The weekly feature.

*Hmm... two reviews last week, both of them focused on artists that absorb characters into their backing environments. Didn't plan that at all.


Children of the Sea Vol. 1 (the North American debut of Daisuke Igarashi in a book all his own; atmospheric fantasy like a child's daydream on a humid afternoon)


Conquering Armies (a heavy realist, Heavy Metal classic from 1978, in which Jean-Pierre Dionnet & Jean-Claude Gal lay waste to heroic accomplishment by way of sheer, cruel scope)

At The Savage Critics!

*What I did plan, however -- and the plan's still on -- was to do 10 posts in 10 day, one after another, each one taking on an interest/recurring feature of mine. I haven't done any daily blogging in a long while either, and I'm eager to see if I can keep it up. Might even get some stalled projects running - who knows?


Asterios Polyp: If you're going to be listening to talk about comics in the second half of 2009, you'd better prepare to hear about this, off and on, over and over; the superlatives are getting thrown. Being the grand return of David Mazzucchelli to comics, a $29.95, 344-page Pantheon hardcover tracking the escape of the titular architect & teacher from the present strictures of his life when a bolt of lightning destroys his apartment, all while the past hovers and interjects, and style commands all perception, self-evidently, from the progress of time to the cadence of speech. Moreso than usual, I mean. Aw, just check it out when you see it, and you will see it.

Everybody is Stupid Except for Me and Other Astute Observations: Peter Bagge, in contrast, hasn't been gone for nearly so long, but it's still good to see a new book. This one's a 120-page Fantagraphics softcover, collecting 10 years' worth of comics-format op ed stories for Reason, archived online here. It's $16.99. Preview here; slideshow and wallpaper here.

Wednesday Comics #1 (of 12): The front-of-Previews item of the week, for sure. And it's pretty special even setting aside the specifics of the format: a weekly, folded-over 14" x 20" color pamphlet, 16 pages for $3.99 featuring 15 one-page serials, evoking post-WWII Belgian comics magazines (some of those features never got collected!) as much as the Sunday funnies of yore. No, I'm taken by something simpler - DC is launching its new every-week comic slot on the might of art, of visuals, which is a considerable swing of the pendulum away from 52, a subtext of which inadvertently turned out to be "visual flair doesn't matter, get it out, it's fine." Like, I agree with the notion that one of the charms of the series was witnessing the writing staff bump their individual styles against one another, but it's noteworthy that the artists didn't get the chance to build anything like that, filling out Keith Giffen's breakdowns in a sometimes strained manner, clashing with no logic. Trinity went a ways toward changing that, but now - you're surrounded by drawing.

And in this place, that's something. Features: Kyle Baker, Paul Pope, Ben Kaldwell, Adam Kubert & Joe Kubert, Neil Gaiman & Mike Allred, John Arcudi & Lee Bermejo, Dave Gibbons & Ryan Sook, Jimmy Palmiotti & Amanda Conner, Walter Simonson & Brian Stelfreeze, Kurt Busiek & Joe Quiñones, and many more.

100 Bullets Vol. 13 (of 13): Wilt: And if one page isn't enough, here's the final $19.99 softcover collection of a much bigger work by the Wednesday Comics Batman team of Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso. Collect 'em all.

Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?: Oh no, Watchmen is coming out on dvd in two weeks! What's a publisher to do?! Ah ha - how about a spanking new $24.99 hardcover collection for writer Alan Moore's various beloved super-stories? Note that Action Comics Annual #11 (For the Man Who Has Everything) and DC Comics Presents #85 (a Swamp Thing encounter) are in here too, although the title saga is obviously the main draw.

