Finally: All the In-Depth Content of Twitter in the Popular Blog Format

*The apple harvest festival was pretty good this year, although I'm up for just about any event that involves sitting on a hay bale and eating frosted apple pie with raisins and ice cream while listening to a local duo play Nights in White Satin as arranged for woodwinds. I was pretty glad they kept the petting zoo next to the beef products barn; no sense in lying to the kids. I'm also drinking apple wine right now, which I'm told pairs well with comics blogging and pork.


SPX 2009 (which is to say, many of the books I picked up at the Small Press eXpo in 2009, including Josh Cotter's Driven by Lemons, various incarnations of Cold Heat, upcoming Buenaventura Press pamphlets, Marvel Fanfare #40 featuring David Mazzucchelli and Ganges #3, among others)

*Recommended Reading Dept: In case you didn't see it already, the Hooded Utilitarian has just launched a new roundtable thingy regarding Franco-Belgian comics, Sequential Surrender Monkey (although the Belgians would be quick to inform you that they didn't surrender, their fucking king did). A multi-part review series on bandes dessinées? Ha, who would do that? Ridiculous!

Of particular note so far is Ng Suat Tong's analysis of François Schuiten's & Benoît Peeters' The Great Walls of Samaris, the 1982 debut entry in their popular political-allegorical-fantastical-architectural series Les Cités Obscures; this is a really odd coincidence, since I just found a copy of NBM's 1987 English edition this past weekend! For two dollars! Granted, it looks like it was run over by a car on its bottom, but still!

Sadly, 1987 also marked the most recent North American release of the material (having also been serialized in Heavy Metal, Nov. 1984 to Mar. 1985). Two subsequent volumes, Fever in Urbicand (1983) and The Tower (1986), were serialized in early issues of Dark Horse's Cheval Noir anthology (Urbicand in #1-6, with its color art presented in b&w, and the Tower in #9-14), and then collected in NBM softcover albums in 1990 and 1993, respectively. These NBM editions now command high prices on the used market, having picked up seemingly just enough popularity to keep them in demand, without quite nearing the point where it might be considered profitable to reprint them.

This is all too bad, since Schuiten & Peeters (last seen in English in Fanfare/Ponent Mon's Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators) have a real talent for playing the former's looming, madly detailed structural vistas against the latter's fascination with blending adventure comics tropes with parable-like intellectual-emotional impact. It's also sort of hard to explain in a small space, but I wrote about The Tower in some detail over four years ago(!! oh god), and more recently examined the DC/Humanoids release of Schuiten's work with his brother Luc, The Hollow Grounds, including the excellent formalist playtime album NogegoN. Also, judging from the comments, Suat will apparently be covering those next two Les Cités albums soon, so look forward to that.

*I skipped the apple pizza, though. Cheese optional.


The Cartoon History of the Modern World Vol. 2 (of 2): From the Bastille to Baghdad: In which cartoonist and educator Larry Gonick draws the curtains on his 1450-page The Cartoon History of the Universe project -- an effort to adapt the very tides of progress to cheery sequential art -- active since 1977. These are the final 272 pages, covering the late 18th century through TODAY. I'll confess to having read none of this, but it comes very highly recommended. From HarperCollins, $18.99. Samples here; preview here.

Grandville Vol. 1: As usual, you can't accuse Bryan Talbot of settling in. His last Dark Horse release was 2007's popular Alice in Sunderland (my review), which he swiftly followed with a script & layouts for a one-off about foul lil' angels (Cherubs, Desperado), a prose collection of zesty tales about comics pros (The Naked Artist... And Other Comic Book Legends, Moonstone) and an experimental structuralist graphic novel published under a psuedonym (Metronome, NBM). Logic dictates only one possible follow-up: funny animal steampunk. Thus, Dark Horse presents 108 all-color pages of goddamned funny animal steampunk, upon which a police detective badger and his rat sidekick see a local suicide case erupt into a deadly conspiracy. And, in perhaps the most unexpected maneuver of all at this point, Talbot already has a sequel in the works. I'll look at anything the man draws. Hardcover, $17.95. Preview; interview in two parts.

