The One Man Show

Alice in Sunderland

Now here, my friends, is a book for which too much is never quite enough.

On one level, that won’t come as too much of a surprise to seasoned readers of writer/artist Bryan Talbot, certainly not those who picked up the official Luther Arkwright cd-rom just for the pleasure of plowing through all 60,000+ words of annotations for Heart of Empire - Talbot is undoubtedly an extremely well-read, studiously thorough creator, and he’s not shy about kneading so much of his research into his books that they seem ready to pop and spatter factoids and correlations. Who can forget the endless litany of alternate history updates that filled the panel gutters in The Adventures of Luther Arkwright? You find the best things in the gutter sometimes.

I don’t know what Luther Arkwright fans will make of this one. Same goes for admirers of Talbot’s far gentler, Beatrix Potter-infused The Tale of One Bad Rat. I imagine some of them will be bored out of their skulls. Others will be merely puzzled. And some of that will be a symptom of marketing - I really don’t think it’s been made all that clear what this book actually is, certainly not by US publisher Dark Horse. They’ve put out a very fine-looking edition, at the enormously reasonable price of $29.95 for an oversized hardcover 328-page graphic novel in full-color. But what the hell’s in those pages?

Alice in Sunderland is, fundamentally, a playful comics-format treatise on the English region of Sunderland, and the lives of author Lewis Carroll and child muse Alice Liddell, and whatever things circling or tangentially connecting to those topics happen to wander into Talbot’s mind. The book's historical scope stretches back to three hundred million years ago, and leaps forward to incorporate bits of recent history that happened to spring up over the course of the story’s creation. It affects the manner of improvisation, as if Talbot is simply sewing facts together as he goes along -- despite well over half a decade’s work having gone into the tome -- yet when at the end he confesses that he’s simply forgotten about a plot strand he’d incorporated back at the beginning and now has no way to resolve it, you somehow believe him.

The prevailing tone is that of an emphatic, if disorganized lecture, prone to occasional restatement, and packed with non-linear darting from date to date and tangents that constantly threaten to seize total control of the book. I do believe the book was originally meant to be serialized, and it does have a few pages that seem like logical chapter breaks, although there are no chapters in the book itself. It is the very incarnation of ‘unruly,’ though some might favor ‘self-indulgent’ or ‘in tragic need of editing.’

But then there is the execution, which constantly seems to act as an inoculation against such claims. Pay attention now.

The book is structured as a variety show performance being held at the (actual) Sunderland Empire, a famed theatre. The lead performer, who is actually called the Performer, is Talbot himself. He’s performing before an audience of exactly one, the Plebian, who is also Talbot himself (oh, something tells me the author has anticipated charges of self-indulgence!). All of these bits are done in b&w line art, but the vast majority of the book is accomplished through digital collage, mixing up a vast array of photographs, period items, original color and b&w drawings, vintage art pieces of every style and form, and all manner of other appropriate things, the whole then plastered with words delivered straight to the reader (and Talbot-the-audience) by either the Performer or his history-traveling alter ego, the Pilgrim (yes, also Talbot again). The result in an extremely dense read, a varied one, a long one -- if you’re itching for a comics purchase that will give you hours and hours of reading, this will be a solid choice -- and an occasionally taxing one, even for someone like me who’s copasetic with the subject matter.

And that’s yet another thing that Talbot is keenly aware of, as his ‘show’ is constantly interrupted by all sorts of problems, from his audience falling asleep or talking on the cell phone, to the recurring presence of the lecherous ghost of British character actor and comedian Sidney James (who literally died onstage at the Empire in 1976), to pervading moments of self-reflection and autobiography. Talbot gets wistful about growing old, and sews in threads about his beloved grandmother and his home. He relates little stories relating to his time in comics -- did you know a 'Mr. Arkwright' was present as both a gift-giver at Alice Liddell's wedding and a wreath-layer Lewis Carroll's funeral? -- and introduces several of his friends and research collaborators into the book as characters.

At one point, on page 182, the comic slams to a halt as Talbot wakes up in his bed at home, having apparently dreamed everything gone before, and proceeds to have a fumetti-style attack of the nerves as he agonizes about spending years of his life on this comic, only to be soothed by the sudden appearance of Scott McCloud’s visual avatar from Understanding Comics (obviously a keen influence on this book). Other portions delve into outright formal analysis - there's an absorbing stretch of six pages where Talbot (literally) breaks down a pair of prints by William Hogarth, splitting depicted events into panels, drawing out visual guidelines, and pointing out symbols and tiny bits of telling detail. How in hell the book has gotten to that place is beside the point.

Needless to say, things get very self-referential - the opening pages see the book evolve from thumbnails to pencil roughs to inks, as sure a sign of interrogation of the form creeping in wait as any. Talbot also occasionally shifts his storytelling to mimic popular styles of comics throughout the years - there’s the requisite EC horror homage, a little tribute to Hergé’s clear line, and evocations of Viz and The Beano (including a special guest page scripted by veteran cartoonist Leo Baxendale). The real showstopper among these pieces is an 18-page recounting of the Legend of the Lambton Worm, gorgeously rendered in full-blown two-fisted rip-snorting b&w action style, yet subtly reconfigured into a parable of yearning for secure boundaries between good and evil in a gray human world, and the sad implications of reliance on such mythic clarities. There’s no doubt that Talbot has lost little of his aptitude for fantastic drama or sly critique, and the story’s positioning near the final stretch of the book seems primed to perk the reader up for the remainder of Talbot’s lecture.

So what of the lecture itself? What of the grand effect? The book as a whole often seems inclined toward a sort of psychogeography, Iain Sinclair by way of Alan Moore, though Talbot’s scope is far too sprawling and his vision not quite acute enough for much of that impact to hold. Rather, Talbot seems to cherish his selected concept of himself as host, entertainer, and audience, and proceeds to toss all sorts of stuff around for the amusement and fascination of… certainly himself, and presumably the reading audience who are constantly placed in the position of seeing through Talbot-the-audience’s eyes. Bits of the saga do prove enamoring, even moving, especially when Talbot manages to fix himself on the wistful particulars of Alice's and Carroll's lives; a clear theme of human life's briefness before the swell of time emerges, and Talbot does a decent job of carrying that across, perhaps because it's the sort of thing that'll most likely benefit from a rambling, free-associative more-more-more presentation.

And there is much room for novelty and interest in that, as Talbot in endlessly self-aware and good-humored, and compellingly willing to knock down any boundary separating the act of comics storytelling from the creation of the story itself, always shattering chronology and scenery and the security of the ‘narrator’ and whatever expectations might be present. There’s even a great fake ending, with Talbot clutching the flag and delivering an impassioned ‘moral’ to the story about how we’re all brothers and sisters in this crazy world, followed by a second fake ending, involving dragons and fireworks and song and dance and music hall star George Formby, followed by the real ending, which cheerfully puts everything in its proper perspective.

Yet Alice in Sunderland is so loose and wide-ranging, so uncompromising in its pursuit of fresh connections between historical figures (by the end it seems everyone in British history has had some sort of bond with the Liddell family) and cross-references with this and that and therefore, it's almost inevitable that the reader feels suffocated under a mound of stuff. Talbot's fevered correlations are impressive, and intoxicating at times, but they are also just as distancing as one might expect from a book so stacked with looking glass games of how it and its author are composed. With some self-focused books, the reader can be drawn in with the author's own reflections, and gain a deeper understanding. With Talbot's, you can look on in wonder and admiration, but always as seated in the audience, the author alone on stage with his chess pieces and addressing himself out beyond the pit.

There's nothing fatal about that. This is a unique book, a sometimes dazzling one, so long as you know what you're getting into. And do know you're going down Talbot's rabbit hole, and his Wonderland obeys only his capricious rules. You merely see the cake marked Eat Me, and await whatever conclusion.

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My Glowing Journeys

*Odd Reads Dept: I recently had a nice run of bargains at stores around the place. There’s a certain sweet spot in time for collecting semi-recent discontinued series at low prices - I’d say about two or so years after a series concludes is when a lot of shops throw up their hands at having the stuff clogging up their bins and discount them down to nothing. Hence, I managed to pick up every issue of the Peter Milligan-written Human Target ongoing series, save for the first five issues, for roughly $12 total (specifically, I got 15 of those 16 issues for fifty cents each - I had to bite the bullet and pick up the other one for $3.50 out of a face price bin). Vertigo has never collected any of this beyond issue #10, and there’s no revival in sight, so I guess now was the time to dump it all. Oh, thanks to Ken Lowery for putting the book in my head - these little windows of time don’t last forever.

I also found a few odd ducks warming up discount boxes.

- Judge Dredd’s Crime File Vol. 4 (of 4): Ah, completely random Judge Dredd compilations from the ’80s! America loves them. This little book -- a 1989 release from Fleetway/Quality, complete with a big black NOT FOR SALE IN GREAT BRITAIN! warning on the back cover -- is a great lesson in being sure to look at the table of contents of a collection of miscellany before you brush it away. Otherwise, I’d have missed all the lovely Brendan McCarthy art waiting inside! And in color too - all four of the stories in this book were culled from 2000 AD’s hardcover Annuals (always, confusingly, dated one year ahead of actual publication), which were partially color inside, so I don’t believe any of the art was colorized for reprint publication.

