Update for 2/19/24

New review today for Plastic People #9 by Brian Canini, and now I can finally start making a dent in this Plastic People backlog I have going on.

Canini, Brian – Plastic People #9

Website

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.

Update for 2/15/24

New review today for Poison Pill, a big old anthology with a half dozen ridiculously talented artists in it.

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

Update for 2/13/24

New review today for The Re-Up #3 by Chad Bilyeu and Juliette de Wit, and why yes, I am still reviewing comics from CXC roughly four months later. Like I keep telling all of the stingy billionaires reading this, if you just threw a pile of money at me, I’d make this a full time job. Like you’d even miss a few million!

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

Update for 2/7/24

New review today for Are You Lost, Little Bunny? by Noemi Vola. That’s right, back to the mini kus books!

Vola, Noemi – Are You Lost, Little Bunny?

Website

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)

Update for 2/5/24

New review today for Far Tune: Spring by Terry Eisele and Brent Bowman, which wraps up the series (in case you were waiting for me to review the last volume before checking it out, you weirdos).

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

Update for 2/1/24

New review today for Cosmic Gossip by Mark Peters and Will Cardini. You know what just occurred to me?Maybe it would be helpful if I kept track of the number of times I reviewed somebody. You know, then I could say this was review #24 of Will’s books over the years. A constant work in progress, that’s this website…

Peters, Mark & Cardini, Will – Cosmic Gossip

Website

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

Update for 1/30/24

New review today for Grocery Bag Grotesques by Bart Wolf, because even though I still have review piles of comics to get through, this website is always welcome to new faces. Well, new to me anyway, this dude seems to have been making comics for awhile now…

Wolf, Bart – Grocery Bag Grotesques

Website

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

Update for 1/26/24

New review today for The Devil’s Grin #1 by Alex Graham. Happy weekend y’all!

Graham, Alex – The Devil’s Grin #1

Website

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

Update for 1/24/24

New review today for The Chosen One by Charles Brubaker, and it looks like I’ll actually have time for three reviews this week. Is it too late to use “Happy New Year” to celebrate this? Yeah, probably…

Brubaker, Charles – The Chosen One

Website

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.

Update for 1/22/24

New review for definitely the biggest book I got at CXC last year, it’s the return of a crowd favorite, Carbon by Justin Madson!

Madson, Justin – Carbon

Website

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