‘Kinski:’ TPB Review

I first came across Gabriel Hardman when I reviewed the Dark Horse one-shot Station to Station, drawn by Hardman and co-written with his wife and regular collaborator Corinna Bechko, and I was immediately drawn to their creative and artistic sensibilities.  Then, there came whispers in the digital comics-verse of a new Gabriel Hardman book called Kinski, and then there it was, nestled amongst a plethora of other creatively stupendous titles put out by digital publishing favorite Monkeybrain Comics. If all that wasn’t enough to get me on board, Monkeybrain Comics’ Knuckleheads had a cover that paid direct homage to Hardman’s series, and, in that moment, I knew that I would review Kinski at the first chance I got, and, thankfully for you and for me, that chance has come.

Released in print by Image Comics, Kinski is a six-issue story that relates the trials and tribulations that befall everyman Joe when he takes it upon himself to become the caretaker of a stray dog that he finds while on a business trip.  While not bereft of joy or happiness, circumstances often do not work in Joe’s favor, and so many of those moments are fleeting, and, at times, some may even believe they are wrongfully earned. Joe is a man with scruples, but his passion and penchant for acting without thinking, or for still acting even after thinking, tend to land him in moral quandaries and possibly in harm’s way.  This is a story of desperation, of one man’s desire to do the right thing, just not always for the right reasons, or for the right people. But, through it all is Joe’s unflinching love for the titular black lab Kinski. Named after the crazy, megalomaniacal, and brilliant actor Klaus Kinski, who with writer/director Werner Herzog created some truly memorable and terrifying characters, Kinski as a name perfectly embodies the lack of self-control that overtakes Joe in his quest for personal happiness.

Hardman’s black-and-white art is raw, aching with a pulse of hope as one thing after another gets in Joe’s way, and Joe begins to come apart at the seams in the art, harried and frazzled, but with a glint of resolve that is nearly impossible to extinguish. Kinski is based in a simple and real world, so the extraordinary lengths that Joe goes to stand out, and his desperation practically jumps off the page, as does his anguish and resilience. Hardman’s lines and shadows have a touch of bleakness to them, and it's easy to imagine this is how Joe’s life has always looked to him, full of shadows that never become anything, and hard lines delineating his life from a fulfilled life.  The art is stunning in that it is so remarkably grounded and carries so much emotional weight. Hardman is a master of expression and experiencing his close-ups can be joyous or painful, depending on the situation.

Kinski is a feat of dramatic, thrilling storytelling, often told as much in pictures as in words. Hardman creates a character to root for, while also still questioning the moral certitude of some of his decisions.  The plot starts off as very straightforward then slowly develops into an intricate, almost frightening tale of one man’s spiraling out of control and possibly setting himself on a course for destruction, or for a new and better life. Find this book, buy this book, and fall in love with Kinski. There’s a good chance you’d do anything for that black lab, too, even if you’re more of a cat person. 

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