Flouride: Stories By Chad Meadows, 275 pgs.

Throughout this collection, Chad Meadows spins clever stories about misanthropes and technology. It’s farcical stuff which more than occasionally feels too close to our current situation. –Michael T. Fournier (Tolsun Books, tolsunbookc.om)

Is This How You See Me? By Jaime Hernandez, 90 pgs.

Jaime Hernandez and his brothers have been releasing the comic Love and Rockets since the early ’80s. Jaime’s Locas stories focus on the punks and alts living in Hoppers, a fictional town south of Los Angeles. His main protagonists are Maggie and Hopey, two Chicana women who age along with the author. They started off as teenagers and now they are in their late forties. Their friendship gets rocky throughout the series and it continues in this story.

Is This How You See Me? finds Maggie and Hopey going back to Hoppers for a punk reunion show. While there, we see how a lot of characters and the town have aged. Throughout the book, we get flashbacks to the beginning of their friendship back in the early ’80s. The duo still finds themselves wandering the streets of Hoppers at 3AM, running into trouble just as they did thirty years before.

This book flows better than Hernandez’s earlier Locas stories. And, of course, the artwork is solid. The panels pop with his signature pulp style mixed with the occasional very cartoonish facial expressions. This book proves that you’re really never too old to jump in the pit. But also, what are you proving by doing so? –Rick V. (Fantagraphics Books, fantagraphics.com)

No Apocalypse By Al Burian, 192 pgs.

I love Al Burian. He is hands-down my favorite living author today, and certainly one of my favorite authors of all time. His take on punk culture is laced with existential despair and matter-of-fact commentary. This is all done in a dry manner, but which often comes across as hilarious.

Thus it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I loved No Apocalypse. The book is comprised of his columns from Punk Planet, HeartattaCk, and the Skeleton. I read some of these writings in Punk Planet, but it’s been a long time since then, and it was refreshing to come across them again. The Punk Planet columns take up the predominant amount of space in the book.

Burian’s writing is, for the most part, consistent in its take on what it’s like to be a slacker in the late ’90s and early ’00s. There are a lot words spent not just on music and Burian’s adventures, but also on President George W. Bush, who was in office during the time when many of these pieces were written. In hindsight, it’s almost comical how we thought Bush was the worst President ever, although all things considered, at least Donald Trump hasn’t sent thousands of soldiers overseas to kill thousands of people unconnected to terrorism, all based on a lie. Still, the similarities of how bad politics can get is appropriate for our current state of affairs.

What gets me most about No Apocalypse is how insightful it is. His comments on how it can feel strangely freeing when one loses their parents are something about which I hadn’t given any thought yet makes sense. He also has his tales of riding the Greyhound, a line of his writing of which I never tire. His looks at this particular slice of Americana who ride the ’hound makes me smile and laugh. Burian’s literary flair comes out most striking in these situations. He keeps the reader on edge wondering if an oddly paired couple will make it back to the bus in time from their rest stop. It seems strange, but I was fully engaged.

Al Burian is a slacker, a very unsympathetic antihero, and in some ways, a loser. He can’t seem to get beyond being his own worst enemy at times (as shown with his experience putting his foot in his mouth in court). Yet he somehow writes in such a way as to counter those detrimental qualities to make himself easily relatable and one of punk’s most talented literary figures of the past few decades. –Kurt Morris (Microcosm Publishing, 2752 N. Williams Ave., Portland, OR 97227)

Nothing Nice to Say : Complete Discography By Mitch Clem, 240 pgs.

Razorcake readers may know Mitch Clem as an illustrator and former comic contributor to the magazine. Back in 2002, he doodled up a webcomic focusing on jokes in the realm of punk called Nothing Nice to Say. It mostly revolved around the main characters Blake and Fletcher poking fun at the music and culture they surrounded themselves with. The comic went off and on for ten plus years and now every single comic is in one big fat collection.

A good chunk of the comics are three-panel gag strips but Clem later moved onto full-page strips with some continuity and connecting storylines. Throughout the years he would introduce new characters such as an emo kid named Phillip, goth duo Alice and Karen, and a bear named Cecil. All the comics still make jokes about bands and punk-related things. He would occasionally throw in a reference to mainstream comics that some hardcore nerds will appreciate.

Mitch’s style may remind people of Archie Comics, except more animated. As you would expect, you see the drawing get better through the years. Mitch takes the time to draw impressively detailed backgrounds where it may not be necessary, but it really shows off his skill as an artist and not just a funny-man cartoonist. And these are laugh-out-loud funny. Maybe avoid reading it in the library or a public bathroom. As mentioned before, you are reading this in Razorcake, so you will most likely get the humor in this collection. You are the target audience.

At page 197 the collection switches gears and becomes the complete Coffee Achievers collection. It’s a story about coffee shops, gargoyles, magic, and mix tapes drawn by Joe Dunn and written by Mitch Clem. Most of the main cast of Nothing Nice to Say appear in this story and you might be thrown back by the way Dunn draws them. But overall, the story is good and you will wish there was more of the Coffee Achievers.

