THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (4/11/12 – We Must Somehow Add the Consumer Element)

I've been traveling for the Easter holiday, so I'm going to invoke the consumer imperative of this column and direct you to a hot deal on a comic that's hidden in plain sight: Monsieur Lambert, a 1965 release by artist Jean-Jacques Sempé which arts book publisher Phaidon brought to English in hardcover form in 2006. That edition is currently being blown out the doors by Amazon US at a $5.98 price point, which makes it unique among French comics releases in the United States, generally the province of specialist publishers chasing a fixed audience who chase after second-hand copies at prices set by the approximate popularity of the artist; here it's a more generalist publisher with a dedicated relationship with one artist in particular -- and Phaidon has released over a dozen Sempé books, including multiple volumes of his drawings and cartoons and various editions of his Le Petit Nicolas books with writer René Goscinny -- seeing the price on one of its releases reduced by likely dint of over-enthusiastic printing.

It's quite a nice edition, translated by Anthea Bell of Asterix renown and surrounded by lovely color drawings as augmentation to its café-set story of male romantic reminisce. I'm going to get into the content itself in a different forum soon, so it will hopefully suffice to say that European humor comics of any type -- or really any European comics of this early a vintage -- are rare things to see in English, and this is an easy way to interface with a well-regarded practitioner who's got a large body of additional works available from the same publisher, flying under the radar of most every comics information source. I recommend it.


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.



Unterzakhn: Two works about which I know comparatively little in the spotlight this week, starting with a new 208-page release by Leela Corman of 2002's Subway Series. This one's from the Schocken Books imprint of Random House, concerning a pair of New York sisters in the early 20th century, and the concerns of their developing lives. Preview; $24.95.

The Carmine Vault...: Speaking of generalist publishers, here the Universe imprint of Rizzoli follows up its... much-discussed recent Corto Maltese release with an 8 1/4" x 11 5/8" hardcover for Paris-based illustrator Fafi, making her longform comics debut, "[c]entered around a character called Birtak and his desire to join the Paris Opéra Ballet." Expect some manga-inflected color art -- not a thousand miles away from the animation designs of John Kricfalusi either -- although I don't think the entire graphic novel was painted on urban walls, as the cover suggests. I wish! Personal video preview; $29.95.



Pete and Miriam: This is a 'new' release from popular duck colorist Rich Tommaso, which the haunted among you might remember from the sole extant issue of a 2007 Alternative Comics series titled simply Miriam, which stalled when the publisher ceased operations. The artist continued work, however, and a larger edition was released in France in 2010, forming the basis of this new 120-page landscape-format release from Boom! If my recollection of the prior material holds, this is a story about a shy, sardonic girl and her would-be filmmaker/would-be boyfriend, their relationship tracked across several decades. I think there's still more to come in the story. Interview with Tom Spurgeon; $14.99.

Oz Treasury Edition: Meanwhile, Eric Shanower continues to labor over his Age of Bronze series in comic book form, though some publishers are interested in alternative (if not exactly new) permutations of that style. Hence, a 10" x 13" IDW edition of the artist's 1988 First Comics release The Forgotten Forest of Oz, from back when softcover albums were briefly the big thing. I suspect a large format like this will benefit Shanower well; $9.99.

The Amazing Spider-Man: Hooky: On the flip side, here's a reduced, standard comic book-format edition of 1986's Marvel Graphic Novel #22, in which Susan K. Putney & Bernie Wrightson plunk Spider-Man down in a fantasy dimension full of Wrightson-type creatures to fend with; $4.99.

Adventure Time #3: In which the Cartoon Network licensed property from Boom! marches forward, now with a backup story by Michael DeForge, insert joke about his prolificacy here. There's also a second backup by Zac Gorman, while Ryan North remains the primary writer. Samples; $3.99.

Goldfish: It was with some wistfulness that I read the comments to Tucker's column last week, slagging ol' Brian Michael Bendis left and right for his dubious creator-owned genre stuff. I haven't been able to stomach any of the guy's work in a long while, but I do know a few people who were greatly inspired by his early works, grotty b&w crime comics he did as a writer/artist that inspired a DIY attitude among readers hungry for credible pop comics and accepting of a certain xerox-y, stiff, dialogue-driven approach that's since become totally absorbed into the mainstream superhero idiom. Fittingly, Marvel is now releasing a 272-page hardcover collection of some of that content, a 1994-95 Caliber series full of crooks, cops, graft and family concern; $24.99.

