Blog Archives

Gallardo, Valentine – Long Live the Witches

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Long Live the Witches

Finally, a new approach on witches! Sure, dopey historical figures have tried burning, stoning and drowning them. But has anybody considered the healing powers of music? Oops, I’m already into spoiler territory. Eh, sort of, anyway. This one starts off with a young girl picking some herbs in the forest. On the way back she’s bullied by some local kids, and we soon see that she’s living with a “witch.” Meaning an older lady who knows the basics about which herbs help with certain ailments. From there we meet the other important members of the story: a traveling doctor (who speaks for the Lord, which goes about as well as that sort of thing usually does), a musician and the various other inhabitants of the town. There’s a town meeting, what happens when you question somebody who thinks he speaks with a divine voice, and something distinctly resembling a mob. It’s an engaging tale with a few twists that I should shut up about, proving once again that the only reason this website exists is to point in various directions and say “Look! Read this comic!” while not giving much away about the actual comic. Oh, and not for nothing, but this is mini kus #100, which I think legally means they’re allowed to take over the world now. But honestly, who would want it? $7

Gaspar, Ema – Flowers Intertwined

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Flowers Intertwined

Do you know why I love the mini kus books, even though they’re almost all from different authors, with dozens and dozens of different approaches to the art form? It’s because of a book like this one, where I spent a good chunk of it thinking it was going to fall into the “visually gorgeous but narratively baffling” category where these books occasionally land, only to have it all come together with perfect clarity in the last several pages. Well, it is me, so there’s a solid chance that I still didn’t read it correctly, but it all came together in a lovely and satisfying way. If you don’t get there, it’s fine! This book is a true joy to look at, and you’ll have that regardless. This one starts off with a woman watering a vase, which she is tired out doing but feels is necessary to keep her shadow side at bay. She eventually realizes that this is all related to a terrible memory of hers and decides that she has to steel herself to do something about it. In between all of that are several images of what she sees, what she imagines and how things could be. Yes, I’m being vague, as I will forever be if the other choice is to walk people through a comic. This is the 99th issue of mini kus, after all, so most people probably already know if they’re on board with the general idea. I thoroughly enjoyed it, anyway. Now I just have to fine some place to put it where my increasingly agile kitten won’t chew on it, like what happened with the last issue… $7

Kim, Jooyoung – World Ceramic Fair

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World Ceramic Fair

I would not have guessed that you could get this much of a story out of a ceramic’s fair, but Jooyoung has proven me wrong. This starts out as a general overview of a ceramic fair, with the different types of booths, people running the booths and the types of people who come to them asking questions (and occasionally “accidentally” smashing ceramics). This is all a prelude to the main event, which is a large booth that two attendees stumble on at the end of their long day. The proprietor informs them that she makes ceramics “to talk about racism with the audience.” This causes said attendees to make a run for it, but don’t fret! A couple of dummies come by the booth next, and they don’t have nearly the amount of self-awareness necessary to figure out that engaging might be a bad idea. As they question each piece the ceramist (yes, it was just today that I learned that this was the term for people who make ceramics) engages them and tells them the bits of racism that she’s experienced that inspired the pieces. Ever oblivious, what follows is a grimly funny example of the cluelessness of racists, the unwillingness to learn anything about it, and even them going through comments and suggestions that they really think are helping. There’s also a big surprise towards the end, but you’ll get no spoilers from me! This was a cleverly done tale and who knows, maybe it’ll reach a few people who need to see it? We can only live in hope. Give it a shot, or maybe just give it to the racist in your life that you can’t completely disavow because they’re a close relative. If you have a racist friend, I’d just refer you to the They Might Be Giants song on the subject from the early 90’s (My Racist Friend).