At twenty-five dollars, some folks maybe are hesitant to buy this collection. But it’s beautifully bound, sturdy, and can hold up on the coffee table or toilet tank in any old fifteen-roommate household. –Rick V. (Silver Sprocket, silversprocket.com)

Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good By adrienne maree brown, 464 pgs.

From the Online Etymology Dictionary: radical (adj.)… from Late Latin radicalis “of or having roots”… Meaning “going to the origin, essential.”

Different roots serve as political starting points for entering The Struggle. For some, the starting point is education. For some, it’s ensuring that the poor have access to credit. For adrienne maree brown, it’s pleasure. Second-wave feminists said, “The personal is political”; however one interprets that (and there’s no consensus on how to interpret it), Pleasure Activism furthers the conversation.

The book is “written and gathered” by brown. In addition to essays by brown, it also features interviews by and conversations with brown, as well as essays by other people, mostly women of color, mostly sexually marginalized. The book’s theme (roughly) is finding pleasure despite trauma. You can’t be whole without pleasure and you can’t go out and truly rip it up unless you’re whole (insofar as anyone is).

Not every chapter is for everyone—I should have listened to Beyoncé’s Lemonade by now, but haven’t, and so skimmed the chapters about it—but the book is so varied that if you keep it around after reading the chapters that currently interest you, other chapters will likely interest you in a year or two (sort of like a music guide—The Wire Primers leaps to mind).

Pleasure Activism, I have to say, is dotted throughout with Oh, Christ—seriously? moments. One of the book’s blurbs is from an “anti-oppression consultant”—which I suppose isn’t necessarily a hustle. brown claims to have been bitten by a vampire (leaving unaddressed whether she’s a vampire currently). One of her interview subjects talks about the pleasure she gets from her “anti-Zionist home bubbly water machine,” whatever in the earthly motherfuck that is.

I requested the reviewer’s copy after reading online somewhere this line from the back cover summary: “How do we make social justice the most pleasurable human experience?” I thought the book was about how to attract people to activism—mainly it’s not, though brown does discuss this in her conversation with Dallas Goldtooth, a Standing Rock activist. The conversation concerns how to bring a certain amount of spirit-supporting fun to activism while still comporting yourself in such a way that people in power, and people who don’t know what to think about your movement, still take you seriously. If you’ve wrestled with that, he has thoughts for you. –Jim Woster (AK Press, akpress.org)

Revolutionary Threads: Rastafari, Social Justice, and Cooperative Economics By Bobby Sullivan, 224 pgs.

Bobby Sullivan is likely known to Razorcake readers—he’s the singer of DC’s Soul Side. Beyond this, he’s a practicing Rastafarian and social activist. It’s fascinating to see how he weaves the threads of his life together in Revolutionary Threads.

Sullivan uses his lyrics as chapter headings throughout. The first section provides a quick discussion of the origin of Rastafari. From there, Sullivan provides historical incidents which spin off of alternate takes on contemporary history. He meticulously sources his work throughout, whether providing a Howard Zinn-like take on the settlement of America by Africans predating Columbus, or in discussing political prisoners like Marilyn Buck.

It’s fascinating to read how Sullivan practices his faith: in addition to writing this book, he does work with prisoners with cooperative grocer groups. Since Rasta is deeply anti-colonialism, Sullivan’s immersion in the punk activism of Washington DC informs his faith, and vice-versa. By all metrics, the work Sullivan does is punk—and it serves his own spiritual needs as well as the community. I had never made this connection with Rastafarianism prior to reading.

Each chapter herein works as a standalone, but comes together to form a greater whole which serves to illuminate Sullivan’s faith and the very understandable ways that his work does good and challenges outdated colonialist conventions. Revolutionary Threads is an engaging, lively, well-thought book which provides a picture of Rastafarianism in action, for punks and beyond. –Michael T. Fournier (Akashic, akashicbooks.com)

Bull Loving Truth, The By Ian Lawrence Campbell Swordy, 138 pgs.

The morning of my thirty-fifth birthday I picked up this book and read the first sentence: “Moving back to New York at 35 was harder than expected.” Instantly hooked, within twenty-four hours I had finished it. You might remember Ian as Pone, bassist for the humble legends of Brooklyn: Bent Outta Shape. The Bull Loving Truth is Ian’s personal tale as they shed the innocence/naivety of the suburban youth experience in exchange for punk and radical politics, and later the highly conceptual art world. The parts which recount the tales of Bent shows and tours are all you hope they’d be. They’re magically nostalgic, documenting a time that feels all too long ago. For those of us who branched out and discovered what this DIY network of friends truly is in the ’00s, this is our history. And, amazingly, it reads like all the classics you ever wished were your life. Starting off like Lanky meets On the Road, and then ending like a mashed up millennial Just Kids meets The Razor’s Edge. The Bull Loving Truth is your companion piece to reflect back on who you were in 2005 and who you are now. You don’t have to read it on your birthday, but it definitely helps for maximum results. Here’s a small nugget that felt particularly revealing, “Transformation is not shapeshifting. You don’t get to choose what it looks like on the other side. Or who you are when you get there.” Pick it up and absorb this heart-felt ode to the old times, the magnetic people who are unfortunately no longer with us, as well an open-ended discussion on who we have yet to become. –Daryl (Self-released, $10, woodenchain@gmail.com)

Collected Cyanide Milkshake, Thee By Liz Suburbia, 176 pgs.

