We might as well make it clear at the outset, not that there’s probably much doubt : no, This No Place To Say (published in 2013 and bearing #18 in the Mini Kus! series on its spine — errr, okay, back cover) isn’t by that Michael Jordan — this one’s a German neo-surrealist cartoonist with an Eraserhead-era Lynchian sensibility and an apparent predilection for colors that fall roughly in the “mustard” range. I tried to get to this one (as well as the next comic I’ll be reviewing, Theo Ellsworth’s Birthday) during Kus! theme week at the end of September, but time ran out on me, so — better late than never?
The subconsciously-channeled narrative here involves a stand-in for the author falling through his coffee cup into a densely bureaucratic medical facility carved into the side of a mountain, where he may or may not require treatment for a condition he may or may not have — all he (and I suppose, by extension, we) knows is that he wants to go home, and that the stigmata wounds in one of the nurse’s hands appear to provide a portal for him to do just that. Your guess as to how he’s gonna get through one or the other of those, however, is as good as mine — or his.
Unsettling in terms both tonal and structural, things here are just recognizable enough to make a vaguely intuitive type of “sense,” but don’t expect much by way of concrete, hard-and-fast determinism in these tightly-rendered pages. If I had to guess what Jordan was going for here — and, I must stress, it’s only a guess — it would be an evocation of some sort of the feeling physical sickness leaves upon the sufferer, the whole “these people are supposed to help me but I don’t even understand what they’re talking about” sort of confusion/unease that anyone who’s ever had to go to a hospital for just about any reason other than as a visitor or employee knows all too well. When you’re thinking “fix me up and get me outta here,” but all you’re getting is dry medical nomenclature you can’t even begin to process, that quietly violent disconnect lingers — and Jordan communicates it marvelously here.
With all that in mind, then, the dreamlike quality this comic possesses is probably not just a good thing, it’s likely the only way to tell this type of story, to the extent that the term “story” even applies. It feels to me more like a Janovian primal scream played at low volume, a transcribing of basic and elemental fears that are nevertheless beyond the ability of mere words to communicate. Can’t tell us? Then show us. And Jordan surely does that.
There’s a dash of Michael Kupperman at the outskirts in the illustration here, but only a dash. By and large, Jordan is confident enough in his own not-inconsiderable abilities to eschew the overly referential in his visual language, and he lays out the perspective in his panels in such a manner that the characters don’t quite relate to each other spatially as they would in the “real” world (whatever that even is). There’s a deliberate static nature to their less-than-movements that likewise has just enough of the familiar to it to let you know something’s off, and sometimes that kind of thing is actually weirder than going full-on weirdo. That’s certainly the case here.
What we’ve got with this comic, then, is something eminently relatable and decidedly alien in one go. It may not be much of a place to stay — but you’ll most definitely visit it over and over again.
This No Place To Stay is available for $6 (worldwide shipping is free!) directly from the publisher at https://kushkomikss.ecrater.com/p/18995305/this-no-place-to-stay-michael
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