I tried to take a Sunday nap earlier but a fly kept zipping into my ear whenever I'd doze off and I couldn't kill it and it was a really great time.

*Bookstores! Always good to see what comics are getting the big display push, especially in stores I don’t always get to. I was looking around today for Del Rey’s release of Q-Ko-Chan Vol. 1 (of 2), by Hajime Ueda, whose two-volume comics adaptation of FLCL proved to be absolutely more fascinating and visually creative than a licensed anime adaptation ever need be. Apparently Ueda isn’t an overwhelmingly popular creator in Japan, the FLCL manga having purportedly sold better in the US (it was released by Tokyopop in 2003) than its nation of origin, though I wonder if some of that might be chalked up to the contemporaneous rush of manga into bookstores (if I’m recalling correctly). It’ll be interesting to see how well Q-Ko-Chan will do in today’s market, stripped of any handy anime tie-in.

Anyway, I didn’t find the book - it’s not coming out until late July, it looks like - but I did encounter a towering stack of V for Vendetta trades, at least thirteen copies high. Clearly interest was raised by that movie, and remains intense enough today that chain stores are continuing to stock heavily (when they’re not displaying copies near the more immediately movie-friendly Superman or X-Men trades).

I also saw an item I’d never heard of before: Travels of Thelonious by Susan Schade & Jon Buller, a half-prose, half-comics hardcover children’s book, and the first installment of a trilogy. Even the slightest glance at the cover will reveal the potent design influence of a certain comics heavyweight, though Buller’s in-story art strikes me as more reminiscent of Tony Millionaire (himself a fan of classic illustrated children’s books). Perhaps the authors and publisher Simon & Shuster are hoping for a little crossover appeal? The story, involving an adventurous chipmunk exploring some sort of post-apocalyptic world, certainly seems primed for ‘all ages’ consumption beyond the sections of the bookstore with the colorful rugs and plastic chairs, and Borders has it stocked in the prime New Hardcover Fiction section at the front of the store.

*Lightning Reviews Dept: Haven’t done this in a while, but there’s a bunch of books I ought to mention that don’t seem to warrant much verbosity.

Solo #11: Case in point. I really don’t have all that much to say about the Sergio Aragonés issue of this fast-concluding artist showcase series from DC, other than it’s quite good, and very nearly just what you’d expect from hearing ‘oh, Sergio Aragonés is doing an issue of Solo,’ albeit slightly more serious-minded in certain pieces. Naturally, there’s a meaty mix of humorous autobiography, wordless gags, and the obligatory DC property excercise (an amusing Batman exploit, written by Mark Evanier, the only piece not scripted by Aragonés himself), but we also get a tragic tale of ancient Japan (which reminded me of the works of Stan Sakai, who handles the lettering), and a sharply observed examination of how various nations (the US and Mexico specifically) examine their own histories and feed subjectively composed narratives down to their youth. And obviously, the cartooning is top of the line. This came out last week, and I hope you've already bought it. If not, go back and get it, because it's totally worth that Solo price tag.

The All New Atom #1: Last week's Brave New World sampler has some pretty dire stuff in it, but the provided peek at this new ongoing series managed to catch enough of my interest that I actually came back the next week to try the debut issue (just like a sampler is supposed to work!). And wouldn't you know, it's still pretty good! Written by Gail Simone and based on ideas and concepts by Grant Morrison; that could mean anything from detailed storyline suggestions to half a page torn from the famous Morrison revamp notebooks, but the overriding tone is very much 'Morrison Lite,' with strange, chronology-confused villains taking over the world a hundred days from now, then the plot bouncing around time to bring us the story of Dr. Ryan Choi, a pen-pal of the famous Ray Palmer and heir to his sci-fi research in shrinking stuff way down - Choi is more interested in using the Atom's technology to unlock the weird secrets of the world, and he's willing to bring in a cadre of eccentric brains to aid him in that no-less superhuman trial, but an army of mind-controlled dogs are already bent on his doom. It even fits neatly in with the Brave New World short, offering it additional depth while preserving its standalone status. Wow!

Lots of amusing character interactions, a fun sequence of 'action' that involves merely using the shrinking technology without getting killed, and a general sense of genial oddball play. John Byrne provides the pencils, Trevor Scott the inks, the pair doing a good sturdy job with the mostly uncostumed affairs of the issue. I'd sort of hoped those random quotes were just going to be a cute thing for the preview short, as they're already getting a bit annoying, but this is mostly a fleet, lighthearted debut, and worth a look.

A Nightmare on Elm Street Fearbook #1: This is a stunningly bad comic. I bring that up because Avatar's line of New Line horror license books have actually been fairly average for much of their run (five comics each for A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, two specials and a three-issue miniseries for everyone), with the Jason titles managing the poke their heads up into the realm of the somewhat inspired from time to time, and the rest at least powered by a slavish devotion to extreme gore that renders the books a good deal more visceral than their cinema source franchises have been in a good while. Naturally, that leaves one-off specials like this sitting in pure blood porn territory, packing as many kills as possible into 22 pages as the star monsters slice and dice and unequivocally win. Hey, they're the stars, and like all good stars they've reportedly had handlers (New Line) poking their heads into everything and dictating where the various projects ought to go in a number of aspects.

So maybe Avatar just wanted all of these things out the door (no future New Line comics have been announced as of yet)? Lord knows this thing feels rushed as hell. Artist Dheeraj Verma has been providing some decent enough art on Escape of the Living Dead, but his work here is sloppy, far too many characters drafted with near-identical facial features, postures sometimes grotesquely rendered, and at least one of the all-important dream kills (the last one, even) left simply incoherent. Not that Brian Pulido's script is much better, soggy broad comedy and awful puns mixing into a day out for Freddy as deadly gangbangers attempt to knock off a local drug store. "We need some money, yo." "I hear that!" So goes their planning, with lines like "Damn I need my crank" dropped as a hostage situation develops. Luckily, unexpected things like a whiskey bottle being broken and giant shards of glass flying into people's necks happen to make all the bad guys fall unconscious in the limited space provided. Even the worst of the Freddy movies at least looked kind of nice and were well-paced in the way that formula franchises tend to be, but this is simply below the cellar. The other two Fearbook specials had a little something to them, like Sebastian Fiumara's reliably strong art on the Jason one, or writer Antony Johnston's attempts to add a tiny bit of grindhouse lyricism to the Leatherface one, so I don't know what happened. Maybe it just needed to get done.