New review today for Far Tune: Winter by Terry Eisele and Brent Bowman. Remember the olden times when I wouldn’t post a review of somebody again before the initial review shuffled off the front page? No? Good. It would be weird if you did.
A bit of personal history here, which applies to why I used the sample image. Back in my early days of working at the Board of Elections in Columbus (I’ve since moved on to a different BOE, which confirms that I’m a glutton for punishment), I noticed that a whole lot of names that we got from the naturalization process were for January 1st of whatever year. It took me a few years to get a solid answer as to why that was the case, but if you’re curious, Fartun lays out the reasoning here. I’d just let everybody pick their own birthday, which is one more reason why I’ll never rule the world. Anyway, this volume picks up shortly after the holiday break is over, and we’re shown exactly why that’s an odd time to be in Ohio from somebody who went from a refugee camp to a few years in London. We see a bit more of the camp too, including more detail about how Fartun’s mother died and her reaction at the time. There’s a constant background tension around her brother and father; guess I’ll find out in the next volume whether it gets resolved or if it’s just a part of trying to fit into a foreign (and often hostile) culture. This volume spends a lot of time on slam poetry, so if you’re as unfamiliar with it as I was you’re going to learn a few new things here. We also see some of the more overt racism so far, as Fartun is forced to participate with another school because her bully told everybody to boycott the team if she (Fartun) was on it. It’s a fascinating subculture, with a lot more rules that I would have guessed. Oh, and there’s also a bit of Somali mythology, as she tells her friend Bea the story of Dhegdheer, essentially a monster that was used to keep children from wandering off but with a tragic backstory. There are at least a few actual poems included from the time depicted (still in 2005), which was a nice touch, and it showed that she had some serious poetry skills right off the bat. It looks like the series concludes in the next volume (so much for my theory for their being a book for each of the four seasons), and these are some hefty books that are currently going for $10 each on Amazon. Or maybe a package deal if you’re lucky enough to run into Terry at a con…
New review today for New Things by Lauren Barnett, and for those of you who don’t read the reviews but do read these weird little update thingies (a category of people I just made up), “new book by Lauren Barnett” is all you need to know.
Remember how in those old timey movies about a reporter going after a hot story you’d often see them take out a little tape recorder to record notes for themselves? You know, leads they’d need to follow up on, that sort of thing. Well, I read my review for Lauren’s last book (Ruining Your Cat’s Life, in case you need a reminder) and I mentioned missing several of her books/comics and needing to rectify it soon. I have not done that thing! Will I remember to fix that this time around? Well, if this book doesn’t lodge that into my memory, nothing will. This is a collection of a bunch of Lauren’s new strips, and two things are true about this at the same time: there’s some ridiculously funny stuff in here, and it would be wonderful if like 90% of it really did happen/start happening in real life. I mean, the sample image! What a fantastic idea. And spare me with the “oh, think of the food that would be wasted, the chef would have to make full size portions of each just for little samples.” No! She’s trying to imagine a better world here, and this would absolutely apply. If you’re new to her stuff, or unsure, her website has all kinds of sample comics. If you can scroll through that for a few minutes without laughing, I guess you won’t enjoy this, but I also feel sorry for the lack of laughter in your life. For the rest of us, if you’re curious what goes on in this particular volume, Lauren has some suggestions for other medical practitioners and the samples they could be giving out after appointments (seriously, why is it that only dentists do this?), new vanity plates, ways to disguise a cell tower, condiments that help you out, new vegetables, new appetizers, dream restaurants, new fruits (and seltzers, and animals, and jelly beans, and ice creams; again, the world would be a better place with a lot of these things in it), and some movie ideas that should happen as soon as possible. As always, just describing these takes some of the humor out, which is why I keep it vague. There are also a few more ideas in here I’m not even going to mention (except for the pajamas that show cats knocking things off of shelves), but the important thing is that they’ll make you laugh. Yes, that’s a guarantee. $15
New review today for Enough Nonsense by David Robertson and his trusty gang of comics pals, by which I mean artists. And probably pals, at least in some cases, why not?
