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.
Otherworld Barbara Vol. 1 (of 2): This is not actually on Diamond’s release list for the week, though some stores evidently received their stock last week; I have personally laid eyes on a copy, so I’ve decided to split the difference between 9/7 and whatever listing may be forthcoming and mention the damned thing now. It’s a 2002-05 SF series from Moto Hagio, one of the pioneers of the artistic and thematic advancements in Japanese girls’ comics in the 1970s, and still a formidably singular artist. Serialized in Flowers, a magazine of comics aimed at adult women, the plot very broadly concerns a psychic detective investigating a girl who once engaged in cannibalism and retreated into an imaginary world that is now somehow intruding onto reality, though there are several other elements and characters at play. This Fantagraphics release doubles up the Japanese originals into 400-page hardcovers, translated by Matt Thorn, who interviewed Hagio way back in the very first issue of this magazine to which I contributed; $39.99.
Late Bloomer: A small (4.25″ x 5.5″) Retrofit/Big Planet softcover presenting 104 pages of comics-as-poetry by Maré Odomo, prodigiously talented at pairing sparse words with rich and heavy pencil drawings to create small pockets of mood – a long book of this stuff is a really fine way for these publishers to continue exploring formats outside of the traditional comic books in which they’ve generally specialized; $10.00.
Ghosts (&) King Baby: I’m not putting either of these in the spotlight because, frankly, they don’t need it; they ride at the front of the bookstore mainstream of comics, and were all of us in the specialty press to blink from existence, they would continue unimpeded. Ghosts is the new graphic novel by Raina Telgemeier, the undisputed superstar of the YA comics scene and a very sturdy professional in terms of story craft and appealing, communicative cartoon art – you can understand quickly how she’s maintained her extremely wide appeal. The story concerns two sisters navigating illness in a new home purportedly sitting alongside a realm of spirits, which immediately brings to mind Hayao Miyazaki’s film My Neighbor Totoro, though I’m sure these 256 color pages will set off on their own direction. King Baby is the new hardcover children’s book from Kate Beaton, supremely popular webcomics artist, following up last year’s The Princess and the Pony for another comedic tale, this time involving a demanding infant whose every whim is flattered by all around; $10.99 (Ghosts SC), $24.99 (Ghosts HC), $17.99 (Baby).
Nicolas: Being a new edition of the name-making graphic novel from Pascal Girard, which Drawn and Quarterly first published in English back in 2009. Motivated by the unfussy, vignette-driven works of Jeffrey Brown, Girard drew the entire book over a single weekend, circling around the topic of his younger brother’s death and the effects it had on the artist’s childhood. This updated hardcover adds a new 26-page comic after the primary text, telling of Girard’s adult relationship with a more distant surviving brother, for a total of 112 pages; $14.95.
True Stories #2 (of 4): Don’t worry, there are still alternative comic books in this world. For example, Alternative Comics has a second 48-page issue of this series from Derf Backderf, drawing on his alt weekly strips for real encounters with the public; $5.99.
Pocahontas: Princess of the New World: Your Eurocomics choice of the week is a 2015 book from artist Loïc Locatelli Kournwsky, working in a black, white & yellow style that gives the impression of his dense thatches of hatching illuminated by a distant fire. Is this is conflagration of history, devouring the truth and complexity of life? The artist calls this a “personal version” of the life of the Native American woman whose dealings with early English settlers assured her place in American myth. Pegasus Books publishes this 128-page hardcover edition in English at 11.3″ x 8.8″. Wordless preview; $25.95.
Doom Patrol #1: As myself and other wags on social media have pointed out, Young Animal is the title of a Japanese comics magazine that lures in its target audience of adult men with photographs of girl pop groups and scantly-clad gravure idols, treating them to the likes of Kentarō Miura’s violent fantasy saga Berserk (when it’s running) and Katsu-Aki’s sexual education comedy Futari Ecchi. Now, however, “Young Animal” is also a new imprint of DC Comics fronted by the musician and irregular comics writer Gerard Way for the purposes of creating Mature Readers fare with DC characters. This is the first product of that effort, a revival of the ’60s-born weird superhero team well-known for prominent ’80s and ’90s runs by the writers Grant Morrison (an occasional Way collaborator) and Rachel Pollock as much as the Arnold Drake/Bob Haney-scripted classics. Now Way himself writes, with Nick Derington drawing and Tamra Bonvillain coloring – keep an eye peeled for variant covers by Jaime Hernandez and Brian Chippendale(!), if you’re planning to buy. Preview; $3.99.
