While I wouldn't say Kazuo Umezu made me sick this week, he has uncannily managed to capture my physical condition for the past few days... years before my birth! I'm the one seated, by the way; that's totally one of my shirts.
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, or, in the event of a holiday or occurrence necessitating the close of UPS in a manner that would impact deliveries, Thursday, identified in the column title above. 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 Someday Funnies: Speaking of exits from purgatory! This 216-page, 11 1/2" x 15 1/2" Abrams release will be familiar to many of you from Bob Levin's profile of editor Michel Choquette in issue #299 of our print edition; initially intended as a Rolling Stone supplement surveying the just-passed decade of the 1960s in comics form, The Someday Funnies ballooned into as unwieldy a survey of the state of the art as one could imagine. Call it a double history today, a record of '60s turbulence via '70s flux, here on the on the occasion of its first publication. Featuring Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Kirby, Moebius, Frank Zappa, Wally Wood, Tom Wolfe, William S. Burroughs & Malcolm McNeil, Federico Fellini, Will Eisner, Ralph Steadman, Albert Uderzo & René Goscinny, Jean-Claude Forest, Gahan Wilson, Art Spiegelman, Dennis O'Neil & C.C. Beck, Roy Thomas & Barry Windsor-Smith, Steve Englehart, Kim Deitch, Joost Swarte, Guido Crepax, Sergio Aragonés, Shary Flenniken and many, many more. Introduction by Rolling Stone veteran Robert Greenfield, foreword by Jeet Heer, and editor's profile by Levin; $55.00.
Heaven All Day: And since I'm pretty sure a 24-page self-published comic book makes for ample enough contrast, here's the winner of the 2011 Gene Day Award for Self-Publishing, in which "[t]he lives of a lonely factory worker and an abandoned robot become intertwined as the man struggles to complete his life's work – a mysterious contraption that he must keep secret from the outside world," per distributor AdHouse. The artist is John Martz, working an enigmatic story through smooth cartooning with a subtle touch for environmental detail. Preview; $4.00.
No Longer Human Vol. 1 (of 3): BRACE YOURSELF FOR LITERARY MANGA. Or at least a 2009 manga modernization of a hugely admired 1948 novel by Osamu Dazai, tracking a young man's estrangement from society and the very concept of the self. Drawn by the generally interesting Usamaru Furuya, who appears to have re-oriented the work from its original presentation to read from left to right for the purposes of export; $10.95.
Government Issue: Comics for the People, 1940s-2000s: Another Abrams release, this time presenting a selection of informational comics sponsored by federal and state government agencies in the U.S., along with excerpts and covers, and texts by Richard L. Graham. Expect work by Will Eisner, Milton Caniff, Al Capp, Walt Kelly and others; $29.95.
Hellboy: House of the Living Dead: Aw, it doesn't really matter this first-ever Hellboy original graphic novel missed Halloween by a few days - it's a sequel to the popular luchador-themed 2010 Hellboy in Mexico one-off, which served up Catholic imagery in much the same way writer Mike Mignola tends to toss around all world traditions, so arriving in time for Day of the Dead and All Souls' Day is perfectly legit. Artist Richard Corben returns to chronicle Hellboy's shady wrestling career across 56 pages. Preview; $14.99.
Tharg's Terror Tales Presents: Necronauts & A Love Like Blood: Also in chills - a 128-page collection of millennial Frazer Irving art from 2000 AD, including a Houdini/Lovecraft/Doyle historical figure team-up story written by Gordon Rennie, and a vampire/werewolf hookup story from the eternally Stateside-elusive John Smith; $19.99.
Joe the Barbarian: Occasional Smith cohort Grant Morrison is not so elusive, no, but I think there's still a lot of readers out there that brushed past this 2010-11 fantasy miniseries, seeing a troubled young man whisked away to a possibly hallucinated world of warring toys and pets. Vertigo is releasing its 224-page hardcover collection at a larger-than-usual 11.3" x 7.5", which should showcase artist Sean Murphy nicely; $29.99.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Omnibus: There's actually a few big Vertigo collections due this week -- the fifth and final Absolute Sandman brick can also be expected -- but this 416-page compilation of the first two Alan Moore/Kevin O'Neill Victoriana mash-ups (forming a neat little call and response between the teasing the fun implications of bashing together preexisting characters and then exploring their potential for horror) are interesting here in having been totally stripped of all identification with Moore's America's Best Comics line, essentially wheeling it back to the environment the writer's earliest American works first seeded. A few alterations have been made from prior editions; $49.99.
Asterix Omnibus 1 & 2: Meanwhile, the UK-based Orion Publishing is releasing a bunch of chronological three-in-one softcover editions for the venerable Uderzo/Goscinny series, and here's the first two available in Diamond-serviced comics stores; $19.95 (each).
The Smurfs Box Set: I just saw a dangerous gang of teenagers walking down the street earlier today dressed as Smurfs, so don't tell me the relevance ended when the movie closed. In humble recognition, NBM/Papercutz now brings a special package of some pretty all-around kickass Smurfs stuff, including the cultural contagion horror of The
Black Purple Smurf, the acid political commentary of The Smurf King, and the old-time Belgian kids' comics antics of The Smurfs and the Magic Flute; $17.99.
Dragon Puncher Vol. 2: Dragon Puncher Island: Another of James Kochalka's color comics/photography blends, again seeing combatants caper in a child-friendly manner. Preview; $9.95.
Next Issue Project #3 (Crack Comics #63): This, you'll recall, is a Golden Age-proportioned comic book anthology edited by Erik Larsen, premised on the idea of producing "next" issues of defunct period titles, starring their public domain characters as handled by contemporary talents. Among the contributors this time are Larsen, Alan Weiss, Herb Trimpe, Paul Maybury, Chris Burnham, Joe Keatinge and others; $4.99.
1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die: Finally, your book-on-comics of the week - one of those annotated list-based packages you tend to encounter in whichever bookstores remain open in your vicinity (1001 CHOWDERS YOU MUST EAT BEFORE YOUR FINAL HOUR), noteworthy for the presence of Paul Gravett as editor, as well as Bart Beaty, Xavier Guilbert, Domingos Isabelinho, Ernesto Priego and Matthias Wivel among the contributing writers of these 960 pages. Foreword by Terry Gilliam, published by Universe. Detailed mini-site; $36.95.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR: You've read about it in several places by now, so here's your chance to pick up Yuichi Yokoyama's Color Engineering from PictureBox and Nanzuka Underground; $35.00. Same goes for Ganges #4 from Fantagraphics, which has crept across this land's shops like a heart attack down the spine of an insomniac; $7.95. Spooky.