Ink, Max – Blink: And Now, This…
Blink: And Now, This…
Everybody out there who has HBO (or who has access to an HBO Go password) is watching John Oliver’s weekly show, right? In case you’re not, shame on you, but the title is in reference to that. And for all my complaints about the lack of political comics these days, here’s one right up my alley. It even makes explicit on the cover how blood-soaked the Confederate flag is, although I guess Max could always correct me and say that somebody spilled wine on it. But I doubt it! Anyway, this one opens up with the gang watching Oliver’s show and laughing about Starbucks and their ham-handed attempt to start a conversation through race via coffee cups. They all enjoy the big, go on with their lives, and the scene shifts to a few months later, after that asshole shot up a historically black church in Alabama. If you’re reading this in the future, check around June 2015 to narrow it down, as it’s clear the gun massacres are going to keep right on happening. Anyway, they chat a bit about what’s going on, with Sam being the most cynical of the bunch, and we even get a peek into the history of the two friends. It’s a short comic so I don’t want to spoil any more than that, but this was a really engaging comic, and I think it could educate a few people who have a superficial (at best) sense of the history of race. He even gets into the assassination of Martin Luther King and includes the remarks Robert Kennedy made the day after he died. It was a great speech, but it only made the whole thing more depressing, knowing as we do that Kennedy was assassinated himself short after that. I don’t have any answers, although I will say that 100% of Republicans are against even common sense gun control reforms, so if you’re happy with all these massacres, vote Republican! I can’t say that voting Democratic will end them, but it seems to be the only chance we have right now. Max made this a “pay what you want” comic, so maybe send him a few bucks? Or one buck. It’s up to you, really.
Ink, Max – Blink Volume 2: To Go With This Doorknob
Blink Volume 2: To Go With This Doorknob
Note for everybody who isn’t living in the past: this is a rough cut edition of the second volume of the Blink saga. Can I call it a saga or is that word reserved for things in the fantasy/science fiction genre? Anyway, the official version of this is out, but here I am, reviewing the rough cut, because it’s the version that I have available. This is all to say that any complaints/comments/praise I make about this book could be completely wrong, as what I liked/disliked could have changed by the time the final edition came out. So doesn’t that make this review essentially meaningless? Eh, let’s not get too far bogged down in philosophical questions. At the very least this will serve to remind fans of this series that there’s a new volume out there. So! I’ll start with a complaint from me as a fanboy and not a hypothetically impartial reviewer: you just cannot put out an entire volume of this series and not include Sam in it. Granted, the series is called “Blink” and not “Blink and Sam,” but come on now. Sam is gold whenever she’s on the page, and even if she didn’t fit in this story, at least have a flashback to an older conversation of theirs or something. Oh crap, I just solved my own problem, didn’t I? Sam isn’t in this story because she doesn’t fit into THIS story. Dammit! OK, enough rambling, by now you’re probably wondering what’s in this volume. This is essentially a long conversation between Blink and a number of new people that she meets. It starts off with her drawing in a park when a large, smiling man walks up to her. She’s a little confused, but seems to get that there’s no real threat there, and she gradually meets this guy and the two guys that he’s with, all of whom seem to be homeless but getting by through shelters and free meals. This leads Blink to a free potluck dinner at a “hidden gem” in Columbus, where she runs into an older friend, a few other people and a creepy piano player. I always get the feeling that I’m not properly conveying the joy of these books in my reviews, as “lady talks to other people for about 40 pages about all sorts of things” might not be something that gets people to rush out and buy all his collections, but I have to again emphasize that you really should get all of his collections. The man is building a world, based on the actual world of Columbus Ohio, and he’s doing a hell of a job with it. This volume was a little lacking in Columbus landmarks compared to other volumes, probably because it starts in a park and ends at a dinner (after a walk from the park to the dinner), but he has 11 more volumes to include more landmarks. Check it out, but start from the beginning. Hey, just go SPACE in Columbus in April, that’ll make it easy to get caught up on his series. $7
Various Columbus Artists – Blue Sunday
