Author Archives: Kevin
New review today for Ghost’d #0 by Reggie Weaver, which might be the only spooky comic I’ve reviewed so far for the Halloween season. Maybe there’s something around I could review that could make up for that oversight next week.
Ah, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen a number zero of a series. Brings me back to those awful Image die-cut covers back in the day, and yes, this seems to be the week that I really show off my age. As a #0 issue, this is basically a preview of the series to come, and looking at his website it sure looks like this was hot off the presses. Meaning that I don’t see any other issue available yet. This is the story of Herschel, a little boy who can see ghosts. Unfortunately he’s the only one who can, meaning that his friends (or friend in the singular, judging by this issue) think he’s probably crazy. This one starts off with his trying to retrieve a ball during a game of dodge ball, but once he’s alone he’s sent off on a mission by what appears to be a ghost that’s giving him instructions. I’m assuming that’ll get fleshed out more in the series, but hey, it’s a preview. His friend Doug catches up to him as he’s leaving, some ongoing tension about this ghost nonsense is shown, and Herschel heads out on his quest. This quest ends in a crashed car and a bit of a further mystery, which is exactly what a preview should do: leave you with more questions that answers. The rhyming was clever overall (the narrator spoke in rhymes, a trick that has the potential to get tiresome in a hurry but never did here), and a whole world for this kid was hinted that in very few pages. I don’t see a physical copy of this out there (refer back to my review on Tuesday if you’d like an extended rant on this subject), which isn’t actually all that bad in this case, as his plan is seemingly to release future issues only online, at least judging from the inside back cover. It’s geared more towards kids, so keep that in mind, but this is an intriguing preview issue.
New review today for For the First Time by Sunshine Gao, and yes, I’m still focusing on the CXC comics. My mail review pile is getting a bit hefty too, so I’m going to have to back off next week, but I’ll get through ’em all sooner or later. Before CXC next year, at the very least…
There are many ways that it’s easy to feel out of touch after reviewing small press comics for 22+ years, but maybe the biggest one is the inability to direct people to buy the comics that I’m reviewing. To me it makes sense for that to be the easiest thing to find online, but increasingly it’s just about impossible. Case in point is this frankly fan-fucking-tastic book by Sunshine, which you can read for free at the link in the title, so it’s not like the book is hard to access. It’s just that if you want to hold this in your hands, you’re going to have to contact Sunshine and ask them for options. I think this was $15 at CXC? Maybe? But their website has no store, and Googling the name and title gets me nothing. Eh, maybe everybody else is content reading everything online and I’m the fossil for wanting a physical copy. I’ll get used to it eventually, I suppose. But then the writer/artist really is working for zero dollars, which doesn’t seem sustainable for an extended body of work. Lord, how I do go on, sorry about that. Because this book alone deserves my (and your) full attention. This is the story of a frantic rush in a restaurant, featuring our hero (a part time helper trying to learn the trade) and the couple who runs the place. Our hero is learning, and trying to take the criticism and suggestions in stride, as we see them going through the prep work and chatting with the owners. When the rush hits, it’s relentless, which leads to one of the better uses of the four page spread image (that can’t be appreciated in the online version, says the curmudgeon) that I’ve seen, beautifully depicting the sprawling chaos of that moment, coming across almost like a choreographed dance. Things briefly calm down and our hero gets a strange, garbled phone call from their mother. When they try to call back they quickly discover that the call came from a mental hospital, and Sunshine masterfully makes it clear that there’s a whole backstory here that we’ll soon be let in on, at least partially. The owners, as the restaurant closes, swing into action, realizing that our hero shouldn’t be left alone, and I may just tell you the entire story if I don’t shut up now. If you’re big on those popular cooking shows there will be a lot here for you, not to mention a complicated family dynamic that we only catch glimpses of. It’s one hell of a comic, and at the very least I know you can get a copy of it if you catch Sunshine at a con, but let them know you’re interested! Not every good thing on the internet is accessible with a single click anyway…
New review today for The Re-Up #1 by Chad Bilyeu & Juliette de Wit. Could this be my latest weekly review comic, at least for the next couple of weeks? Maybe!
