Trolls: 1 Trip 2 Many
There comes a time in the life of every reviewer that you end up not particularly liking a comic from an artist that you generally like quite a bit. Hey, they can’t all be home runs! And reviews are inherently subjective, and nobody should take one review from one person to mean all that much in the grand scheme of things, etc. So with all those caveats out of the way: this one was only so-so. The thing I like about Michael’s other comics is the madcap insanity of it all, how he can make what would otherwise be mundane situations (and situations that are very much not mundane) into surreal adventures. He’s made me think about a few jobs in a whole new light, while making me laugh out loud more than a few times. That being said, this one just kind of petered out. And it got off to such a strong start! Our heroes, after their previous adventures, are basically legit heroes, and are allowed to slack off at their job with no consequences. But then an expendable crew is needed for a mission to Mars, so they get the call. Great set-up, right? Based on his previous comics I was expecting all kinds of hijinx. This is one of those rare occasions where I’ll have to spoil the ending, so feel free to stop reading this now if you’d rather not know. Pick up some of his other books, you’ll probably love them! Anyway, they crash land, run into an alien, and… wait for death. There are still a few good gags in here after that, but the page layout is exactly the same from then on out, with them all crumpled into a slowly dissolving heap together and chatting. I’m talking no movement outside of an occasional gesture. If he was just looking to demonstrate the awfulness of dying in space, kudos, and maybe it’s my fault for expecting wackiness. But it’s a grim end, oddly punctuated with jokes. Of course, they might not be dead, and however they possibly manage to get away from Mars could make this setup worthwhile. But this one could have been half the length without the reader missing out on a whole lot, which is a shame. He sent along other comics, and I’ll be getting to those shortly, because I strongly suspect (based on his past work) that this was a rare dud from the man. But for now, pass on this and check out some of his previous comics. $4
Here’s the thing about humor: it’s subjective. I know, pick your jaw up off the floor, but some people actually think Adam Sandler is still funny, or that those “Scary Movie” films are the height of hilarity. They’re wrong for me, but they’re not wrong for them. Even though I think they could do better, that part of what makes us better people is challenging ourselves to grow and expand our horizons, that garbage is still, to them, funny. I bring all this meandering nonsense up so I can seamlessly segue into talking about this comic, which is a collection of rejected strips that Michael sent to The New Yorker. Now, I haven’t read a New Yorker strip in years, outside of the few that run alongside other articles I’m reading online. It’s been ages since I’ve found them particularly funny, and Michael felt the same way, seeming to notice a dip in quality over recent years. So he thought something along the lines of “hey, I can at least be as funny as these strips,” and sent these along in 2018. They were all rejected, so now his question is this: are these rejected strips funnier than what’s currently running in their magazine and, if not, are they even funny at all? This is all from his afterword, by the way; I’m not the first successful mind reader in history. So, based on all that I said above, including my ignorance of the current New Yorker strips, are they that funny? Well, I never laughed out loud reading this, but I rarely do for their strips either, so I’ll give them a tie. But several of these strips wouldn’t feel out of place if I first saw them in their magazine, so in that sense I’d say these were successful. Read it for yourself to make up your own mind, you don’t need me to tell you what you think is funny. $3
Trolls: Operation Great Wall
This issue is a little less completely insane than the last one I read, but considering the fact that that was about a drunken party in an airport (among other places), there was bound to be at least a slight return to “normal.” Although you can look at the sample image below and see that there’s no such thing as a normal, quiet day in this world. We join our heroes in the Honolulu airport, where they’re casually chatting about Wayward’s girlfriend and what he can possibly see in her. She’s a bit on the dramatic side and comes from a conservative family. After nearly getting into an accident her parents take her to China, the Great Wall specifically (title might have given that away, huh?), and our heroes decide that they have to rescue her. But they’re air traffic controllers, not pilots, so you can probably guess how well that turned out. The rest of the comic has hijinx all over the place, what with the international incident and all. It also has an appearance by a former president, which isn’t the president I would have guessed in a comic with “wall” in the title. The previous issue may have this one beat for pure insanity, but this is quite the enjoyable read too.
