Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Mini-Kus! Wednesday: Liana Mihailova's Neverending Race

In mini-Kus! #81, Liana Mihailova's Neverending Race, there is once again a focus on shape and color over narrative. However, there is a narrative of sorts at work here, comparing dog handlers and their dogs for competitive dog shows. In a dizzying array of page layouts and unusual color choices, Mihailova lays out their mutual desire for challenges, feeling the need to put on a good show, and seeking out discipline. There are a lot of funny images in this comic, as the elongated and distorted figures of people morph into dog forms. That elastic line makes it possible to imagine how similar they are and sets up jokes about setbacks (like peeing at the wrong time) and getting treats. 

There is a genuine affection at work here. Certainly, this comic's tone is light-hearted, but it's also sincere in the way dogs are drawn and how much attention is given to them. That said, it's mostly notable for Mihailova's clever use of color and delightfully warped figure drawings. It's a small celebration and acknowledgment of just how much humans and animals can affect each other. 

Monday, November 2, 2020

Ley Lines Monday: Diana H. Chu's Trance "N Dance

Diana H. Chu is an interesting emerging cartoonist whose approach to comics blends poetry, deep analysis, and an almost uncomfortable sense of shared intimacy with the reader. For Ley Lines, she really took its central idea of an artist talking about another artist by the throat, composing a dizzyingly arrayed series of images that reads as much like an almanac as it does like a comic. That said, there is definitely a narrative at work here in Trance 'N Dance on top of everything else she's doing, as well as a powerful sense of sequentiality. The result is an immersive journey with Patti Smith, the singular punk singer and visionary best known for her classic album Horses. Her mix of hard rock and poetry made her a unique figure in the history of rock and an inspiration for many musicians.

The format of this particular dream journey was as follows: on the left-hand side of the page, Chu drew an image that related to narrative text on the right hand side. That page was supported by a wide variety of supplementary material: recommendations for reading, listening, and smelling. There's also an image of "the beyond," which is a postage stamp, as well as several chapters of an "allegory" section. There's also a photograph of strange artifacts, some of which are music-related and some not. It all reads like an enigmatic but beautiful ritual with deep, personal meaning.

Chu begins the comic with Smith joining her as they plunge into a dream together, traveling to mysterious locations filled with strange monuments and statues. Smith talks about Jimi Hendrix and eventually disappears, leaving Chu to search for her missing dream partner. Chu's drawings are exquisite; ranging from expressive portraits possessing vividly lifelike qualities to bizarre fantasy sculptures to slashing lines depicting music. There is a tremendous sense of warmth at work here, as well as a sense of gratitude. It's a comic about inspiration and a tribute to that source of inspiration, as the overall gestalt of its many disparate elements is greater than the sum of its parts. The side narratives, the many references designed to engage all of the senses, and the rigid structure of the book juxtaposed against its unpredictable content all point to an artist who's bursting at the seams with images and ideas. It's precise and wild, creating a predictable rhythm with poetic and innovative visual ideas. Above all else, this is not a comic experimenting with form for its own sake; instead, its innovations all serve the love she has not only for Patti Smith, but for all she represents as someone who blazed her own trail.