Regular readers by now probably know the hallmarks of a review where I don’t have much to say about a comic one way or the other. This doesn’t mean that the comic is bad or that I didn’t enjoy it, just that I don’t have much to add to the experience. In those cases I usually start off a review with a rambling bit of nonsense, trying desperately to kill time and/or fill space to give the appearance of writing a proper review. Eventually this runs out of steam, and I have to try to come up with something meaningful to say about the comic. Which would be right about now, I think. Hi, everybody who stuck through that! This is a mostly silent comic about some kids eating, them sharing their food with some birds and some flowers growing in the yard. Every bit of it is gorgeous and it’s a nice moment in time depicting a quiet meal with some natural beauty along with it. Maybe this won’t end up being one of the more memorable mini kus comics I’ve read over the years, but it is quietly charming, which is a welcome respite from the real world these days.
What’s your relationship to physical fitness? Casual gym person? Utterly indifferent to the very idea? Or fanatical health freak? This comic has three strips that deal with the more rabid side of that spectrum, although if you’ve somehow managed to combine being addicted to the gym with the ability to be easily offended if people are poking fun at you, you might have a little trouble with this comic. First up is a series of testimonials from personal trainers, giving their best pitch as to why people should choose them for training. If you’ve ever even been around a personal trainer for more than a minute you’ll find this hilarious. Next is a piece about a personal trainer as the equivalent of a sex phone operator, and the two are a lot more closely aligned than you might have thought. Finally there’s the story of the struggles that jocks go through in their daily lives, how they have to hide who they are and how even the children are forced to choose sides. It’s a dystopian jock nightmare world, which was a welcome change of pace from the actual jock nightmare world. If you’ve ever thought of an obsession with physical fitness as being a sort of mania, you’re going to find plenty that’s funny and/or mildly unnerving about this one. Oh, and Michael is yet another Adventure Time artist who makes incredible comics on the side (or is it the other way around?).
Somewhere out there (assuming comics like these are still even sold in physical stores), somebody bought this thinking they were getting an alien abduction story. Too bad, suckers! Instead you got a comic about the slow dissolution of a marriage as experienced through the eyes of the young daughter of the couple. Oh, and some unexplained lights. Those lights were a really innovative way to start the book, as it was a typical ride home with the kids in the back seat and the parents in the front (singing along to the radio, so clearly they weren’t always unhappy). Suddenly they saw lights floating above the car, causing them to stop for about 10 minutes (as remembered by Laura, assuming this is autobiographical). From there things took a sharp turn at home, with the parents increasingly arguing with each other until they eventually take the kids aside and tell them that the father is going to rent an apartment alone. All along the way this is taking a toll on Laura at school, as she kind of likes a boy at school, but not as much as the music her parents were listening to would indicate. As the marriage falls apart she also concludes that all love is hopeless anyway, so there’s no point in liking that boy anyway. Laura develops a fascination with all things related to aliens and also tries to come up with a plan to get her parents back together, all while getting constant “helpful” books from other friends and family dealing with how to cope with divorce. Laura going back and asking her parents about those strange lights they saw before the divorce is the kicker, but you can find out how that went for yourself. It’s a perspective on divorce that you don’t usually see, and it was a story that was very well told.
