*Sorry about the lack of posts last week; I can't review anything without an all-clear from Vatican City, and their Comcast service has been spotty of late. Still:


Batman #679

The Punisher MAX #60 (and what it means as an ending)

I guess the pope's been into superheroes?

*Looks like a certain large small publisher is getting all the stuff fired out -


Where Demented Wented: The Art and Comics of Rory Hayes: The only book you're likely to need on this man of teddy bears and oozing visions. From Fantagraphics, $22.99 for 144 pages. My review here.

Abandoned Cars: Tim Lane's carnival tent show of American interiors and environments, short stories skipping across genres, through drama and comedy, a sky of myth known to be above. Also from Fantagraphics, a $22.99 hardcover for 168 pages. My review here. Handy art-loaded interview here.

MOME Vol. 12: And here's the latest for Fantagraphics' house anthology, now shorn of interview content and dominated by great work from three men of Europe: Olivier Schrauwen, Killoffer and the great David B. It's $14.99 for 128 pages. Full review tomorrow.

The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard: Oh yeah, this should be good. The first release of First Second's biggest season yet, it's a new book by Eddie Campbell & Dan Best, seeing a young man pretend to be his famous, secretly dead acrobat uncle, flying across a panorama of old-timey entertainment ephemera and strange circus life. Your $16.95 will get you 128 color pages. Big preview here.

Good-bye Marianne: A Story of Growing Up in Nazi Germany: This is a comics adaptation of a 1998 prose book by Irene N. Watts, concerning a young Jewish girl's experiences prior to her flight from Nazi Germany, one planned by her mother. Illustrations by children's book veteran Kathryn E. Shoemaker. From Tundra Books, $14.99 for 128 pages.

Herbie Archives Vol. 1: You know the Golden Age of Reprints is getting especially golden when no less than the Alan Moore-approved Fat Fury himself gets a 224-page hardcover collection. Lollies will be sucked, evil will be tromped, and the first five issues of the famed 1964-67 series will be collected along with some (all?) of the character's Forbidden Worlds shorts, which date back to '58. Writer Richard Hughes and the infamous Ogden Whitney will show you how it's done. Do note the official Dark Horse Archives price of $49.95, although it looks like they resisted the urge to slicken up the coloring too much, which is nice.

Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles: Another golden nugget - a big ol' collection of vintage newspaper comics by a guy that didn't even start the feature in question. But nobody will argue that Sickles' 1933-36 run on this John Terry-created aviation adventure strip wasn't something to catch the eye, and now the whole thing has been put together into another oversized IDW hardcover, 352 pages and $49.99, with the expected supplements.

The Myth of 8-Opus Prologue: Expanded Edition: But some reprints cover more recent material. For example, here's a new, $14.99 printing (with 20 added pages) for Gødland artist Tom Scioli's 2004 cosmic adventure graphic novel, actually the in-story beginning of a (Xeric-winning) Kirbyesque saga begun in pamphlet form in the late '90s. New material should follow.

Gravel: Never a Dull Day: Or shit, how about the entirety of Warren Ellis' and Mike Wolfer's 1999-2004 Strange(r) Kiss(es)/Killings output, 576 pages of stuff in an $89.99 Avatar hardcover, signed by both creators and limited to 2000 copies. Ellis and Avatar also have Anna Mercury #3 (of 5) this week.

Will Eisner's Expressive Anatomy for Comics and Narrative: Here's something - an all-new softcover textbook from the late Eisner, put together from outlines prepared prior to his 2005 death, covering the meat and potatoes of how the physical form can look good on paper, for sequence. As always, a W.W. Norton publication, $22.95 for 164 pages.

Jews and American Comics: An Illustrated History of an American Art Form: Being a deluxe 9" x 9" hardcover, edited by Paul Buhle (who also provides a few essays), devoted to presenting a pictoral history of Jewish comics art, from early Yiddish newspaper strips to well beyond the birth of the comic book. From The New Press; $29.95 for 208 pages.

Tripwire 2008 Annual: The second volume of this revived yearly incarnation for editor-in-chief Joel Meadows' full-color UK magazine-about-comics. Here's the cover; $14.95 for 144 pages. Found in Diamond's incomparable Merchandise section, along with Vol. 1 of the dvd series Humiliated Housewives. Just look at this dust! You call that a quiche? I bet the Swansons' boy didn't get an "Improvement Needed" in penmanship.

MySpace Dark Horse Presents Vol. 1: All the thrill of webcomics, on paper! A $19.95, 176-page color softcover, collecting the first six editions of DHP Online. Contains the whole of Joss Whedon's and Fábio Moon's Sugarshock! serial, plus short works by Mike Mignola & Guy Davis, Gerard Way & Gabriel Bá, Rick Geary, Peter Bagge, Adam Warren, Bob Fingerman and more.

