Kus! Week : Samplerman’s “Bad Ball” (Mini Kus! #54)

As we wrap up Kus! week here in this musty, largely-hidden corner of the blogosphere (does anyone use that term anymore?), I thought I’d avail myself of the opportunity to shed and/or shine some light on a couple favorite Mini Kus! releases from recent years that haven’t received write-ups from yours truly in the past. So, I guess I might be making up for an egregious oversight or two on my part before we put this “theme week” to bed. First up : Yvan Guillo/Samplerman’s Bad Ball, #54 in the Mini Kus! line.

For those unfamiliar with Samplerman’s modus operandi/shtick, he “remixes” extant public domain comics panels — mostly from the so-called “Golden Age” — by digitally manipulating the drawings in various creative ways, inserting some of his own computer-generated (I’m assuming) images, and then shaking the whole thing up in a kaleidoscope and seeing what comes of it all.

I’m making that last part up, of course, but the results are more or less along those lines. And while some of the pages and panels are more successfully-realized than others, it’s no reach to say that they’re all interesting.

In Bad Ball, Samplerman utilizes a standard 2×3 grid to chronicle the exploits of his titular ball, a kind of sentient Silly Putty blob that can pretty much assume any shape, do anything, and end up anywhere. Hijinks ensue — as you’d (correctly, in this case) assume them to, and the retro “comedy of errors” tone brings to mind the sort of Three Stooges/Laurel and Hardy slapstick stuff that was popular concurrently with the comics that are appropriated herein. As far as self-realization goes, then, Bad Ball is in possession of it in spades : this is a very specific sort of work constructed according to a specific (if endlessly surprising) method in order to achieve a specific result. Which is probably a tougher thing to pull off than it sounds.

I’m of a mind that the best way to take a work like this in is fast and furious — it’s a quick read, and lends itself best to a sort of “what the fuck was I just exposed to?” sort of interpretation, its full impact, which isn’t inconsiderable, washing over you  afterwards. A detailed examination of each image is a worthwhile task to apply yourself to, don’t get me wrong, but it’s designed with immediacy in mind, and you cheat yourself out of that by poring over the contents on offer with a fine-toothed comb on first pass-through. I recommend resisting that urge until you open it a second time — even if that second time is right after the first, which it likely will be.

So yeah, much as a certain segment of my readership might be allergic to such a thing on even a conceptual level, this is first and foremost a fun comic, but it’s a fun comic that is in no way disposable, and rewards re-examination once it’s been powered through in short order. Samplerman’s work lends itself well to the mini format, and even if you think clever and inventive gimmicks are a weak foundation to build something upon, give this one a whirl — you only think it’s too slight and “surface level” for your high-fallutin’ standards.


Bad Ball is available for $6 (with free worldwide shipping!) from the publisher at http://www.komikss.lv/

Also, please consider supporting my ongoing work by subscribing to my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. The link for that is https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse



Kus! Week : “Plant Power” (S! #36)

I’ve never had an overwhelming interest in botany, and certainly don’t have much of a green thumb (to the probable chagrin of my neighbors), so if a plant-based comics anthology (I know, I know — the choice of wording on my part there makes it sound more like a meal, or even an honest-to-goodness diet) is going to win me over, well — it’s going to have to work pretty hard. But while the theme may be of little import to me personally, S! Baltic Comics Magazine always is, and so I was more than willing to put my disinterest aside and give the venerable “digest-sized portable art gallery” series’ latest volume, entitled Plant Power, a go — and whaddya know, talk about proof positive that I need to broaden my horizons!

Lote Vilma Vitina, whose recent entry in the Mini Kus! line also focused on nature and our relationship with/to it, provides the beautifully minimalist cover and carries that over into a sparsely poetic interior strip, but it’s not like there’s an editorial remit demanding uniformity in tone and style at work here — anything but, in fact. S! regular contributor Konig Lu Q. serves up a short and charming satirical story, the sublime Daria Tessler offers a mystical/alchemical look at the plant kingdom that’s rich with lavish detail, Patrick Kyle shows his passion for his subject matter in an uncharacteristically formal piece, Anna Sailamaa takes us on a gorgeous trip into a kind of fairy tale world, Jean de Wet lets the plants do the talking in a post-modern cautionary tale, Marlene Krause steps well outside of what I would consider (or maybe that should be assume, since I’ve seen only a little — too little, in fact — of her work) to be her artistic comfort zone with a crisp, tightly-focused offering — by running the gamut, we get a very comprehensive view of what our green friends not only mean to us, but are, human concerns and uses be damned.

