Anybody else getting a serious “Bride of Frankenstein” vibe off of that cover? No? Just me, then. It’s actually a clever use of a giant pill behind one of the geniuses mentioned in that title. This is the story of two junkies that Brian has known over the course of his life and how easily they outsmarted everybody around them. First up is the local neighborhood junkie who is always asking people if they need help with any yardwork. That’s fairly common, and Brian was convinced that the guy was casing houses to rob later. It turns out that the guy was a little smarter than that, but why spoil it for you? Pretend to have a junkie brain and try to imagine what you would actually be up to with that scheme. He also relates the story of a girl he knew in school who used to make money babysitting various kids around the neighborhood. Her scheme may have been a bit more obvious than the other junkie, but I’ll bet you can figure out that one too if you think about it. As far as I can tell neither of them ever got caught with these schemes, or if they did Brian never heard about it, hence the title of the comic. Check it you, get some tips on how to be the best junkie you can be! $1
Ultimate Lost Kisses #15
Did you ever have some completely happy news on your end torn apart by the person that you’re relaying the news to? That’s the subject of this comic in a big way, as the star of the story is a young married woman in her 20’s who calls her mother to tell her that she’s having a baby. This is almost universally a cause for celebration (at least to somebody in a stable relationship and living situation), but her mother immediately tells her to get rid of it, that it will destroy her life and her figure. It’s impossible to ignore the obvious implication: her mother feels like having her 20+ years ago ruined HER life. The rest of the comic is a tour through the childhood of the pregnant woman, her feelings about that and the reaction, and how she decides to go forward from there. It’s an intriguing story, and a good reminder that relaying news to loved ones can often uncover some unpleasant truths. $1 as usual, and as usual you should go nuts and get at least a handful of these comics when you’re ordering, as they are tiny.
Is it possible for a comic to be one long “awwwww!!!” And just to clarify that, I mean that sound effect to indicate cuteness, not terror. This time around our hero the free robot has taken refuge with a lady who seemingly likes to take in strays. As such, in this issue the robot gets to know a stray cat she has taken in, and gets to observe the behavior and speech patterns of this creature. The bits about it not functioning properly (as it’s a bit panicked about being taken in initially) and it malfunctioning but being strangely endearing regardless (while purring) were hilarious. I’m generally against spoiling such moments in a review, but there are more than a few of them sprinkled in here. I have no idea of the direction of this series overall, as this entire issue was confined to the house, but I’m still intrigued to see where this is going. This issue, all by itself, is adorable, and one of those issues that you could show non-comics reading people to get them on your side. $1
Out of all the various series that Brian writes, this is the one that makes the least sense to me. Granted, that is mostly my fault, as I have #5 and #7 of the series and that’s just guaranteeing that I won’t know what’s going on, but I feel compelled to point that out before I get started. As a stand-alone issue this is fascinating, and it has a good message for people in general. It’s all about the meaning of names, where names come from and how you should try to live up to your name if you know what it means. There’s also a bit about how he’s not sure if he could ever picture himself getting married, but he could see himself with a son. See, here’s where I get confused: I’m not sure if this is Brian narrating a tale, or Brian speaking in the hypothetical voice or Robert E. Howard. Oh yeah, I should have also pointed that out up front: “R.E.H.” stands for Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan and a long time pulp writer. Anyway, the content of the comic is still well worth checking out (Andrew White does his part to make things feel a bit hazy and indistinct, which makes me think that this is all meant to be a fictional memoir by Howard), and it did compel me to check and see what my name means. Apparently mine means gentle, handsome and beautiful. That is absurdly complimentary, but I’ll take it. $1
Lost Kisses #26
How great/awful would it be to have the ability to travel back into points of your own past? Most people seem to think that they could fix things, but chances are that you would just make things worse. This issue starts with a summary indicating that the hero of the comic is going back to “change the past & save the future”, and this issue starts with him returning to his 14 year old self, while he is tripping on LSD. As he knows his future, he’s able to see that this is a low point for him in a lot of ways (for example, a suicide attempt leads to his not drinking lemonade for a decade because that’s what he used to wash down some rat poison), but he also thinks about his son and her mother, which makes things a bit narratively confusing. After all, he’s his 14 year old self at this point, but he’s also thinking about how he never expected to see his son or the mother again, and how he was wrong about one of them. Anyway, he realizes her importance a bit more as the book goes on, and by the end he has a clearly defined mission for what he is going to do with this ability to travel through his own timeline. I guess future issues will determine whether or not he was correct. Oh, and just because I can’t praise this enough whenever it happens, kudos to Brian for putting a synopsis on the inside front cover. If all comics did that then the world would be a better place. Yes, the whole world! $1
Pow Wow #3
Huzzah! I’m sure I had nothing to do with this, but it looks like Brian is now putting synopses of the previous issues at the start of his serialized comics, and wow was that necessary for this one. It’s not always necessary (like for me previous review of Come Home Safe #2), but in a case like this this was really useful information. Granted, it still didn’t make a ton of sense, but it was good to know that the lead character had transferred all of the diseases of his grandmother into the earth. I’m not clear on whether or not that was a good thing, but at least I know that it happened. In this issue a golem comes to take his grandmother away, and our hero spends most of his time trying to get this monster to even notice him. We do get a bit of a sense of the powers of this guy once he finally gets to interact with this beast, but I’m still not clear on a few of the basics, so I’ll hold off on commenting on certain things until I’ve cleared that up. If you’re one of those people who buys your comics based on page count, this one was also at least twice as long as the last one I reviewed, so that sort of thing can clearly vary wildly. Of course, these are all so cheap that you’d have to have an odd phobia of some kind to base your purchases on page count, but who am I to judge your weirdness.
