Maybe my favorite panel from the most noteworthy comics release of the last two weeks, IDW's new edition of Hugo Pratt's Corto Maltese: Under the Sign of Capricorn. I know a good bird when I see one. This is the first installment of a purported 12-part comprehensive translation of the Corto catalog by Dean Mullaney & Simone Castaldi; the former is the IDW editions' editor and designer, while the latter is author of Drawn and Dangerous: Italian Comics of the 1970s and 1980s, which has been recommended to me in the past, though I've not read it yet. Under the Sign of Capricorn is not actually the earliest Corto material (that would be The Ballad of the Salt Sea, most recently published in 2012 in colored, chopped-up form), but I do believe it was the first to be collected in album form, in 1971, and it finds Pratt in maybe a more comfortable place regarding his visual depiction of the character, so it's a good enough place to start.
It's also the start of a new "EuroComics" line of books from IDW, nothing from which has been announced besides Corto Maltese, and I'll admit to some amusement at the lengths to which the publisher has gone to ingratiate the work with American comics readers. The back cover is a wall of praise, with a special emphasis on superhero and mainstream indie luminaries: Brian K. Vaughan! Matt Fraction! Brian Michael Bendis! Oh god, here's Frank Miller! The inevitable Milo Manara appearance! Kim Thompson! Of particular interest is Umberto Eco, a well-known admirer excerpted here in reference to Pratt's "battle with the angel" of orientalism and exoticism, perhaps in anticipation of potential qualms as to the story's voyage of white men into a dreamy world of magic and forbidden mystery in the times of European colonies in Africa. This is really the only contextual information offered, save for an extensive Pratt biography on the back flap - the work otherwise stands completely alone, in its study new confines.
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.
UR: I'm always fascinated by small-press cartoonists who adopt prominent roles in outside media - I'm betting at least a few readers of this column aren't aware that Grickle creator Graham Annable co-directed a $100 million kids' movie last year (The Boxtrolls, with Anthony Stacchi), although he was involved in computer game production even prior to comics. Similarly, Eric Haven has been a producer in some capacity on MythBusters since 2005, though his professional comics work dates at least back to Angryman at Caliber's Iconografix in '92-'93. You might remember his early '00s Tales to Demolish series at Sparkplug, or The Aviatrix, a 2009 one-shot from Buenaventura Press - it's funny, often bleak stuff, very smooth and pleasantly drawn with superhero/fantasy pastiche elements. Now AdHouse is his publisher, handling a 48-page, 6" x 9" softcover collection of recent shorts culled from various sources. Preview, Tom Spurgeon interview; $14.95.
Treasury of Mini Comics Vol. 2: In which editor Michael Dowers follows up the 2013 original (and 2010's Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s) with another 5" x 6.25" Fantagraphics brick of stuff, 848 pages collecting works from 1972 to 2013, including rare stuff by Theo Ellsworth, Nick Bertozzi, Ellen Forney & Renée French, Marc Bell, Dan Zettwoch, Jason T. Miles, Trina Robbins, Johnny Ryan, Jeffrey Brown, Tom Neely, Lisa Hanawalt, Jim Rugg, Leah Wishnia, Jeff Nicholson, Le Dernier Cri's Pakito Bolino(!) and many more. Preview; $29.99.
Jaco the Galactic Patrolman: I've written about this before, just under a year ago, but only now is Viz offering a print compilation of the newest serial by Akira Toriyama, creator of Dragon Ball - a very goofy, laid-back all-ages manga comedy about a weirdo from space who messes around with human folks. The years haven't especially dulled Toriyama, who can still handle action/chase sequences with grace, although he's clearly no longer a fan of never-ending shōnen serial narratives. This one is 248 pages and done; $9.99.
Foolbert Funnies: Histories and Other Fictions: On the opposite end of the spectrum in every way imaginable is Frank Stack, underground veteran with a number of scattered humorous and political comics out there in the likes of National Lampoon, Rip Off Comix, Drawn and Quarterly and Mineshaft. This 224-page Fantagraphics softcover collects just that stuff, from 1970 to the present. Samples; $24.99.
Fungus: The Unbearable Rot of Being: The new one from James Kochalka, now via Big Planet/Retrofit, a 108-page perfect-bound account of "little fungal creatures ruminating on a variety of topics, including such bizarre mysteries as 'comics' and 'philosophy', 'cyberspace' and 'redemption'"; $12.00.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1: This is one of those weeks where Marvel drops a bunch of debut issues, many of them readily applicable to accessing at least notionally different audiences -- Ant-Man (it's a movie!); Operation S.I.N. (watch Agent Carter on ABC tonight!); Wolverines (Wolverine, but *plural*) -- so allow me to highlight this new comedy outing for the Will Murray/Steve Ditko creation, which continues Marvel's ongoing efforts at courting female readers (and, not coincidentally, maybe a few of those 'mainstream indie' dollars) by grabbing two contributors to the wildly popular BOOM! comics iteration of Adventure Time: writer Ryan North (the Dinosaur Comics proprietor) and artist Erica Henderson (previously of the MonkeyBrain series Subatomic Party Girls). Preview; $3.99.
Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers #4 (of 6): And on that note, here's the latest from this Dynamite revival of Jack Kirby's creator-owned space saga, molded by writer Joe Casey and primary artist Nathan Fox into a segmented galactic tour reminiscent of Image's Prophet, with a long list of prominent guest artists here including Benjamin Marra (an earlier iteration of the cover identified Connor Willumsen, but I'll presume he's in a future issue now). Preview; $3.99.
Sunglasses After Dark: As a student of 1990s horror comics publishers, sacred tradition compels me to make note of any reprinted works from Verotik, aka "the Glenn Danzig one" - which is actually still around, although this particular book comes from IDW. Sunglasses After Dark was the comics iteration of a vampire-who's-a-vampire-hunter concept created by novelist Nancy A. Collins (currently scripting Red Sonja stuff at Dynamite), as drawn by Stan Shaw, perhaps the only person on Earth to hold art credits on both Satanika and Dennis Eichhorn's Real Stuff. It's a 212-page hardcover, with everything included; $34.99.
Tom Sutton's Creepy Things: Fuck it, though - '70s horror comics are pretty fun too, and while Tom Sutton will probably forever be remembered as the originating interior artist for Vampirella (I'm partial to Squalor, his totally odd late '80s First Comics SF miniseries with writer Stefan Petrucha), he also did a good deal of work for the gasping, belching ol' Charlton press, which I usually picture in my mind as Moloch from Fritz Lang's Metropolis, although this may not be totally accurate. Anyway, sixteen stories are promised here, selected by Charlton Spotlight editor/publisher Michael Ambrose, who also provides an introduction; $24.99.
Drug & Drop Vol. 1: "Drug & Drop...?!" Jesus, what the hell is... ohhh, it's the new CLAMP! Moreover, it's the belated continuation of Legal Drug, one of the familiar Tokyopop releases from the days of the manga boom, when the four-woman CLAMP collective seemed impossibly ascendant in western renown. A supernatural fantasy starring handsome men, this series enjoys the unique quality of having begun in a shōjo magazine aimed at teen girls, only to land in in Young Ace, the same guy-targeted magazine that runs MPD-Psycho. Dark Horse's solicitation carefully notes that this "[w]ill be an ongoing series," perhaps as subtle preparation for the fact that only two volumes have been finished since 2011. Preview; $10.99.
What Did You Eat Yesterday? Vol. 6 (&) Lone Wolf & Cub Omnibus Vol. 7: Two manga aimed at mature men, new and old. The former (Vertical) is Fumi Yoshinaga's cooking/domestic life series, while the latter (Dark Horse) is the Kazuo Koike/Goseki Kojima swordsman classic; $12.95 (Eat), $19.99 (Wolf).
A Treasury of Victorian Murder Compendium Vol. 2 (&) Absolute Batman Incorporated: You've seen 'em before, now see 'em again - thicker. NBM has 400 pages of Victorian Murder, collecting Rick Geary's much-admired true historical crime series, while DC offers basically the entire final third of writer Grant Morrison's Batman run across 648 pages in oversized slipcased hardcover, extending from the early David Finch and Yanick Paquette-drawn stuff through the tenure of Chris Burnham; $29.99 (Treasury), $125.00 (Batman).
Steve Canyon Vol. 5: 1955-1956 (&) Spawn of Mars and Other Stories: Two vintage reprints here. The first continues IDW's library of works by Milton Caniff (a Hugo Pratt favorite) with 336 pages of strip adventure, while the second sees Fantagraphics' b&w EC line roll around to the great Wallace Wood for 216 pages of staggering environments. Wood preview; $49.99 (Canyon), $29.99 (Spawn).
Heavy Metal #272: Finally, ending perhaps near where we began, we have the long-lived newsstand Eurocomics fixture beginning an English serialization of another work by revered veteran Enki Bilal, 2011's Julia & Roem. It's the sequel to Animal’z, which also ran in recent issues of the magazine, although I'm not aware of any plans for a collected edition. A third installment, La couleur de l'air, was released in France about two months ago. Additional stories by Tayyar Ozkan, Zeljko Pahek and others. Preview; $7.95.