As always, there are a number of names who are new to me in this collection — Ingrida Pikucane, Molly Fairhurst, Peony Gent, Pauls Rietums, Simon H, Vivianna Maria Stanislavska, and Valentine Gallardo have all landed on my radar screen for the first time, but their work herein is so strong that I’m hoping to see more of them very soon, while more established artists (to my mind, at any rate) such as Tor Brandt, Ward Zwart, Amandine Meyer, Disa Wallander, and the aforementioned Vitina all contribute strips that meet or, in many cases, exceed the high standards they’ve previously established for themselves. About the only entry that did well and truly nothing for me was Roman Muradov’s, and his body of work is so consistently eclectic that you honestly never know what you’re going to get from him. When he hits, he really hits, it’s true — but when he misses, he can miss by a country mile. His story here is a best classified as a “near miss” in that it’s easy enough to see what he’s going for, but his choices seem incongruous with achieving his aims. I give him big points for attempting something different — hey, he always does — but this particular strip could have done with a bit of a re-think, at least in this critic’s hopefully-humble opinion.

Visually speaking, everything presented between these covers is interesting — much of it’s even hauntingly beautiful — and evokes emotive and heartfelt responses to the subject matter it’s exploring. Not everything is gorgeous — although damn, so much of it is — but it’s all apropos of the central theme, and when you’re talking about an “art comics” anthology, what more can you really ask for?

And that’s actually a question that’s fair to ask of this collection in general — is there anything you’d like to see in an anthology of comics about plants that this edition of S! doesn’t have? I feel like all the thematic bases are well covered here, although given my own pre-disposition, it may be acurate, I suppose, to say that a real “botany nerd” might find these contents lacking in some way, shape, or form — but it’s hard to see where. Or how. Or why.

Color me green, then — and color me very impressed while you’re at it. I was expecting be far less engaged with this material than I typically am with S! offerings, but by the time I was done with it, I found it to be one of their strongest, most coherent, most powerful volumes yet. This is one you don’t want to miss — and I may even give it another considered look after mowing my lawn.


Plant Power is available for $13.95 (worldwide shipping is free!) from the publisher at http://www.komikss.lv/

Also, please consider supporting my ongoing work by subscribing to my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. The link for that is https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse



Kus! Week : “Bonkers” (S! #35)

The blacklight-and-neon-green cover to Bonkers, issue #35 of S! The Baltic Comics Magazine, a product of the imagination of Norwegian cartoonist Erlend Peder Kvam — who also provides one of the anthology’s strongest strips, a sing-song number that features a trio of anthropomorphic animal/space creature hybrids going about their largely-leisurely business with a spring in their step and a shared “hive-mind” between then — announces that the tightly-focused themes that most volumes of this series tether themselves to is pretty well out the window this time out, and that in its place we have an eclectic gathering of artists from around the globe quite literally letting it all hang out. All well and good, right?

But when you crack that cover open, things by and large get even better, as the “gallery-show-in-the-palm-of-your-hand” editorial remit the title has always lived and died by turns out to lend itself very nicely to an “anything goes” assemblage of “raw feed” direct from the subconscious minds of some very interesting minds indeed. It’s tough, I suppose, to say what would fit within the extremely broad framework of a “bonkers” collection, but you’d know damn well if something didn’t — and to the credit of this edition, there are no sore-thumb standouts, but there are plenty of standouts in the more general sense of that term.

Jason Herr regales us with a finely-detailed-in-its-exaggeration journey into cosmic headspaces, Marko Maetamm channels his inner Greg Stump with a noisy debate between shadow-bathed figures of some sort that are superseded altogether by their own word balloons, Brazil’s Fabio Zimbres serves up a slice of bizarro metafiction that is ultimately about both itself and the act of its own creation, Jul Gordon’s strip is a veritable clinic on use of space on the page and the relationship between time and movement, Latvian siblings Ernests and Andrejs Klavins take us to the darkly satirical heart of a trade show whose “trade” appears to be nothing but empty corporate sloganeering, Emilie Gleason depicts a modern office run from a hot tub that has the kind of company “culture” you’d depressingly surmise such a situation would engender, and stalwarts like Theo Ellsworth, Samplerman, and Zane Zlemesa deliver precisely the sort of material you’d expect from them, which is to say something far beyond the expected. And the explicable.

So, yeah, it’s a solid line-up of talent operating on ground that is far less so. Agate Lielpetere, Anna Mlck, Beatrix Urkowitz, David Ozols, Kameeellah, and Konig Lu Q make up a respectable second tier of creators that have produced work commensurate with their talents, and Olaf Ladousse, white largely missing the mark with his experimental offering, at least keeps things interesting in both narrative and visual terms. Karlina Marta Zvirbule’s “story” is the only one that fell completely flat for me, but even there it’s not like you can’t tell that a hefty amount of work effort into it — sometimes the best intentions just lead you to some rather sorry places.

