“So Buttons” #11 : — And Just Like That, All Is Right With The World

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

In art, as in life, timing is everything, and in that respect the release of issue #11 of Jonathan Baylis’ long-running autiobio anthology series, So Buttons (the first to be published in conjunction with Tinto Press), couldn’t be more — errr — timely, given that reminders that there really is a “normal” to return to (even if we’re not sure what that is yet) are very welcome indeed as so many of slowly emerge from our COVID-engendered bunkers. Granted, most of the contents of this ish were written and drawn smack-dab during some of the most dangerous and harrowing days of the pandemic, but it’s not strictly a “pandemic comic” per se. It’s referenced here and there — how could it not be? — but by and large this latest collection of stories is what we’ve come to expect from Baylis and his artistic cohorts, namely : fun, charming, occasionally…

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Chris Russ Returns To Workplace Purgatory In “Eddie The Office Goblin” #2

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

With the release of issue #2 of his self-published series Eddie The Office Goblin, Michigan-based cartoonist Chris Russ faces the challenge all artists do with their “sophomore outings,” namely : prove that their concept has staying power now that the premise has been established and the unfamiliar is, of necessity, decidedly less so. Whether or not he pulls it off is rather dependent on one’s views of #1 (for the record, I gave it a mostly positive review on this very blog), but even a generous reading of this mini — which I’m inclined toward — would result in a grade of “incomplete,” because even more important than what’s come before, or what’s happening now, is what will happen next.

Which, let me be clear, is no “bad” thing any more than it’s a “good” thing. Russ is playing the proverbial “long game” here, and depending on how all…

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The Abyss Gazes Back In Samuel Benson’s “Long Gone” #4

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

The comics of Iowa City’s Samuel Benson have always hovered near the edges of some fairly dark places, but in issue #4 of Long Gone, his venerable self-published series, there’s a shift that’s definitely both noticeable and consistent : the death of the self— be it the ego, the corporeal form, or both — is waiting for all of the protagonists in the four longer strips and two single-pages that make up the contents of this (as always with Benson) high-production-value ‘zine, with the rub being that it’s not always the worst outcome. Or even, for that matter, necessarily a bad one. We’re about to get a little philosophical here, so buckle up —

It’s a fallen world, and the evidence is all around us, so maybe escaping it isn’t such a crazy idea, amirite? None of us has any real idea what’s waiting for us on the so-called…

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Ryan Alves And Ron Beek III Dole It Out With Suitably Extreme Prejudice In “The Punishment : Social Justice”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

The super-hero spoof/send-up is, at this point, quite likely as tired as the notion of the super-hero itself, so trust me when I say that someone needs to have something unique, provocative, or both to say within the confines of this shop-worn genre in order for this critic to pay attention to it himself on the one hand, and to draw your attention to it on the other. Ryan Alves’ intelligently revisionist take on Ba*man, Moustache, was one such all-too-rare diamond in the overcrowded rough (in fact, if memory serves me correctly I reviewed it on this very blog), though, and so when he told me he was going to be offering up his own slant on a certain bloodthirsty skull-bedecked Marvel vigilante, I immediately found myself something I’m usually not with regards to this sort of thing — interested.

Admittedly, his collaborator and co-publisher on the just-released The…

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Life Is A Quietly Desperate Business : E.A. Bethea’s “Francis Bacon”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Okay, so, to get it out of the way first, if you’re wondering which of the two notable Francis Bacons that E.A. Bethea’s newest comic (her second with Domino Books), Francis Bacon, is purportedly “about,” it’s the 20th century British painter, but if you know Bethea’s work you’ll know that oftentimes where or who or what she starts with is simply a springboard, an “entry point” into a long, multi-faceted rumination on subjects various and sundry that always and ultimately bear some sort of tangential connection to the one that she was focused on at the outset, but those connections are uniformly of a highly personal, at times even intuitive, nature, so really — when you open this up, expect to be taken on a trip to places, physical and otherwise, that are far afield from what the title would lead you to believe you were in for.

