Korgi, you've tired me out!

*By which I refer to the book Korgi, since I have to keep reminding myself that the lil' dog itself does not go by that name. Anyway, I have to leave earlier than usual today, so let me draw your attention to my usual late-posted Sunday review below.


Who is daddy's boy? WHO IS DADDY'S GOOD BOY??

Korgi Book One: Sprouting Wings!

This is due out on Wednesday, from Top Shelf, 88 b&w pages for $10. And if that’s not enough, a completely separate short story featuring the book’s cast of characters will be released on Saturday as part of Top Shelf’s Free Comic Book Day package, Owly: Helping Hands.

The Owly pairing is exceedingly appropriate, in that Korgi is also a (prospective) series of wordless original graphic novels that provide as of now the sort of light, inoffensive entertainment that always strikes me as being primarily geared toward the very young, although the official branding is ‘all-ages’ and obviously there’s adults that like it too. I can’t say Owly has ever appealed to me very much - what little of it I’ve read is full of perfectly competent visual storytelling with some decent moral lessons tossed in and a bunch of kinda-attractive kinda-saccharine character designs, but the most enthusiasm I’ve been able to muster is that it’d probably be safe to give a young kid. Even then, Top Shelf has put out more interesting all-ages books (Aaron Renier’s Spiral-Bound, for example).

I’m not sure if I can call Korgi more interesting, but I can say its aesthetic particulars appeal to me a bit more. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a very cute book, but writer/artist Christian Slade (an animator and illustrator making what I believe is his comics debut) utilizes a minutely scratched, occasionally woodcut-like approach that fits the natural settings of his story very well. Plenty of deep woods and slate caves and the like. He also eschews any sort of ‘lesson’ at all, preferring to focus on the real fundamentals of light fantasy storytelling, like awful things being hit, and people running vigorously from menaces.

There are also cute dogs. Many, many cute dogs, albeit all of the same breed. Korgi, you see, is set in one of those certified organic enchanted realms in which pointy-eared persons, some of them wearing equally pointy hats, cavort, frolic, and possibly traipse through sunny pastures and rustic townships built into trees, all with the help of their exciting animal friends. Except, nearly all of the exciting friends in this particular realm are Welsh Corgis, and awfully intelligent ones at that. Big ones, little ones, peeking out of windows, peering out of logs, dragging carts, toting baskets - it’s a sort of elf/dog agrarian society, the main export of which is clearly adorability. And heaven knows if you’re prone to losing breath over darling dogs (or drawings thereof), you had best prepare to hyperventilate at some point in this comic, because Slade often seems to be structuring the entire book around hitting as many key dog moments as can be packed in.

Oh, the plot involves a young girl named Ivy and a little dog named Sprout (I’m going by the press release here - remember, no words), who go wandering off the beaten path when Sprout decides to chase a fantasy realm dragonfly instead of putting his snout to the grindstone and benefiting society. This eventually results in both parties being captured by lavishly detailed storybook monsters, which they proceed to spend the remainder of the book evading. That’s about all there is to it: a big chase, with every resolution dependant on one of the characters revealing some heretofore unknown trait or skill that allows for victory. I’ll cop to being a bit more amused by the particulars than I’d expected, though - this is often a surprisingly violent, if slapsticky book, the sort of thing where a sweet little girl can wheel back and punch a monster right in the face, sending an eyeball screaming clear out of its skull. Now that’s entertainment!

And there’s basically nothing more to say about Korgi. Obviously a lot of illustrative labor has gone into it, and it can be admired from the standpoint of sheer technical aptitude. The story is as simple as simple gets (seriously, Top Shelf’s video trailer explains it all), and holds no evident depth, if you were seeking that. It’s cute, and probably won’t cause a child to erupt into screaming. It made me laugh a few times, and surprised me not at all. A preview is available on Slade’s homepage, although be warned that the last two panels give away one of the funniest bits in the book. Does make you wonder about the wisdom of building a doggy town all out of wood, though.


Second Post!

*Cinema Dept: I sure wish I could catch this matinee on Sunday. Unless this was also playing. It's rare that a film actually seems to have it all, but I think we may have a winner.

*Hey. I didn't say it'd be a big post...


First Post!

*Yeah, I'm thinking of doing two posts today, one in the afternoon and one later tonight. For one thing, it'll have the dating of these posts make sense again. But for now...

*Hot Publishing News Dept: I love Fanfare/Ponent Mon. So do you. So do my nine-year old cousins, and my 80-year old great uncle. Everyone does. And that’s why everyone will maybe want to read Anime News Network’s summary of what they plan to release for the rest of 2007. Because as much as we love Fanfare/Ponent Mon, it helps to have a little reinforcement that their current projects are still… current.

And that’s mainly what the announcement’s about: reinforcement. I suppose this news has come from the brochure Fanfare/Ponent Mon has uploaded to their site? It's kind of difficult to parse (the announcement and the brochure), but I guess all of this stuff relates to this year. Hell of a lot of Jiro Taniguchi coming up, including a 2004 Taniguchi short story collection called The Ice Wanderer, and the big bad Taniguchi/Frédéric Boilet/Benoît Peeters collaboration Tokyo is my Garden, although I think Taniguchi is more of a special guest in that one. Both are due sometime this Spring - I believe the Boilet book is actually in this month's Previews.

I know some of my readers will be thrilled that the new Kan Takahama book (Awabi) is finally due by this summer, as is Hideo Aduma’s 2005 autobiographical tome Disappearance Diary, an account of the veteran manga artist’s sudden, prolonged absences from his home, beginning in the late ‘80s. The latter book also won the Grand Prize for manga at the 2005 Japan Media Arts Festival (topping Naoki Urasawa's Pluto and Kaoru Mori's Emma, both of which took Excellence Prizes that year). Former winners: Sexy Voice and Robo (2002) and Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms (2004) (for the record, the 2006 winner was Kaiji Kawaguchi's entertaining-if-corny burning spirit of Japan bonanza A Spirit of the Sun).

The Fall is set to bring a 1999 Taniguchi crime story descriptively titled The Quest for the Missing Girl; Taniguchi is adored for his crime comics, although I believe this is the first one released in English that's he's also written. Around the same time: Korea as Viewed by 12 Creators, the manhwa sequel to last year’s big anthology. Also up for some undisclosed point in the future (and not listed in that brochure) - a 2000 Taniguchi collaboration with writer Baku Yumemakura about the ascent of Mt. Everest, Summit of the Gods.

But that’s not all. This part of ANN’s post really throws me - “Fanfare also plans to continue releasing Taniguchi's The Times of Botchan. Three volumes have been released so far, and through 2007, Fanfare intends to release the remaining seven.”

Wait. Wait. That can’t possibly be right. Did they get that from the brochure? Because I didn’t -I just saw a mention of the fact that Botchan was continuing, not that it would finish by the end of 2007, which would require a mad output of stuff several orders of relative magnitude higher than VIZ’s upcoming Naruto flood, given the size of Fanfare/Ponent Mon. Hey, maybe I’m wrong. ANN’s link, provided as their source, just brings me right to Ponent Mon’s homepage, so it could just be a misreading. Either way, so much interesting stuff coming up...


Only One

*All I have time for today is a link, and it's one that's been making the rounds, but it's a nice one - PictureBox will soon be publishing the works of fine artist and 'art manga' fellow Yuichi Yokoyama (more art here and here), starting with the release of his New Engineering, a 224-page combo platter of what I think were two smaller collections, Public Works and Combats, later this year. This is only the newest addition to PictureBox's manga efforts; I believe the forthcoming fifth issue of The Ganzfeld will feature large amounts of unseen comics from Japan and Canada. Plus, according to the post linked above, Brian Chippendale's long (long, long) awaited Maggots collection is due around the same time. Good times ahead...


One Comic I Read

*52 Dept: And as the series’ penultimate issue draws to a close, it’s more and more evident that the writing team plans to just hit all the key character moments they feel like hitting, possibly leaving the rest of the series to sort itself out. Heaven knows I've kind of given up on checking earlier issue to see what fits and what doesn't. What was the purpose of Animal Man and the aliens? Besides being an excuse for the drama of Buddy being left in space to resolve?

No idea here - there’s still an extra-sized issue to go, but I don’t think anyone’s going to even try to cover everything. I do suspect there’ll be some sort of wizened/cosmic narration struggling to assure us that all of this stuff ties together thematically, just as I’m sure a Monitor or two will pop in at some point to pitch for DC’s next big Event(s). I mean, come on - next week is 52 #52, followed immediately by Countdown #51 (the series counts down, you see), so it’s unavoidable that there’ll be some connecting fiber between the two, although hopefully the unique chronological state of 52 will prevent the ending of that series from serving as a direct prologue to the next. God willing.

And yet, I enjoyed this issue, probably because I liked the character beats they hit. I also liked the little callback to the Superboy memorial at the beginning of the series, at least in theory, although much of it seemed stuck on continuity cleanup detail (like being made to mop the restaurant floor five minutes before closing), and all the bits with the ‘major’ superheroes only served to remind me of how incomplete their own recurring guest appearances seemed (well, at least Batman’s and Wonder Woman’s). I kind of liked seeing Donna Troy wander out again, and it was kind of funny how she comforted someone else crying instead of standing around blubbering like she did for most of the beginning of the series, although I don’t even think that bit was intentional.

Other things I liked:

1. Lobo’s epilogue! Why? Because this late in the game, with as few pages left as the writing team has, and with so much to resolve, the absolute least necessary thing that could possibly be done would be to devote two entire pages to the crackling resolution to Lobo’s space pilgrimage, but here it fucking is. And I liked it! I liked the goofy joke ending, the row of fish wearing robes. “ENTER UNTO MY PRESENCE, MAIN MAN.” Yeah, if we’re going to burn some space, let’s do it like this!

