kuš! comics’ mini kuš! series of short, self-contained comics narratives are always a strong signifier of how far we can still use comics innovatively as an experimental storytelling platform. To remind you all of the salience of that point, this week at Broken Frontier we will be taking a quick look at the latest batch of four mini kuš! issues (#115-118) beginning with work from British creator Gareth Brookes in the pages of ‘Gym Gains’.
‘Gym Gains’ is the story of a love triangle between three friends – Jeff, Kate and Liz – who are regular patrons of their local gym. The trio have been using a new gym app to measure their physical achievements that has ensured a certain level of competitive oneupmanship. But as events progress the contest between them becomes as much one about love as it is about athletic prowess…
Brookes uses the same bleed-through effect in ‘Gym Gains’ as he has on a couple of recent projects of late, including Times Tables which we reviewed here as part of our South London Comic and Zine Fair (SLCZF) coverage. This works particularly well in ‘Gym Gains’ in terms of sequentiality, with the traces of relevant recent events pushing through from prior pages as if echoing forward from the past.
This is work, of course, from an artist known for his experimental interrogation of the form and here he uses that attribute to cast the technological aspects of the story in a strangely ethereal light. That juxtaposition of the physicality of the characters and the digital technology that guides them through a hazy, indistinct imagery gives the app an almost spiritual identity. This, though, is not a benevolent deific entity; more an intrusive and detrimental one, bearing silent witness to their experiences but somehow managing in its passivity to act as insidious tattletale as well.
Like fellow British artist Peony Gent, Brookes has become something of a recurring presence in the kuš! comics line-up. It’s a fitting match and one that emphasises how kuš! remain one of the most boundary-pushing publishers in comics.
Gareth Brookes (W/A) • kuš! comics, $7.95
Review by Andy Oliver