I was on vacation. The person I'm holding is YOU.
(Art by Seizō Watase)
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.
Youth is Wasted: Being a 112-page AdHouse collection of short works by Noah Van Sciver, culled from later issues of his one-man anthology series Blammo! -- per the artist, earlier issues are not represented because "[t]here's just nothing there" -- as well as various anthology appearances. Actually, you might want to read through that whole interview I just linked; I'd gotten the feeling before that Van Sciver was prone to drawing from a somewhat earlier, more declarative alt-comics tradition than many of his peers (think the Canadian wave of Seth, Joe Matt, Chester Brown), and there's some confirmation out in there. Introduction by superhero artist and elder sibling Ethan Van Sciver. Preview; $14.95.
Pictures That Tick Vol. 2: And speaking of that period - it's genuinely difficult to remember today, but for much of the 1990s Dave McKean's Cages was pretty widely considered (or at least expected to be) one of the Major Works of Comics. Yet while McKean enjoyed some influence in the world of illustration and design, Cages today seems like more of a fascinatingly prolonged aberration. That said, McKean has continued to produce new solo comics at an irregular clip: the story collection Pictures That Tick with Allen Spiegel Fine Arts in 2001; the erotic graphic novel Celluloid with Fantagraphics in 2011; and now this second, 272-page, 9" x 12" softcover compendium of shorts, new from Dark Horse, which has also re-released Cages and the first Pictures (and a pair of Neil Gaiman collaborations) in recent years. If it's anything like the first one, expect a blend of hand-drawing, photo collage and digital manipulation, coupled with poetic-minded text and dramatic, interpersonal, psychological themes akin to literary fiction. There will also be a signed hardcover; $29.99 ($100.00 signed HC).
Seconds: Not trying to slam Bryan Lee O'Malley (or anyone) by putting him (them) in the PLUS! section - it's just that something tells me you *might* be hearing about this book from some other media sources at some point in the near future. Of course, this is O'Malley's 336-page color follow up to the era-personifying Scott Pilgrim series, an original Random House hardcover all but guaranteed to be one of the most visible comics of 2014. The story involves a young woman who discovers magic mushrooms which give her the ability to repeat and perfect parts of her life - the video game and anime influence likely remains strong. Ink assists by Jason Fischer, colors by Nathan Fairbairn and lettering by Dustin Harbin; $25.00.
Cap'n Dinosaur: So long as Shaky Kane is gonna keep drawing these oddball one-shots, I'm just gonna keep on mentioning them. This one (following last month's That's Because You're a Robot with David Quantick) was created with writer Nigel "Kek-W" Long, a contributor to 2000 AD since the mid-'90s, around the time when Kane was also doing some art over there. From what I can gather, it's a police mystery which somehow involves comic book mail-order advertisements; $3.99.
Doc Frankenstein Vol. 1: The Messiah of Science Resurrected: Let's see - popular superhero talent, folks fresh off a big corporate genre success, splashy high concept, creator-owned: it's like Image today! And, a bit like Image yesterday too, since this 2004-07 series kinda petered out after six issues without resolving everything. Nonetheless, Burlyman Entertainment now brings a softcover collection of issues #1-4 of this Steve Skroce-drawn action/skepticism SF series, written by the Wachowskis (they of The Matrix) in a manner that treats the purplish style of Alan Moore circa The Saga of the Swamp Thing as holy writ while wielding aggressive anti-clericalism like a cudgel. A second volume is due later this year, and should finish off the story with new material; $16.99.
Lust: Not that I blame IDW for diversifying its line, but I'll probably always associate it with slickly-designed books of fog-smeared figures lolling ominously a la Ashley Wood's Popbot and 30 Days of Night, and -- as if to treat me, specifically! -- the creators of that latter project, Steve Niles & Ben Templesmith, now reunite (with the addition of second artist "menton3") for what looks like a veritable collision of the two into a 72-page blend of "a prose book, a comic book, and an art book" concerned with the sin of the title, and I suppose the dichotomous value of chastity - each artist will be concerned with one half. Initially funded via a hugely successful 2012 Kickstarter campaign, and eventually to be followed by seven additional installments on different themes. A hardcover is available online, but this 8.5" x 12" release is in softcover form; $19.99.
The Squidder #1 (of 4): This is also new from Ben Templesmith and IDW, a solo miniseries which promises "an old soldier from a forgotten war in a post-apocalyptic world that has left him behind," with Lovecraftian elements; $3.99.
Anomal: GEN is a manga publisher I've linked to a few times, notable for releasing original dōjinshi in English; when you hear about dōjin works in manga, it's usually in the context of fan comics involving popular characters, but *original* dōjinshi are really just small press comics. I've been seeing more of GEN's print endeavors in stores lately, and here is a 160-page collection of shorts by "Nukuharu," who specializes in weird horror stuff. A digital edition is also available; $9.95.
Adventure Time #30: I've stopped keeping track of the spinoffs this big licensing success has spawned at Boom!, but the main series does retain a certain line-leading swagger, having just come off a multi-issue story drawn by Jim Rugg, and now diving into games of format. If I am not mistaken, this issue will consist of "zines" from various in-story characters, with a corresponding shift in paper quality to uncoated stock. Ryan North remains the writer, while the contributing artists include recognizable small press and webcomics folk like Liz Prince and Yumi Sakugawa, among others. Preview; $3.99.
Tales of the Batman: J.H. Williams III: DC has a number of Batman-themed collections out this week in approximate commemoration of the character's 75th anniversary, but I think I'm gonna go with this lone (and probably unrelated) artist-centered collection, both because Williams (currently of The Sandman: Overture with Neil Gaiman) is an interesting and adept visualist, and also in that the sweep of these works (1996-2007) will allow you to witness his evolution from a horror-inflected stylist to the mixed-approach intensity he's known for today. With inker Mick Gray and writers Doug Moench, Dan Curtis Johnson, Paul Dini and Grant Morrison. The 448-page hardcover should also include the complete Snow storyline Williams & Johnson wrote for the late artist Seth Fisher; $49.99.
Steranko: Nick Fury, Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Artist's Edition: Oh, this should be something. Collecting twelve Jim Steranko stories from Strange Tales #151-162 (some layouts by Jack Kirby, some writing by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas), reproduced at 15" x 22", from the original art, as IDW usually does. A total of 184 pages, with packaging apparently designed by Steranko himself; $150.00 (or so).
Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Vol. 5: Outwits the Phantom Blot: Plenty more Floyd Gottfredson & co. in this 288-page Fantagraphics hardcover, with some alternate versions of the (sub)title story and related paintings, and -- if I'm reading the table of contents correctly -- Ryan Holmberg expounding on Gottfredson's influence on Osamu Tezuka...! Samples; $34.99.
Prince Valiant Vol. 9: 1953-1954 (&) The Prince Valiant Page: And finally, a pair of additional newspaper strip items for your delectation. One is the newest Fantagraphics package of Hal Foster classics, 120 pages at 10.25" x 14". The other is a newly-discounted Flesk Publishing item, 112 pages at 9" x 12", delving into Gary Gianni’s contemporary work on the feature with texts and image reproductions; $35.00 (Vol. 9), $14.98 (Page).