Mainstream Comics You Should Be Paying Attention To : “Billionaire Island”


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Count me among those who were more than a bit unimpressed with Second Coming, the highly-touted series from writer Mark Russell and artists Richard Pace and Leonard Kirk that was scuttled at Vertigo due to its purported “sacrilegious” content before finding a new home at Ahoy Comics. Far from taking any sort of pot-shots at organized religion, the “Jesus-meets-Superman-analogue” premise actually reinforced tired Christian dogma at the end of the day and Russell’s usually-sharp satirical wit was uncharacteristically blunted by a chickenshit desire to play it safe and offend as few people as possible. Hell, by the time all was said and done, this was such a milquetoast offering that even the most fervent evangelical nutcase wouldn’t find much worth objecting to in it apart from some vaguely liberal “be kind to one another” politics. And let’s remember — evangelicals claim to believe in that sort of thing themselves…

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Mainstream Comics You Should Be Paying Attention To : “King Of Nowhere”


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

As is generally known, I’m not one of those “too cool for school” types who dismisses out of hand everything produced by the major comics publishers. In fact, until the industry shutdown engendered by COVID-19 took hold, I ran a “Weekly Reading Round-Up” column on this very site that mainly concerned itself with examining whatever mainstream titles this nominal “Wednesday warrior” had picked up during the previous seven-day span — and I imagine I’ll get back to it before too long here. That being said —

Shipping schedules are still pretty light, even though most comic shops are, in fact, open again, and this means that most weeks since “the return” haven’t seen enough interesting stuff hit shelves to warrant me devoting an entire column to reviewing them. It’s just a fact : most recent weeks have seen me leaving the shop with two, maybe three comics, and while…

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Mini Kus! Catch-Up : “Banal Complications” By Marc Bell (Mini Kus! #90)


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

For the final entry (that being #90) in their latest foursome of Mini Kus! releases, Latvian publisher Kus! turns to the always-reliably-inventive Canadian cartoonist Marc Bell, whose work I’ll go out on a limb and assume most readers of this site are already well-familiar with. Or, at the very least, really should be. And in the pages of Banal Complications, he does what he does best, which is — his own kind of thing altogether.

This is a “meta” narrative, with Bell’s protagonist Chop Salad (always with these names, I tell ya!) pretty clearly standing in for the artist himself, so if that kind of thing annoys you, just check out now — but if you’re down for a fun and inventive take on a premise that really isn’t either one most of the time anymore? Then you’ve come to the right place. Maybe even the only place. Or…

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Mini Kus! Catch-Up : “Egle And The Snake” By Joana Estrela (Mini Kus! #89)


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Casting far and wide for both talent and subject matter, Mini Kus! #89 from Latvia’s eclectic “art comics” publishing house Kus! features a Portuguese cartoonist, Joana Estrela, telling a decidedly contemporary version of an ancient Lithuanian fable in Egle And The Snake, which sees the serpent cast in its traditional role as schemer but our woman protagonist, while perhaps a little too polite for her own good (up to a point, at any rate), assuming a great deal more agency and self-determination than, say, the biblical Eve. It’s about time, sure — but there’s also something quite timeless about what this comic has to say about relationships and gender roles and power dynamics.

Egle is young — high-school age, according to the narrative — but wise enough to smell a rat (errr, snake) and to know when to say when. But damn if this story isn’t…

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Mini Kus! Catch-Up : “Crime At Babel” By Martins Zutis (Mini Kus! #88)


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Billed by publisher Kus! as either a “visual riddle or rather a sudoku in a comic form,” there’s really nothing that precludes Latvian cartoonist Martins Zutis’ Crime At Babel (released last month as #88 in the long-running Mini Kus! line) from being both, of course — after all, last I checked, a sudoku is, in fact, a type of riddle, and one that’s usually well beyond my meager problem-solving abilities, at that. I know a lot of people have fun with the damn things, but I’m not one of them, and therefore I went into this comic with, at the very least, some nominal misgivings.

