For fans of international “art comics,” there’s no more exciting package to receive in the mail than the latest four-pack of minis from Latvian publisher Kus! — you never know what a new batch from them will have to offer, but you can be certain that, one way or another, it’s going to be challenging, thought-provoking, idiosyncratic stuff, so solid is the Kus! track record. And so, with their latest quartet hot off the presses, then (printed, as always, in full and lavish color on top-quality paper stock and featuring heavy cardstock covers), now would pretty much be the perfect time to give ’em all the once-over, would it not? Why don’t we do just that —
Nausea by Abraham Diaz (Mini Kus! number 63) is a wild ride through the socio-economic gutters of Mexico City, infused with a hard-edged immediacy and vulgarity that the lazy might call “punk,” but is probably more accurately described as “nihilistic.” The narrative is linear enough after a fashion, but definitely scattershot, and the same can be said of the art, which certainly calls to mind the early-career works of Gary Panter and Lloyd Dangle, but with a decidedly more dangerous undercurrent. Diaz has been plumbing these sorts of depths for some time in woks like Suicida, and shows no signs of “mellowing out” when it comes to depicting the underside of the underside of the underside of his home city. A visceral gut-punch that’ll leave you reeling — and, frequently, laughing in spite of yourself.
Collection by Pedro Franz (Mini Kus! number 64) is an emotive series of images, with accompanying text, that sees the noted Brazilian cartoonist/fine artist filtering a series of melancholic reminiscences of various childhood injuries through the lens of another set of memories — those of the racks n’ stacks that once populated expat Mexican artist Ulises Carrion’s quasi-legendary Amsterdam books/art/comics shop Other Books and So. Of the four offerings under our metaphorical microscope today, this one is admittedly the most difficult to get a firm “handle” on, so personal is Franz’ vision and methodology, but it more than returns the investment of time you’re willing to put into it by revealing new depths not only of the work itself, but of your own reactions to it, with each successive re-reading. My best advice? Try feeling, rather than thinking, your way through this one and see if the at-first-glance oblique connective tissue holding it together becomes less so as you absorb not only the cartoonist’s offerings, but the intent behind them. This is a comic that may very well mean something entirely different to each reader.
Master Song by Francisco Sousa Lobo (Mini Kus! number 65) is a strictly-formatted (four panels per page) character study of a complex, no-doubt-emotionally-damaged young nanny in London who harbors anti-Semitic views and a deep passion for the risible novel Fifty Shades Of Grey, and if that sounds like a combination for internalized conflict of the most harrowing sort, well — it is. Emily, our protagonist, isn’t what one would call a sympathetic character by any stretch of the imagination, but Lobo does a masterful job of making you feel her emptiness and longing as she seeks fulfillment of her jumbled fantasy life by means of anonymous bar hook-ups that are, of course, doomed to disappoint. The simplicity of the cartooning and text in this comic stands in stark contrast to, while simultaneously drawing out, the depth of the painful self-examination Emily is constantly drifting into/out of, and the clinical dispassion with which she analyzes her own existence is at once disconcerting and, somehow, logical. A work of sparse and haunting beauty delineating a person’s near-complete sense of estrangement from their own life that raises a million probing questions, the most prominent for this reader/critic being — how does one process an alienation so deep-seated that one is even alienated from it? Sosa is a Portuguese talent that I admit to having been unfamiliar with previous to this, but I will be eagerly hunting down whatever works of his I can find in the very near future.
Resident Lover by Roman Muradov (Mini Kus! number 66) is one of those comics that almost manages to leave me at a loss for words — almost. I’ve read this through eight times now, and came away more impressed each time. Ostensibly a story about love that conspicuously never mentions love once, it’s actually something far more than that — a study of duality, symmetry, and identity (or lack thereof) that poses the same query a more youthful version of myself was floored by in the early-days Tears For Fears single Change, “Where does the end of me become the start of you?” Muradov’s cartooning is a mass of beautifully-balanced contradictions : rich yet austere, symbolic yet literal, mechanical yet organic, static yet fluid —- it’s no wonder that this Russian “import” now based in San Francicso has seen his work featured prominently in everything from The New Yorker to Vogue to GQ to The Paris Review. Visual poetry gets no more poignant and absorbing than this — prepare to spend hours poring over its mysteries and magnificence.
Once again, then, our friends at Kus! have outdone themselves with perhaps their strongest slate of new offerings yet, and the only thing better than buying each of them is buying them all together for the bargain price of $19 — with free shipping to the US! No need to hem and haw over this decision, get off my website now and get over to https://kushkomikss.ecrater.com/p/29745014/mini-ku-63-64-65-66