Category Archives: Reviews
So here we are, in the final chapter of these Zoonbats comics I’ve been reading for the last month (one review a week, people of the future), so I feel like now’s a good time to look at the big picture. And it’s… hazy? 200+ pages into this story, I kind of feel like I should have a better sense of where things are headed. But hey, I’m getting ahead of myself, as I haven’t even talked about the comic yet. This time around we’re back with Toast and Bloom, and we get all kinds of details about her upbringing and story. When we last saw the two of them they’d melted their car battery because they were using it to put the robot giraffe into sleep mode, so their current plan is to walk to the nearest train depot and ride the rails to their robot that’s run amok. Which is a thing I never get a chance to type in all sincerity. Anyway! We also learn what the robot’s name means, and it got a legit chuckle out of me, so good work there. Roughly the first half of the book is the two of them walking and talking, along with the introduction of gigantic structures that were abandoned decades ago. Long story, but essentially there was a miracle chemical that allowed structures to greatly increase their size very quickly, this same chemical was used in terrorist attacks, and this led to all kinds of construction projects in various stages of completion getting abandoned. Finally they’re able to hitch a ride to the train station, and naturally they make friends with their driver, which lets us learn all about another aspect of this vast world and the people in it. The notes in the afterward really are invaluable here, going into far more detail than the comic allows, so I hope he keeps them in whatever collected edition eventually comes out of this book. We also get to see a jacket that seems to be at least mildly magical (or it’s highly advanced tech), which I’m guessing plays a part in things later. So yet another solid issue, with me still totally on board to see what happens next, with ridiculously detailed artwork that seems to get better each time and a rich universe that’s literally been thought about and constructed over decades. So why is it that I’m still not sure if the whole thing is coming together? No seriously, I’m asking, because I don’t get it. Possibly that’s because the story literally hasn’t come together yet; these two groups searching for the robot giraffe are clearly going to meet up eventually. Eh, who knows. It’ll become clearer to me as the story goes on, with the next issue projected for late 2023. Until then, each chapter is up for free on his website, or roughly $10 per issue if you’re like me and are determined to be buried alive under an unfortunate comics collapse in their apartment.
These two have come up with a pretty solid metric for how well you should know the characters by the fifth issue of a comic, although that might not have been their intention. When I saw that sticker with free LSD on it after Ambar noticed it, sure, the better story idea would be to have her lick it and see what happens. But since they’ve spent the time to establish these characters, well OF COURSE Ambar would lick that dot, and that same personality carried through the rest of the stories in this comic. Job well done, you two! So she has a wonderful adventure in that story, with a perfect final panel to wrap things up. No details, because what kind of dummy tries to describe an acid trip depicted in a comic? From there we go the conclusion of the “Dude! Where Is My Car?!” story from last issue, in which the thugs corner Todd in his car as Ambar and Dirk spend their time not worrying about Todd at all, to put it mildly. Do we get a car chase after that? You’d better believe it, including an explosion on the highway. From there we get the classifieds, which I don’t usually mention because they’re not part of the comic, but it’s a really solid collection of people making comics and/or podcasts that you should check out, along with another reminder that I should really listen to at least a few comics podcasts. Anybody have any recommendations? There are just so damned many of them. The other story in here involving the Santos Sisters also includes a spell gone wrong in a mall Cinnabun, er, Cinnaloaf. When a revenge spell is cast the energy has to go somewhere, so why not into a delicious cinnamon roll? Todd even gets to do something heroic to help make up for his rough time in the previous story. Finally there’s a brief story about Boozy Beez being a creep at a baseball game. I’d swear that these comics are getting funnier, and they were funny to begin with. They also have a 48 page Halloween special coming out right around the corner, and the cover alone tells one heck of a story. So yeah, obviously I’m still recommending these comics, and at the pace they’re putting these books out you’re going to get left behind in a hurry if you don’t hop on this ride soon. $5
