Friday, August 18, 2017

QCE Review Series: Part 13 - "Rites of Dionysus Act One: Whatever's Clever" By Zak Plum

We're closing in! This is the second to last review, guys! Today we're doing Rites of Dionysus Act One: Whatever's Clever by Zak Plum, a story told entirely in verse that resembles beat poetry with an art style that seems to be inpsired by south-western american native tribes, maybe specifically the Hopi.
The copyright date on this book says 2013 but everything about this books says 1991 to me. I can imagine it being narrated by Jeanine Garafalo or Tracy Ullman or something. It's definitely got that kinda vibe, that kinda art house, coffee shop, midway point between grunge and hippie kinda folk-punk vibe. This book is your kooky english teacher, the one who liked to have class outside on sunny days. If this book was a smell, it would be patchouli and if it had a pattern it would be paisley. If it had a soundtrack it would be Pure Moods and if I found it anywhere other than Queer Comic Expo, I'd have just as easily assumed it was something someone picked up from the local art and wine festival. I know it sounds like I'm making fun of this book, and I KINDA am (because it's just laid on SO thick), but it's not entirely without it's merits.
For example, the artwork, while derivative, is executed expertly. It very much captures it's inspirations and wears them proudly on it's sleeve. The verse for the most part flows very nicely. There are some times when you have to make yourself re-read a line just so you can re-assert to yourself how the rhyme scheme is supposed to flow. That can be a little jarring. BUT, thankfully, it's not a problem that occurs often enough for me to see it a determent to the book as a whole.
All in all, it's an okay book but it would definitely appeal a lot more to someone who actually dug these aesthetics. If you gotta gay friend who's still living in the 90's, get them this book.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

QCE Review Series: Part 12 - "The Thief's Tale" By Maia Kobabe

Good morning good morning comic fans! We're back with another comic review from Queer Comics Expo. Today's entry is "The Thief's Tale" by Maia Kobabe, an all ages medieval fantasy adventure. So far, this is only the first issue, so i haven't seen tons of fantasy yet, but the medieval part is DEFINITELY there. The colour scheme (of the front and back cover, at least) really echoes in my mind that kind of wood etching print that design that you so often see associated with medieval art. The insides are all black and white, and I have to say the art is rather inspired. The figure drawings are nice and consistent, we got some great cross hatching used as a shading technique and the panel work is interesting! That's something even I want to work on more.
Since this is an all ages adventure, there isn't a ton of gay shit in here. The two main characters are two boys (which if you read my last review, you'll know is not my absolute favourite), go I GUESS the potential is still there, this IS only the first issue afterall.
The story centers around Owen, our main character who is leaving his home and family to become a apprentice in a bakery up in the capital. He leaves with a little money his mother saved up for him, and one of his late father's treasured possessions,  a book, which is promptly stolen by a thief in town. Owen chases the thief down like a badass, and corners him on a raised drawbridge and appeals to his humanity to convince him to return his stolen items.
The thief, a big softy himself, agrees, and introduces himself to Owen as our second main character, Delia. It isn't long before The pair befriend one another, and Owen learns that Delia is in some amount of trouble with OTHER thieves in town...annnddd... DUN DUN DUNNNN that's where our first chapter ends!
All in all a cute little story. I'm kinda interested to see if any of this gets gay at all. If you're interested in finding out with me, check out The Thief's Tale here at this link.

Friday, August 11, 2017

QCE Review Series: Part 11 - "Declaration" By Joshua Trujillo and Levi Hastings

Here we have Declaration, written by Josh Trujillo and drawn by Levi Hastings. I once shared a panel with Joshua, in fact, I'm PRETTY sure it was at last years Queer Comics Expo. At the time, he had done some serious work for Kaboom's Adventure Time comic series and I remember feeling a sense of awe and admiration. I LOVE Adventure Time and would love to be involved with it somehow. anyway! We reconnected again this year and I found that he's been working on this new book with a person named Levi Hastings (whom I did not get a chance to meet). What I got was only a 12 page preview. The full version I think is not out yet, but on it's way.
The story follows two secret gay lovers during the time that lead up to the American revolution. A nobleman (who is very much for the war) and a working class dude (who remains loyal to the crown). They're in love, and hiding it, and yet have starkly contrasting political views. A more classic story there never was.
It might seem cliche to say, but this is giving me some pretty heavy Hamilton vibes. I have not seen Hamilton (nor am i in a particular rush to), but I know what it's about, and I can't help but see similarities between two pre American revolution stories that very purposefully deal with topics that people in those times would have found too taboo to even mention, let alone write about.