Oh jam comics, don’t ever change. In case you’ve only read three comics in your life and none of them were a jam comic, this is a thing that a bunch of cartoonists do together, either in person or through the mail/internet, usually under the influence of booze at the very least. As such, reviewing a jam comic like a traditional comic is a waste of time, as it was never meant to have a coherent story. This particular comic is the “dirty” bits from the regular Sunday jams that a bunch of Columbus artists do when they meet up on a weekly basis, and it is all over the map. But, oddly, usually either offensive or funny. And often both! Each of these strips are one page long, passed over to the next person in line from panel to panel, with none of the panels being signed by the artist, making this a fun/excruciating guessing game. Your best bet to know whether or not you’re going to like this is by looking at that list of tags and seeing if your favorite Columbus artist is included in that list, but I’ll try to summarize at least a few of the strips for you. Stories include the bleeped out clown and monkey love, “The Family Cirque Du Soleil” (with a fantastic last panel), the adventures of a pile of broken glass and a dead dude, William Shatner’s soap, how the Smurfs were wiped out, the end of the world, various types of tongues, cat piss vs. meatloaf, raccoon vice, a devil and a cockroach in love, and creepy Superman. That’s most of the first half, which leaves the whole second half a delightful surprise. Try a jam comic, you’ll be glad you did! Unless you’re easily offended, in which case you should maybe look at any other “Sunday” book. $3
Corby, Bob (editor) – Oh, Comics! #20
Oh, Comics! #20
Hello comics anthology! What sort of mixed bag do you have for me today? Before I get into it I should point out (in case I haven’t already) that I love that title, as it could be taken in so many ways. I prefer to take it as an exclamation of alarm, but am also happy accepting it in the context of some lovable scamp accidentally knocking over a flower vase. The subject of this one is “Air” (which should maybe have been mentioned on the cover somewhere, but in hindsight it’s hard not to think of air when you’re looking at that cover by Max Ink), and stories include a silent tale of an overly inquisitive space ghost (not THE Space Ghost) by Bianca Alu-Marr and Steve Peters, a hilarious parody of the 50’s style alarmist propaganda videos by Derek Baxter and Brian Canini (probably the highlight of the anthology), Pam Bliss proving that she can draw the difference between a husky and a wolf, a gloomy but accurate (and gorgeous) tale of an astronaut trying to fix a satellite and the consequences of it by D. Skite, Canada Keck’s tale of getting on a plane and getting a one-way ticket to anywhere, two short poems/pieces by Matt Levin about the subject matter, Michael M. Carroll’s tale of some issues between the elements of his Accidentals, Bob Corby’s piece on space cops and their search for an illegal passenger, and a Robert Gavila tale from 2004 about giant lizards. I saw the ending of that one coming, but I am also a gigantic dork with way too much knowledge of such things. There are also a couple of Cornelia pieces by Kel Crum and one story by Steven Myers that I didn’t mention because it is not for me. The two lady hero characters are called She-Eagle (seriously) and First Lady, and the whole thing is meant in earnest, and it is just not something that I enjoyed. But hey, to each their own. It’s a nicely varied pile of stories, and there are quite a few of them for that tiny $5 price tag.
Ink, Max – Blink: So Far
Blink: So Far
I’m never entirely sure what to talk about in collected editions of comics that I’ve already reviewed individually. It’s a good chance to update Max’s contact information anyway, so there’s that. This collection seems to cover Blink #1-4 (but maybe not every bit of them), and some of the newer stuff isn’t included, like his “FYI: IDK” mini, which is sorely missed. But some newer stuff IS included, so this is essentially an entirely new book and I’ll go with that. Either way, a collection like this is a good chance to revisit older stuff and see both how it holds up and how it holds together as a cohesive whole. Well, Blink defies the latter kind of analysis because it’s a series of moments and conversations, not the entirety of a depicted life. I’ve always loved the fact that this is a comic about three people in Columbus (two girls and a guy, although mostly about the two girls for this collection) and we’re not bombarded with relationship nonsense or much in the way of serious drama. These are mostly the moments between those bigger moments, and I’m glad that Max has spent a good chunk of his last 7 years pointing those moments out. As for how it holds up, it holds up pretty damned well. The earliest pages show that he’s improved in the years since, but it’s not like he was terrible even back then. And if you haven’t read any of his individual issues of Blink, you’ve finally waited long enough to have most of it in one collection (although I’d still recommend finding the uncollected minis). Stories in here include stopping to enjoy a moment on a playground during a nice day, Sam bouncing crossword clues off Blink (even though Blink is terrible at it, their back and forth seems to lead Sam to the right answers), Sam talking Blink through some writing anxiety, Blink