2. Oh, most of this issue is the resolution to the Lost in Space plot, in case you were wondering. It’s almost certainly the most unreservedly happy of the 52 endings, and probably the most satisfying, since it most effectively illustrates what the characters were struggling for - Animal Man’s bits were probably the sweetest pieces of work in the entire series, actually. Praise to family, praise to friends, much struggling across the distance of space to repay silly favors. Honor. Valor. Lots of traditional values on display. Although the jokes about Starfire’s absurdly over-sexualized costume would have landed a little better if Mrs. Animal Man didn’t look like she’d applied the upper portion of her dress via spray can. I also guess there was some last-minute rearranging of the pages, since she’s quite obviously wearing the same clothes on Day 6 as she was on Day 1, only a different color (nice save in the dialogue regarding Buddy’s costume, though)… or maybe spray-on dresses come in a variety of beautiful colors! Was this a coupon on the 52 homepage?

3. I could practically feel whoever typed the phrase “52 Morrows” trembling at the keyboard, since I expect they’ve been waiting months to get that one out. The final cliffhanger twist maybe isn’t all that surprising, if only by sheer process of elimination, but it did come off fairly well, I thought. Well, one more.


Bandaged Love

The Professor’s Daughter

This is a new book from First Second, part of its staggered third wave of graphic novel releases. It’s a $16.95 softcover (or a $29.95 special edition hardcover), 80 full-color pages (including bonus sketches and prep art), and should be available in comics stories today. Unless your store’s already gotten it in. Hard to keep track of that.

I trust that nearly everyone reading this site has heard of Joann Sfar at this point - he’s the hugely prolific French comics talent who’s had several notable books and series translated to English, such as Dungeon (which he co-created with Lewis Trondheim) and The Rabbi’s Cat, and has appeared in anthologies like Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators. He’s also been involved in at least two books per wave of First Second releases thus far, having served as writer/artist for The Vampire Loves (wave one) and Klezmer (wave two), and artist for three volumes of Sardine in Outer Space (one per wave) with writer Emmanuelle Guibert. His collaboration with Guibert ‘continues’ with this book, although The Professor’s Daughter was actually the first of their pairings, having been originally published in France in 1997. Additionally, the roles English-speaking readers may be familiar with have been reversed - here, Sfar writes and Guibert draws.

And while writer and artist had garnered some experience in comics by that point -- three years for the writer and five years for the artist -- The Professor’s Daughter still reads like a hungry, anxious work, a comic that’s bristling with activity, and very nearly humming with a desire get its many notions out and into the reader’s head. It’s a brief work, only 60 pages in actual story length, yet somehow manages the trick of being both disarmingly dense yet lightning-paced, without ever feeling scrawny. It’s very light work, yes but not wholly insubstantial, and possessed of a compelling perversity that offsets its handsome construction. Each page is composed of strict six-panel grids, and each panel is filled with delicate visuals, gently shifting from fuzzy half-distinction to slick cartooned clarity to color-washed green or blue or amber to match whatever mood is prevalent. Yet, the story itself is playful, often rough-edged craziness, bounding from situation to situation as if powered by an eccentric logic that only makes complete sense upon reflection.

The plot, you see, concerns young Miss Bowell, the titular daughter of a famed Victorian Egyptologist, and Imhotep IV, a mummy. Unlike many mummies, Imhotep can walk and talk quite perfectly, so the girl dresses him up one day in her father’s clothes and takes him out for some fun. Both parties feel confined by the Professor, for various reasons. Unfortunately, Imhotep hasn’t had anything good to eat or drink in a very long while, so it only takes a sip of tea to drive him into an ecstatic frenzy, handing out a joy beating to a nearby fellow in the tearoom. One thing leads to another, and suddenly Miss Bowell as accidentally killed two people, including a police officer, Imhotep is in danger of being locked away behind glass forever, and the mummy has possibly fallen in love with the girl since she may or may not be the reincarnation of his unpreserved slave wife from way back. And then the girl is kidnapped and whisked off to sea.

That’s only about 30% of the story, by the way. There’s still plenty of time for courtroom drama, the making of new friends, multiple chases, Queen Victoria being whisked out of her palace by a would-be seducer and dumped in the Thames, and a running theme of insensitive parents affecting the lives of their children. I couldn’t call The Professor’s Daughter a particularly deep work, but it’s attractively dense, emotionally thought-through work, enough so that its habit of leaving certain character strands to hang at the end seems more adventurous than sloppy. For all its ample charm, there’s actually a strong undercurrent of uncertainty to the romance and adventure on display - aside from additional physical character death, the motivation behind Imhotep’s attraction to Miss Bowell is left with a slightly creepy edge, one that rousing speeches and declarations of affection can’t smooth over. Typical love story lines like "You are my only love" take on multiple meanings, not all of them terribly romantic. The book’s final page packs in a surprising amount of ambiguity through Guibert’s carefully realized character expressions.

Indeed, Guibert’s visuals embody all of the plot’s attributes, soaking in graphic sophistication while cheerily melding comedy and mayhem. A generous preview is available at First Second's site, highlighting Guibert’s deft hand with movement, his jumps from character stylization to relative realism (check the definition of the girl's face), his grasp of dark humor (I love how that guy's beard continues to point up in the air), and his command of pacing (note how the reader's POV seems to drift a step or three ahead of Miss Bowell as she races up the stairs and into the bedroom). It's impressive work, so essential to the delicate tone of the book that a different artist would leave it as something very different, and almost certainly less pleasingly complicated.

And that would kill the identity of this story, drifting through the air like a sheet of paper, but capable of cutting if approached a certain way.





Superf*ckers #279

The Last Sane Cowboy & Other Stories

and also a bunch of thoughts on 52 and World War III that weren't much of a review but here they are anyhow since people linked to them



The Comics Journal #282: Many delightful treats await you inside here, including a feature interview with Alison Bechdel of Fun Home, a look at Asian comics that aren't from Japan, and a selection of '50s humor comics from Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. I also have a pair of pieces in there, one small and one large, although the larger, Tarzan one appears to have been miscredited to Rob Vollmar, so keep that in mind.


King-Cat Classix: Surely the reprint project of the week, this new Drawn & Quarterly hardcover compiles over 250 pages of impossible-to-find early material from John Porcellino’s King-Cat Comics and Stories, one of the longest-running minicomics series around (since 1989!), augmented by bits of prose and letters from friends. Here’s some samples. I also think D&Q is reissuing both of their Yoshihiro Tatsumi books this week, so you might find them hanging around too.

The Professor’s Daughter: Gosh, I guess it’s already time for the next segment of the new wave of First Second books. Actually, I’ve been hearing from some places that suggest this book’s already been out for a while, although I’ve never seen a copy on store shelves around here. Oh well. This is the new one from Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert, who’ll be familiar to seasoned First Second readers, although this time it’s Sfar writing and Guibert handling the art. Review tomorrow.

Tiny Tyrant: Also from First Second, the comedic exploits of a child king, from writer Lewis Trondheim and artist Fabrice Parme. I really didn’t think any of this stuff was due until May.

Micrographica: A new $10.00, 208-page collection of (expansion of?) an online project by Renée French. I’ll just let Tom Spurgeon explain it. It’s Renée French though, so it’s probably going to be interesting.

Superf*ckers #279: Well, actually it’s issue #4. If you hate fun. Review here.

To Terra… Vol. 2 (of 3): And hot on the heels of Vertical's official announcement that they're starting a shōjo-focused line of contemporary manga in 2008 comes the next volume of this older series from shōjo legend Keiko Takemiya. My favorite quote from the link above, by Vertical Director Ioannis Mentzas: "It's nearly impossible to get good licenses now, but we'll do it."

EC Archives: Weird Science Vol. 2: Ah, I notice these are into their second volumes now. A lot of good Wally Wood in here, I presume.

Agents of Atlas: A new $24.99 hardcover collection of the highly-regarded Marvel miniseries from writer Jeff Parker and penciller Leonard Kirk, which is notable for containing a bonus section stocked with vintage stories from the '40s through the '70s, presenting the book's cast in their earlier element. It's enough extra stuff to pull the page count all the way up to 256. Sounds like a good package.

God Save the Queen: An original graphic novel from Vertigo in which human and Faerie youths bum around an urban environment, with the Faeries getting plenty high on Faerie drugs, and then everyone gets embroiled in a civil war in the land of magic, I think. So really, this is exactly the kind of plot that springs readily to mind if I think ‘Vertigo graphic novel.’ Mike Carey and John Bolton do the honors for this 96-page, $19.95 project. Preview here.

Dave Stewart’s Walk-In #5 (of 6): Miniseries.

Wisdom #5 (of 6): Miniseries.

The Punisher Presents: Barracuda MAX #3 (of 5): Miniseries!

52 #51 (of 52): This. By the way, I don't have any intention of picking up Countdown, which is 52's replacement weekly series set to launch in two weeks. It's nothing fancy behind it, no 'event fatigue' or dissatisfaction with the direction of the current book or World War III or anything. It's just Countdown doesn't look like it has all that striking a nexus of creators behind it, and the concept doesn't hit me as all that interesting. And that's not enough to sign up my $2.99 every week. That's all.



A Flock of Dreams

The Last Sane Cowboy & Other Stories

This is a recent book from AiT/Planet-Lar, 112 b&w pages for $12.95. Newly released this month.

