Category Archives: Reviews

Reviews

Forker, Nick – Eyeland #7

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Eyeland #7

My “let’s review Eyeland one random issue at a time” plan is still going swimmingly, and if you think I’m not sticking to this credo, I’d suggest looking up the issues that I’ve reviewed so far. Normally I wouldn’t do this, but since each issue has been self-contained so far, well, what’s the harm? And yes, of course I’ll feel like a real dummy if that doesn’t end up being the case. This time around we’re treated to the… origin of the main character? Maybe? It’s entirely wordless until the last page, so it’s very much open to interpretation. Things start off with a giant head that’s attached a mountain slowly, painstakingly ripping its own eye out. So if you’ve ever wanted to see that process play out over the course of a few pages of a comic, you’re in luck! From there we see the slow evolution of the eye growing limbs, beginning to walk, taking an inventory of its surroundings, and then being mercilessly flicked off a table by a giant hand. Most of these issues so far have delved deep into philosophy, so the one thing I was not expecting out of this series was a wordless issue. If I’ve already reviewed a wordless issue of this series and have forgotten about it, well I guess that shows how much you should trust my memory, huh? It’s another good issue, but if you’re just going to check a single issue out, if probably shouldn’t be this one. Unless you’re big into eye removal, that is. $5

Canini, Brian – Plastic People #9

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Plastic People #9

If you’re wondering why it’s taken me this long to get back to reviewing the series, I’d somehow managed to lose a few review issues that Brian sent me, so the plan was to take stock and then buy those issues the next time I saw him at a con. But lo, what was lost is now found! In a drawer. In the kitchen. <cough> Not much of a dramatic reveal, I guess, but I can at least get the reviews back on track now, and after this one I’ll be switching to a “multiple issues reviewed at once” format, because that’s probably the best way to read this series. Boy howdy, that was a whole lot of gibberish. Anyway, if you need a refresher, go back to the old reviews (or issues, obviously), but this one starts with our first long look into a… plastic surgery church? I’m not sure that it was ever named, unless it’s in one of the older issues and I’ve forgotten it. We get a deeply creepy sermon (and call and response) from the pulpit, then the detectives take the “priest” aside to ask him some questions about the murdered girl. We get a lot of information in this issue, although it’s tough to say if we’re any closer to solving the mystery, and things end up with a major update on the celebrity who was attacked at the end of the last issue. It’s still compelling as a story, and he’s up to #20 as of this writing with no signs of slowing down. Grab yourself a few of the compendiums to catch up, why don’t you? Or the single issues are $2 if you just want to dip a toe in.

Various Artists – Poison Pill

Website (to buy the book)

Poison Pill

I get moderately lazy when linking to individual websites for anthology reviews, but check out those tags. That’s a hell of a list of talent, and if you haven’t heard of a name on it, look them up and check out their stuff! Obviously. This is a collection of six new (I think?) stories, and to take all the suspense out of my conclusion, it might be the best anthology I’ve seen in years. There’s not a weak story in the bunch, and just about any of them would be considered the best story in an average anthology. Things start off strong with Caroline Cash’s First Date, a story about her just starting to come out of the pandemic restrictions in the summer of 2020 and trying to date, with all of the usual awkwardness that comes with that on top of not being sure if you’re allowed to touch the other person. Sam Szabo is up next with the story of when they did their own makeup for the first time, how it changed everything in terms of how they saw themselves, and how it all magically came together with them going solo to an Insane Clown Posse show (trust me, the whole thing comes together beautifully). Victoria Douglas is up next with a grim but hilarious take on being constantly expected to churn out content for the always voraciously hungry internet, including unwelcome feedback from family members, and if you’re not nodding along to several of the points, you’re not even online enough to see this review. M.S. Harkness juxtaposes her experience with fireworks during an awkward backyard fight when she was a kid with an entirely different experience as an adult out on the water with some dude she sort of knew, then Heather Loase is up with a piece about her first time looking up a porn search term and everything that came from it, followed by her years of denial of the feelings that it brought up. Finally there’s Audra Stang’s piece about her family’s “holiday tree” (i.e. the Christmas tree that doesn’t come down, so it’s just decorated for each successive holiday until it crumbles) fro when she was a kid, her jealousy of her classmates and their trees and how her whole schedule would change over winter break. Oh, and all of these synopses for the stories? They barely scratch the surface of each piece. Sometimes in anthologies you’ll at least get a rush job or two, or at least shorter, fluffier pieces. Everything in here would be complete if it was released as its own mini comic, and that’s just about as high of a complement as I can give for an anthology. There aren’t many places left that still have copies listed as being available, so if you’re interested, I wouldn’t dither too long. Click on that link while it still has copies! $20

