Does it really matter if you review anthologies out of order? I’m pretty sure it doesn’t, but if it turns out that there are continuing stories from #4 of this series (which was also sent my way) then I apologize. Anyway, this is a pile of stories and drawings by a little over a dozen artists. As always, some of them were more compelling to me than others and, as always, your opinions on which stories are more compelling probably varies wildly from mine. This does seem to be a regularly published anthology series, and the packaging does look gorgeous, so if you’re looking for that sort of thing, maybe check in with them from time to time? Anyway, highlights include the story of how he used to give story ideas to his father every night before he went to sleep and how he couldn’t sleep without the ensuing story by Andy Warner, a trip into (and discussion of) Mexico by Dave Ortega, Luke Healy’s story of following a woman up onto a mountain to see what happened to her (there’s more to it than that, but I’m certainly not going to give it away here), James the Stanton and the search for a Guru, Pat Barrett’s tale of the last days of a space explorer as she tries to save an alien (or are they really the last days?), Jon Chad and the best way to get intergalactically pwned, and Dakota McFadzean’s memories of being a kid, flying, and creating life (sort of). I should also mention the various single pages by Lindsay Watson, as they appeared between the stories and brought a life to the whole anthology that might not have been there otherwise. My absolute highlight for the stories was the piece by The FDZ (writer) and Fouad Mezher (artist). It starts off as a fairly simple story of a man living his last night in Lebanon and an unfortunate encounter with a guard dog, but things take an absolutely brutal turn from there and, once again, I shouldn’t really be talking about it. All kinds of good stuff in here, and it’s 160 or so pages, so you’ll be getting value for your $15.
Oak & Linden #2
I know, I should probably include multiple contact links for authors more often, it’s just that if I did that for everybody then I wouldn’t know when to stop. Do I list their Facebook pages too? What about Twitter? Google Plus? The next two or three methods we adopt to communicate with each other without ever having to see other humans (I’m for a version of Twitter where you can only communicate using three to five emoticons for each message)? Eh, I’ll probably be forced to change with the times like everybody else sooner or later. Speaking of these times, that Center for Cartoon Studies sure is producing a bumper crop of mini comics these days. Granted, they’re often assignments from these classes, which makes them a little rough in spots, but the same thing is exactly true for the genuine “amateur” mini comics. This time around Pat went with mostly short pieces because (as he mentions in one of the stories) he had to do a lot of short pieces for class around this time. Which means that the next chapter of Petrified Girlfriend isn’t in here, which was a bit of a disappointment. Stories in this one include the downfall of the (large, cloud-ridden) gods, thinking while drawing a mountain, three million for a boat (which sounds steep, but you also have to consider that the man renting the boat was not wearing pants, which can cause prices to go up), an amusing night at the movies, and the pile of food that ensues when the author is back in New York for one day. Don’t fret, as there are also a couple of longer pieces. The first deals with a Captain Kirk-like starship captain who’s marooned on a strange planet with “intriguing, buxom creatures.” They don’t fall for his charms, but they do mention what their planet is made out of, much to their chagrin. Finally there’s a story of a robbery at a hanging and what’s inside of the rich man’s wallet. Overall a couple of the single page pieces didn’t do much for me, but what can you say, the man was making them for a daily diary strip class. That still leaves a pile of stories ranging from just interesting to great, which makes it a comic worth seeking out. $3.50
Oak & Linden #1
I should mention right off the bat that I reviewed the fourth issue of this series a few weeks back and that it’s just about never a good idea to go and review earlier comics from an artist after you’ve already read their later, more polished work. Right away there’s an element of “why weren’t you as good at the beginning as you were after you’d had a few years to polish your skills” about the whole thing that’s just not fair to an artist. That being said, the guy did send me a whole pile of his comics, so what am I going to do, not talk about them? And with that kind of set-up you’d probably think that this comic was horrible, when instead it was just mixed, which is what you can expect with most first issues anyway. There are four stories in this one, and I did like how Pat listed them all on the cover. First up is a piece about a time traveling Abraham Lincoln, taken from when he was a young man in 1832. If you like zipatone then you’ll love this one, but in terms of a story it’s pretty thin. Still, there are a few funny bits if you like over-the-top hyperbole between two brightly colored foes. Next up is a story “from the future” about a hip-hop robot and his rapid rise and fall. Hey, such things would be a bit of novelty act, even in the future. Another OK story, but again nothing to really fully hold your interest, unless you’re extremely interested in a hypothetical hip-hop robot in the future. Next is easily the best story in the comic about a petrified girlfriend. Well, she doesn’t start out that way, but she’s increasingly telling her boyfriend that she’s cold and that he has to warm her up soon, but the boyfriend gets to her too late and she ends up petrified. Hey, anybody who has ever dated somebody who’s extremely susceptible to cold has wondered if that was possible. The boyfriend takes advantage of the situation to finally show her Star Wars, but years pass and things move on for the boyfriend. I’ll say no more to avoid spoilers but I did thoroughly enjoy that story and apparently it was continued in future issues. Finally there’s a silent piece about a man with an old film projector for a head and his dream about playing in a baseball game. I did like the ending for that one, but overall it was another OK story. So if I had read this one first (instead of #4), would I have been so “meh” about it? Probably not; the potential of both the art and the writing is pretty obvious here, and we already know that he put it all together a few issues down the road. If the man becomes a small press comics god then you might want a copy of this one to see where he came from, if not then it looks like there are plenty of better, later comics of his available, so maybe you should stick with those. $6
Oak and Linden #4 – Dental Damned!!
If you’re at all squeamish about dentists, run for your lives! Well, maybe that level of panic is not warranted about a comic that nobody is forcing you to read, but if you get a bit green around the gills at any mention of dental work then this thing will scare the crap out of you/force you into your underground bunker. This is the story of Baby Pat (which is maybe supposed to represent regular Pat the creator) as he goes about his day. He’s missing a tooth, so all sorts of people he meets along the way want to learn what happened to the guy. He tells each of them a different story, each more manly and impressive than the last, until he eventually runs into a guy who cannot be snowed: his dentist. This is not the gentle, careful dentist that you might tell your kids about to get them to go get their teeth cleaned. This guy carries a grudge and does not suffer fools lightly. I’d be a jerk if I described the story any further, but a lesson was definitely taught to that lying young man. This is the first of a whole bundle of comics that Pat sent me (well, the first that I’m reviewing anyway) and I’m excited to see more. The art is a pleasing blend of classic cartoons with a smidge here and there of some of the great underground artists, but all very clearly his own style. Baby Pat’s beatific face as he gets ready to tell his story to the mail carrier, or how his posture changes between approaching the dentist’s office and seeing the dentist, and really the entire encounter with the dentist, were all things of beauty. We’re all going to be seeing a lot more from the students of The Center for Cartoon Studies in the days to come and, based on what I’ve seen so far, we’re all in for a treat. And it’s in full color for a measly $2!