Love Stinks? Bastien Vives’ “The Butchery”

Crucially, in an extended scene that features a couple playing a game of ping-pong both literally and metaphorically, Bastien Vives fixes his focus solely on the man — not just what he’s doing, but what he’s saying, how he’s reacting, what he’s feeling. The woman, however, is both silent and invisible — and compared to the treatment women receive from the cartoonist in the rest of The Butchery (originally released in its native France in 2017, newly available in an English language edition from Fantagraphics with translation by Jenna Allen), trust me when I say this is a kindness. It’s better not be featured at all than it is to be depicted as, by turns, an unknowable mystery and a frigid, uncommunicative bitch.

Vives drew some heat for the rather “male gaze-y” nature of his recent collaborative graphic novel The Grand Odalisque, but it’s hard to say which among the trifecta of himself, Jerome Mulot, and Florent Ruppert was most responsible for what essentially played out as a 100-some-page version of Catherine Zeta-Jones angling her ass to dodge a laser beam in Entrapment. There is, however, no such question here given this is strictly a solo effort. And while we’ve become depressingly accustomed to stories with the same level of inherent cynicism as this one, it’s actually its one-sidedness that begins to grate quickly and never really lets up.

To give credit where it’s due, Vives’ art is open, minimalist, and entirely apropos given the book’s subject matter — the guy’s a legit colored pencil virtuoso who is absolutely expert at communicating a hell of a lot of information (particularly emotional information) with very little — but when your theadbare story charting the downward trajectory of a romantic relationship relies more on heavy-handed allegory than it does “actual” events, something’s not clicking in your creative process. Right off the bat Vives equates romance with war, which is patently absurd, but the real drag comes in the form of his none-too-subtle delineation of precisely who the “good guy” and the “bad guy” in this conflict are.

I know, I know : Vives is a man, so it’s as natural as it is predictable for him to privilege the male point of view, but holy shit, some of this stuff — while always rendered with the utmost delicacy — is so OTT you’re halfway tempted to wonder if Dave Sim didn’t ghost-write the book. In short : boy meets girl of his dreams, can’t believe how lucky he is, and then spends every day agonizing about how he can possibly both please her and connect with her, all to no avail. Her dissatisfaction with him is never spelled out in concrete terms or given the dignity of having actual reasons behind it, no — it’s just is. The scene at the beginning where he’s on one side of a closed door and she’s on the other, depicted (as all things turn out to be) from his vantage point, says it all : she’s forever right there, but just out of reach.

Okay, fair enough, neither of this couple is ever given a name, but the guy is at least afforded a chance for readers to get to know him. He’s caring, compassionate, probably a bit too eager to please for his own good, but never malicious or cruel or inattentive. When miscommunications arise, it’s because she takes everything too personally, or is too mercurial in terms of expressing her wants until it’s too late, or is simply “flighty” and prone to follow always-unstated whims with no thought to how such things might affect our poor, well-meaning shmuck who only want to, ya know, love her. Her thoughts and feelings and even the general character of her personality are things Vives doesn’t elect to bother with fleshing out, but goddamn if the roles in this relationship aren’t perfectly defined : hers is to play a game, and his is to lose it. Eventually, of course, she dumps him, but even then she’s a sidelined, her wishes being callously communicated while the two of them sit at a table in a restaurant by a male intermediary in the form of their waiter, who offers the man, in plainly-spoken terms, no sympathy, no empathy, and no understanding. The apotheosis of the self-pitying, misogynistic “man as victim” mindset having been achieved, after this Vives simply limps toward his conclusion, which has been telegraphed from page one anyway.

Somewhat more successful (barring the ping-pong thing mentioned at the outset here) are the allegorical scenes scattered throughout the book featuring another couple altogether who are meant, one would assume, to stand in for all couples — hey, at least both of them are irredeemably shitty to each other. Again, though, when you find yourself looking forward to breaks in what is a very short main storyline in and of itself, then there’s something wrong with said main storyline — and that’s doubly true when those breaks feature people violently clobbering the fuck out of each other with various implements.

The sole saving grace this book has to offer, as just alluded to, is that at least it’s a short and immediately disposable read. Five minutes and you’re done, and you can go back to your real relationship with a person who’s just that — a person. No strained metaphors for the two (or more, if that’s your thing) of you to live up or down to, no sweating whether everything you do or say is going to be precisely the wrong thing to do or say, no Greek-tragedy-in-microcosm “arc” for you to follow. Just a life to navigate and someone to navigate it with you. Is there anything so wrong with that?

In one of this book’s few light-hearted moments, our central couple is seen slow-dancing, and while they’re always just slightly out of step with each other, they’re enjoying both the interplay and the moment. As in real life, it’s the attempt that counts, not the end result. Then when the music stops we are treated to a forced and flat “reveal” that shows they were doing this whole thing at home, to a playlist supplied by their PC. Vives would seem to be saying, then, that any fleeting instances of happiness you experience with someone else are not just transitory, but artificial. Love, it would appear, is just a lie that men, specifically, tell themselves and strive to make real, not something to actually be found or experienced — because, as the rest of his story makes plain as day, women will always be impossible to both figure out and to satisfy. It’s a total crock of shit, of course. And so is this comic. It’s only dubious value lies in its inadvertent encapsulation of a certain pathetic subcultural point of view, namely : if you want to know what the so-called “incels” think relationships are like, this book spells it out.

“There’s Anything But A Glut Of Non-Commercial Comics Right Now” : Four Color Apocalypse Interviews Austin English

At the risk of sounding grandiose, Austin English is a bit of a renaissance man in the truest sense of that term — through his utterly unique cartooning, his publishing efforts with Domino Books, his eclectic comics distribution service (I number myself among its regular customers), his position as editor of the must-read ‘zine But Is It — Comic Aht?, and his new wholesale venture, he’s one of the people most responsible for pushing this medium we all love forward in no small way. I recently had the chance to converse with him about where his various and sundry projects came from, where they’re at now, and where they’re going —

Four Color Apocalypse : For readers who may not be aware of Domino, what was the impetus behind its creation, and how long has it been a going concern now?

Austin English : I started Domino in 2011. The reason for starting it is pretty much the same reason I continue to do it: there’s so much work in comics that gets written off as ‘weird,’ or ‘not really comics,’ or ‘is this even a comic?,’ or (my absolute least favorite) ‘artsy’. These terms really do a disservice to cartooning, as they are used to describe work that, in any other medium, is pretty normal or commonplace. Comics, for whatever reason, resists even basic modernism…and maybe this is what continues to allow it to be vital. It’s still very pure, in a way. I’m a huge fan of the most simplistic, by the book, basic storytelling comics, that’s a part of the medium that I’ll never let go of in my heart. It has huge, obvious merits. But there are other approaches to comics storytelling besides the most dominant one that are of value, that move people and that serve a function in people’s lives. And there is so much of this kind of work. It only seems to be ‘not really comics’ because it’s always maligned or outright ignored by most comics institutions.


