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02 February 2011

fuo's favorite minicomics of 2010

When I started file under other in 2007 it was mostly about minicomics.  Gradually webcomics, graphic novels and other stuff worked their way in.  In my 2009 "favorites" list I went through a long list of cartoonists whom I was impressed with during the year as opposed to focusing on just the individual works.  I liked that format a lot and I'd like to do it again this year but, it took a lot of time.  And, to be honest, if I did the same list this year, the names would be mostly the same.  So, in the interest of catching up on reviews, I'm going to just stick with a few of my favorite mincomics this year.

As I've said over the past few years, I don't think the word "best" has any place in art criticism.  Certainly, some things are clearly better than others but it's not my place to decide for the reader.  All I can honestly do is let you know what effect the work had on me.  What follows are the minicomics which had the most impact on me.  The ones I thought about the most.  The ones I enjoyed the most.  And mainly, the one's I re-read the most.

Cragmore by Pat Lewis.
Books one, two and three. 

Cragmore is a story by Pat Lewis about a billionaire trying to cheat death and the Devil.  Lewis is currently working on getting the complete graphic novel out there but I was lucky enough to get the first three fourths or so of the story in minicomic form.  I think you can still get the minicomics at Lewis' store.  You could hold out for the graphic novel but why not just buy it in both formats?  I mean, you're rolling in dough right?  
As far as minicomics go, these first three issues are just about perfect.  Lewis' comics chops are on the money.  Writing, drawing, inking, lettering, layouts, pacing, timing, physical comedy... he's got all that down.  I'm a big fan of his design style.  Not just the character designs, which are brilliant, but the backgrounds, clothes, sound effects etc. etc.  Lewis creates a full cartoon world here made up of all the coolest elements from the cartoons I loved when I was a kid.  When I pick up one of his comics I immediately know the world he's building and I feel right at home in it.  I think a big part of the reason I've carried these comics around with me for months and re-read them several times is that he builds a complete world you can escape in.  
There are no holes in the thing, or to put it another way, Lewis does not take any shortcuts.  All of the characters are fully realized and work off each other with much hilarity.  Even the supporting cast and extras are very interesting.  One of my favorite scenes is actually a conversation two extras have about the Cragmore character.  
Lewis' writing is so sharp.  The concept is great.  A billionaire jerk develops a way to cheat death so the Devil himself sets out to stop him.  Greed vs. Evil to the death!  Oh, and special guest star, God!  It's gonna make a great graphic novel.

A Rabbit in King Arthur's Food Court: A Rashy Rabbit Adventure by Josh Latta.

This sixth Rashy Rabbit minicomic from Josh Latta is probably the most solid minicomic from cover to cover that I read in 2010.  Great cover.  Great look.  Great feel.  Great comics inside.  Packed with so many great gags.  I think it is Latta's most ambitious and best executed book so far.  I've re-read the thing a bunch of times since my original review and I always catch something extra in it.  There is a whole shopping mall of neat looking background characters in the thing.  I could stare at the thing for hours.  And I have.  

Mazed and Confused (Or The Minotaur And The Labyrinth) by Brad McGinty

I just re-read my review of Mazed and Confused and I can't think of much else to say about it.  Simply put, it's bat poo crazy comedy genius.  I got two new minis from McGinty in 2010.  Mazed and another one called Fast Food Feud.  I'll review Feud sometime soon I promise.  Feud is probably a better minicomic as far as craft goes but Mazed and Confused is so absurd that I can't stop thinking about it.  Almost every line of dialog in every panel is cough up a corn dog hilarious.   There is a panel where where Zeus says to a minotaur and the guy who came to kill the minotaur, "Later Bro-Doggers!"  If you don't think that's funny then I really can't help with whatever is wrong with you.  Maybe being happy just ain't your thing.

The Enquirer Dharbin by Dustin Harbin

The Enquirer Dharbin is a full color newspaper.  Now, you may be thinking, 'hey, that's not minicomics!'  You would be wrong.  It's self-published, self-distributed, smallish print run and totally not a standard pamphlet comic or graphic novel.  That's minicomics enough for me. 
As I detailed in my original review, Enquirer Dharbin is about the size of a standard newspapers' Sunday Funnies supplement.  One of the great things about that format is that it is super thin and fits perfectly in my laptop case.  I've carried this thing around with me for six months.  I've read it and re-read it and wore it out and I find it enjoyable each time.  Harbin is playing around with styles in this thing so there is a lot of variety.  Several great strips to choose from and read over and over.  And I have. 

Nathan Sorry No. 1 and No. 2 by Rich Barrett

Nathan Sorry is a graphic novel work in progress being presented as an ongoing webcomic as well as minicomics. 
That's a great strategy.  Build the readership while you are working on the thing.  Work out some of the bugs in front of a test audience.  Minicomics are so great for that sort of thing.  (Remember those Pat Lewis minis I was talking about?)  But let's pretend I don't know anything about all that and just look at these two minicomics Mr. Barrett was kind enough to send in.  
They are not perfect.  There are a lot of clumsy spots.  Clumsy spots in the drawing especially when perspective comes into play.  Some style choices I'm not too fond of.  Especially in the lettering and balloon placements.  It looks like a Brian Michael Bendis comic in spots.  Which is to say it has panels over crammed with balloons.   But I'm just nitpicking. The storytelling is ambitious and Barrett is working his way through some tough stuff in here.  (Making comics is hard yo.)  
Despite the clumsy moments, I really like Barret's drawing.  Especially his faces.  There is a lot going on behind the eyes of each character.  And I like the style of it a lot.  Lots of tones.  The drawing is clean but the inks are rough enough to give it some edge.  And the characters need that edge.  The cast is damaged goods.  They each have a lot of depth and more questions than answers.
The story is a clever twist on the wrong man idea.  Nathan Sorry was supposed to be in the World Trade Center on 9/11 but he ends up assuming a dead man's identify and making off with his millions.  The story is clever. Barrett does a nice enough job teasing the little mysteries behind the characters that I was easily caught up in the thing.  I'm not that big on mystery or drama but I like it best in short installments.  All the fun is in the the unknown with this sort of thing and Barrett knows how to keep you guessing.  Hitchcock would love this thing. 

So there ya go.  There's 2010 for ya.  Hopefully in 2011 I'll review the hundred or three minicomics that are still sitting here on my kitchen table mocking me before the Aztecs show up and demand their continent back.  Or maybe I'll just keep re-reading the books I mentioned here.  

Later Bro-Doggers!
Your best pal ever,

Shannon Smith
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