Quick Picks #3 – Bugs and TCAF

Quick Picks is an occasionally written series of microreviews of books I’ve read over the past two weeks. Here’s a selection of books I’ve been thinking about over the last two weeks.

Last of the Sandwalkers by Jay Hosler


A recent release from First Second, Last of the Sandwalkers features a family of extraordinary beetles as they traverse the wide world in search of meaning outside of Coleopolis. At the discovery of an unusual artifact and a bit of betrayal, the team must work together to get home in one piece. Hosler’s comic is filled to the gills with bug facts, and a very compact layout combined with a lot of exposition means this book is best suited for the strongest of young readers, older kids, and teens. Last of the Sandwalkers tackles some pretty heavy stuff, including genocide and the fight between religious dogma and reason. It also has some doozy dad jokes. Sometimes the comic’s didactic bent gets in the way of the story, but at other times the facts are introduced so naturally, it’s hard to figure out you’re being taught, Either way, Last of the Sandwalkers proves that a classic adventure formula can still work, no matter who or what the characters happen to be.

The Extremely Small Witch Bibi, Who Lives in Mrs. Sen’s Garden by Kris Mukai


I’m going to eventually get around to doing a full review on Kris Mukai’s Weeping Flower, but for now you all will have to settle for a short review of an earlier work, The Extremely Small Witch Bibi, Who Lives in Mrs. Sen’s Garden. Bibi, a lilliputian witch, goes to visit Mrs. Sen for some cheese, but a stiff wind blows her into the paths of multiple “bigs” who would mean any lilliputian harm. There’s something cozy and familiar about Mukai’s The Extremely Small Witch Bibi, Who Lives in Mrs. Sen’s Garden. Like many other tales of little people, this comic lives on its depictions of small things made large, annoyances turned deadly predators. With its loose illustration style and a page as panel format, Mukai’s comic seems both traditionally-influenced but intimately pursued; that one of Bibi’s possessions is a 20-sided dice is telling. Perhaps because of the comic’s narrative simplicity, Mukai has the ability to focus on the energy of each page; the result is a comic that is a quick and charming read that left me wanting a little more.

Vessel by Kristyna Baczynski


This is the first comic I think I’ve read from Baczynski who also has a contribution in the 24 by 7 collection edited by Dan Berry; a Bildungsroman for a hesitant adventurer, Vessel explores the ways in which we collect memories. As we age, we fill ourselves up with experiences and adventures, like a vessel becoming full.  Baczynski’s comic seems more concerned with the atmospheric detail than narrative. Vessel luxuriates in two page spreads, and as a result, is lovely to look at but a little light on story; it felt like a 10 page story told in 20. That said, above all else Vessel is a lovely print object; meticulous color choices and high quality paper mean this comic falls more in line with NoBrow than most zinesters. The result is a comic which is a print-lover’s joy, from a young artist who has room to grow.

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