I think, on a fundamental level, this is bad business. Comics people tend to think that readers only accept a certain kind of comics, and most institutions define themselves as providing either the trash of that kind of comic, or the high end of that kind of comic. I think that’s underestimating readers and alienating a huge potential audience. So…with Domino, my task at the beginning was to group a lot of uncommon comics together, to make a statement, to treat this work with dignity. To readers and artists, the value of this work has always been clear, but they’ve been left with few options to either express themselves or to simply read. I think it took close to a decade for this statement to get digested beyond people that already got it, even in some small fashion. But ten years after founding Domino, I think it’s making some sense, albeit in a very minor way. 

4CA : Do you view your role along the lines of that of an “acquisitions editor,” or do you view yourself as purely a distributor? In other words, if a comic that doesn’t meet certain aesthetic criteria — however arbitrary they may be — is sent your way, would you still be willing to distribute it?
On a related note, and I’m certainly not asking you to single anything out by name here, but have you ever distributed a comic that you think has literary and/or artistic merit that you don’t personally like?

AE : Running the Domino store and the new wholesale operation are going to be very different. I’m not so invested in what I personally like. I don’t think that’s so interesting and I think people involved in any kind of curation have to get over that. With the store, I try to plug in anything that feels undeniable to me, in the sense that it’s something that is an honest expression. I may not connect with it, but as long as there isn’t a heavy dose of cynicism, it’s an undeniable component of current comics. It’s important to include work like that, because once you do, more people who you’re unaware of (or your own tastes aren’t ready for yet) will submit their work, slowly changing a store that could have been your own simplistic vision into something much larger and more interesting. 


But with the wholesale venture, I’m limited at the outset in terms of storage space, because I’m amassing these books in bulk. So, I’m trying to make a distilled offering of all the different parts of the store as I start out, something that I think will work well for adventurous retailers. If everything works out and I can afford to maybe rent some space to house more comics at some point down the line, then the wholesale catalog can hopefully be as wide ranging as the store itself. 

4CA : What do you see as the biggest challenges facing small press and/or self-publishing cartoonists in terms of getting their work in front of a larger audience?


AE : I really think it’s lack of readership. Even if an independent artist gets picked up by a great publisher, there just isn’t the audience to make a book worked on for years and years profitable enough so that the artist can sustain themselves from being a cartoonist alone. There are obvious exceptions, but probably enough to count on one hand. I don’t think publishers are lazy, I don’t think retailers are lazy, and I certainly don’t think the artists are. But there’s a disconnect between all three entities in connecting with the crucial other group: readers. I don’t think Diamond helps with this but I don’t think bookstore distributors are much better. The comic direct marker and the bookstore market are pretty hostile to personal work in general, let alone formally challenging personal work. Readers, in my experience with Domino, are actually hungry for this stuff. It’s just a question of getting it in front of them and giving them a chance. Without that connection to readers, even the most brilliant cartoonists are just going to keep printing ever diminishing runs of their work and the audience will contract once again.


If there is a way to expand readership, it needs to be explored. Domino has maybe expanded readership for certain artists by…20 people? That’s not going to change things much. But if there’s a way to bring bookstores in and have people encounter this work outside of the internet bubble that’s aware of these things already, that could be helpful. And if ten people besides myself, John P. and a few others work on these things, that’d be a good start.

4CA : With you broadening out into the wholesale market, will Domino continue to function as a publishing entity as well, or do time concerns necessitate your scaling back publishing operations a bit in order to make sure this new venture is successful?

AE : No, if anything, I want to publish more now. I think so much of comics (again, not counting the artists and readers) is contracting away from the kind of work Domino is most interested in. I think now’s the time to flood the market with as much challenging work as possible, since there’s anything but a glut of non-commercial comics right now. 

4CA : On an unrelated note, your first book-length comic is a good few years is due out soon. What can you tell readers about MESKIN AND UMEZO without tipping your hand too much?

AE : The printer proofs just came in today and I’m excited to approve them tomorrow morning. I really can’t wait to send out copies to everyone who pre-ordered it. I worked on this for four years and I hate summarizing what it’s about, but : I drew it in such a way as to let two characters talk to each other and shift the narrative based on what they say page by page. After the first two years of working on it, I latched on to a strain of conversation that really meant something to me, and went back and redrew the first half of the book for another year and a half to re-congeal that thread of dialogue. I think, in the end, it becomes an exchange between these two characters that I couldn’t have written in any other way except as a comic with these specific drawings. I just want it to be in the mail and heading to peoples’ houses. Publishing it through Domino means a hell of a lot to me. If only I’d made the paper it’s printed on myself, all the way from pulp to printed page…then it’d really be something. But I’m not that crazy. 

4CA : And finally, in an ideal word, where do you see Domino in five years’ time? What would you like to see continue and what would you like to see change, both in terms of your own publishing and distribution operations specifically, and in the broader independent or “alternative” comics market in general?


AE : I want Domino to remain a store where any kind of expression can have some connection to readers and I want the wholesale operation to work out so that there’s an option to get that kind of expression to people who aren’t already part of the choir, people who need to stumble upon that kind of thing by chance. Lots of people do need that. I think comics right now has so many artists and readers who have a lot to exchange with each other, a lot of contact to be made. I don’t think there’s anything in life that I value more than interacting with people through their art. But I’m not sure if comics as a whole right now serves that necessary function as well as it could. It feels like a crucial moment, where things could unfortunately get even more corporatized than they are already. There are so many good people working behind the scenes in comics who continue to perform one of the hardest tasks imaginable: getting work that has a real function and real worth into readers’ lives. If Domino can play any role in being an instrument for that to happen, then that’s what I want it to be doing in five years. 

Thank you, Austin, for your time and thoughtful responses! Please find more from and about Austin and Domino at the following sites :

http://austinenglishart.com/

http://www.dominobooks.org/

http://dominobooks.org/wholesale.html

My Favorite Thing Isn’t “Monsters”

In 1983, Pink Floyd released The Final Cut, an album that hailed itself — in its own words —as “a requiem for the post-war dream by Roger Waters.” A none-too-subtle reaction to/commentary upon Thatcherism’s great betrayal of Britain’s national sacrifices during and after WWII upon a rotten altar of consumerism, anti-egalitarianism, and perhaps most disturbingly resurgent militarism, it was a commercial failure that I’m reliably informed divides fans of the band to this day, but its message is crystal clear : we become the monsters we fight against. Even — maybe especially — when we win.

