The Toronto Comic Arts Festival is one of the most influential and important comic book event in North America. It’s mission is to “promote the creators of comic books in their broad and diverse voices, for the betterment of the medium of comics”. In the spirit of this mission, the Comics Beat is conducting a series of short reviews on some of the phenomenal comics available at this year’s festival. There is so much phenomenal comics at the festival, it would be impossible to talk about everything. We’ll be looking at three comics at a time from TCAF (hence the pun ThreeCAF).

Smartphone Comics #1, by Michael Deforge, Mickey Zacchilli & Patrick Kyle

Smartphone Comics is an anthology comics featuring the work of three great cartoonists (Deforge, Zacchilli, Kyle). They’ve done these types of comics in the past, they select a topic (basketball, medicine, Disney’s Cars) and collaborate on a short anthology. This short comic looks amazing with it’s burgundy and black risograph colours. It looks great. Each stories plays on the strengths of these creators. It’s a good Michael Deforge faux-documentary about an ordinary, everyday object as much as it is a good comedy from Zacchilli. There’s a lot to love in this comic. While it may not be as complete as some of their individual work, it really plays to each of their style, interest and strengths and it ends up being a very satisfying, if short read.

Baba Yaga’s House, by Krystal Difronzo

A 2 colour risograph comics published by Chicago’s Believed Behavior. The story of Baba Yaga, the Russian folklore legend in which a witch flying around in a mortar wielding a lives in a house that can move thanks to chicken legs, is revisited from the point of view of the house. Difronzo explores what happens to this sentient walking house when the witch isn’t around. It’s a surprising exploration of loneliness. Krystal uses the two colour riso very well. Everything is blus, except the witch who is in purple. It lends her an otherwordly gravitas that makes her truly strange. It’s a great use of colour to reinforce the story. You can read it online for free over at the Believed Behavior website, and you can get a copy at their online store.

Slomeau, by Michael Comeau

Slomeau is the latest mini comic debuting at TCAF from Michael Comeau, he of the excellent Hellberta. It’s another great risographed comics printed by Toronto’s Colour Code in burgundy ink on pink paper. It looks at a variety of themes with Comeau’s twisted sense of humor and irreverence to classic Marvel comics. The standout short story of the collection is one where an aggressive, yet eloquent man harass and assault a woman in the street. Under the guise of “teaching a woman to be a better person”, the man aggressively tells her to keep quiet. They argue and the exchange becomes violent. There’s a striking divide between what is said, and what is done that pushes the reader to reflect on this kind of behaviour and the action portrayed in the comics. A great little comic.