The great American injury to the eye motif, as realized by penciller Steve Ditko and inker/colorist Greg Theakston in Deluxe Comics' Wally Wood's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #4 (Feb. 1986). We've got a Direct Market now, Dr. Wertham! This stuff was collected in DC's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Archives Vol. 7 back in '11, but the Ditko issues (#3 & #4) can easily be had for one crisp American dollar each, or probably less. I'm no T.H.U.N.D.E.R. expert, but I think there's something interesting going on in this story... the hero, NoMan, is a person who can project one mind across dozens of robot bodies (not all of them human, as you can see), while his nemesis is a tech industry jillionaire who attempts to declare his resort hotel an independent nation and later schemes to individually replace each and every delegate to the United Nations with his own people. Could writer Stephen Perry (he of the contemporaneous Timespirits with Thomas Yeates) be having a bit of fun with traditional individualist Ditkovian ethos? Or is it all just an excuse for old-fashioned pre-Code-style violence? All I know is that there's a guy in this story who steals other superheroes' powers, causing him to pummel himself uncontrollably off of walls until his entire body dissolves, which might itself form a decent metaphor for costumed revivalism: broken toys, all!
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.
Genius, Animated: The Cartoon Art of Alex Toth: Being the third and final installment of IDW's Dean Mullaney/Bruce Canwell Toth documentation series, a 9.5" x 13", 328-page hardcover devoted to the man of the title's animation work, with "observations from animation professionals about his work, plus Alex's own commentary," per the solicitation. I imagine there will be a lot of appeal to seeing these very sleek designs and illustrations divorced from the shows they regrettably were made to inhabit. Your not-a-comic-at-all of the week; $49.99.
Celeste: A SelfMadeHero original from writer/artist I. N. J. Culbard, who's been active with the publisher in adapting various Lovecraft works to comics. This, however, is completely new - a 200-page color story about strange disappearances throughout the world, prompting a pair of random Londoners, an anxious LA commuter and a suicidal mangaka to take stock of where they stand. Fantasy elements should be involved. Abrams, as always, will administer the North American release. Preview images; $24.95.
Dark Horse Presents #36: This is the final issue for Dark Horse's house anthology in its current, thick-ish 80-page format; it will re-launch later in the year at closer to 48 pages, with a new Geof Darrow/Frank Miller The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot serial as bait. For now, however, expect a new comic by Jaime Hernandez as a going-away present, along the conclusion of a Stan Sakai serial, some Mike Mignola-written stuff, and whatever else needs wrapping up. Samples; $7.99.
The Shadow: Midnight in Moscow #1 (of 6): One of the earlier 'bait' serials in the most recent Dark Horse Presents, incidentally, was a crime comic by writer/artist Howard Chaykin, who now returns to the site of a controversial '80s costumed action guy tenure via Dynamite. Chaykin's original The Shadow at DC slightly preceded Frank Miller's more famous work with Batman, but I believe this is his first reunion with the character, in a story that will purportedly relate to the older material (which Dynamite has returned to print under the subtitle Blood and Judgment). Samples; $3.99.
MPH #1 (of 5): And heck, I do believe we got a little Duncan Fegredo over the course of DHP - those who used to associate him with some of the better '90s Vertigo projects (Enigma and Girl more than Kid Eternity) still have a bit of trouble adjusting to his present, wider renown as a Hellboy artist, adept as he proved himself in the role. This, however, is a new Image series in which the artist collaborates with writer Mark Millar on what looks to be an entirely Millaresque take on the 'runs fast' superhero concept, as urban teen drug abuse leads to fantastic abilities. "Will they use it to save the world? Hell no! Not when there’s dolla, dolla bills to be had, y’all," remarks the solicitation, the ghost of Bob Haney hovering close by. Preview; $2.99.
Real Vol. 12: Of the various continuing manga series out this week (there's a new Fumi Yoshinaga What Did You Eat Yesterday? due from Vertical too), I'd go for this once, since untranslated Takehiko Inoue is starting to get a little sparse. This is his continuing wheelchair basketball project, which saw its 13th number released in Japan last November, so know that Viz is right up there with the English editions; $12.99.
The First Kingdom Vol. 4 (of 6): Migration: And speaking of continuing efforts, I *think* Titan is now venturing into areas of Jack Katz's 1974-86 fantasy sprawl that have never been compiled into book form. As always, expect nicer reproduction quality and more readable lettering; $24.99.
Prophet #44: For those keeping track, next issue (#45) is the extra-sized last for this incarnation of the Brandon Graham-fronted revival of the old Rob Liefeld character (which will then be followed by an Official Guide-type Prophet Strikefile book in July and a wrap-up miniseries, Earth War, later in the year), but this one is a special issue drawn and colored entirely by Dave Taylor, who recently did the Batman: Death by Design graphic novel with Chip Kidd, along with some 2000 AD stuff. Preview; $3.99.
Toto Trouble Vol. 1: Back to Crass: Oh no, the toilet's clogged? Ha ha ha, just a little cross-cultural humor there! (Also, I have to use the bathroom, but Dan has me padlocked.) "Toto," I think, is a generic French designation for a naughty boy, which Belgian writer/artist Thierry Coppée doubtlessly kept in mind when starting up this kids' comedy series in 2004; its 10th album saw release last November. Now NBM/PaperCutz brings it to English in 6.3" x 8.5" editions of 64 pages. The same publisher has vol. 4 of Peyo's Benny Breakiron this week as well - by this point in its run, the series was being produced with the significant assistance of writer Roland "Gos" Goossens and artist François Walthéry, both of whom had done some work on The Smurfs; $7.99 ($12.99 in hardcover).
The Return of Zita the Spacegirl: Similarly -- if probably less antic -- here is the latest from Ben Hatke, concluding his trilogy of cute-looking fantasy/SF romps for kids. It's a 240-page First Second production, 6" x 8.5" in color. Samples; $12.99 ($18.99 in hardcover).
Ordinary #1 (of 3): Probably one of the more immediately-popular standalone serials to run lately in Judge Dredd Megazine - how fortunate for the creators, then, that it also happened to occupy the forum's creator-owned space, hence this new Titan Comics edition of the same material, presented in a format more in keeping with the expectations of comic book stores. Truthfully, I wasn't quite as taken with this as some readers; a new spin on the old 'everybody in the world has superpowers expect this one dude' concept, the story blends meek guy fuckup angst with sentimental lessons about the value of family in a way that seems both schematic and laboriously whimsical. That said, I will miss seeing the art of D'Israeli at magazine size, as he's being as lush and pretty as ever. Written by Rob Williams. Official tumblr; $3.99.
Devlin Waugh: Swimming in Blood: And we'll wrap it up this week with another Megazine innovation, this time a '90s-born muscleman dandy-cum-Vatican monster hunter/vampire introduced tangentially to the Judge Dredd universe, who briefly became extremely popular among the readership - probably, this is the most 'mainstream' John Smith, the writer, would ever get on an original concept. This new 288-page Rebellion import should collect all of the discreet exploits for the character through 2001 (though not, apparently, the character's guest appearances in Judge Dredd proper), which means that parts of two old DC/Rebellion Devlin Waugh collections (Swimming in Blood and Red Tide) will be included. Art by Sean Phillips (co-creator), Steve Yeowell and Michael Gaydos; $33.99.