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/
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