BLINK – Lopez Lam, Martin

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BLINK

One thing I’ve discovered about the mini kus books, and it seems to happen like clockwork: roughly once in every dozen comics, I’ll come across one that either doesn’t do a thing for me or that I simply don’t get. They almost universally have something else going for them if the story doesn’t hit home, like some artwork that looks like nothing I’ve ever seen, an intriguing idea or two, etc. Well, folks, you’ve guessed it: I don’t get this one! There, I said it. Here, I’ll use my old trick of pasting the back cover blurb to see if maybe this helps: “One day you pop up from the ground and the next you’re thrown over the world. BLINK is a loop world full of lazy and libertine monsters.” Clear as day, right? There are few to any words in this one, every image (outside of the first and last) is a two page spread, and as spreads I have to say that they are magnificent. I mean, look at that sample! I used the one from the dead center of the book, and I’d love it if you could tell me what was going on. That lady (?) running away on the far right is the seeming protagonist, but with very few words and very little sense of forward momentum, I don’t know what she was running from or why. Angry citizens, it looks like, but why were they angry? Who were they? I mean, I could keep going, but I’d always circle back to the same point, which is that I didn’t get this one on a very fundamental level. If a series of genuinely incredible images is enough for you, sure, give this one a go. If you like a challenge, or the idea of saying “I’ll show this dumb reviewer what this comic is about” gets you going, by all means, give this one a shot! In fact, go back through my mini kus reviews and only buy the ones that baffled me. Prove that I’m a dummy! If, however, you’re looking for a solid linear story, maybe go with a different mini kus book this time. $7

Madden, Matt – Bridge

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Bridge

I’m always confused in how to review 24 hour comics that end up being released in fancy, professional looking comics (like this, the 96th issue of the ongoing mini kus series). How much has it been polished for release, and how much is exactly how it looked right at the end of those 24 hours? I ask because this comic, as it is now, is damned near a masterpiece. Since anything I have to say about the 24 hour aspect would be sheer guesswork, how about I just leave that angle alone? Yeah, that seems fair. After all, I wouldn’t even know about the time frame if it wasn’t for the blurb on the back cover. OK, one more thing about the 24 hour comic idea: this was made with the condition that every page would have to be set a decade after the previous page, which is a hell of a condition to still end up with a coherent story. This one starts off with the fleeting memory of a young boy’s childhood, in which a mysterious old woman tells him about a mysterious bridge. He ended up spending his life in pursuit of this bridge, using whatever means he had available, and ended up falling short. Still, he passed his knowledge and his notes on to a ward, who then proceeded to spend his life in pursuit of the same bridge. He finally came to the conclusion (after a dream in which he saw himself on the bridge, along with the boy and the old woman) that the bridge had destroyed all of them, and so he destroyed all of his notes and attempted to end the whole thing there. Still the story was not over, as a girl in school stumbled across a trunk with many old notes about the bridge, which started the whole thing up again. I’ve already said more than I should, but the way this comic ends up a perfect circle was masterfully done, one of those “I can’t believe I didn’t see this coming” kinds of endings that are so rare in just about any medium. It’s a big comfort to know that Matt has been teaching comics to students for what, going on 15 years now? Maybe even longer. This is a guy with a lot to teach, and I can only hope that his students pick up on the good stuff. So yeah, I’d say this one is well worth a look, if you’re at all interested in seeing what the medium is capable of. Another mini kus winner! $7

Collier, David – Before the Pandemic There Was a Touch Football Tourney

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Before the Pandemic There Was a Touch Football Tourney

It’s always such a delight to read one of David’s comics. Did I give away the ending of the review already? Eh, it’s fine. The man has been making comics for 30 years (maybe longer?) now, and his mastery of the medium shows in books like this. You might think from that title that it’s all about a touch football tournament, but that actually only shows up for a few pages at the end. Before that the comic is about the last trip he took before the pandemic (to visit his son at college; it also shows his bemusement at now being the “old” person at a zine fair. There’s also a chunk with his son’s old artwork and a heartbreaking little bit about the death of his dog large in 2004 and the suddenness of it all. Then in two pages towards the end he manages to include ruminations on the necessity of clipping newspaper headlines in a digital age, his son’s covid scare at school, and how his scrapbooks are going to be the thing that gets him motivated for his next project. It’s damned near a graphic novel’s worth of stories,. just compressed and shortened into a mini kus book. Which is another thing that’s been an incredible mainstay in comics for decades, although David did get a bit of a head start on them (this one is #95 in the mini kus series, in case you were curious). Give this one a shot, it’s either a great introduction to David’s work for the newbies and another excellent comic from the man if you’re already a fan. $7

