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Cotter, Joshua W. – Nod Away Volume 2


Nod Away Volume 2

(Sorry about that crappy scan, but I don’t want to break the spine of this book to get a better one. Too much information!) So you know that thing I said (and other, smarter people have been saying it too) about how this might end up being one of the better comics series ever after it’s all said and done? Well, after two volumes, I have to say that that instinct was correct. Once again, I say that you, person reading this who loves comics, should buy this right away, knowing as little as possible about it. Once again, if you need more convincing, I’ll try to hit some of the high points without ruining too much. Things start off with the squiggly lines that were so prevalent in the first volume (and which get a lot more context this time around) zooming in to a busy airport. This isn’t particularly relevant to the story, but it helps to know what kind of an artist Joshua is. A whole lot of people would show a vaguely busy scene with the main characters in focus and just leave everybody else in the image as blurry faces. Not this man; everybody has an expressive face, you can tell from the posture and expressions of these people exactly what they’re each going through at that moment, and there are instantly recognizable clues that tie back to the first volume (signs of the innernet). Again, not particularly relevant to the overall story, but it was impressive enough to stop me in my tracks. Then we see that this plane is in the air during the events at the end of the first volume, meaning everybody gets that awful feedback from the innernet at the same time, which is not at all a good thing to happen on an aircraft. From there we’re taken back in time to see a young bearded dude who looks a bit like the mystery man from the last volume, but in this case he’s living in a big city. His marriage has fallen apart and he meets a young French woman who’s intense but irresistible to him, and she’ll also be pretty damned familiar to everybody who read the last book. They both go about their lives, we get a few more of the silent flashes to the bearded man trying to navigate a strange land, and eventually our hero ends up on his family farm after his dad passes away unexpectedly. He gets into this sudden change in his lifestyle, but eventually Eva (the French lady) comes for a visit, which is when he gets a clearer picture of the mental issues she’s going through. It’s probably appropriate for a trigger warning here, because it’s some pretty brutal stuff, and it somehow manages to escalate throughout the book as he’s increasingly unable to help her. Eventually he’s offered an experimental treatment to help and, since he can’t afford anything else, he gives in. The rest of the book is them both dealing with the consequences of this decision before eventually getting back to the events at the end of the last volume. Again, it’s riveting stuff, and this is definitely one of those series where I’ll be reading each volume again for every new one that comes out, because they’re both packed with tiny details. Is it a bad sign if those squiggly lines have started making an audible sound in my head when I see them on the page? Yeah, I imagine it it. Anyway, I can’t recommend this book highly enough, and if you have a few bucks to help him on his way to 7 volumes, just throw $5 or $10 bucks at the guy, would you? The world needs this entire series in it. $30

Cotter, Joshua W. – Nod Away Volume 1


Nod Away Volume 1

Full disclosure time: I didn’t have any idea that Joshua was working on this series until I saw a depressing Twitter thread about it. His second volume (which I’ll be reviewing toot sweet after the ending of this one) came out right around the time the pandemic started, which severely impacted his ability to promote it, to the extent that it sold something like 4 copies. Not a typo, sadly. I remembered his work from Skyscrapers of the Midwest, a fantastic series I reviewed in the early days of the website, and bought copies of the first two volumes of this series immediately. Quick spoiler-free review: you should too! Or at least the first one, because that’s all I’ve read so far. If you read his stuff back in the day, or if you’ve kept up with his career better than I have, go into this as blind as possible. For the rest of you, I’ll talk some specifics. Things start off abstract, with a series of words turning into sentences, jumbles and finally a person. It’s an unnamed dude that we follow sporadically throughout the book, but the specifics of his purpose are left a mystery. Unless I missed something, which is always and forever a possibility in my reviews. The bulk of the story deals with something called an innernet, which I originally thought was a play on the regular internet, but it’s so much more. A certain percentage (I think it was around 60%) of the population is able to get an implant that lets them keep constantly connected to what is basically a hive mind. The specifics are vague at first, but eventually (keep in mind what I said about spoilers; you can always stop now) we learn that it’s hosted by a young girl who’s kept under constant supervision. Once that comes out the group redoubles their efforts to find a more humane and universal method for keeping people connected, which is when their troubles begin. But that’s towards the end of the book, so I’m keeping that vague. Before then we spend most of our time with Dr. McCabe, a woman who’s taken a job on what is rather casually revealed to be the space station that houses the young woman who hosts the innernet. Dr. McCabe is trying to keep up a long distance relationship, so we gradually watch that fall apart as she tries to keep up with her work. There are bureaucratic troubles galore, we see her get to know the rest of the staff, and things stay more or less calm (with a steady undercurrent of menace) until their big attempt to activate another way to host the innernet. The southern general who speaks at that thing, by the way, is one of my new favorite characters in comics, and I hope we end up getting more of this man that I would never want to meet in real life. I can’t emphasize enough how full of plot and potential this thing is, despite being compellingly readable throughout. Joshua is planning 7 volumes, and from what I’ve seen I can already say that the comics world would be a poorer place if he doesn’t make it. Buy his book, it’s your duty as a comics fan! If that doesn’t work, he’s also doing a fundraiser so he can get through 7 volumes, and he’s only about 1/3 of the way to his goal as of this review, so at least throw some money at the guy. $25