The Ghost Pirate #1
Are you interested in ghosts and/or pirates? If so, I’d say the title has probably already convinced you to give this one a look. If not, there’s an awful lot in here about a ghost pirate, as you may have guessed,so maybe it’s not for you? What’s that, you’d like my impressions before you make a decision? OK, but just so we’re clear, I am mostly not interested in ghosts and/or pirates, so bear that in mind. This one starts off in 1775 with a group of British soldiers defending an island. A pirate shows up, murders almost everybody, digs up his old treasure, murders every other pirate who helped him dig it up, then opens up the box. Very bad things immediately happen, to the pirate (Molitar) and the lone British survivor of the massacre. From there we go straight to modern day, and a good chunk of the rest of the book is spent introducing the characters, what their lives are like, worries, motivations… character building! It’s a great idea in a first issue, and kudos to them for doing it when so many first issues are about bang for your buck. There’s a fair amount of that in here too, don’t get me wrong. Once our heroes move to the island a string of deaths happen, which leads to the mandatory creepy old resident telling them the story of the pirate and the curse that befell the island after that. Huh, I can’t remember the last time I used “befell” in a sentence. Feels like I should stop there. It’s an intriguing beginning, and I still have a lot more questions than answers. If the price I saw on Michael’s website is correct, $12 is a little steep for the first issue of a series. Yes, I know that is costs more to produce and distribute your own comics, but that’s a graphic novel price, not a comic price. But if you’re a fan of the subject matter and don’t mind the cost, you’d probably get a lot out of this. $12
So as I was reading this I knew that I had seen this art somewhere before. Michael has been working for years on a variety of projects, but all I could think about was Duplex Planet. And, sure enough, in his bio he mentioned making a story for them years ago. Maybe I just have too many comics taking up space in my brain? Because if this is a skill it surely isn’t lucrative. Oh hi, I’m supposed to be talking about the comic! This is mostly a story about Edward and Wayward, two dopes who are air traffic controllers. Their boss doesn’t like them, one of them is on the run from his pot dealer and his landlord has decided that he’s going to kick him out. Throughout it all neither of them takes anything all that seriously (except for the bit where the pot dealer seems like he’s going to murder Edward), and the whole thing reminded me quite a bit of the old stoner comics of the 70’s. Which was great! Those types of books just aren’t around much anymore, and I’ve always wondered why that’s the case. The two of them end up being forced to work the entire weekend shift as air traffic controllers, and they only have one idea as to how they’re going to stay awake all weekend: throwing a big old party. The rest of their story is nonstop debauchery with more than a little bit of surreality thrown in as the sleep deprivation catches up to them. But wait, there’s more! There’s also two short stories in here, one dealing with two other characters working at a McDonald’s in the middle of nowhere (that one also turns into a party with the hobos taking over) and two other characters getting invited to a model party and assuming they got the meaning wrong when they show up to see an array of model airplanes and that sort of thing scattered about. So, naturally, they sniff glue to get away from it all… but there’s a twist! Honestly, I loved this book, and am looking forward to reading the other books he was nice enough to send along. Check it out, or just go to his website and pick out some comics. He has a whole lot to choose from! $4
The crime issue! If you’ve read past issues of this anthology and think that this is a subject that this crew could handle very well, you were absolutely correct. My only complaint is that almost the first half of the book is dedicated to a letters page and comics and zine reviews. Not that I hate such things, but sometimes it gets in the way of the actual comics, and I’m speaking from my own personal and cranky bias about getting zines and comics all jumbled up. As for the comics themselves, it’s hard not to find plenty to love. When things start off with a color strip about Nazi superzombie monkey sleeper agents (by Ryan Vella), you know you’ve reading a book with tons of potential. Well I do anyway, it’s entirely possible that such a thing would turn you off immediately, in which case I’d recommend leaving this review now. It’s OK, there are plenty of other comics to read about on this site and not a single one of them has a Nazi superzombie monkey sleeper agent to bother you. Strips include an actual serial killer and the Hamburglar discussing royalties (by “Glenno,” which may or may not refer to Glenn Smith), Adam Pasion (or his story stand-in) lighting an empty pool on fire as kids, Stratu with a brother killing his sister after a stupid argument, scribbling a penis on a “Walk” sign (by Bize), Chris Mikul with the profoundly strange story of Kenneth Neu, Shaun Craike with his crisis of conscience after his only attempted theft, Neale Blandon with the story of the property theft of Mickey Mouse, Anton Emdin with the angriest man on earth and Dexter Cockburn (with one of the few stories of his without visible sexual organs) with the story of the murder of a young girl and the enigmatic diary entry detailing the deed. There are also two text pieces by Damian McDonald and Henry L. Racicot, both of which are well worth reading. As I already gave away in the intro, this comic is well worth picking up. I only mentioned about half of the stories to leave you with a lot of surprises, and even if you think that comic and zine reviews are wasted space (and, even though I pointed them out, I did notice a few comics I should probably check out, making me a bit of a moron for even mentioning that in a negative light) there are still more than enough comics here to make this worth the $5.
When they say this is 18+, they are not fucking around. Just a warning to all you sensitive souls out there. This is a collection of stories about Dads, featuring that list of names on the cover (seriously, click on it to check it out if you want, I’m not going to type them all here). As you might expect, very few of these stories are positive, and most of them aren’t true, but they are funny stories.Â Highlights include Neal Blanden’s story about not being able to visit his mother for the last two months of her life because his Dad was seeing another woman, Dexter Cockburn (a hilariously fake name) and his story about a Dad helping out with an “adventure club” and his noticing how one of the girl members has blossomed, Glenn Smith and his litany of Dads throughout history, Julie Doye and her Dad’s new teeth, Anton Emdin with his “Deadbeat Dad” strips (which, if there were any justice in the world, would be in newspapers across the globe), Mike Diana playing with the concept of a Dad and his two-way mirror, Ryan Vella with the shortest “Tales From the Crypt” story ever, Chris Mikul with one of the few seemingly true stories in the book, and Lark with a brilliant bit of father/son bonding. There’s also an accurate table of contents (I bitch when it isn’t present, so I should praise when it is, right?), a series of reviews on other minis, and plenty of other fair to great stories in here that I haven’t mentioned to save you some surprises.Â No idea on the price of this thing, as the website doesn’t have a listing, but I’d have to say at least $7 for the fancy front and back cover and the sheer size of the thing. Contact the website, why don’t you, and you should also go there because the guy apparently spends a lot of time reviewing comics and such, which I clearly think is a good use of free time.