Kus! Week : Liana Mihailova’s “Neverending Race” (Mini Kus! #81)

I’m not sure if the relationship between a prize show dog and her (his?I dunno) owner/trainer in Latvian cartoonist Liana Mihailova’s Neverending Race (#81 in the venerable Mini Kus! line of “art” comics) is more a study in Cartesian dualism, polar opposites, or just good, old fashioned co-dependence, but clearly it’s far more emotionally and physically draining for one than it is for the other, and the “shattered” (as the Brits would say) partner isn’t the one who’s doing all the work.

Which is a rather clever ploy on irony in a general sense, when you think about it — I mean, it’s not who you’d expect, but really it is. Which just goes to show where decades of faux “sophistication” have left us, I suppose, but no matter — it’s not like the central aim of this work is to bowl you over with a “twist,” anyway. There’s something a lot more complex — and yet in no way obfuscated or otherwise put through the meat grinder of postmodernism — going on here. And it’s delivered with a playful, self-effacing touch that hits just the right note.

This also — or maybe that should be especially — applies to the visuals, swathes of rich colors layered thick on abstract shapes that combine to form entirely coherent people, animals, and objects, Mihailova’s not out to do anything apart from communicate events and emotions in a reasonably clever style, to be original enough yet refrain from self-congratulation. Confident art that knows it’s good, isn’t afraid to say so, but doesn’t feel the need to take a victory lap in front of your face? Goddamn, but I’ll take that every time.

And while this is a fun mini to both look at and read, as already established, it’s in no way vacuous. No mental cotton candy is being served herein. Mihailova’s choices in terms of use of space, layout, and illustrating motion are unique and thought-provoking, and ditto for the lettering, which borrows a page philosophically, if not stylistically, from Isabel Reidy/Izzy True, establishing itself as an entity within the body of the artwork itself, rather than a separate entity employed for narrative purposes only. This isn’t a “heavy” comic by any means, but please don’t take that to mean it doesn’t serve up plenty to think about.

So what does that mean? It means that all the elements at play here are working in concert to set a tone, and that tone is the work’s greatest strength — among plenty, frankly, to choose from. Nothing’s forced, no effort in the scripting or illustration is extraneous, the whole frigging thing just clicks from start to finish. That’s impressive enough in and of itself, but the fact that it’s backed by legitimate philosophical heft and weight kicks things up to another level altogether. Not that it ever feels any heavier than, say, a feather. Are you impressed yet? I suppose not, this being only a review and all, but once you read the comic itself, trust me when I say — you absolutely will be.

Liana Mihailova’s name is an unfamiliar one to me (I think? I’d have to check through all my S! anthologies to make sure, which isn’t something that’s gonna happen right now), but it’s one I’ll follow just about anywhere now. Neverending Race announces the arrival (again, at least to me, as if that even matters) of a major new cartooning talent who knows exactly what they’re doing, as well as how to do it. “Floored” doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling.


Clearly, you need to buy this comic, so break out six bucks (worldwide shipping is free!) and head over to http://www.komikss.lv/

Also, please consider supporting my ongoing work by subscribing to my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. The link for that is https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse


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