Jason Walz just had a kid, so as a way to keep in touch with making comics while he's unable to work on a longer work, he's instead publishing Crap Shoot, an anthology with comics, interviews, and even links to download music. Each issue is themed, and in honor of his new arrival, the first issue's theme is "love". Walz' own "Second Chance" is a melodramatic story with a rather predictable happy ending. What makes it palatable is the cleverness of the story structure and eye-catching nature of the page design. In particular, Walz's use of blacks to divide up panels and create a bleak atmosphere gives way to using negative white space to brighten up the page when things start to look up for its protagonist. This is a story that might have been more effective if Walz didn't oversell his narrative with plaintive narrative captions.
The conversation with Brown is notable for the warmth and friendliness between the artists, especially as they discuss how one's creative process changes when children come along. It also included a sneak-peek at Brown's then-new book, A Matter of Life. Walz's short story "Cosplay" is one of his best, cleverly interweaving two romantic storylines expressed in dramatically different ways through conversational and body language cues. The story works well because Walz gives the reader a lot to look at with all of the costumes, but still manages to focus attention on the key players. I was less impressed by the story he published by Trung Le Nguyen, "The Deliberation of Psyche In Love and Mortality". The short was as labored and overworked as its title, as the detailed linework didn't make up for the static imagery and panel-to-panel flatness.
The theme of the second issue was "lies". Once again, when Walz writes a dramatic story (as in "Antlers", he overdoes it. This is a story about guilt in the form of a creature wearing antlers haunting a woman who cheated on her boyfriend. Walz simply pounds the story's ideas into the ground, suffocating the reader with a clever idea that suffers from his need to spell everything out. On the other hand, when Walz goes back to humor, as in "Fortune", he nails the mix of interpersonal drama and a killer concept as three young people get oddly-specific fortunes that seem designed to foment tension among their tight-knit group. I was less interested to read Walz' interview with Laurie Sandell, whose book about her father with a fake identity was marred by her use of the language of twelve-stepping. Finally, the short story "Moses" by Dean Westerfield and Jeff Guarino, is a promising augur of their longer narrative that's still in the works. The concept and execution of this publication is something that's needed in comics, as Walz tries to introduce the reader to new work that he finds interesting, has an outlet to publish his own short stories and tries to learn more about other artists and their feelings about particular ideas.