The New Old Comics Return Another Time

*And now here’s today’s post, even though it’s probably more of a short continuation of yesterday’s post. There is a new post underneath this, by the way, in case you missed it.

The Brave and the Bold #1

This actually came out last week. It’s a new revival of the long-running DC team-up series, and this issue is a pretty nice start; to temporarily extend yesterday’s (which is to say, 10 hours ago’s) 52 comments to the DCU as a whole, this would be an example of the light, whimsical side peeking through, courtesy of 52 writer Mark Waid and much-admired veteran artist George Pérez.

It’s probably Pérez who captured the most of my attention here; his is a style that I think is capable of serving most of the emotional tones that superhero books have to offer, maintaining a firm balance between realist character art with a certain jauntiness of pace, mainly expressed through his gracefully energetic page designs. Be sure to pay special attention to page 2, since it’s a very nice object lesson in guiding the reader’s eye across the page what with Hal shining his ring on a sudden discovery, the illumination of the beam leading right to another panel of Hal, ‘illuminated’ by his observations, Hal’s hand moving across to the right, which leads to the adjoining panel of another ring’s beam being fired off further to the right, the image of the right-cutting beam repeating in wide panels drifting down the page, just as the beam drifts gradually down to Earth, down to Gotham, down to the Batcave, one two three panels. Very nice.

This does make it a bit more frustrating when, later in the issue, the art becomes unfortunately convoluted during a big fight in the Batcave, as Batman and Green Lantern face off against a giant glowing monster by using all of Batman’s miscellaneous home decorations against it - the t-rex, the Batmobile, etc. It took me a good three reads of the climactic page to figure out how the hell the fight resolved itself -- Hal flings the giant penny into the monster’s back -- which is a real shame, although I’m willing to chalk that up to some unwise coloring choices. I can imagine Pérez’s pencils (inks by Bob Wiacek) making the sequence a lot clearer, but colorist Tom Smith lathers the most crucial panel is luminescent, detail-distracting yellow, an extremely similar color to the bronze(ish) hue of the penny, additional glowy effects added even atop that - it’s distracting, and genuinely impedes the reading experience. I think Pérez’s pencils require a less showy presentation to tease out their details, although there aren’t any other major problems through the issue, truth be told.

As for Waid’s story, it’s perfectly fine superhero team-up stuff, with Green Lantern and Batman joining forces to solve the murder of an alien visitor and his many duplicates. Aside from dinosaur fights, this involves the two of them infiltrating a casino and making several quips about the delightfulness of adventures past (“Eight times out of ten, we enter a room like this, the Royal Flush Gang pops out.”), and the series (from this initial issue) seems interested in carrying that particular feeling forward into contemporary stories. It does it well here, and will very likely please anyone hungry for a certain type of energetic, continuity-light superhero book. It also doesn't support much further discussion in terms of story, so I'll merely restate that the book's virtues lay in entertainment craftsmanship, not a readily dismissible set of virtues, and leave it at that.

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I have returned from my meditation in the desert.

*Key enlightenment: a scorpion is not a housecat, and should not be treated as one.

*Follow-Up Dept: I’ll put this right up top since I know you’re all still teetering on the edges of your seats over the cataclysmic Golgo 13 mystery journey of the other week. Chris Butcher (as I’m sure you all know) was at the NYCC last weekend, and, well -- since the people from VIZ were there and all -- the answer to the million dollar question is that editor Carl Horn is indeed hand-picking all the material in VIZ’s current Golgo 13 run. So I guess Dan Coyle gets a million dollars, which he can contact the United States Department of the Treasury about (this site is huge with the Treasury, trust me). Thanks Chris!

*52 Dept: Ah ha ha ha haaa, that fellow got his entrails eaten! Detailed in three delicious panels, one of them a full-page splash, with a special bonus coda panel of drippy plasm oozing from diner's jaws! I am willing to presume the red hues were intended to moot the impact of the sequence, though I got quite the opposite effect, actually. Combine that sequence with the bloody 'giving birth to HORROR' passage and the pervading thematic migraine of killing's power trip, and this week's 52 is pretty much a half-dozen exposed genitals and 1700 extraneous words away from being an issue of Faust. I'd better see Black Adam belting out James Brown lyrics whilst sawing Egg Fu in half in a couple weeks.

These things don't bug me so much on all-ages funnybook morals level -- I know damn well I'd have been going apeshit over this when I was 14 -- but they're collectively another telling illustration of the running 52 conflict between the silly bits of the DCU and the (sorry) gnawing darkness that's been around for an awfully long time, members of the writing team seemingly conflicted between the two impulses and the series reflective of that tumult. It almost makes me hope that this issue's big revelation is merely a certain character falling under the influence of greater approaching forces rather than being one of those forces incarnated - it'd make for quite a fine illustration of this series' macrocosmic tug-of-war, though it'll be damn tough to beat last week's image of Ralph Dibny putting a magical wishing gun to his head and firing. I mean, shit - that's pretty much the thrust of the thing right there, as jarring as it might be on other levels.

Thank god for implications, eh? At this point I'm interested enough in how the writing team is going to resolve all this (if anything is truly resolved, although 52 does have a pretty big out in that department - it has to stop at One Year Later, which relieves it of the burden of feeding onrushing continuity that something like Civil War has to shoulder these days) to stick around till the resolution, even when confronted with superhero angst as warmed-over as this issue's Osiris material. At least that seems to have concluded...

*Enough for tonight. More tomorrow morning.

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So it's come to this...

*Huh. I was kind of hoping to find a way around this, but it seems I'm going to have to go without internet access until late Wednesday. So, obviously, this site can't be updated until then. I'm just going to push my regular features up a day, and I'll post again Wednesday evening, EST.


Punisher War Journal #4

Alan Moore’s Exit Interview

random things I found

*Ok - now, obviously it's too early for Diamond's official list to be out, so I'm not 100% sure all this stuff will actually show, but there's a good chance.


The Comics Journal #281: It's the Journal's annual Best of Last Year gala thingy, which means a wide variety of people show up and yap about all the lovely things that happened. I am one of the yappers, and I will yap in a manner different from which I did the other times I yapped on the same topic. What a time! Also: interviews with Yoshihiro Tatsumi and Melinda Gebbie, among others whose names you can make out if you squint at the cover graphic, and another nice block of comics.

Otherwise -


Aya: This one looks pretty good. It’s from neophyte comics writer Marguerite Abouet and children’s book artist Clément Oubrerie, and it won Best First Album at Angoulême in 2006. A breezy-looking comedy set in the affluent heyday of the Ivory Coast in the late ‘70s, where writer Abouet grew up. A sequel has already been released in French. Here’s D&Q’s English preview, but there’s a ton more art samples in French on Oubrerie’s own site.

D’Airain Aventure #1: And spinning around 180 degrees, it's the new Ashley Wood showcase series from IDW, a deluxe no-ads 32-page bonanza (with flaps, gotta have the flaps), featuring new characters mixing with personalities from other Wood projects (like Popbot) in a series of overlapping tales and vignettes. Also featuring writing by regular Wood collaborator T.P. Louise and IDW editor-in-chief Chris Ryall.

Cold Heat #3 (of 12): Like I said above, I’m not working off of Diamond’s official list so I’m not 100% sure this new issue of Ben Jones’ and Frank Santoro’s pulsing street fantasy series is actually going to show up everywhere, but certainly someone’s getting some PictureBox releases in.

1-800-MICE #1: Also from PictureBox, the first issue of Matthew Thurber’s new solo series, which I'm looking forward to. PictureBox is also debuting Utility Notebook, which I think is actually a piece of 'found' work by an anonymous funny comics artist.

One Eye: This isn’t really a comic, but it is the new project from Charles Burns of Black Hole, so a bunch of you will probably be interested. It’s a book of digital photography (anyone remember Warren Ellis’ Available Light?), juxtaposing two images per page to draw out sinister or relaxing undercurrents from the whole. From Drawn & Quarterly, part of their Petits Livres line of art books, 144 pages for $14.95. Here’s a preview, to give you a taste of how it is.

Love Roma Vol. 5: Another volume of this cute manga, another of a million I've fallen behind on. One day...

John Woo’s 7 Brothers #5 (of 5): Yeah, this is the last issue. I had absolutely no idea until I saw it mentioned in ads in other Virgin Comics. Incidentally, Dave Stewart’s Walk-In is actually fairly interesting - kind of an archetypical Vertigo title that happens to be better than a lot of the new stuff that Vertigo is putting out at the moment, about a lost British youth blacking out around Eastern Europe, developing odd mental powers, glimpsing weird alternate dimensions, and having his body inhabited by strange forces. Some solid scripting by Jeff Parker. This Garth Ennis-written thing, on the other hand, was sort of boring at first, but it's picked up a bit in recent issues.

Eternals #7 (of 7): Speaking of ending, I'm a little curious to see where Neil Gaiman decides to go with this sudden extension of this continuity-shuffling thing.

Wisdom #3 (of 6): This has really been a pleasant surprise of a series so far, although this issue sees changes, as penciller Manuel Garcia takes over for Trevor Hairsine, perhaps quickening up the release schedule. Wisdom and company, aided by Shang-Chi (Master of Kung-Fu), travel to Wales, where a (literal) dragon has taken control of the local mob.

52 #43 (of 52): More Animal Man, I think, still approaching the end.

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Totally Disconnected Things

*Well, first things first - I really do need to thank Chris Butcher, who said some very kind things about this site at the comics blogging panel at the New York Comic Con this weekend. I appreciate that!