I was curious so I just looked back on how I labeled all of my old reviews on David’s books, as he’s the writer but usually only the artist on some of the comics. I was all over the place over the years, sometimes calling him an editor (which I’m sure he is too), sometimes listing the various artists, usually not. This is all to say that all of those names in the tags? Those are all of the artists in this issue. I never go story by story in these reviews, so if you liked one piece in particular, look up that artist why don’t you? Christ, now I’m telling people how to use the internet. OK, moving on. This is another collection of short pieces by David and friends (nothing is longer than a couple of pages this time around), and it’s yet another solid pile of stories. If you’re thinking that “yet again” is a slam, no it is not. Somebody putting out quality work on a consistent basis should never be taken for granted. Stories this time around deal with whether or not the Titanic cracked in half before sinking (I had no idea that this was a controversy for decades before the wreckage was found), explaining the gap in observable work between comic writers and artists, car people vs. non-car people, the disturbing process of “weeding” in public libraries (basically pulling books from the shelves permanently that haven’t been checked out in a certain number of years), trying to do a nice thing for a new writer, how some painful memories may be ridiculous but still manage to haunt you, rejecting the cop-out answer that saying you believe in god doesn’t hurt anything because you’re covered if it does or doesn’t exist, how the official Star Wars Celebration has changed over the years, and being yelled at by an automatic fridge to close the door. That last one was illustrated by Peter Conrad, another one of those artists who were around in the early days of the website but I’ve since lost track of. Well, he’s still making comics, which is always a positive sign. I mentioned maybe half of the stories in here, so that leaves plenty of surprises for you to find. So, to recap: are these great stories that I will enjoy? Yes. Are there a wide variety of stories so that I’ll still like plenty of them even if some of them aren’t for me? Also yes. When in doubt, should I just throw money at indie comics in case I like them, because even if I don’t like a particular issue that still means that the artist is more likely to make comics in the future? Absotively yes. All clear?
New review today for The Re-Up #2 by Chad Bilyeu & Juliette de Wit. And yes, of course I’m still reviewing comics from CXC. I’d be surprised if I got through this stack before the end of the year.
Note: the review for the last issue included a link to make an offer on all of the available issues (up to #4 now). This time around I’m linking to a single issue through what looks like the only website that offers them singly. I’m a full service website over here! Chad spent a lot of time in the last issue detailing his life at the time, his hesitancy about getting into selling weed, and fleshing out the stories of several people involved in the business. This time around he takes a step back to show, in detail, a process that’s not at all sexy or dramatic and is left out of pretty much all depictions of drug dealing in movies or tv: waiting around for your supplier to show up. Chad is just getting started, so he’s given the address of a (fairly sleazy) hotel and told to wait there for the supplier to show up. He’s waiting with several other people for their re-ups, and three hours is plenty long enough for some awkward and/or posturing conversations to pop up. From there we get taken along for the ride as Chad meets the man, has the details explained to him, is offered several helpful suggestions to minimize risk and told what to do if all of that fails. It’s a confident comic, if that makes any sense. A couple of lesser talents could lose an audience to slow things down this much in the second issue, but it’s clearly a necessary piece of the story and, like I said, it’s usually glossed over in any fictional accounts. If this is a world that you’re at all curious about, this is a damned solid comic to check out. $10
New review today for Ha! Magazine by Robb Mirsky, which is a hefty pile of laughs to enjoy with your Thanksgiving meal.
It’s time for another gaggle of comics from America’s favorite funny man, Robb Mirsky! OK fine, maybe not all of America, but give them time. This is a collection of shorties that mostly appeared in various other anthologies, but even if you’ve bought every comic put out over the last several years, at least a few of these appear to be new. And even if you did, why not get them in one handy package? This is the part of the review where I attempt to talk about funny things without sucking all the joy out of them, which has had mixed results in the past. So if you’re looking for something short: if you already like his work, or if you just need a laugh, absolutely give this one a shot. For you folks who like to know exactly what you’re getting, stories in here include a lesson on trash, a relentlessly cheery man out for a walk, an action hero pushed out of an airplane (that was maybe the funniest thing in here for several reasons), a few four panel strips with the lovable duo of Dingus and Dum-Dum, a pretty great Halloween story that I maybe shouldn’t have ruined by using the punchline as the sample image, and a few other bits that I’m leaving for you. There’s also a story where Robb is visited by his younger punk self as he’s driving his kids to school, berating older Robb for changing and selling out. It’s a fantastic piece for any former punk (or punk-adjacent) person, and he did a solid job of defending his life choices to his punkier self. I mention this one in detail mostly because he ended up pulling out a punk album that he hadn’t heard in years by NOFX, which in my punky days was considered to be a sellout band because (reasons long forgotten, if they were ever real). Which wasn’t the punchline he was intending, I reckon, but a hilarious illustration to me of the hopeless endeavor of remaining a “pure punk” with constantly changing rules. Kids, I’m old enough to have watched friends have to deal with Green Day going from small punk band to megastars and the turmoil they went through. The struggle is real! And silly. $10
New review today for Live From New York It’s So Buttons! by Jonathan Baylis, J.T. Yost and Jeremy Nguyen. Veering from the CXC pile to the mail pile this week, in case anybody was wondering…
New review today for Time Under Tension by M.S. Harkness. Was this another CXC week? I suppose it was. I’d actually planned on getting another review up this week to make up for lost time, but this one deserves a few days in the “spotlight” here all by itself.
