Blog Archives

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


Mihailova, Liana – Neverending Race

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Neverending Race

Dog shows! There’s a whole lot that goes into them, the care and feeding of the dogs specifically. This comic compares and contrasts the dog to their handler, tying a link between each of their ambitions and goals. Is there also a subtle dig at the treatment of these animals and what they get out of the process versus the handler? Eh, maybe, if you look at the last page. Or I’m putting my own biases into it, which is a constant problem. Liana does a masterful job of blending the dog and the handler into one, sometimes leaving the reader unable to tell where one ends and the other begins. The dog putting its handler through the paces, for example, is an image that’ll stick with me. This comic is at times adorable, haunting and seemingly inevitable. An odd mix, but it all blends together more seamlessly than you might think. Give it a shot and you might earn yourself a treat! $6

Kikuchi, Hironori – House to House

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House to House

This is one of those times when the synopsis on the back cover was a lifesaver, as it revealed a key fact that I somehow missed. Was it obvious in hindsight, or even regular sight? You bet! I missed it anyway. This is a silent tale from an old favorite; Hironori is on this website in a couple of anthologies, but a clear sign of my opinion of him at the time is that I used his stories for sample images for each comic. Anyway, this is the story of a young boy who sets out to visit the house down the street. He is joined by the kid (?) on the cover, they stick around for coffee and doughnuts, and finally agree to bring a book to another house up the hill. This particular house gave me Jim Woodring flashbacks, and I only mean that in the best possible way. The intended recipient is sick (or possibly just sleeping? These are the ambiguities that come from a silent comic), but they manage to deliver the book, and I should probably stop describing the story now, because there’s not much of it left. His art style is adorable while still being vaguely unsettling, which is not an easy line to walk. Yep, the conclusion is inescapable: it’s another winner from the fine folks at mini kus. They should really put out a stinker just to keep me on my toes… $6

Lukosus, Rebeka – Oops

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Oops

Well, it’s finally happened. In hindsight, it was bound to happen sooner or later with the mini kus books. As somebody who’s supposed to have something to say about all comics great and small, I find myself… speechless. Here, I’ll give you the synopsis on the back cover (always worth a look): “What happens if you are bored, live alone, have six arms and a magical imagination?” What follows is a wordless story depicting just that, with a finale that clarifies the meaning of the title. The images were often hypnotic; the undulating of her six arms reminded me of watching a spider or an insect with many legs walking around. Baffling as it may seem to those of us with two arms and two legs, having all those limbs would be natural if you had them your whole life, and Rebeka did a masterful job of conveying that impression here. Is it worth a look even if I’m more or less stumped? Absolutely! It’s a mini kus book, and I get the feeling that conclusion is going to pop into my brain at an unexpected moment in the future. $6

Puiupo, Paula – Maunder

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Maunder

Once again, it’s taking all I have not to just paste the synopsis on the back of the book here instead of writing a proper review. When you pick up these mini kus books, don’t sleep on those synopses; each one of them is a work of art. And yes, I’m just assuming that you’re buying some of these books, because why wouldn’t you? Bright, vibrant tales of all sorts from all over the world? Seems like an obvious buy to me. Oh right, the comic. This one’s a little bit autobiographical, in that it starts with our author telling the reader about a heart condition of her mother, which also ended up being the same heart condition of her sister. From there things get more than a little bit abstract, as she wonders about the ability to communicate with someone who has already gone, and whether or not what’s stopping us is our own stubborn perception of only three dimensions. The images, before and after the story takes this turn, are captivating, full of details that come together more fully as you take in more of the story. Perhaps this should be an autofill comment on my part by now, but my repeating it doesn’t make it any less true: this is another triumph from the mini kus folks. Give them money so they can keep this up! $6

Socal, Alice – Junior

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Junior

Maybe you’re one of what must be very few people in the world who saw that title and thought “huh, I wonder if it’s referring to the Arnold Schwarzenegger of the same name.” Yep! Good job, you! I’m also sorry that you sat through that movie at some point in your life. Still, as this is a mini kus book, it’s not like it’s a straight adaptation of the movie, or even that it has much to do with it. Things start off with a couple in bed together, with the woman trying to get the man to feel the movement in her pregnant belly. He can’t seem to get the timing right so he can’t feel anything, she goes back to sleep and he decides that he wants to more fully experience what she’s going through. The rest of the comic deals with his efforts in this area. These efforts are adorable at times, but they’re not without the barest hint of tragedy. How did Arnold have that baby in Junior anyway? Yeesh, maybe it’s best not to think about it. Meanwhile, this is yet another winner from the mini kus pile. $6