Actually, both of the McCarthy stories in here are visual collaborations: there’s a story from the 2000 AD Annual 1987 (thus making it a 1986 release) where he teams with Tony Wright (aka ‘Riot,’ and named in the reprint credits as ‘Tony Riot’), and a story from the 2000 AD Annual 1988 (so, actually 1987 - what fun!) where McCarthy and Riot are joined by Brett Ewins for a little Strange Days reunion. No Peter Milligan though, as all the stories within are written by John Wagner under a variety of pseudonyms, save for the Annual 1988 piece, co-written by Alan Grant. The Brian Bolland cover is particularly noteworthy as a recreation of one of the McCarthy/Riot interior panels, so Bolland is sort of ‘covering’ McCarthy, and the effect is… kind of awkward, since melty psychedelia has never struck me as Bolland’s strong suit.

And the Annual 1987 story is a melty one indeed! Judge Dredd is hot on the trail of a bunch of drug-thieving punks, until he’s exposed to a monster dose of psychotropic chemicals on page 2. He then spends the next 13 pages absolutely tripping balls, allowing for McCarthy and Riot to slather on many sickly colors, ferocious mutations, eyes hidden in explosions - obviously an excuse to show off, but why not? The 16 page saga ends on what might have been a solemn note, as we discover that Dredd has killed an innocent man in the midst of his drug rampage, except Dredd obviously couldn’t fucking care less.

Which I guess is the appeal of Judge Dredd for many - not a story passes in this book where the Judge doesn’t do something completely terrible, all of it happily brushed away as being for the greater good of our future’s society. The McCarthy/Riot/Ewins piece sees Our Hero yanking some drug dealer out of prison, threatening her with an augmented sentence of 400 years if she doesn’t aid him, forcing her to sell out her beloved uncle to his death, then tossing her back in the can for an extra half decade for nearly screwing up his plans. “You rat!” she bellows. “He sure is… one of the best!” remarks a worshipful fellow Judge.

The book also contains a color Bolland short from 2000 AD Annual 1982 (published 1981), which I’m told (by the 2000 AD homepage) is the only color Dredd story Bolland ever did. It involves a wicked punk releasing all the alien animals from a zoo, so we’ve got several pages of Judge Dredd kicking beautifully-rendered animals in the face, until he literally chases the perp down a dinosaur-thing’s throat and into its belly. “GIVE IT THE BIGGEST DOSE OF SALTS YOU CAN FIND!” Plus, an Ian Gibson tale from Annual 1985 (you guessed it, 1984). Good times.

- Shion: Another manga artifact from VIZ’s short-lived early ’90s VIZ Spectrum Editions experiment, presenting visually resplendent titles in trade paperback-sized volumes of under 100 pages, with ribbed vinyl dustcovers and fancy endpapers and all that. The only other entry in the series that I can find is the excellent Hotel Harbour View. Honestly, I have no idea of the series extended anywhere past these two books. Also: I had never, ever heard of this title until I held it in my hands.

It’s no Hotel Harbour View, but it is exactly the sort of thing that would only see an even halfway easy road to English-language publication in 1990, still one of those early years where the manga-in-America business hadn’t quite latched onto a format/content identity. The work of writer/artist Yu Kinutani, Shion (subtitled Blade of the Minstrel) features some utterly boggling renderings of massive trees and natural outgrowths, not to mention some fine monster designs, all in the service of a typical quasi-mythical tale about a wandering warrior who kills evil things on the road to destiny. Here’s the only art samples I can readily find. There’s plenty of heavy European influence at work, as filtered through the gaze of Hayao Miyazaki, although there’s some strong bishōnen stylings at work (not to mention a heroic costume design that seems, shall we say, heavily inspired by Yoshitaka Amano’s illustrations for Vampire Hunter D). So yes, lovely to look at.

But, it’s basically a bunch of combat sequences, accompanied by little bursts of just enough exposition to propel Kinutani past the niceties of characterization and toward things he obviously feels like drawing. It’s pretty inert, even slapdash as a story, despite vivid details like the Minstrel’s father ripping out his eye as a child and eating it at the behest of a Devil, in exchange for wicked powers supreme - no problem is too complex for Our Hero to resolve with anything more thoughtful than stabbing it in a soft spot. Still, if this were released today in Japan, I could see it picking up a certain English-language following in the scanlation scene, just for its visuals. Oh! And look - Kinutani also provided art for a series titled Leviathan, written by Eiji Otsuka of MPD Psycho and Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, and Omanga has you covered on that front.

Perhaps also noteworthy is Kinutani’s only other licensed English-language release (as far as I know), a short piece in Vol. 1 of Range Murata’s Robot, which was perhaps the absolute worst goddamned thing printed in that very mixed bag of an anthology. And no more shall be said of that.

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Virgin Spring


Ah, Virgin Comics. Considering their extremely well-known brand, they’ve turned into quite an unpredictable comics outfit. Just the other day came word that Virgin apparently will aid in the development of a graphic novel based on that classic series of ‘90s television specials, Breaking the Magician’s Code: Magic’s Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed, which will concern the adventures of a fictional version of the series’ masked magician, who will have adventures and solve crimes, hopefully in a trade secret-revealing manner. This is, of course, the most brilliant non sequitur of a media tie-in comic of the last decade or so.

But that’s not the only odd thing coming out of Virgin. They put out a lot of stuff this week; if you like meat ‘n potatoes violent action, you can certainly do worse than issue #1 of Guy Ritchie’s Gamekeeper. Don't get too caught up on Ritchie; Andy Diggle is actually the writer, and artist Mukesh Singh has apparently mistaken the filmmaker for Dario Argento, since much of the art is awash in solid, glowing colors straight out of Susperia. But it’s a nice little set-up of an issue that really only doles out just enough background to dive into the throat-slitting.

This, on the other hand, is something completely different. It’s what I suppose resembles a Prestige Format book, in that it’s 64-pages and handsomely bound, although there’s house ads lightly interspersed with the story (and it’s only $4.99). More than that, it’s very loud, nasty, garish, clumsy, bloody, and altogether weird. At its best it seems like some lost, politicized post-underground horror title. At its worst, it seems like something out of the lower end of Avatar’s horror line, only with some of the gore replaced with extra international anxiety. Did I mention it’s also a semi-incoherent allegorical update of the myth of Raktavīja, the blood demon defeated by Hindu goddess Kali?

Virulents is/was actually the, er, virgin installment of something that was at one point called The Asura Analogues, which was to be (or possibly still is) a group heading for a number of projects presenting unique takes on the titular demons of Hindu and Buddhist myth as repositioned for a contemporary global audience. That particular banner is nowhere to be seen on the book as printed, so maybe they’ve canned the whole idea, or decided that the individual projects would be better off on their own. But that only tells you half the story - set in the months immediately following 9/11, the plot sees two groups of soldiers, one American and one Indian, run into each other along the Pakistani/Afghani border. One group is searching for a lost comrade. The other is searching for a rogue nuclear device. They really don’t like each other all that much, and yell and yell and yell a whole lot. Sample dialogue:

Isn’t it ironic that you’re at war with a bunch of men you armed and trained? Your 9/11 means nothing to us.”

Watch your mouth, raghead, like I said, your turban, their turban -- all the same to me.”

And so on, including several exciting uses for the term ‘cunt’ in Indian. Unfortunately, woodenly-scripted terrorists (they only ever seem to discuss their own religious extremism) have accidentally freed the vampire-like evil of something analogous to Raktavīja whilst fleeing to the caves, and now terrorist and soldier alike are being devoured and converted by all-consuming evil, and everyone must set aside their differences to combat a threat that overrides any current human war.

I certainly get the feeling this is all supposed to be saying something about These Current Times We Live In, but I’ll be damned if I can divine a coherent message from all the jumbled mayhem that goes on in here. I actually do like writer Shamik Dasgupta’s arch, quasi-mythical writing on Virgin’s Ramayan 3392 AD, but he seems way out of his element in attempting to handle rough, ‘modern’ dialogue - characters mainly just screech platitudes and insults at one another until the monsters show up. Artist Dean Ruben Hyrapiet offers plenty of stiff poses and awkward expressions, although his work does perk up to goopy, gut-spattered life once the blood starts flowing, the visual storytelling taking a backseat to vivid feeling.

That’s the curious thing about Virulents - it’s kind of a terrible book, but it’s an off-kilter, let’s-follow-our-vision-no-matter-what sort of terrible that I wouldn’t have expected from a tie-in/famous names happy comics line with the Virgin brand attached. I really don’t think that kind of aesthetic is going to ‘save’ the book for those not up for a load of blood and gore and politicized screaming, but the nervous energy behind it bumped it up a point or two for me. Someday, it will be the kind of thing you pluck out of a dollar bin, only to marvel over the curiosity of it.

I don’t think Virgin’s published anything I’d call great, but its choices are weird and unpredictable enough that it prompts a tiny, baffled leeway, and I find myself oddly pleased by its presence.

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A comic.

*52 Dept: It’s now been two weeks in a row that we’ve gotten fun issues of this, so I guess I can half breathe a sigh of relief for things not completely tumbling off the tracks in anticipation of the finale. This week was also aided greatly by the presence of penciller Giuseppe Camuncoli, who seems to have made it through the obvious time constraints of 52 with his visual personality intact. In light of the ‘where are all the stories standing?’ nature of this issue, I’ll just look at them individually.

- Batwoman Forever: Ha! Thought they forgot about her, eh? Still, fun little tidbits about Intergang undergoing internal strife due to faulty interpretations of their crime-powered religious scripture aside, the real amusement here comes from the writing team’s willingness to tease at an old-fashioned ‘damsel in distress’ climax. It’s kind of interesting to me how the typical man-saves-woman nature of this stuff has been broken down to pure gender ‘costume’ rather than actual gender. Batwoman, with her shapely costume and her flowing locks and her high heeled boots, is captured, while Montoya, whose ‘superhero’ costume consists of measurably less frilly things like a pair of slacks and a thick sweater and an overcoat -- the whole persona freshly taken from a male hero, by the way -- is cast as the rescuer, along with poor clueless Nightwing. Don’t ask me if this is subversion or reinforcement - knowing 52, there’s probably further twists somewhere down the line.

