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Musturi, Tommi – Snake in the Nose

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Stuck in the Nose

It’s cheating to just cut and paste the synopsis from the back of comics, right? It must be cheating. But the back of this comic is so fantastic, I have to include at least a taste: “Some would call this humour, but that’s a bit doubtful.” Much funnier in context, granted, but I’m trying not to paste the whole thing here, remember? Anyway, this is the story of an asshole. Usually stories have more ambiguity than that, and yeah, this guy does maybe take a step or two towards becoming slightly less awful, but it’s still the story of an asshole. Things start off with a lady (who, granted, looks maybe a bit snooty) enjoying a cocktail by the pool. We see a slow dripping of yellow liquid drop onto her hat, which then becomes a downpour. We then look see the source of the “rain,” in a full page spread of the dick of this guy. Who gleefully yells down at her that she’s lucky that he “didn’t feel like pooping.” From there we see this asshole living his life in his apartment, get sick of all his stuff, dream of various ways he could die, yelling more things at the people below him, and finally have an extensive dream sequence. If you’re into nothing but the highbrowingist of highbrow humor, this one probably isn’t for you. But if you can laugh at an asshole and want a deeper peek into what motivates one of those people, this book is damned near essential.

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Wing, Lai Tat Tat – Pages to Pages

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Pages to Pages

Oh silent comics, never stop making me look stupid by trying to describe you. This one is the story of… let me just say right off the bat that it’s wildly open to interpretation, especially if I’m wrong in my own interpretation. That being said! This comic starts off with two people hanging out and reading comics. One of them stops to point out something funny to the other person, they make some jokes with it (and with the malleable nature of their own faces), and then they go on with their day. But one of them (let’s just call him Blue and his friend Pink to avoid at least a little bit of confusion) sees a Kindle or whatever is the current digital method to read comics. He takes this home to pink and shows him some of the features, expecting Pink to be impressed and to recognize this a revolutionary, but Pink isn’t having any of it. He clearly prefers regular old comics and doesn’t see a reason to change. He goes back to his old comics and find that they have been altered, while Blue goes on a rampage after his discovery goes unappreciated. He transforms into what I could only call a giant two-handed monster, which sounds odd, as what’s the big deal about having two hands, but you’ll see if you read it. There’s a confrontation, the obvious one out of the two prevails, and we’re even given a brief moment of hope when one member of the public who’s watching this battle goes back to basics to describe the fight. It’s a thoroughly engaging and entertaining book, and I’ll freely admit to being one of those people who is stubbornly sticking with only reading comics when they’re physical comics, so I have a clear side in this one. Your side, especially if you’re younger, is probably the other side! And there’s room for the both of us, even if your side is slowly but surely pushing my side right into the trash. But we’re only dealing with the here and now, and in regards to that, this is a great comic that you should read.

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Ellsworth, Theo – Birthday

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Birthday

This is the highest compliment I can give: Theo Ellsworth is gradually becoming the Jim Woodring for this generation. Not that the current Jim Woodring is out of steam, and Theo (or any other human) still has some work to do before fully capturing that mantle, but he’s well on his way. If you’ve read Theo’s work in the past, you can agree or disagree, but at the very least you should be able to see where I’m coming from. This is also the first time (that I know of) where Theo’s comic is in full color, and it’s as glorious and disturbing as you would imagine. This is the part where I try to describe the comic, and on that count I am going to fail miserably, with the parts I get right mostly coming from the description on the back of the book. This is the story of a very nervous young man right before his “Inner-Space Birth Ritual.” See, I took that right from the description, as I had very little idea of what was happening before reading that. Anyway, keep an eye on the backgrounds throughout your reading of this comic, as there are little touches and/or creatures all over the place. Anyway, our hero finally gets a globe placed onto his head and the ritual begins. culminating in a final page that makes total sense in context, but try showing that to anybody as a single image. Anyway, it’s about rebirth, resistance to change, peer pressure, and I’m just making stuff up now. It’s a visual adventure through the mind of this young man as he undergoes an intense metamorphosis, how about that? It’s a fantastic book, with none of those pesky words cluttering things up, and it’s well worth your time to hunt it down.