I’m starting to wonder if we’re ever going to catch up to that robot giraffe. And if you’re coming into this review blind, reading the previous comics and/or reviews for this series would help with that one. This time around we’re back with Wayne traveling along in Murray’s semi. We get a flashback again, this time a flashback within a flashback for some extra oomph. Wayne thinks back to a strange musician mystic type who he was never sure actually existed. He tried avoiding her after the weirdness got to be too much for him, but she finally cornered him and gave him a vision of a traumatic piece of business in his childhood. It involved cops, flamethrowers and the disappearance or death of his mentor (I’ve read too many comics to assume a death without a body, so forgive my skepticism of his death), and it’s something Wayne had managed to put out of his mind for a lot of years. From there we learn about how that led directly to Wayne leaving town and his quest to try to find meaning, which lead in a roundabout way to being asked to help track down the robot giraffe and his “chance” meeting of Murray. Yep, we finally get some clarity on that aspect of things too, as Murray fesses up about a few things. Oh, and we briefly even see Wayne and Toast in the same panel, even if it’s not exactly a pleasant interaction and it only happens in a flashback. There are the usual notes about specifics in the afterward section, which was especially helpful this time around in identifying exactly what the cops were doing. He also includes a few older comics from various zines at the time (1995ish), so we can see some very early iterations of some of these characters. I’m still hooked on the story, even if I am starting to doubt that we’ll ever catch up to that robot. But hey, now that a few mysteries have been solved, I might be completely wrong about that guess. Check in next week to find out, I suppose. Once again I’m not sure how much it costs to buy the physical copies, but the whole issue is available online at the link.
So you’ve had some time to digest the madcap insanity of S.R. Arnold’s Perry Midlife comic a year ago. Are you prepared to dig into some of the darkest and/or best days of his life, aka the early years? Well, really about a few days out of one of those early years, but it’s the kind of thing that most people who are worth a damn can relate to: booze, drugs, bad decisions, good times, dank basement punk shows, working up the courage to talk to the person at the bar you’re interested in (only to have the amount of booze needed to work up said courage end up causing a blackout so you’re not entirely sure what really happened), etc. Even if you were straight edge in your formative years you can still check a few of those things off your list, but if you’re like me and manage to hit them all, boy howdy is this comic for you! I say “comic” as if this 80 page behemoth isn’t basically a graphic novel, but in a field where there’s also a solid argument for calling this a “mini comic,” it’s best not to get bogged down in semantics. What’s this comic all about, anyway? In his intro S.R. mentions that he intended to make Perry Nolife next, but since that book would have dealt with his own mortality and it wasn’t a subject he felt ready to tackle yet, why not go back in time? Things start off with a hallucination of Perry’s conscience trying to talk to him, only to get smacked across the room and smashed. Rightfully so, I say. Then we really see the kind of mess Perry is in the morning, as he ends up monopolizing the bathroom, much to the annoyance of his roommates (although it does lead to a lovely full page spread of one of them peeing out of their third story window and the general state of their neighborhood). From there we roll through a day or so in the life, starting with band practice (which ends with a broken guitar string), moving on to dive bar pizza for lunch, and finally landing on a karaoke show. This last one is critical, as it’s where Perry saw a lady last week that he’s trying to work up the courage to approach, which leads to his spectacularly terrible choice for a song. There’s also a double page spread during this sequence that has all kinds of familiar comics folks in it. See which ones you can spot! I got about half a dozen them before I resorted to cheating in the back. His terrible song does end up succeeding in getting the interest of the lady he tried awkwardly to chat with, and they end up having a long conversation on the roof. But in the light of day afterwards, can he be sure of what really happened? There’s more, as I’m barely halfway through this beast of a book, but the rest of it is for you to discover. Absolutely positively check this one out, and if you’ve got the cash I’d also recommend getting this with a copy of Perry Midlife. This one kicked the dust off of some memorable times in my brain for sure… $15
Last time around we spent most of our time with Wayne (and his traveling companion), but this time around we get to learn all about Toast and Bloom. Well, mostly Toast, but with the way things are going I’d guess we’ll learn more about Bloom before it’s all said and done. And if you’re lost by that opening, it might have something to do with your not having read the first review and/or issue, which is odd, as it’s up for free on his website, so it’s not like you have much of an excuse. Toast and Bloom are on the road, trying desperately to catch up to their runaway robot giraffe. They’re making progress, as the robot can only go 30 miles per hour while they have a car that can obviously go faster than that, but the process is wearing on both of them. But then Bloom has an idea (that Toast should have considered ages ago, honestly) that buys them both a bit of time. We also get to meet that giraffe, sort of, although we’re no closer to figuring why it ran away or its destination. A good chunk of the previous issue was a flashback and this issue sticks with that same idea, as we spend a lot of time with Toast when he was working in a restaurant. This section had some serious detail in it, enough to make me wonder if Giles ever worked in a restaurant, and his notes in the back made clear that a few things in it are taken directly from his life, including the spectacularly stupid way that they had to remove grease when the buckets filled up. Seems like a method that’s just asking for spillage or injury, and a trail of highly flammable grease leading to a restaurant sounds like an explosion waiting to happen. Anyway, we also see