I've always found that story's renown as a three-hankie pre-Crisis Superman farewell to be a little odd; to me, it's among Moore's most distanced superhero studies, pluck pluck plucking at old school Superman tropes with the steadied hands of a researcher manipulating volatile materials. Surely the era-ending catastrophe Superman faces is mainly the result of undue logic applied to those story elements -- Bizarro seeing mass murder as the inverse of a vow against killing, villains just blowing Clark Kent's clothes off on the air, a capricious imp simply deciding to be maleviolent rather than silly -- causing the action to tumble forward with all the inevitability of a mathematical formula scratching across the chalkboard.

Granted, it's been suggested that this is part of the point, that applying the slightest feather's weight of a skeptic's logic to Silver Aged ideas sends the whole world crashing into bedlam, and ain't it a shame, but - that seems awfully simplistic, particular compared to some of Moore's other superhero works. Casting Superman's classic, non-killing ideals as unable to sustain a Super-world in the face of big '80s thinking seems less like insight than spiting the present by walling off the past, and if it's all just supposed to be a simple appreciation of The Way We Used to Be, it's very much a fond gaze cast through a museum's glass, before moving on to the business of the active, present superhero world.

Then again, Moore didn't really have a choice on the whole 'walling off the past' thing, but hey - an experiment is always affected by the conditions under which it's conducted! Helpful souls they are, DC is also offering issue #1 of All Star Superman this week as a $1.00 special, for further reading. Plus: Tom Strong #1, also for $1.00, should you elect further Moore.

Marvel Masterworks: Warlock Vol. 2: But then, there are earlier sagas to pursue. My sitemate Douglas Wolk went deep into this formative '70s cosmic superhero material in Comic Art #8 (and later his book, Reading Comics), but for our purposes here I'll only mention that it's safe to ignore the "vol. 2" in the title, since this tome starts right up with the arrival of Jim Starlin in 1975's Strange Tales #178 and follows his form-flexing revival of the Adam Warlock character through the resumed Warlock series and into the deathly double coda of Avengers Annual #7 and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2. Plus: a bonus Spider-Man/Warlock story by Bill Mantlo & John Byrne from 1977's Marvel Team-Up #55. Restless, determined philosophical space pulp, as you like it. It's $59.99 for the whole deal in hardcover.

Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-1938: Or shit, go way back. This is a newly restored Fantagraphics series, presenting the Hal Foster classic in 10.5" x 14.25" hardcovers. This debut fills 120 color pages, supplemented by a vintage Foster interview from The Comics Journal. It's $29.99; samples here.

RASL Collector's Edition Vol. 1: And in other hardcover repackaging news, if that big softcover collection of the first three issues of Jeff Smith's ongoing sci-fi thing wasn't good enough, how about a $50.00 edition with Smith's signature and 16 bonus pages of sketches and script? Limited to 3000 copies. Note that Smith's Cartoon Books also has its 13th printing of the all-in-one $39.99 Bone brick this week. Ha ha, the 13th printing is the unlucky one; I bet it takes several additional months to sell out!

The Nobody: A new Vertigo original hardcover, 144 b&w pages for $19.99, in which Jeff Lemire (of the much-acclaimed Essex County stories from Top Shelf) transposes elements of H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man to a sleepy fishing village, raising all the expected 'small town' concerns in the process -- paranoia, prejudice, teen alienation, outcasts, symbolic butterflies, etc. -- in pretty much exactly the manner you'd expect. Still, Lemire's got a firm point of view, a visual sensitivity that brings out a human softness and bucolic prickle lacking in other such high Vertigo stories-from-old-stories, and it may well gaze deeper next time; I'll post a link to my full review once it's available for online access. Preview; video.

B.P.R.D. 1947 #1 (of 5): The second new Mignolaverse series in as many weeks, although this one's set as a sequel to last year's pretty great B.P.R.D.: 1946, starring Prof. Trevor Bruttenholm, 'father' of Hellboy, as he inspects the occult aftermath of the Nazi reign. Co-writer Joshua Dysart returns, now with artists Gabriel Bá & Fábio Moon, which should prove interesting. Looks juicy from here.

