Weekly Reading Round-Up : 12/09/2018 – 12/15/2018, Mini Kus! Goes To China


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

After a couple of weeks off to review all of what’s come before in 2018 for my slate of year-end “Top 10” columns, the Weekly Reading Round-Up is back, and we’ve got a damn interesting slate to look at from our Latvian friends at Kus! this week, as they continue their journey eastward. The last issue of their long-running S! anthology series focused on comics from Japan, and this time out, their latest quartet of Mini Kus! releases spotlights four unique and distinctive cartoonists from China, all presented courtesy of guest-editor R. Orion Martin of Chinese indie/alternative comics publisher Paradise Systems. Let’s get right down to business, shall we?

Doghair by Ganmu is number 71 in the Mini Kus! line and features cold, austere artwork that matches the tone of its protagonist, an obsessive type who pours all of that obsession into the well-being, appearance, and happiness of his dog…

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A Haunting And Beautiful “Recollection”


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

More quiet than a whisper, louder than a thunderclap, Alyssa Berg’s riso-printed comics collection Recollection seeps into the mind through the eyes, heart, and subconscious simultaneously, bypassing entirely the gatekeeping functions of the rational mind in favor of something deeper, more profound, more fundamentally true. It never ceases to amaze, remains fundamentally unpredictable from first page to last, and hits you, as the kids say, “right in the feels.”

Which is all well and good, but at this point you could be forgiven for asking “okay, what’s the damn thing about?”

Well, how’s “everything” for an answer? Each of these emotively-rendered “strips,” created between 2013 and 2016 (with the collection eventually seeing self-published release in 2017), is a one-pager, with title and date on the page previous, and while certain themes run throughout it — yearning, loss, forgetting, discovery (or re-discovery) — in truth each sparsely-worded selection, usually…

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I’ve Caught A “Ghost Sickness” — You Should, Too


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

I don’t know Ariel Cooper. She (perhaps even that’s being presumptuous?) is a mystery to me. I’ve not seen her other work. I can find no examples of it online. Her self-published comics ‘zine Ghost Sickness contains no address indicating where she may be from. I literally know nothing about this artist. And yet —

Some work is so powerful that the idea of hewing to a “narrative” would hold it back not just conceptually, but physically. This is one such work, perhaps even a prime example of it. Cooper (or her stand-in) is born into this world from sickness, and from there — oh, dear whatever-god-you-believe-in, from there —

Dueling polarities of “fine” and “outsider” art create not so much an inexorable tension in this 12-page publication, but a mutually-generated gravitational pull, Cooper’s sublime self-referential imagery first firmly establishing its power and potential to subsume and overwhelm…

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Nathan Gelgud Builds “A House In The Jungle”


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

There’s so much I love about this book : Nathan Gelgud, whose prior work I’m unfamiliar with, has an intuitive grasp of the rhythm and flow of the comics page that few who have been at it for many years master, his borderless panels floating in negative space, each leisurely guiding the reader’s eye into the next, vibrantly-colored image; his characters are both simple and highly expressive, emoting more with slight facial tics and quirks than lines and lines of even the most rich, “purple prose” exposition can express (although, admittedly, this results in most of the  images featuring characters with a kind of listless-by-design, bordering on taciturn, look on their faces as a kind of “baseline” emotional affect) ; his world-building is solid and ingenious, the idea of a newly-incorporated town with easily-identifiable American political norms somehow existing right at the edge of a dense, thick jungle immediately seeming…

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Four Color Apocalypse 2018 Year In Review : Top Ten Original Graphic Novels


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

So — here we are. The end of the road as far as our year-end “Top 10” lists go and, I would imagine, the one of most interest to the greatest number of readers — my picks for favorite original graphic novels of 2018, emphasis on the word “original.” One of our selections started life as a mini-comic, but was fleshed out greatly to become what it is today, while everything else on the list is a wholly original, not-previously-serialized work, designed and constructed especially for release in the “graphic novel” format. I think that’s about all the preamble required, so pardon me while I roll up my sleeves and type my ass off for a few minutes —

10. Monkey Chef By Mike Freiheit (Kilgore Books) – Our resident “rule-breaker” is first out of the gate, a book whose eventual greatness was hinted at in some self-published minis, but…

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Four Color Apocalypse 2018 Year In Review : Top Ten Special Mentions


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

And so we come to the most unusual of our year-end “Top 10” lists, this one looking at my ten favorite “special mentions” of 2018, and I suppose that some explanation is in order : simply put, a lot of great publications that came out of the comics world this year were, for lack of a better term (at least a better term than I can think of, you may fare better) “comics-adjacent,” in that they were by  cartoonists, but took the form of illustrated short stories, collections of drawings, etc. Also included in this category are publications about comics — ‘zines, scholarly works, and the like. Now then, with those ground rules in place —

10. Troubled Mankind Of The Modern South By Jeff Zenick (Self-Published) – One of the better pure illustrators working today, and one whose work consistently flies under the radar, Zenick’s collection of drawings based…

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Four Color Apocalypse 2018 Year In Review : Top Ten Vintage Collections


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Another day, another year end “Top 10” list! This time around we look at my favorite collected editions of vintage material published in the past year, “vintage” in this case being work originally produced prior to the year 2000. Eurocomics and Manga are both eligible here, as well, as long as they first saw print prior to all our computers failing, the electrical grid going dark, the food supply collapsing, and civilization falling apart on December 31st, 1999. Remember those crazy times?

10. Brat Pack By Rick Veitch (IDW) – Arguably the last great work of super-hero revisionism prior to Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s Black Hammer, Veitch’s bleak and unforgiving look at the teen sidekicks of Slumburg is as shocking, ugly, and mean-spirited as ever — not to mention gorgeously illustrated. IDW pulled out all the stops with this one, loading it up with “behind-the-scenes” bonus material that…

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