No substantial introduction this week; I'm still coping with the miraculous weekend assumption of two of my hubcaps to Paradise. Personally, I've always felt my wallet is in a state of tribulation, which I'm told places me close to "Historicism" - is that why I like those Ryan Holmberg columns so much? Ah well, here's the extent of my recent encounters with the blessed departed:
This is Wally Wood, from the F*nt*gr*ph*cs collection Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950s - it's a pre-EC story he did for Avon in '51, The Thing from the Sea! As usual, the writer is unknown, and editor Greg Sadowski suspects Joe Orlando and Sid Check might have helped out with the visuals. What mostly gets me about this one is the naïve, kind of awful and heartbreaking characterization of the rotten ghoul, who's actually a fellow the more-together human male in the story had chucked overboard at sea. But all the dead man did was walk and walk, all the way to land, starving for a companionship that belies his undead nature and frankly shifts the narrative burden from the villain 'getting his' to the creature fulfilling some unquenchable thirst inside him that the shackles of mortality can no longer restrain. Many will read some homoerotic element into it, reasonably so, but the scripting speaks primarily of some almost cosmic loneliness, defying the fragility of the corporeal as outlined in Wood's endlessly wracked, pleading faces... real pain behind this one.
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.
Even the Giants: This isn't the first noted publication by artist Jesse Jacobs -- his minicomic Small Victories was nominated for a Doug Wright Award in 2009 -- but this 80-page AdHouse production appears to be his first work with a publisher. It appears to be a collection of assorted comics, with an emphasis on movement and shape against cold landscapes; I get kind of a Brian Ralph feel from the drawing, albeit to more methodical storytelling ends, from the storytelling samples I've seen. Worth looking at. Preview, interview; $9.95.
Clonk: Meanwhile, I'm pretty sure this is the first North American appearance overall for Spanish cartoonist Ximo Abadia, working in a lot of thin, brushy animal characters. Publisher Kettledrummer Books asserts that the project "explores the magic of childhood, its transitory nature and difficulties that come with growing up," begging comparison to works of the type by Craig Thompson and Jason. As usual, I have no idea how it'll turn out, but it looks interesting enough to page through. Sample images; $19.95.
The Anthology Project Vol. 2: This is the newest in a series of hardcover books presenting various color works from artists out of webcomics, illustration and designs-for-gaming -- "the comics of artists unified by their delirious pursuit of compelling narrative and notable artistic work in the medium of sequential art," per the website -- published by some of the contributors. I'm unfamiliar with most of the participants this time around, although Emily Carrol in particular has been getting some attention for her work. Many samples; $29.95.
Dungeon Monstres Vol. 4: Night of the Ladykiller: Being the next of NBM's two-in-one translations of guest artist stories set in the world of Joann Sfar's & Lewis Trondheim's expansive, mostly untold fantasy saga contraption. Note that vol. 3 skipped ahead a bit in the series, presumably to get to more immediately recognizable names like Killoffer, but now it's back to where it left off, with the French t.5 (Jean-Emmanuel Vermont-Desroches) and t.6 (Spirou et Fantasio artist Yoann [Chivard]). Sample; $14.99.
Beauty and the Squat Bears: Elsewhere in off-kilter European cartooning comes the third and currently last in Émile Bravo's series of oddball fairy story blends, released in English by Yen Press in hardcover; $14.99.
The Smurfs Vol. 6: The Smurfs and the Howlibird: And getting back to NBM (or their Papercutz line of kids' stuff), I see we're now a little ways out into Peyo/Yvan Delporte content, which is good. I believe around here the series starts to emphasize adventure a little bit more than social commentary, although I haven't read this book specifically; $5.99 ($10.99 hardcover).
Sláine: The Horned God: Just in case anyone has a hankering for a whole lot of Simon Bisley barbarian art, here's a complete 208-page edition of a 1989-1990 storyline for Pat Mills' Celtic fantasy character from 2000 AD. Released in hardcover via the venerable British thrill power forum's ongoing North American publishing arrangement with Simon & Schuster, certainly among the more under-covered high-profile book market comics deals at the moment; $25.00.
Al Capp's Complete Shmoo Vol. 2: The Newspaper Strips: This appears to be a follow-up project to a book Dark Horse released in 2008, collecting certain Li'l Abner-related spin-off comic books from throughout history. This one looks to be more of an orthodox 'themed' newspaper strip collection, 1948-76, working in every appearance of the sweet creatures that love to be consumed. Supplements are promised for the 188-page package. I'm always interested in seeing Capp collections today, in that Li'l Abner currently occupies an odd (sub-)cultural space in having enjoyed an archival boomlet of interest before the current wave of reprints, and currently seems relegated to the back shelf of attention; $49.99.
Saturn Apartments Vol. 3: My choice for (relatively) mainline manga for your final new comics day of May. There's still a bunch more of this often very nicely-drawn Hisae Iwaoka series to go, although its serialization concluded in Japan just this month - it should round out at seven or eight volumes total. Online here; $12.99.
DC Comics Presents: Green Lantern: Willworld: Yet more from DC's 96-page reprint line, which has proved to be surprisingly adept at reviving bookstore-targeted hardcover original superhero projects from those bygone days of bookstores saving the hell out of comics. This one's a 2001 J.M. DeMatteis-scripted project about Hal Jordan mastering the willpower necessary to control his abilities, notable for art by the late Seth Fisher, I think the first place a lot of readers were exposed to his style, barring an unknown-to-me burst of interest in the 1999 Vertigo miniseries Happydale: Devils in the Desert, which might also be up for this kind of treatment; $7.99.
Strange Adventures #1: In contrast, this 80-page Vertigo item -- I have no idea if an issue #2 is planned -- appears to be an all-new anthology of 10-page fantastical shorts (and thus not a collection drawn from the 1999-2000 Vertigo miniseries of the same title). From the publisher's hype, it primarily seems like a decorative launchpad for Spaceman, the new series by the 100 Bullets team of Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso, although stories by Jeff Lemire, Peter Milligan and others are promised. Spaceman preview; $7.99.
Crossed 3D: Yeah, I'll cop to some interest in how publisher Avatar handles the third dimension in this latest, still David Lapham-scripted offshoot of its let's-just-call-it-a-flagship horror series, although I suspect the price tag may limit blind buying for a 48-page comic. Art by Gianluca Pagliarani, of Ignition City; $8.99.
The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media: Finally, your exciting franchise spinoff comic of the week (Fancy Pants Dept.) - a 170-page hardcover W.W. Norton graphic novel edition of the NPR program On the Media, presenting a history of information filtering fronted by host Gladstone and artist Josh Neufeld. Animated trailer; $23.95.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR: Approximate Continuum Comics collects some nice autobiographical early work by Lewis Trondheim, previously seen in part in The Nimrod and Expo 2000; $18.99. Take a Joke collects (among other things) the remainder of Johnny Ryan's Angry Youth Comix, covering its fascinating lunge into increasingly horror-informed material; $18.99. And Yeah! collects the entirety of a 1999-2000 DC/Wildstorm(/Homage) outer space pop band series from writer Peter Bagge and artist Gilbert Hernandez, in b&w; $19.99.