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THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (10/28/15 – From the Germ of the Womb to the Worm of the Tomb)

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I was trying to find a scary image for Halloween, but what I found was a little-discussed collaboration - 1997's Slow Chocolate Autopsy, a story sequence by Iain Sinclair dotted with three comics collaborations with the book's designer, Dave McKean. Sinclair has left something of an outsized comics footprint through the work of Alan Moore, who drew from the former's Lud Heat in writing From Hell, although Sinclair's own work in the form is very limited; above we see a pretty characteristic sample, in which McKean chiefly seems concerned with devising typographical means of containing all of the poet's words on the page. As with the 'plain' text segments of the book, Sinclair's writing frequently breaks from direct narration to offer allusive summaries of characters and environments, flickering between present-sense impressions and omniscient scene-setting - given this approach, McKean's visuals (drawings, photos, type, etc.) become means of seizing the words in concrete settings. In the case of "The Double-Death of the Falconer", excerpted here, the result is a suspense piece not unlike a tremendously indirect issue of Hellblazer, with Sinclair's unstuck-in-time principal Norton acting as both protagonist and bystander, moving verily between the panels of chronological sequence. Moore and Kevin O'Neill would later stick Norton into The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century with Sinclair's permission, positioning him as chiefly wizened among veteran comic book characters...

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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.

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SPOTLIGHT PICKS!

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Junji Ito's Cat Diary: Yon and Mu: JUST IN TIME FOR HALLOWEEN, Kodansha brings a 2009 release from the horror comics icon - except instead of tales of terror, we're getting a slice-of-life comedy depicting the author's adventures as a catfather. Luckily, the engine of the humor is Itō's 'inappropriate' use of horror comics emphasis on largely tranquil domestic scenes, so it's *sort* of horror-ish anyway, or at least scarily raucous in a manner you'd expect from an Itō influence like Kazuo Umezu. A little short at 120 pages, but I found this hugely entertaining, both on a basic I-laughed level and also in appreciation of Itō's exceedingly handsome cartooning, which bounds from rubbery exaggeration to photo-based exactitude in a way his other projects don't quite allow. Preview; $10.99.

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The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal: I was not a reader of this 2009-14 webcomic from E.K. Weaver -- a technical illustrator whom I don't believe had published any prior comics -- but I am very much aware of its terrific popularity, most easily summarized by the enormous success of the crowdfunding effort for this comprehensive print edition, a 528-page toe-crusher from Iron Circus Comics. It's a romantic road trip serial involving men of different backgrounds getting to know each other - very much the kind of cartoon-realist drama that wouldn't seem out of place in the '90s self-publishing boom, but capable of reaching a less-encumbered audience through online means; $30.00.

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PLUS!

The Owner's Manuel to Terrible Parenting: This is the new collection of Guy Delisle domestic vignettes with Drawn & Quarterly, following 2013's A User's Guide to Neglectful Parenting and 2014's Even More Bad Parenting Advice. Very airy, almost doodled stuff - tossed-off fancies, in comparison to the author's denser foreign travel memoirs, which I presume helps facilitate this brisk publishing schedule. A 5" x 7" softcover, 204 pages; $12.95.

SheHeWe (&) Hans Christian Andersen's The Red Shoes and Other Tales: Two new kid-friendly color comics from creators who've been at it for a while. SheHeWe is actually the third volume in a series writer Lee Nordling and artist Meritxell Bosch have going at Lerner - they're 32-page wordless comics that utilize nine-panel grids, with each tier following a different character whose storyline eventually interacts with the other characters/tiers. All the other books have animal characters, though, while this one introduces human children into the mix. The Red Shoes is the latest from the Scotland-based duo Metaphrog, a 64-page NBM/Papercutz hardcover pairing two Andersen adaptations ("The Little Match Girl" is the other one) with an original story. I would describe the Metaphrog look as 'imposing candy,' which is a roundabout way of saying you should flip through this; $6.95 (SheHeWe), $12.99 (Red Shoes).

Necessary Monsters Vol. 1: Another webcomic in print, this time from writer Daniel Merlin Goodbrey (one of the theorists engaged with the Alan Moore-fronted digital platform Electricomics) and artist Sean Azzopardi - "The Chain polices this world, a covert agency of killer monsters keeping the human herd from growing too thin," growls the solicitation. Published by Devil's Due/1First Comics, half of which is a new iteration of the 1980s Direct Market publisher First Comics, of American Flagg! and Nexus fame; $12.95.

Island #4 (&) From Under Mountains #2: Two from the offbeat fantasy wing of Image. Island is a continuing anthology, notable this month for featuring a new Pop Gun War story from Farel Dalrymple. From Under Mountains continues a longform saga from writers Claire Gibson & Marian Churchland, and artist Sloane Leong; $7.99 (Island), $2.99 (Mountains).

Gantz Vol. 37: This is the final installment of Gantz. Some have wondered if there would ever *be* a final installment of Gantz -- and relatively few of the people I know who used to groove on this all-indulgence Hiroya Oku violence, sex 'n gaming series are still following it, myself included -- but there's really no way this sort of ice-cold outer space robot art (as in, art that looks like it was made by a robot from outer space) could accommodate two series at once, and Oku's newer and similarly weird/funny/deeply-flawed/potentially indigestible cyborg superhero series Inuyashiki is presently running in translation with Kodansha. I've also been warned that I'll probably have no idea what's going on if I just dip in here to see how it ends, Gantz is like Naruto in that way, but maybe I'll do it anyway! From Dark Horse, as always. Preview; $13.99.

