THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (3/26/14 – Riding On the Machine)




Hey, does Moto Hagio still make comics? OF COURSE, YOU FOOL! Just the other month she dropped some Golgo 13 fan art in celebration of the character's 45th anniversary, and now she's produced a new 40-page comic for Tensaitachi no Kyôen, a two-volume anthology project put together by Shogakukan to commemorate the likewise-45th anniversary of their Big Comic line of seinen magazines. I think all of these stories were initially published in those forums; certainly Hagio's was, since the publisher apparently did not deem it sufficiently worth the expense to reproduce her (or anyone's) color pages in anything other than tones. Nonetheless, Hagio's contribution fascinates for its expansive horizontal structure - there is almost no text in the story, just a few sentences of both English and Japanese, which I take to represent song lyrics. The story concerns a pair of youthful friends and lovers who run into problems when the boy becomes a successful pop musician - bodies are thrown to floor and twinkling teardrops fly through the air with all the high drama you've come to expect, and then there's an earthquake(!), leaving the remorseful man driving through the country and staring at his phone, hoping she'll call him to say she's okay, she's okay. Taken in this way, the horizontal orientation serves to isolate the characters in their sad surroundings - temporal, cultural, etc. Driving from right to left, what can this lost boy expect to find in this blunt, simple, mournful song of a comic...





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.




Popeye by Bobby London - The Classic Newspaper Comics Vol. 1 (of 2): 1986-1989: Ooh, controversy! This, of course, begins the tenure of the infamous Air Pirate Funnies contributor Bobby London on the Popeye strip, a much-admired run which ended with the artist's termination in the face of a storyline believed to cut a little close to the cultural bone, metaphorically. I'm sure IDW's Library of American Comics will do a nice job presenting this work, here as a 7.5" x 8.5", 344-page hardcover; $39.99.


Metabarons Genesis: Castaka: Meanwhile, Humanoids presents the long-awaited return of Alejandro Jodorowsky to the specific corner of his shared universe that houses The Metabarons - probably his best work as a comics writer, tracking the generational shift of an intergalactic warrior caste as children inherit the hatred and neuroses of their parents, becoming crueler and crueler as time goes by, and pulpy genres are toured. This is a prequel, a 2007-13 series Jodorowsky created in collaboration with Spanish-born artist Das Pastoras: 112 pages presented in 9.4" x 12.6" hardcover album format. (Less expensive digital editions are also available.) Samples; $49.95.



Jan's Atomic Heart & Other Stories: Simon Roy is probably best known at the moment as a contributing artist and writer to Image's popular Prophet series, but he first came to a good number of readers' attention in 2009 through Jan's Atomic Heart, a twisty little SF comic Roy completed while a student. This new 112-page Image edition marries that story to seven other shorts, all of them conceived prior to the artist's work-for-hire pursuits, and some of them seen in various forums like Study Group Comics. A pretty diverse set of interests should be discernible. Sample;

Empowered Special #6: Internal Medicine: Meanwhile, Prophet frontman Brandon Graham collaborates here as contributing artist for the latest comic book-format side-story to Adam Warren's forever-underdressed superhero/manga-ish thingy. I was just thinking of Empowered recently, as there's this anime show, Kill la Kill, which is airing its final episode this week - the two works have some odd commonalities, primarily insofar as both are male-driven works serving up a *lot* of pretty girls and cheesecake, yet wind up diving deeply enough into the stuff that both have emerged with not-inconsiderable reader/viewerships of a diverse makeup. Kill la Kill is way more aggressive than Empowered, though, occasionally breaking out Jesús Franco-caliber mother-daughter-shackled-rape-in-a-giant-cage shit, as well as a distinctly 'how serious are they?' approach to politics which, to me, boils down to "Japan is pretty crappy, but globalizing colonizers need to shut the fuck up forever." But - back to comics, I don't want to lose my way; $3.99.

The Undertaking Of Lily Chen: New from First Second #1 - the latest from Danica Novgorodoff, a 432-page original concerning a man on a quest for a dead bride for hisdead brother. Video preview; $29.99.

The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza: New from First Second #2 - the latest from James Kochalka, a 112-page fancy about a zany alien on a comedy mission. There's also a mobile game available, which is supposed to be pretty fun; $12.99 ($17.99 in hardcover).

Leo Roa: But getting back to Eurocomics, you might be aware that the original artist of The Metabarons was Juan Giménez. You might also know that he has a nice suite of solo works out there, and among them is the comedic time-traveling 1988-91 Leo Roa series. Humanoids presented this stuff way back in 2001 as a pair of hardcovers, so it's probably time for a new 8.5" x 11.1" all-in-one edition. Samples; $29.95.