playing in the snow to avoid dealing with said writing problems, the two of them going to a poetry reading (although all we see is them talking about with a punchline from an observed conversation, which again perfectly sums up the charm of the book), the two of them staring at the stars and talking, a conversation around a campfire with the three of them, and Hank and Blink talking about Hank’s fear of lightning. The biggest story here is also probably my favorite, as Sam meets Hank for the first time and takes him to task for not understanding the blues. The back of the book says that this is a book about the three of them, but really it’s about the two ladies and their friendship. No big space battles, no mutants of any kinds (although those squirrels were making some very strange noises, so no guarantees), just regular old solid conversations. And images of Columbus spread out throughout the pieces, which tied it all together. I liked the minis, so of course I like the collection too, but people who haven’t read it yet should definitely give it a try. Or hell, even if you have read them and just want a nicer edition for your bookshelf. $10
Ink, Max – Blink #4: Barefoot in America, Breakfast in the Part
Blink #4: Barefoot in America, Breakfast in the Park Now Available! $3
Hey, I’m the official online retailer for Blink Books! Sorry, I just noticed in the back of this issue and had no idea. Well, OK, some idea, as I am selling them… Oh this thing with selling comics, it’s like a constant revelation to me. Max says that with this issue he’s going to start focusing on the lives of the main characters Blink, Sam and Hank (you may or may not have known that that last one was a main character) by going to the full issue stories rather than the 4-8 page bits. I could and have argued both sides of that particular argument, but it looks like he’s going to occasionally put out shorter minis anyway, so it’s the best of both worlds. This issue is essentially a conversation in the park between Blink, Sam and Hank, as the two women run across him playing Supertramp by himself. The relative merits of their music is discussed, as well as Hank’s woefully inadequate knowledge of blue’s music. The conversation is all well and good, as Max has a great handle on dialogue, but the highlights to me were the quiet intro (animals running around) and the conclusion, with Hank running into a friend and telling the guy not to be a pig in describing Blink and Sam. It’s a great way to start this idea of telling the story of their lives, by not having everything begin and end with their conversations. All told it’s another solid issue, if you haven’t figured that out already… $3
Ink, Max – Blink #3: Space to Breathe
Blink #3: Space to Breathe Now Available! $2
This is the last of the available Blink’s (as of 8/6/07, anyway), and unfortunately, it’s a SPACE issue. That means (and this applies to other conventions as well) that it’s much shorter than the other issues, as it looks like Max wanted to have something new for SPACE of last year. Still, the other two issues are mini comics too, it’s not like he’s cheating a whole bunch here. There are only two short stories in this one, the first with Sam and Blink looking up at the stars and talking about the world and the second with Max telling a story from his parents about stopping to notice the good things in life. It’s a peaceful little shortie and another solid issue, I just get greedy when I find a series I’m enjoying and hope that all future issues will be about a hundred pages. $2
Ink, Max – Blink #2: Experiencing Creative Difficulties
Blink #2: Experiencing Creative Difficulties Now Available! $3
More from the world of Max Ink, and this time he tells us right off the bat what to expect in this issue: writer’s block. Or whatever it’s called when it’s more of a comic’s block in general than writer’s block. Anybody who’s gone through it knows how horrible it is, to have any spark of creativity that you had always assumed would be around just leave you completely, never knowing when or if it would be coming back. The first half of the book is dedicated to this, as Blink gets a chance to do a strip for a theater zine, but she finds that all her ideas are stupid and worthless. Sam tries to talk sense to her, pointing out previous successes and some good things she finds in Blink’s sketchbook, but it’s a hard sell to Blink. The other big story in here has the same theme, this time with Blink giving up on her productive afternoon and taking time off to play around in the snow.There are also some fairly illuminating sketchbook pages in the back, detailing where the first story came from and some other ideas that are floating around his head. More good stuff from Max, even if these so far leave me with the impression that while Blink is a decent series, he has something really special in him still to come, either through Blink or something completely different down the road. $3
Ink, Max – Blink #1: Up Leaves Fall Down
Blink #1: Up Leaves Fall Down Now Available! $3
