mini-comic reviews

Worms #5
WORMS #5 is drawn by regular series artist Kimberlee Traub, and as opposed to Johnson’s work, hers shows a real air of confidence about it. The story, involving a young woman imprisoned in a strange hospital and injected with strange alien worms, picks up the pace a bit, as she finally makes good (sort of) on an escape attempt. However, it’s how the story is told that makes it work. Traub’s art is blocky and heavy with its lines, and she defies the use of deep detail; however what she does perfectly is use the matchbook format to perfect effect. She’s adapted to the limitations of size and scope and tells the story as cleanly as possible. Not an easy task.
~ Marc Mason, Comics Waiting Room

There are probably a few of you out there who have been reading this series thinking “Sure, this is an odd comic on a number of levels, but I haven’t been creeped out enough by it”.  Well, your prayers have been answered!  The escape from this institution (if that is in fact what it is) continues in this issue, as our heroine listens to the voice of her dead father (who is helping her to escape), makes her way out and then has to deal with the same people who shot at her last time.  This time around she seems to have come to terms a bit more with the worms in her system, and it’s all I can do not to give anything else away.  Let’s just say that Brian seems to have a gift for taking stories that seem to be going full steam ahead and veering wildly in a completely unexpected direction.  Anyway, I’m along for the ride, as clueless about where this is heading as anybody else.  That’s assuming you’re already reading this, and why wouldn’t you be?  All these tiny comics for that tiny amount of money?  Plus the (as close as you can come in the comics world) guarantee that this guy is committed to the comics and will keep cranking these things out, so you won’t get dumped in the middle of a story?  Seems obvious to me.  $1
~ Kevin Bramer, Optical Sloth

I’ve had the chance to read the fourth and fifth issues of this book – which are both a little hard to describe. The story involves a girl, who wakes up in a hospital after her father’s death. Alien worms are injected into her arm, and with the voice of her dead father guiding her, she tries to find a way to escape from the hospital. It’s definitely the oddest story out of the Silber comics collection, as scenes morph into others like they would in a dream you’re having, with destinations mixed up in an odd patchwork of your mind’s creation.
~ Brandon Schatz, Comixtreme

I don’t “get” Worms. I never have. Brian’s tale is cool in a creepy horror-action-thriller sort of way, but the format makes it hard for me to follow the plot clearly.
I like the art by Kimberlee Traub, and I feel that she has better synergy with the writer than ever before. Still, I’m lost when it comes to the overall story.
~ Nick Marino, AudioShocker

Lost Kisses #11
The biggie in this set is ULTIMATE LOST KISSES #11. Why? Rather than Mitchell’s traditional stick figure art, Dave Sim! steps in to handle art chores. Mitchell also tackles a serious story here, which hasn’t been the case in earlier efforts. A woman in her mid-30s receives a letter from the child she gave up for adoption as a teenager and goes to visit him on death row, and what she discovers is a grand loss of life in more ways than one. Even without Sim on the art, this is easily the best work Mitchell has produced in these minis, and I was pretty pleased to see it. Without some growth, this series was going to get stale in a hurry. And if you’re a fan of the artist? This might be the most unusual collectible out there where you can find his stuff.
~ Marc Mason, Comics Waiting Room

WHA? Dave Sim?? Yeah, it’s true — the one and only Mr. Sim did the art for this issue, which is a huge departure from Brian’s usual stick figure drawings.
It’s a for better or worse scenario in the sense that this isn’t an issue of the Lost Kisses series I know and love. Instead, it comes from some sort of deranged alternate Lost Kisses universe where the past is both haunting and daunting (instead of overwhelming and mildly sad like it’s been in the first ten issues).
The art and words of this issue are both intense, leaving me emotionally fascinated but also drained. All said, this is a gripping story with good art (just a few too many re-used images).
~ Nick Marino, AudioShocker

The first and longest running series from Silber is Lost Kisses – which up until the tenth issue, featured a very happy looking stickman who offered stream-of-consciousness thoughts upon horrible events that occurred in his life. Frequent topics include morbid thoughts on death, life, love and having no direction – which in normal circumstances, would be typical Kinkos-indie fare. The difference this time, however, is the fact that while all of these terrible topics are being discovered, the main character greets (almost) every though with a big ol’ smile. Even the thought of his own death.
As I said, this series featured the narration (and art) of a stick figure. With the newest issue, that all changed. And not only that, Mitchell got a big time indie creator to draw his new story. With such a big shift, it appeared that a name change for the series was in order…
Ultimate Lost Kisses #11
With art by Dave Sim. And yes, it’s that Dave Sim.
The story in this one is completed by the end of the issue, and concerns the events of a mother who is seeing her son for the first time since she gave the boy up. He’s in jail. Now, I won’t go into the details of the story – much more detail than what I just gave would pretty much ruin the whole thing. It featured a word that I really, really don’t like in my comics (they’re supposed to be entertaining, right?), and that coloured my enjoyment of the book adversely. I should just say that despite this, the story is incredibly solid, with some fine art by Sim. Just be warned: things get pretty dark.
In the end, what I believe it succeeds in the most is being a sly commentary on the mainstream’s predication for the “big creative team relaunch” – just using indie comic book tropes, rather than superhero ones.
~ Brandon Schatz, Comixtreme

