Staff Picks – Week of 24/05/2017

Back Issue #97
Various Contributors
Two Morrows Publishing

Thomas says: Two Morrows output is always of a very high standard and this issue is no exception. Declaring itself as the “Bird People Issue” Two Morrow’s collective get their teeth into some expected and not so expected bird themed comic characters from your obvious Hawkman to Andy Mangel’s deliciously informative and gleeful coverage of the oft overlooked Condorman.

The true stand out (apart from Condorman) is the Hawk and Dove article covering their Vietnam era debut through the first Crisis and onwards. Although not my favourite Ditko creation (Yay The Creeper) I have a soft spot for his not too subtle ideological F*@k you and it’s Kesel/Kesel/Liefeld resurrection in the late eighties and beyond. All of which is covered in depth by Michael Eury with interviews, pictures and reproductions.

A highlight of most months, Back Issue always delivers something of interest for both the casual and most ardent of fans.

Jeff Lemire (w/a)
Gallery 13

Joe says: I don’t know what’s going on with Jeff Lemire lately but the man’s on a roll. I’m loving his ongoing series’ but it’s fantastic to have a new OGN from him; where he has the space to decompress and take his time with one, ongoing narrative.

Lemire delivers an unsurprisingly gorgeous yet heartbreaking story, beautifully paced and full of emotion. It’s a must-read for anyone who wants to see a master at work.

Revolutionary Girl Utena
Chiho Saito (w/a)
VIZ Media

Julia says: This manga was first published between 1996-1997.

We have Tenjou Utena as a main character, a girl unable to accept the gender role that society imposes on women. She is a teenager that wears a male school uniform, she likes to play and act like the male students, but despite this, she doesn’t lack femininity.
The story takes place at an elitist school where, all who have a special ring with the rose symbol in it are duelist that sword fight for the Rose Bride, Hinemiya Anthy. The winner becomes the master of this girl and she must obey all his wishes like a submissive wife. Utena will fight for the sole purpose of protecting Hinemiya, her new friend, from being subdued and humiliated.
The relationship between the two girls is not developed from a romantic perspective, but rather a feminist union which promotes that a female must not wait for a prince to save her. They can and must be self-sufficient and support each other to achieve their goals.
Utena is marked by an event of her past; when she was saved from drowning by a mysterious prince (who also gives her the ring that will enable her to duel in the future). From then she dreams of reencountering him, but not as prince and princess, but as equals. Her “male” attitude is her way of being like the person she admires, regardless of what other people expect from her. She stays true to herself and her beliefs at all times, influencing people around her. Utena becomes the “prince,” the savior figure, encouraging people to show themselves for what they are, setting them free from the strict social conventions. She becomes a savior but not by winning duels, but though daily attitude.

This manga is very dense, with tons of layers, allegories, visual metaphors and tons of symbolism to assimilate. It includes themes such as sexism, religion and coming of age among others.

It’s a powerful feminist story worth reading.

Jack Kirby Collector #71
TwoMorrows Publishing

Karl says: Here is another excellent publication from the good people at TwoMorrows Publishing. The always informative and entertaining JKC continues to mine the the seemingly inexhaustible seam of comics history that is the astonishing body of work that Jack Kirby created during his time on Earth.
In this, what would have been the King’s centenary, the investigative and speculative articles and musings continue to flow from the phenomenally knowledgeable crew of contributors. Several pieces look into The Anti- Life Equation and who could resist an article entitled “Darkseid The Metaphysics of Power ” ?! Kirby’s Fourth World is far from the only focus point though, and a transcript from a recent Kirby-centric panel goes into some detail about his collages, a personal favourite aspect of the work.
People sometimes question and marvel at the fact that a journal could run this long dedicated simply to the work of one person. That is exactly the point though, this work is unquestionably genius level and really the closer you look the more is revealed. Orbital Gallery will be presenting a Kirby tribute exhibition later in the year to celebrate the centenary – keep your eyes peeled!

Everything is Flammable
Gabrielle Bell (a/w)
Uncivilized Books

Camila says: Having followed and really enjoyed Gabrielle Bell’s work for a number of years now, I had been really looking forward to this book and my anticipation grew as I heard her talking about it at one of the panels at TCAF a couple of weeks ago. Reading it now, I have to say I think it’s her best work to date.

Most of it written at a very specific time and under difficult and unusual circumstances – going back home to her childhood town to help her mum after her house caught fire and she lost everything she owned. However, the ‘story’ almost doesn’t matter here, as what makes Bell’s work so good and powerful is the way she sees and deals with the world, combined with what she chooses to show us out of the endless moments we all experience each day.