See, I had this idea in my head of what this book would be like. Eleanor would list various types of art, how it made different people feel, whether any variation had any more inherent value than another, etc. And it did start off that way, sort of! But at the end of the day she was, as always, far too clever and creative for me to guess what was coming. This is one of those cases where you’re better off knowing little or nothing before reading this, so if you’re familiar with some of her other work and are just here wondering if this one is good too, well, yes. It’s very good, in fact. So, safe in that knowledge, please wander off and buy a copy to see for yourself. If you’re somehow unfamiliar with her work or need a little more convincing, or maybe think that title is too pretentious to give a shot, you’re reading this all wrong. This does start off more or less how I guessed, with her showing a few different types of art, why people utilize them, how they make them feel, etc. That’s simplifying things in a big way, but still: my guess was in the ballpark. As it goes on we meet different artists and their different styles, and eventually see their plans for a show they’re putting on together. Disaster strikes, as a huge storm threatens to destroy the gallery and take the artists out with it, and from here I can’t say much of anything without giving it all away. I’ll just say that the ending completely blew me away, while still being one of those “in hindsight I should have seen this coming” endings. The thing about that type of ending: more often than not, it just means that artist knows exactly what they’re doing and had every aspect of the story so nailed down that there’s no other way things could have gone. I find myself tempted towards nostalgia more and more these days, so maybe I’ll dig up some of her older comics. Or maybe they’re things she prefers stay buried? Eh, I’ll think about it. Either way, this is Eleanor at the top of her game and everybody who has ever asked themselves that title question should give this a shot. $15
I really have to fix this shanty town of a website. Thought I’d check to see exactly how long I’ve been reviewing Eleanor’s comics, but unfortunately it just lists the date and not the year. And that’s not even getting into when I lost a bunch of review dates with a site rebuild. Holy crap do you have no interest in any of that, so how about we talk about maybe Eleanor’s best book yet? My guess is since roughly 2004 for the reviews, by the way. One thing a book, movie, show, whatever needs to be engaging, at least for me, is to have characters that come to life even off the page/screen. Sure, it’s not going anywhere if they’re boring on the page, but to have something really feel lived in, I need to be wondering what these characters are doing when they’re not the focus. Everybody has seen shows where it looks like characters are just waiting for the scene to start, and you can’t picture any of them engaging in small talk. I had questions about damned near everybody in this, and that’s a hard feat to pull off. What’s it about, you ask, several sentences into perhaps even more rambling than usual? It’s the story of Hannah and Johnny, a couple who’s living off the grid, trying to make a baby while fighting back against the ways that the world is turning awful however they can. There’s also Hannah’s job and her best friend Gabby, Johnny’s paranoid friend, the marches, and the one good cop in the world (which comes back into play later). Hannah’s getting a lot of grief from her friends about trying to have a baby with the world the way it is, which coincides with Eleanor having a recent baby of her own. It’s a good question, and it’s something I struggle with. But I have the luxury of struggling hypothetically, which she does not. There are so many good scenes here, but I’m not going to spoil any more of them. If you’re even mildly liberal and wonder why we fight against the relentlessly terrible news these days, this book will speak directly to you. Like I said, I think it might be her best, so obviously you’d be cuckoo bananas not to get it. $24.95
One of the true joys of this “job” is that I get to watch amazingly talented artists as they develop; search for her name or click on her tag if you don’t believe me. I got a few minis from here in Athens, Georgia in early 2005, got a few more in 2007 and then kind of lost track of her. Which happens way too often and is entirely my fault. Anyway! Since I can’t afford to buy all of the comics in the world, much as I would like to, I’ve been using the local library system a lot lately (if you live near Columbus, Ohio, go nuts with it, you can read damned near anything), which finally brings me to talking about this graphic novel. The idea behind it was simple enough: Eleanor got a new bike from her parents in Tucson, Arizona. She was dreading figuring out some way to get it back to her home in Athens, Georgia, and riding her bike gave her a kind of peace that she couldn’t get anywhere else, so she got the idea to just ride her bike all the way from Tucson to Athens. If you’re curious, that’s right around 1800 miles. This book is the story of that journey, how she handled the mental and physical wear and tear, and some of the people and things she met along the way. There’s also the constant question of whether or not she’s going to make it, as her knees started giving her trouble relatively early in the journey. There’s a lot to love about this book, and it often reminded me of Jeff Zenick (sadly, that’s probably not a familiar name to most of you) and the stories he would tell about his travels. For what it’s worth, that’s as high of a recommendation as I can give for an autobiographical comic. I knew the border patrol was active anywhere near the border, but she saw helicopters and vehicles of their pretty much constantly, along with one particularly memorable episode involving an immigrant (?) who was trying to get away from them and the tactics (lies) they used to bring him down. Despite the seemingly simple premise, there’s a lot going on in this story, from the reactions of all the people she met along the way to everything she learned and experienced to her pushing the boundaries of her own physical limits. At the end of the day it’s just a great story, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this inspired more than a few people to try something like this for themselves. $12