Bilyeu, Chad & de Wit, Juliette – The Re-Up #3

Website (Chad)

Website (Juliette)

The Re-Up #3

This series is moving right along, and this time around we start to see Chad’s plan for becoming/staying a successful pot dealer in the aughts. If you missed the first two comics in this series and have just started reading the reviews now, check back with those, that’ll tell you the story so far. Obviously, YOU know all that, I’m just talking to that one guy who doesn’t get it. Anyway, we see how Chad approaches people, how he knows who to ask, and how people know to ask him (generally because he assumes that he usually smells like pot). We see an eclectic range of customers, proving once again an ongoing theory of mine: the people who are smoking pot are often not the stereotypical ones that you might suspect. We also see what sure looks the beginning of a foolproof plan of where he should set up shop for his pot handoffs, after Chad learns that police have to get permission from the university to show up. Chad also peppers the story with overheard conversations from his time on campus and, as he makes clear in his afterward, these are all actual conversations, as he regularly carries around a notepad to remember conversations verbatim. The rich kids at Georgetown are often just as obnoxious and clueless as you might think, which all leads inevitably and delightfully to the conclusion: he’s going to take these kids for all they’re worth. Spoiler, sort of, but it’s not like that’s the end of the whole story, so only a baby spoiler, really. Speaking of that afterward, it’s another welcome piece of insight into the process, what he hopes comes from it, and it’ll ideally be a spot for letters in the future. So yeah, this series is thoroughly on track now, if anybody had any doubts. I thought it hit the ground running and has stayed solid throughout. He does offer a package deal for the first few comics (I know I linked to it in one of this reviews), or you can buy them singly through Birdcage Bottom Books. $9

Vola, Noemi – Are You Lost, Little Bunny?

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Are You Lost, Little Bunny?

Oh, I’ll bet that title got at least a few people to buy this who didn’t get what they were expecting at all. This is the story of a sad little bunny, mostly, who gets several pieces of advice from an unseen narrator that aren’t at all designed to cheer the little creature up. Still, the narrator is not wrong, and it’s clear that the little bunny needs to hear this stuff. The bunny is sad, you see, but the narrator is a little sick of having to cheer the creature up, and makes the decision to tell the bunny about how others can’t save you (they’re mostly too busy to even notice you have a problem to save you), the narrator is frankly a little sick of having to make a show of trying, it’s maybe your own fault that these things keep happening, and the only thing that won’t abandon you is your tears. I mean, they’re not wrong, but the juxtaposition of all of this advice with the dazzling array of colors and cuteness can make your head spin at times. It really is a gorgeous book, and I’d honestly be curious what a kid who hasn’t learned to read yet would get out of it. Granted, that last one is mostly because I’m a weirdo. Some solid advice in here, and possibly a useful reality check for at least a few people. Does that mean that this is another mini kus winner? Why yes, it certainly does. $7.95 (or cheaper for a bundle of four different comics, always a good deal)

Eisele, Terry & Bowman, Brent – Far Tune: Spring

Website (Terry)
Website (Brent)