Come Home Safe #2
It just occurred to me that Brian could probably put together a pretty nice book of poems if he just took all the illustrations out of these comics. If I’ve already said that in another review of his books then never mind, as I’m sure I’ve repeated myself more than once in these reviews. I blame him for writing over 200 comics and counting. Anyway! This issue (which seems like a stand-alone comic and not something where you need to have read the first issue to follow the story) deals with the brief breaks on a train ride home when you get out of the tunnels and get a peek into the windows of buildings. Sometimes you can see beds, which can remind you of other beds, which can lead to a whole different thought process entirely. It’s a a few idle thoughts on a train ride in the form of a comic, and I mean that in the best possible way.
Walrus origin story! Anybody who read the last issue has to be curious about this one, and if you’re a human being you’re probably at least a little bit curious about the origin story for a walrus who plays the saxophone. It turns out that I was wrong about this series being one issue and done, and it was probably silly for me to think that the concept of a talking walrus living in a post-apocalyptic world would run out of steam after one issue. This time around we learn that our hero was a slave at a Sea World before the apocalypse and that his music playing was all an act. They didn’t even give him a working mouthpiece! Anyway, our hero fell in love with his human masseuse, but things got a little chaotic when the world ended and, well, you’ll have to see the rest of it for yourself. Brian recently mentioned to me that he was on the verge of having completed 200 different comics, and he’s almost certainly passed that mark by the time of this review. Just in case you’re a comic creator and had the idea that you were being productive, there’s a little fact to make you feel worse about yourself. You’re welcome!
Anybody out there know much about Robert E. Howard, the writer who was most famous for creating “Conan the Barbarian”? Besides that fact, I mean? Well, Brian has put out a series of minis featuring quotes from the man, so it’s easy enough to get to know him a little better. Or at least this one has a long quote from R.E.H., so I’m assuming that the issues I missed also have those quotes. Anyway, this time around the quote revolves around Robert talking about getting fan mail, and how he’d prefer to be a manual laborer who does back-breaking work all day to writing. Writing never came easy to him, and that combined with a complete unawareness of how writing worked to the people Robert interacted with had a tendency to make him a little crazy. I particularly enjoyed his comparing writing to boxing, but I won’t spoil why that was such an apt comparison. It’s a fascinating little peek into the mind of somebody who, I confess, I’ve never thought all that much about.
Lost Kisses #25
Hm, that is one scattered listing of reviews for this series. I reviewed #5-10, #21 and now this one. The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to read this entire series to get plenty out of individual issues, although I’m guessing that it wouldn’t hurt to have the whole picture. Ah well, maybe I can get caught up at SPACE this year. So this one is all about fictional Brian waking up next to a dead girl that he doesn’t recognize and eventually realizing this is because he has taken a drug to release himself from linear time. The sad part comes in when he realizes that he can’t change the future any more than he could change the past, so this girl will always be dead and will always have died. Other topics include his feelings on anonymous sex, whether or not it would be worth it to save the world (which is a question that doesn’t get asked in popular culture nearly enough), and how living forever would be fine if he didn’t have to feel anything. For most of his series I’d highly recommend getting the issues in order, but for this one it sure seems like you’d be OK grabbing whichever random issues he has available when you see him at a con. Or you could go nuts and throw a pile of money at him, as I don’t think anybody else is offering as many comics for your dollars as he is. $1
And here I thought comics about a post-apocalyptic hellscape had already been done pretty much every way humanly possible. I had failed to consider the possibility that there was still a story out there about a walrus who played the blues on street corners and how he would get by after society ended. Not to give anything away, but he did pretty well, all things considered. This seems to be one of Brian’s series that are one and done, not one of his many ongoing series, so I don’t want to give too much away. But if you’ve ever had questions about how a musician would maintain his artistic integrity in a lawless society, or whether or not a walrus would still have trouble finding clothes that fit in such a world, you’re in luck. Jared Catherine does a great job drawing this material, although I am curious whether Jared drew this because of his walrus drawing skills or whether Brian had a long search to find somebody who could handle it. It’s well worth checking out, and as always if you’re going to check out his stuff, my advice is to just send him $5 to get a wide sampling of what he has available. Because believe you me, he has a lot of comics available, and damned near all of them are worth checking out. $2, and I just checked his website, where he has an ongoing offer to give out the next ten mini comics he releases for $10 ($15 for you international folks), which would have saved you money on this one if you knew about it, so maybe you should start it up now.
