Yeah, this particular Monday really felt like 'back to work.'

*The proper place for


Acme Novelty Library #16 (with a special focus on how Ware executes his story)

Iron Man #5, Gødland #6

Seven Soldiers - Frankenstein #2 (of 4), Alan Moore Spells it Out (the latter being an interview book full of words of wisdom, some of which you might have heard before)

And a review of the recent film Munich, by that fellow who did the television movie about the truck.

*Comics Distraction of the Moment Dept: My oh my what an odd book Jon J. Muth’s M was. It was a 4-issue prestige format miniseries from Arcane Comix, which was a Steve Niles-helmed company that provided work for publication by Eclipse Comics, that noted independent publisher of everything from the US version of Miracleman to Chris Ware’s Floyd Farland: Citizen of the Future. M was released in 1990, when Eclipse was nearing the end of its life (it folded in 1994, I believe), and I don’t think it’s ever been collected into a single-volume format. That’s simultaneously sad and understandable.

M, you see, is an adaptation of the classic 1931 Fritz Lang film of the same title, concerning a child murderer hunted by both police and vengeful criminals all through the streets. Regular Lang collaborator Thea von Harbou’s script transformed this simple structure into an extended meditation on vengeance and compassion as embodied in the concept of justice, though it’s Lang’s formidable filmmaking skill (his first sound outing, and he nails it) and Peter Lorre’s twitchy lead performance that linger in the memory. Muth directly adapts the film to comics - I haven’t seen the film in a while, but I’m pretty sure he takes most of the dialogue directly out of the onscreen characters’ mouths. But it’s what Muth changes that really raises an eyebrow: rather than following along with the actors on screen, the man deploys a huge array of artistic tools (silverpoint, graphite, charcoal, oil paint, pastel, transparencies, enamel) to create a photorealist visual mélange, all of it clearly based in extensive, original photo reference, though transformed into shimmering b&w and hazy sepia dreamscapes, lightly kissed with carefully dabbed spot colors, apparently attempting to capture something of a Silent Era visual style in this early sound classic.

And the thing is, it often works - it looks absolutely ravishing at times - yet it’s also prone to some truly outstanding missteps, much of it the fault of the photo reference itself. As mouth-watering as the textures can get, they don’t really cover for the often poor facial acting of Muth’s subjects; I don’t know if this too was an attempt to employ the comparatively exaggerated dramatic performances of silent film, but it doesn’t translate well at all to the comics page, not with this much attention visual realism. And while the book is clearly set in a similar time period to that of the movie, there’s some nasty lapses in authenticity - a lady of the night spotted outside a club of ill-repute sports the frizziest, most 1990est hair possible, while Muth’s dabs of purple on the sky and neon blue on the club’s name makes me wonder if the whole thing isn’t a misguided attempt at unstuck-in-time style mixing. I don’t know, though I have to say it’s hard to concentrate on the most climactic German police interrogation of the early 1930’s when the perp is quite clearly sporting a mullet.

It’s such a jarring book, but so much obvious love and work has been poured into it. Issue #1 even comes with a 33 ½ rpm Flexidisc featuring tunes arranged by Muth and others, including Niles (who also served as series editor, with Valarie Jones co-editing issue #4) on acoustic bass and electric guitar. What strange, intensive, dismaying, lovely thing. There’s these amazing scenes in it, like men chasing their target across the tops of trains, the scene losing detail with each successive panel as birds that began flapping around the scene find their way outside the panels themselves, invading every corner. Man.

*After a long journey through the Thursday desert, things are back to normal


Dirty Stories 2-for-1 Deal: Boy, only $14.95 for over 300 pages of comics, all of it edited by Eric Reynolds of Fantagraphics fame, the contributors a veritable who’s who of alternative greats, including Dan Clowes, Dave Cooper, Renee French, Tony Millionaire, Dylan Horrocks, Ivan Brunetti, Ellen Forney, Rick Altergott, Johnny Ryan, Al Columbia, Mary Fleener, Bob Fingerman, Richard Sala, Dean Haspiel, and more! Sounds like a truly unstoppable deal! I mean, yeah - it’s cover-to-cover-to-cover-to-cover explicit sex, which means your shop maybe won’t be carrying it, but man alive I can’t imagine any release this week sporting a more powerful line-up than this bundle of volumes 2 and 3 of the Dirty Stories anthology. Have your local retailer wrap it up in a nice brown bag and enjoy!

