Since this book came out in 2012, has this really been lost among the comic stacks here for 7 years, or did Joseph include it with some more recent review comics? A peek behind the curtain, just in case anybody still somehow had the idea that I was organized. I think he sent it fairly recently, but who knows? The archivist is imaginary, which makes it hard to keep track of such things. Anyway, this is the story of The Vole with No Name breaking into the Scum Hive to steal a priceless sword. The first half of the book has exactly three spoken words and it does an excellent job of showing our hero sneaking into this place and the various pitfalls he encounters along the way. The rest of the is a desperate attempt to escape, primarily from a very large sentient jar full of brains. It’s more nimble than you’d think! There’s also a brief story in the back of the book dealing with a vole and his son picking berries. They discover a human skull (from ages ago when all the humans were killed; haven’t you been reading his comics?) and get into a discussion about what happened to them and death in general. It’s a thoroughly engaging comic all around, give it a shot why don’t you? $3
The Last Human Alive
Nuclear war has come, and the only thing to survive (apparently) was a small group of voles. Unless I missed an issue or two where this was explained in more detail, that is. As you may have guessed from the title, the voles think they’ve spotted a human, the creature that they all know was responsible for the end of the world. Do they mind the end of the world since they’re now basically in charge of it? Unknown! The voles react to this news in different ways, with most of them forming an army to take out the human before it takes them out. One of them goes off to see a village elder of sorts, who tells the story of how the world ended, mostly by using the word “ass” a lot (yes, it’s still a coherent and concise explanation). Right around the halfway point of the book, the army confronts the human that they’ve spotted, with the rest of the issue being a desperate battle against it. Sort of. Look, if I cleared it up I’d take away the mystery, and who wants that? It’s a fun story, with Joseph once again providing the Korean translation at the back of the book for interested parties. At this rate I figure I’ll be able to write Korean in… never. Still just about never. But if you have a passing familiarity with it, maybe this will refresh your memory. If you only speak Korean and have stumbled across this review (by some hilariously garbled Google translator, no doubt), you’re in luck! $5
So here’s an intriguing concept for a comic: half of these stories are in Korean with English translations at the bottom of the page, and the other half are English with Korean translations at the bottom of the page. Guaranteed to intrigue/alienate everyone! Kidding, of course. You can even learn a little bit of (written) Korean this way if you want. Just take some of the shorter pieces of dialogue so that you’re sure which words conform to which symbols, and voila! You now know what a few Korean symbols mean! The stories are all over the place, and I mean that in the best possible sense. Stories include a queen who sends a bird to get the heart of a prince (and a bird who takes that request a little too literally), robot hijinx while dealing with pigtatoes, a fishing trip with a bear and a puppet that goes horribly wrong when they manage to catch a wishing fish (and the only story that confused me when I was trying to line up the translations to the panels, and ironically it was a wordless bit that threw me), dating in the future while somehow also being dating in the past, and a brief stop for a joke about the real needs of finding a habitable planet. There were also a few strips that were parodies of those snack cakes ads from comics in the 80’s, which may or may not make sense to the youth of today, but I got a kick out of them. It’s a nice mix of stories and, like I said, a chance to learn at least a tiny bit of Korean. $2
SnowCone City: Rocket to Pluto
Hey look, SnowCone City has given up numbering the issues! Joseph explained that these are mostly self-contained anyway, but then kind of talked himself out of that (in the letter he sent with the comic) because this one ends on a cliffhanger. So who knows what the next issue will bring! This time around our heroes have decided to take the fight to the big bad guy who has been sending them weekly monsters to fight instead of just defending the city against all the monsters. They get into a ship, head off into space and everything goes fine, the end. Or possibly they have a series of adventures before finally confronting their nemesis, you tell me what would make the better comic. There’s a lot to like about their encounter with the sentient space tofu and the space rabbits, as they naturally assume that the cute ones are the victims and vice versa. When they finally do land at their destination they encounter a miniature version of their own city, complete with tiny penguin figurines. This leads to another confrontation and a pretty great godzilla-style fight among the tiny buildings. Then there’s the nemesis, but I can’t say anything about that, because come on now. I’ll just say that it turns everything you thought you knew about this series on its ear, leaving a whole lot of explaining for the next issue. It’s still a fun book, there are still plenty of funny bits, so check it out if you’re a fan of power rangers/space fights/sentient penguins. $5
How to be Human Day One
This one got off to an intriguing start, as we learn that our hero is an existential investigator very quickly. We learn this because the case we observe is one in which he’s trying to discover when a client lost her innocence,and he’s able to track down the exact date along with the contributing factors that led to its demise. We also quickly learn of his next job: tracking down an old tape called “How to be Human,” which is exactly what it sounds like: an instructional tape on how to be human. He’s allied with a crew of misfits who have also never seen the tape, and the tape is lost because nobody ever thought to digitize it. Which is quite a hook, as there are countless movies/shows/ads/etc. from the 70’s and 80’s that you kids have never seen because nobody bothered to upload it. Think of all the culture you’re missing! OK, granted, that was mostly a cultural wasteland. But think of all the hilariously earnest and/or just plain weird videos that you never got to see! Anyway, most of the rest of the comic is introducing us to the wide and varied cast of characters for future issues (including a drug-sniffing dog, a granny who isn’t easily frightened, those six misfits and a vampire), so there are more chapters coming to clear that up. After all, we haven’t even gotten a good look at the bad guy yet, even though he’s already up to shenanigans. Is murder considered a shenanigan? Oops, I’ve said too much. It’s an intriguing story about looking past the obvious to solve mysteries, and I’m on board to see what happens next. It’s odd that this isn’t listed at Joseph’s website at the moment, but send him an email, I’m sure he has a few copies of this around. Probably. Better hurry to be sure!
