As always, my plans have overcome me.

*I was hoping to get a second substantive post up in the past few days, but I kind of got caught up in researching the topic, and -- as usually happens with my comics 'research' -- I wound up buying a bunch of stuff online and revising and rethinking and etc. Still should be up and about in the next few days, though. Keep me in your dreams.


Supermen! The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941

Good book, though.

*Huh, here's some decent upcoming release news - DC has apparently amended their Final Crisis collection plans, so that the proper Final Crisis hardcover will now contain the Grant Morrison-written Superman Beyond 3-D and Submit tie-ins, thus more-or-less copping to their integral role in the basic functioning of the narrative. Well, I guess they could have lost Submit, although it'd look kinda silly having only one Morrison tie-in left out. This isn't anything really new for Morrison, by the way - his 1998 DC One Million crossover used its JLA tie-in book as a de facto fifth issue of the main series, which was included in the eventual trade, along with other necessary items.

Note however that the Batman tie-in issues are not included, as they've already been scooped up by the Batman: R.I.P. hardcover, which I notice has a rather fancy display positioning in various Borders bookstores (or at least had one a few weeks ago); I had my problems with the stuff, plenty of 'em, but it does give me a smile to see such an odd fucking comic getting the sweetest mainstream push among recent genre pieces...



Kabuki Vol. 7: The Alchemy: In all candor, I haven't been a steady admirer of David Mack's signature series (ongoing off and on since 1994); the early material struck me as a lot of firm intent unsupported by execution, a mass of cultural-emotional-mythical notions hovering precariously on its toes just above a Bad Girl-worthy female assassin premise. It soon became apparent, though, that Mack planned to use the concept come hell or high water to accommodate virtually every formal/thematic notion that occurred to him, culminating in the dizzying series of allusive word-picture associations that was vol. 5 (Metamorphosis), the series' prior all-Mack storyline, and a glittering contraption of intuitive artifice comparable in the abstract to the Alan Moore catalog, except composed in script and page by the same hands.

This new Icon hardcover -- collecting the newest miniseries, 2004-07, 320 color pages for $29.95 -- sees things growing yet more self-referential and digression-prone as Kabuki hides out, hooks up (in the meeting of minds sense) with Mack's own stand-in character from Powers and takes a job as a singing costumed character at a theme park, all for the eventual sake of unlocking the secrets of creativity, forging a vivid aesthetic life and bringing about the creation of her own story, literally the series' own prior storylines, as stories, inside the story itself, thereby counteracting the villainous elements of the story prime. It's sort of Promethea running over a longbox full of Shi back issues on the highway and crossing its lane head-on into What It Is and the resulting embers forming something guiltlessly eye-catching, albeit miraculously lecture-prone; if it sounds like it's gonna annoy the hell out of you, it probably will, but how many other Marvel-published series this decade sported a climactic Charlie Rose interview? Click around here for all the info and samples you can hope for.

Sam's Strip: The Comic About Comics: Your Golden Age of Reprints treat 'o the week, a 208-page all-in-one Fantagraphics collection of Mort Walker's & Jerry Dumas' 1961-63 daily newspaper strip about characters fully aware of the rigors of putting a daily newspaper strip together, from the inside. With special guests from all across funnies history, all manner of jokes-on-the-form, and a general tone of happy self-reference that proved a teensy bit much for papers in the early '60s, hence this tome's all-in-one status. With all the trimmings. Big PDF preview here; details and slideshow here.

Little Nothings Vol. 2: The Prisoner Syndrome: The second NBM English-language collection of Lewis Trondheim's autobiographical webcomic, covering trips, honors, mild catastrophes and grave observations in ink and watercolor. Breezy and quick-witted like an optimal weekly newspaper strip. Big preview here (go to the bottom and scroll up); 128 pages for $14.95. While we're on topic, don't miss the official A.L.I.E.E.N. game either; never has the injury to the eye motif translated so smoothly.

