Friday, November 8, 2019

mini-kus #79: Powerpaola's I Couldn't Stop

Ecuadorian-Columbian cartoonist Powerpaola's debut, Virus Tropical, was an excellent childhood memoir and heralded a run of such books by women. Her autobiographical contribution for the always-excellent mini-Kus series,(#79) I Couldn't Stop, is about an evening of portents in Buenos Aires. Her style is totally immersive, from the first panel depicting a full moon in the sky with probing eyes to the transition to a close-up of her own eyes, then distancing the reader with a pair of goggles. The entire comic depicts a kind of push-and-pull with the reader and with her world, as she found herself needing to get out and see people and connect with them in part because she had been working on a comics project about sex abuse.

There is an unsettling momentum with regard to fate in this comic, starting with a reference to the horoscope and continuing on to losing a supposedly protective bracelet, a warning from a friend about being on a bike, and seeing a cop wave a gun in the air in public. Along the way, she is almost defiant about rejecting and ignoring these omens, as she desperately needs to move, be active, and see her friends. The gray wash she uses adds to the dark mood of the comic, as well as her curious blend of naturalism and cartoony and almost grotesque character design. She seems to get what she needs with regard to defying fate, connecting with her friends, and even finding hope for change with regard to abuse and horror.

However, after that final portent of the cop waving a gun around and then sharply saying "Don't criticize me!" when people call him on his recklessness, she is defiant in going home on her bike, despite her friends begging her to go with her in their car. The result implies almost a kind of hubris on her part, that she may have managed to find a way to cope with the horrors swirling in her mind, but she ignored her safety in other, more basic ways--and she paid the price. The comic cuts off right at the point of her getting injured, with no further context or explanation. Given the warnings she gave the reader and that she herself ignored, no further explanations are needed. This is a grim comic that's nonetheless filled with moments of light before it spins off into the abyss, all told with a powerful sense of humanity.

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