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Mini Reviews: Lauren Barnett, Kelli Nelson and Trees & Hills

Secret Weirdo by Lauren Barnett

The one thing minis and webcomics have in common is the DIY spirit.  Make a comic and put it out there for people to see.  Here's some short reviews of minis I've been reading this week from Lauren Barnett, Kelli Nelson, and the Trees & Hills Comic Group.  If you're interested in getting a mini reviewed at ComixTalk, you can find our contact information on the About page.

1. Lauren Barnett

  • A Story About Fish Or Everyone Loves Pets
  • I'd Sure Like Some Fucking Pancakes
  • Secret Weirdo

I got a package in the mail this week, three mini-comics from Lauren Barnett.  All three minis included are very similar (although A Story About Fish is very short and only has one story in it).  I liked her sense of humor, although not all of it works.  Pretty much everything before the "Dream" in Fucking Pancakes works, but the rest isn't as strong. The "Lemonade Stand" story, "Visiting Aunt Ro's" and the one page "Childhood Memories" in Secret Weirdos actually are very sweet in their way with their honest take on some childhood memories.  The strongest things about these minis is in the writing, and in picking out short, interesting conceits for the stories.

The cover to Secret Weirdos is very cool, a bit of an abstract explosion with color.  Barnett's art though is decidedly amateur with incredibly sloppy line work, panels and layout, even the lettering and word balloons are a mess.  There is such an enthusiasm to it though and since every story is fairly short, that I didn't mind the art too much.  But Barnett could really stand working a bit harder on all aspects of her comic-making skills.

2.  Kelli Nelson

  • Typhoon: Part One of Three

Typhoon is a mini I picked up at last year's SPX.  It's part of a planned triology and I hope Nelson follows through with the project.  Typhoon has a very stylized feel to it, the artwork is sometimes blocky with thick line work.  It's softened considerably by the muted blue and purple color used throughout the comic.  By the way, it's a beautifully put together mini with an almost fabric-like paper used for the cover.

Nelson does an amazing job of protraying a post-apocalyptic world, covered in a great flood. Both of the two characters have been damaged by the new world they're in, one naming the large storm Leon and the other suffering from a kind of amnesia.  Just a lot of great choices here to show things in a short package.  From the opening scene of coming up on the empty bag of Doritos to the character hiding under the blanket saying "It's not real. Not real." to the tearful parting between the two characters, it doesn't feel like a wasted panel is there.

3.  Trees & Hills Comic Group

  • Swinging Hits, Comics & Music

Another mini I picked up at last year's SPX that came with a CD with tunes from Lucy Knisley, James Kochalka, a bunch of other comic-music folks.  This book from the Trees & Hills Comic Group leads off with a great little comic from Colleen Frakes about a ninja trying to pick the perfect "chase music" on his iPod for his climatic confrontation with the Zombie King.  Cute and really well executed.  Keith Moriarty and Colin Tedford offer up a comic about how Keith made a song for the CD that comes with the mini.  Chris Grotke's journal-style comic fits in well, as he's a musician.  There are a few comics using lyrics from songs like Anne Thalheimer's effort.  "Why I Don't Dance" by Marek Bennett is a funny riff on the relationship between music and math. 

Clocking in at slightly over 50 pages, there's a lot of material in there and while your mileage may vary I thought well over half of it was very good.  All of it was interesting and played nicely with the music theme. A couple, such as the contributions from Marianne Petit and Tim Hulsizer, were very interesting, but I wished the art was stronger.  Really only a couple missed the mark completely.