Memory is a tricky thing. Bear with me; I’m reading a book now dealing with how you can convince yourself of fake memories because of repetition and doing whatever is necessary to put you in a better light, so I’ll just say that I thought that I’d been reviewing Jam in the Band issue by issue, piece by piece for a solid chunk of the last decade (which is how long Robin has been working on it). Turns out that I reviewed the preview comic (which I wasn’t thrilled with) and the first book (which I loved, but had a few complaints that were addressed with this completed volume). So yeah, bottom line: always get corroboration when your only source for something is your own memory. But hey, Jam in the Band! This is the complete story, and any doubts I had in the previous two reviews are wiped away with this completed epic. I was worried about Bianca (the lead singer) getting all the attention in the first book, but from then on the two other band members (Tiara and Corbin) take over, along with other characters, and Bianca fades into the background. Not completely though, as she has maybe the best story arc of the bunch. This one starts off with three young women in a band deciding to get out of their small town, with Bianca very much the ringleader of this plan. They get into a van and go on tour, things go reasonably well but two of them are still getting sick of the arrangement, when they get a lucky break and things start going their way. From there we see the three of them navigating this newfound fame, each in their own way before things take a turn for the worse. I’m not going to get too much more into the overall plot because it could be summed up pretty simply and spoiler-y, and because the real joy of this book is in the details. The various gigs they play, the people they meet along the way, the connections to their lives that they pick up and drop off, and how they each change and grow is a wonder to behold. I’m guessing that Robin probably wishes that he spent less than a decade on this book, but I don’t see how it could work any other way. Robin in his intro mentions that he changed plenty during that decade as well, and that experience carried over to this characters. If you’ve liked his past work you probably already have this (it came out in 2017 but I somehow lost track of my review copy until now), but if you missed this when it came out or have heard of Robin but never tried his stuff… you’re not going to regret giving this book a shot. $19.99
Life of Vice #1
Robin is taking a break from the Jam in the Band series to flesh out one of the characters from that series (and change up the style a bit, as he was getting sick of the documentary style of making comics): Becky Vice.Â I’ve only the first of the two books out (so far) from that series, but she didn’t ring any bells for me.Â Of course, I also read it a couple of years ago, and the chances of me remembering a side character from that among all the comics I read is slim indeed.Â Anyway, the first book of this series is all told as flashbacks, as Becky Vice is being interviewed by a college reporter on their way to her hosting the American Pornography Awards (quite possibly not a real thing).Â It’s clear from the opening panel that Robin is going in a bit of a different direction, as it’s a clear homage to the opening scene in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (by Hunter… aw, screw you if you don’t know about that book).Â Robin has also decided to take away the panels, which really opens up the feeling of the book.Â The interviewer quickly learns that the best way to get Becky to open up about herself is for her to open up about HER life, and this issue details the childhood of Becky, how she got out of a repressive (but loving) childhood, her early days drinking in trailer parks, and how she eventually got her band started.Â There’s music playing constantly during these stories (as the whole thing takes place in the car as they’re going to the awards show), so feel free to award yourself some bonus cool points if you can guess the songs.Â I thoroughly enjoyed this book.Â Robin took the Gonzo style of reporting and made it his own, which is something many people have tried over the years and so very few of them have succeeded.Â He explains this at the end so it feels like cheating, but this isÂ not thinly veiled autobio, and that was very clear even before his afterward.Â And I thought that picture of Becky detailing all her injuries looked an awful lot like the back cover for Have A Nice Day by Mick Foley!Â He took interviews (known to him as “drunken conversations”) and built them up into a believable and realistic life story for two young women.Â There’s another issue that he sent along with this, so I’ll get an even clearer picture of this series, but there is certainly not a thing wrong with this first issue.Â $3
What is it with college kids putting out good comics anthologies? Shouldn’t they be too busy drinking to do anything constructive? Damned useful members of society! Anyway, where #1 of this series was pretty good, this one was fantastic. I don’t think there was a bad story in the bunch. You have the story of Alexander (a parasite who lived inside of a human body for thirty years before finally coming out), an evil salt monster, a long finger, one giant snaky monster (and one multi-headed bird monster), the son of Don Juan, nostalgia… in space!, the happiest afterlife I’ve seen, trying to get the high score on Pac Man, and The Night Amigo. I know I often say that I don’t want to give anything else away because you need to discover it for yourself, but I mean it this time. The Night Amigo should probably be in prison, Don Juan is drawn to perfection… everything in here is good. There are a couple of stories that are only a page, but the rest of them get plenty of room to develop, as there are only 10 stories in a 64 page comic. Who’s in here? Well, MK Reed and Robin Enrico are people I’ve heard of, but I hope all of these people are still doing comics. Contact info is up there, seriously, if they still have copies, you should check this out!
