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Shouldn't You Be Working? #2
By Johnny Ryan
Published by Fantagraphics Books; $5.95 USD

Page after page after page of dirty jokes, non-sequiters and extemporaneous gags drawn by Ryan literally when he "should be working." an improvement over the first issue in that a few multi-page strips infiltrate the goings on, but this is really for the hardcore, dedicated Johnny Ryan fan who wants to see what goes on when Ryan isn't engaging his full toolbox to create entertaining stories, but rather working to amuse himself. Grade: 3/5


Angry Youth Comics #7
By Johnny Ryan
Published by Fantagraphics Books; $3.50 USD

This, on the other hand, is good unclean fun for all (with proper ID and clearance from Homeland Security, of course). The seventh issue of Ryan's non-stop gag-fest (and I mean that in at least two definitions) finds the cartoonist poking fun at/exploring/ass-raping the comics code, business relationships, babies, fashion, and most intriguingly, fan adoration. Not surprisingly, Ryan shits on it all hilariously. The most fun is to be found in "My Stupid Wife." I always love it when a cartoonist shows me something new, and I have never seen a character naked with a pound of spaghetti sticking out of their ass before. And that's story development, not even the punchline. As an artcomix extra, in the tradition of last issue's Seth, urm, "tribute," Ryan recreates Craig Thompson's Blankets in three panels that will probably inspire Thompson to jump off the nearest skyscraper if he ever sees them. Grade: 4/5


Naughty Bits #40
By Roberta Gregory
Published by Fantagraphics Books; $2.95 USD

It's a genuine tribute to Roberta Gregory's cartooning gift that this final issue of her long-running series, which includes a moving tribute to her recently-deceased father, does not depress. Although reader support was not there to keep the title going, Gregory says farewell to the floppy format with a brilliant, knowing sight gag on the cover and a sort of hopeful celebration in the strip explaining her future plans. Gregory's greatest strength is in the direct communication she establishes with her readers, and "The Year So Far" shows her to be a determined, vital woman who aims to keep moving in both her life and her career. The Bitchy Bitch strip here, "The End, For Now..." is six incredible pages about menstruation that defy description but are six of the best pages I've seen Gregory create. She also turns in autobio strips about a library book sale and her 24-hour comic experience that are fun to read. But "Bye Bye Daddy Part 2" is the standout story here, two pages that recount her relationship with her father and inspire a sweet melancholy that is extraordinary for just two pages of comics. There's other stuff in here, too, just a final issue packed with reasons why we should all regret the loss of Naughty Bits as a regularly published comic book. I'm seriously going to miss this book. Keep up with her next career move at robertagregory.com (due for an overhaul soon, she says) and please give this issue (and all the other ones, handily listed in the back of this one) a look. Grade: 4.5/5


Scorn #1 (of 4)
By Kevin Moyers and Philipp Neundorf
Published by Unleashed Publications; no price listed

Tortured narrative that tries to focus on a young man who loses his roommate in a tragic, fairly unbelievable incident involving guns and fireworks. Awkward artwork is distorted and vague in that manner that some artists think looks like Ashley Wood or Bill Sienkiewicz or Ben Templesmith or whoever, but the bizarre inhumanity of this story is really grounded as much in the script as in the unappealing visuals. Luckily, though, we learn here that if you do lose your roommate in such an unlikely manner, when you take your revenge you will get to have sex with a hot chick who is turned on by your tragic rage. I thought I merely disliked this book, but in looking it over again to write this review, man, I really hated it. Just awful, wrongheaded stuff further hobbled by the bizarre placement of columns, articles and editorials interrupting the story every few pages. As alternative comics go, this is a disaster on virtually every level. I'm tempted to recommend it to beginning comics creators as an example of how not to do it. Grade: 1/5


Ultra #2
By Jonathan Luna and Joshua Luna
Published by Image Comics; $2.95 USD

I didn't read the first issue of Ultra, but after reading this one, I'm planning to track it down. This is a highly appealing Astro City-type take on the life of a young woman with superpowers, strongly focusing on character and beautifully drawn in a style that suggests animation and gives the characters real energy and life. To describe the throughline of this issue's story would probably give away a highly amusing ending, so just take my word for it that in a market saturated with superhero books, this one won me over with charm and well-grounded, joyous storytelling. Grade: 4/5

-- Alan David Doane



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