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Sommer, Mikkel – Limonchik

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Limonchik

If the world is going to end, this comic has my new preferred method for it to happen. It’s something that had never occurred to me before, but now that it has I can’t think of any other way. This comic is almost entirely silent (except for one fateful phrase), and it’s the story of the Sputnik 2 satellite finally coming back to the planet after being in orbit for 50 years. And, just in case you know your history about such things, you may also recall that there was a dog in that satellite. Well, in this comic the dog comes home. It’s tough to say all that much more about it without giving anything away, which is a constant danger from these mini kus comics. You’d be hard pressed to find a more cheerful yet somehow terrifying image than that dog traveling through Russia, but specifics are going to have to stay vague. I’ve yet to see a really solid argument for not trying as many mini kus comics as you can get your hands on, and this one definitely continues that trend.

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Jacotey, Marie – BFF

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BFF

I should mention that there’s a technical glitch in this comic before I get started on the actual contents. About a third of the way through the comic a page repeats (the same page that appeared two pages previously). It really throws off the rhythm of the book, especially considering the fact that there are flashbacks and asides that make things hard enough to keep track of. I worked through it and ended up quite enjoying the comic, but if such things are a deal-breaker, you have been warned. Anyway! This is the story of two friends and the woman that gets between them. Rob comes over to visit his friend Stan one morning, and Stan can’t help but show off his latest conquest to Rob. Rob, horrified, recognizes the woman as Amy, who was basically “the one that got away” for him. They had never officially gotten together but he still thinks about her and is still obviously hung up on her, but he does the good friend thing and tells Stan that he should keep seeing her if they like each other. Still, he has to get out of there after Amy gets up and sees him, which leads to Amy following him out the door, and that’s as far as I go because of obvious spoilers. I completely loved how their important, dramatic conversation was interrupted by two young ladies on the bus and their conversation, as it’s always nice to be reminded that the universe doesn’t think that the events of your life are enough to stop things from being ridiculous. Sometimes the cursive writing was a bit hard to read, but overall it was a gorgeous book with a compelling story.

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Albert, Lala – R.A.T.

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R.A.T.

Do you maybe have a computer monitor that was made in the last 5 years or so, one of
the ones that has a webcam built into it? If so, have you ever wondered whether that
camera is ever really off? I don’t know what you’d call that, as it’s hard to say
“paranoia” when it’s a technology that’s so open to exploitation, but if you’ve ever
worried about that, this comic is for you! This one starts out with a creep who
watches a young woman through her webcam on her computer. She never turns the
computer off, so he always has an easy way to observe her. He still has his “rules,”
so he doesn’t use this technology to get her bank data or any other personal
information. Nope, this guy just uses it to watch her while she has no idea that
this is going on. From there we get a scene of our heroine out drinking with some
friends, and she finally comes across this R.A.T. program and decides to take a look
at it and at who is available on this network. What she finds isn’t all that
shocking if you read the first half of this review (and boy would you be a weirdo if
you only read the second halves of reviews), but it sets up a nice “confrontation”
for the end of the comic. It’s a problem with no easy answer (although I’ve heard
that duct tape over a webcam is surprisingly effective), but this comic is bound to
creep you out as you think about it. $5

