New review today for Kingdom/Order by Neil Psaltis, and what the heck, I’ll just post this message here since email doesn’t seem to work: hey Secret Acres! You’ve been sending review books to my ex for several years now! Luckily we’re still friends, but my address is over there on the right hand side of the website. See? Oh hi, everybody else! You can also use that address to send me review comics, if you’re so inclined…
So there’s one thing I figured out for sure after finishing this book: trying to figure out how much of it is meant to be a dream versus how much of it is meant to represent reality is a waste of time. It’s irrelevant to the point of the story, and you’re bound to get different opinions anyway depending on who you ask. Meanwhile, here’s my subjective opinion! This starts off with us seeing nature, with each of the various creatures making a different type of sound, as represented by the various images in their word bubbles. Well, they’re usually word bubbles; this comic is wordless. Anyway, we establish the various ways these animals communicate, and we soon see a car drive through their environment, represented by a droning noise. One wolf in particular takes an interest in this vehicle, and we’re then taken to a large city, complete with pigeons and their own way of communicating. They try to make themselves known to a nameless man in the street, who gives the impression of being so beaten down by life that he can’t even register it when something amazing is happening around him. Rats in the subway finally get him to take notice, and this is where we could start having a debate about what is real and what’s imaginary, as he pictures himself following them down the tiny hole they used before being snapped out of it by his train arriving on the tracks. Our hero, back to normal in his own mind, takes the train to his car and starts to drive home, as we see small signs of the nature all around him, followed by bigger signs. Finally one of the crows takes matter into his own, um, hands I guess, dropping enough leaves on his windshield that he’s forced to stop out in the wilderness. He has a brief conversation (for lack of a better word) with the crow, tries to go back to his car and finds it completely disabled. All that’s left for him to do is try to make it home through the wilderness, which is where his real trouble begins. If you think that I gave too much away up there, how dare you! I wouldn’t do such a thing, and that only covers maybe the first 20 pages of this book. From there natures takes control, possibly of reality itself… or maybe none of it was real? Again, don’t ask such questions. Give this book a chance, as this might be all the “getting back to nature” that you really need.
New review today for Resident Lover by Roman Muradov, which is the last of the current crop of mini kus books. But don’t despair, these folks are like clockwork. Give them another few months and there will be more tiny, amazing comics for you to enjoy…
Sometimes comics leave me feeling a certain way, and I’m never quite sure if that’s the intent of the artist or if it’s just what the comics brings out of me personally. Maybe somebody else reading this would come away feeling something else entirely, but for me when I set down this book a wave of melancholy hit me. The comic feels a bit like a dream, like the details might change if I were to go back and read it again. Not possible, granted, but we’re talking feelings here, not physical reality. This is the story of a young man who sets out with his lover, his former lover and her current lover. They all get to talking, and another former lover down the line was supposed to be good at bocce, but since the star of the comic had never heard of him, this set off an argument that led to him getting out of the car and leaving them to go on their way. Meanwhile, it left our hero alone in the dark at 3am, in the wilderness and surrounded by things that he was allergic to. He wandered until he made his way to a department store, and the surreal nature of the place led him to go up to the roof. The roof was covered in thousands of tiny candles, which led back to the story of the two women who put the candles up there every night, why they do it and how they came to that place at all. Which I’d rather not get into here, to preserve at least a little bit of mystery, but this really feels like one of those comics where you could know everything about it going in and still get plenty out of it. Check it out, and if you end up feeling anything other than melancholy when you’re done, let me know. Who knows what’s all in my head and what’s left over from a previous lovers’ quarrel? $6
New review today for Master Song by Francisco Sousa Lobo, which leaves only one more comic from this current mini kus pile for me to review. Happy weekend everybody!
Hey, who’s up for a comic that’s done entirely in verse? Wait, come back, it’s actually thoroughly engaging! This is the story of a young lady who’s just trying to live her life. Her life happens to be that of a sub who’s trying to find dominant men but unsure on how to go about it, and her life is also her being antisemitic while caring for Jewish children as a nanny. As far as antisemitics go she’s pretty self-aware about her issues, she even keeps a diary where she spells everything out. She’s also terrified of anybody seeing her diary, which makes sense. The overwhelming sense I got from this story was that M was an incredibly sad person; every aspect of her life seems like at least a little bit of a struggle. Still, it’s hard not to root for the lady, which is a little odd when you consider her (at the very least) mild racism. Maybe it was the rhyming that made her impossible to dislike? Or maybe it’s just the fact that it’s hard not to relate to anybody who’s in such a struggle to get by every day. Check it out, wrestle with your own moral dilemmas, it’s not like I can solve all the moral conundrums of the universe all by myself. $6
Hey look, 2018 is already 1/6 over. Everybody out there is registered to vote and ready to clean up this mess during the elections this year, right? New review today for The Hanukkah Fire, 1992 by Rachel Scheer!
