The stars are out of my eyes, and my system.

*No way this is Monday. That’s a fantasy.


Coffee and Donuts: A Junkyard Cats Comic (not too hot; a dose of cuteness, and that is all)

Nextwave #2

The Punisher MAX #31 and Gødland #8

99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style (new Matt Madden book on thinking for yourself about visual choices; a longer review, touching on several matter of form and art)

Plus we've got a review of Tom De Haven's prose (if comics-related) book Dugan Under Ground.

And then there's always my faltering first attempt at 'live' blogging a pop culture event, the Academy Awards. Watch me writhe and grasp as the jokes escape me with no time for an update. What japes!

*Moving right back to sequential art -


La Perdida: Pantheon’s latest deluxe comics bonanza, this time a hardcover compilation of Jessica Abel’s 2001-2005 Fantagraphics miniseries, concerning a young woman adrift among expats and natives in Mexico. Certain to interest fans of Abel’s Artbabe series of short stories, if they haven’t been following the serialization for whatever reason - there hasn’t been a flood of Abel material recently. As usual concerning Pantheon tomes, this has been sitting around in bookstores for a few days now, and my handy Borders coupon has already secured me a copy - expect a review sometime later this week.

Mom’s Cancer: I recall reading this comic during its original online presentation - it’s by Brian Fies, who exhibited a natural grasp of the comics form while crafting this autobiographical piece about his mother’s struggle with the titular disease. It avoided sap and sentimentality, but presented a lot of good information and emotional weight. It’s not online anymore, but the hardcover book compilation is out this week, for $12.95.

Tomorrow Stories Special #2 (of 2) and Tom Strong #36: Well, what can be said? It’s the (delayed) final two pamphlet-format releases written by Alan Moore for his ABC line. The Magus only scripts parts of the Tomorrow Stories Special, catching up with the denizens (and artists) of that particular book, and ultimately presenting what I believe is the one and only official America’s Best team-up story (I think Rick Veitch is doing the art). Of special note is the hotly anticipated (by me) new Little Margie in Misty Magic Land story by Steve Moore and Eric Shanower, the prior example of which was a great extended Little Nemo in Slumberland homage. And after that you can turn your teary eyes toward the final issue of Tom Strong, by the Bearded One and co-creator Chris Sprouse (with Karl Story), wrapping up the whole universe as the events that concluded Promethea are replayed and expanded upon through the eyes of the title hero. If you’ve ever been a fan of these books, you certainly want to be here for this.

Crying Freeman Vol. 1: Dark Horse, as you know, is manga writer extraordinaire Kazuo Koike’s very best pal in the US for the moment (Dark Horse has posted a 2002 interview here, conducted by the ever-articulate Carl Horn), putting out all sorts of series from across the many, many years of the man’s career (I hope VIZ warns us if any of Koike’s Golgo 13 stories are planned for inclusion in their current release effort). As logic would suggest, many of these releases are connected to Dark Horse’s prior, hugely successful release of a famous Koike series, Lone Wolf and Cub. But there are many other sides to this man’s output, and here we see Dark Horse paddling out into ‘Ryoichi Ikegami’ waters; Koike and Ikegami (also noted for his work on projects as diverse as Mai the Psychic Girl, Sanctuary, and the Japanese Spider-Man series) have had almost as long a professional relationship as Koike had with the late Goseki Kojima (of all those Lone Wolf and related books), dating back to AIUEO Boy (aka: The Starving Man) in 1973. Apparently not quite ready to stray too far from what’s certain, here we see Dark Horse release the first-ever ‘unflipped’ edition of the pair’s 1986-88 series Crying Freeman, which has existed in English in one format or another since, well, 1988 (courtesy of VIZ). This big 408-page volume ought to cover the initial storyline, Portrait of a Killer, a sex-and-violence loaded extravaganza of super-assassin excess that nonetheless carries with it a core of genuine sweetness, and an unironic belief in love as transcendent power. The plot concerns a hitman who weeps when he kills (cue title!), and finds his life changed when he loses his virginity to a similarly-inexperienced, decidedly interested target of his. Certainly more sensitive than the toxic gender politics of Koike & Ikegami’s Wounded Man, though I warn you that the sexual violence gradually ramps up as the series continues, or so I’ve heard (I’ve only read this volume in its VIZ incarnation). Preview here. Much more on the many corners of Koike's career can be read in the infamous concluding 'Manga Hell' issue of VIZ's old Pulp magazine, or heard via a chat with Patrick Macias at this fine anime/manga podcast.

Cromartie High School Vol. 5: I may not be the internet’s master of manga history, but I do suspect that the aforementioned Ikegami’s Otoko Gumi (Gallant Gang), a 1974-79 series written by Tetsu Kariya, regarding the adventures of a gang of badass delinquents who attend a horrid, fight-ridden school loading with gangs and weapons and absurd fighting, served as one of the key inspirations (read: target of parody) behind this ever-popular romp. Certainly writer/artist Eiji Nonaka adopts a visual style that can be described as a burlesque on Ikegami’s hyper-realist, super-heavy approach to comics art, extracting the maximum amount of stiff, awkward posture from all those burnished figures of limited expression, and deploying choice bits of visual silliness to sweeten the pot at just the right moments. Granted, some of Ikegami’s own work with Koike is kind of silly as well, but Cromartie is nothing if not unique in its total package. Here’s the new volume.

American Virgin #1: A new ongoing series from writer Steven T. Seagle (It’s a Bird!) and artist Becky Cloonan (Demo), concerning the adventures of a virginal celebrity youth minister whose abstinence-centered preaching comes into conflict with everything from terrorism to the grander aspects of spirituality. Might be something, might be a disaster; it’ll certainly look nice with Cloonan behind the visuals (and apparently, Jim Rugg of Street Angel fame joins the team with issue #3). Have a preview.

Fantastic Four: First Family #1 (of 6): In which writer Joe Casey again returns to a certain niche he seems to have carved out at Marvel - writing miniseries covering the ‘early years’ of iconic superhero teams, with modern accouterments dotting the throwback landscape. First there was the 1999-2000 X-Men: Children of the Atom, then 2005's Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and this time we focus on Reed and Sue and Ben and Johnny, with Chris Weston of The Filth handling the art. It’s not coming out bi-weekly, though, like that Avengers book did. It will be interesting to see how Casey’s current work on Gødland informs the presentation of this similarly Kirby-soaked subject matter.

Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein #3 (of 4) and Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle #4 (of 4): Getting back on track. I’m especially interested to see how Mister Miracle winds up, its Passion of the Kirby Characters climax last issue all but assuring some outrageous turns of the screw for the grand finale. How will the inevitable transformation occur? However it does, it will likely be the most drastic of the all. And Frankenstein is probably going to be entertaining as well, but we expect that.

Fell #4: Following a short break, this Warren Ellis/Ben Templesmith book returns, still only $1.99. Of course, the self-contained nature of this makes jumping back onboard all the easier.

Spawn Collection Vol. 1 Limited Edition Hardcover: I actually flipped through the softcover incarnation of this thing (I presume the content is the same) at the bookstore a while ago. That one collected Spawn #1-8 and #11-12. It’s pretty obvious why the Neil Gaiman-written #9 isn’t there, and I guess Dave Sim’s allegorical #10 doesn’t really fit into the ongoing story at all, but I am kind of curious as to why Alan Moore’s #8 was included, but bereft of any credit given to the writer. Frank Miller was credited as writer of #11, so it’s not like the guest writers as a class got the shaft. Is this part of Moore’s desire to have his name stricken from all properties he doesn’t own? Or just a dumb mistake? Inquiring minds...