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THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (12/28/11 – God, I Can’t Help Myself)

Good morning or whatever time it is. We’re smack in the middle of that odd space between holidays where lots of people are still on vacation (or in vacation mode) and unlikely to be browsing the comics internet, so here’s a photo I snapped through the window of a train earlier this month. I deem it highly symbolic and comics-relevant on many levels, and possibly an exclusive preview for Watchmen Begins. Excuse me while those valuable year-end hits start rolling in, even as I’m still typing!

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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, 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.

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SPOTLIGHT PICKS!

Walt and Skeezix: Book Five – 1929-1930: Being the long-awaited 400-page continuation of publisher Drawn and Quarterly’s Frank King reprint cum public edification project, now boldly seeking to smash its copious supplementary materials out from the confines of print and into an accompanying dvd showcase for the artist’s home movies circa the 1920s. Of course, a huge fucking stack of comics is due as well. Looks good, worth a peek. Granted, your local retailer probably won’t let you ‘flip’ through the dvd on the rack, but maybe he’s tired of screening those same episodes of Boris Karloff’s The Veil… you never know. Print sample, movie sample; $39.95.

Shaky Kane’s Monster Truck: And speaking of boundary-stretchers, here’s a newly recolored and physically larger Image revamp of a 2007 Wishbone Studio release from an olde tyme Comics Comics favorite, a series of 52 continuous, sparsely-narrated images laid out as a single gaze down a road traversed by the titular vehicle, a scheme that will doubtlessly remind some readers of another ’07 arrival, Helge Reumann’s & Xavier Robel’s completely awesome Elvis Road. This, however, will be pure Shaky Kane, next due to be seen in all-new form via a sequel to his and David Hine’s The Bulletproof Coffin. Preview; $14.99.

PLUS!

La Luz De Jesus 25: A 320-page Last Gasp hardcover companion to a group show commemorating the 25th anniversary of the titular LA gallery. Notable here for the participation of many a comics veteran, including Robert Williams, Gary Panter, Joe Coleman, Dave Cooper and others, with images and reflections by the participants; $40.00.

Broadcast: The TV Doodles of Henry Flint: Meanwhile, AAM/Markosia brings your first of two import selections – a 100-page compilation of self-described “doodles” by one of the popular 2000 AD mainstays of the past fifteen years, whom I (naturally, being from the U.S.) first encountered through DC’s 2006-07 Omega Men revamp; I’d picked it up blindly, solely on the basis of how completely damn odd it looked while still functioning quite nicely in terms of trashy action comic beats. Flint more recently did some Fear Itself tie-in work at Marvel, though his 2kAD output has been more extensive, including several stretches of Judge Dredd and steady work Zombo, a popular zombie comedy serial he created with Al Ewing (a clever writer who made what I believe was his North American comics debut earlier this month in issue #7 of Jennifer Blood, one of Garth Ennis’ Dynamite creations). This project, in contrast to all that, is forum for nearly ‘automatic’ drawings, unconcerned with technique and augmented with texts by Cy Dethan extrapolating upon or reacting to the images; $19.99.

(Apropos of nothing, I only recently started following Judge Dredd as a continuing serial, and… I don’t think it exists for a lot of North American readers as much more than an abstraction, you know? The general idea of Judge Dredd, solidified a little by a few standalone pieces read here and there. That’s how it was for me, but… new Judge Dredd? It’s kind of turned into Cerebus with gunshots and explosions in place of scripture, where the title character’s grown physically old and attached to all of these longstanding political maneuvers and past actions, trudging through these long, almost anecdotal storyline clusters poured into a unifying mold – the recent Tour of Duty opus was well over 500 pages long, and the present Day of Chaos seems gunning for a similar sprawl. Except – Judge Dredd is still a mainstream, publisher-owned commercial comic, so there’s rotating art crews and spin-off stories not written by John Wagner and a dogged reliance on the sci-fi action comic idiom – it’s a Cerebus that’s still a bit like the first phonebook, and also a bit like the Conan comics it’d ape, yet still noticeably… evolved. Strange sensation.)

