Stuff Coming Up

*Robert Crumb column in two or three days; already written, just needs posting. The second half of that Manga thing that's been gathering dust for close to a month now; too polemical and unfair in my first go, re-thinking. International comics fun. Minicomics. Maybe my daylight time will get less hectic.


The Story of O: You know what always comes first on this site? Straight-up smut by Guido Crepax. Slip on your owl mask and join NBM for this new 176-page, all-in-one, $24.95 hardcover edition of Crepax's 1975 adaptation of Pauline Réage's classic novel of submission, composed for a lover who claimed that a woman could not write effectively in the manner of de Sade. The influential Crepax -- an avowed inspiration for younger European cartoonists like David B. -- adds his consummate design style and a deft command of the page, conveying voyeurism through large panels flanked by smaller glimpses of eyes and people, and emphasizing bondage via contracting bodily details, as seen here. Those eager for more might want to track down Taschen's two Crepax hardcovers from 2000 (Justine and the Story of O and Emmanuelle, Bianca and Venus in Furs), which puts together 1000 or so pages of this stuff between them, although I can't speak for the quality.

What a Wonderful World! Vols. 1-2 (of 2): Inio Asano is one of the more interesting young artists working in manga today -- I mean, as far as someone who doesn't live in Japan and can't read Japanese can tell -- having already built up a varied and striking catalog before the age of 30. However, he's probably best known in North America at the moment for his least interesting work, the 2005-06 twentysomethings-in-flux navel-gazer solanin (released by VIZ in 2008), which I totally admit to being in the minority on, given the Eisner and Harvey nominations and near-unanimous critical acclaim and all that. Nonetheless! I still think it's an uneasy, mechanical drama contraption, sweating like realism while doling out neat, tiny epiphanies and pivoting on a riotous moment of high melodrama; I'd recommend Hiroaki Samura's Ohikkoshi, published by Dark Horse in 2006, as a similar type of manga that's more interesting and accomplished, I think, on every conceivable level.

None of that's to say it was awful or anything, but I think this earlier (2003-04) suite of odd, brooding snatches of urban living plays better to the artist's strengths in slicing out ominous images from calm settings and setting them against supple, expressive cartooning to capture tricky moods and subtle unease, although there's certainly no lack of aimless young things eager to tell us of their internal tumult either. Worth a look though. Note that VIZ is releasing both volumes on the same day, 210 pages each, priced at $12.99 a pop.

RIN-NE Vol. 1: Being VIZ's first hardcopy collection of longstanding manga hit machine Rumiko Takahashi's new project, serialized online in English at the same as each chapter's Japanese publication. It's about a girl who wants to stop seeing spirits and her classmate, a half-boy half-shinigami. Only $9.99.

Vagabond VIZBIG Edition Vol. 5: That's vols. 13-15 of Takehiko Inoue's swordsman opus, all together in one 624-page, $19.99 softcover doorstop. Inoue has estimated a 2010 or 2011 conclusion for the series, currently up to vol. 31 in Japan (and vol. 29 in VIZ's single releases), so expect there to be 11 or so of these tomes in total. Inoue also has a new volume of his (other) basketball series out this week, Real Vol. 6.

Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys Vol. 5 (of 24): It'd be nice if this winds up going monthly after Pluto ends in three volumes, although I think Monster ran bi-monthly without any competition from the same artist.

Comic Diorama: A neat-looking Top Shelf pamphlet by artist Grant Reynolds, promising five stories of weird, mythical and exploratory themes in 48 pages. It's $5.00; preview.

Noir: A Collection of Crime Comics: A new Dark Horse effort, bringing together some well-known talents for new b&w crime stories, or at least stories featuring said talents' familiar characters that fit into a noir theme, like Dean Motter's Mister X or Paul Grist's Kane. Also included are a new Criminal story from Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, plus work from Brian Azzarello, Rick Geary, David Lapham, Jeff Lemire and more. It's a 120-page softcover, priced at $12.95. Have a look.

Dread & Superficiality: Woody Allen as Comic Strip: It's true, readers - some days I doubt the 100-year reign of our Golden Age of Reprints. But all it takes to restore my faith is a $35.00 hardcover devoted to the 'best of' artist Stuart Hample's 1976-84 Inside Woody Allen newspaper strip. So yeah: daily gags with Woody Allen instead of Hägar the Horrible, which, debuting the year before Annie Hall, essentially preserved the persona dominant in Allen's early, funny works on the comics page, as if to (unintentionally) parody a comic strip gag character remaining the same forever, said gags sometimes supplied by Allen's own joke writers. Published by Abrams, 240 pages in 11" x 8" landscape format. Chris Mautner reviewed it here.