*Jesus, I read a lot of random things. So here’s some short words on the miscellaneous books and comics I’ve stumbled across:

- Girl Crazy: Very, very odd book by Gilbert Hernandez, originally published by Dark Horse as a three-issue miniseries in 1996, then collected the following year. On first glance, it appears to be as lightheartedly prurient a t&a affair as can be, albeit one livened by Beto’s always-fine artwork - a trio of able-bodied young women is a bizarre multi-era pop fusion future strive to break a friend of theirs out of prison for their collective 16th birthdays, and mayhem duly ensues. There’s so many leering glances at 15-year old girls, you’d swear someone like Oh!Great had ghost-written it, though part of Hernandez’s joke is, admittedly, that almost none of the main characters actually look their age, so sexed-up and artificial is the future; only sweet Kitten actually somewhat looks her age, which makes her one of the most desirable women around.

And then, the book frankly goes apeshit, transforming into a surreal, surprisingly bloody reflection on the regrets of compromise, the will to power, and unkind subjugation of childish attitudes to the illusions of adulthood. Yikes - still plenty of panty shots and gags! I can’t really recommend this much -- it’s tonally inchoate, and the pacing feels like Beto was somehow under the accidental impression that he actually had four issues to work with and only found out the truth after half of issue #3 was done -- but you know the old cliché about some artists’ failures being more interesting than other artists’ successes, right?

- DESTROY!!: A 1986 novelty comic from Scott McCloud, at that time in between incarnations of Zot!, published by Eclipse. The novelty being that the comic itself is very, very big -- slightly bigger than the Quimby the Mouse issues of Acme Novelty Library, though not as big as either of the Big Book of Jokes -- and very, very silly. It’s what I’d today deem a ‘decadent action’ comic, in that there’s absolutely no point to it other than inviting the reader to gawk at gorgeously-mounted action sequences, and hoping the experience alone justifies the price, although McCloud obviously meant this particular comic to be some sort of commentary on the increasing reliance of super-comics on Big! action and Big! stakes, kind of a stripping the then-current genre down to its goofy core. As McCloud notes in his essay in the back, “I’m sure I’ll still be able to enjoy a good old-fashioned super-hero comic from time to time. Just like I can still enjoy Sesame Street.”

Of course, the big joke today is how uncannily well the book anticipates the splash-fueled, cool-moment, out-of-control action tone of the early Image comics that would not yet arrive for over half a decade, and the long-lasting influence they‘d have on the genre thereafter. Actually, so much of the grandstanding tone of this comic (which, by the way, documents the context-free battle of two superhuman characters across NYC, handy map included) has since been folded into the superhero mainstream that the only jokes that really land anymore are McCloud’s little winks at chauvinistic gender roles and the selective morality of property damage. The actual fighting? Hell, McCloud’s actually pretty decent at it, but he’d have had to go much farther over the top to still even register as parody in 2007. Well worth reading for historical study.

- Origin: Spirits of the Past: What? Ok, ok, this isn’t a comic. Or even a book at all. It’s a new-to-R1 dvd release of the 2006 first-ever theatrical anime feature by the prolific GONZO animation studio. I sensed some trouble as soon as I popped the disc in; FUNimation’s dvd can best be described as ‘unenthusiastic,’ equipped with absolutely no extra features to speak of, and no special edition planned for any point down the road, which is really weird considering that they seem to load up everything GONZO cranks out with baubles and doodads and such. And this is Gonzo’s big movie debut! I figured something must really be up with the film.

But actually it’s decently entertaining, so long as you’re willing to accept it as sort of a Roger Corman version of a Hayao Miyazaki film, the Carnosaur to Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind’s Jurassic Park, if you will. God knows it’s absolutely loaded up with Miyazaki’s pet themes - co-written by frequent Katsuhiro Otomo and Satoshi Kon collaborator Sadayuki Murai and directed by first-timer Keiichi Sugiyama, the plot sees a confused young girl from our near-future wake up in a far-future Earth where a living forest has apparently beaten humanity to the ground. The denizens of the cleverly-named town of Neutral try to work with the mercurial forest, while another, sinister town (cue belching smokestacks and grinding gears!) seeks to destroy it with fascist military might. The girl gets caught up in the middle (obviously), and a young Neutral boy who fancies her must join with the power of the forest -- the very power that doomed his own father, gentle reader -- to turn his hair silver and cause things to explode. The ending is very spiritual, I think!

Dopey as it can get, the big letdown is that there’s actually not much in there that can stack up to Miyazaki’s own action scenes in something like Princess Mononoke. For a theatrical film, there’s some sloppy visual gaffes, like one moment where a character’s feet lose synch with the background and she appears to be levitating in thin air, and the CGI mecha sometimes don’t seem very well integrated into the 2D environments. Still, it’s a relatively self-aware bit of derivative fluff (there’s an Akira reference that made me smile), and you’ll probably get your rental’s worth of smashing and emphatic young love.

In a way, it’s probably emblematic of the GONZO ethos - I’ve never gotten much of a sense of inspiration from the prime talents there, though they all seem like sturdy enough craftsmen who are capable of putting out goodly amounts of fan-pleasing product. Only Mahiro Maeda (who contributes some mecha designs and storyboards here) strikes me as a particularly unique talents, and I’m not even much of a fan of his - but at least he seems possessed of a particular vision. I have heard good things about 2003’s television series Last Exile, and the director of that, Koichi Chigira, helmed GONZO’s second feature, 2006’s Brave Story. So maybe that’ll turn out better.

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I'll be a happy one when this month is over.

*Busy day, and a far busier week ahead.

Alan Moore’s Exit Interview

Still, I have read some things. For example, there’s this, new from Airwave Publishing, essentially a follow-up to interviewer Bill Baker’s 2005 book Alan Moore Spells it Out, from the same publisher. I use the term ‘interviewer’ since that’s most accurate - like its predecessor, Alan Moore’s Exit Interview is (like the title helpfully notes) nothing more than a lengthy interview with the Magus, who has a special aptitude for going on and on and on at great length without a lot of prompting, to the point where suddenly the book’s over and you realize Baker has only actually asked about 18 questions total over the course of 80 pages.

It’s only $9.95, so all the crazy Moore fans out there will probably be quick in adding it to their personal libraries, but there’s probably not a ton of stuff in there that those same crazy fans don’t already know. Kind of like Baker’s last Moore book, if I’m remembering correctly, it works best as a compilation of answers and statements that Moore has already given elsewhere, but rarely in such a compact, focused space.

For example, much of the first quarter of the book is devoted to Moore explaining, at great length, the entire history of his dealings with film adaptations of his work, from the bits and pieces of his writing that popped up in 1989’s The Return of Swamp Thing to his still-infamous (and still-incomplete) severing of relations with DC over the V for Vendetta movie. There is a bit more depth than has been provided before -- the details of Moore’s give-and-take with DC over what exactly his name will be appearing on in terms of film and comics reaches near-farcical proportions, though it will be up to the reader to decide who’s the funniest character -- but Rich Johnston has already summed up pretty much all of the truly new information in his column.

The book’s main focus (as you can probably tell from the title) is Moore’s feelings on the comics industry, specifically the front-of-Previews core of the Direct Market that Moore has spent an awful lot of time working in. Much is made over the lack of racial and gender diversity, the lack of progressive aesthetic thought among creators - all the things you’ve probably come to expect. I do wish Moore would speak a bit more about the comics world outside of the Marvel/DC axis, although I’ve sort of gotten the notion from reading all of these interviews that Moore either genuinely doesn’t know an awful lot about what’s lurking in the wider terrains beyond the Direct Market-focused comics world he’s primarily made his name in, despite his recent devotion to publishing with smaller outfits, or he’s chosen to rein in his criticism to that which he knows best, sort of expecting the reader to understand that his references to the comics ‘industry’ only cover a certain part of the whole.

Understandable, I suppose, although it gets awfully frustrating when Moore, say, shoots a vaguely-defined barb at the lack of depth in otherwise well-executed “high brow areas” of the comics landscape, completely refusing to name names or offer any sort of substantive detail to his critique. I mean, sure, it is just an interview, not a thesis, but in as detailed and often cutting an interview as this, certain expectations are raised. He is quite generous with praise for the works he enjoys: Chester Brown’s Louis Riel, David Rees’ Get Your War On, the works of Peter Kuper and Joe Sacco. He even speaks very briefly about manga, perceptively noting that the very term ‘manga’ has grown constrained with the rise of certain Japanese comics’ popularity, eventually congealing into a set of visual and content expectations, which I will note tend to revolve around the shounen/shoujo axis of pop. But if Moore is so insistent on wide-view aesthetic development and catholic acceptance of the beauty of the comics medium, well, I’d have preferred that his comments engaged a bit more with current matters outside of the dominant publishing forces of the 1980s, though it makes some sense that he’d want to stick mainly to what he personally knows. There’s a definite conflict there.

Moore is at his best discussing purely personal and artistic things, like his involvement in the early British fan scene of the ‘60s, which he posits as a small but progressive bunch of hippies in contrast to the heavily nostalgic bent of US fandom. He certainly knows how to get someone excited over his future projects - nearly everything I hear about his 35 chapter, 1000-page prose novel Jerusalem only makes me more excited, speaking as a great admirer of Voice of the Fire, Moore’s first prose novel and one of his very best works overall. Unfortunately, he’s apparently not even going to be done writing it until mid-2008, at the earliest. More details surface concerning the final ABC book, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier - this interview dates from May of 2006, and at that time Moore was under the impression that there still was going to be a musical component, a vinyl 45 containing two singles from Eddie Enrico and His Hawaiian Hotshots (Moore and regular musical collaborator Tim Perkins - the name‘s a Pynchon reference), along with the 3D glasses, the Tijuana Bible, and a ton of other things:

Yes, parts of it are a comic book. But it expanded to include two or three other media, and it’s a bumper bundle of fun and entertainment. But, it’s not all comics by any means. Comics are part of the package, but it’s something bigger than that. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but everybody will like it.”

