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Cass, Caitlin – Burning Rivers

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Burning Rivers

For those of you who are too young to remember it (myself included), the title of this comic refers to a real thing. There were a few rivers, particularly in the 50’s and  60’s, that were so polluted that they would sometimes burst into flames. Yes, really! This comic briefly details the history of the Cuyahoga River, Chicago River, the River Rouge in Detroit, and the Buffalo River. These rivers were spectacularly disgusting, the the Buffalo River being so bad that some fishermen would intentionally take their boats through the water because it was so acidic that it would burn the barnacles right off the hull. See, and people say that pollution is harmful. Caitlin really packs a lot of information into this comic, as is her way, and once again I learned a lot that I didn’t know/had no idea existed. Each city had their own ways of dealing with the problem, with the Chicago River still being over a decade away from being really fixed. The reactions of the locals was also fascinating, as the man in the street seemed more worried about the perception of them being seen as dummies for letting their rivers get this bad more than anything else. Hey, whatever works, and shame is a potent weapon against dummies. Not always immediately (the words “President Trump” spring to mind), but it eventually catches up to ever the most thick-headed of people. This is well worth checking out, so go buy it from her! Buy as many of her other comics as you can while you’re there too. Eventually she’ll have enough of these books that there could be a whole college class dedicated to expanding on her findings in these books. $4

Cass, Caitlin – Rock Thoughts Volume Two

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Rock Thoughts Volume Two

Look, there’s no reason to sugarcoat it: things are shitty these days (5/17/17, future readers). We’ll be lucky to get through this current mess as a country, and if it does all fall apart we’ll probably take the rest of the world with us. What we need at this moment in history is a little perspective. A reminder that the history of the world is long, and human civilization is a blip on that history. With that in mind, Caitlin was kind enough to provide us a peek into the mind of a rock. Wait, don’t run away! If you haven’t seen her other comics I understand why you’d be a little skeptical. You’ve also been missing out on a remarkable artist, but this comic in a vacuum is a dubious proposition. But you’re wrong, as this comic is delightful. The rock in question does take the long view of history, and worries about how things will change once people are gone. There are things that he’ll… ok, I can’t assign a gender to a rock. “It” sounds mean after reading the thoughts of this rock, but it’ll have to do. Anyway, there are things that it will miss about humans, and about dogs. But this rock is also well aware that it’s immortal, and that none of us can match the perspective of this rock. And it is correct, assuming that rocks were sentient. Yikes, what a life that would be. I’m digressing big time here, so I’ll just wrap it up by saying that this is a funny and insightful comic, with the absolutely perfect ending for a story like this. $5

Cass, Caitlin – Mill Girls

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Mill Girls

Caitlin (who has to be one of the hardest working artists in comics) has veered off in a different direction for this issue, as it “captures the wordless day dream of a cotton mill worker.” Yeah, I cheated and looked that up on her website, but that was the overall impression I had anyway. Things start off with us seeing a few different women working in the mill. The faces that we can see through the windows are bleak pictures of despair, and the daydream starts with the image sampled below: with the women being completely buried under cotton while the owner made money on their suffering. In this dream the women go on strike, confront the villainous owner and, well, it’s a pretty picture of what reality should have been and I don’t want to spoil it for you. Caitlin often goes into more detail with the historical facts of her comics, but she manages to convey a lot of information here without saying a word. These women were exploited for their labor, they did work under extremely dangerous conditions, and undoubtedly many of them dreamed about seeing their bosses finally get what was coming to them. If you’ve somehow not read a single one of her comics yet I’d recommend starting with something meatier, but if you’re already a fan then this book is gorgeous and another great addition to her ongoing library of comics. $4

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