Let’s talk some mini comics! I’ve been getting a ton of them in the mail lately and am doing my best to keep up (if you’ve sent me some and haven’t seen ’em reviewed yet, rest assured, I’m getting around to everything in the next week or two — and if you haven’t sent me any but want to, get in touch!), so let’s dive right in and take a look at some of what’s been coming my way, starting with a trio from our old friend Brian Canini and his Drunken Cat Comics self-publishing imprint —
Roulette is a stark and unforgiving (just check out that cover) eight-pager about a couple “dudebros” who have hit rock bottom and are indulging in the preferred method of drunken Russians to end their suffering. What exactly brought the pair of them to this point is only hinted at, but it’s not like the details matter too terribly much as the point of this entire endeavor can best be summed up as “maximum impact within a minimalist framework.” In that respect, Canini succeeds quite well, infusing his usual economic cartooning style with a bit of a DIY punk sensibility that suits this material to a proverbial “T” and socks you right in the jaw with very little fuss and muss. This is a bleak little book, to be sure, but a gripping one, and the highly ambiguous final page ensures that you’re gonna want to go right back to the start and read it again to decide how you think it “really” ends. $1.99 for an artfully-constructed comic that really makes you think is a solid expenditure, in my book, so I heartily recommend this one without reservation.
And the same is true (hell, it always is with this series) for Plastic People #5. Last time out we exited the “world-building” phase of this faux-perfect dystopian future and jumped right into the murder mystery that is apparently going to be the main focus of Canini’s narrative, and this time around we get an unflinching look at the political machinations that are going to make an honest investigation well-nigh impossible for our protagonists. The art in this series keeps getting more assured and confident with each issue, and the plot progression is tight and reasonably intricate. Canini successfully crams more story into eight pages than “The Big Two” manage in books three times this length, and he hits on more story “beats,” to boot. This is an expertly-crafted series that has only improved with each issue, and $1.99 for shit this good is an absolute bargain. Plus, the future LA portrayed in this comic has no fucking cops. What’s not to love?
Glimpses Of Life #5 is the latest installment in Canini’s diary comics series, this time focused on cats and our love/hate relationship with the little bastards that we can’t live without. The bookends of the comic are probably the best parts of this issue, with a charming little autobio story about the cartoonist’s pet slugs (yes, you read that right) he used to keep as a kid kicking things off and a terrific little strip called “How Cat Beds Work” serving as the back cover send-off, but to be perfectly honest most of the stories in between fell kinda flat with me. Canini’s drawing style lends itself well to these short little vignettes, and the consumer-friendliness of this series (16 larger-than-the-typical-mini pages for $2.99) is welcome and appreciated, but I still feel like he’s trying to find his voice with this project and sort of eyeing up anything and everything in his everyday life as a potential source of inspiration until he hits on something that he’s really got some unique perspective on. I give him points for trying, and certainly encourage him to continue doing just that, but so far he has yet to find a way to make these admirably simple slices — sorry, glimpses — of life compelling. He’ll likely get there at some point — hell, he’s done some terrific diary comics work in the past — but for whatever reason, this is taking some time to come together.
Still, two out of three ain’t bad at all, and Brian’s storenvy site offers plenty more stuff well worth your time and money, as well, so spending some time browsing his wares is never a bad idea. You can do just that at http://drunkencatcomics.storenvy.com/
Pat Aulisio is yet another cartoonist to emerge in recent years from the suddenly-booming Philadelphia scene, and while I’ve seen some of his work in a handful of anthologies here and there, Ghosted is the first of his “solo” books that I’ve sampled. Printed in black, white, and a pleasingly garish otherworldly aqua-blue, Aulisio’s own description of this comic bills it as concerning “online dating and a walk through the trans-dimensional void” — and I’ll be goddamned if that isn’t exactly right, as his narrative (I hesitate to call it a “story”) juxtaposes some typically lame Tinder-style banter with amazingly-delineated scenes channeled straight from an alternate reality that I can only think to (no doubt inadequately) label as “punk futurism.” You can look at this book for hours and not get bored — hell, not even know what’s happening for certain, and in that sense it reminds me a lot of much of the very best stuff from the volumes-four-and-five heyday of Kramers Ergot. There’s a touch of William Cardini to Aulisio’s work, a touch of Ben Passmore, but mostly a heaping helping of techno-psychedelia that defies not only classification, but even description. If you’re getting the feeling that this comic is exactly what you need in order to survive for another minute in this hopelessly dull plane of existence, guess what? It is.
Aulisio’s got himself a storenvy site For his Yeah Dude Comics imprint, as well — what self-respecting (or otherwise) cartoonist doesn’t these days? — and he’s even running a little sale right now, with Ghosted going for the bargain price of $3.00 and other books knocked down by a buck or two, as well. Check it out at http://yeahdude.storenvy.com/
Next week we’ve got more Aulisio (he sent me a second comic that I haven’t had a chance to read yet), some cool-looking stuff from Seattle cartoonist Kalen Knowles that I meant to get to this week — and who knows? Maybe a few surprises, as well, depending on what else shows up courtesy of our friends at the USPS. Hope to see you back here in seven!