Ah, confidence. If nothing more, that feeling spills off the page and onto you as you read, and you’re ready for the next chance to pay attention, all qualms temporarily dissolved.

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My longer post got eaten and I didn't save, so...

*I guess I just have to be really quick in recommending Rick Prelinger's new book, The Field Guide to Sponsored Films, from the National Film Preservation Foundation, which can be downloaded for free or ordered in printed form for $8.50. It's a nice, compact guide to 452 'sponsored' films, short and (occasionally) feature-length movies produced for the purposes of corporate or institutional communications, often to promote a product or ideology. Perfect for sitting on your lap as you browse the internet looking for things, particularly things nestled away in the Prelinger Archives. Examples (stream 'em all from the panel on the left):

heavy equipment is here to kill you (Shake Hands With Danger, 1975)

the director and cast of Blood Feast are here to teach you about cutting meat (Carving Magic, 1959

this is the future I ought to live in (Design for Dreaming, 1956)

old cars, olds cartoons, old songs, and sexual innuendo - together at last (In My Merry Oldsmobile, 1931)

if you need to learn how to use a jazz era telephone toot sweet, this is the link for you (Now You're Talking, 1927)

also: telephones are the key to love and beauty (Once Upon a Honeymoon, 1956)

Jimmy Stewart presents the greatest school of them all (Tomorrow's Drivers, 1954)

And there's so much more - nothing quite like reading about anti-union films and the 'response' films that unions would release to counter them. Lots of stuff well worth eroding America's productivity over.

Plus, be on notice that the NFPF is busily prepping the third and fourth entries in their line of dvd box sets, following Treasures from American Film Archives and More Treasures from American Film Archives, both of which are awesome. Treasures III: Social Issues in American Film, 1900 - 1934 will cover exactly what it says it does over four discs in the fall of this year, and Treasures IV: The American Avant-Garde Film, 1945-1985 will appear in the fall of 2008 with two discs chock full of water studies and moving dots and things. And I can't wait!

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Everything I say goes!

*Serendipity Dept: Oh my god, I had absolutely no fucking idea that NBM had announced the other day that they were publishing a book of early Mutt and Jeff strips - it seriously was complete coincidence that I happened to post about Mutt and Jeff shortly after the word came out. That really screws with my head, man. Anyway: Mutt and Jeff are funny, and now NBM is publishing 192 pages of the sweet stuff this May, under the title Forever Nuts: The Early Years of Mutt and Jeff. And that’s not all they’re doing - NBM has plans to make Forever Nuts a banner title for all sorts of compilations of early, funny newspaper comics, each volume showcasing a new strip. This sounds like it’ll be awesome. Hell, I’d put money on it.

Punisher War Journal #4

Not a crapload of interesting stuff happened in the new comics I read this week - 52, for example, had one of those issues were it seems like a big finale for one of its storylines, even though you get the strong feeling that it’s not actually over.

Still, I found myself a lot more intrigued by Punisher War Journal #4 than prior issues, which does suggest that writer Matt Fraction might be staking out an interesting tone for the non-Civil War run of the book. The story focuses on Stilt-Man’s funeral, held in a bar with the corpse laid across pool tables, with all manner of D-list villains stopping by to pay their dues and shoot the breeze. It’s very much an evident homage to the Scourge’s classic rampage in the Bar With No Name from Mark Gruenwald’s run on Captain America, though it also brought to my mind that one Secret Origins story Neil Gaiman wrote with the Riddler lamenting the passing of the madcap villainy of the Silver Age, although here there’s more Bronze in play. Does each generation pine of the idealism of the era just prior?

Basically, the entire issue centers on conversations between awful villains as they reminisce on their arguable days of glory, laughing at their own foibles and generally soaking in the amusement of being disposable costume fodder. Everybody drinks and fights, and there’s some funny lines - the joke with the Doombot gets aired maybe once or twice too many, but I loved the Daredevil flashback. Meanwhile, that funny-looking bartender keeps an eye on everyone, and the inevitability of what’s going to happen is genuinely discouraging. Fraction maybe falls into a little too much sameness among the large cast’s voices -- everyone kind of sounds like a default depressive snarker -- but he does manage a palpable sense of fraternity, underscored by guest artist Mike Deodato’s slightly queasy realist art style, perfect for catching the awkward folds of masks and the peculiar garishness of costumes.

That’s probably the issue’s key strength - adoring the frayed edges of late-period superhero foolishness and casting the title character as not so much an urban antihero or a corrective to the silliness of general superheroics, but as kind of a symbol of superhero modernity, albeit a modernity that’s been building for years and years now. In other words, the Punisher is no longer a discordant element in the current world of superheroes, but a perfectly fitting superhero headliner for a self-evidently superhero-type book, a once-outsider the tone of the day has finally caught up to. Remember: he’s not the villain. He’s Captain America. Contrast him with recurring guest star Spider-Man, whom Fraction consistently portrays as an unfailingly tolerant, compassionate, brightly misplaced wisecracking character, the only one to help Frank up last issue when Cap knocks him down, as everyone glowers and grits their teeth over Civil War matters. He’s Marvel’s flagship character, and yet increasingly out of place.

These aren’t new thoughts, and this isn’t a particularly innovative story, really. But it’s odd to me how affecting it can be nonetheless. It also speaks of a stronger potential for this title, a book that neither seeks to separate Frank from superhero goings-on, nor posit him as a corrective, or even play up his antihero status. It’s Frank, starring in his own Marvel U book, yet cast in the light he’d normally be seen in as a guest star in some earlier issue of another superhero’s book, a ferociously cruel force, but one that no longer needs to be a mere guest. Maybe that’ll all change in a few issues, but if the premise of this title is 'having Frank track down some supervillains,' this is as intriguing way to go as any.

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Two Powerful Revelations

*Yes, the observations come roaring at me when there's little time to post.

1. Mutt and Jeff was really a completely awesome comic, or at least it was for its first three years. I posted a Bud Fisher quote yesterday, since I managed to get my hands on a bent-up, dirtyish 1987 reprint of the 1910 strip collection The Mutt and Jeff Cartoons, and holy smokes are these some nice comics. I don't know if you're familiar with Mutt and Jeff, at least in this early incarnation, but Mutt is a hopeless gambling addict who will stop at nothing to obtain money to put on the ponies, and Jeff is a fellow he sprung from a mental institution to sometimes aid in his schemes. Laffs!

There's often no joke to the strips at all beyond the general presence of Mutt's total manic desperation to scrape together some coin to gamble with. His wife often leaves him, he's reduced to ripping out Jeff's gold fillings to trade for cash - my personal favorite strip is one where he's wandering around wearing a flower sack because he's already sold all his clothes for gambling money, and he starts ripping other people's clothes right off the line to sell for a little more, only to get attacked by a small dog, which he then also sells, its teeth still clenched to his leg. Now that's entertainment! Plus, since these strips were composed extremely close to press time, all the horses Mutt bets on were actually running - can you say reader interactivity of best kind?

2. Heavy Metal in its 'golden' age of the late '70s has to be the least new reader friendly comics publication I can think of. And yet, there's always something that transfixes me about those early issues, a manic creative energy that somehow overcomes the total confusion that suffuses every page. Right now I'm looking at the November 1978 issue, brimming as it is with Mœbius, Enki Bilal, Philippe Druillet, Richard Corben, Howard Chaykin and more, and believe me when I tell you that every single feature of more than two pages is either a chapter from the middle of a serial or an excerpt from a larger work. Hell, I think the only thing in there that isn't in media res is Steve Bissette's pin-up, and I never can be sure.

There are no synopses, no editorial guidance, no information about the artists - hell, most of the time we don't even get the first names of the artists. I wonder how much this air of confusion added to the mythic feel of early Heavy Metal? If you weren't really on top of things, there was no way you weren't going to get utterly surrounded and bamboozled by surreal, feverish art (not that having the stories in complete form would be a guarantee of clarity), and maybe it was that very stance that helped cultivate an audience who enjoyed being made to really swim toward understanding. If nothing else, it was great company to be confused by...

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*Fresh morning. I heard it might hit 40 degrees this week, which means maybe all those concrete-like blocks of ice will melt and I'll be able to park by my building for once!


Cartoon Workshop/Pig Tales (new Paper Rad)

Batman #663

Golgo 13 Vol. 7 (of 13): Eye of God

*Touching Words Dept:

When I was very young, there was a kid of my own age who was a bit more favored by nature in physical prowess than I was; in other words, he had my goat. Not only that, but he knew he had it, and he never allowed me to forget it either. By way of impressing the fact on my memory, he would take a long and carefully aimed swing at my nasal organ every time we met. Occasionally his judgment of direction would be a trifle off, and my eye would act as backdrop for the punch. To give him justice, however, I must admit that he seldom missed. I usually got it just where I was supposed to get it, - right on the beak. I couldn’t get even with him then, but I swore a mighty oath that, should I ever become President, or get on the Police force, or in any other manner get him in my power, I would make it my one aim in life to get revenge. Therefore, I dedicate this Book to him, Charlie Harvey.”

- creator Bud Fisher’s opening dedication, from The Mutt and Jeff Cartoons, published 1910 and reprinted 1987 from Arcadia Publications

*That moved me.


The Drifting Classroom Vol. 4 (of 11): MORE TOP-OF-YOUR-LUNGS THRILLS as the Kazuo Umezu classic continues. Can Sho free his school from the grip of a fiendish, power-mad girl gang in time to repel an attack by mutant beasts? Will his time-spanning connection with his mother prompt further hotel invasions? Maybe another crucifixion? Anything is possible.

