Good things.

*You know what makes me happy? A nice detailed discussion of things I never realized that I wanted to know more about. I smiled while reading this TCJ message board thread, on the topic of long-lost "Mad" knockoffs. Very cool stuff.

*But nothing is happier than This Week in Comics:

The Comics Journal #263: Just look at all this stuff! You want to get it! Featuring interview subject Ed Brubaker...

Tom Strong #29: ...who’s also writing the latest two-issue arc in this one. Art by the well-spoken-of Duncan Fegredo. Looks to be kind of a "What If?" story, which was basically what Alan Moore’s last arc on the book was too, although Brubaker looks to be going for an ‘alternate life for Tom Strong’ rather than Moore’s ‘alternate Tom Strong’ angle.

Astro City: A Visitor’s Guide: A forty-eight page ‘guidebook’ to the environs of Kurt Busiek’s superhero world, presumably for those who don’t want to go flipping through those trades and back-issues (or those like me who haven’t bought them all). I’m sure there’ll be some new info; there’s definitely a new eight-page story included to warm you all up for twelve issues of the next miniseries. And there’s art from folks like George Perez and Dave Gibbons. But for $6? Hmmm.

Challengers of the Unknown #5 (of 6): I really hope Chaykin doesn’t blow another six or so pages here explaining things that most (if not all) of the readers were able to glean from the many flashbacks we’ve already seen. The series has been on a downhill slide since the excellent issue #1, but last issue’s expository verbiage was where it officially crossed the line of irritation. It’s not far enough gone that it can’t still set things right, though. And for all the bluntness of the satire, at least it’s better organized than "Power and Glory", which I just read the other day. That thing was all over the place, and the ending felt like Chaykin simply ran out of pages.

The Punisher: Born: Now available in a $14 softcover. It’s a head-on collision between Ennis’ work on old Frank and his interest in war stories (sort of like how "303" is turning out over at Avatar), as we turn our gaze to charnel house of Vietnam. I liked it a lot myself; I consider this to be the proper origin of Ennis’ Punisher, and "The Punisher: The End" to be the chronological conclusion to the story. We also get some nice Darick Robertson art; I hope the softcover also includes the vintage photo-reference material presented as bonuses in the hardcover.

The Punisher MAX #12: But Ennis’ more recent work on the book hasn’t been quite up to snuff. The most recent arc, mercifully concluding this issue, was way too stretched out. But we should at least get some rampant bloodshed for the finale.

Ultimate Nightmare #3 (of 5): In contrast, the neck-breaking speed of this title has probably resulted in several lawsuits against Marvel for injuries sustained by readers unable to catch up with the action. I flipped through the last issue on the stands and any single page contained enough story content to match that of each and every trade paperback published by Marvel since 2001, combined. I would have bought it, but I was fearful that the sheer volume of information contained within those panels would make me literally crap my pants right there in the comics shop, solely by virtue of being close to my body. I can only hope the Internet is big enough to house all of the data we’ll reap from this glorious miniseries, and I’m confident that the two projected sequel titles will trigger the next evolution of humankind into a beatific race of info-beings. Thank you, Ultimate line. Thank you.

SPX 2004: The latest in the annual line of Small Press Expo $10 anthologies. This year’s theme is ‘war’. A contributor list is here. Jeff Smith does a Colin Powell story. Megan Kelso and Ron Rege’s entry is titled "Fuck the Troops". Much more.

Locas: A Love and Rockets Book: A gigantic 700+ page hardcover monster, collecting a whole lot of Jaime Hernandez’s "Love and Rockets" material; a natural companion piece to your "Palomar" volume. I just cannot afford this right now, but it’s an amazing deal, even at $50 (just try and compare it to the price of all those trades).

Ojo #2 (of 5): Stronger stuff than Sam Kieth’s been putting out lately. I’m on-board for this. Little else to say.