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Van Sciver, Noah – His Last Comic

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His Last Comic

For those of you who are literal by nature, don’t fret! This isn’t actually Noah’s last comic. Or maybe it is and he just never told anybody; guess we’ll have to wait and see on that one, huh? This is also a mini kus book, in case that wasn’t obvious from the tiny blurb on the cover. Things start off with a fictional comic book artist who’s vowing that the current comic he’s making is the last one he’ll do, as nobody appreciates his work and he feels like he’s already wasted 20 years on this endeavor. Don’t be fooled, as this is not a Noah stand-in. This guy thinks the early days of Image comics, with things like Wildcats, Spawn and Youngblood were the cream of their crop, was the pinnacle as far as comics go. He’s spent his career trying to emulate those artists and is constantly baffled when regular people in his orbit don’t recognize his greatness. But along comes a witch in a magic potion shop to give him a potion labeled “desire.” He’s supposed to use this on himself to have the best month of his life, but in a fit of annoyance he pitches the potion into the ink machine at the printer for his comic. So this does lead to him finally being recognized, but once he sees why he’s being recognized he has to take a trip back to the witch to get everything sorted out. I’ll say no more, as there’s plenty more goodness to be had here, but any fans of Noah’s work already know that the man can basically do no wrong. Buy his books, if you’re not already doing so! This is mostly just a public service announcement to let you know that he’s put out a new book under a different publisher here, so don’t let it slip by you… $6

Koch, Aidan – Daughter

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Daughter

There’s an awful lot of information packed into this comic, and it’s almost entirely up to you to figure it all out. We start off by seeing some of the pictures drawn and painted by a young woman (the aforementioned “daughter”), lovely but innocuous images. To my eyes, anyway; to her father the images she’s making are baffling and seem to annoy him on a personal level. As the story unfolds we see that the family is part of a group of people who are on this planet, but that the images she’s drawing are not on this planet, meaning she’s had no way to ever see them for herself. Her answer for where she sees these images are unsatisfactory to her father, and the story continues with us seeing more of their drab life here, suffused as it is with the weight of their importance in the universe as the last of the humans, people who were chosen for this assignment. Still, art and color is a part of her life, even if the people around her can’t appreciate it. Am I starting to write like one of the synopsis on the back of these mini kus books? It’s possible, though unintentional. There’s a lot to dig into here, so give it a look! $6

Niewiadomski, Tomasz – Jonah 2017

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Jonah 2017

For a minute there I thought this was going to be another one of those wordless minis that left me more or less baffled, but then the talking started to bail me out. What can I say, it’s tricky to depict time travel without words. Um, spoilers. On the first page alone there’s a man in a fish, a talking octopus (who is talking about robots), five skulls, a talking crab (who is talking about an hourglass), a robot (standing next to the hourglass), and a robot in a different location next to a grandfather clock. That’s your introduction to this world, and in a lot of ways it would probably be better for you if that’s all you knew about this story. So if that’s all the convincing you need, get yourself to an online ordering station, you’re done here. For the rest of you, from there we see an elaborate tunnel structure (that may or may not be alive), a winged cat lady and a strange box that gets dumped into the ocean. Another man goes looking for the box (while also looking for types of fish for a menu, apparently), goes through a time portal of some kind and starts seeing stuff that’s even stranger. Yeah, that’s all you get for this one. I could go on, but I’m looking out for you here, OK? Surprises are hard enough to come by in this world, why ruin one that is as delightful as this? $6

Bulling, Paula & Hoffmann, Nina – Share the Love

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Share the Love

If I ever manage to collect all the time in the world, I should really go back through these mini kus books and rank them somehow. 60+ issues in, I don’t think there’s a really terrible one in the bunch, and the vast majority are amazing in one way or another. This time around we get a series of conversations of snippets of dialogue, mostly dealing with relationships or how somebody sees the world. There’s an older man who talks to a couple about his past (while throwing in some casual racism, which seems to be mandatory in elderly storytellers who impose themselves on people), a couple on a date and the unfortunate test that the lady offers to the man to show his interest level, another couple where one is happy to settle in and the other wishes for more, and a child with an older woman going swimming together (and the brutal honesty that comes from the child in her direction). There’s a lot of wisdom in this one about a variety of subjects, so on the off chance that new mini kus books aren’t an automatic purchase for you at this point (they should be), this is one that’s definitely worth a look. $6