Precisely one year later, legendary comics artist Barry Windsor-Smith began his own magnum opus that grappled with remarkably similar themes, although he certainly may not have been consciously aware of its scope at the time — after all, what has finally emerged, 37 years later, as Monsters actually began life as a Hulk story for Marvel. Along the way it morphed into a Captain America story for a brief spell, as well, and the remnants of both abandoned premises can still be clearly found within its pages. Somewhere further along the way, though, it turned into something Marvel wouldn’t have the guts to publish in a million years : a 366-page entirely sincere and often harrowing exploration of PTSD, family dysfunction, the generational effects and implications of abuse, the pissing on the graves of the war dead exemplified by the former Allied powers getting into bed with the Nazis to fight communism, age-old Frankenstein’s monster tropes, the enduing stains of prejudice and colonialism, the slippery slope that is patriotism and the unmitigated evil that is nationalism, toxic masculinity — and that’s all just the obvious stuff. If there’s one thing this book suffers no shortage of, it’s ideas.

It’s also — and this should really surprise no one — stuffed to the gills with artwork that will knock your socks off. On first flip-though you can absolutely see why it took almost four decades to draw this thing : Windsor-Smith’s attention to detail is just plain awe-inspiring, his intricate cross-hatching, masterful interplay between shadows and light, and achingly human and even more achingly monstrous figure drawing frequently leaving you dumbfounded at the idea that a mere mortal could even craft something so exquisite. Every panel of every page bears close consideration and study, and the extended sequences wherein the story’s many grotesqueries come to the fore have the power to literally leave you reeling. This is visual impact of the sort Hollywood spends billions trying to achieve but never will, because it takes much more than talent or money to do what Windsor-Smith does — it takes vision and purpose. Specifically, purpose that goes over and above making the cash registers ring.

Oh, yes, lest there be any doubt — this is visionary, purpose-driven work with its heart in the right place, crafted by an artist with the sheer skill to match the scale and size of his ambition. There is much to be admired about both the book itself and publisher Fantagraphics’ commitment to allowing Windsor-Smith to complete it in his own time, in his own fashion. The end result is a tale that is absolutely immersive from first page to last, and that you’ll no doubt remember for years to come.

The problem, however, is that you won’t always necessarily remember it for the right reasons, given that Windsor-Smith has a frustrating habit of being his own best ally and worst enemy — frequently by turns, sometimes even simultaneously. Many once-in-a-lifetime pages are let down by dialogue that is either ham-fisted, too “on the nose” for its own good, or both; the clumsy insertion of supernatural elements (about which I’ll give no more away) into the mix feels both disorienting and unnecessary from jump and never gets any better; multi-faceted portrayals of good men capable of terrible things and subsequently haunted by their actions are countered with cartoonishly over-the-top villainy in other instances (it doesn’t help matters that the worst of the book’s bad guys is a lecherous gay Nazi that’s literally not much more than every sickening and bigoted homophobic stereotype rolled into one and dialed up to 11); cliched settings like secret government bunkers are given more weight and power than they’ve enjoyed in years thanks to the Windsor-Smith’s intense atmospherics, only to have the elaborate stage trashed by the cast once somebody opens their mouth and starts talking.

Far and away the most regrettable aspect of Windsor-Smith enjoying the kind of carte-blanche that he has, for the record, absolutely earned, however, is that there’s no one to reign him in when he starts to meander and lose focus — which he does a lot. Ostensibly the story of “super-soldier” recruit Billy Bailey, who flees a violent home life only to embark down much the same path that broke his father (plus super-powers and genetic mutation), we actually find ourselves not just hopping from one protagonist to the next in this narrative (often with little to nothing by way of a transition — smooth or otherwise) , but literally being afforded detailed and intimate glimpses into their past and present lives, often for reasons that don’t make immediate sense. This is all fine and good if an author is playing a truly “long game,” so to speak, but here’s where things get really weird : after weaving an intricate tapestry together for the first 3/4 of his story, the last act sees Windsor-Smith rushing at breakneck pace to tie all his threads together, resulting in an ending that actually feels rushed and maybe even a bit haphazard. Again, this book is over 360 pages long — the idea that any aspect of it should come off ashastily-written, especially its big climax, is downright mind-boggling. And yet that’s precisely the case here.

That being said, I can’t quite bring myself to be completely down on the ending. It’s too convenient for its own good, sure, and stuck with the unenviable task of having to do way too much all at once thanks to the author chasing ghosts (literally and figuratively) when he could have been moving events forward, but it’s still reasonably goddamn powerful. It has the same strengths and weaknesses of the comic as a whole, really, in that what it wants to do — and, taking it a step further, to be — is suitably grand and monumental in terms of scale, but also intimate and humane in terms of its approach and its implications. Its intentions are noble, but its methodology is a frustrating mix of absolutely glorious (even when they’re gloriously ugly) visuals with disjointed plotting, dialogue, characterization, and narrative execution. There are no unforgivable sins here — which is just as well given the centrality of redemption (or lack thereof) to the proceedings — but in the end we’re faced with a Shakespearean irony that eerily mirrors the “arc” of more than one of this story’s characters :

Monsters is both Barry Windsor-Smith’s greatest achievement and his most tragic missed opportunity.

Right Man At The Right Time? On “Captain America By Ta-Nehisi Coates Vol. 1” : Part Three Of A Three-Part Series

You know the drill — the comics gods giveth, but they also taketh away. And so it is that the back half of the deluxe hardback Captain America By Ta-Nehisi Coates Vol. 1 — a six-part storyline titled “Captain Of Nothing” that ran in issues 7-12 of the still-current volume of the monthly Captain America series — offers some significant steps forward, but also some irritating steps back.

For one thing, Cap spends nearly the entirety of this “arc” in prison, awaiting trial for a murder he didn’t commit, but it is, as you’d likely expect, not just any prison — no, The Myrmidon (Coates’ love for mythological names really comes to the fore as this series goes on) is a “big house” for super-powered inmates run by one of Cap’s most notorious nemeses, Baron Von Strucker, who was “gifted” with the job of warden of his very own “superjail” in exchange for snitching out his former Hydra buddies after the fall of their short-lived global fascist regime. Some people, it would seem, always land on their feet.

