Monday, July 3, 2017

Mini-Kus! of the Week #12: E.&A. Klavins, Liesmas, D. Sietina

Some more new issues of mini-Kus! have been published, and I also managed to find some older ones I was missing. Without further ado, let's resume, the weekly look at three issues:

mini-Kus! #7: Rainbow Of Pain, by Ernests & Andrejs Klavins. The Klavins use a thick black line to anchor their cartoony and grotesque comics that fill up every bit of negative space with often lurid color. The story's about the worst competitive diver in the world who is taunted by the second-worst diver, grateful that there will always be someone worse. The diver is approached by a mysterious figure who offers to train him, as he claims to be the trainer of the "Ruritania People's Republic". The grotesque and cartoony qualities of the art push and pull at each other, as there's an inherent cuteness to the figures belied by incredibly ugly and twisted faces. Through a special regimen and some mysterious "vitamins", the diver gets better and better. When the diver discovers that his trainer was banned from the sport from using an experimental steroid, he decides to quit taking the pills, only to have his trainer reject him. What results after that is a hilariously nasty ending, involving a fatal car accident, a weighty decision being made, and a grotesque transformation providing a callback to the comic's first scene. The result is a perfect mini-Kus comic, with high visual impact in a short number of pages.

mini-Kus! #8: The Flames, by Liesmas. This is a very simple, straightforward story about a couple of teens visiting the girl's grandmother and finding that where she lives is overrun by a corporation polluting the environment. Liesmas employs a kind of magical realism in showing how the teens managed to find a way to chase out the developers, which included the girl, Maya, being able to talk to tigers and convince them to attack. There's a tremendous amount of warmth and sincerity in Liesmas' line and the story itself, as it's a kind of wish-fulfillment scenario. The tone never wavers away from the sincerity, even as the action starts to become extreme and then absurd. There's a humanistic quality to be found in this comic as well as a sense of hope, even if that hope may be naive. The drawings are basic but functional, the storytelling is clear, and the use of colors is muted and adds variety to the comic without being a distraction.

mini-Kus! #9: Bobis, by Dace Sietina. Like some of the other earlier issues of the series, this comic is in Latvian with an English translation at the bottom of the page. It makes sense, considering how stylized and immersive the original lettering is. Drawn in an open-page format where panels bleed into each other, it tells the story of a man and his dog, the titular Bobis. Sietina drew an ordinary day (with the character repeatedly emphasizing how ordinary it was) in a style that mixed naturalism and a sort of grotesque exaggeration. That mix of fine-line drawing with intense hatching and cross-hatching was somewhat dizzying, especially with the slightly sickening use of yellow as a spot color. When the story shifts into a dream/hallucination, Sietina starts throwing in all kinds of colors, with a lot of angry reds and scribbly blues being added on to the fine-line drawings that continue. This discordant use of styles, still meshed with the narrative but also decorative quality of the lettering, gives the comic multiple layers of impact. There's an encounter with his dead grandmother, a red light in the distance that becomes something he can grab, and a sense that he can't breathe. The reveal at the end is telegraphed but still clever, because Sietina goes all the way with it. This is an immersive comic that is nonetheless easy to follow, in part because the artist leaves so much negative space on each page.

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