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Norhanian, Aaron – Blunderbuss




I really hope the $10 price tag doesn’t scare people away, as this is one hell of a comic. Actually it’s more like three mini comics bundled together (or four, but then the fourth would just be a regular old short story, which would be an odd format for a mini comic). See, there’s your value right there! Things start off with a table of contents that is brilliant because the comments in it can be appreciated before and after reading the stories in entirely different ways. Granted, you probably have to see that to know what I’m talking about, but that only places you at fault for not having the comic yet. The first story is about an awkward conversation on a bus, a misunderstanding of what constitutes a disability and the odd expectation that strangers on a bus will care what you’re talking about. It’s a little grotesque, and I mean that in the best possible sense. The next story answers the question of the origin of the universe, along with many of the questions that go along with it. Will everyone be satisfied? That is an impossibility, but I’m thinking about starting a religion based on this theory, purely so I can be tax-exempt too. The final comic story is a literal interpretation of the “square pegs can’t fit in a round hole” theory, and how the pegs that don’t fit can still make things better. I’m glossing over all the wonderfulness in those stories because only jerks reveal everything about stories where you’d be better off figuring them out for yourselves, but I thoroughly enjoyed all three of them, with the story about the origins of the universe winning the prize for best in the bunch, if such a prize existed. Finally there’s a short story about a beard growing a face by Jason Ciaccia. I go back and forth on short stories in comics, usually coming to the conclusion that they’d be better in zines or books, but there was a lot to love about this one. The central idea is sentient beards, so it’s hard to go wrong when you start with that premise. Check it out, there’s a lot to love here. $10


Ciaccia, Jason & Norhanian, Aaron – The Sinister Truth: MK Ultra


The Sinister Truth: MK Ultra

One teeny tiny thing before I start unreservedly praising this fantastic graphic novel: Jason and Aaron, put your names on the cover.  This is a graphic novel, you’ve earned it!  Just saying.  OK, who out there loves a good conspiracy theory?  How about if that theory is backed up with so much factual documentation that it stops being a theory and instead becomes the hilarious truth?  This comic tells the tale of one of the many assassination attempts of Fidel Castro over the years by the U.S. government, otherwise known as the keystone cops of assassins, or at least that’s how I think of them for botching literally hundreds of chances to kill the guy.  Botched assassination attempts include poisoning Fidel’s wetsuit, an exploding cigar (seriously), and an exploding conch shell.  Those are only the most ridiculous ones of the bunch, there were hundreds more.  Anyway, this comic tells the tale of an attempt to use mind-controlled CIA agents to poison his shoes and pump LSD into the air of a television studio while Fidel was giving a speech.  The idea was that his subjects would revolt upon seeing Fidel dancing around on burning feet, blasted out of his mind on LSD and having his beard fall off from the poison.  The trouble was that the man in charge of this project regularly used LSD himself in huge quantities which, when looked at through the lens of modern living, is one of the crazier things you’ll ever hear.  The “training” of these agents involved breaking them down into tiny quivering pieces, so naturally things started to go wrong with one of the agents.  They were able to “see” through the eyes of the agent while the doctor was controlling them (I’m assuming this is artistic license on the part of Jason and Aaron, but with so many insane things being true in this story it’s hard to tell), and the doctor responds to problems in the mission by taking more LSD.  The story on the Cuban side was a comedy of errors: the main agent got drunk and blabbed his story to a woman at a bar (forcing him to kill the woman, then everybody else in the bar to prevent his story from getting out), then he killed a maid because he thought in his manic state that she was a spy (turns out she was, but that was just blind luck), and he finally killed the other two agents that were assisting him because the voices in his head told him to.  Not a good start to the mission, granted, but if only got worse once he finally made his way to the television studio.  While putting the LSD into the air vents he accidentally set it off, getting a highly concentrated blast (far more concentrated than what he took during his “training”) right in the face, so naturally the doctor in charge of the mission took an equal blast to be on the same page as the agent.  The doctor freaks out, burns all the files and destroys the monitoring apparatus, which sets the agent loose during a crucial fight with Fidel.  I’m right on the edge of revealing everything about this comic.  It’s in the historical record and all, but I learned some new things about Fidel during this comic and I thought I was pretty caught up on all that nonsense.  Sure, we know it’s a fascinating historical story, but do these two pull off interpreting it?  In a word: yes.  Yes, they do.  Jason has clearly researched the hell out of this (he even reprinted a few memos from back in the day, and most pages have a historical footnote of some kind), and Aaron was the perfect choice to show these characters devolve into hallucinating puddles of goo, not the mention the fine work he does on this large cast of characters.  The price is a little steep at $11.95, but the packaging is gorgeous and these two clearly put some serious time and effort into this.  Check it out, learn a little something about American history just in case you made it to 2010 and still think that the U.S. can do no wrong.  $11.95