A nice image of desolation from Yukinobu Hoshino, the mangaka behind the well-regarded 2001 Nights (and the mostly-forgotten Saber Tiger) from VIZ in the early '90s, as well as a sprawling comics adaptation of James P. Hogan's The Two Faces of Tomorrow which Studio Proteus translated in serial comic book form from 1997 to 1998, though publisher Dark Horse didn't release a collection until 2006. That was basically the end for Hoshino in English so far - at least, in North America.
It's rare, but sometimes English editions of Japanese comics arrive exclusively from European publishers. Bruno Gmünder's various Gengoroh Tagame releases provide one example, while Hoshino fronts another: Professor Munakata's British Museum Adventure, a very handsome 6.75" x 9.5", 264-page dustjacketed paperback released by the British Museum Press in 2011. The Museum had hosted an exhibition of Hoshino works in 2009-10, which was followed by a serial in the seinen magazine Big Comic which saw Hoshino's Professor Munakata -- an investigating intellectual prone to meddling in folkloric and history-based mysteries since his adventures began in 1995 -- visiting the British Museum and getting caught up in the extremely impressive theft of the standing stones of Stonehenge.
At this point, Hoshino's art is notable for its rather stolid and handmade nature - many panels are constructed from spare lines and ink smears, though copious photographic reference is clearly involved. There are three supplementary essays included in the book, all of them amusingly eager to reassure the manga-unfamiliar reader that Hoshino is highly acclaimed and a leading exponent of comic art; Hoshino is certainly acclaimed (his Munakata comics won an Excellence prize at the Japan Media Arts Festival in '08), although the fussy, info-dense storytelling of British Museum Adventure is very much of a kind of manga that doesn't get exported all that often. Really, VIZ's recent release of Master Keaton is one of the few like-minded projects translated of late, and even that matches the longform serial power pop of Naoki Urasawa & Takashi Nagasaki to the episodic edutainment style I imagine scenario writer Hokusei Katsushika picked up while working on scripts for the venerable assassination comic Golgo 13 (which itself may or may not be playfully alluded to near the conclusion of the British Museum Adventure).
Hoshino, however, is set apart in the supplements with the claim that he devises "topic, storyline and dialogue" in his comics - which I take to mean that he does not rely on an editor for his plots, in this case encompassing the pretty highfaluting theme of repatriation expectations against museums amassing collections through the course of empire-building in foreign lands. "I deal with quite intellectual subjects," the artist muses in a short interview; surely as much a boon for this unique publication as Hoshino's interest in SF was the burgeoning manga scene in North America those many years ago.
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.
March: Book Two (of Three): In which Top Shelf wastes no time in getting out what may be its biggest release of 2015, the 192-page second chapter in this comics autobiography of John Lewis, congressman and civil rights leader, here concerning experiences with civil disobedience in the deep south as the 1960s developed. Co-written, as before, by Andrew Aydin, with art by the very accomplished Nate Powell. The version Diamond looks to be releasing to comic book stores this week is a 6.5" x 9.5" softcover, although limited hardcover and signed hardcover editions will be available from the publisher. Samples; $19.95.
Run Like Crazy Run Like Hell: OH SHIT, LOOK WHO'S BACK. Being the ninth release in Fantagraphics' line of Jacques Tardi hardcovers, this time a 2011 album finding the artist once again adapting the work of Jean-Patrick Manchette (Ô dingos, ô châteaux!, 1972). West Coast Blues and Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot were both terrific, so I'm expecting a lot from this tale of a troubled woman set up on kidnapping charges, only to flee with her alleged prisoner: the child of a rich and dangerous man. A 7.5" x 10.75" hardcover, 104 pages, translated by Doug Headline. Preview; $19.99.
First Year Healthy: The new Drawn & Quarterly release for Michael DeForge, this time a 48-page storybook (6" x 9", hardcover) blending crime comics licks with the artist's taste for fantastical taxonomy and distressed protagonists. It's about a woman fresh out of the hospital, her illegal migrant boyfriend, his sinister old country compatriot, an infant, and a holy cat which bestows its benediction upon the start of new things. Preview; $14.95.
Fatherland: A Family History: There's always a sense of rich post-underground grotesqueness to the art of Nina Bunjevac - even when there isn't intensive stippling and cross-hatching on the page, it feels like there *could* be. Her first book of collected stories was Conundrum Press' Heartless in 2012, and now W.W. Norton handles the U.S. release of a 160-page (auto)biographical narrative concerning '70s life in Canada and Yugoslavia in the orbit of a parent increasingly committed to violence as a political tool. An 8.8" × 11.1" hardcover, in b&w. I think the Canadian and UK releases (via Random House) happened last year; $22.95.
Naoki Urasawa's Monster - Perfect Edition Vol. 3: Speaking of Urasawa, your manga pick of this somewhat slim week is the 434-page latest in VIZ's double-sized reissue of his career-redefining suspense thriller, with nicer-than-average production values; $19.99.
Groo: Friends and Foes #1 (of 12): Twelve issues? Looks like it's finally time for Sergio Aragonés & Mark Evanier to bring us their Watchmen... or, barring that, a yearlong monthly series of Old-School Funnybooks honing in on various supporting characters from the long-lived barbarian spoof. Tom Luth colors, Stan Sakai letters, and Dark Horse publishes. Samples; $3.99.
Will Eisner's Spirit - Artist's Edition Vol. 2: Plenty of IDW reprints this week -- there's also a new collection of Bud Sagendorf Popeye comics out, as well as a collection of '60s Batman newspaper strips -- but I'll highlight the publisher's second 15" x 22" package of famous newspaper supplement comics, 144 pages culled from the post-WWII period; $146.99 (approx).
Genius, Collected: The Alex Toth Slipcase Set: Just like it says on the box, this is a special packaging of three hardcover books on the subject of Alex Toth by Dean Mullaney & Bruce Canwell: Genius, Isolated (2011); Genius, Illustrated (2013); and Genius, Animated (2014). Together (944 pages in total), the life of the artist is detailed, with a special emphasis on reproductions of all sorts of material relating to Toth's work in comics and animation. Note that you can buy just the slipcase with a signed library card direct from IDW if you already have the books (and you really want a slipcase); $149.99.
Asian Comics: Finally, your book-on-comics for the week - a new opus by the great John A. Lent, founder of the International Journal of Comic Art and the one man alive whom I genuinely suspect may have read every comic. Now he's hooked up with the University Press of Mississippi for a 400-page overview of non-manga Asian comics, encompassing the traditions of "Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam"...! I can't imagine this will not be valuable in some way, if not several; $60.00.