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.
Killing and Dying: This is Drawn & Quarterly's new hardcover of comics by Adrian Tomine - a straight-ticket compilation of Optic Nerve #12-14, minus any of the self-effacing humor strips. Across 128 pages Tomine outfits the pacing of newspaper strips with his own concerns, circles around the crime comics wave, and, in the collection's titular and best story, reprises his own cringe-powered heyday of human disconnect (see his best comic, "Bomb Scare", from 2001's Optic Nerve #8) as tragical comedy, for a era where cringing powers more comedy than ever before. With an exciting clear dustcover you can use to trap dangerous insects. Samples; $22.95.
The Twilight Children #1: And this is a new Vertigo comic book series from Gilbert Hernandez, unique in that it's a full collaboration with an artist not generally seen in the proximity of Love and Rockets: artist Darwyn Cooke, a designer/adapter/recalibrator known for DC superhero works, comics from the Richard Stark Parker novels, and -- of course -- the Before Watchmen adventure. Hernandez himself once did a brief, poorly-remembered run as writer on DC's Birds of Prey with artist Casey Jones, but this looks to be a comparatively unencumbered Beto piece, an alien invasion scenario with blind kids, CIA involvement, etc. So much of the effect of Hernandez's work comes from his very particular sense of visual pacing and cartoon devices, yet for this he's even mentioned "adjusting" his script to accomodate Cooke's visuals... I expect this will be very unique to witness. Preview; $4.99.
Two Brothers: Being the new graphic novel from Fábio Moon & Gabriel Bá, creators of the 2010 Vertigo series Daytripper, artists of the Matt Fraction-written Image series Casanova, and contributors to not a few Hellboy-related comics from Dark Horse, also the publisher of this 232-page b&w original. Estranged brothers uneasily reunite in a story about "identity, love, loss, deception, and the dissolution of blood ties." Preview; $24.99.
Pablo & Jane and the Hot Air Contraption: The latest illustrative contraption from Spanish cartoonist José Domingo and UK publisher Nobrow, both of 2012's Adventures of a Japanese Businessman. This one is an 11.6" square hardcover with, if I am not mistaken, a game book element where you locate things on the page to help the protagonists through the Monster Dimension. Samples; $19.95.
Battling Boy: Fall of the House of West (&) Batman Year 100: Deluxe Edition: A Paul Pope double-feature, one featuring a franchise created by Pope but not featuring his art, and another boasting the artist's total involvement in a work-for-hire context. Fall of the House of West is a First Second release, the sequel to last year's The Rise of Aurora West, which was a spin-off of Pope's 2013 book Battling Boy, still awaiting its formal second volume. The color original was a manga/Kirby/etc.-inspired kids' fight comic, though I'm presuming these b&w periphery projects (I've not read them) get more into background and lore. Written by Pope with J.T. Petty, it's drawn by David Rubín; 160 pages. Batman: Year 100 is Pope's well-regarded 2006 miniseries with colorist José Villarrubia, depicting Batman as a privacy-concerned individual in a suspicious future, returning power to the people. "[N]ever before published sketch material" will be included. West preview; $9.99 (West), $29.99 (Batman).
Graphic Ink: The DC Comics Art of Darwyn Cooke: Speaking of DC collections, here is Cooke again, with a 400-ish page installment of the publisher's maddeningly vague series of Graphic Ink hardcovers, descriptions for which sort of imply they are art books, although if this is anything like the Frank Quitely volume from last year it'll *actually* be 95% a compendium of the artist's interior work on DC/Vertigo & related comics up to 64 or so pages in length, including bits of larger projects (while excluding those parts not drawn by the artist at hand). Per DC's site, we can probably expect deep cuts like a 1985 solo short from Talent Showcase, a 2001 Legion Worlds piece written by Dan Abnett, a 2002 Batman collaboration with Paul Grist(!), a Doctor Fate story from 2003 and issues #33 & #50 of the Jimmy Palmiotti/Justin Gray tenure on Jonah Hex. Cooke also drew the last issue of All Star Western, from those same writers, which might be in here too. I'd also bank on maybe the entirety of his 2005 issue of the lamented anthology series Solo, and hell, why not 2000's Batman: Ego, lots of room; $39.99.
Empire of Blood #1 (of 4): Damn, Enrique Alcatena! I remember that guy from Moving Fortress, a weird fantasy thing he did with Ricardo Barreiro & Chuck Dixon at Timothy Truman's company 4Winds back in the '80s; he also inked Truman's '89 Hawkworld miniseries. A few years later he drew "Makabre", one of the more obscure serials Alan Grant had going in Toxic!, along with one of Grant's later Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight storylines... he did a Predator Versus Judge Dredd series with John Wagner too; he's been around. Now he's teamed with writer Arjun Raj Gaind for a miniseries (split up, I believe, from a graphic novel published in India by Westland Books) under the banner of Graphic India, purveyors of Grant Morrison-scripted multimedia projects and various comics based on the '70s Hindi movie Sholay. (The only "Gabbar" comic I want to see will have the official licensed visage of Pawan Kalyan drawn by Takehiko Inoue, fyi.) The story involves trouble in an alternate future where the British rule not only India but the entire European continent due to the invulnerable powers of "Queen Elizabeth, the Empress of Blood," which sounds like a good start to me. Preview; $2.99.
Rat God: I remain fascinated by the Alan Moore/Jacen Burrows series Providence, but be aware that it is not the only Lovecraftian riff available now. Written and drawn by Richard Corben as, effectively, a very long issue of Fantagor -- yes, there is indeed a horror host -- this eccentric Dark Horse project ambles through race, sex and pulp pleasures by way of the underground veteran's gnarled visual devices. While I don't know how many people would characterize this as an underground 'throwback' project, I will say it will probably interest readers fond of just that. A 144-page hardcover collects the original miniseries. Samples; $19.99.
