Update for 7/10/24

Hey, those Santos Sisters are back! New review for Santos Sisters #6 by Greg and Fake Petre.

Petre, Greg and Fake – Santos Sisters #6

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Santos Sisters #6

You know, I don’t think Greg or Fake put their names anywhere in this sucker. Every comic is somebody’s first issue of your series, always put your name in their somewhere. Don’t make me turn this website around! OK, scolding over. This is another really solid issue of the series, and one thing that stands out immediately is their wild success in finding all kinds of comics people willing to put little ads in their book. Good lord, I really could make it a full time job just following/reading/reviewing all of those people. If, you know, it paid anything at all. Stupid rent and food requirements. Anyway, there are several stories again this time around. First up is a dastardly plot to shut the power down for the entire town, but unfortunately for Captain Drake and Dr. Steel, they try this plan out on a Friday night when the Santos Sisters are just trying to settle in and watch a movie at home. This also leads directly into an ad about a retro website dedicated to keeping old characters like those two alive, which I assumed was part of the joke, but I just looked it up and it’s a legit website so??? Now I wonder where those two villains originally came from. Next up is a story with a title that’s so descriptive that I can’t even include it here, but let’s just say that a cleaning lady for a couple (who’s appreciated but more than a little taken for granted) gets bitten by a scorpion. Their actions next are the perfect villain origin story, although it turns out to be a bit more civil than that. Well, outside of what happens to our poor heroines, that is. Next we see whether or not it’s a good idea to chase after somebody who’s stealing copper from your construction site, followed by gaggles of those ads I was talking about. I recognized maybe a third of them, and there’s some solid stuff in there, so you could do a whole lot worse than actually checking up on some of those ads. Finally there’s the start to a longer story, in which we get a long and convoluted explanation of the wisdom of keeping secrets from a man with a metal jar and copious face tattoos. Where’s it going? Who knows! That’s what future issues are for. So yeah, you should keep reading this, and if you haven’t tried it yet, this seems like a solid place to start, what with the beginning of a new story and nothing connecting directly to past issues. And $5 is pretty damned cheap for comics these days.

Update for 7/8/24

New review today for Cosmic Static by Bart Wolf, as I’m starting the week off on a cheery note. Sarcasm!

Wolf, Bart – Cosmic Static

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Cosmic Static

What do you think about if your consciousness never leaves your dead body? Terrifying to even think about, isn’t it? The concept of this one is fairly simple: an astronaut has been sent out to try to find another habitable planet in the universe. It didn’t work out, and he ended up dying and then drifting through space for who knows how long. But the company he worked for didn’t want those valuable memories to disappear if the astronaut died, so they implanted a chip to keep his memories intact. This chip also kept his consciousness intact, which, you know, yikes. The human brain can go to all kinds of dark places in this sort of helpless constant awareness, and it’s grimly fascinating to see and read through it. Let’s just say that you’re unlikely to end up with a good opinion of a species that would leave you in this state, especially since the whole point behind it was because they had already ruined their original planet. Still, there’s not much of a story here without some forward momentum, so we get to witness the orbit decay for this poor sucker and we get to see what happens next. And hey, if you’re curious about that, this is the part of the review where I tell you to read it for yourself. As a concept, it’s entirely too plausible that a future corporation would force their workers into this situation, and it’s more than a little plausible that several corporations are already working on it. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say, so give this one a shot why don’t you. $8 (and it comes with a sticker, in case you want an image of a corpse drifting through space on your backpack/book/whatever)

Update for 7/3/24

Hey look everybody, it’s a new issue of Meeting Comics! New review for The Divorce Party by Andrew Neal.

Neal, Andrew – The Divorce Party

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The Divorce Party

Boy howdy, Andrew has been building up to this one for awhile now, and it looks like he nailed it. Backstory for anybody who is just hearing about Andrew and his comics now… yeah, not possible, sorry. The very short version is that he started off with a series called Meeting Comics, which was basically him drawing funny strips during his boring work meetings and generally mocking office culture, and although this one is technically “Meeting Comics #29,” there are no meetings and no offices. If there’s a series that has evolved this much over a couple of dozen issues (and spinoffs), I can’t think of it offhand. He also put together a zine that’s literally called “Previously in Meeting Comics” and I hope he has lots of copies of those for conventions. But hey, it does mean that you could buy that along with this (he’s even doing a bundle sale of the two) and be basically caught up. Hey, what about this specific comic? It helpfully starts off with a very brief synopsis of how all of the characters got to this point, along with little faces to help you keep track of them, and follows THAT with another page of various ancillary characters. Did I find myself flipping back to these pages a few times, even though I’ve read every issue? Reader, you’d better believe it. The concept of this one is simple, despite how complicated the sequence of events was to get them here: Kevin and Ellie are divorcing, as are Thomas and Tina. The complications are mostly due to the fact that they’re divorcing because Ellie and Tina are now seeing each other. Kevin and Thomas have both moved on, with some lingering bad feelings, but everybody wanted to put a final stamp on the whole thing in a fun, festive way. So we see everybody (and I do mean everybody) get together, have all kinds of people interacting who rarely if ever have before, and unexpectedly have another long term relationship take a big step forward. It’s a joyous book, with just straight up dancing going on at times, and if I ever get divorced (after the first step of getting married, I suppose) I hope it’s as wonderful as this seems. This also seems a bit like clearing the decks for future stories, and as always I’m fascinated to see what he comes up with next. So yeah, long time readers, check it out! New folks, take advantage of that synopsis zine too, you’ll need it! $8 (or $10 for the combo)

