Runner Runner (Tugboat Press): This is the house FCBD 2012 anthology containing some hot names from the indie comics scene, including Julia Gfrorer, Elijah Brubaker, Tessa Brunton, Aron Nels Steinke, Rina Ayuyang, and Matt Wiegle, just to name a few personal favorites. Standouts pieces for me included “Kismet,” an open-ended meet-cute (in Roger Ebert parlance) that’s beautifully rendered with great lettering from cover artist Kalah Allen. Jesse Reklaw serves up a 54-panel grid on a single page (something Andy Hartzell does again later in the book), that contains a rather harmless narrative, but I marveled at the sheer spectacle of the layout itself. “There’s An Unseen World Around Us” by MK Reed & Rich Tommaso is a deceptively simple closed-loop story that’ll have you stalling on the last panel and then racing back to re-examine the first, about getting lost in the mundane of every day life. The absolutely beautiful small scale figure work reminds me of Johnny Negron's outrageously curvaceous women. Drew Weing frames some individual shots to punctuate story beats, which form a larger mosaic composition in a very slick effort. Rina Ayuyang’s single page captures the parental balancing act I often describe to people as “an unrelenting attempt to reconcile consistency with flexibility.” Galen Longstreth & Aaron Renier created “Apostrophe Lost,” denoting the difference between possession and plurality with apostrophes, one of my biggest grammatical pet peeves – along with “then” vs. “than,” and touch on the nature of the female sense of self and insecurity in the face of the domineering male ego. Matt Wiegle turns in a glorious two-page spread which follows the protagonists through a backward s-curve of a story. I really love his art. There’s nothing else to say. “Walnut St.” by Jason Martin makes me nostalgic for my years spent on East Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz, eating pozole at The Palomar Inn, vegetarian dumplings at Pearl, the crunch of the cabbage in the burritos at Costa Brava, and far too many beers at Seabright Brewery, oh I could go on about the women too, but I’m totally digressing… Minty Lewis & Damien Jay’s 6-pager becomes the feature-length tale in the project based on sheer page count. “In Theory” proves again why I never get tired of the detailed line work of Tessa Brunton, while Kazmir Strzepek suggests the hiddren and hilarious potential down side of FCBD, and Lilli Carre brings it all home with the beautifully colored end-piece. If there’s a single aspect of craft unifying the pieces in Runner Runner it’s that mini-comics creators tend to violate the “show vs. tell” rule much less than their mainstream counterparts. In short, you should never tell if you can show, and you should really never show and tell when you can pick just one or the other. It doesn’t matter if you’re depicting what a handwritten letter says or the grade received on an essay, Runner Runner and its creators understand the duality of the medium and when to emphasize the visual component in lieu of those pesky words. Thematically, all of the work sort of examines our place in the world, as kids, as adults, as outsiders, as lovers, as people just navigating existence, all wanting to find a place, trying to capture that universal sense of belonging to be truly self-actualized. Grade A.