All-New Ghost Rider #1: I've been making jokes about Marvel's tendency to goose their sales with incessant re-numbering -- not actually a *new* tendency, but especially rampant of late -- but maybe it's best that something like this starts from scratch, because now Ghost Rider is being written by Felipe Smith, one of the very few outside artists to successfully publish longform serial work (i.e. the raucous culture clash comedy Peepo Choo) on the Japanese manga scene. He is joined by artist Tradd Moore, who's recently been active on Image series like Luther Strode and Zero, and looks to be focusing here on veering, curling, animation-informed depictions of motion. It's a total revamp, with a diabolically empowered teen blazing through the world of west coast street racing. Preview; $3.99.

Silver Surfer #1: And here, for the record, is Michael & Laura Allred's new project, a Dan Slott-written iteration of the famous Kirby creation which promises cosmic stuff like this. Preview; $3.99.

Star Slammers Re-Mastered! #1 (of 8): Joining the list of older comics finding themselves re-colored for the purposes of eventual compilation is this signature work by Walter Simonson, which technically dates back to prior to the start of his professional career in the early '70s, but 'officially' begins (for the purposes of this compilation) with a 1983 Marvel Graphic Novel - a lively exercise in booming, super-dense genre storytelling of a piece with works like American Flagg! and Starstruck, if considerably more action-oriented. I like that period a lot. Len O'Grady is handling the new colors, and IDW is the publisher - Simonson may or may not begin working on new material at some point in the future, but his present concern is the upcoming mythic series Ragnarök with the same publisher. Preview; $3.99.

Crossed: Badlands #50: My god, when you count the various miniseries preceding this ongoing endeavor - we've gotta be coming up on 100 individual issues (or 88,257,322 variant covers) of Crossed, not counting another 500-ish pages of webcomics. I was just talking about Crossed on Twitter the other day, since recommendations were being sought; the problem with attributing a series' endurance to 'comics is a disgusting place full of loathsome people' is that some folks inevitably become curious about what's really so awful. And they'll surely learn, since Crossed does have a habit of living down to its reputation -- the recent Japan-set, David Hine-written storyline was hands-down the absolute worst set of comics I read in 2013, matching arrogance to incompetence in a manner which all but solicits schadenfreude from anyone with literally any familiarity with guro manga, even the weaker examples of which leave the whole of the Avatar library in the dust in terms of gore, misogyny, and even basic graphic acuity (and guess what, boys? women actually read that stuff) -- yet there are also times when the series manages a uniquely cruel energy; the first three issues of Badlands were secretly writer Garth Ennis' most raw nerve stuff in years, and here he comes again for a new semi-origin-of-the-concept(-maybe) storyline with Honey Lickers Sorority creator Christian Zanier on art... 'cause that's how Avatar rolls; $3.99.

Sandman Overture #2 (of 6): Whoa, and look what the cat dragged in! A mere four and a half months after Dan Nadel's initial rave comes this sophomore chapter from Neil Gaiman, J.H. Williams III and all their friends. GET READY TO GET DROWSY; $3.99.

Wolf Children: Ame & Yuki: This is the official manga tie-in to the latest theatrical heartwarmer from director Mamoru Hosoda, who is by far the most publicly successful director of original, non-franchise animated films not currently affiliated with Studio Ghibli in Japan - this one made north of $50 million domestically in 2012, which is to say almost but not quite as well as the latest One Piece and Neon Genesis Evangelion entries, and more than enough to place in the overall top ten earners of that year (where, apropos of nothing, Paul W. S. Anderson's Resident Evil: Retribution also beat out Marvel Worldwide, Inc.'s motion picture of The Avengers). The plot concerns the binds of family and the awesomeness of single moms, through the device of a young woman falling for a literal wolfman and bearing some pups - I'm not really as huge on Hosoda's lucrative brand of handsome sentimentalism as some, but fans will probably enjoy a close approximation of the movie experience through this 528-page project, which Yen Press is serving up in hardcover format. Adaptation by somebody named "Yū," about which I know nothing; $25.99.

Paul Pope: Monsters & Titans - Battling Boy Art on Tour: There was, I recall, a Battling Boy 'making of' book which PictureBox was supposed to publish at one point; I don't know if this Image release is a realization of that project, or something different entirely. It looks to be a 96-page catalog relating to various exhibitions of Pope's original art for the project, devoted mainly to presenting (presumably uncolored) pages and details from pages, with writings by Pope himself and Charles Brownstein, purportedly in several languages; $24.99.

1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die: I am told that this book does not end with the words TOO LATE and Paul Gravett standing behind you with a knife, which strikes me as a missed opportunity, but nonetheless - this is a new bargain pricing for editor Gravett's 2011 entry in Quintessence's 1001 Before You Die series of illustrated culture guides, handled by Rizzoli's Universe for North American distribution. Browsing the list of inclusions online reveals an exceedingly global outlook, and there's some pretty capable writers behind the various capsule entries scattered across 960 pages(!), so it's probably worth a flip. Gravett's overview; $17.98.

How About Never -- Is Never Good Enough for You?: And finally, your book-on-comics for the week - a new Henry Holt-published autobiography of Robert Mankoff, New Yorker cartoonist and cartoon editor, blending text and illustrations across 302 pages. Preview; $32.50.