I’ll confess, I didn’t think there were any angles to WWII yet to be uncovered, but I was wrong about that. The time frame of this one should be obvious from the title, and this is set in Karelia, an area of Northern Europe. Bombings were a regular occurrence back then (something most Americans can probably barely even comprehend), but meanwhile the citizens were trying to lead some semblance of a normal life. Or, at the very least, they were forced to deal with normal life going on around them, like what’s depicted in this comic. An alarm is sounded, the inhabitants of an area (including a barn that had obviously been hit before) were given two minutes to leave… and this was impossible because there was a cow giving birth. The people were confronted with a few options at that point, none of them good, but they went with the most human option and helped the cow. Still, the idea of traveling on the run with a baby calf wasn’t a good one, so they were once again confronted with a few options, and that’s where I’ll leave the story for the rest of you. There’s tragedy in the smallest things, and the image of the cow that I initially thought was amusing on the back cover turned out to be anything but. It’s a great but heart-wrenching story, all told in scratchy black and white that emphasized the feel of the whole area being under a constant cloud of greasy smoke. $4
How soon exactly will it be until our every waking moment is under surveillance? Hell, why not our every sleeping moment too? Or is it already happening and we just don’t know it yet? If you relate to that sort of paranoid (but all too realistic mindset), do I have a comic for you! This is the story of a human who is just trying to sunbathe naked on their roof. As they’re relaxing they notice the whir of a drone and retreat back into their apartment, but even there the drone can peek in through the windows. Once this person is secure they transform back into their real self… but surveillance can come from unlikely places, and it’s difficult to be sure if you’re ever really alone. This is a wordless book that is creepy as can be, especially if you’d prefer not to be watched all the time and feel increasingly helpless about stopping it. For example, do you have a camera on your laptop? Do you know that creeps can tap into that even when it’s not powered on? Or maybe I watch too many spy shows and am getting my information wrong, but you don’t really know, do you? Damn it, like I needed to be more paranoid. Thanks, Eyez! Seriously though, give this a look. The art and coloring are both gorgeous, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to be creeped out. $6
If there’s a better use for dogshit, I’ve certainly never seen it. Getting ahead of myself a bit with this review, but that’s definitely the standout image of this mini comic. This is the story of a young woman going about an average (probably) day in her life. It’s wordless and starts off with this woman waking up to what appears to be a strange man. She does everything possible to avoid waking him up, anyway, which certainly implies “stranger” to me. From there we see her triumphant escape and her journey home to a waiting dog that is clearly overjoyed to see her, as is the custom of dogs with all returning owners, no matter how long they’ve been away. The rest of her day consists of her taking a shower, going through a bunch of outfits before finally picking one out, taking her dog on a walk (this is where the dog shit bit comes in, but I’m not going to spoil the context) and finally stopping to get some liquor. The art is gorgeous throughout and Tara really nails the most important aspect of a silent comic: emotive facial expressions. This is fantastic tale of a day in the life, warts and all.
There have been many, many times when I’ve wanted to post a simple “this comic speaks for itself” as a comic review, and I’ve probably cheated a few times and come pretty close to it. But damn, that title really does say it all. Jesse has come up with a scientific way to solve basically all of the problems of humanity. Granted, he doesn’t know the actual science of it, or if he does he’s keeping it a secret, but he has still figured out how to fix everything. And it’s so simple! Ready? Your life will be changed forever, and if you’re a scientist or an eccentric billionaire, get on this: every human born from this point on will be roughly the size of its parent. Then the kids eventually born from that child will be half its size, on and on forever. Jesse does a fantastic job of going through the implications of such a program, with a single drop of oil powering whole cities, the need for war disappearing as territory opens up for everybody, eventually even shrinking so much that all of the possible predators wouldn’t even notice us. Sure, the science part of it a pretty big stumbling block, but it sure looks like this would genuinely solve all of the problems of humanity sooner or later. It’s a damned intriguing comic, so if you’ve ever wondered how humanity could be saved you should very much give this a look. If you’re a total nihilist and don’t care either way, well, maybe this will cure you of some of that.
Have you ever stopped to think about how much of your life you’ve forgotten? How does your brain know which memories to retain and which ones to let slip away? Does you brain really work that way or are your memories just random snippets of your life and not actually the most important or relevant moments? If that’s the case, how do you even know who you are? Welcome to Remember This, a comic that will mess with your head in significant ways. Or, as part of the back of the comic says in its synopsis, “Disa Wallender’s story will confuse you, perhaps it’s best not to think about it?” I don’t subscribe to that, as thinking about this kind of stuff it’s what makes life worth living to me, but if that’s not the case for you then perhaps the back of this comic has a point. Subjects introduced in this comic are how smells can conjure memories (or something only the fact that you know a memory is associated with this smell but can’t place it, leaving you in a worse spot than before you detected said smell), and how this is basically Disa’s note to her future self and that she wonders who that person will be. It’s another genuinely great and intriguing addition to the mini kus pile, which still has a remarkable success rate as far as I’m concerned.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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!
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
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
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