Winter, JB – Izzy Challenge #5


Izzy Challenge #5

This has turned into a weekend of anthology comics here at ye olde Optical Sloth, and these are a couple of good ones to contrast.  The other comic reviewed was the first issue of the Trubble Club anthology, in case anybody reads this years down the line and wants to compare.  In this issue, JB recruited people to do a panel each, based on a state, and have the story be about Izzy traveling through all 50 states.  It had to be all ages stuff, JB sent an image of Izzy along and the artist had to fill in the backgrounds.  With Trubble Club, well, I’m not entirely sure how they did their stories, but they certainly weren’t all ages (a plus in my book), and they had a whole page to set up a story, not just one panel.  It’s probably silly to compare the two books, as they’re aiming to do completely different things, and… you know, that’s a good argument, so I will.  This comic is less about a story than it is about the challenge to have 50 artists represent something from each state, whether or not that something has anything to do with reality.  Looking at JB’s website I can see that he/she has experimented with the individual panel idea before in different ways, and I’m all for people pushing the boundaries of this “graphic art” idea as far as it can go, so kudos to him/her.  There’s also a deal up at the moment (through the end of December) where you can get #1-5 of this series for $3.50, which is a good a chance as any to see what other experiments have been going on with the Izzy Challenges.  So, to sum up, the Izzy Challenge books are a fascinating look into single panels from all over the country (because that’s what they were trying to do) and Trubble Club is a fascinating look into utterly random jam comics that somehow stick to a basic theme (because that’s what THEY were trying to do).  Can you believe I’m not rich from such utterly random commentary yet?  Yeah, me too.  Oh, and as for the list of contributors to this book, check out that website listed above, as I’m not typing 50 names in here.  Some of the people I know are listed on this page are Jack Turnbull, Isaac Cates, Barry Rodges, Sarah Morean, Joshua Cotter and Matt Feazell, but that’s a very incomplete list.  $1

Zwirek, Jeff (editor) – Pinstriped Bloodbath


Website for Pinstriped Bloodbath


Pinstriped Bloodbath (edited by Jeff)

What a great idea for an anthology.  Take various artists, let them use gangsters from Chicago in the 20’s-30’s (or some modern day take on it) and put the whole thing together.  That suit on the cover folds out as you open the comic, and that little flower in the lapel is apparently different for the different stores stocking it.  So fine, the packaging is gorgeous, what about the comic?  There’s a fine collection of talent assembled, and they all have their unique takes on the stories.  Bernie McGovern has a heartbreaking and gory take on the last moments of Baby Face Nelson, Neil Brideau has a quiet conversation between gangsters as one of them tries to crack a safe, Nate Beaty has a silent take on the constant violence and the practice of soaking of blood from the murder scenes as a macabre souvenir, Rickey Gonzalez shows the last moments of Dillinger (or is it?), Neil Fitzpatrick proves that he can’t draw regular human eyeballs and tells the tale of the gangster killed by a horse (and the gangster’s revenge on said horse), Sam Sharpe retells a conversation he had with his at least mildly demented mother about keeping his “gangster” name, Jeff Zwirek has what appears to be a soundly researched piece about the Thompson submachine gun, and Jeremy Tinder closes with instructions on how to make bathtub gin.  Throw in a couple of illustrations by Ivan Brunetti and Joshua Cotter and voila!  You have one ridiculously entertaining anthology.  You could practically make a series out of all the gangster stories from that time period, but Jeff probably already rounded up most of the high points.  If you’re at all a fan of this sort of thing it’s essential that you pick this up.  If you’re at all squeamish, however, things do get a little bloody, because how else could you tell these stories?  No price, let’s spin the mystery price wheel… $6!