Naoki Urasawa’s Monster Vol. 7 (of 18): Meanwhile, here’s another volume of Urasawa’s popular thriller, one among several manga I am hopelessly behind on. That fucking cover design recently tricked me into accidentally skipping a volume while trying to catch up, so now I have to grab a copy of Vol. 5 before I can get to this one. Incidentally, this volume’s official title font hue is ‘deep urine.’

Heartbreak Soup: The First Volume of “Palomar” Stories from Love & Rockets: Just not that interested in breaking your back over a gigantic hardcover tome, yet intimidated by the huge library of Love & Rockets material already available in paperback? Fantagraphics no doubt sympathizes with your plight, because tomorrow brings us this 288-page softcover volume, shaped at a more compact 7 ½” x 9 ¼”, priced at only $14.95, and collecting the first half of Gilbert Hernandez’s classic Palomar stories. If you haven’t read this material, you really ought to.

Maggie the Mechanic: The First Volume of “Locas” Stories from Love & Rockets: Also out, a 272-page book collecting the first third of Jaime Hernandez’s Maggie and Hopey tales, with all of the supporting cast in tow. Featuring material not included in the Locas hardcover, which otherwise collected all this stuff into one package. Now you can finally rest both books easily on your lap at the local chain bookstore and hash out whether Gilbert or Jaime is better with the 14-year old trying to read Fruits Basket next to you.

Sock Monkey: The “Inches” Incident #3 (of 4): Stormy seas!

Ghost in the Shell 1.5: Human-Error Processor #5 (of 8): Another new storyline for this thing begins, complete with rib-tickling comedy to spice up the murder investigation.

The Spirit #3: Obligatory origin recap issue.

Local #8 (of 12): I’m always glad to see this Brian Wood/Ryan Kelly series, when it’s out. This one is set in Chicago, and sees the return of lead character Megan.

The Immortal Iron Fist #3: Oh, here’s the new issue. Good. Man, these comments are just crackling off my fingertips today.

Punisher War Journal #4: The first of the post-Civil War issues (oh, Civil War is ending this week too btw), and hopefully where the book strikes out a firm identity apart from the sales-boosting rigors of conforming its pacing and plot to the demands of a larger thing. It won’t be so much weighed down, so let’s see if it can swim.

52 #42 (of 52): I think this is supposed to be the climax of Ralph’s storyline, maybe? Unless it’s another tease? I did enjoy last week’s bit where he kicked an elderly man out of a wheelchair for a magical artifact, then felt bad afterwards. What larks!

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The Perfect Machine of Stupid

*Well, I’m a real idiot. This will teach me to assume anything, because this time I have truly made an ass out of u and me.

You see, I reviewed the new volume of Golgo 13 yesterday. For a good long while, I’d been going on the assumption that stories included in VIZ’s 13-volume series were a combination of a pair of Japanese volumes, the Best 13 series, one collecting the 13 favorite stories of readers (released in 2001), and one collecting the 13 favorite stories of creator Takao Saito (released in 2003). Thus, 13 + 13 = 26, enough for a 13 volume series of books with two stories in each. Just like what VIZ is presenting to the US. Easy, huh?

Except, just this very morning, reader Pedro Bouça (aka Hunter) wrote in to tell me that the French-language edition of the Readers’ volume of the Best 13 series, a big, thick 1328-page monster released in 2006 by Glénat (god, I hope I at least got that right) to match the big, thick 1330-page version released in Japan, did not contain either of the stories I described in my review of Golgo 13 Vol. 7, a volume that presumably would ‘switch over’ from Saito’s favorites to the readers’ favorites.

Well, that got me thinking.

And you know what? I've been completely fucking wrong for a while now.

So now, having utilized Babelfish to navigate through Japanese publisher Shogakukan’s official pages for both the Author’s and Readers’ Best 13 volumes, plus Saito Pro’s own (incomplete) database of G-13 stories, I can say, with confidence, that VIZ’s current release of Golgo 13 is not based on either of the Best 13 collections. Indeed, it doesn’t appear that they share any stories at all, though there‘s room for error, giving what I’m working with (free translators and the official site). I’m now willing to bet that the French-language book Hunter has been reading features tales involving wild monkeys and Okinawan independence and hijacker sniping and the like. Moreover, Saito's picks should have been involving stuff like diamond bosses and people held in cages and international banking. That's not the stories we've been reading.

In addition, The Golgo 13 Gaku, which is listed in the legal indicia of most of the VIZ volumes as “First published by Shogakukan Inc. in Japan as…” appears to actually be a 344-page Official Handbook sort of thing, almost certainly the source material for the File 13 bonus materials seen in the VIZ books, rather than a compilation of stories as originally suspected. Tellingly, no mention of the Gaku is present in the indicia of the new Vol. 7, in which editor Carl Horn imparts information of specific interest to English-speaking audiences.

So where are VIZ’s stories coming from? No clue. Maybe VIZ is just picking things they think will appeal to English-speaking audiences. I don’t know. But I do know these stories aren’t being culled directly from the Best 13 series, nor is the current VIZ release a split up version of those two huge volumes. So thanks for tipping me off, Hunter.

This may seem like a minor background detail, but minor background details bug me, and I hate to think my background information led anyone astray. So there it is. Me am wrong. That's why I plopped in language like "unless I’m grievously mistaken" at the top of the review - sometimes I am.

*And, er, that's going to have to be my post for the day, since I spent all my time studying Golgo 13. See ya!

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Wow! Multimedia special!

Golgo 13 Vol. 7 (of 13): Eye of God

Volume 7 is book of changes for the current Golgo 13 series. Unless I’m grievously mistaken (EDIT: which I am - see here), it marks both the last of creator Takao Saito’s 13 favorite stories and the first of a group of 13 Japanese fan-selected stories. I’ve heard that the fan-favorites gravitate less toward the studied quasi-history of Saito’s predilection, and more in the direction of sex and violence and giant eagle wrestling and the like, so we should be in for some fun.

This volume also sees a shift in the bonus material, as suddenly File 13 entirely drops its treatment of super-assassin Duke Togo as a ‘real’ person, and English editor Carl Gustav Horn addresses the reader as himself to impart some English-specific information on the live-action Golgo 13 films. You know, all two of them. A bit more space is devoted to the earlier, 1973 film (titled simply Golgo 13), directed by Junya Sato and starring Ken Takakura, probably because few English-speaking people have actually seen it - it’s never been released on dvd, even in Japan, though Japanese vhs copies are apparently floating around. Horn has seen it though, and imparts some great historical information on the picture’s Iranian setting, a would-be swinging scene friendly to both the Japanese and film production, and home to some sexy domestic stars that would find themselves squelched by the Islamic Revolution of just over half a decade later.

The later, 1977 film (Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment, although it's also sometimes called simply "Golgo 13"), directed by Yukio Noda and starring Sonny Chiba, is readily available in the US on vhs and dvd, and Horn’s coverage is far lighter and picture-adorned. There is a minor factual error, possibly due to deadline issues, which it is nevertheless my duty as a nerd to correct - in addition to the dub-only 2004 Kill Chiba box set that Horn identifies as the film’s sole US dvd release, there is also the more recent 2006 Sonny Chiba Action Pack, which actually presents the film in its original Japanese with English subtitles, an English dub optional.

(on a side note, be aware that both of the aforementioned Chiba packs also contain the 1975 Sato-directed feature Bullet Train, which actually teams both Takakura and Chiba in an action/disaster story that supposedly inspired the 1994 film Speed - the Chiba Action Pack contains as its third film the 1980 Kinji Fukasaku medical sci-fi epic Virus, which the title star has little more than a cameo in, while Kill Chiba sports 1974's The Executioner, a Terou Ishii-directed thing with Chiba killing the shit out of folks)

Ok, so how about those comics? Despite this volume’s two stores being (apparently) culled from two separate lists of favorites, there’s actually a single, unifying theme running between them: no man can make Golgo 13 their puppet.

The better of the two is the second, 1977’s Far from an Era (Story #126), which sees Duke hired by a wealthy California businessman for a curious assignment: he must deliberately miss a shot at the man’s wife, a pretty young thing with secret, scandalous ties to the Weather Underground, putting some fear of god into her by merely nicking off her tiny left earring, thus hopefully convincing her to sever those radical connections. But everything goes horribly wrong when a mysterious second assassin actually kills the woman at the moment of Duke’s shot, leaving the irate client to summon the police after our off-guard anti-hero.

In many ways, this is as basic a Golgo 13 story as you can find: an assassination, complications, a mystery, a little historical flavor, Duke standing triumphant as his foe sputters that he… he couldn’t possibly have made that shot… not in this windon a boat! There’s even a gratuitous sex scene with a lonely woman whom Duke shacks up with while on the run from the police, though I guess you can call it an extension of the story’s ‘trust vs. distrust’ theme, if you really feel like it. The story’s main pleasure comes from its sleek propulsion, its wonderfully tense finale, and its ultimately hilarious look at Duke’s superhuman vanity. It’s not that he’s particularly pissed that the police are after him, or even that he’s clearly been set up by outside forces - what’s really got him mad is that he’s been made to look like he’s missed a shot, and that little misapprehension will have to be corrected no matter what.

Also on tap is 1993’s Eye of God (Story #319), a surprisingly dense little package of cheeseball metaphors that doubles as a covert surveillance saga with the Israel/Palestine conflict as its backdrop. The real lead character is Augustus James Belmeyer, a brilliant satellite data interpreter and lecherous voyeur, a man who’s vital to US national security because of his preternatural aptitude for picking up tiny nuances and subtle suggestions in spy satellite footage, and then heads home to greet his library of nudie pin-up art with a hearty “I’m home, everyone!” before settling down to snap secret photos of the showering ladies in nearby buildings.

