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. But obviously that’s not the whole truth. I mean, the initial concept behind this column, which started in (god) 2011 — and, as a few of you will recall, it was really just a carryover of a similar column I wrote on the Comics Comics website before that — was that I would explore two meanings of the phrase “this week in comics”, where the upper portion of the column would cover something from the *past* week and the lower ‘tip sheet’ portion would anticipate the *coming* week. In this way, I hoped to overcome hurdles both systemic and psychological. What I mean by ‘psychological’ is that I’ve always had enormous difficulty finishing pieces of writing; if I pause for too long, I become fixated on reading what I’ve written and I become so profoundly disgusted with the low quality of what I’ve done I can’t bring myself to continue, which is not really a disposition conductive to any form of professional writing. (But then, I mostly fell ass-backwards into being thought of as a professional writer, not that any such situation excuses me from carrying out the responsibilities of functioning as a de facto gatekeeper, preaching from a seat of prestige.) So, what I decided is that I would tether whatever writing I wanted to do to a column where I’d have (A) a hard deadline and (B) a guarantee of something to write about, i.e. the lower half of the column, which I’d never fail to efficiently fill out given my lifelong status as exactly the sort of ultra-consumer on which the (ha ha) industry of comics has historically thrived. 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. But there was a systemic concern as well. Limiting a tip sheet to materials distributed by Diamond Comics Distributors to comic book stores is necessarily a statement of ideology, though, pragmatically, at the time I only saw it as the most simple means of gathering the most reliable information as to which comics would realistically be available to actually purchase by the most people. Classic utilitarianism in the disengaged U.S. manner. Even years and years ago, 13 fucking years ago, when I started this, I knew it was an incomplete picture that I was creating, and I knew, moreover, that the artists that could best use exposure would not be covered by reliance on Diamond; this gap in attention only became more severe when Diamond instituted minimum order requirements as a prerequisite for access to comic book stores, essentially blocking off all but the most devoted retailers from ever so much as acknowledging comics that lacked the expertise, funding, and publisher backing to navigate the particulars of this monopolistic distribution scheme. My ambition, I suppose, was that the top of the column would act as an offset to the bottom, through which I would respond (in a sense) to the Diamond wares by covering things either not acknowledged by that entity or displaced in time, in the sense that the discourse surrounding comics online tends to favor new or forthcoming works to the disadvantage of art that may have lacked the marketing firepower or cool factor to capture eyeballs the first time around. “I hope to isolate something empathetic and communal and Real in the commercial sphere, much in the way that, conceptually, a column juxtaposing summaries of upcoming issues of Buck Rogers with personalized depictions of rare gunge disinterred from the funnybook cemetery is meant to spark some willful recognition of commercial context as a transient aspect of the autobiography that is a soul’s interface with creative works.” I wrote that four years ago, and it still sounds very nice; I’m not disgusted with my writing all the time if it’s something I’ve managed to finish. I wish I could still say I was meeting that standard. 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. I felt really happy when I heard a few weeks ago that I convinced somebody to get a copy of John Hankiewicz’s Education, because that’s the kind of thing I’m trying to accomplish, or so I tell myself, but what I mostly tell myself now is that the state of this writing for which I collect pay every month is no longer reflective of a comics that exists as it genuinely is: a world of facets, many of which are passed over by the industrial economics which control the direction of this writing. And, I find it more and more difficult to offset that commercial illusion by the increasingly limited time I have to search for good things outside the dictated comic shop menu. This is important, because I function as a gatekeeper, and a gatekeeper cannot fancy themselves a free spirit that’s guided by whim and impulse; they have responsibilities, and though it’s arrogant to presume that a great deal of financial authority is wielded by somebody of this venue, at the same time it’s a dereliction to assume that the ideology you espouse, intended or not, has no effect on maintaining a mostly broken and unhelpful status quo. I’m still thinking like a blogger, assuming that everyone else on this site will cover for me, and to burden them like that is unfair. Oh my fucking god, listen to me. This is all just a sad plea for sympathy based on a glamour of manful struggle – OH, the BURDEN of the CRITIC! Acting tough to show you’re fucking sensitive, and then admitting you’re acting tough to show you’re fucking sensitive to show you’re also cool enough to critique your own rhetoric and thereby absolve yourself of any consequence of speech. Congrats on getting this far. You could always just buy nothing.
