THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (5/11/11 – Real Life)

I wasn't planning on writing about my Free Comic Book Day experiences; frankly, I didn't expect anything of note to happen. I tried to take a look at some of the giveaway items I otherwise wouldn't pay a lot of mind - for example, I got the IDW Locke & Key book because I keep hearing people talking the series up online. It's a fun little thing -- the creators are writer Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez -- a cute kids vs. mystery threat + odd powers suspense piece with a nice feel for big, cool images, despite feeling like it was pasted together from random pages from a bunch of issues (which it actually might have been).

It gave off a polished YA property feel, maybe a little shonen manga, which wound up being odd in that the supplementary text bent over backward to assure the reader that the series isn't really all that kid-friendly, but that's the state of Free Comic Book Day (and maybe front-of-Previews genre comic books themselves), eh?

Anyway, nothing was really out of the ordinary until I got to this one store that had all of the giveaway materials set up on a special rack in a designated room with an employee seated in the center of that room to staple your bag shut once you've made your selections. And man, it was my favorite kind of selection, obviously an opportunity for the proprietor to rid himself of stacks of unwanted items from god knows when. I was most satisfied with my pick:

Hell yes, a gigantic foil-embossed black & gold stack of the Extreme Studios Tour '93 commemorative book, straight from the screaming dawn of the Image Revolution. I hope every child took one. Extreme was the Rob Liefeld wing of Image, which I admit never really attracted me in 1993 when I was just the right pre-teen age for such treats. Indeed, most of what I find interesting/funny about the book today is the rampant optimism suffusing every page - there's less bulging superhero art in this thing than glossy photos of seemingly every employee of Extreme Studios, determined to appear like rock stars in a high school yearbook display.

And why not? This was pretty much the last time a large number of 12-year old kids started reading superhero comics in considerable numbers, so it's appropriate that a gilded uncertainty should hang over this cocksure presentation. Even the giveaway coupon for Extreme #0 is gold-stamped.

Boy, if only every comics breakthrough could be commemorated by an iconic...

Ah! Does your soul not roar at the very sight?


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.



Twin Spica Vol. 7: According to Vertical's Ed Chavez -- per Tom Spurgeon's very fine TCAF report -- this popular-among-writers-on-manga series is "only doing okay" in sales, apparently coming in a ways behind a contemporaneous (if considerably more action-oriented) sci-fi series from the publisher, the recently concluded 7 Billion Needles. Interestingly enough, this comment comes just as Vertical shifts the series' release strategy to a two-in-one format at the same cover price, which is to say that two Japanese volumes will now be combined in each English edition, right through to the end of the series if future solicitations are accurate - that would complete the story at the NA vol. 11. Some "game changing reveals" are promised in the story as well; $10.95.

'Breed III #1 (of 7): Since Dan brought it up yesterday, I will also make note of this return to creator-owned serialization by Jim Starlin, taking a mid-'90s presentation of Malibu's old Bravura line to Image for the purposes of finishing off the story. There will also be collected editions of the first two series, one of which is supposed to show up this week, although Diamond doesn't have it listed. Bravura was an odd duck, almost an opposite number to Image (which had worked with Malibu early on) in that it focused itself early on a distinctly '70s-honed crew of artists - Starlin, Walt Simonson (Star Slammers) and Howard Chaykin (Power & Glory), although Gil Kane was involved for a little while too with Edge. It was almost like an assurance that such veteran talents wouldn't fly off the rails a la those photogenic Image kids up above, while also never threatening quite the diversity of style Dark Horse managed with its Legend brand. Preview; $2.99.



Hellboy: Being Human: Of course, Mike Mignola was one of those Legend artists before his baby grew up to annex its own wing of Dark Horse. While it's not exactly a studio -- Extreme or otherwise -- it certainly has its regular presences, among them artist Richard Corben, who draws this new one-off comic pairing the title character off with fan-favorite dead guy Roger the Homunculus. Preview; $3.50.