The trouble with reviewing these things sequentially, the way I see it, is that it often short-changes the artist. Take this first issue of Blink, for example. By now (4/25/07), Max has this as (if I remember correctly, as his website is down and I can’t find the info online) a weekly online strip, so he’s spent some serious time on it. Even if it’s not a weekly strip, he’s done at least three more issues with these characters by now. However, in this issue, things are just getting started, with us getting to know the two main characters, Blink and Sam. They walk and talk or they sit and talk, about lost innocence and crosswords puzzles, with a few pages of sketchbook material and the most wonderfully honest advertisement I’ve seen in quite a while. It’s here as an introduction, and it does a fine job at that. Seems like I was going somewhere profound with this, but I had to take a break and away it went. I’ll leave this up as an illustration to anybody who thinks that I know what I’m doing, and if it comes back to me I’ll put it up in the review for the next issue, which should be in a couple of weeks if all goes as planned. Either way, a solid issue on its own…
Ink, Max – Blink: FYI, IDK
Blink: FYI, IDK
Max manages to reach in and tug directly at my heartstrings with this anti-technological issue. Well, maybe it’s not anti-technological, just more of a cautionary, “don’t forget that it’s OK to speak and type in complete sentences” kind of tale. In this issue (which is free, by the way, so if you ever see Max or order other comics from him, mention this one) Blink realizes that she’s run out of time to get her Aunt a handmade card, like she does every year, and decides to cheat a little bit by still drawing a card but sending a picture to her of it through her phone. Sam uses the occasion to go off on a wonderful rant about people putting every detail of their lives on their blogs and being a slave to Facebook and Myspace (or whichever thing you damned kids are obsessed with today). Just a very lovely, cathartic issue. If anything I thought the rant was reined in a bit, but it strikes pretty close to home, as somebody who has a (theoretically) daily “blog”. There’s a reason I don’t put many details of my personal life down here and there’s a reason why I don’t mess with most of the social networking sites that help you never actually talk to anybody in person. Sadly, though, I am familiar enough with the internets to know what that title stands for. How about you?
Ink, Max – Blink: Let It Be As It Is
Blink: Let It Be As It Is
Here’s another one of those “tweener” issues, put out for SPACE 2006, but it’s hard to complain much about a free comic. Yep, this one’s totally free and it has a self-contained story, no preview of a larger work here. Full disclosure: I don’t care at all about the Beatles. Sorry, I know about their talent, effect on music in general, and the fact that a bunch of my favorite musicians probably wouldn’t exist without them, but I just can’t seem to care. I bring all this up because this comic is set entirely in a record store and deals with a couple of conversations debating the group in general. In the expert hands of Max I find myself actually interested in a conversation about the Beatles, no mean feat… and then Sam sums up my feelings beautifully. Great stuff, well worth the… uh, $0 that you’ll have to pay for it.
Ink, Max – Bolt: Devil’s Sermon #3
Bolt: Devil’s Sermon #3
Another of the random grabs at SPACE, this one is the serialized parts of a graphic novel. I got the first three issues and figured I’d just review the last one. That way all of you would know how the story is progressing and whether it’s worth checking out or not, and I honestly don’t know. The first two were OK, if a bit too silly, and it wasn’t a silly story. Way too much dialogue that couldn’t possibly have been spoken by a human. Still, he was clearly going somewhere and I remember how bad some of the first issues of some of the great long series were (Love and Rockets and Cerebus, to name a few), so I was willing to at least get the first collected graphic novel when it came out to see how he has progressed. Then came the third issue, where there’s a new “creative collaborator”, Chad Wilson. I’m not saying negative or positive about him because I have no idea what he actually did here, but he came along after a long span between issues when it was supposed to come out every other month. Put that together with the fact that this issue felt different from the other ones somehow and it has me worried. The first two were mostly about a man dealing with the death of his girlfriend in an incredibly dramatic fashion and this one was about him talking to a devil and making some kind of deal. Maybe the next one is where it starts to get interesting, but I sure hope he’s turned the corner on this and has everything together. I should mention that the art is great. If he does get his story together this could be an incredible series, so I don’t mean this to come off as negative. E-mail him (and please, send him some letters to fill up those back pages with something other than rambling (not that I can ever be allowed to bitch about rambling)) or send him a few bucks for the latest issue at 642 South Everett Avenue Columbus, OH 43123-2724.