Wednesday, November 2, 2016

mini-Kus! of the Week #2: Oskars Pavlovskis, Ruta & Anete Daubure, Anna Vaivare

Continuing the reviews for the mini-Kus! series:

Lucky, by Oskars Pavlovskis. Pavlovskis' grotesque figurework (the bulging eyes are particularly revolting, looking as though they're diseased) and rubbery faces are the perfect tools for this dialogue taking place in a man's rapidly decaying mind. Alternating between pink and yellow word/thought balloons (it's deliberately unclear as to what voices are speaking and when, or if anyone is even speaking out loud at all). The titular character is a thief, breaking off rear-view mirrors in car lots and then selling them on the internet. The way Pavlovskis sets up the dialogue as one that's between the streetwise and clever Lucky and the relentlessly cheerful "narrator" shapes the entire story, as the artist creates certain reader expectations that are repeatedly subverted as we begin to understand just how fractured Lucky's mind is. As Lucky beats up a guy for his phone and then declares him to be a moral degenerate, we get to the heart of a character who is willing to justify any kind of behavior. That's until the character has a total breakdown as the "narrator" (now turned into a conscience) continues to needle him about his questionable behavior and the two selves trade places; it seems clear that the "healthy" version of Lucky won't stand a chance in the world that his alter ego has created for himself. The relentless pace of this comic and its bleakness is lightened only slightly by its brutal sense of humor.

Domino, by Ruta & Anete Daubure. This comic is by the artist/writer pair of Ruta and Anete Daubere, and its disjointed quality can be attributed to that division of labor. It's a deeply immersive comic demanding a lot of work on the part of the reader, especially since the narrative relies heavily on highly symbolic figures. The lettering looks like it was done in colored marker, which adds a nice decorative touch on some pages and is almost illegible on others--especially when the background color was a bright yellow. The narrative follows Rober, a being that maintains balance and causes accidents, positive and negative, that help maintain that balance. When he's forced to take a day off, his enemies, who created accidents as a way of causing chaos. Really, this story is about whether one believes that this is a clockwork universe where everyone accident is connected to larger events, or if the universe is random and heading toward every-increasing entropy. The Dauberes imply that whichever one believes may well become true for that individual. There are no standard comic book drawings in this book, but rather single-page illustrations that offer snapshots, images and icons, all with bright backgrounds. They merge with the text, as though they sprang to life with each word that summoned them.

Swimming Pool, by Anna Vaivare. Vaivare's style and page layout reminds me a bit of Vanessa Davis's: bright, beautiful, open and presenting text integrated with image on the page. It's not immersive like Domino is because it challenges the reader less, but that's not really its mission. Vaivare is creating the atmosphere in as visceral a manner as possible of a public swimming pool and the woman who attends to it. As she mops and cleans, she fondly recalls her time in the circus, until her shift ends and she reveals her secret: she was a very particular kind of circus freak, one who was naturally at home in the water. The time she spent in the pool after work was the one time she truly felt alive, and the wonderfully bulky figures that Vaivare draws get across that sense of her being a large, embodied figure who is suddenly graceful and at peace in the water. Vaivare's color sense is fantastic, as she provides just enough variety to make page-to-page color shifts highly noticeable, like when the page switches from the blue of the water from a distance to the bright red of the arena's chairs that surround the pool. She then switches back from that "hot" color back to a soothing sea green as the story ends. This was a perfect little short story that tried to get across a feeling more than tell a story at length, and it did so well.

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