I just now realized that this was different from the PANEL set of anthologies put out by Ferret Press, the ones that I love pretty much every time (which is saying a lot for an anthology). Is there a feud of some kind going on, or are there just too many stories for them all to be contained in one anthology? Or hey, maybe it’s because the PANEL anthologies tend to stick to one theme, while the only theme of this one seems to be “people who were at SPACE in 2012.” Whatever the case, this is a damned solid anthology, and if you find yourself wondering if you really want to pay $20 for an anthology, remember that a good chunk of the proceeds go towards keeping the same price for the yearly convention and generally funding all aspects of the thing. Think of it as a donation to a worthy cause where you come out of it with a fairly hefty anthology that also happens to be mostly in color. I always thought that seeing The Accidentals (by Mike Carroll) in color would be a revelation, and it looks like I was right. If only he could afford to put them all out like that! Ah well. Stories in this one include a John Steventon piece about the eventful birth of his daughter, a battle for the fate of the universe that came a little too late by Jon Michael Lennon and Thor Fjalarsson, an utterly unique vision of the afterlife by Leslie Anderson, a Christmas alone for a bear by Shawn Smith, an uneventful conquering of the world by Bob Corby, Kathleen Coyle and Jason Young’s piece on Kathleen’s first time seeing Return of the Jedi as a young child, Brian John Mitchell exploring the meaning of it all (he also edited this whole thing), Mari Naomi’s attempt to square the image in her head of her grandfather with the horrible stories that she was told about him after he died, Mike Kitchen’s hilarious take on the attention span of iPad users, Steve Myers and his tale of reality blending with fantasy, Matt and Jeanie Bryan’s unique take on a ruined date, Kel Crum’s computer virus, Kris and Mary Lachowski’s piece on a bizarre half dream half reality conversation, Blair Kitchen’s superhero who’s having a really tough time saving the damsel in distress, a sneak preview of Dave Kelly and Lara Antal’s tale of the Night Watchman (probably not what you’re thinking, but maybe you nailed it!), another great Homegrown Alien tale by Joe Davidson, a one page shortie by Ray Tomczak, and a brief bubbly piece by Maryanna Rose Papke. The color was done really well, and it was great to see some of these characters done how they were “meant” to be done (for all I know the creators were perfectly content for these stories to always be in black and white but couldn’t resist the chance to change it here). It’s a nice pile of stories and seemed to be really representative of the work of these people, which is why this thing exists in the first place, right? $20
Veggie Dog Saturn Special
I do love the collaborative comic. There aren’t too many of them, what with so many people scrambling just to put out their own comics on any semblance of a schedule, but they’re pretty much always a ton of fun. This is a collection of stories that are written by Jason (except for the story that was written by Brian John Mitchell and illustrated by Jason) and drawn by the people that you’ll see listed in the “tags” section, or I’ll get to them as I continue rambling on about the book. Pretty much all of them have other comics listed on this site if you get curious about them, and they’re all very much worth you getting curious about if you’ve never heard of them. Things start off with a story illustrated by Kurt Dinse about a gigantic bully from grade school who would steal bits of food off all the trays of kids who didn’t eat quickly and how that affected him in later life. Well, it’s told by a very old man, so I’m guessing maybe some of these aren’t literally true. That part was a little vague in the introduction. Hey, as long as the story is entertaining, who cares, right? Next up is the story of a house party (illustrated by Jason Martin) where the bands show up and the author steps in to play a little guitar. PB Kain is next with the shame of depositing large chunks of money to the bank on a regular basis and how he’s sure that the tellers think he’s a drug dealer (when he actually works at a comic store). Chris Hoium has a story about a brief conversation of the worst things that people had done to their grandma, Carrie McNinch illustrates a piece on the dangers of having too much store credit at a tattoo parlor, Joe Grunenwald remembers a friendly neighbor who would show projected cartoons when he was a kid, and Eric Shonborn shows what happens when pranks involving a label maker go horribly wrong. There’s also the piece illustrated by Jason Young and written by Brian John Mitchell, dealing with an implausible vomit configuration that I couldn’t help but sample below. It’s a pile of fun, in other words, and if you’re a comic artist/writer out there who would like to do something like this yourself, Jason does mention in the introduction that literally every person he asked to be in this said “yes,” so maybe your hypothetical project wouldn’t be as hard to get off the ground as you may think. $3
