Weekly Reading Round-Up : 05/19/2019 – 05/25/2019, Mini Kus! #s 75-78

It’s that time again — four more new releases in the Mini Kus! line from our favorite Latvian comics publisher (and, truth be told, one of our favorite publishers, period) , Kus!  This time out the quartet is even more experimental and avant-garde than usual — and “usual” is a word that never applies to these things, anyway. Let’s have a look, shall we?

Alice Socal’s Junior (Mini Kus! #75) flips the tables on human reproduction (not that it features humans, mind you, the female being a cat, the male being — I dunno, is that a dog of some sort?) by having the man of the house wonder what it would like to be pregnant in a dream, only to wake up and find out that he is. Or is he? Or was he ever? And if he was, does he miss it now? Nary an answer to be found in this one, friends, but plenty of intriguing questions, and Socal’s cartooning, while a bit “cutesy” for my tastes, is expressive and inherently witty. If you need your comics to make “sense,” you’re gonna be shit out of luck with this one, but as we shall see, that’s a pattern with this latest crop of releases.

Paula Puiupo’s Maunder (Mini Kus! #76) may be the wildest of a very wild bunch seeing as how it’s part family drama, part complete mindfuck, part purely interpretive meditation on shifting between dimensions or planes of existence purely through the power of thought. By turns deceptively simple and impenetrably dense, Puiupo’s scraggy linework and inventive page layouts are quite pleasing to the eye, but her non-narrative approach to exploring a deliberately confounding subject (or series of subjects) is — well, deliberately confounding, I suppose. As it should be? Sure. As you want it to be? Depends — this is as “your mileage may vary” as comics get, not just from one reader to another, but internally within each reader, as well. I’ve made my way through this one three times, first finding it utterly fascinating, then completely pointless, then a bizarre amalgamation of both. Any work that makes you question it that hard from that many angles is clearly doing something right — but what is that, and toward what end is it being employed? Still working on this one, folks — and I may be doing so for a long time.

Rebeka Lukosus’ Oops (Mini Kus! #77) is Tara Booth-esque in tone, temperament, style, and subject matter — wordless and borderless panels flowing from one to the next as we follow the day-to-day of a woman with six arms who appears to spend most of her time safely ensconced within her own imaginary dreamworld. It’s fun and formally interesting, but in all fairness seems a bit slight to the point of bordering on self-indulgence. As pleased as I was by what I saw in this one, it never made a terribly convincing argument as to why I should need to see it. Falling somewhere between being an agreeable enough use of one’s time and a complete waste of it, I’m finding myself of the opinion that I wanted to like this one more than I actually did.

Hironori Kukuchi’s House To House (Mini Kus! #78) is another one that deliberately gives “readers” the silent treatment as it relates the travails of a fantasy novelist attempting to deliver a book to a bed-ridden reader, only to require — or, in a pinch, be saddled with — assistance of a truly alien variety. The Jim Woodring influence is strong in this one, young Padawan, but Kukuchi offers a novel take on stories of this nature by dint of bright colors and a video game-influenced design sensibility. Not an easy story to follow, but a fun one to attempt making head or tail of, with success being far from guaranteed. There may be some sort of oddball genius at work here — but it sure ain’t me.

I’ll probably find myself returning to this foursome quite a bit as my reactions toward, and appreciation of, each of ’em seems to be developing over time, which means that even if I don’t end up “liking” them all in the traditional sense, I’ll have gotten my money’s worth — as will you, if you order them either separately for $6.00 each, or together at $19.00 for the set. Shipping to the continental US is, as with all items from this publisher, absolutely free. Your link is :https://kushkomikss.ecrater.com/filter.php?sort=date&keywords=&perpage=40

And while we’re tossing out links, please take a moment to consider supporting my work by joining my Patreon. For as little as a dollar a month, you get thrice-weekly updates on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Best bargain around, with plenty of content up for you already. I’d be very pleased to add you to my small-but-loyal legion over there.