Black Hawk: Dredd also famously sat out the first issue of 2000 AD, where one of the launch serials was this wonderful thing titled Invasion! Pat Mills was the originating writer, but most of the early stuff was scripted by British girls’ comics and commando funnies mainstay Gerry Finley-Day, who worked in this magnificent tone of total screeching mania; it’s ostensibly an alternate history thing about a (thinly-veiled) Russian conquest of England, but almost every episode actually revolved single-mindedly around this salt-of-the-earth working class guy murdering scores of occupation forces in retribution for the murder of his wife and children. I mean, the guy is clearly utterly insane, but that’s the appeal – we LEER into his wild eyes as he charges into a variety of scenarios with his pump-action shotgun – shootings at a stadium! Shootings at sea! Shootings on motorcycles! Shootings at the airport, guided missiles and runaway buses! At times it’s like Kazuo Umezu doing a Garth Ennis comic; not a trace of irony or sophistication stands in the way of conveying the absolute pleasure of killing people at as fast a pace as conceivable, with a thick glob of patriotic wartime gusto smeared on every chapter, possibly as cover for the glaring lack of any socially redeeming value in this children’s comic. It’s so wonderful! I’d have died if I had this shit as a kid!

(Fuck – sticking with Garth Ennis, you know how his comics constantly position some uncertain, easily-swayed thoughtful young man in the shadow of an older, more dangerous, amoral, violent man’s man type of figure? The younger man is always Garth Ennis — child of commando comics and 2000 AD and all the studied implications of their populist texts — and the older man is, to generalize, BILL FUCKING SAVAGE, HERO OF THE VOLGAN INVASION, and all he blissfully represents.)

(And that’s to say nothing of co-creator Mills, who revived the series as a serious political thriller in the mid-’00s, still going today.)

Anyway, Black Hawk is a serial about an African warrior in the days of the Roman empire that Finley-Day originated for Action, a ’76 predecessor anthology to 2000 AD and no stranger to violent content; it eventually appeared in the odds ‘n ends publication Tornado before getting moved to 2000 AD in ’79 with a sci-fi concept and different writers. Here’s hoping this 288-page Rebellion compilation — your second import choice this week — carries some of that special energy; $24.99.

Chase: Speaking of comprehensive bricks, here’s a new 362-page collection of a well-regarded, none-too-well-selling 1998 DC series fronted by D. Curtis Johnson, J.H. Williams III and inker Mick Gray, a government-operative-monitoring-superheroes scenario that seemed to drop just a few years shy of many popular special ops/espionage-themed super-books. It’s getting released now due to the title operative’s participation in Williams’ Batwoman series, and it indeed was the place where Williams’ visual style began to rapidly expand into decorative and design-intuitive directions; $29.99.

An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories Vol. 2: I don’t usually cover re-releases or new editions in here, but this 400-page Ivan Brunetti-edited comics anthology from 2008 is now apparently under ten bucks, which is crazy enough to post; $9.99.

Gantz Vol. 20: Longtime Dark Horse devotees of a different stripe might go for Oh My Goddess! vol. 40 this week, but I’ll cite this Hiroya Oku decadent action thingy since this particular volume marks one of the series’ occasional major turning points, necessitating a shift in the cover colors from blue to white beginning in vol. 21 (note too that vol. 33 is set to hit Japan in a few weeks). Preview; $12.99.

Gødland #35: However, any issue of this Joe Casey/Tom Scioli Image series deserves mention, as it is highly irregular and nearing completion; $2.99.

Hergé, Son of Tintin: Finally, your book-on-comics for the week, a 424-page Johns Hopkins University Press English-language edition of a 2002 profile of the Tintin creator by Benoît Peeters, an expert on the series and an accomplished comics writer himself, often in collaboration with François Schuiten and often out of print in English, damn the world and damn its holidays, damn it damn it all; $29.95.


7 Responses to THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (12/28/11 – God, I Can’t Help Myself)

  1. Why Mr McCulloch I do believe you have finally twigged why 2000AD readers have stuck by it for 35 years.

    That passage on Invasion (still going strong today as Savage (Pat Mills / Charlie Adlard / Patrick Goddard)) is as good a description of what was so lovable about 2000ad for a nations children – and why so many found superhero comics a tad, well, dull. Savage was blowing peoples faces off with shotguns, Nemesis was having you root for genocide of the entire human race, Ro-Jaws was making the rudest poop gags, Slaine was beheading everyone and Dredd just shot most people, because they were all guilty of something. Like that Fugazi line ‘We’re all here. We’re all…GUILTY’.