The Punisher War Journal by Carl Potts and Jim Lee: Even among dedicated fans of the Gerry Conway/John Romita-created Marvel vigilante character, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of enthusiasm surrounding Carl Potts’ take on the character. You’ve got your Mike Baron partisans, your Garth Ennis gang – Chuck Dixon was my favorite as a child in the ’90s, and I know some of you rate the Steven Grant stuff. Potts was an editor on the early Baron run, but his longest tenure as a writer on the character began in 1988 via The Punisher War Journal, which he initially also pencilled; he eventually became unique in franchise history as retrospectively overshadowed by a visual collaborator: a young Jim Lee, fresh from Alpha Flight and not more than a few years off from work with Solson Publications. Lee started as Potts’ inker, but soon began pencilling as well, his year-and-a-half tenure on the title coinciding with his first efforts at the Marvel mutant comics that would quickly make him a celebrity. This 504-page paperback collects all applicable Potts/Lee issues plus some extra stuff, with inking turns by Klaus Janson, Scott Williams (a now inseparable component of Lee’s aesthetic) and Lee himself; $39.99.
Marvel Covers: The Modern Era – Artist’s Edition: If for some reason that is not enough vintage Jim Lee for one week, I understand that he is also part of this 144-page IDW compendium of Marvel comics cover art from the past 25 years, all of it scanned in color from the original b&w art and presented at 12″ x 17″. Actually, it looks like many of the Image founders are present, with pieces by Todd McFarlane and Marc Silvestri, in addition to Sam Kieth, Art Adams, John Romita, Jr. and others; $100.00.
Judge Anderson: The Psi Files Vol. 5 (&) Ro-Busters: The Complete Nuts and Bolts Vol. 2: We are but a few weeks away from issue #2000 of 2000 AD, the UK’s long-lived weekly action comic, so here are two import items culled from its ranks for your consideration. Judge Anderson collects 304 pages of recent stories from the monthly Judge Dredd Megazine, all scripted by Alan Grant, the writer most closely associated with the psychic police character from the Dredd universe. By “recent” I mean 2005-13; artists include Arthur Ranson, Dave Taylor and Boo Cook. Ro-Busters is a 214-page hardcover suite of 1970s robot action comics that preceded the more famous ABC Warriors strip, although it looks like a fair portion of the work here is miscellaneous strips that ran after ABC launched. Pat Mills writes the ‘main’ serial, with art from an all-star gallery including Dave Gibbons, Kevin O’Neill and Mike McMahon, while Alan Moore shows up for a trio of short stories drawn by Steve Dillon, Bryan Talbot and Joe Eckers; $26.99 (Anderson), $32.99 (Ro-Busters).
Jerusalem: I’ll end now on something that’s not in any way a comic, but instead the second prose novel by the aforementioned Mr. Alan Moore, a screenwriter and recording artist who has indeed scripted comic books from time to time. I quite liked Voice of the Fire, his first novel – you hear a lot about the first chapter, which was written in a five millennia-old dialect entirely of Moore’s invention, but what’s less remarked upon is how the chapter immediately following is marked by some of its author’s smoother prose, so that the sensation of teaching one’s self to read again at the start of the book accelerates tremendously along with human advancements by the middle of the Bronze Age (pre-Christ, not Jim Starlin); Moore is as prone to allow the texture of words in sentences communicate time and place as much as dialogue or expository narration, which will presumably serve him well in this account of thousands of years in the history of his hometown of Northampton, England. I hear it’s something of a massively digressive history of economics in the region, though many things can be squirreled away in 1,280 (one thousand, two hundred and eighty) pages, published in North America by Liveright as both a slipcased set of three paperbacks and a pants-tearing all-in-one hardcover, priced identically; $35.00.
If I’m reading the credits correctly, the Nighthampton image used on the front page, while also from the Show Pieces book, was illustrated by Edward Tuckwell rather than the storyboard artist, Kristian Hammerstad. I just don’t want Alan Moore to cast a spell on me. I mean, what if he curses me to perform some repetitive task every week for years on end? That would be catastrophic.