Kyle, Patrick – Night Door

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Night Door

Have you ever read a comic that oozes? I seriously don’t know a better way to describe this one. From the start it feels like shapes are barely staying solid, that they’re constantly on the verge of blowing apart. Not a violent blowing apart like an explosion, more like a strong gust of wind that blows through a smoke cloud. Oh hi, I’m supposed to give an informed opinion about this book now, right? Well, it’s the story of a… dog man? Who is looking for a night door (OK, that I just know because of the title). This dog man finds what seems to be the entrance, or at least an entrance. But inside it’s all dark, and it drags the dog man down, although he doesn’t seem to mind that much. And just when it seems like he’s on the verge of finding something out, a new character is introduced. Is he friend or foe? Benevolent, malevolent or indifferent? Read the comic to find out, because I’m not going to tell you. $4

Androutsopoulos, Evangelos – Eviction

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Eviction

The nature of reality seems to be a recurring theme in the current batch of mini kus books (they usually send them to me four at a time). Last time it was a lost dog and how it was perceived, this time around it’s a story that was told to a young man about a camp of refugees. He doesn’t know what to believe about the story, which deals with a man from the area who goes to see what’s happening in the camp. He learns the stories of the refugees, details some of the hardships they have to deal with, and goes over the story of the one night when things got violent. Still, it was a calm enough place overall, and the man telling the story was a native, so he could come and go as he pleased. He doesn’t know how the story ends, as he was out of the camp when it got shut down, which is what leads our hero to check out the camp himself. That’s when he sees something, but what am I leaving for you to discover if I tell you what it was? $6

Magan, Andres – A Friend

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A Friend

Who’s a good boy! This one is about a man and his dog. Or a man and his lost dog, to be more precise. Or a man, his lost dog, perception and reality, to be even more precise. Things start off with our hero asking an authority figure for help in finding his dog, and he gives the man a description to help. Once our hero makes his way back to his apartment, his sense of reality fray, and we see concern from various members of his family along with a happy reunion. Or is it? This comic will take you around in circles, and I’m still not completely sure on what was and wasn’t real, but the sentiment was fascinating. We do see our pets as family members, and we’re often willing to refer to them as such without concern that we might be thought of as crazy people by the rest of the world. Still, leave the phrase “he’s my best friend” out there to hang while talking about your dog. No friendly nod from the person you’re talking to, no quick assent and a comment about their pet, just let the awkwardness of that sentiment hang in the air. That awkwardness is this comic, and it’s delightful. $6

GG – Valley

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Valley

Well, kudos to GG. I figured I would have an impossible time finding contact information for him or her online, but it came right up. Who would have thought? This is a comic that’s almost entirely about mood, so it’s inherently difficult to review. A woman gets a message from a group of her friends who have gone camping that they’ve run out of food and they’re hoping that she’ll be willing to drive more food to their location. She’s miffed, as she would have liked to have been invited initially, but she gets over it and decides to help them out. But this is all in the wilderness, so communication and cell phone service is unreliable at best. She ends up getting lost herself, but in a warm area with fog and what looks like a natural hot spring. She eventually hears back from them that they’ve decided to go home, but she’s in a state of bliss, so… what’s the rush? It’s more quiet and understated than that, but that message is beautiful. We should all be required to get lost at least a few times a year to keep our heads on straight. Oh, if only I was the ruler of the world. Anyway, this book is beautiful, so give it a look.

