McFadzean, Dakota – To Know You’re Alive
What an absolute roller coaster of a book, and I mean that in the best possible way. This is a collection of Dakota’s stories, a few of which I’ve reviewed here from other books (although I either got an important detail wrong in the Danny story or he changed it slightly for this book). So if you’ve read everything he’s ever done, I guess you might have already seen more than a few of these stories, but believe you me, seeing them all put together, contrasting them all against each other, is worth the price of admission. There are about a dozen stories here in all, and although I’ll try to hit some of the high points, please be aware that I won’t be able to do most of them justice in a review. Which is the way it often is, but you know, sometimes I feel like saying it anyway. His first story accurately captures the easy an uncomplicated magic of childhood, how flying and creating life are the easiest things in the world if you don’t actually try to do them. Then there’s the piece about Danny, which I reviewed before (but I’d swear he’s updated it for this book). He’s new in school, had to leave his previous school and finds it impossible to make friends. Mostly because he’s not trying and is, to all outside appearances, a terrible kid. It’s a testament to Dakota’s skills that it’s impossible not to feel sympathy for him when it’s all said and done. There’s the casual, almost unnoticed horror of Good Find, the escalating dares of The Truck, the terrifying coming to terms of Ghostie, the bragging time travelers of Posthumans, the switch from mundane to deeply unsettling in Debug Mode, and what it might actually be like to be the first person to discover an alien. But wait, there’s more! The two page spread of faux newspaper comic strips has so much goodness that I’m not even going to describe anything about it; once you get this book you’ll be glad to be unspoiled. And somehow, after all this joy, madness, terror and hope, he manages to finish up with a raw and and honest look at parenting his small child, the balancing act of trying to stay a good person while doing so and somehow finding a moment or two for his own life in the midst of it all. Well, A child, anyway. I have no idea if it’s meant to be autobiographical. This is a thoroughly impressive book, and I honestly can’t recommend it highly enough. $20
McFadzean, Dakota – Last Mountain #2
Last Mountain #2
Small press comics artists, take note: that is how you do a cover. I knew exactly what I was getting into before even opening the comic, and Dakota even added a subtle touch (that bug) that played a larger role than I would have thought in the story. The bulk of this comic is about a new kid at school, Danny, and his troubles fitting in. But we see the story mostly from the perspective of another kid, as she makes a few attempts to be his friend. The gist of the story is that Danny is a young man who had to leave his past school for mysterious reasons and that kids there called him “Buggy.” Just in case there are any children reading this who have a nickname that they’d like to get rid of and are moving on to a new school: don’t announce that nickname to your new class! Granted, with social media all nicknames are more or less permanent, but at least don’t make it easy on them. Anyway, Danny has a giant chip on his shoulder about all kinds of things, and his genuinely odd behavior around bugs doesn’t do a thing to ingratiate himself with the local kids. It’s a heartbreaking story where the biggest moments are played silently, giving you plenty of room to interpret some of the more ambiguous silences. There’s one other short story in here, basically dealing with working up the nerve to commit some vandalism when you’re a kid and the consequences that sometimes come with that. It’s a really solid comic all around and I’d recommend it for anybody who ever had issues fitting in as a kid or knew somebody who had those issues. So, everybody, basically.
Irene Comics Anthology – Irene #5
Does it really matter if you review anthologies out of order? I’m pretty sure it doesn’t, but if it turns out that there are continuing stories from #4 of this series (which was also sent my way) then I apologize. Anyway, this is a pile of stories and drawings by a little over a dozen artists. As always, some of them were more compelling to me than others and, as always, your opinions on which stories are more compelling probably varies wildly from mine. This does seem to be a regularly published anthology series, and the packaging does look gorgeous, so if you’re looking for that sort of thing, maybe check in with them from time to time? Anyway, highlights include the story of how he used to give story ideas to his father every night before he went to sleep and how he couldn’t sleep without the ensuing story by Andy Warner, a trip into (and discussion of) Mexico by Dave Ortega, Luke Healy’s story of following a woman up onto a mountain to see what happened to her (there’s more to it than that, but I’m certainly not going to give it away here), James the Stanton and the search for a Guru, Pat Barrett’s tale of the last days of a space explorer as she tries to save an alien (or are they really the last days?), Jon Chad and the best way to get intergalactically pwned, and Dakota McFadzean’s memories of being a kid, flying, and creating life (sort of). I should also mention the various single pages by Lindsay Watson, as they appeared between the stories and brought a life to the whole anthology that might not have been there otherwise. My absolute highlight for the stories was the piece by The FDZ (writer) and Fouad Mezher (artist). It starts off as a fairly simple story of a man living his last night in Lebanon and an unfortunate encounter with a guard dog, but things take an absolutely brutal turn from there and, once again, I shouldn’t really be talking about it. All kinds of good stuff in here, and it’s 160 or so pages, so you’ll be getting value for your $15.
Various Artists – The Hic and Hoc Illustrated Journal of Humor Volume One: The United States
The Hic and Hoc Illustrated Journal of Humor Volume One: The United States
Do you like your comics funny? Do you like some or most of the creators I listed in the tags section (right below this post, in big letters, you can’t miss them)? Then this one should be an easy call for you. There, now that I’ve made that case, I’ll go about my afternoon… wait, you want something of substance? Egh, fine. Laurent Barnett does the “Me Likes You” comics (which you should already be reading on a regular basis), and she was one of the editors, so there, that’s substantive. Strips in here include Noah Van Sciver’s fever dreams (both with and without music), funny jokes that aren’t really jokes by Bort, Martha Keavney’s tales of a pet human, Nikki Burch showing us that saying “that’s what she said” too many times will end up with you getting what you deserve, Anne Emond’s cat style, Sam Spina’s ridiculously awesome sex comic, a couple of pages of single panel jokes by Sam Henderson (which should be worth the price of admission right there), Grant Snider’s fears and feats (he had four pages of strips and I don’t want to ruin any of them), KC Green’s depressed fish, Jane Mai’s dream of male lingerie, Nathan Bulmer’s tale of ninja tricks, Julia Wertz’ attempt to get serious and Ian Anderson’s tale of a bear that’s just trying to fit in. But wait, there’s more! And you can discover it for yourself if you buy this. Unless you just have an unnatural hatred for all anthologies, which I guess I could almost understand, but it makes no sense to hate the good ones too, and this is one of the good ones. Hell, just pick three of the names of people who contributed to this, go to their websites and see what there is to see. If you don’t laugh once then I release you from your duty to buy this, but seriously, good luck with that. $10