Sometimes comics leave me feeling a certain way, and I’m never quite sure if that’s the intent of the artist or if it’s just what the comics brings out of me personally. Maybe somebody else reading this would come away feeling something else entirely, but for me when I set down this book a wave of melancholy hit me. The comic feels a bit like a dream, like the details might change if I were to go back and read it again. Not possible, granted, but we’re talking feelings here, not physical reality. This is the story of a young man who sets out with his lover, his former lover and her current lover. They all get to talking, and another former lover down the line was supposed to be good at bocce, but since the star of the comic had never heard of him, this set off an argument that led to him getting out of the car and leaving them to go on their way. Meanwhile, it left our hero alone in the dark at 3am, in the wilderness and surrounded by things that he was allergic to. He wandered until he made his way to a department store, and the surreal nature of the place led him to go up to the roof. The roof was covered in thousands of tiny candles, which led back to the story of the two women who put the candles up there every night, why they do it and how they came to that place at all. Which I’d rather not get into here, to preserve at least a little bit of mystery, but this really feels like one of those comics where you could know everything about it going in and still get plenty out of it. Check it out, and if you end up feeling anything other than melancholy when you’re done, let me know. Who knows what’s all in my head and what’s left over from a previous lovers’ quarrel? $6
Hey, who’s up for a comic that’s done entirely in verse? Wait, come back, it’s actually thoroughly engaging! This is the story of a young lady who’s just trying to live her life. Her life happens to be that of a sub who’s trying to find dominant men but unsure on how to go about it, and her life is also her being antisemitic while caring for Jewish children as a nanny. As far as antisemitics go she’s pretty self-aware about her issues, she even keeps a diary where she spells everything out. She’s also terrified of anybody seeing her diary, which makes sense. The overwhelming sense I got from this story was that M was an incredibly sad person; every aspect of her life seems like at least a little bit of a struggle. Still, it’s hard not to root for the lady, which is a little odd when you consider her (at the very least) mild racism. Maybe it was the rhyming that made her impossible to dislike? Or maybe it’s just the fact that it’s hard not to relate to anybody who’s in such a struggle to get by every day. Check it out, wrestle with your own moral dilemmas, it’s not like I can solve all the moral conundrums of the universe all by myself. $6
So I’ve said before that I could just post the synopsis on the back of these mini kus books and have that serve as the review, but this time around it’s actually relevant to the content of the comic. “In 1975, Mexican artist Ulises Carrion founded Other Books and So, a bookshop gallery in Amsterdam that received, distributed, sold and exhibited artists’ publications and ephemera in many different formats. This collection is inspired by the bookshop.” See? Pretty relevant to the comic, wouldn’t you say? I didn’t read this before reading the comic (I never read the synopsis before reading a book/comic, and shame on you if you do), so I wasn’t working with that information when I was first forming an opinion. On the surface this book is a series of stories about scars and accidents of varying severity, but after seeing the blurb on the back the whole thing came together for me. Outside of those tales of injuries were also a few bits about rearranging 50 books on the floor in the hopes of getting an undefinable “something” out of it, a series of conversational statements by unknown speakers, and a damaged photograph that still retained the most important elements of it. It all comes together to form a really compelling comic, and adds another distant location to my list of places I’d like to visit one of these days. For anybody out there who thinks that some of these mini kus books are too short to really dig into, give this one a shot. There’s plenty to ponder here. $6
Once again, I’m tempted to just use the synopsis from the back of the comic as a review, but that’s still cheating, so I won’t do it. This comic is the nightmare version of Mexico City (or at least I hope it is), and it’s one the seediest things you ever will see. The story follows three separate things: a man who picks up groceries for dinner with his daughter (and this disgusting walk home), a couple who meet out and steal some booze before going home together, and a couple of robbers who spend the evening getting themselves ready to rob a convenience store where the other two story tracks briefly came together. Abraham does a thorough job of making the city and everything in it seem disgusting; I don’t think there was a single surface clean enough to eat off of in the whole comic. The father ran across horrors on his walk home and things weren’t much better when he actually got home, the couple really took in the sights before going home together, and the two robbers were so physically seedy that they almost made things around them seem slightly cleaner. So yes, in other words, I think this should be distributed far and wide as a tourist guide to anybody thinking of visiting Mexico City. Or if not, it’s also an unflinching look at some of the grosser aspects of society. $6
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.