MAIL ORDER BRIDE

Mark Kalesniko, Author . Fantagraphics $19.95 (264p) ISBN 978-1-56097-410-9

Kalesniko's latest work examines contemporary Korean mail-order brides, a provocative and real phenomenon that matches women looking for a better life with lonely, foreign men. Monty Wheeler, a 39-year-old comic bookstore owner (and virgin) lives in Canada and is surrounded by an ever-expanding inventory of collectibles, including a secret collection of "oriental" porn, a cache of erotic Asian stereotypes that will later haunt him. Monty represents a certain type of obsessive, self-indulgent collector, and his loneliness, immaturity and utter geekiness drive the plot. But it's Kyung Seo, his Korean bride (who speaks English perfectly, to Monty's disappointment), whose evolving sense of independence forms the book's core. Impatient with the circumscribed life of her meek, emotionally stunted husband, Kyung takes surreptitious lessons in attitude and personal freedom from Chinese-Canadian photographer Eve Wong. The women become friends when Kyung agrees to pose nude for Eve (to Monty's horror), a bid for free thinking that eventually leads to other social intoxications like smoking pot and talking about art. As Kyung and Monty's relationship deteriorates, the sexual objectification and power imbalances at the heart of their "marriage" are pulled into stark focus. Kalesniko (Why Did Pete Duel Kill Himself?) is an expert at sophisticated, visually efficient narrative renderings of complex emotions. His drawings are spare and cinematic, and each panel underscores the characters' psychological isolation or another revealing detail. This is a sensitive and intelligent look at the contradictory human impulses that lurk behind cultural stereotypes. (June)

Reviewed on: 05/28/2001
Release date: 05/01/2003
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