Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Best of Baltic Comics Magazine š! Issue 5 (2009)

Today, with a little sadness, we conclude our week of š! with a review of our favourite comics from the fifth issue. It's been an enjoyable seven days of comic-reading for us, and we hope that you'll get your handkerchiefs ready as we end the series with the appropriately somber-sounding "After Snowfall" themed issue. Kick it!

BALTIC COMICS MAGAZINE š! #5: After Snowfall (December 2009)

Following on from the outstanding last issue, š! #5 features a great deal of talent from across the comics world. Including a submission from ATF-favourite Kolbeinn Karlsson, this issue contains seventeen strips on the theme "after snowfall". With Springtime going into full effect, it seems like the perfect time to review it, right? The issue sees vampires, lonesome authors, talking stuffed animals and a deadly killer hair-dryer fight it out for the reader's affections, and, as such, is pretty much worth every penny. 

Kolbeinn Karlsson submits an absurdly funny story about the last days of the granddaddy of all vampires, Dracula. Drawn in the Swedish creator’s signature hyper-organic style, the aging prune-like Drac attempts to claim one more victim before he dies. Unable to bear the thought of dying without a woman by his side, the narcissistic bloodsucker claims a young maiden for his wife, wanting nothing more than to hear her recite his poetry and watch erotic TV thrillers in bed.

The real star of the show is the maiden herself, whose simple matter-of-fact narration amplifies the strange and often silly antics of the titular character. Ending on a sombre note, Karlsson once again demonstrates his talent of being able to cram humour, sorrow and the macabre into a short space without any one seeming out of place. With Karlsson’s similarly multifaceted graphic novel The Troll King out this month (our review here), this issue of š!, provides an inexpensive preview of his work.

Above all, it turns out that Dracula is actually a pretty neurotic guy, in constant need of affirmation – and who can’t relate to that, right?

After Snowfall, Hironori Kikuchi

Violently battering the reader’s senses with bright colours, excessive cuteness and all the enthusiasm of a children’s television presenter is Hironori Kikuchi’s strip about talking stuffed animals, little girls and omnipotent (though henpecked) drawing god. Tacky in the best way, it really feels like the hyper-precious characters are shouting obnoxiously at you from beginning to end. 

Unhappy with their illustrator’s (“God”) incomplete painting of the snow around them, they take issue, screaming through the fourth wall for him to solve the problem. Unhappy with their unreliable creator’s apathy, they correct his mistake by tearing their fluffy white stuffing out. Finishing with an ultra-grotesque page that remains burnt into my retinas even now, this comic has to be seen to be believed.

Note: kuš! editor David Schilter has since informed us that Kikuchi's art is 100% hand-drawn and coloured, no computers whatsoever. Go check out his website (linked above) immediately to see just how incredible this fact is.

All Tidied Up, Johan Klungel

Poor Mr Van Der Boon has a problem. Obsessive about the neatness of his Garden Path, Van Der Boon’s front lawn represents his feeling of control over the world. When a particularly heavy snow storm leaves the elderly gentleman unable to clear his walkway, he resigns himself to suicide. On the verge of dropping his hair dryer into his bath, an idea strikes him: why not use the machine to melt a path down to the stone slabs?

As with many short comics, it’s not difficult to predict Klungel’s chosen ending. This said, as with all the best stories and jokes, it’s the journey not the destination that matters. Here, they both work in tandem, the frosty end just as charmingly illustrated and subtly detailed as it’s build up.

A very notable mention goes to Ignacio Serrano's "After Snowfall" (do you see a pattern emerging?) which sees a successful novelist writing a book (or not) in order to understand his estranged wife, whom he still longs for. It's a genuinely thoughtful, engaging piece, full of detached loneliness and submerged hope. I would really love to see this expanded into a full-length comic some day.

š! #5 is available now (along with all kinds of other good stuff) at the official kuš! webstore for either $6.00 or €4.50, depending on your preference. That's it for our š! coverage for the time being, but, as you've hopefully been able to tell, we're very fond of this Latvian library of comics talent, and we hope to feature them on the blog again soon.


1 comment:

  1. š! is an amazing comic, this issue especially.