We start with the ending.



Barefoot Gen Vol. 9 (of 10): Breaking Down Borders & Barefoot Gen Vol. 10 (of 10): Never Give Up: Being the long, long-awaited release of the final 270-page volumes of Keiji Nakazawa's 1972-73 boys' comics saga of the Hiroshima bombing and its extended aftermath, a richly symbolic moment for manga in United States, in that the initial volume of Gen was the first Japanese comic ever translated to English for release in book form, all the way back in 1978. These books see young Gen becoming considerably less young, as the story advances to 1953 and the budding artist encounters romance, drugs and a personal ambition that'll take him far away from the scene of the tragedy, though it naturally can't ever leave him - that Gen is more-or-less Nakazawa himself perhaps needn't even be stated by now. From Last Gasp, $14.95 each.

Afrodisiac: In which Brian Maruca & Jim Rugg -- creators of the admired surreal action comic Street Angel -- present a conceptual AdHouse art book supposedly not unlike Al Columbia's recent Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days, but devoted entirely to semi-simulated '70s comic book tales and franchise fragments starring a most pliable blaxploitation-style title character. Sean Collins recently read the whole thing as a commentary on the aesthetically insular world of early Bronze Age comic books attempting to interface with a super-cool, much more complicated minority culture by basically imposing its goofy tropes on the most sensational pop-visible aspects of said culture, to comedic (and perhaps disturbing) effect. I know I'd want to give it a flip right away. It's $14.95; video trailer here, sample pages here.

The Vermont Monster Guide: What's always worth noting? A new project from Stephen R. Bissette, here illustrating a Joseph A. Citro field manual to legendary beasts of the green mountain state; several making of videos are online. From the University Press of New England; $18.95 for 128 pages. Note that Bissette also has a new webcomic going right now, King of Monster Isle.

Hotwire Comics Vol. 3: The newest 138-page installment of editor Glenn Head's odd, oversized Fantagraphics anthology, a distinctly old-fashioned scattershot alternative comics production with a crew drawn heavily from Monte Beauchamp's old Blab! anthologies and Head's own shorter-lived Snake Eyes. Basically, it's a louder, more comedic, more visually-driven, and frankly more uneven sibling rival to MOME, although the promise of new Mack White, Mary Fleener and Rick Altergott comics is fine with me. Also featuring Michael Kupperman, Johnny Ryan, R. Sikoryak, David Sandlin, Tim Lane -- who seems to have been otherwise quiet since his intriguing 2008 debut collection Abandoned Cars -- Sam Henderson, Max Andersson, Doug Allen, Danny Hellman, Stephane Blanquet and more. It's $22.99; preview here.

Dirty Dishes: Your latest 96-page item in Drawn and Quarterly's petit livre series of small art books, this time a $14.95 platform for Canadian artist and animator Amy Lockhart, also of anthologies like PictureBox's The Ganzfeld and Conundrum Press' Nog A Dod. The publisher has samples.

Remember: I can't say I adored Orange, Tokyopop's North American debut release for Chinese manhua artist Benjamin (Zhang Bin), but I'll give it this - while many teen angst comics betray the hand of a looming adult artist presence relaying a story they think young people might relate to, Benjamin's work lacked any such evident filter, behaving in the capricious, ponderous, entirely self-absorbed manner of an actual moody teenager, exactly as I remember it, in spite of a nearly toxic application of mad color gloss to every damn page. This is a 2004 story suite, 144 color pages for $14.99, purportedly obsessed with doomed love, ruined ambitions and comics creation; preview here.

Sayonara, Zetsubo-Sensei Vol. 5: But if it's the lighter side of suicidal despair you crave, here's another $10.99 package of Koji Kumeta's wide-ranging Japanese cultural satire by way of high school girl ensemble comedy, now up to vol. 19 at home. Buckle up for translation notes!

Tank Girl Remastered Vol. 5: Apocalypse: It had to happen - the first of these Titan Books collections of the Alan Martin/Jamie Hewlett creation to feature neither Alan Martin nor Jamie Hewlett as primary participants. Still, it does have artists Andy Pritchett & Philip Bond, working with Phil Gascoine from an Alan Grant script about the imminent end of the world and Our Heroine's sudden pregnancy, as initially released by Vertigo, 1995-96. The fee is $14.95 for 112 pages.

The Complete World War Robot: On its way to being a movie, I believe, but the appeal is naturally the 96 square pages of Ashley Wood illustrations depicting small med and hulking round machines. Text by T.P. Louise (of course), published by IDW (as usual), priced at $29.99 in hardcover format. Simulated flip-through here.

Alias: Ultimate Collection Book 2 (of 2): In case you missed one of Brian Michael Bendis' signature works from earlier in the decade (2001-04), this $34.99 softcover rounds out the run with issues #16-28.

Batman and Robin #7: Meanwhile, on the other end of the superhero continent, Grant Morrison reunites with Seaguy/Seven Soldiers cohort Cameron Stewart for a sorta post-Blackest Night-related storyline that also figures in with the eventual return of Bruce Wayne, maybe, but certainly features fan-favorite Morrison stock players Knight and Squire, plus temporary sister title protagonist Batwoman. Inky preview here.

Detective Comics #861: Speaking of which, here's the start of what's probably the last Batwoman storyline in this title, after which the character moves to her own series later this year. Three issues for now, written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Jock. Have a look.

Frank Frazetta's Dark Kingdom #4 (of 4): When I was a child, I had a dream that an angel handed me a color prayer postcard of a saint, the identity of whom I cannot remember, and told me that I was to tear it up and scatter it on the street in front of my aunt's house. However, hoping it would grow, I instead buried the fragments in the dirt in the back yard, and all that happened was the readymade corpus became filthy. So I asked for penance, all teary and small, and I was told to wait 20 years and then identify the week of release of every new Tim Vigil release on my internet comic book site. Dear readers, the night of that dream was the night before Grips #1 hit the stands, and these days I'm sure it was really the devil I spoke to, but a deal's a deal; $3.99.

Kick-Ass #8 (of 8): This ain't the devil, though; it's just genre and fandom, and little incursions on taste reinforcing the pleasure of fantasies delayed & delivered. Kick-Ass was never realistic, it was about how realism is like fasting, and how fasting itself can function as not so much a virtue as a means of having food taste richer when you finally stop. Millar's kitchen is no less loving than Mark Waid's, or Grant Morrison's, but he's long ago understood that the real, mild spice is the most widely appetizing, and every roar in the theater at every little girl cuss and every bloody plunging sword is another growling belly; this is fast food, this is broad superheroes, this is creator-owned franchising beyond the medium's ratty county line. Me, I'm stuffed on fluff, and I'm local as shit, so let me break metaphor while I ready my bed: the problem with new superhero comics isn't that they're decadent, it's that they're not decadent enough.