Desperate moments from Cloud Stories, a long-gestating self-published work from artist K. Thor Jensen; I backed a Kickstarter campaign for the project in 2013, though I can find references to the title as early as 2007, the year Alternative Comics released his first book, Red Eye, Black Eye, an anecdotal memoir. Cloud Stories is quite different - its 216 pages encompass everything from poetry to fantasy to superheroes, nonfiction, wordless flights of drawing... all linked by the presence of clouds. Also, there is a gritty sci-fi crime story titled "Vape", which inevitably is what I have excerpted above. What will vaping be like in the near-future? Dangerous. Vaping will be the most dangerous game, one we are all going to lose. This and more, available to non-backers through Amazon at the moment.
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.
I Thought YOU Hated ME: Retrofit/Big Planet has been on a run lately with long-short comics, somewhere south of 100 pages. The other week we had Anya Davidson's Lovers in the Garden, and now we've got this 64-page piece by MariNaomi, experienced purveyor of autobiographical comics. A series of comic-strip vignettes covering three decades, the book surveys "female friendship," vowing to avoid "stale tropes like acrimonious competition or fighting over boys," as the publisher puts it. Landscape format, 9.5" x 7"; $9.00.
Ichi-F: A Worker's Graphic Memoir of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant: Kodansha Whoa, look at that cover - surely this is one manga that's shooting for the general graphic novel audience. I actually saw some of this when it was serialized in Kodansha's line-leading weekly seinen magazine, Morning, starting in 2013; at the time I wondered if artist Kazuto Tatsuta wasn't a former assistant on Golgo 13, given that he draws eyebrows in much the same manner. As it turns out, he's an amateur artist who found himself with a lot of free time after absorbing the maximum advisable radiation while working cleanup at Fukushima Daiichi following that much-covered disaster. The result of his labor was a highly-successful entry in one of Kodansha's new artist competitions, and ultimately this 536-page comics memoir, a detail-oriented account of what the day-to-day affairs are like on such a heavy vocation. Though the work occupies three volumes in Japanese, I believe this Kodansha USA softcover should collect everything; $24.99.
California Dreamin': Cass Elliot Before The Mamas & the Papas: Sometimes it feels like these biographical comics are liable to usurp 'people with their clothes off in the future' as the most readily stereotyped iteration of French comics in English; obviously there's a lot of stuff to choose from. This week's entry comes courtesy of First Second and artist Pénélope Bagieu, who saw the work published in French in 2015. Across 272 b&w pages, we follow the future Mama Cass as she navigates the entertainment scene of the '60s bereft of the kind of looks favored of star performers. A hardcover release; $24.99.
Sky Doll: Sudra #1 (of 2): On the other hand - there's always a place for this. The creation of Disney Italia artists Alessandro Barbucci & Barbara Canepa -- the former draws, the latter colors, both write -- Sky Doll blends religious and social satire with far-future concepts and a not-inconsiderable amount of cheesecake in a manner long-favored by American consumers of BD, though since it's the 21st century the visual approach also strives to approximate a heavily candied feature anime aesthetic. I've kind of lost track of the various side-stories and whatnot, but this is the long-delayed fourth album in the 'main' series (another colorist, Cyrille Bertin, is now involved), released in French just last year and presented in English by Titan initially here as a small comic book miniseries; $3.99.
Nightlights (&) Street Tiger #1: Two comics from artists with which I'm unfamiliar, selected mainly on the character of the art. Nightlights is a 64-page Nobrow hardcover from Colombian illustrator Lorena Alvarez. A debut comic, the very lushly-colored story concerns a little girl who makes a new, possibly supernatural friend. Street Tiger is the comic book-format work of Madrid's Ertito Montana, "a violent, revenge thriller" about a helmeted killer told in a very gestural format. An Amigo Comics release, this edition colorizes the work from a 2015 black, white and red format; $18.95 (Nightlights), $3.99 (Tiger).
Man-Thing #1 (of 5): Marvel has not given up on securing celebrity writers for their comics, and so we now have a new swamp monster miniseries scripted by juvenile horror impresario R.L. Stine of Goosebumps fame. Note, however, that Stine dates back a lot further than that, having edited the youth magazine Bananas at Scholastic in the '70s and '80s (where his wife was a colleague of future DC publisher Jenette Kahn), at one point collaborating with a young Stephen R. Bissette. The artist here is German Peralta (of various Marvel projects over the last few years), colored by Rachelle Rosenberg. Preview; $3.99.
The Manara Library Vol. 1: Indian Summer and Other Stories SC: Finally, if you've been enjoying those Corto Maltese collections over at IDW, but you just wish there was a little more... Milo Manara involved, Dark Horse has you covered with this new softcover edition of its first Manara omnibus, notably containing Manara's & Pratt's titular 1987 collaboration, an (imo) hugely uneasy blend of 17th century familial drama and glossy sexuality/violence. I actually enjoyed the backup album more, 1982's The Paper Man, a solo Manara reflection on cowboy fiction that speaks to genre devices perhaps more relevant to European comic readers than us children of different market forces. Translated throughout by the late Kim Thompson; $29.99.