World Ceramic Fair by Jooyoung Kim (Mini Kus! #98)

Kim's simple flat figures and restrained ink washes belie the important and direct commentary about racism and xenophobia contained within the pages. While World Ceramic Fair is indeed a whirlwind tour through such an event, it's also quick to display the diverse archetypes of any subculture; in this setting it's those we often associate with creators and consumers. While the consumers may be well-meaning (at best), they're actually severely inept, proffering misunderstandings that provide humorous fuel for the plot and propel the narrative, and their cringe-y antics also serve as stand-ins for creative types to wonder over. Whether you're an artist, writer, sculptor, or critic (ahem) in any medium, we all wonder if we ever occasionally challenge an audience, actually sway an opinion, move the sales needle beyond negligible impact, or just preach to our own loyal little echo chamber.


BLINK by Martin Lopez Lam (Mini Kus! #97)

It would be tempting to dismiss BLINK at first glance as some sort of lazy art school collage exercise, but more careful examination uncovers what is probably one of the best comics of the year. BLINK slowly reveals itself as a wasteland of detritus filled with improbable figures bearing a vaguely Mesoamerican glyph aesthetic. There are subtle pop culture elements, scant few words, and no real dialogue. Yet, the chaotic sensory overload perfectly encapsulates our Modern Age, with skylines, figures, conflict, and culture, from the agrarian to the industrial, it's like a survey of our existence. It somehow perfectly catalogs our innate feelings, scattered thoughts on deities, commerce, subjugation, wordless but not without insight, panic and prescience coalescing toward something you instantly identify with, documenting the zeitgeist of the now. BLINK is just that, a camera frame perfectly capturing a moment in time with the snap of a shutter that reflects our overwhelming reality.


Bridge by Matt Madden (Mini Kus! #96)

Madden's timeless black and white tale is a perfect closed circle. Thematically, it's about the stories we tell ourselves to explain away the feeling of being perpetual outsiders, even amid the flurry of kids, career success, travel, learning, and loss. As we grow, we accumulate wisdom, but become echoes of our former selves, yet those echoes and sage thoughts are able to loop back around and inform the experiences that have come long before with new perspective and understanding. Bridge is carefully plotted so that the turn of each page represents the passage of a decade, chronicling the lives of three individuals who follow that path of growth, wisdom, and reflection. The lady informs the boy. The boy becomes the soldier. The soldier warns the lady. Madden's timeless black and white tale is a perfect closed circle. 


Before the Pandemic There Was a Touch Football Tourney by David Collier (Mini Kus! #95)

David Collier's slightly retro figures somehow straddle the line between looking as if they were clipped out of a previous era's newspaper strip, yet simultaneously appearing suitably modern. While a couple visits their son at art school, we see zine fairs and otherwise innocuous happenings that slyly comment on everything from commerce vs. art to a generational divide. It's all set against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic breaking out so abruptly, emphasizing that we're all one bad decision, one bad day, one disaster away, from descending into chaos. It reminds us of our own fragile existence, and the juxtaposition of that with the retro art style suggests, in quite timely and relevant fashion, that in the wake of the pandemic, we might all be trying to hold onto a time that no longer exists.