30 Days of Night: Night Again #1 (of 4): Meanwhile, prominent early Image artist Sam Kieth -- whom it seems will briefly be returning to The Sandman with Neil Gaiman and Mike Dringenberg for charitable purposes -- makes one of his periodic genre comics appearances with this newest joint from the IDW vampire franchise, here written by Joe R. Lansdale. Samples; $3.99.

Yossel: April 19, 1943 (&) Jew Gangster: A Father's Admonition: These are two separate releases this week, both of them prominent 21st century bits of the Joe Kubert catalog, initially published by IBooks and now under the umbrella of DC/Vertigo in softcover format. Yossel is a 2003 piece imagining an alternate life in the Warsaw ghetto had his parents not successfully emigrated the United States, while Jew Gangster is a 2005 crime 'n family comic set in Depression era NYC; the former is drawn in a striking, unrefined pencil style comparable to 2010's Dong Xoai, Vietnam 1965 (as Matt Seneca asked, "Does DC know they published a Picturebox book?"), while the latter tightens it up in genre style; $14.99 (both).

Captain America Omnibus Vol. 1: BECAUSE ONE MOVIE TIE-IN DOORSTOP JUST ISN'T ENOUGH. That Walt Simonson thing from the other week seemed to go over well, which is good, 'cause here's another 856-page horsechoker - the subject matter this time is '60s Captain America, including pertinent bits of Tales of Suspense #59-99, Captain America #100-113 and Not Brand Echh #3. Lots of Jack Kirby in here, along with an admired trio of Jim Steranko issues, which will purportedly appear with analysis by Steranko himself; $99.99.

Fighting American: But if its older Kirby you crave, there's always this 200-page Titan Books collection of works with Joe Simon; $19.95.

Deadman Vol. 1: Or hell, try some '60s DC, much of it drawn by Neal Adams. Collects Strange Adventures #205-213; $19.99.

Little Lulu Vol. 27: The Treasure Map and Other Stories: In which Dark Horse's color John Stanley-fronted reprint project turns its attention to other titles. My Lulu-fu is weak, but I believe the contents here are the 1955-56 Dell Giant Marge's Little Lulu and Her [Special] Friends #3-4, with art by both Stanley himself and Irving Tripp; $14.99.

Elias the Cursed: Being part of Humanoids' current focus on releasing Int├ęgrale editions of recent-ish French-language series, perhaps to put some stuff over on the all-in-one merits in lieu of recognizable names. This one's a 168-page swordsman fantasy series from Italian artist Corrado Mastantuono, of various Disney-related pursuits. Written by Sylviane Corgiat. French samples; $19.95.

Heavy Metal July 2011: Relatedly, here's a new issue of what's still the most visible North American forum for European comics in English, if a rather specific kind of comics (varying in aptitude for English to boot). The lead feature this time is t.2 of Arawn by Ronan Le Breton & S├ębastien Grenier -- of which I know nothing save that it looks very Heavy Metal -- but keep a newsstand eye out for a piece by Alfonso Azpiri, whose style I've always kinda dug; $6.95.

Seduction of the Innocent: Finally, your book-that's-not-a-comic for the week - a KettleDrummer Books collection of naughty pin-up art depicting ladies reading comic books. Noteworthy for an impressive list of contributors, including Dylan Horrocks, Danny Hellman, Ivan Brunetti, Richard Sala, Johnny Ryan, Jeffrey Brown, Sam Henderson, David Kiersh, Peter Kuper, Glen Headd and others. Note that this appears to be an expanded edition of a prior release. Samples (scroll to "ANTHOLOGIES and ART COLLECTIONS"); $15.95.


CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR: Nobody in the world makes comics like Yuichi Yokoyama, and now he's got another one in English. And while Garden would be his most expansive work simply by virtue of length -- it's 320 pages -- Yokoyama has now added a considerable usage of dialogue, albeit mainly in the style of the descriptive artist's commentary in Travel, if I'm understanding it correctly. From PictureBox, which is to say one of the editors of this column; $24.95.