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THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (7/16/14 – When Summer is Over for Me, It’s Over for Everyone)

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I was on vacation. The person I’m holding is YOU.

(Art by Seizō Watase)

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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.

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SPOTLIGHT PICKS!

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Youth is Wasted: Being a 112-page AdHouse collection of short works by Noah Van Sciver, culled from later issues of his one-man anthology series Blammo!per the artist, earlier issues are not represented because “[t]here’s just nothing there” — as well as various anthology appearances. Actually, you might want to read through that whole interview I just linked; I’d gotten the feeling before that Van Sciver was prone to drawing from a somewhat earlier, more declarative alt-comics tradition than many of his peers (think the Canadian wave of Seth, Joe Matt, Chester Brown), and there’s some confirmation out in there. Introduction by superhero artist and elder sibling Ethan Van Sciver. Preview; $14.95.

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Pictures That Tick Vol. 2: And speaking of that period – it’s genuinely difficult to remember today, but for much of the 1990s Dave McKean’s Cages was pretty widely considered (or at least expected to be) one of the Major Works of Comics. Yet while McKean enjoyed some influence in the world of illustration and design, Cages today seems like more of a fascinatingly prolonged aberration. That said, McKean has continued to produce new solo comics at an irregular clip: the story collection Pictures That Tick with Allen Spiegel Fine Arts in 2001; the erotic graphic novel Celluloid with Fantagraphics in 2011; and now this second, 272-page, 9″ x 12″ softcover compendium of shorts, new from Dark Horse, which has also re-released Cages and the first Pictures (and a pair of Neil Gaiman collaborations) in recent years. If it’s anything like the first one, expect a blend of hand-drawing, photo collage and digital manipulation, coupled with poetic-minded text and dramatic, interpersonal, psychological themes akin to literary fiction. There will also be a signed hardcover; $29.99 ($100.00 signed HC).

PLUS!

Seconds: Not trying to slam Bryan Lee O’Malley (or anyone) by putting him (them) in the PLUS! section – it’s just that something tells me you *might* be hearing about this book from some other media sources at some point in the near future. Of course, this is O’Malley’s 336-page color follow up to the era-personifying Scott Pilgrim series, an original Random House hardcover all but guaranteed to be one of the most visible comics of 2014. The story involves a young woman who discovers magic mushrooms which give her the ability to repeat and perfect parts of her life – the video game and anime influence likely remains strong. Ink assists by Jason Fischer, colors by Nathan Fairbairn and lettering by Dustin Harbin; $25.00.

Cap’n Dinosaur: So long as Shaky Kane is gonna keep drawing these oddball one-shots, I’m just gonna keep on mentioning them. This one (following last month’s That’s Because You’re a Robot with David Quantick) was created with writer Nigel “Kek-W” Long, a contributor to 2000 AD since the mid-’90s, around the time when Kane was also doing some art over there. From what I can gather, it’s a police mystery which somehow involves comic book mail-order advertisements; $3.99.

Doc Frankenstein Vol. 1: The Messiah of Science Resurrected: Let’s see – popular superhero talent, folks fresh off a big corporate genre success, splashy high concept, creator-owned: it’s like Image today! And, a bit like Image yesterday too, since this 2004-07 series kinda petered out after six issues without resolving everything. Nonetheless, Burlyman Entertainment now brings a softcover collection of issues #1-4 of this Steve Skroce-drawn action/skepticism SF series, written by the Wachowskis (they of The Matrix) in a manner that treats the purplish style of Alan Moore circa The Saga of the Swamp Thing as holy writ while wielding aggressive anti-clericalism like a cudgel. A second volume is due later this year, and should finish off the story with new material; $16.99.

Lust: Not that I blame IDW for diversifying its line, but I’ll probably always associate it with slickly-designed books of fog-smeared figures lolling ominously a la Ashley Wood’s Popbot and 30 Days of Night, and — as if to treat me, specifically! — the creators of that latter project, Steve Niles & Ben Templesmith, now reunite (with the addition of second artist “menton3″) for what looks like a veritable collision of the two into a 72-page blend of “a prose book, a comic book, and an art book” concerned with the sin of the title, and I suppose the dichotomous value of chastity – each artist will be concerned with one half. Initially funded via a hugely successful 2012 Kickstarter campaign, and eventually to be followed by seven additional installments on different themes. A hardcover is available online, but this 8.5″ x 12″ release is in softcover form; $19.99.

