All right everybody; I briefly had some computer trouble, but I am back now, and ready to deliver an excellent review. So hang on tight to your horses1, and get set for one wild ride.

The ninety-seventh strip begins innocently enough. The first panel establishes the setting as a beach, and focuses on a mound of sand, drawn in such a way as to suggest that it has eyes. This is foreshadowing, as the very next panel depicts a man lying down on a towel sunbathing, as small figures begin to grow out of the sand around him, without his knowledge. In the third panel, the figures have grown to their full size, and judging from their facial expressions, are not happy that the sunbather is there. The panel widens, so that we see that minus is off to the side playing in the sand, most likely unaware that somebody else is nearby.

The sunbather awakens, only to be face to face with the sand creatures, who accuse him of trespassing and threaten to evict him violently. The sunbather has only just woken up, so he is still trying to get his bearings, and is unprepared for the sand creatures sneaking up on him. He calls out in terror, and just before the sand creatures can lay a hand on him, their leader is hit in the head with a beach ball, crushing him. There is a Beat Panel where the sunbather takes this in, and, realizing that he is in no danger because his assailants have the consistency of sand, starts punching them. Now the sand creatures are fleeing in terror. One of them yells at his comrades to fight, and they try to go after a little girl building a sand castle. However, they pose no threat to her whatsoever, and the girl starts building her castle out of the sand creatures.

For once, minus’s actions did not result in anybody getting hurt.

That strip is over, and the following one begins with minus and the green-haired girl at a park, playing Frisbee with what I think is their puppy, though the creature is drawn with a tuft of hair that the puppy doesn’t have, so who knows. Unfortunately, minus throws the Frisbee too hard, so the puppy misses, and some guy who is dressed as the Fonz gets beaned in the back of the head.

The green-haired girl asks for the Frisbee back, and the Fonz-lookalike, somewhat understandably, won’t give it to her. So the green-haired girl asks minus for help, and at this, the Fonz-lookalike is amused. He is not at all intimidated by the little girl, and says something that he will surely regret by the end of the strip: “You and what army, kid?”2

Since minus is not only all-powerful, but takes everything literally, she summons an army to the scene, and the Fonz-lookalike realizes to his horror that there is a gun pointed at his head. He looks down the barrel of a different gun in terror, while the green-haired girl looks off to the side in confusion and minus stares at the poor Fonz-lookalike, her smirk clearly showing that she has the upper hand. So the Fonz-lookalike sheepishly returns the Frisbee, and minus runs away, giggling hysterically.

Now that the Fonz-lookalike is alone, he is relieved that the danger has passed (or so he thinks) only to be hit by the Frisbee again. minus runs over, and this time she aimed it at him on purpose, just so that she can provoke him into asking “You and what army?” again. Not only is that a colossal dick move, but I am surprised that she doesn’t realize that he would not ask that question again now that he knows she can summon an army at will. Instead, the man tries to placate her by giving her the Frisbee instantly, and yells at her to stay the hell away from him. In those exact words, and it should be pointed out that this is the first time in the comic that anybody uses any language that could be considered inappropriate for children, no matter how mild. minus is actually upset that she can’t summon the army again, and returns to her friend, crestfallen. And that is the end of that strip. I don’t know, I guess she was just playing around, again not caring how her play would affect others. The Fonz-lookalike starts off kind of rude, but he is nowhere close to as rude as that basketball player from many many strips ago, who actually did deserve to be on the receiving end of minus’s wrath.

Well, the ninety-ninth strip heralds the return of the brown-haired ghost girl, who, unlike the red-haired ghost girl, is actually nice. She and minus are talking, and then the green-haired girl shows up.3 This is the first time that she has been in the same strip as any ghost, so now it is pointed out that she cannot see them. Thus, she assumes that minus is spaced out, until the ghost informs minus of her existence.

Now minus realizes that her human friend wants to talk to her, but she tries to continue her conversation with the ghost at the same time, unaware that the green-haired girl cannot see the ghost. (And oddly enough, the ghost gives minus a weird look when she learns that minus is actually friends with a normal person.)