The art of this book is pretty nice looking for the most part. The figure drawings are semi-realistic with some very slight cartoonish exaggerations. The colour scheme is appropriately simplistic, using various shades of red, white and blue to fill in most of the detail work with a random splash of yellow/tan for atmosphere. They really commit themselves to the theme and that itself is really admirable, and on top of that it works.
I hate to give negative reviews, but for the most part, this book doesn't really speak to me. The first problem is that it's two dudes sharing the spotlight. I like my queer romances to star trans people, or at the VERY least two cis girls. The two dudes dynamic just does nothing for me, or at least not anymore. I remember being young and seeing a couple of gay guys in a movie for the first time feeling inspired. It gave me some really good feels back then. Nowadays I see it as very... basic, which is weird because it's not like it's an overly done dynamic or anything. I mean, I would have to say, it's done MORE than other dynamics, but it's not like it's in my face 24-7 or anything. That being said, their romance IS very sweet, and if you are a person who digs cis guy on cis guy romance, then this book is very much for you.
The OTHER thing about this book that kinda turns me off is the very overt patriotic tones that come through in it. The American flag is literally the front cover, and in a day and age when you see Trump supporters waving that thing around, talking about how they wanna make America "great" again by being very purposefully discriminatory against non-whites really calls to mind this pre-revolutionary america where they fought for this ideal of  all men being created equal, but conveniently forgot to include non-whites (and women). America conflates "greatness" and "whiteness" too easily, and that's something stories like this very seldom address.
I am often juggling this idea of co-opting historical dramas to tell allegorical tales that are critical of harmful norms adopted at the time they take place, and/or just setting that kind of story in a more modern setting.
BUT, at this point, I'm off topic and I'm not reviewing the book anymore!
SO! If you're into dude on dude and you like history, this is the book for you! You can get it HERE!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

QCE Review Series: Part 10 - "Death's Door" By Sonya Saturday

We're back again, dear readers! Back with s'more Queer-ass comic reviews! Today we're doing "Death's Door" by Sonya Saturday. This artist, Sonya Saturday, was sitting behind at to the left of me at the con, andwe've appeared side-by-side in the Alphabet Comics Anthology by Prism Comics.
She was hawking a plethora of cool looking comics, but this one in particular caught my eye, because you know, demons. I ALSO recognized that main character of this book, Necktie, from his appearance in Alphabet. I had no idea he was a recurring character in Sonya's work!
It should be noted that this book is old enough (2014) that I think the artist's deadname appears on the cover, but I'll be referring to her as Sonya Saturday because that was the name that was on literally everything else.
Anywho, this is a really dark, Twilight Zone-ish kinda book about a post apocalyptic wasteland, and three radioactive mutant demons who meet one another and fall in love. They form a pretty awesome triad, but things aren't nice forever, as Necktie (our main demon) begins to grow jealous of the relationship flourishing between his Grilfriend Demon, fireball, and their beloved third, Fancyboy. For whatever reason, Necktie perceives that Fireball is giving Fancyboy MORE love and affection than she's giving him! Fireball insists this is not true, but it's not enough to satiate Necktie's jealous rage. I won't spoil the ending for you, but I WILL say that a Herculean dive into the underworld is involved!
I compared this little book to the Twilight Zone earlier, and that's because the ending really does leave the reader with that same sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that I feel like Rod Serling excelled at. If you are a fan of sci fi with an old fashioned aesthetic and are totally over happy endings, than this book is for you! This is again a short book, a little longer than some of the others, clocking in at 16 pages, but for the first time since I began this review, I'm not wishing there was more. I think 16 pages did a good job of telling this story, wrapping it up and sending it's message about love and jealousy.
The art definitely has an [adult swim] quality to it, reminding me of something like Rick and Morty or Superjail.It is presented in full colour, and the palette choice is rather inspiring. A beautiful mixture of drad grays and browns to depict the scorched landscape, washed out blues and greens for the sky and a plethora of small neon splashes to depict the odd magical happenings of the world. It's a marvelous combination of colours.
In either case, I highly recommend you check out this book, and the rest of Sonya Saturday's work!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

QCE Review Series: Part 9 - "What Is Intersex" By Hann Lindahl

We're gonna tackle the last book that I got from Hann Lindahl today, What Is Intersex? I have to say, this is one that I was very much looking forward to reading because even I have questions about this as well, and it's ALWAYS awkward, no matter who you're asking, to be like "uh... what doncha tell me about your junk?" So this little guide came in real handy answering not only the questions I had, but the ones I didn't even know I had either. This is another short one, about ten pages, and I gotta say, i wish it was longer. I know i say this about all these short little zines, but it's the truth. I'd LOVE to see this concept expanded upon into a bigger, fuller guide covering these topics. however, I get the feeling that what this guide might have actually been meant for was urging readers to continue research on their own, if they're so inclined, which is what I wound up doing, because I'm an inquiring mind who wants to know!
Even still, if a more expanded and detailed guide on this topic existed which kept that adorable cartoon aesthetic, I'd love to won that as well. Because really, when you get right down to it, ANY subject, no matter how thick and daunting it might seem from the outside can ALWAYS be improved with cartoons! Or at least that has been my experience. speaking of which, the illustrations in this book are topnotch. A lot of the characters introduced within its pages are people that I know personally, and while the book doesn't give away their identities, I, as a person "in the know" see them as wonderful representations of their real life counterparts. Even if you don't know the peeps involved, the art can be appreciated very much so on it's own. It has that colourful, soft, rounded edges vibe that evokes Steven Universe or Adventure Time to me. It's a marvelous aesthetic that I love seeing being proliferated. I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel influenced by it myself. If you find yourself curious about what exactly Intersex even is and you're not quite sure who to ask or where to start, pick up this little volume. I promise it'll be worth your while.