Koch, Aidan – Man Made Lake

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Man Made Lake

This one was a bit of a roller coaster, but it ended up asking some pretty profound questions. Roughly the first half of the comic is a wordless series of images, first of a person in various poses before transitioning to images of a fish. From there the images join together and we see the person talking in a therapy session. This is yet another comic from mini kus where I’m reluctant to say too much about it, as we’re already halfway through the comic at this point, but hey, I can throw some generalities your way, right? It asks questions about the onset of awareness, and the relative meaning of the time before and after that awakening. It also leaves as an open question the idea that we can ever return to that previous innocence/time of harmony, all while poking a bit of fun at the transactional nature of therapy sessions themselves. There are also a lot of pretty colors if I’m starting to lose you a bit. Seriously, it’s another fascinating journey through the mind in a mini kus book. One of these days I’ll tally up the percentage of “good/bad” minis from these folks, but I’m going to guess right now that it’s about 90/10, maybe even more. In other words, if you just randomly buy a comic from these folks, you have a solid shot of hitting a winner. But hey, before you go random, you already know this one is a good one… $7

Weidinger, Lukas – Pirate & Parrot

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Pirate & Parrot

Seriously, who writes the blurbs on the backs of these mini kus books? Is it the artist every time, or do they have one genius who writes each of them? What the heck, I’ll just post the synopsis: “The pirate stands for desire. The parrot stands for opportunity. The fish stands for hope. What do you stand for?” And, when the comic is done, it even all makes sense! This is a funny and disturbing comic, but mostly just funny. A pirate and his parrot are on shore leave, and the first priority for the pirate is to find a brothel. He doesn’t have any money, but he does have a plan for how he can make this work. This leaves the parrot all by himself, and while he’s waiting a fish escapes a net and flops onto the pier. The fish wants to be put into a bucket, which confuses the parrot, as the ocean is right there. The ocean is currently uninhabitable, to do a spill of… you know what, I’d better stop right there. Each of these characters makes choices after this, and each of them has to pay for those choices in their own ways. It may be an odd thing to notice, but this book also makes excellent use of colors, maybe the best I’ve seen in a mini kus book (and that’s saying something). That parrot alone is mesmerizing, and you can see what’s happening to that pirate’s shirt in the sample image. Yep, it’s another winner from the mini kus pile! $7

Mahler, Nicolas – Finnegans Wake

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Finnegans Wake

Full disclosure time: I’ve never been able to get into the work of James Joyce. I liked A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man quite a bit when I read it in college, but couldn’t tell you a thing about it now, and everything else I’ve tried has flown right over my head. Still, here’s Nicolas, putting together a (sort of) interpretation of his most notoriously difficult book, and I was very much intrigued. Maybe this, finally, would help me see what all the fuss was about! And… nope, sorry. It’s most likely an impossible task. If you’re already a fan of Joyce and are curious to see what an adaptation comprised of the most “comprehensible phrases in the book” (from the blurb on the back cover) looks like, you’d probably get a lot out of this comic. If you’re a skeptic like me? Eh, maybe; I don’t know who you are. But I had the sense, way back when I first tried to read Finnegans Wake, that it was less a book than a trick, a test by Joyce to see how much nonsense he could get away with. “Maybe I should give that book another shot” is something I say quite often, but I still can’t see myself saying it about this one. Maybe when I’m 60? Sure, why not. Oh, and if you’re looking for a recap of the comic: I have little to no idea what’s happening in here. On certain pages the ideas and dialogue would briefly become coherent, only for something that happened on the next page to cause me to lose any idea of what I was reading. Like I said, if you already enjoy Joyce, you’d probably love this. $7

