THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (3/19/14 – The Dark Fades Early)


Two pages from "I Keep Coming Back," an Alan Moore/Oscar Zarate short from the 1996 anthology It's Dark in London, which Zarate edited for Serpent's Tail, and which SelfMadeHero reissued two years ago. I miss this side of Moore: blackly self-conscious about his own fascinations. An offshoot of From Hell, the story takes Moore away from a BBC Two documentary shoot and into a Whitechapel strip club, occupied exclusively by Zarate's special blend of caricature spilling over into impression. It's a first-person narrative, textually and, to some extent, visually. Moore is taken by sexual fantasies, an earlier attraction to the documentary's "quite pretty" director giving way to lavish self-absorption, as he fancies himself the only nice guy the stripper has met in a while. "I bet that I could knock her off. I bet she'd take me home," he muses, his narration slipping from imagined consumption to journalistic descriptions of the scene; Zarate, however, remains locked onto environmental concerns, blurring the woman's anatomy past the boundary of cartography, and further juxtaposing this map against portals: cameras, doors. This is access, and voyeurism, and for a moment, though Moore-the-character cannot realize it, he inhabits the same psychological geography of his William Gull, his Jack the Ripper, as the urban night cloaks his desires for possession of women. "Motive is implicit in the brickwork." This is an imaginary story, but then...



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. 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.




The Park: Oh wow, it's Oscar Zarate! I mean, maybe I shouldn't act surprised; probably still best known among a lot of readers as the artist of Moore's A Small Killing, the Argentina-born Zarate has been extremely active with Icon Books on the educational comics scene for the past few years, but this is the first new fiction I've seen of his come stateside in quite a while. It's purportedly a comedic tragedy (tragical comedy?) about two families which come into conflict both amidst nature and online. "...a delicate examination of how anger, repression, and powerlessness can overwhelm even the most logical and well-intentioned person amid the confusion of the modern world," sez Abrams, which, as usual, will be handling the North American distribution of this SelfMadeHero release. A 6" x 9.5" hardcover, 160 pages in color. Samples; $24.95.


Nemo: The Roses of Berlin: And hey - here's Alan Moore! Sign of the times, though: quite a few people have already read this new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen book, since it's been available in digital format for several weeks already. Oh, but your bookshelf might be lonely without this 6.625" x 10.125" Top Shelf/Knockabout hardcover trophy object, which sees Janni Nemo navigating into fascist Germany for a fateful confrontation with the elusive Dr. Mabuse and other aging icons. As always, Kevin O'Neill draws. I think there's going to be one more of these Nemo side-stories (a South American-set 1970s piece) before Moore & O'Neill switch gears in their collaboration. Preview; $14.95.



aâma Vol. 1: The Smell of Warm Dust: But getting back to SelfMadeHero (NA distribution by Abrams), here is a translation a few of you have been waiting for - the current ongoing SF series by Frédérik Peeters, who has built up quite a nice little library in recent years. This one's been pretty popular over in France, capturing the Prix de la série (i.e. Best Series) at Angoulême last year; I am told that much of this introductory volume deals with a man recalling the circumstances of a life in opposition to the technological enhancements of his future era, with rising, present-tense action only occurring late. (I haven't read it myself, mind you.) At 88 pages, it looks like SelfMadeHero is planning to go album-for-album with the French releases, although I think the 8" x 10.5" dimensions on the hardcover are a little smaller than the continental release. Samples; $19.95.

Basewood: This is a seven-year project by Canadian artist Alec Longstreth, who initially serialized the story in his Phase 7 minicomics series, and then ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to collect the results. An amnesiac man seeks to learn about himself in a wooded place of fantasy and mystery. Note that AdHouse is handling distribution through Diamond to comic book stores. It's 216 pages, at 9" x 12". Official site; $19.95.

Banzai Battalion: Just Another Bug Hunt: Another Judge Dredd-related publication from Simon & Schuster, now collecting 160 pages' worth of spin-off content focusing on teeny-tiny droids who protect precious garden property from all manner of threats. Per Douglas Wolk, it's basically writer John Wagner lampooning the tradition of British war comics (one in which he was a willing participant, mind you), with the aid of capable artists like Ian Gibson, Cam Kennedy and Henry Flint; $19.99.

Judge Dredd: Big Drokkin' Treasury Edition: But for those interested in occupying more space for less money -- very Mega-City One, that sentiment! -- here is IDW with a 9.25" x 14.25" deluxe comic book collecting 72 pages of miscellaneous Dredd stuff. I'm unsure as to the exact contents, but it's suggested that Mike McMahon will be benefitting from this huge presentation; $9.99.

