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Sergel, Robert – Satan’s Kingdom


Satan’s Kingdom

Every once in a while, I can still manage to get a review up in a timely fashion. This time it’s maybe a little too timely, as this book is debuting at SPX in a few months, but consider this a general joyful noise that a new Robert Sergel book is coming out soon. Prepare yourselves! This takes my general reluctance to use spoilers to whole new levels, but I’ll ramble as best as I know how, OK? Oh, and a gentle reminder: if you don’t already have Space and Bald Knobber, his two previous books, maybe rectify that before the new one comes out? You won’t be disappointed. Like those books, this a collection of shorter stories, several of which have already appeared either in his own comic (Eschew) or different anthologies. But there are also a few new ones, so there’s something here for everybody. First up is the title story, Satan’s Kingdom, and boy howdy is this one going to be tricky. It starts off with a man taking an impromptu drive because he heard a podcast about a place called Satan’s Kingdom. He’s underwhelmed, but things take a serious turn when he finds a body. From there he notices that the body looks awfully familiar, followed by a man coming out of the forest who also looks awfully familiar, and what follows is a terrifyingly unnerving, mostly wordless chase. Other stories deal with various Spite houses (if you’re not familiar, and I wasn’t, these are oddly shaped houses that were built purely to mess with somebody and are still around today as oddities), childhood memories from the brother of Napoleon and his chance encounter with something else entirely, a casual tale of an uncle doing some babysitting (no, of course it doesn’t stay casual, but this one will remain a mystery), having a conversation with one of those “activate your power” type motivational speaker and taking his message to its logical conclusion, a male initiation ceremony from a tribe that’s now extinct, and Shit Photographer. I’d like you to take your best guess on that last one, and you can see for yourselves how close you got to it in a few months. All of his stories have this background of unrealized dread, where you’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop, that’s difficult to quantify without showing you several more pages, or maybe a full story or two. I’m always thrilled to see a new book from this man, and he’s that rare kind of talent that still manages to surpass himself every time. This might be his best work, or maybe I just think that because it’s been a few years since I read his other books. Still, it’s absolutely worth checking out. $20

Sergel, Robert – Bald Knobber


Bald Knobber

Two years ago I reviewed Robert’s last book (Space, a collection of short stories, and something everybody should read). At the time I made a mental note to keep an eye on what else he had coming out, so naturally I forgot all about it until getting this book in the mail, which is a collection of his six issue series of the same name. Anybody want to be a personal assistant/secretary who reminds me of stuff like this? I can’t pay you in money, but I’m very generous in comics payments. Anyhow, Bald Knobber. I’m guessing some of you are making assumptions based on that title, and unless you’re versed in vigilante gangs of the 1880’s, chances are you’re incorrect. This is the story of Cole, a young boy who’s giving a book report about the Bald Knobbers to his class. Cole’s parents have recently divorced and it was obviously ugly. His dad hates his mom and his mom is seeing another man. The Bald Knobbers, as I mentioned briefly above, were a vigilante gang in the 1880’s who seemed to set out with noble intentions but eventually lost their way. The comic is told with his book report as text dialogue contrasting with the events taking place in his life, including his life split between his parents, his drunken father, his mother just trying to have him give her new boyfriend, and said new boyfriend seemingly not making much of an effort. Cole also deals with a bully, takes his cat for a walk whenever things get too tense, the fire at his mom’s house and the suspicions that immediately get raised as to who or what might have caused it. The story of the Bald Knobbers alone is engrossing, but the contrast with Cole’s life is also fascinating. Robert does a seamless job of weaving these elements together, especially towards the end in the bits I’m not going to mention because of spoilers. This is another impressive book by somebody who I’m definitely going to keep a close eye this time without real life getting in the way at all. Hey, it’s good to have goals, right? Check it out, you won’t be sorry. $15.95

Sergel, Robert – Space: An Eschew Collection



Space: An Eschew Collection

Every time I think I have a handle on the small press comics world, I get a book from somebody who has been doing amazing work for years that I’ve never heard of. Nope, I am never going to be current on everybody I should be watching, but that’s no reason to stop trying, right? This is a collection of stories from Robert, some longer and some shorter. My favorite was probably the 13 pages of bad experience involving water (I’d be amazed if you didn’t relate to at least one of them; with all 13 I wonder if he ever swims at this point), but there was so much good stuff in here that it’s hard to pick just one story. Subjects include ignoring an ongoing problem while working on a crossword puzzle, his first kiss and the aftermath, getting a dead squirrel dumped on his car hood while driving, the saga of his favorite sweatshirt and how hard it was to find a replacement, Nintendo and its connection to an old childhood injury (and another injury that came from his complaining about said injury), the results of watching a yoga video on his computer, physical reminders of an ex-girlfriend, trying immersion therapy to help him get over his fear of crowds/dancing, whether or not Thoreau was a phony, and learning about and meeting an uncle who was always the black sheep of the family (mostly because he was an illustrator). There are at least a dozen other short pieces too, but why tell you about everything? All of these stories share a vague sense of unease about the world, or maybe a reluctant acceptance of his place in it. Anybody reading it will know what I mean, but it’s hard to dig into it without sounding like a phony, and anybody who has read this site for any length of time knows I don’t do that “deep critical analysis” thing. Leave that to the professionals, says I. Anyway, this is a thoroughly thought-provoking and engaging book, while still managing to make me laugh on more than a few occasions. It’s definitely worth a look, especially if you’re like me and had somehow managed to miss Robert for this long. That only leaves more new stuff for you to discover, as this book is huge. $15