In the general chaos that is Brian’s comic empire (I think we can call it that after a few years of him averaging a comic or two per month), it might be a little tough to know where to start. And for people who wonder about that, might I suggest XO? It sure seems like these issues all stand alone, although I could be wrong about that and he actually has some master plan for this series. This issue starts off innocently enough, with a young man looking at a dating website and wondering if it isn’t time to start dating again. He then flashes back to his last relationship, and we see that he isn’t nearly as innocent as he appears. That Brian, he is a master of such ratfuckery (which, in case you’re dense, is a compliment of the highest order). This man had fallen into drugs, alcohol, and apparently everything else you could think of, so much so that he didn’t even notice that his new girlfriend was actually another assassin (oh, didn’t I mention that the young man was an assassin?) until he woke up tied to a chair, gagged, with a knife in his chest. Things seem bleak for our hero, but there’s always a way out of these situations. Still, his method of escape might have you thinking of him as significantly less than “our hero.” Melissa really stepped up her game as well, as that Breaking Bad-esque shot of the bloody broken chair and the debris around it was a thing of beauty. These comics just keep rolling along. If you’re looking for an alternative to the current BRAND! NEW! #1 comics that the big companies are putting out, how about going with series like these that you can actually afford? The fact that they tell much better stories than the big expensive comics should also help convince you. Or at least it should… $1
These comics of Brian’s are often illustrated simply, at least partially due to the size constraints (if you’ve never held one of these comics, they’re about the size of your thumb). This one breaks that trend in a big way, as Kurt Dinse makes this book gorgeous. I’m assuming that he drew these larger and then shrunk them down, but it wasn’t done in a way to detract from the art. This is the story of a rock star who’s trying to outrun his past of summoning demons. His lifestyle helps in this endeavor, but his utter lack of concern for all of the other people who are damaged from his actions makes him a less than sympathetic character. Still, that’s half the fun for most of Brian’s characters, and he generally he has me caring about them in the end anyway. Like all of his #1 issues, this is primarily just setting up the character and what’s happening. Frankly, I don’t know if it would have been all that compelling with stick figure art, but Kurt’s drawing really do wonders for this story. I don’t know how the man crams that many foreboding shadows on such a tiny page, but kudos to him for doing it. This is $1, like pretty much all of his books and, as always, I advise you to spend at least $10 and get a sample package of these l’il treasures.
This all wrapped up so nicely that I almost didn’t include the “#1” (it might be meaningless anyway, as even some comics that are meant to stand alone sometimes come with a “#1” marking). Still, that’s not my call to make. Dave Sim again! Despite the fact that just saying/typing his name is bound get somebody annoyed, I do miss having a monthly comic of his to look forward to. Few comics have ever given you as much bang for your buck as Cerebus. For $2.25 (and he kept it at that price for years even though he had long since stopped making money on the individual issues) you’d have a chunk of the ongoing story, an introduction, letters from some of the smartest people around, and for the last 100 issues or so either an ongoing conversation (his multi-issue conversation with Alan Moore was a thing of brilliance; I wonder if that was ever reprinted?) or a lengthy screed on different subjects. I remember having a two hour gap between classes at the time and once a month I would spend the whole time reading a single issue of Cerebus. OK, nostalgia corner is now closed. How about this comic? Well, for one thing Dave’s art couldn’t be simpler. It’s all stick figures and sound effects (and I know “poit” probably didn’t start with Cerebus, but that’s what immediately popped into my mind). The story deals with a man who is popping in and out of time in a variety of situations. There’s an angry moment, trying to figure out the year, peaceful time in bed with a woman, and the constant presence of a pier. OK, sure, it’s entirely possible that this could be a compelling series if it continues, but it really does feel like it wrapped up nicely here if this is all there is. It’s the usual $1, and somehow that scan is bigger than the actual size of the comic.