SnowCone City #3
If you’re looking for giant robot action, you’ll have to look elsewhere this issue (but not to worry, the preview for #4 indicates that it’ll be back next issue). This time around we meet The Raven, the SnowCone City equivalent of Batman. And, in this city, Batman is a teenage girl who has to sneak out on her parents to fight crime. With all the various iterations of Batman running around out in the DC multiverse, it’s odd that nobody ever depicted him as a teenage girl (that I know of; DC has an awfully long history to draw from). It fits the temperament of that character perfectly. We also get to meet the Raven’s new sidekick, even though said sidekick has some trouble picking out a good code name. The actual adventure this time around comes from the army of zombie penguins that crops up and their ability to turn other penguins into zombies using their spit. An evil mastermind also manages to trick the Raven into a trap involving a building full of these zombies and no possibility of escape. So everybody dies and the series is over. Kidding! It is entirely possible that the day was, in fact, saved. But I don’t want to get into spoilers. It’s another fun issue by Joseph, and a nice bit of world building to see what things are like away from the big superheroes of this world.
Snow Cone City #2
I’ve read all kinds of black and white comics over the years, and I’ve only rarely thought that the comic would be greatly improved if it was in color. This issue of Snow Cone City has our five heroes from the previous issue (basically Power Rangers but as penguins) meeting the Canadian super hero team with five members. Each of these teams wears uniforms with slight differences so that we can tell them apart. And it would be vastly easier to do so if they were all wearing uniforms of different colors. It’s an odd pet peeve for me to have, but there you go. It’s not a dealbreaker, as the comic itself was a lot of fun. And the Snowbirds (the Canadian team) is in full color on the back cover, so at least my curiosity is satisfied. So how about the story? In this issue the first penguin to make it to Mars comes back down to Earth. Instead of giving remarks he starts singing… and doesn’t stop. He’s also turning into a godzilla monster, there’s an American Idol parody (this did come out in 2012, after all), the super teams clash (as all super teams are required by law to do whenever they meet), and there’s even a Korean translation in the back. So if you want to learn to write Korean, this would be one place to start! Other than that, there’s a lot of punching and one giant singing space monster, so what’s not to love?
Snow Cone City #1
Sometimes, over the course of running this website, a comics artist sends me their entire back catalog of comics. Usually it’s like in this case, where there’s roughly half a dozen comics to read. Some might suggest to start with the most recent comic, as that’s the best representation of what kind of work they’re doing right now. But me? I’m a super nerd; this should be obvious because I’ve been running this site for 15 years. As such, I go back to the beginning and work my way forward. The point of all this rambling is that if this particular comic is not representative of what Joseph is doing right now in late 2016, well… oops. This also sounds like I’m leading up to crapping all over this book, and that is not my intention. This is the story of Pokemon (or the generic pocket monsters of your choosing) existing in the real world. Or at least a version of the real world that has Power Rangers/Voltron pilots keeping the peace. The monsters have been getting loose and disturbing the peace, so the crew investigates and finds the source of these monsters. Along the way Joseph gets really inventive with the odd background monsters that the nerdier among you will delight in identifying, which helps to elevate the fairly standard story about good guys coming together to beat the bad guy. It’s a fun book, is what I’m trying to say, and I’m looking forward to reading through the other comics that he sent my way to see how he’s evolving as an artist/writer. And the three books in this series are a measly $1 each!
I have rarely been as divided in my opinion of the contents of an anthology as I am with this one. They’re mixed bags the vast majority of the time; that’s just the nature of putting a bunch of artists in the same comic together. And my problems with this one have nothing to do with the content of any of the stories, which I really enjoyed overall. But roughly half of the stories in here have no resolution, and that’s just a flatly annoying thing to read in an anthology. For example, the first story (by Matt Aucoin and Holly Foltz) is a great tale of empowerment and having a bully finally get what’s coming to him. But it ends with the introduction of a new character and is clearly going to go on in some other venue. Which would be fine if there was any indication that this was meant to be a sampling of work from different artists, or if I could figure that out because all of the stories were “to be continued.” But that’s not the case here, which makes the whole comic a maddening read, as I never know if there’s going to be any resolution until I finish the story. Maybe that was the point? I don’t know, but since I like the content of the stories a bunch I’m just going to comment on that from here on out. Other stories include David Yoder time traveling with himself (in a continuing story that tricked me because it continued later in the anthology), a great piece on Skeleton Girl by Denis St. John (or the first chapter of it), the origin story of a band with a bad name by Ryland Ianelli and Marisa Chapin (or the first chapter of it), a hilarious story on the true mission for a giant space robot that comes to the planet by Joseph Hewitt, Jarod Rosello’s fascinating story of a boy who tries to make friends with a monster and the characters that are egging him on to attack it (all while commenting on the nature of friendship and humanity), and a small piece of a Kevin Kilgore story (along with an interview with the man) that did get me intrigued about his story but couldn’t be called a complete story here. The highlight of the book was Fight Hero Fight by Matt Aucoin, which is probably a lot funnier if you’re familiar with the Zelda lore but works either way. A young adventurer gets his quest, but he has to fend for himself when it comes to gear and money and has no idea of the skill levels of the various enemies he encounters in the wild. Way too many great touches for me to point them all out, but trust me, any gamers will think it’s hilarious, as should most other people with a sense of humor. So overall it would be impossible not to recommend this anthology for that last story alone, but don’t expect everything to be self-contained. It’s not the worst thing in the world if these pieces of larger stories lead to people tracking down these artists, I just wish that had been indicated somewhere in the book. $9