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Entropy Editions Round-Up : “65 Bugs” By Dean Sudarsky

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Concluding our look at titles currently available from publisher Justin Skarhus’ Entropy Editions we come to catalogue number EE04, 65 Bugs, a formally conservative but conceptually innovative work from Providence’s Dean Sudarsky, who takes the format of the short-form newspaper strip and turns it on its ear by pairing visual simplicity with dense existential complexity to fashion an eight-page mini that exerts a strange hold on readers — or at least it did on this reader — long after the covers are closed. Sex, death, ennui, and the endless search to break free from life’s routines are all touched upon here — among other weighty concerns — but at the end of the day we’re still talking about a mini that is, perhaps against all odds, inherently fun, and if all of that sounds more than a bit contradictory on its face to you, well, that’s as I’m…

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Entropy Editions Round-Up : “The Beast” By Danielle Chenette

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Continuing with out perusal of publisher Justin Skarhus’ Entropy Editions offerings, we come to catalogue number EE03, Los Angeles-based cartoonist Danielle Chenette’s The Beast, a deceptively “naive” comic that actually wryly and rather expertly deconstructs everything from the role of myth in society to “gun culture” to sibling dynamics to gaming to toxic masculinity — and somehow manages to do it all with a smile on its face and nary a hint of self-important lecturing. In fact, this unassuming little coming-of-age fable is actually, dare I say it, quite a bit of fun.

“Don’t go in the woods” is a common enough trope in popular culture — it’s even served as the title of at least two films that I’m aware of — but here Chenette cleverly and ingeniously transposes it into the internet age, where stories of things that go bump in the night have been amplified to…

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Entropy Editions Round-Up : “Prison” By Liva Kandevica

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

There are many different types of prisons — those constructed from without and those constructed from within, those that we can escape and those we can’t, those undoubtedly real and those at the very least possibly imagined. One of history’s more infamous convicts, Charles Manson, once said “prison’s in your mind — can’t you see I’m free?,” but the unnamed protagonist of Leipzig, Germany-based cartoonist Liva Kandevica’s Prison, catalogue number EE02 in publisher Justin Skarhus’ Entropy Editions range, apparently didn’t get Charlie’s memo : metaphorically imprisoned by dint of sheer isolation, they suffer, as they live, entirely alone, and largely in silence.

Err — except for the talking (and endlessly taunting) stones, that is.

For the heavily-routinized among us, this critic included, Kandevica’s 24-page mini will no doubt hit home, given that her prisoner is their own jailer, and the bars and walls of their metaphorical cell appear to…

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Entropy Editions Round-Up : “Barrage” By Nicolas Nade

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Entropy Editions is a new(-ish) publisher based here in the Twin Cities that appears to be casting a rather broad remit in terms of the sort of material they’re willing to roll the dice on — so far all their well-designed minis seem to fall vaguely under the rubric of what most would classify as “art comics,” specifically “art comics” with a formalist approach, but beyond that everything is up for grabs conceptually and thematically, and it’s not like these de facto categorizations preclude narrative from being involved in the proceedings to the extent a given cartoonist wishes for it to be. Sure, the format of the books themselves is rather uniform in terms of logo, cover design, and what have you — they’re even numbered! — but in strictly editorial terms these comics hew (a bit) closer to, say, a Mini Kus! than they do to a Ley Lines

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“Poems For Profit” : Josh Frankel Disperses The Verse

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Sometimes, all it takes to appreciate the ludicrousness of something is to nudge that something in a different direction, to shift it ever so slightly so that what should, by rights, be blatantly obvious absolutely is. 45 degrees here or there can sometimes be all it takes to restore focus to something that somehow loses it when it’s front and center.

Case in point : the collector mentality, especially the comic book collector mentality. The kind of “thinking” that compels people to drop ridiculous sums of money for cheaply-made periodicals that are essentially disposable by design, and then to not even engage with them on the level people who paid a quarter (or less) for them did, which is to say — the collector doesn’t read that “holy grail” comic he (and yes, it’s almost always “he”) just dropped a huge chunk of his life savings and/or year’s…

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