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Strangehaven #17: THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN, GANG! As the last of the rains of a drawling cool spring evaporate on contact with the suddenly heat-feasted concrete of the suburbs and cities, an afternoon reverie of summer soon to arrive like a long-awaiting package in the mail, so comes “Strangehaven”. The beauty of “Strangehaven” is that every new issue is a new opportunity to initiate a new reader into the book’s burgeoning cult, since there’s always someone who’s never heard of it. And considering that the book generally sees only an annual release, who can blame them? “Strangehaven” is the self-published baby of writer/artist Gary Spencer Millidge, and the book (along with Carla Speed McNeil’s “Finder”) is one of the scant self-publishing successes in today’s comics scene, at least as far as pamphlet-sized longform serialized comic book storytelling goes. All this despite the fact that the last issue came out in June of 2004, and the one before that in May of 2003. Also, it’s a mystery-based ongoing storyline, and not particularly friendly to new readers, but I’m still gonna recommend you pick up this new issue as a sampler, to see if the unique “Strangehaven” atmosphere draws you in. It’s a resolutely English book, set in a comfortable (even quaint) village amidst charming forestland, but there’s cults and murder and secrets and WWII-era RAF fighter pilots, along with the requisite romance and family affairs drama. But it’s the sense of place that’s gonna grab you. Sample this issue, then after you’re hooked you can snap up the first two trades (collecting six issues each), only to eagerly await the third trade due late this summer. Oh, what’s that? The math doesn’t add up? Well, yes, we do need an issue #18 for a third trade, don’t we? Millidge says that issue #18 will be out in two months. Judging from past experience this is a bit like Warren Ellis announcing that “Planetary” shall henceforth be bi-weekly, but nobody wants this news to pan out as much as me; more “Strangehaven” more quickly would be a gift for all.

Embroideries: The new book from inescapable “Persepolis” author Marjane Satrapi, though being from Pantheon I’m sure it’s been in all the chain bookstores for weeks now. The Comics Reporter is always the most educational site around: just look at all of these links! And more on-point, look at this message from Matt Madden in which he reveals that “Embroideries” is actually only one entry in a special line of books released by French art comics giant L’Association dubbed “Cotelette” (or: “Cutlet”). The object of this series of books is to present “quick, sketchy, diaristic comics,” in Madden’s words. However, “Embroideries” has been plucked from the line and presented to US audiences entirely stripped of such context, which will doubtlessly (and indeed has already) lead to grousing over Satrapi’s already simple visual style, which will be far simpler here. Be informed, and proceed with knowledge! And since I’m such a great fan of knowledge, here’s the entire “Cotelette” line for your edification, including the works of Lewis Trondheim and Julie Doucet. Distressing lack of David B. though…

Solo #4: In which Howard Chaykin does the “Solo” thing. Fans will obviously want this, seeing as how Chaykin will be getting into styles he’s not known for (like autobiography and western), while maintaining something of an EC feel, if DC’s solicitation is to be believed (grain of salt there, friends). Paul Pope set the bar good and high last time, but I think Chaykin can pull it off.

City of Tomorrow #1 (of 6): And that’s just part one of tomorrow’s Chaykin celebration! Also look out for his new sci-fi miniseries. In spite of its flaws, I found Chakyin’s last writing/drawing mini “Challengers of the Unknown” to be one of my favorite books of 2004, so obviously I’m looking forward to this. The preview makes it look mighty campy, with an aged father Chaykin-hero slapping the snot out of his rebellious punk son Chaykin-hero. Robots too. Worth a look.

Wild Girl #6 (of 6): Ok, something has to happen now, right? Because it’s the end of the book. So many spinning wheels here, but it’ll look great, that much is assured.

The Punisher MAX #20: I’m guessing the artists on these arcs work ahead while another is seeing print (which suggests that Ennis has worked up a bit of a writing backlog), since the last issue of this just came out the other week. No complaints, and little to say, since it’s Frank Castle. Looks to be a fun storyline, if curiously weighed down by continuity.

The Fourth Power: Strictly optional for me; in fact, I’m probably not getting it, since I have half of it in oversized format, but “Metabarons” fans might be interested in this Juan Gimenez solo effort, combining a perfectly nice stand-alone album from 1989 with a brand-new sequel from 2004, the only non-”Metabarons” fiction work Gimenez did in the last decade with the exception of some erotic book from 1997 called “Nosotros Los Heroes” and “Choose Your Game” from the pages of “Heavy Metal” (did “Heavy Metal” ever collect that; I can’t find it on their site). It’s a satirical sci-fi epic with warring peoples struggling over an amazing weapon derived from the minds of certain people. Maybe it’s a trick of translation, but Giminez’s writing often sounds a bit like Masamune Shirow’s: so packed with technical detail that the storytelling becomes obscured. Fortunately, Giminez’s gorgeous art is present to guide you through, and he doesn’t skimp on the spacecraft and guns and explodings. Flip through it.