Ah, now that’s how a funny animal makes an entrance! From deep out the Fantagraphics archives (my apartment annex) (unofficial) comes Belgian artist Benoît Sokal, creator of the still-ongoing Inspector Canardo series, although catholic nerds will recall him more easily as a designer behind the popular 2002-04 computer game series Syberia. Actually, his gaming career began with a (very loose) adaptation of an ’80s Inspector Canardo album, 1999′s Amerzone: The Explorer’s Legacy, about which I recently penned a personal confession. I’m a little surprised that Sokal didn’t see a small revival around that time, although I guess the graphic novel situation was still tenuous enough that anthropomorphic noir characters fucking and shooting in a cruelly humorous manner was no longer on the radar.
Still, we have Shaggy Dog Story, a 1989 Rijperman release I believe Fantagraphics distributed. It was the first proper Canardo album following a series of short stories in (À Suivre), and mainly concerns a disturbed dog’s investigation of animal experimentation. Two further albums were promised on the back cover, but I think only one of them was ever released (under the title Blue Angel, from NBM). The same two albums also found themselves released in UK editions via Fleetway’s “xpresso” line, an attempt to build a Eurocomics-centered sibling to 2000 AD; indeed, issues #2 and #3 of the 2kAD-related Crisis Presents anthology focused on European and like-minded short stories, with #2 sporting a nice Canardo short along with pieces by Lorenzo Mattotti, Miguelanxo Prado, Milo Manara, Max Cabanes, Matthias Schultheiss, Sean Phillips and Rachel Ball – a great little magazine if you can track it down, even if you’re not so much into hashing out the implications of such an odd duck of a series temporarily popping up in two countries and then vanishing from English print for good.
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.
Godzilla: The Half-Century War #1 (of 5): Yeah, this lil’ comic book launch is going right up top, because it’s the new project by Orc Stain writer/artist James Stokoe, an IDW-published look at the title beastie’s destructive exploits, I believe set in a different 20th century decade every issue, although I might be mistaken. Anyway, there’s not a lot of comics artists around more obviously suited to a project like this than the manga-informed (though never quite indebted) Stokoe, who can always be counted on to make the comic book format seem entirely applicable to looming vistas and veritable prairies of debris. Samples; $3.99.
The Shadow’s Treasure: Yep, it’s yet another Humanoids crazy-limited oversized special, this time honed in on a fantastical artist well-deserving of a 12″ x 16″ presentation: François Boucq, whose old Catalan Communications collections Pioneers of the Human Adventure, The Magician’s Wife and Billy Budd, KGB (the latter two written by Jerome Charyn) are well-worth tracking down. Otherwise, Boucq is only represented in English by his old West gunfighter series Bouncer with Alejandro Jodorowsky, who also handles the writing for this dreamy 88-page project from 1999, set up not unlike Jodorowsky’s The Eyes of the Cat with Moebius, which coincidentally is seeing a smaller, 7.7″ x 10.5″ re-release this week. Samples; $69.95.
A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return: Already, I feel remorse over this week’s SPOTLIGHT PICKS[.] Surely there’s some smaller, more expressive, experimental, confrontational work out there in need of highlighting above a front-of-Previews Godzilla tie-in comic and this column’s umpteenth Jodorowsky citation. Also, why is there a duck on top of this post? One day, my replacement will provide the answers to all the questions, and what a fine Tuesday that will be. Until then, I will admit I know absolutely nothing about the nearly half-dozen releases by the Lerner Publishing Group this week, although the most eye-catching among them is this 2007 work (Mourir, partir, revenir – Le Jeu des hirondelles) by Lebanese cartoonist Zeina Abirached, detailing a childhood in Beirut over 192 pages through a visual approach reminiscent of Marjane Satrapi and David B. Paul Gravett overview; $9.95.
Right State: Vertigo is also still publishing original graphic novels — somewhat miraculously, when you thing about it — enough so that you get new releases by writers you recognize mainly from prior Vertigo hardcovers, such as Mat Johnson of 2008′s Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery (although I am aware he has various prose novels to his credit). This one’s a 152-page thriller about a hard right pundit who sets politics aside and draws upon his special forces background to oppose an assassination attempt on the President of the United States. Art by Andrea Mutti; $24.99.
District Comics: An Unconventional History of Washington, DC: I think this was planned at some point to be an online anthology of comics about the Washington, DC area by (mostly) local artists; maybe it still is? Regardless, it is right now a 256-page Fulcrum Publishing release, edited by Matt Dembicki. I believe Jim Ottaviani is among the contributors; $24.95.
Cardboard: Your big-attention YA Scholastic release for today, a new one by Doug TenNapel, 288 pages about cardboard creatures that come to life and cause trouble for everyone; $12.99 ($24.99 in hardcover).