- Animal Man is Back: What I liked most about the Animal Man bit this issue was that it was just straight-up Seven Soldiers, only stripped of subtext and with the yellow aliens standing in for the Seven Old Men. I’m surprised someone didn’t offer to sew Buddy a pair of striped underpants - of evolution. Ah, what the hell - there’s 50,000 or so people reading this comic who may not have heard it before. Also: Buddy runs into just about the most obvious plot wrinkle possible given his storyline, and I am completely ashamed that I didn’t see it coming at all.

- Coming Attractions: At this point the Steel plotline is only trundling around as an all-purpose gap-filling, spin-off promoting machine. I’m gradually getting more interested in the new Peter Milligan Infinity, Inc. series (drawn by Avatar house artist Max Fiumara!) - I always did think those bits of 52 were awfully X-Statix lite, and now they’ve gone and actually gotten the writer of X-Statix onboard. Points for effort, DC! Also good: Dr. Kala personally delivers another message - of love!!

- Oh, We Have Other Superheroes Too: Nanda Parbat is actually a superhero rehab clinic, right? Because all these characters showing up to dry their souls out is now officially past the point of comedy. Anyway, very little of the Wonder Woman or Batman material seems clear in any way to me, which isn’t so bad with Wonder Woman since I’m not reading that book, but I actually am reading Batman. And this is the second time Batman has been tried in 52. Did he need to go into recovery from his first issue of this?



I Like Read Much Heaps

*As part of my continuing effort to make this website the most delightful place yet conceived, I will now present a selection from the multi-volume memoirs of noted actor Peter O’Toole, a man who knew that ‘autobiography’ didn’t mean having to restrict one’s self. For instance, the entire first book of the series, Loitering With Intent: The Child, juxtaposes O’Toole’s upbringing amidst the ravages of WWII with copious anecdotes taken from the life of Adolph Hitler, complete with imagined dialogues.

In this excerpt, one Mr. Dahlerus, a Swedish businessman attempting to cut a deal between England and Germany prior to the invasion of Poland, visits Hitler in the company of Hermann Göring. However, Hitler had been taking a lot of drugs to get to sleep, and requires more drugs to wake up, and it has toyed with his mood -

(this is all even better if you 'read' it with O'Toole doing the Hitler voice)


See him pause his pacing, fix eternity with a stare, and hear the self-acknowledged greatest orator in Europe huskily slur and mutter to himself:

'Hear my voice my mightiest of own folk. Hear my right mighty voice as rightly you have mightily heard it for right mighty years. Might is right and right is might so it's all right my mighty own folk. We are us, you are me, I am us, we are me, it's miraculous, altogether, I am right irresistibly mighty. I, us, my, we, our military might might rightly smash, crash, bang, boom, wallop, clang, clatter, crunch, batter, bash, shoot, shell, shite, bomb, shite, shite, shite, rightily, mightfully, shitefully, all together now my own folk: "Germany over every fucking body!" Right, Da Da the Swedish kike lover, you bring me the straight tip, bung it to me.'

Dahlerus has described this encounter with Hitler as meeting a phantom from a story book. When he had told the Führer of the hard resolve not to countenance his aims, which had been formed by His Majesty's Government, and the probable consequences of any further aggressive action which the Führer might be contemplating, Mr Dahlerus seems to have sparked off a fair old show of frantic auto-puppetry by Alf.

Erratically flinging his now bloated kisser back and then forward almost to the carpet, again and again and again, milling his arms in chopping great rings, heavily stamping his feet over and over and over, the Führer now began to bark in the voice that had captivated millions: 'U-boats! I shall build U-boats! Shall build U-boats! Build U-boats! U-boats! U-boats! U-boats! U-boats! I shall build U-boats!' There then followed a few phrases which Mr. Dahlerus found that he couldn't follow at all but which, I fancy, went, 'It is my unshakeable intention to build a dog-track at Linz.'

Da Da looked at Fat Hermann, Hermann was just watching, nor did he wobble a chin.

Mr D has recalled that Hitler next asked him why England had perpetually failed to make an agreement with him. After Mr D had diffidently suggested that perhaps it might be that they did not hold complete confidence in either him or his party, Alf had stuck his livid face into Mr D's and shrieked, while at the same time banging his own left tit with his fist, 'Numbskulls! Have I ever told a lie in my life? Aeroplanes! I shall build aeroplanes! Shall build aeroplanes, build aeroplanes, aeroplanes! Aeroplanes! Aeroplanes! Aeroplanes! I shall build aeroplanes and I shall annihilate my enemies!'


It's a very nice book, although it's out of print, I think, so you'll have to look around online for it. This first volume was published in 1992. The second installment, Loitering With Intent: The Apprentice, was published in 1996, and covers O'Toole's early years on the stage. I haven't read the second one, although I doubt Hitler is in it since the author kills him off at the end of the first book. Oh! Spoiler!

O'Toole has said that he wants to devote this year to writing the third volume, featuring his adventures in filmmaking. Certainly the most entertaining actor's memoirs I've read. I've heard Klaus Kinski's are also well worth perusing, but copies of that don't run cheap...

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*Right to it.


Army@Love #1 (which I'll link to here, since the @ is being naughty with Blogger)

Garage Band (coming soon from First Second, from Gipi)

Essex County Vol. 1 (of 3): Tales From the Farm

*Not many items of interest out, though at least one long-awaited book is ready -


Alice in Sunderland: Huh, it’s finally out. It seems writer/artist Bryan Talbot has been working on this thing, a whopping 328-page, 7 ½” x 11”, $29.95 full-color graphic novel, for as long as I can remember him working on anything new. It’s a so-called ‘dream documentary,’ appropriately on the history of both Alice Liddell & Lewis Carroll, of literary fame, and Sunderland, the municipality in the English northeast that's connected to them both. The book is also about many other things, and the narrative (which is structured as the performance of a variety show) apparently goes off in many different directions and many different visual styles, encompassing several periods in the 20th century history of comics while it’s at it. It was probably a good idea it just call it “An Entertainment” on the cover. The preview pages (scroll down) make a lot of it seem sort of text-heavy, with lots of narration over bits of digital collage. I’ve always rather liked Talbot’s works, even though just about all of them are flawed in their own ways, and there’s no doubt he’s a highly influential and adventurous force in British comics history - he also doesn’t put out a new 300+ page project every year, so admirers will obviously want to get this fast. From Dark Horse.

Oh Skin-nay! The Days of Real Sport: Here’s something I didn’t even know was being published until Chris Butcher started talking about it on his site - it’s a new vintage reprint thing from Drawn & Quarterly, a hardcover facsimile edition of a 1913 volume of verse and cartoons by poet Wilbur D. Nesbit and artist Clare Briggs, the latter being the obvious focal point of interest. Portraying a year in the life of wistful Midwestern small-town boyhood, with extras by Jeet Heer, $24.95. Briggs is only the latest in a long, long line of early newspaper comic legends that haven’t had much of anything in print, so this is probably worth flipping through.

Houdini: The Handcuff King: A new biographical graphic novel from Jason Lutes & Nick Bertozzi, concerning the man of the title. Obviously a very good team. Here's what it looks like. Goes for $16.99. A product of the Center for Cartoon Studies.

Virulents: Hmm, this is a one-shot comic from Virgin about American and Indian troops battling terrorist vampire things in the desert. Just thought I’d inform the world. This week Virgin also has issue #4 (of 6) of the consistently better-than-expected Dave Stewart’s Walk-In, which, like all of these ‘famous name’ comics from Virgin, is actually written by somebody else, Jeff Parker specifically here.

Elephantmen #8: Ok, it’s actually coming out this week.

Gødland #17: Ditto.

Silent War #3 (of 6): That current Marvel Inhumans miniseries thing. I’m posting as a friendly reminder that Frazer Irving can draw very pretty.

Batman #664: Er, something about police corruption from Morrison & Kubert. Perhaps you’d be more interested in the trade collection of Batman: Snow, a Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight storyline from a while back, written by the creators of Chase, Dan Curtis Johnson & J.H. Williams III, with art by the late Seth Fisher - I’ve heard good things.

52 #47 (of 52): More endgame prep.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Vol. 1: Attack of the Mousers & Vol. 2: Out of the Shadows: God, I really am sort of in disbelief that the new TMNT movie performed so well last weekend, although I guess the competition wasn’t that fierce? I still wasn’t quite prepared. But obviously Titan Books was prepared for something, since now they have these two 96-page collections of the seven-issue Peter David-written Dreamwave incarnation of the comic ready to roll. Oh preparation!



Another One Waiting Inside Your Store

Essex County Vol. 1 (of 3): Tales From the Farm

Here’s a somber, emphatic mood piece of a comic, recently released by Top Shelf at $9.95 for 112 b&w pages. I suspect it’ll strike a chord with some readers, immersed as it is in sense of reflective childhood isolation and recovery, dabbed with sports heroes and superheroes, all of the things a young man might come to admire while stuck in the middle of nowhere in every sense of the phrase.