Samplerman – Bad Ball

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Yellow

I’ve been threatening for months (years?) now to just post the synopsis on the back of the mini kus comic as the review, as they’re usually more concise and insightful than I am. Well, in this case it might just be self defense, because I don’t have the slightest idea how I’m supposed to review this comic. It’s samples (hence the name of the artist) and dialogue boxes from other comics, all put together to form a story. Sort of. I think. Basically picture if Jack Kirby was tripping his balls off and he got ahold of some old EC comics dialogue to put on top of some of his art. I’m doing a hilariously poor job of describing this so, without further ado, I give you the synopsis from the back of the comic. “What if an old discarded comic book was suddenly bitten by a radioactive, genetically modified spider? Would the cover drawing, or those inside the book, start behaving strangely? Would the dialogue suddenly grow s(tu)pider and s(tu)pider? Would the paper start to melt? Would the story devolve to the point of meaninglessness? None of the questions will be answered in this minicomic.” See? What else do you need to know? I’m genuinely not sure how much this story holds together in a strict linear sense, but it’s quite a ride, and these mini kus books sure do have a knack for nailing the endings. $6

Kandevica, Liva – Yellow

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Yellow

How’s your grip on reality going? Feeling pretty solid? If so, do I have a comic for you! If not, this might be the thing that pushes you over the edge, so I’d recommend soothing music of ocean waves instead. What’s so alarming about this comic? It’s the story of a man who is trapped in one very yellow room, with no obvious means of exit or indication of what put him there. We see him wandering around, killing time, and he ends up hurting himself a few different ways. He also makes a real mess out of the bathroom, as either a silent protest or just because he’s a slob. Finally his boredom and desperation can’t take it any more and he puts a tiny hole in his prison. But hey, sometimes what feels like a prison is just keeping something dangerous out from the outside world, right? Yeah, that hint is as close as I get to an intentional spoiler. It’s a haunting little story, and (in the context of the story, obviously, and not real life) we’re left with lots of questions about what actually happened here. But at least booze makes an appearance! $6

Serrao, Catia – Acquisition

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Acquisition

OK, I can’t resist quoting at least part of the back cover blurb this time around: “Acquisition stages a proof test conducted by an absent master and a semi-present assistant to a candidate in the best tradition of clownish pixelated Kabbalah.” Again, I’m not sure how I can improve on that, but I’ll at least add a bit of description. First we see some idle chatter at the university, with nothing being presented as a particularly odd day. Then the computer is started and poses the question, “what does the duck say?” The answer is, of course, “quack quack.” No, not just one quack, because who has ever heard a duck quack just one time? But this phenomenon has to be explained to the computer, which is not an easy task. Once this is established, it’s more descriptive to call it “quackery,” which leads to replacing the letters in the word with numbers. But based on ducks themselves, a few of the letters can be disregarded. Are you following along? Don’t worry, I wasn’t entirely either. It’s still a fascinating series of questions, and the images that go along with the otherwise sedate and docile computer really punctuate the questions. I don’t think will lead to many conversions to Kabbalah, but I am frequently wrong, so what do I know? If I am wrong it is my fondest wish that this ends up becoming a sacred text of Kabbalah in 50 years.

Pallasvuo, Jaakko – Mirror Stage

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Mirror Stage

As always, the temptation with a review for a mini kus book is to just post the snippet of text on the back of the comic and call it a day. That’s usually more succinct than what I do here, and often more descriptive. But what’s the fun in that? This is the story of an unsettled man who starts off his tale by talking about how he feels the most like himself while he’s traveling. From there we see how miserable he is at home, how he goes about an average day, and how he always feels like he’s waiting for something to happen, but has no idea what that might be. After a fair amount of self reflection, our hero discovers a talking mirror in his apartment. This mirror, at the very least, offers a change of pace from what our hero is used to, so eventually he accepts it as an agent of change and steps inside. Oh, didn’t I mention that the mirror was also a portal? Anyway, I’m getting into spoiler territory if I go even a little bit further, so I’ll leave the rest of it up to you. If you’re thinking “I’ve read dozens of ‘the author is existentially bored/unsettled stories'” and are wondering if there’s anything unique that this one brings to the table, yes, there is! I just can’t tell you here. It’s all about perspective and trying to learn the right lessons from the greats who came before. $6

