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.
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.