Elfworld Volume 2 #1
I have no idea how I missed the first issue of this series. This seems like something that’s right up my alley, as I like my small press comics with a sprinkling of dorky sorcerers and such, even though finding quality examples of that genre is exceedingly difficult (and hey, send me an e-mail if I’m wrong). I do have to say that I don’t think you’re allowed to start the second volume of a series if you only put out one issue in the first series, but I don’t get toÂ make the rules on such things. With this lineup of talent it was pretty much a sure thing that this book would be damned near indispensable, and I think that ends up being accurate. First up is Grant Reynolds (who has either been quiet lately or he’s just stopped sending me review comics) with a tense chase between two creatures. Very few people outside of Jim Woodring can pull off “what the fuck IS that thing?” better than Grant and those skills are heavily on display here. Next is a piece by Alec Longstreth in which a wizard tries to audition new animals to deliver messages after his owl dies. I chuckled a few times and his cartoony art was perfect for this. Also a clear sign that this book wasn’t going to be either straight fantasy or straight parody of fantasy. Ben Costa and J.R. Parks are up next with a piece about the dangers of pulling a prank on your boss when you work in some kind of evil lair of doom. The Mute by David Enos deals with a mute (duh) wandering around, getting into adventures and saving the girl. Um, spoiler alert, but not really, because that’s not the end of the story so there. This was maybe the highlight of the book, although I may still contradict myself before finishing this review. Jane Samborski is next with a detailed list of dragon rating rituals listed by the types of dragon, and might I just add that this woman has a variety of dragon poses down cold, which I can’t imagine is an easy thing. Dash Shaw has a shortie next that’s the highlight of the book (see what I did there?) about an orc in his final moments before his execution. Brilliant, that’s what it was, and after a story that brutal it was nice to get a laugh out of the ending. Finally there’s a short Icecreamlandiaish (look up their other comics on this site to see what that means) by Eve Englezos and Joshua Moutray that I won’t get into because describing a one panel story is the same thing as ruining it. I guess if you hate all things fantasy you might not like this book, but even then there are pieces that only tangentially relate to fantasy, and it still has a pile of your favorite artists (if you have good taste, that is), so I’d say it’s worth picking up. I also need to mention the production design, as that Sammy Harkham cover and the work that Francois put into designing this book were both top-notch. Look closely at that cover; it took me a minute to get exactly what was going on there. So yeah, I’d say you should buy this book, and if the back of it is to be believed there will even be a new one out soon. $6
Trubble Club #1
You know, there really are times when it’s pointless to review a comic. It sounds like a cop out, I know, but Trubble Club is a jam comic involving about a dozen cartoonists in Chicago. They meet every Sunday, put together some jam strips, and (I’m guessing here, as the actual information about this process on the website was sparse) put out a new book whenever they put enough material together. Who are these people? Really, this should be all it takes to convince you to check this out: Al Burian, Lille Carre, Ezra Claytan Daniels, Lucy Knisley, Rachel Niffennegger, Bernie McGovern, Onsmith, Laura Park, Grant Reynolds, Becca Taylor, Jeremy Tinder and Marco Torres. If you’re new to this site and these names aren’t familiar to you, plug just about any of them into that search option up there (the full list of artists will be restored one of these days, I swear) and spend some time checking out some quality work. Future volumes, judging from the website, will have other people, and visiting cartoonists will probably get in on the act as well. Honestly, I’m confused as hell about the process here. Every single page is its own story, and it seems most of the time like the next page starts with an idea from the previous page before veering off in its own direction… except for the times when it seems completely new. And I thought for a while that it was one artist per page, but upon closer inspection maybe others are jumping in on different panels. All I know for sure is that this much talent thrown together in a room can’t go wrong, and I hope they keep it up for… let’s see, they’re probably all in their late 20’s or early 30’s… how about another 50 years or so? OK, fine I’ll mention a few of the topics, just to prove how pointless it is to analyze such a thing. An unhygienic stump, Sackley, a doomed giant hot dog, “footsie”, mancakes, and we gotta cook this hog. This is $3 and worth every penny.