The Sandman Presents: Dead Boy Detectives: Don't ask me why this 2001 miniseries from Ed Brubaker & Bryan Talbot is getting a $12.99 softcover collection this week, but hey - Ed Brubaker & Bryan Talbot. I recall it being a decent enough little ghostly mystery, with a running concern for how time seems to pass slower for children. It'll be a looker.

Naoki Urasawa's Monster Vol. 16 (of 18): My, we are getting close.

Air #1: The 40-page start of a new Vertigo ongoing series from G. Willow Wilson & M.K. Perker, the team behind the publisher's 2007 graphic novel Cairo. It's getting a nice push - the press materials bear the Neil Gaiman stamp of approval, invoking Rushdie, Pynchon and Eco at various points. I've read this issue, though, and I can't say I liked it much. Wilson is working in a sort of deliberately unsubtle fable of self-discovery mode, in which an acrophobic flight attendant named Blythe finds herself wowed by a handsome, ultra-cosmopolitan man-of-all-nations who's actually from no nation at all, just the type to save her from her very metaphorical fear of falling through the sky and never landing anywhere. The two wind up opposing The Etesian Front, a crew of radical anti-terrorist air security vigilantes who've actually become hijackers themselves as part of a scheme to steal a fleet of airplanes so as to patrol the sky, and... I dunno, bump other hijacked aircraft away from landmarks and/or the ground?

I mean, maybe that'll get explained later, but you can only push these metaphors so far with me before my head starts tilting back, and then I'm not even open to knowingly over-the-top romantic visions like a fresh-from-four-days'-unconsciousness hospital bed sex scene. And while I appreciate Wilson's willingness to have her major characters stand for firmly-stated ideologies, none of them quite translate to compelling personalities; even the comedy relief is bluntly direct, with a mussy-headed guy barking stuff like "Man, that is a serious bruise. You look like you've been in a mosh pit" in his first on-panel appearance. Perker doesn't aid things; he's got some decent character designs, but his visual storytelling is weak enough that a crucial visual cue that Wilson's story is entering a flashback -- the absence of a bruise on a character's head -- gets obscured by a bland medium perspective and an oddly-placed shadow, to say nothing of an action bit in which a character seems to fly around the place from poor staging. Here's a sneak peek, though; your take may be different, and it may develop into something better later on.

Tales Designed to Thrizzle #4: I love Michael Kupperman's work, and here's 32 more pages of awesome, funny shit. Only $4.50. Video magic here. Fantagraphics also has issue #2 of Sergio Ponchione's Grotesque and issue #3 (of 4) of Richard Sala's Delphine this week, both in the $7.95 Ignatz format.

Madman Atomic Comics #10: Allred.

Amazing Spider-Man #568: JRJR, for now.

Conan the Cimmerian #2: Corben. And Tomàs Giorello, in case you just glanced at the first page of that preview and thought "wow, Corben really has switched it up." Giorello is the series' regular artist, although right now his Conan is mostly sitting around and listening to a very long story, one that feels distinctly like a seperate project that somehow got folded into this new ongoing series, although I could easily be wrong. Timothy Truman writes it all.

Charlatan Ball #3: Did they mention Rogan Gosh last issue? Hm. Writer Joe Casey also has the new Youngblood Vol. 1: Focus Tested out this week, collecting issues #1-4 of the recent revamp into a $9.99 trade.

The Immortal Iron Fist: The Origin of Danny Rand: What? You're already shaking in an empty bathtub from a distinct lack of Matt Fraction on this Marvel Comics superhero title? And it's not even your bathtub?! That's fucked up, friend, but here's a $3.99 book of reprints with an all-new framing sequence by Fraction and artist Kano, and it'll pep your ass right up. Speaking of pep, who wants to see Gil Kane's and Larry Hama's and Dick Giordano's and (possibly) Klaus Janson's art from Marvel Premiere #15-16 spruced up with shiny computer colors? Gaze here, if you care to.

The Punisher MAX #61: Yep, not a week has been wasted in launching this series' post-Ennis life, with Gregg Hurwitz as the lucky duck handling the direct follow-up; once his south-of-the-border tale is finished, two more prose crime specialists will take a crack via individual storylines. With art by Laurence Campbell & (colorist) Lee Loughridge, who had some striking images in The Punisher MAX Annual #1 a few months ago. Preview here, which you've seen already if you flipped to the end of issue #60. Marvel also has issue #2 of Hurwitz's Foolkiller: White Angels this week, featuring a fortuitously-timed guest appearance by... Frank Castle! There's the old synergy.

The Punisher War Journal Classic Vol. 1: But the old-school among you might rather take a $24.99 trip back to the late '80s, when a 24-year old lad by the name of Jim Lee learned the ways of punishment at the knee of Carl Potts, which sounds pretty dirty, but it's ok because they were just drawing comics about a guy shooting people and fighting Wolverine. Collects issues #1-8, so there's still a few loose stories with the original team hanging off the end. Was this the first time Lee teamed with inker Scott Williams?