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Ink, Max – Blink: And Now, This…

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Blink: And Now, This…

Everybody out there who has HBO (or who has access to an HBO Go password) is watching John Oliver’s weekly show, right? In case you’re not, shame on you, but the title is in reference to that. And for all my complaints about the lack of political comics these days, here’s one right up my alley. It even makes explicit on the cover how blood-soaked the Confederate flag is, although I guess Max could always correct me and say that somebody spilled wine on it. But I doubt it! Anyway, this one opens up with the gang watching Oliver’s show and laughing about Starbucks and their ham-handed attempt to start a conversation through race via coffee cups. They all enjoy the big, go on with their lives, and the scene shifts to a few months later, after that asshole shot up a historically black church in Alabama. If you’re reading this in the future, check around June 2015 to narrow it down, as it’s clear the gun massacres are going to keep right on happening. Anyway, they chat a bit about what’s going on, with Sam being the most cynical of the bunch, and we even get a peek into the history of the two friends. It’s a short comic so I don’t want to spoil any more than that, but this was a really engaging comic, and I think it could educate a few people who have a superficial (at best) sense of the history of race. He even gets into the assassination of Martin Luther King and includes the remarks Robert Kennedy made the day after he died. It was a great speech, but it only made the whole thing more depressing, knowing as we do that Kennedy was assassinated himself short after that. I don’t have any answers, although I will say that 100% of Republicans are against even common sense gun control reforms, so if you’re happy with all these massacres, vote Republican! I can’t say that voting Democratic will end them, but it seems to be the only chance we have right now. Max made this a “pay what you want” comic, so maybe send him a few bucks? Or one buck. It’s up to you, really.

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Ink, Max – Blink Volume 2: To Go With This Doorknob

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Blink Volume 2: To Go With This Doorknob

Note for everybody who isn’t living in the past: this is a rough cut edition of the second volume of the Blink saga. Can I call it a saga or is that word reserved for things in the fantasy/science fiction genre? Anyway, the official version of this is out, but here I am, reviewing the rough cut, because it’s the version that I have available. This is all to say that any complaints/comments/praise I make about this book could be completely wrong, as what I liked/disliked could have changed by the time the final edition came out. So doesn’t that make this review essentially meaningless? Eh, let’s not get too far bogged down in philosophical questions. At the very least this will serve to remind fans of this series that there’s a new volume out there. So! I’ll start with a complaint from me as a fanboy and not a hypothetically impartial reviewer: you just cannot put out an entire volume of this series and not include Sam in it. Granted, the series is called “Blink” and not “Blink and Sam,” but come on now. Sam is gold whenever she’s on the page, and even if she didn’t fit in this story, at least have a flashback to an older conversation of theirs or something. Oh crap, I just solved my own problem, didn’t I? Sam isn’t in this story because she doesn’t fit into THIS story. Dammit! OK, enough rambling, by now you’re probably wondering what’s in this volume. This is essentially a long conversation between Blink and a number of new people that she meets. It starts off with her drawing in a park when a large, smiling man walks up to her. She’s a little confused, but seems to get that there’s no real threat there, and she gradually meets this guy and the two guys that he’s with, all of whom seem to be homeless but getting by through shelters and free meals. This leads Blink to a free potluck dinner at a “hidden gem” in Columbus, where she runs into an older friend, a few other people and a creepy piano player. I always get the feeling that I’m not properly conveying the joy of these books in my reviews, as “lady talks to other people for about 40 pages about all sorts of things” might not be something that gets people to rush out and buy all his collections, but I have to again emphasize that you really should get all of his collections. The man is building a world, based on the actual world of Columbus Ohio, and he’s doing a hell of a job with it. This volume was a little lacking in Columbus landmarks compared to other volumes, probably because it starts in a park and ends at a dinner (after a walk from the park to the dinner), but he has 11 more volumes to include more landmarks. Check it out, but start from the beginning. Hey, just go SPACE in Columbus in April, that’ll make it easy to get caught up on his series. $7

