I don't have much time this week... although, do any of us *really* have a lot of time? Such is the question raised by this passionate proscenium - the work of les sœurs Bernadette, a French religious group which disseminated illustrated catechism from the 1930s through the middle of the '60s: picture silhouettes vehemently opposed to modernism, communism, the popular cinema and contemporary art. In 2008, comics publisher Éditions Matière released La Méthode Bernadette, a special document of these images sourced from the collection of Matière's editorial director, Laurent Bruel, who arranged the images into a montage with commentary running underneath. (In French, obviously, but quite brief.) It was Bill Kartalopoulos' special section of World Literature Today (see last week) that clued me in, specifically his guide to Five Groundbreaking Publishers in international comics... so, as you can see, even if I don't buy every comic highlighted in this column, you can rest assured that I at least follow the links.
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.
Paracuellos Vol. 1: Your doubtless highlight of the week is a new IDW release of historical/autobiographical comics by Carlos Giménez, recounting a history of cruel education in the social aid system of Spain in the 20th century. Begun in 1975, the series bounced around various magazines in Spain, eventually becoming a notable success in the French market. This 136-page edition -- part of a new wave of Eurocomics releases by the publisher, and seemingly poised to benefit from the still-growling hunger for nonfiction comics in bookshelf form -- includes supplementary texts by Antonio Martin and Carmen Moreno-Nuño, along with a foreword by Will Eisner. Samples; $24.99.
Through the Habitrails: Life Before and After My Career in the Cubicles: Man, this is unusual. Writer/artist Jeff Nicholson, a veteran of the self-publishing and post-underground comics scenes of the 1980s, began work on this bleak, fantasy-tainted series of workplace vignettes as a recurring feature in the horror anthology Taboo - a collected edition followed as the '90s pressed onward, though an ailing comic book market and nascent bookstore engagement with the form did not exactly flatter the work's visibility, leaving it a curious aberration. Now Dover presents a 144-page edition, complete with a new epilogue by Nicholson, along with texts by original editor Stephen R. Bissette and prominent admirer Matt Fraction; $14.95.
Street Dawgz #1 (&) The Unmentionables: ALTERNATIVE COMIC BOOKS - they exist, and sometimes their artists come from the UK. Street Dawgz is a 24-page Hic + Hoc release of work by Lizz Lunney, exploring the relationships of loitering funny animals with very immediate and unrefined drawing, provided this is anything like her similarly-titled minicomics. Distributed by Alternative Comics. The Unmentionables offers fantasy fighting action from Jack Teagle, 40 pages from Retrofit/Big Planet; $5.00 (Dawgs), $6.00 (Unmentionables).
Samurai #1 (of 8): The Isle With No Name (&) Infinity Entity #1 (of 4): In comparison, here are two comic books positioned on the periphery of mainstream appeal. Samurai is a long-running French action series with a feudal Japan setting, the work of writer Jean-François Di Giorgio, artist Frédéric Genêt and colorist Delphine Rieu. Some earlier translated stories were published by Marvel in the latter part of the '00s, but this new Titan iteration looks to cover material from 2010 to 2012. Infinity Entity is more firmly Marvel-connected, being the new cosmic superhero project from writer Jim Starlin, teaming with veteran artist Alan Davis for a storyline fated to tie in with plans for the movie-popular Thanos character. Samurai preview, Infinity preview; $3.99 (each).
Retroworld: More French genre stuff, this time a 116-page adaptation of SF work by Julia Verlanger (aka Gilles Thomas), done up by artists Cédric Peyravernay (t.1, 2008) and "Bazal" (t.2, 2013) in a very thick and heavy style that readily brings to mind the "Humanoids" brand. Note that this is a softcover release of material previously published in hardback. The writer is Patrick Galliano; $19.95.
Bloody Mary: Also on the reprint front, this Image softcover reprints a pair of miniseries from DC's short-lived Helix line of SF comics in the mid-1990s. It's a future commando/religious mayhem scenario from writer Garth Ennis, a longtime specialist in both, and Carlos Ezquerra, co-creator of Judge Dredd and a rare presence on American shores. There was an earlier collected edition at Vertigo over a decade ago, but it looks like this is another Ennis-written property that is now back with the creators - expect a continued flurry of work as the Preacher television series nears its premiere; $16.99.
March Vol. 1 (Oversized Edition): Just yesterday, Top Shelf released a first look at this summer's third and concluding volume to the autobiographical series by Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis, written with Andrew Aydin and drawn by Nate Powell. These are very sturdily made bookstore-mainstream comics, and enough of a popular success that Top Shelf and IDW now present a special 8" x 11.7" hardcover album edition of the first installment, which should definitely benefit Powell's roiling sense of drama. Official site; $29.99.
Flashback Replica #4 - Teenage Romances #14: Finally, another comic book. I've not been previously aware of the Flashback Replica line of items from Canton Street Press - they appear to be exact facsimiles of '40s and '50s comics, with all the original ads and editorial features included. This one looks to be quite heavy on Matt Baker, one of the Golden Age greats, with additional art by Carmine Infantino and Raymond Kinstler, and scripts throughout by Dana Dutch. The St. John line of romance comics was also the subject of John Benson's excellent 2003 Romance Without Tears collection and its '07 prose companion Confessions, Romances, Secrets, and Temptations, which speak to the superior quality of these midcentury genre pieces; $14.99.