Update for 7/1/24

New review today for Odd Clods #7 by Steve Steiner, as the SPACE pile keeps shrinking but never seems to completely disappear.

Steiner, Steve – Odd Clods #7

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Odd Clods #7

Note: the images were, um, “borrowed” from Steve’s online store. I think these books are getting bigger, as they don’t even kind of fit in my scanner anymore. Well, somehow Steve has managed to put out 4 issues of this series in the last year, which is ridiculous, and since I’m a dummy I only grabbed the most recent one at SPACE this year. I remember the earlier issues being mostly single page gag strips with a few longer pieces, but he seems to have evolved into mostly longer pieces with a few shorties. And it works! Mostly because he’s fully leaning into some genuinely bizarre stories, which is my happy place. There are seven stories in this one, and I feel kind of guilty giving you one of them as the sample image, but I figured it was a solid example of his humor. Don’t get it or don’t think it’s funny? Chances are that you won’t like the rest of it. Also chances are good that we wouldn’t have much in common if we ever met, but you’ll just have to live with that. For the rest of us, other stories deal with a rogue hamburger decontamination squad, a leech art show that gets completely out of hand, a cool new toy that let you skate around on a trail of snail mucus, and the terrifying brutality of tree jail. Still, the heart of this sucker is Tourists in the Nightmare Realm, which is almost a parody of a family vacation where the parents (the Dad specifically) are determined to show the kids something new and to insist that everything is going great no matter what’s actually happening. As you might have guessed by the title, a family goes to a nightmare realm (Steve does some excellent work with the monsters; they were mostly hybrids of existing creatures, but they were creepily unsettling). They can barely find a boat to get them to the island, it’s unknown if the captain is even willing to come back and get them, and there’s no internet reception (much to the chagrin of the “influencer” daughter). Oh hey, thanks WordPress for telling me that “influencer” isn’t a word! I agree, but sadly the culture has outvoted us. Anyway, without giving anything away, most of the story is the part of the horror movie where you’re constantly yelling at the hero not to go in there or not to do that, but genuinely funny and somehow almost lighthearted at times. It’s an odd mix, but Steve nails it. So basically this book is gorgeous and it got several actual laughs out of me. If those sound like a good combination to you, give this a shot. $15

Update for 6/27/24

New review today for Cartoon Flophouse by Michael Aushenker, as the reorganization of my comic review piles of really paying off!

Aushenker, Michael – Cartoon Flophouse

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Cartoon Flophouse

I’m a little worried about whether or not Michael is still active, as the last update on his website is a link to my review of his work for War on Dental almost three years ago, but hey, maybe he just doesn’t update it all that often! Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen that. There’s also the question of the title of this comic, as the website is Cartoon Flophouse too, but boy can I ever go on so I’ll shut up about stuff other than the comic now. This is a collection of strips, varying from one page to several, starring a chicken (Clucky) and a turtle (Brett) having adventures of some sort. The sampled image is the first strip, to give you some idea of the mayhem involved. Other strips deal with showing up at the very wrong party, taking a turn on the idea of buying wedding gifts, going through an informative and hilarious set of definitions for a “Saturday Night Special,” borrowing a dollar from the U.S. Mint, doing everything it takes to maintain access to the free food at a wedding, and dealing with Clucky getting a bonk on the head and thinking he’s Shakespeare. The rest of the stories are longer, dealing with a search party out looking for a house party that gets out of hand (with a really solid gag at the end of the strip), the boys getting access to the model party of their dreams and how they manage to screw it up, and the disastrous results of their impromptu competition to see who can do better on an online dating app using only their charms with no photos. There are also several pages with various images and outtakes, as the man knows how to get the most out of his pages. Pretty funny collection overall, which is all you’re really looking for out of a comic like this. The man takes orders through email or snail mail, so if you’re interested in giving this one a look, try chipmunksandsquirrels@yahoo.com. Here’s hoping the guy is still around! $4

Update for 6/25/24

New review today for Applewood Canyon #9-11 by Brian Canini, as yes, I’m still doing bulk reviews for his shorter comics. It’s my only chance to get through his pile! Speaking of piles (and stop reading here if you don’t care at all about behind the scenes stuff here), I finally got the time/motivation to put all the various piles of comics that I still need to review into one place. Now it’s four piles! Yes, that actually is an improvement. So if you sent me a review comic years ago and wonder why I never got around to it, well, your odds just vastly improved!

