My god we are drowning in content.

*New review posted at Bookforum: Kim Dong Hwa's The Color of Earth, the first part of a unique manhwa trilogy from First Second. I think this one sort of got lost in the rush of new releases -- part 2, The Color of Water, is already out -- but it's well worth your attention as a type of poetic narrative in comics form.


Jean-Luc Godard: Just What a Comics and Movies Column Needs

*New column is up. This one covers both the adaptations of Richard Stark's Parker to arrive last week: Darwyn Cooke's The Hunter -- the first one deemed fit to bear the Parker name -- and Criterion's new-to-dvd release of Jean-Luc Godard's 1966 feature Made in U.S.A., which is something else entirely. Yet, in a way they're connected! Hope you like it.



Two in a row!

*I blame Twitter for this. And not just because I spend all my free time checking if anyone RTd my hilarious Fist of the North Star/Wolverine anime comparison (seriously, those claws are just straight-up South Dipper Waterbird Fist from out between the knuckles); no, I've been using Twitter as a clearinghouse for all the random links I might otherwise use to scratch out a post.

*For example: Abhay Khosla's new comic. Full color, first in a series!

*Lost in the Comic-Con shuffle: CMX has licensed a new Usamaru Furuya (Short Cuts, Palepoli) series for a September 2010 debut - 51 Ways to Save Her, a five-volume natural disaster survival horror project serialized 2006-07. It's all but guaranteed this'll be a more subdued Furuya outing than we've previously seen in English, but I'm sure we'll have some surprises in store; this is the guy who drew the entire 165-page Suicide Club tie-in manga entirely on his own in the space of a month, and formatted a horror story in his 2000 collection Garden to pace itself according to uncut pages, thus forcing the reader to literally take a knife to their book in order to see the nasty bits.

*Shit: I even mentioned that my usual column won't be up until tomorrow. I could get a whole post out of that. How times have changed.


Citizen Rex #1 (of 6): Being the new Dark Horse project from artist Gilbert Hernandez, this time with brother Mario Hernandez aboard as co-writer. No movies within Fantagraphics series here - this one's a far-off funnybook future frolic, wherein a gossip blogger falls in with the world's most lifelike (and notorious) robot, CTZ-RX, to his fine gain and unlimited peril. Utter pulp; $3.50. The Troublemakers, meanwhile, will be out when it's out for the time being.

Detective Comics #855: Nice week for pamphlets - here's part 2 of 12 from Greg Rucka, J.H. Williams III, Dave Stewart and Todd Klein, although Douglas Wolk notes the presence of Jock as artist beginning with issue #861; part 8 is being pushed back to issue #865, apparently with a natural break point built into the story. Don't say you weren't warned! Preview.

Madame Xanadu #13: Wow, and Matt Wagner & Michael Wm. Kaluta! I like this storyline (it's part 3 of 5); it's using a '70s horror comic premise to take the form of an early 20th century supernatural detective story, set in beloved '40s period dress. Seriously, this is as self-consciously old-timey as any Seth comic, with Kaluta offering some scratchy, illustration-styled panels that sort of remind me of Gary Gianni in a way. Good fun, if it's your thing.

MOME Vol. 15 (Summer 2009): Another 112 pages for Fantagraphics' house anthology, including -- yes, it had to happen! -- the grand finale of Tim Hensley's Wally Gropius. Also: a 20-page preview chapter of T. Edward Bak's upcoming book WILD MAN - The Strange Journey - and Fantastic Accounts - of the Naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller, From Bavaria to Bolshaya Zemlya and (Beyond), and the wrap-up of Gilbert Shelton's current serial. And as a special bonus, every copy will come with a special bound-in minicomic by the Spanish cartoonist Max. So much more, and all for $14.99. Varied samples here.

Hayao Miyazaki - Starting Point Vol. 1 (of 2): 1979-1996: I can't imagine this not being interesting - a 500-page, $29.95 VIZ release collecting essays, interviews, comics, sketches and reflections by (or with) the revered animator and mangaka, whose Ponyo is creeping up on an August 14th US theatrical release. I recall fondly the afternoon I spent sitting in the only theater for 100 miles playing Spirited Away; there were five other people in the room, three of them kids, one of which had to leave because the gunk monster was too scary. "Stupid babies," I whispered to the empty seats.

Al Williamson's Flash Gordon: A Lifelong Vision of the Heroic: Hmm, it also might be 'odd reprint week.' Here's a $29.95 softcover (or a $44.95 hardback) from Flesk Publications, devoting 256 pages to the former EC artist's various encounters with the Alex Raymond creation. Featuring his trio of 1966-67 issues of the King Comics Flash Gordon pamphlet, the 1980 movie adaptation and Marvel's two-issue revival from 1995. That lattermost work was written by Mark Schultz, who also provides this book's text (also this week from Flesk: Mark Schultz: Various Drawings Vol. 4, which is just what you suspect). With many rare and unseen drawings, and an introduction by Sergio Aragonés.

The Complete Peanuts Vol. 12: 1973-1974: Perhaps one day we will measure the Golden Age of Reprints by the lifespan of this mighty Fantagraphics project. What historical focusing event might the introduction by Billie Jean King represent? We leave it to posterity's academics. I laughed at the first strip in here.

The Complete Chester Gould's Dick Tracy Vol. 8: 1942-1944: Man, fucking Dick Tracy up to book eight! This one's IDW, $39.99 for 264 pages, some of which I'm told will feature Pruneface.

Skin Deep: Just a new $16.99 softcover edition of Fantagraphics' odds 'n ends collection of Charles Burns stories, including the exploits of Dog Boy. It's 9" x 12", b&w and 96 pages, with a few new drawings.

Rose: Hey, Scholastic may have finished off their colorization of the Bone series proper, but that doesn't mean the (lucrative) fun has to end! You see, a decade or so ago Jeff Smith got the idea to do a pair of prequel projects, one set in the 'funny' corner of the series' world, which he'd draw but not write, and one emphasizing the 'fantasy' aspects, which he'd write but not draw. The former was Stupid, Stupid Rat Tails, a 1999-2000 miniseries with Tom Sniegoski that'll soon be getting the color treatment with a bunch of added stuff, under the title Bone: Tall Tales. The latter was Rose, a 2000-01 miniseries with painted color art by Charles Vess, focusing on the youth of Gran'ma Ben; it's easily the most downbeat thing Smith has ever written (and I'm counting RASL), a heroic adventure in which the heroine makes almost all the wrong choices, leaving her bloody 'victory' utterly devoid of pleasure. This is a new edition, $10.99 in softcover and $21.99 in hardcover. Refresh yourself.

Children of the Sea Vol. 1: Kicking off VIZ's SigIKKI substrata of Signature works with a high-atmosphere youth adventure by Daisuke Igarashi, $14.99 for 320 b&w and color pages. Review here.

Parasyte Vol. 8 (of 8): Wrapping up Hitoshi Iwaaki's alien transformation opus with a 288-page finale, $12.99 as always.

BioGraphical Novel: Mother Theresa: This appears to be a Hisako Matono manga about Mother Theresa. I feel the need to point it out. From Emotional Content; $15.95. Video preview!

Lobster Johnson: The Satan Factory: I tend to be pretty comprehensive with my Hellboy universe releases, but I do typically draw the line at the prose releases, and that's just what this is - a 256-page Lobster Johnson paperback novel, by prose and comics veteran Thomas E. Sniegoski (yep, same guy from above). Maybe its snazzy title will catch your eye on the shelf anyway? Hey, few pictures means big preview; it's $12.95.