the guy who inspired Toast to make his robot, learn more about that guy, and see his amazingly complicated plan to get back at their horrible boss all the way through. And honestly, it felt too spoiler-y to use it as the sample image, but Toast bursting out of the kitchen while doing his part of the plan and screaming “terrible mishap!” was one of the funniest things in this book, especially considering the severity of what was happening. That was a long way to go to avoid spoiling the scheme, but totally worth it. And as I said, we get plenty of notes in the back of the book, with even more evidence that Giles has been thinking about this world for a long time and has a lot of very specific details worked out in his head. Oh, and we also see how that flower pot got on Toast’s head. It might be exactly how you suspected! Overall I really love a story that’s not afraid to take some time to establish the characters and the world, so I’m happy with the pace. Maybe next issue we’ll see just what that robot giraffe is up to.
If you’ve been hanging around the Meeting Comics universe (this is #28, just for the record) just in case Val ever hooked up with Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen, well, I guess this will be your last issue. It went kind of like I pictured it, even though I never pictured it before I saw his face on the cover. When last we visited with these fine folks we saw the end of the marriage/cheating drama (as much as such things ever really end) and Val was about to take a new position and was moving out of her old place. Specifically the strips this time around deal with informing the staff of OnlyGreg of all the new changes, Val and Tori move into Don’s guest house (displacing Ron), Kevin and Thomas (and their new girlfriends) try to move back into Kevin’s old place and finally discover what’s been going on there, and Kevin has one awkward conversation with Tina. But wait, there’s more! That Dr. Manhattan strip was one of several unrelated gag strips (sorry, Val and Dr. Manhattan hooking up is apparently not “canon”) including using an angry dog for cucking, large print erotica, meeting in the middle on renaming problematic buildings with catastrophic results, a job interview, and the terrible truth behind why there are so many women hooking up in the world of Meeting Comics. He also includes 320 Shades of Greg, a mini that I have somehow not reviewed (one of those “I know I have a copy around here somewhere” comics), but that one is too sexy for me to talk about. Let’s just say that it involves ice cream and very few clothes, OK? So yes, another solid issue from Andrew. With the promise of a divorce party in the next issue, which is a heck of a teaser. $6
So this should be a fun experiment, at least for me. Giles is returning to the world of Zoonbats for the first time in ages; I reviewed the first couple of issues of his series around 2010. Odd, I thought I had reviewed more of them, as I had at least half a dozen issues. Anyway! He rereleased the whole thing in new editions, the first covering issues #1-4, with three additional volumes out so far. Since I already reviewed half of this edition back in the day, I figured it would be interesting to review it again, then read my old review just to see if my opinions remained the same/just how often I repeat myself. My guess is that it’s plenty, but I’ll reveal the answer at the end. So! This new edition does look gorgeous. Giles has extensive notes in the back explaining the changes he’s made and what brought him back (mostly the lettering and he never really gave up on the story, respectively), and while he says he hasn’t touched up the art, I’d swear it looks even better this time around. This is the story of Wayne, who’s hitchhiking around the country, and his friends Toast and Bloom. They made a robot giraffe that fled as soon as they completed it, and it seems to have a specific destination in mind. So they make plans to meet up with Wayne in the middle, as he’s closer to where the giraffe is headed. This issue covers Wayne wandering for a bit before finally meeting up with an old friend who can offer him a ride. This old friend then tells Wayne a story of his time as a truck driver detailing when he was attacked by a roving gang of bandits, how all seemed lost and how he got out of it by spoilers. Yeah, it’s a big part of the overall story, so it’s going to be left a mystery here. We also briefly check in with Toast and Bloom on their journey, but they don’t intersect with Wayne yet. This issue is mostly about doing some work building up this world (Giles has a map of the areas and he gets pretty specific in the notes about what each area is like), and as such does a solid job of hooking readers in to try and figure out what’s happening here. So yeah, I’d say it’s an intriguing start and I’m curious what happens next. Now let’s check the old reviews! Looks like the review for #1 is way earlier than I thought, maybe even 2002ish, as I mentioned working on the website for “several months.” Then the review for the second issue was 2010, apparently done when I was revisiting old comics for reviews. The art is exactly the same (I compared an old sample image to the new book in front of me), so I was wrong on that. And he was telling the truth, which I had no reason to doubt. So I look like a dummy in real time. Not exactly a new experience for me. But I liked it overall then too, so that hasn’t changed. One odd thing: I can’t find anywhere that sells these new editions. You can go to his website and read each issue online for free, so there’s that, but if you want physical copies I guess check with Giles. Which makes the price an absolute mystery, so I’ll spin the random price wheel… $15.