So, yeah, this one’s all over the map — but most every corner, nook, and cranny of that map is well worth checking out. And even if you get lost — and trust me when I say you will —the “running order” the strips are presented in ensures that you’ll always make it back home safely. Changed, perhaps, sure — but if a dull commitment to conservative formalisn is your bag, I think it’s fair to assume odds are good you’d never buy this collection in the first place, anyway, so your loss is no loss.

While ostensibly competing “prestige” anthologies such as Fantagraphics’ Now have largely taken readers to more valleys than peaks this year, S! just keeps on chugging along, delivering the curious goods largely under the radar. Bonkers doesn’t beg for your attention, but it grabs hold of it firmly once you take notice and never lets go.


Bonkers retails for $13.95 (worldwide shipping is free!) and is available at http://www.komikss.lv/

Also, please consider supporting my ongoing work by subscribing to my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. The link for that is https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse


Kus! Week : Kevin Hooyman’s “Elemental Stars” (Mini Kus! #82)

Kevin Hooyman, of Conditions On The Ground renown, is a perfect choice for the Mini Kus! line — well-established as it is for providing a venue for individualistic, even idiosyncratic, artists to tell short-form stories (assuming they decide to even tell “stories” at all) — and his newly-released mini presented under the imprint’s imprimatur (okay, that was a bit redundant), Elemental Stars, may be #82 in the series, but damn if it won’t quickly become #1 in your heart.

In a dull pastel world populated by anthropomorphic animals/people/aliens/does it really even matter?, a group of neighbors that may or may not be actual “friends” search for the Crystal City that came to one one of them in dream — which may be no accident. Assuming such a city even exists, of course, and that is by no means a guaranteed proposition. But hey — the quest is the quest, amirite?

Oh, but this is a thing of beauty, And charm. And wonder. And joy. In relatively equal proportion across the board. And my oh my how it all flows. Some comics just have “it,” even if you don’t really know what “it” is — nevertheless, you recognize a vacuum left by “its” absence, and know “it” when “it” is present and accounted for. Maybe “it’s” passion. Or purpose. Or both. And maybe — just maybe — “it’s” magic.

Grandiose as “it” — sorry, force of habit, we can lose the quotation marks now — may sound, I’m willing to roll with that in this case. Not since D.R.T.’s Qoberious have I been this thoroughly and immediately immersed in a hermetically-sealed alternate reality/non-reality that was so magnificently delineated and communicated, so eminently relatable yet altogether alien. One where the rules in no way apply, but where we seem to know them, intuitively, regardless. Could I go on and on? Oh, yes, I could. But could I do so without embarrassing myself? That’s highly debatable.

Still, what’s wrong with loving something — and loving everything about that something — and then gushing about it in public? When did that become “uncool” — and who decided that it was? I can’t be dispassionate about what Hooyman has achieved here, and don’t really feel compelled to pretend otherwise. This is a comic whose appeal is almost otherworldly in nature, and to quantify and categorize the exact nature of that appeal feels almost sacrilegious — to say nothing of being counter-productive in the extreme.

Which, hey, fair enough, may come across as little more than a grandiosely-worded complete abdication of my “responsibilities” as a critic, but all I can offer in my likely-meager defense is that I promise you it’s anything but. The quiet and easy grandeur of Elemental Stars is simply something that’s better experienced than it is related, better read than it is read about. It eschews detailed analysis — not that I don’t expect other critics to proffer it aplenty — by existing outside and apart from it, sure, but also by not really needing it in the first place. Which, in a just and proper world, would exhaust my italics quotient for one review, but in this one? You’re not out of the woods yet, I’m afraid. No way. Because before I wrap up here I really do need to let you know that I’m not recommending you read this comic — I’m flat-out imploring you to do so. Ain’t too proud to beg, sweet darlin’.


The six dollars you spend on Elemental Stars (free worldwide shipping included!) may just be the wisest expenditure you make all year. Order it from the publisher at http://www.komikss.lv/

And while you’re at it, please consider supporting my ongoing work by subscribing to my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. The link for that is https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse


Kus! Week : Liana Mihailova’s “Neverending Race” (Mini Kus! #81)

I’m not sure if the relationship between a prize show dog and her (his?I dunno) owner/trainer in Latvian cartoonist Liana Mihailova’s Neverending Race (#81 in the venerable Mini Kus! line of “art” comics) is more a study in Cartesian dualism, polar opposites, or just good, old fashioned co-dependence, but clearly it’s far more emotionally and physically draining for one than it is for the other, and the “shattered” (as the Brits would say) partner isn’t the one who’s doing all the work.

