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Canini, Brian – Across the Diner

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Across the Diner

How many hours of the day does Brian spend drawing? I’m honestly curious. This is a stand-alone mini, as opposed to one of the series he’s also producing on a regular basis, and it depicts a conversation almost every one of us has had in our heads at one point: should we go over and say hello to that attractive person? In this case we start off with Emily, who’s just been stood up on a date but seems to be taking it in stride, as she plans to get some food anyway and head out. Before this happens a woman walks into the diner who absolutely captivates our hero: she instantly imagines a future with this lady, how they’d probably be compatible but different enough to be able to learn a lot from each other, etc. There’s only one problem: should she go over and introduce herself? It’s the eternal struggle in situations like these, and Brian does a great of portraying all the pros and cons that go through your mind at a moment like that. This one is well worth a look, and I defy anybody to read this mini without relating to at least one thought that goes through her head before it’s all said and done. $1.99

Canini, Brian – Blirps #2

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Blirps #2

Do you mean to tell me that Brian has yet another series out there? Yep, he sure does. Feel shame, comics artists who are only putting out one series at a time! This is a series of four panel strips meaning, as always, that some are going to be funnier than others to me, and that humor is subjective anyway, so what do I know. Each starts with something like a mantra from the main character, as he repeats whatever is bothering him in that strip. The one sampled shows the dangers of getting lost on the internet, despite your best intentions. Other subjects include fitting in, patience, blinking, trying to not be a jerk on a date, pretending to be rich, convincing the bully that you’re tough too, and avoiding panic. Plus a couple of others I’m not mentioning, because who doesn’t like a surprise or two? Anyway, this is a mostly funny book, which is all you can ask for out of four panel strips like these. It’s also very cheap at $2, so why not give it a try? Or just send him $20 and ask for a grab bag; the guy has a vast back catalog at this point. Send him money and ask him to surprise you!

Canini, Brian – Roulette

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Roulette

The concept behind this one is so simple that it’s going to be tough to talk about for long: two friends play a game of roulette with each other. Is it right to call it a “game” when they’re using a loaded gun and one of them is going to end up dead? Eh, probably not I guess. Brian does a good job of giving us small reveals here and there as the story progresses. We see a bit of why the narrator agreed to this, we see why they picked the location that they did, and we see a few of their tense pulls of the trigger. A lot of the specifics are left out, I’m guessing intentionally. If we knew why these two friends were this determined to kill themselves, the reader would have a chance to second guess, to say that (insert problem here) was not serious to want to kill themselves. We never learn their exact reasons, only that it’s bad enough that both of them seem determined to go through with it. It’s a good, tense story, and it’s tough to have higher stakes than these. I also feel compelled to mention Cutting Cards, an episode of Tales From the Crypt (with Lance Henriksen), because it also features a game of Russian roulette, with the stakes somehow taken up to an absurd degree. But yes, you should give this comic a shot the next time you send Brian a stack of money for a stack of comics. $2

Canini, Brian – Glimpes of Life #6

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Glimpses of Life #6

I’ve been reviewing Brian’s comics since the very early days of this website. 2004ish, maybe sooner (I started in 2001)? Something like that. So I thought I’d check Brian’s website as I was copying the link there and check out the store, see the rough percentage of his books that I’ve reviewed. Keeping in mind that he definitely has older comics that are out of print (doesn’t everybody?), somehow I’ve still only reviewed maybe half of his books. Probably not even that much. Search under his name here if you’re curious how many that equals out to; it’s still a hell of a lot! Anyway, personal digression aside, how’s the comic? I’m always interested in seeing an origin story for a guy I’ve been enjoying for years, and this comic did an excellent job of explaining how Brian got into comics and why he sticks with them now. There’s his genuine appreciation for having a knowledgeable and supportive guy in charge of the local comic shop (The Laughing Ogre; if you’re anywhere near Columbus Ohio it’s worth a trip), how prolific he was even back in the day, how he’d take art supplies everywhere he went in case inspiration struck, how much Jeff Smith has done for the comics scene in Columbus and what he means to Brian, and his own philosophy on what makes a comic and how we still have so much to explore in regards to their potential. He also lists some of his influences, and I have no proof of this but it sure feels like an “oh yeah!” moment in making comics. Meaning that he made a list, got back to work on the comic, remembered several other names and put them into the comic, got back to work on the comics, remembered still MORE names and included them on the back inside cover. I get it! It’s a damned solid list; if you’re just now looking to get into comics you could do a whole lot worse than to just get books from everybody on his lists to start. Another solid issue, give it a look if you’re curious as to how he came to start making comics! $3