Masterpiece Comics: Rarely have funnybook jokes gotten more in depth than with Robert Sikoryak's famous blends of classic comic characters with revered literature, always perfectly matched and meticulously drawn: Charlie Brown in The Metamorphosis, Batman in Crime and Punishment, etc. I imagine the effect might get overpowering with a big stack of them collected into a 64-page hardcover, but Drawn and Quarterly knows that love is sometimes like a fist. It's $19.95; have a look.

Dr. Seuss & Co. Go to War: Perhaps your Golden Age of Reprints item of the week, this is a new 272-page hardcover of WWII-themed cartoons and drawings, edited by André Schiffrin and intended as a sequel to the 2001 collection Dr. Seuss Goes to War. However, as the title suggests, it's not just Seuss this time - Saul Steinberg, Al Hirschfeld, Arthur Szyk, Carl Rose and Mischa Richter also see wartime work presented. From the New Press; $29.95.

Bloom County: The Complete Library Vol. 1 (of 5): 1980-1982: Or maybe it's this latest IDW Library of American Comics production, launching a definitive collection of the chronological dailies and Sundays of Berkeley Breathed's 1980-89 classic. Includes helpful historical context for these of-the-era strips. It's $39.99 for 288 big (11.1" x 8.6") pages.

EC Archives: Frontline Combat Vol. 1: Oh shit, this too. Man, these EC Archives things are just charging forward, huh? This one's the first six issues of EC's other war comic of the early '50s, 212 total pages from the guiding hand of writer/editor/layout artist (and sometimes finishing artist) Harvey Kurtzman, featuring John Severin, Bill Elder, Jack Davis, Russ Heath and Wally Wood. Priced at the usual $49.95.

A Distant Neighborhood Vol. 1 (of 2): Oh wow, two Fanfare/Ponent Mon releases in one week. And both feature the immaculate renderings of Jirō Taniguchi, here also writing a story about a subtly troubled salaryman suddenly warped back to his school days -- around the time his father vanished -- with all of his adult memories stored away. I reviewed it here; it's a sometimes-charming, sometimes-funny, oftentimes rather blunt bit of tragic-nostalgic sensation. As it often goes with Taniguchi's solo works, you've got to lay back and accept the place. It's $23.00 for 200 pages. Samples.

Summit of the Gods Vol. 1 (of 5): On the other hand, here's a collaboration with novelist and screenwriter Baku Yumemakura, a 2000-03 series concerning a 1990s expedition to scale Mt. Everest, and the discovery of a camera that might reveal the secret fate of the ill-fated Mallory expedition of June 1924. I get the feeling I should use the term "ripsnorting"? At the very least, expect natural scenes at their frostiest and period attire without a fold out of order. Your $25.00 gets you a fat 328 pages. Peek.

Hellbound Hearts: This is mostly not a comic, being 352 pages of new and reprinted horror fiction, edited by Paul Kane & Marie O'Regan, based on Clive Barker's 1986 novella The Hellbound Heart, later the basis for his 1987 movie Hellraiser. However, one major comics-format entry will be present: Neil Gaiman's & Dave McKean's Wordsworth, originally published in the final issue (#20) of Epic's 1989-1992 Clive Barker's Hellraiser comics series -- between the releases of the duo's Signal to Noise and Mr. Punch albums -- and later reprinted in the 2002 Checker softcover Hellraiser: Collected Best. Further comics interest may be found in a story by Christopher Golden & Mike Mignola (of the 2007 prose novel Baltimore, or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire), with illustrations by the Hellboy creator. It's from Pocket Books, priced at $16.00.

Myth of 8-Opus: Labyrinth: An all-new 120-page installment of Gødland artist Thomas Scioli's cosmic adventure series, priced at $24.99; interview and samples here.

Slam Dunk Vol. 6 (of 31): The latest in Takehiko Inoue's megahit basketball manga. Note that this is the volume where the current VIZ release pulls ahead of the old Gutsoon translation, so it's probably new to you.