Note: the link in the title goes to a site where you can offer a fair price for all three issues that are currently available. If you’re looking for single issues Birdcage Bottom Books has them. Onward! I had a really great conversation with Chad at CXC this year (2023, future people), which is what pushed me to get all three issues that he had available rather than sticking with the usual dipping my toe in with one issue. Based on this first one, I’m glad that I did. This is the story of Chad’s life roughly from 2004-2008, or at least the portion of his life that you might have guessed from that title: his time dealing pot. It was a very different world for such things back then, as he so eloquently describes in his afterward, among other things. It’s odd to start a review with the afterward, but between that and the ongoing narration during the comic it’s obvious that Chad is a hell of a writer. This issue starts off with the moment that Chad decides to take over the business, but wait, we don’t know anything about him yet! Not to worry, because he launches into a flashback from there, detailing his time working A/V for Georgetown University (including a hilarious example of the type of work he did, which I would have thought ridiculous if I hadn’t seen that exact same scenario in a college class of mine ages ago) before a chance meeting with a guy smoking pot on campus. He had no interest in ratting this guy out, but the weed smell was so strong that he felt compelled to warn the guy about other people possibly smelling it. A friendship was born from this, and Chad gradually discovers that his new friend wasn’t a casual pot smoker but was instead a big time dealer in the area. Chad helped this guy out with a connection when everything had dried up, this bigger time connection also became friends with the dealer (he was already pals with Chad), and time moved along, as it does. Chad was reluctant to take over the business when his friend left town, but it’s probably not a spoiler to reveal that he got there eventually, what with that being the premise of the comic and all. Chad mentioned that they’re sticking to a strict publishing schedule (that I can’t remember precisely now, of course), and the plan is to collect all of this into a graphic novel when it’s all said and done. I’d call that an excellent idea, as I’m very intrigued to see where it all goes from here. So in other words, yes, I’d recommend that you give this a shot. Pot smokers should know/remind themselves what things were like back then, and uptight squares should know the reality of dealing instead of their cartoon villain version of it. $10
New review today for Oxblood: The Untold Legend of Paul Bunyan by somebody who didn’t put their name in the comic. Help me out, internet!
Oxblood: The Untold Legend of Paul Bunyan
I debated putting this one back in the review pile and picking something else, but instead I’m going with using it as a cautionary tale. Y’know, a sort of guide on what not to do if you’re selling your book at a convention. See, I vaguely remember talking to the guy who made this comic, which is why I think it was made by a guy. I could be conflating this with somebody else, so even that could be wrong. But there’s no writer or artist name given, no link to a website or even Instagram, and the name of the publishing company (or just the name they’re using), Rani Comix, didn’t bring up anything in a search. Neither did the title, and since most of the characters are public domain, that didn’t lead anywhere either. But hey, at least now I know that Noah Van Sciver did a Paul Bunyan book too. I’m hoping somebody reads this review so I can fill in the blanks, but for right now it’s the perfect example of what not to do if you’re hoping to get the word out about your comic. Which is a shame, as there were intriguing bits in here. As it says on the cover, this is really more of a zine than a comic, as it’s full of character bios and bits of lore that they’re clearly planning to use for a comic series. I’m only assuming that they don’t have comics already, as otherwise I probably would have grabbed an issue of that rather than this zine. Anyway, we’re given a list of monsters with intriguing names before learning that dragons are rumored to be returning. From there we see how heroes are made, learn what happened to Paul in the past and his current quest, and meet two other characters that are presumably going to be important in the series. Overall a pretty nice teaser, which makes it a real shame that said series is not easier to find. So yeah, if you know who this was, please email me and I’ll fix this review. If not, hey, maybe your Google skills are better than mine. Best of luck!
New review today for Adversary by Blue Delliquanti, which is a l’il graphic novel I got from CXC. The behemoth graphic novels will be coming later.