Parrish, Tommi – Sufficient Lucidity

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Sufficient Lucidity

I had high hopes for this one right off the bat, as the famous mini kus synopses on the back of their books (famous to me, anyway) didn’t disappoint: “It’s easy for you to say this place isn’t beautiful.” Usually they go on a bit longer than that, but that right there is a masterpiece. The actual comic didn’t disappoint, as it’s the story of a man who’s (in theory) trying to get his cat back, but what we’re actually witnessing is something resembling rock bottom for the guy. He’s trying to get his cat back from his ex, but they’ve already moved on and are with somebody else. And he’s been missing for months, so it’s a little odd and/or presumptuous to try to get his cat back at this point. Anyway, there’s a scuffle, it’s left to the reader to imagine most of the fallout, and finally we catch up with our “hero” after he moves out of the state after that whole debacle. The second half of the book is a conversation with his ex about his life choices, why he left the state and how he’s doing now. And a few other things, but what am I supposed to do here, tell you the whole story? Anybody who’s ever been on or seen a drunken mess at the end of their rope can relate to this one, and if you’re somehow avoided both of those things in your life, feel free to cringe vicariously. $7

Bell, Marc – Banal Complications

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Banal Complications

I’ve been reading Marc’s comics since the start of this website (before, even) and I’ve never seen one quite like this one. This is exactly what the title implies: a series of banal complications, told about 2/3 in text form. But wait, don’t run away yet! The rest of it is still his inimitable artwork, and the cast of characters alone in these stories is worth the price of admission. Unless you don’t want to read about characters that includes “Pudding Horror” and “Nuclear Sidewalk” (among many others), I guess, but the names alone make up for any banality. This is the story of Chop Salad, who has to travel to New York for six months to pick up some artwork, among other things. He has to sort out his apartment, get a subletter, try to maintain his current tax bracket, navigate roommates, and every other activity and consideration that goes into taking a long trip. It’s oddly riveting, but I guess it’s possible that Marc is just one of those people who can do no wrong in my book. If you’re on the fence, I didn’t even reveal the names of characters that made me laugh out loud, because why would I spoil those? This is well worth a look, and even if the story somehow loses you, gaze upon the art and just try to take in all the details. Gaze! $7

Estrela, Joana – Egle and the Snake

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Egle and the Snake

Hooray, a mini kus book where I don’t have to dance around pretending like I know what I’m talking about! I love those too, don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty of room for the abstract in my life! This comic was inspired by a Lithuanian folk tale, and there are definitely elements that feel… folky? Is that a thing? Eh, never mind. Things start off with Egle taking a dip in the lake, but when she gets out there’s a snake on her clothes. She politely asks the snake to move, and the two strike up a conversation. The snake seems to have a creepy state of mind about the whole thing (Egle is a high school student), but he’s just vague enough about his intentions that Egle is left confused and even the reader has enough room to have doubts. He seems to be stalling her, even inventing (or not I guess) friends of his that are going to be showing up soon. Finally he offers her a ride home, and that’s where his intentions get a bit less ambiguous, but hey, no spoilers, right? It’s an engaging story with more than a hint of menace, and yet another winner from the mini kus pile. $7

Zutis, Martins – Crime at Babel

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Crime at Babel

I have a confession to make: I don’t speak emoji. Sure, if I get a text with an emoji, I can make sense of it. Two in a row, yeah, probably. Three in a row? Getting dicey. Four in a row or more? Chances are I’ll be calling you for a translation. Why am I mentioning that here? Well, take a gander at that sample image below (most of the book is two page spreads, so I used one of those). Now, want to see me make a fool of myself? Here’s my best guess for what’s being said. First bubble: An explosion? Somebody ran off with a book? What time? Second bubble: A detective is coming by at noon. He is sad about the explosion, and thinks the book may have fallen down a hole or died. And… scene. See? I’m going to be no help at all here. Or maybe I nailed it? I’m guessing it’s the first option. Anyway, the back of the book calls this “a visual riddle, or rather a sudoku in comic form”. I’d have all kinds of trouble with a straightforward story being told in this fashion, but a riddle? For the second time this week, I’ll be leaving this mini kus book by my nightstand, hoping that if I pick it up after waking at odd hours I’ll be able to work my way through the mystery. Or maybe I’ll just ask a younger friend or two who are fluent in emojis what exactly is happening here. The possibilities are two! Oh, and one other thing I got from the back: somebody stole a book from the library and somebody killed a detective. Two mysteries! $7

