I started chronicling particularly interesting comics this summer, so I might as well continue?
Once again, the shelf of comics that makes me go “hmmm” and “that’s pretty good” is full. Let’s start with the new stuff.
(I’m not going to, er, give an in-depth critique about anything here. Just jut down some short notes. And not just because I’ve got a cold. Nooo.)
Recidivist IV by Zak Sally (self-published)
Actually, I’m not quite sure whether this was published in 2015. But anyway! It’s pretty amazing. It’s a little book with a kind of abstract text that winds through many different presentations.
Much of the text is difficult to read, because it’s printed in silver (looking quite a bit like lead pencil). So you have to hold it up to the light to get the reflections just *so*.
Other bits… aren’t.
There’s a CD included. It was kinda eerie the way the music would sometimes seem to echo what I was reading. Reading the book took just half a minute less than the duration of the CD, so things lined up or something…
Anyway, it pretty engrossing. And pretty. It’s about… it’s about… Oh, well, just read the thing. I hear that Fantagraphics is republishing it next year, so it can be your book of the year next year.
3 Books by Blaise Larmee (2D Cloud)
This is in many ways the polar opposite of the Sally book. Where Recidivist IV was sincere, this is playful (or mocking).
It’s all a lark. You open the book and think “hm, the binding’s gone bad”, but at closer examination, it’s never been glued together.
And there’s a stamp from the New York library here.
The first story looks like it’s been printed with heavy bleed through from page to page, so that we see pencil work and washes on this side:
And then the “bleed through” to the other side of the page on the next page.
The second story purports to be a reprinting of a book that was printed in Japan and pulped by the Canadian customs office. (That used to happen back in the days…)
And the third one is, like, pictures of paintings at an exhibition.
I’m assuming nothing of this is true, but, even so, it’s a pretty good conceit. And the work is kinda hypnotic.
What’s it about? Fucking.
Bright-Eyed at Midnight by Leslie Stein (Fantagraphics)
It’s a diary comic! Yeah! We all like those. Especially when they’re as original, funny and purdy as this one.
Conditions on the Ground by Kevin Hooyman (Floating World Comics)
This is a pretty weird one. (Even compared to the first two books.) It has pretty strong narratives, but they mostly seem to go off sideways…
The artwork has an appealing naivete to it…
I really like the way the speech bubbles extend all the way into the characters’ mouths. It’s very “City of Glass”.
Mox Nox by Joan Cornella (Fantagraphics)
Speaking of absurdities, I think it might be difficult to surpass Cornella. I mean. Just look:
Everybody is just so darn helpful!
It’s a slim but noteworthy book, I think.
Fante Bukowski by Noah van Sciver (Fantagraphics)
Geez! Another Fantagraphics book!
I’ve always been a van Sciver fan, but I was really disappointed by his last “major” work. “The Hypo” sort of screamed “look, significant! It’s about Lincoln and everything!” Predictably enough, it got a lot of attention, but I thought it was a snooze fest. Sorry!
This one, on the other hand, is the van Sciver we love to love. It’s a comedy about a hopelessly untalented writer. Look!
Buy buy buy.
Qviet by A. Burkholder (2D Cloud)
Yet another porn book from 2D Cloud! Cold winters, I guess…
This is very dreamy. I mean, everything reads as if it could have been a dream. It’s mostly about sex, but dream sex, so things get are… unsettling…
It’s quite a long book, page of page of this stuff. And then it seems to coalesce into a sort of vague story… around these pages…
But then it pulls back and sort of dissolves…
It’s a very interesting reading experience.
Incidents in the Night by David B. (Uncivilized Books)
Here’s the most controversial thing I’ve said in my entire life: I think David B. is grossly over-rated. I think people confuse dealing with difficult subjects (epilepsy and madness) and making good art. I find his work to shift between maudlin and abstruse. Or is that obtuse? Hm…
Anyway! This is the best work I’ve seen from him. And that’s probably because it’s more of a goof-off work than his “major” works…
Still, there are pages and pages of alchemy and mysterons and stuff…
Well, I guess that’s what B.’s interested in, but… I’m not.
I feel that I should like his artwork more, but I just don’t much.
There. I said it. Let the ostracism begin.
Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash (Candlewick Press)
Speaking of artwork, this may not be everybody’s cup of tea.
Yeah, it’s pretty basic. But it gets the job done. It’s another one of those teen-age girl coming of age books. Hm. Is this the first one on the list so far? I think there are several coming up shortly…
But I digress.
This book just quite real. You (I mean I) get insights into what it was like staying at summer camp in the early 80s. And! You get serious information on how to get tested:
I’ve given this quiz to several friends. The validity seems to be kinda iffy.
Lose #7 by Michael Deforge (Koyama Press)
According to the latest TTIP and TTP drafts, it is now illegal to make a “best-of” list without featuring at least one Michael Deforge work.
I am happy to comply.
I’m happy! See! Happy! Complying!
Pure Shores by Jaakko Pallasvuo (Landfill Press)
This is published by those Mould Map Brits, so you know it’s gonna be arty. But it’s really, really good. It’s the story of a dissatisfied Young Adult author who needs to do… something else.
It’s a kinda floatey story.
The layout reminds me of Frank Satoro’s Pompeii, and I guess the pacing sometimes does, too. But it’s also its own weird, violent thing.
It’s a really fine piece of work which makes reviews like this kinda incomprehensible. Or perhaps it’s just so unusual to see negative reviews of art comics these days that I’m shocked? There are so few reviews being published that people seem to focus on work they like… or perhaps it’s just because comics is so unrewarding financially and socially that it just seems uncouth to say anything negative…
Oh, that’s the end of the notable stuff published in 2015 that I read during the last half of 2015? Phew. Then on to the older stuff I read the last few months:
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast (Bloomsbury)
I’m guessing everybody has already read this book. I’m slow sometimes.