Far Tune: Spring

I’ve read a whole lot of series ending graphic novels over the years, and one thing that really impressed me about this one was how assured it was in wrapping things up. Granted, there’s no magic ring to be tossed into a volcano at the end, just a young woman trying to adjust to life in Ohio schools after living in a refugee camp and then London. Still, you need a conclusion for something like this, and Terry and Brent really landed this sucker. Things start off with a completely silent recap of Fartun’s leaving the refugee camp, and the decision to make it silent was brilliant. All we needed was to focus on her wide-eyed awe at just about everything she was experiencing (often while her father and brother were sleeping), from the little things like power locks in cars to getting on an airplane and actually flying away. From there the bulk of the school portion of the book deals with Fartun (and her friend Bea) getting back from spring break and discovering that they have to do a big project that covers three different classes. They come to the same conclusion separately; Fartun can write and Bea can draw, so why not combine their project to make a comic about Fartun’s time in the camp? They get approval, go to Laughing Ogre to get some resource material (always nice to see a great comic shop get recognized), and we get to read what sure looks like the actual comic that they made reproduced in this volume. There’s also a lot going on here with Fartun’s family, as the conflict between her more traditional father and his children (her and her brother) comes to a head. No sense getting too far into spoilers for the last volume of a series, but let’s just say that arranged marriages and forced relocation for “wayward children” are both things that are perfectly fine in the more antiquated parts of that culture, and neither of those things would go over well with children mostly raised in America. This whole series is another thoroughly impressive achievement, taking a lot of time to tell a story that’s too often glossed over or ignored entirely. It’s absolutely worth checking out, although if you wait a few years and happen to have kids (or grandkids, or nephews/nieces, etc.) I’d have to imagine this series being taught in schools. Anyway, I’m looking to see what he comes up with next, unless he wants to take a few years off to recover… $10

Peters, Mark & Cardini, Will – Cosmic Gossip

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Cosmic Gossip

Look out, Hyperverse fans: this one isn’t set in that universe. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, the vast majority of the comics that Will has put out over the last several years have been set in that universe. Heck, I’ve reviewed most of them here, try to keep up! I also love that his website has a listed, easily followed order of these comics, often with free online versions, so it’s entirely on you if you don’t want to catch up. Anyway, that’s a moot point, because this comic stands alone. There are three stories in here, starting off with the one I sampled below: the big baby that created the universe. As you might expect with a baby, it’s a bit of a chaotic enterprise, which really explains a whole lot about the universe if you think about it. And penguins. Next up is a cosmic eating contest, in which two representatives have to eat as many planets as they can in the allotted time. But when you can eat that much, what’s the one way to ensure your victory? Finally there’s the tale of the space monk (vaguely Buddhist, but alien) who gets quizzed by his master and ends this off with a solid zinger. This comic also answers the question of whether or not space Buddhist masters have a sense of humor, and you’ll be happy and relieved by the answer. I’ve praised Will’s art before, but the coloring deserves mention this time around. For a guy who’s done so much of his work in black and white, this one is gorgeously colored. You can see solid examples of it in the sample image, but that planet eating contest was spectacular, and I don’t know if I could say that if it was in black and white. Give this one a look, free from concerns about where it falls in Hyperverse continuity. Then you go back and catch up on all his other stuff. $8

Wolf, Bart – Grocery Bag Grotesques

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Grocery Bag Grotesques

Anybody who’s stuck around this website for a period of years (I’ve been around for 22+ years now, but who’s counting) knows that I do love it when an artist that’s new to me sends me a pile of their books. There can be drawbacks, sure, because I always start by reviewing one random example from the pile, which can lead to snap assumptions about everything else in the pile, and… ugh, I can see it, the rambling is clear to me now. Reigning myself in, the point is that I picked this one because it looked recent and it seemed self-contained. That and a few of the other ones had a picture of a literal unflushed toilet on them, and after this many years of reading small press comics, that sort of thing just leaves me tired. But hey, how about this particular comic? This is a series of drawings, mostly what it implies on the cover (“grotesques”), with various horror images and scenes thrown in. These images are accompanied by blocks of text, musings really, about various aspects of life and the world. A little tricky to review, but the man is a solid artist and a few of his thoughts got me stroking my chin thoughtfully, so I’d say it all worked out. Subjects in here include a horrible prank he used to play on a mailbox as a kid, aging and realizing the truth about the time you wasted, not looking at yourself too closely, putting too many fish in an aquarium, and a whole lot of free floating despair. So yes, I’d say this book is worth checking out. As for me, I enjoyed the first book in a new and random review pile. Does this mean that I’m going to go back and review the poop comics? <Sigh> Yeah, I’m probably going to review at least one of the poop comics. $8

