This is one of those books that’s going to be impossible to properly review. Which is odd, as there is a coherent quest at the center of it, one of them there “heroic journeys” you read about. But when it comes to the page by page specifics of this book, there’s too much to talk about in any kind of coherent fashion. Would you like to play “spot the stamp” with his panels? Because you could; there are several tiny stamped images strewn throughout the book. Not on every panel though, as that would be too easy. Zombre, the anchor of so many of his past books, has a brief cameo in this one, but that’s about it. There are SO many panels with SO much going on in them; I just flipped the book open randomly to the image of two sleeping bears, and even on that image I just now found a tiny bug, seemingly serving as a watchman of sorts, on one of their paws. Missed it entirely the first time around. So if you’re one of those people who measures quality of a comic by how much time you can spend with it discovering new things, this one is damned near priceless. Every page that has a crowd shot has a ridiculous amount of things happening in the background. Eh, I probably should talk about the story. We start off with an elf (Twit Leaf) gathering berries. Somebody pulled a prank on him and the bucket has a hole in it, so most of his berries have been eaten by birds that were following him around. Still, he needs berries for the banquet, which means he has to look for them in a more dangerous area. This leads him to an abandoned pocket video game system, which might as well be magic as far as he’s concerned. After a few more events he makes his way to the banquet, hoping that the game system will make up for his lack of berries. This is the meaty center of the book, where we get to spend some quality time with the whole extended civilization going on and the bizarre cast of characters. Which is why I used them for the sample image, and the ones shown below are only a small minority of the oddities. Twit Leaf eventually decides to go out for more berries, which is where he runs into a Cryptmunk Slayer (he had thought them to be extinct). Oh, and there’s his elf friends. And the demon. And the floofy monster that’s capable of killing all other monsters in horrific fashion. And so, so many others. I’m wrapping this up here, but to be perfectly clear: this is the opus of Ansis Purins, at least so far. It’s his crowning achievement, and whether or not you were already a fan, you should absolutely check it out. You’re unlikely to see anything this thoroughly, delightfully inventive anywhere else, and this is coming from a guy who reviews delightfully inventive comics on a damned near weekly basis. Check it out, spread the word, and enjoy. Oh, and this behemoth is also somehow only $16.95; I’m a cheapskate and my guess would have been $30. Gather those pennies and buy this book!
We can all agree that the world would be a better place with more Magic Whistle in it, but Sam Henderson is just one man with other demands on his attention. What’s the solution to this problem? Bring in more funny artists! That’s the general idea with this latest version of Magic Whistle, and it’s a fantastic idea that works splendidly in this first issue. Sam does his thing better than most funny people so you know going in that that’s going to be good (check the handy chart to see what gum is called in your state; Ohio is “Pennsylvania asparagus”). But what about the newbies? Well, to start with, I think they’re all oldbies (i.e. people who have been making comics for years now), so no worries on that front either. John Brodowski (if you’re a regular around here that should be a familiar name) has a series of strips involving Sid and Sid (basically a carnival barker and a mute ghoul, although it’s probably best not to know for sure exactly what they are) spreading knowledge and horror wherever they go. Manuel Gomez Burns picks apart the traditional gag comic, spending a lot of time with the character in the last panel who always plops over in horror/outrage/hilarity and exactly what might make this character tick outside of the frame. Leah Wishnia devises the ingredients necessary to create the perfect spitball and show the devastating effects of such an object. Jesse McManus’s comic might require some knowledge of older Magic Whistle strips (mostly the ones where the bear and the human exchange body parts with each other with joy and hilarity), but he injects some unsettling realism into that hypothetical situation. Finally there’s Ansis Purins, another familiar name to regulars around here, with an oddly sweet tale of brothers with little in common who go out to plant a tree. And because it’s Ansis, some version of zombres are of course involved. Here’s hoping that increasing the pool of funny means more Magic Whistles in the world, because we’re all going to need something to laugh about over the next few months, he said, injecting a slight political note into an otherwise non-partisan review. Don’t vote Trump, you dummies. But do buy this comic, because it’s funny. $5.99
It’s always a good sign when my main complaint about an artist is that their comics are too short/come out too infrequently, as it’s clear that I just want to see more of their stuff. That problem is taken care of in this masterpiece, as it’s gigantic. And yeah, I did just call it a masterpiece. This comic is damned near perfect while still telling an epic story, often without using words. Shall I try to sum this up? It’s a hopeless task, but I’ll at least mention some highlights. If you’ve never heard of Zombre, you might want to at least look through some old reviews (or, better yet, read previous issues in this series, although it’s not required to enjoy this one). Basically Zombre is one of the more harmless representations of a zombie that I’ve seen, as he is basically a friend to small woodland creatures and doesn’t seem interested in hurting anybody. This time around, as Ansis has room to wander, we start off with a small hungry dog who’s having a tough time of it. This dog has been separated from his human, but he detects a scent and sets off in pursuit. As his human is a forest ranger (not that the dog knows this yet), this leads the dog through some dangerous woodland territory, until he is eventually saved