Criminal: The Sinners #1 (of 5): Debuting the new series-of-miniseries format for Ed Brubaker's & Sean Phillips' intergenerational lawbreaker saga, this time returning to follow underworld muscle Tracy Lawless (of vol. 2, Lawless) as he pokes around a violent situation that reveals the breadth of the city's crime. Always worth reading. Preview.

King City #2 (of 12): Reconfiguration #1, as Image continues with this nice oversized pamphlet release of Brandon Graham's urban international sci-fi series.

Starstruck #2 (of 13): Reconfiguration #2, as IDW continues with this nice recolored pamphlet release of Elaine Lee's & Michael Wm. Kaluta's ultra-dense sci-fi series.

Starr the Slayer #2 (of 4): Meanwhile, in the 'all new' category - Richard Corben, drawing the modern world mixed with fighting swords, one more time. Daniel Way writes. Preview.

Dark Reign: Zodiac #3 (of 3): Also in things I haven't read - Dark Reign tie-ins that aren't this. But I do like this, writer Joe Casey's blueprint for marginal supervillainy in a world run by Old Evil, drawn furiously by Nathan Fox (who's also completed art for two parts of a Heavy Metal magazine trilogy, Fluorescent Black, in the Sept. 2008 and Sept. 2009 issues). Check for yourself.

Strange Tales #2 (of 3): And from another alternative standpoint, here's short pieces by Tony Millionaire, Michael Kupperman, Jim Rugg, R. Kikuo Johnson, Matt Kindt, Jonathan Hickman, Jacob Chabot, Max Cannon and Peter Bagge (serializing). Much Millionaire here.

From the Ashes #5 (of 6): Bob Fingerman, still off in the apocalypse. Look.

Crossed #7 (of 9): More semi-zombies, who those who demand some gravity after all of Zombieland was spoiled for them on the internet. Writer Garth Ennis also has The Boys #35 this week, starting up the secret origin of Mother's Milk.

Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels #4 (of 5): Your Hellboy of the week, from Mignola and Ben Stenbeck. See.

Batman Confidential #34: The penultimate chapter of this Peter Milligan/Andy Clarke storyline, and the first of two issues to ship this month. Milligan also has Greek Street #4 on the racks.

Batman and Robin #5: Part two of three for Grant Morrison, Phillip Tan and the Red Hood.

Planetary #27: The final issue of Warren Ellis' & John Cassaday's 1999-2009 Wildstorm series, which should at least get the final round of collections up and running soon. In all candor, I haven't been much impressed with the last handful of chapters - for me, the appeal of Planetary always rested in Ellis' willingness to let his archaeologists-of-the-strange concept serve as his access to myriad areas of 20th century pop culture -- Tarzan! kaiju! HK action movies! -- all of it fit for funny/violent/tragic riffing, contextualized as doomed-lost-hidden bits the fantastic, smashed bits of the magic of a whole wide world. However, as a grand plot emerged, this massive historical landscape became more of a trampling ground as Our Heroes took on Evil Superheroes -- specifically an evil Fantastic Four -- who'd been hording all the wonderful things in the world for their personal use, and wiping out anything that could be seen as a threat (and eventually selling us all out to really bad guys).

At its broadest, it became a story about massively monied consolidated media seeking to dictate what people should accept as ideals by way of pop culture, which I don't think the relaxed tour of the century's contours seen in the series' early issues easily supported; it seemed reductive, stuffing the complexity of one hundred years of pop culture into this damsel in distress role, and then declaring the white hats triumphant gatekeepers of a better, changed, complex, enlightened world, basically by virtue of having hit the bad people to death. Given its format and publisher, the onrushing endgame could also be read as an allegory for the dominance of that spandex genre over the grand potential of this fine art form of ours -- including the wild idealism of the early superheroes -- a subtext that hasn't aged well at all over the last decade; if anything, Ellis seems to be boosting the superhero genre well beyond its current impact by lavishing it with such cataclysmic portent.

But 1999 was a different time, and this is, after all, a superhero-flavored book positioned inside a superhero universe. This is its coda, a final vocal burst, echoing from a firmer Wildstorm, sung from a passed rhetoric. When it fades, so again goes the 20th century.