The Hanukkah Fire, 1992
It’s a pretty rare occurrence for a comic to also be shot on film, but that’s what you get with this one. Granted, that wasn’t the plan all along; the original film was from 1992, when the events in the title happened. No spoilers possible in this review! Rachel’s father had a new camera, and when the fire broke up he never bothered to put it down while dealing with the fire. So now, in 2018 (or whenever you’re reading this in the future, or the past I guess if you’re a really boring time traveler), you can check the video on her website after reading this comic. Still, there’s more to the comic than just putting out a fire decades ago. Rachel also talks about growing up Jewish, the early days of camcorders, how her parents ended up meeting each other and then quickly getting married and having kids, the best parts of Passover when she was a kid, the story of how her grandfather survived the concentration camps, learning how to drive, and how the number of Jewish activities she participated in declined as she grew up. So yeah, she’s packing quite a bit into this mini. That’s actually the only complaint I have about the comic, and it’s a minor one: it feels like parts of this might have better served with more room to breath. Still, if the worst thing I can say is “I wish there was more of this comic to read,” I’d call that a solid recommendation, wouldn’t you?
New review today for Collection by Pedro Franz, another one from the mini kus pile.
So I’ve said before that I could just post the synopsis on the back of these mini kus books and have that serve as the review, but this time around it’s actually relevant to the content of the comic. “In 1975, Mexican artist Ulises Carrion founded Other Books and So, a bookshop gallery in Amsterdam that received, distributed, sold and exhibited artists’ publications and ephemera in many different formats. This collection is inspired by the bookshop.” See? Pretty relevant to the comic, wouldn’t you say? I didn’t read this before reading the comic (I never read the synopsis before reading a book/comic, and shame on you if you do), so I wasn’t working with that information when I was first forming an opinion. On the surface this book is a series of stories about scars and accidents of varying severity, but after seeing the blurb on the back the whole thing came together for me. Outside of those tales of injuries were also a few bits about rearranging 50 books on the floor in the hopes of getting an undefinable “something” out of it, a series of conversational statements by unknown speakers, and a damaged photograph that still retained the most important elements of it. It all comes together to form a really compelling comic, and adds another distant location to my list of places I’d like to visit one of these days. For anybody out there who thinks that some of these mini kus books are too short to really dig into, give this one a shot. There’s plenty to ponder here. $6
New mini kus comics have arrived! I’ll only believe the apocalypse has arrived if these fine folks stop putting out comics. New review today for Nausea by Abraham Diaz!
Once again, I’m tempted to just use the synopsis from the back of the comic as a review, but that’s still cheating, so I won’t do it. This comic is the nightmare version of Mexico City (or at least I hope it is), and it’s one the seediest things you ever will see. The story follows three separate things: a man who picks up groceries for dinner with his daughter (and this disgusting walk home), a couple who meet out and steal some booze before going home together, and a couple of robbers who spend the evening getting themselves ready to rob a convenience store where the other two story tracks briefly came together. Abraham does a thorough job of making the city and everything in it seem disgusting; I don’t think there was a single surface clean enough to eat off of in the whole comic. The father ran across horrors on his walk home and things weren’t much better when he actually got home, the couple really took in the sights before going home together, and the two robbers were so physically seedy that they almost made things around them seem slightly cleaner. So yes, in other words, I think this should be distributed far and wide as a tourist guide to anybody thinking of visiting Mexico City. Or if not, it’s also an unflinching look at some of the grosser aspects of society. $6
New review today for Projections on a Monument by Caitlin Cass, one of those rare occasions when I actually review a comic in the same month that it came out.
Projections on a Monument
Hey look, multimedia installation can be comics too! Caitlin originally made this for the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Douglass, and it was displayed in a much larger format for the Rochester Contemporary Art Center. Which must have been something to see, but since this is a website about comics, how does this translate to that format? Pretty well, as Caitlin is basically a master of the form at this point. It’s not much of a narrative story, it’s more of a collections of insights and historical facts from the time around the unveiling. We get to see some contemporary comments on the statue at the unveiling, the reaction of his daughter and a history lesson on what her life was like, the backstory on how the statue came to be (including how it was paid for, picking a location and dealing with problems when it ran behind schedule), a horrific lynching that took place two months before the unveiling and the comments made in real time about the incident, and the reactions of his son from the time (his son Charles was the model for the statue because of his resemblance to his father). So yeah, there’s quite a bit of information in here, including plenty of stuff that I didn’t know. On the off chance that you’re not just buying Caitlin’s books as they come out as this point, you’ll learn a lot if you pick this one up. You really should be getting all of her comics at this point, but if you’re not, then this is as good a place as any to start.