Furari: Your manga pick of the week has been a long time coming, but its arrival is all the more welcome for it. A 2011 release from Jirō Taniguchi, who died this past February, Furari adopts the contemplative tone by which the artist came to be defined in the west in memoriam, as a cartographer drifts through the Edo of 200 years ago absorbing the natural and man-made sights that comprise our understanding of place; I’m sure the publisher will forgive you for thinking immediately to the artist’s 1992 masterpiece, The Walking Man. Taniguchi’s crystal-clear storytelling and determined realism of setting should be well-suited to this sort of evocation of temporal and geographic specifics. A 208-page hardcover from Fanfare/Ponent Mon; $25.00.
Spy Seal #1: Well, you’ve heard of this one, right? Being the new Image comic book series debut from writer/artist Rich Tommaso, interviewed on this site just last week re: a much-linked disquisition on low pre-order sales for the title in question. It does look like a lively thing, an all-ages adventure in anthropomorphic animal espionage drawn in a style evocative of Hergé and Jason, with popping colors that may remind the reader of how Tommaso has also been doing color rebuild work on Fantagraphics’ various Carl Barks hardcovers; $3.99.
Border Worlds: Dover Publications continues to put out new editions of cult works from the history of the Direct Market, this time hitting up a 1985-90 SF serial writer/artist Don Simpson produced with Kitchen Sink, first as a serious-toned backup in his humorous Megaton Man series, and then in two iterations of its own title. As with some other Dover editions, this 352-page softcover will also include an all-new final chapter, in which Simpson endeavors to resolve his outer space plot line. An ambitious attempt at a serialized genre graphic novel for its time, and a standout in its creator’s varied career. With a new afterword by Stephen R. Bissette; $29.95.
Fantasy Sports Vol. 3: This is the latest installment of what I was only faintly aware was a continuing series from creator Sam Bosma, working in a tone proximal to shonen manga fantasy and sports serials, but drawn with a density of page layout that prizes storytelling compression in the manner of European comics albums (again, a broad analogy, a stereotype). The concept has adventurous youths finding themselves in some sort of competition with unusual beings. Nobrow remains the publisher for another 64 color pages in an 8.5″ x 11.8″ hardcover album. Looks like the sport is mini golf this time; $19.95.
Sh*t My President Says: The Illustrated Tweets of Donald J. Trump: Did you know you were logging on for the most overwrought installment of THIS WEEK IN COMICS! ever today? All this white nationalist shit bubbling over the lid yet more, having built for years and years – I haven’t think about comics much at all for the last few days, though some great discussion still occurred. Plus, there’s some cartoonists covering aspects of the political situation in a powerful way – I think immediately of Warren Craghead’s daily drawings of Donald Trump and related figures. This is a Trump-drawing project with which I am not familiar, in which veteran humorist Shannon Wheeler illustrates various instances of executive use of social media. A 120-page Top Shelf/IDW hardcover; $14.99.
Cannabis Works 2: And we’ll round things out for the week with a new PIE International release of art by Tatsuyuki Tanaka, a hugely accomplished figure in illustration and animation (he drew some of bits in the Akira movie where Tetsuo is mutating like crazy); I wrote about one of his directorial efforts a few years ago, and while it’s probably not an extraordinary feat of storytelling it does manifest a most extravagant expression of Tanaka’s near-monochrome aesthetic of smooth and wriggly flesh inhabiting city-towers of brass and steel. A 2016 release in Japan, this 160-page, 7″ x 10″ hardcover is bilingual in Japanese and English; $39.95.