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
Rough House #2
It feels like it’s been months since I’ve reviewed an anthology, but I think we all know the basic rules by now. Somewhere between 25% and 90% (very rarely 100%) of the book is going to be somewhere between entertaining and incredible, while a few bits aren’t going to do much for me. The great thing about anthologies is that the percentage that moves you is going to vary from person to person, and on that account this is an incredibly balanced book. Portions of this book are also in color, so if you’ve ever wondered what it would look like if the Pink Panther puked all over a bus stop, wonder no more! Granted, you probably never thought of that before I mentioned it, but you’re definitely thinking about it now. 17 artists contributed stories (or the cover) here, and as usual I’ll mention a few of them that I really enjoyed while leaving the rest of them as surprises for when you eventually read them. This doesn’t mean that I hate or love the stories that I omitted. My thoughts are usually somewhere between those two extremes, which is why I’m not talking about those stories, but it’s also possible that I’m just not thinking about them while writing this review and will comically slap myself on the forehead for forgetting a story after posting this review. Just another unsolicited peek into my reviewing “process”! Stories in here include a swamp thing going into a night club by Nicolas Mahler, Kayle E’s take on whether or not to leave the house, James the Stanton with the aforementioned Puke Banter episode, Melinda Trace Boyce and some memorable nights from her time on the late shift at a diner, Mack White’s story of a fraudulent prophet from Roman times (and this story is from 1997, so you may have seen it before), Doug Pollard’s horrific tale of a monkey who eats too much and his unfortunate cellmate, Connor Shea on the literal war between two big pizza chains, Gillian Rhodes piece on a frog who just wants a job (or a cheeseburger), and Colin Zelinski’s take on the myth involving Leda and Zeus (complete with an overly graphic ending). That’s over half of the artists in here and I thoroughly enjoyed those stories, so that’s already a pretty decent ratio. My wish for all anthologies to have the names of the artists (and the page numbers) on the top or bottom of every page has still not come true everywhere, but the table of contents and the layout at least make it easy enough to figure out who did what. This is well worth a look, and pretty hefty (and colorful) for that $15 price tag.
Baltic Comics Magazine #11
Huzzah for international anthologies! Getting a comic from Latvia is a sure way to keep me fired up to write more reviews for another six months or so (international artists take note). One note right off the bat: it would probably be a good idea for them to put the title of their book on the cover. In this case “Artventurous” refers to art both being made and not made and the various adventures surrounding different types of art. Don’t get me wrong, that cover is going to grab your attention sitting on a shelf anyway, but that one descriptive word might have helped them pick up another reader or two who was too lazy to open the cover. Anyway, for me a 2/3 success rate is more than enough to recommend an anthology, and this one is closer to 4/5 fantastic/provocative/fascinating, which covers that spread quite nicely. Please note that I’m not going to talk about every single story in here (because then what would be left for you to discover?), but a full list of artists is down there in the tags below the review. My favorites from this boo include the closed loop story by Martins Zutis dealing with The Odyssey, the silent piece by KJ Martinet called “Ideal Form” (I don’t want to give away a bit more than that), the fantastically creepy “Leda” by Betty Liang, the mind-boggling amount of detail in “Necropolis” by Jean de Wet, Jen Rickert’s “The Loon” and its shifts between what is happening in the moment and the flashbacks from its murderous protagonist, Konig Lu Q’s simple (but not simplistic) extra commandments, Roman Muradov’s story that disintegrates into little pieces in the middle, the sheer adventurousness (and never discount the value of a giant robot yeti) of the Mikus Duncis story, the social horror of Olive Booger’s piece, the gleeful mayhem of Elina Braslina’s story, and the plausible paranoia of Dilraj Mann’s story. And this is all without me even mentioning Simon Moreton’s story (who, if you read this website at all, you know is a favorite of mine), which should tell you something about the overall quality of this anthology. Honestly, I should maybe even bump up that 4/5 quality estimate, as even the (many) stories I didn’t mention here usually had something going from them, between the vibrant splashes of color and the various social anxieties based on growing up around art or just trying to produce something of value when so much incredible stuff has already been produced. Pick it up if you get the chance, that’s what I’m saying, as it’s impressive that they’ve made it to #11 and they should shoot for many more. $13
What’s so great about redemption anyway? That’s the uplifting moral I took from Lone Racer, and three cheers to Nicolas for pointing that out. This is the story of Lone Racer (at least I think that’s his given
name), a racer who’s past his prime and dealing with a wife stuck in the hospital, a constantly drunk best friend and a cop friend who’s on the verge of becoming a criminal. So what’s left to do when you were once
the best at your profession and are now unable even to qualify for races? Well, there’s always the option of having an affair on the invalid wife, if conscience will allow it. Or there’s a life of crime. Or, of course, he could always try to make a comeback. The art here could only be called unique; it’s up to you from looking at that sample if you think it’s amateurish and ugly or transcendentally beautiful. I never thought characters essentially without faces could be so expressive. The final race scene here, from qualifying all the way to
the reactions after it’s over, is a thing of beauty. It’s sad that price has to come into the equation here (if you’re independently wealthy I recommend this unreservedly), but the sad fact is that this is $12.95 for a pretty short read. Maybe you can get it cheaper through Amazon or the next time Top Shelf does a big sale, who knows? It’s a wonderful story in every aspect. Bits of it have been swirling around in my head since I read it a couple of days ago, which is always a good sign. Or merit alone, this is a great book for optimists and pessimists alike.