Here we see one of many nine-panel grids from Sally Heathcote, Suffragette, one of many books on worthy topics in historical settings to arrive suddenly, capture a certain amount of polite attention from generalist outlets, then vanish from the conversation without leaving much of any mark on comics specialists. It arrived in comics stores last week, with a North American edition arriving courtesy of Dark Horse. The thing is - I don't think much of the commentary surrounding this book (such that it is) has emphasized how many scenes there are in this work such as that shown above.
Coming from artist Kate Charlesworth and Costa prize winners Mary M. & Bryan Talbot -- the latter of whom, it should be said, has a lot of experience with surprising and vivid comics, from the New Worlds SF texture of The Adventures of Luther Arkwright to the 9/11 conspiracy tinge of Grandville -- the book is as much a story of radical action as voting rights history, its fictional heroine interacting with many Edwardian personalities active on the scene, but the arc of her story curving around her gradual investment in direct action, from public disruption to planting bombs. Eighteen pages of annotations and a thirty-three item works cited list bolster the assurance that all of these things were reported to have happened, but the point *I* took from the work was not simple reportage, but that these actions were taken in pursuit of a goal that nobody reading this column today could possibly oppose: the right of women to cast a vote. Moreover, the ensuing drama implicates the idea of preservation of public property versus the rights of human beings - protest as deliberate acts of destruction, winning the protestors, in the eyes of many, whatever treatment the authorities might deem fitting.
Quite a violent, dense, book; not always easy reading -- there are a lot of similar-looking characters, not always introduced with memorable characteristics -- but far more vivid and relevant than expected, denying its fading militants the satisfaction of historic justification and emphasizing instead the seeming caprice of yet wider struggles. The Great War consumes them, and still, alas, they survive.
PLEASE NOTE: What follows is not a series of capsule reviews but an annotated selection of items listed by Diamond Comic Distributors for release to comic book retailers in North America on the particular Wednesday identified in the column title above. Be aware that some of these comics may be published by Fantagraphics Books, the entity which also administers the posting of this column. Not every listed item will necessarily arrive at every comic book retailer, in that some items may be delayed and ordered quantities will vary. I have in all likelihood not read any of the comics listed below, in that they are not yet released as of the writing of this column, nor will I necessarily read or purchase every item identified; THIS WEEK IN COMICS! reflects only what I find to be potentially interesting.
The Hospital Suite: Another big one from Drawn and Quarterly, this time a 250-page collection of work from John Porcellino, King Cat creator and longtime practitioner of memoir and quiet observation. The topic is the author's health struggles, both physical and psychological, rendered as simply and emotive as you'd expect. A 6" x 9" softcover. Preview; $22.95.
Doctors: Ah, a medical theme! The next from Dash Shaw, who's been putting out some anime/cosplay comic books with Fantagraphics lately, although this 96-page number is maybe a little more in the vein of The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D. It's a 6" x 8" softcover, full of tampering in God's domain as specialists devise a manner of raiding the afterlife of any dead soul to bring them back for the temporary pleasure of the living. Preview; $16.99.
Loverboys: Being an all-new hardcover release from Gilbert HernanHAHAHAHAHA OH MY GOD, THIS IS TWO WEEKS IN A ROW! They're not even reprints! They're original books! I liked Bumperhead a lot too - to me, it fell pleasingly in between Hernandez's elliptic human drama and the dreamtime languor of Sloth, catching moments as imperfectly recalled from the twilight of consciousness, or perhaps the brink of death. Here, though, the publisher is Dark Horse, the length is 88 pages, and the subject matter is a torrid affair between a young man and his former schoolteacher, in sort of an off-brand Fritz story - more details if you listen in here. A 6" x 9" hardcover. Preview; $19.99.
Skandalon (&) Sing No Evil: Not one, but TWO rock music Eurocomics of 2013 this week! The first is the newest from Blue Is the Warmest Color creator Julie Maroh and Arsenal Pulp Press, a 160-page album about a superstar toeing the edge of oblivion. The second is 192 pages from Abrams and a pair of Finnish creators, JP Ahonen & KP Alare, whipping up the tale of a guitarist trying to keep his life and his position in his band together in the face of a supernatural threat. Skandalon preview; $21.95 (Skandalon), $15.95 (Sing).
