Comics Daze

It’s a rainy day, so I think I’ll take the day off and read some comics.

Mochipet: Gabber Face

14:06: Queen of the Black Black by Megan Kelso (Fantagraphics)

I’ve read these comics a few times before, but this is a new edition? Uhm… Oh, I thought it was an expanded edition, because I didn’t recognise the cover, but this is apparently just the 2011 edition? Oh, well.

So many of the interesting comics artists from the 90s have disappeared, but it looks like Kelso is still doing comics.

It’s weird reading these comics again now… I was really into Girlhero at the time, and these are still good comics, but… I think the most exciting thing about them were their potential? Seeing somebody getting better every issue and doing interesting stuff? Reading this collection a couple decades later, it’s different, because we now know that this didn’t really lead up to a series of fantastic graphic novels, but instead that this is pretty much what we were going to get.

Joni Mitchell: Archives: The Reprise Years (3)

14:51: Horny & High vol 1 & 2 by Ed Firth

I love the colours in the first volume. So wild. And a very attractive, sharp line.

And full of postcards.

It’s a collection of three stories that all have the unfortunate whiff of After School Specials — but with a lot more sex. That is, all three stories are about (more or less) tragic outcomes of bad behaviour. The problem is that Firth doesn’t really present anything here that makes us understand why the protagonist would want to put himself through there experiences — it’s like “character does gross, unattractive stuff and then there’s a bad outcome”.

I.e., “see how fucked up this is? Isn’t this fucked up? It’s so fucked up!” and the reader goes “yeah… er… we know?”

The second volume flip-flops this completely. Gone are the gorgeous colours, but instead it really gets into what makes this scene attractive for the protagonist — connecting with guys, escaping from real life, and of course, being on crystal meth and fucking for days and days. (Since this is a family oriented blog, I’m not snapping shots of any of the sex scenes, of which there are plenty.)

This makes this book hit a lot harder than the first book, because the storyline is a fully fledged tragedy. It’s very good, even if the “don’t do drugs, kids!” vibe reappears a couple of times.

Squid: Bright Green Field

16:02: Noir Burlesque 1 by Marini (Faraos Cigarer)

The artwork here is certainly attractive, but this is a totally by-the-numbers genre exercise with no surprises: Tough guy, dame, gangsters, cops…

… and a cat!

Even for people who are really into European Noir pastiches, there’s not much here of interest, I think? But the storytelling is solid, and there’s not anything… er… wrong with the book (except that it’s not really much of a book, since it’s so brief).

Squid: Bright Green Field

16:34: Nagel 1 by Sigbjørn Lilleeng (Strand)

This looks like another pitch perfect example of its genre — the artwork is so 2021 young adult adventure sci fi comicish.

And again, the plot follows tried and true lines… but it’s OK. There’s bits that are pretty original. It’d have been better if any of the jokes had been actually funny, though.

A Certain Ratio: EP:ACR

16:51: The Weakly Dispatch by Rick Trembles (Conundrum Press)

Hey… R. Crumb does the intro and isn’t sure whether Trembles is kidding about taking corona precautions or not. (Crumb is, as usual, all in on the “it’s all a hoax” he’s been doing ever since HIV.)

But I can understand why he’s asking — Trembles certainly seems to take the precautions a bit, er, further than most people.

I had some problems getting into this — some of the early strips here seemed kinda obscure? But once I got into the rhythm of things, it turned into quite a readable book: A snapshot of how 2020-21 was.

Osees: A Foul Form

18:05: Going Up In Smoke by Nik Heemskerk and Milo Cremeg Eindhoven (Bries)

This starts off pretty well…

… but the bulk of the book is just illustrated texts about smoking.

I wonder what the impetus behind this was — I found it to be totally devoid of any kind of interest. Perhaps if you’re a tobacco enthusiast, this is the book for you?

There’s some nice illustrations in here, but that’s all. I started skimming the text after a couple dozen pages.

(I may seem unusually down on all the comics I’m reading today, and there’s probably a reason — most of the comics I’m reading today are comics that I’ve had for some months, but have skipped reading, because… they didn’t seem that interesting? So they sedimented to the bottom of the pile, and that’s what I’m reading now. Well, about half of them, I think… we’ll see how far I get.)

Stereolab: Pulse of the Early Brain (Switched On 5) (1)

18:29: Irons 1 – Ingênieur-conseil by Luc Brahy & Tristan Roulot (Zoom)

You sometimes get an impression that the French(ey) commercial comics factory has a random generator to come up with the high concepts for each action series they churn out. This time, the protagonist is a building engineer, and he just happens to be around when a bridge collapses. And then he solves the mystery.

So far, so stupid, but how do they manage to keep him on the move for further adventures? This time around he’s… a sociopath with a hankering for the truth! (He says that about himself, so the readers don’t have to figure it all out.) So while there’s a romantic sub-plot here (as there always is), he’s able to leave after solving the mystery without any misgivings.

But… it’s not bad? It’s a pretty good mystery, and the artwork’s fine. It’s soulless Extruded Comics Product, but it’s entertaining enough.

