By Dustin Cabeal
Usually, I don’t like to batch review unless there’s a logical reason to do so. That’s the case with this review in which I’ll be looking at four mini-comics from M. Jacob Alvarez. Now, one of them is a full-sized comic, comic and really mini-comic is a poor label, but I have no idea what else to call them without sounding like a pompous ass.
Hypno Spiral Comics no. 7
Now Hypno Spiral Comics is a mini-comic in that it’s the size of a small postcard. We’re talking dentist reminding you of your appointment size. The pages are filled with comic strip jokes in that there are different characters, different settings and all of them have a punch line. The jokes weren’t the best here, but I appreciated the thought that went into them. It’s clear that Alvarez understands the medium and is polishing his craft to nail the one gag strips. The art was the best of all the comics, which isn’t surprising since it’s his most recent work. The art was enjoyable overall and shows his growth as a creator.
The Co-dependent Tree + Other Cartoons and Comics
The Co-dependent Tree, if it wasn’t obvious from the title is a play on The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. It’s a great bit of satire and gave me a chuckle. The art was similar to Silberstein’s but adapted to work with the format that Alvarez used for the comic.
There is another batch of single gag comic strips after the story, hence the title. These gags were much stronger than Hypnospiral Comics, and the art was on par as well. This was the standout comic from the four that Alvarez sent to me for review and gave a better idea of his humor and wit.
Chinatown Bus was the third book I read and the first to not have a comic strip style of storytelling to it. It’s about a man that’s riding the bus to see his long-distance girlfriend. She sends him a cryptic message that sounds like a break up is looming. This pushes our protagonist to strike up a conversation with an attractive woman on the bus. He confides in her, and she takes pity on him, not wanting his trip to New York City to be a waste. And then his phone starts working again.
I don’t want to spoil the ending, but this is set up to be the first part of a graphic novel. It wasn’t my favorite of the batch. Maybe the subject matter didn’t interest me, or maybe it was the narration that felt heavy handed. It was clearly outside the norm from the other work that Alvarez does, but commend him for growing and trying more. The art was rough and didn’t look as clean as his other work. It was almost a completely different style, and I wasn’t partial to that.
Hypno Spiral Comics no. 2
Clearly, I don’t pay attention to titles when reading because if I had, I would have read this first or at the very least before no. 7. It doesn’t matter what order I read them in because they don’t tie together and Hypno Spiral Comics no. 2 is the full-sized comic I mentioned above.
There are more comic strips, a lot of the jokes landed with me and in particular enjoyed the Sailor Moon short. Unlike the rest, there is what seems to be an ongoing story about a punk ninja that tangles with a lacrosse player in a convenience store. As unbelievable as the story is, it was entertaining as hell. I would read more adventures from this character as Alvarez displays an understanding and knowledge of samurai films, but adapts them for the modern world in which they’re taking place.
Overall, I got a clear sense of the development of Alvarez as a creator. While not all the jokes landed, nor did all the art, it was never a chore to read any of the comics. Instead, I found myself curious to read more and enjoying myself while going through all four issues. If you’d like to check out Alvarez’s work, then head to HypnoSpiralComic.com.
Creator: M. Jacob Alvarez