It’s fairly difficult to categorize work like the stuff that’s collected here, a suite of seven short comics stories from writer/artist Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, 2005 winner of the Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics for the initial incarnation of the title tale. All of the stories take place on something called the Unfolded Earth, a world where the reality we all know and love has turned out to be something of a paunchy person stuffed into a too-tight pair of pants, and has now undone its belt and spilled over. Realism has suddenly gotten a lot looser, and its not going back. That’s fine for Goodbrey’s cast of protagonists, a mostly straightforward, adaptive bunch, endlessly prepared to get by over whatever personal troubles pop up ahead, whether through acceptance or struggle.

I should emphasize personal. In a short set of annotations included in the back of this book, Goodbrey splits his stories up into two categories: (1) People Have a Chat and (2) Stuff Actually Happens. Five out of seven of the tales here fall into the former category, in which characters either talk amongst themselves or address the reader directly. Indeed, three of those stories are grouped into a sort of suite, all of them simple arrays of wide panels with a single character’s head looking off the page, ‘documentary’ style, I guess, with the character narrating their tale of having a sense of smell that predicts the near future (which means, only the smells of the future), or listening to unfamiliar music that sort-of reminds them of tunes from their lost home, or being raised by mimes and appreciating the magical qualities of words all the better for having not learned about them until the age of six.

But even the slightly more elaborate stories, like that of the fellow who bleeds scorpions (yet can’t bear to hurt those stinging little beasts that are nonetheless part of him) or the guy with an Earth for a head (same deal, really), are essentially confessions of coping. Obviously you’ve already grasped a pervasive element of surrealism to these stories, but their fundamental strengths are those of character studies, imbued with a delicate sense of caring for the fragility of the human experience, as if everyone’s perception of reality has become warped to the point where the circumstances surrounding a life can be fussed over as delicately as one’s own skin. Everybody is accepting of their queer lot, and everyone is somewhere along the process of making peace with the sprawl of world madness.

For the most part, Goodbrey’s visual style serves the material efficiently. I don’t believe there’s any traditional ‘drawing’ involved in this work - the characters are designed in Poser, and Photoshopped into high-contrast b&w, then set against either drained gray photographic backgrounds or abstract patterns. For the most part, this achieves an appropriately semi-inert sense of realism askew, perfect for plaintive, movement-limited confessions and limited speaking interactions with other characters. Things get a bit more dicey as we move into the two Stuff Actually Happens stories, as Poser-fueled works rarely handle action well at all. To his credit, Goodbrey has a talent for selecting precisely the right moments to boil his action down to, essentially editing around the limitations of his tools, while having the sense to keep any dramatic action flourishes to a minimum (even the ‘active’ stories look mainly like what’s seen here, an excerpt from the title tale once you scroll down). But he’s not perfect, and sometimes a sequence of a character falling looks painfully like a posed character pasted atop a yawning background.

Still, even the ‘active’ stories are about travels down the path of dealing with the path itself, if that makes any sense this early in the morning, although those particular protagonists are less accepting of their position, if not their world. The title story sees a woman in a cowboy hat march into the town of Insanity, on a mission to rescue her brother from the last sane place around. But is anyone really sane anymore? The other one concerns a weapon-wielding action hero, determined to regain possession of his beloved house, which has been taken away by powers beyond his understanding and replaced with a not-identical-enough duplicate. He’s perhaps the only character in here that maybe never gets a grip on the Unfolded Earth, one too caught up in memories to care to understand the sensitivities of hyper-reality, and his ultimate victory is paradoxically the most tragic thing in here.

I’m not sure how well The Last Sane Cowboy & Other Stories will play to a wide readership. There’s little that really ‘happens’ in many of these stories, much of the world-building is intentionally jumbled and obscure, and Goodbrey’s visual style frankly doesn’t evidence an extensive command of the comics form - more often he just lines the characters up and gets the world balloons out of everything’s way, although he's skilled enough to match his purposes. But this is nevertheless intermittently striking, and genuinely affecting work, a good little batch of human moments captured in as unpretentious a manner as one can expect from a world of talking dolphins and faces on horses’ asses. The work of a creator worth keeping an eye on.


Oooh, what a nice day it was today. Flawless blue skies, 70 degrees, gentle breeze. Divine.

*Say, the date on this here internet website reads 4/20! I guess I'll act like I'm fucking 19 years old or something and link to this Bryan Talbot comic on how cannabis became illegal in the US. What a funny boy I am!

*Random Old Comics That No-Doubt Reveal My Age Through My Use of the Term 'Old' Dept: One of my pet pursuits with back issues is looking into odd series from random publishers -- especially publishers that went gunning for the 'mainstream' of the comics direct market -- that managed to rope in an interesting creative team. Strange things happen sometimes when unique talents are dropped into upstart situations.

My current reading of that sort is Neil Gaiman's Teknophage, a 1995-96 series from Tekno Comix (and sweet heaven, if there's a publisher out there whose name screamed mid-'90s any louder, I'd like to hear it), which was a science fiction-oriented line of titles from BIG Entertainment, Inc., a company founded by the same people that developed the Sci Fi Channel on US television. Their comics are pretty easily recognized by the fact that just about every damn thing they published came equipped with some 'name' endorsement before the title, much like Virgin Comics does today. Gaiman was the only 'name' that came primarily from the comics world itself, though I don't believe he actually wrote any of the books at any time.

Teknophage was no different, although it was handled initially by the very interesting team of writer Rick Veitch, penciller Bryan Talbot, and inker/colorist Angus McKie (illustrator and Heavy Metal veteran whose So Beautiful and So Dangerous was adapted for the Heavy Metal film, albeit in heavily abridged and modified form). The plot of Teknophage follows the (literally) reptilian Henry Phage, an interdimensional super-predator, evil magician and arch-capitalist who serves as primary villain for the Gaiman corner of the Tekno line. I don't know what it could have looked like in different hands, but as a result of its creative team the series emerges quite broadly satirical, and loaded with all the ugly violence and questionable heroics that run through so much of Veitch's catalog.

Reading through, it's pretty clear that book's team was far more interested in world-building and gag work than fitting the series in with the wider Gaiman universe at Tekno, which I'd say was almost certainly for the better. Much of the story focuses on the misadventures of some sleazy Earth guy who gets sucked into the Teknophage's wicked dimension of Kalighoul, a ruined land dominated by Phage's gigantic, rolling metal kingdom/corporate headquarters, a place run entirely according to the laws of unfettered greed and ambition. Needless to say, Our Hero is soon both scheming to find a way home while proving himself quite adept at moving up in Phage's nasty system. Men sit on toilets at work (how very Buñuel), souls are sucked into a dark power engine, and Henry Phage himself often enjoys devouring men alive, just to keep things real. A fellow swallowed whole early on can be spotted peeking out of Phage's throat in gradual stages of digestion throughout the rest of the story.

It's no glowing masterwork of social satire, but it's gooey fun while it lasts. Talbot's skill with the page is obvious, especially when he spreads his work out to a series of double-page splashes loaded with panels, the reader's eye guided back and forth in diagonal and spiral patterns by the positioning of connected word balloons. The reader is thus forced to move in unintuitive directions, all the better to reinforce the confusion of the Teknophage's world. A plot eventually does emerge, concerning Phage's attempts to invade Earth with a media assault - amusingly, Veitch presents the failure of Phage's plans as more a side-effect of the get-ahead-or-get-out environment he's created for his minions. But the real point is nasty jokes and snipes, which is fitting for a villain's book.

Sadly, the whole team switched after issue #6 (save for Talbot and McKie on covers), and writer Paul Jenkins turned the series' remaining four issues into an awful, sludgy commentary on human spirituality in a totalitarian grasp or something. Apparently it is not generally considered his finest hour. The series did not survive Tekno's eventual switch to a general BIG Entertainmet label in 1996, complete with line-wide crossover Event to goose sales, although a Talbot-written miniseries titled Neil Gaiman's Phage: Shadow Death was released in conjunction with the crossover (and I'm not done reading it).

The memory of Teknophage lives on, though. Maybe. Just a bit. I hadn't realized it until I came across this message board thread, but Warren Ellis' handling of Devil Dinosaur in the final issue of Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. does indeed come off as a bit of homage, complete with some dialogue concerning indigestion, a running concern in those Veitch/Talbot issues. Those things we find in the belly of history...

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You know what saps my blogging powers?

*The internet not working until two seconds before I have to leave. I need to look my stuff up, dammit!



Yow - 52 *SPOILERS* in dis post!!

*52 Dept: I think the big irony of the World War III issue of the series is that it’s probably the best of the issue-length plot resolution issues thus far (the Black Adam one, obviously), and definitely the best of the all-fight issues. 52 has proven to be awfully weak in the fight department, and I’m certain a lot of that’s due to its lack of emphasis on the visual element - sure, you have Keith Giffen blocking everything out, but that’s never quite going to compensate when the pencils and inks themselves constantly seem so rushed, or even haphazard.

This issue, however, manages to slip in enough resonance with the rest of the story thus far to compensate. From the bit with the coalition of superheroes patiently waiting for China to allow them access (in contrast to the skirmish between the Great Ten and the Green Lanterns near the beginning of the series) to the pleasantly random presence of Booster Gold, now acting on information from later in the series (I guess), the ending does sort of feel like an ending. The details of Captain Marvel's concluding scheme to zap Black Adam with magic lightning then switch his Marvel Family login/password to something he’ll never guess (galumph? Joementum?) while he’s frazzled do seem a little jumbly, if not nearly so much as the mystery electrical solution at the end of the Steel storyline, and there's a constant feeling that everything could have gone a little smoother in a storytelling sense (like, if the rest of the Marvel Family were a more consistent presence), but at least there's been build and climax. Hell, there's even a touch of polish in the denouement, with Our Anti-Hero grasping at straws (and only reminding himself of everything he's lost) as he hobbles away.

So it's not outstanding or anything, but it does behave like there's an actual story to finish.