Friday, August 4, 2017

QCE Review Series: Part 8 - "¡Viva La Van! Comic Guide to D.I.Y. SOLAR POWAH" By Miché the Van Kid

Alrighty! We got another one by Miche the Van Kid! This one is really interesting actually, it is as it's title implies, a comic guide on how to rig your own solar panels for a van. It goes into some pretty good detail and makes the whole thing seem not nearly as complicated or expensive as it might seem at first.The whole book is only 10 pages but does a great job of getting you from square one to a solar powered van. It DOES mention that better guides that go into more detail might be needed, but i think these really simple D.I.Y.guides are important because if you're like me, and you think a concept like "making your van solar powered" sounds WAY too complicated to even attempt in the first place, but i gotta admit, after reading this lil' thing, it seems like a VERY doable D.I.Y. project.
The one big roadblock I can see (aside from now owning a van myself) is the cost of a solar panel. They're not as expensive as I thought they'd be ($125.00) but still, that's not a small expense! I feel like that'd be the biggest thing preventing me from taking on this project. The other stuff, like the special kind of battery you need, the special kinds of wires and connectors you need, they're all relatively small expenses, but the solar panel is like, ...boom! A daunting task, to say the least.
Either way, if you have another way to get a solar panel (and maybe a van to start with) and you're looking for a way to get started, then this book is the way!

I can't remember if i already linked Miche's youtube channel in the last review I did on one of their books, but just in case, here it is again!

Monday, July 31, 2017

QCE Review Series: Part 7 - "Mx Witch #1: Intersectional Feminst Queer Magick and Devotion" By Mx Jaina Bee

Okay, so this was a weird little book! I was expecting a little black and white comic about a non binary witch and their adventures. I thought this character on the front was gonna be our main witch, or something. What I got was VERY different.
Turns out this character is Panprosdexia, an Agender Deity for which there are many prayers and devotionals inside this book. This type of short prose is what makes up the majority of this small book, and it's interesting to read through, even thought it's not the faith I chose for myself. It IS somewhat similar, I will say.
There IS a comic in here somewhere, called (Non) Binary Star, but it only takes up 3 of the zine's 18 pages. It's a cute comic, not the adventure story I was expecting, but more of a short coming of age story, about a little kid named Trys, and their mother who is just now introducing them into the world of magic and witchcraft. After hanging out in it for awhile, Trys starts to realize how strictly gendered magic can be. They come to their mother, saying that this "feminine" magic just isn't for them, and good on the mom for being maybe a little more accepting of their child's rejection of their deeply held spiritual faith than most moms, but the acceptance is still a little misguided. she instead foists upon her child the ideals of "masculine" magic. this of course stresses the fuck out of our enbie witch, who is seemingly trapped in a belief structure entirely dependent upon binaries. The story ends with our character leaving home for college and admitting that their magical practice faded out, even though they still hold their mother's teachings near and dear to them.
After this short comic, there is a short interview with the author/artist, Ryan Rose Acae, who admits that the story is not ACTUALLY biographical, even though it kind of lends itself to that kind of interpretation. It seems like a situation an enby witch might have faced at some point in their life. Hell, even a lot of the non-enby witches I know complain about how strictly gendered magic can be. I too do my best to follow a magical path which weaves around and avoids these problematic power structures.
Other highlights of the book is a short write up on the Queers and Comics 2017 conference (which I missed, sadly). Our friend Hann Lindahl (author of Future Husband and Cat Burglar) also shows up in the book, in a photograph with Jaina Bee and Ryan Rose Aceae (who's name is spelled different from where it is elsewhere in the book. I'm not quite sure which is correct).
Anyway, a great little book. I hope there is a #2 by the time the next QCE rolls around. It's release IS teased in this book, so here's me chomping at the bit.
I cannot for the life for me find a link within this book that talks about where one might obtain such an item upon it's release. There ARE some links provided in which one can find more reviews and writings by some of the authors who participated in this book. I'll list them below. (author of Non-Binary Star)

some good shit in here, my friends. good shit indeed.