Small Press Expo 2011 reviews: The Men!

Like I said, I’m going to give equal time to the men whose comics I purchased at SPX!

(I do think there are more comics — including the ones my boyfriend will let me borrow — that will be forthcoming, but this will likely be the last SPX-related post.)

Ghost RabbitDakota McFadzean
It’s a bad idea to read this comic when you’re both physically and emotionally exhausted. Don’t get me wrong — Dakota McFadzean’s meditation on life and death told through a cartoon rabbit and a little girl is both beautiful and heartfelt, but it will sneak up on you. And if you’re like me, you’ll finish the comic and burst into tears. McFadzean’s art has an intimacy and expansiveness — he makes the moments of this comic feel personal and insignificant and that lends a poignancy to the quiet story he’s telling here. More than anything else I picked up at SPX, I was surprised and effected by this comic. I’m happy to read what else McFadzean does, but I think he’s already figured it out. (Even if he did make me cry.)

Space Office #2John Green
Why would you dislike this? This is your life. Fine, you’re not in an office in space, but this is still your life.

John Green’s take on office life is both preposterous and utterly accurate. Yes, you don’t work with robots, but maybe you might as well. His drawings have a playful, animated quality that’s easy to relate to. Our hapless hero Xander just wants to do his job but has to deal with offended aliens and surly staple bots. This comic will make your job seem not so bad after all. Or at least it will make you laugh.

Luke Holds Off – A Love & Sex StoryJeremy Nguyen
Jeremy Nguyen’s sensitive tale of a high schooler deciding to wait to have sex with his girlfriend may seem to fall into the typical introspective “real-life” comics at first glance, but there’s definitely something meaningful and evocative about it. Nguyen’s art is bold, simple and lovely. His characters look and behave like real people and he does a masterful job of communicating the intimate conflicts of living. I admire his ambition with this comic more than I like it, though — I know where he was trying to go comparing Luke’s desire to hold of sleeping with his girlfriend with his father’s infidelity, but I don’t know if it quite works. Overall, though, it’s a thoughtful story about a moment of growing up and I can’t find much fault with it. Nguyen has a winning style and a distinctive voice. Even if this comic isn’t exactly what I wanted, I know others will be.

Pope Hats #2Ethan Rilly
I have not read Pope Hats #1, but I didn’t feel lost reading this. Franny is likeable and easy to relate to — a young woman who doesn’t know if she really wants to be on the career path she’s on — and Ethan Rilly renders her with sensitivity and grace. I loved following her and I absolutely wanted to know more about her. The other stories feel a little less effective, though. While Rilly’s art shines clearly, the extended monologue of “Gould Speaks” come across a little rambling and while I liked seeing Franny as a child, it’s a story that feels a little added in.

But really, as soon as Pope Hats is complete and collected, I am going to be lining up to buy it. My complaints are little ones.

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