The Surrogates Vol. 2: Flesh and Bone: Actually more of a prequel, by my estimate, just in time for the big movie adaptation of Robert Venditti's & Brett Weldele's 2005-06 tale of body-hopping investigation. A 144-page color original, $14.95. Preview here; video here.

Garth Ennis' Battlefields: The Tankies #3 (of 3): I think this is the last of Ennis' war stories for now; Carlos Ezquerra does the honors on art. Preview.

glamourpuss #8: Dave Sim, Stan Drake. Curious readers can check out the first three issues' worth of the non-parody content here.

Ignition City #4 (of 5): Murder on the ground of space heroes, Warren Ellis & Gianluca Pagliarani. Goes well with the Al Williamson book up above. Yes.

Rawbone #3 (of 4): Ha ha, this really is a good week. Carve off a tasty scrape of pirate ship ooze, care of Jamie Delano. I think Ryan Waterhouse might be taking over the pencils entirely from Max Fiumara this issue.

Wednesday Comics #4 (of 12): I liked the dog in the goggles in the last one.



That wasn't a retirement post last Tuesday.

*Just lingering evidence of free time left less liquid than fumes. Let's get to work, 'cause there's a lot of stuff coming -


Delphine #4 (of 4): Yeah, new Ignatz books! It's been a while since these oversized, $7.95, 32-page Fantagraphics/Coconino Press pamphlets have made it out; this one's the big wrap-up for Richard Sala's thriller, just in time for his new upcoming project for First Second: September's Cat Burglar Black. And since Ignatz books travel in packs, keep an eye out for Sergio Ponchione's Grotesque #3.

You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation!: Big ol' Fantagraphics release #1 - the second, concluding installment of editor Paul Karasik's complete comic book works of Fletcher Hanks in softcover form, this time with a text-format introduction and samples from the man's growth and education, though the guts tell their own story, of the volcanic birth of the superhero cooling into some rocky form. It's $24.99 for 224 pages; sample stories here.

Willie & Joe: The WWII Years: Big ol' Fantagraphics release #2 - the same super-deluxe, 600-page two-volume hardcover slipcased edition of Bill Mauldin's revered wartime soldier cartoons, now marked down to a startling $45.00. That's twenty bucks off an already rather low price, considering the extent of this collection; think about it.

Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter: This came out last week in certain places; I liked Kevin Melrose's use of "limited distribution," which brings to my mind a movie's limited release before going wide. I think we might have gotten the same effect - nice reviews (see: Tucker Stone), a little mainstream media chit-chat; whets the appetite for this chill-hued, 144-page Donald Westlake by way of Darwyn Cooke project from IDW. Likely the top shelf crime comic of the year, a hardcover original priced at $24.99; extensive preview here.

Flight Vol. 6: That's right, everything is coming out this week. Still fat (288 pages), still colorful, still the highlight of the season for many readers; editor Kazu Kibuishi returns for another candy banquet. From Villard; $25.00.

From Wonderland With Love: Danish Comics in the Third Millennium: Very nice - this is one of the books I'd meant to get at MoCCA this year (before running out of cash), a 176-page Fantagraphics/Aben Maler sampler of recent cartooning from Denmark, edited by Steffen P. Maarup. It's $29.99, and quite a lovely production; many samples here, contributors here, and yet more here.

Larry Marder's Beanworld Vol. 2: A Gift Comes!: Oh wow, maybe this wasn't the best week for a lil' Dark Horse hardcover to show up and get lost, so keep your eyes peeled - 320 b&w pages of the alt-comics favorite, collecting all remaining material up to the present (save for the most recent color stuff). Only $19.95; preview. The all-new, 186-page vol. 3 is due in November, in the same format.

Leonard Starr's Mary Perkins on Stage Vol. 6: Comprehensive. More soapy floorboards, March 10, 1963 to October 11, 1964. Introduction by Batton Lash. Landscape-format softcover, $24.95.

Forever Nuts: George McManus' Bringing Up Father: Selective. I've liked the prior two volumes in this series of NBM hardcovers (covering Mutt and Jeff and Happy Hooligan), so here's a probably-worthwhile 11" x 8 1/2" survey of the first two years of McManus' Irish sweepstakes, which ran from 1913 to 2000. Join Maggie & Jiggs as they overstep their low breeding to mirthful results. 'Tis $24.95; samples, notes.

The Impostor's Daughter: A True Memoir: I had no idea this was coming out until this very moment; it's an original hardcover release from Little, Brown & Co., a comics memoir by Glamour contributing editor and lifelong (unpublished?) cartoonist Laurie Sandell, concerning her search for the truth about her yarn-spinning father and his obscure dealings. Based on a story for Esquire. It's $24.99 for 256 color pages. Seriously: these days, 200+ page color hardcover comics come out of nowhere.

Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation: Ha ha ha, oh my god what the fuck? I'm still more than a dozen books from the bottom here! So, this is a comics adaptation of the Ray Bradbury classic -- with a Foreword by Bradbury himself -- fashioned by Tim Hamilton of ACT-I-VATE (and The Trouble With Girls). A Hill and Wang hardcover, $30.00 for 160 color pages; note that a $16.95 softcover will be available too at some point.

Pluto Vol. 4 (of 8): More Urasawa-on-Tezuka; hard to believe it's half over. VIZ, as usual, $12.99 for 200 pages.

Oishinbo Vol. 4: Fish, Sushi and Sashimi: Ha ha, Derik Badman - you'll never be caught up! I also love this goofy, ultra-formulaic, arch-mainstream food manga, so here's another 276 pages on the topic of things that swim, which probably won't include any of the legendary pro-whaling episodes, though I can dream! It's $12.99, from VIZ.

Berserk Vol. 30: Swords... Kentaro Miura style!! Up to vol. 33 in Japan; $13.95 for now from Dark Horse.

Blade of the Immortal Vol. 21: Demon Lair II: Swords... Hiroaki Samura style!! Up to vol. 24 in Japan, although I don't think the editions directly correspond; $19.95 for now from Dark Horse.

Vagabond VIZBIG Vol. 4: Swords... Takehiko Inoue style!! You'll have to take my word for it!! Up to, er, vol. 30 in Japan, but since these VIZBIG horse chokers collect three volumes per book, I guess it's really vol. 10; $19.99 for now from VIZ, who also have Inoue's Real vol. 5 this week, for the basketball fans.

Creepy Archives Vol. 4: Gosh, you know what? I'm not doing separate listings for all the Dark Horse reprints out this week. So, buy this ($49.95) if you'd like 240 b&w pages of Gil Kane, Neal Adams, Steve Ditko, Johnny Craig, Jeff Jones (in his comics debut), Reed Crandall, Joe Orlando and more (and the final early stories written and edited by Archie Goodwin); buy Nexus Archives Vol. 9 ($49.95) if you want 216 color pages of Mike Baron & Steve Rude (and others, like Paul Smith and a 22-year old Adam Hughes); buy Usagi Yojimbo Vol. 23: Bridge of Tears ($17.95) if you want issues #94-102 of Stan Sakai's saga (including the special issue #100, with guests Frank Miller, Jeff Smith, Matt Wagner, Sergio Aragonés and others); and buy MySpace Dark Horse Presents Vol. 3 ($19.95) if you want various 'n sundry (Mike Mignola, Chris Onstad, Becky Cloonan) internet stuff that's no longer hosted on MySpace.