Courtney Crumrin #1: And if we advance on the timeline for a bit, we come across Ted Naifeh's Courtney Crumrin, an early-ish Oni Press series of agreeable nobody-quite-understands-but-I-am-special gothy adventures that comprised just the sort of thing the nascent comics discussion blogosphere tended to praise heavily in the dawning years of the '00s. Much like fellow Oni project/blog darling Scott Pilgrim, it's now getting a colorization, with the first such volume due this week. Unlike Scott Pilgrim, there's also going to be a new color series, of which this is the first issue; $3.99.

Vampirella Masters Series Vol. 7: Pantha: While it might be tempting to deem Vampirella 'that one Warren horror magazine with a sexy girl as host instead of some gross dude,' such labels are reductive and misleading. There were, in fact, several barely-dressed female characters inside, most notably Pantha -- a stripper that transforms into a panther -- created by Steve Skeates & Rafael Auraleón in 1974. The character was eventually introduced into the title character's own continuity, and there she remains for whenever the call of culture is strong. This is a 128-page Dynamite grab bag of latter day material, most prominently the 1997 Harris one-off Vampirella vs. Pantha from soon-to-be superhero megastar Mark Millar and artist Mark Texeira (working in a fan-pleasing 'bad girl' cheesecake painted style). However, an unidentified "two classic reprints" from the old b&w mags are promised, which could mean work from the pleasantly busy, very '70s Auraleón, or maybe something from a long run by José Ortiz. Or hell, it could be that one story from issue #90 where Alex Toth inked Leopoldo Durañona (not their only collaboration). Of further interest to Squaxx dek Thargo is a rare North American comics appearance by 2000 AD writer John Smith, teamed with Texeira for a would-be 1997 Pantha miniseries which -- for reasons unknown to me and possibly lost to time -- was not published until 2002, and only then as a back-up feature for Smith's tenure as writer on Vampirella itself, issues #7-10. Texeira samples; $19.99.

Kingdom: Call of the Wild: Speaking of 2000 AD, Diamond should also have a new Rebellion collection imported to North American shops this week, collecting 144 pages of content from a far-future fantasy series by Dan Abnett & Richard Elson -- starring literal dog soldier Gene the Hackman (yep) -- that's been running frequently in the weekly for the past half-decade. This and an earlier book, The Promised Land, should compile all outstanding material; $24.99.

The Secret Service #1 (of 7): And speaking of Millar, his present run of creator-owned Marvel comics (via its Icon imprint) continues apace with a new super-spy scenario, notable for the participation of Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons. Preview; $2.99.

Genetiks TM Vol. 1 (of 3): There's also a continental pick on deck from Archaia, to which reader Tony alerted me several months ago. It's a 104-page, 7.88" x 11.25" hardcover album presenting the first installment of a 2007-10 series by Richard Marazano & Jean-Michel Ponzio, "a topical story on the intersection between commerce and biological science" in which a man's genome becomes owned by a corporation. Very heavy realist style on display. Preview; $19.95.

Slam Dunk Vol. 21 (of 31): And your manga dollar, if you were me, might be going toward Takehiko Inoue's long-running basketball bonanza, provided you'd gotten caught up on all the volumes you were missing, which would be unlikely given the conditions of this hypothetical (i.e. you being me). Maybe you'd rather go for the manga-creation-as-sports-manga antics of vol. 10 of Bakuman, which often seems to show up at the same time; $9.99 (each).

Magic Knight Rayearth Omnibus Vol. 2 (of 2): Or could it be you're into shojo manga reprints, here carrying the double charge of revisiting superstar collective CLAMP's 'mainstream' breakthrough (specifically, the 1995-96 immediate sequel series to their '93-95 breakthrough) and the later, millennial breakthrough of female-targeted manga to North American bookstore shelves via initial publisher Tokyopop. This is a 688-page Dark Horse release, however, presenting the fantasy action with undoubtedly higher production values; $19.99.

Kitchen Sink Press: The First 25 Years: Finally, your book-on-comics for the week, raising the question of whether there's nostalgia out there for books-on-comics from years gone by. Regardless of the answer, Boom! is now reprinting Dave Schreiner's 1994 account of the rise and... well, just continued rise of the not-to-survive-the-decade underground comics publisher, taking things up to just past the acquisition of the Tundra catalog. I'm guessing the big draw here is the many sidebar testimonials from affiliated folks, including Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Will Eisner, Alan Moore and others, all of which came off to me as an accidental memorial when I eventually got hold of this thing too many years later; $15.00.