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Ekebom, Terhi – Logbook

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Logbook

So hey, death. That’s what this comic is about, basically, unless you have another
interpretation of it, in which case you may be right and I may be wrong. It
certainly wouldn’t be the first time! Anyway, this one starts off with a long
sequence involving large white pods bobbing to the surface in the ocean and the
process involved in collecting them and bringing them back to the lighthouse. They
are all quite large but appear harmless. Once these pods are brought into the house
we see why they were collected: there is a man on the bed, but he is covered in
literal darkness. Once these pods are split open a bright light shines through them,
enabling the family to see the condition of the man on the bed. Perhaps they thought
that these pods would be enough to assist this man, but they soon learn that the
darkness is not getting any smaller, with the rest of the comic involving them
dealing with this fact. It’s surprisingly haunting, probably because it’s impossible
to fight against it for long. Is that too grim for you? Eh, I could see that. Still,
the art is gorgeous, and this is one of those cases where full color really brings a
lot to the book. This is worth a look, assuming that you’ve made peace with your own
mortality. If not, you can also ignore the unspoken implications of the darkness, as
it’s not like Terhi smacks you over the face with the message. It’s there for you to
pick up on, or not.

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Zlemesa, Zane – Collector

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Collector

Oh abstract comics, you put me on the spot every time. Sometimes I feel compelled to
try to analyze every little bit of it, sometimes I throw my hands up in despair and
leave it entirely up to the reader, and either way I feel like I failed. Ah well.
Anybody who comes here for detailed, intellectual analysis went to the wrong corner
of the internet and somehow never left, so that’s kind of on them. This is the story
of, well, a collector. The cover gives as to what type of collector this person is,
and the back cover makes it even more explicit, but I like mystery, so I’ll leave it
up in the air. What this comic details is the process of collecting these subjects,
what they see and imagine, and eventually how it all ends up. It’s not as ominous as
it sounds! Unless it is and I lied to you right there. Ah, now you’re intrigued! If
so, good. After all, don’t you want to be able to say that you have a complete set
of the mini kus series of Latvian mini comics? As somebody who has mentioned them
out loud to regular humans, I can attest to the fact that it’s an automatic
conversation stopper. Anyway, it’s an intriguing comic, with a sometimes mesmerizing
and sometimes baffling story. Is that a recommendation? It’s up to you to parse that
language!

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Heikkinen, Jyrki – Little Hilma

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Little Hilma

Oh mini kus, I do love how I never know what to expect with your comics. Granted, they’re done by all sorts of people, so it would make more sense to praise the creators individually, but who has the time for such things? This one is all about a man who only wants to pick up some cigarettes. Along the way his children demand that he read to them, his wife wants chocolate and for him to take out the garbage, and an injured monkey is discovered under the sink with said garbage. Our hero gets a phone call, and that’s where Little Hilma comes into the picture. On a rooftop, dropped off by a biplane, of course. I shall say no more, but that helmet (and the triumph of our hero when he finds it) was fantastic, and that finale is damned near impossible to top. It’s an odd book, if you’re worried about such things, but people need more “odd” in their lives. It was also a good choice to leave the comic without panels, as it helped show off the sprawl and mess of the house (there are small children living there, after all). It’s a good comic and you should read it!

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Vaivare, Anna – Mini Kus #24: Swimming Pool

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Mini Kus #24: Swimming Pool

I’ve long had a fascination with the people who work behind the scenes, the ones who almost nobody notices in their day to day lives. Janitors, customer service people, lifeguards, anybody who is only noticed if they mess up while doing their jobs. This comic is all about a woman who lives at a swimming pool by night and keeps everything about it clean by day. Along the way she talks about the various people she encounters on a daily basis, bits of her life that led up to her taking this job, and the dread she feels at the thought of going back to any part of her old life. It all leads up to a big reveal at the end that I’m not going to get into, as that would be cheating. Still, Anna does an excellent job of planting the seeds for the reveal along the way, and things end on a genuinely sweet moment. The art is gorgeous, as it’s all painted and she does a great job of showing the various types of people who use a pool along with the fact that the water is never completely still from all the activity. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable story and you should give it a look. $6

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Eronen, Roope – Mini Kus #25: Magnetism