Bernie Wrightson’s The Muck Monster Artist’s Edition Portfolio (&) Neal Adams’ Thrill Kill Artist’s Edition Portfolio: In which IDW’s Artist’s Edition line of ‘shot-in-color, at-full-size’ original art showcase books finally leaves the whole ‘book’ affectation behind and gathers loose prints of facsimile pages into little packages. The Warren horror magazines are ideal for such a comparatively low-cost effort, and here’s two of their best-known stories, both from 1975, sitting at opposite ends of the horror comics tradition: Bernie Wrightson’s The Muck Monster (7 pages, 14.5″ x 19″), a riff on the Frankenstein story, and Neal Adams’ Thrillkill (8 pages, 12″ x 18″), a Jim Stenstrum-written account of a gunman’s massacre juxtaposing Adams’ images of mayhem with an unseen character’s subsequent reflection on the events via running caption narration. Don’t fret, the book-type Artist’s Editions will be back with showcases for Gil Kane’s The Amazing Spider-Man, Mark Schultz’s Xenozoic Tales, early Mad, and Will Eisner’s The Spirit, which should be up next; $29.99 (each).
Grendel Omnibus Vol. 1: Hunter Rose: And in far more bulky reprint environs, Dark Horse has 600 pages’ worth of Matt Wagner’s signature person-with-a-sharp-thing franchise, including the 1985 Devil by the Deed serial, the 2007-08 Behold the Devil miniseries, and a pair of large anthology projects, 1998-99′s Black, White, and Red (Duncan Fegredo, Guy Davis, Tim Sale, Mike Allred, Ho Che Anderson, Paul Chadwick, Bernie Mireault, Teddy Kristiansen, David Mack, others) and 2002′s Red, White, and Black (Jill Thompson, Farel Dalrymple, Cliff Chiang, Stan Sakai, Darick Robertson, Andi Watson, Jim Mahfood, Ashley Wood, Michael Zulli, others). No idea if any of the really early stuff will be included, a la the 2007 Grendel Archives hardcover. Samples; $24.99.
RASL Vol. 4 (of 4): The Lost Journals of Nikola Tesla: Not a long wait for the trade with Jeff Smith’s sci-fi serial, given that its concluding issue dropped last week. This is the 9″ x 12″ line of oversized softcovers (as opposed to the 6.5″ x 9″ line of fatter digest softcovers, the second volume of which should be imminent), here adding a bonus section to increase the final page count to 160. True to its ‘regional drive-in movie’ feel, RASL concluded with much grapplin’ on high cliffs and two separate summaries of the plot/explanations for what was going on, underscoring both the rather larky nature of the fast-moving story, and (by implication) the sheer extent of time it requires an artist to draw and publish even such a fleet lil’ action scenario, divorced from the studio assistants and grounded serialization forums a similar manga might benefit from; $19.95.
Scott Pilgrim Color Edition Vol. 1 (of 6): Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life: Of course, Smith’s Bone remains a better-known work, in no small part due to its massively successful re-serialization as a line of colorized graphic novels. Here we see Oni attempt the same with Bryan Lee O’Malley’s 2004-10 series, possibly among the defining pop comics of that decade. The colors are by Nathan Fairbairn, and the the format is 6″ x 9″ and hardcover. Big preview; $24.99.
The Creep #0: Also a collection, also different, being yet another comic book-format compilation of stuff from Dark Horse Presents, concerning a noir dude created by B.P.R.D. co-writer John Arcudi and Green River Killer artist Jonathan Case; it’s gonna be its own series now. Preview; $2.99.
It Girl! & the Atomics #1: Not a collection, but a new Image spin-off of Mike Allred’s Silver Age throwback series — itself an offshoot of his Madman project — bringing what looks to be a somewhat more contemporary take on the stuff, via writer Jamie S. Rich and artist Mike Norton. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a bunch of slightly older creator-owned titles flocking to the Image line in a refurbished state, given the publisher’s rapidly heightening profile. Preview; $2.99.
Sláine: Treasures of Britain: A 128-page Rebellion collection of Pat Mills-written 2000 AD barbarian comics, this time culled from a mid-’90s period where the series was still searching for a visual approximation of the old, super-popular Simon Bisley painted aesthetic, before settling on the heavy digital photo-play of Clint Langley in the 21st century. Specifically, the artists are Dermot Power and Stephen Tappin, and the scenario concerns demons and magic items and stuff; $24.99.
Slam Dunk 23 (of 31): Once again the manga I’d be most interested in this week, sporting life from Takehiko Inoue. Viz also has vol. 13 of Bakuman, which the Journal’s Chris Mautner has been describing to me as a continuing tirade against the very notion of comics as art, or really anything beyond a mechanism through which to better one’s life through mass appeal and financial reward; $9.99.
Steve Canyon Vol. 2: 1949 1950: Golden Age of Reprints; IDW; Milton Caniff; all-color Sundays; 336 pages; etc.; $49.99.
We Go Pogo: Walt Kelly, Politics, and American Satire: Finally, your book-on-comics for the week, a 272-page Kerry D. Soper study from the University Press of Mississippi, examining various aspects of the comics and animation veteran’s career; $25.00 ($65.00 in hardcover).