Strange and Stranger


*Most activity was on the homefront for -


Abandoned Cars (short comics by Tim Lane; drops of drama, mixed up in a smart container)

Final Crisis #3 (of 7) (how to subjugate a planet without being seen)

Tokyo Zombie (stealth manga satire, in a jugular vein)

Where Demented Wented: The Art and Comics of Rory Hayes (says it all)

*Upcoming Publications Dept: Hmm. In case you haven't heard already, it looks like Brendan McCarthy is writing and drawing a Spider-Man/Dr. Strange miniseries for 2009. And I do believe that'll be his first proper extended-length work with corporate-owned US superheroes - while I certainly enjoyed his superhero-heavy issue of Solo from 2006, that was more a hyperlinked patchwork one-off, capable of handling odd imaginings, and it'll be something to see how much room he gets to flow over a multi-issue capes 'n tights project.

I mean, I'm sure some would rather he was doing something untethered from any corporate-owned properties, although I think seeing him operate under such restraints could be interesting on its own. Or maybe I'm just the type to get enthusiastic over any new McCarthy comics at all.

*The long-awaited arrive with -


Disappearance Diary: Hell yeah - it's Fanfare/Ponent Mon week. Now's your big chance to drop $22.99 on this fascinating 200-page autobiography of Hideo Azuma, a prominent mangaka who can't help but divorce himself from home and society, even if it means living homeless in the woods. My full review is here, and a preview is here, along with handy international ordering instructions, in case your shop is fresh out. Also out is The Ice Wanderer and Other Stories, which I think (hope) was made available once before. It's an uneven but typically striking collection of Jirô Taniguchi shorts, mostly dealing with humans and nature. It's $21.99 for 240 pages; review here, preview here.

The Punisher MAX #60: In which the last shot is fired in writer Garth Ennis' character-defining tenure on the series. Dare you see the future? In commemoration of the event, Marvel is also reprinting The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe, a 1995 What If...? styled one-shot that marked Ennis' first work on the character (and pivoted on a plot point later recycled in The Boys). Ennis won't be gone forever - he and Steve Dillon are set to return to their older, 'funny' version of the character for a weekly miniseries around the time the Punisher: War Zone movie is released, although I can't say I'm excited. That iteration of the character never held much interest for me, and its eventual disappearance bore some symbolism for Ennis, moving away from the snarky, slapsticky default his 'superhero' works can grow lazy from, digging deep into something cruel and complex, something that sustained a pulpy, darkly satirical world around a notoriously simple-yet-tricky character, and made corporate comics seem less a mocked source of profit than a forum for an amplified world of terrors. It will be missed.

The Black Diamond: Get in the Car and Go: A new collected edition for writer/publisher Larry Young's and artist Jon Proctor's spin around high-concept highway-of-the-future action, perspectives shifting and narrative elements detatching. I can't say it's entirely successful -- often its presentational ambition is undone by the visuals it has to work with -- but it does drive hard. More later. With an introduction by Graeme McMilliam. Big preview here. It's 144 color pages from AiT/Planet Lar, $12.95.

The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam: This just won Best Book at the Doug Wright Awards the other day, so it's handy that Diamond is offering it again this very week. It's a "graphic memoir" of a famed Chinese entertainer and vaudeville legend, written by his great-grandaughter, Ann Marie Fleming, who previously directed a movie version of the story, and duly mixes film stills with her own drawings and additional art by Julian Lawrence to form this subsequent project. From Riverhead, $14.00 for 176 pages.

A Treasury of XXth Century Murder Vol. 1: The Lindbergh Child: Gah! It's... it's a relaunch!! Gasp and choke! Ah, but what else could writer/artist Rick Geary do - having covered every murder in the whole of the Victorian era, he was left with no choice but to plunge this entertaining series of true crime comics into the unthinkable future. It's a $15.95, 80-page hardcover from NBM, and you can view some samples here.

The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics: Another of Robinson Publishing's big bricks of genre, this time a 480-page, $17.95 collection of vice and villainy edited by Paul Gravett. With works by Dashiell Hammett & Alex Raymond (Secret Agent X-9), Mickey Spillane (Mike Lancer), Jack Cole, Will Eisner, Joe Simon & Jack Kirby, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Paul Grist, Max Allan Collins & Terry Beatty (Ms. Tree), Enrique Abuli & Jordi Bernet (Torpedo 1936), Bernie Krigstein, Jacques Tardi, José Muñoz & Carlos Sampayo, Charles Burns and more. Preview here. Found in Diamond's easy access Merchandise section along with a $44.99 Hulk Back Buddy, which should help with the depression my back has been in lately.

