Hello! I am floating over to colonize Tucker Stone's space this week with a special presentation (uh-oh), so allow me to transmit this release list from the sea of stars...
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.
Maria M. Book 1: Hey, a Gilbert Hernandez comic - fancy that! It is, of course, arrogant to the extreme for critics to assume everything is somehow a referendum on their struggles, but Hernandez has a way of seeming prone to poking at those who've derided his 21st century forays into shambolic genre exercises, most vividly in last year's Love and Rockets: New Stories #5, which wedded the artist's beloved Palomar cast to an interspersed 'movie' version of that same town, re-imagined along the lines of more recent pieces (and noticeably infected with the point of view of an in-story author character). Now comes a bigger exploration of that idea: a full-blown multi-volume *adaptation* of Hernandez's beloved Poison River, functioning in-continuity as a movie existing within the Palomar world, but actually, I'll suspect, pitting the desires of Gilbert Hernandez against the accrual of his very legacy. "[T]here’s going to be lots of sex and violence," vows (warns?) the author. A 140-page Fantagraphics hardcover. Preview; $24.99.
Look Straight Ahead: This is the newest release from Alternative Comics, concerning an artist with whom I'm not familiar: Elaine Will, one of the last Xeric Grant recipients, who's been serializing this work online for a while now; there's a certain pleasing heaviness to her cartoon figures reminiscent of Jeff Smith. The scenario concerns a bullied teen who suffers a mental breakdown and attempts to right the course of his life through art. It's a 256-page softcover; $19.95.
Charley's War Vol. 10: The End: Lots of extensive reprint projects for older material tend to get lost by the end, just in terms of the number of volumes out there, released at steady enough a clip that they become part of the background. As such, allow me to draw your attention to this final Titan Books compilation of WWI-themed work by Pat Mills & Joe Colquhoun, from the pages of Battle Picture Weekly. There wasn't *actually* a firm ending to Charley's War, btw - Mills left the strip over financial disagreements in 1985, and another writer took over a revamped edition until Colquhoun's death in '87. Consequently, I believe this 120-page hardcover only compiles the last of the Mills-written strips; $19.95.
A Treasury of 20th Century Murder Vol. 6: Madison Square Tragedy - The Murder of Stanford White: And pity the ongoing original series too, though I imagine the cover to this one will catch a few eyes. It's Rick Geary, documenting another calamity in his signature style, this time regarding the death of the famous turn-of-the-century architect. The publisher, as always, is NBM. Preview; $15.99.
Johnny Hiro Vol. 2 (of 3): The Skills to Pay the Bills: And moving from post-underground to nu-mainstream, here is another Macmillian release of comics by Fred Chao, depicting romantic travails in a creature and combat-laden NYC. Samples; $17.99.
Alex + Ada #1 (of 12): There were few odder presences in long-form, high-gloss creator-owned genre comics of the '00s than the Luna Brothers, whose lacquered sense of cartoon realism -- landing somewhere between the strip art meatiness of a Frank Cho and the anime screengrab style popular at Image studios like Dreamwave in the late '90s -- powered a series of eccentric fantasy and superhero-tinged projects like Ultra and The Sword. The two later split their interests into dedicated solo projects, with Joshua now fronting the Image horror series Whispers and Jonathan (who recently illustrated a children's book) taking this project with the same publisher, about a man who encounters a highly realistic android woman; the co-writer is Sarah Vaughan. Preview; $2.99.
Jeff Smith's Bone: The Great Cow Race - Artist's Edition: Of course, before he was known as a YA titan (the designation came at some surprise to him), Jeff Smith was well-known for his own old-school chops, drawing comparisons to everything from Carl Barks to Walt Kelly to more of a miscellaneous tradition of animation art. It's that Smith which will presumably be at the fore in this latest terrifying original art showcase from IDW, 152 b&w pages presented at 12" x 17" - probably the Bone storyline with the most antics overall; $100.00 (or so).