Spawn: Origins Vol. 2: Hm, this series appears to be just another means of packaging the early issues of that high '90s sensation in handy $14.99 trade form, albeit with some production art and commentary and such, but do note that here begins the 'guest writer' era of the title, with contributions by Alan Moore and Frank Miller striking and spreading the Todd McFarlane landscape. Six chapters included, excluding the Neil Gaiman issue, for obvious reasons, and the Dave Sim issue, due to being the Dave Sim issue. I always liked how the Dave Sim issue started out as a creator ownership metaphor cum statement of purpose, then took it all so far it wound up essentially ending the series; yet the series continued! Such were the Glorious Mysteries of the Image Revolution.

Elephantmen: Damaged Goods: Not quite the third Elephantmen trade proper, I don't think; this one skips ahead a few chapters to compile the recent three-issue run by artist Marian Churchland (#18-20), with a new bonus story also written by Churchland included, along with an Afterword by King City artist Brandon Graham. These stories focus on the major female characters of creator/writer/letterer Richard Starkings' walking-talking-beasts-among-us world, via the series' usual vignette-driven manner of framing characters as contending with social and political forces nobody in particular can control. From Image, $12.99 for 128 color pages.

Groom Lake #4 (of 4): This one completely passed me by, but yeah - IDW miniseries from Ben Templesmith, with writer/publisher/EiC Chris Ryall. This one's about aliens, and it ends here for your $3.99.

Phonogram 2: The Singles Club #4 (of 7): More from that one night in that one place, this time starring a bunch of self-absorbed snobs. Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie; backups drawn by David Lafuente (of Marvel's recent Patsy Walker: Hellcat) and Charity Larrison.

The Spirit #31: In which Mike Ploog assumes the role of writer/artist for the final two issues of this current incarnation of the Will Eisner creation.

Captain Britain and MI13 #15: Speaking of final issues, here's one now.

Hellblazer #257: Milligan; middle bit of a love story.

Herogasm #3 (of 6): Ennis, McCrea; filth.

Youngblood #9: Written and drawn by creator Rob Liefeld. No, some of you were wondering. It's alright, I'd want to know too.

Wednesday Comics #3 (of 12): I hope Wonder Woman wakes up at the end of every one.




*That doesn't sound right, but god help me it is.

I was 22 years old when I started this site. You could actually count the comics internet back then, as in 'rattle off the sites.' I had my bookmarks list filled with favorites. Sometimes I left comments on Comicon and the Comics Journal board. The name 'Jog' was older than that. I'd been reading comics seriously again for just over two years. I was between school terms, and I'd just written a long, rambling post at TCJ on Dan Clowes' use of color in Eightball #23. Alan David Doane was asking for essays on that issue, so I expanded the post and sent it to him. Eventually I'd write stuff for him, and for Dirk Deppey, the guy who moderated the Journal's board.

But right then, at that time, I posted that thing on my own, new site. After a quick post on which new comics I'd gotten that week, of course, a feature that quickly mutated into a weekly deal on which new comics looked good coming up. Some things never change. That first post also contained reviews of a new Grant Morrison comic, DC Comics Presents: Mystery in Space #1, and a new Garth Ennis comic, The Punisher MAX #9. Ditto. "Guilty pleasure city," I wrote of the latter. I'd get better.

After that came the first proper review; it's sloppy, nearly aimless, and the third paragraph is 572 words long. The title, fittingly was "Endless Rambling - OUR PURPOSE STANDS REVEALED!" My craft has improved, but I think the ideal remains, eh?

Given history's benefit, I can now see I arrived near the end of a wave of internet writers on comics, emphasis on the internet - folks awash in the simplicity and accessibility of online publication, and bound to stand alone within a loose community. And the ideal was publication, at my end; I never saw the internet as a diary, or an 'answer' to print, or a revolution in short-format communication. The virtue for me was anyone could use it, for their purposes, and that the created work could exist before millions, not as an audience but as a potential, hanging within reach of the omnivorous and the curious, beyond print's binding and the smothered access of economics and physical distribution.

There were limits, sure -- internet access, searchability, etc. -- but they seemed small to me then, and it seemed enough to make things that would exist and hover, a blink from corporeality in a billion places.

I used to update every day, but I don't anymore. Can you believe they make you work for money after you graduate?! And moreover, the comics internet is different; how much is '5' in online years? Today I write for two sites besides this one; the first is a large group blog, and the second is a 'formal' website to which I file a proper column on a fixed schedule. Both of those kinds of sites existed on the comics internet five years ago, I know, but now they're far more dominant. Voices kept coming and coming; the community grew from a small town where everyone sort of knew one another to a modest city wherein citizens of like-minded dispositions hang around together and hit their favorite spots. Some people can give you a rough map, but few have memorized the phone book. Consolidation was inevitable, I guess.

The writing got a lot better, though. Maybe half a decade's build just does that, but I think there was some drive, some extra push in the conversation to go a little higher, to meet good works with better commentary as the world seemed to expand, the bookstores and the manga, and the press and the movies. A while ago Dick Hyacinth asked for the Best Of recent years, and I told him 2005 was a deathmatch between Epileptic and Black Hole for most acclaimed among the outlets I'd known, and then Tom Spurgeon told me it was a futile comparison because the state of coverage just three years later was so considerably different. He was right.

At least I know I got better. First it was writing and publishing every day that helped me, then writing every day and publishing when I was ready. It's hard to take the internet too seriously, I know, but I also know I did a lot of writing in school and I do more writing at work, and when I get home I write too, and it refines my impressions so that it blooms into my voice, aloud, and all of that is of my person. So funny as it sounds, I think this site made me a better person. I know it.

And thank you for reading; I couldn't have burned off this youth with anyone better.


New Tezuka Week: A Good Week Indeed

*What came before -


Herbie Archives Vol. 1 (of 3) (from the pages of The Comics Journal, a review of Fat Fury Deluxe)

Wednesday Comics #1 (of 12) (oversized superpower, weekly)


If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? (the 1971 Ron Ormond anti-Communism Christian horror picture, as taken with the comics work of Jack T. Chick)

At comiXology!

*One man's always bound to be on top, when he's around -


Swallowing the Earth
: Ah, new Osamu Tezuka! Never the wrong time. This particular joint hails from 1970, marking one of Tezuka's first attempts at a gekiga-informed 'adult' style - a cruel seductress connives to throw society into chaos as penance for its exploitation of women, and only a stone-dumb alcoholic sailor can stop her! No doubt worthwhile to watch the God of Manga grapple with sex and sexism; the former looks great, and the latter should hopefully tease out an aspect of Tezuka (a girls' comics innovator, remember!) we haven't really seen in his English releases, which betray little idea of what to do with female characters at all. From DMP; $24.95 for 520 pages, with an introduction by Frederik L. Schodt. Big preview here.

All Select Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1: Yet another of Marvel's commemorative $3.99 pamphlets, matching new stuff with old. But this one deserves special dispensation for the presence of an all-new Michael Kupperman short, starring Marvex the Super-Robot. Worth a flip at the very least; All Kupperman interview and preview here.

IDW: The First Decade: Ha ha ha, holy shit! It's a $75.00, two-volume slipcased hardcover package published by IDW... about IDW! Looks pretty comprehensive too, with testimony and chats by/with/between various founders/editors/artists in vol. 1 and every cover to every book ever published by IDW through 2008 in vol. 2. Also: a delightful bonus comic book with contributions from Ashley Wood (new Popbot!), Ben Templesmith and others. But y'know - this'll be some well-designed self-indulgence.

Captain Britain by Alan Moore & Alan Davis Omnibus: The title's probably a little misleading on this one, a $99.99, 688-page hardcover that actually collects all of Marvel UK's 1981-85 Captain Britain revival stuff, from the pages of Marvel Superheroes, The Daredevils, The Mighty World of Marvel and Captain Britain, including pre-Moore writing by Dave Thorpe and a big stack of latter-day scripts from Jamie Delano, in some of his earliest comics work.

