Highlighting some great small press comics criticism being published, as well as other random things that have caught my eye over the past week.
* Philippe LeBlanc reviews UPGRADE SOUL by Ezra Claytan Daniels, whose "only flaw might be that it is too hopeful about mankind, too hopeful about the potential silver lining, faint as it may be, that lies beyond the greed of people. It is a science fiction story in that, even as our elderly protagonists are abused by greedy, delusional and unethical scientists, movie producers and a love struck teenager, they manage to have a happy ending. In our world where elderly abuse is all too common, the culprits mostly go unpunished and the abused draw their last breath, isolated and lonely."
* Kim Jooha pens this amazing bit of introduction and exploration into FRENCH ABSTRACT FORMALIST COMICS (FRENCH STRUCTURAL COMICS): AN ARTISTIC MOVEMENT.
* Ryan Carey on TONGUES #2 by Anders Nilsen, "a work that bears all the hallmarks of being a high-water mark not only of his cartooning career, but perhaps even of the comics medium in general."
* John Seven reviews PIERO by Edmond Baudoin, writing "Art, as Baudoin’s memoir continues, becomes the lens through which the world unfolds, and certain encounters with certain art become expansive to his experience and also encourage analysis of what the representations mean, and how they relate to his own work. In this way, Baudoin’s recounting of growing up becomes a document about how he learned to look at the world and see beyond what was in front of him, all through art."
* Justine Jordan looks at CASSANDRA DARKE by Posy Simmonds, which "may be a sombre, wintry work, but the irresistible way Simmonds pins contemporary life to the page remains a thing of joy."
* Dan Schindel reviews Ali Fitzgerald's DRAWN TO BERLIN: COMICS WORKSHOPS IN REFUGEE SHELTERS AND OTHER STORIES FROM A NEW EUROPE which "avoids using its central story for cheap “inspiration” about the power of art or the human spirit. Most of the refugees Fitzgerald spotlights end up in no more certain a place than they are when we first meet them. And given the historical and contemporary political contexts she sprinkles into the book, no easy resolution or peace of mind about the future is proffered. The reader is left, then, to think about what they see happening around the world with a sharper sense of perspective. Whether that will prevent the worst, genocidal parts of the refugee cycle from repeating is up in the air."
* Tom Murphy on Summer Pierre's ALL THE SAD SONGS, writing "the book’s power goes far beyond the minutiae of chord changes and track listings to deliver an accessible and powerful meditation on the more universal power of creativity and culture to affect our lives."
* Alenka Figa writes about JOHN, DEAR by Laura Lannes, "a horror story, one many have lived and do live. It’s also a stunningly well-crafted comic that uses gorgeous grey shading, black inks (the holes on the narrator’s body) and depth to immerse its readers completely in the story."
* Chris Mautner reviews FRONTIER #17: MOTHER'S WALK by Lauren R. Weinstein, enthusiastically writing "We need more stories like this, told so thoughtfully, with such grace and acceptance of the messiness of life, and the profound joys that can come even when everything around you seems rotten. This book is a rare gem."
* H. W. Thurston takes a crack at reviewing THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2018, a Herculean task in and of itself, but, in doing so, reveals way more about his own biases then particularly commenting on the book itself. Which is, I guess, what "Best" books ultimately do ... but having this on TCJ makes me question the intent of choosing Thurston to write about this book more so then question the merits of the work itself. Then again, this may be MY bias showing.
* Chris Mautner on Julie Doucet's THE COMPLETE DIRTY PLOTTE, writing "While the world of indie and alternative comics was more welcoming to women than what passed for the mainstream in the 1990s, it was still a landscape largely dominated by men. The fact that Doucet was able to carve out such a unique place for herself is rather remarkable but the fact that she eventually looked around and decided it was time to leave, no regrets, isn’t. She was just too cool for the room."
* Keith Silva is up at TCJ writing about IT WILL BE HARD Hien Pham, writing "Pham raises a larger question he perhaps does not intend since he seems firmly set on being as non-confrontational as possible. What happens to art in an age of trigger warnings? It’s a political question as well as a question of political correctness. No artist (nor anyone for that matter) wants to willingly (re)induce trauma. Yet, Art risks, full stop. And Pham’s disclaimer at the start of isn’t a trigger warning unless the reader is triggered by experiencing a healthy relationship between two men that revolves around soup, mutual fellatio, and long conversations. Comics interactive and are not made interactive by asking the reader to choose when the choice is already made."
* Not really small press, but this bit of writing on WE3 by Chase Magnett is something you should all probably read. I mean, come on, it contains such amazing stuff such as: "The insistence in narrative media on anthropomorphizing animal companions and transforming stories about animals into stories about human beings goes even further than ignoring the value of animal life on its own; it reasserts the primacy of human life above all else. These narratives insist that the beings we should feel the most affection for are those that speak and think just like us, putting up dangerous barriers which can easily be pushed beyond speciesism to further limit the boundaries of whose life is valued."
* Robin McConnell interviews NOAH VAN SCIVER about his new book, One Dirty Tree, and a slew of his other books that have just come out.
* November Garcia has a comic drawn for Illustrated PEN called BLIND FAITH. There's an introduction to it by Robert Kirby, too, in which he writes, "Readers still grappling with or reconciling religious upbringings will likely identify with this delightfully funny and perceptive story."
* Edith Pritchett has been named the winner in the Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story prize for AN ARTISTIC ODYSSEY.
* Remember how bonkers comics were in the 90s? Remember Tundra Comics? Remember how it all collapsed? Echoes of that decade reverberate still in all aspects of the comics game, both in small and corporate presses, so Russ Burlingame interviews JASON SACKS about his book from TwoMorrows, American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1990s, "the most complete and accurate historical timeline of the '90s".
* The Festival Workers Association has published this piece which calls on Comics Arts Brooklyn to adopt a number of PRINCIPLES to ensure equity and parity.
* There's just something about Sarah Miller's new post on Popula, titled HIBIKI JAPANESE HARMONY SUNTORY WHISKEY: CAN IT ACTUALLY FOSTER HARMONY? that kinda pulled at my heart-strings and made me want to link it here.