Pixu: The Mark of Evil: More Moon & Bá! More more more!! Okay, Dark Horse also has this hardcover collection of their two-volume, self-published urban complex horror tale created with Becky Cloonan & Vasilis Lolos. With bonus sketchbook content; $17.95. Preview.

World War Robot Vol. 2: Another 48 oversized (12" x 12") pages of color canister conflict from artist Ashley Wood. As always, IDW publishes; $11.99.

From the Ashes #2 (of 6): Woah, Peter Bagge and Bob Fingerman in one week! All we need now is a new issue of Cud... anyway, this is Fingerman's IDW series about the little concerns of the post-apocalypse situation. Peer.

I Am Legion #4 (of 6): DDP/Humanoids, continuing.

The Zombies That Ate the World #4 (of 8): Ditto.

No Hero #6 (of 7): More superhero mutation from Warren Ellis & Juan Jose Ryp. Last issue was fun, although begging comparison to The Boys didn't work in its favor; the series' agony comes off best when it's tactile, not social. Approaching the endgame should offer some focus. Also, if your store didn't get the new Crossed last week (mine didn't, so I'm guessing Diamond missed the east coast), expect that too.

Elephantmen: War Toys: Yvette: It's not like most issues of Elephantmen aren't already displaced vignettes from a teeming world edging slightly through time -- or that the current 'storyline' isn't a suite of one-offs dealing with otherwise periphery characters, to the extent that anyone in this series has primacy for long -- but since we're bouncing way back in time to focus on a character that died in the War Toys miniseries, this is a special issue rather than just the next issue, although it's basically that too. All-combat action from the days when giant talking animals fired guns and swiped swords at China's military across the disease-ridden ruins of Europe, in color this time, pencilled by returning series artist Moritat; preview here.

Neon Genesis Evangelion: Shinji Ikari Raising Project Vol. 1: Ah, good ol' Eva, the gift that keeps on giving to publishers that happen to have a hand on the license when the franchise rustles itself into activity yet again. This manga, however, has nothing to do with the new Rebuild of Evangelion series of anime movies -- Neon Genesis Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone is floating around North American events now, while Neon Genesis Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance just opened in Japanese theaters a week and a half ago, and a concluding double-feature finale is still forthcoming -- although I'm sure the release timing is no coincidence.

No, this is an ongoing Osamu Takahashi series started in 2005, currently up to vol. 8 in Japan, based on the 2004 'life simulation' PC game (a la Princess Maker) in which you the player raise Eva's titular boy non-hero into something hopefully worthwhile, all in the confines of an alternate universe set up in the notorious final episode of the original 1995-96 television anime series, in which a new life for Shinji was glimpsed as the star of -- ha ha -- a totally different anime formula series, the high school love comedy. But wait, you say, wasn't there already a manga based on that half-minute glimpse into a new universe? Close! You're thinking of the 2003-06 manga series Neon Genesis Evangelion: Angelic Days, which was actually an offshoot of a different video game set in that secondary world, the 2005 'visual novel' Neon Genesis Evangelion: Iron Maiden 2nd (aka: Neon Genesis Evangelion: Girlfriend of Steel 2nd), itself a non-sequel to the 1998 visual novel Neon Genesis Evangelion: Iron Maiden (Girlfriend of Steel), which was an in-continuity bonus story set in the main Eva universe.

So, just to get it all down in one shot, this manga is a spin-off of a computer game based on an alternate universe from the anime series which spawned an additional computer game and accordant manga series that act as an parallel universe to the alternate universe. And none of this, by the way, is to be confused with the official ongoing Eva manga adaptation, which original character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto has been working on since 1995. Oh, and they're all published in North America by different entities: VIZ for the official manga; ADV Manga for Angelic Days; and Dark Horse for the present volume, $9.95 for 184 pages, which you can preview here. It's probably crap.


I dunno, maybe the all-new Rebuild ending is gonna be like Primer?

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