Certainly one of them is Adam Kubert, who’s been drawing comics for at least as long as I’ve been reading them, and always does competent and serviceable work — but “competent” and “serviceable” are a sizable step down from Leinil Frnacis Yu and Gerry Alanguilan, who provided the art on this series’ opening story. Kubet does a fine job illustrating the inner and outer turmoil of both Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter as they struggle with the decision of whether or not the former should turn himself over to the authorities, but once the action shifts inside the joint, it becomes rather flat and lifeless in terms of both its affect and impact. Coates’ scripting certainly serves up some nice double-page splashes for his artist to have some fun with — many of them purely location scene-setters in a manner not unlike Frank Miller’s Ronin — but let’s be honest here : when the artistic highlight of any given issue is a big exterior shot of a prison, well, something’s not quite clicking.

Speaking of, the color duties on this leg of Coates’ long-form epic are split between Frank Martin and Matt Milla, and neither does much to distinguish themselves from either their colleagues in the field of computerized comics coloring or from each other — which is fine as far as uniformity of the book’s appearance goes, but again represents a fairly significant step down from Sunny Gho’s “huesmanship” of earlier issues. No bold choices here, no interesting new shades to spend any extra time “oohing” or “aahing” over, just workmanlike competence. Things could be worse, sure, but damn — they could also be a lot better.

Interestingly, Coates has Cap “narrate” this run of issues via past-tense interior monologue, which doesn’t so much grate as it does nullify any sort of threat he might be facing just as a matter of course, but less-than-awe-inspiring dangers were a problem over the course of the first six “chapters” as well, and for all I know may well represent an overall pattern of the weaknesses of the Marvel cinematic universe “infecting” their print comics. I really don’t read enough of ’em these days to say. To Coates’ credit, however, he greatly expands both the scope and the stakes of the “4-D chess match” playing out not just behind the scenes but over, above, and beneath them, and that goes some way toward ameliorating the sense that, hey, everything’s gonna work out fine. Even Von Strucker is just one more piece on the metaphorical board, a face and a name to distract from the actual conspirators looking to shut down Cap permanently. Getting out of this fix alone is, of course, impossible — but fortunately, our hero doesn’t need to do anything of the sort.

Enter a rather impressive and dare I say intriguing bit of on-the-fly “retconning” as Sharon Carter is revealed to be part of a group known has The Daughters Of Liberty, who have not only always been fighting on America’s behalf throughout its history, but have pretty much every female Marvel “A-lister” (Sue Storm, Spider-Woman, Misty Knight, Mockingbird, etc.) included in their ranks — we’d just never been aware of the outfit’s existence before. Add to the mystery of just what this sisterhood (think The Daughters of The American revolution, only with super-powers) has been up all this time the further mystery of who their cloaked operative known as The Dryad (told you about those mythological names!) really is, and you’ve got a juicy enough enigma to suck in even a reader like myself, who barely pays attention to the capes-n’-tights game. Coates hit it out of the park with this hiding-in-plain-sight idea.

The other, final “double-plus” as far as this “arc” is concerned is its dual cliffhanger. Yeah, it’s frustrating to read 12 issues of a comic collected in a $35 (but who pays cover price these days?) hardcover and not come to anything like an actual resolution, but when Steve Rogers ditches his Captain America identity for the umpteenth time for reasons that actually make coherent sense and takes on a mantle that really makes sense (speaking of hiding in plain sight), then Coates follows this up with the revelation of The Dryad’s identity, the combined effect is a one-two punch that left this reader, at least, very much looking forward to the second volume of this series in spite of the flaws and weaknesses of this first one.

Okay, sure — there have been better Cap runs than this one. And, perhaps surprisingly, there have been far more overtly political ones — certainly Steve Englehart’s original “Secret Empire” and Mark Gruenwald’s “Captain America No More” were more informed by Watergate and Iran-Contra, respectively, than Coates’ story (at least to the point this book leaves off on) is informed by Trumpian neo-fascism. And the shifting art teams, while a fixture of contemporary “Big Two” comics, don’t seem to be doing this series any favors on the whole. But as volume one closed, I was left with a very definite sense that enough key elements are in place for Coates to craft the Captain America storyline the world needs now and that, to answer my own question, he may just be the right man at the right time for the job.

Right Man At The Right Time? On “Captain America By Ta-Nehisi Coates Vol. 1” : Part Two Of A Three-Part Series

What impresses most in the early going of Marvel’s deluxe hardback Captain America By Ta-Nehisi Coates Vol. 1 is that Coates seems to have a clear and distinct vision for what he wants to do with the character — and it’s clearly not to make him a mouthpiece for his own ideas and opinions, much to the probable consternation of those who assumed that was exactly what he had in mind.

On the contrary, when a battle-scarred and psychologically adrift Steve Rogers engages in combat with an army of cloned copies of his old villain Nuke (a fight which began in the pages of a Free Comic Book Day giveaway number that is presented as an introduction here and continues in earnest in the first issue proper), his one anchor is his resolute belief in his country not as it is — divided after Hydra occupation and ideologically, economically, and culturally up for grabs — but as it should be. This is a guy who knows the US constitution like the back of his hand, and still believes in his ongoing mission to uphold both it and the people who live by it at all costs. Yes, even those who are nostalgic for the Hydra “glory days.” It’s a tough spot to be in, sure, but he’s unwavering.

If there’s one thing about the first six-issue arc, latterly titled “Winter In America,” that fails to impress, though, it’s the lack of any direct physical threat to Cap, his love interest Sharon Carter, and their various and sundry allies. Behind-the-scenes machinations are the order of the day, and while this “intrigue-centric” plotline is certainly involving, the fact that the Nukes and, later, Taskmaster don’t present our hero with much of a challenge as far as open fisticuffs go rather undercuts the inspired, near-balletic action sequence illustration by Leinil Francis Yu and Gerry Alanguilan. Simply put, these guys stage a fight scene like nobody’s business, emphasizing Cap’s lithe motions, precise on-the-fly strategizing, and the impact of his expertly-delivered blows with a tremendous finesse that is thematically right in line with the character they’re drawing — but Coates’ story never gives you the idea that Cap might be in any kind of real danger from these foes, instead trotting them out like the pawns in a larger game that they so obviously are from the outset.

In short, then, he’s still pretty clearly learning on the job as far as this whole comics writing gig goes, and would do well to study the work of old pros like Archie Goodwin who were expert at shifting the tone, style, and even substance of their stories to not just play to the strengths of their artistic collaborators, but to “up their game,” as the kids say. Yu, Alanguilan, and colorist Sunny Gho (whose intentionally subdued palette stands well above much of today’s wretched and lifeless computerized coloring) do a superb job with what they’re given, no question, but it would be so much better if Coates had given them more — instead, what we’ve got are six issues that allow them to showcase their skills just fine, but that never push them to expand their horizons.