So the green-haired girl asks minus who she is talking to, and minus actually says that ghost’s name: Sara. According to Armand’s commentary on the comic, he did this when he realized that so few of his characters actually had names. Now, the complete list of characters with names consists of minus, Clary, Dishface, Larry, and Sara. Except for minus herself, none of them are really that important. Still, I’m not complaining, as it makes this review easier. The green-haired girl futilely tries to talk to Sara even though she cannot see her, and so, realizing that this is going nowhere, Sara asks minus to let her friend be able to see ghosts. This happens, and Sara greets the green-haired girl by yelling “Boo!” The green-haired girl is caught off-guard, though Sara herself smiles when she finds out that the green-haired girl can see her. The girl, who is steadily getting less ordinary as minus gives her more perks, pays her back by making her best attempt to be scary as well. The two hit it off, and start laughing together.

Sara expresses her approval, and invites the green-haired girl to the Moon with them. Of course she accepts, and after a Beat Panel where Sara is floating above the others, smiling, can no longer contain her excitement, and says that they should go right then and there.

The three of them take off, because thanks to what happened a few strips ago, they all can fly, and Sara resumes the story she was telling minus. What we get to hear of it goes on for two panels, about how she was a member of Lawyer-Friendly Cameo version of the Girl Scouts4 and decided to explore a dangerous cave while on a camping trip. The counselors wouldn’t allow it, so she snuck out at night, and didn’t even bring any supplies. Her story cuts off at that point because that’s the end of the strip, but the reader can easily deduce that she is telling the story of her own death. Rather morbid if you think about it too hard, but I guess that a ghost wouldn’t really be too afraid of the idea of death.

The story arc, however, is continued in the 100th strip. What a milestone! The trio have arrived on the surface of the Moon, and of course, minus takes the opportunity to experience the Moon’s low gravity. Even though she can jump high, she is taken by surprise at the hard landing. Meanwhile, the green-haired girl and Sara are exploring a crater. We get a panel showing off how huge this crater is, and Sara speculates on how cool it would be if they discovered that it housed an alien city. If you remember her characterization from before, this is consistent with her alien fascination.

The green-haired girl says that they could ask minus to make one, oblivious to the fact that these things usually go horribly wrong. But Sara is not interested in any synthetic city minus would make. She wants to meet some real aliens, who evolved on their planet naturally! I guess she is unaware of the fact that aliens had declared war on Earth a while back.

So this gets them talking about all the crazy things that minus has done. Sara mentions an event that was not depicted in the comic: minus getting upset at how hot it was, so she declared war on the Sun with an army of trees, only to lose interest when the trees blocked the Sun out. The green-haired girl hasn’t heard about this either, but finds it funny. So here we learn that we only get to see a fraction of the stuff minus does.

The green-haired girl then tells her own story, about when minus made them warrior queens of the ant people. Remember when that happened? It’s another Call Back. I am ambivalent about episodic works for the most part, but tend to like them when they do not ignore their own continuity for the sake of a gag. Thus, this comic passes that test, as has been demonstrated time and again. But I digress.

Before the green-haired girl can continue the story (and so that the readers don’t have to hear about it again) Sara interrupts her, and covers her mouth in horror. Apparently minus has talked to her about the green-haired girl before, but never described what she looked like, as Sara has only just put two and two together. She tells the green-haired girl that she is minus’s weird friend, who likes to throw up.

The green-haired girl is now pissed at minus for this blatant character assassination, and demands to know when she was called that. Sara claims that that’s minus’s opinion of the green-haired girl, who loudly states that that is not true, and she does not like to throw up.

This is actually an interesting look into how minus perceives the world. In an earlier strip, she said that she had never been sick, and so made herself sick when the green-haired girl mentioned it. Since the green-haired girl said that she kind of liked being sick because she could watch TV all day instead of go to school, when minus got so sick that she vomited, she latched onto that and assumed that her friend must like throwing up, because after all, she can make herself sick at will, so that must mean that everyone can, rite? She may not know how unique her situation actually is. This is never elaborated upon, but I like how Armand often lets the readers infer things about the characters themselves from the little hints he gives. It’s quite entertaining.

So once the green-haired girl clears up the situation with Sara, the final panel just depicts the Moon, signaling that the next strip will be at a different location.

Sure enough, the 101st strip opens on the lotus blossoms of the spirit world. Sara is still hanging out with them, and the trio are flying around. Since the green-haired girl isn’t dead, she does not recognize that the black cloud-like figures around them are actually the ghosts of aliens. This means that Sara could probably meet some aliens at any time she likes, so why doesn’t she?

As it turns out, Sara brought them there because she wants them to try this alien fruit that she found, because remember, people still eat in the afterlife. The fruit looks like a gray blob, so the green-haired girl is understandably skeptical. Thus, Sara grudgingly admits that the fruit might be poisonous to humans for all she knows, leading to minus saying that she will protect them if anything goes wrong. Aw, that’s nice. It’s strips like these that make her actually a likeable character.

