Tiny Pages Made of Ashes: Small Press Comics Reviews 12/2/2012

A comic review article by: Danny Djeljosevic, David Fairbanks, Jason Sacks, Daniel Elkin


Tiny Pages Made of Ashes is Comics Bulletin's roundup of small press comics reviews.


Copra #1

(Michel Fiffe)




In the previous installment of Tiny Pages I reviewed Deathzone!, Michel Fiffe's unauthorized Suicide Squad fan comic. Short version: it's a fantastic comic -- wild and weird and quite possibly the best use of DC Comics characters in the entirety of 2012.

Well, it turns out Deathzone! was a demo for Copra. A new ongoing monthly (!) from Fiffe, Copra follows a group of Suicide Squad analogues -- costumed criminals forced to go on deadly missions for their country -- who find themselves ambushed and subsequently made fugitives of the state.



Copra #1 spends a majority of its 24 pages on the ambush scene, getting right down to business as shit explodes, punches fly and team members are unceremoniously killed off -- not to mention offering the kind of character interaction that we loved so much about Suicide Squad -- and by the end of the issue it's clear what the plot is AND what the series is going to be like. If you thought the original run of Suicide Squad was extreme, this is like the slightly weirder, more hardcore version of that. Which isn't to say that Copra couldn't be a crossover hit with the average superhero fan -- it actually could -- but it's a work of perfection for indie-minded superhero readers like me who are feeling increasingly put off by the mainstream comics they're inclined to like.



Fiffe's art maintains its handmade feel, but he's improved a a style that worked in Deathzone! to create an amazing looking comic that maintains a human touch instead of the anonymous feel that some of the more regrettable examples of mainstream comics have. He's switched up his coloring for the ongoing, too -- where his method in Deathzone!  seemed to be about replicating the more simplistic coloring of pre-computer comics, Copra finds him using -- are those colored pencils? Looks like, but either way it doesn't look like it was created by an assembly line of Macbooks.

I hate to dick-ride the same creator two installments in a row, but it's hard not to be excited by a really great self-published action comic that doesn't intend to be parody or lame pastiche -- not to mention one from a creator who just keeps improving. 

You can buy Copra from Michel Fiffe's Etsy shop.

-Danny Djeljosevic


You Don't Look Like (Anyone I Know)

(Peter and Maria Hoey; Coin-Op)




I left the cold comfort of the Midwest in October to visit some friends who now live just outside of San Francisco. I would say that the 60 degree weather confused me this late in the year, but here I am, back in good old Illinois with the very same T-shirt and jeans climate. It was a fun trip that involved, among other things, Birdemic, wine, work, wine, visiting a speakeasy for Halloween and hitting up Isotope Comics and the Cartoon Art Museum the day we went into the city.

I was expecting a bunch of weird shit at Isotope and was actually a little bit disappointed; my favorite comic shop is still Chicago Comics, at least partially for their gigantic selection of indie and self-published comics.

At Isotope, I did find this nice 7-inch among the new releases, though. You Don't Look Like (Anyone I Know) is a bit pricey at $5 for 12 pages, especially when 4 of those pages are the front and back cover, but I'm used paying for the production on things like this, and the Hoey's have a beautifully produced comic.



Designed to slide in right among the singles in your record collection, a not-insignificant portion of my love for this tiny comic comes from the way it was produced. The size catches the eye, and the screen-printed cover adds a character to it that you just don't really see as well.

There's not much for content, a narrative folllowing people around a city, but really, what would you expect for eight pages of story? I do love that it's just all done in solid blue. When doing a monochrome story, it's really easy to just settle on black, and the blue really stands out.

This is very much the kind of comic I would (and do) keep on my desk to flip through occasionally and take a look at the beautifully rendered cityscapes, the people imposed over them, and occasionally read some of the words. Not necessarily your traditional comic but certainly interesting, certainly good, and I could easily see myself buying something else from the Hoeys.

You can buy You Don't Look Like (Anyone I Know) from Coin-Op Books.

- David Fairbanks


The Signifiers #2

(Michael Neno; M.R. Neno Productions)




Sometimes comics just make me euphoric.

Every once in a while I get a chance to read a comic that is so filled with intense creativity, with a gorgeously idiosyncratic art style and a story that benefits (and occasionally defies) additional readings that it just makes me smile to think about the book. Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you The Signifiers #2, a mind-boggling work of individualistic energy that I keep paging through and finding tremendous awesome intensity and joy.

What is this comic about? I think it would take up all the space allotted to me in this Tiny Pages column just to describe what's going on here. And doing so wouldn't provide spoilers, not really; rather, describing this book would just not serve you at all. The plot doesn't matter (though of course it does). Instead, this book is all about the amazing journey.



