Beauty Labyrinth of Comics

*Did I tell you my downstairs neighbors have started a band? They're practicing right now, so I'm sorta stretching my arms out by the computer and feeling the beats as they rise like steam. It's like a Turkish bath in here. Of sound.

I'm thinking of printing out a full-length review of tonight's session and slipping it under their door; I know I'll have touched their hearts when I leave for work tomorrow and they're all lined up on the stairs to slap by face.


Joker (an upcoming hardcover presentation of tough guys and smiles from Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo, among others)

Death Note II: The Last Name (which is a 2006 feature film, but I try and sort out the manga too)

*But that's why I live next to the fire escape.


I Live Here: Your high-profile comics fusion experiment of the week, maybe the year. Unless I'm totally mistaken, this Pantheon-published, Mia Kirshner-spearheaded project is four small books tucked into a hardcover package, with each volume serving as a "paper documentary" of a troubled place in the world where people's stories need to be told. In terms of comics (or thereabouts; the whole thing seems very words-and-pictures oriented), Ingushetia will feature new work by Joe Sacco, Burma will have a piece by Kamel Khélif (a French-Algerian artist with whom I'm not familiar), Juárez will see art by the excellent, elusive Phoebe Gloeckner and Malawi will contain a children's book-styled piece by writer J.B. MacKinnon and illustrator Julie Morstad. Sacco-specific preview here; huge overall preview here. It's $29.95.

Drawn and Quarterly Showcase, Book 5: Continuing the eponymous publisher's irregular series of self-contained works by interesting young(ish) cartoonists; the impression is that no new edition needs be released until enough good work is found, which isn't a bad thing to foster. I'm most looking forward to new work by T. Edward Bak of the fine Service Industry, but there's also stuff by Sweden's Anneli Furmark and Finland's Amanda Vähämäki. It's $19.95 for 120 pages.

solanin: Being an all-in-one VIZ collection of a 2005 slice-of-life manga series by Inio Asano, he of the much-admired horror piece Nijigahara Holograph. I believe this is his first book to be licensed for an official English-language release; it's about a young woman and the office job she hates, and her struggling illustrator boyfriend and her freedom and her boredom. Sounds familiar. Actually, it sounds just like Seiichi Hayashi's 1970-71 lingering youths landmark Red Colored Elegy (in English this year from Drawn and Quarterly), although I'm sure this latter work is 7,000% more straightforward and contemporary mainstream-palatable. And Asano could certainly go places with it. It's 432 pages for $17.99; Japanese sample here.

Hellsing Vol. 9 (of 10): Meanwhile, Dark Horse has manga about hitting and monsters. I think the final chapter of the serial is due in Japan next month, so that volume limit is an informed presumption. Are people still reading this? I remember it being pretty popular a few years ago. Elsewhere among the penultimate, seek out Naoki Urasawa's Monster Vol. 17 (of 18), in which things nearly end, but do not. And then to reverse the trend, there's the second-from-start Real Vol. 2, for basketball needs at the moment.

Death Note Box Set: Or you can pay $99.99 for this, which'll run ya roughly cover price for the 12-book series, throwing in the How to Read Official Handbook for free. Plus: a cool fold-out.

Trains Are... Mint: In which Manchester artist Oliver East follows England's train tracks from station to station, and transforms the experience into a travel journal of soft color images and personal reflection. This hardcover tome collects the first three of East's minicomics (and the fourth is online). Here's a Derik Badman review of some of the stuff, and here's a preview. From Blank Slate Books; 124 pages for $24.99. The same publisher (sprung from the founders of the Forbidden Planet International comics retailer) also has We Can Still Be Friends this week, a $12.99 book of autobiographical shorts from German artist Mawil (of the 2003 Top Shelf release Beach Safari) Many samples here.

French Milk: A 208-page 'drawn journal' by cartoonist Lucy Knisley, concerning a stay in Paris with her mother. It's been getting some good notices, and Tom Spurgeon has an interview (that seems to have been kidnapped for the moment) (EDIT: and now has returned). From Touchstone; $15.00.

The Cream of Tank Girl: A new 208-page, $29.95 hardcover art book devoted to 20 big years of Alan Martin's and Jamie's Hewlett's creation, including many images from the artist, commentary by the writer, a previously unseen comic, script excerpts, recipes and much more. From Titan. Found in Diamond's cast-iron Merchandise section, along with a $395.00 Thor, Lord of Asgard 1/1-scale helmet; perfect for any occasion, like parties, weddings or muggings.

