Wednesday, January 4, 2017

mini-Kus! Of The Week #7: Tara Booth, Ingrida Picukane, Tommi Mosturi

Picking up my ongoing mini-Kus! reviews...

mini-Kus! #37: Snake In The Nose, by Tommi Mosturi. Subtle, this comic isn't. Using a thick line and lurid color, the first page introduces to a woman sunbathing outside. Eventually, we see she's being splashed by a yellow liquid. The next page, a huge splash page, sees a man pissing on her from above as we're given a close-up of his penis. The comic is essentially one, long misanthropic, self-flagellating yowl. After a close-up of the man's anus, he goes to a happy place and winds up singing "Like A Virgin" to himself as he pisses all over his fantasyland. That scene was mildly amusing, but it takes a special talent to get away with this kind of self-negating nihilism (like Ivan Brunetti), and this comic felt like a deliberate poke in the eye to the reader. I imagine that was the entire point, to provoke and punish, but the final product was simply self-indulgent and tedious.

mini-Kus! #38: Three Sisters, by Ingrida Picukane. This story of the titular sisters encountering a strange, nude man in the forest is in French and Russian, with no subtitles or translation into English. Considering that the entire Kus! series has been translated or subtitled, this is clearly a deliberate move on the part of the artist, that the dialogue should be unintelligible for the English reader. Having both French and Russian indicates that Picukane was trying to create dissonance and confusion not just for the reader, but for the characters as well. Drawn in colored pencil, the visuals in the comic are immersive and beautiful, as Picukane uses an open layout that draws in the eye in an interesting way, as she uses the resulting negative space to push the reader along the page in the same direction they're walking. The color, the ultra-feminine dresses, the make-up and the flowers they put in each other's hair all wind up being a bit of misdirection, as the ultimate acts of the sisters upon finding the unconscious man in trying to "calm" him are both horrible and yet utterly in character. For them, Picukane, life seems to be a series of dreamlike vignettes without any meaningful consequences. The fact that the man speaks a different language seems to indicate that they viewed him in much the same way as they did the flowers and a bear: as curiosities meant to be curated, pondered and collected, but not as fellow living beings on their own level. That's also reflected in the man's totally pale appearance in comparison to the sisters, who are adorned in flowers, only the way they added color to him wound up being deadly. This is a well-paced, sharp comic that gets across its main twist quickly and effectively through the use of visuals.

mini-Kus! #39: Unwell, by Tara Booth. I found this silent bit of quotidian minutia to be beautifully crude in its use of watercolors, character design and subject matter. Booth gets across the titular idea that the woman that we follow in the story is not exactly living a healthy lifestyle, but she is at least living it on her own terms. What makes the comic such a consistent delight is Booth's use of sight gags that are not exactly jokes, but rather absurd, shocking and/or disgusting. In the opening scene, she crawls out of the bed of the guy she just slept with but pauses, naked, in the living room to read some comics before she lurches to the bathroom to vomit. That absurdity turns to pure joy when she gets outside, breathes the air, feels the sun on her skin and the sensation of riding on her bike. There's a brief moment when she remembers the things she did with the guy (riding him like a horse, strapping her underwear on his face) and one gets the sense that she's wondering why the hell she did it. Again, Booth takes the reader through moment by moment as she showers, lays on the shower floor and goes through a number of outfits before she picks one to paint with. After she paints a simple frowny face, she pours paint out on a cloth on a floor, sits on it and paints with her ass. One gets the idea: this is a woman ruled entirely by her whims, which sometimes result in funny outcomes and sometimes results in her downing an entire bottle of vodka on the street. Booth makes no judgments and leaves that up to the reader, resulting in a series of events that are both hilarious and vaguely unsettling.

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