Comics Rack: November's best comic books

The end of the year is near, and we have lots of comics to read and best-of lists to compile. Also, it’s getting cold outside, and working our way out from under the stack seems like as good an excuse as any for avoiding chapped-lipped East Coast winters. In this edition of Boing Boing's Comics Rack roundup, we have Greek gods, autobiographical wolves, nightmare goats, and punk rockers.

Couch Tag
By Jesse Reklaw

I made a sound of audible excitement when a new Jesse Reklaw book showed up at my door a couple of weeks back. His dream strip Slow Wave has rightfully won him a fair amount of acclaim in the nearly 20 years since its inception, and Applicant is really a perfect one-off zine, assembled from discarded files of PhD applicants. Couch Tag, on the author hand, is a sort of family autobiography, assembled from countless loose threads centered around objects and things, discarding any semblance of chronology. It’s painful at times, like childhood itself, but Reklaw is mostly an objective tour guide through the strange and seminal moments of his youth.

Hagelbarger and That Nightmare Goat
By Renee French
Yam Books

This one is dedicated to David Hagelbarger. I could have just asked French who the fellow is, but I Googled the name instead. The results are mostly anonymous, other than an entry on a Bell Labs employee who concocted a mind-reading machine in the 50s. I’d like to assume he’s the one who unwittingly lent his name to the bean-shaped amphibious lead. The Hagelbarger in French's book builds nest and protects little glowing swimmers, rendered beautiful in the cartoonist’s signature soft charcoal style. It’s not her most unsettling work. Perhaps her time as a children’s author has softened some of her early Lynchian tendencies. There’s even a happy ending of sorts in these pages. But it is every bit as uncannily otherworldly as the rest of the French catalog.

Big Plans: The Collected Mini-Comics
By Aron Nels Steinke
Bridge City Comics

I suspect I’ve got most of these issues scattered throughout my apartment, picked up from the author at various shows over the years. But man, it’s really nice having them all in one place. In fact, I’m not sure I fully appreciated Steinke’s work until I was able to sit down one afternoon and soak it all in one go. The cartoonist has a knack for isolating moments that makes me wish I were a bit more perceptive in my own life. Maybe we should all start drawing mini-comics. It would probably make us better at remembering the important goings-on between the big moments. That’s Steinke’s skill, really, knowing which part of the story to tell, regardless of the relative import of the overarching narrative. Don’t let the title fool you — Big Plans is a book of small moments.

As You Were #1 and #2
By Various
Silver Sprocket

Picked this up in the magazine section of a bookstore in the Mission. I can’t remember which one. God bless San Francisco, it must have more bookstores per capita than anywhere else in the United States, and from what I can tell, they largely range from great to fantastic. I believe there are two issues of As You Were out at present, and while I can’t attest for the second, there’s a lot to like in this maiden issue. The subtitle refers to the pamphlet as a “punk” comics anthology. I imagine “comics about house parties” just doesn’t have the same ring, but that’s really the through line here. There’s a story about a house haunted by moshpits of punk shows past and a bit about years spent in regret after missing a John Darnielle living room set after dismissing a flier for an acoustic show. We’ve all got at least one of those in our past, right? Also, Ben Snakepit illustrates a sad one about a poor schnauzer accidentally crushed to death at a rock show. Poor, poor Silky.

Rage of Poseidon
By Ander Nilsen
Drawn & Quarterly

Prometheus had the last laugh, apparently. Even after all the centuries of excruciating daily buzzard peckings, those cocky gods who sentenced him to eternal suffering are now largely forgotten, long since supplemented by a long-haired son of God with crazy notions of forgiveness. But even the Judeo-Christian types have it tough. Jesus’s dad got really pissed one night a long time ago and just flooded the place. And now he won’t come out of his room. He’d done some fucked up things to his creations in the past, but on the 39th straight day of rain, the angel Gabriel finally broke down the door of his room to find out what was happening. All in all, being omnipotent hasn't been so great since the glory days of Mt. Olympus (though the human race had, at least, managed to conjure up ice lattes in the years since inheriting the stolen fire of the gods, so maybe things aren’t all bad, after all).