Achilles in Death and Love
It’s a comic book and a record, all in one! Granted, you probably don’t have a record player, but Grant’s kind enough to put a web address in here with all four tracks, so you can just listen to them on your computer. I don’t do music reviews, so all I’ll say is that the songs didn’t do a whole lot for me. Maybe they’ll grow on me after a few listens (this did happen with a good number of my favorite albums), or maybe my first impression was correct. How’s that for ambivalence? As for the comic, it’s gorgeous. It follows Achilles in hell, as everything is stripped away from him but he can still remember his love, Briseis. So, while undergoing grotesque transformation after grotesque transformation, he endlessly searches hell, looking for his lost love. This is probably the most disturbing thing that Grant has done, and I say more power to him. He should revel in ugliness like this more often. This costs a bit more than your average mini, what with the color cover and record included, but I still think it’s worth a look. $6
Singularity (with Al Burian)
Ah, here’s another one of those wonderful shorties where, if I talk too much about what’s going on, the whole surprise ending gets blown. This is apparently an ongoing story in The Skeleton News, a newspaper I’ve never heard of out of Chicago, so it’s probably not a surprise ending to a few people. Still, best to stick to the known information. This one starts off with a spaceman of some kind putting a flag on… Mars, maybe? It’s not the moon because we get a shot of the moon in the sky next to the Earth. Anyway, said astronaut settles down to a newscast from Earth, which is oddly cut short by a blast of static… or is it only static? I’m all for mayhem in space, which appears to be what’s coming here, so three cheers to the both of them. Some form of this story published in a format that people outside of Chicago could see would be nice too one of these days, but who knows how many future parts have been published…$2
To The Mouth Of The Source
Grant has this wonderful ability to take a genre that I mostly don’t like (if you can call translating song lyrics into comic form a “genre”) and turn it into one of my favorite things. He’s able to mix in silent panels with the lyrics so that everything seems natural and linear, and that impresses the hell out of me. Most people who try this seem to just draw a page for every certain number of lyrics, but this is definitely the way to go. This is based on a song by Joanna Newsom about a dog and his bone, a train, tadpoles, and… aw, screw it, this one is completely visual now. It reads like an old blues song, although I have no idea who Joanna Newsom is or when she wrote the song. This may be the best of his comics, although my memory is for crap and I could be glossing over other stuff. Either way it’s a great piece of work on its own, so if you like Grant and/or comics, well, you know what to do… $5
Smaller Parts Now Available! $5
Here it is! The perfect chance for you to see a whole bunch of Grant Reynolds all in one bundle. In case you thought the other minis were too small, that is. If you thought they were too expensive at a buck, well, there’s probably something wrong with you. Anyway, lots to get to here. There’s the circle on life (if your circle involves a rabbit, a wolf and a gun), a poem about monotony and despair, a couple of shorties about returning to the womb, one about missing children and a failure to hold onto important things, and a couple of pieces that appeared in Animal Wrangler, up yonder. That sentence contained more nonsensical interpretation of the meaning of stories then I usually write in a week, which is exactly why I don’t usually write that way. Overall, this book made me want to pull the covers up over my head and just think for a while. Not altogether in a good way, but in this world, who can argue with something that inspires thought?
Mover User 2/Oh, Goodness Now Available! $2
That’s right, two minis stuck together with one of those high tech pieces of tape. What a bargain! The first part of this, Mover User 2, is an old John Lee Hooker song about moving to L.A., breaking up after getting there, being forced to sleep on floors and trying to get through it in one piece. It must be an incredibly powerful song because it really hits you when you just sit down and have it presented as a story like this. Great stuff all by itself, but then you also have Oh, Goodness, one of those random minis that’s mostly about Grant and his girlfriend Kristy. It’s only about six pages long so I don’t want to give anything away, but he deals with horniness, vaginas, sleeping and snuggling. Huh, that makes it sound a lot more erotic than it actually was. Oh well, there are worse things in the world. All in all a pretty solid package. It’s $2, there’s contact info up there or you could check this out in the online store…
Snowglobe Now Available! $2
Remember that fire in Rhode Island last year when all those Great White fans died? Well, this comic is tangentally about that, as well as the wrath of god. Or God, or GOD, depending on your beliefs and/or terror. This is another short book, but it looks incredible and it’s a perspective of the the whole thing that I honestly hadn’t thought about, which is always a good thing. Whatever happened with that, anyway? Did anybody ever go to jail for that? Just curious. Anyway, contact info is up there, this is a bit tiny for $2 but it’s a good read.
