Review: mini kuš! #24 – Swimming Pool by Anna Vaivare

I’m back again with another mini kuš! this week. The kind folks at kuš! komiksi sent out a selection of their recent minis, and I’ve been thinking about how different each of these minis is compared to one another. While there aren’t necessarily unified themes that hold these books together, there is a drive towards high standards, especially in regards to artistic experimentation and production values. Despite their small stature, these minis are well designed and lovely to hold.

Anna Vaivare’s mini kuš! is a story of quiet observation. The protagonist, a cleaning lady at the local municipal swimming pool, cleans and reminisces about her past. She moves between patrons unseen, observing them in their activities while making the pool a space that people enjoy. But a fantastic revelation at the end of the book changes the way the story reads entirely.

Vaivare seems very interested in the boundary between the seen and the unseen. This entire book is about a person who once had a career being as visible as possible, now doing something as invisibly as possible. Her personal characteristics seem to draw her to the water, but no one knows or understands why that is important to her. The protagonist has significant private moments and observations in a very public space. That dichotomy is compelling.

Another compelling feature of Swimming Pool is its painterly aesthetic. Bright reds and yellows reflect on light blues throughout the mini. Dialogue appears in the book in odd places, but this choice works for the overall feel of the story. The story is told in the swimming lanes of pools, in the dirty water from scrubbing tiles, the depths of the protagonists work, her memories, and her passion.

There’s a gentleness to this comic, a relaxed-ness. Swimming Pool is feels like the memoir of a person who has lived a long and fruitful life. Vaivare’s protagonist is comfortable in her own skin. She is always smiling, even when doing the most physically demanding labor. The last few pages emphasize a feeling of self-acceptance and self-care. She radiates confidence and positivity.

Swimming Pool is likely one of the happiest minicomics I’ve read, and its gentle thoughtfulness is its main strength. Based on this little sample, I’ll be hunting for more of Vaivare’s work in the future.

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Anna Vaivare is an illustrator, cartoonist, and architect working in Riga, Latvia. Her work has appeared in kuš and other European anthologies and zines.  You can find more of her work at her website.

Kuš! komiksi [tumblr: kushkomikss]  is a Latvian comics publisher that in addition to its kuš and mini kuš comics has a goal to promote and develop comics culture in Latvia and feature Latvian cartoonists. You can see more of their books and buy a half-year subscription to their titles at their website. Their 20th anthology, Desassossego, will be released on February 18th, 2015.

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