Highlighting some great small press comics criticism being published, as well as other random things that have caught my eye over the past week.
* Andy Oliver reviews ENTITY REUNION by Alexander Tucker. From the images Oliver ran alongside the review, this book looks spectacularly bonkers (and I am a big proponent of things spectacularly bonkers). Of that, Oliver writes that it requires “an engagement from the readership that can deal with the non-linear and cope with sequential art that bends the very definition of that term to its own will.” That alone should get your juices running. Then he calls it “esoteric, enigmatic and inscrutable” and I’m all in, baby. Often times the most profound aesthetic experiences are the ones for which you have to work. That’s what makes Batman vs. Superman such a work of great cinema.
* Andy Oliver also reviews (who has this kind of time) SOUND OF SNOW FALLING by Maggie Umber. Umber’s work is something to behold; its silence speaks loudly through her art — or, as Oliver writes, it “emphasizes the reader’s role as observer, always that one step back from a world we can never truly be a participant in.”
* Zainab Akhtar reviews Jillian Tamaki’s BOUNDLESS, saying it “is many things — contemplative, cynical, amusing, surreal — but it mainly anchors Tamaki as a formidable essayist of modern life, and undeniably one of the finest cartoonists of this generation.” I wish I could write like Akhtar, as she’s pretty much spot on about most everything she turns her critical eye towards.
* Brian Nicholson on Keren Katz’s THE ACADEMIC HOUR, a book I absolutely keep meaning to read but, for some reason, keep forgetting about (is this some sort of subliminal act my brain does in order to keep me in a state of depression?). It’s hard to tell if Nicholson likes this book, as his review if full of adverbs and adjectives which indicate a profound befuddlement on his part. I often wonder why a critic would take on a work that they don’t fundamentally understand (although, geez, how many words did we all write about Stray Toasters?), but part of the charm of this piece, I guess, is seeing Nicholson come to terms with his confusion.
* Katie Skelly reviews MY LESBIAN EXPERIENCE WITH LONELINESS by Kabi Nagata, a book where “satisfaction doesn’t come from setting up equations or crossing off notches. It’s the experience, and what it brings out, that counts.” It’s this sort of insight into theme and purpose that makes Skelly as great a critic as she is a cartoonist.
* Greg Hunter reviews GHOSTS, ETC. by George Wylesol, and, in the end, says: “readers may be unsettled by Wylesol’s comics while delighting in their effects.” Hunter picks up on much of the same ideas that Alex Mansfield did back in May (look at me plug work that I edited!!). This is one of those books that sticks, long after you put it down. I’m excited to finally meet the Avery Hill people (the publishers of this book) at this year’s SPX because they deserve hugs for the spectacular books they publish.
* Greg Burgas (how many Greg’s write comics criticism anyway?) takes a look at MISTAKEN IDENTITY by Gordon Harris. There’s a lot of words in this review, but the ones that best suit the purpose of this column are: “Harris does a nice job showing how we invent ourselves and how we move from one section of our lives to another. He also casts a critical eye on the things that others think are important and want us to believe are important, even if we don’t feel that way.” Like I said, a lot of words. It’s hard to tell if Burgas likes the book by his use of the words “nice” and “critical eye” — but rest assured, he does.
* MariNaomi presents an excerpt from Nichole J. George’s graphic memoir FETCH, which she recommends “for both animal lovers and those who hope to understand their animal-loving friends.”
* John Seven reviews Yeon-Sik Hong’s UNCOMFORTABLY HAPPY and really likes it for its optimism. As I just wrote that sentence, I realized how few times in life we completely admire someone for their optimism. Often times, we regard positivity in the face of challenges as either an act of denial or ignorance. And when you think about it, that’s really pretty sad. It’s too damn easy to be cynical, people. As Jackie DeShannon said, “Put a little love in your heart.”
* I know this is from last week, but I missed it then because I was probably drunk or asleep, but anytime Rob Clough writes about comics poetry, I want you all to read it. This time he reviews INKBRICK #3. Inkbrick is a comics poetry anthology curated by Alexander Rothman, Paul Tunnis, and others and is my go-to when people ask me about the genre. I’ve been writing extensively about comics poetry since I got my first issue of Inkbrick (it was my gateway piece), but I will never be able to write as well as Rob Clough.
* Oliver Sava reviews PANTHEON: THE TRUE STORY OF THE EGYPTIAN DEITIES by Hamish Steele which “spotlights just how strange mythology can be, adapting ancient Egyptian folklore in all of its absurd, grotesque glory.” I like how Sava keeps reminding you that this is not a kid’s book by using some pretty graphic examples of Steele’s choices.
* Alenka Figa on NOT MY SMALL DIARY 19: UNEXPLAINED EVENTS, an anthology edited by Delaine Derry Green. Figa has a lot of great things to say about this book, and since I trust her taste, I imagine this is worth your time. My favorite thing about this review, though, is when, at the end, Figa acknowledges what is best about anthologies altogether by talking about her excitement seeing artists she knew alongside artists that were “entirely new” to her. Nothing helps a reader discover great new talent than a well-curated anthology. We need more of those. Get on that, everyone.
* Nick Hanover takes a long look at Rupert Everton’s I ROVED OUT, a book which “showcases a beautiful world where problems are caused and just as often solved by immense amounts of fucking.” There’s a pitch you don’t get every day. Or maybe you do? I guess it just depends on the circles in which you operate. Maybe I just need to get out more.
* Mike Dawson and Zack Soto talk to creator and critic DARRYL AYO on the latest Process Party. Ayo is someone you should listen to (unless he is shit-talking sandwiches, then fuck that guy) about comics. Follow Ayo on twitter @darrylayo. You’ll be glad you did. Also, the whole conversation that Dawson and Soto have about being dads at the start of this episode makes me feel really, really old.
* Philippe LeBlanc interviews XIA GORDON about her new book from 2dCloud, Kindling, as well as her “use of colours (sic) and her upcoming comics.” While the interview suffers from the lack of further development (and Canadian spelling) inherent in an interview that isn’t conducted live, LeBlanc asks some good questions and, regardless, I’m really looking forward to this book.
* Joseph Schmidt talks to AUBREY PLAZA about dancing on Legion. I link this for a number of reasons. One, I like Legion a lot and Aubrey Plaza is probably the best thing in it, and two, I like Joe a lot and I like to watch him try to make this an actually interesting interview.
* Check out the CARTOONISTS OF COLOR DATABASE and the QUEER CARTOONISTS DATABASE, both a labor of love, created and maintained by MariNaomi. Then hire some of these amazing cartoonists.
* Cartoonist JULIA GFRÖRER went to the hospital after being ATTACKED BY A FERAL CAT. I realize that sentence sounds a bit sensational, which is a shame, as the story is rather mundane. All I can say about this whole story, though, is thank goodness for the Affordable Care Act.
* I PRETTY MUCH HATE EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS.
* Finally, here’s some really great news: