As far as Roman Muradov comics go, Resident Lover (Kuš!) is fairly straightforward. Only 28 pages long, the comic relates the story of a narrator and their lover, ex-lover, and ex-lover’s lover (whose ex-lover is possibly a skilled bocce player, or so the narrator has heard). On a trip to the Colombian province Valle Del Cauca, the narrator and their lover argue. They leave the car and stumble across a Valle Del Cauca department store—a massive hyper-mart that fuses a Walmart with the MoMA. The narrator drifts through the store, and on a cliff overlooking it all, imagines a fable about codependency that allegorizes their own relationship troubles. Though the whole thing is about love, this “love-story-in-a-love-story” (as the back cover calls it) contains “not a word on love.”
And while that may seem like a complicated plot for such a short comic, it will feel simple for readers familiar with Muradov’s other books, like (In a Sense) Lost & Found and Jacob Bladders And The State Of The Art. But while Muradov simplifies the narrative here, he doesn’t let up on the ludic qualities that made those other books so worth reading. The Valle Del Cauca department store is staffed by cashiers caught in an infinite loop of performing a drama, and its walls are lined with art. Its massive roof is decorated with paper lamps, and a mysterious gondola makes its way from the roof to the top of a conspicuous cliff and back again. The narrator, upon reaching the top, imagines a parable about two girls who grow into mirror images of one another, the story ending with a game to determine the morbidity of the relationship.
The whole thing is illustrated in Muradov’s signature style, which matches the rhythms of his staccato narration. His shapes are immaculately geometric, ovals and triangles and squares overlapping in hyper-abstractions. Muradov presents the narrator to us as a faceless head topped with a bob of black hair. They have no features; their hair is an androgynous length and style; their turtleneck likewise frustrates our impulse to read their gender. There is an ambiguity present in the simple, rounded portraits of the narrator’s lover, ex, and ex’s lover, though Muradov gestures toward a gender expression here that is totally absent in his portrait of the narrator. The whole page is a synecdoche of Muradov’s aesthetic M.O.; what presents itself to readers is, on the surface, simple—too simple, or so it appears, to conceal anything from us. The narration is brief and matter-of-fact; Muradov’s lines, clean and direct. Even the colors are reduced to flat blocks of color: negative spaces of different hues outlining, defining, and overtaking one another. But simplicity conceals ambiguity, and elegance conceals emotional fissures. The narrator’s face offers readers little, antagonizing them, revealing nothing but hiding nothing either. Muradov’s work is much the same, providing laughs and wit and striking images, but resisting interrogation and retreating from any sort of conventional sense-making.