In 2004, Aaron Cometbus, author of the highly regarded Cometbus zine, announced that after twenty years of self-publishing his writing in zine format that he was going to pursue other avenues for that writing. Since that time, Aaron has produced 2004’s Chicago Stories and 2005’s <Mixed Reviews.
The two titles share a considerable amount from their small, pocket size format and short length to their esoteric topics, but it is the absence of Cometbus’ distinctive handwritten prose and cut-and-paste layout that previous readers will most likely notice. Instead of being a photocopied zine, the two books were published in a comparatively stale font, thus removing much of the personality of the zine. While the writing in Chicago Stories, drawn from pervious issues of Cometbus held up well despite the layout, the same cannot be said for Mixed Reviews. Most of the material in Mixed Reviews has been published elsewhere with the content drawn from recent writings in the New York Press, the Philadelphia Independent, MaximumRocknRoll, Tokkion, Rip It Up, and Round Things. Some of the writings, such as the short stories “When the Cat’s Away,” “XXX,” and “Marta” cover the same areas that the zine did—love, books, and rainy nights—and consequently are decent, if somewhat uninspired reads. However, the various reviews, with the exception of the lone book review, were not terribly interesting.
Unfortunately reading Mixed Reviews will likely only make one yearn for the days of the photocopied zine and make those new to Cometbus wonder about the hype. Readers should instead consider picking up a copy of Despite Everything: A Cometbus Omnibus, an anthology from 2002 that includes a large selection of writings from previous issues of his zine presented in their original layout.
Aaron Cometbus, Mixed Reviews, (Internationalist Publishers, 2005).