Booger, Olive – Nul

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Nul

Now that was one awkward love story. If I had known that I could have gotten to it a week ago and posted a Valentine’s review. This is a story that’s told as a series of diary entries by a lonely man who really thinks that he’s on the verge of getting a woman to go out with him. By the second diary entry the woman has mysteriously vanished, and after bugging her relatives for a few days he’s finally given a way to contact her. He does, they chat, and she manages to convince him to come work for the same company that just hired her. Hey look, they must live happily ever after! Yeah, not so much. He gets to the job and spends weeks without seeing the woman, surrounded by people who don’t speak his language, trying to understand what’s happening around him, and falling further and further down into a pit of despair, loneliness and confusion. That’s about the time when he gets promoted to be the guy who’s cutting off heads. That’s more information than I generally give away in a review, but this comic manages to be both mini and vast, so there’s plenty of story here yet to uncover. I’d almost say that this comic should be required reading for stalkers, but I doubt most of them could grasp the nuances here and understand that it’s a bad thing to fall too far down the rabbit hole of chasing a lady around. It’s alarming, occasionally grotesque, and a completely engrossing read. $6

Lacko, Martin – Call of Cthulhu

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Call of Cthulhu

Does this comic have the most adorable depiction of Cthulhu ever? Well, I’ve seen plushy dolls of Cthulhu, so no. But it comes pretty close! This comic is based on the story by H.P. Lovecraft; it’s been awhile since I’ve read it but I’m pretty sure that Martin uses direct quotes throughout. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, basically a group of sailors landed on a mysterious island. Everything is chaotic, to the extent that they can’t trust their senses, as some of them see a door as a flat trap door and some see it as a regular standing door. They finally manage to get the door open, are confronted with a horrible smell, and see Cthulhu rising from it. Cthulhu kills three of them before they even know what’s happening, and the rest of the book is a mad dash by the survivors to get away. More than anything this comic has me wanting to dig up my Lovecraft books to see if they hold up, but this comic is delightful and should be read by all potential fans and followers of Cthulhu. Or potential fans of Lovecraft, as the man had a florid quality with his writing that is often imitated but rarely duplicated.

Tessler, Daria – Music of Changes

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Music of Changes

Is it ever possible for randomly produced art to be genuinely random? Are even coin flips truly random when looked at from an objective distance? What happens when art is mass produced using these methods and protesters are added to the mix? Those are some of the questions you’ll be asking yourself while reading this, or at least you will if we share a brain. Otherwise, don’t let me tell you how to react to art. This one starts off as a tour of the facility where these artworks are being produced and we get to see the great lengths that are followed to ensure that the art is a random as possible. From there the protesters are introduced, and their contribution to the artwork is devastating. From there I don’t want to spoil the whole thing, but four drink recipes are included, so even if you’re a soulless monster who gets nothing out of this comic, at least now you have four new drinks to try! As for me, I was engrossed by this story and think it had quite a bit to say about order, chaos, and the benefits/drawbacks of both. I’ll just leave you with a quote from a disgruntled protester that says it all: “Blast! We increased the amount of uncertainty on the Earth again.” $6

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Kallio, Ville – P-FE/FRAF

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P-FE/FRAF

Baffled by that title? Yeah, I was too until I read the book. And I could tell you what it means, but what’s the fun in that? This is a story that really needed a synopsis of what was going on right there on the first page, and Ville delivered on that front. Basically it’s 40 years in the future, fascism is on the rise and whole sections of the world are getting wiped out. But the people are as relentlessly shortsighted and stupid as ever, and internet slang has become part of the way that people communicate with each other in real life. It’s a strange, terrifying future world of bright colors, odd creatures and giant robots. It’s also a book that I’ve already read twice and feel like I should read at least one more time before I come close to getting all the nuance that Ville packed into it. Speaking of, is that a… yep, that’s a unicorn in here. Huh. Somehow I missed that the first time around. So yeah, there’s a lot going on with this mini comic, and it could probably teach us a lesson or two about maybe avoiding our own fascistic future… nah, we blew that chance on the most recent election. Oh well, at least those of us that survive will get to see giant robots.