There’s a whole lot going on here, to the point that I’m not sure where to start. “At the beginning,” you say? Yeah, I guess that makes the most sense. Things start off in pandemic times (future people, if we’ve had several pandemics since, I’m talking about roughly 2020-21) with a man drinking outside on the patio of a bar. As he’s getting ready to leave a stranger at the bar buys him a drink, they have a conversation and after the man (Curtis) can’t place where he’d previously met the stranger (Anton, but we don’t know that yet), Curtis is given a hint that clears a whole lot up. They met in a self-defense class where Curtis was the instructor 5 years ago, and Anton is looking for a refresher on some of those lessons. It’s an unconventional teaching style, as Anton often initiates conflict unexpectedly, with some pretty damned sexy results. Believe me, it’ll make sense when you read it. But Anton is incredibly guarded and protective of their privacy, which makes all the sense in the world when we learn what their life was like through the early part of the pandemic. It’s hard to deal with all of the consequences of the pandemic even now, and a lot of it is due to not being sure which people that you talk to have any connection to reality, and which can only see things through a purely partisan lens. Side note: we may need to come up with a word other than “partisan,” because “refuses to wear a mask or believe in covid because my cult leader didn’t like the way that masks smeared his bronzer” is too long (though entirely accurate). Anyway, the difficulty of dealing with this goes up considerably if you’ve suffered a loss from covid, as this book so devastatingly portrays. The character building throughout is detailed and layered, the social commentary is present but muted (if that sort of thing scares you off, you big baby) and this feels like one of those books that you could start over right after reading it and get even more out of it. If you haven’t already read any of Blue’s stuff, this is a pretty damned solid place to start. It’s also listed as $5 through the link, which can’t be right? This is a full color graphic novel. Still, check with Blue, I’m sure they can clear it up…
New review today for Airbag #2 by Brian Canini, and why yes, I am still reviewing Cartoon Crossroads books, why do you ask? Maybe for the next few weeks even, although I did get too many graphic novels to keep up this pace for long. Always keep em’ guessing on the review schedule, is definitely the secret to a successful website…
All of the Caniniacs out there (fan name subject to change, but I like it) are probably wondering why Brian occasionally puts out big old books like this, full of different types of stories, if he already has a few different ongoing series with a variety of different subjects. Why not make a few more minis? Well, because it wouldn’t work nearly as well to have interconnected stories in a variety of minis where the similarities wouldn’t be nearly as clear, now would it? Now that that imaginary strawman has been handily defeated, I can go on with the review. This is a collection of several stories, with comedy, despair and heartbreak (seriously, the first long story was devastating) all wrapped up into one bundle that still somehow works beautifully. Things start off with the “invention” of comics back in 1925 and the all too predictable reaction of the hoity toity types of the time. This picks up again later, but next we get the story of a woman who’s tasked with clearing out her father’s home after he passes away. Their relationship wasn’t all that close, especially after the divorce, but she learns a lot about the guy by digging through what he thought was meaningful enough to keep, which all leads up to the moment that explains a whole lot of his attitude towards her wanting to become an artist. From there we get an explanation of how a forgotten comics artist gets rediscovered before moving on to a comics convention, and am I ever thrilled that “DeForgian” is a descriptor that’s being used out in the world. If you know, you know, and if you don’t, read some comics by Michael DeForge. Yes, any of them. Anyway, the artist at the convention gets sick of it, find a “magic” pen and gets dragged into a magical comics land. There’s all kinds of things going on in here, as the artist takes a real spiritual journey, but this is one that’s best left to the reader to discover completely unspoiled. Finally it all wraps in the Billy Ireland museum in Columbus, as the forgotten comics are finally collected. OR ARE THEY? Yup, a mystery. That back page comic is also a winner, and a nice little dig at the newspaper business. So yes, if you’re just curious about Brian’s work, it’s probably more economical to get a few minis. But if you’re looking for something that’s complete in one volume with some serious variety to boot, this would be an excellent place to get started on his comics. I’m talking to the newbies, as I’m assuming everybody who already reads his stuff either already has this or is now ordering it now that you know it exists… $10
New review today for Depression is Cool! by Cooklin. Yep, closing the week out on a happy note!
I should really start linking to Substack pages for people as a matter of routine, as more and more artists are using it to finance projects. Let’s see if that mental note sticks! Cooklin had a gaggle of these types of comics available at CXC (I got three of them; I’m perpetually a sucker for “you get a discount if you get multiple issues” deals), although I’m not seeing this one listed in their store at the moment. Contact them, unless they sold out at CXC there are at least a few more of these out in the world. So this comic, and a number of others in this series, are based on interviews that Cooklin conducted with people suffering from various types of clinical depression. All anonymous, of course, and this one dealt with… hm. “An introduction into the lifestyle of depression” probably isn’t quite right, but in this case we learn of the origins of this person’s descent into depression. They basically used Tumblr to look up “depression content” (their term), got into the side of it that made it seem cool and mysterious, and it gradually overtook their life. Their more well-adjusted friends got tossed aside for another group of friends who were also suffering from some form of depression, causing a constant cycle of normalizing depression. If everybody else in their circle had it, and they seemed cool, it had to be OK, right? There were a number of things in this mini that I’d never considered about depression, specifically (as a guy who never uses social media) how easy it would be to keep yourself constantly engulfed in negative thoughts. My only quibble with this issue is that it kind of just ends; I was hoping for an indication of how they got out it out, or how their life is going now. But Cooklin did say that the plan was for all of these to make their way into a graphic novel, which I’m sure will deal with all of that. It’s a mesmerizing and deeply informative comic, and if you’re suffering from depression it’ll give you plenty to think about/relate to. If not, a deeper understanding of depression is always a good thing, right? If I remember right, these were $5 each (but don’t quote me on that).