Still, there's no doubt the feature presentation is the Moore-powered Jaspers' Warp storyline, the Magus' first extended superhero narrative to reach completion; it still reads pretty fine today, its unstoppable kill-creature and early bare-handed ultraviolence leavened with a lighter tone than what would soon come after (if anything, all that dimension-hopping and alternate selves recall Moore's ABC work). Plus: a 1985 Michael Carlin & Paul Neary piece from Captain America #305-306 and a pair of 1986-87 Chris Claremont & Alan Davis stories from New Mutants Annual #2 (1st appearance of Psylocke OMG) and Uncanny X-Men Annual #11.

Lost Girls: And in other expensive Alan Moore reprint news... well, actually this new edition of the much-discussed 2006 Melinda Gebbie-illustrated literary smut fable is a good deal less expensive than prior versions (it's $45.00), if decidedly less lavish to match (one-volume, 320 pages, hardcover w' dust jacket). Still, if you've been holding off, Top Shelf's got your number. Peek.

Dan Dare Omnibus: Being the return of the always-most-likely survivor of Virgin Comics, a 2007-08 Garth Ennis/Gary Erskine revival of the seminal British space hero, now collected into a $19.99 softcover from Ennis specialists Dynamite. This wound up being a pretty unique project for Ennis, marshalling the elemental military sci-fi of the franchise into an old-fashioned saga of virtuous warfare, battlefield gallantry and mighty shipbound clashes, albeit on the sea of stars; it's by far the least critical, most irony-free war story the writer has ever told, perhaps owing to the distance provided by green space villains of weighty vintage. Good reading for those interested in some straight-arrow Ennis. Samples here.

Preacher HC Book 1: On the other hand, if you prefer your Ennis 'classic' rather than 'classicist,' well... you probably already own this in some form. But the tender and curious have never had a better chance to test the hype and hop onto this 1995-2000 Vertigo bookshelf mainstay, illustrated primarily by Steve Dillon, concerning God and America and Men and everything else primal to the writer. Your $34.99 gets you 352 pages of stuff, covering the first dozen issues of the series and a suite of bonus images from later on. Tiny little sample here.

Spider-Man: Torment: Oh shit, this is that one Todd McFarlane story they launched a whole series for. Like, I think Spider-Man spends 40 pages or something rolling on the ground listening to drums, and the Lizard's in it? And it sold 2.5 million copies of issue #1? Relive the magic of 1990 in this $19.99 hardcover.

Creepy Comics #1: Sure, Dark Horse brought Creepy back! Why not? Now it's 48 pages and $4.99, still b&w, on a quarterly schedule, with one classic reprint per issue to set off the new work. Angelo Torres and Bernie Wrightson participate. Eerie's coming soon too! Preview.

Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #1 (of 3): Ha, that's a little comedy there in the title. DC is also launching the main Blackest Night series this week -- in which Geof Johns, Ivan Reis & Oclair Albert relate the rising of the DCU dead in some Green Lantern-related form or another -- but I feel compelled to note the presence of artist Chris Sprouse somewhere in this $3.99 companion anthology miniseries, along with Doug Mahnke, Jerry Ordway and many others. Preview. Admirers of the always-welcome Sprouse will also want TwoMorrows' Modern Masters Vol. 21: Chris Sprouse, a $14.95 softcover devoting 128 pages to discussion with the man and appreciation of his work.

Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?: Wait, hold off on that 'goodnight, stack of dollars' joke you're planning; this may be a $24.99 hardcover titled for a 60-page hooray-for-Batman-comics Batman comic, one which, at its crescendo, achieves levels of preciousness heretofore unseen outside of laboratory conditions, but be aware that there's other Neil Gaiman-written Bat-stuff tucked away too, like that one Riddler story he did with Bernie Mirault, Matt Wagner and colorist Joe Matt(!!) in 1989's Secret Origins Special #1 (an early lament for the Silver Age within the post-Dark Knight Batman world). Also: further '89 work with Mark Buckingham from Secret Origins #36 and a Simon Bisley teaming from Batman Black and White #2 (1996). Gaiman also did some framing stuff with Mike Hoffman & Kevin Nowlan in that Origins Special, but I dunno if that'll be in here.

RASL #5: Jeff Smith; more.

Incognito #5 (of 6): Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips & Val Staples continue the flight of a (domino-)masked man between vile villains and possibly-worse crime-stompin' pulp avengers. This is probably where the plot starts to go crazy.

Young Liars #17 (of 18): Not that it was planned to be 18 issues, but a countdown never hurts.

Wednesday Comics #2 (of 12): Gonna be nice to pick this up, charm to burn and lots of good feelings in the air, but let's face it - if we're up to week 7 and it's obvious that three-quarters of the content is DC Annual back-up fodder drawn in blown-up traditional styles, the bloom's coming off the rose really damn quick. But I have faith.


Well, I got up to seven in my daily posts.

*Surely a week isn't that bad? For a failure.

*Oh! But something is ready now, yes - new column at comiXology. This one deals with one of my oldes and most beloved obsessions, the comics of Jack T. Chick, as paired up with the 1971 Ron Ormond picture If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? It's not hard to find, and it really, truly is a Chick tract in movie form. Compulsively devourable too. I'm told the music outfit Negativland sampled bits of the audio for their Christianity Is Stupid track, and yes, I titled the piece after words of wisdom from renowned theologian Regina Spektor, whose applicable song I've already heard several hundreds of times too many.

I don't get into this in the essay, but Ormond and writer/star Estus W. Pirkle made a second film in 1974, The Burning Hell, which doubles up on familiar Chick motifs: the 'rough' guy being saved in the face of polite society and the tolerant true believer disarming a pair of new age types -- who complain about the fear tactics of fire 'n brimstone evangelicism! -- with the True Facts About Damnation, after which one of them is not saved and dives straight into the Lake of Fire. Ormond, mind you, is 'nicer' than Chick, in that the mean new ager gets killed and nice one lives, although he also tosses in a decapitated head and devotes an inordinate amount of screen time to people lolling around in Perdition, rocking back and forth and begging and screaming.

However, in the end it's just not the assault on the senses that Footmen is, though; a Bible story bit in the middle kinda slows things down in particular, much in the way that Chick's straighter Gospel adaptation stuff gets draggy. Still totally worth watching, of course. The third and final Ormond/Pirkle spectacular, 1977's The Believer's Heaven, is excerpted in one of my YouTube links. Sorry if Blood Feast grossed you out, but hey - the guy warned you.



The new endeavor.


The links and the bullets.

*God, when was the last time I did a post like this?

*Addendum Dept: I should have got this on my own, I really should have, but... well, here's the good Dr. Geoff Klock on the not-very-secret basis of Kyle Baker's "we flap" narration in yesterday's Wednesday Comics #1. Yep:

On the plus side, I'm now all the more convinced Baker is going somewhere less-than-straightforward with his serial, even if it might be toward basically the same joke as Special Forces. Or the whole thing might vanish next issue. More readers to enjoy it in a DC issue #1 anyway! Hawkman!

Geoff's whole post is worth reading, btw; it's one of the only middling-to-negative reviews of the comic I've seen set down in a formal manner, though I think it eloquently captures a lot of qualms I've seen scattered around on message boards and the like. I'm probably more inclined toward leeway, given that it's only issue #1 right now, but Geoff does leave the possibility of rapid evolution open too. Plus: thoughts on the gentle breeze of dissatisfaction drifting through Batman and Robin thus far. Go on.