Canini, Brian – Plastic People #4

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Plastic People #4

Murder! Remember, that’s how the last issue ended, so naturally that’s where this one is going to start. Honestly, it’s like you’re not reading the issues in order. Anyway, we learned in previous issues that murder was rare, but we learn exactly how rare in this issue: it’s been decades since they’ve had one to investigate. And since everybody looks more or less the same (and perfect, according to their societal norms), any woman this doctor sees reminds him of the victim he has to autopsy. We also get couple of tantalizing hints as to what might be happening, but they’re only hints for now. As I’ve been saying, the man has at least 10 issues done already and this is only #4, so clearly there’s more of the mystery to be discovered. $2

Canini, Brian – Plastic People #3

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Plastic People #3

We dig a bit more into the overall world with the third issue, even if the main characters seem to be missing this time around. That’s OK, especially since Brian already has at least 10 issues of this series done. Two big (probably? I don’t know Brian’s master plan) pieces are introduced this time around: getting tattoos and how they’re illegal body modifications, and a popular online dating website that guarantees you’ll be matched with an equally perfect person. It also ends in a murder, which is about when things tend to pick up in a story, right? I also wonder if the particular tattoo style has any larger meaning in the story but, again, that’ll probably be revealed in the other comics that already exist. The series seems like a winner so far, so maybe you should buy a few issues and see for yourself. $2

Canini, Brian – Plastic People #2

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Plastic People #2

Is it cheating if I review these comics two at a time? Because I’m enjoying the setup of the story so far, but at 8 pages each there just isn’t a whole lot of space for story progression. Oh, the problems of running a small press comics review website. Since I’m sticking with the single issues for now, what happens this time around? We get to learn a bit more about our hero, and while he may not be an asshole, he’s at least asshole-adjacent. We also learn that his job is to go to the perfect people around the city (which, if you didn’t read the first issue, seems to be everybody) and deal with their problems. The problem, this time around anyway, is that a lady fell down the stairs and broke her nose. The punchline is that she fell because she was distracted from another personal problem, and each of them would fall into very minor categories for humanity today. Like I said, I’m intrigued to see where this is going, which is a pretty good place to be for the second issue of a (so far) ten issue series. $2

Canini, Brian – Plastic People #1

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Plastic People #1

Is Brian the most prolific comic artist going today? Is there a contest for that sort of thing? There’s not (that I know of), but he’d have to be high up the list. Brian sent me a few new comics recently, as I’ve somehow missed him at the last couple of local comic conventions. He sent a few issues of this comic along, and when I went to link to his website I saw that he already has ten issues done. 10! Granted, these are 8 page minis, but that’s still a better pace than a lot of artists, and he’s also always working on other comics. Does it seem like I’m stalling a bit on the actual review? Yeah, that’s probably because I am. This one starts off with a perfume ad that morphs into two people having sex. They get interrupted when our hero (I’m assuming) has to leave because his ride for work has arrived. They get into a brief argument, as the woman thinks that his female ride was hitting on him, and that’s that. If that makes it seem like everything is simple and straightforward, it’s really not. Everybody in this town has gotten plastic surgery, meaning all the women look the same and so do all the men. I’m curious to dig into this and see where it goes from here, as I already have a lot of questions. Which means that a first issue did its job, and this is one of those rare first issues where you already know there’s plenty out that’s already completed. I’m assuming this one will have significantly less punching than his Ruffians series, but who knows? Check it out, maybe buy a few issues while you’re at it to see where this is headed. $2