Hetamoe – Violent Delights

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Violent Delights

This is another one of those times where I’m tempted to just post the synopsis on the back of the comic and call it a day, but I shall resist! Instead I’ll make a fool out of myself trying to make sense of this thing that I’m still trying to put together in my head an hour after reading it. This is an examination of Romeo and Juliet, at least on a macro level. It’s really more of an examination of various quotes from the play, how they bring up imagery of popular culture and/or violence, combined with literary criticism and a call to raise the alarm about how many benchmarks of the ongoing climate crisis we’ve already passed. See? You try writing a review about something with that many layers, and oh by the way I’m leaving out several layers. It’s rare for a comic to feel this… homemade? Raw? Half-formed? No, those are all wrong. Images feel like they’re about to burst through the page at times, sometimes detritus is on pages and feels like it should be a 3D experience; I did find myself touching a page or two to confirm that they were flat. Yes, even though my brain was aware that this was a comic book. This is one of those things that’s going to stay on my nightstand for a few days so I can see what else I can pick up from it, but for review purposes I’ll just say that this was an utterly unique experience, and for people who are curious about how Shakespeare relates to the modern day, pick this up and you’ll find some example. $7

Rurans, Roberts – (extra) Ordinary

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(extra) Ordinary

This is one of those mini kus offerings where the concept is so simple (and the execution so thoroughly engaging) that there probably isn’t going to be a whole lot for me to say about it. This is the story of a woman who’s bored at home. First she notices a vase with flowers in it and convinces herself it’s an elephant, then it’s on to a fork with two cherries dangling from it that looks like a strongman, and then onto a carrot that looks suspiciously like a guy breathing fire. It spirals from there, with several ordinary objects in her house being transformed into things that are significantly more exciting than what she was actually seeing, until all of these things join together to put on one hell of a show. It’s delightfully charming; the deceptively simple art and colors draw you right in. If you can read this and have no reaction I don’t know what to tell you, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Another one in the win column for the mini kus crowd! $7

Katz, Keren – Chapter Two

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Chapter Two

These mini kus books can be over in a flash, or they can linger in the mind like this one does. Which isn’t to say that the wordless ones have no value; quite the contrary. But there’s so much going on in this particular mini that it feels more like a graphic novel condensed down into a mini, which is a high compliment in my book. Wow, if this is anybody’s first review here, so long! Sorry about all the talk of the minutae of comics. So what’s the comic about? It’s about Ada moving into the Clock Tower Inn. To encourage the guests to get to know each other, they’re all part of a month long Secret Santa game. To anybody who’s ever taken part in this tradition, the idea of a month of gifts must seem daunting, and our hero quickly proves that to be the case. Ada is assigned Adam, who offers her the clue of his favorite book that she can use when it comes to gift ideas. The problem is that she can’t even look at the book without falling instantly asleep, which forces her to resort to her own ideas (and skills) for gifts. An entire hotel of people exchanging gifts quickly leads to chaos and a lack of space for said gifts, and the whole desire to get the best gifts and stay ahead of the crowd eventually leads to a tragedy, with the perfect line to end things. Yeah, you’ll have to read that part for yourself. Keren’s two previous books showed me that she’s somebody to watch out for in comics, and this mini shows that she can handle this format just as well as the big books. Get in on the ground floor before she gets incredibly famous and ditches the small press comics! $7

