And to think that I was regretting saving this one for last. After that Bogus Dead book in the middle of the week I was pretty sure nothing else was going to touch it, then along comes this book. In my opinion. there are two ways to make a great anthology. You can either have a lot of pieces, fast and furious, and you’ll come away with a good impression of the book as long as the majority of them are solid, or you can have a book with only a select few, long pieces. Orchid is comprised of seven long tales adaptations of gothic stories. The only one that didn’t do anything for me was Poe’s “The Raven”, and that’s mostly just because I’ve seen so many adaptations of it at this point in my life that I just don’t want to see it again. A personal problem of mine, granted, but that doesn’t change the fact that everything else in here is creepy and good. Kevin Huizenga (the back says that he “used to do a comic book named Supermonster”. Please don’t tell me that he’s done, that’s one of the best series out there and I only just found out about it!) has the longest piece, a disturbing tale about the power of visions. Here’s a list of the other names, and let me know if you need and more convincing: Lark Pien & Jesse Reklaw, Ben Catmull, T. Edward Bak, David Lasky, and Dylan Williams. It’s only $8 and I couldn’t recommend it more highly. Get this and Bogus dead and your anthology needs for the year should be pretty much met. If the website still isn’t working, you can send money to: Spark Plug Comics P. O. Box 10952 Portland, OR 97296-0952.
Generally speaking, sketchbooks don’t do much for me unless i am really into the work of the guy doing them. Too many people seem to do them instead of putting out a “real” new book. Well, Kevin could do pretty much anything and I would enjoy it, based on what I’ve seen so far, and this has the added bonus of being done in church, so it’s pretty introspective. Sloppy as can be, and some of that handwriting is downright indecipherable, but if you’re a fan of his work, this is a great peek into his brain. And, in case religious subject matter just bores the crap out of you, this doesn’t have a bit of preaching in it, it’s just him sitting in church thinking and/or sketching people. Good stuff as always. $1
Or Else #3ï¿½
|The comic’s world is a better place when Kevin Huizenga is making comics. This is something that can be said for a few people, such as (and please don’t think this is anywhere near a complete list) John Porcellino, Jim Woodring, Dan Clowes, Renee French, and Chester Brown. Some of those people are still producing on a regular basis, and some have more or less moved on, but their defining characteristic to me is that my day is vastly improved when I happen across a new book from any of them. That being said, I thought it was great news when I heard that Kevin had a regular comic with Drawn & Quarterly. To those of you who knew about him all along, this is something of a mixed blessing, as this issue of Or Else is filled mostly with material that was already released in old issues of his (is it too soon to call it “classic”?) mini comic Supermonster. He punches up the art for these stories, although it’s hard to notice without the original material close by. For everybody in the world who didn’t see Supermonster or just couldn’t get any copies of the minis before they sold out, this is a wonderful way to get some of these stories in one place. Stories in here include I Stand Up For Zen (one of my favorites, as Kevin struggles with the moral dilemma of putting in the ad copy “Fashionably Zen” to some crappy spirit beads), and Al & Gertrude (about his older neighbors slowly losing their independence). There are also plenty of shorter stories dealing with subjects from a snippet from Kafka’s diary to dealing with sales tax over the phone. Great stuff as always from Kevin, and this reminded me that it’s been far too long since I’ve read most of his stuff, a situation I plan on remedying soon… $3.50
Or Else #1
i really need to get to the comic store more often. That’s the only reason I can think of for not knowing that Kevin has a new series out, when his last series became one of my favorite things in the world in no time at all. In this one you have a Glenn Ganges story (which, really, is more of a tease than anything else), a slightly re-jiggered version of a story from Supermonster #9 called NST ’04 that’s impossible to describe accurately in less than a day, Fight or Run (which is also indescribable but for completely different reasons), Chan Woo Kim (an idyllic collection of drawings with text from actual adoption papers), And Jeezoh, which is about the spirit that protects children from the demons in hell. I think I liked his original version of NST ’04 better, but this is done right after reading a bunch of comics from Dave Kiersh, which automatically makes this one fascinating. Every time I see one of his comics it’s guaranteed to improve my day, so my review is not at all unbiased. Still, if you still haven’t seen any of his comics, go through the Supermonsters and come back for this one. $3.50
I want to make one thing very clear, as this review isn’t going to be all positive: I think Kevin Huizenga is one of the most important people doing comics today. His Supermonster series is one of the best things to come out in recent years. It’s something that gets significantly better with each issue (kind of like Eightball), and if there’s any justice in the world he’ll be rich and famous soon and maybe we can see reprints of the older, out-of-print issues. That being said, of course I had nothing but the highest expectations going into this, and those expectations are almost impossible to live up to. It didn’t happen this time around. Kevin has half of a new Drawn & Quarterly Showcase, and he has a few stories in here, all centered around “Glenn Ganges”. If you’re not following, check the rest of the reviews on this page. The first story is an odd, rambling tale about missing children and refugees from Sudan. Boiled down to the simplest possible terms, of course, which is hard to do with his work. The ending is just odd and this should probably have been broken up into two stories, if the universe was under my command. Then there’s the best piece in the book, an adaptation of the fairy tale “The Feathered Ogre”. It’s a long piece and an absolutely bizarre story, about a couple trying everything they can to conceive a child. Great stuff and worth getting the book just for that, although I should mention somewhere that this book is $14.95, so I guess you have to decide that “worth it” thing for yourself. Finally there’s a story about bird migration, still slightly connected to the previous adaptation. I actually learned a lot with this one, so there’s not too much bad to say there. Overall, he’s done better work, but this is still a pretty solid bunch of stories. I’d say get his Supermonster stuff first, if you haven’t already, and then check out this book. Although you might want to know about the other half of the book too, so you can make an informed purchase and all that, so check out my Nicolas Robel review, why don’t you…
How do you top an issue that has the best story of the year in it? Well, you start by putting out a much bigger issue than the last, and then you throw in an utterly unique fold-out centerfold that has to be seen to be believed. I was going to scan it for you guys but screw that, buy the book. No, I’m not going to describe this one either. OK, Glenn Ganges goes to the grocery story. Happy? Listen, in my humble opinion, you can’t go wrong with this guy. If I see anything to change my mind about that, you’ll be the first to know, OK? For now, if you can only afford one of these books, get #13. And #14. And probably #12 too, and #11, and #10, and #9…
A story about some old neighbors who quietly fade away and a mostly wordless tale about Glenn Ganges in the Wild Kingdom. I ran out of words to say how good all this was a while ago, folks.