Barefoot Gen Vol. 7 (of 10): Bones Into Dust & Barefoot Gen Vol. 8 (of 10): Merchants of Death: The latest in Last Gasp's slow but steady English-language editions of Keiji Nakazawa's Hiroshima-and-afterwards saga. Vol. 7 sees Gen eager to get an eyewitness account published, only to encounter censorship under the US occupation. Vol. 8 sees said occupation winding down as the Korean War dawns, leaving many an opportunity for cashing in on the demand for weapons; can Gen's pacifism hold up in a nation aching for economic recovery? Each are $14.95 for 260 (or so) pages, and probably worth your time.

Erotic Comics Vol. 2 (of 2): A Graphic History from the Liberated '70s to the Internet: Being the second half of editor Tim Pilcher's illustration-lavished hardcover survey of dirty dirty smut throughout sequential history, compiled with aid from Gene Kannenberg, Jr. Expect a breezy, 192-page tour of American, European and Japanese developments of every inclination. With visuals by Dave Stevens, Frank Thorne, Tom of Finland, Milo Manara and others - hey, did you know Manara recently finished off the third (and supposedly final) volume of Borgia, his popesploitation filth history with Alejandro Jodorowsky? I think Heavy Metal is due to translate it this summer. Foreword by Alan Moore; from Abrams Comic Arts, $29.95.

Brush With Passion: The Art & Life of Dave Stevens: On the other hand, if you want to stick with one artist only, there's always this 288-page, $39.95 retrospective art book devoted to the late pin-up enthusiast, storyboard artist (Raiders of the Lost Ark! Thriller!) and creator of The Rocketeer. Edited by Arnie & Cathy Fenner, with an Introduction by Jim Steranko and comments by Michael Wm. Kaluta, William Stout and others. I was recently flipping through Dark Horse's old Eurocomics-and-others series Cheval Noir when I came across a letter (in one of its ultra-rare letters pages) excoriating Stevens' issue #1 cover art as exploitative of women; I do believe the missive featured the first reference to EZ Rider ever made in an anthology collecting the works of Jacques Tardi, but then again I don't have every issue of RAW. Also: it all went down under Stevens' second cover. From Underwood Books.

Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei! Vol. 1: This might be something - an ongoing shōnen manga satire about a suicidal schoolteacher who imparts on his charges only the most cynical, bleak lessons about Japanese culture, language, history, politics, everything. Begun in 2005, currently up to vol. 16 in Japan; winner of the 2007 Kodansha Manga Award, shōnen category, which basically means that the publisher thought it was the best series of its type being published by them in that particular year. From mangaka Kōji Kumeta, who also does gag comics. Del Rey is the publisher; $10.99 for 192 pages.

No Hero #4 (of 7): Superheroes bleed potential for you.

The Boys #28: They bleed and bleed some more.

Sub-Mariner: The Depths #5 (of 5): Peter Milligan.

Agents of Atlas #2: Jeff.

X-Men: First Class Finals #2 (of 4): Parker.

The Age of the Sentry #6 (of 6): JEFF PARKER. NICK DRAGOTA.

I Am Legion #2 (of 6): John Cassaday, via Europe and devilry in WWII. This issue should bring us up to the point where the DC/Humanoids deal left off back in the day.

Jersey Gods #2: This looks pretty. Glen Brunswick, Dan McDaid, Image, $3.50.

Madman Atomic Comics #14: Starting up a new vision for the series, in which every issue shall strive to tell a self-contained story for the foreseeable future. This one's got two of 'em, actually, with the non-Allred half handled by no less than Darwyn Cooke & J. Bone.

Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #4 (of 8): Mignola 'n Fegredo, with Davis on the back-up. As usual, Hellboy is visual spectacle first and foremost, but there are moments where Mignola's incessant evocation of world myth & fable mixes into something resonant - I did like the Origin of Gruagach the Wee Warthog bit an issue or so ago, for instance. I also like that writer Mignola is starting to play around with the sheer span of time he's been working with, reintroducing a young supporting character as an adult and such. Hopefully this issue will satisfy, since the miniseries is now going on hiatus until it's all finished and ready for monthly release; also as usual, the larger Mignolaverse will no doubt plow forward on its own.