by Praveen K, Devaki Neogi, Archana Sreenivasan, Manoj A Menon, Tina Thomas, Sachin Somasundaran, Jasjyot Singh Hans, Pratheek Thomas, Prabha Mallya.
Manta Ray Comics.

I remember when I first read Hush. In a tiny bookstore that was discretely playing some blues, I sat on a stair just looking at the first couple of pages. Eventually, the pages started to turn. Page after page, I kept thinking that I must put it back in the bookshelf – That if I read anymore of it, I’d be teary eyed and awkward in an almost cramped public place. But I read it anyway, because not reading wasn’t much of a choice.

I say “read”, because I am not sure what the better word for it would be. Obviously I bought it before I left the store. I needed for it to stay in my cupboard, even though I couldn’t say if I would really read it again. (Not because it wasn’t beautiful. It was. It’s just not the kind of story that I can bear myself to, again for the lack of a better word, experience for a second time)

When I got an email telling me that they were coming out with more of these comics, I was curious. Curious, because I had assumed Hush was what it was because of what it was dealing with. In its own way, it was a silent story about silences. But the very concept of whole stories being told without words, it was something that I was really excited about. So on the first weekend since the email that I had to myself, I bought the book.

Mixtape is, quite literally, heart-wrenching. But this time, I was prepared. I locked the door to my room. I made myself a cup of cocoa. I put on an extra pair of socks and snuggled into my blanket. And the book, it didn’t disappoint. (Even if it got over quicker than I wanted for it to).

It opens with Silver Spider, a story about a boy who does the sort of thing boys do and a story about a spider that doesn’t do the kind of thing that spiders do. I thought it was brilliant and twisted and dark and (yes, it’s true) funny! Stoopidkidsalwaysthinkingtheycangetawaywithstuff. Ha.

And then, well, and then. I was sitting there all pleased and stuff. I drank some of my cocoa and turned the page. I would have said that some warning would have been nice. But in all honesty, I was warned. Just a look at the cover would have been warning enough. The second story, Rather Lovely Thing. I don’t even know what to say about it. It took my breath away.

I wish I could say that I did justice to any of the stories that followed. I wish I could say that I was as moved by them.

I was clearly more impressed by them: Voyeur, worked a fun, sexy plot. I loved the irritation and rage on the man’s face. I loved how you’re expecting some sort of showdown. I’d like to think that I was the real voyeur. And I can’t say it enough, twisted and funny.

‘My Beloved’ seemed a little out of place. The art itself, for starters, was so much more full of detail than the rest of the stories. I’m not yet sure if I liked it. I feel like, as a plot, it had much more potential. I thought the first half was working up to something entirely different.

This little book packs quite a punch. I like the direction that it is taking Indian comic books to. I like that we’re growing up from Amar Chitra Katha, and Kari is not the singular standalone piece of work that was doing something amazing and downright brilliant. I like that I can look forward to things like Mixtape on a regular basis. (May I say, that Twelve in my head is already awesome?)

So go. Buy it. Make a cup of cocoa. Read it. If you don’t fall in love with it, I’ll give you your 55 rupees back.

(Regular programming resumes tomorrow. Story is getting written. It is in need of some editing.)

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