Tuesday, November 14, 2017

mini-Kus!: Niewiadomski, Koch, Bulling/Hoffmann

mini-Kus! #59: Share The Love, by Paula Bulling & Nina Hoffmann. This is an unusual mini in that the central characters (Philip and Simone) are represented differently in different segments of the comic. Initially, they are barely sketched-characters with a yellow wash, a man and a woman in a Berlin bar being amusingly harangued by a local who gives them all sorts of unsolicited advice and opinions. The second segment finds them at dinner, this time drawn as anthropomorphic animals, with Simone throwing all sorts of hints at Philip that she'd like to be in a physical relationship with him and him managing to deflect them all (resulting in a hilarious head slap onto the table by Simone). The third segment finds them in bed together, as Simone is trying to negotiate the possibility of sex from someone who's obviously become attached to, and vice-versa, and then switches to Simone at a nude beach with Philip's daughter.

In addition to being a fascinating visual survey that uses its images to reflect the mood of each scene (the funny animal scene reflects the goofy nature of their interaction in the bar, for example), there's a remarkable frankness in the way the comic explores the nature of relationships removed from the romantic ideal that a first marriage brings. Philip celebrates that he no longer is programmed to remember what his ex-wife is wearing when he sees her to exchange custody of their kids, while Simone is hoping for precisely that kind of connection. The final segment sees Simone in that odd maternal/friend role with Philip's child, a different and budding kind of love relationship.

mini-Kus! #61: Daughter, by Aidan Koch. Koch is well known for her use of erasure and a thin line in many of her comics that border on the abstract, but this is a straight-ahead narrative in many ways. Nonetheless, the ever-innovative Koch uses color in a fascinating manner, as a kind of counter to the dull, blue-gray wash of everyday existence in a space satellite colony. In the story, a young girl feels compelled to draw, in the most vivid of colors, things like flowers, insects, trees, and animals. These are things she has never seen, yet she feels divinely inspired to record them. It's as though the collected unconscious of humanity was working through her as a kind of not just playback system, but an interactive studio of creativity. She is discouraged in this endeavor by one of many humans who are all clearly made to look as alike as possible, but the shimmering visions never leave her mind. She can't help but see them in her mind's eye, and Koch draws page after page of subtly gorgeous colors encapsulating familiar forms.

The end of the story presents an opportunity to explore the world outside the satellite, a journey that the protagonist will surely not turn down. There's a luxurious quality to the book's pacing, as there's little in the way in terms of plot or exposition and a number of pages that focus on this vision that is worthwhile to the girl simply because she believes that god is showing it to her. It's a question of aesthetic beliefs over utilitarian needs, and her aesthetics are so finely honed that it becomes her source of psychological and emotional well-being. Being given a chance to put that to the test in a utilitarian environment is both an exciting opportunity as well as opening up the possibility of losing her connection to the beauty of her connection.

mini-Kus! #62: Jonah 2017, by Tomasz Niewiadomski. As noted on the back cover, this trippy story is loosely based on the Biblical story of Jonah and the whale. There's a magical undersea kingdom where some fish are played like harps, octopuses and crayfish wonder after robots with hourglasses that measure time and death, and cat-women & hawk-women stand guard. All of that is threatened by some scuba divers looking for the source of some magical disturbance. After multiple dives, the diver discovers a factory producing "harmful sugar cubes of time" that he destroys. Whether or not the diver's mission is in fact beneficial or malignant is unclear; what it is made obvious is that he slaughtered a whole bunch of sea creatures, then flew away to outer space for his next mission. There are a whole lot of funny images and sequences involving the undersea cast of characters, but it's ultimately an unsettling story, as though it were told by a four-year-old who constantly shifted the narrative and abandoned it altogether after blowing it up. It's a story about the destructive potential of storytelling and how capricious it is, rendered in a style that mixes naturalism and the occasional highly cartoony image.

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