While I admit to finding the subject fascinating, I’m by no means on expert on psychotherapy, to say nothing of its more — esoteric offshoots such as hypnotherapy, DBT, so-called “past life regression,” and the like. And while I harbor no doubt that any licensed and educated therapist would be absolutely appalled at me lumping entirely reputable forms of analysis in with stuff that many folks perceive to be sheer quackery, as I just did, for the purpose of discussing the most recent entry (that would be #94, for those keeping score at home) in the Mini Kus! line from our Latvian friends and Kus!, Aidan Koch’s Man Made Lake, it really is necessary to list — or perhaps the right term would be blend — them all together. Rest assured, all will be explained — to the extent I’m capable of doing so.
Which, admittedly, isn’t much, but then that’s the really wonderful thing about both this comic and Koch’s work in general. Always ethereal, mysterious, and just beyond the reach of conscience explanation, her art nevertheless always makes sense — it’s just that it’s a kind of sense that is felt, or even intuited, rather than one that’s arrived at through purely logical means. And it really helps that her evocative, watercolor-style illustration is more than just beautiful, it’s downright enthralling.
Don’t take any of the preceding to mean that there isn’t a story to be found playing itself out here, though — there most certainly is, it’s just a tricky one to summarize. A young man is attending a psychoanalysis session and remembers being a fish, perhaps even more than one kind of fish, and remembers his family members being part of the animal kingdom, as well. Then he — and they — became human, and it all kinda went to shit. Not in any concrete, easy-to-put-your-finger-on way, mind you — but in every single way imaginable, nevertheless.
What out protagonist misses most of all is the feeling, the freedom, the enhanced and no doubt non-hierarchical array of perceptions that the aquatic life afforded him, and who can really blame the guy? This whole primacy of the visual at the expense of the other senses is surely the most insidious tyranny ever devised, and it’s one that not only shapes our reality but necessarily perverts and distorts it — dare I say even cheapens it. And while the evolutionary biologist would no doubt argue that this scenario developed over time as a necessary survival mechanism, we certainly lost a lot of the richness and texture of life along the way. We’ve survived, all right — at the expense of actually living. And the totality of the sensory hierarchy is so all-pervasive now that most people can’t draw a distinction between survival and living, anyway.
Koch, for her past, certainly can — and while she makes any number of other points about the separation between the human and animal worlds, it’s fair to say that they’re all tinged with melancholy, with a sense of having sacrificed much more than we gained when we placed “us” over and above “them.” And the fact that she communicates all of this with an economy of words that is superseded, in a gloriously unforced manner, by a melodic tapestry of gorgeously fluid images? Well, that’s the most impressive thing of all — as well as being thematically appropriate to a degree that’s downright painful in its beauty.
This is a comic to do more than simply “read,” then — let it wash over you and get under your skin in equal measure. You may just find it to be an experience unlike any other — I know I sure did.
Man Made Lake is available for $7.00 from the Kus! webshop at https://kushkomikss.ecrater.com/p/37507507/man-made-lake-by-aidan
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