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Sailamaa, Anna – Everyone is Hungry

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Everyone is Hungry

Regular readers by now probably know the hallmarks of a review where I don’t have much to say about a comic one way or the other. This doesn’t mean that the comic is bad or that I didn’t enjoy it, just that I don’t have much to add to the experience. In those cases I usually start off a review with a rambling bit of nonsense, trying desperately to kill time and/or fill space to give the appearance of writing a proper review. Eventually this runs out of steam, and I have to try to come up with something meaningful to say about the comic. Which would be right about now, I think. Hi, everybody who stuck through that! This is a mostly silent comic about some kids eating, them sharing their food with some birds and some flowers growing in the yard. Every bit of it is gorgeous and it’s a nice moment in time depicting a quiet meal with some natural beauty along with it. Maybe this won’t end up being one of the more memorable mini kus comics I’ve read over the years, but it is quietly charming, which is a welcome respite from the real world these days.

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DeForge, Michael – Meat Locker

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Meat Locker

What’s your relationship to physical fitness? Casual gym person? Utterly indifferent to the very idea? Or fanatical health freak? This comic has three strips that deal with the more rabid side of that spectrum, although if you’ve somehow managed to combine being addicted to the gym with the ability to be easily offended if people are poking fun at you, you might have a little trouble with this comic. First up is a series of testimonials from personal trainers, giving their best pitch as to why people should choose them for training. If you’ve ever even been around a personal trainer for more than a minute you’ll find this hilarious. Next is a piece about a personal trainer as the equivalent of a sex phone operator, and the two are a lot more closely aligned than you might have thought. Finally there’s the story of the struggles that jocks go through in their daily lives, how they have to hide who they are and how even the children are forced to choose sides. It’s a dystopian jock nightmare world, which was a welcome change of pace from the actual jock nightmare world. If you’ve ever thought of an obsession with physical fitness as being a sort of mania, you’re going to find plenty that’s funny and/or mildly unnerving about this one. Oh, and Michael is yet another Adventure Time artist who makes incredible comics on the side (or is it the other way around?).

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Kenins, Laura – Alien Beings

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Alien Beings

Somewhere out there (assuming comics like these are still even sold in physical stores), somebody bought this thinking they were getting an alien abduction story. Too bad, suckers! Instead you got a comic about the slow dissolution of a marriage as experienced through the eyes of the young daughter of the couple. Oh, and some unexplained lights. Those lights were a really innovative way to start the book, as it was a typical ride home with the kids in the back seat and the parents in the front (singing along to the radio, so clearly they weren’t always unhappy). Suddenly they saw lights floating above the car, causing them to stop for about 10 minutes (as remembered by Laura, assuming this is autobiographical). From there things took a sharp turn at home, with the parents increasingly arguing with each other until they eventually take the kids aside and tell them that the father is going to rent an apartment alone. All along the way this is taking a toll on Laura at school, as she kind of likes a boy at school, but not as much as the music her parents were listening to would indicate. As the marriage falls apart she also concludes that all love is hopeless anyway, so there’s no point in liking that boy anyway. Laura develops a fascination with all things related to aliens and also tries to come up with a plan to get her parents back together, all while getting constant “helpful” books from other friends and family dealing with how to cope with divorce. Laura going back and asking her parents about those strange lights they saw before the divorce is the kicker, but you can find out how that went for yourself. It’s a perspective on divorce that you don’t usually see, and it was a story that was very well told.

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Moisseinen, Hanneriina – 1944

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1944

I’ll confess, I didn’t think there were any angles to WWII yet to be uncovered, but I was wrong about that. The time frame of this one should be obvious from the title, and this is set in Karelia, an area of Northern Europe. Bombings were a regular occurrence back then (something most Americans can probably barely even comprehend), but meanwhile the citizens were trying to lead some semblance of a normal life. Or, at the very least, they were forced to deal with normal life going on around them, like what’s depicted in this comic. An alarm is sounded, the inhabitants of an area (including a barn that had obviously been hit before) were given two minutes to leave… and this was impossible because there was a cow giving birth. The people were confronted with a few options at that point, none of them good, but they went with the most human option and helped the cow. Still, the idea of traveling on the run with a baby calf wasn’t a good one, so they were once again confronted with a few options, and that’s where I’ll leave the story for the rest of you. There’s tragedy in the smallest things, and the image of the cow that I initially thought was amusing on the back cover turned out to be anything but. It’s a great but heart-wrenching story, all told in scratchy black and white that emphasized the feel of the whole area being under a constant cloud of greasy smoke. $4

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