Tiny Pages Made of Ashes is Comics Bulletin's roundup of small press comics reviews.
(Curt Pires, Ramon Villalobos)
I'm not going to lie, these 20 pages of comics are easily some of the best I've read in some time. They were so good, in fact, that I went on over to their web store and ordered two copies of LP in print so I had one to loan out/give away.
One of the many things that Pires and Villalobos get perfect with LP is that they don't try to explain things. We're thrown right into the middle of everything, which is often essential when you're working with such a low page count.
LP follows the guitarist and presumably lead singer in a rock band who is searching for a mystical record that's been stolen from him. There's drugs, sex, violence, rock-n-roll, and a rumination on just how the right album, when we listen to it, cuts a groove into us far deeper than the one in the vinyl.
The story is done in its 20 pages, giving you just enough closure for this chapter, but I honestly hope it's left to stand by itself. It's so rare in comics that we get the chance to let a short one-off like this just be.
Not that I'd worry about Pires or Villalobos screwing up a second round, though; the writing feels just perfect, just gritty enough while still feeling sincere, a Phonogram-esque fusion of an interesting story and the importance/power/addiction of music.
And Villalobos, well, he just kills it. I've always been a fan of his art, a beautiful style that falls right in line with favorites like Frank Quitely, Geof Darrow, and Chris Burnham. The coloring done here is just superb, too.
You can buy LP at Curt Pires' Bigcartel page.
– David Fairbanks
Doctor Muscles: Journal One
(Austin Tinius, Robert Salinas, Andrew Whyte, Ilaria Bramato, Stefano Cardoselli, Antonio Brandao, Cecilia Latella)
Every once in a while you come across a book that is so bug-fuck crazy that it fills the rest of your week with pure, unabashed, goofy, knee-twitching glee. Doctor Muscles: Journal One is one of those books. Reading Doctor Muscles is a wild ride: lurching suddenly, hurtling through ambiguity, dropping dangerously into gibberish then soaring into straightforward nutzo. It's fantastic fun and works in a cleansing way to undermine all your pretense and snootery.
What Austin Tinius and Robert Salinas have crafted in Doctor Muscles is a box filled with all of those old adventure stories you read as a kid, wrapped brightly in every single issue of Heavy Metal Magazine ever published. The story revolves around "the smartest man in Philadelphia, Dr. Arthur E. Muscles" who, through some totally random, completely impossible "science event" is rocketed into another dimension that may not be another dimension at all, but rather Hell. Or maybe it is another dimension's Hell? Or maybe it is none of these things at all, but just another planet? Who knows? Whatever! It doesn't matter because no matter where Dr. Muscles ends up, it's all AWESOME!
Muscles teams up with some rat-like creature named Mickey (not to be confused with that mouse with a similar name) and they go on a quest. Or is it an adventure? Or is it a holy mission? Are they trying to get Muscles home? Are they trying to save the planet? Are they trying to destroy the devil? Fuck it, who cares, it's AWESOME!
I mean, really, I loved this book.
Of course, it ain't a comic book if there ain't some art. There are five different artists on this book and, while it is all of note, what really struck me was the work of Stefano Cardoselli . His work only added to the insanity of this book. Cardoselli is actually a contributor to Heavy Metal, and you can feel that vibe in what he does with Muscles. It's all slightly off kilter, with his line choices adding angles to propel the story forward, but it is his use of color that really makes the whole thing pop. His palette is the stuff of the PCP dream sequences in The Avenging Disco Godfather. I kid you not. Cardoselli should be drawing all the comics.
t's AWESOME! Doctor Muscles is crap in your pants insanity that is the perfect antidote for dreary thinking and too tight shoes.
You can find out more about Doctor Muscles: Journal One at the Bogus Publishing website.
– Daniel Elkin
(Derek Kirk Kim)
Kim starts off strong with "The Ten Commandments of Simon," the über-self-aware account of a zen-like 29-year-old virgin bestowing upon an aspiring wizard the ten ways that he managed to avoid intimacy with pretty much every girl he's been involved with. It's an oldie but a goodie — not only does its hilarious execution keeps it from being a total bummer, but it's actually an amazing showcase for Kim's talent with his superb comedic timing and versatility at cartooning in consistent but subtly different styles.
Really strong stuff that carries on to the (apparently) autobiographical "Black Harvest," which feels even more personal but maintains a good sense of humor about it.
After that Kim switches gears to short journal strips consisting of quick but funny observations, flashes of conversations and this one time he watched Harold and Kumar with his mom, followed by some lovely sketchbook pages and some Internet comments from people who read his "Ten Commandments" comic.
Lowbright #1 is a good sampler for Kim's work — funny, warm, self-deprecating, but always amazingly rendered.
Find out more about Derek Kirk Kim at Lowbright.com.
– Danny Djeljosevic
The Threat #2
(Mark Schmidt, Vince Chuter, Daniel Wichinson, Jordi Perez Estevez)
In the future, the United States is divided into a group of regional fiefdoms. In Houston, the area is run by a man named Michael Swaj and his company Anitec. Swaj and Anitec are genetic engineers who have created hyper forms of mutation, which are called "Virals" and threaten the survival of the corporation.
After an initial issue basically devoted to setting up the story of The Threat, this issue is full of dramatic action as one of the Virals attempts to escape from the prison to which Swaj has sent him. Daniel Wichinson and Jordi Perez Estevez make the escape scenes exciting by using classic action storytelling techniques well — the sequence with the escape is well composed to emphasize the drama of the events. As the sequence plays out, the creators do a nice job of doing a little more world building in the details of the panels.
Outside of the escape, there is more world building to be done in this series with a complex background. Schmidt and the artists mostly fill in the details well and also add a surprising amount of ethical conversation to give the story more spice. But I kept wanting to have more detail on the background of this world, particularly about life in the rest of the United States. As this story reads, it seems that Houston is kind of sealed off from the rest of the world. Whether it is or isn't isolated, I wanted to know more about the context of these characters and their city.
This is a good superhero comic set in the future. I just wanted a little more about the future in the book.
For more information on this comic, visit stratumcomics.com
David Fairbanks doesn't get many things right the first time. He studied physics in college, loves science, music, comics, poetry, movies, books and education pertaining to all of the above. He will talk your ear off about Grant Morrison and Ben Folds, has an indie bookshelf larger than his Marvel, DC and Vertigo ones combined and if he ever actually grows up, more than anything else, he wants to still be happy as an "adult," whatever that is.
niel Elkin wishes there were more opportunities in his day to day to wear brown corduroy and hang out in lobbies. He has been known to talk animatedly about extended metaphors featuring pigs' heads on sticks over on that Twitter (@DanielElkin). He is Your Chicken Enemy.
Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions) and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter at @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his comic with Mike Prezzato, "Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men," over at Champion City Comics and check out his other comics at his Tumblr, Sequential Fuckery. His webcomic The Ghost Engine, with artist Eric Zawadzki, updates twice a week.