I’m unfamiliar with writer/artist Jeff Lemire, although I know he did two issues of a comic titled Ashtray in 2003, won a Xeric grant for his 2005 graphic novel Lost Dogs, and is currently serializing a comic titled Soft Instruments online. As you can tell from the title, this book is only the first volume in a trilogy of books to be released by Top Shelf from now to 2008, although it’s a full story in and of itself.

The premise is quite simple - tracking the seasons of a year in the titular rural Ontario county, the story follows a young boy named Lester who’s been orphaned through the death of his mother and must live with his Uncle Ken on a farm. Lester has withdrawn far inside himself, and constantly wears a superhero cape and mask, claiming to be hunting malevolent scouts from an upcoming alien invasion. He doesn’t appear to have any friends, although his twin loves of comics and hockey leads him into a friendly-seeming interaction with one Jimmy Lebeuf, a gas station attendant that everyone has written off as brain-damaged after a nasty injury in his first big game on the Toronto Maple Leafs. Personal growth and many inky, isolation-dipped views of rural scenery and farm equipment ensue.

On the level of symbol and character, this is not a deep or particularly innovative book. Lemire has a good grasp of choked, plainspoken dialogue, which suits his characters just fine, although their personal arcs rarely seem more than predestined by the thrust of this type of coming-of-age story (as Uncle Ken loads his truck up with chickens for the slaughter before a weeping Jimmy, is their ever any doubt that this divide between two seemingly incompatible lives will be sensitively filled?). The same goes for the use of superhero accoutrement, kept on so broad a symbolic level as to seem almost precious by the book’s concluding plunge into outright metaphoric fantasy, though I expect Lemire’s two-fisted wrap-up of a boy’s growth may hold more resonance for those with a greater childhood attachment to superhero comics than I. Indeed, Lemire even inserts seven pages of his very own childhood superhero comics, drawn at the age of 9, so as to deepen his own presence in the form of young Lester.

Of wider appeal, I think, are Lemire’s visuals, which considerably augment his story’s impact through their own scratched visions of power - mighty farm instruments, sharp rows of crops, razor-like thatches of grass, looming, blank horizons. It’s more than enough to sell the psychological state of the three primary characters, all of whom are quite lost in their own ways. Lemire is additionally talented at summarizing character traits in their faces, Jimmy a menacing/cuddly hulk with knob ears and an elephantine nose that seems to have been broken a thousand times, Uncle Ken and his canyons of wrinkles and thick mustache perfect for brooding over tragic flashbacks in the shadows, all the other detail in his body drained as if it migrated to his pained face. Lemire trusts quite heavily in his visuals, many pages very light on words or entirely ‘silent,’ and that’s undoubtedly the best creative choice made with the work.

Predominantly, this reads like an early work from a talented creator, which is precisely what it is. As is fully expected, young Lester ultimately grasps his own power as an individual, and is able to relate to others on a more mature level by book’s end. Likewise, Lemire possesses an evident aptitude for infusing his comics with a black and wind-beat authenticity. His tale of childhood’s twilight out and onto the page, the reader can hope for stronger sights in the promised future.

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Don't Wait Too Long

*Ah, just a few short hours until Monday's post goes up.

*I think the highlight of my day was probably (finally!) getting to see the terribly famous 1962 short film La Jetée, from writer/director Chris Marker. It's coming out on Criterion dvd this June as a double-feature with Marker's 1983 oddball philosophic/poetic documentary Sans Soleil, but I figured I'd already waited long enough to see it.

And on the whole I was impressed by how the film chooses to derive all of its power from the nitty-gritty of filmmaking modes - if there's anything everyone knows about this film, it's that the whole film is composed of still images, held in place and expertly weaved into a whole, with narration and music set over it. That's all the visual cinema really is, at its bottom - still images passed before the eye in a certain succession -- and Marker is keen enough to exploit those properties as the most effective means of conveying his story, which probably wouldn't have stood a chance if it had been presented in a more traditional manner.

Oh yes, the other thing everyone knows about this film is that it inspired the Terry Gilliam picture Twelve Monkeys, and it's telling that Gilliam took only that basic plot and stretched it out for himself to his own ends. They say the Gilliam film is not a 'remake' - I say it couldn't be, because the whole effect of La Jetée is totally hedged on its unique manner of presentation, a conceptual vision to individual that to adopt it would be futile and to discard it and 'remake' the meat would be disaster. The surface 'plot' of La Jetée is basic, obvious, knowingly absurd, in possession of a concluding twist so screamingly obvious I cannot bring myself to believe that Marker did not intentionally telegraph its arrival, and wholly dependant on Marker's grasp of metaphor to bring it to life. Cinematic metaphor - the procession of sealed moments, still pictures, in illustration of the story of a man forced to travel time by remembering things in tiny blocks. To remake this properly, you would have to create something new, which is what happened, which means it's not a remake. You dig?

Ah, there's a lot of stunning little bits in here. Sure, there's one stretch where the time-traveling fellow and a lady he's pursuing are walking through a museum for about 340 or so minutes, but many of Marker's soothing past-tense reveries successfully implant their iconic selves upon your brain - you will truly believe that you're reliving fragments of some primal experience, and living through flashes of of the future. It's Marker's made-up 'memories' he's giving us, and celluloid is his time machine as sure as that wacky contraption Our Hero gets hooked up to by the strange men. You can't relive any of your life, but it can be presented to others as simulation, and Marker does what he says!

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More Tales of Boys and Their Games

Garage Band

This will be out in a few weeks. It’s one of the first releases out of the third wave of books from First Second, although this wave will be handled a bit differently than before - it’ll actually be two books per month, starting in April, until all six are out. So this is one of the April books. Being a First Second release, it’s a compact, elegant softcover with flaps, $16.95 for 128 color pages.

English-only readers might be familiar with Italian writer/artist ‘Gipi’ (full name: Gianni Pacinotti) from his continuing series Wish You Were Here, published by Fantagraphics/Coconino Press as part of their Ignatz line of fancy pamphlets - the two extant installments are The Innocents and They Found the Car. I’ve only read the latter, but it’s good, tense little crime/suspense piece that greatly benefited from Gipi’s delicate visual mix of sharp-edged character art and swirling, monochrome shades, as well as an anxious working-class sensibility.

Both of those elements are heightened in Garage Band (originally published in French under the title Le Local in 2005), which adds plenty of dewy and overcast watercolor (lots of samples here), and spreads its character interactions even farther across a more basic plot. The book is divided into five chapters, five ‘songs’ (perfect for a graphic album, eh?), each one bearing something of an individual tone. Together, they track a short while in the lives of four Italian teens who’ve just obtained access to a fairly shitty but nonetheless real garage where they can play their music, a place where they can not so much escape their family lives but process them into music, a temporary independence from the more immediate concerns of their situations.

Among them are Stefano (lead vocals), a proud boy and a presumed troublemaker, eager to prove his worth in the world after his dad gives him a special break. There’s also Alberto (bass), a sensitive lad who’s close with his mechanically-inclined, ailing father. Then Alex (drums), immersed in his fascination with Nazi aesthetics after being left to the mercy of his class-conscious mother and aunt, after his own pop skips town with a cache of embezzled cash. And finally Giuliano (guitar), an well-off fellow with a nice girlfriend who often feels scrawny and indistinct, and whose distant, successful father loaned the boys the garage, on the provision that they behave. They do not, as is to be expected.

I’m sure you’ve already picked up on the book’s fascination with fathers & sons, which Gipi uses mainly to illustrate how the pressures of family drive young men to find a place of success and self-sufficiency, perhaps to make sense of the lives they’ve lived that far. And these are quick, often deftly minimal illustrations at that - it’s impressive how much Gipi chooses to say entirely through Alberto standing by his father and smiling, or how comprehensively Stefano’s pressures in life are sketched out through a little speech by his dad over dinner. It doesn’t always succeed -- Giuliano’s poor girlfriend has absolutely nothing to do but look pretty and tease out insight as to her boyfriend’s emotional state -- but at its best it provides just enough fuel for the book’s resonance to really take hold. Even small sequences, like a tense encounter with a black metal group, are enlivened through a winning sense of generosity with revealing character interactions.

And character-based resonance is really the point here. Even the book’s nominal plot, concerning some desperate small-time theft, is really only there to assist in filling out Gipi’s portrait of youthful anxiety, although the too-pat ending ultimately detracts from the overall feel. Still, this is a gratifyingly nuanced book in terms of character, and obviously the product of an artist sensitive to the balance of words and pictures that must be struck - this is beautifully presented in the ‘musical’ portions of the story, where Gipi’s captions dispassionately explain what our young characters’ songs are about while all of the surface content to carried through pure visuals, his lines and colors growing oh so slightly more furious as he presents boys playing like it’s the only thing worth doing. That’s all that’s needed to say, and Gipi, accordingly, says no more.

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Hal Jordan’s hottest secrets in this post.

*Far and away the most awesome bits of The Brave and the Bold issue #2 were the ‘flirtatious’ comments tossed in Green Lantern’s direction by Supergirl (they’re this issue’s official team-up), mainly because they’re about on par with what you might hear at the beginning of a pornographic video on the internet:

It’s just… a little chilly out here, is all. Maybe we can… share your aura…?

Mark Waid may be able to entertain me with superhero lines like “He doesn’t know Ventura is continually patrolled by the Hounds of Chaos” since I’m a huge, awful nerd, but his teenage girl lines? Not so hot. And his ‘flirtatious’ teenage girl lines? “So, Green Lanterntell me… what does a man like you do for fun when the mask comes off? It does come off... right?” Actually, that kind of stuff predates the internet by a good while, I think.