The Squidder #1 (of 4): This is also new from Ben Templesmith and IDW, a solo miniseries which promises “an old soldier from a forgotten war in a post-apocalyptic world that has left him behind,” with Lovecraftian elements; $3.99.

Anomal: GEN is a manga publisher I’ve linked to a few times, notable for releasing original dōjinshi in English; when you hear about dōjin works in manga, it’s usually in the context of fan comics involving popular characters, but *original* dōjinshi are really just small press comics. I’ve been seeing more of GEN’s print endeavors in stores lately, and here is a 160-page collection of shorts by “Nukuharu,” who specializes in weird horror stuff. A digital edition is also available; $9.95.

Adventure Time #30: I’ve stopped keeping track of the spinoffs this big licensing success has spawned at Boom!, but the main series does retain a certain line-leading swagger, having just come off a multi-issue story drawn by Jim Rugg, and now diving into games of format. If I am not mistaken, this issue will consist of “zines” from various in-story characters, with a corresponding shift in paper quality to uncoated stock. Ryan North remains the writer, while the contributing artists include recognizable small press and webcomics folk like Liz Prince and Yumi Sakugawa, among others. Preview; $3.99.

Tales of the Batman: J.H. Williams III: DC has a number of Batman-themed collections out this week in approximate commemoration of the character’s 75th anniversary, but I think I’m gonna go with this lone (and probably unrelated) artist-centered collection, both because Williams (currently of The Sandman: Overture with Neil Gaiman) is an interesting and adept visualist, and also in that the sweep of these works (1996-2007) will allow you to witness his evolution from a horror-inflected stylist to the mixed-approach intensity he’s known for today. With inker Mick Gray and writers Doug Moench, Dan Curtis Johnson, Paul Dini and Grant Morrison. The 448-page hardcover should also include the complete Snow storyline Williams & Johnson wrote for the late artist Seth Fisher; $49.99.

Steranko: Nick Fury, Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Artist’s Edition: Oh, this should be something. Collecting twelve Jim Steranko stories from Strange Tales #151-162 (some layouts by Jack Kirby, some writing by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas), reproduced at 15″ x 22″, from the original art, as IDW usually does. A total of 184 pages, with packaging apparently designed by Steranko himself; $150.00 (or so).

Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Vol. 5: Outwits the Phantom Blot: Plenty more Floyd Gottfredson & co. in this 288-page Fantagraphics hardcover, with some alternate versions of the (sub)title story and related paintings, and — if I’m reading the table of contents correctly — Ryan Holmberg expounding on Gottfredson’s influence on Osamu Tezuka…! Samples; $34.99.

Prince Valiant Vol. 9: 1953-1954 (&) The Prince Valiant Page: And finally, a pair of additional newspaper strip items for your delectation. One is the newest Fantagraphics package of Hal Foster classics, 120 pages at 10.25″ x 14″. The other is a newly-discounted Flesk Publishing item, 112 pages at 9″ x 12″, delving into Gary Gianni’s contemporary work on the feature with texts and image reproductions; $35.00 (Vol. 9), $14.98 (Page).

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26 Responses to THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (7/16/14 – When Summer is Over for Me, It’s Over for Everyone)

  1. Dave Knott says:

    it’s genuinely difficult to remember today, but for much of the 1990s Dave McKean’s Cages was pretty widely considered (or at least expected to be) one of the Major Works of Comics

    Hah, yeah.
    This very publication even placed it at #46 on their “Top 100 Comics of the 20th Century” list (TCJ #210, Feb. 1999)
    It’s a pretty good comic and all, but Cages probably wouldn’t even make it onto a list twice that long if a similar exercise were to be carried out today.

    That new Pictures That Tick volume should be interesting. At the very least it will be very pretty to look that.

  2. Joe McCulloch says:

    ADDENDUM: I had omitted mention of a new Humanoids edition of the 2001-04 Xavier Dorison/Christophe Bec series Sanctum, as I had thought it was a reissue of a recent release; turns out I was mistaken, as its most recent publication was nine years ago. So: underwater mystic horror, 188 pages in an 7.9″ x 10.8″ hardcover; $29.95.

  3. steven samuels says:

    The less said about Celluloid, the better. Just another textbook example of the dubious artistic merits of most comics with extensive photos in them. Maybe there is an example out there of good use of photos in comics. If there is, I haven’t heard of it.