He’s also gone a bit mad, and is orchestrating a plot to gain total control over the US’s shiny orbital KH-13 spy satellite (note the number, ho ho) and become the world’s undisputed master of surveillance, a man with the eye of god. There’s another man with the eye of god out there, of course, and Belmeyer decides to manipulate G-13 into a position of powerlessness, exposing even the greatest covert assassin as merely a man who can be watched, for no apparent reason other than to prove his crazed superiority.

In contrast to the other story’s ‘Duke as vain superhuman’ motif, this one sets Our Hero firmly in ‘angry god’ mode, another of his default characterizations. Amusingly, Saito and his anonymous Saito Production workers set both random Act of God weather occurrences and Golgo 13 against Belmeyer, as if the man has pissed off every god that might be in the immediate area, and fully deserves what’s coming in the Grand Guignol ending. If there’s any real problem with this story, it’s that a sense of inevitability sets in a little too far from the actual ending; better stories, like Far from an Era, don’t clue us in to the exact means of Duke’s triumph until we’re nearly out of space.

But as always, there’s great moments, like the recurring image of Golgo 13 staring into the sky, one god gazing directly at another, and neither eager to budge from their superiority. Even when we know which one has to win, it's still compelling as all hell.

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*Yes, welcome to our post for Saturday morning... er, afternoon... evening? Fuck, it's almost 10:00?! Well, I'll have the new Golgo 13 review up at an earlier hour tomorrow.

*Comics Adaptation Dept: Meanwhile, I do have something Tam brought to my attention the other day - a one-minute film adaptation of Alan Moore's and Melinda Gebbie's This Is Information, originally published in the Dark Horse/Chaos!/Image anthology 9-11: Artists Respond Vol. 1 from 2002. Stripped of nearly all of Moore's considered, witty prose, the work comes off as far more polemical than the source material, though it actually is fairly true to the core of the comic - call it a strong argument for adornment. It also falls into a pretty common adaptation trap, presuming a certain familiarity with the original work; unless you can read damn quick, the bit about any single human life having more bound energy than our tallest towers etc. will fly right past you. Still, it's a nice try, and worth a minute of your time.

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Finally, I didn't have to risk my life for comics.

Batman #663

Oh shit. This wasn’t very good at all.

It’s the illustrated prose issue of Batman, in case you didn‘t know. And it’s not like I’m completely predisposed against the idea of releasing a comic that’s so obviously not actually a comic; you’re looking at a reader of all 300 issues of Cerebus here. I’ve liked some of writer Grant Morrison’s prose in the past -- the text bits of Flex Mentallo were some of the funniest parts -- and he’s working in a sort of gregariously overbaked style here, with chapter titles like The Unbearable Inevitability of Batman and the Joker. At certain points I got the feeling that Morrison was attempting to capture the flavor of a particularly purple text backup, the sort of thing you’d skim over after having finished the actual comics content in an old issue, only to find yourself transfixed with the oddness of the thing.

Unfortunately, that effect only works when the backup is backup, not when it’s the whole issue, and this particular issue winds up landing about fourteen pages over my personal limit of overextended metaphors and raised-eyebrow faux-pulp. I guess there’s only so much “It’s the kind of town that whispers ‘baby’ while it’s picking your pockets, that promises the world and delivers the gutter, or vice versa, and puts out your lights with a kiss, or a bullet, then forgets your name before dawn,” that I can reasonably process at one time from a Batman comic book, particularly in the context of a rather typical Joker story.

Oh sure, it works overtime to allude to Morrison’s own Arkham Asylum and Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, and it’s right in line with Morrison’s usual theme of transformation/evolution, but by the final page it’s pretty clear that it’s just more Batman, more Joker, more Harley Quinn (“Her eyes roll, fractured semi-precious stones set like charms in a frightened little Halloween-cake face. She’s cute like a Chihuahua pup with rabies, or a baby swinging an open razor.”), another slugfest, another imprisoning, another run around themes that have been worked out a dozen times before. Have you heard that Batman and the Joker are interdependent? That, indeed, they may be flip sides of the same card?

Morrison’s big innovation here is the notion that the Joker is acutely self-aware of his many different characterizations over the years, and that his lack of any ‘core’ personality has dropped him into a pattern of necessary reinvention. It might have been more interesting if Morrison’s ‘new’ Joker had been characterized on any level beyond ‘he is really scary and dangerous now!’ But Morrison instead opts to focus on how the Joker’s new personality carries with it a desire to replace everything in the past, and when you care as little for human life as the Joker does… well, you can figure out the plot, right?

I’m tempted to say the story’s more about how superhero character revisions threaten to erase all that’s endearing about what they’ve accumulated so far, and the callousness of the Joker’s personal reinvention is what makes him really scary, but that’s probably extending a bit more credit to this soggy shock show than it earns. Mostly it’s just a badly-written, ultra-typical Batman comic in prose form, and while I suppose it can be argued that Morrison is using the form of a standard Batman/Joker confrontation to expose deeper truths about the characters, I will counter that Morrison’s entire run on the series thus far has been marked by instances of interesting themes being delivered in such a clipped, haphazard format as to make the reader wonder if he isn’t just supplying his outlines for the artist(s) to draw anymore. Just try contrasting something like this to the Superman/Luthor issue of All Star Superman, which found an endlessly more intuitive and fun means of contrasting its two characters.

Actually, this issue is a little like Arkham Asylum in that way. It’s not nearly as bad, mind you, as Arkham Asylum is quite possibly the single shittiest comic Morrison has ever written on his own, a veritable catalog of his worst storytelling tendencies splashed with all the dourness and intellectual pouting the post-Watchmen superhero landscape could offer. This issue is a little too self-conscious for that. But it does share its popular predecessor’s tendency to substitute simple declaration for substantive insight - we’re told over and over what depth these characters have, yet we’re never allowed to see them demonstrate these hidden fathoms in a manner apart from the string-pulling of Grant Morrison. Interestingly, the thoroughly disappointing illustrations of John Van Fleet probably help it out a little, weighing the story down with computer-augmented chintz while the abler style of a Dave McKean may have pushed it even further out into the ether. As it is, the book mercifully launches itself into outright kitsch by the final battle, Batman and the Joker’s big clash looking like screencaps from the world’s nerdiest Tekken 2 hack while Morrison roars "The lunatic is still grinning, biting and snapping at Batman’s face. His red-rimmed eyes are juicing, his florid lips dribbling and spitting a spray of liquid sparks that makes Batman’s skin sizzle and raises tiny blisters."

Man, February was a rough month for bodily fluids in superhero comics, eh?

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Cool As Ice Update

*Ok, I managed to chip all the remaining crap off of my vehicle and I think I'm ready for the long haul up the highway to work. A lot of roads around here aren't quite fixed yet -- tightly compacted snow atop layers of ice will do that -- and media sources were all but begging people not to drive as late as sundown yesterday evening. Needless to say, I won't have any new comics until tonight, provided that I even get where I'm going in one piece. But it should be a little better than I expect, since I'm kind of expecting the worst.

*I love blogging about the weather, by the way! Boy do I wish I didn't have to spend all my time chipping ice. You can read lots of other things today, like Jones' blog, which has been running for about half a month now and already has many fine posts. Or maybe this comments section from the other day, in which commenter Tam presented maybe the finest letter a comic's letters column can hope to see. It covers Mike Baron's run on The Punisher, and has a powerful message about drugs, and how we can make the world a better place through hard work and guts. The Punisher was indeed fighting drugs quite a lot by '93 or so when I started reading, so let's not discount the power of a simple letter...



Heart of Ice

*Hey Jog, why didn’t this update appear in the morning when it was supposed to?

Ice, my friend. Ice.

I would not get excited over the prospect of reviews of new comics tomorrow either; the entire area just got slammed with an ice storm, and everything is frozen solid for Valentine’s Day. My office was closed, I’ve already cleaned my car off once but it’s probably already been resealed in a block of frost, and there’s no guarantee that any of it’s going to let up in the next ten hours. And I was looking forward to getting all those valentines at work too.

Cartoon Workshop/Pig Tales

Oh hey, it’s the new book from Paper Rad! For those who need reminding, Paper Rad is three people: siblings Jacob and Jessica Ciocci, and Paper Radio co-founder Ben Jones. They make a lot of things, and comics is one of them. They also combine a lot of things, and comics is generally a component part. I haven’t seen this particular book pop up on Diamond’s lists anywhere; if the past is any guide, it won’t be moseying into your local store for another three or four months or something, but you can buy it now at various places online, like publisher PictureBox Inc.’s website.

PictureBox dubs this “the follow up” to the much-acclaimed-by-those-who-read-it Paper Rad, B.J. and da Dogs; it's a true statement to the extent that Cartoon Workshop/Pig Tales the second formal Paper Rad book to be released by PictureBox, but I think the comparison is otherwise a bit misleading. While Paper Rad, B.J. and da Dogs was a big fat chunk of visual approaches and colors and paper stocks and things, a hodgepodge of the best kind, Cartoon Workshop/Pig Tales is far more modest. It’s 96 pages, and looks and feels like an Archie digest, the type you’d see at the checkout counter at a grocery store, from its small dimensions right down to its low-grade paper quality.

It’s also far closer in feel to a fast-working minicomic than a proper book. - Paper Rad has released quite a lot of handmade, 500-copy minicomics throughout the years, and the two title pieces of this book are, respectively, the third installment in a series of those comics (Cartoon Workshop), and a reprinting of an actual limited edition minicomic that PictureBox itself distributed (Pig Tales), albeit one that was credited solely to Jessica Ciocci. I don’t know if the version of Pig Tales in here is revised, or if the other two contributed anything (doesn’t look like it). I’m never quick enough to find these minis.

