Tuesday, November 15, 2016

mini-Kus! of the Week #4: Disa Wallander, Zane Zlemesa, Terhi Ekebom

mini-Kus! #28: Collector, by Zane Zlemesa. This is an interesting example of non-narrative drawings and collage about a photographer who is obsessed with collecting photos of his customers. What's interesting about the comic, as I interpreted it, is that we're not just seeing his work, we're literally seeing the world from his perspective. It's a world of flashes of light, color patterns, lenses, variations on form, shape, color and shadow, and above all else, the faces of those who fascinate him. There's not a narrative in a panel-to-panel or even page-to-page sense, but the accumulation of images adds up to something if one considers it to be the byproduct of the photographer going about his day, in a visual stream-of-consciousness style. It's an immersive comic that demands that the reader not just pay attention to each page, but to think about how the pages might connect.

mini-Kus! #29: Remember This?, by Disa Wallander. This is a playful but still deadly serious story about the relationship between memory and identity. On the left hand side of each page, we see scribbled plants drawn in red colored pencil, with commentary that's either from the artist or the plants (or some combination thereof). On the right hand side, there are lightly-scrawled figures with a light purple wash who are making comments of their own, most of the clueless variety. The plants are drawn on the page as a way of remembering them, and Wallander posits the idea that without memory, we have no identity. Furthermore, without being remembered by others, our identity similarly is fragile. Without making conscious connections, our own narratives are written on the wind, and it's no accident that this is a story that's been drawn and written down--a permanent record of considering this potentiality of self. What makes this comic so effective and funny is the buffoonish nature of the people on the right-hand side, who babble about drinking "until I couldn't remember my own face". All they can do is confusedly look at the plants and not understand why they're there, until they abandon that project to get further away from identity in the ontological sense. That is, the less authentic their actions (and the less they try to make real connections), the more ephemeral their real sense of being. It's a remarkable little comic, perfectly integrating idea and image in a highly effective style.

mini-Kus! #30: Logbook, by Terhi Ekebom. This is a horror comic whose threat initially feels ephemeral and eventually becomes all-encompassing. It's all the more frightening because the threat, succumbing to a darkness that doesn't just envelop a person, it scratches them out, feels like a metaphor. It could represent a kind of toxicity when a person is beset by mental illness or addiction, or has become abusive. Regardless, in this isolated house in the ocean (shades of Dan Clowes' David Boring), a cure is attempted in the form of light from plant-like ocean pods, to no effect. The two women who are the comic's protagonists have to escape the spread of the darkness in a boat, with the final panel a chilling indicator that all hope was lost. Finish cartoonist Ekebom makes extensive use of colored pencil, eschewing line in many instances in favor of having color both tell the story and add shading. This was one of the best mini-Kus! comics I've read in the series, both in terms of the power of its storytelling as well as the way it packs a lot of in very few pages. It was just the right length to reveal its threat, generate hope for a cure, and then reveal just how doomed its protagonists were.

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