As far as I can tell there’s no editor listed for this anthology (unless I’m supposed to assume that Amy Lockhart is the editor because she’s the first person named on the credits page?), but whoever put this thing together deserves a medal for having Ben Juers do single page strips in between the other stories. They never fail to be at least amusing, and most of them are hilarious, which is a welcome break from some of the stories in here. They can get a bit depressing which, as some of them are based on real life, is the way things actually happened, so it’s hard to complain about it. But between those comics, the true life stories and the more abstract pieces, this is a damned well-rounded collection. As always, I’m not going to go through and review every bit of this anthology, as that’s half the fun for people who are going to be reading this for themselves. But I will mention my favorite bits! Emi Gennis starts things off with the story of Lake Nyos in Cameroon and what happened there in 1986. Over a million tons of carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere around the lake, which led to only six inhabitants of the nearby town waking up the next day, unsure if the world had ended. On the other end of the spectrum, Andy Warner has one of the best opening page brawls that I’ve ever seen in a comic, and follows through with a wordless tale about a band against some “bad guys.” James K. Hindle has a thoughtful piece about a young boy, a young girl he meets, a fire in the town and how it all comes together. Laura Terry’s story starts off where it ends, and we slowly come to meet and understand the “dark” being she keeps seeing that won’t leave her alone. Mazen Kerbaj lets us in on the secret thoughts of boats, Jackie Roche tells the story (that I’d never heard) of where Lincoln was taken after he was shot but before he died, Georgia Webber refers to her recently losing her ability to speak and how much social media has meant to her since then, and things wrap up with Jan Berger’s piece on awakenings, seeing what’s real and how to save the world. I’m leaving a bunch of stuff out, as this is over 150 pages and, as is usually the case in anthologies, there were a few stories/pages that didn’t do a whole lot for me. But the good vastly outweighed the not-so-good (I won’t even call them “bad”), and there’s plenty in here to recommend it to people. $15
The Wee Days
So what’s the best way to judge something that proclaims proudly on the cover that it’s supposed to be funny? Does that mean that everything has to make me chuckle, or just smile contemplatively? Anyway, think about it, because I have no earthly idea. Only one of these strips made me laugh out loud, so it’s the one I sampled below. As for the other ones, Jai deals with sarcasm, punching, pot, beer, and disemboweling. There’s also a five page story in the middle here that takes WAY too long to set up a completely unfunny joke that’s only saved (slightly) by it being a visual gag instead of just told at a bar. His dream strips were probably the highlight to me, just because they were all over the place and genuinely fascinating. Oh, and of course the squirrel strip I sampled here, which was only mildly amusing until the punchline. As for what I thought, I may have to punt on this one until I see more strips. It’s a cop-out, granted, but I really liked some things (sarcasm, squirrel and dream strips), really didn’t like some other things (five pager, or at least most of it) and was somewhere between on the rest of it. Oh, and $4 is way too much for something this small. Why, back in my day blah blah blah you know the drill. Give me more so I can get off this fence!
The Wee Days #2
You know, the good thing about the long wait between issues of most small press comics is that at least the artists involved take their time and get future issues right instead of just rushing them out. It’s either that or that people like Jai are so insanely talented that they can just crank out an issue in a few weeks after not doing anything with it for a few years, but that possibility hurts my heart so I’m discounting it immediately. This is another collection of short pieces with one long story, and the short pieces hold the whole thing together nicely. There’s the fantastically awkward The Transaction, dealing with a highly loaded deal for extra pudding. Then there’s the short pieces about the Russian sandwich shop/mafia front, an angry man with a moustache, taking the genitals out in the nice weather, teaching yourself poker, fitting the most G.I. Joe figures in your armpit, destroying weed for the good of the country, neutrality and amnesia as the result of severe head trauma. I’ll leave the dream comics alone as they’re better experienced than gabbed about by me, which leaves only the bulk of the comic, a story dealing with a crappy summer job spent excavating a stinky basement and inventing the filthiest phrases possible to keep said job sane. It’s a long way to go for an excellent punchline, but there are more than enough funnies thrown in to keep it amusing. It’s well worth checking out, probably around $5.
The Wee Days #1 Now Available! $3
Well, I wanted more from this guy to make up my mind, and here it is! Conclusion: I really like his stuff. This is a mountain of a comic (at least in height), full of various one page strips and others that are slightly longer about all sorts of things. His dream strips are still great, dealing with watching a movie in the side of a theater and Star Wars: The Play. Many, many other strips in here (maybe he has a weekly strip that I haven’t seen?), including some fallout from Brokeback Mountain, a strip about his father, the sad story of Forest Whitaker, sarcasm (maybe the same one that was in the mini, I can’t remember), what word he is trying to think of, and getting locked out, among others. The longest strip in the bunch is Lara The Boring, going into minute detail about a girl getting stoned and hopping onto an instant messenger. This whole comic was either funny or insightful in some way, so I think that means you should buy it and check it out. Of course, I have no idea how much it costs, but I’d guess $5. How can you beat that cover? And you haven’t even seen the back cover yet…