Cotter, Joshua – Skyscrapers of the Midwest #4



Skyscrapers of the Midwest #4

It’s saying something in a series as fantastical as this when my favorite parts end up being the quiet moments. This issue deals with two young boys and the rich fantasy lives they dream up to cope with living in a profoundly dull town. One boy dreams or his lost toy dinosaur and his team of friends fighting big fights while the other dreams himself to be a fake comic book hero, Nova Stealth. Joshua pulls out all the stops for that particular parody with a wonderfully accurate old Marvel style cover, even putting in an ad for a Nova Stealth video game that is really a polemic against video game cheats. There’s significantly more quiet moments that you’d think in such a book, and it’s rare that you get equal parts goodness of the chaotic bits and the more introspective moments. Not sure if this is a continuing story (as I missed #3 somehow) but if every issue is as good as this what difference does it make? Great stuff, well worth hunting down. $5

Cotter, Joshua – Skyscraper of the Midwest #1



Skyscrapers of the Midwest #1

Where did this guy come from? Did I miss more hype? This book is fantastic. I love the endings, mostly because they’re so totally random in almost every case, but that’s a hard thing to talk about without giving stuff away. In here you have a boy pretending to be a robot, the end of the world, Granma dropping some pies, and a robot family with an angry father. Throw in a “cowboy” answering some fake letters and you have a solid book all around. I love it when you throw in little things like that to go with the art. Why have blank pages? The book looks great (that includes the art and the packaging), it’s $2, and Joshua looks to me like somebody people should support. Here’s an e-mail address, I have no idea what else he has available but I’d be interested to see it…

Cotter, Joshua – Skyscrapers of the Midwest (Adhouse edition)



Skyscrapers of the Midwest #2 (Adhouse edition)

Just to make this perfectly clear, this is all new material, put together in a lovely comic (have you seen a bad looking Adhouse book? I didn’t think so). It’s just a bit confusing on this page because Joshua already went the mini comic route, and now he’s “big time”. As for this comic, granted, it’s been years since I’ve seen the minis, but this is a wonderful thing. Everything ties together, even the characters in the Sunday funnies. It’s all about a boy who’s getting baptized even though he doesn’t much believe in religion, a woman with migraines sent from God (who looks a lot like a Cylon, if you’re dorky enough to watch Battlestar Gallactica like me), white trash love, and a cat and a mouse (and wait’ll you see which part of that turns out to be tragic). Sad and beautiful at the same time, it’s the best self-contained comic I’ve read so far in 2007. Granted, it’s early, and this was put out in 2005, but you get the idea. Well worth the $5, and a great introduction to his work if you’re never heard of Joshua Cotter somehow…

Cotter, Joshua – Skyscrapers of the Midwest #2



Skyscrapers of the Midwest #2

I think this one was a bit more normal than the last one. Not that I mean that in a bad way, and I think it mostly has to do with the fact that there weren’t any robots… oh wait, there was a robot in the last story. Just talking out of my ass again then, don’t mind me. You have in here highjinx with the Optimistic Youth Summer Camp, a young boy playing around in his head to avoid going to church, a brief but very effective comic about why life isn’t fair, and the story I forgot about with the robot. Also in here are letters answered by a drunk, angry cowboy, a pamphlet about the summer camp, and a listing of all the merit badges that the kids could get, which was easily the funniest part of the book. What, you’re still wasting time reading me when you could be reading this comic? What’s wrong with you? The guy has done two incredible comics, what else is it going to take to get you to spend $2? Christ!