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Ink, Max – Blink: So It Goes #1 – Wonka Wonka Kochalka

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Blink: So It Goes #1 – Wonka Wonka Kochalka

Huzzah for a master plan! It seems like there have been very few epics in the small press world since Cerebus ended (or at least epics that actually came to fruition), but Max is planning 13 chapters to finish this story, ending up at some point in 2016. One suggestion/quibble before I get started on the book itself: why not list projected publication dates for the chapters? Sure, there are almost certainly going to be various problems along the way that prevent it from going exactly as planned, but maybe it would be useful as a motivational tool? Eh, with the way Max has been going over the years, he probably doesn’t need the additional motivation. Anyway, this graphic novel is called “So It Goes” and this volume is called “Wonka Wonka Kochalka,” as Max admirably makes clear in his introduction. This volume is all about Blink, Sam, Hank and their group of friends, many of whom are introduced here (unless I missed them in a mini comic appearance). Hank plays some songs, the gang wanders around to different bars chatting about various topics, and I’m on the verge of making this sound incredibly boring, which it’s not. But it’s also most likely not going to be action packed, so you should get that out of your heads early on. Instead it’s just natural conversations, happening among people who might not otherwise interact (Sam especially does not suffer fools gladly), and it’s wildly entertaining. There’s not a whole lot more to say about the story, frankly, as this is very early days of this series. If you’ve liked previous Blink stories (like the many mini comics floating around or the first collection of his work), then you’ll be happy to know that Max has stepped it up yet another notch this time around. If you’ve never seen his work, well, this seems like a good investment to me. It’s rare that I’d be more surprised if an artist DIDN’T finish his proposed epic, but I have full faith that Max will manage to pull it off. But there’s more to this comic than just the comic itself. The comic is 32 pages (which doesn’t technically qualify as a “graphic novel,” but calling it a “chapter” is awkward as hell) and there are another 24 pages of extra material. When I first flipped through the book I noticed this and was instantly wary, as it looked like padding to jack up the price on this book. Then I flipped the book over and saw that it was a relatively measly $7, so that clearly wasn’t the reason for all the extra material. First off, he’s doing a letters column, something that has been sadly lacking in comics lately, and he’s already gotten some interesting material to work with. Then there’s a few sketchbook pages (with promises of much more at his website if you’re interested), a listing of the folks who donated to the Kickstarter campaign that essentially got this comic published, a story about his art gallery showing, a story about Max from a local paper and a listing of all of the future chapters. And there’s arguably the most important part of the book: his descriptions of various places that you see and various things that people are talking about. I like to think that everybody knows Joss Whedon by now, but Max sprinkles bits of Columbus throughout his stories and he takes a minute here to explain these places. It’s been said by other reviewers, but his comics just feel like Columbus, mostly because of all the local landmarks. Which is what makes his use of things like SPICE (for the annual small press convention) instead of SPACE a little jarring, as you’d think he’d go one way or another with that sort of thing. Hey look, I found a complaint! Anyway, you people should buy this book to make sure he stays nice and motivated in this endeavor. I doubt very much that you’ll be disappointed when it’s all over… $7