So the thing about kids is that it’s easy for them to be assholes. Which isn’t a judgment; assholes make the world go around. But when there’s a rumor about the father of a girl in a group of friends, and when said father holds a slumber party for this group at his house (a new house from the ongoing divorce that comes with a pool), that rumor is going to get talked about eventually. Things start off with five girls at this pool party, but a sixth member of the group is missing. It turns out that this girl is missing because the mother of this girl heard about the rumor too, and she didn’t to take any chances. The rumor? That Libby’s father, during an argument in the divorce proceedings, threatened to shoot Libby’s mother. There were no independent witnesses to this comment, and the story came from Libby’s mother, but nobody knew quite what to believe, especially teenage girls with no frame of reference. The girls manage to have fun anyway (well, Libby seems a bit withdrawn), until one of them accidentally knocks over a bottle of nail polish and realizes that they’re going to have to get Libby’s father to help. And who knows what his reaction will be? This is another gorgeous comic from Eleanor and she does some amazing things in this full color format. Artists don’t always get credit for utilizing colors well, but they should and she does. I was going to say that she should stick to color comics from now on, but then I went back through some of her older reviews on this website and she does amazing work in black and white too, so never mind. It seems to be the whole “making comics” thing that she’s good at. So yeah, it’s well worth a look. $8
Three Bad Ones
There’s no way to accurately show it through my scanner, but this is one of Eleanor’s fantastic “comic you can buy in a gumball machiine” minis, kept in its own little plastic bubble. It’s been literally rolling around the floor in my apartment since the last FLUKE I attended and I stumbled across it today. It’s a little fable about three men (pictured above) who decide that they’re tired of doing chores and go out looking for a wife. They have a hard time finding someone they can all agree on (which is a little creepy in its own right, but fits right in with the fable theme), until they finally find the perfect woman. Charming and wonderful as always, if I had a million dollars there would be real gumball machines with these little gems in them all over the country. Anyway, plenty of minis to choose from if you click on that website, and I haven’t seen much from her that I haven’t liked…
Way back when, evolution was still up for debate. Back then a man named Eugene DuBois found the skull cap for Pitheoanthropus Erectus, or the walking ape man. It was thought to be a missing link between the evolution of apes and man, but scientists at the time didn’t treat it seriously, and if I keep going I’m going to spoil every part of the book. It details his life story in regards to this skull cap, at least as much as it can be detailed in a little mini. Good stuff as always from Eleanor, and yes, the cover is supposed to look like that. I’m guessing this is $2, contact info is up there if you’d like to find out for sure. Also, I’m aware of the fact that there are some deranged nutcases out there who still think that an old man in the sky created the world in six days, fossils be damned. If any of you have the brain power to read this, please, PLEASE write to me or post something on the forums so we can have a debate about this. It’s always hilarious to me to see those people try to say with a straight face that THE DEVIL put those fossils there to test our faith…
I’ve Lost My Spots!
If you can look at the cover and think that you’re going to get an in-depth examination of the situation in the Middle East or something, well, you’d be very wrong. What you have here is an adorable little tale about an, um, monster I guess, that wakes up one day without its spots. It finds another creature with a telescope and they spend the rest of the idea seeing spots on various things and realizing that those aren’t the spots they’re looking for. This is another one of those rare comics that is perfect to leave laying around for a small child (if you have small children of any sort in your life, that is). It’s dedicated to her Grandparents and is obviously a labor of love. Oh, and the spots inside are in color, so it’s a vibrant, cheery book in just about every possible way. I’d say this is $3 or $4 because of the color, but there’s contact info up there so you could find out for sure, if you loved cute little books about monsters looking for spots.
It’s so easy for a comic about love and loss to turn into a hokey mess without much of a point, except for the author to bitch about what they’ve lost. Just wanted to point that out before I made it clear that this comic is nothing like that, and three cheers to Eleanor for that. This is the story of her relationship with a boy named Charlie, his death, and her life before and after. If you think I’m giving too much away, well, it’s revealed pretty early on, so you’re wrong. There will be no discussion on the topic! Time flashes all over the place here, with her going back and forth between while they were dating and after he was dead and she was dealing with it, seamlessly. These are all a page or two long, so there’s never a completely in-depth profile of these two. You’d think that would lessen the impact of their lives, but she manages to pull the whole thing off beautifully. Great dialogue, as her sparse backgrounds (for most of the book, anyway) really put the focus on what is said. Contact info is up there, I’d say this is $2, but I’d be guessing…
Mr. Bloomburg Finds True Love
What a creepy little comic book! I mean that in the best possible way, of course. This is all about a lonely, quiet man who is forced to rent out a room in his house out of financial necessity. A young woman takes the room, and the man discovers that he has a handy peephole right into her room. The rest of the comic is spent with him spying on her, until eventually he decides to transform himself into her perfect man, which he has been able to determine from long hours of voyeurism. There’s also a few neat parts of the book where you can fold back a flap and have something new revealed to you, as well as on both covers. I feel dirty after reading this, and if that isn’t a recommendation I don’t know what is. Here’s a website, another book with no price, so let’s say $2 and see what happens, OK?
Mattie and Dodi
Another day, another gorgeous comic from Eleanor. This one details basically a day in the life of Mattie and Dodi, two sisters who are taking care of their dying grandfather. OK, just Mattie is taking care of him, as Dodi is too young and traumatized to help much. Mattie is also dealing with a loving boyfriend and a job, both of which seem to be unwelcome distractions from her other duties. Eleanor has taken a topic here that could be milked to death as a tear-jerker and was instead content to let the silences between characters tell the story. I don’t think Dodi says a word the whole time, but most of the story is told from her perspective. It’s a quiet and affecting tale about people being forced to deal with an impossible situation. Oh, and it’s her first “big” comic, hence the heftier price tag of $5, but well worth it if you’re already a fan of her stuff…