Panel Patter's November Small Press Picks

Hi all and welcome to the November 2014 edition of our Small Press Picks.

"Hey Rob, it's actually December now."


This is our column where we sit down as a group and tell you about books we think you'd like to read, but either did not get time to do a full review or are just excited about the comic and waiting for our own chance to read it! It's a look at comics that have been (relatively) recently released, mixed between small reviews and small previews.

As always, where always equals three times, these are in alphabetical order. Contributors this month are Rob Kirby (RK), Maia Kobabe (MK), AJ McGuire (AM), Rob McMonigal (RBM), Whit Taylor (WT), and Guy Thomas (GT).

Baltic Comics Anthology Si #19 by Various Creators
At Short Run, I had the pleasure of getting a chance to look over this anthology series, and while I picked up a back issue focused on cats (because CATS!--including DeForge doing cats!), I was impressed with the overall quality of these small, dense books both in terms of production values and the creators involved. Each issue has a theme, and the creative teams have a very international flavor, which is awesome, because there are great creators out there working in other countries. This issue's theme is mathematics, and has Renee French as the name most easily recognized by most Panel Patter readers. Kus. $14 (RBM)

Domestic Times by Tessa Brunton
Subtitled “Your #1 Magazine on Cohabitation,” Domestic Times is a fine showcase for Tessa Brunton’s playful, homespun sense of humor. Among the cover headlines: “101 Ways to Hang One Goddamn Picture,” & “Mismatched Socks: Stop the Chaos.” Brunton surveyed real couples to create these sometimes satiric, always relatable comics and features capturing the joys and frustrations of coupledom. In addition to illustrated items like “Reader Report: We Asked for your Biggest Sleep Problems ‘n Solutions,” there’s a crossword puzzle, a quiz, adorable fake ads (“Pup Corn”), and more. We don’t see nearly enough from the very talented Brunton but looks like she intends this to be an ongoing series. Full color throughout. Self-published, available here. $7 (RK)

Eyelash Out by Ben Sea
I first encountered Ben Sea in the anthology series Rabid Rabbit. My eye was quickly caught by his surreal art style (those teeth) which perfectly fit his penchant for bizarre stories. His new book, Eyelash Out, looks to continue his exploration of the weird, doing so in ways that only comics can. The book follows a young couple who ingest a magical eyelash, and because of this are led down separate paths (one of which, I am told, involves a knife fight). Sea’s slightly disturbing art style looks to be a perfect match for the story he’s looking to tell, and I, personally, thoroughly look forward to reading it. Retrofit. $4 (GT)

Flower Grow by Kevin Budnik
Kevin Budnik is a man full of heart. His autobiographical strips have no problem conveying all of the feelings, the sincere emotion and anxiety that he imbues into every page. Lucky, the success of the Old Gum Wrappers and Grocery Lists Kickstarter campaign allowed Kevin to print a second collection: Flower Grow. This book collects the full color strips (many of which were original printed in New City) that were created between Dust Motes and Old Gum Wrappers, and depicts a humid and stressful summer full of married friends, a camp counselor job, and the never ending battle with anxiety. Self-published, available here. $10 (GT)

Magic Bullet #15 by Sam Henderson
The fifteenth issue, filled with, and I quote, "way too many gags," finds Henderson continuing his extremely funny one-panel and longer comics, mixing absurd illustrations for a cheap joke along with lines that skewer society with a biting wit. (Even the cover is a nose-tweak to the Marvel 25th Anniversary covers.) I'll keep calling it "New Yorker cartoons on acid" until Sam asks me to stop, but even that wouldn't keep me from recommending his comics, which I think are criminally under appreciated since Sam's been working in comics for so long. Alternative Comics. $4.99 (RBM)

Old Gum Wrappers and Grocery Lists by Kevin Budnik
Kevin Budnik’s autobio comics often focus on the melancholy passage of time, which may seem odd coming from this still-young cartoonist (he’s 25), but his overarching subject here is the demands of adulthood slowly supplanting the (ostensibly) less demanding cares of youth. Budnik’s drawings have an appealingly improvised, somewhat askew quality, which match perfectly his bemused, melancholy outlook. This brand new 180-page book, successfully funded on Kickstarter this past summer, is recommended for fans of autobio, memoir and diary comics, and Budnik remains a real talent to watch.  Self-published, available here. $15 (RK)

Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Seconds is a very strong book with a few flaws. The main character, Katie, is a restless chef- unhappy with her place at a successful restaurant owned by someone else, she decides to start her own restaurant. But the renovations are going slow and in the meantime Katie is unemployed and still living in the apartment over the old place. The re-appearance of her ex coincides with a horrible accident in the kitchen. When a white-haired fey girl appears to Katie in a dream offering her a way to re-do the past, Katie takes it. But erasing mistakes leads only to more regret. The art in this book is lovely and the writing is very smart. I didn't like the cover, and there is one aspect of the denouement I thought was completely wrong. But I'd still recommend this book to anyone. Ballantine Books. $25

Slurricane Series by Will Laren
I first stumbled upon Laren's one-of a-kind comics on Tumblr earlier this year, and was fortunate to pick up some of his self-published minis of irreverent, bizarre, and hilarious "talking heads" at Locust Moon Fest a few weeks ago. Laren plays with absurd content through skilled dialogue and exaggerated facial expressions, making for a silly yet sophisticated read. Self-published, available here. $5 per issue (WT)

Untitled by Connor Willumsen
At CAB this year Conor Willumsen had a collection of 25 unbound, untitled drawings collected in a manila envelope with the first page glued to the outside of the envelope.  The drawings at first glance appear to be unrelated but do form a narrative wherein an artist contemplates how to capture the essence of an object with laughably bad art, ultimately imagining an interaction with a purchaser of his art, meanwhile the city burns outside his studio and a man is gunned down by a mob of police.  Conor Willumsen also has a great comic called "Calgary: Death Milks a Cow" on Study Group that was originally made for Frank Santoro's comics correspondence course that looks almost nothing like this.  "Calgary" is ultimately an action comic that unfolds with a building sense of suspence with lots of high and low "camera" angles, warm red coloring, and single panels.
The untitled comic from CAB is the first thing of his that I have actually been able to hold in my hand.  Breakdown Press has stated they will be releasing this in some form in the future.  It's both the quality of these two comics and the wide range between them that leaves me anxious for whatever he does next. (AM)

Vortex by William Cardini
I've been Jonesing for this one since Virginia previewed it in the successful Sparkplug Books Kickstarter, and I was extremely happy to get my hands on it when I attended Short Run a few weeks ago. There's something very appealing to me in abstract-style comic art, and Cardini's linework looked great in the samples I saw and even better in the physical form. There's so many great moments that you pick up on in just a casual look, like repeating visual themes. I'm a bit backed up so I didn't get a chance to read it cover to cover yet, but it should be a joy for those of you who like your comics with an emphasis on form to go along with story. Sparkplug Books. $14 (RBM)