Graham, Alex – The Devil’s Grin #1

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The Devil’s Grin #1

What an absolute fucking journey this comic is. Oh hi, do you have no idea what you’re in for here? This is the first issue (out of four, at least as of early 2024) of this series, and the early issues are getting pretty rare, so if you’d like to get in on this ride, Domino Books still has copies available as of this writing. I went into this totally blind, and I think the only comic I’ve seen from Alex before this was Dog Biscuits (from Fantagraphics, it was incredible). This one starts in 1948 with a woman dining alone at an outdoor cafe. We see bits of her history and interests throughout this meal, along with an overheard conversation on top of her experiences. She heads home, has an embarrassing (to her) encounter with a bum on the street, and arrives home to a letter from her fiance breaking up with her. We also meet a couple of her neighbors and learn about her interest in becoming a great artist, so at this point I was pretty sure I had a sense of where the story was heading with a whole cast of characters coming together. I was completely wrong, because after a frenzied all night painting session, she ends up on the toilet with an early Chester Brown-esque page full of struggling. Readers of Ed the Happy Clown, you know what I’m talking about. Anyway, she ends up giving birth to a tiny… baby? It’s talking right away, but let’s go with baby. She doesn’t want the shame of having to explain it and figures it would ruin her life, so she flushes it away. At this point the real story starts up, probably, unless it shifts back to the lady in the next issue. But the rest of this one is the adventure of that baby and yes, you can go ahead an assume it survives. There are the flying creatures of the sewers, a lactating rat, a cage, a desperate rescue attempt, and an accidental murder, but I’ve said too much. This book is gorgeous (it took a supreme act of will to not also include that amazing back cover as a sample image), the story is compelling and all kinds of weird, and I have absolutely no idea where he’s going with all this. So yes, I’m glad that I got the first two issues at the same time, and I’ll be getting the next two as soon as I can. $12

Brubaker, Charles – The Chosen One

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The Chosen One

It’s been awhile since I’ve reviewed a comic from Charles, so I thought I should put a little disclaimer here before I started rambling: the man puts out mini comics constantly, and graphic novels on a fairly regular basis. It would be pretty much a full time job for me to review all of his books, so I pick and choose. That also means that if you like his stuff, you have a whole lot to choose from, so you should do that. It is odd that his online store is so sparsely populated, but I’m assuming that he could help you out with any books that aren’t listed (like this one) if you ask him about it. Anyway! Our heroes (Dewey and Lauren) go to an egg festival, which honestly sounds pretty great to me. There are a bunch of jokes on the various signs for the observant readers, and Dewey is there under one restriction: no ostrich eggs. Is this a reference to an older joke that I’m forgetting? Maybe! Dewey finds a loophole, sort of, and ends up with an emu egg, which has a rather dramatic reaction to hatching. After a brief conversation Dewey learns that he is destined to defeat a major villain, although the origin of the claim is a little sketchy. The rest of the book deals with their “epic” confrontation, with the conclusion being the kind you’d expect after learning more about the exact type of villain Dewey was meant to challenge. Overall, it’s an OK comic. A few laughs, some meandering, and a solid conclusion. That’s been my general opinion of the last few comics of his that I’ve read, which is why I rarely review them these days. Always and forever, I’m just one unpaid dude with one opinion and, like I said, if you’re a bigger fan of his work in general than I am, you have plenty of options; he puts out more mini comics than just about anybody this side of Brian Canini. Not sure on the price here because it’s not listed, but somewhere between $3-5 sounds about right.

Madson, Justin – Carbon

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Carbon

Technical note: I use a flat scanner, meaning that when I try to scan images from a 600+ page behemoth of a book, the edges end up looking a little smeared. My apologies. Still, plenty of images are available at Justin’s website, if you’re interested…