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Mini Kus #25: Magnetism

People who read science fiction stories expecting the science to make total sense, please stop reading now. People who are able to read a science fiction story and think of it as a allegory for other aspects of life without getting too bogged down in the specifics, read on! This one starts off with an obviously sad young woman at a coffee shop. She is unable to get coffee and has to settle for cold water, and the place is practically deserted. Despite this fact a young man asks if he can sit with her, and she reluctantly agrees. This is when we learn that things have gone horribly wrong on this planet and that she’s willing to try almost anything to get away from it. This young man was actually a businessman with a unique product: a magnet that will take you to a different place in the universe. He calculates some basics about the planet to see if it has the basic elements necessary for a human to survive, teleports one magnet to the location, and has the customer swallow the other magnet to get there. Surviving the trip is not explained, but please refer back to the first sentence of this review if you have any qualms about that. Anyway, this somehow manages to be a cute story about utter desperation, and that final image of ____ (thought I was going to slip there, didn’t you?) ended things on a hilarious note. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed. $6

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Daubure, Ruta & Anete – Mini Kus #23: Domino

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Mini Kus #23: Domino

What happens if the person who was responsible for maintaining the balance in the world took a day off? That’s the premise here, as our hero Rober generally does what he can to keep things even. He can use any object, great or small, to maintain this balance. He’s never seen, but he is crucial, and one day he decides to rest. He eats cookies on a train because, as the text says, “he thinks that is what the usual people do.” He notices something that could be his concern, but he leaves it alone, as it’s his day off. Then somebody stops him as he’s getting off the train to give him his hat… but Rober didn’t own a hat. And with that, the balance is thrown off with the guy who is supposed to be keeping the balance, but Rober is helpless in the face of what comes next. We also get to meet the “bad guys” and hear a bit of their reasoning for why they do what they do. It’s a fascinating story, but I have to at least mention how incredible the artwork is here. Ruta is all about big, expressive colors, and every page of this teems with life. Granted, Ruta and Anete are sisters so them having a clear connection isn’t the oddest thing in the world, but it does make this book what it is. If you do get this (and you should), take a few extra minutes to let the images soak into your head. Trust me, it’s worth it. $6

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Pavlovskis, Oskars – Mini Kus #22: Lucky

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Mini Kus #22: Lucky

We’ve all gotten to see various “interview” shows in recent years (The Office, Parks & Recreation) where we get to know fundamentally decent people. Oh sure, they’re wacky because they’re on tv, but you know, you’re unlikely to find a genuinely terrible person in those types of shows. Well, meet Lucky. This one starts off with Lucky being interviewed by an unseen person. Lucky tells us a bit about his average day and his basic philosophy in life, but we don’t really see it in action until Lucky tears the side mirror off a car. From here he uses one of several phones (or an internet cafe) to sell the mirror online and, as he’s stealing them off cars, there’s always somebody in the area who can use a mirror. Things go downhill for Lucky from there, as we also see him mugging a guy and pretending to get injured after being “hit” by a car, and all the while his interviewer is trying to get Lucky to see what he’s doing to other people and to change his ways. Finally the two of them have a confrontation, and I can say no more without giving away the whole thing. I’ll just say that you’re not going to see it coming, and I feel confident in saying that even if my saying that will instantly put you on your guard, expecting a twist. Even so, you will no see it coming. That ending is more than a little bit haunting, but Oskars earns every bit of it. Check it out if you want to learn how to be a professional asshole, or if perhaps you just want a little more insight into their existence. $6

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Gasiorowska, Renata – Mini Kus #21: Jungle Night

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Mini Kus #21: Jungle Night

Does it make you crazy or depressed if you just want to be alone after a certain amount of time spent with a large group of friends? That’s the question that Renata asks in this comic, and I think she comes up with a pretty compelling answer. This one starts with our hero, Lili, waking up in the hospital. She has just been found after three days of being lost in the forest and spends the comic trying to explain why she “ran away,” and why she doesn’t think of it as running away. There’s a tradition of the youth all going into the forest together to reconnect to their roots. All of these characters are animals that have evolved to walk upright, wear clothes and talk, so the adults think that it’s important to keep this tradition. The kids, as kids do, see it more as an excuse to go into the forest with a large group of friends to drink and have fun. Anyway, all is going well, the kids are having fun, but Lili is feeling more and more disconnected to the group. Finally she has that moment at the party (that I think most people have at least a few times in their lives) where she notices that everybody else has paired up or is talking to each other, but she’s off on her own. Which makes her think that she could just get up and walk away without anybody noticing, so that’s what she does. But does that make her depressed? She clearly doesn’t think of herself that way, and it’s certainly a natural enough instinct. Your opinions may vary, but I know where I stand on this one. $6