No, I don’t know if this is a continuation of the Lost Kisses series (what with the addition of “Ultimate” to the title), but as this is listed as #11 and the last issue with Lost Kisses in the title was #10, I’m going to assume that it is.  I’ll get to the comic in a minute, but Dave Sim?  I guess he has some free time these days, but kudos to Brian for getting him to illustrate a book of his.  I’m actually finishing up the Cerebus series this week, as all the unrelated text pieces killed it for me the first time around and, while I have my problems with various theories by Dave (and his sucking all the joy out of his book for the last 50 issues or so), I doubt that I’d even still be reading comics if it wasn’t for his influence.  I don’t know what his legacy is going to end up being, but I’d put the first 220 issues or so of Cerebus up there as one of the great achievements in the field.  Isn’t there a comic somewhere I’m supposed to be reviewing?  This issue changes the format of the previous Lost Kisses, as this is a fictional story (or at least I hope it is).  A young woman gets a letter from her son, 18 years after she’d given him up for adoption and practically forgotten his existence.  He’s on death row for killing a man and wants to meet her, but there’s nothing accusatory in his letter.  She informs her husband (who she met ten years after her son was born) about his existence, tells him of her plans to visit her son, and she sets off.  Brian is a master of taking the images given and expanding or shrinking them, using the images as a director would use a camera lens, and he
does wonders with what he’s given here.  It’s a powerful story, and I hope this gets Dave back into comics, assuming he even wants to after 300 issues of Cerebus…
~ Kevin Bramer, Optical Sloth

Marked #1
Jeremy Johnson handles the art chores on MARKED, one of the more commercial concepts Mitchell has produced. A retired demon hunter (with a secret of his own) begins investigating the death of his girlfriend’s sister, which sets him back on a path for justice. This book is very high concept, and the ending leaves it wide open for further adventures of the main character. Johnson’s work is a little on the inconsistent side, vacillating between easy to follow and somewhat obtuse in its choices of angle and p.o.v. If there are to be further installments, that’s something that would need to be worked on.
~ Marc Masters, Comics Waiting Room

…speaking of mini-comics, Marked takes the terminology very seriously and gives us a fun little book that’s literally about the size of a book of matches. It’s full of the same visceral images found on the cover in the form of ghouls, danger, and violence. The layouts remind me of some of the original Tijuana Bibles with a single wide open panel adorned by typed-looking text on the bottom of the page. Looking at the single images, Johnson uses shadow very nicely in the outdoor sequences, and especially on facial details like obscured eyes or stray wisps of hair. Taken as a whole though, the art doesn’t flow well page to page, with different slightly related images being strewn together, held in place only with the narrated text on the bottom. I like that Mitchell’s story isn’t afraid of violence or disturbing images. It never plays as gratuitous, simply a writer who doesn’t shy away from the story he wants to tell and has a clear picture of it in his mind. It shows confidence, which is always an attractive quality. On the down side, I have a couple of quibbles with the text. The first is the use of the ampersand, “&,” which is a little jarring and questionable in spots. When you begin a sentence with it, it really disrupts the flow of the text. The second is use of the term “prey.” I’ve never seen it used this way, but two examples go like this: “for a vulnerable prey” and “an easy prey.” I think those phrases could have omitted needless words and simply been “for vulnerable prey” and “easy prey.” While the original use might technically be grammatically correct, it’s extremely clunky sounding. Marked ends with a twisty cliffhanger and despite some small glitches, I’m intrigued by the size, reasonable price point, and plethora of additional titles available at: Grade A-.
~ Justin Giampaoli, Poopsheet

This book is the newest series from Silber – yet apparently, one of the author’s first, having been through a myriad of different artists before reaching this point in time. It’s a fairly good story, but one that invokes “rape” right near the beginning, which pulled me right out a bit. There’s just too much rape in comics nowadays, I swear.
Anyway, the rest of the story (concerning a man whose mission in life is to kill monsters) is pretty solid, but definitely reads like an earlier work. While newer offerings have slimmed down the text content, this one remains very verbose, almost to a fault. Still, it’s not a bad read… just one that’s not quite to my tastes.
~ Brandon Schatz, Comixtreme