Back on the plus side of the ledger, however, Coates is at least smart enough to get out of the way and let the artists to what they do so well, even if he’s not nudging them toward the fullest expression of their capabilities. Both his caption boxed interior monologue for Cap himself and his characters’ dialogue across the board are uniformly crisp, economical, and fluid, engaging readers in the situations as they play out while never stepping on Yu and Alanguilan’s toes. Spoiler alert : this goes from advantage to disadvantage quickly when new artists less capable of doing the bulk of the heavy lifting are brought on board the title, but in this opening storyline, Coates’ authorial unobtrusiveness is very welcome, indeed.

Most of the time, at any rate. Occasionally his sparse scripting actually blunts the impact of key moments, such as at the end of the fifth issue when a major baddie is revealed to actually be an even more major baddie (a revelation which, frustratingly, is never followed up on in any appreciable way by the end of this book — I get that Coates is playing a proverbial “long game” here, but come on), but on the whole his narrative and pacing sensibilities are pretty well spot-on in terms of letting the pictures well and truly say a thousand words.

All told, then, yes, this is not an “arc” without flaws both major and minor, but judged within the context of modern mainstream comics’ admittedly ridiculously “decompressed” storytelling paradigm, it not only does its job of setting both the tone and the stage for the series is a whole, it does it pretty damn well all things considered. It’s topical in such a way that may drive MAGA die-hards a bit batty, but the parallels to life as it actually is today aren’t so heavy-handed that one can’t simply ignore them if they choose to, as well — in other words, the Trumpian figure of “Kingpin of Crime” Wilson Fisk as mayor of New York, the QAnon-ish conspiracy sweeping the land which posits that the “Hydra Cap” of Secret Empire and “our” Cap are one and the same, the shadowy “Power Elite” making a play to re-write America’s social hegemony in their own image by appealing to a combination of populist economics and nativist resentment? These things are hardly subtle, but their real-world implications can be dispensed with more or less instantaneously by anybody who just wants to read a fun comic book story for purely escapist purposes. Coates in no way demands that you accept his worldview in order to enjoy his story, and again, said worldview really doesn’t seep into his characterization of his protagonist in any appreciable way.

By the end of the sixth issue, Cap’s in a tight spot — framed for murder, fallen from grace, headed for the big house — but all is not lost, both because he’s been down this road before, and because he has just as many friends operating in the shadows as he does enemies. But we’ll get into all that in part three. Suffice to say, while these first six issues didn’t knock my socks off, they definitely left me wanting more, and in the mainstream comics racket, that’s the working definition of “mission accomplished” right there.

Right Man At The Right Time? On “Captain America By Ta-Nehisi Coates Vol. 1” : Part One Of A Three-Part Series

Patriotism, the old saying goes, is the last refuge of scoundrels, but I dunno — these days it just might be the first. From Donald Trump to Alex Jones to Larry Elder to Ben Shapiro to the rapidly-growing list of right-wing “shock jocks” dropping over from COVID at a steady clip (hey, who says all the news is bad?), the media landscape is utterly polluted by scurrilous grifters dry-humping Old Glory for a quick buck and tossing her aside until it’s time to milk their audience of lemmings for even more of their hard-earned (unless it was given to them by means of one of those dastardly “gub’mint handouts” they oppose for other people) cash. The ringleaders of this shell game writ large don’t care about America any more than they care about you, of course, but it seems there will always be a ready and willing audience for the most ostentatious displays of mile-wide, inch-deep nationalistic political performance “art” that never have, will, or even can prove a goddamn thing about sincerity of the person putting them on. Hell, even a confirmed non-patriot and absolutely strident anti-nationalist such as myself could place the biggest and most garish flag, a cheesy bald eagle velvet tapestry, and a red, white, and blue backdrop of some sort behind me tomorrow, go on YouTube and declare myself a “Super-Patriot,” and guess what? Somebody, somewhere would believe me. To dust off another moldy oldie, “what do you get when you cross a patriarch and an idiot?” actually seems as accurate today as it was when it was first coined, especially now that the entirety of the “patriot community” is a racket consisting of a handful of hucksters and a whole lot of suckers — and if you aren’t wise to that, then you’re just not wise, period.

Predictably, when Marvel announced that respected academic and public intellectual Ta-Nehisi Coates would be taking over writing the adventures of the patriot to end all patriots, Captain America, in 2018, the just-referenced “performative patriots” — most notably the full-time aggrieved whiners associated with the right-wing “comicsgate” pseudo-“movement” — blew a gasket for their cell-phone cameras. Why, here’s a guy who’s a lib’rul! An avowed “small d” democratic socialist! A supporter of Bernie Sanders! And to top it all off, he’s bla — wait, they didn’t say that part out loud, but did they really even need to? In any case, the song remains the same — the “performative patriot” crowd never shies away from positing that folks like them and only folks like them are the real ‘Murcans, and anybody who thinks, lives or, crucially, looks different is somehow out of step with what this country stands for/was built on/represents in the world, etc. These “uber-patriots” (emphasis on the uber) weren’t just aghast at the idea of Coates writing Cap, though — they were decrying the book itself as an abomination before it even came out.

Needless to say but I’m saying it anyway, to proclaim that someone’s no fucking good at a particular job before they’ve even started doing it is about as dumb as things get, even for people who consider a six-times-bankrupt, syphilitic game show host who doesn’t even bother hiding the fact he’s got the hots for his own daughter not just the greatest president ever, but some sort of living demi-god. Wanna say Coates’ version of Cap sucks? Okay, but at least wait for the first issue to hit the comic shops and read the damn thing — then, hey, have it. After all, it’s not like it would be in any way unusual for a Marvel comic to suck — they’ve been churning out an endless slew of garbage for the entirety of the post-Kirby/post-Ditko era, and exceptions (like, say, Frank Miller’s Daredevil run or the current The Immortal Hulk) are few and far between enough that you can count ’em on no more than two hands, perhaps even one.

