Immensely talented Russian illustrator Roman Muradov has quickly established himself as one of the most complex cartoonists around, both visually and narratively. In Muradov’s hands, the simplest fable can become a massively abstracted exercise that is usually part giddy, part confounding. If you’ve been alienated from his previous work because of this, The End Of A Fence is not likely to change your mind, but if you’re intrigued by Muradov’s narrative delivery and structured cartooning, this will probably make you more so.
The story, such as it is, involves people who live in a world where, as the back cover puts plainly, people are “segregated by compatibility” creating a world where all companions agree on everything, and relationships receive a compatibility rating that leads to matchmaking. Muradov’s story follows one girl who follows her compatibility directive to another sector. Her story is complex and demanding, with words and graphics clinging together in their poetry and mystery.
But it doesn’t unfold so simply and you’re going to find yourself giving this multiple reads as you attach the skeleton key of a simple plot to what Muradov puts down on the page. His art, as usual, is masterful and beautiful, with an quality of animation to it, as well as inspiration from old Soviet propaganda posters. His people are walking, talking geometry, and the world they inhabit are stark washes of vivid colors battling for attention on one page, then alternating with explosions of color collage. Formatted more like a picture book, with Muradov’s fanciful handwritten text that becomes part of the illustration.
This represents the first standalone book from the Baltic comics publisher kuš! and it would great to see them put out more of these. The End Of A Fence works just as well as a tiny art book as it does a comic, and as you spend time with it, giving yourself to what Muradov has unleashed, you will be enriched and content to let the work just be on its own terms.