As the title might tip you off to, this is the complete collection of Cyanide Milkshake, which is extremely convenient to anyone trying to track down all the back issues. Though there were only eight issues (including the mysterious lost first issue which Liz explains in comic form), having the work gathered up in one place is awesome. Not only does it show you the progress of the artist, but also how her expression and thought process changed over time—and most importantly—there’s no extreme cliffhangers in the serialized comics. Be relieved that you can read each installment of Girl-Boy Adventures all in one go, instead of waiting with bated breath for whenever the next issue comes out. My favorite reoccurring comic in Cyanide Milkshake is Ulster & Penny. It’s the tale of two rambunctious dogs who are constantly getting into trouble and looking super cool while doing so.

Liz’s style is detailed, yet simple with bold line work and lots of heavy spot blacking. She says in every issue: ”You can do the same thing! All it takes is some printer paper and a Sharpie!” Well, that and a modicum of Liz’s talent and humor. As far as the actual content goes, I’d recommend that you take the notice “Contains adult content” to heart. Nothing in the zine ever bothered me or got under my skin, but quite a lot of this book was not safe for work and I found myself covering up parts of pages when I was reading it in the break room.

One of the other things that I really appreciate about Liz’s work is her vulnerability and dissection of the punk subculture. Though at first I thought this kind of expression was only happening in the intros for each issue, you can see it permeate throughout. Even something as subtle as a character in All Dogs in a 7-Eleven telling her friend to live with their decisions in something as small as a Slurpee flavor choice echoes back to her ethos. There’s certainly very much of the artist in the art, and that’s one of the key components of quality to me. While I find her thoughts on how punk as a subculture could be better very refreshing, I also appreciate that they’re paired with such awesome art.

I’ll leave off with another endorsement for Ulster & Penny. Those two are just so adorable and rad and even dangerous at times! I’d love to have a poster of the two of them going to a punk show—especially the frame with Ulster getting the back of his paw X’ed out by the person at the door while Penny looks on with a five dollar bill in their mouth. So awesome. –Kayla Greet (Gimme Action)

ConeBoy By Clive Parker-Sharp, 363 pgs.

I will start with what brought me to the doorstep here, but I will stress that this wasn’t what kept me in the room. The author is a drummer who spent time in Athletico Spizz 80 and Big Country. But other than some passing musical references within the book, that fact should just be a launching point. This book is about life choices.

When these choices start to involve drugs, it becomes hard to see through the haze. I am not preaching now, just stating the facts as presented in this story. Elbeth is the initial focus in ConeBoy, with her son Colin taking on the mantle more towards the end. This book poses more questions than it answers in a lot of ways. The decisions made by the characters are clouded by chemicals and it ultimately destroys the lives of anyone in its circle. Hope, dreams, and expectations are shattered with no escape in sight. Fame shifts the tone abruptly once Elbeth’s son is born. How he copes with what life has dealt him is admirable at first. Then it becomes sad with a tragic finish that seems ripped from a tabloid TV soundbite.

I may have been depressed at times while immersed in reading this book. Sometimes I had to gasp for air for a minute after a couple of passages. But at no point did I wish for actual page numbers to glance at since ConeBoy was intensely gripping for the duration. Thought provoking and definitely worth seeking out. –Sean Koepenick (Box Productions, furryrecords@yahoo.com )

(Intentionally Blank) By ThomasMundt, 161 pgs.

This book of short stories is so wordy, so packed with prepositions, English 101 writerly words, pompous adjectives, and otherwise omit-able words it’s maddening. It’s also consumed by the author’s own perceived cleverness, which he projects onto the voices of his diverse variety of characters, making them not so diverse after all. I found it nearly impossible to read all the way through.

Out of a sense of duty, I managed only by reading completely on autopilot until the very end of its 161 pages. Occasionally, I tried line-reading it, noticing words I would delete. Finally, I got to the end, but I’ll be damned if I could tell you what a single one of the stories was about. I couldn’t stay present in them at all. Take this sentence for example: “they believe that because if you were not there to watch history happen than it did not happen but know that this is not true and we must go on about our business.” Definitely the worst sentence in the book but not by much. You could open anywhere and find a similar monstrosity of the English language. If that’s not enough, there’s little dialogue, arc of story, or even plot. Many of the stories seem like someone sketching out a character to put in a story. And sketching. And sketching. And sketching! And then it’s over. No story.

Still, as maddening and amateurish as Intentionally Blank seemed to me, Mundt is a pro. I was shocked to find Tolsun Books is not a vanity press. Also, every one of these twenty-two stories was published somewhere else before collected here. I guess the joke’s on me. –Craven Rock (Tolsun Press)