World War III the miniseries, in contrast, is flat-out terrible. It’s like a mirror to some horrible parallel dimension in which every single thing that possibly could have gone wrong with 52 actually did. I mean, it's nice that they finally explained how Hawkgirl shrunk down, but there's no useful context. Obviously nobody behind this figured that anyone who wasn't reading 52 would want to read this (they're probably right on that), since it doesn't even try to be its own story, clumpy Martian Manhunter narration notwithstanding. But it also doesn't really work off 52 in any substantive way. It just lines up DCU characters and quickly spells out what's happened to them just prior to One Year Later, often in cryptic terms that render the whole effort useless.

So the problem isn’t really that World War III is little more than a 90 or so page clump of continuity porn. The real issue is that it’s gonzo continuity porn. As in, there’s only forty-five seconds of repartee, if that, before those discrepancies start resolving.

In this column this week, Dan Didio essentially admits that 52 hasn't done a swell job of actually explaining One Year Later - instead, it turned into something else. At its best, it's been a dizzy tour of much of the DCU, kind of a universe-in-a-bottle, structured as a group of journeys made by a cast of regular protagonists. And I think it's a good credit to the 52 writing team that they've mostly succeeded in making big portions of this material accessible to new or unfamiliar readers by positioning it all as signposts and meetings along a series of clear character 'paths.' Even if it's not perfectly explained who or what everything is, the context makes it easy enough to guess. That's kind of the series' charm to me - it makes all this vast sprawl of stuff seem like it can be grasped.

But something like World War III only serves to repel. It doesn't bother with any build, any context - it's just a bunch of stuff that happened, and only the most devout believer in DC continuity can possibly care. Nobody else is given a reason to; it's presumed that your affection for all these characters is already set. That's not what 52 itself has been about for the last year, although it's had its share of failings. Heaven knows there's still plenty of room to trip up in the final two weeks, but I'm still convinced that the writing crew hasn't lost sight of what they're attempting. One can only hope these four issues were a way of getting the difficult stuff out of the system - only then will they have had any valuable use.




Superf*ckers #279 (or: #4)

This is due out in a few weeks, "published on the brink of bankruptcy" by Top Shelf.

I think Superf*ckers may be my one favorite work by writer/artist James Kochalka. There's such total pleasure taken in being childishly outrageous on every single page; it's a weirdly honest work, I think, one that's not about to let the slightest concern get in the way of its fun, which is essentially how its teenage superhero characters face life anyway. In a weird way, it's reminiscent of superhero comics as diverse as Peter Milligan's and Brendan McCarthy's Paradax (in that it's a celebration of the notion that a superhero could indulge in excess without punishment and maybe that's ok), or some of the sillier works of Garth Ennis (only without any of the self-concious hand-wringing over genre), although it's also fully Kochalka's pet from every angle, from its simple character designs to its searing colors.

Regular readers will note that this series follows an odd numbering scheme - this is really issue #4, although there's absolutely no indication of such on the book itself. Instead, it's marked as issue #279, issue #3 having been #277 - the effect is that we only ever seem to find 'downtime' issues to read, with the suggestion of action and continuity floating around every story, even though the characters never actually do anything superheroic while we're observing them. If you'll recall, issue #277 ended with a cataclysmic disaster wrecking the very nature of reality - presumably issue #278 was an all-action spectacular in which lives were saved and worlds rebuilt, although we only ever get hints of it.

Instead, we're told that semi-protagonist Vortex somehow managed to save reality, making a few minor changes in the process; what those changes are provide the issue's mystery. He's also totally started sleeping with pungent teammate Grotessa, whose best pal Grotus is now firmly set in his role as team leader. And while Grotus may be little more than a glorping lump of living purple goop, it hasn't stopped him from enjoying the perks of leadership, such as the physical attentions of mean Princess Sunshine, who has completely dumped poor Jack Krak, who is still just about the most awful person in the world. Wandering around in a haze (and a pink ruffled skirt), Jack wastes no time in finding activities to occupy him, like invading Grotus' and Princess Sunshine's bedroom after they've left and licking & huffing Grotus' hallucinogenic secretions right off the sheets.

Elsewhere, the usual fun occurs. We enjoy the pulse-pounding introduction of the late Orange Lightning's clone, who quickly sets out to exhume his corpse and use the skull as a bong. Errant team leader Superdan is still trapped in Dimension Zero with the wholly unimpressive Omnizod (Destroyer of Worlds!!). One teammate steals another's pottery project to have sex with, only to shout "Your pussy sucks shit! 'I'll fuck anything once'... that's my motto. But this pussy is TERRIBLE." And plenty more fun and hijinx, and romance, and exposed genitals. And bleeding.

I suppose you can argue that Superf*ckers is providing most the same vulgar experience with every issue, but paying close attention does reveal a certain amount of character development, and a genuine underlying sympathy for foolish, aimless teenagers and their stupid antics (not to mention the sometimes-even-stupider antics of superheroes). It's not that a comic of this sort really needs to have 'heart,' but clearly Kochalka wants his to, and it works as best I expect it can.

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I only wish I had more time in my day. That really is sincere. There's too much more I could do.

*More productive this time around...


MOME Vol. 7 (Spring 2007)

Golgo 13 Vol. 8 (of 13): Gravestone in Sicily

and a really pretty long review of the Death Proof segment of the film Grindhouse

*All signs pointed to the new issue of The Comics Journal being out this week, but Diamond seems to have made a point of putting it on next week's list. Still, if you happen to see it this week, you'll be treated once again to my glowing presence on your retailer's shelves, and indeed your very home. Stuff of life.


Alias the Cat: New from Pantheon, it's the collected edition of Kim Deitch's The Stuff of Dreams!, which was a three-issue miniseries from Fantagraphics a little while back. That alone should be enough to propel you into stores, but let me also say that this material is maybe Deitch's most focused work yet, a wonderful (if impossible to synopsize) tall tale about collecting and filmmaking and history and love and all the good things, structured as an autobiographical comic and loaded with enough panache that you'll want to believe it's all true. If you like last year's Shadowland collection, do not hesitate to pick this one up.

The Salon: Wow! Another long-awaited project rolls in, as Nick Bertozzi's fantastical graphic novel, concerning murders and visions among Paris' famed modernist painters, finally arrives from Griffin. Preview here. Forever has finally arrived.

Golgo 13 Vol. 8 (of 13): Just call it Psychic Murder Sex. Now in comics stores, review here.

The Drifting Classroom Vol. 5 (of 11): Meanwhile, the photogenic Kazuo Umezu presents another big installment of who even knows what at this point. I looked to see if Naoki Urasawa’s Monster was also out this week, since most of these books travel in packs, but it’s not on Diamond’s list.

Runaway Comic #3: Hmm, I think this is the new issue of Mark Martin's series with Fantagraphics. If so, you should read it because it's funny.

Ramayan 3392 AD #8: Yep, I'm still liking this.

Ghost in the Shell 1.5: Human-Error Processor #7 (of 8): I forgot this didn't end.

The Spirit #5: Not that I even need to mention it, but Dave Stewart’s colors on this book are really excellent.

Army@Love #2: I’ve decided the title should be one word, but now it keeps getting screwed up as a hyperlink! Damn it Rick Veitch, why are you upsetting the serenity of my morning?!

Flight Vol. 1 & Flight Vol. 2: I’ve seen these new printings of Flight in bookstores for a little while already, but yeah - the new Ballantine editions of Flight are now out in the Direct Market. They look nice, although I don’t believe there’s any differences between editions beyond cover dress (and bookstore availability, I’ll presume).

52 #50 (of 52) & World War III Part 1-4 (of 4): So, in case all of that bold text looks like nonsense, let me remind you that this is the week where 52 temporarily stretches itself into five books instead of one for the occasion of World War III, which we are assured is a different World War III from the one Grant Morrison wrote back in JLA, although Grant Morrison is also partially writing this one. The ‘main’ 52 book is by the usual suspects, while the four back-up books feature writing by Keith Champagne and John Ostrander (two issues each). Buckle yourself in for One Year Later connection galore and a general plot thread-tying extravaganza, if this goes the way I’m expecting it to.



All this award-winning post is missing is the perfect title.

*Last night's post is long enough (and went up late enough) that I think it can cover for today as well. Also: I need to leave early, since there's some awesome 40 mph winds waiting to whisk me down the highway this morning. Yeah!

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A posting on the recent films.

Death Proof

This film is Quentin Tarantino’s primary contribution to the recent stratosphere-kissing blockbuster smash Grindhouse, although it now seems it might be known in the future as its own little thing, certainly in European nations and likely on dvd. I think it’s therefore worthwhile to discuss it as its own movie, though I’ll readily admit that’s partially because I saw Grindhouse over a week ago and I can already barely recall anything about the rest of the program.

Well, ok, there’s two major things I remember. The first is that Rob Zombie’s fake trailer (amidst a bevy of fake trailers by various directors) was flat-out terrible, and I mean ‘Saturday Night Live lunging toward 1:00 AM oh look at the celebrity guest host mugging’ terrible, which kind of surprised me considering how knowledgeable Zombie seems to be about the broad source material. But it’s far too overtly, artificially parodic, while the rest of the contributions divine much of their humor from emphasizing recognizable characteristics from their chosen subjects so that the humor can ‘naturally’ flow from homage.

I actually thought it was sort of interesting how Eli Roth (and god, I recall when that fellow was doing stuff like a tongue-in-cheek audio commentary for the early Troma dvd release of Bloodsucking Freaks) focused on tropes from a genre of films, while Edgar Wright looked to characteristics of a genus of trailers. It’s a very wide net the ‘grindhouse’ label casts, especially when you mentally associate it with ‘drive-in’ movies; I blame Something Weird Video for putting out those Drive-In Double Feature dvds back in the day, which were pretty much exactly the same thing as Grindhouse (two features, trailers, vintage advertisements) only slightly more extensive and all-authentic. Then again, the whole idea for this thing allegedly came from Tarantino showing people movies at his house anyway.

