A meaningful image up here today from Marianna Serocka, the Krakow-based artist who recently saw the publication of her 240-page graphic novel-cum-drawing barrage Disco Cry from Centrala – a Polish comics publisher which maintains an office in London, which is how I think they wound up tabling at SPX the other weekend. Very few words in this book, but a great deal of furious party-and-recover imagery on thick paper, as if scratched out impression by impression as the sun rises…
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.
Toward a Hot Jew: Some high-profile releases this week, so I’m going to spotlight a few potentially less-visible books. First up is a new color collection from Miriam Libicki, a specialist in heavy realist illustration and supple cartoon figures who authored jobnik!, a 2008 memoir of service in the Israeli army. The title comes from an earlier drawn essay on military imagery, now collected with several other nonfiction pieces “investigat[ing] what it means globally and culturally to be Jewish,” per the publisher, Fantagraphics. A 128-page softcover; $25.00.
Vortex: And here is part of what was the final line of releases from Sparkplug Books, one of the notable small press outfits to rise in the ’00s; it now appears in Diamond-serviced comic book stores via Alternative Comics. William Cardini has been making Vortex comics for years now – thick and sludgy pages of wriggly lines and toothy anatomies, heavy on mystic questing and esoteric anatomy. I’m always glad to see them around, and having 136 pages in one place will doubtlessly aid immersion in the artist’s space; $13.00.
Cheap Novelties: The Pleasures of Urban Decay (&) She’s Not Into Poetry: Now here are some of the established names you can expect. Cheap Novelties was a 1991 collection from Ben Katchor, I think the first-ever bookshelf iteration for his exceedingly unique vision of throwback urbanity, laden with curious business opportunities and whimsical-melancholic reflections thereupon. Drawn and Quarterly now reissues this testament to the ownable and the ungrasped in a 112-page landscape hardcover designed to the artist’s specifications. She’s Not Into Poetry hails from a different aesthetic: the immediate and unadorned communication of Tom Hart, self-publishing minicomics from Seattle throughout the first half of the 1990s. This 272-page Alternative Comics softcover collects many of those early works; $22.95 (Novelties), $14.99 (Poetry).
Bloom County Episode XI: A New Hope: And shit – how about one of the most influential comic strips of the 1980s, risen and reborn as a webcomic in 2015? I don’t know of anyone who expected that of creator Berkeley Breathed, but now there is enough material for IDW — publisher of the artist’s past output — to fashion a completely new 144-page softcover, oversized at 11.6″ x 9.7″. Given the five collections of the original newspaper strip, the Outland and Opus collections, and the Academia Waltz compendium of early works, this is indeed the ninth Breathed/IDW comics release; $17.99.
Happiness Vol. 1: I don’t know if he’s Berkeley Breathed or anything, but Shūzō Oshimi has certainly become a visible name in Japanese comics, his works adapted to live-action and animated television, as well as feature cinema. You’ll probably best recall The Flowers of Evil, released by Vertical, though a later series, Inside Mari, was translated digitally via Crunchyroll; both focus intently on ill-adjusted male characters, their perversity leading them toward both the prospect of fulfillment and more acute agony. Happiness is his newest project, concerning a nerdy high school boy attacked by a lady vampire – his urges now multiplied and less under wraps, he finds new and agonized paths opening. Kodansha is the publisher this time, of your manga pick for the week; $12.99.
Billy Budd, KGB (&) Carthago (&) The Golden Compass Vol. 2: A trio of French comics possibilities, all from different publishers. Billy Budd, KGB is the third album Dover has released from writer Jerome Charyn, a psychic espionage collaboration with the artist François Boucq that was first translated by Catalan Communications back in the ’90s. Very, very handsome art. Carthago is a 285-page Humanoids collection of a 2007-16 series about a big, hungry shark from writer Christophe Bec and artists Éric Henninot & Milan Jovanovic. Shades of Hook Jaw! The Golden Compass is a continuing Philip Pullman adaptation from Stéphanie Melchior & Clément Oubrerie, the latter of the Aya series, published by Knopf Doubleday; $19.95 (Budd), $34.95 (Carthago), $9.99 (Compass, $18.99 in hardcover).
Hilda and the Stone Forest: And here is a special YA selection, being the latest in a very popular line of lush color hardcover albums by Luke Pearson, who is on track to becoming a Jeff Smith-like all-ages adventure comics superstar. A Netflix animated series is forthcoming, but for now we have another 80-page exploit, in which the titular heroine makes her way through a world of trolls (non-internet variant). From Nobrow; $19.95.
American Blood (&) Garden of the Flesh (&) In Fox’s Forest: Three more from Fantagraphics this week, each of them exploring a different facet of what used to be ‘underground’-type comics. American Blood is a 208-page compendium of small series and stray one-offs by Benjamin Marra, whose introduction to comics readers came through these very self-published explorations of lowdown and often parodic genre fare. Garden of the Flesh is a 96-page full-color(!) erotic comic from Gilbert Hernandez, retelling tales of Genesis with an emphasis on the exchange between beings. In Fox’s Forest is an 80-page b&w allegorical work from Guy Colwell of Inner City Romance, implicating society and complacency through animal characters; $19.99 (Blood), $12.99 (Flesh), $16.99 (Fox).
2000 AD #2000: Okay. This is not actually going to appear in North American comic book stores this week. It’ll show up for download on whatever device you’re using, or, if you’re in the UK, it will appear physically in the usual places. Still, I can hardly allow the two thousandth issue of this most venerable of British genre comic weeklies to pass by unmentioned – at this point it is living history, both in its connections to mainline UK strips of the past, and through its prognostication of no small amount of where American action comics would go during its tenure. A 48-page special, featuring special one-page strips by celebrity veterans such as Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons and Mick McMahon, along with a Judge Dredd/Strontium Dog crossover from creators John Wagner & Carlos Ezquerra *and* a new Nemesis the Warlock story from creators Pat Mills & Kevin O’Neill, among other treats; £3.99.
Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #100: And this – yes, this too is established. As inker of Vampirella (“The Dracula War”) in 1992, Jim Balent was one of the men present at the birth of the ‘Bad Girl’ era of genre comics, occult and horror-tinged stories lingering on the slight dress of shapely (anti-)heroines. His name was later made on a mainstream iteration of such, the skintight-unto-painted-on designs of DC’s Catwoman; when people talk about Darwyn Cooke’s art ‘saving’ that character, Jim Balent was specifically the man he saved it from. But Balent was beyond that by then. He did, in fact, what you’re ‘supposed’ to in this career trajectory – he parlayed the popularity of his corporate superhero work into a self-administered project where he would be responsible for all the writing and drawing, aided and abetted by colorist/letterer/production chief Holly Golightly. Now there’s 100 chapters of sexy witch adventures out there, issuing from northeastern Pennsylvania, the region in which I was born, mere dozens of miles from the comic book stores I knew in my youth. This issue documents Tarot’s struggle to arrive at her own wedding, where she has been deviously replaced by a doppelgänger – her perfect equal in the arts of magic, combat, and love; $2.95.
The Best American Comics 2016: Finally, we have the newest in this line of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt samplers, drawn from the ranks of everything from minicomics to weighty prestige books. Bill Kartalopoulos assembles the big pool, from which selections are made by a new notable each year – this time it’s Roz Chast, New Yorker mainstay and artist of the hugely popular 2014 graphic memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? A 400-page hardcover, always worth flipping through; $25.00.