Is this the longest gap between reviews in Optical Sloth history? I reviewed Untamed Highway #2 (yes, he started the numbering over without changing the title, but if the big publishers can do it, so can he) back in May of 2005. So outside of being yet another reminder that I have to find a spare several months to go back and put dates on all the old reviews, I’m obviously not going to remember a thing from that series, so keep that in mind. Here, I’m going to crawl all the way up my own behind and paste my favorite quote from one of my old reviews for this series: The art to me looks like what would happen if Hunt Emerson and Peter Bagge somehow had a baby who eventually grew up and renounced all ties to his fathers. Gosh, I was insightful 18 years ago! All downhill from there, sadly. So what’s happening in this issue? There’s no recap of any kind, which is a shame, but maybe he made the decision not to mention anything that happened previously to start things in a new direction. Or maybe this occurs directly after the last issue which, again, has long since left my brain. Anyway, we have a brain in a jar (with a googly eye that needs reattached) with an assistant named Mortimer. They’re both waiting for their doctor friend to return so that this brain can get put into a human body. Well, the doctor returns with bad news: there’s a cadaver shortage. Things get a little tense after that, but it’s a little tough to carry through on threats when you’re a brain in a jar. There’s also a short story afterwards about the guy in a gorilla mask that I referenced in a previous review, who is apparently a hitman. Again again, memory bad, my apologies. He does have his previous three issues for sale on his Etsy page, so you can catch up if this all sounds intriguing. Taken in a vacuum, this is still a solid issue, with lots of unanswered questions about who these people are and what’s they’re up to in general. I’m curious to see where he takes things next, but if I have to wait another 18 years to find out I’m going to be even more hazy in that review… $5
The Lighthouse in the City Volume 11
The sample image below is for everybody who has a cat that got just a little too curious about the shower/bath that their owner was taken, resulting in a trail of wetness going through the house in a panicked fashion. Seems to be a thing that every cat needs to figure out for themselves. Oh hi, it’s time for a new volume of Karl’s autobiographical series! This one cover September 2022 through the end of the year, and (no spoilers, but kind of a spoiler, I suppose) this is the last volume he’s going to be doing for a while. Completely understandable, and he’s lasted longer than most who attempt the daily diary strip. I’m curious to see what he does with this new bounty of free time. So what’s this particular volume about, you ask? There are of course several adventures with Oola (both real and imagined), some strips about his time at a few conventions, more tragedy in his personal life (he was on a rough string of losing friends and family members for a while), observations from his walks around the neighborhood, getting through a rough cold (and still making comics through it), and so very much more. Which seems like a copout on the part of a “professional” reviewer, but the man has over 130 pages of strips in here and I’m not going to bloodlessly boil them down to their essences. This is the 11th volume, after all. The man is a hell of a storyteller (and an artist; the level of detail in these strips considering that they’re produced daily is staggering), so I’m guessing that you’re already on board for his comics at this point. If not, it would probably be kind of funny if you jumped on with the final volume of this three year journey. He was nice enough to send me his earlier volumes (that I hadn’t reviewed) a while back, so maybe I’ll review a couple of those randomly while I wait to see what he comes up with next. Will it be odd to talk about those, especially the BO (Before Oola) days? Yeah, probably. We’ll see. Meanwhile, this is yet another solid entry in this series, which you should be checking out already. $12
Sometimes I wonder: do the details of these ongoing series (where I’m reading individual issues months or even years apart) fade out of my head because I read so many of these comics for reviews or fun that it’s impossible to keep them all straight, or is it because my brain is chock full of holes at this point in my life? Until we can find other test subjects who have been reviewing comics for 22+ years, I guess I’ll never know. Anyway, my point is that when #4 comes out in this series, it will be just about time for me to read the whole shebang again. So, now that I’ve warned you that my specifics on some of these characters are becoming hazy, what’s going on this time around? Things start off with a brief check-in with our favorite housekeeper, then we get a longer story about Lyle Downe and the time when he moved out of his parent’s house at 19 and into an apartment with a married couple. He had a big room but no bed, started to feel like he