The second major thing I remember about the non-Death Proof portions of Grindhouse is Bruce Willis. All throughout Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror feature, I was inordinately distracted by the way Willis was shot. I don’t believe he ever interacts with any of the other main characters on a face-to-face basis, in that he and someone else are in the frame at once. Really, anyone who appears on screen with Willis could easily be portrayed by someone who just happened to be standing in the room at the time of shooting, if my memory serves correctly.

At first, I thought this was a clever means of positioning Willis conceptually as a sort of special Hollywood guest star who presumably knocked off all his scenes in one day and got carefully edited into the actual picture. But then I realized that’s probably what Rodriguez actually had to do, regardless of what he’s paying homage to, and that made me think about the fuzzy line that can be drawn between gleeful ‘fake’ badness and actual economic/creative compromise on films of this sort. Regardless, if this was a real grindhouse feature, Willis’ name would be plastered absolutely everywhere. Here, I do believe he’s actually uncredited, though his image appears in the newspaper advertisements.

And need I even mention the greatest failure of Grindhouse in remaining true to its sources? The ads are everything in a low-down feature, so much that you could probably make the argument that the essence of the film extends well out of the screen itself and into the marketing, to the point where The Last House on the Left (let’s say) is incarnated as much in its legendary trailer as its actual being. That was necessary, without $50 million+ in production budget alone behind a film. But I can't even remember the fucking ads for Grindhouse, and that's a real shame.

(granted, the contemporary mega-advertised ‘blockbuster’ film is a sort-of child of vintage exploitation or ‘trash’ films anyway, Jaws having been conceived as a classically exploitable thriller complete with shark effects so shitty that the director was famously forced to conceptualize tighter, and Star Wars acting as an elaborate homage to disposable Saturday serialized juvenilia - in this way, the path of ‘accepted’ film history and the shadow history of exploitation are not entirely separate)

Death Proof, however, does something a bit different.

There’s been a lot of debate on this film already. Some of it’s classic ‘what did they have in the briefcase?’ fan speculation without a lot of support in the film itself (the reels are in the wrong order! it’s two different films with the same star fused into one!). Some of it’s more direct ‘God Tarantino, stop being so boring with the dialogue’ stuff. I guess I’ll get this out of the way right now - not only did I not find the dialogue particularly boring, I also didn’t think it was particularly more bountiful than in, say, Kill Bill: Vol. 2. Really, I thought Death Proof sort of won the entertainment contest all around, if only because it boasted (a) the film’s best (and as luck would have it, final) action scene and (b) hands-down the film’s best performance, courtesy of Kurt Russell.

But I have to admit that Death Proof does have two things working against it on the pure entertainment front: it follows Rodriguez’s hyperactive feature, which is coming from a completely different direction in its homage, and it’s extremely mannered in its structure, so much that it draws attention to its own construction.

I will explain with a plot synopsis. Spoilers, obviously.

Death Proof initially concerns a quartet of women, some with connections to the entertainment industry, out looking for good times. They chat about random things, one of them has a trick played on her, and general amusement is had. They eventually encounter an old-school macho guy called Stuntman Mike, who embodies many traditional slow-burning masculine values. But Stuntman Mike is also a crazed killer, with a death-proofed stunt car that’ll kill anyone in or out of it, save for him. He picks up a woman, and kills her by smushing her to death in the passenger’s compartment with his slick driving moves. Then, he rams the quartet’s vehicle head on and kills them all. Stuntman Mike survives, as we’re told (Psycho-style) about his sexual connection to vehicular collision.

The movie then, for all intents and purposes, starts again. We follow another quarter of women, some with connections to the entertainment industry, out looking for good times. They chat about random things, one of them has a trick played on her, and general amusement is had. But these girls are a bit different; like Stuntman Mike, they also have an affinity for fast driving, vehicular mayhem, and yes - killing. As becomes increasingly clear, this quartet -- or at least two of them, with an additional one eager to be accepted as part of the group -- act as a sort of girl gang, like something out of Russ Meyer. Stuntman Mike attempts to kill them, but their nerve and driving skills are too much for him.

They proceed into a campaign of emasculation, ruining Stuntman Mike’s car, forcing him to drink like a fish, destroying his driving skills, making him cry and moan, and ultimately forcing him into a nasty crash, after which he is dragged out of the car (which, truth in advertising, has not killed him), and beaten to death on the street. The final blow is delivered by the aforementioned young and eager one, Stuntman Mike’s face crushed under her boot - there’s no doubt she’s proven her mettle to the other girls, the Stuntman is killed in a manner ironically similar to his passenger from earlier in the movie, and Quentin Tarantino’s foot fetish reaches an unimaginable extreme.

Hey, I found it entertaining. The final chase scene (as lengthy as the initial vehicular killing is short) is pretty excellent, and in possession of a real enthusiasm about shooting long, unbroken takes of people authentically clinging to hoods at absurd speeds. Tarantino supposedly shot the entire chase scene himself (he served as his own DP for the whole movie, yes, but I mean he didn’t use 2nd unit either), only using computer effects to remove a few wires from the frame, and there is a genuine air of authenticity to everything, of people shooting chases because they love the sensation of chases, and want to preserve it as naturally as possible.

But I think Death Proof is more interesting as a work of criticism than anything else. For its first half, boy - it damn near comes close to being Quentin Tarantino’s Funny Games, complete with gleeful acknowledgement of the audience’s complicit nature in enjoying murder movie mayhem. Just look at Russell’s smirk at the audience right before the killing begins - it’s as if he’s saying “don’t worry folks, the chit-chat’s over, I’ll start killing some women now.” And then, when the murder happens, Tarantino backs the movie up no less than three separate times, so we can gaze upon the grotesque mutilations done to each and every one of the quartet with maximum clarity.

The trick is, I don’t think Tarantino has much of a sweeping statement to make about society or violence or whatnot. I’m not even entirely sure he wants to say anything, or if he’s even particularly equipped as an artist - he just doesn’t strike me as being the type of filmmaker with the detachment or the relative humorlessness of a Michael Haneke. But I do think Tarantino has an interest in experimenting with genre tropes, acknowledging their social implications and smashing seemingly disparate elements together and seeing what happens.

So, we’ve got two groups of women, both of whom act out their own somewhat similar storylines. Some criticisms of the film I’ve read seem to take the first half of the film as ‘punishment’ against the type of woman Tarantino doesn’t favor, as opposed to cool, tough chicks who like good movies and fast cars. My problem with that interpretation is that I never once got the feeling that Tarantino ‘hated’ the first quartet of women. Indeed, they obviously share the director’s taste in music, they’re given sweet little dramas that unfold on the sidelines, and they rarely do anything particularly unsympathetic. Meanwhile, though it’s evident that the second quartet loves action and namedropping influential films, they’re also arguably thieves, they clearly injure at least one innocent person during their pursuit of revenge, and they play an utterly reckless, dangerous prank on one of their friends - compare that to the innocuous joke played by the first quartet.

But in the end, Tarantino treats all of these characters, even the evil ones, as particularly vivid, rounded archetypes. The first quartet are doomed, not because they’re sexually promiscuous or vapid or anything, but because that is their role to play as characters in a slasher film. Yet Tarantino doesn’t give us a ‘last girl.’ He kills them all, and replaces them with new women, absolutely none of whom manage to be killed by Stuntman Mike.

The stuntman himself embodies dual masculine power types, both invincible slasher and fast-driving macho man. Death Proof turns into a chase movie (the print even cleaning itself of scratches in the process), and the Stuntman is delighted to participate; he always sees himself on camera (again, note his grin to the viewer), and finally gets to act in the old-school chase scene of his dreams! I can’t imagine Mickey Rourke (who was initially cast in the role but quickly discharged) playing the character - he’s far too prone to sleaze and sinister looks, while Russell has just enough twinkle in his eye to sell the dreamer in the killer. It’s sex to him, and apparently sex to the girls too, as evidenced by Tarantino’s loving shots of Zoe Bell grinning ecstatically, legs spread on a car hood, shirt gradually hiking itself further and further up her belly. I’m pretty sure at one point Tarantino even juxtaposes this against Stuntman Mike’s phallic hood ornament. Also, he has one of the girls scream “I’m gonna tap that ass!” about three or four billion times during the final movement of the chase, in case anyone was having difficulty.

Ah, that’s the irony for poor Suntman Mike. He wanted to be in a mighty chase film, but had to settle for being a slasher. And then he got his wish, only to wind up powerless against the type of women who might populate Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Tarantino beautifully evoking a real camaraderie among them, so bloodthirsty. The Stuntman’s traditionally masculine traits are useless against women who share the same, and have no time for rugged manly consideration. These girls may love Vanishing Point (and I wonder what they’d make of Monte Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop?), but their actions tell us that the power-drunk flailing of Stuntman Mike needs not be exclusively male, not in movies with less strict formula - if Tarantino has any statement to make, it’s that ramming different low-down genres together can create a dizzy upsetting of expectations on the level of what we expect from our garbage.

One last thing - the argument can be made, it occurs to me, that Tarantino is only reinforcing a patriarchic viewpoint by soaking his finale in violent aggression, characterizing his final girls’ victory through traditionally masculine means. Fighting, pummeling, killing. It provides an illusory, even dangerously fraudulent view of ‘empowerment’ while supplicating the very notion of feminine victory before the male gaze, the type of chest-beating ‘win’ that merely reinforces the dominant paradigm of feminine subordination. To this, I can only remind you that the film is titled Grindhouse. And even when it is not titled Grindhouse, it responds to films that are soaked in aggressive activity. But never is Tarantino’s view of things about how a film of this sort concerns men and woman, no.

