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Written and Drawn by Alex Robinson

Alex Robinson is the master of the doorstop graphic novel. His past two efforts, BOX OFFICE POISON and TRICKED, are about 1000 pages between the two. So LOWER REGIONS comes as a bit of surprise, clocking in at fewer than fifty pages, and in postcard-sized format. But that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad effort; it just means that it’s different.

LOWER REGIONS tells (wordlessly) the story of a barbarian woman on a mission to save the love of her life from a dungeon full of bizarre and nasty creatures. She’s essentially on her own, using only her wits and her strength to navigate the perils, but fortunately, she’s one of the best- Red Sonja would be in for a tussle against her. That’s pretty much all there is to, it really; one fight against a wacky beast after another, until she reaches the end and must complete her final mission.

If it sounds or reads like LOWER REGIONS might be a D&D module brought to life, you’re on the right track. In fact, if you really want to approach it critically, the book is almost kind of a fuckoff bit for Robinson; he’s put so much into his long-form work over the past decade that REGIONS reads like a man stopping to take a few deep breaths and smile again. There’s nothing wrong with that, though some might think so. He still puts full effort into the art and the storytelling is solid. It just lacks depth.

Robinson is an interesting enough creator that even this sort of side project is worth the time to put full interest into as a reader. I wouldn’t want to see him shift his focus this way permanently, but it’s a nice reminder that The Work isn’t always the sum total of what a writer and artist can be. The person behind the curtain must take our attention on occasion.

Marc Mason

Written and Drawn by Jeremy Tinder

BLACK GHOST collects a number of short pieces from Tinder’s output over the last three years, and it’s a pretty solid effort. There really isn’t a dud amongst the seven entries, and that’s always a good start.

Tinder has a fairly darkly bleak sense of humor, and that permeates most of what’s here. Nowhere is that more evident in “Grizzly,” the story of a man who goes to the woods on spring break and meets and befriends a grizzly bear while there. The bear winds up coming to live with the man and assimilating to human society, only to revert to his old ways at a very unfortunate time. What makes this work is not just the absurdity of it all, but the underlying statement that Tinder is making about people who reject their true nature and try to be someone they aren’t. It’s sly stuff, and damned entertaining.

But the highlight bit is “I’m So Bored,” a two-page entry about a depressed rabbit going through the motions (including the amusing moment where he complains while taking his human girlfriend doggy-style) because he can only access his feelings on an unconscious level. The story is both ridiculous and poignant, and folks, that takes some talent to pull off. Tinder is clearly a guy to keep an eye on.

At five bucks, this book is a good value, and I’d recommend it to the alt-comix fan in your family.

Marc Mason

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