Thought Bubble Capsule Reviews

by Alex Hern

I went to Thought Bubble in Leeds last month. I bought a bunch of comics there. Here’s what I thought of them. 100 words a comic, no more no less. Let’s go.

The Snow Queen and Other Stories by Isabel Greenberg

Greenberg works hard, doesn’t she? The Encyclopaedia of Early Earth, is only just out, and she’s already got a follow-up (of sorts) in this book, put out by Great Beast.

Unlike Early Earth, the Snow Queen is adapted from Hans Christian Andersen tales. Greenberg’s meandering storytelling is actually put to better use here, with the strong core of the original fairytale keeping the plot flowing more directly from A to B than in her biggest work.

But that focus also means that we miss some of the sprawling vistas that were so magnificent, in favour of tighter character work.

Throw Your Keys Away by Dan Berry

Four fun tales – and a one-panel gag. The Devil’s Steps is the most wonderfully rendered of them all, with gloomy blacks and blues placing it firmly in its Halloween setting. While the colours play it serious, the line work has more of a wink to the fact that the whole story – an encounter with a devil out of Berry’s childhood – is less than it seems. (It’s certainly the friendliest devil I’ve ever seen).

Elsewhere, I love the gag panel’s great, as is the tale of how he Almost Quit Drawing Comics. Who can resist the smell of a cobblers?

Multiple Warheads by Brandon Graham

Fuck, the first Multiple Warheads was explicit wasn’t it? I guess I knew the series started life as porn, so I can’t be surprised. (And hey, if porn comics are your thing, that one has more wit and character in a few pages than the six-and-counting volumes of Manara I’ve got staring at me from my shelf.)

The non-porn stuff – the vast majority of the volume – is great. Surprisingly different in tone from King City, even if the artistic style is largely shared between the two. The porny roots never quite die, and it’s sweetly sexy throughout.

Raygun Roads by Owen Michael Johnson and Indio

Colours everywhere! A plot teleported in from the seventeenth dimension presented in ways mere mortals can never quite comprehend! But if we had that 18th dimensional viewpoint would it coalesce into something less than its ambitions? There’s worse things to be than Flex-Mentallo-for-hair-metal, I guess.

(I love Grant Morrison too, guys).

Flipping the book halfway through was annoying but the middle spread was beautiful so we’ll let it slide?

I think there’s actual music too, so the album thing isn’t just a gimmick, but I read this on a train so I couldn’t listen to it.

I Don’t Like My Hair Neat, Issue Two by Julia Scheele

Bad Omen, Tell You Now and Sinking are the standout stories in this short anthology. The first is an ultra-vivid memory, with a sickly feeling washing through it, even before the actual bad omen rears its head. The second, a tale of survival told through the detritus of an abuse relationship, harnesses the power of some old Le Tigre lyrics. The third is one of the most beautiful (incongruous praise, maybe) depictions of depression I’ve seen.

Julia continues to be one of the best colourists working in the small-press scene. Look at the cover and Kama Sutra Spells!

Seasons by Mike Medaglia

I thought Mike hadn’t put his name on the book and was ready to chuckle, but it’s tucked away in the back.

Anyway, Delightful Girlfriend exclaimed that this was the prettiest book of the con without me even opening it, so the stripped back simplicity definitely works. That is a cover designed by someone who knows how to use white space!

The book itself is four very short vignettes broken up by abstract colourscapes and little quotes. The stories themselves are great slices of lives, always slightly shorter than you would need to know the whole thing, leaving you wondering.

Chloe Noonan Monster Hunter 4 1/2 by Marc Ellerby

CHLOE NOONAN BEATS UP MONSTERS. In this issue she actually gets a sugar high, falls asleep and lets all the monsters go except the chipmunk thing which doesn’t want to leave.

Noonan is one of the most rewarding little series to follow, tickling the same itch – often far better – than big yank comics with a thousand times the circulation. Even in this silly story, a limited run of 200 (Marc wasn’t even able to publish it through his own Great Beast label, which is way harsh, Tai), the plot moves a bit on. Just why are the monsters so bad?

Dungeon Fun by Colin Bell and Neil Slorance

Adventure Time is really bloody influential, isn’t it? Some of its followers are great, others not so much. This falls into the former camp, with a fun tale of a girl adopted by trolls fighting out of a pit she lives in to avenge her mud statue which was destroyed by a falling sword. Naturally, she’s actually the long lost heir to the throne.