    That tradition is alive and well today – Shakara commits genocide against complete galaxies, Ichabod Azreal is a mean dead cowboy determined to shoot anyone in purgatory who stops him getting back to earth, Nikola Dante either beds or kills everyone he loves or hates in a future-Russian Empire, and Lowlife has a 7foot Alan Moore mentalist who sees manga animals as he blows things up as the only honest person left in the world. And each and every time, like Savage of old, you root for these misfits and sociopaths because the writers are so good at making them so damm entertaining, visceral, hilarious, and representative of your own angst.

    So thank you for being one of the few American reporters who seems to get ‘it’.

    The most compelling reason to pick up the Blackhawk book is the art of neglected genius Massimo Belardinelli – whose weirdness i regularly trumpet over on futureshockd.wordpress.com – a now departed Italian master who draws the finest aliens you have ever seen. Even when he appeared on fairly duff stories (Mean Team, Moon Runners) he still made each panel visual eye-candy and on a certifiably insane script like Blackhawk (which overnight changes from traditional Spartacus style story in Tornado to ‘Gladiator with no soul roams alien alternate-universe to find it’ (yes, that insane)) his ability to render the weird is right up there with the the Basil Wolvertons and S.Clay Wilsons of the Comix scene. In many ways Flint is his spiritual heir, most notably on Shakara (the sort of comic where you warp-drive an entire planet through an alien armada and take great glee in depicting sad aliens gasping for air in the vacuum of space as the ‘hero’ blasts through them’).

    You are hoping for ‘special energy’ with Blackhawk? You are going to get it by the shovel-load.

  2. Alec Trench says:

    I always liked the humour, personally.
    The absurdity, the lack of reverence for generic precedents.
    The action side of it always seemed like commercial necessity, or a kind of macguffin.
    It was the supererogatory whimsy and the way that (most of) the creators each had their own distinct, individual aesthetical priorities that had me hooked.
    (Speculatively turning to superheroes in the early eighties was a pretty bleak and chilly experience in comparison. Endless packaging, all the way through. No vibe at all. No people. No glint. Stadium comics.)
    And the occasional glorious weirdness – like the way we embrace Nemesis’ other-ness, both physical and philosophical, even while he heaps scorn on our own entire species – and definitely Massimo Belardinelli, every time he was given something thoroughly otherworldly to render visible. His run on Blackhawk really was some kind of one-off, at least in terms of mainstream kids’ comics you could buy in a newsagents. I suppose it wouldn’t have seemed quite so bizarre if it turned up in Heavy Metal.
    The Dead, as well, Belardinelli drawing a Pete Milligan script on a theme with a similar level of metaphysical intrigue, that’s something that seems to have been unjustly overlooked. Probably because it’s not long enough to make a proper trade-paperback out of. About 50 or 60 pages, I reckon.
    Anyway, yeah, I just wanted to mention that I’ve never been impressed by action scenes in comics, but 2000AD was a big winner from me (circa 1983-1991, mostly) so it’s not just the awesome genocide that makes it good.
    Can’t wait ’till March.

  3. Alec Trench says:

    A big winner “for” me, not “from” me.
    I’m not Pat Mills.

  4. Jon says:

    Since you actually mentioned a “floppy” on this list I think you should have mentioned IDW’s Monocyte #2 that came out on 12-28 as well. Monocyte has been a suprisingly intelligent horror comic that has blown me away this year. Considering it comes from IDW the home of a ton of sub-par liscensed product comics, it is shocking how far outside the mainstream Monocyte is. I highly reccomend it and you should listen to me because I’m typing on the internet.

    • Joe McCulloch says:

      Oddly enough, I just happened to notice that comic sitting around this very Wednesday; it caught my eye in that it looked like an ‘old’ IDW genre comic — or, I guess, a Spawn-related comic of a certain vintage — i.e. something (from my casual flipping, mind you) hewing to the smeary visual style set down by Ashley Wood and early-ish Ben Templesmith:

      http://bit.ly/svEYnx

      I’m not familiar at all with the creators, ‘menton3′ and (co-writer) Kasra Ghanbari, save that the former has done some previous IDW franchise and license stuff, and the latter is an art agent apparently making his comics debut. It did catch my eye, though…

      • Jon says:

        Thanks for responding. Yeah I definetly reccomend it. It contains an incredibly dense bizarre story that demanded a second reading. It’s almost puzzle like but I felt the quality of the book was top notch.

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