Stereolab: Pulse of the Early Brain (Switched On 5) (2)

19:16: Birds of Maine by Michael DeForge (Drawn & Quarterly)

This is another one of those books that collect stuff originally serialised on Instagram, I think? DeForge’s previous book of this kind wasn’t very interesting, which is why I’ve not read this before. (Five years ago I would have jumped at any new DeForge book, but I’m starting to dread them now.)

And this is like his previous book, only more so. It’s basically a gag strip.

I mean, some of the gags are fine.

But a substantial number of them come straight from sitcom land (the one up there to the left).

When there’s not sitcom jokes, it’s Wry Commentary On Our Daily Lives, as if designed to be stickered to fridges, if that were still a thing people did. I guess, forwarded to other Insta users is the current equivalent?

The previous DeForge book built to a narrative that leavened the tedium, but there’s not that much of that here.

I didn’t make it past the halfway point — I had totally lost interest in this, despite DeForge’s artwork, which is good as always.

Soft Cell: The Art of Falling Apart

20:37: Spirou ou l’espoire tout 4 by Émile Bravo (Cobolt)

This is Bravo’s fourth and final album in this Spirou series set in WWII.

Some of the other “modern” revisions of classic children’s comics have been pretty awkward, and while it creaks under the weight of the Holocaust etc here, too, it’s a quite moving story. Bravo manages to land the story in a very melancholy way.

But the entire thing — making “adult” “non-canon” versions of the characters — is starting to feel more and more inappropriate. It was fun when this wave started, like two decades ago, but it seems like all these series have been deconstructed fully now, and it’s like over?

I guess it’s not over until people tire of it…

Xeno & Oaklander: Topiary

21:11: A Game For Swallows by Zeina Abirached (Graphic Universe)

This is such a striking book — the ink is blacker than black — you can sink into it.

And it’s a heartbreaking book about being in Beirut during the war in the mid-80s. It’s a snapshot of a single evening, and it’s paints the picture so vividly of what life was like during wartime.


Kissing the Pink: What Noise? (Special Edition)

21:55: Historier fra det vilde vesten 4 by Serpieri (E-Voke)

From the sublime to the ridiculous. Or something.

Actually, this isn’t as ridiculous as that cover made it seem. While some of the previous albums in this series (which collects old, short stories by Italian Serpieri) have been a bit porny, these are all more… er… serious.

His artwork is on point, and the stories (about dastardly white people and mostly noble Native Americans) are totally reasonable. That is, they’re well-told and pretty exciting, for this sort of this.

The reproduction is pretty odd, though — they seem to pick up wispy pencil lines and reproduce those, too?

Kissing the Pink: Naked (Special Edition)

22:43: Mondo, Domus & Den avhuggna tecknarhanden by Eric Svetoft and others (Sanatorium)

I’m assuming this little book is something they’ve made to give away at comics shows and stuff? It’s amusing.

Mondo is either a collection of illustrations and shorter pieces, or… perhaps one long narrative? I’m not sure.

It’s all a bit vague what’s going on. It’s got that proper nightmare world thing going on, which is nice, but this book didn’t quite work for me — perhaps it demands more work than I’m willing to put in? (Some wordless books are like that.)

Wow! Fantastic colouring.

Domus has a slightly less ineffable plot.

But also illustrations that, while good, are perhaps not connected to the narrative?

Kissing the Pink: Naked (Special Edition)

23:07: Louis parmi les spectres by Isabelle Arsenault / Fanny Britt (Sanatorium)

This is apparently a Canadian book?

It’s a story centred around having an alcoholic father, and it’s sensitively and affectingly told.

It’s not just that, though — it’s also a classic “what happened one summer as a child” thing, and it’s really good. I’m really enjoying the artwork, too.

Kissing the Pink: Naked (Special Edition)

23:34: Queer in Asia by Seven (Black Panel Press)

Hm… I think the “Asia” in question is China?

Well, this looks interesting… A slightly oblique storytelling style, with a chaotic way of shifting angles.

But after a couple dozen pages of this, I just lost interest. I mean, it sounds like it should be intriguing and all, but it’s just so slippery… I persevered for one third of the book and then ditched it. Sorry!

Buffy Sainte-Marie: Little Wheel Spin and Spin

00:05: What Remains by Camilo Aguirre (Uncivilized Books)

This is interesting but not entirely successful? It’s about Colombia’s history, mostly focusing on the human rights abuses of the various regimes, and also guerrilla movements etc.

This sounds like it should be just up my alley, but it’s just so scattered. In the book, somebody suggests (or insists) that Aguirre should make the book more about himself (or that it already is), and I find that that’s what’s missing here, really. It feels both impersonal and anecdotal at the same time, which you’d think would be hard to achieve. That is, it feels like Aguirre is recapping a lot of wikipedia at points, and to leaven that, he purposefully goes out to interview people to get their first hand accounts — but these take the form of anecdotes instead of cohering into anything.

But the storytelling and artwork is good. It just feels like he didn’t quite come up with a way to tie it all together in a way that makes it a satisfying read?

Xeno & Oaklander: Par Avion

00:59: The End

And now I’m completely exhausted. Reading comics is hard work! I may not dig my own coal, I Do My Part! And I’ve almost gotten my shelf of unread comics down to Comics Zero, so there’ll probably be a long time until the next thrilling episode of…

Comics Daze!

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