Add to this the fact that Coates himself maybe wasn’t inspiring a ton of confidence in readers pre-disposed toward liking him going in, either. Having latched on with Marvel a couple years prior in hopes of doing a Spider-Man project, he was instead assigned King T’Challa to develop his comics-scripting chops on, and while his Black Panther was given a heavy publicity push, such “buzz” as it generated faded in due course and the comic itself was met with rather middling reviews. By the time the blockbuster film came out, in fact, despite all the “world-building” Coates and artist Brian Stelfreeze had done, it was clear that director Ryan Coogler had opted to draw most of his inspiration from earlier iterations of the Panther and his kingdom of Wakanda as envisioned by the likes of Don McGregor, Billy Graham, and of course the character’s creator, Jack Kirby. Coates’ run muddled along, was rebooted about halfway through, and eventually petered out — like, in fairness, almost all “Big Two” comics these days. For my own part, I claim no particular expertise on the overall quality of the book, having read just the first couple of issues before deciding it was dour, pompous, self-serious drivel that had its heart in the right place, but its head stuck back in 1990s “dark age”-style comics storytelling.

Some of Coates’ own comments when he was announced as Cap’s new scribe were perhaps a little less than what his corporate bosses may have hoped for, as well. In The Atlantic, for instance — the writer’s own “home turf” — he flat-out stated “I’m not convinced I can tell a great Captain America story — which is why I want so bad to try,” and while that kind of honesty is refreshing in today’s hype-dominated comics marketplace, it’s gotta be said that handing your critics metaphorical “ammo” like that maybe isn’t the wisest course of action. And yet, it can’t really be denied, at least on a conceptual level, that the idea of somebody who perhaps has a nuanced — even conflicted — relationship with the symbols and trappings, if not the ideals, of a character turning around and writing that character is an inherently interesting one. And Coates was taking the mantle at an interesting time for Cap, one rife with inner and outer turmoil for the character given that his evil, Hydra-aligned doppleganger had just been de-throned as de facto emperor of the world in the sprawling (and, for the record, stupid) Secret Empire crossover saga. If ever there was a “natural” point to look at Steve Rogers through a fresh set of eyes, this was it, given that Rogers wasn’t even necessarily sure what to make of himself anymore.

Marvel, to their credit — a phrase I don’t use often — also seemed bound and determined to set Coates up for success with this title, assigning (for the first six issues, at any rate) the top-flight Filipino creative team of penciller Leinil Francis Yu and inker Gerry Alanguilan to the book, along with bona fide “superstar” cover artist Alex Ross. Given the publisher’s sorry treatment of Filipino talent in the past (and probably present), one hopes Coates took his own politics to heart and prevailed upon them the need to pay these guys fairly (likewise for the comic’s Indonesian colorist, Sunny Gho), but I’m not privy to the behind-the-scenes machinations of what went down there — I will say definitively that these artists more than earned their page rates, though, whatever they were. There’s one more thing Coates had going in his favor, though, as well —

Simply put, history was on his side. I can only claim intimate familiarity with Jack Kirby’s second stint with the character of Captain America in the late 1970s — a run which has only in recent years begun to get anything like the recognition it deserves — but even a casual “pop in and pop back out” reader such as myself knows that lesser talents than The King ranging from Steve Englehart to Roger McKenzie to Don Glut to Mark Gruenwald to Sal Buscema to Mike Zeck to Kieron Dwyer to Ed Brubaker all “punched above their weight class,” so to speak, writing and/or illustrating memorable takes on America’s very own super-soldier that stand as high-points in their creative careers. For whatever reason, it seems that Cap brings out the best in many a comic-book freelancer — and a few of these now-legendary runs centered on themes that saw the character becoming disillusioned with America at the very least, at times even engaging in open conflict with his nation’s policies, leadership, or both. More than once, in fact, he even quit the job and assumed new super-hero identities in keeping with his (always temporary) “man without a country” mindset. So if Coates was going to go down that road, as early indications seemed, he’d be in very good company, indeed.

With all that preamble out of the way, then, I’ll confess to having quickly forgotten that this comic was even a going concern myself, the extent to which I follow the comings and goings of the funnybook mainstream being, to put it bluntly, minimal at best. Its very existence seemed to piss off a lot of people I thoroughly enjoy seeing pissed off, it’s true, but beyond that, I didn’t know a damn thing about it until finding the deluxe hardback collection Captain America By Ta-Nehisi Coates Vol. 1 (the title of which, sadly, continues the recent trend of giving short shrift to a book’s artists) at a rock-bottom bargain price last week. The volume collects the first 12 issues of the series’ still-ongoing run and, now that the the table is set, we’ll delve into its various and sundry highs and lows in our next installment tomorrow, when this decidedly “outside the norm for this blog” series continues.

Back In The Saddle, Part Three : Ryan Alves, Chaia Startz, Drew Lerman, And More

I dunno if I’ve got miles to go before I sleep (let’s fucking hope not), but I’ve got miles to go before I’m caught up, so let’s keep on keeping on with the single steps that make up the journey of a thousand — you know what? Enough with the cliches already.

Spiny Orb Weaver #2, Edited By Neil Brideau – Starting things off with a shameless plug for my Patreon, I’ve been talking a lot recently about the new trend in comics toward more locally-focused anthologies over on that site, and Brideau/Radiator are taking things a step further by funding this Miami-centric ‘zine with a South Florid arts grant. The format of each issue is tight and disciplined, to be sure, but there’s room within it to tell just about any story a person could want to : the lead feature is done by a South Florida-based artist, followed by an interview with them, then there’s a secondary strip by someone who used to call the area home about their time there, and then we get a text piece on the comic arts in South Florida wraps things up. This time out, the “headliner” is Drew Lerman, who’s never made anything less than a nearly-perfect comic, and that trend continues here with a sublime strip set in his Snake Creek “universe,” so this is a “must-buy” item already. The back-up is by Chris Lopez, a name new to me who contributes an evocative bit of reminiscence, and the text piece comes courtesy of my friend and SOLRAD cohort Rob Clough, so — yeah. Plenty for your money here, and projects worthy of your support don’t come a whole lot worthier than this one.

All this can be yours for ten bucks by going over to https://www.radiatorcomics.com/shop/uncategorized/spiny-orb-weaver-no-2/

The Adventures Of Nib And Borba By Chaia Startz – Making a strong case for the year’s best mini, we have this compact legitimately auteur vision from Startz, perhaps best known as part of the Bay Area’s Dead Crow de facto collective (sorry, don’t know what else to call it), who packs more sheer cartooning energy onto the page than a reasonable person would ever assume possible. And speaking of assumptions, I think our title characters are cats dressed as hearts, but honestly, it doesn’t really matter : they’re an outlet for Startz to make hilariously well-considered points about our media-saturated culture that never miss the mark and, just as crucially, never come off as heavy-handed or overly obvious. If you wear reading glasses like I do, you’ll need to break ’em out for this comic as the panels are incredibly small, but every last one of them is just plain incredible, as well. This reads and feels like the future of comics as you hold it in your hands, and if we’re lucky enough, who knows? Maybe it will be.

