For the final entry (that being #90) in their latest foursome of Mini Kus! releases, Latvian publisher Kus! turns to the always-reliably-inventive Canadian cartoonist Marc Bell, whose work I’ll go out on a limb and assume most readers of this site are already well-familiar with. Or, at the very least, really should be. And in the pages of Banal Complications, he does what he does best, which is — his own kind of thing altogether.
This is a “meta” narrative, with Bell’s protagonist Chop Salad (always with these names, I tell ya!) pretty clearly standing in for the artist himself, so if that kind of thing annoys you, just check out now — but if you’re down for a fun and inventive take on a premise that really isn’t either one most of the time anymore? Then you’ve come to the right place. Maybe even the only place. Or, at the very least, this place — which is rather unlike any other place.
Also, fair warning : this isn’t a “comic” per se so much as it’s an illustrated short story about what sure seems like a real-life series of, well, banal complications that strike our guy Chop Salad as he tries to get his apartment rented out, and artwork either sold or stored away, prior to a temporary move south of the border to my hometown of Minneapolis. It’s all very perfunctory stuff, sure, but Bell interprets the everyday though a stream-of-consciousness filter that ends up giving the whole thing a feel probably not unlike, I dunno, David Tibet reading aloud his daily “to-do” list. It’s weird, sure — and this “story” takes a turn for the even more weird when some of the artwork in question is reproduced on the page juxtaposed next to new text and art referring to it (art about situations dealing with art that already exists? Only Bell can get away with that) — but none of it seems alien or even terribly unusual in and of itself on paper. It’s all, as they say, in the delivery.
And, of course, nobody delivers the goods like Bell. I’ve always detected just a hint of Mark Beyer at the margins of his work — and I doubt I’m the only one — but by and large, if there’s one thing he’s done over the years, it’s invent a constantly-evolving visual language all his own and then make the de facto “teaching” of it to readers an entirely approachable and involving exercise. His world is his world, but it’s just close enough to yours for you to be able to relate to — yet also just different enough to seem, well, pretty damn far out.
Of special note is how perfect the title for this particular project is : yes, the shit’s all kinda complicated, fair enough, but in total it represents the kind of “one thing after another” slog that we’ve all dealt with in relation to major (or even semi-major) life changes — so while this might qualify as complimenting Bell on a truly minor detail, in point of fact the accumulation of minor details is what this book is all about, so there you have it. Also, Bell’s lettering — again, generally considered a minor detail by most — is really crisp and unique and solid, too, and given that there’s so much of it (this being a very text-heavy piece), this also plays a key role. Top to bottom, then, inside and out, this book is as well-constructed as it is singularly-constructed.
Look, who are we kidding? Chances are that if you know Bell, you know you want this regardless of what some critic has to say. I’m just here, I guess, to tell you that you’re right. So, hey, congratulations — you’re right.
Banal Complications is available for $7.00 from the Kus! webshop at https://kushkomikss.ecrater.com/p/36507498/banal-complications-by-marc-bell
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