As far as I can tell there’s no editor listed for this anthology (unless I’m supposed to assume that Amy Lockhart is the editor because she’s the first person named on the credits page?), but whoever put this thing together deserves a medal for having Ben Juers do single page strips in between the other stories. They never fail to be at least amusing, and most of them are hilarious, which is a welcome break from some of the stories in here. They can get a bit depressing which, as some of them are based on real life, is the way things actually happened, so it’s hard to complain about it. But between those comics, the true life stories and the more abstract pieces, this is a damned well-rounded collection. As always, I’m not going to go through and review every bit of this anthology, as that’s half the fun for people who are going to be reading this for themselves. But I will mention my favorite bits! Emi Gennis starts things off with the story of Lake Nyos in Cameroon and what happened there in 1986. Over a million tons of carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere around the lake, which led to only six inhabitants of the nearby town waking up the next day, unsure if the world had ended. On the other end of the spectrum, Andy Warner has one of the best opening page brawls that I’ve ever seen in a comic, and follows through with a wordless tale about a band against some “bad guys.” James K. Hindle has a thoughtful piece about a young boy, a young girl he meets, a fire in the town and how it all comes together. Laura Terry’s story starts off where it ends, and we slowly come to meet and understand the “dark” being she keeps seeing that won’t leave her alone. Mazen Kerbaj lets us in on the secret thoughts of boats, Jackie Roche tells the story (that I’d never heard) of where Lincoln was taken after he was shot but before he died, Georgia Webber refers to her recently losing her ability to speak and how much social media has meant to her since then, and things wrap up with Jan Berger’s piece on awakenings, seeing what’s real and how to save the world. I’m leaving a bunch of stuff out, as this is over 150 pages and, as is usually the case in anthologies, there were a few stories/pages that didn’t do a whole lot for me. But the good vastly outweighed the not-so-good (I won’t even call them “bad”), and there’s plenty in here to recommend it to people. $15
When We Were Kids
I wonder sometimes how many stories from artists I really like are scattered around in anthologies that are long out of print, never again to see the light of day. Granted, I’m wondering this because the three stories in this book are from the Irene series, which are all (as of now) still in print. And sure, lots of people eventually put these “lost” stories into a collection of some kind. But when I think about the mid 90’s, back when I was getting started on good comics instead of Marvel crap, all kinds of those mini comics artists would put stories into anthologies for friends, often with print run in the dozens. Anyway, tying this back into the comic, this walk down memory lane was inspired by the theme of this book. Which, as you may have guessed from that title, deals with stories (real or imagined) from childhood. Andy picks three big moments here, and they’re moments that might not seem like that big of deal while they were happening. The first story is about a young man and woman who take acid and hike up a dune. The guy has never done it before while the lady has, and the story is delightfully thin on the stereotypically “trippy” visuals that often mar stories like this. No, more often than not these kinds of experiences are all about the conversations, and the revelations that come out of them. The second story deals with two young brothers who are trying to adapt to a new stepfather, and the moment we see here is set before a snowmobile race, after all kinds of beers are drank all around. The final story is between two girls who are on different paths after graduating high school, with one of them leaving and the other sticking around. This isn’t written as an ending for the two of them, but you can see the hints of it in the pauses and quiet moments. It’s a damn fine comic book, and I’m glad that all of these stories are gathered together here, even if what I’ve seen of Irene has been pretty great too. $5
The Palace of Ashes
Quick, without using the internet, answer this question: can you be buried in San Francisco when you die? Not that it’s something I’ve ever thought about, as I’ve never been there, but it must have crossed the minds of at least a few people reading this, unless you’re still young enough to think you’re immortal. It turns out that you can’t, and that has been true for a very long time. Who knew? Andy uses this comic to relate the history of that decision and what happened after. In 1902 burials were banned because they were running out of space for the living, and they finally got around to digging up the bodies in the 20’s. It gets even more grim, as they smashed most of the tombstones and used the bits to fill in walls and gutters. One building was eventually designated as a place to hold cremated remains, and was promptly basically forgotten until the early 80’s. The rest of the comic deals with the building finally being rediscovered and the quest of one man to return it to its former glory. I love the modern touches of the urns compared to the older ones (and the container that the main repairman is going to eventually use for his ashes is brilliant) and had no idea that this was even an issue. It makes sense, but the thought never even crossed my mind. This is a genuinely informative comic with some serious heart, and it’s well worth a look if you’re interested in San Francisco, society forgetting about the dead or mortality in general. $3
Does it really matter if you review anthologies out of order? I’m pretty sure it doesn’t, but if it turns out that there are continuing stories from #4 of this series (which was also sent my way) then I apologize. Anyway, this is a pile of stories and drawings by a little over a dozen artists. As always, some of them were more compelling to me than others and, as always, your opinions on which stories are more compelling probably varies wildly from mine. This does seem to be a regularly published anthology series, and the packaging does look gorgeous, so if you’re looking for that sort of thing, maybe check in with them from time to time? Anyway, highlights include the story of how he used to give story ideas to his father every night before he went to sleep and how he couldn’t sleep without the ensuing story by Andy Warner, a trip into (and discussion of) Mexico by Dave Ortega, Luke Healy’s story of following a woman up onto a mountain to see what happened to her (there’s more to it than that, but I’m certainly not going to give it away here), James the Stanton and the search for a Guru, Pat Barrett’s tale of the last days of a space explorer as she tries to save an alien (or are they really the last days?), Jon Chad and the best way to get intergalactically pwned, and Dakota McFadzean’s memories of being a kid, flying, and creating life (sort of). I should also mention the various single pages by Lindsay Watson, as they appeared between the stories and brought a life to the whole anthology that might not have been there otherwise. My absolute highlight for the stories was the piece by The FDZ (writer) and Fouad Mezher (artist). It starts off as a fairly simple story of a man living his last night in Lebanon and an unfortunate encounter with a guard dog, but things take an absolutely brutal turn from there and, once again, I shouldn’t really be talking about it. All kinds of good stuff in here, and it’s 160 or so pages, so you’ll be getting value for your $15.