It need not know gender. It need only know genre.

And even then, why choose just one?

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A Weekend Contrast

*Good Links Dept: Here's an excellent review by Steve Flanagan of Bryan Talbot's Alice in Sunderland, executed in the style of the comic itself, which is to say it's a comics-format lecture that makes extensive use of digital collage from various sources. I particularly enjoyed the bits covering Talbot's antecedents - Steve goes a bit more into the Iain Sinclair flavor I mentioned quickly in my own review, and confirms that I really ought to find a copy of Slow Chocolate Autopsy (and he's also right-on about the heavy Sinclair influence on From Hell - Moore prefaced the famed 'tour of London' chapter with an appreciation of Sinclair's works upon its initial publication in Taboo). Well worth reading.

*Bad Links Dept: On the other hand, if you really hate yourself it'd be a great idea to click here. Make sure nobody's around, or you'll probably get punched or divorced, or maybe put in jail. I am glad those subtitles are there. I hate to live my life not knowing what that song is about.

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Japan: Nation of Zesty Fever

*Genius Party Dept: Jog, when will you stop writing about Genius Party?! When it's out, folks. And now it's looking like the forthcoming Studio 4°C anime anthology film has gotten so big that it's being split into two films. More info at the link, including the great-looking soundtrack lineup. Vol. 1 opens on July 7 in Japan.

*And getting back to comics -

Golgo 13 Vol. 8 (of 13): Gravestone in Sicily

This isn’t out yet in comics stores, unless Diamond sent it to certain stories without putting it on its shipping list, but the chain bookstores have it.

As is usually the case with VIZ’s Golgo 13 books, the more interesting of the two included stories is not the one that provides the volume’s subtitle. Sure, Gravestone in Sicily (Story #139, November 1978) is a perfectly workable little Duke Togo caper, in which the super-assassin (in natty late ‘70s black suit/white tie attire) attempts to sneak onto an island that’s fallen totally under the control of a pair of American Mafia siblings, obtain a weapon in a place where literally every gun is accounted for, and evade an Italian lawman he’s apparently tangled with before. There’s plenty of high fashion (I guess the Wolverine hairdo was ‘in’ for Mafioso in ‘78), paranoia, and old country decadence (whippings - right in the parlor), complete with a wholly predictable yet largely satisfying finale among the graves. Typical workmanlike Golgo 13 stuff.

But then, there’s Telepath (Story #184, May 1982), which is one of those Duke Togo adventures. You know the type.

The saga begins with the greatest tragedy the world has ever known: Golgo 13 misses a shot. Two actually! It’s neither dream nor imaginary story, so there’s only one obvious conclusion to draw - Duke has been bedazzled in the head by a KGB psychic operative. Yes, beautiful young Anna is part of a secret Soviet program (which we naturally learn all about), an infernal experiment that’s already influenced the course of WWII, with the ultimate goal of transmitting documents across the land via mere thought, striking crippling fear into entire enemy installations without entering, and yes dear readers, conquering the mind of Ronald Reagan. Sadly, that little subplot is never brought up again after it’s mentioned, cruelly robbing us of a thrilling finale in which Duke rushes to save the Gipper from Communist telepathy. Maybe in a future story?

Actually, that’s not the only bit of story that’s merely suggested, rather than being acted upon. Telepath is possibly the most haphazardly constructed of any Golgo 13 story yet released in English, more a loosely-connected sequence of cool events and infodumps than a carefully constructed plot. Not that all of it doesn’t seem worth it as Duke pursues several means of defeating Psychic Communism, hooking himself up to a brain wave-reader and shocking an impressible technician (“What? You jumped from Delta to Beta wave activity in less than a second!”) or barging into the New York Yoga Association Center in hopes of paying his way to Samadhi in a single day. I wouldn’t be surprised if the latter sequence originated with some Saito Pro staffer reading a book on yoga and chattering to everyone at the office about how it all totally reminds him of Golgo 13 - the whole story has a sort of anything-goes vibe that probably allowed creator Takao Saito’s people to work off much accumulated research on dreaming and psy ops and such, without quite worrying if it all adds up in the end.

It’s not completely random, mind you. It’s really a cute gag about how the consummately awesome nature of Duke Togo has somehow allowed him to grasp a type of enlightenment. Same goes for his adversary, sauntering around in the USSR’s finest early ‘80s tracksuits and rejecting the temptations of the flesh (“Penis! Penis, penis!! Men make me want to vomit!!”). Needless to say, Golgo 13 becomes her ultimate dream man for the only kind of romantic activity she’s interested in - psychic murder sex. This also doesn't really amount to anything by story's end.

There’s also the alleged 'main' plot about a recalled KGB agent that Duke has to assassinate, but rarely have actual plot details been so obviously unimportant to Saito Pro - this one’s all about the title character reinforcing his own awesomeness, right up to an abrupt ending that demands from the reader a certain attention to detail for any of it to make sense, while leaving them scratching their head over how simple it all seemed.

Also on hand is a pair of short essays in the File 13 bonus section. One is an amusing if highly superficial account by Kentaro Takekuma (co-author of the great Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga) of a 1982 letters page skirmish between manga critic Tomoyoshi Go and various Golgo 13 readers over a critique titled Readers Are Stupid. The other is an even shorter, but oddly effective ramble by writer Masahiko Katsuya on Takao Saito’s use of Manchuria in Golgo 13, how the Japanese history surrounding the place carries much symbolic value, and how Golgo 13 symbolizes a pre-WWII attitude of Japanese culture. Oddly, both pieces refer to stories not presented in any Golgo 13 release in English - I don’t think we’ve ever actually seen Saito’s handling of Manchuria.

But isn't that how it usually is with that character for English audiences? Once we think we've got a handle on him, he slips away yet again.

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Another weekday with no posting time.

*Story of my life. I have to say I enjoyed the new All Star Superman, which not only busts out Bizarro World for what would very fittingly be the only two-part story of the initial 12-issue run (it's bizarro in that way), but also ties into the Black Kryptonite story from issue #4 to throw into even sharper relief how much of this series is dedicated to Superman confronting alternate or twisted versions of himself. There were the mythological 'supermen' in issue #3 (not to mention SuperLois), the opposite Superman of #4, the future Supermen of issue #6, the running comparison of Superman and Lex Luthor in issue #5... it's pretty impressive how many times writer Grant Morrison can run the title hero through a process of examining externalized variations of himself (perfect for that running theme of Superman's self-analysis) without the concept getting stale.

This particular issue isn't as focused on character as others - it's mainly action sequences and cute ideas, although the page with Superman frolicking with an All Star Sun-Eater (as seen DCU-style in 52) kind of summed up the whole appeal of the series on its own. As always, Superman proves to be the kindest being in the universe as well as the mightiest - his greatness is so profound, it seems to transcend the bizarro nature of Bizarro Superman, who finds himself on his own path of discovery by issue's end, with the introduction of yet another Super-Variant. Maybe this is more of a commentary on Superman's unimpressive rogues gallery than I thought?

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As the thaw comes...

MOME Vol. 7 (Spring 2007)

If all goes right in the world, you should find this book on store shelves today.

This is a transitional issue of Fantagraphics’ fixed-roster anthology, in that the ‘fixed’ roster has become even more unfixed than usual. Some contributors have departed entirely, including Martin Cendreda, Jeffrey Brown, Gabrielle Bell and Anders Nilsen. The latter two present final stories (indeed, Nilsen is this volume’s feature interview subject), while the former pair simply vanish. There’s also the expected delays in the regular serials - Paul Hornschemeier’s Life with Mr. Dangerous and Tim Hensley’s Wally Gropius are promised to return in the next volume, while David Heatley’s Overpeck is now set to conclude in Vol. 9, although Heatley does contribute a few of his typical dream comics and Hornschemeier delivers a short piece of reflective comics (and a two-page prose story so twee as to border on unreadable).

Other serials do continue, like Kurt Wolfgang’s Nothing Eve (an increasing pleasure of observational comedy, even considering the end-of-the-world premise), and Sophie Crumb’s Lucid Nightmare. The centerpiece continues to be Lewis Trondheim’s At Loose Ends, now in part 2 of 3, in which the artist continues to interrogate his peers and colleagues and predecessors about growing old in comics. A handy glossary of names and terms is provided, which most readers will probably need, but having to flip back and forth to a text supplement does remarkably little to disturb Trondheim’s affectingly churlish anxiety over life’s inevitabilities.

But the new material in this edition of MOME -- which is to say the material from new contributors -- is actually quite fascinating, quite diverse, enough so that the book takes on more of an air of renewal than anything. Heaven knows the mere presence of Al Columbia in the book is likely to catch some people’s eyes, and while he doesn’t offer so much of a story as a collection of themed drawings (Chopped-Up People), there’s little denying that Columbia’s mixed-approach, animation-inspired frenzies of joyful bodily harm, big smiles on every face as knives are brandished and entrails spill from bellies, are completely his own.

In terms of storytelling, this volume’s other new contributors are similarly effective in their uniqueness. Eleanor Davis wouldn’t be the first MOME contributor to delve into fantasy/mythical storytelling -- both David B. and Andrice Arp have explored that ground in prior editions -- but her Seven Sacks is far more quiet and subtly menacing than the works of prior contributors. It’s a simple 12-page tale about a ferryman in a seemingly enchanted wood taking his passengers from one side of a river to the other, beginning with a little talking fox-thing bearing a strange sack. But the passengers, and their identical sacks, become gradually more menacing (though they never menace the ferryman), and the situation more ominous, although the ferryman can never totally understand what objective he’s helping to accomplish through his tiny contribution. His anxiety is never stated, but it’s visually made evident through the increasing size of his passengers, threatening to capsize the boat as he presses forward.

