EARTH DAY WEEK! As regular Broken Frontier readers will know we have been slowly building up a number of socially relevant resource lists of comics material on the site. In its relative infancy in comparison to our other lists is our Climate Change and the Environment one which we will be looking to add to significantly in 2023. While we are a little behind on covering kus! comics’ anthology series š! our Earth Day celebrations this week do give us an opportunity to discuss last year’s š! #44, the ‘Back to Nature’ issue and get the perspectives of a global line-up of artists on humanity’s interaction with its surroundings.
In the unlikely event you are unfamiliar with the output of Latvian publisher kus! their signature digest-sized anthologies have a set theme for each issue and feature cross-continental contributions from the more indie/alternative/experimental practitioners of the form. š! #44 contains work from five continents, including artists based in Thailand, Columbia, the US, Latvia, Portugal and Australia.
Unsurprisingly it’s the offerings in s! #44 that touch on our exploitation of the environment that strike the deepest chord. Thailand’s Pacharee Gie Prapanwattanasuk (above) uses a cartoony, kids-lit style of art to make an exploration of our ravaging of the ocean all the more disturbing for its naïve framing, as a young boy investigates the reason for the ghosts of so many sea creatures at his local beach. Portugal’s Mao adopts an almost polarised storytelling approach with a visual essay that juxtaposes text, individual images, and sequential art in a damning indictment on habitat destruction, climate change, fast fashion, and damaging farming methods.
Other thought-provoking entries include Australia’s Michael Fikaris whose symbolic imagery works in perfect union with the story’s reflections on fighting climate change and the stranglehold of the fossil fuels industries. Latvia’s Pauls Rietums (above) transforms arboreal love into a sequence of diagrams of trees he has admired and in turning the organic into the seemingly impersonal ironically imbues the page with an even greater degree of affection.
Estonia’s Mark Antonius Puhkan (above) gives us a symbolic silent story where discovery and connection meet, while another Latvian artist Inga Ziemele takes us to a future Earth devastated by humanity’s negligence where aliens used to such extreme conditions have called it home. Its jaunty use of colour and hip alien wit ensuring its message is underlined all the more firmly. kuš! comics collections are always worth your time but ‘Back to Nature’ has an extra relevance in its explorations of the greatest existential threat that humanity faces.
Oskars Pavlovskis (CA), Ainārs Kamoliņš, ale rodriguez, Ciara Quilty-Harper, Dileydi Florez, Inga Ziemele, Ingrīda Pičukāne, König Lü. Q, Lote Vilma Vītiņa, Luīze Rukšāne, Mao, Mark Antonius Puhkan, Mārtiņš Zutis, Michael Fikaris, Normunds Ozols, Oskars Pavlovskis, Pacharee Gie Prapanwattanasuk, Pauls Rietums, Rebeka Lukošus, Sanita Adoviča , Tess Meyer, Theo Ellsworth (W/A) • kuš! comics, $16.95
Review by Andy Oliver