New review today for Spinadoodles #8: Mooz Boosh by Sam Spina. More reviews next week now that I’m over this flu (mostly), but there’s not much waiting if you had a new comic you wanted to send my way…
Spinadoodles #8: Mooz Boosh
On the short list of things in this life that are guaranteed to bring me joy, a new Sam Spina comic is right up there with finding a sack of money in the woods. Um, spoiler alert for how the review is going to go, I guess. Yes, it’s time for a new collection of Sam’s diary strips for the year, with several pages of sketchbook doodles thrown in. Sam has been working at Cartoon Network for a few years now, meaning he has less time for his comics. And sure, he’s financially stable now, which is better for him than the alternative, but I’m right around selfish enough to wish for more comics for me and more misery for him. Not quite selfish enough to say that, mind you, but close. It does look like Sam posted his first new diary comic recently (February 2018), so at least he hasn’t given up entirely, but enjoy this one, as it might be his only comic for a year or so. Luckily, it’s a great comic! Subjects include various conversations with this girlfriend Samantha, getting stung by a bee while riding his bike, trying to keep his cats from killing themselves by walking on high railings, drunken tales from SPX 2016, accidentally putting salt in his coffee, a recap of November, only liking Harry Potter a little bit, going on a hike, and New Year’s 2016. And a whole bunch of other stories, but since half the fun is discovering them yourselves, I’m not going to ruin that for anybody. The comic also covers Sam’s rejection of a cartoon he’d been working on for years, which is a terrible thing, since this world would automatically be a better place with a Sam Spina cartoon in it. Anybody out there reading this run a television network in need of a great new animated show? Just checking. It’s another ridiculously hilarious selection of strips and images from Sam and, like all the rest of them, it’s required reading for anybody who likes anything funny. $10
Sorry about the gap in reviews, I got that death flu that’s been making its way around. Turns out that it’s as awful as people say! New review today for Shortcut by Steve Feldman.
A piece of advice for anybody out there who might still do this: never read the back of a book before you read the book itself. I flipped this comic over when I finished it and it mentioned something that happened on the final couple of pages, something that I hadn’t seen coming. So if you get nothing else from this review: break yourself of that habit! This is the story of a young couple whose car breaks down out in the middle of nowhere, while they’re taking a shortcut. They’re reasonably outdoorsy people, so they set out to find their way back to civilization and come across an old diary. A very old diary (turns out it’s from 1839), and it tells the tale of a group of settlers and the difficulties they encountered along the way. Eventually their troubles start to mirror the troubles of our heroes, and this is about the point where I have to stop talking about the specifics to avoid spoilers. It was a tense story, but I could have used a bit more time with the modern component of the story. One half of the couple really got played up as the one who complained about every little thing, to the point where I couldn’t tell if she had survival skills of her own or if she was just being dragged along for the ride. Maybe it was intentionally left ambiguous because of what came later? Sure, let’s go with that. It’s a solid comic with a creepy ending, what more could you ask for? $7
New review for Detainees by Mike Skrzynski & Colin Ryono, happy weekend everybody!
This is one of those comics where I’m really glad I read what looked like the legalese at the start of the book, because that’s where Mike mentioned that this is all based on a dream. Without that information I would have had a whole lot of questions. This one starts off with three soldiers burying some bodies. We never see the bodies, we don’t know what happened, and we’re not entirely sure what the story is of these soldiers. It sets the mood nicely for the rest of the comic, as there’s a sense of ambiguity and/or danger hanging over everything. We learn a few things about these soldiers, then they notice a child watching them from the bushes. One of them is so tense that he takes a shot at the kid, but from there they’re determined to find him and help him. They trace him back to a bunker where (after determining that it’s not a trap), they talk to him and see another woman who looks like she’s trapped in a cell. They try to get her out but are unsuccessful, which leads to them all spending the night in the bunker. This is the point where things start getting really weird, or possibly just awful, but I’ll leave that to the reader to discover. Mike and Colin have a nice sense of pacing, and the casual way some of the horrors are discussed really sticks with you. That conclusion is brutal, and completely earned by what comes before. Honestly, knowing it comes from a dream makes it a little easier to take, even knowing that horrible things happen in war all the time. It’s a solid story, in other words, and it’s well worth checking out.