Hey, why not one more series?  He already has 4 going strong.  If you make comics and this guy doesn’t make you think that maybe you should be a little more productive, I don’t know what would do it.  Productive and consistently entertaining, all while using different artists for different projects, is impressive no matter how you look at it.  In this issue an old monster fighter comes out of retirement after his girlfriend’s sister is brutally murdered at a local park.  No, I’m not sure what being a monster fighter entails either, but I’ll bet we learn that over the course of the series.  Anyway, he manages to lure the murderers out of hiding by pretending to be a drunk (i.e. dousing himself with booze), but the fight doesn’t go well and he’s forced to take a desperate and drastic action.  I get the fact that I’ve been praising all these books for months now, so this probably won’t have much impact, but this comic sings.  The cadence of the dialogue, the fight scene (even with it being all scrunched up in this tiny comic, it didn’t suffer a bit), and that ending were all pitch perfect.  These comics are all ridiculously affordable, and you’d have a hard time going wrong trying any of them.  Today this has the potential to be my favorite of the bunch, but talk to me tomorrow and I’ll go with a different series.  That speaks to some serious range, and if he’s able to do another five series at this high level I say go for it.
~ Kevin Bramer, Optical Sloth

Marked is a departure from Brian’s other work. Yet, at the same time, it falls victim to the author’s own personal clichés.
Brian John Mitchell seems to use the “damsel in distress” model frequently. In particular, sexual abuse and rape are very prevalent (violence in general is prevalent in his work).
Point is, I like the overall concept — I’m just sick of seeing the author write male characters fighting for the honor of sexually abused women who are often often portrayed as miscalculating and defenseless.
The art here by Jeremy Johnson is very solid. It’s got a traditional superhero flair to it, which feels very fitting.
The excellent concept I mentioned before is part superhero, part modern horror anime, and part MTV’s The Head — “He” is retired monster hunter / demon killer that gets thrust back into the business and ends up in some deep @#$%.
It’s a good hook and I look forward to Marked #2.
~ Nick Marino, AudioShocker

Just A Man #2 & #3
I received two new issues of JUST A MAN, numbers 2 and 3. When last we left our vengeful cowboy, he had killed the man that was responsible for the death of the cowboy’s wife and kids. Now he’s on the run, and he takes a gig as a hired gun to retrieve a young woman stuck in a brothel. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been told the entire truth… about the girl, and perhaps a great many other things. Either way, his sanity might also be at risk. Artist Andrew White uses thin linework and as much detail as he can fit into the small panels in order to set the mood and make sure the old west milieu shines through. The story here is also pretty decent. I’m liking this one.
~ Marc Mason, Comics Waiting Room

Brian John Mitchell publishes an ever-growing collection of micro mini comix through his Silber Media outfit. Just A Man is western written by Mitchell and drawn by Andrew White. The story is continued from issue to issue, but each one features a full chapter that can be appreciated on its own. Mitchell provides an opening recap of past events on page one, so it’s easy for old and new readers to get (back) up to speed quickly.
Like Mitchell’s other titles each page of Just A Man features a single illustration with narration below. Most of the story is narration, with only occasional dialogue that appears in word balloons inside the full page panel.
In issue #1 our Man returns from tending his crops only to discover his family gone and his farmhouse in flames. He kills the local land baron McTeague and is left homeless and alone.
In issue #2 our Man makes his way across the plains, finds a new town, and a new job. Of course, it’s not an easy job as issue #3 reveals. It’s a rescue mission, but as our Man gets deeper into the assignment he finds himself struggling to untangle the truth.
Mitchell’s story unfolds at a steady pace with each chapter taking the unlikely hero in new directions. By the third installment complicati
ons arise and the already shaken hero wonders what’s real and who can be trusted. Like good pulp fiction, each chapter ends with a cliffhanger leaving the reader anxious for the next installment.
White’s artwork is simple but effective. Much of his part of the storytelling is conveyed in long shots. He keeps the characters distant except for an occasional dramatic close-up. Likewise, he concentrates on a straightforward approach to the action, occasionally lingering on a symbolic image like a whiskey glass or a raven.
~ Richard Krauss, Midnight Fiction

This series features terse stories set firmly in the tradition set by the likes of the man with no name, and Jonah Hex. (Forgive me, these are the only western characters that I know). The man in question in this one sees something terrible happen to his family, and sets out to wreak vengeance on those who have wronged him. Of course, this leads to a few developments that see a new phase in his life arise.
While the first two issues of this series set up a status quo, things go absolutely insane in the third bit, as the man sees someone from his past turn up in an unexpected way. A great series if you like the tense quiet of the western.
~ Brandon Schatz, Comixtreme

Instead of giving a plot summary of the series thus far, I’ll say this — Just A Man is the best western film that’s never been made.
I loved the first issue of this title, which was a perfect mini-comic journey into violent depravity. Now, the second and third installments step things up to a whole new level.
I turned the pages furiously as I read because Andrew White’s art is extremely engaging. It’s raw and sparse, but the perfect compliment to Brian John Mitchell’s candid script.
~ Nick Marino, AudioShocker

Silber Media sent in 5 mini comics,which i’m reviewing together.
the format is so small that every page is 1 panel.
the stories tend to be dreamlike & involve violence.
the art tends towards the simple side,& works well with the plain writing.
my biggest complaint is that my fie motor skills make it hard to read such a small publication.
very few zines are a buck these days,& these would be worth a try if you love comics.
~ Maximum Rock & Roll

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