Stupid and Unkind #2
Robin re-released the first issue of this too, with the same type of cover as this one. I’m leaving the old one up because I’m a big fan of his “busy” covers, even though the new one looks better and they make a much better set together. So how does his first fictional story hold up? Pretty well, I thought. This issue deals with Ronan predictably losing interest in his new “girlfriend” and conversations through his friends and his ex that end up painting a pretty clear picture of the guy. I did think that things wrapped up a bit too neatly, although part of the beauty of the ending is that you’re not at all sure how neatly things really were wrapped up. And no, I can’t really go into why that is, or it would ruin the ending. Duh. So good stuff from him again, and I look forward to reading his stuff evolve over the years.
Stupid and Unkind #1
First off, before anybody thinks that this is a regular series or anything, Robin just had a lot of the story done and wanted to have something available for MOCCA, so he decided to do the story in two parts. And he says that the second part will be available at SPX this year (which I’m going too barring death or dismemberment), which isn’t long at all to wait for a resolution, especially not in the small press comics world. This is about a guy named Ronan who’s trying to get over an ex. He wants to rejoin the dating scene but can’t find anyone as perfect as his ex, which is, of course, what happens to everybody, even if their ex was never all that great to begin with. It’s fascinating to watch this new “relationship” happen, as Robin has an unmatched ear for dialogue that people would actually say in these situations. Great stuff again, and if anybody out there has a tough time meeting the ladies, might I recommend the tactic used to Roman in the sample below…
Here’s another good comic from Robin, this time about 9/11 and his immediate reactions to it. He joins a protest with some friends from school, protesting a possible war with Afghanistan. Granted, the aftermath didn’t go well at all, but here’s a question, and I mean this sincerely: what did protesters want to do after 9/11? Anybody who could answer that question for me would be a wonderful human being. I’m against war in most instances, but how could you argue against removing the Taliban from power and hitting back against the people who were responsible for 9/11? The aftermath hasn’t gone well at all, and don’t even get me started on Iraq, but I’m curious as to what any protester, or person against the war in Afghanistan, would have done differently, given the opportunity. OK, rant over. This is shorter than his other books, and it focuses on his girlfriend at the time and his problematic relationship of the organizer of the protest.He says that his next comic is going to feature someone other than him. Hooray for range! Contact info is up there, let’s say it’s $1.
You Can’t Help But Feel Estranged
Have I made it clear yet that I really like this guy? If I had any doubts after the first issue, they’re gone after this one. Yeah, the heads could be a little more consistent at times, and yeah, it can be a bit difficult to tell who is who. Both minor things, and the second thing wasn’t an issue at all in this issue. There are three stories in here, but one thing holds them all together: loneliness and uncertainty. OK, that’s two things, but you get my point. The first is about going home to visit the family and not having a place to stay. Then there’s a sudden e-mail breakup and a friend who doesn’t want him to hang around that long and you have a genuine feeling of being lost in the world. The second story is about a chaotic drunken night at a Troma party and how it’s possible to be completely alone in a crowd of people. The last story, part 2 of “You’re the one for me fatty”, details a crappy relationship and why it’s so difficult to keep going back for more, even when there are other people on the horizon who obviously care about you and would like to be with you. Fantastic book all around, I really can’t recommend this enough. Any of you publishers out there want to make this guy “famous”? I’d guess this is a dollar or two, but whatever it is, it’s worth it. Here’s a website, go and convince yourself…
No One Wants to Pay Me for my Broken Heart #1
What a great title! Sure, it’s a pain to type, but it really sums everything up after you’ve read the book. My computer decided that it didn’t like my last review so it’s gone, but I’ll try it again. It’s tricky to pull off a book like this. Relationship books have to make you care about the people involved and they have to make you believe that said relationship could happen, and this book pulls off both of those pretty well. The art’s adorable, the characters look a lot like those Fischer Price figures. The writing seems real and believable, which is essential. The story here is basically about a young man and his new girlfriend. The girlfriend has a comic strip in a school paper and the young man has just made a video about his feelings of his breakup with his last girlfriend. The video gets him his first real responses for his work, but it’s strained his current relationship a bit. This isn’t a perfect book, as there are times when the panel layout is confusing, and the art is so simple that at times it’s hard to tell some characters apart. Still, it’s a great first effort, or if it’s not a first effort then it’s still a really solid book. Send the man an e-mail or check out his site, I think it’s a buck of two…
Jam in the Band Preview
