Monday, March 31, 2014

31 Days of Short Reviews #31: Seo Kim

Seo Kim's Cat Person (Koyama Press) is a consistently hilarious debut. Each page features a series of loose, autobiographical gags centering around Kim's cat, life as an artist and person in a long-distance relationship. The first section, about her cat Jimmy, had the potential to be enormously lame and cliched (how many cartoon books about cats do we really need?), but Kim finds ways to elicit genuine laughs thanks to the way she portrays her cat's behavior and because of her drawing style. Anyone who has a cat knows that they are cute, fluffy little fur-shedding murder machines who view the hunt as a form of play. Cats domesticate humans, not the other way around--they expect food, drink and a clean litter box at all times, and then they might deign to interact with you. The first strip in the book features Kim showing her cat a huge bug that she wants him to get rid of. The cat takes his time, plays with his prey, pops it in his mouth, lets it crawl out again and then pops it back in, chewing it up. The final panel shows Kim peeking around the corner, a look of total disgust on her face. Another strip's first panel depicts a beaming Kim holding her cat in a hug, blissed out from the experience. The second panel depicts an equally happy look on the cat's face, only he's buried his claws deep into her back and drawn considerable blood. Her understanding of the weirdness of cat behavior, like mewing frantically because his food bowl doesn't have precisely the right amount of kibble in it, drew another knowing laugh.

Kim's art sells every gag. She basically uses two in this book. The first is a simple, almost stick-figure approach. Those are the strips that rely upon the concept for the gag, with the art there only to support it. The second is a slightly more detailed and more grotesque approach, such as in that gag with her cat eating the bug. She has a way of drawing her face scrunched up in fear, anger or despair that is absolutely hilarious, especially when she adds dabs of red or pink. The way she draws her nose like a set of three knuckles adds to that weird distinctiveness. There's another strip titled "Asian Glow" wherein she turns red after one drink, leading one friend to ask her if she's drunk (which she denies) and then another to scream it at her (which she angrily denies). In that latter scene, Kim's burning red cheeks and exaggerated facial expression once again sell the joke completely. There's nothing especially innovative about any of these strips. Autobio comics about one's cat, solitary existence as an artist and long-distance relationships are pretty much de rigeur, especially on the web. What sets Kim's work apart is her absolute control over her line and use of color and the fact that she is undeniably funny. One gets the sense that no matter what kind of comic she chooses to do next, it will be just as funny, skilled and fun to look at.

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