was getting to know his roommates and settling in to a good routine, when things started changing. First gradually, then quickly, and finally we catch up to him in the current day. We check back in with Suzy as she ruminates on the many bits of religious imagery around the house she’s currently cleaning, then we flash back to the absolutely sweet way that Sherm and Suzy got together (they knew each other vaguely in high school but rarely interacted). Finally we once again get several single page stories from Don’s perspective, which I’m leaving up to the readers to discover, as there’s a whole lot going on there and it does occasionally get grim. And, since it’s meant to depict a life, warts and all, that sort of thing is bound to happen. There are a few other shorties in here too (Alex is always going to give you plenty of story for your money), and once again I’m struck by the idea that this is going to be something genuinely special when it’s all said and done. I mean, unless the Avengers show in the next issue and completely change the vibe of the whole thing… $8
You Don’t Get There From Here #58
This time around it’s all about Carrie’s trip to Japan in early 2019, so roughly a year before all travel got shut down over covid. Specifically she spent a lot of time in Hiroshima, which obviously conjures up all sorts of mental images, but there’s a lot of beauty there now, along with some seriously mixed emotions from all the reminders of the atomic bombing. As usual, Carrie’s comics are incredibly detailed and we see all sorts of aspects of tucked away areas of Japan that people wouldn’t normally see. Also, she ate a whole lot of ice cream on her trip. No shame at all, as that’s what a vacation is for, and if I was surrounded by that many interesting and exotic flavors I would have done the same thing. Without getting too far into specifics, other things covered in this comic are her efforts to get herself around in an unfamiliar area (luckily she had a solid guide for this), her ongoing quest to document the various types of manhole covers that she saw, getting over the cold that she got on the flight over and finally getting ready for the trip home. This part was a little depressing, as she had successfully put more than a few worries out of her head for her vacation, but the reality of her impending return pushed them all back to the forefront. I’m hoping it all worked out (the fact that it’s over 4 years since the events depicted in this issue and she’s still making comics is a good sign), but that’s one of the perils of reading diary comics. The creator is basically never going to catch up to now, although it looks like you can get pretty close if you subscribe to her Patreon. It’s another solid issue, and this time around you can vicariously take a trip to Japan. For free! Well, for the few bucks it takes to buy her comic, to be specific…
(Sorry about that crappy scan, but I don’t want to break the spine of this book to get a better one. Too much information!) So you know that thing I said (and other, smarter people have been saying it too) about how this might end up being one of the better comics series ever after it’s all said and done? Well, after two volumes, I have to say that that instinct was correct. Once again, I say that you, person reading this who loves comics, should buy this right away, knowing as little as possible about it. Once again, if you need more convincing, I’ll try to hit some of the high points without ruining too much. Things start off with the squiggly lines that were so prevalent in the first volume (and which get a lot more context this time around) zooming in to a busy airport. This isn’t particularly relevant to the story, but it helps to know what kind of an artist Joshua is. A whole lot of people would show a vaguely busy scene with the main characters in focus and just leave everybody else in the image as blurry faces. Not this man; everybody has an expressive face, you can tell from the posture and expressions of these people exactly what they’re each going through at that moment, and there are instantly recognizable clues that tie back to the first volume (signs of the innernet). Again, not particularly relevant to the overall story, but it was impressive enough to stop me in my tracks. Then we see that this plane is in the air during the events at the end of the first volume, meaning everybody gets that awful feedback from the innernet at the same time, which is not at all a good thing to happen on an aircraft. From there we’re taken back in time to see a young bearded dude who looks a bit like the mystery man from the last volume, but in this case he’s living in a big city. His marriage has fallen apart and he meets a young French woman who’s intense but irresistible to him, and she’ll also be pretty damned familiar to everybody who read the last book. They both go about their lives, we get a few more of the silent flashes to the bearded man trying to navigate a strange land, and eventually our hero ends up on his family farm after his dad passes away unexpectedly. He gets into this sudden change