Samurai Omnibus Vol. 1: Can't say I followed much of the news out of last weekend's New York Comic Con, but I know there were some people there on behalf of Europe Comics, a new digital initiative for translated BD launching on November 10th. If you want, you can even avail yourself of three free comics via izneo, a French digital platform and one of the backing entities behind Europe Comics; I was particularly struck by the presence of 2007's Eagles of Rome t.1, by the Italian-born Enrico Marini, of various NBM, Cinebook, Heavy Metal and Humanoids releases. Quite fitting that they're going with a guy who used to draw in a style heavily inspired by Katsuhiro Ōtomo; this definitely made him seem more 'global' than other Euro cartoonists in the '90s! Anyway, Samurai has nothing to do with any of that, save that it finds a French creative team -- writer Jean-François Di Giorgio, artist Frédéric Genêt and colorist Delphine Rieu -- depicting a very Japanese (and export-friendly) jidaigeki clash of steel and honor. A 192-page Titan hardcover collecting the ongoing series' 2005-08 debut storyline. Samples; $29.99.
Balkans Arena (&) Bouncer: MORE EUROCOMICS! WE! LOVE! PRINT! Here's two from Humanoids, including the very interesting-looking Balkans Arena, an (ooh! ahh!) almost-simultaneous hardcover album release with Les Humanoïdes in France. A former soldier takes action to rescue his kidnapped son in Croatia, which very much sounds like a Luc Besson production, though it comes from the pen of Philippe Thirault, one of the stronger genre writers associated with the publisher(s) - see also Miss: Better Living Through Crime and the never fully-translated Thousand Faces. The artist is Jorge Miguel (who followed Guy Davis on the Jerry Frissen series now titled The Z Word), the size is 8.8" x 11.7" (basically identical to the French edition), and the length is 112 pages (ditto). Bouncer, meanwhile, is a very good, very straightforward and handsome Alejandro Jodorowsky/François Boucq old west gunfighter series, which Humanoids has now jammed into a 7.9" x 10.8", 412-page omnibus tome, collecting everything before the creators took the property to Glénat in 2012; $24.95 (Balkans), $44.95 (Bouncer).
Anna and Froga: Fore! (&) Astrid Lindgren's Pippi: The Strongest in the World!: Yes, right, but - what about Eurocomics for the young ones? This interrogation continues to deprive me of my constitutional rights, but I suppose I can highlight two from Drawn & Quarterly. Fore! is the fourth (get it?) in a zany series by Anouk Ricard, featuring anthropomorphic animals engaged in hi-jinx with a little human girl. The series is up to t.5 in French, so expect more. Similary, The Strongest in the World! is D&Q's fourth release of comics by Astrid Lindgren & Ingrid Vang Nyman, expanding on Lindgren's famous creation, Pippi Longstocking. Absolutely striking art, with intense colors and characters almost stamped onto the page with seemingly limited yet very-expressive function; $14.95 (Fore), $19.95 (Strongest).
Judge Dredd - Day of Chaos Vol. 2: Endgame: Being Simon & Schuster's 192-page North American edition of the second half of a sprawling 2011-12 storyline that sees the famous Mega-City One imperiled via biological terrorism linked to events of thirty years ago... literally so, given the quasi-realtime progression of Judge Dredd continuity, which extends back to our 1977. Co-creator John Wagner writes what I thought was an impressively rich anticlimax . Note that there is a third book of follow-up stories out in the UK (or available digitally) from Rebellion, but S&S does not appear to have it scheduled for local publication; $24.99.
SpongeBob Comics #49: It'll be Halloween soon enough -- on a Saturday, so the liquor store will be even more jumping with cosplay than average -- which means some of the better-organized ongoing series will inevitably release themed issues. Good news for SpongeBob Comics, as that means its latest contribution from horror comics icon Stephen R. Bissette. Also: series regular James Kochalka, and several others; $2.99.
Peanuts: A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz: As far as I can tell, this 96-page BOOM! hardcover (landscape format, 11" x 9") is an collection of 'official' fan art and tribute comics, relating to the 65th anniversary of the funny pages institution. Contributors include Matt Groening, Mo Willems, Raina Telgemeier, Patrick McDonnell, Stan Sakai, Colleen Coover, Jeffrey Brown, Mike Allred, Paul Pope, Jen Wang, Richard Thompson and many others; $34.99.
The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot: Finally, we return to 1995 - an era of extravagance, and few comics were both thinner and denser than this whimsical tokusatsu homage from creators Frank Miller & Geof Darrow, a punishing work of absolute high spirits that pushes giant robot versus kaijū mayhem somewhere just past the point of comfortable readability via its crazed outlay of enthusiastic dialogue and narration (which, admittedly, some readers just skim in the process of gawking at the art). An 8" x 12" hardcover, which is somewhat smaller than the original 9.5" x 12.5" issues (and way smaller than Dark Horse's unlettered & de-colored 11.75" x 15.75" "King Size" edition from '97), but at least will come close to matching your copy of The Shaolin Cowboy: Shemp Buffet from this past March. Also, be aware that the entire series has now been re-colored by Dave Stewart -- of the most recent Dark Horse Presents appearance of the characters, sans Miller, also included here -- as Darrow was unhappy with the technical processes involved in Claude Legris' original effort. Samples; $19.99.
All art attached to this week's column is by the late, great Paul Ollswang, from a 1995 collaboration with writer Dennis P. Eichhorn; the scans come from a reprint in Poochie Press' 2013 release Real Good Stuff.