Cong, Yan – UNIQLO Superman

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UNIQLO Superman

It’s a rare mini kus with two stories inside! The bulk of the book is taken up by the mostly wordless cover story. A strange naked man (or maybe I’m assuming he’s strange because he’s naked) walks into a UNIQLO clothing store and methodically goes through his various options. Do you think he puts on clothing as he goes or does it all at once? You’ll never know unless you read the comic! It’s a very bizarre tale, but any doubts I might have had about it were dispelled by one of the better punchlines that I’ve seen in ages. The next story is completely different and deals with the love between a frog man and a woman. Um, a normal woman. I think. Anyway, some quiet tension is obvious, and the frog man is metaphorically keeping himself at arm’s length from his wife. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Read it and see! Or read it and make your own conclusions, because sometimes relationships just fade away and nobody is at fault, whether frog or human. Big shocker, but it’s another solid mini kus comic. Pretty sure they’ll be responsible for world peace if they make it to #100 and still have this high of a ratio of quality books. No pressure! $6

Wang, Inkee – Special K

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Special K

OK, this is going to be one of those cases where I can’t talk about the comic without getting into some major spoilers, so be forewarned. Granted, the synopsis on the back cover had the same spoilers, but you can’t see that here, so that doesn’t count. If you’re looking for a suggestion only, well, it’s a mini kus book, and my love for their ingenuity, creativity and uniqueness is well established at this point, so yeah, you should check it out. This is the story of Special K, the avatar of a teenager in a popular online shooting game. He’s the best player in the game by far; people from all over the world watch his livestream and will log in just in the hopes of getting killed by him. I should mention here that hundreds (if not thousands) of people make a living from other people watching them play video games online, and that I still can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that there’s such a huge market of people who simply want to watch others play video games. But hey, they’re rich and I’m not, so what do I know. Anyway, most of the first half of the book establishes this kid and his character, some of his more heroic exploits in the game, and sets him up as a giant superstar. He’s eventually discovered to have cheated but, as is the norm in the world of the internet, nobody is quite sure where the allegations started or whether or not they’re even true, but he’s still chased out of the game, taking away the main draw of the thing. The images of the end of the story are downright beautiful, as the vast online killing field is deserted once their hero is gone, leaving only a few diehards who end up in a peaceful online field. There’s insightful commentary here on the fad of being an internet celebrity and how quickly it can all vanish, how ephemeral the cults around these people can be, and even a few cool little battle sequences if that’s all you’re here for. It’s another great book from the fine folks at mini kus, in other words. $6

Fenta – Beyond a Cure

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Beyond a Cure

Do you have any idea how tempting it is to just put the synopsis from the back of the comic in the place of a proper review and call it a day? As always, it’s succinct, and it manages to say nothing and everything at the same time. Instead I get to ramble on for a few hundred words in the hopes of making a different kind of sense of it. Oh, woe is the fate of the random internet comics reviewer! In the case the sarcasm there wasn’t crystal clear… yeah, sarcasm. Hey look everybody, it’s a new issue of mini kus! #72, to be exact, and I can only hope that when they reach #100 their plan for world domination will be complete. This is the story of two brothers… or two aspects of the same person… or possibly just two guys who know each other? Yep, I’ve got this one nailed down. One of the brothers is sick and has decided to end it all, and has already dug a hole in the backyard for his body. All his other brother has to do is come over at the appointed time and bury him. While the healthy brother is contemplating this state of affairs he has visions of the past, or possibly prophetic visions. When the time is right he comes over to bury his brother… but the visions don’t stop, and what exactly happened is very much open to interpretation. It’s the sense of a half-remembered dream put on paper, with a pervasive sense of foreboding and hopelessness throughout. In other words, it’s another completely unique story to add to the mini kus collection. $6

Ganmu – Doghair

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Doghair

Oh mini kus, don’t ever change. This is another selection in their series (#71, for those keeping track of such things) and this time around the story deals with a young man and his dog. Dogs. It’s not entirely clear if both dogs are his, but it’s not particularly relevant. He only has eyes for the dogs, which leads to a bit of trouble at home. His wife (or roommate, although the implication is definitely wife) berates him over dinner and then leaves the house, but his concern is still for the dogs, failing to notice that she’s spending less and less time at home. Finally he looks out the window and sees his wife, while walking the dog, talking to another man in the street. Naturally, this causes him to spring into action… and you’ll have to read the comic to see what happens next. This is mostly wordless, so the glances and body language are doing most of the work. It’s occasionally haunting and the ending is grim, in a “Boy and his Dog” sort of way. See, if you know what I’m talking about that is a bit of a spoiler. Hooray for your literacy! $6

Vilma Vitina, Lote -Worms, Clouds, Everything

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Worms, Clouds, Everything

This one starts off in a thoroughly charming fashion, with us looking at an empty stool. Our narrator then enters from off the page, addressing the reader throughout. If you’re wondering about the topic, it is given away on the cover, just not in the title: it’s mushrooms. Our narrator is obsessed with them, and the highlights of his life are when he’s wandering through the fields and finds a bunch of them in one place. He may have his problems the rest of the time, but this is when all is right with the world. Maybe this is the secret of happiness for everybody? As long as you have your version of mushrooms in your life, the one thing that brings you absolute joy, everything else can fall into place. Our narrator is a hermit, doesn’t seem to get much if any contact with the outside world, but it seems like he wouldn’t have it any other way. Give this book a shot if you’ve ever felt any existential sadness, as it appears to have the solution for such a problem inside. $6