Casting far and wide for both talent and subject matter, Mini Kus! #89 from Latvia’s eclectic “art comics” publishing house Kus! features a Portuguese cartoonist, Joana Estrela, telling a decidedly contemporary version of an ancient Lithuanian fable in Egle And The Snake, which sees the serpent cast in its traditional role as schemer but our woman protagonist, while perhaps a little too polite for her own good (up to a point, at any rate), assuming a great deal more agency and self-determination than, say, the biblical Eve. It’s about time, sure — but there’s also something quite timeless about what this comic has to say about relationships and gender roles and power dynamics.
Egle is young — high-school age, according to the narrative — but wise enough to smell a rat (errr, snake) and to know when to say when. But damn if this story isn’t a perfect short-form encapsulation of sleazy male-engineered manipulation that often leads to tragic results : first he strikes up conversation with her based on the band t-shirt she’s wearing. Then the friends he’s supposedly waiting on don’t show up. Then he regales her with empty compliments. Then he offers to drive her home. Then, hey, why don’t they go by his place? Then — you get the idea.
Estrela’s figure drawings are agreeably simple — not such a tricky thing, I guess, when one of your two characters is a snake — but her use of color is exciting and unpredictable, her pastel-shaded pinks, greens, blacks, whites, and blues deployed with a kind of intuitive nonchalance that I’m sure actually belies a great deal of deliberative thinking. There’s a stylistic through-line to the book that gives it a necessary consistency, but the emotive choice of dominant hues on each page makes every one of them feel like a unique experience that conveys a singular mood within the larger narrative framework. Done incorrectly, this kind of approach could feel really disjointed — fortunately, it’s not just done correctly here, it’s done perfectly.
And, of course, the story itself couldn’t be more timely even if it’s ancient. In this day and age where men are finally being taken to task — not insignificantly within the comics community itself — on behavior that’s sleazy, manipulative, and inherently exploitative, Estrela finds a way to communicate something we’re hearing about with depressing frequency in a way that’s imaginative, rife with tension, and ultimately celebratory of women’s autonomy. Her characters are drawn in broad strokes both literally and metaphorically, sure, but they feel real and so does the situation itself. A parable for the ages, indeed.
Actually, though, it might not be fair to tag this with the label of “parable” at all. Yeah, you’re not gonna run into a talking snake down at the beach — unless you’ve got access to some really good hallucinogenics — but otherwise, this is a fairly classic example of the old “came to visit, decided to stay” sort of angling that a lot of creepy guys try to work on women they consider vulnerable on any given night of the week. Or any given day. At any given bar. Or club. Or school. Or workplace. Or online — geez, you get the point.
Anyway, this is sequential storytelling that’s as powerful as it is basic, and better yet it understands that and derives its power from its simplicity and universality. I urge you not to miss it.
Egle And The Snake is available for $7.00 from the Kus! webshop at https://kushkomikss.ecrater.com/p/36507494/egl-and-the-snake-by-joana
Review wrist check – back to the Monta “Atlas” blue dial model, this time riding a Hirsch “Birch” strap from their “performance” series. A nice balance between dressy and casual that works either way, you could do this combo up with a button-up shirt and a tie as easily as you could with short sleeves and jeans. I opted, of course, for the latter.