Canini, Brian – Applewood Canyon #9-11

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Applewood Canyon #9-11

Good lord, am I actually caught up on one of his series? The last issue in his online store is #11, so unless he’s running behind on updating his store, I just might be current with this one. …I feel like I just wished a new issue into existence. Anyway! I’m still doing the clump reviews for his shorter books (he also sent along some graphic novels, and those will obviously be done one by one, probably before the heat death of the universe), at this point mostly in the hopes that I can also get caught up with Plastic People one of these days. So what’s happening this time around? #9 starts with our heroes (???) getting back into Applewood Canyon the hard way. They’re starting to wonder if the place is really so bad (after they commit just a few murders to get in), but the last page gives them something to work with in that department. #10 has the crew eventually working up the nerve to try to get out of town, but them meeting one of the, uh, “colorful” locals gives them second thoughts about the plan. #11 is a break in the action, as we get some details about the neighboring town (Coconut Valley), using the same method that Brian used way back in the first issue of a narrative voiceover. The cracks in the happy facade are a little clearer here than they were in that issue, but we also know a whole lot more about what’s going on, so that’s as it should be. The man always keeps me guessing, and this series is no exception. 11 issues is plenty to dig into, so give it a shot why don’t you? $1.99 (per issue)

Update for 6/21/24

New review today for Dog Restaurant by Brandon Lehmann, in one of those rare reviews where I’m actually talking about the book in the month that it was released. I’m on the cutting edge!

Lehmann, Brandon – Dog Restaurant

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Dog Restaurant

Quick, before you read any further: what do you think that title means? I came up with three possibilities pretty much right after seeing that cover, and I’m happy to report that Brandon has them all covered. This one starts off with a married couple trying to figure out where they should go for dinner, which leads to the husband recommending a new place he’s “heard about” called Dog Restaurant. He’s also inexplicably pretending that he’s never been there, but that’s an adventure for the reader. It’s a formal restaurant, so they both get dressed up and head out, speculating all the way about what exactly they’ll be in for. They arrive, settle in… and start to get the sense that something is off. Where are the dogs? Their wondering is interrupted by the server bringing them their dinner, under the fancypants tradition of a covered silver platter, of two servings of “the usual.” It’s at this point (the halfway point of the comic) that Brandon stops the action for a brief warning to the reader. You’re given two options as to how you can continue at this point. You can either read on for the inevitable conclusion to where this has all been leading, or you can skip ahead to the blue colored page for the happy ending. Am I going to talk about either ending? Unless you’re new around here, you know the answer is always absolutely not. I will say that both have bits that got those rare out loud laughs from me (which Brandon seems to be very good at eliciting). I have no clue how the husband thought this was going to go well for him in the “dark” ending, and the questions raised by shoehorning in a “good” ending did an excellent job of showing the dangers of giving the reader what they thought they wanted. Oh, and a quick glance at the publisher’s website shows a small but choice selection, as I’d recommend everything on there that I’ve read (it’s mostly Nick Mandaag and Brandon’s stuff), and it’s yet another reminder that I really need to stop talking about it and just buy a pile of Brandon’s older comics. The fact that I’ve never read his “The Werewolf Expert” feels like a hole in my general reading experience. $10

Update for 6/19/24

New review today for The Fifty Flip Experiment #32 by Dan Hill, and no, I still don’t know if it’s “Fifty” or “50.” Maybe we weren’t meant to know.

Hill, Dan – The Fifty Flip Experiment #32

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The Fifty Flip Experiment #32