So, it’s probably best to adjust your expectations. Certainly Cartoon Workshop sees Paper Rad at their loosest and silliest, though they assure the reader that this installment is the very best so far. There’s five sections, plus a making-of spread for what appears to be a music video collaboration with Canadian artist Beau Labute. It’s very Ben Jones-heavy, and seasoned Jones readers will know immediately to expect rambling dialogue, abrupt gags, odd transformations, and the repositioning of the most familiar, overexposed pop culture tidbits around into weirdly compelling forms.

Actually, that last bit goes for Paper Rad as a whole; I’ve never thought of the group as trafficking in irony or culturally elitist snark, but I suppose their aesthetic leaves them especially open to charges of such, so it makes perfect sense that they constantly appropriate grossly overexposed, still-present, and/or easily accessed things like Garfield or the Muppet Babies or Trolls or the Simpsons to plug into their quasi-mystic, pop-saturated worldview. You’d have to be a complete fucking idiot to start cracking Chuck Norris jokes now, which I expect is exactly why Paper Rad does it.

This is a silly joke book (er, this half is a silly joke book), so there’s no culling of the spirit from the most prominent of consumerist icons here - Chuck Norris is just a mean guy who walks around with an alligator and torments a “1990’s style hippy” named Patrick (“Jeez, nice try, maybe you should take a number, AT THE DRUG RE-HAB LINE! so SHUT-UP”) while waging war against the Super Ninja and generally being a belligerent tough guy asshole. And if you don’t think any of that’s funny, well, no explanation of the Paper Rad aesthetic is going to help you out, not with stuff this low-key. I respond well to this on a gut level, the funny drawings and funny words level, which seems to be where the work is pitched.

Pig Tales, on the flip side, is a little more obscure, a little more drawing-for-drawing’s-sake, and packed with conversations between Ciocci’s signature pig characters. They constantly eat, shoot the breeze about nothing, work on frustrated creative projects (best sight gag: a book titled “How to Draw Manga Dicks”), vomit, and occasionally seem to break through to something enlightened. It’s extremely scattered, but underneath there’s a compelling authenticity of experience, as if we’re getting a very nearly verbatim word-and-picture transcript of what’s running through the artist’s head.

It’s good that such work is being made more accessible. Well, somewhat more accessible. Eventually, reality crashes in and we all realize that unlike the cheap and fast Archie digests seemingly under emulation , this thing actually costs $15, which pretty much destroys the possibility of an impulse buy, and will probably scare off all but the more devoted Paper Rad followers; regardless all things considered, they’ll probably be the ones willing to track it down online or attend a show where it’s for sale anyway. Still, it’s always worth showing this stuff around. Everyone who’s borrowed my copy of the Paper Rad dvd, Trash Talking, has been pretty amazed by it, so I know their material doesn’t require a thorough grounding in the ebb and flow of the Providence comics brut scene or whatever the fuck to appreciate. This isn't as overwhelming a work, though, and is best approached as easygoing laughs and fun drawings. Attaching a grander import to it might cause collapse.

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A Special Message for the People of the World, This Post Today

*I guess I can look over how little got done last week.


Regards From Serbia

Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born #1 (of 7)

Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil #1 (of 4)

February has been a thick month.

*Requests Dept: Well, now that the ‘Spider-Man killed his wife by ejaculating cancer or maybe kissing with his tongue too much’ thing is swiftly approaching full-blown meme proportion, I think I ought to air something that really needs to be said:

Marvel, it’s time for the Spider-Man manga.

Oh yeah, it’s time.

You know what I’m talking about, Marvel. The 1970-71 production? Initially written and drawn by Ryoichi Ikegami, and later written by Kazumasa Hirai? You put out an edited, incomplete pamphlet-format translation, 1997-99, under the title Spider-Man: The Manga? Yeah, you know.

Well it’s time to do it right.

And there’s no more excuses, no more “Oooh, we can’t show a man’s head being blown apart by a sniper’s bullet, or eyes popping out of people’s skulls, or naked, naked breasts! Naked breasts mean spider-sense false alarms!” Sure, you never actually said those things, but that’s what you implied through your edits the last time around. No more, Marvel. We’ve all seen Spidey’s penis now.

Yes, Spider-Man: Reign is an alternate universe thingy.

As is Spider-Man: The Manga.

So come on, Marvel. You can’t unring the bell. It’s time to move forward.

Five volumes. Digest format. Bookstore-ready. You know there’s an audience. You know Spider-Man will be a recognizable face outside of the Direct Market. Ikegami’s still got some name value himself. Shrinkwrap it. Play up its historical status. Hell, be educational about it. There is potential in this, Marvel, and reality too, now that our inhibitions have fluttered away like so many cherry blossoms on a breezy Spring’s afternoon.

There may never be a finer moment than now.

(unless the license is unavailable - then forget everything I just said)

*I am full of complications -


Casanova #7: Last issue in the current storyline; the series will now be taking a break while the first trade is released. Obviously this isn’t a great jumping-on point for new readers -- the unacclimated would be better off just waiting another few weeks for the collection -- but I suspect regulars will be very pleased indeed with what’s in here. Casanova must confront his cross-dimensional sister in the body of a giant cryptomech, while several previously seen characters return, a delightful new find is made, plots are twisted, and roles are as gently redefined as one can reasonably expect from a book featuring a battle royale inside a huge robot and lines like “Grandmother is very excited to kill some white people.” It’s also the funniest issue so far, and maybe a little abrupt in its epiphanies, but nonetheless far more satisfying than a lot of comics that have more than 16 pages of story to play with. Also featuring writer Matt Fraction’s most loaded stretch of backmatter ever. If you’re wondering how this book turns out, it turns out well. If you haven’t tried it at all, I think the trade will be something of value to you.


Krazy & Ignatz 1939-1940: A Brick Stuffed With Moombins: Wheeee! More Krazy Kat Sundays, as one of Fatagraphics’ preeminent series continues to march on. Two softcover volumes left after this, and then it’s supposed to lap itself and begin repackaging the earlier material collected prior to Fanta’s taking on the project. The next Krazy Kat book from Fantagraphics, however, actually won’t be 1941-1942 - August’s Krazy & Ignatz: The Kat Who Walked in Beauty will be a deluxe hardcover compilation of the best of creator George Herriman’s daily strips from the first two decades or so of the strip. Just buy all of it.

Borgia Vol. 2 (of 3): Power and Incest: Meanwhile, way on the other end of the comics world, we’ve got the second installment of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s and Milo Manara’s historical exploitation film in comics form, covering the many abuses and intrigues of the infamous Borgia clan, the particularly wicked Pope Alexander VI providing the center of the universe for all else to orbit. It’s not easy being Pope, and this book will show you just how its done with enough historical flavor to convince you of the bits Jodorowsky might have just made up. Organized religion is madness, but so is life - there’s your theme. Good poison for the heart, initially presented in Heavy Metal, and now collected by them. Don’t expect the final chapter particularly soon; I don’t think the album’s out in Europe yet.

Hellshock: The Definitive Edition: This is the $19.99 trade paperback edition of writer/artist Jae Lee’s newly-completed, newly-colored opus, finally available for consumption. I haven’t seen any copies of the hardcover around, so I’ll be glad to look for this.

Gødland #16: Ah, the sixty cent issue. Apparently a jumping-on point for new readers. Not much risk to find out.

The Punisher Presents: Barracuda MAX #1 (of 5): The title makes me really anxious to see Frank Castle ‘presenting’ each issue at the front and back, Crypt Keeper style (speaking of which - EC Archives: Tales From the Crypt Vol. 1 is also out this week), but I don’t think that’s actually going to happen. We all loved The Punisher Shoots Enron back when it ran in the proper series, and the creative team of writer Garth Ennis and artist Goran Parlov are now back for the MAX book’s very first official spin-off. I’m maybe slightly wary; Barracuda worked as a character in the original storyline as one ingredient in a whole stew of ruefully comedic race and class collisions and ironies, but he could easily go quite spectacularly wrong left to his own devices (so to speak). Still, The Punisher MAX is one of the few places left where Ennis rarely missteps, and Parlov works very well with him; the two are already set to reunite yet again for the main series’ gala issue #50 double-sized bash. Be sure to scroll way down in that link for Ennis’ dismaying comments on the long-awaited City Lights: “…don’t hold your breath at all.”

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. #12: Final issue. Warren Ellis also has a new Thunderbolts out this week, for those who want their Ellis superpeople somewhat (and I do mean somewhat) less comedic.

The Immortal Iron Fist #1: Director’s Cut: I wish this was actually a new issue of this nice series being released, and I know I’m not going to buy it again just for the Civil War: Choosing Sides story that’s included among the other bonuses. But maybe a few more folks will get hooked; who knows. Also, which one is the director? Brubaker? Fraction? Aja? And what exactly are they cutting?

Blade #6: You see, if Blade had a Director’s Cut this week I could make a rib-tickling ‘cutting’ joke and finally nab that MacArthur Fellowship I’ve been after. Thanks for nothing, Marvel!

Batman #663: In which regular writer Grant Morrison returns for a one-off tale of the Joker’s return. Oddly, it’s apparently being done (at least in significant part) as an illustrated prose story, said illustrations by John Van Fleet. Check out some pages here. I wonder if the format has anything to do with the fact that originally-solicited artist Andy Kubert has been moved back an issue; indeed, the issue as a whole was supposed to appear just before the recent fill-in run. I also note that issue #665 seems primed to explain the Batman bits in 52, which makes me curious as to exactly how much stuff in this run has been reconfigured on the fly to suit DCU continuity. The joys of shared universes!