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de Wet, Jean – Mini Kus #20: Crater Lake

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Mini Kus #20: Crater Lake

Oh silent comics, you do vex me so. For those of you who are new to the site, I’ve showed my ignorance on the meanings of certain silent comics several times over the 13+ years that I’ve been reviewing comics. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don’t, and sometimes I think I do but actually don’t. That last option is the most amusing, at least in hindsight. Anyway, this is all stalling so that I can avoid talking about this comic, as I had very little idea of what was happening before I read the back. The comic itself is a series of scenes, told mostly over two page spreads, of several happenings around a town as a meteor shower (?) is happening. Most of these scenes are shown at such a distance that you could plausibly come up with several reasons for why they’re doing what they’re doing and then, to me at least, things ended rather abruptly. The back of the comic helpfully mentions the various things that they’re doing, but I had a hard time going back into the comic and picking out which pages depict which events. It’s still a gorgeous book, but I was more impressed with the ideas going on than I was with the execution of them. Then again, I do have a sporadic and inconsistent dislike of silent comics, so take that into consideration when reading this review. $6

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Berliac – Mini Kus #19: Inverso

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Mini Kus #19: Inverso

What’s worth blowing up your relationship over? If your job is to locate and place tracking collars on young jaguars in an effort to increase their population, finding more jaguars would seem like a typical day at the office. But if you had credible reports of something the natives were calling a negative jaguar, well, that might be enough to torpedo the relationship. Things start off in this one with an argument with the couple (although we never see the lady), which ends when the male leaves town to try and find this jaguar. From there he goes deeper and deeper, both mentally and physically, in his efforts to learn more about this creature and to canvas the jungle to narrow down the places where this beast could be living. Theories of what this thing might be abound, and quixotic hunts like this rarely end well. Then again, this is a hunt for a beast that can only be seen by its spots, and then only at night. It’s a thoroughly engaging story, and it leaves you with a lot to think about when you’re done. Give it a chance, is what I’m saying. $6

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Jordan, Michael – Mini Kus #18: This No Place To Stay

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Mini Kus #18: This No Place To Stay

OK, it’s almost certainly cheating to put the synopsis on here from the back of the comic, but I just can’t resist. So: “This No Place To Stay is a semi-fictional, semi-biographical story by the German artist Michael jordan. His bearded alter ego travels through a coffee cup into a labyrinth inside a hospital laboratory. Hopefully the wound in the nurse’s hand can rescue him…” And no, those ellipses are not me letting the synopsis trail off, that’s just how they ended it. Why put the entire thing in the review? Because I couldn’t have put it better myself, and because it raises many more questions than it answers. Things start off with our bearded hero (and I am dying to know which parts of this are biographical) going up a long staircase to enter a cave/mountain wall/waiting room. From here he is meant to be processed, but is told to wait in the cafe, where he sees other sleeping people, is told that sleeping is not allowed, and wakes up in a hospital with his arm in a sling. From here we see the creepy people in charge of the hospital, the nurse who wants to help (it also features a few nurses who see no point in helping), and our hero’s eventual attempt at escape. The whole thing is delightfully surreal and more than a little claustrophobic. No, I’m not sure how that happens in a comic with plenty of wide open spaces either, but trust me, that’s what I was feeling. It’s gorgeous, it’s haunting and I’m not entirely sure what to make of it. Sounds like the perfect comic to me! $6

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