Dungeon Monstres Vol. 2: The Dark Lord: Two more monsterous side-stories in the enduring Joann Sfar/Lewis Trondheim creation, this time with guest art by 'Andreas' (Martens) and Stéphane Blanquet. Published by NBM at $12.95.

The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation: I can only hope writer Jonathan Hennessey and artist Aaron McConnel capture 1/10th of the volcanic eros of the 23rd Amendment in this comic book adaptation of the bestselling thriller. From Hill and Wang; $16.95 for 160 pages.

Heavy Liquid: Huh, I plum forgot we were due for a new $39.99 hardcover edition of Paul Pope's 1999-2000 Vertigo series, now with revised coloring and 12 pages of bonus materials (so, 256 pages in total). It's about a man, a drug, a life, and other matters connected to sci-fi noir and the artistic pursuit. The Comics Comics editorial crew mass-reviews the series here, with pictures (though not of the new colors; what will Frank Santoro think?!). Also in '256-page hardcovers from Vertigo this week,' we've got Y: The Last Man Deluxe Edition Vol. 1, collecting issues #1-10 for $29.99.

Unknown Soldier #1: More Vertigo! I liked writer Joshua Dysart's work on B.P.R.D.: 1946, and he apparently spent a month in Uganda conducting research for this new ongoing series/character revamp about a doctor who starts hearing voices that urge direct action against the violence all around. Here's some art by Alberto Ponticelli. Note the presence of cover artist Igor Kordey; haven't seen him in North American comics for a while.

The Spirit: Femmes Fatale: More reprints! This one's a kinda tie-in to the upcoming Frank Miller motion picture opus, and kinda hilarious in that it's dedicated exclusively to the character's many encounters with sexy women. That's 192 pages of Will Eisner for $19.99.

Elektra by Frank Miller Omnibus: But if it's Miller himself you crave (and you somehow don't have this stuff already), cede your $74.99 for the full 1986-87 Elektra: Assassin miniseries (still Miller's finest hour, if you ask me), the 1991 Elektra Lives Again album (at a reduced size, I presume), and pertinent issues of Bizarre Adventures (#28) and What If...? (#35).

Aetheric Mechanics: Another 48-page one-off from writer Warren Ellis' and publisher Avatar's Apparat line of comics from a place where comics developed differently (if that's still the concept). It follows the well-received Crécy, and features an investigation by detective Sax Raker during a 1907 war between Britain and the ever-hypothetical Ruritania. Little more is known, but motifs of foreign threat and possibly insensitive derring-do present themselves readily. Art by Gianluca Pagliarani, whom I believe did the Wolfskin Annual a while back. It's $6.99.

Sky Doll: So it goes - the first hardcover product of Marvel's alliance with French publisher Soleil. I don't think this 144-page, $24.95 collection of this Barbara Canepa/Alessandro Barbucci anime-informed sci-fi politico-religious/media satire is due to be oversized or fancied up or anything, but it's a fun little series (if incomplete as of now), and I'm sure the production values will be higher (and the English localization better) than the magazine-format version of these comics that Heavy Metal put out a while back (second one down). Preview images; my review of the first chapter. And if your Eurocomics tastes run a bit vintage, Cinebook has Thorgal Vol. 4: Archers, a $19.95 collection of Vols. 8 and 9 (both 1985) of the original Jean Van Hamme/Grzegorz Rosiński album series.

Haunt of Horror: Lovecraft: And here's that suite of Richard Corben adaptations and transformations of various stories and poems, now a bookstore-ready $19.99 hardcover, just in time for All Saints Day. See preview pictures.

Criminal 2 #6: Things don't get much better.

Final Crisis #4 (of 7): Woah, look what the cat dragged in. Now with 100% more Carlos Pacheco! And after you're finished sifting through the red remains of the heroic DCU, writer Grant Morrison also has Final Crisis: Submit, a one-off team-up between Black Lightning and Tattoo Man -- art by Matthew Clark & Norm Rapmund -- which I think is supposed to explore the darkness and futility of the anti-life world, or possibly the Final Crisis release schedule.