52 #41 (of 52): I do think Montoya actually fights the dragon in this one.

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Hey, there's a post below this that went up really late yesterday, so I'll just direct you to that. Christ, last weekend was the busiest one I've had in a while, and the next two aren't gonna get much better...



There is no lust in Billy's fantasies.

*Not only is posting light this weekend, but the whole ‘early post Saturday, late post Sunday’ deal makes me feel I actually skipped a day. Which maybe I did if you add the hours up. We’re not big on blogging formalism on this site, folks.

*Breaking News Dept: While I was checking my items out at the grocery store today, a long-haired man walked in wearing violet pants, a black overcoat, and no shirt. He was looking at pastries when I left.

*So, given Newsarama’s preview of DC’s May solicitations, who wants to bet that Grant Morrison named Batman’s son-person Damian for the sole purpose of having him face off with “the Prince of Darkness” in Batman #666, an alternate(?) future story titled Numbers of the Beast? I guess you can’t use 616 without everyone thinking it’s a jab at Marvel...

Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil #1 (of 4)

So I read the new book, and it was pretty neat. Emphasis on the pretty, both in the sense that it’s visually fine and it honestly didn’t hold my attention for all that long. It’ll make an excellent political accessory for those itching to debate current superhero aesthetics online. Jeff Smith’s writing still seems a bit stuck in the semi-stilted fantasy declarative style of later Bone, especially in the early, ‘threatening’ pages (“‘Cause I’m gonna teach you… FEAR!”) - I really hope he introduces some Smiley-style dialogue humor into future issues as the fantasy elements ramp up.

Like I said, though - attractive. Excellent lettering, presumably by Smith himself; there’s no individual lettering credit, so I presume it’s (rightfully!) considered inseparable from the art. Good, meat-and-potatoes character designs. The visual storytelling is very clean, with plenty of trust put in judicious beats of wordless reaction; one particular panel of little Billy Batson taking off his shoes before entering the Wizard Shazam’s cave says more than any of Smith’s dialogue possibly could, and the artist is confident enough to rely on it. There’s some good visual comedy too, like Billy’s mind getting blown by the concept of Magical Paradox - really, everything that’s heavy on Smith’s art emerges perfectly ok.

The real success, though, lies in Smith’s pacing. As soon as Billy’s aboard the archetypical fantastic vehicle that whisks him away from reality to the world of Magic, the book adopts the drifty, bouncing pace of a child’s daydream, and Smith absolutely nails a fitting mix of illogic, frolic, wish-fulfillment, and sudden anxiety. Captain Marvel is as good a vehicle for this sort of thing as anything currently active at DC. Unlike some books -- All Star Superman, for example -- this really doesn’t exist at all as an adult’s appreciation of favored, arguably childish genre pinpoints and highlights; rather, it actually engages with the established character on the plane of childhood, with its pleasures surfaced and direct, light as a feather and wholly fleeting.

But that’s as much a potential liability as anything else. Reading through this book, I could all but feel its presence dissolving in my mind on contact. No, it has no pretension toward offering anything but bright and breezy fun, but all that really did was throw into sharper relief why I like the considered faux-childhood of things like All Star Superman a bit more. As far as all-ages books go, this one just isn't as 'all' as many others - it'd be great for kids, but... well, this adult was still hungry after having finished, let's just say, even considering the limitations of what's clearly meant to operate as the first quarter of a larger work.

It's not a question of price; this is a no-ads 48-page book, which places it at just over twice the content of two regular superhero comics for, er, the price of two regular superhero comics. Not a stunning deal, but perfectly fair. No, this is more a case of the subtle gradations between different types of good comics, at least as they exist in my preferences. Those readers closer to the source material, or more receptive to this sort of thing will feel differently - that's for certain with as sturdy an issue as this.

But me? Cute. Looks fine. Admirable. There it is.

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I said they'd never take me alive...

*And then they put the gun to my head and fired, and I found out you can't actually die on the internet. Fuck.

So yes, I've been forced into Blogger No Longer Beta. If anything's wrong with the site, that's officially why. I did like how they gave me one last chance to log into my old blog, as if to get my affairs in order...

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There's no glossary of terms, and you don't need one.

Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born #1 (of 7)

That’s the title given in the legal indicia. Not to be confused with the title on the cover, The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born, or the title I’ve heard a bunch of people referring to it as, The Dark Tower: Gunslinger Born. I think I like the lattermost the best, and the legal title the least, but why even choose? Marvel hasn't!

Speaking relatively, this is a nice production. There’s 31 pages of story, very few ads (all of which pertain to bookstore-ready products, albeit most of them forthcoming), nine pages of bonus features, a four-page preview of the next issue - it’s like Marvel’s breaking out its Sunday best for the possibility, however limited, of non-diehards wandering into a shop and asking for that Stephen King comic. They probably won’t be repelled by the presentation, which I suppose counts as a small victory.

I bought this comic pretty much strictly on the basis of my admiration of penciller Jae Lee’s work, as well as a little curiosity about the Dark Tower series of books, which I’ve never read, but do seem to be awfully popular. There’s an interesting division between story and art at play here - the writing credits are broken down with much exactitude (Stephen King: Creative Director and Executive Director; Robin Furth: Plotting and Consultation; Peter David: Script), while the art credits are as simple as one could imagine (Jae Lee & Richard Isanove: Art; Chris Eliopoulus: Lettering). I think this reflects a bit of obvious concern on Marvel’s part as to how King’s prose will be broken up into the form of comics on a basic, words-to-pages level, a concern that will clearly be shared by many readers, especially after the confusing series of half-revelations and between-the-lines deductions that marked the series’ pre-release hype, while the visual artists are just sort of trusted to go off and do good work, and we’ll all sweat the details later.

My concern, as someone who’s never read these books, doesn’t extend that far into adaptation. I can say there’s a lot of wordiness, which is probably going to be inevitable when tackling a high-profile prose adaptation; there’s always talk about trusting in images in a visual art form and all that, but I don’t think it’s outrageous to suggest that hardcore fans of the prose, which Marvel is at least trying to attract in this situation, are probably going to be perturbed if too much of the original work’s language is left out, so any error is always going to be on the side of wordiness. I couldn’t tell you how much of the language is King’s and how much is David’s, but I can say it’s consistent enough in voice that it doesn’t seem wrung out or jarring, and there’s little describing of what’s evident from the art, with the unseen narrator acting as more of a running commentator on the pictures than anything (although this also wavers toward cuteness on occasion - lines like “He makes deep noises in his throat, do ya not hear them?” don’t work nearly as well when one of the senses is actually provided with solidified, sequential images to follow).

There also seems to be some attention paid to how the issue should be structured, and they’ve chosen well, for the most part. This debut chapter introduces us to young Roland and his friends, and covers his rise from mere student to first-year gunslinger, though we’re not yet told exactly what a gunslinger does, save for pursuing men in black across deserts. The attention is mainly on Roland’s training, the exoticness of his environment, and his family situation, his distant gunslinger father and his ineffective mother, who’s shacked up with a nasty wizard who’s also his father’s advisor. It’s an intriguing enough slice of world-building, enough to keep me in for another few issues. Don’t ask me what someone’s who’s already read this stuff in one form might think - it’s all new to me.

The art, though, will be new to everyone. My feelings are pretty mixed. I can say with confidence that if part of the intent of teaming Lee with Isanove was to sort of drag Lee’s typical style toward something more palatable to the mainstream of comics, it’s probably been a successful effort. Lee’s art is generally very mannered and posed, his characters often looking like they’re arranged upon a stage. Lots of room is left open for the colorist (which recently has always been June Chung, who actually shows up here coloring Jim Calafioire’s illustrations for a prose bonus) to fill with faded hues. Shadows are very thick, and intense attention is paid to lighting. Virtually all of these instincts are offset by Isanove’s digital ink and color, which does retain some of the starkness of the traditional Jae Lee feel, but adds a fair amount of brightness and texture as well. The final product genuinely resembles nothing that either man has done before (though my experience with Isanove is far from complete), and I presume the added richness will appeal to a wider swath of reader.

But I’m just not much of a fan of Isanove’s color and texture here. He does attractive work with fabrics and things, but a lot of his stone and wood structures (and there’s plenty here) have an antiseptic computer sheen that jars with Lee’s endlessly weathered, lived-in styling. Human flesh sometimes looks outright bizarre, so molded and shiny, light gleaming off of everything. It often seems like everyone’s wearing a thin layer of Saran Wrap over every inch of exposed skin, and a particular fat characters looks like he’s wearing a rubber suit. It’s all the more disappointing in that Lee provides some of his best character designs; I love that his teenage characters manage to actually look like slightly awkward, not totally developed teenagers, in spite of all their combat training and inner spirit and what have you. All the best visual bits, I think, are when Isanove compliments Lee with simplicity, like an extended fight sequence set before a toasty sundown glow, the backgrounds stripped to dark thorny jutting branches and blades of grass that nearly comment on the violence happening. All the rubber in the world can’t take away all the impact.

Still, I’m far from aghast. It’s a good overall effort, with some thought behind it. I’ll stick around.


I Love Stuff

*52 Dept: Well, the best thing I can say about issue #40 is that it finally appears to finish off that goddamned Steel/Lex Luthor/Infinity Inc. storyline, albeit in just about the least interesting way possible. I’ll cut the writing team this much slack: there really was a germ of an interesting idea in there, with Luthor striving to devalue the very concept of the ‘superhero’ in terms of public trust with his endless parade of shitty hero ideas and their subsequent horrible deaths, all to eventually implant himself as a superpowered true savoir, but Jesus Christ was this the dullest, most mediocre climax I can think of, complete with passionate affirmations of the power of humanity and John Henry trucking right through direct heat vision blasts and things being driven through his body. Finally, Lex is foiled through a particularly suspect twist that’ll make you want to read through the whole thing again, but only to check if the plotting here was really as inconsistent as you expect. Everyone learns an important lesson at the end. Um, yay?