  4. Tony says:

    Hey, Joe, I think I just discovered what’s gonna be your SPOTLIGHT PICK for the first week of December:

    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=577044412416060

  5. Joe McCulloch says:

    Ahh, the comments pay for themselves. Word is spreading!

  6. Joe McCulloch says:

    Corto Maltese press release… FROM THE FUTURE!

  7. Dave Knott says:

    Flashback! It looks like Dean Mullaney is reusing his old Eclipse Comics logo for the new IDW EuroComics imprint…

  8. DJM says:

    I was thinking the exact same thing! I wonder who gets it now…?

  9. R. Fiore says:

    I didn’t notice the logo. The thing that caught my eye was the words “original oversized black-and-white format.”

  10. Gianni says:

    @Steve Samuels

    It would be interesting if somebody would reprint the best fumettos from Help!, specially those by Terry Gilliam.

  11. Dave Knott says:

    @R. Fiore
    It gets even better…

    The series will also be released in a matched set of six original art-sized limited edition hardcovers, each containing the equivalent of two of the trade paperbacks.

  12. I’m presuming that your comment on Cages is about its lack of high profile or in-printedness or perhaps the fact that other works of its kind aren’t really present on the market, and not about downgrading the general assessment of the quality of the work itself. I personally still consider it one of the greatest graphic novels ever made. I can’t believe it wouldn’t still land somewhere on a TCJ top 100 list.

  13. Joe McCulloch says:

    What I’m saying is that it hasn’t lingered in the conversation; you almost never hear anybody discuss it, virtually nobody active in ‘art’ comics today invokes it, and its basic narrative/compositional approach — sprawling, choral, quite unabashedly ‘literary’ human drama with lavish, mixed-media eruptions in a large format — isn’t often pursued, maybe just for lack of money to subsidize it all anymore. This is a departure from years past, when it was a singular work on the tip of many tongues – it’s still singular, but the relative obscurity into which it’s fallen is noteworthy. And it’s been in print pretty frequently.

    Building Stories, of course, was big and mixed and literary too, but Ware is Ware in terms of narrative modes… maybe that Adam Hines comic a few years ago… Duncan the Wonder Dog, that had a little of the same texture.

  14. Tim Schmitt says:

    I would really be interested in reading a close examination and re-evaluation of stuff like Cages on TCJ. There also was this book Signal to Noise, written by Gaiman I think. As a teenager in the 90s I thought this stuff was so relevant, now I’m rather embarassed I ever liked it. It feels a bit like the Green Arrow/Green Lantern books from the 70s, very talented mainstream artists trying too hard to be meaningful. From today’s perspective I feel like Todd MacFarlane’s work was more honest :) Maybe that’s unfair though, I haven’t read McKean’s work in ages, I just remember it felt pretentious after a while. Well I think it could be an interesting subject still, and I’d actually be more interested in reading a defense of the work. Not sure if any of the fine writers on here really care though.

  15. Andrew White says:

    Not quite contemporary, and not North American art comics, but Fabrice Neaud has mentioned Cages as a big influence on his Journal series.

  16. Joe McCulloch says:

    I *have* been re-reading as many of McKean’s comics as I can, lately – in conjunction with the new Pictures That Tick. I’ve started with the Gaiman collaborations, and so far I’d say Violent Cases (cutesy title aside) holds up pretty well as comics-as-literary-fiction (though I’m not so much opposed to McKean’s photo-derived look of that time), as does its stronger spiritual sequel, Mr. Punch. Their ‘relevant’ superhero works don’t hold up, not really, though I’m sympathetic to the particular pretensions of Black Orchid – to revamp a superhero in a way that supersedes the necessity of violent conflict itself. It was a good try. That Hellblazer story they did, though, “Hold Me” – yikes, that one’s dire. I preferred the Hellraiser story they did at Epic, which is a totally straight-ahead nasty horror piece. Still getting around to Signal to Noise

  17. Oliver says:

    ‘Signal to Noise’? Alternatively you could skip Gaiman and McKean’s dour veneer of fiction and just go straight to the (far superior) source, the diary kept by Andrei Tarkovsky during his last years, extensive and acidic, much of which has been translated into English.

  18. Paul Slade says:

    I haven’t looked at that Gaiman/McKean Hellblazer issue for years, but I remember I really enjoyed it when it first came out. I’m going to re-read it this evening, Joe, so any more thoughts you have on why it’s so bad would be fascinating to see. Who knows – I might even agree with you now.