With the pace that Brian has established in making comics, it might be tempting to take that title literally. You’d be wrong, as it’s actually about a suicidal werewolf, but it would be an easy mistake to make. Anyway, yeah: suicidal werewolf. The only way this werewolf can be killed is by being shot through the heart three times by someone who loves him, so he has to spend the time between changes getting somebody to fall in love with them while still keeping them willing to kill him when he changes into a werewolf. Naturally this is a difficult trick to accomplish, as all the “I’m a werewolf” talk in the world wouldn’t keep you from being any less terrified when the actual change occurred. This first issue is mostly setting all that up, but it also managed to include a few intriguing questions. He still seems to chat with his mother, for example, and he can only be killed by somebody he loves, so… Well, it was intriguing to me anyway, but come to think of it I still haven’t seen a finished series by the man. It’s another fine addition to his comics pile, and if you liked his previous stuff I sure don’t see a reason for you to avoid this. I poked around on his website a bit today and saw that he has a number of past issues available for free download (including this one), so why not check out a few for free and see what you think? Then at least buy a few of them, as it’s a little sleazy to just read all his stuff for free. Yes, I am in fact one of the few people left who cares about such things. $1
Extreme Lost Kisses #1
It makes perfect sense. After all this time with various Lost Kisses that were mostly personal stories or quiet, contemplative pieces, the comics world was needing a good old fashioned shoot ’em up. The story behind this is that the nameless badass gets surrounded by baddies, takes them all out and eventually looks for and finds a stolen nuclear device. I loved the fact that the internal monologue never stopped, not even when the leader of the baddies was maybe making a few relevant points to the situation. I don’t see any way that this crew (or any crew) could keep this concept interesting or entertaining for more than a few issues, but Brian has proven me wrong on such things before. If you like stick figure mayhem, well, look no further. As for me, I’m looking forward to seeing how this one fits in to the eventual, inevitable crossover involving the storylines from all of these comics colliding. Oh, don’t tell me you never thought about it… $1
Lost Kisses #21
Here it is, the comic that started the Brian John Mitchell media empire. Or did he start a whole bunch of minis at the same time? I should really study my history of the guy for when he sets and then breaks the record for most mini comics produced in a year. Get Guinness on the phone! This is the comic that Brian draws himself, so that means stick figures, public domain images and pasted-on faces. Still, these comics are also all about the inner workings of his brain, and that shit is fascinating to me. In this issue Brian talks about his desire to find a safe method to travel through time, and how he thinks he’s done it a few times through seizures but it always ends up being his future self coming to him and not the other way around. He also discusses various physical aids for putting his brain on a different level. IÂ discovered while reading this one that if you just read the text boxes, then the message comes through clear as that proverbial bell. It just adds to the experience to read the pictures above it, but I liked the entirely new perspective on one of his comics. The comic as a whole is fantastic, as there’s also plenty of theories on how he can unlock the puzzle of his brain and detailed descriptions of his seizures. Yep, it’s another great Brian John Mitchell comic that you should probably read. Water still wet, sun still bright, etc, but hey, I’m still excited about pointing out great comics. Why else would I be writing about them? $1
Ultimate Lost Kisses #12
Damn, I was hoping for another issue illustrated by Dave Sim. No disrespect to Jeremy Johnson or anything, as he’s more than capable of illustrating this comic, it’s just that there’s still a Sim-shaped hole in my comics world. Sure, he’s doing Glamourpuss occasionally, but the issues of that that I’ve read all seem… ah, I don’t want to get into it. Reading lengthy stories about very old illustrations mixed with satirical fashion periods doesn’t do a thing for me, that’s all. Anyway, on to people who were actually involved in the making of this comic. This comic starts off with a 16 years old girl coming home from school and needing a nap. She doesn’t understand why she’s so tired all the time, so she sort of rhetorically asks her mother about it and is informed that she must be pregnant. Seems like there are gentler ways to convey that news, but the fact that the mother had her when she was very young (implied but never stated) makes that cruelty more than plausible. Anyway, the girl escapes her house and ends up going over to a friend’s, but sadly she could never think of dating him because he’s too dorky. Do girls still think this way? Eh, it’s probably a universal truth. Anyway, this is another solid comic with a damned good ending. To all of you comics types who can’t manage to do more than an issue a year, take not of Brian. Sure, he “only” writes the books, but wrangling all of these artists can’t be easy, and he still manages all that while putting these things out at a ridiculous pace. If you’re looking for a sample of his work you should probably start with a series like this, as the individual issues aren’t connected. $1