Like Adventure Time, you come for the adventures and stay for the parenthetical comments about whatever the authors were interested in that day. The plot progresses at a fair whack, and before you know it it’s done.

The Megatherium Club by Owen D. Pomery

This is a deeply silly book, let’s just get this out of the way now.

You know there’s a sub genre of fantasy starting with “X historical group was actually into black magic/superscience/the illuminati?” Well, this is “what if the Megatherium club (a real group of people) were massive pissheads who never did anything useful”, which, based on my understanding those guys, is pretty fucking accurate.

Pomery’s etched-line style comes into its own here, and if I hadn’t already read his previous work Between the Billboards, I’d assume it was put on just for the historical feel.

The Comix Reader 5 by fucking everyone

A newspaper format art comix anthology.

O’Connell and Locke’s scrappy paste-job is a new and interesting way of doing sequential art.

Parsons’ sexual memoir made me feel dirty inside.

Hickman’s strips were sadly recogniseable.

Lord Hurk’s formalist adventure didn’t make the blindest bit of sense, but I liked its style.

Ditto Cowdry’s strips.

Sina’s autobio comics were damn good autobio. And starting with a blowjob is a good call, always.

Couldn’t focus my eyes on Homersham’s (great) astonishingly detailed page.

Schalkx’s strip is the most minimalist work I’ve seen which still manages to convey a story, character and emotion.

On Reflection by Andy Poyiadgi

Talking format is always a cop-out, but: I love this format. The printed tracing paper, in particular, is a wonderful touch. And sure, if you open it out fully it’s just a long strip – but who would do that?

Similarly, beautiful page design reflects the theme of the story in the books very layout. The first and last pages are mirrored right down to the title text.

Tonally eerie, there’s not a huge amount to the plot, but the artwork brings some of the depressive gloom to the fore. (And Andy’s line-work is wonderful in its own right).

The Heroines Zine edited by Julia Scheele

Hugely varied contributions, which is precisely what you want from something like this.

I get the sense the brief was “make art about a heroine”, resulting in the range.

Subjects run the gamut from Ripley and Buffy (of course) through Ada Lovelace and Emmeline Pankhurst all the way to friends and relations of the authors. Media ranges from pure text to pure image and everything in between.

Standout works are Heather Wilson on Pankhurst, Kieron Gillen on Ada Lovelace, and Ellen Rogers on her muse Maxine. Also Julia and Tom Humberstone’s portraits.

Is it a comic? What a boring question.

Windowpane #2 by Joe Kessler

As with the last one, the standout work here is the collaboration with Reuben Mwaura. As with the last one, the physical object is a thing of beauty, with the risograph printing resulting in colour work you won’t see anywhere else. As with the last one, ‘dreamlike’ is a cop-out description, but also vaguely accurate.

It’s a bit much to expect much change between two issues of an a single-author anthology work, but there’s very little here that couldn’t have been in the pages of the first, and vice versa. Still, all the praise for that applies here.

Hitsville UK #2 by John Riordan and Dan Cox

It’s called The Difficult Second Issue. It’s been, I think, two years in the making, long enough for Marc Ellerby and Adam Cadwell’s Great Beast small-press-publisher (if that’s not an oxymoron) to pick it up. “When we picked the title of the issue, we didn’t realise quite how true it would be”, John said. But it’s worth the wait.

Whereas the first was a disjointed series of introductions, gelling together into a plot and uniform whole only in the last few pages, this is… well, still disjointed, but more purposefully so. John’s art remains pop as fuck.

I Got Comics #1 by John Miers

Miers is probably the foremost formalist working in the British scene today. His Babel requires a manual to comprehend, which isn’t the slight it seems.

There’s nothing as balls-out experimental in this volume, nor is there anything as straightforwardly innovative as Round Man in Square City (I don’t think it has a name) from A Collection of Comics by…, aka I Got Comics #0. My favourite piece in the book is probably two-pager The Mechanical Elephant, a musing (both in terms of what it is and what it says) on perspective. Interested in seeing more of Sisyphus, though.

Doctor Who and the Hipsters by Abigail Brady

Another zine, and this one’s proper old school (it’s actually photocopied and stapled and everything). A short piece of Doctor Who fanfic featuring the Seventh Doctor and Ace. I had to google to check it’s actually the Seventh Doctor so you can tell the level of background I’m going in with.

It’s an utterly delightful premise: what if the Doctor went back to the Shoreditch street where the very first episode began fifty years ago? And what if, when he went back there, he was actually taking his companion forward?

Fast, funny and some cracking hipster-bashing. And free online.