I’m always delighted when I run into somebody at a convention who’s work I reviewed in the early days of the website but haven’t seen in awhile, and that’s when they have a new mini or two out. Imagine the thrill when I saw that Justin had this brick of a book available! He’s been working on it for a decade, roughly, and he originally released it in 6 different graphic novels (that I completely missed somehow). But hey, that just means that this is all new to me. How to describe this sucker without taking away all the fun bits for the new readers? I’m going to skirt around the edges, that’s how! This is a sprawling epic of a tale, with a huge cast of characters. Justin was smart enough put a dozen of the characters and some brief bios in the front of the book (and yes, I did reference it frequently), and even with that he probably could have done a few more pages with character bios. There’s a lot happening in here, is what I’m saying. This book deals with a society in which psychics (real ones, not the nonsense you see advertised on tv) have been around for decades, so they’ve already dealt with their discovery, the public reaction good and bad, being used, being abused, using their powers for evil, etc., and Justin does a fantastic job of using flashbacks sparingly but effectively. There’s a big, completely thought out world here, and it’s clear that he could go back into any of the material he’s written and answer whatever questions anybody might have. This book starts maybe 20 years into all of this (if he listed an exact time frame I missed it), where the anti-psychic (called Seers) sentiment is running very high, with proposed laws on the way promising all kinds of terrible things. We’re shown this world through the eyes of a Seer and her non-Seer brother (the former wrote a tell-all book about her childhood, which led to all kinds of problems with the latter), their father (a former cop and Seer whose mind has been ravaged by the years of using his powers), a mysterious woman who’s questioning her life choices and hiding a whole bunch of secrets (that play out throughout the book; her brother also pops up a lot), the anti-Seer contingent and the pro-Seer contingent (and how both sides are trying to deal with the other), and a kidnapped little girl and how just about everybody ends up coming together to try to help her. I’ve been writing for a while now and I’ve barely scratched the surface. Taking the time to really establish these characters as people really makes this book something special, so hey, young cartoonists, maybe spend a decade on your books too? OK, maybe that’s not realistic, but the more real your characters seem, the better off your narrative is going to be. There were constant surprises and escalations, a satisfying conclusion, and the general sense that Justin could put out another book about this world of this size or maybe even bigger and still have a lot left to tell about this world. That’s a complete success as a graphic novel as far as I’m concerned. If you’re a long time reader of this website and have also been wondering what he’s been up to, you won’t be disappointed if you check this out. If you’ve never heard of him until now, I was going to suggest maybe starting with some of his older minis for financial purposes, but it looks like all of those are all out of print. You’ll have to try your luck with a graphic novel, and you could do a whole lot worse than making it this one. $40

Matos, Ana Margarida – Grapefruit

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Grapefruit

And lo, there comes a time in every review pile of mini kus comics where it ends up being so abstract/hard to put into words that I end up fumbling even more than usual, often ending up saying nothing at all. If you enjoy these awkward moments, stick along for the ride! The sampled page was the only one that wasn’t a two page spread, so do me a favor and read it. Gets your attention, am I right? The reader is instantly curious about the lack of existence previously, and the idea of 1000 randomly selected people all putting their comics together to make the whole is inspired. What follows is a complicated journey dealing with the images telling the story, making your own reality, instructions on how to make your own comic, defining yourself down to a single thought, a goddamn beautiful sentiment about the benefits of non-existence, seeing how the world goes on without you and the importance of narration. It’s also about none of those things and is instead a poetry collection with a trapped narrator. Or I’m wrong on all counts? Look, these types of minis are up to you to interpret. Get thee to The Comic’s Journal if you want smarter people than me to analyze this thing to death and squeeze every bit of your own discovery out of it. As for me, it’s a mini kus book. Haven’t they earned the benefit of the doubt by now? $7.95 (or the bundle of four comics is always available)

Cooklin – World on Fire

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Substack

World on Fire

Note: as has been the case for all of Cooklin’s books that I reviewed from CXC this year, they’re not technically listed under available comics at their website. But since I bought the comics a few months ago, and since Cooklin didn’t seem to be running all that low, I’m thinking that if you check in with them then you can probably get your own copies.

