s! #39 (The End)

Baltic Comics Magazine s! #39 is an anthology loosely compiled around the theme of The End, featuring work from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and the US, to Portugal, Finland, Israel, and Mozambique. As usual, it's a delightful sampling of tried-and-true indie voices and up-and-coming artists basking in the enhanced spotlight. For me, the standout pieces include File History by Heikki Ronkko and the eternal nature of a pyramid standing through various eras of time, The Couple by Janne Marie Dauer which chronicles a Twilight Zone style episode involving a blissfully adrift couple stumbling upon a future version of themselves that manages to be both sweet and chilling. Dauer's use of color pops in the foreground, while using muted colors in the background that provide a somber undercurrent. Italy's Marco Quadri contributes Blind Side, which underscores the notion of not rushing or forcing issues to their conclusion - which can be counterproductive, and letting things unfold naturally. I very much enjoyed Christopher Sperandio's The Motherfucking End, which highlights the ludicrous nature of deposed President Trump's public statements, by juxtaposing actual nonsensical quotes from him with a bumbling seemingly innocent Dennis The Menace-like Sunday newspaper cartoon strip aesthetic. Iris Yan's Ashes to Ashes uses a stark black and white style to examine the end of life proceedings of different cultures and how formal systems and customs process the dead both literally and figuratively. A Bedtime Story by Hans Nissen is an excellent piece that frames a discussion on the nature of death between a father and young daughter, and how we can perceive the passage of time slipping away. The notion of diminishing returns and joyful experiences being diluted really resonates. I adored The End by Katharina Kulenkampff, which is a series of single-panel-page vignettes that uses textured patterns to capture a range of existentialism, from the apocalyptic, to the apocryphal, to the celebratory. Overall, the pieces contained within s! #39 settle on the idea of "The End" being about cyclical renewal, with beginnings building toward endings, and endings signaling new beginnings. Life and Death do not exist without the other, and revolve around the idea of recurrence. Nicole Zaridze's excellent piece Doomsday says as much, showcasing the balance of an eye-popping sun, bathed in warm oranges and yellows, and a shadowed melancholy moon as counterpart, whose fates are forever intertwined.


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