(Unasked for) peek behind the curtain time! Generally speaking, these days at least, I read a few comics on the weekend, sweep whatever thoughts float around in my head into a pile, write them out in a vague review format and set them to publish during the week. I mention that mostly because I read this a few days ago and it has spent the past few days battering my head all to bits and I feel like my thoughts about it are getting less coherent as time goes on, so unless I write something soon I might lose the power of language. M.S. has already shown that she’s fearless when it comes to telling tales about her life on the page, and if anything this book is her somehow peeling back another layer and getting even more revelatory. This covers the period of her life right after graduating from art school, when she was around 25. There were plenty of unresolved issues with Murmur, her kind of sort of ex who has a girlfriend (read past volumes, specifically Desperate Pleasures; it’s too much to get into here), her still making extra income with her escort work, trying to get certified to become a personal trainer, the usual attempt to figure out what’s next after graduating, her abusive father getting out of prison and him trying to reconnect, attempts to find a decent therapist that she could afford, even Murmur’s upcoming MMA fight. There’s a whole lot swirling around, and it’s all peppered with her devastating insights and mental journey, if that’s even a thing. I loved how it opens up with her alone at a bar, with no title or even the requisite legal info (that doesn’t pop up until around page 60). She’s at a celebration with some of her graduating class and seems like she’d rather be anywhere else. We get a series of flashbacks when one of them asks if her mother is coming, which does a fantastic job of laying out some basics for new readers while still including a lot of new information for the regulars. This is the part where I would like to hit you with a few quotes from the story (I even marked a few pages like a real reviewer) but you know what? Fuck that. You should read this, and discover those quotes, for yourself. Can you find the most devastatingly succinct way to to describe a fairly pleasant past relationship with some serious issues of all time? It’s on page 241, but that’s all the hints I’ll give. I’ve seen a few review quotes lying around (she’s on a nationwide tour as I’m writing this) that call her a generational talent, Ivan Brunetti even says on the back cover that she’s reached “the elusive ‘next level.'” Which, hell yeah she has. It’s a lot of pressure, no doubt about it, but after reading this? I think she can handle it, or just about anything else that life throws at her. $25
Back from the election madness (not that it’s over for me, but it’s all behind the scenes stuff at work, not the kind of thing that makes headlines), and hey, good job Ohio! At least on the big stuff. New review today for In the City Part One by Karl Christian Krumpholz, another one of the people I saw at CXC this year, meant to go back to when he was less busy and… forgot. Screw it, next year I’ll just go to both days of the con so this doesn’t happen again. Sorry that you had to waste money on postage, Karl!
