Review: P-FE/FRAF by Ville Kallio


The latest batch of comics from kuš! comics has been has been new work from rising artists as well as perennial favorites. Michael DeForge’s latest work, Meat Locker, are comics that he has been publishing on Patreon for some time. The first of the latest set of mini kuš! that caught my eye is mini kuš! #44, by Ville Kallio. Kallio’s new comic, P-FE/FRAF,  is an oddball mix of sociopolitical doomsday, military comics, and kaiju action.

From a perspective of current political events, Kallio uses the troubling increase in fascism across Europe and the Americas as a springboard for an apocalyptic war zone of the future. Concerns about the nature of work, the automation state, and the fear an increased military industrial complex over time make the comic especially prescient, given current political trends. It feels as though Kallio has been focused on this subject matter for some time (I previously reviewed BIO-WHALE, a comic from Peow Press that played with similar themes) but this is the first time that his vision seems so keenly realized.

The best way to describe the art and color choices of P-FE/FRAF is to call them garish. Kallio uses bright blues, reds, hot pink, and other vivid colors that assault the eyes. A checkered pattern and spraypaint effects increase the visual dysphoria, and the panel gutters are oscillating trippy patterns instead of your standard white. The experience is overwhelming.

The story centers on a nameless soldier in a platoon which is part of the Pan-Fortress European Fast Response Assault Force (PF-E/FRAF). The team lands in enemy territory and stumbles across an odd white orb, which one soldier befriends.

It feels like P-FE/FRAF is a “political cartoon” in that it deals with very current, realistic parts of our world political stage, albeit in a hyperbolic way. Kallio’s comic suggests “full communism” as the solution to the capitalist/fascist society that is rising around us, but there’s a wryness to that suggestion, as though Kallio, despite wanting change, knows that things are going to stay more or less the same. There’s a lolziness to it all. The opposition force’s final statement is fatalistic; “We have 2 learn to live with our cancer world and our cancer brains. We have 2 make the best of this cancer somehow.” Which is maybe the most practical worldview of all.

Ville Kalio @plurkerr is an artist and cartoonist based in Helsinki. Kuš komiksi @kushkomikss is a Latvian comics publisher that in addition to its kuš anthologies 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.

Sequential State is a comics criticism project whose goal is to explore the world of alt comics with a focus on art comics, comics from independent publishers, zine culture, and comics in translation (including manga). You can support the site at Patreon. Help us make more independent, thoughtful criticism possible. Thanks!

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