Desolation Jones #5: Wow, not a lot of interesting pamphlets out this week for me. This thing is always good, though.

Ultimate Extinction #1 (of 5): Warren Ellis also has a Marvel book out, but not any of the ones I’m interested in. I only highlight this title to remind you all that apparently Gah Lak Tus is still coming. As he has been since August of 2004 when this storyline began. That’s more than enough time to have gotten your affairs in order, I think.

DMZ #3: Aaaaaaand that’s about it for the floppies I’m looking at this week. Well - at least now I’ll have money for that Daydreams and Nightmares book I’ve been eyeing up.

Seven Soldiers of Victory Vol. 1 (of 4): Ah, look at the fancy extended title! So anyway, this is the somewhat controversial first trade edition of the big bad Grant Morrison-written megaproject, treating the whole thing like a single story by replicating the order of each chapter’s sequential release rather than dividing things into miniseries. Seven Soldiers (as I’ll continue affectionately calling it) wasn’t going to be an easy one to translate to bookshelf editions in any form - probably the project works best as a set of 30 pamphlets, which can be switched and swapped around at will. By the time it became clear that the miniseries weren’t entirely working in isolation from one another, DC must have known they were damned no matter what they were planning to do (and obviously they had to do something trade-related, as that would give the book wider access to audiences). Collect it in order of release, and you’ll upset those who’d only waited for the trade on certain miniseries. Collect them by miniseries, and the reading experience would be somewhat jarring (and do note that it’d be impossible to do any ‘pure’ miniseries-by-miniseries collection since Seven Soldiers #0 has to show up somewhere, and it doesn’t quite pour directly into any of the four initial miniseries, so it was either just tack it onto something or wait until the project was over and release the beginning and ending last). I think DC has ultimately done the right thing in a difficult situation, as this format probably serves the flow of the story best of all, and provides for the most attractive reading experience to the purchaser. And hey, only $14.99 for 224 pages (Seven Soldiers #0, Shining Knight #1-2, Guardian #1-2, Zatanna #1-2, Klarion #1), so it’s certainly a damn good deal in any case.

DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore: But for those more prone to beard than bald, there’s also this. Actually, I’m really not sure how many hardcore Moore fans will be up for this 300+ page $19.99 affair, since all it really does is add Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? and Batman: The Killing Joke to the 2003 Moore omnibus Across the Universe: The DC Universe Stories of Alan Moore. Still, for newer Moore fans (or maybe those that missed the 2003 book the first time around), this is quite a big block of stuff for those jonesing for more stories, though even the man himself has gotten rather hesitant about recommending some of this material; The Killing Joke in particular always seems to get kicked around whenever the Magus chats about his less-favored projects, and but a cursory glance at the likes of that Vigilante two-parter indicate that we’re not exactly in V for Vendetta territory. But a whole lot of people seem to love those Superman stories, and even Moore’s lesser (and sometimes grim) period superhero works are informative as to the period in which he exerted so much influence over the superhero mainstream (and those Tales of the Green Lantern Corps shorts are still pretty cute).

Youngblood Maximum Collection Vol. 1: And then, of course, there’s collections like this, surely the most curious release of the week. Every comics enthusiast of a certain age remembers Rob Liefeld’s original Youngblood miniseries; even if they didn’t actually read it they must have at least heard about it, what with the monster hype at the time. In the ensuing years (or shortly after their original purchase), they’ve also all found out that the book perhaps wasn’t the most crisply scripted tale in the annals of sequential art. The most nostalgic fan of all might even stroke their chin and smile as they recall how the original 4-issue miniseries basically ran out of space and had to be finished in an issue of Brigade. Well now our youths have risen to damn us again, as this magical material receives its first-ever trade collection, except there’s been some surgery performed. There’s all-new colors. The later-released Youngblood #0 has been shuffled in. There’s a completely new ending sequence. And, most drastically by far, the entire script has been thrown in the garbage to be replaced by an all-new one by Joe Casey of Gødland fame, peppering his words all over Liefeld's art from long ago. There’s been an album-sized hardcover edition of only issue #1 floating around for a while now, but I do believe this is the complete collection, in softcover. Absolutely worth flipping through on the stands, if only to gawk at the final form of the thing.