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, and that I also run a podcast with an employee of Nobrow Press. 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. You could always just buy nothing.
Nod Away Vol. 1: In which Joshua W. Cotter returns to longform comics serialization with a 230-page Fantagraphics collection of material posted online, in part, via Study Group (which, like Fantagraphics, has published some of my work in the past, and may yet again in the future) since 2014. However, there is a good deal of unseen material in this print edition, enough to change the character of the work - it's now a blend of dense, heavy SF concerning the maintenance of a nexus for intermingled minds, near-wordless scenes of esoteric research framed as vision questing a la 40 Days dans le Désert B, and unnerving comics form crack-ups reminiscent of Cotter's 2009 Driven by Lemons. And also some sex, and multiple squished or exploded heads. The result is a slow, demanding read, but an absorbing one; Cotter's is a presence I've missed on the shelves. Samples; $24.99.
Crickets #5: Speaking of serials, here is part 3 of Sammy Harkham's "Blood of the Virgin", a saga of life and work (sometimes in that order) centered around a screenwriter-turned-director at an AIP-like low-budget movie studio in the early 1970s. But while there's still interpersonal cunning on the set -- now quite actively orchestrated by Our Man -- much of this issue cuts away to address the vagaries of home, in terms of both romantic and ethno-religious exchange, suggesting that film direction is a cathartic (if sinister) means of imposing control on the confusion of being. A 32-page, magazine-sized, self-published release, distributed to comic book stores through Fantagraphics. Art samples; $7.00.
Renée: Being the newest Top Shelf translation of work by French cartoonist Ludovic Debeurme, whose '06 book Lucille was brought over to English in 2011. That same year, the artist released this follow-up book in French - at 564 pages, it's not in the traditional BD album format, nor does Debeurme's un-paneled art, often heavy on blank space, ladle on much of any gloss. But the drawing is strong, and the great expanse of its pages promises "the grotesque and the graceful" in following three young characters. Preview; $29.95.
As You Were Vol. 4: Living Situations: This is a comics anthology that originated with the Silver Sprocket Bicycle Club, which releases zines, records, shirts, patches, stickers, etc. It is now co-published with Last Gasp, hopefully to some increased presence in comic book stores. I know *your* store will carry it. Contributors include Liz Suburbia, Andy Warner, Liz Prince, Ben Snakepit, and many others "from punk scenes all over the world," drawing on the topic of habitation for 120 pages. Edited by Mitch Clem & Avi Ehrlich; $10.00.
Tüki Save the Humans #4: Tüki, have you ever considered that the humans might be better off dead? I am really banking on the angst of Tüki; I think that's where my money really needs to go in 2016. Er, anyway, this is the latest 32-page Cartoon Books comic book collection of Jeff Smith's (and colorist Tom Gaadt's) adventure webcomic, sort of a Sunday newspaper adventure strip, page by page in landscape format, following the journey of an early human with companions of ancient and evolved bipedal types; $3.99.
Giganto Maxia: Your manga pick today is a 2013 side-project by Kentaro Miura creator of the long-running (perhaps forever-running) bleak fantasy series Berserk. Supposedly the tone here is a bit lighter, hearkening back to '80s post-apocalypse fight comics with a 232-page stew of grappling bodies amidst humongous creatures. Dark Horse, as usual with Miura, is the English-language publisher. Preview; $13.99.
Was She Pretty?: Lots of reprints this week, so let me start out that stretch of the page with a potential 'mainstream obscurity' - a Sarah Crichton Books release from 2006, around the time big book publishers were taking on a fair number of young cartoonists. Leanne Shapton has since published books like The Native Trees of Canada (2010) and Sunday Night Movies (2013) with Drawn & Quarterly, so it makes sense for them to reissue this one. It's a suite of facing text and illustration pages holding forth on various boyfriends and their former lovers, now a 208-page softcover; $19.95.
Underworld: From Hoboken to Hollywood (&) The Eltingville Club: Two compendiums here for alternative comics of different stripes. Underworld is the surreal and parodic creation of Kaz, a longtime alternative weekly cartoonist, writer for television animation, and contributor to venerable forums such as RAW and Weirdo; this 312-page Fantagraphics hardcover selects the best episodes since the strip's debut in 1992. But while Underworld romps through comics history, The Eltingville Club offers a ceaselessly caustic take on comic book and miscellaneous nerd culture fandoms, areas in which creator Evan Dorkin has some personal experience. A 144-page Dark Horse hardcover assembles every applicable comic book story since the characters' debut in 1994, plus materials relevant to a 2002 animation pilot adapted from the work; $39.99 (Underworld), $19.99 (Eltingville).
Walt & Skeezix Vol. 6: 1931-1932: Was it really 2005 when this series started? It may not be the most prolific of newspaper strip collection efforts, but it's got pedigree - Jeet Heer's a senior editor at The New Republic now, but he'll still have a customary text piece in here, among other bonuses, across 400 pages in a package designed and edited by Chris Ware and published by Drawn & Quarterly. Of course, at the center is Frank King, as his decades-spanning quasi-realtime strip enters the realm of teenage antics; $44.95.
The High Cost of Dying and Other Stories (&) Vampirella Archives Vol. 13: Horror comics of a certain lineage here, presented in black and white. The High Cost of Dying, like all of Fantagraphics' recent hardcover editions of EC comics, strips out the original color to highlight the drawing of the featured artist - in this case Reed Crandall, "an undisputed master of fine-line detail and expertly nuanced pen-and-ink texture." Twenty-one tales are included across 176 pages. Crandall also did some work for the later, natively b&w Warren horror magazines, which initially hewed quite closely to the EC model. However, by 1980, when Vampirella Archives Vol. 13 picks up, Warren had become heavy with recurring characters and serial adventures, many showing signs of exhaustion. Issues #89-96 are collected over 400 pages, with art by Rudy Nebres, José Ortiz, Rafael Auraleón, Alfredo Alcala, Esteban Maroto, and Leopoldo Durañona with Alex Toth, among others. I think Dynamite only has two more of these to go; $29.99 (Dying), $49.99 (Vampirella).
Zagor: The Red Sand: Here is the second collection of this Italian western/horror/sci-fi series that Epicenter has released - fat books, with this one weighing in at 430 color pages. The series (much like this column) is set in Pennsylvania; it's about a man of the woods who promotes peace among native tribes and various races in the early 19th century, though there's also supernatural and 'weird' elements. This particular book collects a tribal war-type storyline by the series' original creators: Sergio Bonelli -- writing as "Guido Nolitta" -- and Gallieno Ferri, who debuted the concept in 1961. Numerous supplementary texts should also appear; $20.99.
Comics Dementia: A Love and Rockets Book (&) Love and Rockets: New Stories Vol. 8: Finally, to cap off a very busy week for Fantagraphics (in case you hadn't noticed), here are two releases from two of the publisher's foundational talents. Comics Dementia collects 224 pages of otherwise loose short pieces by Gilbert Hernandez, as printed in various comic book back-issue from the 1990s - "the bygone days when graphic novels were just comic books," per the publisher. Ah, but Hernandez has mentioned that Love and Rockets will return to a 32-page format following this week's other offering, the eighth bookshelf-format New Stories, which features 100 pages of new work by him and brother Jaime. Blubber too is a traditional comic book... $19.99 (Dementia), $14.99 (New Stories).
The thumbnail image for today's column, SINCE YOU WERE INTERESTED, is also from the first volume of Joshua W. Cotter's Nod Away. Please enjoy the rest of your day.