If I had any vague, ill-formed complaint about the other two issues, it would be that they were too short. He answers this “problem” admirably in this issue. A great story about him dealing with his bank and some new fees, a philosopher wondering about the meaning of everything, and a story about a diner where people hang out through the wee hours of the night. This is the one that I’d start recommending to absolutely everybody instead of just mostly everybody.
This one is an illustrated letter from his Grandma. Again, simple, innocent and wonderful. Writing about these things seems silly, everybody should just go out and buy them. But I guess that’s why I’m writing anything here at all, right? To convince you to listen to some guy you’ve never met? How about this: If you like John Porcellino (and if you don’t, get the hell off my page), you’re going to love Kevin Huizenga.
I want to say right away that this guy is incredible, amazing, tremendous, and every synonym you can think of for those words. I had heard about him for a while and he blew his hype away, which is more than I can say for most folk. You can’t go wrong with any of these books, really. I’m on the hunt for all the back issues that I missed, and you can find at least one issue on his website (which is also incredible, www.usscatastrophe.com) . This one is the story of an adoption told alongside some beautiful drawings of trees. If that sounds corny, you’re thinking about it too much. It’s wonderfully done and I was already thinking at this point (I ordered #9-14 all at once) that I was in for a real treat.
Here’s another review of an old comic, as this one is from 1998 (or at least I think it is, it’s not like most minis bother to mention the publication date) and I’m writing this review in early 2010.Â Once again, I don’t think this is available anywhere outside of an old bargain bin at one of the few good comic stores, assuming you’d even be lucky enough to find something like this is one of them.Â It’s also hard not to notice that my reviews on this page were the length of haiku’s, as I apparently hadn’t yet mastered the art of rambling about nothing and filling space.Â As you can see from the fact that I haven’t even mentioned the comic yet, I’d say that I have developed some serious “skills” in that regard.Â This is the story of a walk.Â Sounds simple enough, and would be dull as hell in less skilled hands, but Kevin manages to make it engrossing.Â Kevin has recently moved to a new neighborhood, so he wanders out early one morning to get the lay of the land.Â Along the way he stops and notices the little things: voices through screen doors, wind whistling through the grass, kids on playgrounds, birds tweeting from wires, a hint of shampoo on the breeze.Â You really have to fight against the sense of calm you get from reading one of his books, assuming that you have something against calm.Â I still think that he reached a ridiculously high level with later issues of this series that he hasn’t quite reached by #7, but it’s still better than an awful lot of the other minis out there.Â If you can find this anywhere, you could probably get it for a couple of bucks.
Hah! Look, he had some awkward moments too at the start! Sorry, but the guy was just too amazing for words up until I got a couple of older issues. Don’t get me wrong, this one is still amazing and well worth picking up for anybody who can find it, but it’s not the life-changing read that everything after, say, #12 was. This one has the story of him playing a video game walking around, telling a phone story, and retelling a college tale (or making one up), along with a couple of shorter pieces. A couple of things verge on awkward, true, but this is worth picking up for the end of the video game part alone. I still think that I would have thought he was amazing if I had seen this issue first, now I’m all spoiled from the incredible work he has done lately.
I was going to just write the names of the contributors here to try and convince you to get this, but that scan came out nicely, don’t you think? You’ll notice that I really like most of the people on there, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I think this is amazing. I can’t even say that I didn’t like whole stories, just certain panels. People talking to cats in comics is either cute to me or way too cute, and Dave Lasky’s entry fell into the latter category. The rest of his story was good though. The bit by Austin English didn’t do much for me one way or another. Everything else is more than just worth reading, it’s required reading. That’s right, I’m forcing you to buy this. The only thing I’m not sure of is the price… $5 maybe? It’s a pretty big book. Eh, go to the website (down as of 7/22/07) for this (it’s the first in a series of anthologies about food) and e-mail the guy to see how much it costs. You can’t go wrong with this assemblage of talent.
There are a few great strips in this one, like I’ve come to expect out of all of these. I’m not here to talk about them. This issue contains the best story I’ve read all year, called (I think) “I Stand Up for Zen”. See, he used to have a job where he had to type ad copy, and his boss wanted to use the phrase “fashionably zen” to describe some shoddy bracelets that they were selling. Kevin had a major moral problem with that, and that’s all you’re getting out of me. It restored my faith in humanity, and I’m saying that without a trace of sarcasm or irony. My shitty Tuesday afternoon turned into the best week I’ve had in a while, and I owe it mostly to reading this story. Buy it. It you don’t like it, let me know and I’ll pay for it. Fair enough?