THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (1/18/11 – Nobody Knows the Future)

Not a lot to say this week; not an enormous amount of stuff due out that catches my eye (emphasis on catches my eye, as Marvel alone has over three dozen items readied, not counting posters or variant covers or reprints). Mostly I've trained my eye on the above image, a not inconsiderable percentage of the very brief comics career of one Mr. Chris Halls, who would later become known under his familial name of Cunningham as a director of music videos for Aphex Twin, Björk and others, among various video installation, music composition and feature movie pursuits. In severe contrast to these high-profile works, the majority of Cunningham's output as an artist of comic book interiors comes from a single fill-in episode for the early '90s Judge Dredd crossover Judgement Day, which was a forum for quite a lot of throbbing painted cartooning that followed the influential example of Simon Bisley. Nonetheless, there's something rather Bilal-like about what's displayed here, maybe the product of a relatively untested comics artist wearing his influences on his sleeve for a rare published outing. Cunningham would eventually know more about struggling to be vivid in a hard landscape, as his fx work on the notorious 1995 Judge Dredd movie would bring him some attention and direct him well away from comics.


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.



Prophet #21: AW YEAH, ROB LIEFELD PROPERTY IN THE SPOTLIGHT PICKS! Despite the advanced numbering, however, this comic marks the beginning of an extensive revising of Liefeld's line of Extreme creations for Image Comics with some interesting talents, among them Wet Moon creator Ross Campbell as artist for superheroine Glory and Savage Dragon creator Erik Larsen overseeing completion of unused Alan Moore scripting for Supreme, with later work to spring off from that. Still, Prophet might be the spiritual front of the line, both from coming first and from featuring scripts by King City creator Brandon Graham, as fascinating a choice as I can think of for this man-struggling-roughly-through-the-bad-future concept. The interior art is by Simon Roy (the above cover's by Marian Churchland), whom I recognize as writer/artist of Jan's Atomic Heart, an effective little sci-fi comic from a few years back. Hopefully this all serves to push some of Image's more... period-specific titles toward the often lively visual attitudes exhibited by less burdened contemporary series with the publisher. Preview; $2.99.

Steve Canyon Vol. 01: 1947-1948: This is a new IDW edition of vintage newspaper adventure strip material from Milton Caniff, most recently published by Checker in trade paperback format around the mid-'00s. Now we see the full Golden Age of Reprints treatment, chronologically from the start as a 336-page landscape format hardcover shot from the artist's syndicate proofs. Basically, it's set to match the publisher's six volumes of Terry and the Pirates, which Caniff left to start Steve Canyon in the interests of creator ownership; $49.99.



Steed and Mrs. Peel #1 (of 6): Deep cuts from the Grant Morrison catalog here, as Boom! reprints a 1990-92 Eclipse Books/Acme Press miniseries derived from The Avengers (not the one with Hawkeye, that was M*A*S*H). It's pleasant enough stuff, with a special emphasis on British games of chance as an organizing factor, though Morrison's voice is probably less evident in the material than usual. Note that the three original Eclipse/Acme issues were a 48-page Prestige Format-y deal, despite being rather evidently structured for a six-unit release; Boom! has presumably bisected the originals along the dotted line to form six plain vanilla unprestigious comic books. Also, be aware that Morrison's story only runs to four chapters, with the remaining two segments comprising a totally different scenario by writer Anne Caulfield. Art throughout by longtime 2000 AD contributor Ian Gibson, of The Ballad of Halo Jones. Preview; $3.99.

Mazeworld: Speaking of 2000 AD, here's the newest import item from Rebellion, a 192-page complete collection of a 1996-99 serial from heavy realist artist Arthur Ranson, originally conceived in 1991 for publication in an ill-fated rival anthology, Toxic!, along with Ranson's similarly displaced mercenary action series Button Man, scripted by John Wagner. The writer here is longtime Judge Dredd and Batman contributor Alan Grant, who formulated the condemned-man-whisked-away-to-a-world-of-likely-maze-related-mystery scenario on Ranson's request to do a 'serious' fantasy comic, later opining that "the story didn't take off." (Per ex-2kAD editor David Bishop's 2009 history Thrill-Power Overload.) Nonetheless, I'm an easy mark for a comprehensive packaging of obscure thrills, particularly one with a title like "Mazeworld." Samples; $29.99.

Strange Worlds of Science Fiction: The Science Fiction Comics of Wally Wood: A new 208-page collection of vintage Wood from Vanguard Productions, presenting various genre pieces the artist produced in the '50s for publishers like Avon and Youthful, offered in evident counterpoint to his better-known work at EC. Note that a softcover edition is expected for next month; $39.95.

Twin Spica Vol. 11 (of 12): Your manga pick, 360 pages closing in on the conclusion for Kou Yaginuma's delicate study of youthful attitudes toward the prospect of space travel. If you'd have told me a couple years ago that Vertical would be polishing off these long series with seeming ease, I'd have probably asked who you are. I only know you on the internet; $13.95.

Hand of Fire: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby: Finally, your book-on-comics of... last week, sort of, but since I still feel silly having omitted this 304-page University Press of Mississippi production from the Journal's Charles Hatfield in my 1/11/12 rundown, know that the publisher will have a hardcover edition available through Diamond this Wednesday. "A critical exploration of cartooning, of superheroes, science fiction, and the technological sublime, Hand of Fire is the first academic monograph in English about Kirby’s work.... it’s a book about why Kirby blew off the top of so many readers’ heads, and why he still does," sez the official site; $65.00 ($25.00 in softcover).


CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR: I remember reading a Bill Griffith strip about Rory Hayes in the '08 Hayes compilation Where Demented Wented and being really impressed by Griffith's graphic style, something I'd only really had much exposure to in newspaper strip form via Zippy. Among its 392 pages, Bill Griffith: Lost And Found - Comics 1970-1994 aims to present many various comics, underground and otherwise, along with reflections from the artist and some added Zippy stuff, including an unfinished comics adaptation of Griffith's screenplay to the never-produced movie of the character; $39.99. Also, Midtown Comics in NYC (at least) appears to be getting Kramers Ergot 8, but Diamond doesn't have it listed. Stay alert, should you desire.