than a little bit abstract, as she wonders about the ability to communicate with someone who has already gone, and whether or not what’s stopping us is our own stubborn perception of only three dimensions. The images, before and after the story takes this turn, are captivating, full of details that come together more fully as you take in more of the story. Perhaps this should be an autofill comment on my part by now, but my repeating it doesn’t make it any less true: this is another triumph from the mini kus folks. Give them money so they can keep this up! $6
New review today for My Troubles With Crumb #2 by Matt MacFarland. I did it! Five reviews in a week! Remember when I used to do that every week? Yikes, was that ever madness. Happy weekend everybody!
For the last issue I had some problems with Matt’s lack of specificity in his complaints. Sure, it’s easy to call Crumb a misogynist, and it sure feels right based on his past work, but using specific examples would really bring it home. Well, this time around he uses plenty of examples of Crumb’s racism, and I’d have a difficult time arguing with any of them. He also takes aim at six other male cartoonists from the time. Still, it’s not about them, they’re just a useful example of the culture in the 60’s. Matt spends most of the rest of the comic going over his own history of racism, although I’d argue that one racist comic in high school is maybe not enough to still be calling yourself a racist today, especially because a defining characteristic of racism is an inability to see yourself as racist. The point is that he’s learned from it and grown as a person; is there any chance of similar growth from Crumb? Based on his “defense” of this problematic work, it doesn’t seem likely. So here we are: Robert Crumb has made some racist comics over the years. Which leaves me with one simple question (that’s going to have a different answer depending on who you ask): what’s his legacy? It could be argued that underground comics would have never made it, uh, above ground without his work and influence. And I’d still argue that some of his comics, especially the ones where he unflinchingly deals with his own neuroses, are brilliant. Does it all get chucked into the racist bin? Can we separate the worthwhile stuff as a society and use that while downplaying or ignoring the racist books? Hell, I don’t know, I’m just some guy who writes about comics. They’re interesting questions though, and this comic is as good a place as any to start asking them. $8
New review today for Drawn to Berlin by Ali Fitzgerald. That’s right, it’s everything from hardcover graphic novels to tiny mini comics this week.
Refugees! If you’re anything like most humans on this planet whose world hasn’t been literally or figuratively blown up, chances are that you don’t give them much thought. Or, if you’re one of far too many Americans, you want them to “go back where they came from” or only worry that they’re “taking our jobs.” Well, it turns out that refugees are people too. I know, right? This book does an excellent job of detailing Ali’s time teaching a comics class at refugee camps in Berlin. It shows the welcome the refugees got at first, how that gradually became less welcoming before becoming overtly hostile at times. The art that some of these people produced was remarkable, but just as remarkable was WHY these people were making that art. Sheer horror is oddly missing in these stories, but it doesn’t take much poking around in their art to see some of the mental scars from their journeys. Many of them left family behind, usually with no clear picture on when or even if they’ll ever see them again. In these 200 (ish) pages Ali talks about the bubble that served as a camp (it’s a literal inflatable bubble), the dangers of arson that they all faced once the general public opinion on refugees started to sour, the endless free time the refugees had to fill for themselves with no jobs or tasks, how some people grew or changed while others just vanished, and even a little bit about Ali’s love life. It’s harrowing stuff, hopeful at times but also clearly aware of the systemic problems that seem to be stopping any sort of actual solution. I’d recommend this book pretty highly to anybody who wants to see what the actual refugee experience is like, or as a gift to any giant racists that you have left in your life. $24.99
Mini kus comics are back! New review today for Junior by Alice Socal, the first of four new comics from them to arrive over the weekend.
Maybe you’re one of what must be very few people in the world who saw that title and thought “huh, I wonder if it’s referring to the Arnold Schwarzenegger of the same name.” Yep! Good job, you! I’m also sorry that you sat through that movie at some point in your life. Still, as this is a mini kus book, it’s not like it’s a straight adaptation of the movie, or even that it has much to do with it. Things start off with a couple in bed together, with the woman trying to get the man to feel the movement in her pregnant belly. He can’t seem to get the timing right so he can’t feel anything, she goes back to sleep and he decides that he wants to more fully experience what she’s going through. The rest of the comic deals with his efforts in this area. These efforts are adorable at times, but they’re not without the barest hint of tragedy. How did Arnold have that baby in Junior anyway? Yeesh, maybe it’s best not to think about it. Meanwhile, this is yet another winner from the mini kus pile. $6