Some wise-ass once said that you should only reason to do auto-biography if you can appal people. I think that’s total bullshit, but there certainly is a lot of appalling stuff going on in this book.
And it’s brilliant. It’s perhaps the most honest book about having ageing parents that I’ve read. The appealing art work certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki (First Second)
Speaking of books everybody else has read.
This was a lot better than I had thought it would be. I mean, it’s published by First Second. That sets certain expectations. L-o-w expectations.
But look at this art:
Hundreds of pages of it! And this!
It also a very tense and real-feeling examination of inchoate teenage wants and lusts. It’s all rather marvellous.
Until the final scenes where we have a big “reveal” and everything ties together ever so neatly. They should have a sticker with: “TRIGGER WARNING! ENDING MAY CAUSE EXTREME EYE ROLLING!”
So it’s a lot better than I thought it was going to be, but the ending was just like… ordered.
Hundedagar by Anja Dahle Øverbye (Jippi)
More teenagers growing up! Will it never cease?
This reminded me a bit of the desperation of the Tamaki book, but it’s even more low key. Here’s some teenage cruelty:
I like the artwork, too. Pencil shading seems so appropriate for teenage angst.
Powdered Milk by Keiler Roberts (self-published)
There’s not much angst here. These are straight up slice of life auto-biographical stories. Typical example:
I enjoy this kind of stuff, but I can see why it might not pop up on everybody’s radar: Nothing appalling happens.
Megahex by Simon Hanselmann (Fantagraphics)
Everything that happens here is appalling.
Hanselmann is the latest indie comics superstar, I guess, and it’s easy to see why. This book is basically a collection of funny vignettes about two mega-stoners (Megg and Mogg, a witch and a cat) and their friends. It slowly builds to a more cohesive narrative.
I think the thought that went through my head most often while reading this is “why are Megg and Mogg such assholes?” Fortunately, we don’t really learn that, and there’s no pat resolution.
Fukitor by Jason Karns (F.U. Press)
This was one of the more controversial comics last year.
I guess you can sort of guess why just by looking at that spread, but perhaps not. I didn’t find Karn’s work to be particularly offensive — it’s gross-out goof-off stuff familiar to anybody who’s ever been in high school.
It’s not fucked up like, for instance, Mike Diana’s work, which is just off the curb. Rack. Off the rack? Or even unpleasant like some of S. Clay Wilson’s work. It’s just… gross and goofy.
But the Interweb claimed that it’s racist, based on this:
However, everybody here spouts stuff like this.
And sexist, too.
Meh. The internet these days…
Anyway! Is it any good? Uhm… er… it’s interesting… It has a certain free-wheeling dynamic going…
I think the longer stories are better than the three-page grossouts that don’t go anywhere.
Snackies by Nick Sumida (Youth in Decline)
This is very funny.
And that’s all. Especially since I’m hacking and coughing too much right now…
Non #5 edited by Jordan Crane (self-published)
I’ve had a comics want list for ever, but it never occurred to me to apply it to Ebay. I did so, and amongst the floppies I got (Mad Raccoons #5, Albedo v3 #6, Atlas #3) I also got this anthology from 2001.
I think it was published in small quantities, because it disappeared before I got a chance to buy it. It looks quite hand-crafted, what with the several books included and the cardboard:
One of the smaller books is a kinda sweet childhood tale by Crane:
The main book is the anthology, and it includes basically everybody working in the wimpier (I mean sensitive! sensitive!) areas of indie comics.
However, it’s not a wholly successful anthology. I wonder whether there was an editorial remit? “Make vague vignettes that don’t really go anywhere?” If so, the artists really stepped up to the plate…
I’m being unfair, of course. There’s good stuff in here! Otherwise why would it be on this list?
Everybody loves Ron Regé, Jr.
Whatever happened to David Choe? He’s got it going on.
The Latvian anthology is back with yet another issue. This one has poetry comics.
It’s a very attractive format, and it’s pretty reliable. I picked this up at their table at the Oslo Comix Expo this summer, I think…
Fallteknikk by Inga H. Sætre (Cappelen)
This one a prize for being… best… something… in 2011. And it’s good!
It’s yet another yet another book about teenage girls growing up and having drama. Is that the major trend in comics these days?
The artwork is very basic, so I would assume the chances of this being translated to any other language to be pretty slim.
Rav by Mickey Zacchilli (Youth in Decline)
I didn’t quite know what to make of this book. It’s very energetic.
Flipping through this now, I’m still not quite sure what to make of it. I find the artwork appealing in a “Gary Panter drawing a Japanese comic” kind of way. I’m not quite sure that there’s a there here, if you get what I mean, but it’s enjoyable to read.
Dragon’s Breath by MariNaomi (Uncivilized Press)
Finally! The last book in the stack.
I got all of MariNaomi’s book this autumn, and I liked them all. So this is one of them at random, almost…
MariNaomi is one of those autobiographical comics artists that feel like they tell us everything, no matter how embarrassing. Which I like, of course. She’s also quite funny and has interesting anecdotes to tell.
Like the artwork, too. I don’t really have anything insightful to say about these books, though. But do I about anything? Huh? No!
I’ve read more comics this year than I ever have in my life, I think. It’s soaked up all the time I would otherwise read books or do programming. I’ve been shopping extensively on dar interwebs, as well as visiting used book stores to pick up older European comics.
The books I’ve presented here represent probably less than one twentieth of what I’ve been reading this fall. These are pretty good times to be interested in interesting comics.