You know how sometimes you’re watching or reading a mystery and the answer makes perfect sense when you hear/read it and you feel a little stupid that it never occurred to you? Maybe it’s just me. Anyway, I was wondering which direction Karl would take after his years of putting out The Lighthouse in the City, which were collections of his regular diary strip, in case you’re new here. After all the stories and talking of that series, he’s moved on to this, which still keeps his love for a big city front and center, but lets the reader take a few steps back to take it all in. If you’ve ever taken a walk through even a mid-sized city (one that’s friendly to pedestrians, obviously) by yourself, and if you managed to do it without listening to podcasts/being so glued to your phone that you’d fall into any open manhole cover in front of you, a lot of this will seem familiar to you. The landmarks, the people (in crowds or alone, drunk or sober), new reactions to familiar sights from others, overheard conversations… it’s a real love letter to the idea of a busy night in a city. His wife joins him halfway through, so the perspective shifts slightly from one of silent observation to taking in familiar sights through a loved one’s eyes; a solitary glove placed on a fence post was noticed by Karl on his silent walk, but it’s given new meaning through her eyes later on. Honestly, it feels like cheating to use one of the few pages with dialogue as the sample image, that’s how contemplative this one feels. I’m not clear on how to actually buy his comics online, short of contacting him directly and asking him, but I think it’s worth reaching out for this one. Unless you’re looking for a big shoot ’em up type comic, in which case this is frankly a poor choice of a website to visit. Check it out, is what I’m saying. $12
New review today for Small Sh*t by Cooklin, and it looks like this was another CXC review week. Dang it, I’ll get to the other review comics soon. But probably not next week, as it’s time for another election, which means I almost certainly won’t have the free time to write about comics. But if you live in Ohio, vote why don’t you? Assuming you can reproduce or know anybody who can, and assuming you/they would rather take the advice of their doctor rather than politicians, there’s at least one incredibly important issue for you to vote on…
Oh, did I ever hedge on whether or not to spell out “shit” in the title. But in the end, that’s how Cooklin chose to present it on the cover of their comic, so who am I to randomly throw in curse words just because I can? If this is your first comic by Cooklin, you should know that they conducted a series of interviews with people who suffer from depression or similar mental illnesses. These comics are based on those interviews, with anonymity obviously protected. Based on their shop there were a whole lot of comics that I should have picked up at CXC due to fantastic titles alone, but sadly my money is not infinite. Oh, the comics I would have if it was! Anyway, this comic is just what it sounds like: helping your mental health by focusing on small stuff, things that you can control. Try to avoid the big highs and lows, just do your best to keep things on an even keel. This person, for example, would put a row of penguins along their bed, both as something pleasant to start the day off with and as an example of something they could control. An act of kindness could also help, as it’s tough to stay depressed after getting a compliment on something that they took the time to make for another person. There are a few other suggestions too and, as always (or at least after two comics), this seems like an invaluable resource for anybody trying to navigate their own depression. This particular volume isn’t listed in their store at the moment, but maybe just check with Cooklin to see if there are still copies available? Or catch them at a con, I suppose, but it would probably be faster to send them money and ask for books. $8
New review today for Far Tune: Autumn by Terry Eisele & Brent Bowman. If I seem even more disjointed than usual in my ramblings, I was interrupted three times while writing it, so it still feels like half a mess to me. A peek behind the curtain!
If you’re wondering why a book would be called “Far Tune,” Terry and Brent don’t leave you in suspense for long. This book (and this series of books, I believe the plan is for one covering each season) is about a young Somali girl named Fartun, and “far tune” is how she helps out people who are confused as to the possible pronunciation of her name. Seems obvious to me from the spelling, but never underestimate the willful ignorance of Americans. This starts off with Fartun and her family (father, mother and brother) in a refugee camp in Kenya. Things aren’t great, obviously, but the people there are living as best they can. We flash forward a bit to 2005 with the family living in a rough looking apartment building in Columbus Ohio. Bit by bit we get pieces of Fartun’s life at the time, including her family dynamic (her mother had sadly passed away at the refugee camp, leaving just the three of them), her awkwardness with her two Somali friends (later revealed to be because she hadn’t clued them in as to where she was going to school for ninth grade), and of starting at a new school. This takes up a significant chunk of the book, but Fartun was lucky enough to find a friend very quickly, so she was able to settle in, or at least pick up a routine. This a roundabout way of me saying that the story surprised me at several turns, as I was afraid this would be a tale of bullying or having to compromise to fit in, but no, Fartun was remarkably self-assured at that age, while of course still being aware of the potential for problems all around her. I was also worrying about overt racism being inescapable, what with the time frame and all (9/11 cast a long shadow against anybody who was brown, kids who weren’t old enough to notice at the time), but while it does pop up here and there, overall this is just the story of Fartun living her life, trying to fit in her daily prayers and dealing with her family/school/work dynamic. Terry (the writer) said at CXC that he got to know Fartun later while he was teaching, and I’m hoping he gets into that in one of these volumes because it seems like there’s a story to be told there too. It’s a solid first book of the series, as I’m very tempted to just tear through the series so far (yes, of course I bought all three books that were available; after “With Only Five Plums” I’m thoroughly on board for whatever project Terry is working on). Give it a shot, there’s a lot to like here. $10 (although if you’re lucky he might be willing to do a package deal for a few volumes)