*Hmm, you should probably just presume none of my links are safe for work from here downward.

*Home Video Dept: I've seen this in a few places, not the least of which was before the internet presence of Chris Mautner, but in case you haven't heard: Kino is publishing a R1 dvd compilation of Osamu Tezuka's short animations, The Astonishing Work of Tezuka Osamu, for a July 28 release. It's 13 works, 1962-88, some of which weren't actually directed by Tezuka -- Tales of the Street Corner, for example, was helmed by Eiichi Yamamoto, soon-to-be Star Blazers writer and Tezuka's co-director on Cleopatra: Queen of Sex -- but nonetheless remained redolent with the man's vision. A bonus 1986 interview with Tezuka will be included.

Granted, you've probably seen most of this stuff online -- iTunes has stocked Tezuka stuff for months now -- but I'm not objecting to a nice, easy home video collection. Legend of the Forest in particular is a grabber, an eco-fable that traces the history of world animation through its shifting visual style (with key animation by Madhouse mainstay Yoshiaki Kawajiri, among others).

Now if only we could get some Mushi Pro features around here...



The superhero comic.

Wednesday Comics #1 (of 12)

Oh, I bet you've heard of this one. It's just about Thursday right now, so I suspect a good 50% of the comics internet has already weighed in, and you might be feeling some fatigue. I'm personally tempted to just pack it in early and declare the thing an unqualified success based entirely on the strength of the Sgt. Rock page, whereupon Joe Kubert draws nine giant panels depicting: (1) Sgt. Rock being punched in the face; (2) Sgt. Rock, having recently been punched in the face; or (3) Nazis leering at Sgt. Rock's face, punched.

It's absolutely wonderful, exactly what I bought this thing hoping to see, and it probably should have been in Kramers Ergot 7 as a standalone piece. The hell with serials.

And I'm sure that's not the last Kramers mention you'll hear in reference to this comic, DC's new weekly series; it's a 16-page color newspaper, folding out to devote most of its space to one-page, 14" x 20" chapters of 15 continuing superhero stories. It's the brainchild of editor Mark Chiarello, the art-inclined mastermind of prior DC anthologies Batman: Black & White and Solo (and, lest we forget, the very first Hellboy colorist); some folks have even been calling it Chiarellos Ergot, given its generous dimensions and the varied, lavish visual approaches of its contributors.

But that line of comparison obscures one of the special pleasures of Wednesday Comics, I think. This comic might be $3.99, but it's disposable. Delicate, even! Maybe I just wasn't paying attention, but I hadn't realized this thing was a newspaper-newspaper: no cover stock, no staples, just a pulpy stack of folded-over comics, like Paper Rodeo. Leave this little number by the wrong window long enough and it's actually gonna toast; shit, my copy looks worse for wear after nothing more than scanning in a few images. I wasn't around or anything when the Diamond box opened this morning at my local retailer, but I imagine speculators burst in early to rush their take to the acid-free snugs like EMT personnel spiriting an inattentive bicyclist down to the emergency room.

That's great, isn't it? Not because I've got a beef with speculators or whatnot -- shoot, eBay to your heart's content, be my guest -- but for being such a very fine extension of one of my favorite aspects of DC's first contemporary stab at a weekly series, 52.

That project had its share of problems, definitely, but it always seemed primarily functional as a pamphlet. Not a chapter of a book (though it told long stories), or a free-floating continuity locus (despite its function as a back story gap-filler), but a weekly comic, best suited to consume quickly, every single week. It was like something charmingly out of time for DC, paced to allow the reader to ponder its storylines for a few days only; even its haphazard visual approach seemed to mark it as fast-eatin' funnybook stuff.

Wednesday Comics takes this same feel and applies it to a look-at-this candied drawing spectacular, printing all those pretty pictures on big flimsy pages.

I was briefly reminded of another famous DC-published pamphlet, Promethea #32, in which that lovely, ad-free story urged you, the reader, to physically destroy it, to literally pull the comic apart and glue it together again to form a new, different, equally readable version of the tale it told. And pamphlets are endangered things, we realize, and they keep getting brighter and prettier, more like design objects, all-considered, super-specialized - to urge the reader to do actual transformative violence to the comic's body is to demand they break free of obeying the form, and I'll be goddamned if it didn't soothe me strange. First time that 'magic' stuff worked for me.

Then the moment passed, and I relized there was a different, more obvious connotation to this thing: it's nostalgic as fuck.

It's titled "Wednesday Comics," and everything is formatted as a Sunday newspaper feature; it's romantic and longing. Don't mistake this for a PictureBox newsprint production; besides the paper quality being a little higher, there's an acute sense of self-awareness at work as to its medium. It's wistful, even a tiny bit melancholic, way down deep - it trades the old pamphlet format for the much older newspaper strip style, as if to relive the glory days of when comics were the strongest thing going, where like rainbow tints in the spray were the hues that splashed and poured from the cylinders of the New York World, like how life with like then, and then now, for now.

I presume this series is supposed to be old-fashioned yet forward-looking; indeed, even trying a format like this in today's market could be taken as an indication that the future remains open. Yet there's undeniably something to the fact that so many of these 15 debut chapters position themselves as throwbacks, ranging from Dave Gibbons' & Ryan Sook's '30s or so adventure strip spin on Kamandi to an excellent, Clowesian saga-of-multiple-strips approach to the Flash by Karl Kerschl, Brenden Fletcher, Rob Leigh and Dave McCaig.

Even as unique a stylist as Paul Pope -- colored by the always-welcome José Villarrubia -- sets his Adam Strange in a decorative Rann of smooth curves and barked educational factoids, leaning back elegantly, but pronouncedly. In here it's organic, mind you; a man in the midst of a theme, aware.

Of course, it could just be that vintage-informed art happens to exploit the format in a more pleasing way. John Arcudi's & Lee Bermejo's bronzed, painterly Superman episode is arguably old-timey in that illustrational Alex Ross way, but it runs through its superhero-on-creature fight scene plainly, with a stiff Man of Steel failing to sell the action en route to an unappealing plot setup in the final panel.

And while the 100 Bullets team of Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso craft a decent enough Batman opening, I can't say it looks much different from your typical page of comics from the pair, except wider on the sides and apparently trusting in the larger format to make things look better on its own. They're right, granted; only Sean Galloway seems to really suffer from the format on a generally clumsy Teen Titans page, cramming characters into indistinct time-lapse layouts and tossing them against blank or toned backgrounds as they fight. Others, like Brian Stelfreeze on a Walter Simonson-written Catwoman/Demon piece, just do their thing, in neat layouts, a little larger than usual.

Some even take the chance to pay tribute to earlier comic book periods, perhaps in the spirit of a generally nostalgic forum. I can't say much for the Metal Men page from writer/executive editor Dan DiDio -- dressing funny superhero characters up in 'wacky' '60s/'70s clothes to go out in the real world is about as cloying as these things can get, regardless of some nicely chunky art by Juan Luis García-López & Kevin Nowlan, with colorist Trish Muluihill -- although anything that moves Neil Gaiman to attempt what may be a full-blown Bob Haney homage (on Metamorpho!) can't be all bad.

That one's got art by the Madman Atomic Comics crew of Mike & Laura Allred and letterer Nate Piekos, which offers its own strange texture; somewhere along the way, and I don't know where, Madman stopped being a story evoking groovy-cool comics style drawn in a highly individualistic manner -- one that owed as much to the alt comic likes Jaime Hernandez as anyone else -- and started taking on the groovy-cool aspect merely by looking like itself. Despite its departures, it came to embody its subject matter in a way that overcame the niceties of plotting, and its that aspect it brings to the table here.