by Zombre in one of the more cute and heroic acts that I’ve seen. From there we check in with the ranger, learn how he became a ranger, see his co-workers, and meet a horrific actual zombie from the forest. This zombie is also wrapped up with some creepy bugs that have a disturbing tendency to form into one giant bug or dog, and things get intense from there. But! Some comics like this just veer into weirdness and stay there, content to leave things as ambiguous as possible. This issue of Zombre, on the other hand, wraps everything up fairly neatly, while also still leaving some mystery and plenty of other questions to be explored. It’s my favorite issue of the series, and I was delighted to see (in the note that Ansis sent along with the comic) that he’s drawing for 3-4 hours a day. The man deserves to be rich and famous, and I absolutely believe that if I’m reviewing #6 a year from now, he’ll be well on his way. Not that the act of my reviewing his comics has anything to do with it; I’m talking about the places he can go if he sticks to the comics and keeps up a consistent schedule. The only possible complaint I could see anybody having is that this issue is $20 but, like I said, it’s gigantic, and it’s that rare occasion where a $20 comic is worth every penny. Buy it and enjoy, you will absolutely not be disappointed. $20
Magic Forest #1
Ansis mentions on the inside front cover that this may be considered Zombre #2.5, but I refuse to go along with that. No Zombre in the comic, no Zombre in the title! I am cruel but fair. Anyway, don’t be too alarmed about Zombre, as #3 is almost done, and this is a little something to get us through until that comes out. This one has three stories, all dealing with something fantastical. Up first is a story about a park ranger who meets a singing mermaid. He tells her the rules about public nudity in the park, then they exchange names, which is when it gets weird. The second story deals with a forest gnome (or some other sort of woodland creature) who goes out hunting to prove his worth and ends up in an unfortunate encounter with a bear. Finally there’s the last surviving elf telling the story of the final battle with the spider army to the guardian of the forest. Of course there’s more to it than that, but I’m not going to ruin it for you. And then there’s that back cover that you’re just going to have to see for yourself, as there’s no way I’m going to try to describe it. It’s a damned funny comic, and you should be reading it. Simple enough, right?
Zombre #2: The Magic Forest
I have one problem with Ansis, and one problem only: he doesn’t make enough comics.Â Yep, if you’re looking for the final verdict on this one, you can probably figure it out from there.Â Getting a new Zombre comic is like a ray of sunshine being belched into my face by a unicorn. And even if the man does take some time to put out individual issues (making him right in line with every single other small press guy on the planet not named “Brian John Mitchell”), he really delivers when the issue does come out.Â This is a behemoth with a large cast of characters and it’s absolutely gorgeous.Â My scanner couldn’t handle the sheer orange of that bird and had to tone it down a bit.Â This time around we’re introduced to a hippy park ranger and the forest in general before finally getting around to Zombre.Â He eats a butterfly, gets his eyes seared by the sun and terrorizes some campers before using his mildly defective problem solving skills to throw a tire through the ranger’s car window.Â A daughter and her overprotective father enter the picture, Zombre eventually meets them, and I used one of the very few menacing pages for a sample.Â Hey, he’s not a bad guy!Â I will say no more, as each bit of this should be read and savored, but I will say that I noticed the “to be continued” after that fantastically ridiculous ending.Â It’s huge, it’s only $4, and it’s Zombre.Â There’s still time to get in on the ground floor (more or less) of this soon-to-be global phenomenon.Â Hey, “The Walking Dead” did huge numbers, just think of how a zombie with a heart of gold would go over with the public…
Hooray for a bunch of little stories instead of just one big story? Don’t get me wrong, I liked the last issue just fine, but the way I usually tell if I’m going to like somebody in the long term is if I can see a variety of their stories and make sure it’s not just because I’m hopelessly biased towards zombie stories. Well, in this particular case, anyway. In here you have a giant robot who only wants to please, a young woman trying to take the garbage out and being harassed by all kinds of woodland creatures (including Zombre), a crying hippie, a lonely Sasquatch befriending Zombre, a case of mistaken identity, a story about Rudeboys (so THAT’S what the song “Simmer Down” is all about), something about fending off a Duppy of your own and some nasty zombie vomit. Yep, it turns out that I like all his stuff. Most of the stories with the zombie were wordless so the book kind of flew by, but there’s something in each of these stories to recommend the book, and that’s just about all you can ask for. Contact info is up there, this one is $3 (or $4 with shipping).
Zombre Vs. Slappy: Megathunder Showdown
Well, it’s always good to have a great title to get things rolling, and that certainly fits the bill. I also couldn’t tell you which character was Zombre and which was Slappy, as this is mostly a wordless story, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the skinless, bloody mess is Slappy, just because of his general sense of whimsy. Hey, I have a 50/50 chance of getting it right. Zombre seems like a somber sort of guy, just wandering around and not wanting to hurt anybody, while Slappy wants to cause as much mayhem as possible. They quickly become friends, as they don’t really have anybody else who would want to be friends with them, but their differences quickly become apparent and the inevitable battle ensues. It’s a remarkably short battle, considering the title and all. I loved just about every bit of this, frankly, although I do have a soft spot for zombies. My only minor aesthetic problem is that the pages are a bit too dark a shade of gray, but that’s what they call a “minor quibble”. It’s $2 ($3 with shipping), send the man an e-mail why don’t you?