Kus! Komiks Roundup

If you’re keeping track, I basically quit regular reviews late last year, but if there’s anything that makes me want to temporarily come out of “retirement,” it’s a shipment of Kus Komiks. This steadfast publisher based in Riga, Latvia has one of the best-curated lines available, and if you’re interested in seeing a snapshot of where the international indie comics scene is headed at the hands of some mini-comics rock stars, then you should be investigating their output. Here’s a brief rundown of their latest offerings in the solo mini-kus line:

Limonchik by Mikkel Sommer (Mini-Kus! #34, September 2015): Sommer’s wordless tale about the titular returned Soviet space-dog hits all the right mysterious notes. Limonchik’s presence signals an apocalyptic rain of destruction that Sommer punctuates with heavenly white wisps wreaking havoc all across civilization and exploding objects suspended in mid-air seemingly without cohesion, which plays effectively unnatural to the senses. I enjoyed reading it as a cautionary parable about man mucking about in the cosmic balance.

Birthday by Theo Ellsworth (Mini-Kus! #35, September 2015): By using equal parts body horror and ornately textured page design, Ellsworth calls into question the nature of reality and our perceptions of time, place, and purpose being on a sliding relative scale. It’s challenging without being obtuse or off-putting, welcoming readers to an adventure that tries to understand the cycle of birth, life, and whatever comes after. I’m always a fan of festive colors that call to mind the manic swirls of Dia de Los Muertos imagery, particularly those in the final page.

Pages to Pages by Lai Tat Tat Wing (Mini-Kus! #36, September 2015): The subtle blue and pink pastels of this Hong Kong artist are concerned with the fluid identity of the protagonists, their equally mercurial emotional states, and the supposed value of our all-consuming pastimes. Pages to Pages boasts a playful meta-fascination with the medium of sequential art itself, in a way that belies its serious examination of purpose and fame in the Social Media Age.

Snake in the Nose by Tommi Musturi (Mini-Kus! #37, September 2015): Musturi’s plump lines are reminiscent of a Saturday morning cartoon, emphasizing an overstimulated and oversaturated culture continually craving newer bigger more no matter how much content that rampant consumerism demands we consume. The resulting feelings of emptiness are funny, sure, but more important are our efforts to resist the apocryphal lies of the media about cookie-cutter life in the burbs. As we see, the enjoyment of the small things, and jettisoning the excess, while striving for a more enduring contribution is an uphill battle in a flawed system.

Three Sisters by Ingrida Picukane (Mini-Kus! #38, March 2016): The adoring big eyes of Picukane’s characters almost distract us from the format realization that one page bleeds into the next and you could probably unfold it all accordion style into one big panoramic stream-of-consciousness view with overlapping imagery. It’s not translated from the French, but no matter with the emotive lines and careful figure placement acting as guides. We see a man whisked away amid garden floral patterns, by something akin to subverted sirens or perhaps a Maiden Mother Crone trifecta and it’s all an ingenious use of the medium. As comics readers, we’re accustomed to the tertiary information delivery of combining words and pictures, but this almost adds a fourth layer. It reminds me of a full color reimagining of Julia Gfrorer’s work (which is one of the highest compliments I can bestow), where femininity intersects the natural world, and it’s immediately earned itself a place on my running list of contenders for Best of 2016.

Unwell by Tara Booth (Mini-Kus! #39, March 2016): Booth’s use of colors borders on kaleidoscopic at times, highlighting a dizzying exploration of the highs and lows found in daily mundane life. The protagonist escapes from what appears to be a one night stand, in favor of the sanctuary of her own art loft and the creature comforts of a canine pal, pizza delivery, and a hot shower to cleanse the lingering memories of the previous encounter. Frustrated waiting for the muse to visit, she ventures out, where the perils of dog poop are the least of her worries when she’s confronted with a serial exhibitionist whacking it in front of her. It’s whimsical and startling, with the right dose of introspection.

1944 by Hanneriina Moisseinen (Mini-Kus! #40, March 2016): The creators in this recent Kus Komiks line favor an increasing reliance on visuals only with no dialogue, and it’s a tremendous showcase for talent. 1944 witnesses Moisseinen using just pencils and maybe some light inks, or probably charcoals, to chronicle a hurried rural evacuation during the war. The proceedings are amplified with the added urgency of a cow going into labor; what might otherwise be a superfluous event is used to show how we can make time for small moments of humanity and a starling act of compassion amid the horrific impending destruction.

EYEZ by Aisha Franz (Mini-Kus! #41, March 2016): EYEZ is a great example of a forward-thinking ethos, where privacy will be an ever-growing concern in our future, forever competing with invasive technology and an ever-present government eye honed on security. I love the way Franz is able to encourage gender fluidity in an organic manner that’s driven by storytelling needs. In terms of the denouement, I probably would have preferred more open rebellion as opposed to the retreat and adaptation we get, but the story makes up for that small personal preference with memorable visuals and an odd sensuality with the long clean lines. 


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