Part of the might of visuals, folks; it's something an art-focused superhero project like this can make use of, powerfully, given the expanded format. I can't help, however, but wish more of these starter pages dove deeper into their use of space, of the production values at hand.

I think it's one of the more divisive pieces, from peering around online, but I found Ben Caldwell's Wonder Woman page to be a little closer to what I could have fallen harder for in a project like this (barring further Sgt. Rock punchout parties, which could a new anthology by itself), a sort of neon-drenched anime smash-up of the dead basic Wonder Woman concept and a Winsor McCay dream strip. It doesn't work perfectly, no -- Caldwell's layout expands and contracts from big panels to clusters of tiny ones, leaving some of the action confusing while stuffing in exposition where it can fit -- but it effectively transforms Wonder Woman into something that seems native to this newspaper, something a little retrospective, if never really like Little Nemo in Slumberland, yet emphatically modern as well.

Don't let me understate the fun of this comic, though. It's a sturdy whole in spite of its faults, and its presentation has charm to burn. I'm really looking forward to seeing it around every week, and watching its stories develop. Even while some of them seem simple, others are harder to place with certainty.

Kyle Baker, for instance, brings this terrific, befuddling Hawkman page, starting off with a huge, distorted close-up of a bald eagle, apparently narrating the story. Hawkmen can communicate with birds, you know, and the bald eagle sings his praises as an improbably diverse flock joins him dangerously in the sky.

"We flap," the bald eagle intones, not for the last time, as Hawkman bursts into action right toward the reader in a massive center image, sword drawn and mace swinging. The narration builds in portent as the legion approaches an airplane, the pilots with guns to their heads. The birds flap onward.

"Our master knows his place in the universe. He is a leader."

And the next issue slot screams BATTLE AGAINST TERROR!

Shit, this sounds pretty wry. And big, loud and muscular! The latter's my first impression, and the former will need space; its tone will be serialized. It's the last thing in this issue, and as good a grace note as any.



The print repost.

Herbie Archives Vol. 1 (of 3)

(first published in The Comics Journal #295, Jan. 2009; the formatting and some wording differs, as do the pictures)

This is another one of those pricey ($49.95) Dark Horse Archives collections, which I haven't really kept up on; shrink wrap does that to the compulsive flipper. I do, however, recall the restoration quality varying a bit from project to project, particularly in terms of color - some of the books employed flat, solid tones obviously meant to approximate vintage colors via digital means but often laid too opaque for my tastes, leaving the line art overwhelmed.

I'm happy to report that this one's different; the digital restoration, credited to Aren Kittilsen, preserves the aspect of inexactness present in all those evident dots from the '50s and '60s, albeit likely made slightly more respectful of line borders, and definitely left whiter (sometimes slightly bleached) from the cleanup. I'm no restoration expert, but it strikes me as a good effort, given the comics involved.

(dots aren't crazy for scanners like mine, though)

After all, the foundational visual appeal of those works is Ogden Whitney's juxtaposition of chilly commercial draftsmanship with jarring instances of disrupted reality; when a dog lifts his paw up to point a human-looking thumb backward -- as typical a cartoon gesture as can be -- it's funny because it's genuinely a freakish thing to see in Whitney's square world. The uncertainty of period coloring processes only underscores this feeling, giving all those suited men and their hats an extra old-timey boredom while latently suggesting a universe prone to coming apart at the seams whenever a fat kid should suck on the right lollipop and walk off into the air, plain as day.

Anyway, this book collects the first five issues of the American Comics Group's 1964-67 Herbie series, plus 75 or so pages of earlier shorts (1958-63) from Forbidden Worlds, along with a miscellaneous Unknown Worlds story in which the character appears briefly. It's stuff you've probably seen fêted for years, and it's good that there's a big new collection out, but be aware that it's still a mostly repetitive kids' comic -- being the adventures of the corpulent title lad, hated at home yet actually an unlikely powerhouse adventurer -- in spite of writer/editor Richard E. Hughes' likeably nastier-than-usual sense of humor (Herbie on your not buying the next issue: "Only means blood, fractures, teeth scattered around. Not nice.") and Whitney's askew visual constructions.

Still, it's fine in small, period-appropriate doses, and armed with an accomodating page presentation, less lolly-solid than cinnamon-spread.



The weekly feature.

*Hmm... two reviews last week, both of them focused on artists that absorb characters into their backing environments. Didn't plan that at all.


Children of the Sea Vol. 1 (the North American debut of Daisuke Igarashi in a book all his own; atmospheric fantasy like a child's daydream on a humid afternoon)


Conquering Armies (a heavy realist, Heavy Metal classic from 1978, in which Jean-Pierre Dionnet & Jean-Claude Gal lay waste to heroic accomplishment by way of sheer, cruel scope)

At The Savage Critics!

*What I did plan, however -- and the plan's still on -- was to do 10 posts in 10 day, one after another, each one taking on an interest/recurring feature of mine. I haven't done any daily blogging in a long while either, and I'm eager to see if I can keep it up. Might even get some stalled projects running - who knows?


Asterios Polyp: If you're going to be listening to talk about comics in the second half of 2009, you'd better prepare to hear about this, off and on, over and over; the superlatives are getting thrown. Being the grand return of David Mazzucchelli to comics, a $29.95, 344-page Pantheon hardcover tracking the escape of the titular architect & teacher from the present strictures of his life when a bolt of lightning destroys his apartment, all while the past hovers and interjects, and style commands all perception, self-evidently, from the progress of time to the cadence of speech. Moreso than usual, I mean. Aw, just check it out when you see it, and you will see it.

Everybody is Stupid Except for Me and Other Astute Observations: Peter Bagge, in contrast, hasn't been gone for nearly so long, but it's still good to see a new book. This one's a 120-page Fantagraphics softcover, collecting 10 years' worth of comics-format op ed stories for Reason, archived online here. It's $16.99. Preview here; slideshow and wallpaper here.

Wednesday Comics #1 (of 12): The front-of-Previews item of the week, for sure. And it's pretty special even setting aside the specifics of the format: a weekly, folded-over 14" x 20" color pamphlet, 16 pages for $3.99 featuring 15 one-page serials, evoking post-WWII Belgian comics magazines (some of those features never got collected!) as much as the Sunday funnies of yore. No, I'm taken by something simpler - DC is launching its new every-week comic slot on the might of art, of visuals, which is a considerable swing of the pendulum away from 52, a subtext of which inadvertently turned out to be "visual flair doesn't matter, get it out, it's fine." Like, I agree with the notion that one of the charms of the series was witnessing the writing staff bump their individual styles against one another, but it's noteworthy that the artists didn't get the chance to build anything like that, filling out Keith Giffen's breakdowns in a sometimes strained manner, clashing with no logic. Trinity went a ways toward changing that, but now - you're surrounded by drawing.

And in this place, that's something. Features: Kyle Baker, Paul Pope, Ben Kaldwell, Adam Kubert & Joe Kubert, Neil Gaiman & Mike Allred, John Arcudi & Lee Bermejo, Dave Gibbons & Ryan Sook, Jimmy Palmiotti & Amanda Conner, Walter Simonson & Brian Stelfreeze, Kurt Busiek & Joe Quiñones, and many more.

100 Bullets Vol. 13 (of 13): Wilt: And if one page isn't enough, here's the final $19.99 softcover collection of a much bigger work by the Wednesday Comics Batman team of Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso. Collect 'em all.

Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?: Oh no, Watchmen is coming out on dvd in two weeks! What's a publisher to do?! Ah ha - how about a spanking new $24.99 hardcover collection for writer Alan Moore's various beloved super-stories? Note that Action Comics Annual #11 (For the Man Who Has Everything) and DC Comics Presents #85 (a Swamp Thing encounter) are in here too, although the title saga is obviously the main draw.

I've always found that story's renown as a three-hankie pre-Crisis Superman farewell to be a little odd; to me, it's among Moore's most distanced superhero studies, pluck pluck plucking at old school Superman tropes with the steadied hands of a researcher manipulating volatile materials. Surely the era-ending catastrophe Superman faces is mainly the result of undue logic applied to those story elements -- Bizarro seeing mass murder as the inverse of a vow against killing, villains just blowing Clark Kent's clothes off on the air, a capricious imp simply deciding to be maleviolent rather than silly -- causing the action to tumble forward with all the inevitability of a mathematical formula scratching across the chalkboard.

Granted, it's been suggested that this is part of the point, that applying the slightest feather's weight of a skeptic's logic to Silver Aged ideas sends the whole world crashing into bedlam, and ain't it a shame, but - that seems awfully simplistic, particular compared to some of Moore's other superhero works. Casting Superman's classic, non-killing ideals as unable to sustain a Super-world in the face of big '80s thinking seems less like insight than spiting the present by walling off the past, and if it's all just supposed to be a simple appreciation of The Way We Used to Be, it's very much a fond gaze cast through a museum's glass, before moving on to the business of the active, present superhero world.

Then again, Moore didn't really have a choice on the whole 'walling off the past' thing, but hey - an experiment is always affected by the conditions under which it's conducted! Helpful souls they are, DC is also offering issue #1 of All Star Superman this week as a $1.00 special, for further reading. Plus: Tom Strong #1, also for $1.00, should you elect further Moore.

Marvel Masterworks: Warlock Vol. 2: But then, there are earlier sagas to pursue. My sitemate Douglas Wolk went deep into this formative '70s cosmic superhero material in Comic Art #8 (and later his book, Reading Comics), but for our purposes here I'll only mention that it's safe to ignore the "vol. 2" in the title, since this tome starts right up with the arrival of Jim Starlin in 1975's Strange Tales #178 and follows his form-flexing revival of the Adam Warlock character through the resumed Warlock series and into the deathly double coda of Avengers Annual #7 and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2. Plus: a bonus Spider-Man/Warlock story by Bill Mantlo & John Byrne from 1977's Marvel Team-Up #55. Restless, determined philosophical space pulp, as you like it. It's $59.99 for the whole deal in hardcover.

Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-1938: Or shit, go way back. This is a newly restored Fantagraphics series, presenting the Hal Foster classic in 10.5" x 14.25" hardcovers. This debut fills 120 color pages, supplemented by a vintage Foster interview from The Comics Journal. It's $29.99; samples here.

RASL Collector's Edition Vol. 1: And in other hardcover repackaging news, if that big softcover collection of the first three issues of Jeff Smith's ongoing sci-fi thing wasn't good enough, how about a $50.00 edition with Smith's signature and 16 bonus pages of sketches and script? Limited to 3000 copies. Note that Smith's Cartoon Books also has its 13th printing of the all-in-one $39.99 Bone brick this week. Ha ha, the 13th printing is the unlucky one; I bet it takes several additional months to sell out!

The Nobody: A new Vertigo original hardcover, 144 b&w pages for $19.99, in which Jeff Lemire (of the much-acclaimed Essex County stories from Top Shelf) transposes elements of H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man to a sleepy fishing village, raising all the expected 'small town' concerns in the process -- paranoia, prejudice, teen alienation, outcasts, symbolic butterflies, etc. -- in pretty much exactly the manner you'd expect. Still, Lemire's got a firm point of view, a visual sensitivity that brings out a human softness and bucolic prickle lacking in other such high Vertigo stories-from-old-stories, and it may well gaze deeper next time; I'll post a link to my full review once it's available for online access. Preview; video.

B.P.R.D. 1947 #1 (of 5): The second new Mignolaverse series in as many weeks, although this one's set as a sequel to last year's pretty great B.P.R.D.: 1946, starring Prof. Trevor Bruttenholm, 'father' of Hellboy, as he inspects the occult aftermath of the Nazi reign. Co-writer Joshua Dysart returns, now with artists Gabriel Bá & Fábio Moon, which should prove interesting. Looks juicy from here.

Pixu: The Mark of Evil: More Moon & Bá! More more more!! Okay, Dark Horse also has this hardcover collection of their two-volume, self-published urban complex horror tale created with Becky Cloonan & Vasilis Lolos. With bonus sketchbook content; $17.95. Preview.

World War Robot Vol. 2: Another 48 oversized (12" x 12") pages of color canister conflict from artist Ashley Wood. As always, IDW publishes; $11.99.

From the Ashes #2 (of 6): Woah, Peter Bagge and Bob Fingerman in one week! All we need now is a new issue of Cud... anyway, this is Fingerman's IDW series about the little concerns of the post-apocalypse situation. Peer.

I Am Legion #4 (of 6): DDP/Humanoids, continuing.

The Zombies That Ate the World #4 (of 8): Ditto.

No Hero #6 (of 7): More superhero mutation from Warren Ellis & Juan Jose Ryp. Last issue was fun, although begging comparison to The Boys didn't work in its favor; the series' agony comes off best when it's tactile, not social. Approaching the endgame should offer some focus. Also, if your store didn't get the new Crossed last week (mine didn't, so I'm guessing Diamond missed the east coast), expect that too.

Elephantmen: War Toys: Yvette: It's not like most issues of Elephantmen aren't already displaced vignettes from a teeming world edging slightly through time -- or that the current 'storyline' isn't a suite of one-offs dealing with otherwise periphery characters, to the extent that anyone in this series has primacy for long -- but since we're bouncing way back in time to focus on a character that died in the War Toys miniseries, this is a special issue rather than just the next issue, although it's basically that too. All-combat action from the days when giant talking animals fired guns and swiped swords at China's military across the disease-ridden ruins of Europe, in color this time, pencilled by returning series artist Moritat; preview here.

Neon Genesis Evangelion: Shinji Ikari Raising Project Vol. 1: Ah, good ol' Eva, the gift that keeps on giving to publishers that happen to have a hand on the license when the franchise rustles itself into activity yet again. This manga, however, has nothing to do with the new Rebuild of Evangelion series of anime movies -- Neon Genesis Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone is floating around North American events now, while Neon Genesis Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance just opened in Japanese theaters a week and a half ago, and a concluding double-feature finale is still forthcoming -- although I'm sure the release timing is no coincidence.

No, this is an ongoing Osamu Takahashi series started in 2005, currently up to vol. 8 in Japan, based on the 2004 'life simulation' PC game (a la Princess Maker) in which you the player raise Eva's titular boy non-hero into something hopefully worthwhile, all in the confines of an alternate universe set up in the notorious final episode of the original 1995-96 television anime series, in which a new life for Shinji was glimpsed as the star of -- ha ha -- a totally different anime formula series, the high school love comedy. But wait, you say, wasn't there already a manga based on that half-minute glimpse into a new universe? Close! You're thinking of the 2003-06 manga series Neon Genesis Evangelion: Angelic Days, which was actually an offshoot of a different video game set in that secondary world, the 2005 'visual novel' Neon Genesis Evangelion: Iron Maiden 2nd (aka: Neon Genesis Evangelion: Girlfriend of Steel 2nd), itself a non-sequel to the 1998 visual novel Neon Genesis Evangelion: Iron Maiden (Girlfriend of Steel), which was an in-continuity bonus story set in the main Eva universe.

