Blog Archives

Laroche, Pia-Melissa – La fleur au fusil

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La fleur as fusil

Long time readers of these mini kus reviews know that there are usually two reasons why I blow it in the reviews: it’s incomprehensible to me (most likely because of my stupid brain and not the creator of the comic) or it’s so short that there’s just not much to say. I mean, that’s assuming that I succeed in the other reviews, if such a thing could ever be said about a review. Anyway! This time around it’s the second of the two options. This is a silent comic that’s full of double page spreads, so when you’re already dealing with a mini comic that just doesn’t leave a lot of real estate to cover. Why don’t I start off by telling you that the French phrase that makes up the title means (according to the back of the comic) “you are confident and carefree.” However, the back of the comic may be trying to fool the reader, as Google translates it literally as “flower with gun.” Maybe both are correct, based on the comic itself. It’s the story of a young man who takes his bow and arrow and goes out hunting. Is killing the mark of success, or is it bringing back something that his (I’m assuming) lady love prefers? And what’s so great about arrows anyway? Huh, it turns out that there was a fair amount to talk about after all, and all without spoiling the story. 21 years in, I just might be starting to get the hang of this reviewing thing… $7.95

Zahradkova, Klara – Jumping Things

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Jumping Things

Be honest, who among us hasn’t wanted to wander off into another world every now and then? That’s the story with this comic, more or less. Our hero (we learn later in a brief origin story) had what appears to be an MRI on her leg, heard the sound of a train and then popped up in a different world. Along the way she meets a floating head, which may or may not be a part of her from another world. Sometimes it’s a floating balloon, sometimes it’s a head attached to a foot, and along the way it appears to go through male pattern baldness. There’s also more than a bit going on with the mysteries of the universe, and how they tend to get obnoxious when you’re confronted with them all the time. I’m very tempted to describe some of these new worlds now, as they’re filled with delightful surprises, but nah. If you end up with a copy of this book yourself (and you should, it’s a hoot) take your time with the various panels/pages, as Klara has packed them full of oddities that will reward those who pay close attention. Is this the part of the review where I say “mini kus, you’ve done it again!”? Yes, it is, and yes, they did. Oh, and in case I’ve somehow neglected to mention this so far in these reviews, they’re also selling bundles of four of these minis at a time, which is very much something you should look into. Meanwhile, give this one a look! $7.95

Mosi, Joana – The Apartment

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The Apartment

Who out there has been in one of those “death by a thousand cuts” relationships? You know the ones, where comments from a partner get more and more low-key hostile and/or passive aggressive until one day you realize that the whole relationship has been hollowed out? If you can’t relate, congratulations on either never dating for long or getting extremely lucky right out of the gate. This comic is, on its face, the story of an apartment going up for sale that’s directly below a couple. Same dimensions, just a floor lower. This, because of where they’re at in the relationship, leads to a series of arguments about how it’s a “better” apartment than theirs, and how they’d be able to have their gym if they bought that one instead. All of this is juxtaposed with quiet images around their apartment, and the story is told almost entirely through blurry, distant images of the couple. That’s the case until almost the end, where there’s a single page shown in realistic, close-up detail, and it’s devastating. If you’re in a rocky relationship at the moment, maybe this one isn’t for you right now? Or maybe it’ll be the thing that lets you take a clear look at your situation and get the hell out of it. Either way, it’s a grim, compelling story that’s expertly told by Joana. $7.99

Nhozagri – I Miss You So Much

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I Miss You So Much

When that magical day ever comes that I gather all my old mini kus books together to see what I’m missing, maybe I’ll be able to get an accurate number for this prediction, but I’m thinking that roughly 1 out of every 10 of these books baffle me. Maybe it’s a language barrier, maybe my own brain is at fault (it’s almost certainly that one), but sometimes these just fly over my head. If you’re guessing that I’m also talking about this issue, congratulations! It has some of the cutest creations that I’ve ever seen (along with some understandably nervous raindrops), several pieces of art on the wall that come to life, and an awfully sweet ending. All that being said, I’m not sure that it’s possible for me to sum up the story. Don’t I usually try and end up making a fool out of myself? Yes, hypothetical voice, that is true. But this time around I did some digging through their website, which was also adorable, and figured out that they’re seemingly more of a physical artist (meaning sculptures and 3D pieces, not so much the comics that I could see), and that this is one of those rare instances where it might make more sense if I walked through a room with these pieces in front of me, all laid out. This is the part where I recommend a book (or not), so this time around I’d say take in the artwork from the samples, see what you think and make up your own mind. If you also think it’s darned near the cutest thing you’ve ever seen, give it a shot! Either way, check out their website, as it’s delightful. $7.95