Hey everybody, it’s the review after the disclaimer! Ugh, this is why I so rarely use paragraphs here and prefer to just ramble. Trying to make blog posts “formally correct” is a job for a fool. In case this is the first comic of Cooklin’s that you’re reading about here, a quick explainer: they conducted many interviews with people who have clinical depression and/or other forms of mental illness and then released these comics to raise awareness. The interviews were anonymous, so don’t worry about spotting anybody you know. Honestly, I saved this one for last because of that title, as it’s something I’ve always wondered about: how do you treat/deal with your depression when the world is, objectively, terrible? The story here is familiar, in that they had a relatively uneventful upbringing, right up until the point (in high school) that they started being more aware of the events of the outside world, which naturally led to more depression. They tried talking to their parents or just hoping for a better world, but people didn’t take their concerns all that seriously. As has been the case for all of these minis that I’ve read, there’s not much here about tips to help deal with this kind of depression, but that’s probably tricky in its own right. Treatment is complicated, and it’s possible that offering a few quick bits of advice in a mini comic is maybe as problematic as offering bad advice. I’m still hoping for a collected edition or maybe a regular old book with all of their interviews and the conclusions Cooklin drew from them, but who knows. I’ll find out at CXC next year maybe? This one is somewhere between $5-8, so check with the creator for details…

Shuler, Darin – Piggy Fire

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Piggy Fire

Long time readers of this here website will know that I’ll often dance around in a review of a comic when something is so wonderfully shocking that I don’t want to spoil even a hint of it, and that is rarely more true than it is this time around. I’ll just say that that title? It means a whole lot, and almost certainly not in the way that you might be thinking, no matter what way that is. So, what can I say about the comic? Things start off with our hero in bed with his wife, who’s being attacked by their two children. Well, they just want to snuggle, but our hero sure makes it seem like an attack. We see a few pages of their (rather stifling, to my childless eyes) domestic life, and our hero heads out for a planned trip with a friend. We see them enjoying some loud music on the road (I recognized Smashing Pumpkins, but not the other song), and on a whim they decide to get something at a gas station that’s meant to liven up their campfire, i.e. give the flames some color. They set up their campfire, tell a few stories, and finally decide to use the “Funny Fire” on the campfire. This is where we get our first glimpse of full color, and it’s also where things start to get really weird, and it’s ALSO also the part where I have to stop talking about the comic. Will the payoff here be as perfect for you as it was for me? I can’t guarantee a thing, and maybe if you’re in your early 20’s or so it won’t hit as hard. But anything past that (and possibly any age), you’re going to agree with me that the last page of this comic is the most solid ending of a mini kus book in awhile, and they often nail their endings. Look, I’ve been rambling about comics for almost 23 years now. Trust me on this one, OK? $7.95 (or cheaper if you get a bundle of four different comics, which you should always do)

Collier, James – Insomnia Funnies

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Insomnia Funnies

(Note: I got this book through Domino a few weeks ago, but it looks like it’s currently sold out. Future people, between this link and the link to James’ website, maybe it’ll get reprinted soon?)

Insomnia! It sounds funny until you’re the one going through it, at which point it shifts to being the most horrific thing in the world. You want to sleep, your body needs sleep, your brain is barely functioning… and there you are, laying in bed, either staring at the ceiling or stubbornly keeping your eyes closed as if that will solve the problem. This comic right here is one of the more faithful depictions I’ve seen of that miserable state, as things start off (after a few surreal images of a city landscape) with our hero in bed, staring at the ceiling, thinking of heartbreak. He gets out of bed, because why not, and goes through a series of tasks to distract himself from his plight. After these attempts fail he decides to go for a walk, which can already be a surreal experience at the right time in a big city, but much more so when you haven’t slept for three days. After these adventures and images of things observed, he decides to head back home and give sleep another try. Can he do it, or is he trapped in a terrible loop? Read for yourself to find out! Parts of this comic felt like they were giving me second hand insomnia, which I didn’t think was possible. There’s a certain kind of fatalistic futility present in insomnia that’s bizarrely combined with the hope that things will turn around soon, on top of knowing that your body HAS to sleep sooner or later, and James handles all of that wonderfully here. Unless you’re one of those people who gets insomnia through the power of suggestion, this one is well worth a look. $5

