A Tale Of Two Comics, Part One : Brian Canini’s “Three Stories”

Here at Four Color Apocalypse HQ (it sounds more impressive than it is, trust me — and it doesn’t even sound impressive), we’re always happy to get the latest from Columbus-based cartoonist Brian Canini. He’s one of the more versatile talents around these days, and someone who’s not afraid to try his hand on a little bit of everything, from gag strips to autobio to long-form crime stories to funny animals to science fiction — and everything in between. Lately, he’s been delving into the venerable single-creator anthology format with a series of minis, and while the results have been a mixed bag, there’s no harm in that — anthologies almost always are, and I’d rather see a cartoonist push themselves out of their comfort zones a bit and not be afraid to fail rather than going the safe and easy “give the fans what they want” route. Canini has two such anthologies that have just been released under the imprimatur of his Drunken Cat Comics self-publishing imprint, and we’ll be taking a look at them in this review and the next, but be warned — in terms of quality, the difference between this pair of ‘zines is literally night and day.

First up, then, we have Three Stories, a brisk 8-page read presented in full color that sees Canini flexing his cartooning muscles a bit by drawing at least one fairly sophisticated compositions and any number of varying anatomical figures — but I can’t say it has much going for it beyond that. Which I’ll admit is a fairly harsh judgment, but — I do have to call ’em like I see ’em, and the contents of this one are well and truly all over the map thematically, with no clear through-line connecting them in any way other than the fact that each of the three stories here misses the mark.

Canini starts off with an utterly miscellaneous youthful reminiscence in “Asinine Memory,” and the title gives away the plot — he overhears some nitwit young boy on the school bus asking a variation of the old “boxers or briefs” question to a female classmate, and that’s about it. In his own narration, Canini admits it’s just some pointless little thing that stuck in his mind, but that’s it. And so it is. My objection to this isn’t so much that nothing of import happens, nor that Canini offers no context beyond “hey, check out this random shit” — rather, it lies in the fact that he doesn’t give us any reason to care about it, and more or less ‘fesses up to that fact himself.

Somewhat more successful is “Let’s Talk About Elephants,” which contains that nice-looking composition I mentioned earlier, but ultimately what Caninini does here amounts to little more than a tantalizing little experiment. We’ve all fallen back on the old cliche of the “elephant in the room” a time or two in our lives, but he undercuts what amounts to a perfectly competent, if uninspired, story about a couple on the brink of a breakup (one partner just wants to have fun and the other is looking for something more serious) by curiously deciding to make this particular elephant of theirs an actual elephant that shows up at their door. I get what he’s trying here, but not every artistic exercise needs to be seen by the public, and this doesn’t rise above the level of ” vaguely interesting idea he probably should have left in the sketchbook.”

Canini rounds things out with a one-page gag called “The Heroin Of Snack Foods” that compares Pringles potato chips to smack — complete with equally deadly results — for reasons I really can’t fathom, and while I have no issue whatsoever with absurdity for its own sake, when presented as a four-panel “quickie” like this, it really needs to be funny. This isn’t funny, unfortunately. It’s just flat.

So — what do we have here, then? A trio of throwaway stories that simply can’t find a way to matter in any way, shape, or form, and that it really doesn’t appear very much thought went into. Fortunately, though, this complete misfire is balanced out by another mini titled Two More Stories, shown above, that’s entirely successful. But we’ll get to that in the next review.

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Three Stories is available for $1.99 from the Drunken Cat Comics website at https://drunkencatcomics.storenvy.com/products/30910516-three-stories

Review wrist check – Zodiac “Olympos” gold dial model riding a Hirsch “Genuine Croco” strap in emerald green.