Another review round-up! Let’s get right to business…
LAND OF THE RATS: GASTROLITHICUS
Cartoonist: Mark Nasso
Publisher: The Underground Forest
Land of the Rats is something of a visual delight. Writer/artist Mark Nasso crafts this graphic novel around a series of impressively-structured pages, mostly splashes. His heavy lines and surreal imagery captures a real Charles Burn quality. The story isn’t particularly compelling, too often falling into the realm of the inscrutably vague. But even if Nasso doesn’t yet stand out as a writer, with his work here he manages to mark himself out as an artist of note.
Land of the Rats: Gastrolithicus is available from the Underground Forest online store.
Cartoonists: Walker Farrell and Kelly Matten
Publisher: Ape Entertainment
Trip is a comic that’s pretty light on plot – the whole story boils down to two girls trying drugs at a a party – but in that loose framework it manages to find quite a few nice moments. In the character of Lou in particular, we get a credible depiction of the anxieties many teenage girls face. Both Kelly Matten and Walker Farrell’s art is light and accessible, while showing enough flexibility to get suitably weird once the drugs kick in, with some nice layouts that experiment with how the comics medium can be employed to depict the sensory impact of psychadelics. It’s been done in other comics before, but Farrell and Matten bring it together into a warm, personable tale about youthful experience.
Trip is available to buy from Amazon.
Cartoonist: Jason Pittman
Price: $3.99 print/$0.99 digital
Leftovers #4 was actually a pretty brilliant comic. I was a bit wary that this would be another case of a mid-series issue of a comic being submitted where I’d be left feeling lost as to what came before. But this was completely accessible, feeling like it had everything I needed to appreciate the story contained within and that I hadn’t missed anything. Upon further reading, it seems this is because Leftovers follows a done-in-one anthology format. For this particular story, cartoonist Jason Pittman triumphs on every level. The story was heartfelt and really drew me in, as Kaleb’s battle with an anxiety disorder manifests itself in the form of superhero/supervillain doppelgangers doing battle in his subconscious. This is visualised in the story by having the real characters and events depicted in black-and-white, while Kaleb’s costumed surrogates are presented in full colour. Pittman also has a really nice, textured visual style too, understated, but with a real mastery of the small gestures of expression and body language that make a character feel real. A real attention-grabbing book that has put Jason Pittman on my radar as a creator to watch. And though I didn’t feel lost at the start, by the end I was left really wanting to read what happens next.
Leftovers #4 is available to buy from IndyPlanet.
Writer: Travis M. Holyfield
Artist: Edward Whatley
Editor: Erica J. Heflin
Publisher: GrayHaven Comics
Another fantastic read! This was right up my alley, being a loving pastiche of the old Batman TV series and playfully poking fun at some of its superheroic tropes. Travis Holyfield’s clever story involves a disgruntled henchman getting wise to the fact that he can make much more money by ripping off the deluded supervillains who hire him than in trying to fight Batman and Robin analogues Dober-Man and Beagle, with many comic setpieces ensuing. It’s all brought wonderfully to life by the expressive artwork of Edward Whatley, who produces some hilarious character and costume designs. In particular, the humiliating uniforms the henchmen are made to wear makes for a great recurring gag. This was a joy to read, and I hope we get more Dober-Man adventures in the future!
Dober-Man is available to buy from the GrayHaven online store.
POOP OFFICE #2
Publisher: Naked Grape Comics
I didn’t get Poop Office at all. Everything you need to know about it is in the title. It’s an office, but everyone in it is talking poop. So, basically, the whole comic is just repeat vignettes of people having basically straight-faced office-based conversations, only everyone talking is a jobby, and all their names are turd-related puns. If that description has you splitting your sides, then this is the comic for you, but I was just left scratching my head. After reading about half a dozen of the skits I started to suspect the whole thing was actually an avant-garde deconstruction of the way we as a society seem to find poop jokes inherently funny, but I fear that’d be be giving it too much credit. Sorry, this one just wasn’t to my taste. Or should I say… wasn’t poo my taste? Oh ho ho!
Poop Office #2 is available now from ComiXology.