So as the trio are enjoying the fruit, the green-haired girl asks if there are any human ghosts with legs, because she sees some who are wearing pants. As it turns out, no human ghosts have legs, but Sara explains that wearing pants is a fashion trend among those ghosts who are uncomfortable without them. Put that way, and she is kind of weird. The green-haired girl finds this silly since ghosts lack legs, and Sara appears to agree. However, after a few Beat Panels where she is eating the fruit, we see a thought balloon, in which Sara is imagining herself flying while wearing pants. So, does she wish she were still alive? If you think about it like that, it’s actually quite sad.

This story arc is concluded in the 102nd strip. It’s now the nighttime, and the green-haired girl bids Sara good night. Sara reciprocates, and casually says that she’ll see minus again in a month. The green-haired girl asks what’s going on, and Sara says that she can only appear on Earth once a month, while waving her arms around like a classic ghost. The green-haired girl asks if that is really the case, and it turns out that Sara is just joking around— the real reason she’s meeting minus next month is so that they can ride a comet. After inviting the green-haired girl along, Sara fades away, and only her outline is visible. Nice artistic touch on Armand’s part; that’s hard to pull off in such a way that it looks right.

The green-haired girl is carrying some of the alien fruit, and tells minus that she should head home too because her parents are probably wondering where she is. So when she hears this, minus fades away in the same manner as Sara, probably just for fun. The green-haired girl is now all alone and says good night to the emptiness, then looks at the fruit she is carrying. The last panel shows her flying home, against the night sky. Again, I admire Armand’s artwork.

The 103rd strip begins a new story arc. minus is sitting on the roof of a building, throwing a paper airplane. In the next panel, we see a bunch of paper cutouts of people, getting groceries. When somebody approaches, they shoot him. This technically wasn’t minus’s fault, but still…

The cutouts all enter their paper airplane, meaning that this is how minus does grocery shopping apparently. However, it turns out that the paper airplanes all land on the sidewalk, a long distance from their destination. A woman appears, and this time, instead of shooting her, the cutouts asks her to throw their airplanes, so they can reach where they want to go. The woman is unsurprised at this, and complies, though she throws them the wrong way first.

Unfortunately for the cutouts, in the next strip, it starts to rain. Since they are made of paper, this is a terrible thing. They all crash, scattering their groceries all over the pavement. A boy with an umbrella walks by, notices the candy on the ground, and picks it up, despite how unsanitary this is. So minus isn’t going to get what she went to all that trouble to acquire.

After the boy leaves, a single paper cutout gets up from underneath the remains of his airplane. He calls out to his comrades, but he is the only survivor. He glances around, and sees the boy with the umbrella walking away. Realizing that this is his only chance, he makes a run for it, but does not make it to the umbrella in time. We see him limping along, visibly distressed even though he lacks a face, as in the final panel, the boy walks away.

But the cutout is not done for just yet. In the next strip, the rain has stopped, and the cutout has survived, clinging to the only piece of candy that remains. He is determined to get it to minus no matter what. Too bad for him that a bird lands on the sidewalk right in front of him, and gigantic in comparison. He threatens it with his paper gun, but the bird just stares at it, unafraid. But don’t worry; the cutout survives this counter, and finally makes it to minus, who is drawing with her sidewalk chalk, as always. The cutout gives her the single candy bar, and tells her that the mission was successful. He of all his comrades gets a happy ending, and the last panel depicts him relaxing on the sidewalk, resting on minus’s chalk. Actually, I think that he is the only being that minus creates, period, who doesn’t end up dead by the end of his arc. (Not counting the inhabitants of that city minus made a terrarium for.)

The 106th strip changes the course of the comic forever.5

It opens with a snazzily dressed man all in orange, with a top hat that conceals his eyes, and who is carrying a briefcase. He walks along with a spring in his step, and encounters minus and the green-haired girl making more sidewalk chalk drawings. He gives them a sales pitch about the new, “state of the art” chalk he has with him in his briefcase, and asks if they want to see it.

Now, this strip is one that, the more you think about it, the more disturbing it gets. This is the classic scenario that everyone is taught as a child to avoid like the plague. If somebody walks up to you, and does something like this, what you should do is run away, because he is trying to abduct you. But minus does not understand this, and so looks in the briefcase. While she is distracted, the man stuffs her inside, to the green-haired girl’s complete and total horror. She should have told her friend not to listen to the guy, but did she? No, she didn’t.

