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)
New review today for Ghost’d #0 by Reggie Weaver, which might be the only spooky comic I’ve reviewed so far for the Halloween season. Maybe there’s something around I could review that could make up for that oversight next week.
Ah, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen a number zero of a series. Brings me back to those awful Image die-cut covers back in the day, and yes, this seems to be the week that I really show off my age. As a #0 issue, this is basically a preview of the series to come, and looking at his website it sure looks like this was hot off the presses. Meaning that I don’t see any other issue available yet. This is the story of Herschel, a little boy who can see ghosts. Unfortunately he’s the only one who can, meaning that his friends (or friend in the singular, judging by this issue) think he’s probably crazy. This one starts off with his trying to retrieve a ball during a game of dodge ball, but once he’s alone he’s sent off on a mission by what appears to be a ghost that’s giving him instructions. I’m assuming that’ll get fleshed out more in the series, but hey, it’s a preview. His friend Doug catches up to him as he’s leaving, some ongoing tension about this ghost nonsense is shown, and Herschel heads out on his quest. This quest ends in a crashed car and a bit of a further mystery, which is exactly what a preview should do: leave you with more questions that answers. The rhyming was clever overall (the narrator spoke in rhymes, a trick that has the potential to get tiresome in a hurry but never did here), and a whole world for this kid was hinted that in very few pages. I don’t see a physical copy of this out there (refer back to my review on Tuesday if you’d like an extended rant on this subject), which isn’t actually all that bad in this case, as his plan is seemingly to release future issues only online, at least judging from the inside back cover. It’s geared more towards kids, so keep that in mind, but this is an intriguing preview issue.
New review today for For the First Time by Sunshine Gao, and yes, I’m still focusing on the CXC comics. My mail review pile is getting a bit hefty too, so I’m going to have to back off next week, but I’ll get through ’em all sooner or later. Before CXC next year, at the very least…
There are many ways that it’s easy to feel out of touch after reviewing small press comics for 22+ years, but maybe the biggest one is the inability to direct people to buy the comics that I’m reviewing. To me it makes sense for that to be the easiest thing to find online, but increasingly it’s just about impossible. Case in point is this frankly fan-fucking-tastic book by Sunshine, which you can read for free at the link in the title, so it’s not like the book is hard to access. It’s just that if you want to hold this in your hands, you’re going to have to contact Sunshine and ask them for options. I think this was $15 at CXC? Maybe? But their website has no store, and Googling the name and title gets me nothing. Eh, maybe everybody else is content reading everything online and I’m the fossil for wanting a physical copy. I’ll get used to it eventually, I suppose. But then the writer/artist really is working for zero dollars, which doesn’t seem sustainable for an extended body of work. Lord, how I do go on, sorry about that. Because this book alone deserves my (and your) full attention. This is the story of a frantic rush in a restaurant, featuring our hero (a part time helper trying to learn the trade) and the couple who runs the place. Our hero is learning, and trying to take the criticism and suggestions in stride, as we see them going through the prep work and chatting with the owners. When the rush hits, it’s relentless, which leads to one of the better uses of the four page spread image (that can’t be appreciated in the online version, says the curmudgeon) that I’ve seen, beautifully depicting the sprawling chaos of that moment, coming across almost like a choreographed dance. Things briefly calm down and our hero gets a strange, garbled phone call from their mother. When they try to call back they quickly discover that the call came from a mental hospital, and Sunshine masterfully makes it clear that there’s a whole backstory here that we’ll soon be let in on, at least partially. The owners, as the restaurant closes, swing into action, realizing that our hero shouldn’t be left alone, and I may just tell you the entire story if I don’t shut up now. If you’re big on those popular cooking shows there will be a lot here for you, not to mention a complicated family dynamic that we only catch glimpses of. It’s one hell of a comic, and at the very least I know you can get a copy of it if you catch Sunshine at a con, but let them know you’re interested! Not every good thing on the internet is accessible with a single click anyway…
New review today for The Re-Up #1 by Chad Bilyeu & Juliette de Wit. Could this be my latest weekly review comic, at least for the next couple of weeks? Maybe!
Note: the link in the title goes to a site where you can offer a fair price for all three issues that are currently available. If you’re looking for single issues Birdcage Bottom Books has them. Onward! I had a really great conversation with Chad at CXC this year (2023, future people), which is what pushed me to get all three issues that he had available rather than sticking with the usual dipping my toe in with one issue. Based on this first one, I’m glad that I did. This is the story of Chad’s life roughly from 2004-2008, or at least the portion of his life that you might have guessed from that title: his time dealing pot. It was a very different world for such things back then, as he so eloquently describes in his afterward, among other things. It’s odd to start a review with the afterward, but between that and the ongoing narration during the comic it’s obvious that Chad is a hell of a writer. This issue starts off with the moment that Chad decides to take over the business, but wait, we don’t know anything about him yet! Not to worry, because he launches into a flashback from there, detailing his time working A/V for Georgetown University (including a hilarious example of the type of work he did, which I would have thought ridiculous if I hadn’t seen that exact same scenario in a college class of mine ages ago) before a chance meeting with a guy smoking pot on campus. He had no interest in ratting this guy out, but the weed smell was so strong that he felt compelled to warn the guy about other people possibly smelling it. A friendship was born from this, and Chad gradually discovers that his new friend wasn’t a casual pot smoker but was instead a big time dealer in the area. Chad helped this guy out with a connection when everything had dried up, this bigger time connection also became friends with the dealer (he was already pals with Chad), and time moved along, as it does. Chad was reluctant to take over the business when his friend left town, but it’s probably not a spoiler to reveal that he got there eventually, what with that being the premise of the comic and all. Chad mentioned that they’re sticking to a strict publishing schedule (that I can’t remember precisely now, of course), and the plan is to collect all of this into a graphic novel when it’s all said and done. I’d call that an excellent idea, as I’m very intrigued to see where it all goes from here. So in other words, yes, I’d recommend that you give this a shot. Pot smokers should know/remind themselves what things were like back then, and uptight squares should know the reality of dealing instead of their cartoon villain version of it. $10