Author Archives: Kevin

Update for 4/24/24

New review today for the last of the mini kus comics, DJ School by Anu Ambasna. Of course, that’s just the last of the minis. They also sent along a heftier book that I saved for last, meaning any time now, I guess. Oh, and I forgot to include a link to SPACE in the last update. Oops!

Ambasna, Anu – DJ School

Website

DJ School

DJ school! We’ve all thought about it. OK, some of us have, at least, and maybe even in the olden times when it involved switching out actual records. Why, in my day… man, sorry about that. Narrowly avoided a serious old man rant. Anyway! In this issue our hero is bored at his day job and dreams of being a DJ. That terrible boss is wrong; a kitchen is absolutely a perfect place to pretend to be a DJ. He gets fired, more or less, and tells us his origin story, which involves hearing “Firestarter” by Prodigy at the age of 3 and having it change his life. How many DJs did that song create, do you reckon? It has to be hundreds at a minimum. He looks online and finds a course about becoming a DJ, although he finds it boring and a bit obvious, at least until he discovers… the secret trick. As we move on to his first gig, our hero is nervous, so a well-meaning (?) liason offers him what solves all problems at a rave: hard drugs. Our hero thinks he’s maybe bitten off more than he can chew, as he can no longer tell where his hands are, but in case of emergency he can always rely on… the secret trick! It’s a fun story with a happy ending (spoilers I guess), which is very much not a guarantee with the mini kus books. It’s also $7.95 by itself or $22 if you buy it with three other comics and, as always, you know which of those two options I recommend.

Update for 4/22/24

New review today for Eyeland #6 by Nick Forker. Everybody make their travel plans for SPACE in Columbus Ohio this coming weekend?

Forker, Nick – Eyeland #6

Website

Eyeland #6

I’m still moving ahead with my “let’s review a random issue of Eyeland” plan, but I’m going to have to pick up the pace on this sucker because he sent me some new comics recently to go along with the backlog. Now hiring, pay rate same as mine (losing a little money paying for the website, but at a “meh” level)! This time around is a theme that’s near and dear to most of our hearts, not that WE’RE the ones with the problem, not at all: getting lost in screens. Why yes, I am typing this and seeing it on a computer monitor, so the irony isn’t lost on me. But hey, I’m heading to the gym once I finish writing these reviews, that has to count for something, right? Things start off with a close-up of the detritus surrounding the average gamer, and yep, that was a little too on the nose. Our hero then takes a bit of a mystical journey through a swamp, learning a bit about the swamp (along with some cryptic hints from a Yoda-esque figure), before we see the horror: every gamer in the world, all gathered in one area, all in their individual boxes. It’s horrifying to think about everybody who’s playing a game right now, cut off from human contact, but to see an image of them all together, and the endlessly repeated, lame dialogue… yikes. Not something I’d ever conceived of, but it’s a sobering image. From there a rescue plan is devised for these poor souls, but do any of them have an interest in being rescued? It’s another thought-provoking issue, and will it make me self-conscious the next time I fire up a game? Almost certainly yes. I’ll also probably get over it after a few minutes, meaning I won’t end up learning any lesson from this comic. How about you? $5

Update for 4/10/24

New review today for the Tales From the Wolf graphic novel by Tony Wolf (and a few other people, but mostly Tony).

Wolf, Tony – Tales From the Wolf

Website (Instagram)