*To cheer me up, though, there’s always anime. Yes, delightful '60s and '70s anime. Here’s selections from three adult-oriented feature films produced by Osamu Tezuka's Mushi Productions, all directed by Eiichi Yamamoto (none of this is safe for work, btw):

A Thousand and One Nights (1969): Funky Japanese trailer, equally yet differently funky US trailer

Cleopatra (aka: Cleopatra: Queen of Sex) (1970): the trailer, a random scene (this one was actually co-directed by Tezuka himself; watch out for the special guest star near the end of the second clip... wish I could have seen what 42nd street grindhouse audiences made of this during its X-rated US run...)

Belladonna of Sadness (1973): what appears to be the opening scene, the trailer plus what appears to be the final scene, trippy freakout scene #1, trippy freakout scene #2 (made after Tezuka left, a tacky, movement-limited, but oddly compelling arthouse sexploitation thing - don't you get a Guido Crepax feel off of the lead female?) (trippy footage and info comes from Anime World Order)


A suggestion for today's shopping.

Regards From Serbia

This is new from Top Shelf, released just today. It’s a nice chunky thing for your $19.95, weighing in at 288 pages. And let me tell you, writing about it is a little intimidating, in the way that devoting just a few paragraphs to so much work from such a span of an artist’s life can be. The feeling of inadequacy is inescapable.

Regards From Serbia is an omnibus collection of works from writer/artist Aleksandar Zograf (real name: Sasa Rakezic), though everything in the book pertains to the turbulent times facing the author’s environment. Zograf might be a familiar name to some of you; he was a contributor to Weirdo and Zero Zero, and had a few solo books published by Fantagraphics, like Life Under Sanctions, which is collected here, but I suspect that the impressive temporal scope of the man’s work will only become apparent once you’ve seen everything bunched together, all at once.

The earliest of these comics are dark and hard, slightly chilly with their typewritten lettering, reflecting an early desire to approach the pain for warfare with a barely-controlled calm, as well as a recurring concern with the value of what the artist is doing. As time passes, Zograf’s art grows warmer, more fluid, more assured, and much more prone to exaggeration and caricature, though his approach is always informed by allegorical images in a somewhat similar manner to David B. (just to throw out another recognizable name).

And a lot of time passes. The book is divided into four distinct sections. The first covers The Early Comics, featuring Zograf’s work from the early to mid-’90s. What’s interesting about these works is that many of them overlap in the events they depict, indicating the many different forums across the globe that the artist intended his work for. Zograf is a highly inventive artist, if always direct in his approach - nearly every panel in every one of his comics contains caption-based narration, with the art usually pulsing with slightly enhanced visions of the everyday, dream icons intruding on the waking world, symbols taking the place of reality to provoke a deeper understanding of what couldn’t be fully conveyed through words. Zograf’s panel layouts are often jagged and harsh, sometimes decorative in a manner that reminds me of Mark Beyer’s Amy & Jordan (though never quite as extreme), and always intent on examining the immediate reactions of the artist and those surrounding him to what’s going on.

Zograf is a lovely artist (many samples can also be found in Tom Spurgeon’s interview), but I think what best fuels his work is that immediacy. Almost all of these works, even those that adopt the stance of looking back on history, and utterly inseparable from the mental state of the artist at the time of their composition. Dreams often figure in prominently, and there’s always a distinct uncertainty about what the future might bring, in spite of any premonition or forecast. This feeling becomes all the more potent as the reader hits future sections.

The second section covers The E-Mails, previously published as Bulletins from Serbia by Slab-O-Concrete, and it’s literally a big series of e-mails Zograf sent on en mass to the world cartooning community between March of 1999 and March of 2000, as NATO bombs dropped on his hometown of Pančevo, often targeting an industrial zone visible from his window. This section is complimented by The Weeklies, a series of single-page cartoons created on the suggestion of Chris Ware (who also provides an arch comics-format introduction; Terry Jones also contributes a withering 1999 text 'primer' on the bombings) composed from April 17, 1999 to July 22, 2001, and uploaded to the internet. An epilogue reflects on September 11, 2001, and the final section, The End, concerns a few lingering matters, such as the 2006 death of Slobodan Milošević.

All of these comics are infused by a fast-moving sense of interior/exterior reportage. It is good that Zograf is so interested in dreams, because the events he depicts, civil wars and explosions and little moments of escape, lend themselves nicely to the absurdity and comedy and glassy-eyed hallucination of the dream state; how else can one confront the madness of the ten billion dinar note, and the sight of children playing with the other week's now-outdated currency?. Be aware that there is a good amount of levity in this book, some high spirits, some sweet moments of the mundane; it’s disarming in its straightforward desire to capture fleeting moments in a time of historical moment, a decade (and more) of great change that (like all such times) is lived by people capable of good whimsy and vivid sleep.

It's long, deep reading, the kind of excellent autobiographical comic that genuinely makes the reader feel they've gotten to know the author very well. As a historical document, its value is obvious. But as pure reading, I think it's even more worthwhile for the intimacy it brings to experiences both universal and painfully independent.


I know, I know... it's winter.

*Well, now that the temperature hasn't ascended above 10 Fahrenheit for the last day or so, complete with wind chills of 10 or so below, I think I've finally discovered the limits of my apartment's heating system! What a breakthrough.


review assortment (with The Vault of Michael Allred #4 and Usagi Yojimbo #100)

Garth Ennis' Chronicles of Wormwood #1 (of 6)

The End #1 (Anders Nilsen's Ignatz series debuts - it's good)

Satsuma Gishiden Vol. 1 (of 5)

*Nothing can quite warm the cockles of my heart like -


Regards from Serbia: A new 288-page collection of prose and comics works by Serbian cartoonist Aleksandar Zograf, culled from a decade of life during wartime. Read Tom Spurgeon’s interview with him, and I’ll try to have a review up tomorrow, god willing.

Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil #1 (of 4): I’ve been told by someone who’s already read this (and whose opinions I trust) that this is the first really great superhero book to start in 2007. Phrases like ‘effortless command of comics storytelling’ and ‘trust in wordlessness’ were bandied about for this first extended comics project by writer/artist Jeff Smith since the completion of Bone, and I suspect an awful lot of people will be interested in the result, $5.99 Prestige Format cover price or not. Here’s a preview, setting up Smith’s origin recap. You know I’ll be there.

Eden: It’s an Endless World! Vol. 6: Just in case you happened to like Tanpenshu Vol. 1 the other week, here’s more Hiroki Endo for ya. Dark Horse actually has a crapload of manga this week, including both Mail Vol. 2 and Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Vol. 2 from artist Housui Yamazaki (the latter with writer Eiji Ohtsuka), plus new volumes of Berserk, Old Boy, and the reconfigured Oh My Goddess!

Batman: Year One Deluxe Edition: Worth noting if only for the fact that it’s been promoted in DC books for the last month or so, yet never quite manages to show up on the shelves. It’s basically a softcover edition of DC’s semi-recent deluxe collection of the Frank Miller/David Mazucchelli classic, which means Mazucchelli’s new comics-format afterward is probably in there too, along with assorted production bonuses. But yes, it’s apparently showing up. In completely unrelated news, I think a new edition of Black Kiss is also due this week.

The Midnighter #4: Just over two years ago, I wrote a very silly column (back when I was writing a weekly column in addition to everything else) about late comics. In it, among other terrible jokes (all caps does not equal instant humor, in retrospect) I made a prediction about All Star Superman issues #7-8 requiring fill-in art by Peter Snejbjerg. I don’t recall why I chose Snejbjerg in particular. Today, I think by far the funniest thing related to that column is that All Star Superman #7 is still not out for me to definitively gauge whether my prediction was right or wrong, although I do find it interesting that on this semi-anniversary of my writing, Peter Snejbjerg is indeed filling in for penciller Chris Sprouse on this Garth Ennis-written series. I think Sprouse is supposed to be back next issue, though then Glenn Fabry is on for #6.

Fell #7: In which the much-liked, intermittently-released Slimline series returns for a new issue.

52 #40 (of 52): Christ, this is up to 40 already?

The Punisher MAX #44: Shootings and gender confusion.

Ghost Rider: Trail of Tears #1 (of 6): I’ll be upfront folks - I didn’t even make it past issue #1 of the last Garth Ennis/Clayton Crain Ghost Rider miniseries, and I hadn’t the slightest idea there was going to be a sequel by the same creative team until I saw it listed this morning. But we got movies coming up, and we need product! This one’s a western, concerning the Ghost Rider of the Civil War era. North and South, not Iron Man and Cap.

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born #1 (of 7): Aw, and I was sure stores were opening at midnight tonight for the release of Jonathan Lethem’s Omega the Unknown. In case there’s any lingering confusion over who’s doing what in this ultra-high profile kickoff miniseries in a series of miniseries, Marvel’s solicitation actually has a pretty decent summary up. Scripted by Peter David from an adaptation by Robin Furth, this particular miniseries will actually re-present material from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series of prose books for the purposes of introduction, from the points of view of different characters than focused on in the prose. It doesn’t really matter to me, who’s never read any of this stuff before. Art by Jae Lee and Richard Isanove, and yes, they are apparently going to be co-credited with simply ‘art’ - Isanove is working right from Lee’s pencils, and the resulting look is something different than anything I’ve seen from Lee when coupled with any of his regular colorists. Be there in the black of night (and the polar winds), or be there tomorrow - there’s gonna be lots of copies shipping.