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.
Uncomfortably Happily: It is a rare thing when Korean manhwa appears in translation these days; rarer still when it’s a slice-of-life tale of the everyday. I have a lonely fondness for Kim Dong Hwa’s The Color of Earth (First Second, 2009), an extended consideration of natural phenomena as analogies for human sexual traits. This 576-page Drawn and Quarterly softcover is a bit more ‘everyday’, but no less fascinated by rural living – artist Yeon-sik Hong and his wife move to the countryside in search of serenity, but peace proves elusive in this setting. An all-in-one edition of a 2012 series, though I suspect the format matches that of a ’13 French-language edition from Ego Comme X. The translator is the cartoonist and illustrator Hellen Jo; $29.95.
Foolish Questions and Other Odd Observations: And here are some rare materials in a trusted format – that of Sunday Press Books, one of the earliest and most renowned purveyors of hardcover editions dedicated to presenting vintage works in as close to tactile contemporaneity as feasible. The focus this time around is on works by Rube Goldberg, notably the 1909-10 color Sunday iteration of his Foolish Questions feature, in which snappy retorts are offered in face of thoughtless queries; Al Jaffe did stuff like this later in MAD, along with innumerable comedians looking to puncture the inflated chumminess of passerby in hindsight from the mic. I always feel kind of bad for the dummies in these things; they’re just trying to be sociable. It’s hard sometimes. Also included are supplemental gag panels going into 1919, plus texts by Jennifer George (Goldberg’s granddaughter), Paul Tumey and Carl Linich. A 10″ x 10″ hardcover, 96 pages; $35.00.
Garbage Night: Artist Jen Lee picked up some some very positive reactions in 2015 for her oversized comic book Vacancy, which followed anthropomorphic animal kids facing the temptation and the peril of living wild in a ransacked post-domestic setting. Now the same publisher, Nobrow, offers a 72-page color hardcover (7.1″ x 9.8″) reprinting the original work with a lot of new stuff from the same milieu; $18.95.
Vague Tales (&) Ripple: A Predilection for Tina: Fantagraphics new and old here. Vague Tales is the new one from small-press funnybook specialist (and MythBusters producer) Eric Haven, a 64-page color hardcover involving “telepathic encounters with a demonic aviatrix, a wandering crystalline being, a flaming sword-wielding warrior, and a mysterious sorceress,” among other sights. I believe this is the lengthiest edition of Haven’s work so far. Ripple, meanwhile, originated in the millennial comic book series Weasel from Dave Cooper, an indie comics veteran dating back to the grimy age of Aircel and Northstar, soon to decamp for the worlds of gallery art and television animation. The story concerns a frustrated painter and his fraught relationship with a young model he plans to use for a sensational exhibition on the erotic potential of homeliness – it may be read as an anxious depiction of fascinations in the artist’s own oeuvre. David Cronenberg added an intro for the 2004 first collection, and now the whole thing returns as a 136-page, 9.5″ x 10.5″ hardcover; $16.99 (Vague), $24.99 (Ripple).
Pop Gun War: Chain Letter (&) Nate Powell’s Omnibox: Other collections! Other publishers! Chain Letter is a new 176-page Image release from Farel Dalrymple, continuing his long-lived solo surreal fantasy project. This is the material that wrapped up in the publisher’s now-defunct Island anthology, so you could also consider this the next book struck from that. Omnibox is a 696-page slipcased package of Nate Powell books originally released by Top Shelf (a publisher since acquired by IDW): the graphic novels Swallow Me Whole (2008) and Any Empire (2011); and the decade-spanning short works collection You Don’t Say (2015). Powell is best-known today as the artist of the hugely successful politico-biographical trilogy March, but it’s worth checking out these solo works – Swallow Me Whole in particular is a terrific book, a rare depiction of sibling affection cutting like a small beam through the mounting fog of mental illness; $19.99 (Pop Gun), $59.99 (Omnibox).
Winnebago Graveyard #1 (Of 4) (&) Slasher #2: A pair of real, stapled comic books for people who need it in their lives. Winnebago Graveyard is a new Image debut, this one from horror specialist Steve Niles and artist Alison Sampson, a London architect who’s been drawing some very striking comics for the likes of Image, Dark Horse and others. Niles tends to gear his scripts toward showcasing particular aspects of his collaborators, and this Satanic Americana concept looks to go heavy on deep-shadowed small town wooded ambience. Slasher is horror of a different sort, continuing the new Charles Forseman series with Floating World (distro by Alternative), in which a pair of adult online friends with troubling personal situations bond intimately via text while gingerly testing out their predilections for bloodplay in very much non-consensual situations. The first issue matched broad-canvass characterizations with a slow sense of menace in a manner I found to be an intriguing continuation of the artist’s Revenger aesthetics – rotten fruit colors and easy-access character types now put in the service of encouraging you, the genre-savvy and history-hip reader, standing so slightly aloof, to pick up the hint that everything arguably mundane is teetering on the brink of smashing down a cliff of disgust; $3.99 (Graveyard), $4.99 (Slasher).
Valerian: The Complete Collection Vol. 1: Poor Laureline – banished from the title because they didn’t name the movie after her. Un film de Luc Besson is set to drop in just over a month, so Cinebook is now offering a 160-page, 8.66″ x 11.42″ hardcover pairing the earliest, 1967-68 appearances of the galaxy-hopping Pierre Christin/Jean-Claude Mézières SF characters (which I don’t believe were collected in album form until the ’80s, and have never appeared before in English) with the first two ‘official’ albums: The City of Shifting Waters (here presented in a longer, two-part format as serialized in Pilote, 1968-69) and The Empire of a Thousand Planets (1971). Artist Mézières is working in a comparatively sprightly cartoon mode here, informed by the likes of Morris and Jack Davis, which makes this a unique choice for a cinema tie-in… and yes, there’s production materials from the big screen version in here as well, plus chats with Besson and the creators; $29.99.
Summer Magic: The Complete Journal of Luke Kirby: A 288-page all-in-one collection for a 1988-95 2000 AD series maybe less familiar outside the UK than some, concerning a saga-in-recollection of a boy wizard’s growth in the 1960s. A good portion has never been reprinted before, owing to disagreements surrounding ownership of the series; I can’t seem to find any explanation of whatever resolution has occurred at the moment (and this column is LATE ENOUGH). The creators are writer Alan McKenzie and artist John Ridgway, the latter succeeded by Steve Parkhouse and Graham Higgins; $28.99.
Jack Kirby’s The Forever People – Artist’s Edition: Finally, we are graced with a less-rare appearance by another specialist in tactile vintage works, the famous IDW line of gigantic hardcovers shot in color from b&w original art. Kirby is a popular subject, and this 144-page tome collects issues #1 & #4-8 of his Fourth World series, 1971-72, with inks by Vince Colletta and Mike Royer; $125.00 (or so).