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Norhanian, Aaron – Giant Fiend Comics


Giant Fiend Comics

There’s a threat rising from the land of Scandinavia! OK, it’s really a tourist with too much vacation time on his hands. But when he comes to America and succumbs to the American habit of eating and drinking too much, he succumbs to… American’s disease! Is it possible to write an entire review using unnecessary exclamation points? Well, no, because I just blew it with that question mark. Dammit! So our tourist friend eats way too much and turns into a giant monster. Well, not really a monster, just a giant human being who’s drunk and stumbles a lot, causing all kinds of damage. Normal weapons don’t work, so the top scientists are forced to call… other giant monsters! Ah, I knew I had another unnecessary exclamation point in me. Another giant monster is called, it’s not enough, yet another giant monster is called, and soon the scientists have far bigger problems than just one giant flailing tourist. This one is a big pile of fun, unless you’re one of the rare people who doesn’t like to see giant monsters fight each other and knock down buildings. I’m assuming a few people like that exist out there, but I’ve never met one. For the rest of us, get ready to enjoy some monster punching! $4

Norhanian, Aaron – Blunderbuss




I really hope the $10 price tag doesn’t scare people away, as this is one hell of a comic. Actually it’s more like three mini comics bundled together (or four, but then the fourth would just be a regular old short story, which would be an odd format for a mini comic). See, there’s your value right there! Things start off with a table of contents that is brilliant because the comments in it can be appreciated before and after reading the stories in entirely different ways. Granted, you probably have to see that to know what I’m talking about, but that only places you at fault for not having the comic yet. The first story is about an awkward conversation on a bus, a misunderstanding of what constitutes a disability and the odd expectation that strangers on a bus will care what you’re talking about. It’s a little grotesque, and I mean that in the best possible sense. The next story answers the question of the origin of the universe, along with many of the questions that go along with it. Will everyone be satisfied? That is an impossibility, but I’m thinking about starting a religion based on this theory, purely so I can be tax-exempt too. The final comic story is a literal interpretation of the “square pegs can’t fit in a round hole” theory, and how the pegs that don’t fit can still make things better. I’m glossing over all the wonderfulness in those stories because only jerks reveal everything about stories where you’d be better off figuring them out for yourselves, but I thoroughly enjoyed all three of them, with the story about the origins of the universe winning the prize for best in the bunch, if such a prize existed. Finally there’s a short story about a beard growing a face by Jason Ciaccia. I go back and forth on short stories in comics, usually coming to the conclusion that they’d be better in zines or books, but there was a lot to love about this one. The central idea is sentient beards, so it’s hard to go wrong when you start with that premise. Check it out, there’s a lot to love here. $10


Norhanian, Aaron – Freaky Shit


Freaky Shit

Full disclosure time: Aaron sent me a couple of copies of this comic as “insulation” for the couple of extra copies of Bad Energy he sent along for the comic rental business (still working on it, but holy crap is it taking longer than I thought).  He didn’t think very highly of this comic, in other words, and any negative things I say about it have to be taken with that caveat in mind, along with the fact that it’s from 2006 and he has done substantially better work since.  OK, so what’s it about?  It’s the story of a janitor who’s also an evil genius.  He develops a ray gun that allows him to steal the intelligence from all the smart scientists in his lab, making himself smarter and smarter every time.  What’s the catch?  There are two of them: this ray, once it takes the intelligence of the scientists, turns them into brain-craving zombies (are there any other kind?), and the side effect of all this ray gun activity is a tumor in the head of the janitor.  Oddly, this doesn’t bother the janitor as much as you’d think, but if I say much more about this I’ll spoil every bit of it.  I will say that the ending was clearly one of those “I give up, I have no idea how to finish this” type of things.  It is a fairly amusing comic overall, maybe worth a look if you enjoy the rest of his work, but overall he’s right: this is far from the best thing he’s done.  If you love mad scientists or Aaron’s work give it a look, otherwise I’d suggest some of his more recent work, like Bad Energy.  No price, but judging from his opinion of this book I’d say Aaron would be willing to let you have it for cheap…

