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!
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
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.
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…
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
New review today for So Buttons #8 by Jonathan Baylis and a gaggle of artists.
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?
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
New review today for Urscape #1 by William Cardini. What could possibly happen in a second issue of this series? Who knows!
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
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.
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!
New review today for Tortilla #5 by Jaime Crespo. If you’re around Columbus he’ll be here September 26th through 29th for Cartoon Crossroads this year. I’m still kicking myself for missing the one last year, and I won’t be making that mistake again…
Jaime has a new website! I just wanted to make that clear for everybody who only reads a sentence or two of my rambling reviews. And this is his first series to get to five issues, so congrats to him! He mentions in his intro that he attempted to make this an all humor comic, as he knows that some of his stuff gets heavy. Despite the fact that I usually love his stuff, every time an artist says something like that my immediate reaction is “I’ll be the judge of that” and, well, what can I say. I laughed out loud at the end of three of the stories and grinned at the end of the fourth, so I’d call that a successful humor comic. Stories in here include aliens demanding to see our leader (and while I usually hate giving away the gag on a sample page, this was just too good for me to resist), a tale from his childhood about him and a friend trying to avoid a bully that ends with the bully throwing a spear at them as they were fleeing (and probably my biggest laugh of the book), how he came to accept the spider in his house (OK, maybe the final panel of this one was the biggest laugh in the book), and a story about the teenage years of Jesus that he held off on publishing until his very Catholic mother passed away. So if you usually like his stuff but find him a bit heavy, this comic is for you! If you have good taste and already liked his stuff, you already know that you need this in your life. Oh, and if you managed to get a copy of Tortilla #1, he apparently lost the original artwork and the comic is out of print, so you might be sitting on a goldmine. Billionaires buy comics too, right? $4.50