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Gennis, Emi (editor) – Unknown Origins & Untimely Ends



Unknown Origins & Untimely Ends

You should have a pretty easy time knowing whether or not you’d be inclined to like this book from the title alone, and I’m happy to tell you that the contents more than live up to it. Emi has been doing mini comics on this theme for a few years now, and she took her chance to edit this anthology and ran with it, doing a really fantastic job of picking out/accepting these stories. I should say up front that I have no patience for those stupid “ghost hunting” shows with the shaky cams and the loud noises and won’t believe that aliens have visited us until I see solid proof (which is not the same thing as declaring that no other life exists in the universe), but overall this isn’t that type of book. These are all, as Emi says in the introduction, unsolved mysteries, so the reader doesn’t get the satisfaction of getting the story neatly tied up in a bow by the end. Instead you’re left wondering what the hell happened for these 32 stories. If you’re a naturally curious person and/or at all interested in the weird and bizarre then you’ve probably already stopped reading this and ordered a copy. For those of who are too polite to quit reading in the middle of the review (and it’s OK if you do, I’ll never know), subjects include a mysterious gelatinous goo that rained down on a town, the monster with 21 faces, an unexplained shower of meat from the sky, an arcade game that quickly came and went in 1981 under mysterious circumstances, a tumor that was bigger than the carrier, Gef (of which I will say no more but this may have been the most intriguing tale in the book), that weird hum in the air that some people can hear all the time, the Nain Rouge and his continuing destruction of Detroit, the money pit of Oak Island (which some bored billionaire should look into), creepy kids with black eyes trying to enter homes, the Leatherman and theories of who he might have been, unsolved murders at a campsite, the former Prime Minister of Australia vanishing while swimming, the missing body of Addie Mae Collins, why 9 campers in Siberia ran from the safety of their tent (sometimes barefoot) and why they never went back to it, two bodies and their lead masks, Rasputin (an oldie but a goodie), Frederick Valentich and the UFO that seemed to by toying with him, D.B. Cooper and his disappearance (it’s an ever funnier story to anybody who watched Justified this season), a bridge where 600 dogs have committed suicide, the Axeman, and a serious skeleton in the closet of Orson Welles (possibly). DC comics used to do a series of “Big Books” on various subjects, and after seeing this I’d suggest that they start it up again and put Emi in charge. Not every story was perfect, granted, but good luck not having several of these stories haunt your dreams. Also good luck on not taking to the internet to learn more about them, as I already know how I’m spending the rest of my afternoon. And look at that pile of talent in the tags section! Why would you possibly need any more convincing to check this out? $12


Soucek, Nick – A Working City


A Working City

It’s possible that Nick has cornered the market on bleak yet oddly adorable characters. Look at that sample and feel free to say that I’m crazy, but the deceptive simplicity of the appearance of his characters is a big reason why these stories work so well. This comic is set in a either the near future, an alternate universe or this has already started happening in Bristol and we just haven’t heard about it yet. Things start off with our hero giving a presentation at his job and getting a long ovation from the other people in the meeting. He’s a little shocked, as he had his original plans for the subject of the meeting stolen and he lost months worth of work. He scrambled to put something together… and nobody could tell the difference. This has a profound effect on our hero (his name is Arthur and I’ll just start using that, OK?), as it calls into question his entire existence. What’s the point of putting in months of work for something that can apparently be done just as well in a few days? In that case, why bother to show up at work at all? What about the whole nature of life, of being in a relationship, of being bombarded with advertisements every waking hour? Can you see why I’m not clear if this is a fantasy or something that’s already happening? Anyway, the interactions with his wife (?) are pricelessly depressing, and there are no happy endings to be found. If there are any art snobs who would turn their nose up at something like this because they don’t like how the characters look, you’re missing the big picture and a damned fine story. No price, naturally, but go to that website of his and ask him for a price. I’m guessing around $4.

Soucek, Nick – To Share is to Divide


To Share is to Divide

The ability to recognize when you’re being too melodramatic is often missing from autobiographical small press types, so it was heartening to see Nick take himself to task for it after a few pages of increasing melodrama. Nick is feeling sad and goes back to some hurtful things said by his last girlfriend (?), then off to ruminations about how he’ll be forever alone. Then the self-awareness returns and he seems to get that he’s wallowing, and the comic gains a little insight because of it. Nick rents a boat, goes off in search of time to think and ends up in the belly of a giant fish.  It ends up being a fairly hopeful comic (without giving too much away), and ends up breaking through some fairly conventional “I’ll never be loved” territory.  Why are there no comics in this genre for women?  I’m sure there are some out there, but the vast majority of it I see is from guys.  Because women have an easier time getting into relationships than shy guys?  Let’s just go with that, even if it does feel a little like a stereotype.  Anyway, Nick makes a few insightful observations about the process, and it’s certainly easy to see why it’s so common to get discouraged.  Check it out if you like these types of stories but maybe want to see a bit of a twist for once. No price, so let’s say $3 and hope for the best.

Soucek, Nick – Misinterpreted Complications #5


Misinterpreted Complications #5

Is there a word for something that is wistful, sad and amusing at the same time?  Nostalgiaish?  Ah well, who says a comic reviewer needs a command of the language.  Well, that’s what this comic is all at once.  You can tell by the sample that Nick goes for fairly simple drawings accompanied by wise and insightful writing.  If you’re of the opinion that this is a bad thing, we clearly can’t relate on this one.  Plenty of the strips in this comic are currently up on the main page of his website (along with a couple not included here about the replaceable nature of relationships and the lack of the feeling of self-worth needed to start a new one), so you have no reason to be uninformed about this man.  Willful ignorance, that’s one of my least favorite things in the world, so don’t do it!  Stories in here include gradually ruining a fried egg as a small child, enjoying solitude (but not being at all sure how to get out of it if desired), being insulted by a stupid name for a charity, limitless possibilities shrinking to few, the flawed basis for Sim City, confusion from thumping, and life as a whole.  This is one of those very rare occasions where I actually like the layout of the comics on his website better than the printed layout, as they’re two panels a page here and an organized clump on the site.  There’s not a whole lot in these panels screaming out to be made bigger, so why not pack more content into the comics?  Granted, that is my complaint for many comics that I enjoy, but it makes a special kind of sense here.  Either way it’s an interesting pile of stories, told from a perspective that, even with the general misanthropy of comics readers, isn’t seen often enough.