Roman Muradov’s newest work follows Jacob Bladders as he tries to complete his job as a newspaper cartoonist, in the cut-throat world of corporate illustration. Hijinks, and hijacks, ensue.
As always, Muradov’s drawings are buoyant and vaguely sinister. Not malevolent, but sinister with purpose: the nerve-inducing confidence of a wave of small and wordless creatures bearing away a Ghibli child; the sense an innocent is being taken somewhere. But where? The innocent is you, the creatures are Muradov’s smudgy inks, the journey is devil-may-care. Choice of materials (nib pen, occasional brush, heavy fingers, black ink) lets Bladders sweep its reader away on a belching whirlwind of coal dust–it coats the eyes, the tongue; transforming experience by dulling the senses. Every understanding seems hard-won, and thereby valuable. If you enjoy that Blade Runner visual fullness, you’ll battle the elements here and win.
But imagine you did have that grit between your teeth and that sore breathing, a real whirlwind throwing hair into tender eyeballs. Do you feel a rage coming on? An indignant outburst, like the ones that power and humorously disempower any given character in any given caper movie. Appropriate: Bladders is a caper and also something of a howl. “Why is life so mundane, so absurd?!”
Like The Artist, Bladders is a delightful object, hardback, small, square spine, matte paper. As well as a comic, it’s a luxury object, as we live in a material world why not avail of its pleasures? A luxury object is “a nice thing to have;” a luxury object that’s the physical carrier and experience-transformer of a technically assured, wicked-funny comic is a solid bet for life improvement. In the everyday, and sensual sense. The dry, textured paper is aesthetically kind to the smudged lines and shadows, but it’s also a narrative support feature, whispering loudly about sensory feedback: the chalkboard nail-lite graze of finger + page, and how that unpleasantness is what Jacob feels with every minor (and increasingly major) thwarting on every minor day. This comic is for people who ask “what’s the point?” whilst doing exactly what they’re called to do.
I say funny; I don’t mean LOLs. This is a stare-you-in-the-eyes, complicated humour that’s less about constructing puns, more gallows humour and existential irony. A tectonic style of comedy, not often penetrating the surface in guffaws, but shifting plates and gas pockets around deep down. A spine-cracking stretch for the spirit. I expect it’s a bore to be compared to author Mikhail Bulgakov, for an ex-pat Russian (EDIT: Armenian, but Russian-raised) who prefers Irish literature, but he’ll have to sigh and bear it.