Maybe the whole thing will just blow right past me, I thought to myself. Maybe my brain just doesn’t work in a way that will allow me to come to grips with it. Maybe it’ll just be too damn smart for me. These things…

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Mini Kus! Catch-Up : “Violent Delights” By Hetamoe (Mini Kus! #87)


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

I’ve reviewed some pretty “far out” comics in my time — and some of the most “far out” have been part of the Mini Kus! line from Latvian publisher Kus! — but Portuguese cartoonist Hetamoe’s Violent Delights (which was just released last month as Mini Kus! #87) probably takes the cake as the most experimental, borderline-indescribable work I’ve ever tried to wrap my head around in full view of my readership. I won’t do you the disservice of saying that I’ve completely figured this one out yet, and to be honest I’m not sure that I ever will, but maybe that’s not even the point here. This is complex, challenging, at times even taxing stuff — and where it takes you, as well as how it gets you there, is going to vary a great deal from reader to reader. I’ll even go so far as to say that I’m…

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Mini Kus! Catch-Up : “(extra) Ordinary” By Roberts Rurans (Mini Kus! #86)


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

For number 86 in their Mini Kus! series, Latvian publisher Kus! didn’t have to venture beyond their borders to find home-grown talent Roberts Rurans, whose work you may recall from some of their anthology publications and who more than proves up for the challenge of carrying a 28-page publication all on his own. In fact, if anything, (extra) Ordinary demonstrates that he could’ve used a bit more space.

Not for narrative, mind you — as far as story goes this is plenty “decompressed,” even threadbare, as is — but his Tommi Parish-esque compositions are so lush, so colorful, and so imaginative that 10-12 more pages of them wouldn’t be objectionable in the least. His tale herein is ostensibly about a young girl seeking escape from boredom, and to say it’s never boring in the least is an understatement of pretty significant, even borderline-criminal, proportions.

Now, whether our nameless protagonist…

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Mini Kus! Catch-Up : “Hero” By Harukichi (Mini Kus! #85)


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

I know just about nothing in regards to Japanese cartoonist and experimental musician Harukichi, but that’s one of the sublime joys of the long-running Mini Kus! line from Latvian “art comics” publisher Kus! — its introduces you to new voices from around the globe whose work likely wouldn’t come across your radar otherwise. And when it comes to Harukichi’s Hero — number 85 in the Mini Kus! series — I’m damn glad it did.

Apparently, our protagonist in this one — a cat named Gosshie who “works” as a DJ — is a recurring character in Harukichi’s stories, and his gift appears to be the ability to find exactly the right song for every occasion. Not a bad skill to have, to be sure, and in this comic he cleverly deploys one apropos track after another for situations ranging from the everyday to the extraordinary as he makes his way…

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Mini Kus! Catch-Up : “The Book Fight” By Chihoi (Mini Kus! #84)


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Talk about a step out of the old “comfort zone” — Hong Kong-based cartoonist Chihoi is best known for delicate, lushly-rendered graphite illustration that’s equal parts emotive, subtle, and expressive, but with his latest mini, The Book Fight, he takes off the gloves — even if his literal Comic Book protagonist does, in fact, wear a pair of them. Boxing gloves, to be precise. And he definitely punches well above his weight class.

Rendered in sub-garish oranges, yellows, and whites, Chihoi’s book — which “weighs in” at number 84 in the long-running Mini Kus! line — contains plenty of visual bang for your buck, sure, complete with Kirby-esque flair, flourish, and (crucially) impact, but underneath all the admittedly self-aware bombast is a point well taken, namely : the hierarchy of “art book” publications is complete bullshit, and there’s nothing to preclude you from enjoying a well-constructed children’s pop-up…

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Mini Kus! Catch-Up : “Chapter Two” By Keren Katz (Mini Kus! #83)


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Confession time : I hate “Secret Santa.” Not out of some general antipathy toward the Holiday Season in general — although that plays a part — but more because the “exchange” either forces you to view somebody you likely don’t really know all that well as a generic, interchangeable type of figure (“I’ll get them a pair of ugly Christmas socks! That’ll be fun!”), or to actually get to know more about them than you care to in order to pick out a gift they might genuinely like. But what the hell do I know? Consistently-fascinating cartoonist Keren Katz (covered most recently around these parts in my review of her latest full-length book, The Backstage Of A Dishwashing Webshow) says it’s her favorite game, and she’s found a unique way to express her love of it in her latest mini, Chapter Two, which is number 83 in…

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