Scott Pilgrim Color Edition Vol. 4 (of 6): Scott Pilgrim Gets it Together: Yet it's probably the colorized opening of Bone to a significant new market that endures as its most-discussed visual element at the moment, and so we see other series and publishers adopting a similar tactic - such as Oni Press, which I imagine has been doing well with these oversized re-issues of Bryan Lee O'Malley's wildly popular relationship drama-cum-video game fantasy allegory. Unless something has drastically changed, the colorist is Nathan Fairbairn, who is also working with O'Malley on his upcoming book Seconds; $24.99.
H.P. Lovecraft's The Shadow Out Of Time: It's funny, I'd thought the first I'd seen of artist I.N.J. Culbard was through the ongoing 2000 AD serial Brass Sun (written by Ian Edginton), but surely I'd noticed Culbard racking up the Lovecraft-related work at SelfMadeHero, newly manifested in this 120 page color softcover. Culbard's style matches simplified figures with ominous environments and creatures in a manner not entirely unlike Guy Davis; keep an eye on him. Distributed in North America by Abrams. Review with images; $19.95.
Hawkeye HC Vol. 1: I think I've read juuuust enough of Hawkeye (writer: Matt Fraction; primary artist: David Aja) to confirm that it's not my thing, but -- insofar as there's little denying that this is singularly the most zealously beloved superhero comic on the stands right now -- you're certain to hear about it for quite a while, and this 272-page Marvel hardcover aims to satisfy the curious with close to a dozen issues' worth of stuff, including the much-discussed RAW-informed special issue starring a dog, and, you know - not a ton of Richard McGuire refs at the House of Ideas otherwise; $34.99.
Usagi Yojimbo Vol. 1: The Ronin: Man, I'd actually forgotten that Fantagraphics still had the early Usagi material - this volume in particular may prompt a mini-reminisce on the '80s b&w funny animal scene, with stories hailing from Albedo Anthropomorphics and Fanta's own Critters, as well as the original Usagi Yojimbo Summer Special from 1986. Slideshow; $16.99.
Wolfsmund Vol. 2: Continuing this aggressively bleak fantasy saga from Mituhisa Kuji, a former assistant to Berserk creator Kentaro Miura, albeit not so much taken with visual aplomb as cruelty and control in the area of Dark Ages Switzerland - probably the feel-bad release of the week; $12.95.
Attack on Titan Vol. 8: In case you hadn't heard, this and eleven other Kodansha-published series are now being distributed digitally via the anime piracy hub-turned-legit streaming leader Crunchyroll, which means you can pay a certain monthly fee to access brand-new Japanese-published chapters in English. Most of the series are maybe not going to be printed, which is perhaps why you also get access to huge portions of their back-catalog with your subscription (you know, in case 1,400 pages of Mysterious Girlfriend X sounds tempting), but that option is noticeably absent from this Hajime Isayama super-hit, of which Kodansha has apparently hustled half a million copies into stores. This continues the story, which the artist is estimating will wrap at approximately vol. 20 (it's up to 11 now in Japan); $10.99.
VIP: The Mad World Of Virgil Partch: Your book-on-comics for the week #1 - a 208-page large-format (10.25" x 12.25") Jonathan Barli biography/career sampler dedicated to the titular star of American magazine gag cartooning (among other endeavors), one of those super-specialized areas of comics interest some might find foreign or intimidating, so it's nice to have possibilities like this around. From Fantagraphics. Preview;
Tintin: The Art of Hergé: And #2 - not to be confused with Last Gasp's three-volume release of The Art of Herge, Inventor of Tintin, this is an 8.25" x 8.25", 480-page hardcover assembled by Michel Daubert in association with the Musée Hergé, released near-simultaneously in several languages for the purposes of offering "fresh insight into the story behind this iconic character, with unprecedented access to original sources from the Hergé Museum in Belgium." I'd expect a rather site-specific study from this one, released in English via Abrams; $45.00.