New review today for The Prince’s Jester by Audrey Meeker, and yes, this is still all about comics that I got at CXC this year. Settle in, I got a bunch of them!
Aw, I wish I knew that Audrey was based in Athens GA when I talked to her at CXC. I haven’t been to FLUKE (their own small press con) in over a decade and was curious how the scene there is doing. Ah well, a good reminder to try to make it there next year. This comic is a good old fashioned mini, meaning purely black and white and it looks like they were all copied and stapled by hand. The story deals with the title character and his pal who overhear an announcement that the prince is missing; it’s a general call to all heroes to help find the guy. Once they hear about the reward they realize that this can get them out of the debt they’re currently stuck in, so off they go on their quest! They don’t seem to have much of a plan, or any weapons to speak of, but they do have that promise of a pile of cash and freedom once they get it, so they do eventually manage to make it to the prince. But then what happens? Yup, that part, as always, is up the reader to discover. This comic is in more of the all-ages spirit than most of what I review, but it’s charming and has a few funny bits. One of those rare “you can get it for the kids and also enjoy it for yourself” type of comics. I’m not seeing a place on her website to buy this, but she does have contact information listed, along with a lot of comics, so ask her about it. I think it was $5. And yes, seeing all of those comics did leave me with a bit of regret, as I should have picked up more of her stuff. As always, as much as I wish it were not the case, I do have limited money, so sometimes just grabbing a random issue from a new creator person is the best I can do. As always, if there are any eccentric millionaires out there who want to sponsor me/the website, I’d be happy to buy all of the comics and talk about them forever. It’s just this pesky need for food and housing that’s holding me back… $5
It’s CXC week! Which will most likely turn into a few weeks. Next time I might just get a hotel room in Columbus, as drinking with those folks after the show seems like a thing I have to do one of these years. First up is the winner of the “oh, it looks like their table is busy, I’ll check back later” award, which inevitably ends with me remembering that plan after I’ve already been home for a few hours, Nick Forker and Eyeland #5!
This is the issue that pretty much solidified it in my mind: it’s fine to read/review these issues in any order. This one even ends on a bit of a possible cliffhanger, so I checked #6 (Nick was nice enough to send along most of his comics for review), and it doesn’t mention it. So, let chaos reign! It’s impossible to review this without revealing the identity of the “mysterious stranger” from the cover, but before I do, give that silhouette a look. What do you see? Any guesses? The mysterious stranger is… Dickchicken! Granted, the sample image gives it away too, but maybe I’ll end up rambling enough in the review so that you can’t see it without scrolling down. Anyway! It’s exactly what it sounds like, I guess: a “normal” human body, but instead of the head there’s a cross between an uncooked chicken and a penis. So what’s in the pants? Maybe he’ll get to that later, but for now you can leave it to your imagination. Dickchicken has seemingly just arrived on our world, as he spends some time getting caught up on the news and our current technology. Seeing the calamitous state of our civilization, he decides that the only rational thing to do is make a mysterious machine that will… improve things? It’s never defined, really. But whatever it is, it’s enough to get the attention of some shady government watchdog types, as they send an army of drones to deal with him. After getting knocked out by the drones, our hero dreams of a meeting with an undefined cosmic figure with some reluctant words of wisdom. From there we get some real final battle type shit, but that’s enough of the spoiling. This is definitely the most chaotic of the Eyeland comics that I’ve read so far, and I mean that in a good way. Maybe this one would be the best starting point for new readers? As long as you’re not offended/horrified by Dickchicken, I guess. Still, a thoroughly entertaining issue, and from now on my reviewing plan for this series is “pick a number between 3 and 9,” so who knows where I’ll end up next. $5
Yeah, this week has gotten away from me, so no reviews until next week. But it’s almost time for Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (technically there are already a few events going on here and there), so if you’re anywhere near Ohio this weekend, it’s very much worth a trip. No entry fee to get in! The Billy Ireland Museum, which is my biggest blind spot so far living in Ohio, is giving out guided tours for the next couple of days too. They boast having the largest collection of comic/cartoon memorabilia in the world, and I have no reason to doubt them. And, once again, if you’re at the convention and see a blond dude with glasses wearing either a King Cat or Tortilla Comix t-shirt, it’s a me! Come say hi.