Ink, Max – Blink: So Far

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Blink: So Far

I’m never entirely sure what to talk about in collected editions of comics that I’ve already reviewed individually. It’s a good chance to update Max’s contact information anyway, so there’s that. This collection seems to cover Blink #1-4 (but maybe not every bit of them), and some of the newer stuff isn’t included, like his “FYI: IDK” mini, which is sorely missed. But some newer stuff IS included, so this is essentially an entirely new book and I’ll go with that. Either way, a collection like this is a good chance to revisit older stuff and see both how it holds up and how it holds together as a cohesive whole. Well, Blink defies the latter kind of analysis because it’s a series of moments and conversations, not the entirety of a depicted life. I’ve always loved the fact that this is a comic about three people in Columbus (two girls and a guy, although mostly about the two girls for this collection) and we’re not bombarded with relationship nonsense or much in the way of serious drama. These are mostly the moments between those bigger moments, and I’m glad that Max has spent a good chunk of his last 7 years pointing those moments out. As for how it holds up, it holds up pretty damned well. The earliest pages show that he’s improved in the years since, but it’s not like he was terrible even back then. And if you haven’t read any of his individual issues of Blink, you’ve finally waited long enough to have most of it in one collection (although I’d still recommend finding the uncollected minis). Stories in here include stopping to enjoy a moment on a playground during a nice day, Sam bouncing crossword clues off Blink (even though Blink is terrible at it, their back and forth seems to lead Sam to the right answers), Sam talking Blink through some writing anxiety, Blink playing in the snow to avoid dealing with said writing problems, the two of them going to a poetry reading (although all we see is them talking about with a punchline from an observed conversation, which again perfectly sums up the charm of the book), the two of them staring at the stars and talking, a conversation around a campfire with the three of them, and Hank and Blink talking about Hank’s fear of lightning. The biggest story here is also probably my favorite, as Sam meets Hank for the first time and takes him to task for not understanding the blues. The back of the book says that this is a book about the three of them, but really it’s about the two ladies and their friendship. No big space battles, no mutants of any kinds (although those squirrels were making some very strange noises, so no guarantees), just regular old solid conversations. And images of Columbus spread out throughout the pieces, which tied it all together. I liked the minis, so of course I like the collection too, but people who haven’t read it yet should definitely give it a try. Or hell, even if you have read them and just want a nicer edition for your bookshelf. $10

Ink, Max – Blink #4: Barefoot in America, Breakfast in the Part

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Blink #4: Barefoot in America, Breakfast in the Park Now Available! $3

Hey, I’m the official online retailer for Blink Books! Sorry, I just noticed in the back of this issue and had no idea. Well, OK, some idea, as I am selling them… Oh this thing with selling comics, it’s like a constant revelation to me. Max says that with this issue he’s going to start focusing on the lives of the main characters Blink, Sam and Hank (you may or may not have known that that last one was a main character) by going to the full issue stories rather than the 4-8 page bits. I could and have argued both sides of that particular argument, but it looks like he’s going to occasionally put out shorter minis anyway, so it’s the best of both worlds. This issue is essentially a conversation in the park between Blink, Sam and Hank, as the two women run across him playing Supertramp by himself. The relative merits of their music is discussed, as well as Hank’s woefully inadequate knowledge of blue’s music. The conversation is all well and good, as Max has a great handle on dialogue, but the highlights to me were the quiet intro (animals running around) and the conclusion, with Hank running into a friend and telling the guy not to be a pig in describing Blink and Sam. It’s a great way to start this idea of telling the story of their lives, by not having everything begin and end with their conversations. All told it’s another solid issue, if you haven’t figured that out already… $3

Ink, Max – Blink #3: Space to Breathe

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Blink #3: Space to Breathe Now Available! $2

This is the last of the available Blink’s (as of 8/6/07, anyway), and unfortunately, it’s a SPACE issue. That means (and this applies to other conventions as well) that it’s much shorter than the other issues, as it looks like Max wanted to have something new for SPACE of last year. Still, the other two issues are mini comics too, it’s not like he’s cheating a whole bunch here. There are only two short stories in this one, the first with Sam and Blink looking up at the stars and talking about the world and the second with Max telling a story from his parents about stopping to notice the good things in life. It’s a peaceful little shortie and another solid issue, I just get greedy when I find a series I’m enjoying and hope that all future issues will be about a hundred pages. $2

Ink, Max – Blink #2: Experiencing Creative Difficulties

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Blink #2: Experiencing Creative Difficulties Now Available! $3