So, just to get it all down in one shot, this manga is a spin-off of a computer game based on an alternate universe from the anime series which spawned an additional computer game and accordant manga series that act as an parallel universe to the alternate universe. And none of this, by the way, is to be confused with the official ongoing Eva manga adaptation, which original character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto has been working on since 1995. Oh, and they're all published in North America by different entities: VIZ for the official manga; ADV Manga for Angelic Days; and Dark Horse for the present volume, $9.95 for 184 pages, which you can preview here. It's probably crap.


I dunno, maybe the all-new Rebuild ending is gonna be like Primer?

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The old Eurocomic.

*New column up at The Savage Critics, on the topic of Jean-Pierre Dionnet's & Jean-Claude Gal's early Heavy Metal story suite Conquering Armies. I toyed with the idea of posting exactly the same material labeled as a review of Justice League: Cry for Justice #1 (of 6), and subsequently insisting the contents were exactly that, but I decided the confusion would be more trouble than the joke was worth (nothing whatsoever). Enjoy.



The mainline manga.

Children of the Sea Vol. 1

This will be out very soon from VIZ. It's a $14.99 softcover, with 320 mostly b&w pages.

It's also the first release in the publisher's new SigIkki sub-imprint, combining the preexisting VIZ Signature line of 'prestige' releases with Japanese publisher Shogakukan's Ikki Comix line of alternative-flavored contemporary manga. Ikki is also Shogakukan's monthly serializing print anthology for many of these works -- the title refers to countryside uprisings against feudal lords, which strikes me as gilding the lily a bit for a Big Three anthology -- but VIZ plans to use the brand primarily as a means of serializing 'mature' manga for free online before offering deluxe print collections at the aforementioned premium price point.

And make no mistake: this is a fairly lovely production, attuned to presenting mostly lovely visuals. Artist Daisuke Igarashi enjoys a renown among North American manga obsessives well beyond his scant official catalog in English, which, prior to this, consisted entirely of one short story in Fanfare/Ponent Mon's Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators; I strongly doubt many will find this production terribly lacking in its role as the first 'major' Igarashi release in English, even given their free access to the guts of it online.

But it's still worthwhile to note that this volume is also the most traditional adventure manga I've seen from this artist, one who isn't exactly a bleeding edge provocateur to begin with. Hell no - at heart, Igarashi's a popular fabulist of the Miyazaki style, albeit a modified variant that slashes away the antics and sentiment to isolate all those wonderous and creepy strains of mystic-bucolic mythmaking.

For example, the artist's 1994-96 story suite Hanashippanashi (and his similarly-styled Fanfare short) bombarded readers with weird visions of extra-normal creatures, so dominant as to suggest surrealism through devout force of their taximony, though the experience was always grounded as human observation of presences in a known, familiar world; Teratoid Heights it wasn't. Likewise, the 2003-05 series Witches (Majo) positioned its eruptions of ancient power as undercurrents to historical (metaphorical) contexts, with a passion for delineating pagan resistance to newer societal structures that recalls nothing so much as early (or proto-)Vertigo comics.

Children of the Sea presses this outlook into even gentler, more straightforward territory; at times it could almost pass for shōjo manga, what with a surfeit of mysterious, aestheticized pretty boys centering its story of a 'typical' girl dropped into an exciting plot wherein her marvelous secret powers are revealed. Perfectly nice, sure, but it signals a certain prudence on VIZ's part; they might be spelling comics with an x on the end, but they're making damn sure their base readership doesn't take that as a "Keep Out," which possibly goes a ways toward explaining why they're launching the imprint with an ongoing one-collection-per-year monthly series, only up to vol. 3 in Japan, from an artist whose bibliography is littered with one-or-two-book projects prime for easy release.

Still, if there's any current (to English) manga this project recalls from its particulars, it'd have to be Yuki Urushibara's Mushishi, and not only because Urushibara and Igarashi place a similar visual emphasis on detailed, enveloping backgrounds and swirling mark-made blasts of glowing phenomena; both of their stories guide wide-eyed people, often young, through a hidden aspect of the natural world, something that affects their being in a way that nonetheless can be taken as the primal, pre-societal way of things, with 'danger' present mainly as the individual's lack of due study, or simple ignorance. Heck, Igarashi even tosses in a teacher/shaman/scientist figure who's picked up a few tricks (and a lack of social grace!) on his travels.

Yet Igarashi's work aims to saturate far more than Urushibara's rather literary approach; he's a considerably stronger visualist, first and foremost, with a special talent for integrating his scratchy character designs into their surroundings and stretching moments to let his narrative eye linger on otherwise fleeting experiences, like a bug landing on your shoulder or a seagull swooping parallel to your bike.

It's not a perfect performance, no - setting aside localization concerns like the English lettering never quite blending with the artist's fine lines (and my personal editing pet peeve of inconsistent chapter title translations between the table of contents and the text proper), Igarashi's grasp of vivid, extended moments doesn't always extend to fluid character movements or nuanced 'acting,' and a few of his attempts at multi-panel lyricism of stillness simply don't work, like a bit where the story suddenly goes sideways for one splash, distractingly. But these aspects never entirely upset the wash of the artist's approach, one part plotting and three parts atmosphere, surrounding the reader with the beauty of his world, and all of its accordant mystery.

In other words, if we walk beside helpful Ginko in Urushibara's series, listening to his many episodic lectures on What This All Means, Igarashi places us in firmly in the role of the affected citizenry, wandering in amazement and concern through their own extended saga. And you can bet your ass it's kids that are affected, and adults can't entirely help, caring as they can be; so it frequently goes in those Miyazaki spectaculars!

Indeed, in spite of its T+ rating, Igarashi's plot unfolds like a fit-for-children adventure for all ages, if unusually prone to staring off into poetic space; it's even situated via prologue as a story being told by one of its now-adult participant to an eager child. Ruka is a moody, anti-social young girl whose deep hunger to fly doesn't preempt earthly concerns, like sending a classmate to the hospital after she stomps her foot on the handball court. Exiled from summertime club activities, Ruka pisses off to Tokyo for the day, where she runs into Umi ("Sea"), a curious boy with a major connection to the ocean.

Is it chance, or does it all have something to do with Ruka's own attraction to sea life, and her memory/dreams of seeing a ghost at the aquarium where her father works? Before you know it, Our Heroine is whisked away into a wish-fulfillment fantasy of living in a fun environment (said aquarium) with a far away divorced parent (said father), filled with kindly adults ready to teach her snorkeling and magical friends like Umi and his distinctly bishōnen pal Sora ("Sky"), who can't stay out of the water for too long, and know of the burning souls in the sky. All the while, rare fish school to Japan as speckled specimens vanish from captivity across the world; global shit is going down, as Igarashi indicates via to-the-reader testimony from witnesses across the world, which does admittedly jumble the subjective storytelling motif.

Try not to sweat the details, like how a major aquarium keeps supernatural young kids swimming around in the tanks and treated at local hospitals without any discernible media attention; Igarashi certainly didn't. Rather, his emphasis is on people as elements of spaces, and his children just that: children, of the natural parent, the environment, glimpsed through contorted time and countless blinking glances at place, the artist's subject and the true basis of his story. All else is finally supplicant, and from this we become like kids ourselves, seated agog at roiling waves and starscapes below sea level as summertime passes slowly. It may not be experimental, but the experiential has virtues all its own.