Adventure Time #26: Continuing success at Boom!, noted here for the presence of artist Jim Rugg on the main story. Ryan North remains the writer. Preview; $3.99.

Daredevil #1: Continuing success at Marvel, noted here because the publisher has presumably figured that starting the numbering again would improve sales, which is likely correct in the short term. The principals remain Mark Waid & Chris Samnee, on a series which, not unlike the revived Hawkeye, stands among Marvel's offerings for readers not necessarily into "Marvel Comics" as a massive weekly thing. Preview; $3.99.

UQ Holder! Vol. 1: In the interests of candor, I am compelled to admit that I haven't liked really anything I've ever read of Ken Akamatsu's comics, which have always come off as corny and pandering to the extreme, but there's no doubt that Love Hina was one of the undisputed Tokyopop titans during the great manga boom, and the artist's subsequent Negima! was obviously beloved by a huge number of readers. This new Kodansha release is actually a sequel of sorts to Negima!, starring the grandson of the prior series' hero as he gets up to his own magical (and no doubt faintly bawdy) antics; I think it's supposed to be more action/adventure-oriented, though. *I'm* a bit more interested in the rumor and innuendo surrounding the genesis of the project, which was supposedly inspired by Akamatsu abruptly pulling the plug on Negima! in the midst of his opposition to changes to Japanese copyright law which would have assigned a portion of his copyright to the publisher - shadowy are the machinations of big ticket manga; $10.99.

Vagabond Vol. 35: Meanwhile, production has ramped up enough on this Takehiko Inoue swordsman series that it actually released *two* volumes in Japanese last year, which is the first time that happened since 2010. Of course, Viz prudently remains one number behind the untranslated releases; $9.95.

Deathblow Deluxe Edition: '90s Mainstream Nostalgia #1 - my god, could anything possibly fit that category better than "Deathblow Deluxe Edition"? Still, I do know some people my age who are pretty fond of the first few issues of this, which saw Jim Lee tenuously poking his head into José Muñoz-by-way-of-Frank Miller territory... emphasis decidedly on the Frank Miller. Following that, the series basically became a showcase for Tim Sale, and so it remained for the dozen issues collected in this 272-page, 7.3" x 11.2" hardcover. "Deathblow Deluxe Edition," gosh; $24.99.

Death: '90s Mainstream Nostalgia #2 - or wait! Perhaps you were one of those Vertigo kids, smoking clove cigarettes and cocking your eye at the vulgarity of Deathblow. Or, I dunno, maybe you read a lot of things; I found The Sandman to be way too sinister when I was 12, and having a comic book about the manifestation of "Death" smacked of crazy-transgressive occult shit so BIG no-no there, which speaks volumes about me and my situation at the time and nothing at all about Neil Gaiman. Anyway, this is a 320-page softcover reissue of a 2012 hardcover, compiling both of the Chris Bachalo (eventually w' Mark Buckingham)-drawn Death miniseries of the decade, along with P. Craig Russell's story from the later Endless Nights anthology, vintage appearances pencilled by (co-creator) Mike Dringenberg and Colleen Doran, a short piece illustrated by Jeffrey Catherine Jones, plus that Dave McKean-drawn pamphlet where John Constantine helps put a condom on a banana; $19.99.

Steve Canyon Vol. 4: 1953-1954: In contrast, I don't know how many of you remember the 1950s, but here, nonetheless, is IDW with 336 more pages if Milton Caniff, along with all of the expected supplementary goods; $49.99.

Cannon: Oh, what? You want something a little... spicier? Well, I suppose Fantagraphics might be able to scrounge up 296 pages' worth of material relating to Wally Wood's personal interest in men of action and the female form. Serialized in Overseas Weekly, far away from applicable content restrictions, Cannon reconfigures the tradition of adventuresome comics patriotism into something more to Woody's liking, with an emotionless killing machine doing what needs to be done, every time, no matter how naked the ladies get. Introduction by Howard Chaykin, with bonus related content from the pages of Heroes, Inc., pencilled by Steve Ditko. An 11" x 7.5" landscape-format hardcover. Preview; $35.00.

Hellboy: The First 20 Years: Finally, your book-related-to-comics for the week - a new Dark Horse artbook for Mike Mignola, collecting "Mignola’s best pieces from the last twenty years," apparently in both finished and preliminary forms. An 8" x 12 3/16" hardcover, probably handsome, 136 pages. Samples; $19.99.