On the downside, it appears to be sold out everywhere, but if you want to start the process of hunting one down — and trust me, you do — you could do worse than asking around at http://deadcrow.org/

Bubblegum Maelstrom #2 By Ryan Alves – If the first issue of Alves’ solo anthology brught the heat, the second brings pure fire, as this represents what personal, idiosyncratic works of art are all about : wordless barring the continuing Bat-parody/reluctant tribute “Moustache,” this is a (damn I hate this word, but) cornucopia of styles and methods in service of stories loosely linked by themes of metamorphosis, inconsistency, and “change being the only constant.” But it’s not just physical change Alves is playing with here, nosiree — by the end of his strips one usually finds their perception of everything that’s happened going back to the beginning has changed, as well, each story therefore being an internalized, self-referential interrogation of form, function, and the very concept of finality. “Nothing ends, Adrian — nothing ever ends.”

In theory I’d recommend you get this from Alves’ own Awe Comics, but for reasons I’ll get to in a moment I’m going to direct you to the Strangers website to score it : https://strangersfanzine.bigcartel.com/product/bubblegum-maelstrom-1-by-ryan-alves

Bubblegum Maelstrom #3 By Ryan Alves – Okay, I stand corrected : nothing ends except when it does, and with the oversized, squarebound, third issue of his series, Alves is calling it a day. There’s something to be said for going out on top, though, and as our three continuing narratives wrap up alongside a smatterinig of stand-alone strips, you get that entirely pleasant feeling of an artist having done everything they want to do with a particular project and moving on to the next challenge, whatever it may be. Not everyone can hit with every story, of course, and there’s a “buddy cops vs. mutants” yarn in here that didn’t do a ton for me and seems conceptually slight in comparison with everything else, but that “everything else” is grade-A comics all the way. Once again, we run a stylistic gamut here, but everything (except that one thing) makes for a cohesive whole from dizzyingly disparate parts. Remember how freaking amazing comics can be? Read this, and you will. Problem is —

I don’t know where the hell you’re supposed to find it. Strangers has the first two issues, but not this one. The Awe Comics Storenvy site is likewise bereft of it. My recommendation would be to go to Alves’ personal website and bug him to sell you a copy. Hit the contact “button” at this link : https://livinginmethane.weebly.com/

And with that, I’m calling it a night. Be a mensch and help a jobbing critic out by signing up for that Patreon I mentioned earlier, where you get a lot more of this kind of thing for as little as a dollar a month : https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

Back In The Saddle, Part Two : Tara Booth, John Sammis, And Noah Van Sciver

Continuing our frenzied and likely haphazard overview/brief analysis of stuff I read over the course of my break from posting here, we happen upon the following foursome of comics —

Cabin In The Woods, Part One By Tara Booth – Admittedly, the cover price on this 2019 comic from Berlin’s Colorama is steep at 18 Euros plus shipping, but there’s no denying that it’s absolutely gorgeous, as well — which comes as no surprise given that all of Booth’s gouache-painted comics are. The title’s a bit curious given that most of the “action” takes place in the city, but rest assured that by the end (for now) of the largely-wordless narrative our heroine/authorial stand-in makes it to the rural retreat in question. Prior to that, though, we are treated to an equal parts thoughtful and dizzying display of motion and its absence, communicated via the entirely relatable means of workaday drudgery, homebound lethargy, and good old fetishistic kink. Few cartoonists can captivate you with scenes of opening a goddamn package for a couple of pages, but Booth is certainly one of them and, as with much of her work, a rumination upon/examination of her own creative process is at the heart of things here. A sublime comic that you’ll find yourself returning to again and again — let’s hope the next installment is in the offing sooner rather than later.

Your best bet to score one of these is to get it directly from the publisher at https://coloramabooks.space/collections/all/products/cabin-in-the-woods-part-1

Pisser! By John Sammis – I got a copy of this in the mail from the cartoonist himself awhile back, read it promptly, and then completely spaced out writing about it, but hey — that’s Alzheimer’s for you. I recently unearthed it again, however, and found myself every bit as taken with its weirdness as I was the first time around — which is also an Alzheimer’s thing in that you often find yourself recalling feelings and impressions in a general sense while having little to no recollection of specific details. In any case, this is a collection of often disquieting-to-downright-disturbing gag strips that are expertly rendered in classical “cartoony” style and are sure to linger in a mind that functions better than my own. I had assumed Sammis was a nom de plume for Johnny “will the last person working at Mad please turn out the lights when you leave?” Sampson, but come to find out no, this guy is someone else entirely, and my best guess is he’s sorta twisted and perhaps a bit fixated on some things the average shrink may not deem “healthy.” What do those squares know, though, anyway? Unfortunately, there’s no way at all to get your hands on a copy of this anymore, but it’s more than earned a long overdue “shout-out” from yours truly, and John, I promise, if you send me your next comic, it will not fall between the cracks of my neural synapses. Simply put, this thing is great.
My Hot Date (And Other Embarrassments) By Noah Van Sciver – This bumper re-issue of Van Sciver’s Ignatz winner from a few years back is part of Kilgore’s 2021 publishing program, and while its awesomeness is already well-established, I just felt the need to point out a couple of good reasons to “double dip” for this new edition : the newsprint paper stock it’s on results in a more pleasingly muted color palette that really captures the bleakness of 1990s life in suburban Arizona (a general state of affairs that I’m sure continues there unabated to this day), and the chief “other embarrassment” in question, a 2018 strip entitled “Holly Hill,” is damn near as good as the main feature itself. This is Van Sciver firing on all cylinders creatively, and is a comic you’d do well to add to your collection/library even if you’ve got the original version — which I’m assuming everyone does, because it apparently sold “over two million copies.”

Grab it for 12 bucks at http://www.kilgorebooks.com/shop/my-hot-date-other-embarrassments-noah-van-sciver

Boring By Noah Van Sciver – I’d certainly love to be as effusive with my praise for Van Sciver’s latest (this time self-published) effort, but unfortunately it’s really a tale of two comics in and of itself. The secondary feature, “My Own Jurassic Park,” is another near-flawless reminiscence from the cartoonist’s youth that plays to all of his considerable strengths, while the titular lead feature is a rather bog-standard piece of contemporary autobio that plays to all his weaknesses. Simply put : Van Sciver seems like a guy who’s far more comfortable expounding upon — and for more honest in his appraisals of — his past than his present. I can’t say I blame him for that on a personal level — after all, I don’t want anybody knowing shit about me — but then, I’m not trying to make my living as an autobiographical cartoonist. When the subject of Van Sciver’s stories is his youthful self, there’s real pathos and something very much akin to unforced wistfulness in every panel on every page, but when he’s writing and drawing himself as he is now, he seems considerably more guarded and more than happy to caricaturize “adult Noah” in (yawn) gently self-deprecating terms. “Yeah, I’m neurotic, and bemused by the modern world, and probably kinda tough to live with, but gosh, I mean well enough, and hey — isn’t it funny?” He’s not the first to take this “make yourself look good by making yourself look bad — but only sorta bad” tack by any means, so I guess it’s not his fault that the whole act had worn thin by the time he started down that road, but he’s capable of a better. A lot better. Hell, the second strip in this very comic proves it.