So, why is it awesome? Easy! Because after all the snuggling in deep space, pornography does not, in fact, ensue - actually, Hal continually reminds himself that Supergirl is only 17, and they go have their exciting superhero mission, albeit one that offers various opportunities for Supergirl’s arguably underage figure to be viewed through a decidedly non-neutral gaze. I like to think that this is really Hal’s gaze; Mark Waid is his mouth, but George Pérez is his eyes. And gosh Hal, you can’t escape how you truly feel!

All the better for all the readers of the comic, by the way, since that means that we get not only cheesecake, but muscular reinforcement as to the rugged heroism of not having sex! Wow! This is really a superb psychosexual funnybook trick - not only is the reader invited to leer at the pretty girl(s) on the page, but they’re also congratulated for being put into the position of looking but never touching, the perfect way to assuage any lingering bad vibes that might be flittering around! It’s perfect! Kind of cynical and pandering, so perfect!

Oh wait. Hey now. I know what you’re saying (because I am conducting surveillance on your home): “Jog, you bum, Hal Jordan would never, ever act in that way. And are you saying older superhero men should be having sex with teenage superhero girls? I am pretty sure that stuff is prohibited by an apocryphal verse of the Green Lantern Oath!” And that’s perfectly fair. Hey, I don’t have anything against cheesecake either.

No, it’s that special combination of cheesecake and harrumphing about sexual mores that kind of scratches at me, like Hal delivering a speech to Supergirl about how she ought to stop flirting with him and perhaps look for a boyfriend from a different galaxy because all the guys who know her fear her power or something, which naturally prompts Supergirl to dress in a porno-pink ensemble, no doubt rented from a local Barely Legal Outfitters retail location, and save the day whilst allowing Pérez to dish out the upskirts (and on a side note, it certainly was fortunate that all of the gamblers at the biggest-stakes game around on a planet devoted entirely to gambling had apparently never seen a gladiatorial contestant play the ‘looks small, actually very strong’ card before). It’s awash with prurience, yet presumes guilt or anxiety over such things, so it also argues staunchly against what it so clearly wants to present.

Sort of old-fashioned in that way. Kind of happily old-fashioned when compared with THE HIGHER MARY MARVEL’S HEMLINE THE BLACKER HER HEART. God, this is an old-fashioned book, isn’t it?

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I have heard that funnybooks sometimes tackle "the politics."

Army @ Love #1

This is the latest ongoing series from Vertigo, the broad concept of which can be viewed as either fortuitous or detrimental in contrast with other recent Vertigo output. It’s, in significant part, a satire of American morals in the context of global struggle, a territory that was quite specifically mined in a recent prior Vertigo launch, American Virgin (let alone the more general War on Terror vibe permeating any number of recent comics, like Vertigo’s DMZ). That series is still ongoing today, though its subject matter may have changed since its initial storyline; I wouldn’t know, since I haven’t had the desire read any farther. That’s the crux of the little issue facing this new book - the subject matter seems awfully familiar, yet it truthfully doesn’t have all that hard an act to follow.

The newest project from writer/penciller Rick Veitch, Army @ Love does initially benefit from focus, and generally manages to keep its tone consistent, which seems like a small victory on the battlefield of lowered expectations. It’s set in the midst of America’s next big war, a protracted struggle for order in the nation of Afbaghistan, an awful slog that’s been turned around quite spectacularly through the intervention of Motivation & Morale (or: MoMo), a curious, surveillance-happy group that’s been tasked with bolstering the flagging spirit of the troops and attracting new recruits - they’ve done so by recasting war as the greatest entertainment the world has to offer, the ultimate in decadent, high-octane amusement for the bored denizens of an affluent society. It’s a comprehensive job, involving everything from soldiers yapping on cell phones while under fire to orgies on retreat, but it’s a great success, until the inevitable cracks in the armor begin to show.

Who knows how much of a series can be dragged out of this concept, which is both amazingly silly yet cruel enough to scratch some tender portion of my brain, especially when I think of those super-slick recruiting commercials. Still, in order for any of this to register beyond the abstract, Veitch is essentially forced to portray his characters as having moved entirely beyond any recognizable notion of morality or mortal care in combat, since one would naturally expect any of MoMo’s marketing schemes to dissolve once the blood starts flowing and the explosives go off.

This allows for some funny visuals of stark-naked soldiers dazzling the enemy with their nude bodies (having just fucked in the middle of a firefight), flexing their muscles as they fire their weapons in the way that only Veitch can quite draw it, but the artist is ultimately left in the position of characterizing entirely twisted adrenaline junkies, removed from most recognizable human characteristics. That’s a problem when your comic purports to be “a people book,” as Veitch deems it in a back-of-issue essay, although he does get a little mileage out of contrasting his young, sick soldiers with the old guard and the people back home.

Indeed, one of the core bits of conflict in the plot revolves around the notion that the American people, while willing to partially stomach something like Abu Ghraib, presumably as the dirty business of war, would go entirely apoplectic over the revelation that soldiers aren’t as much treating war as dirty business anymore but an excuse for sexy abandon, sort of a political car crash of moralities. Do I necessarily ‘buy’ that idea? Not really -- call me a sucker, but I just don’t have the apparent faith in America’s sex/violence morality divide that Veitch does -- but I’ll agree that as a broad platform for satire it has a potential for pinpointing targets and characters that the book’s even wider premise seem to lack, and it seems to make up for the evident characterization handicaps Veitch is going to have to work under. But is it really satisfying that the book already seems to be undergoing damage control before it’s even started?

I’d say on the whole Veitch’s visuals are more satisfying than anything. Which isn’t to say it’s sheer aesthetics I’m responding to -- some of José Villarrubia’s colors come off as uncharacteristically drab, and I’m generally not a huge fan of inker Gary Erskine’s work, although his melding with Veitch’s pencils does form a unique hybrid -- but that Veitch the visualist is served much better by the satire than Veitch the writer. Little details like a severed finger laying on the ground are scattered about to enhance the aura of ignored dread. Some of the smaller designs are cute and funny, like the rolling MoMo vehicle that resembles a metal monster grinning and opening its mouth when its hatch pops forward, or the Secretary’s very well-furnished aircraft. Even the soap opera Veitch dishes out on the home front is enhanced - keep your eye on all the stacks of money and the concealed weapon that one guy keeps handling. Oh, there’s a good cell phone joke too, although that’s not so visual.

So it’s particularly difficult to give this debut issue an evaluation. It's virtually all potential energy, having spent its debut getting its broadest premise out, one which didn't make for all that great an experience. But there's clearly room to work, and Veitch may yet build to a more affecting pitch in the future.



Anime Ain’t Nothing but Suicide Misspelled

*Ah ha ha ha… you know, when I wrote about anime pricing the other week, I guess I really didn’t believe in my heart that affordability would actually get any worse in the very near future. Like, in the next couple of weeks. But lo and behold - Bandai will be releasing the new Katsuhiro Otomo-affiliated OVA project, the six-episode Freedom, in HD DVD/DVD Twin format (I believe that means it works in non-HD players as a plain ol’ disc), beginning June 26, at $39.99 per half-hour episode, with (oooh! aaah!) behind-the-scenes extras. You may recall Freedom as being affiliated with delicious Nissin Cup Noodles - a commercial for the project was floating around last year.

I’d like to say that Bandai is perhaps greatly overestimating the interest in anime on HD DVD and/or whatever remaining name value Otomo (who serves as storyboard artist and character/mecha designer - the project is directed by Shuhei Morita, whose short film KakuRenBo - Hide & Seek bears the distinction of being one of the few anime shorts to receive a R1 dvd release) possesses, but I think the situation is more a matter of Bandai seeking to mold the US market into something more susceptible to simultaneous US/Japan releases, as a means of cutting down on piracy and importing. Besides, poor Otomo didn't even get mentioned in the press release (neither did Morita, or any of the creative team, actually). Freedom Vol. 1 has already been released in Japan, yes, but not on HD DVD I don’t believe - it will hit the US and Japan at the same time.

It remains to be seen whether the US market will be interested in this scheme (probably no). Maybe they need to do what Huff suggested in the comments section of my last anime pricing post and play up the ‘authentic’ nature of the release. Does that still work? As for the show itself, well - the website is very impressive. Anime News Network has links to a talktastic untranslated six-minute preview (which is to say, 1/5 an episode, and a savings of nearly $8), and the project seems to be rocking that flat cgi look from the Appleseed movie that always reminds me of cel-shaded video game graphics. And Otomo’s visual designs seem determined to prod us between the eyes with Akira comparisons.

But hey - if you just couldn't wait to get your hands on that outer-space instant noodle anime that Katsuhiro Otomo didn't write or direct (which might be a saving grace for some), our United States will soon be neck-and-neck with Japan.

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The sunny week beckons.

*Now I want it to be 70 degrees again.


review nuggets (starring 52 #45, Punisher War Journal #5, and Blade #7)

Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms (the only full-length review I did all week, and it's for a fine book indeed)

*Latest Grant Morrison News Dept: Having been duly chastened by Dick Hyacinth, I will point out today that J.H. Williams III will indeed be re-teaming with Morrison for an issue of Batman (#667) this June. This is preferable to me than the original plan, which was to see Williams return to Detective Comics to work with Paul Dini, where you’ll recall the he was initially set as ‘regular’ artist (total issues completed: 1), albeit a sort of fill-in regular artist for initial regular artist Rags Morales (total issues completed: 0). Of course, I really want to see the rumored creator-owned project Morrison and Williams are supposed to be working on, unless I dreamed that up along with the combination radio/vehicle battery jumper box, perfect for rocking out while stranded (that was last night’s dream).