Tales From the Wolf

Ah, autobio comics. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a collection as hefty as this one, and it’s a good one. It might seem complicated, but the basic ingredient of a good autobio comic is simple: do you have interesting stories to tell? If so, you’re already more than halfway there! If not, or if you run out, well, that’s a large part of why most diary strips tend to just peter out after a few months or years. But hey, let’s get to Tony! He’s been doing this for a long time (the mid 90’s), but he took a significant break and came back. This is a collection of most of the comics/illustrations that he’s done, and this is over 200 pages, so I’d say he’s done quite a bit over the years. The first chunk is made up of stories called Greenpoint of View, tales mostly taken from his immediate surrounding area in the 90’s. There’s watching his neighborhood being gradually taken over by hipsters (he’s correct, people do forget that it all started with trucker hats), stopping to listen to a band in the park and what became of them, a fascinating piece about how he was one of the main reasons why ticket quotas were stopped for New York cops (it involves the injustice of him getting ticketed early in the a.m. one day for spreading out over two seats when he had the entire car to himself), and a sadly closed pizza place. Other stories include his experience participating in the phone survey on whether or not to murder Robin back in the late 80’s (yes kids, DC comics really did encourage people to call a hotline to determine whether or not the new Robin lived or died), his experience with the Alpha Flight comic and his complicated feelings for John Byrne, a secret Italian desert called tartufo that sounds freaking delicious, squab, his fascination with the McRib, a hopeful tale of how he got through a bout of severe depression, his learning the fascinating history behind the name of one of the ferries in New York harbor, and several very short (mostly one page) stories about a variety of subjects, which I’ll leave as a surprise for y’all. He also gets political towards the end, which I still wish would happen with more cartoonists, and he has several compelling strips on recent political history. Anti-Trump stuff, obviously, in case you were worried that he had trouble taking a stand against something so obviously horrific. There are pull quotes from about a dozen names that you’ll recognize if you’re been reading comics for more than a few months; his stuff has obviously impressed a wide range of people over the years. This is a damned solid collection of almost entirely autobiographical comics, from a guy with a lot of fun and/or fascinating stories to tell. Check it out, why don’t you? $20

Update for 4/8/24

New review today for The Devil’s Grin #2 by Alex Graham, and if you’re in the right part of the country/world, there’s an eclipse today! Don’t look right at it, you big dummy. Use the glasses!

Graham, Alex – The Devil’s Grin #2

Website

The Devil’s Grin #2

I’m going to type a lot of words now, as is my way, but to be very clear about this comic right off the bat: I’m fully on board for this journey. Any quibbles (and I honestly can’t think of any at the moment), any doubts, I’m still fully invested in seeing where Alex takes this thing. To anybody who’s jumping into my ramblings with the review for #2, that’s ridiculous, but things ended up previously with the flushed fetus Robert (talking from birth, mind you) surviving his experience in the sewer and wandering out into the world. This one picks up in 1974, about 26 years after the first issue, and Robert is a full grown dude. What was his life like? How did he make it this far? Maybe that’ll get dealt with later in the series, or maybe it’s irrelevant and I shouldn’t worry about it. Alex has a fantastic (and surprisingly thorough, considering how complex the story has been so far) synopsis on the inside front cover, for new readers and anybody who might have forgotten bits of it, which is something I’m always happy to see. We’re reintroduced to Robert, who’s a broke poet, and the audience at this particular poetry reading is pretty sick of him always bringing things back to the sewer. Which is a succinct, hilarious way to let the reader know that he’s scarred for life from an experience that would definitely do that to a person. We meet Robert’s neighbor Dandelion, who is also haunted by that grinning devil, not that either of them know that about the other person. We spend a good chunk of the issue with her, so I’m guessing that’ll be something else that comes in to play more later. We see that his mother is still around, and the oddball cartoonist neighbor is still doing his thing, but in a more sinister fashion, which the back cover (actually the end of the story; Alex used ALL the pages for this 66 page behemoth of a tale) lays out explicitly. Oh, and there’s the killer, or maybe it’s a killer. And Robert’s girlfriend, and Dandelion’s therapist and abandoned car, and that wandering cop… lots of ingredients bubbling around. It’s a thoroughly engaging story, and the only thing that has me even slightly hesitating before buying the next available issues is the eternal “do I just wait for the collected edition to come out” conundrum. If you see a review for #3 shortly, I guess that answers that… $14

Update for 4/4/24

New review today for Link by Gary Colin, and that mini kus pile just keeps shrinking. I’m trying to pace the reviews before I get a comics refill at SPACE this year (it’s the end of April; don’t let it sneak up on you like it usually does for me!), but if you had comics that you’d like reviewed quickly, now seems like a good time.