Oh yeah, the link. Here is is :https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 12/09/2018 – 12/15/2018, Mini Kus! Goes To China

After a couple of weeks off to review all of what’s come before in 2018 for my slate of year-end “Top 10” columns, the Weekly Reading Round-Up is back, and we’ve got a damn interesting slate to look at from our Latvian friends at Kus! this week, as they continue their journey eastward. The last issue of their long-running S! anthology series focused on comics from Japan, and this time out, their latest quartet of Mini Kus! releases spotlights four unique and distinctive cartoonists from China, all presented courtesy of guest-editor R. Orion Martin of Chinese indie/alternative comics publisher Paradise Systems. Let’s get right down to business, shall we?

Doghair by Ganmu is number 71 in the Mini Kus! line and features cold, austere artwork that matches the tone of its protagonist, an obsessive type who pours all of that obsession into the well-being, appearance, and happiness of his dog — to the detriment of everyone else, his wife included. A provocative, if decidedly unsubtle, character study of the sort of person anyone would do well to avoid, but who nevertheless makes for an intriguing individual to spend some (uncomfortable) time with, this mini impresses for its holistic approach rooted in clinical dispassion, its formal execution perfectly reflecting the nature of its subject.

Beyond A Cure by Fenta (Chinese cartoonists sure do love these single-word pen names), which bears the designation of Mini Kus! number 72, also grounds itself firmly in the aesthetics of austerity, sparsely and cleanly delineating an interior landscape of “original sin” minus any sort of religious or supernatural trappings. This comic seems to obliquely suggest that we live in a fallen world because we’re each of us fallen individuals, and while it’s an unmistakably frank read from first page to last, it nevertheless succeeds in leaving a perfectly intentional stain on the conscience without resorting to anything so cheap and easy as cynicism or misanthropy. Abandon hope all ye who enter here and all that, sure, but only because, hey, that’s the way things are and ain’t nothin’ you can do to change it. I was perplexed and challenged by this book, and frankly am a bit envious of how quickly and effortlessly it managed to take my mind to some dark places without manipulating me to get there.

On a lighter note (finally), Mini Kus! number 73, Inkee Wang’s Special K is bright, welcoming, cheerful, even frenetic in terms of its visual language, which plays well considering its narrative is rooted in the world of online gamer culture. When the reigning worldwide champion of a first-person shooter game called “WarLife Battlegrounds” is exposed as a cheater, something truly unexpected happens — disheartened players the world over simply don’t have the energy to kill each other vicariously anymore, and peace and calm descends upon their virtual world by default. I’ve read many a fine Kus!-published mini over the years — this one stands out for its sheer ingenuity, simply and unpretentiously arrived at and articulated, and marks Wang as a talent to watch out for.

Wrapping up our — uhhmmm — wrap-up, we have Mini Kus! number 74, Yan Cong’s UNIQLO Superman, a vibrant, lush, and colorful collection of two stories, the first concerning a thief who targets a UNIQLO clothing store (think a Chinese Gap or Forever 21), the second a rather tender love story between a frog and his —wife? Neither of these yarns is particularly substantial conceptually, but both are innovative enough in terms of execution and presentation to make you either forget, or be totally unconcerned by, the fact that they’re rather slight reads. I’m tempted to say I enjoyed them more than they deserved to be enjoyed, but in truth the mere fact that I did enjoy them is testament to the notion that there’s some powerful craft at work here that is able to transcend what should by rights amount to a self-inflicted critical blow. In these pages, Cong administers a case study in how to elevate mediocre material to a much higher level through sheer talent and technique.

And that does it for this week! Next time up, if all goes to plan, I’ll be introducing you to the work of a cartoonist from right here in the good old US of A who’s bringing the unique perspective of a true auteur to the world of genre storytelling. See you back here in seven short days for that! In the meantime, this foursome of Mini Kus! books can be ordered directly from the publisher for the bargain rate of $19, free shipping included, at https://kushkomikss.ecrater.com/p/31919969/mini-ku-71-72-73-74