It’s a lovely little story, understated yet highly potent. Davis’ art is delicately shaded in autumnal, rusty hues, her character art somewhat reminiscent of Sammy Harkham’s in its emphasis on the fleshiness of the human form, the apparent pliability of people in both a physical and (impliedly) emotional sense. Her monsters are imaginative, even cute, though always just creepy enough that we always understand what those grinning teeth and long arms are for, and they work in successful contrast with the doughy texture of Davis’ ferryman. If he’s become part of a morally questionable system, the art never loses sight of the conditions that would make his compliance possible, perhaps necessary. A very nice demonstration of what can be said without saying anything.

And on the other side of things, we have Tom Kaczynski (this is amusingly made literal - Davis opens the book and Kaczynski closes it). In many ways, his eight-page 100,000 Miles seems typically semi-autobiographical and descriptive. But Kaczynski isn’t so much interested in presenting ‘scenes from life’ or disarming dialogues so much as crafting a visual essay about highways and cars and cities, and what they represent to the human condition on a symbolic level. A non-stop narration plugs itself atop every panel, as we glimpse scenes from a man’s drive to work, as well as his own memories and wide views of his surroundings.

The narration is booming and direct as to its message. We are conditioned to see the car and the road as metaphors for freedom and exploration, but that’s an illusion - most roads lead to consumption and dehumanized toil, the vehicle more effectively an icon for prison, or perhaps a coffin, the city centers and suburban flight of mankind growing across the land like warts on the skin, “The lungs of the city infected by the agents of its creation. The car virus masquerading as panacea.”

In this city everyone has a terminal condition.”

Some might feel it’s a bit much, but I loved the hectoring, Sgt. Friday tone of the narration, perfectly joined with Kaczynski’s sickly green, ink-tight visuals, his human figures nearly as stiff as the metal that clogs the roads, all the better to demonstrate the dehumanizing element of men made machines. It’s polemical, but its careful interplay between word and picture makes it a sharp, intuitive, entertaining lecture.

All of this bodes well for MOME's future, although you don't have to wait for future editions to get more of Davis and Kaczynski. Besides their individual sites, both have several minicomics in stock at the USS Catastrophe Shop. Explore around.

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Say, I think a date went missing somewhere...

*Hey! Wasn’t there supposed to be a movie review yesterday?! Oh, it’s still coming, but it’s taking a little longer than expected. And I had way less free time than expected for basically all of the holiday weekend. But it’ll appear in due time. Speaking of nothing getting done -


Mineshaft #19

Yeah, that was it. Happy Easter?

*Quite a lot of comics out this week. Plus, on top of everything below, stores that didn’t get Madman Atomic Comics #1 last week (like all the stores around me) should be getting it this week, although reviews have really not been kind at all. Many more things to keep you occupied.


Garage Band: Part of the new third wave of First Second books, a spread of six books which will be released two at a time over the next three months. This one’s from Italy’s Gipi, and while somewhat problematic, it’s well worth your attention. Full review here.

Sardine in Outer Space Vol. 3: Also from First Second, there’s the latest installment of Emmanuel Guibert’s and Joann Sfar’s kid-targeted series, though it’s not so kid-targeted that they can’t slip a reference to The Night of the Hunter into the cover art.

MOME Vol. 7: I’ll have a review for this up very soon, but take note that this is a volume of changes for the continuing Fantagraphics anthology. It includes the final MOME contributions of Gabrielle Bell and Anders Nilsen, along with word that Jeffrey Brown and Martin Cendreda also will not be returning. In their place are three new regular contributors, Eleanor Davis, Tom Kaczynski and Al Columbia. The lattermost contributes a selection of themed drawings, while the other two present stories that prove somewhat different from what’s been seen in the title thus far, and perhaps more satisfying. But yeah, more later.

Complete Universe of Dupuy & Berberian: I do believe this is a 2006 tome from Oog & Blik, just becoming available through Diamond, a 300-page hardcover retrospective of the works of the title duo, creators of Mr. Jean, though the contents of the book will go beyond that. At $55, it’s probably for devoted fans only, but I expect those fans will be in for a treat.

Complete Peanuts Vol. 7: 1963-1964: Chugging along nicely - just the latest Peanuts book, that’s all.

Doomed Presents Ashley Wood: Not a bad idea here from IDW, compiling only the Wood-drawn stories from the defunct horror magazine Doomed into a single $7.99 package. All are adaptations of prose works, and they’re somewhat significant to my observation of Wood’s development as the moment where he finally struck a completely comfortable balance between his unique, individual aesthetic and a straightforward presentational method of direct comics storytelling. If you haven’t looked for this stuff yet, it’s now even easier.

Cold Heat #4 (of 12): The newest chapter in Ben Jones’ and Frank Santoro’s saga of action and rock and so on. Pick it up if you see it.

Optic Nerve #11: The final chapter of Adrian Tomine’s three-part graphic novel, which I’ve really been enjoying so far. Finally the end is here. Unless your shop got its stuff direct from publisher Drawn & Quarterly - in that case, the end has already been here for weeks now.

Death Note Vol. 11 (of who knows?): Really, there is a Vol. 13 in Japan. But VIZ seems to be saying that Vol. 12 is the last US volume. Either way, we’ve entered the home stretch in this beautiful all-true biography of Light Yagami and his crusade to make the world all happiness and sunshine.

Dragon Head Vol. 6 (of 10): Also all about the sunshine in manga this week.

Marvel Illustrated: Jungle Book: Here’s something probably worth digging out of Marvel’s stack for the week - an inexpensive ($2.99), 64-page package reprinting a Gil Kane-illustrated Kipling adaptation from Marvel Fanfare #8-11, with bonus previews of Marvel’s upcoming line of contemporary classics-to-comics (starting next month with Last of the Mohicans). Look for the new cover by P. Craig Russell.

Punisher War Journal #6: Or you could look for Civil War, out this week in handy trade format. There’s many spin-offs swarming around, and this is the one that I’m reading, from writer Matt Fraction. It apparently features a new costume at issue’s end, which will undoubtedly be good for some laughs if it’s in line with what we’ve all seen so far.

Blade #8: Yeah, Blade’s a strange little book, but it keeps me occupied. It occurs to me this’ll make a fine surprise discovery for someone digging through a bargain bin years down the line, where expectations have faded and enthusiasm is higher due to the drop in price. It’s just eccentric enough.

Fell #8: Hmm, a new issue of Warren Ellis’ and Ben Templesmith’s police comic, in fairly short order. If you’re in love with Templesmith, he also has a new volume of his continuing art book series, The Art of Ben Templesmith, out this week from IDW. The title is Conluvio (volume 1 was called Tommyrot), and it strings unseen drawings together into a sort-of narrative, a technique very reminiscent to me of Ashley Wood’s Popbot, also released by IDW.

52 #49 (of 52): Featuring things.

All Star Superman #7: It didn’t show up last week, but nothing can stop the force of tomorrow. Kicking off the two-part Bizarro storyline, which is sure to tickle the fancy once its finished. Also out this week is a $19.99 hardcover collection of the prior six issues, the first-ever All Star collection, actually, which will no doubt provide a far better venue for appreciating Frank Quitely’s working of the comics page.



Easter am busy.

*Too many things to do, not enough time for internet. I will have a Grindhouse review up tomorrow, since there's some stuff I really do want to get into on that. Although here's one thing that jumps right out at me - for a move supposedly paying homage to a wide swathe of exploitation films, I was shocked at how modest the thing was with the sexuality. Granted, both Rodriguez and Tarantino joke around with 'missing' footage whenever sexual material is about to pop up, but virtually all the films-of-the-type I've seen would spread the stuff out over the runtime. It gives the whole project a slightly weird, arrested feel, which maybe works a bit in Tarantino's favor... ah, but more tomorrow.


Another sleepful night.

*Lovely dream last night.

I was part of a family that wasn’t my own, in that my mother and father were entirely different, and I had more siblings than I normally do. The country had been struck with some type of bizarre virus that caused people to transform into semi-vampires, in that they craved blood uncontrollably, and apparently couldn’t be killed.

Several of my own family had been infected, although there was a certain injection that could suppress the violence. My mother had not been infected, and I saw her injecting my father with the salve. His face was completely fucked up, more like a terrible latex mask out of the deeper curves of the Uncanny Valley, because he’d been hurt by somebody and had not healed up properly. But he did heal.

I had not been infected either, and I wanted to go somewhere with a friend. I don’t recall where I wanted to go, but I can understand why I’d want to go - being around my siblings made me very nervous. But my mother was adamant that my brothers and sisters be respected, so she asked I drive them somewhere with me. I grudgingly allowed it.

Two of my sisters, about 15 or 16 years old, were playing by the front door. One gripped the neck of the other with her teeth, and tore the skin open with a thick tug. This happened as I passed them. Nothing happened with the wound initially, but a moment’s hesitation brought out a spout of clear liquid, like thin gel, some of which spattered on my arm. It was slick, and burned a little. I hurried out the door, my arm tingling. By the time the two exited after me, the wound had healed entirely. None of the infected could feed on each other, you see.

Our vehicle was a huge SUV, very advanced. I hadn’t driven it much. When I slid the driver’s side door open, I could see that the entire compartment was filled with switches and buttons and lights, like it was a spaceship. I didn’t know what any of them did, but at least I knew how to drive. About seven of us piled into the giant thing.