In this issue, a young woman desperately tries to save her friend from falling into a volcano. Welp, that’s it for this review, what’s going on with y’all? Oh, I kid. Ha! Ha. If you’ve been reading Dan’s comics, either for a long time or a short time, you know what a ridiculously incomplete synopsis that is for one of his pages, let alone an entire comic. If you are new and can’t make up your mind about trying out an issue, consider this: are you frustrated with the limitations of language, or even the combination of visual and written language, to convey the ideas that you’d like to express? Well, read a few of his comics, and you’ll quickly see that anything can be expressed through comics, and comics are even better if they have to percolate in your brain a bit before they settle. Got it? OK, for everybody else who already knows his stuff, I wasn’t lying in my earlier synopsis, that is indeed how things start off. See? I even used the first page as a sample to prove it. And so I wouldn’t have to type out that splendiferous title. Jennifer is trying to save her friend, but both of their arms are slippery after their successful battle against the eye monster (battle, sadly, not shown). Naturally, endurance and muscles play a big part of a thing like this, but that can’t do everything. So she reflects on her cult training (I’ll let you discover that part for yourselves), and manages to send out a distress signal. Naturally, this call goes to a larval child, who passes the signal along to bears. But these bears have to pass the message along to the cult, who are very busy with a series of interpretive dances. Sure, but do we meet each of these dancers? You bet! And we also get the names of several dances. But wait, what about the lava? Yeah, I’ll leave that for you to discover too. Also, once again, his intros and outros (although it’s kind of the same thing this time around) are worth the price of admission alone, and will give you a lot of insight into Dan in case you ever find yourself asking “who would make a comic like this?”, whether in a reverent or negative tone. These are always a treat to me, so you can guess where I’m heading: give it a shot. Get a few of them, is my advice, so you can get a real sense of what’s happening here. $5 ($7 with shipping)

Update for 6/14/24

New review today for Teen Girl Killed by Lauren McCallister, happy weekend y’all!

McCallister, Lauren – Teen Girl Killed #1

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Teen Girl Killed #1

I’ve been wondering what Lauren had been working on since I read her Bad Sex comic several years back, but as is often the case with this brain full o’ artists, I often leave it at wondering and not googling. Well, it turns out that she’s five issues into this series that she started way back in 2016, so it is once again confirmed that I’m a big dummy. I’d swear that she hasn’t had a table at CXC for the last few years. Anyway, who cares about that? This one tells the story of Lauren’s past (unless it’s one of those Seth-esque “kind of true but not literally” type of autobio stories), starting with her in an obvious rut and bored silly at school. Another girl asks her if she wants to hang out sometime (at that age when it was just that easy), and Lauren’s life changed considerably. She was introduced to a game called “dare or dare” pretty much right away, which is just what it sounds like: truth or dare without the truth. It immediately got sexual, which sounds about right for high school kids, and which leads later to a belated changing of the rules to ban that kind of thing, as it also had the potential to get rapey in a hurry. The rest of the comic is mostly teenage meandering, with subtle but huge milestones piling up all around her. First time drunk, first time (?) being yelled at by the parents for staying out late, getting the boy she liked stolen out from under her by her own friend, those sorts of things. It feels to me like there’s an undercurrent of distance here, which makes sense considering the fact that Lauren is probably a decade out of high school (I’m guessing based on information in her last book), and it also helps this book from devolving into a coming of age cliche. It’s also the first of five issues (so far), so who knows where things go from here. It’s a hell of a promising start though, and yes, I clearly should have bought more than one issue when I was at Laughing Ogre today. Oh well, now I have an excuse to go back. Oh, and that title? No idea. Maybe it comes into play in a literal fashion later, maybe not. Read more to find out! $6

Update for 6/13/24

This week just about got away from me, but here’s a new review for Eyeland #13 by Nick Forker.

Forker, Nick – Eyeland #13

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Eyeland #13

It looks like that tricksy Nick Forker has been working on a longer story, so my usual plan to randomly review his issues is not going to work anymore. But hey, this one is comprised of a few short pieces, so I’m going to cheat this time around before going back to them sequentially. More information than anybody would ever need or want, that’s the Optical Sloth promise! Like I said, this is a collection of shorter pieces, with one story that’s obviously part of a bigger narrative. There’s some talking cat and dog mayhem to start things off (if you consider a calm conversation to be mayhem), a peek at some actual aliens and their exact level of competence, a badger confronting several animals in what is a clear attempt by Nick to justify drawing a whole bunch of animals (no shame here, the man can draw all sorts of animals damn near photo realistically), the piece that’s part of the bigger story (that’ll make more sense when I go back through the other issues, but it looks like our hero is headed to the real world), and a bit of commentary on the quality of the drinking water in various cities in the U.S. He’s not wrong, and it would be nice if ANY CITY took pride in their water. Finally there’s a personal story about the time he got beat up about 20 years ago, the damage it did to him physically and mentally, and what it feels like to sneeze when your jaw is wired shut. That image of him on one knee, trying to play off the pain as his friends looked on, is rough to look at. He also goes into his reasoning for talking about this now, and how our identities are a construct of the stories we tell ourselves. I’d recommend going and watching the talk Dan Clowes gave at CXC 2023, as he really dug into the unreliability of memory and how tough it is to nail anything down when the other people who were part of those memories have passed away. What does that leave you with? Anyway, yes, this is another really solid issue, and he’s apparently stuck forever (with Brian Canini and a few others) on the list of artists that I just can’t seem to keep up with here on this blog. Still waiting on that eccentric billionaire that decides to keep me as a pet just so I can read comics and write about them forever… $7