May minicomic review roundup, part 2

You’ve read part 1, obviously. Now, onto part 2!

Great Caution and Bets Are Off/Cakewalk: Nate Powell (and Mark Long, Jim Demonakos and Rachel Bormann)
If you want to tell stories about the suburbs in comic form, this is how you do it.

Honestly, it almost feels a little silly to try to review Nate Powell’s work because he’s that good (and that he has all kinds of big names publishing his work and he still makes minicomics is amazing and wonderful). His art is sensitive and gorgeous. In lesser hands, it would come across as self-indulgent, but Powell manages to make it thoughtful and meaningful. “Great Caution” features excerpts from his upcoming graphic novels Any Empire (Top Shelf) and The Silence of Our Friends (First Second, written by Mark Long and Jim Demonakos). Both seem to speak of what’s been hidden behind closed doors and that the political easily becomes the personal. “Bets Are Off/Cakewalk” seem a little more personal — the first is based on a Pretty Girls Make Graves song and the second is a painful story told by Rachel Bormann.

I am usually pretty critical of autobiographical stories (even if they’re veiled ones) since I think most people’s lives just aren’t that interesting. But Powell and those he works with — they can tell all the autobio stories they want.

Twentieth Anniversary Box Set — A Minicomics Celebration: Pam Bliss
Pam Bliss has been making minicomics since 1989. That, in my mind, basically makes her cooler than just about anyone else. This set features the first minicomic she created — “Tales from the Interstate 1” as well as a twentieth anniversary “remix” version of it, a list of notes about the changes between the two versions, as well as three other minicomics. It is a lot of fun to see Bliss’ art become more refined over the years, moving from a looser, more sketchy style to cleaner and slightly more cartoony. I love the playful New Age vibe of her work. These are plenty of fun and I wish her 20 more years of making comics. I want to keep reading.

White Out: Leslie Anderson
As the name would imply, this is a pair of tales drawn in white on black paper (I won’t assume she used actual White-Out as her medium, but I could be wrong). The first, “The Napping Deeps” is an amusing story about Cthulhu misplacing his teddy bear (yes, you did read that right). Throughout, Anderson pulls in various mythological figures and the high-contrast art (mostly white on black, obviously) gives it an odd, moody quality that serves it well. The second story, “Grey Horses,” is a little more meditative and in some ways more about the words than the images. I did feel like Anderson was reaching for something she didn’t quite get to, but I admire her ambition and that she did something completely different from most minicomics I’ve seen. I think she’s someone to watch.

Eat the Babies — SPACE 2011 Preview: Brady Dale Russell
This is a sampler of Brady Dale Russell’s fairly young webcomic about a television with arms and legs, among other things. It has its own delightful philosophical bend — there is a lot of politics and social commentary here — but Russell’s quirky art, while maybe not the most refined, works really well in comic form. If the subject matter appeals to you, you’ll probably like the comic. For my part, the more I read of it, the more I liked it. (I did meet and hang out with Russell at SPACE this year, so if you want to take that into account, feel free.)

Miners Mutiny #1 – Prospecting: Emily Stackhouse and Nicholas Shanan
This is not a minicomic as I traditionally define it (which is, for the most part, something creators printed out and put together themselves). It has the shape and form of your usual comic. I’m throwing it into this batch, though, because I can. Miners Mutiny is a pretty traditional Western by Emily Stackhouse (art and words) and Nicholas Shanan (words, layout and lettering) that follows Bill (who has various place names appended to the front of his, depending on where he ends up), who comes to California during the Gold Rush. There is a prostitute named Rose with whom he has a history with. And, of course, danger in the mine and in the town itself. The dialogue is pitch-perfect — neither too modern nor trying too hard to be “period.” Stackhouse’s sketchy, old-fashioned art is beautifully rendered in sepia tones. My tiny complaint about this is that the typeface used in the word balloons feels a little too modern, but really, that’s just me being super-picky. I loved it. I want to think we’re all on the cusp of the rediscovery of the Western, and if Stackhouse and Shanan are going to lead the way, I’m more than happy to follow.

Miners Mutiny provided by the creators.

2 comments

  1. Eden- Thanks for reviewing the Eat the Babies sampler!

    Your readers should know… CONSUMER REPORTS has since come in and checked us out and I can verify it: my webcomic DEFINITELY grows on you over time. They tested it and found it so. Proven. Boom. Underwriters’ Laboratories even doublechecked their work. That’s how certain everyone is.

    And yo: Nate Powell is a badass and just keeps getting better. He is a man to watch, sho’nuff.

  2. comicsgirl says:

    I like to tell people that Nate Powell was a Small Press Expo volunteer the first year I was. We worked the registration table together for a bit.

    And then next year he won an Eisner. The two things, I’m sure, are totally related.

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