Colin, Gary – Link

Website

Link

What a gorgeous, precise little comic this is. Not that most comics are sloppy or anything, but this one was clearly made with intention in each image/line. Think of this as a meditation session but with you being represented as a video game image and you’ll come close to the feel of it, although this is definitely one of those comics you need to experience for yourself to have a chance to fully understand it. As such, does this mean that mini kus has done it to me again, as this comic is basically unreviewable? They surely did! Let’s see what I can say about it. Things start off with a login for the session, followed by subtle changes to the character, followed by changes of the scenery. The character (or you, if you’re meditating along with the comic) merge with the scenery, get invaded by all sorts of images and ideas, but maintain serenity throughout. This could be a harrowing experience if you weren’t meditating already, so it’s probably best to calm yourself and enjoy the ride. Could this comic alone drive you to madness otherwise? I mean, probably not, unless letting the fluidity flow through or blending into the background would be problems for you. It’s somehow a riveting and relaxing story all at once, so yeah, I’d definitely say it’s worth checking out. $8 for the comic or $22 for this one with three others, and you know by now which deal I recommend…

Update for 4/2/24

New review today for World of Knonx by Adam Yeater, as I’m finally getting around to reviewing that man’s behemoth of a graphic novel.

Yeater, Adam – World of Knonx

Website

World of Knonx

So I have this vague, half-formed idea that there can be too many pages in some wordless stories. Wordless minis are fine, wordless comics are usually at least understandable, but once you get into wordless graphic novel territory, you pretty much need to be a master of the craft to come away with anything coherent. The other option, of course, is that I’m a dummy who can’t understand longer works unless they’re spelled out for me. You may be right about that! But I can only write reviews with the brain that I’ve got, and this poor old sucker basically tapped out halfway through (but I did read it to the end; I am a professional, after all!). Positives: this is a wildly imaginative world, and while I know there’s no way it was financially possible, a lot could have been glossed over if he had the resources to color this sucker like he did the cover. The only synopsis we get are brief descriptions of the two types of creatures: Norks and Mogz. Norks are basically teletubbie looking things with worms in place of their stomachs and faces. Mogz are roughly the same thing, but with robot bodies instead. Or I could have just said that Norks are on the cover image and a Mogz is on the sample page. Anyway, they’re both fighting over the tree of life, and when Norks take fruit from the tree and put in in their heads in place of their giant eyeball, they get super powers. Basically. This is where words would have come in helpful, because how do they stay alive without an eyeball? Sometimes their worms get removed and they’re fine, sometimes they die. Why? This volume also contains at least three stories, but in an entirely wordless book you at least need to clearly delineate when that happens. My only clue was that “the end” showed up a few times, but then the book launched right back into the world. I get the impression, and this could be completely wrong, that this book was produced over the course of years online, probably with a lot of feedback from his readers, and they most likely spent some time talking about who was who, what was happening, motivations, etc. But for somebody like me coming in cold, this one failed to grab me. Maybe if I spent more time with it, maybe if I talked to the author and had bits explained to me, as there are a number of genuinely interesting sections. But as it stands I can only recommend this to people who are looking for a puzzle to be solved, or something that leaves a lot of room to talk about in your book club. And if you do pick this for your book club, please invite me, because I’d love to see that conversation. It’s listed at $22 on Amazon, which is the only place I see it these days…

Update for 3/27/24

New review today for Hollywood on the Croal by Rob Jackson, in which I either got tricked into reviewing basically the same comic twice or I proved once and for all that I have no long term memory, to go along with my lack of short term memory. Help me figure out which!

Jackson, Rob – Hollywood on the Croal

Website

Hollywood on the Croal

It’s best to start this one off with a confession/explanation. Rob put out a comic in 2007 (or at least that’s when I reviewed it) called On the Banks of the Mighty Croal. That comic, like this one, was a narrated walking tour through the town of Bolton, a lot of which being adjacent to the Croal river. Now, that review was 16 years ago and, as you may have guessed, my memory of it is somewhere between hazy and nonexistent. So is this book a sequel to that comic, a continuation, or an expansion? It’s listed as having a new map in the synopsis on his website, so I’m guessing expansion/new edition. Look, since it’s been 16 years, chances are that it will seem new to you regardless. As for the comic itself, there’s not much to say that wouldn’t be me just repeating facts that I learned here, which would get boring for both of us in a hurry. Picture a walking tour accompanied by a guide who was funny and clever and also had both a lifetime of familiarity with the area and had done a ridiculous amount of research to dig up obscure facts and info. All that and it’s “narrated” by Telly Savalas, or at least it us until Rob is no longer able to afford him. It’s a fascinating journey, and if I was suddenly plopped into Bolton right now I feel like I’d have a fighting chance thanks to this comic. Now, if it was 16 years from now, probably not so much. Once again we play the conversion dance to try and guess pricing, and if I’m right it’s around $7 (but there’s a good chance I’m wrong).