Which is a rather clever ploy on irony in a general sense, when you think about it — I mean, it’s not who you’d expect, but really it is. Which just goes to show where decades of faux “sophistication” have left us, I suppose, but no matter — it’s not like the central aim of this work is to bowl you over with a “twist,” anyway. There’s something a lot more complex — and yet in no way obfuscated or otherwise put through the meat grinder of postmodernism — going on here. And it’s delivered with a playful, self-effacing touch that hits just the right note.

This also — or maybe that should be especially — applies to the visuals, swathes of rich colors layered thick on abstract shapes that combine to form entirely coherent people, animals, and objects, Mihailova’s not out to do anything apart from communicate events and emotions in a reasonably clever style, to be original enough yet refrain from self-congratulation. Confident art that knows it’s good, isn’t afraid to say so, but doesn’t feel the need to take a victory lap in front of your face? Goddamn, but I’ll take that every time.

And while this is a fun mini to both look at and read, as already established, it’s in no way vacuous. No mental cotton candy is being served herein. Mihailova’s choices in terms of use of space, layout, and illustrating motion are unique and thought-provoking, and ditto for the lettering, which borrows a page philosophically, if not stylistically, from Isabel Reidy/Izzy True, establishing itself as an entity within the body of the artwork itself, rather than a separate entity employed for narrative purposes only. This isn’t a “heavy” comic by any means, but please don’t take that to mean it doesn’t serve up plenty to think about.

So what does that mean? It means that all the elements at play here are working in concert to set a tone, and that tone is the work’s greatest strength — among plenty, frankly, to choose from. Nothing’s forced, no effort in the scripting or illustration is extraneous, the whole frigging thing just clicks from start to finish. That’s impressive enough in and of itself, but the fact that it’s backed by legitimate philosophical heft and weight kicks things up to another level altogether. Not that it ever feels any heavier than, say, a feather. Are you impressed yet? I suppose not, this being only a review and all, but once you read the comic itself, trust me when I say — you absolutely will be.

Liana Mihailova’s name is an unfamiliar one to me (I think? I’d have to check through all my S! anthologies to make sure, which isn’t something that’s gonna happen right now), but it’s one I’ll follow just about anywhere now. Neverending Race announces the arrival (again, at least to me, as if that even matters) of a major new cartooning talent who knows exactly what they’re doing, as well as how to do it. “Floored” doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling.


Clearly, you need to buy this comic, so break out six bucks (worldwide shipping is free!) and head over to http://www.komikss.lv/

Also, please consider supporting my ongoing work by subscribing to my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. The link for that is https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse


Kus! Week : Lilli Carre’s “Open Molar” (Mini Kus! #80)

An instruction manual like no other, Chicago-based artist Lilli Carre’s  Open Molar (#80 in the ongoing Mini Kus! line) is at times as utterly indecipherable as an Ikea assembly guide, but infinitely more interesting and, most crucially, rewarding. But what you come up with at the end is still fairly well up for grabs.

Billing itself as teaching readers how to “create a drop-shape for slow relief,” with the caveats that “this solution is only intended for gapped interiors,” and that one should “not skip the first step,” it probably goes without saying that said first step is both the most obvious and the most unattainable, but I’m not about to “spoil” what it is here. It’ll have to suffice to know that how well and how thoroughly you’ve already mastered it will determine how far you go with subsequent instructions — not to mention (except, ya know, I am) where you go with them.

Yeah, I’m afraid this is one of those reviews — slight on detail, suffuse with oblique hints that honestly don’t even rise to the level of being legitimate clues — but, in fairness to myself, it’s also one of those comics. Abstract in the extreme in terms both narrative and visual, open not just to near-infinite interpretation but near-infinite definition, a two-minute read that you can ponder on levels both liminal and subliminal for — shit, I dunno, forever if you really want to.

All of which means, of course, that it’s precisely this critic’s cup of tea. Or water. As water is perhaps the only constant herein. And when your only constant is a liquid, well — you’ve left the shopworn trappings of the avant-garde well in the dust and not passed go, not collected $200 as you’ve entered uncharted, even undiscovered, territory.

At times it would appear we’re talking about a flower here. At others, a loose tooth. At still others, both. At even still others, neither. And the exquisitely sparse, emotionally rich illustrations offer only possibilities as opposed to hard-and-fast “facts.” Whatever those even are. If you’re getting the impression that this is a comic that you feel more than think your way through, congratulations — you’re on the right path. Now go with it.

