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.
Dream Fossil: The Complete Stories of Satoshi Kon: You know what I love? Short-form manga by artists known for multi-volume epics. Taiyō Matsumoto's Blue Spring, Katsuhiro Ōtomo's Memories - a good collection of short works can demonstrate an artist's versatility and flair for experimentation in ways otherwise dragged under the tide of a longform serial. Of course, Satoshi Kon never really built up enough steam to manage a truly longform serial before getting into filmmaking, but Dream Fossil, a 426-page Vertical presentation, nonetheless finds a younger Kon plying his trade catch-as-catch-can in the '80s, perhaps anticipating his cinematographic tendencies for narrative fragmentation. Expect 15 stories, plus an interview with Susumu Hirasawa, music composer for several of the artist's subsequent anime outings. At this point, the entirety of Kon's manga corpus is available in English save for his comics adaptation of mentor Ōtomo's 1991 film World Apartment Horror, which I don't think has even been available in Japan since the early '90s (so don't hold your breath); $24.95.
Optic Nerve #14: But for some artists, short stories are the main event. Three new pieces -- two fictions and a brief autobio strip -- are set for this gala 20th anniversary edition of Adrian Tomine’s signature lit comics one-man show: 40 big pages, folded 'n stapled by Drawn & Quarterly. I suggest hiding this Genuine Alternative Comic Book amidst a stack of Marvel crossover tie-ins for the most authentic 1990s experience, but the moderns among you should be aware that at least some of this work ("center[ed] on parenthood, mortality, and stand-up comedy," per the publisher) will be collected in the bookshelf-format release Killing and Dying later this year; $6.95.
aama Vol. 3 (of 4): Desert of Mirrors (&) Art Masters Series Vol. 2: Pablo: Two continuing translation projects from the UK's SelfMadeHero, distributed in North America by Abrams. aama is the continuing SF series from Frederik Peeters, now on its penultimate 88-page, 8" x 10.5" color album. Expect the finale in September. Pablo, meanwhile, pairs artist Clément Oubrerie (of the well-liked series Aya, scripted by Marguerite Abouet) with writer Julie Birmant for a 2012-14 biographical series on the famous Picasso: "a true story, but one whose details are largely forgotten," per Cynthia Rose in a review of the French editions elsewhere on this site. Note that the "Art Masters Series" is a common banner for themed biographical comics from different creators; this isn't part 2 of a serial, but a pest-killing 344-page all-in-one color hardcover at 7.5" x 9.5". aama samples, Pablo samples; $19.95 (aama), $27.50 (Pablo).
Emma HC Vol. 1: The creation of artist Kaoru Mori, Emma ran from 2002 to 2006 in Enterbrain's alternative-mainstream-ish Comic Beam (home to works as diverse as Takako Shimura's Wandering Son, Junko Mizuno's Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu and Suehiro Maruo's The Strange Tale of Panorama Island); released in English in '06 by CMX, DC's ill-fated attempt at manga licensing, the serial quickly became a popular standout for its rather idealized but exceedingly tactile presentation of Victorian England as a towering backdrop for inter-class romance. CMX has since died like superheroes don't, so Yen Press now takes up the burden of restoring the series to print as a set of 500-page two-in-one hardcovers; $35.00.
Civil War Adventure: The most veteran of Journal readers among you might remember illustrations by Gary Kwapisz appearing in certain early '80s issues; he went on to do a good deal of art for The Savage Sword of Conan, among other mainline and semi-mainline (Epic, Eclipse) projects. He also drew a story for Harvey Pekar in Prime Cuts #9, though I confess my personal experience with his art began with early '90s issues of The Punisher War Journal, written by Chuck Dixon. The two were frequent collaborators, and later -- toward the end of the '00s -- co-founders of History Graphics Press, where they created wartime comics now reprinted by Dover Publications as an inexpensive 6" x 9", 144-page softcover. See? I like history too; $9.95.
Valhalla Mad #1: There's a few continuing Image series I'll get this week -- Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #4 and Satellite Sam #14 (next-to-last issue of that) -- but the near-obligatory Image debut of the week is this Silver Age-tinged mythological project from writer Joe Casey and artist Paul Maybury (previously seen together in Dark Horse's Catalyst Comix), utilizing the domestic-cosmic perspective of Jack Kirby's The Mighty Thor to follow a trio of gods into a human world they don't entirely understand anymore. These Casey-written Image series tend to adopt pretty distinct narrative postures wringing whatever they can from very particular corners of genre comics history/tradition. Samples; $3.50.
Mad Max: Fury Road - Nux & Immortan Joe: Like most of my Twitter feed I went out and saw Fury Road last week, and while I'm not inclined to notarize it as savior of genre film, I did think it was pretty fascinating in its fusion of aggressive production design and extensive post-production manipulation. I'm thinking in particular of the way flashes of light in a sandstorm are depicted as the film's color correction flipping violently between silvery b&w and a burnt sepia tint, and how night scenes are done in a very ostentatious faux-day-for-night style, closer to silent era dyeing than anything else. There's even a bit were characters are driving at night, and the foreground figures 'pop' in solid blue against background figures gathered around a softer light source - quite an old-timey comic book coloring trick. Other scenes basically do for (co-screenwriter) Brendan McCarthy what a lot of movies did for Frank Miller in the prior decade... yet McCarthy is not drawing this official prequel/side-story comic from Vertigo, which otherwise boasts a credits list complicated enough for a licensed franchise manga: the writers appear to be director/co-screenwriter George Miller, co-screenwriter Nico Lathouris and lead storyboard artist Mark Sexton, while the solicited interior artists are Riccardo Burchielli & Leandro Fernandez. (McCarthy does have new work out this week, mind you, via a continuing serial in Dark Horse Presents.) Three more tie-in books will follow with different interior artists, including Sexton himself; $4.99.
A-Force #1: Being a new Marvel series from writer G. Willow Wilson (of the extremely well-regarded Ms. Marvel) and artist Jorge Molina, concerning female superheroes in positions of terrific authority in the wake of the current Secret Wars crossover. You may have heard of this comic first, however, as subject of a scathing commentary by Jill Lepore ("Left to my own devices, I’d have said that the message here is that, yes, men are being rendered redundant by robots but, phew, women still have nice breasts.") in the New Yorker, to which Wilson replied at length. In the interests of journalism, I asked my 10-year old interns Dennis and Maribelle -- to whom I have outsourced the production of this column since 2013 -- what they thought of the Lepore piece. Dennis replied "COMICS ARE FUCKING GARBAGE I HATE THEM I HATE THEM." Then Maribelle bit me, so: looks like an extra-long column topper next week! Preview; $3.99.
Out of Line: The Art of Jules Feiffer (&) Will Eisner: A Spirited Life: Finally, your books-on-comics of the week, both dealing with NYC institutions. The former is a 272-page Abrams release in which author Martha Fay presents an "illustrated retrospective" of the works of Feiffer, ranging from comics to plays to films. An 11.25" x 10.5" hardcover, with introductory texts by Leonard S. Marcus and the late filmmaker Mike Nichols. The latter is an updated TwoMorrows edition of a 2005 Bob Andelman anecdotal biography, which actually began life as an *autobiography* Eisner was preparing with Andelman before the work transitioned into an assemblage of loosely categorical snippets from interviews with seemingly everyone under the sun, proceeding in basically chronological order. Now there's even more interviews included, along with many color illustrations and a general reformatting of the text into a 256-page hardcover; $40.00 (Feiffer), $39.95 (Eisner).