OK fine it doesn’t say “preview” anywhere on the cover, but Robin makes it clear in the afterward that this is a sampling of projected 300 page or so graphic novel dealing with the rise of Pitch Girl, how a romance causes issues with the band and their “rise to small time fame”. This preview briefly introduces the members of the band, a love interest of one of the members (or more possibly, maybe that’s part of the conflict, pure speculation on my part), and a music reviewer. This issue on its own feels unfinished and a bit light, but yeah, that’s what a preview is alright. Without that afterward I wouldn’t have had a lot of good things to say about this, but as the start of a long project it’s damned intriguing. Robin’s work has been consistently engaging and fascinating for years, and I have no reason to doubt that this’ll end up any different. This is $1, and Robin mentions that he hopes to have the first book of this mammoth story done by SPX of 2008…
Just so every non-dork out there gets it, that slip cover is a damned near perfect replica of the slip cover that old, original Nintendo games used to come in. When you slip it off even the back looks like the old video games, complete with (what I believe are) the warnings about extreme temperatures and how you shouldn’t clean the games with alcohol. This is a long-winded way for me to say that you didn’t have to be a video game geek in your past or present to enjoy this comic… but it would help immensely. This is, as Robin puts it, “loosely autobiographical”, and involves a long conversation with the Robin character and his friend Katherine. She wants to know where his obsession with video games came from and the bulk of the comic is dedicated to his detailing that obsession, from being one of his first memories through the really obsessive years all the way to finally realizing that there are other things in life besides video games. I can relate to this to some extent, as can practically every male I know of a certain age group, but this is also a great comic for anybody who’s ever known somebody who’s been obsessed with video games. He lays it all out clearly here (or clearly enough for these biased eyes) and is self-deprecating enough to make this funny for just about anybody. This is probably $2, well worth a look to dorks and lovers of dorks all over the world…
Party @ Horror Beach
Yes, as a matter of fact, I did have to use the ampersand in the title. As for this book, it’s always a treat to get something from somebody I like quite a bit after a few years, and Robin was nice enough to send a few books along, so he should be updated again over the next month or so. This is a collection of stories loosely related to horror and/or Halloween. First up is the tale of Crinkleman who is, clearly, a killer that comes out of the mirror and smothers you in your sleep. Next is the story that takes up the bulk of the book, Trapped In The Closet, which deals with Robin making out with a girl who is engaged while her fiancee is at the party in another room. He’s not depicted as a total asshole, as he does have some moral issues with it… until he’s good and drunk. Then there’s the story of a girl who waited far too long to go to the dentist, although she did at least get a gold tooth out of the whole thing (spoiler alert!). Finally Robin tells us all about a recurring dream he had as a kid about fictional Nintendo games and how that dream has changed as he’s gotten older. A pretty solid bunch of stories, as per usual from Robin, but nothing that really blew me away. Could it be that I like his longer stories better? It could be, and it could be that the other comics he sent may give me a chance to test that theory…
Jam in the Band Book One
Looking back on my review for the preview of this book, it’s clear that I was taking a lot on faith, mostly based on the fact that Robin hasn’t really done anything that I’ve hated yet.Â I didn’t like the preview, but what the heck, it was just a tiny thing and could be changed all kinds of ways by the time the first book was finished.Â Well, let’s hear it for faith, as this book is fantastic.Â This tells the story of three young women who choose to leave a small town and head out on tour.Â They’re essentially leaping blindly, as they have one gig lined up but are going to make everything else up as they go along, and plan to spend months trapped in a tiny van together.Â Things start off with Nathan, a male friend of the band, finding out by accident that the girls are playing a gig near where he lives, and that nobody has bothered to tell him about the show.Â Of course, at this point he hasn’t seen anybody in the band in three years… which naturally leads to an explanation of how everybody got where they are now.Â Great setup to get everybody hooked in right away.Â Robin also makes excellent use of fliers and small bit characters, documentary style, to flesh everybody else out.Â I particularly liked the people from high school who stayed trapped in their small town and their various reasons for never leaving, but then, I grew up in a small town like that too, so empathy always scores big points around here.Â We only get to see the barest glimpse of what’s happening now, as the band plays their show and a romance starts off, destined to be long distance if it’s going anywhere.Â The only tiny complaint I have is that the other members of the band could stand to be fleshed out a bit more: we see plenty of Bianca (lead singer), but only relative flashes of Corbin and Tiara.Â Still, with this only being the first book of the series and with my previous faith in this so thoroughly rewarded, I see no reason to doubt Robin now.Â Check it out, on a page full of good comics this is one of the better ones you’ll find.Â $10