Maybe the sequence in the first five pages of this comic will give you an idea of what you're getting yourself into if you pick up this comic. It opens with two men standing on bizarre floating monster things, hanging out outside a tower window. Inside the tower, the men hear singing. As the comic flows onto page two, we see the music is beaming from a speaker mounted on a wall, until we find the source of the music: an amorphous blob floating in a giant tube of liquid, next to five other amorphous blobs floating in giant tubes of liquid and six human-seeming beings. As the song and comic continue, we get a view of the beings in the tower, a collection of strange and inexplicable figures, drawn in a vaguely Jack Kirby-influenced style. The song continues and more and more strange figures are shown in the jail, until finally a giant hand shoots out from the floor and zaps a humanoid prisoner. "Gosh, buddy, I told ya not to sing," says a jailer, which earns a dirty look from his companion and the comment by a floating guy that "I got that one on shuffle."



The next page brings us 2,434 miles away to a breakfast table for a completely different sort of scene, and each page in the book seems to bring some sort of whiplash from one scene to the next – but it's a whiplash that is exciting. It's enervating because each page brings inexplicable strangeness, bizarre events, and the pure expression of a creator's completely unique view of the world.



The Signifiers is about all kinds of things, but one of the main things that it's about is the ability for a really talented indie creator to explore his imagination and deliver something that could only come from his mind and hands. 

If you want something completely unique that might cause euphoria, this is the comic for you.

Find out more at nenoworld.com

- Jason Sacks


The Trials and Tribulations of Miss Tilney

(David Doub, Sarah Elkins, Danielle Alexis St. Pierre, Joamette Gil; Dusk)




David Doub's The Trials and Tribulations of Miss Tilney is, besides being a mouthful of alliteration, solicited as a modern day "penny dreadful." In the 19th century, a penny dreadful was a serialized salacious publication full of lurid scenes and titillating whatnots and hobnobs. So, needless to say, as a fan of things lurid and titillating, I was all on board for what this book had to offer. Unfortunately, I found little lurid and nothing titillating about Miss Tilney's trials and tribulations.

What I did find was a barely entertaining story about a plucky young reporter who, given her first big break in the business, finds herself enmeshed in a prison break, tales of black magic, and the wrong end of a big white tiger.



Getting through this book offered its own trials and tribulations. There are so many problems with pacing, perspective, and personality here that I became so distracted while turning its pages that I found I had to reread the whole thing just to figure out what the hell was going on.  And even when I did figure out what was going on, I was still confused and, to be honest, not very interested. What could have been a vehicle for an engaging tale of Victorian mystery and intrigue featuring a strong female lead character became, rather, a thick fog of ideas into which the reader wades blindfolded, cold, and alone, stumbling over wooden art and dialogue.

The Trials and Tribulations of Miss Tilney is all too clunky and washed out and forced to flow. There is even a scene in which an enormous white tiger is savaging a woman, and yet somehow Doub and Elkins even take the life out of this. I mean it's a giant white tiger savaging a woman! How can you mess that up?

So what am I left with? I guess I've got this. The Trials and Tribulations of Miss Tilney succeeds in putting the "dreadful" in penny dreadful. That's the best I can do. God lord, that's the best I can do.

Find out more about The Trails and Tribulations of Miss Tilney at Dusk Comics.

- Daniel Elkin



Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions) and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter at @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his comic with Mike Prezzato, "Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men," over at Champion City Comics and check out his other comics at his Tumblr, Sequential Fuckery. His webcomic The Ghost Engine, with artist Eric Zawadzki, updates twice a week.



David Fairbanks doesn't get many things right the first time. He studied physics in college, loves science, music, comics, poetry, movies, books and education pertaining to all of the above. He will talk your ear off about Grant Morrison and Ben Folds, has an indie bookshelf larger than his Marvel, DC and Vertigo ones combined and if he ever actually grows up, more than anything else, he wants to still be happy as an "adult," whatever that is.

Mostly self-indulgent ramblings can be found at @bairfanx and untilsomethingbreaks.blogspot.com.



Jason Sacks is Publisher of Comics Bulletin. Follow him at @jasonsacks, email him at jason.sacks@comicsbulletin.com or friend him on Facebook.



Daniel Elkin wishes there were more opportunities in his day to day to wear brown corduroy and hang out in lobbies. He has been known to talk animatedly about extended metaphors featuring pigs' heads on sticks over on that Twitter (@DanielElkin). He is  Your Chicken Enemy.

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