Friday, January 30, 2015

Keeping Buoyant

Another item that falls squarely in the zine category. This is from the package I got from Boston Zine Fest.

Title: Keeping Buoyant
Publisher: Brittany (
Writer: Brittany
Artist: Brittany

This 20-page half-sized zine is almost entirely text, aside from the nice cover illustration. Inside is a collection of three essays: one on the author's experiences with depression and recovery, one on the author's experiences with substance use and abuse, and an advice piece for friends of people suffering from depression.

Brittany's writing style is vivid and engaging. Whether using metaphor to describe her struggles with depression or recounting stories from her days spent partying in the Florida drug scene, her descriptions bring the story to life in a powerful way.

The essays each have their own distinct tone. The first one is introspective and deeply personal. The second one is personal as well, but it's more of a telling of stories, and it's full of interesting little details. The last part was mostly advice that I knew, but it raised enough points to get me thinking. As someone who has friends who deal with depression and other mental illness, the words here were good and important for me to hear.

While Britanny's story here contains a great deal of sorrow and pain, it is ultimately hopeful, and it did a great job of holding my interest.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Food Service Proverbs

Another zine from my Boston Zine Fest crowdfunding rewards.

Title: Food Service Proverbs
Publisher: Space Cadette (
Date: 2014
Writer: Space Cadette
Artist: Space Cadette

The title describes this pretty well. It's bits of wisdom from a food service worker, collaged with photos of food and a few other bits. It's all presented in a quarter-sized 8-page b/w zine with the warning "Don't let your boss read it!" on the cover.

This is a fun concept and I liked the layout and design. The proverbs themselves were fairly standard, although certainly authentic gripes. No, the customer is not always right.

Good idea. Could have used more material.

Rating: 6/10

Sunday, January 18, 2015

High-Five Magazine #34

The next in my series of reviews from the zine grab-bag I picked up as a crowdfunding reward from Boston Zine Fest. Technically does not count as a comic, but I'm never one to stand on technicalities.

Title: High-Five Magazine
Issue: 34
Publisher: High5!
Date: October, 2011

I'd describe this as a traditional zine, complete with pasted-on text, photocopied, and stapled half-sized. It's 20 pages of Boston-based weirdness with a bit of a Halloween flavor to it.

There's an events calendar that got me a bit homesick for Boston, followed by a guide to the locations of all the venues.

Also in this issue: An essay on composer John Cage and his famous non-music composition 4'33", an amusing "Horror-Scopes" segment, an illustrated guide to budget costumes for Halloween, a recipe for pumpkin waffles, and a feature called "How Long Is That?", which tells, well, how long various things are.

I especially liked the ending segment, a description of the Curse of the Haunted High-Five, complete with (adorable!) instructions on how to break said curse.

This was fun, and contained some good information on some interesting community events at the time of publication. It definitely brought a smile to my face as it referenced familiar locations around Boston.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Vietnamerica: A Family's Journey

Taking a break from the zines to review a graphic novel I just finished.

Title: Vietnamerica: A Family's Journey
Publisher: Villard Books (Random House)
Date: 2011
Writer: GB Tran
Artist: GB Tran

I actually bought this a couple of years ago and had put it aside. It got pulled back out when and packed with books I was bringing on the move to Vietnam (I pretty much grabbed up all of the Vietnam-related books I had in the massive to-be-read pile, which amounted to, well, several).

I'm glad that I read it now, because I always feel more connected to a book when I have some firsthand knowledge of the book's geography, and I've had the good fortune to visit Vung Tau, which much of this graphic novel is set.

This is an ambitious project. It's a multigenerational biography spanning the Vietnam War, from the conflict with the French through the US involvement, and the flight of refugees to America. It touches on immigration and the ways that different generations adapt to changing life circumstances, the loyalty of friends and family, and the idea of the journey back to the past.

As Gia-Bao visits family in Vung Tau, Vietnam, the long journey of his family to America (and back) is pieced together through the stories of his grandparents, his parents, and their friends and siblings. The story is a personal one and a family one. The politics of the war come into play as they affect people's lives and shape the course of the family history. "Individuals pick sides. Families don't." is a recurring theme in one of the early chapters. We learn the varied stories of different family members, many of them affected tragically as they choose their own paths against the background of war and upheaval.

This was a very powerful, personal story with some beautifully detailed artwork. I especially liked some of the scenes that captured the chaos of Saigon in more recent times.

Rating: 9.5/10

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Halfling Zine #3

My second review from the rewards package I got for backing Boston Zine Fair. As mentioned in my previous post, I'll be covering some items that are more in the realm of zines than comics in some of these reviews.

Title: Halfling Zine
Publisher: Halfling Zine
Issue: #3
Date: 2014
Editor: Sylvia Kim
Photography: Whitten Sabbatini, Pat Reynolds, Maria Fernanda Molins, Christopher Gill, Juan Miguel Remirez-Suassi, Paige Mazurek
Cover: Juan Miguel Remirez-Suassi

Halfling Zine is a full-color photography zine, curated and published annually by Sylvia Kim. The 28 pages of photos range from what I (in my strictly amateur-level knowledge of photography) would describe as street photography to artistic still-life pieces. The photos stand on their own without captions. Credits are given to the photographers in the table of contents page.

This was a very enjoyable addition to the rewards package from Boston Zine Fair. Not many zinesters that I've seen work in full color, and there were some intriguing and vivid images withing the pages of this volume.

Halfling Zine maintains a Tumblr page for those interested in checking out some of the photos online.

Rating: 7.5/10

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


It's 2015, and that makes it New Years Resolution time. Usually this is the time of the year when I resolve that this blog really is going to be a DAILY comic review.

Not so, this year. I've only got a small stack of comics that I brought with me to Vietnam, so I'll be reading them slowly until June when I head back to the States. I plan to bring a bigger stack back with me at the end of that trip, so the pace of the reviews may pick up during the summer.

For now, though, I have the small stack of books I brought over here, including a couple of graphic novels, and opportunities to buy additional comics have been limited. I picked up one graphic novel in English at a used book sale, and I've bought several volumes of Vietnamese-language manga. However, reviews for those will be slow in coming, because it's going to be a slow process working through the language barrier.

I did visit the Saigon Comic Con, but in spite of there being a couple of dealers there selling some Marvel and DC comics imported from the US, I ended up just getting a few more items in Vietnamese. If you're interested in seeing what a con looks like over here, your can find my pics here.

I did get one recent influx of new reading material. I backed a crowdfunding project for the Boston Zine Fair last fall, and I just got my reward forwarded to me: A random grab bag of zines and minicomics!

I'll be reviewing all of these here, even the zines that are not technically comics, over the next few weeks.

Let's start with this one!

Title: Angus
Publisher: Sarah Ruggiero
Writer: Sarah Ruggiero
Artist: Sarah Ruggiero

The subtitle is "A Pocket Guide to Chinchilladom". This is, in fact, pocket-sized. It's an eight-page folded format micro-mini, with some hand-colored highlights on the cover. It features anthropomorphic portraits of the title chinchilla in various motifs, including "grumpy Yoda" and "Pikachin". The center spread shows the chinchilla in action, along with the writer/artist.

This was adorable in the way that a lot of cat minicomics are, and it features a chinchilla, so it has fewer rival comics to compete with. The drawings were fun and quirky and conveyed a lot of personality.

Rating: 6.5/10