Turunen, Marko – Dawn of the Living Dead Near Kotka Morgue

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Dawn of the Living Dead Near Kotka Morgue

It seems like it was only a few months ago that I was wondering where all the coronavirus stories were, but look out! They’re coming fast now. Of course, this is a mini kus book, so you’re not likely to get a straightforward tale about isolation, thoughts of mortality or when to get the vaccine. No, this is the tale of a young man and his dog as they wander through a world of maskless or poorly masked people and are then left to panic about whether or not they were exposed. It’s also a stretch to call them “people,” as the first exposure our hero gets is by an octopus with a mask under their chin, which he meets after walking through a bleak landscape of giant coral, traffic and a moose that’s bigger than the cars. I get the feeling I shouldn’t spoil any more, but it’s fighting hard with my desire to mention the giant cat with the erection who’s reciting the current covid figures and the Donkey Kong on top of the building with a giant skull on it. Dammit, looks like the second impulse won out. It probably would have helped if the actual pandemic was as surreal as this, but since we all got stuck in the real world the best way to remember those times is to get this book. If you’re lucky, these images will replace the images of the actual pandemic, which will help make it a more whimsical, unnerving time in your head. $7

Sperandio, Christopher – Li’l Jormly

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Li’l Jormly

Look, I’ll make this review very simple. If you’re a fan of the mini kus books, of course you should get this one too. And the less you know about it, the better. OK? If that’s good enough for you, please click right on that link and buy it. For everybody who wants some (ok, any) details, let’s get into it! Right off the bat, even though you can only see half that cover, it’s obvious that there are some horrors that don’t quite match the whimsical nature of the artwork. Jormly has chicken feet, and what appears to be an octopus hand. And is he a cyclops too? Yep, sure enough. Things start off with one of those fake “back of the comic” ads that I thought were played out at this point, but it made me laugh, so I’m not going to spoil what it’s about. The comic itself starts with one of the denser recaps I’ve seen in a tiny text caption, as we learn that there were three apocalypses that led to this current moment, with some brief detail of each. We also learn that Jormly was “orphaned into the broken world”, and he’s had a miserable life. Don’t let that jolly look fool you! He soon asks a friend where he originally came from, and decides on a quest to return to that location. And then… the comic turns into a children’s activity book, complete with the word jumbles, mazes, etc. that you would normally find in such things, but of course more horrific because of the circumstances. We get some brief updates from our hero along the way, who’s looking a bit worse for wear each time. Basically if you’d rather work on an activity book, this one has you covered, and if you’d like to wallow in a bleakly hopeless future by living vicariously through a pantsless pig, you’ll be doing plenty of that too. Give it a look, is what I say. $7

Burgos, Pedro – Shooting

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Shooting

Ah, the world of modeling. It’s horrific, and it seems like there’s a better than even chance that the photographer is going to be somewhere between a general jerk or a misogynist. This is a short but brutal tale about a guy who’s trying to get good shots of his model, but his true thoughts come through after she collapses while striking a pose. He’s overheard by a young lady who’s also watching the shoot and is instantly dismayed to find the camera turned back on him. The rest of the comic is the open question of whether there’s any consequences for a person like that, and if so who should give it to him. Or I’m reading it wrong, which is always a possibility, especially with the mini kus books. Pedro uses a full page for every image, allowing plenty of room to breathe for what is a fairly claustrophobic profession. No matter how much wide and open a space the models are given to pose, the lights see everything and even the food they eat while not on a shoot affects their ability to get work. It’s in intriguing and more than slightly disturbing tale, which is probably as it should be when covering a world like this. It’s worth a look, especially if you have any experience in that field, on either side of the camera. $7.95