Kidnapped: A 64-page, $11.95 North American release (via Tundra Books) of writer Alan Grant's and artist Cam Kennedy's 2007 comics adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson tale, produced as part of Edinburgh's UNESCO-backed City of Literature reading effort, in which 7500 copies were given away and some of the artwork was purchased by the National Library of Scotland. I hear there were variant covers too. UNESCO loves that shit.

Mineshaft #22: The new issue of this fine labor of love from Everett Rand & Gioia Palmieri, a collection of cultural and artistic fascinations, many of them involving cartoonists from the '60s underground days. This time there's a big photo feature on female personalities of Muscle Beach in the '40s, plus a jam illustration (and dueling songs) by Kim Deitch & Jay Lynch, a letter and drawings from Robert Crumb, a humor essay by Jay Kinney, comics by Mary Fleener and Frank Stack, and more. It's 52 b&w pages for $6.95, and you can order it here if your shop doesn't have it.

Batman #679: Being part 4 (of 6) of Batman's Chemical Caper, in which the Cranked Crusader takes his battle straight to the Club of Villains, Bat-Mite at his side. Awesome preview here; I like to imagine Batman is delivering all of his dialogue in Christian Bale's Bat-voice, which he only uses while on drugs.

New X-Men by Grant Morrison Ultimate Collection Book 2 (of 3): And after you're done with Bruce, you can check this softcover out and track the similarities between Morrison's referential stories of futures hounded by pasts. It's $34.99, which is actually more than the hardcover it's based off used to be, but that's what you get for being tardy. I ought to call your home.

Hellboy: The Crooked Man #2 (of 3): Corben!

B.P.R.D.: The Warning #2 (of 5): Davis!

Welcome to Hoxford #1: This is Ben Templesmith's new series with IDW, a bloody take on institutionalization and, apparently, werewolves. It's $3.99. Bleed here.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier - The Absolute Edition: Well, um, this was supposed to contain that neato vinyl record with Alan Moore's in-story song on it, but now it doesn't. Granted, the solicitation still says it does, but I don't think anybody updated it. There also doesn't appear to be a bonus script book like the other two LoEG Absolutes, or really any bonuses at all. Um, it has a slipcase? It's bigger? It's $99.00!

500 Essential Graphic Novels: The Ultimate Guide: Oh, this is one of those fat little books you see a lot of in the Media or Film sections of the bookstore - now comics has one, 528 pages for $24.95, courtesy of author Gene Kannenberg, Jr. and Collins Design. It's been on the big box shelves for a little while now; I guess it's all right for this sort of thing. It's split up into genre categories, with 10 'must read' works lined up first, followed by alphabetized picks that I suppose aren't quite as essential yet essential nonetheless. There's also an all-important 'rating' system of one to five stars tacked on, so as to further detail how some essentials are more essential than others, although the stars and the actual space-in-the-book rankings seem to act at cross-purposes, so that Marvel's Conan the Barbarian gets both a 'ten best' ranking for its full run and general import, while Vol. 1 of the collected editions (the specific book named) gets only two stars (if I recall correctly), and the attached review expends some space taking Barry Windsor-Smith down a peg.

It's written breezily enough, and tries to explain its machinations as best it can. I found that its brief moments of criticism sat uneasily amidst a general tone of happy advocacy (I mean, they're all essential graphic novels!), without the space needed to register as anything better than odd points of anomaly. There's a nice presence for European works, but it seems 'graphic novel'-focused surveys still don't quite have a grip on manga - I'm pretty sure I can count the included Japanese comics without the words Tezuka or Koike on their covers with my fingers (EDIT: 8/12/08 7:10 PM EST: ugh, that was hyperbolic; there's actually 31 such comics, and I don't have nearly that many appendages). And, on a more subjective level, I am hesitant around any book of this type that fills its Nonfiction section with the likes of Cancer Vixen and Drawing Comics is Easy (Except When It's Hard) while ignoring the works of Eddie Campbell, and insists that Batman: Hush is among the most vital-for-some-reason works of the superhero genre as available in a bookshelf-ready format. But hey - this is truly, completely not a book aimed at me anyway.

UPDATE 8/13/08 8:32 PM EST: Eddie Campbell clarifies.