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #13

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Ruffians #13

OK, one thing first, just to make sure you get it: I’m going to talk about spoilers here, because this is the last issue of a series so of course I’m going to talk spoilers, either read the series before reading this or don’t read the series ever, in which case spoilers will never effect your life. But it’s a fun series overall, so you might want to read it. Anyway! My main conclusion after reading this last issue, ambiguous Soprano’s-style ending notwithstanding? Scar might be an immortal. Sure, he’s a three foot tall blue bear, so the rules for his existence were never clearly defined, so maybe that’s on me? But he was shot eight times in the back (and arm) in the last issue, and it is never mentioned or addressed in this issue. Thanks to Erin, he manages to escape what seems to be certain death in that nightclub, not seeming to be slowed down in the least, and then goes to a diner to get some food and talk some more to his dead friend Black Jack. So are we to assume that he was hit with a paint gun? That he had body armor that covered his back? Which wouldn’t do a thing to explain those 8 bloody bullet holes we see in the last issue. If it seems like I’m focusing too much on this aspect, hey, maybe you’re right! But if you or I were shot eight times in the back, maybe we could get a burst of adrenaline off long enough to take a few more assassins out (in real life we’d almost certainly just be dead), but once the adrenaline wore off that would be it. It seems like Brian sacrificed the natural flow of the story for a more dramatic gunfight in the last issue, and considering the care he took with the rest of the series, it strikes me as a misstep. Still, putting aside that one aspect (with great difficulty, obviously), we do get a final battle with Scar and Malt, we get to see him confront Cypris, and we finally get the real answer of what happened to Black Jack. I was wrong in my guess, which is always gratifying as a reader. And I’d still recommend this series as a whole. There’s intrigue, betrayals, an overarching mystery… a lot to love here. There were a couple of missteps here and there, but there’s more than enough good here to overshadow those things. $3.99

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #12

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Ruffians #12

It’s the penultimate (I love being able to use that word and have it fit) issue in the series, so you can be sure that there’s a lot of gunplay going on in this one. Brian doesn’t waste any time with it either; our hero tosses back a few more drinks, gets warned off one more time by the ghost of Black Jack, then puts a gun to the head of Cypris. Unfortunately his mustache disguise fell off during those drinks, so now all the assassins at this party recognize him. It’s one of the more baffling aspects of this story, the fact that that disguise worked so well, but it’s not much of a stretch to think of most of these assassins as not being all that bright. Oh, and Erin (Scar’s lawyer/lover) is there as well, and she’s armed, so she also gets a few murders in, although I lost track of her in all the chaos. Things take a turn towards the end of the issue, as Scar is finally tagged with some gunfire. 8 bullets in the back to be exact, which seems like enough to murder just about anybody. But who kills off the hero before the last issue? So Scar is still standing, if just barely, as he tries to summon the strength to find and kill Cypris (who ran away in all the confusion). One issue left to go, then I’ll have some thoughts about the whole series to wrap it all up. If you’re a weirdo who only buys one issue of a series and doesn’t care about the larger story but loves guns, this would be the one to get. $2.99

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #11

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Ruffians #11

Boy, Brian has really picked up the pace on his release schedule as the end is in sight (says the guy who is reading the last half dozen issues in a chunk). This one came out in March 2016 and #10 came out in February of the same year. In small press comics that is lightning fast! Things start off this time around with Scar having a drunken/hallucinating conversation with Black Jack, who he pictures as the bartender. During that conversation we learn that Scar really doesn’t want to have to kill the man who raised him, and that the ghost of Black Jack (as imagined by Scar) doesn’t want Scar to get himself killed trying. Our hero makes his way to the bathroom, where we learn that he is definitely drunk, and his washing his face to try to sober himself up ends up making his terrible disguise fall off. Oh, and one of the hitmen is also in the bathroom, and was apparently completely fooled by said disguise. A pretty brutal fight follows, and Scar gets out of the bathroom just in time for Cypris to get introduced. Two issues left in this story, and I’m guessing they’re going to be bloody messes, but this relatively quiet issue was a good chance to get in Scar’s head one last time before everything falls apart. Or unless everybody gets a happy ending, which is not something I’d bet any money on. $2.99