Ciaccia, Jason & Norhanian, Aaron – The Sinister Truth: MK Ultra


The Sinister Truth: MK Ultra

One teeny tiny thing before I start unreservedly praising this fantastic graphic novel: Jason and Aaron, put your names on the cover.  This is a graphic novel, you’ve earned it!  Just saying.  OK, who out there loves a good conspiracy theory?  How about if that theory is backed up with so much factual documentation that it stops being a theory and instead becomes the hilarious truth?  This comic tells the tale of one of the many assassination attempts of Fidel Castro over the years by the U.S. government, otherwise known as the keystone cops of assassins, or at least that’s how I think of them for botching literally hundreds of chances to kill the guy.  Botched assassination attempts include poisoning Fidel’s wetsuit, an exploding cigar (seriously), and an exploding conch shell.  Those are only the most ridiculous ones of the bunch, there were hundreds more.  Anyway, this comic tells the tale of an attempt to use mind-controlled CIA agents to poison his shoes and pump LSD into the air of a television studio while Fidel was giving a speech.  The idea was that his subjects would revolt upon seeing Fidel dancing around on burning feet, blasted out of his mind on LSD and having his beard fall off from the poison.  The trouble was that the man in charge of this project regularly used LSD himself in huge quantities which, when looked at through the lens of modern living, is one of the crazier things you’ll ever hear.  The “training” of these agents involved breaking them down into tiny quivering pieces, so naturally things started to go wrong with one of the agents.  They were able to “see” through the eyes of the agent while the doctor was controlling them (I’m assuming this is artistic license on the part of Jason and Aaron, but with so many insane things being true in this story it’s hard to tell), and the doctor responds to problems in the mission by taking more LSD.  The story on the Cuban side was a comedy of errors: the main agent got drunk and blabbed his story to a woman at a bar (forcing him to kill the woman, then everybody else in the bar to prevent his story from getting out), then he killed a maid because he thought in his manic state that she was a spy (turns out she was, but that was just blind luck), and he finally killed the other two agents that were assisting him because the voices in his head told him to.  Not a good start to the mission, granted, but if only got worse once he finally made his way to the television studio.  While putting the LSD into the air vents he accidentally set it off, getting a highly concentrated blast (far more concentrated than what he took during his “training”) right in the face, so naturally the doctor in charge of the mission took an equal blast to be on the same page as the agent.  The doctor freaks out, burns all the files and destroys the monitoring apparatus, which sets the agent loose during a crucial fight with Fidel.  I’m right on the edge of revealing everything about this comic.  It’s in the historical record and all, but I learned some new things about Fidel during this comic and I thought I was pretty caught up on all that nonsense.  Sure, we know it’s a fascinating historical story, but do these two pull off interpreting it?  In a word: yes.  Yes, they do.  Jason has clearly researched the hell out of this (he even reprinted a few memos from back in the day, and most pages have a historical footnote of some kind), and Aaron was the perfect choice to show these characters devolve into hallucinating puddles of goo, not the mention the fine work he does on this large cast of characters.  The price is a little steep at $11.95, but the packaging is gorgeous and these two clearly put some serious time and effort into this.  Check it out, learn a little something about American history just in case you made it to 2010 and still think that the U.S. can do no wrong.  $11.95

Norhanian, Aaron – Bad Energy


Bad Energy

Aaron asked me in his letter to be brutally honest in this review, so I’ll start off with my main problem with the book: the utter lack of contact information.  It’s a moot point for me, as he included his name and website with the book, but always, ALWAYS assume that somebody somewhere is going to see your comic at a store, or see it sitting at your table during a con (during the five minutes you leave your table).  They’ll pick it up, chances are with other comics (at either a store or a con, as who only buys one comic?),   and when they read it later they might check online for some of their favorites, but comics like this with no information of any kind get set aside and forgotten.  Go ahead, try just searching for “Bad Energy” online.  The closest you get is the “Gimme Shelter” logo on the back, which happens to be more or less the name of his blog.  So: always include some kind of contact information somewhere in your comic!  Now that I have that out of the way, on to the other things I didn’t like.  There was… hm.  Nope, I pretty much liked the comic itself.  This is the story of The Cartoonist, constantly belittled by life for his silly “hobby”, always managing to go on in a world of negative energy and contempt for him.  All of this energy ends up in his comic, with disastrous consequences for the rest of the world.  This was a thoroughly engaging “fuck you” to the rest of the world.  The art was fantastic (I suppose it is possible to go wrong with brains flying out of the back of the head due to reading comics, but Aaron depicts it beautifully), the story wrapped itself up nicely and the whole thing was the perfect length.  Not too much to complain about, is there?  So you have my one complaint that has nothing to do with the content of the book, then my unreserved praise for the rest of it.  Make up your own minds.  Oh, and there is no price, which is also a pet peeve of mine, but somehow significantly more minor.  I’m guessing $2 for no reason at all.