I get the impression that Guido Crepax, Italian comics icon, is best remembered for the qualities of juxtaposition present in his work; this is to say, how panels work in sequence, and how these sequences disrupt the linearity of time, fusing reality-as-observed and imagination/dreams into a fuller reality. In an interview with Matthias Wivel from #275 of the Journal print edition, the French alt-comics giant David B., an avowed Crepax admirer, cited the “coherent life” of Crepax’s character Valentina as the artist’s great innovation: “That is to say, you get to see her daily life — extraordinary adventures happen to her, but sometimes there are quite everyday stories — and at the same time, in the same story, he shows the dreams that he replaces with her sexual fantasies, and I find that he does this admirably well.” This is all true, but it’s worth remembering that Crepax could draw some *furiously* agonized, emotive figures when necessary, rolling out the raw impact of drawing. These pages are from the 1990 Catalan Communications translation of Crepax’s 1987 album Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, though many of the words on the page (i.e. the exclamations of pain, contrary to the complete statements) are from the Italian original. In fact, you may notice the English substitutions lack the thin horizontal scratches Crepax applies to his initial lettering (see “AGHR…..AHAH” at the top of page 2 vs. “MY HEAD… MY HEAD…..”) – such is Crepax’s dedication to achieving a total narrative effect from all combined visual elements, even when his layouts are less dense and his flow less experimental than his most readily praised works…
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.
My Brother’s Husband Vol. 1: We’ve got Japanese artists up here this week, and the prime mover is Gengoroh Tagame, still best known in translation for his erotic work, though here he fronts an ongoing mainline seinen drama about the husband of a recently-dead Japanese expat traveling to meet the twin brother of the man he loved, and the twin coming to grips with both the situation of his brother’s life and his own domestic circumstances. A Pantheon hardcover, interestingly – I think this is the longtime lit comics imprint’s virgin foray into serial manga (the translator is longtime Tagame collaborator Anne Ishii), and at 352 pages it should equate to the first two of three current Japanese volumes. Preview; $24.95.
Ravina the Witch?: Speaking of mangaka more frequently seen in translation from ‘alternative’ publishers than otherwise, here is a new book from Junko Mizuno, who in recent years has published a good amount of work with Last Gasp. This 2014 work, however, is not a traditionally paneled comic, but a heavily-illustrated prose work in full color; it’s also a French-language original, which is potentially why Titan is the entity presenting it in English, as an 8.7″ x 12.1″ hardcover album of 48 pages. The scenario of this Euro’comic’ pick of the week sees an orphan girl gaining magic powers and using them for her own delight, though her troubles, as we might guess from the artist’s prior works, are not over; $24.99.
Purgatory: A few years back, Profanity Hill/Teenage Dinosaur released a 66-page issue no. “Sick Sick Six” of The Adventures of Tad Martin, previously a Caliber series dating back to the early ’90s. The work of artist Casanova Frankenstein, the book captured some attention for its intensity of purpose as unsparing memoir. Now, Fantagraphics releases a small-format (4″ x 6″), 92-page account of adolescence — “A Rejects Story” reads the subtitle — wherein the lead character “doggedly refuses to be atomized into the mass.” Stronger than the average teen life comic, I bet. NPR profile; $12.00.
Do It: Also unlikely to cuddle and coddle is this 100-page debut graphic novel by Riana Møller, an artist in the games industry, who, as a teenager, concocted plans for a school shooting. This violence did not occur, however, and the book seeks to describe how she found “an exit from the cycle of pain and delusion that had consumed her.” What samples I can find of the art suggest a thick-colored approach with some psychedelic elements, but this work really is an unknown to me. One Peace Books publishes; $18.95.
Violence Valley (&) Slasher #1: Two smaller items, both (I’m pretty sure) from Floating World Books, as distributed to comic book stores by Alternative Comics. I say I’m “pretty sure” because Violence Valley has been out for about five years now; it’s a 7.5″ square comic from Jesse McManus, 56 pages which Frank Santoro described as “one of those wordless Jim Woodring-type freakout acid trip sequences where the little tyke winds up inside the bowels of the dog somehow and finds inner peace or something – or so you think, and then it’s all blood and guts and more amazingly articulated brush lines that delineate said guts that look more like psychedelic patterns than guts.” Slasher, meanwhile, is a new offering – the latest color series from Charles Forsman, whose The End of the Fucking World now has a live-action Netflix/Channel 4 television adaptation shooting. The story seems to be about an unusual pair of people who mix sex and violence to fulfill their desires; $5.99 (Violence), $4.99 (Slasher).
Face (&) Invisible Emmie: And here’s a pair on the topic of persona. Face is a graphic novel by the Spanish-born, London-based artist Rosario Villajos, an 88-page “magical” autobiography about “identity, the escape of oneself towards love and the fight to fit in and be ‘normal’ in our society,” per the publisher, Fanfare/Ponent Mon (good to see them releasing some stuff). Invisible Emmie, in contrast, is a high-profile HarperCollins YA release in hardcover and paperback from the strip cartoonist Terri Libenson (of The Pajama Diaries). Two middle school girls of contrasting dispositions find themselves drawn together by an errant note in a situation the publisher wastes no time comparing to the Raina Telgemeier oeuvre; $14.95 (Face), $22.99 (Emmie hardcover), $10.99 (Emmie paperback).
Black Flame: Everyone Knows This is Nowhere: This past Monday marked the 77th birthday of Alex Niño, a longtime purveyor of ‘mainstream’ comics heavy with elaborate swerves of cartoon marks, like crystals or fungi or wisps of smoke emanating without restraint, impossibly, from both human bodies and their surroundings; nonetheless, these mutations do surrender enough clarity that his forms seem delicate, even vulnerable, like webs easily split. He is still active, and this week in fact brings a new 96-page graphic novel he’s worked on with the artist Kelley Jones (I don’t know what each of them does) and writer Peter B. Gillis, who co-created the “Black Flame” supernatural dark fantasy concept as a backup feature to the old First Comics series Starslayer. UPDATE: Per Rodrigo Baeza, in a 2013 Facebook post(!), Gillis specifies that the book is drawn half-and-half by Jones & Niño. This one comes from Devils Due/1First Comics; $19.99.
The Little Mermaid: Being the latest release from Metaphrog, the Scotland-based duo known for their cute/ominous allegorical stories of the character Louis. Recently, though, they’ve been publishing adaptations of folk tales, such as in 2015’s The Red Shoes and Other Tales and this Hans Christian Andersen rendition, published as an 80-page hardcover by NBM’s youth comics label Papercutz; $13.99.
Black Bolt #1: Marvel — its assorted publicity blunders, dubious business practices and executive horse whispers notwithstanding — continues to add prominent progressive voices from outside comics to its creative ranks. This time it’s novelist and social critic Saladin Ahmed detailing the exploits of the Lee/Kirby Inhumans character who cannot speak, lest incredible destruction come loose. Christian Ward (recently of Image’s ODY-C with writer Matt Fraction) is the artist. Preview; $3.99.
Hero-A-Go-Go!: Finally, I note that TwoMorrows has not one, not two, but three print-format magazines-on-comics out this week, the most interesting of which to me would be Draw! #33 for its process talk with Bill Sienkiewicz. And, in addition to all that, there’s also a 272-page color softcover from writer Michael Eury (an Amazing Heroes contributor, founder of Back Issue! magazine, and editor for numerous comics publishers in the ’80s and ’90s), who “celebrates the camp craze of the Swinging Sixties” as it relates to comics and, I expect, the wider interests of nerd culture; $36.95.