The town we were in was my actual hometown. I knew all the roads. It was a very lovely day, but too chilly. As soon as we were on the highway, one of my brothers begin to complain. My stomach tied in knots, and my heart jumped whenever any of my siblings brushed my shoulder to catch my attention. But they did it for a good reason - the kid was having an ‘attack,’ and they thought I should pull over to the side of the highway. As if he had to take a piss, as opposed to lapsing into a monster state. Anything could happen if he did.

I pulled off at the top of a grassy hill, by a local strip mall. There were people everywhere. All infected - I could tell. My troubled brother tumbled out of the vehicle, the others following him, one with the injection to calm him down. I didn’t want to watch, so I walked down among the infected.

Some appeared to be homeless. Some appeared to be working men and women. All seemed agitated and nervous. After I had walked down a bit, I was confronted with a large woman, who appeared to hold some authority over them.

“It’s been cut,” she confided to shabby old man.

I immediately knew. The injections, the suppressing agent, had been diluted. At that point I became really frightened, and I turned in the other direction. In my mind, I had the entire plot figured out. The people supplying the medicine had grown tired of everyone, and they were going to provoke a murder frenzy, and then they were going to ride in and kill everyone, because they must have finally figured out a way.

I began to run. The woman behind me shouted. Not at me, but at the assembled infected. They all snapped to attention as she yelled out the news. They were like an honor guard as I ran. I had to reach the vehicle. But as I ran farther and farther, I could feel more and more fingertips brushing against me, like I was racing the wave of the disease’s murder compulsion. I ran and closed my eyes, their palms brushing against me as I struggled closer to the vehicle. Closer and closer.

And that’s when I woke up.

Obviously I’d read too much about Grindhouse on Friday, and all sorts of old tropes had congealed in my head while I snoozed. I’d like to know the end of the dream. Oh, sure - it was just something I thought up anyway, so I can easily think up an ‘ending,’ but not within the unmediated confines of my sleeping state. Even trying to contemplate a continuation, I find myself struggling with the more disquieting bits, the stuff I’d try to neutralize or offset in a considered narrative. But I got a start, I got a show...



Two Clicks

*Good Link Dept (#1): Yes, the Best of 2006 lists are still rolling along (I think Chris Butcher's is still forthcoming, even). You've all seen Tom Spurgeon's, which is good and detailed as expected, but I also really enjoyed this two parter from Justin J. Fox, starting off with quick thoughts on 40 great things, then offering longer reflections on a top 20. There's so much stuff on these lists I haven't read, it's kind of painful...

*Good Link Dept (#2): Every man, woman and child alive should click over to this Kazuo Umezu post at Same Hat! Maybe I’m just weird because I photograph terribly, but if I ever had a shot taken as awesome as Sinister Youth Umezu -- let alone Beguiling Goth Umezu -- you could put good money on what would be pasted on the back of every book I ever released. Needless to say, I have no problem believing this is the fellow who brought us The Drifting Classroom.



No Time 4 Update

*Sorry, I really have to run today. Nothing out of this week's comics struck me too hard, although I was totally unable to find a copy of Madman Atomic Comics #1. Oh, and The Midnighter #6 is possibly worth mentioning as Garth Ennis' very odd attempt at writing some type of shōnen-ai (or maybe everyone's a bit old - senien-ai?) story of romanticized (if sexually non-explicit) attraction between samurai, complete with Apollo acting as some type of bishōnen beautiful boy archetype. Or does even the acknowledgement of sex turn it into something else? I'm not up on the style. Anyway, the story's actually really overwrought and kind of awful, and takes the questionable path of plastering modern notions of homosexuality all over a different culture from a very different age, but it was odd enough to catch my attention...


The review is quick.

Mineshaft #19

No, I never do get tired of seeing the new issue of Mineshaft released. The brainchild of publishers/editors Everett Rand & Gioia Palmieri, this particular issue sees 52 pages stuffed with the usual assortment of comics, articles, essays, poems, letters, and whatever else Rand & Palmieri find interesting. And that means a lot of underground or underground-connected talents are ready to display some work, as they often do.

Most unique among this issue’s stuff are a quartet of 2003 personal reportage strips (and a splash drawing) by Mary Fleener, a cartoonist I confess I haven’t seen much of in a while - I vividly recall some of Fleener’s autobiographical material from way back when I read the old Kitchen Sink anthology Twisted Sisters 2: Drawing the Line, something of a crucial comics-reading experience for me at the age of 15 or so, and I was struck at the time with the specificity of her autobiographical approach to surfing culture. The strips here are in something of the same vein, filled with copious local color.

There’s also a nice, if short (given the size of the publication, brevity is a necessity) collection of vintage gag cartoons from (I believe) a pair of television listing magazines/supplements from the late ‘40s to the end of the ‘50s -- the work of local artists offering up endless riffs on both the novelty and the ultimate cultural reign of the tube -- accompanied by an essay by Bruce Simon. Also featured is another spread of 10 Robert Crumb drawings and comics (11 if you count the back cover - he also offers one of his usual lengthy letters, bouncing around all sorts of topics), and another seven-page installment of Frank Stack’s droll adventure strip parody The Adventures of Dirty Diana.

Peter Bagge provides front cover art, although the interior content concerning him is an essay by Palmieri on meeting the artist at North Carolina’s Heroes Con. Plus: drawings and comics by Carol Tyler, Bill Griffith, Jay Lynch (both solo and with Ed Piskor), Spain, Robert Armstrong, Simon Deitch, Penny Van Horn, and Aaron Lang, a cartoonist I’m unfamiliar with but who contributes an observant three-pager on his grandfather.

There’s rarely any one piece in a given issue of Mineshaft that stands out as spectacular. It’s more a cumulative experience that steadily pleases than anything else, which I think is why my reviews of the publication tend toward description - the uniqueness of the package is its simplicity and intimacy, matched up with a pretty vast array of talents from a certain corner of comics who are ready to send things in. Truly there’s nothing else like it that I can think of, and (as usual) I ask you to check things out for yourself.


I know I talk about the weather a lot in these post titles, but god - from under 40 to over 70 every day...

*The meteors will be raining down any week now.



Alice in Sunderland (new Bryan Talbot, maybe not what you expected)

*Well That Was Certainly That Dept: Grant Morrison is apparently off The Authority for a while after issue #4. Scroll down to the Darick Robertson section. That’s the same time Gene Ha is set to leave. Now come on - didn’t you expect this? No word on if he’s gone for good, but he’s definitely gone through issue #9. The new team will be Christos Gage and Robertson. Be sure to check out the whole article for various jokes about Morrison’s current penchant for slow writing. I will be absolutely shocked if he sticks with Wildcats for more than another handful of issues.

Also, same link: Gene Ha is only drawing half the new eight-issue Top Ten miniseries Zander Cannon is writing. Or was that known before?

*First things first here - no, All Star Superman #7 is not on Diamond’s list for the week, even though some sources seem to think it’s coming out. Maybe it’ll be one of those things where some shops serviced by certain warehouses get a book while others don’t, but try not to look forward to it that much. Otherwise:


Little Nemo Complete Works: Oh, this is another new printing of the old Winsor McCay compilation from Taschen, back yet again to present 432 pages of everything Little Nemo from 1905-1914. The price is scandalously low at $29.99, so please buy it if you haven’t already!

Elk’s Run: I suspect all of you reading are familiar with the title - during its unfinished serialization (moving from early self-published issues to the ill-fated Speakeasy), Elk’s Run was one of those comics blog favorites that tend to crop up every so often, word spreading from site to site until everyone who’s reading much of anything is at least semi-informed, even if (like me) they haven’t read the work. It’s a suspense story, dealing with familial bonds and creeping troubles in a ‘perfect’ small town, each chapter adopting the viewpoint of a new character. Now it’s managed the impressive feat of being issued in a completed, 224-page trade paperback edition from Random House’s Villard (also the line that’s been releasing Flight). Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov, art by Noel Tuazon, colors by Scott A. Keating. It’s $19.95.

Madman Atomic Comics #1: Well shit, the new Madman ongoing from Image is really starting. I'm already seeing some uncertainty online as to whether this is actually showing up this week, so I can only say it's on Diamond's list for release. I really enjoyed creator Mike Allred’s last incarnation of the concept as part of his self-published team book The Atomics, which came as something of a relief after the Dark Horse-published Madman Comics got bogged down in backstory revelations and the like. I don’t know what will happen here, but it’s happening, and will feature “an innovative recap of every essential event in the Madman mythos.” Hmm. Preview here.

American Splendor: Another Day: The collected edition of the recent Vertigo incarnation of Harvey Pekar’s creation. Even as far as American Splendor goes it falters a bit in terms of attention in the middle, but there’s some very interesting art in here from the likes of Eddie Campbell, Gilbert Hernandez, Dean Haspiel, and a remarkably appropriate Richard Corben. Also out in collections from DC - writer/artist Joe Kubert’s Sgt. Rock: The Prophecy.

Cromartie High School Vol. 10: The manga series march on…

Buddha Vol. 6 (of 8): Ananda: Even when they’re softcover reissues.

The Midnighter #6: Worth noting as the last issue Garth Ennis will be writing until at least July, with one-off issues by Brian K. Vaughan and the aforementioned Christos Gage to follow. Also worth noting as the return of artist Glenn Fabry, who worked with Ennis on the early Kev stories that no doubt sparked interest in him writing a Midnighter series to begin with.

The Immortal Iron Fist #4: Holding.

Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born #3 (of 7): Pattern.

The Punisher MAX #46: In.

52 #48 (of 52): Pamphlets.

Warren Ellis’ Wolfskin #3 (of 3): In case you’ve been seeing the preview hype for Warren Ellis’ and Juan Jose Ryp’s new Black Summer series (you know, about the superhero who kills the President) while thinking to yourself “gee, didn’t those two have another series going on for a while there?” - here is the conclusion to that other series.