The Lonesome Go: It's been a while since the last batch of stories by Tim Lane - over half a decade since Abandoned Cars. His is a unique approach these days, adopting a heavy, 'classical' comic book look for brooding and introspective slices of short fiction. Like a prior generation of Fantagraphics fare, perhaps, but here and new, 296 pages(!) in b&w at 8" x 10.75". Maybe give this one some special attention, if you spot a copy. Preview; $39.99.
Ricky Rouse Has a Gun: Saw this one floating around a bit at SPX; couldn't tell you a damn thing about it, save for its status as broad-looking satire on... China? Globalization? American entertainment hegemony? It's set in the theme park, and there's violence! Concocted by Belgian duo Jörg Tittel & John Aggs, and publised by SelfMadeHero, 180 pages. Samples; $24.95.
Masterplasty: Your Image comic book debut of the week, a showcase for the UK-based James Harvey, translating his webcomic to print in what I think should be a 9" x 12" format. "A young man decides to leave his college girlfriend after getting a new medical technique which drastically modifies the physical appearance of the human body in ways both beautiful and hideous." Looks vivid; $5.99.
Thor #1 (&) Gotham Academy #1: I was recently advised that if you really try to study the entrails of comic book publishing, you'll find that the shock success of IDW's My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic -- the late 2012 arrival of which saw north of 100,000 copies of #1 pre-ordered, big-time superhero numbers -- was in all likelihood the focusing event behind Marvel's and DC's now-manifesting efforts to diversify their superhero wares. For example, you've probably heard that Thor is going to be a woman; here is the debut of that comic, written by franchise vet Jason Aaron and drawn by Russell Dauterman. Meanwhile, DC expands their endlessly lucrative Batman line to accommodate a prep school-based "teen drama" (per the solicitation) populated by what looks like mostly original characters, written by Becky Cloonan & Brenden Fletcher and drawn by Karl Kerschl. Thor preview, Gotham preview; $3.99 (Thor), $2.99 (Gotham).
Edgar Allen Poe's Spirits of the Dead: Obviously, the moment Dark Horse announced that Richard Corben was going to be writing, drawing and coloring(!) a new series of Poe comics in Dark Horse Presents and various short-run comic books, you knew a big collected edition was bound to drop before long. This is that book, a 7" x 10", 216-page hardcover, ready to chill your blood as the Halloween month looms. Note that the publisher also has its 17th Eerie Archives collection due this week, with the debut of Bill DuBay's would-be Warren arch-hero the Rook and the entirety of an amusingly nasty Jim Stenstrum/José Ortiz post-apocalyptic mini-serial, Hard John’s Nuclear Hit Parade, which spun out of a earlier Richard Corbern-drawn story. Samples; $24.99.
Red Baron Vol. 1: The Machine Gunners' Ball (&) The Secret History Omnibus Vol. 3: Eurocomics! They're not just drawn by Julie Maroh! Two publishers here, the first being Cinebook - they've actually got a small pile of stuff readied for release, but I'm going to highlight the lone debut, an ongoing WWI aviation biography from French writer Pierre Veys and Spanish artist Carlos Puerta, the latter working in an achingly pretty autumnal adventure strip vein. It's a 48-page color softcover, 8.54" x 11.3". Elsewhere, BOOM!/Archaia supplies a 334-page brick of BD by Jean-Pierre Pécau & Igor Kordey (colored by Leonard O'Grady), detailing more of a very long history of immortal influence on human affairs, here through the 1970s - know that the series just wrapped in French at the end of last year, with its 32nd album. Baron preview; $11.95 (Baron), $34.99 (History).
Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin Vol. 7: Battle of Loum: Obligatory manga pick - Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, Vertical, robot war, 420 pages; $29.95.
All the Wrong Questions Vol. 3: Shouldn't You Be in School?: Obligatory not-a-comic pick - Seth, illustrating Lemony Snicket for another 336 pages from Little, Brown. Official site; $16.00.
Flesh & Steel: The Art of Russ Heath (&) What Fools These Mortals Be! The Story of Puck: And finally, two from IDW, forming your joint book(s)-on-comics for the week. One is a 320-page exhibition catalog regarding the formidable Heath, covering the sweep of his career, index included. The other is a real curiosity - a 12" x 11", 328-page illustrated history of Puck, the great American satire magazine of the 19th century. The authors are Michael Alexander Kahn & Richard Samuel West - I'd really want to look at this, as many illustrations are promised; $49.99 (Flesh), $59.99 (Puck).