But where are you going? Maybe everywhere in the world — and by “world” I mean the “world” of both the exterior and interior varieties. Maybe nowhere at all. Maybe those both mean the same thing. Maybe “all or nothing at all” isn’t a zero-sum equation, but an invitation to explore both and realize how much and how little they differ. And maybe — just maybe — for someone who just said you need to feel rather than think your way through this book, I’m seriously over-thinking things.

But I don’t — uhhhmmm — think so. There’s so much happening here — conceptually, formally, spatially, philosophically — that I’m not sure it even can be over-analyzed. If anything, to ponder over it for hours is to still not give it truly fair and thorough consideration. A lot of thought went into this comic — and much of it should be yours.

Lilli Carre has created something as quietly profound as it is profoundly quiet here, a work so confident in its aims and their execution that it needn’t spell them out for you. Something you may never fully understand, but will no doubt always remember.


Open Molar is available from Latvia’s finest comics publisher, Kus!, for $6.00 (with free shipping worldwide!) at http://www.komikss.lv/

Also, please consider supporting my ongoing work by subscribing to my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. There’s no better Patreon value out there, even if I do only say so myself. The link for that is https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse



Kus! Week : Powerpaola’s “I Couldn’t Stop” (Mini Kus! #79)

In times past, I’ve gone the route of my Weekly Reading Round-Up columns to provide “capsule” reviews for new Mini Kus! releases, but this time around, the eclectic Latvian publisher’s most recent quartet of minis is so worthy of deeper consideration that I’m giving each a little more “breathing room” than the self-imposed word count of 250 that those short-form appraisals allow for. Granted, these probably won’t be the longest reviews you’ve ever seen on this site, but I’m actively working on brevity around these parts in general, so — let’s give it a go, shall we?

But wait, there’s more! I’ve also decided to review the two most recent volumes of Kus!’s venerable S! anthology, and to, by extension, give our Baltic friends the spotlight here at 4CA for the entire week. Or most of the week, at any rate, depneding on how things shake out. First up : celebrated Latin American cartoonist Powerpaola’s I Couldn’t Stop, numbered as Mini Kus! #79. And so, with all that preamble aside —

Anyone will tell you that going out on a night the moon is full is always a dicey proposition. People tend to act even crazier than usual. The cops beef up their patrols. The potential for strange shit lurks around every corner. But when you’re a cartoonist who’s been toiling away over the drawing board all week on an emotionally draining story, and your friends want to grab a drink, well — what are you gonna do? Especially when your horoscope is in your favor?

In this autobiographical (I’m assuming, at any rate) mini, Powerpaola lets us know why she should have stayed at home. Which brings to mind a certain New Order song, at least to readers of roughly my age demographic. But I would imagine a full moon over Buenos Aires is pretty gorgeous thing — even, maybe especially, if that moon has eyes, and might be watching out for you.

Or is it just watching, dispassionately, as events unfold?

Hewing far closer to traditional narrative structures and tropes than many, if not most, Mini Kus! releases of late, I Couldn’t Stop gives away its author/subject’s central problem in its title, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t surprises in store as the tragicomedy at its core unfolds. It’s smartly-constructed enough, but its greatest potential weakness is equally hiding in plain sight, namely : Powerpaola has hitched her wagon to irony, and painfully obvious irony at that, from the outset. Can something that’s been done to death, rebirth, and death all over again possibly be interesting?

As it turns out, it can. Just because you can see the whole “you won’t see it coming” thing — errrr— coming, that doesn’t mean that it can’t land a punch, even a gut punch, with admirable aplomb. Few visual storytellers are in command of their own skill set as completely as Powerpaoloa, and if anyone can still make the “twist” ending work, it’s her, especially since she leans into it beforehand with a smaller twist and turn or two (or three) along the way. She sets her agenda early, gets you to buy in, and then rewards your trust in her. Not that it does her any good in terms of the story itself, mind you — but to say more than that would be to, you guessed it, well and truly say too much.

Richly illustrated with fluid, stylized linework that’s accented with emotive gray-ish (and grades of gray-ish) watercolors, this comic feels like exactly what it shows — a memorable (for good and/or ill) evening bathed in cool shadow, warm company, with just a dash of chilly fate. There’s a strong argument to be made for this as the most visually accomplished book to come from the Mini Kus! line in some time, and given that the story is equally as strong, well — you pass on this one at your peril.


I Couldn’t Stop is available for $6.00 (worldwide shipping is free!) from the publisher at http://www.komikss.lv/

I’d also appreciate it if you’d take a moment to consider supporting my ongoing work by subscribing to my Patreon page, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. The link for that is https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse


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