in his lifestyle, but eventually Eva (the French lady) comes for a visit, which is when he gets a clearer picture of the mental issues she’s going through. It’s probably appropriate for a trigger warning here, because it’s some pretty brutal stuff, and it somehow manages to escalate throughout the book as he’s increasingly unable to help her. Eventually he’s offered an experimental treatment to help and, since he can’t afford anything else, he gives in. The rest of the book is them both dealing with the consequences of this decision before eventually getting back to the events at the end of the last volume. Again, it’s riveting stuff, and this is definitely one of those series where I’ll be reading each volume again for every new one that comes out, because they’re both packed with tiny details. Is it a bad sign if those squiggly lines have started making an audible sound in my head when I see them on the page? Yeah, I imagine it it. Anyway, I can’t recommend this book highly enough, and if you have a few bucks to help him on his way to 7 volumes, just throw $5 or $10 bucks at the guy, would you? The world needs this entire series in it. $30
I confess, although I think Greg and Fake have this business figured out by now, the pessimist in me wonders with every issue whether or not they can keep up this pace. Funny, innovative, and never the same thing twice, all while using the same characters? With every issue? Well, this issue is probably the best one yet, so maybe I should cut it out with the doubts, huh? Once again, the big picture stuff (the stories) are engrossing and hilarious, and once again there are enough little touches that make it feel like these comics would get even better with repeat readings (“Robert Liefeldteeth” got a legit chuckle out of me). There are a few stories again this time around, and while overall we maybe get less of the actual Santos Sisters than ever before, the bits we see of them shed a whole lot of light on their lives outside of the costumes. First up is the story of a gang of car thieves, meaning we get several scenes of innovative ways to steal cars before the Santos Sisters finally get involved. That one is “to be continued,” but since the next issue is coming out literally a few weeks after this review, it seems like a safe bet that they’ll wrap things up. Next is the story of Antz-Man, which is appropriately horrific, considering the subject matter. Odd how Marvel never digs into this aspect of ants for their movies! Finally the ladies are just trying to get a burger (and working through an early morning hangover) when they find out that the president is visiting their preferred burger joint. Does everything go smoothly for our heroes, and can they just get a burger in peace? Well, there wouldn’t be much of a story if that happened, now would there? I feel like I should frame an issue of this series to point to for the few remaining humans who still judge books by their covers. Sure, this might seem like a standard super hero comic to a casual observer of covers, but there are at least a few hints on this cover that should make anybody question that assumption. Like I said, the next issue is coming out very soon, and they have a Halloween special coming out shortly after that. I’m assuming these two still find time to sleep, but three cheers for keeping up this pace. The world needs more Santos Sisters! $5
Shadow Hills (you can buy the book through this link when it comes out in September 2023)
What’s that you say, Secret Acres? You have a sneak preview of a book coming out at SPX this year from the guy who made Only Skin, one of my favorite small press series of the last decade or so? Why yes, I am interested in reading it! Getting this book also made me realize that I probably never did read the ending for that series, since I got it issue by issue, but that’s a me problem. As for Shadow Hills, there’s a whole lot going on in this one, with a wide cast of characters. Things start off with a young boy walking through a wasteland, until finally passing out after he sees a nearby town. A young girl finds him and brings him home to help him, discovering that he can’t (or won’t) talk. We also learn her name, which is a clue I missed the first time around (even though it’s clearly meant to be obvious, making me a dummy), so keep an eye out. From there we jump to today (as “today” is usually defined in books), as a young woman named Anne goes through town and meets several of the residents. One other resident is missing, and towards the end of the first chapter we see her trying to make her way back to town as a mysterious black goo is enveloping her, seemingly from the inside out. From there the cops get involved, we meet several more townspeople, occasionally flash back again to Dana and the mysterious silent boy, and the menace of the goo steadily ramps up. That’s one thing that Sean has done spectacularly well here: the pacing. We get plenty of time with the town, seeing how it’s supposed to run in an average day, before things start spinning out of control. We learn about years old rivalries, best friends, what happens to Anne and her mother after her sister disappears as a child, along with the slow but steady drumbeat of a feeling that there’s just not going to be a way to solve this problem. Do they manage it? Well, the answer to that is a long time coming, and you’re not going to hear it from me. This book is a terrifying masterpiece, and yet another chance to wish that I had a pile of money that I could give to artists like Sean so they could spend as much time as they wanted making art like this. Or whatever they’d like, really, but you get my meaning. I don’t do ratings for my reviews, but this one gets my super duper fantabulous ranking, and you know what that means! …it means you should check it out when it comes out. Obviously! $23.95