Baylis, Jonathan (with Various Artists) – So Buttons #13

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So Buttons #13

What’s this? Am I attempting to sneak in another Karl Christian Krumpholz book under a different name? No, you silly things, he just did the cover and a story for Jonathan’s comic. This time around the theme is (more or less) Hollywood, his time in it, and Harvey Pekar (and his time interacting with Harvey). Mostly, anyway, as he always has room for random stories. Topics in this one deal with him discovering Alan Moore as a young comics kid and how it shaped him (it also mentions that Alan drew a strip for Harvey Pekar in 1990, which I now have to locate) (art by Tony Wolf), his time working for the Sundance Channel and how it eventually ended up with him sitting directly behind Harvey Pekar for the premiere of Harvey’s movie (art by Joe Zabel), a solid choice for a midnight movie experience (art by Bernie Mireault), his time going to school with Eli Roth and his joy at watching him shoot Hitler in Inglorious Bastards (art by Gary Dumm), an entirely too detailed depiction of his having to get his Lasik eye surgery adjusted (art by Maria and Peter Hoey), his love of a good Ennio Morricone soundtrack (art by Rick Parker), a well-earned love letter to Tallulah Bankhead (art by Michael T. Gilbert), Nolan Ryan’s disgusting trick to toughen up his fingers to pitch a baseball (art by T. J. Kirsch), and of course the story with Karl Christian Krumpholz with the odd bit of synchronicity of them talking about The Friends of Eddie Coyle when I just watched that movie a few weeks ago. Coincidence? I mean, obviously. Still, it’s an obscure enough movie that I’m tickled by it being mentioned. Obviously there are few more stories I’m leaving as a total surprise for the reader (I mean, I didn’t even mention Whit Taylor’s piece), but even compared to his already solid body of work, this issue is a shining example of what Jonathan can do with a solid cast of artists and when everybody is firing on all cylinders. What does that mean exactly? Probably a car thing. Anyway, heck yeah you should check this one out. $10

Brookes, Gareth – Gym Gains

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Gym Gains

It’s Gareth Brookes! Sorry, I sometimes get way too excited when an artist I’ve been reviewing for a lot of years ends up with a mini kus book. If you’re curious about his older work, click on his name and you will see a whole lot of me rambling about him. Anyway! This particular comic deals with a love triangle, sort of, between three people who are obsessed with working out and workout apps. There’s a brief affair between two of them, a new lady enters the picture, and the dude ends up with her. It all plays out through online messages, and the comic has the appearance of a hastily crumpled up note that quite possibly also gets tossed into a lake and then retrieved. Roughly half of the messages are distorted mirror images of existing messages, really bringing home the panicked but still somehow distant and opaque nature of the dispute. There’s no contact between the original couple past a certain point, or at least it’s not depicted on the page. Instead it’s an online cheering session and, as it always ends up, an opportunity to trash the happiness of the newer couple. It’s a dreamlike (or nightmarish, depending on your perspective) tale of betrayal and jealousy that’s inextricably mixed with an obsession of (hey look at that it’s the title) the gym goals of the main character. If you’ve ever buried the pain of heartbreak with a compulsive need to work out, this comic is for you! It’s also for you if you wonder if those types of people are capable of honest self-assessment after the fact. It’s worth a look for just about anybody, is what I’m saying ($7.95 for the issue but, as always, I’d recommend getting a bundle of four comics instead of just one)

Heinly, Beth – Girls Named Meghan: A Teenage Memoir

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Girls Named Meghan: A Teenage Memoir

Ah, teenage friendships. Often a mess, but they can still leave lasting impressions for the rest of your life, especially the ones that were (in hindsight) a terrible idea. This is the story of Beth’s teenage years and how they intersected with a girl named Meghan in her school. To start things off we see two girls named Meghan, best friends with each other, and they’ve seemingly bonded over Bon Jovi (the story starts in 1996). One Meghan vanishes for a few months, and when she comics back the Meghans have split up. Beth’s Meghan (just referred to as “Meghan” from now on, OK?) tried to kill herself, which kind of but not really explains their split, but Beth was looking for a best friend, Meghan was newly friendless, so it seemed to make sense to pursue her. And it worked, sort of, as Meghan quickly because Beth’s best friend. Still, her obvious trauma made things tricky, to put it mildly. They joined up with a couple of other friends to make up a coven (it was a thing at the time, believe you me), which went well enough until Meghan freaked out and tried to kill herself in front of them all. Then Meghan came back, in full goth phase, and the warning signs really started piling up at this point. Not to get into too much more, as there’s lots to discover here for yourself, but their eventual breakup was messy, confused, violent, and very real. Beth also says up front that the story is based on memories, so obviously she could be getting a few things wrong. But the best thing I can say about it is that it really calls back to the days of teenage friendships, and you’d better believe that a few names/faces I haven’t thought of in decades popped into me head while reading this. If you’re looking for a nostalgia joyride/cringefest, you’d have a hard time finding a better way to do it than reading this book. $15