More from the world of Max Ink, and this time he tells us right off the bat what to expect in this issue: writer’s block. Or whatever it’s called when it’s more of a comic’s block in general than writer’s block. Anybody who’s gone through it knows how horrible it is, to have any spark of creativity that you had always assumed would be around just leave you completely, never knowing when or if it would be coming back. The first half of the book is dedicated to this, as Blink gets a chance to do a strip for a theater zine, but she finds that all her ideas are stupid and worthless. Sam tries to talk sense to her, pointing out previous successes and some good things she finds in Blink’s sketchbook, but it’s a hard sell to Blink. The other big story in here has the same theme, this time with Blink giving up on her productive afternoon and taking time off to play around in the snow.There are also some fairly illuminating sketchbook pages in the back, detailing where the first story came from and some other ideas that are floating around his head. More good stuff from Max, even if these so far leave me with the impression that while Blink is a decent series, he has something really special in him still to come, either through Blink or something completely different down the road. $3

Ink, Max – Blink #1: Up Leaves Fall Down

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Blink #1: Up Leaves Fall Down Now Available! $3

The trouble with reviewing these things sequentially, the way I see it, is that it often short-changes the artist. Take this first issue of Blink, for example. By now (4/25/07), Max has this as (if I remember correctly, as his website is down and I can’t find the info online) a weekly online strip, so he’s spent some serious time on it. Even if it’s not a weekly strip, he’s done at least three more issues with these characters by now. However, in this issue, things are just getting started, with us getting to know the two main characters, Blink and Sam. They walk and talk or they sit and talk, about lost innocence and crosswords puzzles, with a few pages of sketchbook material and the most wonderfully honest advertisement I’ve seen in quite a while. It’s here as an introduction, and it does a fine job at that. Seems like I was going somewhere profound with this, but I had to take a break and away it went. I’ll leave this up as an illustration to anybody who thinks that I know what I’m doing, and if it comes back to me I’ll put it up in the review for the next issue, which should be in a couple of weeks if all goes as planned. Either way, a solid issue on its own…

Ink, Max – Blink: FYI, IDK

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Blink: FYI, IDK

Max manages to reach in and tug directly at my heartstrings with this anti-technological issue. Well, maybe it’s not anti-technological, just more of a cautionary, “don’t forget that it’s OK to speak and type in complete sentences” kind of tale. In this issue (which is free, by the way, so if you ever see Max or order other comics from him, mention this one) Blink realizes that she’s run out of time to get her Aunt a handmade card, like she does every year, and decides to cheat a little bit by still drawing a card but sending a picture to her of it through her phone. Sam uses the occasion to go off on a wonderful rant about people putting every detail of their lives on their blogs and being a slave to Facebook and Myspace (or whichever thing you damned kids are obsessed with today). Just a very lovely, cathartic issue. If anything I thought the rant was reined in a bit, but it strikes pretty close to home, as somebody who has a (theoretically) daily “blog”. There’s a reason I don’t put many details of my personal life down here and there’s a reason why I don’t mess with most of the social networking sites that help you never actually talk to anybody in person. Sadly, though, I am familiar enough with the internets to know what that title stands for. How about you?

Ink, Max – Blink: Let It Be As It Is

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Blink: Let It Be As It Is

Here’s another one of those “tweener” issues, put out for SPACE 2006, but it’s hard to complain much about a free comic. Yep, this one’s totally free and it has a self-contained story, no preview of a larger work here. Full disclosure: I don’t care at all about the Beatles. Sorry, I know about their talent, effect on music in general, and the fact that a bunch of my favorite musicians probably wouldn’t exist without them, but I just can’t seem to care. I bring all this up because this comic is set entirely in a record store and deals with a couple of conversations debating the group in general. In the expert hands of Max I find myself actually interested in a conversation about the Beatles, no mean feat… and then Sam sums up my feelings beautifully. Great stuff, well worth the… uh, $0 that you’ll have to pay for it.