Negative views of the lead feature aside, this one might still be worth a purchase for the back-up story alone. You can find it at https://noahvansciver.bigcartel.com/product/boring

Is that enough for now? Sure, I think that’s enough for now.

Oh, wait, it’s not. Please check out my Patreon for three new posts/reviews/essays/rants/whatever per week on subjects comics-, culture-, and politics-related. You can join for as little as a buck, and you’re absolutely guaranteed to get your money’s worth. Here’s the link : https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

Back In The Saddle With The Latest From Robb Mirsky, Brian Canini, Connor McCann, And More

And so we — or I guess that should be I — return after a few weeks’ absence, certainly none the worse for wear (in fact, dare I say feeling somewhat refreshed), but with plenty to catch you, dear reader, up on. To that end, the next batch of reviews are going to be whirlwind overviews of a number of comics I read over the course of my hopefully-well-earned (you can be the judge of that) break. And seeing as how I’ve wasted enough time recently as is, I think the best course of action is simply to jump right in —

God Bless The Machine By Connor McCann – Don’t look now, but the “Strangers Fanzine Presents” label is turning into the closest thing the comics world offers to a guaranteed mark of quality. Latest case in point : this artistic and conceptual thrill ride from Connor McCann, a name previously unknown to me, but one I’ll surely be on the lookout for more from in future. Featuring solid, “crunchy” figure drawings rendered in thick, black inks, this cynical-but-in-no-way-overly-obvious look at the cost of fame ostensibly centers around a washed-up former child star attempting to rescue an artificially-created boy band being held hostage on the moon, but veers off in a million different directions from there. The 2000AD influence here is strong, but this is much funnier and more genuinely surprising (to say nothing of genuinely twisted) than that magazine has been in, oh, the past four decades or so. The ideas fly at you a mile a minute from start to finish, but have no fear — it all comes together in a crescendo best described as logically coherent but still batshit insane. If you don’t like this, you don’t like comics, period.

Get it for ten bucks from the Strangers website at : https://strangersfanzine.bigcartel.com/product/god-bless-the-machine-by-connor-mccann-strangers-fanzine-presents

Sludgy #3 By Robb Mirsky – As luck would have it, you needn’t leave that very site to get your hands on a copy of Robb Mirsky’s latest Sludgy mini, and while Mirsky himself told me that this third issue, consisting of five tight, well-paced shorts, was “probably the best so far,” I take all such claims with a grain of salt. Damned thing is, though, there’s no probably about it — things take a turn for the darker here, and not only is that entirely apropos, it elevates this entire concept out of “Casper, only toxic and gooey” territory and into the rarefied air of the disturbingly humorous. Oh, sure, our friendly monsters are still innocent enough in and of themselves, but the people they encounter, as well as the circumstances under which those encounters take place, well — that’s another matter. That being said, believe it or not, this is also the funniest and most impeccably-drawn installment to date, as well.

You can score this from the Strangers site for $6.00 at https://strangersfanzine.bigcartel.com/product/sludgy-3-by-robb-mirsky

Glimpses Of Life #7 By Brian Canini – Set against the impending arrival of baby number three and with COVID never far out of sight or mind, there’s certainly nothing wrong with this collection of January 2021 diary comics from one of Columbus’ most prolific cartooning talents, but likable as these strips are, one can’t help but feel the deck is stacked against Canini simply because there’s so much of this kind of thing out there already and so little to set it all apart. Honestly, unless you’re doing Gabrielle Bell-level stuff, the entire diary comics field is a tough one to stand out in, especially since the pandemic pretty much guaranteed that everyone who wasn’t doing them before is doing them now. The closest comparison I can draw here is to Kyle Bravo’s work, in that both artists produce eminently likable autobio material — that’s pretty well forgotten about after you’re done with it. As I’ve pointed out in the past, though, in regards to this very series, it tends to read better when it’s collected into larger volumes that afford readers the opportunity to really get in there and vicariously spend time with Canini and his family. In shorter 32-page bursts such as this, though, you’re left with a feeling of “that was nice enough, I suppose, ” but not much else. Which feels like a pretty shitty thing to say about a comic that, I should reiterate, is just fine for what it is — but nevertheless, there we have it.

You can pick this up for $6.00 from Canini’s Drunken Cat website at https://drunkencatcomics.storenvy.com/products/32339596-glimpses-of-life-7

The Big Red Machine, Grandma, And Me By Terry Eisele And Brian Canini – A considerably more successful entry into the equally-crowded field of memoir is Canini’s collaboration with writer Terry Eisele that documents the latter’s close relationship with his maternal grandmother, expressed and expounded upon in any number of ways, most notably via their mutual love of the Cincinnati Reds’ mid-’70s world championship teams. Still, if we parse this mini’s title down to its essentials, it’s far more about the “grandma” than it is the “Big Red Machine,” and that’s as it should be. Eisele’s sheer skill as a writer elevates this simple, but entirely heartfelt, comic over many others of its ilk that are out there, and Canini’s an old pro at drawing this type of story, so the collaboration is about as seamless as these things get. I enjoyed this one a lot and feel pretty safe in saying that you will, too.

This one’s also available from Canini’s own Drunken Cat site, for five very well-spent dollars : https://drunkencatcomics.storenvy.com/products/32878765-the-big-red-machine-grandma-and-me

And I think that’ll do it for today; I’ll be back tomorrow with another batch of recent reads to expound upon. Until then, a reminder to please support my Patreon if you dig this sort of thing — you can join for as little as a buck, I put up three news posts every week, and I never take a vacation over there. If you’re interested, here’s the link : https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

Vacation Break

Four Color Apocalypse is taking a vacation. Or, should that be, I’m taking a vacation. But only from this site, and only for a short while. I’ll be retuning on September 7th and it’ll be back to business as usual, rest assured.

Patreon and SOLRAD postings will continue as usual in the meantime, so if by chance you find yourself in need of a “fix” as far as my reviews go, please join me there, otherwise I’ll see you back here again before you know it.