  19. Joe McCulloch says:

    Well, fundamentally, it’s a comic ostensibly about the marginalization of people — the poor, the queer, the non-white — that lingers extensively on how these situations reflect upon the general marvelousness of its witty, resourceful, desirably virile heroic leading man, with the story’s primary poor character presented as a deadly phantom, its suffering lesbian character shown to be a liar whose issues are only resolved by said hero’s selfless graces (I know Constantine is officially bisexual, but this has rarely been a prevalent character trait, and anyway doesn’t factor into this story), and its primary non-white character killed off for, by the rules of the plot, failing to sufficiently love the strange man she’s found broken in to her home. Otherwise, the very existence of racial difference is centered in a conversation Constantine has with a one-note racist cabbie, i.e. an opportunity for John to land some lame burns as a blow for equanimity. Thank heavens we have this magical guy around to counteract the ills of poverty by hugging them away! I understand what Gaiman’s getting at: it’s incumbent upon the individual to express empathy toward his fellow humans, with Constantine used as a means of demonstrating virtue to the reader, but the presentation is mawkish and the point of view sophilistic, dimming the presence of the already-muffled voices it deigns to respect into fantasy decoration for a superhero’s moral victory. I did like the coloring, though.

  20. Paul Slade says:

    Hmmm, well Hold Me’s certainly not as good as my happy memories of it suggested. Maybe that Vertigo house style of socially-aware-horror-grounded-in-the-real-world just hasn’t aged well.

    Gaiman’s story strikes me now as archly sentimental, very slight and generally a bit dashed-off in a “will-this-do” kind of a mood. Even in 1989, that cliche of the racist taxi driver spitting National Front propaganda was getting rather tired.

    McKean’s art verges from the gloriously atmospheric (page 4’s shot of Constantine hailing a taxi) to the just plain goofy (page 7’s introductory shot of Anthea). There’s not a great sense of storytelling movement from one panel to the next either: some pages feels far more like a collection of stand-alone illustrations than a single scene developing through the whole sequence. On the plus side with Anthea, it’s good to see any woman in a DC book who’s not drawn as a Generic Comic Book Babe.

    All that said, I still think “dire” is a bit strong. If this is dire, then what stronger words are left for the real dreck?

  21. Paul Slade says:

    Joe – I wrote the above before seeing your reply. You make some good points.

  22. Mike Hunter says:

    ——————————–
    Joe McCulloch says:

    …I’m sympathetic to the particular pretensions of Black Orchid – to revamp a superhero in a way that supersedes the necessity of violent conflict itself. It was a good try.
    ———————————

    Yes; it wasn’t an unadulterated success, but neither was it an utter failure. And with all the griping about brainless violence in comics, isn’t a — say, 60% — successful attempt to show a way out of glorifying and glamorizing brute force (with some exquisite McKean art along the way) worth tipping one’s hat to?

    “Hold Me” is no towering masterpiece, but likewise is a pretty fine alternative to the tropes of the typical horror tale. Here the “menace” is no monstrous Other to be finally slaughtered by righteous, Cross-wielding normality (no wonder Stephen King rightly noted, “horror is conservative”), but a piteous demi-ghost. A homeless man fled into another realm of being to escape his freezing abandonment, seeking only — for once — a bit of caring, empathetic human contact. Not to be loved, but simply held.

    Some excerpts at http://scans-daily.dreamwidth.org/3623399.html , which can’t do full justice to the original comic, but still show the grit and gravitas of McKean’s artistry, and the huge gap between the caricature described farther down, which bears as much resemblance to the actual work as the Fox News image of “liberals” does to the species in question.

  23. Mike Hunter says:

    By “farther down” I meant McCulloch’s post-Black Orchid commentary, that is…

  24. If I remember right, there’s a story later in the run – maybe at the end of Jamie Delano’s run (40 & 41)? It features John’s unborn brother who died in the womb? And a man who works at an abattoir (really stretching my memory beyond it’s ability!!)

    Wasn’t that drawn by Dave McKean as well? I remember it being incredibly heavy handed and pretty confusing (but then again, I think that anything by Jamie Delano is heavy handed, so…)

  25. On the other hand – his kids book illustrations are pretty great. My son loves the Varjak Paw drawings.

  26. Joe McCulloch says:

    Yes, that’s also McKean. (#40) Delano’s best was that Annual he did with Bryan Talbot, “The Bloody Saint”… I liked that one a lot.

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