More newspaper mayhem from Steve, who really might have found his niche with this format. That’s odd to say about somebody whose work I’ve been enjoying for quite a few years now, but the oversized format really lets him show off his artwork, and the ability to print this in full color makes the whole thing gorgeous. If you’re new to the world of Odd Clods, these issues are collections of short pieces, using a variety of subjects. There’s actually a continuing story in this one (starting with the sample page), dealing with a giant lizard monster that keeps attacking a fried chicken restaurant and the increasingly desperate lengths the owner goes to to try and keep his chicken safe. Other subjects include Ninja Human Resources (it’s trickier than you’d think!), the grand bee joust (and all of the dangers that would be associated with such a thing), the eternal struggle between mittens and gloves (and the ultimate sacrifice one side must make to keep their people safe), a fricking hilarious guided tour through a rich people habitat with their various eccentricities joyfully mocked, the options on day one for every new president, being intrigued by an offer that sure sounded creepy at the time, and the pros and cons of using the old timey computer game Oregon Trail (or Pioneer Wagon here) to brainwash the youth, and one other strip that I’m leaving just for you. Yeah, I’m a mensch like that. I think this is the last of his newspaper comics that I grabbed at the last con, and after reviewing each of them I have to say that a solid rule of thumb is that if you see Steve at a convention, you can’t go wrong with any of them. Give the man his $10 and get ready to laugh!
Programming note: this book is debuting at SPX in a couple of months, so while the link at the title does not lead to their new book yet, it will soon. And now, allow me to wander into the review, where I will also wander with my words. L. has been a favorite at this here website for many years. Jumbly Junkery, Unrequited Monsters, and of course Flocks (which should have won all the awards), so you’d better believe that this one moved to the top of the review pile (which is more of a precarious mound at this point than a pile, but you get my meaning). The only drawback to always topping yourself is that it leads to heightened expectations, and I’m happy to report that L. managed to somehow get even better this time around. There have been several changes in their life since Flocks, and this is a collection of several short pieces that depict some of them. Where to even begin? In the big picture, L. is still coming to terms with several events from their life, and some of them will always be haunting. They’re also better off in a lot of ways than they have been in years, which is a persistent undercurrent running through even the most difficult stories. Subjects in here include trying to put into words just what it’s like feeling like your body has never been quite yours, getting through covid, learning to accept their excess skin after losing a lot of weight, a happy memory of their mother just before we learn how rare such a thing really was in their childhood, being alarmed about seeing their mother’s face in the mirror whenever they shave, trying to imagine exactly the body they wanted, learning to live with what was taken out during gender reassignment surgery (and having to pay for nipples because insurance apparently deemed them “optional”), the bittersweet reality of seeing so many younger trans people being so comfortable with who they are so quickly when it was always difficult for L., and one good thing about having to share custody of their kids. And much more, obviously, but it seems silly to dig too deeply into the specifics months before it even comes out. To anybody who’s trans or questioning, this is once again required reading, as is just about anything L. does, because their books as a whole tell quite the story over the years. And if you’re not trans or questioning but just enjoy a great, if occasionally heartbreaking series of stories, I’d call this mandatory for you too. $15.95 (out in early September 2023)
