Ongoing Adventures



Captain Hadacol (NEW AND EXPANDED!! MORE PICTURES! MORE VITAMINS! Presenting the story of the first-ever patent medicine superhero, powered-up on a 24 proof dietary supplement YOU can buy at home, provided it's 1951! Also: songs, cartoons, testimonials, and a special plea. Don't leave me hanging.)



Demo Vol. 2 #1 (of 6): Aaaah, you know what that is, reader? Nostalgia. And don't you tell me it's too early for '00s nostalgia - we're an entire month into 2010 now, long enough for a man to starve.

And Demo truly was a product of its time, primordially steeped in the millennial Jemas era of Marvel -- wherein writer Brian Wood formulated a number of 'street-level' mutant ideas for use in Joe Quesada's NYX project, which was originally intended to be a MAX line launch title drawn by David Choe, who split with Marvel acrimoniously and I think later presented some of the visual concepts in his 2002 collection Bruised Fruit -- then realized in 2003 as a 12-issue suite of self-contained young-people-with-strange-powers comics from AiT/Planet Lar.

If you were around then, swimming in internet rhetoric, you'll immediately recall what it meant for that publisher to release non-bookshelf comics, the whole slew of period funnybook politicking behind the format. It was a talked-about series, one of the inescapable 'blogosphere favorites' from back when comics blogs were scant enough that favorites could emerge in a way that some commentary on them seemed nearly compulsory to remain current in thinking; Scott Pilgrim was another one, maybe the one that broke wide away from the public readership ricochet chamber. To have been there at the time -- and I was reading blog posts before I was writing 'em -- is to render Demo inseparable from the looming mutation of online writing-on-comics, which soon after the series' 2005 collection found itself unable to keep up the pretense of holding the whole world in its palms.

Demo underwent its own transformation over those original 12 issues - dual transformations, actually, relating to both principals of the creative team. First was artist Becky Cloonan restlessly sprinting through a dozen variations on a visual style, like a one-woman demonstration of the multitudes within the broad idea of 'manga' influence, there within the first heat rush of the Japanese comics boom. Then there was Wood, working his way through some occasionally painful on-the-nose mutant youth scenarios in early issues to develop increasingly roundabout and expressive takes on a 'weird powers' premise that finally seemed to dissolve like a pill having performed its duty, and effected some desired change in the body.

Ironists in the crowd likely grinned at the completed series' 2008 republication by Vertigo, both an imprint of Marvel's longtime rival and itself representative of superhero concepts swallowed up and dispersed. They're the homebase for this new sequence of $2.99 Wood/Cloonan stories, which the writer has mentioned as delving more into the "supernatural" than the super-powered. I wonder how it'll manifest, being the work of far more seasoned creators; the title Demo always denotes some vulnerable run-through, and oh was that accomplished back then, from back to front. Preview.

Smile (A Dental Drama): Being a newly colorized and expanded 224-page Scholastic edition of artist Raina Telgemeier's autobiographical webcomic about tooth-related calamity in the sixth grade. Available as a $21.99 hardcover and a $10.99 softcover. It looks really cute.

Ultimo Vol. 1: I can imagine few more wonderful possibilities in this world than Stan Lee riffing like a madman over otherwise completed manga pages he's never before laid eyes on, so hope burns eternal for this East-West collaboration with Shaman King creator Hiroyuki Takei, filling out comics pages from a concept by Stan the Man, who's supposedly playing a role in the English localization, although I don't think it's the all-out Marvel Method mania I crave. Katherine Dacey deems it "competently executed but utterly forgettable," and I can see that possibility cropping up as well. From Viz; $9.99 for 216 pages.

Slam Dunk Vol. 8 (of 31): Also Viz; more from Takehiko Inoue's breakthrough.

Knights of the Zodiac Vol. 28 (of 28): And also a long-coming grand finale to one of the past decade's seemingly doomed attempts at bringing over 'classic' shonen manga - but somehow, Masami Kurumada's big '80s Greek myth fighting team super smash Saint Seiya has persevered since 2003, shining the light of hope on all of us fretting over the prospects of some fellow golden-oldie-as-far-as-manga-in-North-America-goes, like... Slam Dunk, for instance. Anyway, I don't know what the fuck is supposed to happen here, but Shaenon Garrity says all the series' dead characters come back evil like in Blackest Night, and that sounds neat. Again, $9.99, 216 pages.

Berserk Vol. 33: This, however, is from Dark Horse, and it feels like it comes out biweekly. Actually, life is just passing me by! Up to vol. 34 in Japan, $14.99 in English. Hats! Scarves!

Little Lulu Vol. 22: The Big Dipper Club and Other Stories: Nothing beats it.

Fall Out Toy Works #3 (of 5): Brett Lewis of The Winter Men - his current series, from Image.

Criminal: The Sinners #4 (of 5): Brubaker, Phillips. Have a look.

The Boys #39: Ennis, Robertson. Preview.

Batman Confidential #41: Part 2 of 4 for Sam Kieth, cultivating an unnervingly regular presence of late.

Greek Street #8: And here's your Peter Milligan of the week.

Ultimate Comics X #1: In contrast to all that, here's what's intended to be an ongoing superhero presence for the considerably elusive, influential Art Adams - a new bimonthly Ultimate series from writer Jeph Loeb, poised to introduce some crucial new character to the mix. Still, yeah: Art Adams.

Indomitable Iron Man: This is one of two $3.99, four-story anthologies Marvel is putting out this week, although it doesn't appear to have the holiday tie-in of Marvel Heartbreakers - and believe me, I've been trying to think up a Groundhog Day joke for hours. It instead appears to be a throwback to the b&w Marvel magazines of yore, albeit in typical Marvel comic book size and almost certainly without the gratuitous nudity (otherwise they'd be charging more). The highlight will probably be whatever writer/artist Howard Chaykin comes up with, in that he knows the terrain damn well. Preview.

Dominic Fortune: It Can Happen Here and Now: And just to mark the occasion, Marvel is also releasing this $19.99 softcover devoted to Chaykin's swashbuckling rogue-for-hire, including an actual b&w piece of the type, from 1975's Marvel Preview #2, plus 1980's patchy color Fortune tale from Marvel Premiere #56 -- plotted by Chaykin & Len Wein, scripted by David Michelinie, laid out by Chaykin and finished by Terry Austin -- along with Chaykin's very fine 2009 MAX miniseries and a Dean Motter/Greg Scott story originally published as an online serial.

Komiks: Comic Art in Russia: And finally, here's a really interesting-looking new study from José Alaniz of the University of Washington, Seattle, burrowing into a uniquely troubled comics tradition having "borne the brunt of ideological change--thriving in summers of relative freedom, freezing in hard winters of official disdain." It nonetheless endures. From the University Press of Mississippi; 288 pages for $38.00.