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #10

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Ruffians #10

Scar has one very immediate problem to take care at the start of this issue: who sold him out during his escape in the last issue? He uses some casually psychotic methods to get to the bottom of it, but he gets there: it was Cypris, biggest crime boss in the city, and the guy in charge of all the hitmen. Oh, and the guy who more or less raised Scar. So this is a problem! Scar manages to come up with one of the worst disguises I’ve ever seen (how do you hide a three foot tall blue bear?), gains access to the birthday party for Cypris, and tries his best to blend in. As of the close of this issue (back in dicey spoiler territory here, I know), the disguise is still working, but Scar comes across a familiar face tending bar. This is probably the closest this series has come to slowing things down a bit, as only one person gets killed (granted, it’s not a pleasant death), and there’s not even a cliffhanger to speak of. Catch your breath here, as I’m guessing our hero being in at a birthday party, surrounded by hitmen on all sides, is not something that’s going to work itself out peacefully. Just a hunch! $2.99

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #9

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Ruffians #9

When we closed out the last issue, our hero was getting stabbed at the end of a prison riot. As we open up the new issue, our hero is getting zipped up into a body bag. I’d say that things were looking a little grim for him, but luckily he still has a few friends out in the world. And one of them had a master plan for getting him out of prison that (spoiler alert, I guess, which is a tricky concept when I’m reviewing an entire series in two weeks) actually involved him getting stabbed by somebody on the inside who knew how to make it look good without killing him, so it’s all fine. Some smart writing from Brian and some great work keeping the tension high. After Scar regains consciousness he gets the whole story from his lady lawyer friend and her two accomplices, right before someone starts shooting up the ambulance that he’s escaping in. Hey, why make things easy on the guy? The rest of the issue involves a whole lot of gunplay, a few people getting shot and some solid suspicions of betrayal, which keeps the story moving right along.  No time to waste, I have more comics to read! $2.99

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #8

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Ruffians #8

It’s prison riot time! Scar sees everyone in the prison as the man (OK, gorilla) who killed his friend Black Jack, so he has no trouble taking his rage out on all of them. The vast majority of this issue is pure mayhem, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that not much happens with the plot this time around. Still, there’s a brief sequence where Scar remembers a mental image of Black Jack, lying bloody on the ground… with Scar standing over him. Delusion caused by multiple blows to the head? Guilt at failing to prevent the death of his friend? Or something more ominous? Guess we’ll find out at some point over the next half dozen issues, huh? Other notable happenings this time around include a whole lot of punching, more than a little bit of stabbing and the unfortunate occurrence of our hero ending the issue on what looks like a fatal note. I guess we won’t know whether or not that’s true until the next issue. Since that would mean that we’d have the next five issues without a protagonist I’m guessing he pulls through, but tune in for the next review to find out! Or just read the comics. Technically the series is over while I’m writing this, so this only has to stay a mystery to you if you prefer it that way… $1.99

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #7

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Ruffians #7 Now Available! $1.50

Here we go, back to the story we all know and love. Or at least you love it if you’re fond of figuring out what’s going to happen between the gorilla and the bear like I am. Scar’s still in prison, but his briefly “peaceful” existence is coming to an end, as tensions are about to boil over. Various factions are going to go at it, nobody knows who’s going to come out on top or what’s going to happen. Brian does a nice job here bringing things slowly to a boil and then bringing on the mayhem towards the end of the book. It’s well worth a look, as are most of the other issues in this series, and now you have the chance to catch up through this website (if I may toot my own horn for just a moment). $1.50

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #6

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Ruffians #6 Now Available! $1.50