But there is other news, reprint news afoot! This July, Knockabout Books will be publishing (no permalinks, scroll down) a new 256-page omnibus collection of the works of artist and designer Rian Hughes (who I believe has some material in the third issue of Ashley Wood’s art thingy Swallow, due this week), titled Yesterday’s Tomorrows. It looks to be chock-full of fine treats, including both of Hughes’ collaborations with Morrison: (1) Dare, a satirical, political envisioning of classic British heroic character Dan Dare, originally serialized in 1990-91 in UK comics magazines Revolver and Crisis and later brought to the US in 1991-92 as a four-issue miniseries under Fantagraphics’ Monster Comics line; and (2) Really & Truly, a drug-themed adventure strip that ran in 2000 AD for eight issues in 1993. I don’t believe either of these works have been collected before in book form (EDIT 3/20/07 6:20 PM: no, wait, Dare was published by Fleetway in collected form in late 1991, although I don't think Really & Truly has been seen since its initial publication). The tome will also contain The Science Service, Hughes’ 1987 graphic novel with co-writer John Freeman, and Goldfish, a Raymond Chandler story Hughes drew from Tom DeHaven’s sequential adaptation, previously seen as part of ibooks’ Raymond Chandler's Marlowe: A Trilogy of Crime anthology from 2003.

It will also apparently be limited to a print run of 3000 copies, will probably be difficult to find in stores outside the UK, and will rock those in the US a solid $60 or so, after currency conversion and shipping from Amazon.uk. Fire up that internet if you’ve got the cash! (spotted at Steve Flanagan’s Gad, Sir! Comics)

*Diamond’s list was weird this week, in that the back-of-Previews information seemed weird and incomplete. I know, imagine! So I’m going to augment my scope with a few things taken from other stores’ shipping lists - a grain of salt may be needed as to availability:


Buddy Does Jersey: Aces! Fantagraphics' second and final omnibus collection of Peter Bagge's Hate, collecting issues #16-30 of the series, now in b&w to better emphasize Jim Blanchard's inks. Only $14.95 for 352 pages of increasingly downbeat yet oddly funny tales of crime and loathing and getting by in the old town of your youth.

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser: Oooh - a new Dark Horse collection of the 1991 Epic Comics series of adaptations of the works of Fritz Leiber's short stories, from writer Howard Chaykin and penciller Mike Mignola, the latter well on his way to developing his mature style. He's inked by Al Williamson. I have a pair of the Epic issues, and it's good-looking, entertaining stuff.

Phoenix Vol. 10 (of 12): Sun part 1 (of 2): The final storyline is gearing up for Osamu Tezuka's unfinished life's work - surely you can't miss it! If it shows up in your local shop.

Satsuma Gishiden Vol. 3 (of 5): More chest-beating, burning soul of the samurai blood ‘n guts from Hiroshi Hirata, just the thing to get you amped up for overthrowing the decadence of contemporary culture. Am I a sucker for this stuff? Yes!!

Army @ Love #1: A new Vertigo ongoing from writer/penciller Rick Veitch, inked by Gary Erskine (who’s got a powerful enough line that Veitch’s art winds up looking a good deal different than before). A satirical tale of violence and frolic in a near-future army made fearless through total submersion of the realities of death and killing. Or at least that’s what I got from the preview that got printed a few weeks back. A shorter version of that preview is online here. Even when he trips up, which is always a possibility, Veitch is perpetually worth a look.

Ramayan 3392 AD #7: Man, I had kind of a hard time hunting down a shelf copy of the prior issue of this Virgin-published update of the saga of Rama, which is probably not a good sign. Still, this is maybe my favorite of Virgin’s ongoing series, and certainly seems to be the place where they employ their more visually interesting artists - please take all of that in relative terms, but I do think it’s a good comic.

John Romita Jr. 30th Anniversary Special: This might turn out interesting - a 64-page, no-ads, $3.99 one-shot dedicated to paying homage to JRJR, including an all-new story written by Neil Gaiman, a reprint of his very first Marvel work (from Amazing Spider-Man Annual #11), and lots of interviews, art samples, back-pattings, etc. I like the guy’s work, so I’ll probably go for it.

Escape of the Living Dean Annual #1: I believe this is the one written and drawn by Mike Wolfer, fyi.

Wisdom #4 (of 6): Yes, coming out very quickly now. This is a nice series.

The Punisher MAX Presents: Barracuda #2 (of 5): More Goran Parlov.

The Brave and the Bold #2: Issue #1 of this was cute, so I’ll probably take a look at this too - Supergirl looks to be the primary guest star this issue, so there will maybe be internet discussion about portrayals of women in superhero comics!

Gødland #17: Another issue of this. I’ll draw attention to this essay by Greg Burgas, and note that I agree that Casey has largely stepped away from what Greg dubs postmodernism in superhero comics; Casey’s current stance in the corporate superhero scene seems to be one of refurbishment, plucking aspects from the past to shine up for the future in intuitive, personal ways. Even though Gødland is a creator-owned book, it acts as a sort of ultimate expression of that notion, albeit one that doesn’t so much as literally collect elements of the past (as Casey did in, say, Fantastic Four: First Family) as utilize Kirbyesque gestures in a newly familiar context. It certainly isn’t interested in drawing attention to itself as a particularly ‘aware’ work (to apply that particular definition) - I kind of have a difficult time accepting it as pastiche, since it doesn’t even quite resemble a Jack Kirby comic much at all in execution - it refurbishes semi-recognizable parts as a means of constructing something arguably new. Newish. Though I suppose that’s pastiche anyway, and it’s my definition that’s limited.

Anyway, I think refurbishment is the impulse behind a lot of Casey’s recent superhero works. I don’t think I’d mourn this impulse as a passing of the desire to ‘expand’ the medium as Greg seems to, if only because so many such ‘expansions’ strike me as not particularly unique from one another, which always forces me to evaluate each such expansion on the level of what they say about the writer him or herself - Casey’s own travel from Automatic Kafka to The Intimates always struck me as a journey from specific interrogation of chosen elements of the superhero comic to a gentler reconditioning of those elements as a metaphor of teenage growth, and ultimately rebellion against the fetid structures of adult authority (which, in the series’ most amusing concluding stroke, turns out to be simple existence in a Direct Market superhero comic book). So it makes sense that something like Gødland would be the next step.

Elephantmen #8: Oh, this is out too.

52 #46 (of 52): In which the climactic ‘Black Adam fights the rest of the comic’ storyline chugs forward, this time seeing (at least in part) the response of Mad Scientist Island. The problem is, as I’ve mentioned before, a book with as loose a grip on its visuals as 52 is unlikely to succeed at any effort requiring significant visual impact, and widespread sequences of destruction sort of have to lead it in that area. It’s sort of a miracle that Keith Giffen has kept the damn thing easily readable as it is. Still, it marches forward.

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I have read some comics, though...

*From the past and present. For example, I just finished the first five-issue storyline of Ed Brubaker's and Sean Phillips' Criminal, which is a perfectly nice little crime thing, although it does get awfully goofy at the very end with the pulse-pounding action histrionics and likewise - I presume Brubaker meant the ending as an ironic departure from his main character's usual way of doing things, an illustration of the secrets he was keeping about himself, but it still seemed like an over-the-top means of wrapping up the loose plot threads, and that's even compared to the heads being blown apart in rush hour traffic that was the heist sequence in issue #2. Still, it was a decent series, and I'll look out for storyline #2 this May.

The most interesting older comic I read recently was the five-issue 1993-94 Kitchen Sink miniseries Captain Sternn: Running Out of Time, from creator/writer/penciller Bernie Wrightson. It was one of those series I picked up in part from a dollar bin a while ago, then broke down and bought the rest of online. You might recall Wrightson's Captain Sternn character from Heavy Metal - his segment was one of the pieces adapted into the film, after all. I did. But I'd not realized that he'd had an entire miniseries years later, and a big one too: each issue weighs in at 48 pages of story, not counting ads, with the art spilling out onto the inside-back cover of each issue. I don't believe a collected edition was ever released, which is really too bad; from the looks of the miniseries, I think it might have been intended for Kevin Eastman's Tundra, which was bought out by Kitchen Sink in early 1993, and maybe the latter entity didn't feel it warranted a collection. Actually, the latter didn't remain publishing for all that much longer itself.

Regardless, the series itself did finish, and I can't actually think of any one series with quite this much sustained Wrightson art - Batman: The Cult springs to mind, but I can't seem to think of other extended Wrightson stories. I get the feeling this series was a chance for the artist to get virtually everything that piques his interest out on the page at once: sci-fi technology, dinosaurs, zombies, and zombie dinosaurs being fought with sci-fi technology, all of it wrapped around a very silly plot concerning an evil cola magnate's plot to own New York City by addicting all of humankind to his evil soda, which requires the use of special narcotic fruits that can only grow in prehistoric times, which means he has to steal the time-traveling technology of a scientist who's working on a cure for Earth's undead plague, which itself is a smirking metaphor concerning consumerist culture in the US... it's not as much complicated as very long, albeit a very good excuse for Bernie Wrightson to draw whatever he wants, even if 240 pages eventually comes off as more than slightly over-indulgent for a project like this.