Update for 3/25/24

Back from a long unintended (and shorter intended) break, do I even remember how to do this? Read my review for Transgender Homebody by Nuka Horvat (another from the mini kus pile) to find out!

Horvat, Nuka – Transgender Homebody

Website (Instagram)

Transgender Homebody

Again and forever, I wish I could just reprint the synopsis from the back of this comic in the place of a review and call it a day. It says everything and somehow manages to convey terror and deep eroticism at the same time. But no, I’ve given that synopsis away for free too many times, so you’ll have to buy a copy to read it yourself. Or go to the link where you can buy a copy, as the whole thing is there as well. This one is ridiculously open to interpretation, as you could go with the idea of somebody ogling their neighbor through the peephole and imagining a sexual encounter (or several), or you could go with this being a faithful retelling of some sexy times. The images are a jumble of chaotic and/or angry lines, with various sexy bits coming to the surface and being submerged again, with dialogue that shows the sexual fluidity (and sheer, rampaging horniness) of both participants. It’s mesmerizing, even with the ending that takes a serious turn into ______ (what, you thought I was going to spoil the ending? For shame). Read it and be dazzled, unless you’re one of those prudish churchy types, in which case you only clicked on a review with this title because you were titillated by it. Admit it, at least to yourself! $7.95 for the issue but, as always, I’d recommend getting the bundle of four for $22 with this one in it.

“Update” for 3/17/24

Long time readers of this here website will know that reviews usually get a bit sparse around elections, what with me working for a Board of Elections office and all. It’s true, I need a real job to pay my bills! The riches that come from running a small press comics review website are actually a myth. Well, that election is what’s happening right now, but what happened two weeks ago was that my monitor stopped working, followed by a comedy of errors while I tried to get another one working. Long story short (er), yes I’m still around and writing reviews and I should have regular reviews up next week. And hey, go vote on Tuesday why don’t you?

Update for 2/29/24

What, like I’m not going to do an update on Leap Day? New review today for The History of a Toss by Weng Pixin, another from the rapidly dwindling mini kus pile.

Pixin, Weng – The History of a Toss

Website

The History of a Toss

The idea behind this one is specific, and while it seems like it probably hasn’t affected that many people, this one will hit hard for certain folks. Have you ever been enjoying some quiet time, either alone or with others, when suddenly a large heavy object comes flying through the air and strikes you, seemingly for no reason? Like I said, that just lost a good chunk of you, but for those of you who are nodding your heads right now, you’re in luck! This one starts off with our hero the bunny trying to enjoy a cup of tea when they’re suddenly struck by a phone book. It turns out that the roommate (the frog) was just trying to throw the phone book away, but they’d misjudged both how hard they threw the book and the distance to the garbage. After a sudden clobbering like that, it’s hard not to feel a little targeted, and this might bring up memories of previous conversations with your roommate about their family members throwing things in anger. This might also bring up a defensive reaction on their part, as they see it as an unfortunate if innocent mistake. From here there are two main possibilities: either the offending party sees that what they did was at best thoughtless and apologizes, or they dig in and use the opportunity to bring up all kinds of irrelevant grudges, both real and perceived. And if the aggressor takes that second tack, well, things are probably going to get ugly. This book is an exploration of that conversation, and how “heroes” and “villains” in this situation don’t necessarily mean a thing in regards to who “wins” the argument. It’s a fascinating and more than slightly uncomfortable book, so yes, we can add another mini kus book to the “yeah buy that why don’t you?” pile. $7.95 (for this comic, it’s $22 for this and the next three in the series. I know which one sounds like a better deal to me!)

Update for 2/27/24

New review today for Brick Breaks Free by David Craig. Hm, the theme for this week seems to be “heavy items flying through the air.” Not a theme that’s likely to be repeated, I reckon…