Aw, dammit! I was having such a good time with this series, really getting into the characters and wondering where this whole thing was heading. Then Brian had to go and put himself in the comic. This has always struck me as a fairly ridiculous thing to do, especially in a case like this where it’s a fictional comic. Sure, Dan Clowes or Chester Brown showing up in a story of theirs isn’t the worst thing in the world, at least in the autobio stuff. But this… blech. This issue starts off with Scar walking up to the front door of the home of Brian Canini. You may be thinking that we get all sorts of answers to the story here, or at least his presence moves the plot along. No and no. Brian does mention the origin of why Scar looks the way he does (he looks like a teddy bear Brian had as a child), but that’s the extent of the useful information we are given here. Unless you’re curious about the life of Brian, as he does go into why he moved out of Ohio, which is fine if that had the slightest bit to do with the actual story. At least there’s a big old prison brawl in the last few pages (after Scar “wakes up” to find himself back there), but it can’t save this issue. At the end of the issue you’re exactly where you were at the end of the last issue, and that’s a hard thing to ignore in an ongoing series like this. Maybe when all is said and done this will have some significance to the storyline and I’ll be proven an idiot (not the first time), but for now I say again, blech. Oh, and don’t think this means I’ve given up on this. Not by a long shot, it’s still a lot of fun and I’m still wondering where this is all headed. This issue by itself just didn’t do a thing for me, that’s all. $1.50

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #5

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Ruffians #5 Now Available! $1.50

This issue seems to represent a bit of a lull in the series, which I suppose makes sense if you consider the fact that it’s entirely inside the prison, so what exactly can a hitman, bent on revenge, do in there anyway? In this issue Scar wins some cigarettes, gets the crap beat out of him, and meets his “lawyer”, in which we get some hope that he might get out of all this yet. All in all a decent issue, not something that does a whole lot for me on its own, but probably as a piece of a larger whole it’ll make everything run together more smoothly. That’s assuming, of course, that the series is going to keep moving right along. The steady pace of these things coming out has kept me, cynical as I can be about people giving up on their various comic series, hopeful about there being a beginning, middle and end here, as well as a will to keep it all moving. Go Brian go! $1.50

Update 6/30/17: The pessimist in me was hard at work when I first reviewed this about a decade ago, but Brian proved me wrong and finished his series. Young artists who are stuck at #2 or #3 in their series, follow his lead!

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #4

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Ruffians #4 Now Available! $1.50

Things just keep getting worse for Scar, as this issue shows him entering prison and immediately picking a fight with one of the most powerful guys in the place. Which I’ve heard is sometimes sound advice if you find yourself stuck in prison, although maybe not the best idea for an unarmed three foot tall bear. There are also a few flashbacks in here, showing us a bit more why Scar cares so much to avenge the death of his friend, and a few new characters get introduced who are already in prison. Hey, the guy’s a hitman, it makes sense for him to already know people in the place. What can I say, I still can’t wait to see what happens in the next issue, and that’s all I can ever ask from a series. $1.50

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #3

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Ruffians #3 Now Available! $1.50

What, did you really think that fight scene was over with just because it got interrupted? This issue has the best of both worlds, as there’s plenty of mayhem to go around and we get the answers to some burning questions. Like why the hell does Scar wear those giant boxing gloves anyway? Did Malt have something against Black Jack? And who is the woman who comes to his door? OK, one of those questions has no relevance to the larger story, but it’s up to you to figure out which one. Another excellent, fast-paced issue, nothing to complain about here once again. $1.50

Update 6/26/17: How did I not mention that ending the first time around? It’s just about the last way you’d think a prolonged fight (featuring multiple gunshot wounds and stabbings) between two professional hitmen would end. Kudos to Brian for that one.

Canini, Brian – Ruffians #2

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Ruffians #2 Now Available! $1.50

OK, I’m offically over my problems with the main character of this story being a three foot tall bear. Watching him getting his ass kicked for the better part of an issue will do that for me, apparently. While the last issue set up the story, this one was all action, with Scar confronting the assassin who killed his friend (a giant gorilla named Malt) and them both shooting and stabbing their way through each other and the issue. Great pace, good fight scene, nothing to complain about here, unless you wanted more character development or something, in which case move along. I just got issue #3 and 4 today, so obviously things are going to move right along from here. And kudos on the choice to drop it down to $1.50 and lose the color cover. Sure, it looks a whole lot better the other way, but this way there’s more of a chance for people to just pick it up and give it a chance. Besides, the eventual collected edition can have a fancy color cover to make up for it…