Here’s a tiny book from Grant Reynolds. Two stories in this one. The first is about an underwater hunter (I have no idea what the fish is called but you’ll know it when you see the sample) and the second is illustrated lyrics to a Solomon Burke song. The art looks phenomenal, although I wish it was a bit bigger so I could be sure. Oh well, maybe next time. This is an incredibly quick read but worth a look, if you like comics. Here’s an e-mail address, ask him what he’s up to!
Hot & Cold Running Ghosts
I do believe that Grant has reinvented a genre.Â Which comic genre specifically he’s reinvented I’ll leave for the surprise ending of the review, as it sure came as a shock to me after reading the comic.Â This is the story of Grant trying to interpret his dreams, drunk-dialing a friend and getting a little too gushy with the praise, and generally trying to pull together bits of his life (if I may interpret his dreams baselessly for just a moment), or at least keep them from crumbling in his hands.Â It’s a genuinely brilliant read, from his seamless transition from dreams to reality and back again to his notable lack of whining in a story that could have easily turned self-indulgent.Â Really not a comic to be missed, and probably somewhere around $3.Â And the kicker to all this?Â It’s a diary comic.Â Grant removed all the dates and kept it with only a few distinct themes, but this blows out of the water and idea I had about the daily diary format being too constricting.Â Clearly there are all sorts of directions to take this genre before dismissing it out of hand…
Shitbeams on the Loose #2 (edited by Rusty Jordan)
Hey look, an anthology!Â I’ve never understood why so few of these clearly label who did which pages (some even have page listings for the artist without having the actual pages numbered).Â This one at least has a chronological listing of the artists, but the nature of this book makes it difficult to tell where one story ends and another begins.Â Why?Â They’re mostly highly interpretive blasts of art, that’s why.Â Still, I’ll give you a list of who’s in this and you’ll most likely be properly amazed and impressed.Â There’s Ron Rege Jr.(looking less deliberative than I’ve seen him, and I’m a bigger fan of that than I of the mildly sloppy story in this issue (said mostly because the bits of text are hard to follow)), Jason Overby (brilliantly smacking the preconceived notion of what makes a comic strip around), Dave Nuss (with a welcome quiet moment of the Roman soldier who theoretically jabbed Jesus in the ribs), Andrew Smith (puking a tuna melt is the worst), Hector Serna Jr. (I could spend the whole review trying to unpack those images), Brent Harada (with a mildly out of place regular old story about searching for boots in thrift stores), Robyn Jordan (a quiet piece about camping), John Hankiewicz (a breath of fresh, distinctive air in a sea of chaos), Grant Reynolds (with one of his more disturbing pieces, and that’s saying something), Ayo Kuramoto & Amane Yamamoto (please place your review here, this went right over my head), Rusty Jordan (this is where it starts getting really difficult to tell where one artist ends and another begins, I believe his piece is the one with the escaping brain), Luke Ramsey (ditto, I believe his stuff is the series of full page heads), and Andy Rementer (an oddly adorable piece after all this about a man, his bike and their mutual love).Â Or maybe Andy Rementer is the one who did that utterly horrific back cover?Â Hard to tell, and that website doesn’t clear it up a bit.Â Oh well, with that list of stars it’s a hard thing to pass up, and the quality of most of the stories makes it even more difficult.Â And if you don’t love that cover, well, I’m afraid there’s no hope for you.Â It is a fairly hefty $9, but it’s put together nicely.Â You decide!