But flipping through these nicely-produced, full-color pages really takes you back to the days of Kitchen Sink's seemingly affluent press into the mainstream. There's ads for the Xenozoic Tales cartoon show (Cadilacs & Dinosaurs), a Melting Pot contest with the prize being a '69 Camaro painted by Simon Bisley. Excellent production values (although I suspect the $4.95 per issue price tag must have stung back in '93). The Captain and his crew have been greatly toned down from the Heavy Metal original - he's more of a charming rogue than the man behind the preschool prostitution ring of yore. Maybe there was a hope toward wider 'mainstream' success underlying the project? I don't know, but it's an eye-catching series, the sort of thing I'm always glad to discover existed...

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Well, the dog ate this post...

*I didn't have a lot of time to blog this weekend, to be honest.

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No comics today...

*Because I'm still trying to compose things. And it's almost the stroke of midnight, and the Saturday post isn't up.

*Oh, I did manage to see a real live films in a real theater recently! It was the recent Peter O'Toole award vehicle Venus, which did indeed result in its star netting his eighth Oscar loss, to Forest Whitaker of The Last King of Scotland. Appropriately enough, the trailer for that very film was played before Venus, and holy smoking Jesus Christ was it terrible; from what I had to go by, it appears that Mr. Whitaker captured the gold by screaming nearly every single one of his lines at the top of his lungs in a crisp accent. Not that I doubt the Academy would laud such a thing, but I presume there is more depth to be had in the actual film than the preview elected to present.

Anyhow - Venus. O'Toole is one of my favorite actors ever, so clearly I was going to see it no matter what. I mean, I've plucked a dvd copy of The Seventh Coin off of a Wal-Mart $1 bin and beamed with delight, so I'm well past the point of no return (and yet, I've never seen The Lion in Winter). There are three very nice scenes, which I think was Gene Siskel's rule for deciding if a movie was good or not. In no order:

1. Peter O'Toole and a young woman are being chauffeured around in luxury vehicle. The young woman stands up to stick her head out the sunroof, and Peter O'Toole leers directly at her rump, giggling, as the hit Corinne Bailey single Girl Put Your Records On plays loudly.

2. Peter O'Toole and the same young woman are sitting at a table. The woman decides to give Peter O'Toole a 'treat,' so she puts her fingers into her vagina and offers them to Peter O'Toole to sniff. He then tries to lick her fingers, so she moves to swat him in the head, but Peter O'Toole performs some sort of judo block to deflect the blow with the speed of puma. This is all the more impressive considering that Peter O'Toole is 9,000 years old and no computer effects appear to have been used.

3. Peter O'Toole is kicked out of his home by the young woman, who wants to use it to have sex with her virile boyfriend. Peter O'Toole wanders around aimlessly, until he happens upon a highly symbolic outdoor stage of some sort, at which point the soundtrack switches to a sonic collage of old, actorly performances, presumably authentic Peter O'Toole lines, though it's hard to tell. He then goes back to his home and has a fight scene with the virile boyfriend, who kicks poor old Peter O'Toole's wrinkled ass. Wait, that's more than one scene.

I realize this probably makes the film seem a bit more interesting than it actually is - for all its gestures toward grit and bodily urges, Venus is actually pretty pat, even formulaic in its procession of 'inspirational' end-of-life movie tropes. O'Toole plays an aged actor confronting the inevitability of death while lusting after a buddy's rude great-niece, with whom he develops a mutually exploitive quasi-relationship, although before too long it's one of those soulful movie relationships where everyone eventually learns something vital about themselves and familial bonds are reinforced and O'Toole makes amends with Special Guest Star Vanessa Redgrave (as: a woman from his past) and I guess we all cry in our seats and then the Oscar is handed to somebody else.

It's decent enough for what it is, though. O'Toole does deliver a rather nice performance, even if it seems a bit deliberately poised to evoke past roles - there's a film-within-a-film bit where O'Toole gets to do some costumed drama, there's moments of physical slapstick, there's a few top-of-the-lungs bellows thrown in. He can still roar with the best of them, but the whole thing struck me as more of a valedictory address than anything, a vessel for nostalgia primed to remind us all how good Peter O'Toole can be, rather than something terribly interested in providing insight or whatnot. Then again, the whole film's winking 'old, great actor who has led a fullt life playing an old, great actor who has led a full life' concept is about as sympathetic an environment as one can imagine for that brand of performance.

Still: I liked it. It's pretty low on the big list of O'Toole Oscar Performances. We're not talking The Ruling Class or The Stunt Man or Supergirl or anything. Wait, that last one is wrong... I think it was Caligula. Or was it Helen Mirren that got the nomination for that?? Give me a minute...

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This is an all-Japan post except for the part with the French guy.

*OMG Dept: Biggest anime news of the month - Genius Party is coming. Yes, the very, very hotly anticipated Studio 4°C anthology feature is really on its way, first to Japanese theaters this summer, and then to Washington DC for an international premiere in February 2008 at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, as part of the Center’s two-week Japan! Culture + Hyperculture festival. In case you missed all the other times I’ve babbled about this project, here’s the lineup of directors for all twelve included shorts, directorial credits in bold unless otherwise noted:

Nicolas de Crécy (Glacial Period, Foligatto, the best story in Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators, yes I know he’s not Japanese and these are all comics but he also does animation and he’s doing it here)

Atsuko Fukushima (frequent Katsuhiro Otomo and Koji Morimoto cohort, key animator on many neat projects)

Yuji Fukuyama (I have absolutely no clue who this is, but the fun of anthologies is discovering new things, right?)

Hideki Futamura (seems to have worked with most of the other ‘name’ directors on this project in some animation or design capacity)

Tadashi Hiramatsu (another apparently popular animator getting to do some directing, here’s a part of Mushishi he did, ah hell nothing happened there so how about some explosions)

Shoji Kawamori (a ton of Super Dimensional Fortress Macross things, a long-forgotten 1996 arty OVA called Spring and Chaos that was pretty rad)

Koji Morimoto (many awesome short films, the best parts of Memories & The Animatrix, Studio 4°C co-founder, I direct you to Catsuka)

Kazuto Nakazawa (the anime part of Kill Bill, that neato 4°C short Comedy about the Irish legend and the books, a hit at Catsuka)

Shinya Ohira (a very interesting key animator, highlight reel here)

Tatsuyuki Tanaka (nice Nike commercial, the toast of Catsuka)

Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo)

Masaaki Yuasa (Mind Game, Kemonozume, they love him at Catsuka)

This is going to be oh so good.

*And speaking of which, in manga terms -

Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms

Buy this. Buy this. Buy this.

In an alternate timeline, that’s where this review ends. However, in this dimension I get the Guilt Dreams whenever I write anything less than 800 words, so I will elaborate.

Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms is a 2004 book by Fumiyo Kouno. It’s published in the US by Last Gasp, and was released to the Direct Market two days ago. It’s 104 pages for $9.99, printed on nice paper with the color bits at the beginning intact and bonus features at the end. It’s about a Big Topic, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and has won Big Awards, like the Grand Prize at the 2004 Japan Media Arts Festival.

On the surface, it appears to be a collection of two stories, the shorter first story (Town of Evening Calm) primarily set in 1955, and the longer second story (Country of Cherry Blossoms) split into two parts and primarily set in 1987 and 2004, respectively. However, I don’t think it’s spoiling too much to reveal that this structural conceit doesn’t hold up by the end - the book is actually a century-spanning graphic novel in three chapters, even though the author hints in her Afterward that it might not have been initially planned that way. That’s certainly how it turns out.

This is the second time I’ve read much of this material, though it’s the first time the book has been officially released in the US, and what’s striking to me on my second read is how soapy the story can be. There’s plenty of yearning for frustrated love in here, and cruel obstacles set in place to prevent lovers from joining - issues of class and economics drift around. There’s nervous declarations and plenty of tears, covert pursuits and sex jokes. But if the overriding feeling I get from the work is that Kouno means it all to be as soothing and populist as she can make it, so the creeping hand of slow death can intermittently reach in and knock it all down.

Indeed, that’s practically the whole story with the Town of Evening Calm segment - sweet, understated romance cruelly spiked with survivor’s guilt, kisses between lovers on the bridge transformed without warning into horrific visions of rivers choked with corpses, the entire plot stopped dead in its tracks for a grueling depiction of death‘s brick wall finality. By the end of chapter, Kouno even stops drawing pictures in her panels, surrendering much of the climax to blind thinking:

I coughed up something solid again.”

It’s not just blood, I’m spitting up my insides.”

It takes all I have to hold onto the bedpan.”

I think I’m losing my hair, but I don’t have the strength to raise my hand to my head… I’ll try tomorrow… Tomorrow…”

All of which is made all the more awful by Kouno’s visual style in the rest of the book, a lovely, stripped-down cartoon approach loaded with cute, emotive characters and no-doubt scrupulously referenced backgrounds that nevertheless seem to breathe the author’s personality. The reader quickly becomes saddened by the intrusion of poisoned mortality into this delicate-looking world, to the point where even seemingly sweet images, like that of children visiting another youth in a hospital, become almost indescribably sad - Kouno’s art is porous in emotional terms, and the final effect is drenching.

But the book isn’t all sadness, and laying around and dying. The Country of Cherry Blossoms section exhibits quite a lot of ambition, following the life path of one Nanami Ishikawa as both a little girl and a woman approaching 30, as she experiences a recurring motif of sickness in those around her, big things and little - as a girl, her brother is often in bed with asthma, and as an adult she fears her father is mentally losing his grip. It never entirely gets her down, as she’s a resilient, plucky sort, and she eventually discovers things dating back many decades that still pass above the Japan of today.

Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms, as its back cover indicates, was also a controversial work upon its publication, and I’m fairly sure that’s due to its depictions of prejudice among Japanese toward persons and families touched by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. The book’s handling of the topic is very careful in setting up the attitude as something based in believable illogic - that people can become infected, and can die at any time, and are therefore a greater risk for devoting a life’s attention too.

Indeed, perhaps Kouno’s masterstroke is how she subtly indicts the reader through her own storytelling devices, setting up certain expectations early in the book and overturning them later, as a deft illustration inside the reader of exactly the sort of thinking that her message is fighting against. It’s not a mean trick, but an affecting, educational one, successfully illustrating for the reader how these themes validly apply to modern thinking, and how a modern world seemingly filled with radiating pain can lull a person into a prejudicial mindset. In the end, this is a deeply affirmative book, one eager to seat the reader on its final image of a train barreling toward the future, unsatisfied with merely soaking in the miserable facts of life and collecting awards for it - this book wants to address the here and now as well, and confront issues of society through its beguiling style.

Last Gasp's edition of the work is very nice, as mentioned - the bonus features are particularly worthwhile, featuring the aforementioned Afterward, as well as a short set of annotations by both Kouno and the English-edition's editor, plus a map of locations a page of works referenced. You'll certainly be able to manage a better cultural grasp of some of Kouno's techniques after reading this stuff - for example, after she notes the significance of certain Hiroshima bridges, you'll begin to notice how she uses their background presence for symbolic significance in key panels.

That'll require another reading, of course, but I hardly minded. This book isn't much of an 'eat your veggies' type of comic -- actually, I wonder if some readers might feel that Kouno comes off as a bit too pat in neatly wrapping her story's character arcs -- but I must emphasize that the powerful intermingling of pain and death, and life, nonetheless, going on through happiness and farce, makes this a wrenching book that you'll surely return to.

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My fastest thoughts on whatever comics are in front of me.

*Comics, comics, comics of yesterday.

- 52 hasn't really been as fun since it turned into Black Adam 'n Pals Weekly; even the prospect of Black Adam going all Kid Miracleman on an entire nation doesn't really land well, since that sort of thing generally leans heavily on visual aplomb, and 52... doesn't really have any. Is the entire lead-in to WWIII going to be Black Adam flying around and kicking the other storylines' asses? Still, there's one really funny panel with the very nervous President of Bialya standing around in full military gear exclaiming "Why has death arrived our door, Mister Mannheim? Why does he hover over us in silence?" and sure enough, in the background, the evil horned robot version of Death is literally standing around lurking above some random important-looking people.

- You know, when I went over Punisher War Journal #4 the other week, and I said that Frank Castle is Captain America now, I was speaking metaphorically. But hey, why let a good notion go to waste - if this pans out for a nice summer storyline, you can't say Matt Fraction and the Civil War crew didn't set it up in detail. Anyway, this issue has some interesting themes to juggle -- 'heroic' men refusing to stand down past the point of wisdom or sanity, more good people stooped to working with bad folks, just like Cap in Civil War (Frank doesn't grasp the irony) -- but I don't think it particularly holds together as a story, especially not with events from another Marvel U book popping in to halt everything. It's almost like the real theme of this book is that a Marvel U Frank Castle just can't find time to have his own stories what with the continuity demands of a superhero universe, though I doubt that one was intentional. It will be funny if Frank also manages to take over the Captain America book proper, since that'll make it so the character is back to his 1993 golden age of three ongoing titles. I don't think Ennis, Fraction and Brubaker are a bad roster...

- I really do like Blade. I like that now that the title character has lost an arm, he's simply tied a stake to the stump for easier vampire-killing action. I like that the new big villain has been apparently stabbing himself with stakes just enough so that he doesn't die for the last 100 years in order to build up an immunity to... being stabbed in the heart. But I just wish the execution was a little smoother, so that the oddness of Marc Guggenheim's stories could go down a little easier - this issue, for example, wraps up with Blade apparently dying, but then rising from the dead because he accidently grabbed some sort of Amulet of Not Dying at the beginning of the issue. Thank heavens for random objects! Also, the past/present interplay is puttering along at about 40% success, though I'm more hesitant to let that go since Howard Chaykin draws the old clothes real pretty.

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Tasty Link Day

*Here's your link for today - a fairly extensive, fairly prodding 1981 interview with Richard Corben, from the pages of Heavy Metal #51 (Vol. V No. 3, June, 1981) through #53 (Vol. V No. 5, August, 1981), conducted by Brad Balfour. Some interesting, revealing information, but it's more memorable for the unmistakable sense of awkwardness that pervades everything - Corben comes off as pretty uncomfortable for the whole thing. Be sure to look to the very end, for an unhappy letter from Corben that ran in issue #54 (Vol. V No. 6, September 1981), concerning the chat (and make sure you click on the 'Forward to the Second Half of the Interview' button at the end of the first half of parts 1 and 2 for the second halves of those parts - it's kinda tricky).

I should also link to the full frames version of this site, The Most Complete Comicography of Richard Corben, since it really is the most complete background resource for this artist I've ever come across...

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Now it's due to possibly hit 70 degrees today.

*The world is about to end, isn't it?


The Authority #2

review nuggets (mmm - starring Fantastic Four #543, 52 #44, and Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil #2)

To Terra... Vol. 1 (of 3)

Feeble Attempts (new Jeffrey Brown collection of random stuff)

*Or maybe the releases coming tomorrow are just too hot!!


Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms: Finally out from Last Gasp, it’s the hotly-anticipated (by scanlation fiends) official English-language release of Fumiyo Kôno’s delicate, controversial (at least upon its 2004 Japanese release), emotionally overwhelming portrayal of sickness and youthful dreams from the Hiroshima of 1955 to the present day. Only $9.95 for 104 pages - you’re going to want to buy this as soon as you find it, because with all due respect I doubt anything else this week will be quite as good.

The Times of Botchan Vol. 3 (of 10): You’re probably also going to want to grab this if you see a copy, since it’s a new Fanfare/Ponent Mon release - which is to say, even if you don’t buy it, you should tag it and release it into the wild so we can all track it and study its mating habits. Let mine be the hundredth link to MangaBlog’s interview with Fanfare head Stephen Robson (and by ‘head’ I mean ‘actually kind of the entire company’), in which many mysteries are solved. This particular book is Natsuo Sekikawa’s and Jiro Taniguchi’s densely-packed, highly literate look at early 20th century Japanese mores and diverse characters, some real, some not. It is good.

A Late Freeze: Is this the first release of Danica Novgorodoff’s much-admired comic to the Direct Market? It seems it might be, so have a look at the art and do consider getting a copy if you see it. Yes, this week is all about grasping elusive comics in your hands like so many raindrops pattering down.

American Elf Book 2: Collecting the 2004-05 installments of James Kochalka’s daily diary comic into a 192-page volume. Review coming soon.

Harlan Ellison’s Dream Corridor Vol. 2 (of 2): Arriving hot on the heels of the prior volume (which is to say, ten and a half years later), this new 152-page, $19.95 tome from Dark Horse collects the remaining sequential adaptations of Ellison’s prose left over from the old Harlan Ellison's Dream Corridor series, plus some new stuff, apparently still excluding John Byrne’s I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, but including stuff by Paul Chadwick, Gene Ha, Steve Rude, Gene Colan, and the late Curt Swan.

B.P.R.D.: Garden of Souls #1 (of 5): Ok, everyone’s all rested up from their break, so that means it’s time for Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Guy Davis to return with another adventure for the extended Hellboy cast, this one dealing exclusively with Abe Sapien’s origins, which has been a subplot for something like the last two series. B.P.R.D. has gotten steadily better with each series (although really it’s an ongoing series with generous gaps between storylines to facilitate smoother releases without changing the creative team), and it appears the year is going to fill out with two series, one right after another.

Garth Ennis’ Chronicles of Wormwood #2 (of 6): Artist Jacen Burrows says the first issue of this series has now (more or less) sold out, and Avatar has no plans to release second printings of anything, and I’d also that it kind of takes forever for Avatar to get trades out (the last Ennis/Burrows collaboration, Garth Ennis’ 303 just popped up the other week in book form), so you should hunt this down if it looks good. And I think it is good - last issue was one of Ennis’ strongest first issues in a while, and I retain much faith in the full work.

Crying Freeman Vol. 5 (of 5): All good things, like naked stabbings, must come to an end.

Blade #7: Hey retailers, this issue features the death of Blade, so I sure hope you ordered a million zillion copies - this hot tip comes courtesy of Jog Likes Comics dot Blogspot dot com.

Punisher War Journal #5: I sure liked last issue -- the actual post-Civil War first issue -- so I’m really looking forward to this one, seeing Frank take on the Bushwacker in a hostage situation in Times Square. “The ending of this issue will punch you in the face and laugh at your tears.” Which reminds me, Spider-Man: Reign also concludes this week, having almost certainly picked up several dozens of extra release-day flippers eager to see what kind of crazy stuff goes down. I mean, just look at that cover.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Season 8) #1: I’m not much of a fan of either Joss Whedon or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I do know that I’m going to get people asking me why I’m not listing this if I don’t include it, so here it is. Art by Georges Jeanty.

52 #45 (of 52): This issue I think Montoya confronts Black Adam to teach him how A=A or something. Maybe not; I just thought it’d be funny if everyone brought back the Question’s Objectivism underpinnings now that there’s someone new wearing the hat. Everything old is new again, you know.

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Another day...

*Another Monday post where I draw attention to the late post I did yesterday. And I'm using the term 'day' a little loosely, since the sun has just barely risen now, thanks to the clocks having been set ahead early this year. Makes me think I'm leaving way too early...