Harukichi – Hero

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Hero

How many times can DJ Cat Gosshie save the day? However many times you’ve guessed, it’s probably going to be more. He (or she) is a hero! Things start off with Gosshie selling his LP’s on the street; we are shown early on that he is a fair street merchant, stopping someone from accidentally paying him too much money for an LP. Next is an impossible traffic jam after an accident. What can DJ Gosshie do, how can he help? Well, different LP’s have different colors, and those colors can be used to help direct traffic. From here all this cat wants to do is to take a nice peaceful nap while listening to his music, but then a woman and her baby come along to screw that up. Can he solve this problem as well? Well, yeah. Spoilers! There are two more calamities yet to come, one of which the cat is well equipped to solve on his own, and the other which involves, well, water. And everybody knows water is not a thing that cats like. So how does he solve that one? Obviously you’ll have to read this to find out! I’m hopelessly biased towards almost all comics that involve cats as heroes (there are more than you’d think!), so I’m not the most objective voice here, but this one was a blast all the way through. Quick on his feet, willing to help everyone regardless of personal opinion, while still managing to maintain that certain catness all the way through. Give it a shot, you won’t be disappointed. $7

Chihoi – The Book Fight

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The Book Fight

What would happen if a bunch of different types of books got into a fight to see which one was the best? Would they eventually join together or tear each other apart? Granted, the idea of this eternal struggle probably hasn’t taken up too much of your time, but this should answer all your questions regardless. This is a unique and more than occasionally ridiculous book (I say both in the best possible way); even a lot of the dialogue is done in a rhyming, sing-songy way. So who are the contenders? Things start off with a list of 4 challengers on the first page: zines, comics, photo books and pop-ups. Things start off with a beating, as zines tries to convince comics that they can both get along, and indeed that they can be better together, but comics doesn’t want to hear it. The photo book takes the stage, followed soon after by the more crowd pleasing images of the pop-up book. Finally there’s one more contender that threatens to take the crown from all of them, but hey, I might as well leave one to your imagination. Have you guessed the type? I was fascinated by this from start to finish, but I am a weirdo who’s been running a review website of comics (and occasionally zines and things in between) for almost 20 years now, so my opinion is undoubtedly skewed. If you’re a weirdo like me you’ll love this book, and if you’re not, reading this book may well transform you into exactly that type of weirdo. You’ve been warned! $7

Carre, Lille – Open Molar

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Open Molar

Long time readers of this site will know that every now and then a mini kus book will leave me with not much of anything to say. It’s not that I hated it or loved it, it will just leave me baffled. I’ll still try to cast around for something meaningful to say, some insight, but in these occasions I’ll usually end up beaten. It’s been awhile, but Open Molar, come on down! Ya done beat me. Here, I’ll paste the description on the back of the book, maybe that’ll help: “A list of instructions for this afternoon. Learn to create a drop-shape for slow relief. This solution is only intended for gapped interiors. Do not skip the first step.” There you go! You now know as much as I do. I should point out that the text is so faint that it apparently didn’t come through in the scan, but on the sampled page it says “Set it as you would your watch. Warmth can lead to excessive foam.” Does that help you? Perhaps there are clues to be had in the title. As a good chunk of this deals with teeth, this feels like the right track! Alas, I still can’t make it form a coherent whole. To be clear, this would drive a lot of people crazy, but I love it. Baffle me, mini kus! Leave me books to have around just so I can show them to friends and try to get them to make sense out of them. As to you, reader, who is just trying to read some good comics with maybe a suggestion or two from this end, should you give this a shot? There are at least a dozen mini kus books I enjoyed more, so I’d check back through those reviews and start there. But for anybody who loves a challenge, I present to you… Open Molar! $7

Hooyman, Kevin – Elemental Stars

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Elemental Stars

Who’s up for a good quest story? As is often the case, the journey here is far more important than the destination. Then again, that’s when all the action happens here, so what do I know. This one starts out with Bird-Man having a dream about a crystal city. His friend (?) Alvum wakes him up, they chat briefly before Bird-Man decides that he has to tell everyone he knows about this dream so that they can all find it together. As he sets out on his journey we learn more about the other characters that are with him, along with which characters were not invited on this trip and why. I don’t know what these creatures had against Hedgie, but that little man seems very useful in a crisis. Oops, almost a spoiler! That was a close one. I almost told you about how Hedgie went full kaiju… darn, I did it again! Anyway, this is a delightful mini, where there’s somehow time to make each of these half dozen characters a fully realized being. Kevin did some really solid work here, so give it a shot! $6