Wray, Patrick & Heathcock, Clara – Grandad Reg

Clara’s Website

Patrick’s Website

Grandad Reg

I was recently asking where all the pandemic comics were, but it seems like they’ve been coming a lot more quickly recently, and this is another solid addition to the list. This is the story of Clara’s grandad Reg, who passed away from covid in April of 2020, right around the first big wave. She goes through some of her favorite memories of her time with the man, but the main theme of the book is one of confusion. How do you mourn somebody when there’s no event to mark their passing? Everybody was quarantined at the time, so all she has is a few people to contact over Facetime. I was lucky during the pandemic (not that it’s over, at least as of June 2022) in that I never contracted it (or if I did it was an asymptomatic case) and no close friends or family members died from it. Reading about her experience, and how she had to piece together any sense of peace or closure from it, was heartbreaking, and a reminder of just how many people had to deal with this over the last two years. Patrick did a solid job with the artwork, conveying just how stuck in time Clara must have been while still showing a sort of grieving process for her and her family. Does this mean that I’m recommending yet another mini kus book? Yep. I’ll bet nobody could have seen that one coming! But this is another excellent reminder of the sheer range of the series and the artists involved. I’ll bet the next one will be a wordless tale of the life of a dollar bill, or something else completely unrelated to this one. Anyway, now I’m starting to review mini kus and not this comic, but yes, give this one a shot. Especially if you had your own losses during the pandemic, this one might help you process how it all went down. $8

Nieminen, Essi – 10 Sim Lane

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10 Sim Lane

Who out there has played a Sims game? Or one of the equivalent games that asks you to control the lives of various avatars that generally do nothing more complex than what you do in an average day? Well, this one is for you! This starts off with a misdirect, as we’re introduced in the game to what appears to be our hero. Well, surprise, our hero is being controlled by somebody else! The mundane tasks that the avatar was doing are then carried out in real life by the player, and the juxtaposition of the two of them really brings home the banality of his “life” (and the question of why he feels compelled to play out the same events on the screen). Still, it wouldn’t be much of a comic if that’s all that happened, so eventually the player has to make a trip to the grocery store. While he’s out he runs into either an old girlfriend or somebody he has an interest in (it’s not spelled out), and his first foray into live human interaction in possibly several days goes quite poorly. But that’s OK! When real life goes wrong, he always has the simulation. There were some creepy bits, but generally of the “harmless creepy” category, as no humans were harmed. Maybe call it a cautionary tale of playing too much Sims? Sure, let’s go with that. It’s an oddly compelling story, considering how little actually happens. Give it a shot, you can’t go wrong with mini kus! $7

Flores, Dileydi – Survival Mode

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Survival Mode

The mini kus folks are breaking off another hundo (hat tip to Comedy Bang! Bang!), as this is #101 in the series. Sure, it’s almost all different creators for each issue, but it’s still one heck of an achievement. So what direction are they going now? Not that one unrelated issue has anything to do with anything else, but let’s pretend that it sets the tone for a minute here, OK? Well, this issue is maybe the most straightforward issue of the series yet. Regular readers will know that once in every dozen or so comics the meaning just flies right over my head; in several other issues I have to make leaps as a reviewer that I probably mostly get wrong. Well, this time around we are introduced to a group of three friends who decide to go mushroom picking in the wilderness. Along the way they (and the readers) get a brief class on which types of mushrooms are edible (if they have a jelly-like consistency, stay away!), how the wilds in Iceland got to their current state, and… well, that’s about it, really. No swerves, no aliens land, no murders, just a straight story about picking mushrooms and talking about the sustainability of the planet. I guess you’d call it a message comic, but it’s a solid message, and you can tell from the samples that Dileydi is a pretty spectacular artist when it comes to conveying the majesty of nature. So if you’re looking for mayhem, give this peaceful comic a shot, then come back for #102. I’m sure the madness will begin again in no time. $7

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