Mini Kus! Catch-Up : “Banal Complications” By Marc Bell (Mini Kus! #90)


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

For the final entry (that being #90) in their latest foursome of Mini Kus! releases, Latvian publisher Kus! turns to the always-reliably-inventive Canadian cartoonist Marc Bell, whose work I’ll go out on a limb and assume most readers of this site are already well-familiar with. Or, at the very least, really should be. And in the pages of Banal Complications, he does what he does best, which is — his own kind of thing altogether.

This is a “meta” narrative, with Bell’s protagonist Chop Salad (always with these names, I tell ya!) pretty clearly standing in for the artist himself, so if that kind of thing annoys you, just check out now — but if you’re down for a fun and inventive take on a premise that really isn’t either one most of the time anymore? Then you’ve come to the right place. Maybe even the only place. Or…

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Quiet Killer (1992, directed by Sheldon Larry)


When wealthy teenager Sarah Dobbs (Kathleen Robertson) vomits up blood and then drops dead in the middle of New York City, the coroner’s office is baffled as to what killed her.  As far as anyone knows, Sarah has just been suffering from the flu, which she apparently contracted when she was recently overseas.  However, there is one doctor in New York who thinks that she knows what’s happening.  Dr. Nora Hart (Kate Jackson) takes one look at Sarah’s case and decides that the Black Death — the same plague that wiped out half of the world’s population in 54 AD — has come to New York!

Nora wants to shut down the city immediately but Mayor Carmichael (Al Waxman) says that would not only lead to mass panic but it would also an economic disaster.  Working with a team of other doctors (including Jerry Orbach, who is always a welcome presence in New York films), Dr. Hart tries to track down everyone who Sarah came into contact with and quarantine them before both a panic and a pandemic breaks out.  Unfortunately, one congressman (Howard Hesseman!) doesn’t want to go into quarantine because that would mean admitting that he was in Manhattan to visit his mistress.  Despite everyone’s best efforts, mass panic follows.

Quiet Killer (which is also known as Black Death) is a made-for-TV movie that used to show up on late night television throughout the 90s.  It’s a typically overwrought disaster film and it’s easy to laugh at some of the dialogue and some of the acting.  (Kate Jackson is particularly wooden in the lead role.)  The first time I saw it, I thought the most interesting thing about it was that it featured Howard Hesseman as a congressman.  For those who know Hesseman best for playing characters like Dr. Johnny Fever on WKRP, it’s strange to see him playing a member of the establishment.  Hesseman isn’t bad in the role but it never makes sense that he wouldn’t be able to think of a way to explain away his presence in Manhattan.  You would think a politician would be better at coming up with an alibi or that he could have pulled some strings to keep it from being revealed that he had been quarantined.  Instead, he decides to just run off and potentially infect the entire nation.  That’s not what I pay my tax dollars for.

Quiet Killer is a good example of how real-life events can shape how we view a film.  Up until just a few months ago, this would have seemed like just another cheesy disaster movie.  Watch it today and it feels prophetic.  Hopefully, by this time next year, it will be back to just being cheesy.

Mini Kus! Catch-Up : “Egle And The Snake” By Joana Estrela (Mini Kus! #89)


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Casting far and wide for both talent and subject matter, Mini Kus! #89 from Latvia’s eclectic “art comics” publishing house Kus! features a Portuguese cartoonist, Joana Estrela, telling a decidedly contemporary version of an ancient Lithuanian fable in Egle And The Snake, which sees the serpent cast in its traditional role as schemer but our woman protagonist, while perhaps a little too polite for her own good (up to a point, at any rate), assuming a great deal more agency and self-determination than, say, the biblical Eve. It’s about time, sure — but there’s also something quite timeless about what this comic has to say about relationships and gender roles and power dynamics.

Egle is young — high-school age, according to the narrative — but wise enough to smell a rat (errr, snake) and to know when to say when. But damn if this story isn’t…

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