Dawson, Mike – Fun Time Fall 2022

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Fun Time Fall 2022

I had to check to see the last time I reviewed one of Mike’s comics (been reviewing his stuff since the very early days of the website) and was surprised to see that it’s been over a decade. If you’re curious about the gap between reviews, read the review for Troop 142. I go on and on about it. What I know about Mike these days is his podcast (that may or may not be done) going over the Star Wars movies minute by minute, mostly because several comedians I like made appearances on it, and that he’s still making comics. This one is almost too personal for me, because he really goes into what must have happened to the “Generation X” people that made them into maybe the Trumpiest generation today. Outside of the very olds, I guess. I think Mike is roughly my age, and as somebody who seemingly gets more liberal every year, the state of my generation is a constant source of annoyance and confusion to me. It’s like the world kept going even after my generation seemed to think “nothing matters” was a solid rallying cry and a significant chunk of them would prefer the world to burn rather than admit they were wrong. Anyway! This is about Mike’s comic. Several stories in this one, mostly about the cover theme. He goes into the exact moment that he first saw someone log in to the internet and how urgently they treated it (circa 1993), talks about rereading Generation Ecch! (I also bought it for the Evan Dorkin art), explains his theory about how Quantum Leap was the quintessential 90’s show because now the problems to be fixed would just be too great to deal with (which makes me wonder how the remake handles the idea), explains how his first cartoon was the Rambo one (look it up, it’s as absurd as it sounds), hearing about a trip of his friends where they all took mushrooms and then talked about politics (he’s right, that sounds nightmarish), watching Twister with his daughter, a guide to spotting fascists, and finally a deep dive into the juxtaposition between the gender bending hair metal bands of the 80’s and 90’s and the rampant homophobia of the time. It’s still baffling, but he has some solid theories on what the whole thing was all about. So overall, yes, the man can still make a hell of a comic. And it looks like he’s still putting out stuff regularly for his Patreon subscribers, if you’re looking to get a steady fix of his comics… $7

Vicieux, Mitch E. – Apoqueerlyptic

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Apoqueerlyptic

This was one of those side effects of the pandemic that I’ve been wanting to read a story about ever since: what happened to people who were transitioning at the start of it, and how was their experience getting through it? Mitch seems like the perfect person to tell that tale, as they were scheduled to get their top surgery in May of 2020. Otherwise known as the worst possible time to have a complicated medical procedure scheduled, if your short term memory is that bad. There were delays, confusion, annoyance at the world, and of course the inevitable constant sexy dreams/images. That’s what surprised me the most about this comic, and in a good way: once I read the synopsis, it seemed like I might be in for a depressing slog of a comic. Somehow it never ended up there, even though Mitch had every excuse for falling into a deep depression. Instead these strips were a lot funnier (and OK, hornier) than I was expecting. These are mostly 4 panels strips, chronicling their time before, during and after top surgery, and it’s the “before” section that gave Mitch the most time to consider their options, although it didn’t take long. Contrary to the beliefs of dipshits, getting top surgery isn’t exactly a casual decision, so they’d already had plenty of time to think things through. It’s also less linear than I was expecting but, again, in a good way. There’s a complete absence of “on this day this happened, the next day I felt this way about it, the day after that I etc.” type of storytelling, which was a solid choice. Some subjects of strips in here deal with trying to answer a gender question to a phone surveyor, making sense of famous gender quotes, contemplating why all their D & D characters were dudes, putting on a binder (before the top surgery, obviously), dealing with the aftereffects of the surgery, and being a lot more open about sex in their art than they are in real life. And lots more, of course; this is a fairly hefty mini. They also spend quite a few strips detailing the surgery (not in gruesome detail, for the squemish types), both the look and the feel of it. It’s informative if you’re curious about the procedure, and funny if you’re not all that curious, which means that heck yeah I’d recommend giving this a shot. $5