Entropy Editions Round-Up : “Prison” By Liva Kandevica

There are many different types of prisons — those constructed from without and those constructed from within, those that we can escape and those we can’t, those undoubtedly real and those at the very least possibly imagined. One of history’s more infamous convicts, Charles Manson, once said “prison’s in your mind — can’t you see I’m free?,” but the unnamed protagonist of Leipzig, Germany-based cartoonist Liva Kandevica’s Prison, catalogue number EE02 in publisher Justin Skarhus’ Entropy Editions range, apparently didn’t get Charlie’s memo : metaphorically imprisoned by dint of sheer isolation, they suffer, as they live, entirely alone, and largely in silence.

Err — except for the talking (and endlessly taunting) stones, that is.

For the heavily-routinized among us, this critic included, Kandevica’s 24-page mini will no doubt hit home, given that her prisoner is their own jailer, and the bars and walls of their metaphorical cell appear to be constructed entirely of their personal habits, but as most anyone who’s ever found it impossible to break free of their circumstances can tell you, there is a comfort in hewing to one’s norms that is downright insidious — we’ll keep on doing the same shit over and over again even, perhaps especially, when we know said shit is no good for us. “Old habits are hard to break,” “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” — these cliches didn’t just appear out of nowhere.

Here’s the thing, though — despite how things sound to this point, this comic isn’t all doom and gloom. There are mysteries lurking within it (what those annoying stones symbolize is entirely up to your own independent analysis), sure, but there’s also a deeply existential streak of absurdist humor that runs throughout (and just underneath) the narrative here, one that is as much felt as it is seen, and the “dual track” first-person narration Kandevica employs (see artwork examples) effectively approximates what amounts to a “split-screen” effect between words and pictures, meaning this is a comic where both elements work together in concert and separately. It’s weird, but it’s both effective and affecting — and that’s really not the worst summation of the book itself, either, now that I come to think of it.

What makes it work isn’t, thankfully, all that difficult to quantify — Kandevica’s unique blend of minimalist figure drawing, classically “catroony” environments, and judiciously-placed washes is damn pleasing to the eye, and about as apropos to her subject matter as one can think of or perhaps even hope for. Striking a delicate balance between visual elements is a flat-out necessity when you’re taking readers on a journey this singular, and while there’s no miraculous “jailbreak” to speak of on offer, this is at the very least an aesthetically pleasing prion to be trapped within.

For all that, though, you can’t help but have some sympathy for the poor sap at the center of this tale of self-induced woe. We’ve all been stuck in some ruts in our lives, and to one degree or another most of us have some going right now (got a job? Then I’m referring to you). Escape might not be easy, and in some cases might not even be preferable, but Kandevica reminds us that it’s an option, whether we can see it or not. She’s constructed a story about a solitary and isolated individual that somehow, go figure, speaks to the concerns, even fears, of just about everyone. Whatever she’s serving time for, I say let her off for good behavior.


Prison is available for $7.00 from the Entropy Editions online shop at https://entropyeditions.bigcartel.com/product/prison

Review wrist check – Seaborne Trading Co. “Sea Venture” in their “Sunset Bezel” variation riding Seaborne’s own “Bondi Blue” NATO strap. If there’s such a thing as a perfect watch for the 97-degree weather we “enjoyed” here in the Twin Cities today, then this is it.

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