One-Punch Man Vol. 3: I've heard the anime adaptation of this comedic superhero manga is really good, although I haven't had any time to see it. The writer is ONE and the artist is Yūsuke Murata, and it may yet become one of the designated Japanese comics for people who don't read Japanese comics, if that means anything to you; $9.99.

P. Craig Russell’s Murder Mysteries and Other Stories - Gallery Edition: The 'Gallery Edition' is Dark Horse's version of IDW's Artist's Editions, which is to say pages are scanned in color directly from the original art, and presented at close to actual size. There is little doubt in my mind that Russell will benefit from this treatment, serving up 232 pages' worth of short pieces from all over his career, including adaptations of works by Oscar Wilde, H.P. Lovecraft, Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman and others. Samples; $125.00.

Overstreet's Comic Book Marketplace Yearbook 2015-2016: And finally, your publication-on-comics of the week - the newest 192-page squarebound annual from Gemstone, notable for a feature article on the history of Eclipse Comics, one of the bedrock early Direct Market publishers, with a hand in everything from magazines to graphic novels to European comics and manga. Also included is a huge-looking amount of superhero-and-related content, as perhaps should be expected, and also something about Dinosaurs for Hire, which was a late '80s/early '90s humor series written by Malibu Comics co-founder Tom Mason, who was also an art director with Amazing Heroes and early editor of the potential all-time most-obscure Fantagraphics anthology, Honk!, on which he was eventually succeeded by Joe Sacco. I'd pick the Corto Maltese variant cover(!); $12.95.

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7 Responses to THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (10/28/15 – From the Germ of the Womb to the Worm of the Tomb)

  1. Anthony Thorne says:

    A good eclectic bunch of titles this week, and as usual I wish I had an extra $10,000 this year just to buy comics.

    As an update from the discussion a few columns back – I just got the two US editions of the Lo Scarabeo DRUUNA hardcovers – volume 1 containing MORBUS GRAVIS and DELTA (the latter of which was originally called MORBUS GRAVIS II when Heavy Metal originally printed it in hardcover two decades ago), and the second volume featuring CREATURA and CARNIVORA. Anyone even halfway keen can buy them with complete confidence, as they’re beautiful, very satisfying books.

    The books feature the same English language translation as before, but a few pesky censorship balloons (imposed over genitalia and the like) have now been removed, so the artwork is essentially ‘uncut’ and consistent with the international editions. The artwork reproduction is beautiful – sharper than the earlier editions, with stronger colors and blacks, and printed on quality paper. The hardcovers are bigger than the original editions, but the artwork inside is printed at the same size – there’s just slightly larger white borders at the top and bottom of each page, which gives the artwork more breathing space and for me, made the reading more enjoyable. A weird, amateurish glitch from the earlier Heavy Metal hardcovers where the fonts differed from volume to volume (sometimes to a distracting degree) has been fixed, and the font for each chapter now matches the best font that was used in those initial HM books. (Anyone who has the older editions will be able to do a comparison to see what I’m talking about).

    The second Lo Scarabeo volume ends with a preview for a third, containing MANDRAGORE and APHRODISIA, whioch hopefully isn’t too far away. Anyway, these are very pleasing books, and if you like fine-detailed Italian comics art, or just have a jones for big-bottomed European women, these are very satisfying releases that you can happily buy with confidence.

  2. Joe McCulloch says:

    Thanks for this. I got a chance to look through those books too; the colors on Morbus Gravis in particular seem a good deal subtler than in the HM edition, and I’m presuming this is meant to be the current standard, given the uniform dress these albums have gone out with across multiple languages. There is an unfortunate increase in grammatical and typographical errors in comparison with the HM editions – I caught a few it’s/its mix-ups, a “see” with the second ‘e’ omitted, and a pretty amusing instance of Druuna repeating the same exclamation in English and Italian (obviously she’s bilingual). Not enough to throw the whole affair into doubt or anything, but noticeable regardless. If you have a desire for Serpieri’s Tinto-Brass-by-way-of-a-hentai-video aesthetic in your life, this is an imperfect but accessible and attractive option.

  3. Dave Knott says:

    Yeah, I picked up the Druuna books, too. They look good.
    One issue I had with them is the lettering… there is a *lot* of whitespace in the balloons, the text rarely filling them correctly. I assume this is because they kept the same balloons from the original Italian edition, with the translated English containing fewer words or characters in many instances. Combine that with a uniform font size, and it’s almost impossible to get the lettering perfect.
    But, hey, it’s not like anyone buys Serpieri for the text and dialogue.

  4. Tony says:

    From what I can gather, there will be 4 volumes collecting the existing 8 Druuna books, then a Volume Zero with a silent prequel previously only available in a series of deluxe portfolios) and finally a brand new 9th adventure.

    At least, that’s the plan. All of it, more or less simulatneously in Italian, French, German, Spanish and English.

  5. Sammy says:

    TJ and Amal is our generation’s Hepcats.

  6. Joe McCulloch says:

    Nah, TJ and Amal actually finished.

  7. iestyn pettigrew says:

    How catty of you Joe

    (sorry,sorry,sorry,sorry – just couldn’t resist)

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