The Family Circus Library Vol. 1: Don't listen to my jokes about newspaper strips, though. I get annoyed when people call this the Family Circle. C'mon, their house is a circus! It's content, not form! Anyway, this is the 240-page debut of IDW's newest $39.99 reprint effort, collecting Bil Keane dailies and Sundays from 1960 and 1961.

The Book About Moomin, Mymble and Little My: Well shit, I didn't know Drawn and Quarterly was putting out Tove Jannson's Moomin picture books too. This is the first of five (though I don't know if D&Q are actually publishing any more), a 1952 story about a search for milk and a missing sister. An oversized (8.2" x 11.25") hardcover, 20 color pages for $16.95. Look.

Talking Lines: Also from D&Q, a 272-page, $29.95 compilation of airy tales by R.O. Blechman, whom Dan Nadel can introduce better than I. Introduction by Seth.

Garth Ennis' The Complete Battlefields Vol. 1: Being Dynamite's big $29.99 hardcover collection of all of writer Garth Ennis' recent WWII comics, released in anticipation of the next entry in the series, December's aerial bomber-themed Happy Valley, with artist P.J. Holden. Preview of the old stuff.

Wolfskin: A $17.99 softcover (or limited edition $27.99 hardcover) collection for one of writer Warren Ellis' less prominent Avatar projects, tracking the adventures of a hulking blonde barbarian with a core of religious terror inside him. I recall the original three-issue 2006-07 miniseries providing ample opportunity for artist Juan Jose Ryp (Black Summer, No Hero) to pile on the gore in a super-blunt take on the old warring-parties-played-by-a-hired-gun scenario, while a 2008 Annual brought in co-writer Mike Wolfer (Gravel) and artist Gianluca Pagliarani (Aetheric Mechanics, Ignition City) to lesser effect. Both are here, for those interested in Ellis' works with familiar cohorts.

Citizen Rex #4 (of 6): Keeping the sci-fi coming from Gilbert & Mario Hernandez. An interesting companion piece (if you can find it) might be Fantagraphics' 2001 pamphlet Tales From Shock City, which collected in duotone Beto's & Mario's Tales from Somnopolis back-up stories from Mister X, scrubbed of all reference to that property. Very much of the same general feel as this new Dark Horse series. Preview.

Sugarshock: Speaking of pamphlet collections, here's that antic, supercute Joss Whedon/Fábio Moon webcomic from 2007 about a spunky girl band in outer space, now available in a 40-page solo package for $3.50, including lots of process material in the back.

Dominic Fortune #3 (of 4): Chaykin MAX.

Beasts of Burden #2 (of 4): This first panel is great.

Batman Confidential #25: Concluding this easy-to-miss Peter Milligan/Andy Clarke story about Batman hitting things in Russia, maybe particularly easy to miss since this is the second issue out this month. Milligan also has Hellblazer #260 this week, wrapping up a two-issue run by guest artist Simon Bisley.

Uncle Sam: Aaaah man, this fucking comic. Easily one of the oddest things Vertigo published in the doomy, stormcloud months of the late '90s, Uncle Sam marked a distinctly bombastic usage of artist/co-writer Alex Ross' Kingdom Come capital; I think it can best be described today as that one illustration of George W. Bush as a vampire sucking the blood out of the Statue of Liberty as expanded to graphic novel length. Scripted by Steve Darnall, the story follows Uncle Sam -- the very soul of Our Nation -- reduced to a babbling, warmongering homeless man who stumbles through vast tableaux of historical atrocity and idealism, dotted with international political icons glowing and breathing and ready to converse, on the road to confronting Sen. Rush Limbaugh and the Dark Side of Patriotism, depicted as a gigantic, wicked clone of Our Man seated on a throne of television monitors full of tits and cookies and sporting events while putting a cigar of dollar bills out on the Capitol dome.

A work of activist anti-subtlety from front to back, the project nevertheless provides maybe a best-ever forum for Ross' particular visual style, allowing him to toss away potential superheroic concerns for speed or movement and focus on positioning his editorial page cosplay cast for maximum gut impact, bleeding scenes of hallucinatory broadside illustration unseen in a comics-related context possibly since Hearst shackled McCay down in the editorial office. Granted, it doesn't so much as toe the county line of kitsch as pretend it lives in a world with no borders at all -- which is either an awfully cosmopolitan attitude for an American work to take or manifest destiny at work, depending on your outlook -- but at least it has the benefit today of comparison to those impossibly mawkish Paul Dini-written oversized DC Superheroes vs. Real World Problems books that directly followed. This shit is World War 3 Illustrated in comparison. Now it's an oversized deluxe hardcover, 128 pages for $19.99.