That said, she demands that the man release minus. Surprisingly, he complies, and opens his briefcase. minus lands hard on the sidewalk, and the man walks away, probably elated that the green-haired girl didn’t run away to call the cops. Now that the man is gone, the green-haired girl asks minus if she is okay. Unfortunately, as can be seen by the fact that the background scenery is changing before our eyes, it is clear that minus is not okay. She says something unintelligible, and winds up cutting her body in half so that her legs are at the top of the panel while the rest of her body is below. But this effect lasts for only one panel, and she is back to “normal” by the end of it. The background returns to how it was originally, and the green-haired girl expresses concern. minus gets a huge smile on her face, one that is not natural, thus confirming that no, she is not back to normal. But she resumes her chalk drawing, while her friend is perturbed.

The title of the 107th strip is minus! with an exclamation mark instead of a period at the end. This symbolizes that minus is still affected by what happened in the previous strip. It is kind of hard to describe the effects, as she appears to have lost all sense of reality, and now has Rubberhose Limbs, to show that something is off. She stops suddenly, sits down on the sidewalk, and transforms herself into a chair. Other pedestrians do not seem to know why there is a chair in the middle of the sidewalk. When a runner, huffing and puffing, sees the chair, he sits down to rest, only for minus to laugh uproariously and turn back into a human, and scaring the bejeezus out of this bystander. For her next trick, minus turns herself into a puddle, snickering all the while, as we see a man and two kids walk along, presumably her next victims. We never see what happens to them though, because this is the end of the strip.

In the 108th strip, minus is still not back to normal. It opens with Clary and the green-haired girl talking about her condition. Apparently it’s been a week since the incident and she is still not better. According to the green-haired girl, she has been doing nothing but spinning circles in her yard for three days. Not even her eternally unseen parents are forcing her to go to school.

While this is going on, the white-haired girl and the ponytailed girl enter the panel, and the white-haired girl enters the conversation. She is dismayed to find out what has become of minus, especially because the green-haired girl is genuinely worried about her friend. So the white-haired girl suggests hitting minus on the head with a rock, reasoning that a Tap On the Head always returns somebody to normal in stories. The green-haired girl says that that would just hurt minus more, but the white-haired girl dismisses her objections with the reasoning that it wouldn’t be used in stories if it didn’t work. I guess we can assume that she is not a troper, then? She shrugs and says that her suggestion is better than nothing, which makes the green-haired girl desperate enough to go through with it, after nervously glancing at Clary and then at the ground.

In the next panel, we see multiple shots of minus, in rotation, indicating that she is still spinning around, and in the middle, we see the green-haired girl carrying a rock so big it would probably kill anybody struck with it. This is foreshadowing.

As minus floats near the green-haired girl, without even acknowledging the girl’s presence, the green-haired girl preemptively apologizes, and, clearly distraught, strikes minus on the head. She apologizes a second time, but sees, to her horror, that minus has not gone back to normal. Instead, minus somehow shatters into smithereens, and quite understandably, the green-haired girl freaks out. minus is now dead because of her. I have to wonder if it was just a coincidence that this happened in the 108th strip, since that number has spiritual significance in Eastern cultures.

I told you the white-haired girl was a dumbass!

You may be wondering how the comic can possibly continue now. You will see, in the next part of this review. Make sure to comment!


1 And kindly ignore the fact that you aren’t riding a horse…

2 Strip 98, panel 8

3 This is a very minor detail in the grand scheme of things, but it is interesting to note that the green-haired girl is wearing something different from what she normally does. This isn’t the first time the comic has averted the Limited Wardrobe trope (minus has several different jackets, and the characters also wear their school uniforms only at school) but this is the first I noticed it for a character other than minus.

4 Because you know, people have to get permission if they want to have a character be a Boy Scout or Girl Scout, hence all the Suspiciously Similar Substitutes we see in fiction.

5 Before I checked this, I was sure this was the 105th strip. Clearly I am wrong, or else I am slowly going insane.

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  1. Alchemist64 on 9 November 2013, 16:19 said:

    Having now finished the comic, I’m very excited to hear your thoughts on what happens at the end.

  2. Brendan Rizzo on 9 November 2013, 17:26 said:

    Having now finished the comic, I’m very excited to hear your thoughts on what happens at the end.

    Oh, don’t worry. You will see. I am also going to review the extra strips Armand drew that are not in continuity, as a special bonus article.