A peek behind the curtain: I was planning on getting back into Plastic People, as it’s a bad idea to get too far behind in any series Brian is doing, but I seem to have a gap between #9-12. I’ll get it sorted (CXC in Columbus is only a few months away, after all), but it’s not like I ever have a shortage of his books to review. Blirps is more self-contained than his other series, or at least it seems that way after reading #2 and #4. It’s a series of four panel strips, and in this issue each strip starts off with an insecurity of the main character as they try to work their way through it. Subjects include indecisiveness, false hope, trying to put yourself out there, standing out in a crowd, self-doubt, going out on a limb, and getting way too far into your own head. And a couple more, which I leave (as always) for the reader to discover. Honestly, at this point I’m a bigger fan of his ongoing series or his autobiographical work, but the benefits of somebody like him putting out so many quality comics is that I could end up flipping that opinion with a few more issues of this series. It has its moments, is what I’m saying, and if you’d like a flavor of Brian’s work without diving in to a series, this is your best bet for fiction (and Slice of Life is probably your best bet for autobio comics). Or, like I always say, just send him a pile of money and ask him for a grab bag of comics. One of these days I should probably ask Brian if anybody has ever actually done that… $1.99
Can I just say that if I was giving out awards for best title, that one would win running away? This is somehow Claire’s first graphic novel, despite it feeling like it comes from somebody who’s been doing this for years and is completely assured in their own skills. The story itself bounces back and forth from the life of Constance (a young illustrator who’s beyond fed up at the countless attacks, big and small, suffered by women every day) and the hero of the comic she just started, Camel Toe. This hero has the power to make every man who harasses a woman picture that woman as their mother, which is a spectacularly appropriate punishment. Constance, meanwhile, feels better about herself and the world the further she gets into the stories of Camel Toe, but those stories are starting to freak out some of the companies that had been hiring her for illustration jobs. Her long term boyfriend, despite being generally supportive, also has trouble having her back on the subject, which really leaves Constance feeling alone in this struggle. If your “preachy” sense is going off right now, and you’re afraid that you’d be in for a humorless diatribe if you read this, I’m hoping the sample page alone will be enough to convince you otherwise. That story goes on for several more pages, and would solve a whole lot of harassment issues if it was implemented as a law. The Camel Toe stories are consistently funny (this is one of those books where I could have used several pages as sample pages, if that wasn’t, you know, unethical), and everybody at least knows somebody like Constance, assuming you’re not a lot like her yourself. I also think this deserves mentioning: the slogan for Camel Toe is “defender of gals and fucker of the patriarchy.” Why is she watering her plants with period blood on the cover? Sorry friends, you’ll have to read the book to solve that mystery. I’m scratching the surface on the details here, granted, but this is something that everybody should read and discover for themselves. Here’s hoping we see a lot more out of Claire, because this is one hell of a debut. $25 ($10 for the pdf)
In case you’re curious what “trichotillomania” means, but you’re not curious enough to Google it, it refers to a disorder that compels people to pull out their own hair. It’s also a pretty solid hint about where the comic is going. This is the first issue of Mole that I’ve read where it’s all just one big story (granted, I’ve only read about 1/3 of these), and it works pretty damned well. Things start off with the horrific scene of a young woman cowering on the bathroom floor, blood everywhere, with an unseen man holding a bloody hairbrush. From there we flash back to how this all happened, and it all started at a drunken party. Two friends were trying to set another friend (Jimmy) up with the only lady at their party (Samantha), but they’d been trying for awhile and couldn’t get him to make a move. So after she passed out they decided to play a little prank on Jimmy, and things gradually spiraled out of control from there. She called him the next morning to hang out, but little did she know that Jimmy could not say no to… the hair. Vague enough for you? Good. It’s rare to see a genuinely new concept that still feels like it’s heading to one inescapable conclusion, even if it’s a conclusion you’ve never considered, but Andrew nails that feeling here. Yes, I may have made up that whole concept, but it’s true nonetheless. Some of his other books are definitely funnier than this one, but there are still laughs to be had here, and this is really more of a horror comic anyway. In my opinion, as the guy who guesses wrong about this stuff all the time, but you should know that by now. Anybody with any insecurities about your hair, give this one a shot. You’ll see that you could always have it worse! $10