THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (7/24/13 – Forgive my brevity, but we just got through a heatwave.)

From  "とりぱん," an unusually well-drawn birdwatching comic from writer/artist とりのなん子, whose success at getting 14 volumes' worth of bird manga into print from a major publisher has not, unfortunately, resulted in a definitive romanization of her name.
From "とりぱん," an unusually well-drawn birdwatching comic from writer/artist とりのなん子, whose success at getting 14 volumes' worth of bird manga into print from a major publisher has not, unfortunately, resulted in a definitive romanization of her name.


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.




Little Fluffy Gigolo PELU Vol. 2 (of 3): This is not actually on Diamond's list for release this week. I don't know if it ever *will* appear on Diamond's list, or if it somehow got relegated to the Adults Only back bleachers, but I do know this comic was officially released for sale early this month, and by god I am not going to allow a new Junko Mizuno translation to pass by unnoticed! Initially serialized in the seinen magazine Comic Beam from 2002 to 2004, PELU represents the closest thing we've seen to a 'signature' comics franchise for Mizuno, a post-everything kawaii kommando reaching back to the dawn of girls' comics in Japan for squat, huge-eyed cuties stripped bare and made to inhabit worlds of bodily horror and rampant consumption influenced as much by the early works of Kazuo Umezu as the sprightly pop of Sailor Moon. The first volume -- released by Last Gasp back at the dawn of time in 2009 -- saw an interstellar ball of puff arrive on Earth hoping to track down a lucky girl with whom to mate; enjoying roughly the success of Leisure Suit Larry, the title character nonetheless witnesses vignettes of girls and women undergoing identity crises, a setup very likely to continue across these 168 middle pages, collected in 8" x 10" softcover format by the same publisher. Lots of fun, keep an eye out, bug your retailer, etc; $17.95.


Creepy Presents Steve Ditko: Interesting fact about Dark Horse's line of 'themed' Warren horror magazine hardcovers: none of them have focused on the early, Archie Goodwin-driven days when Creepy and Eerie first rose to prominence as Comics Code-flaunting spiritual continuations of the EC line, stocked with actual pre-Code horror veterans. At least, not until now, with this 128-page, 8 1/2" x 11" compilation of every damned story Steve Ditko drew for the publisher, a small but vivid stack of comics, 1966-67, roughly bridging the artist's original departure from Marvel and his philosophically-driven Charlton superhero work. If only it could have come a bit later! I've honestly never been a fan of Goodwin's writing on these pieces, hewing a bit too closely to the wordy, Al Feldstein-y texture that makes actually reading a lot of old ECs something of a slog. Still, the appeal of Ditko's misty inks and crackling departures from sanity cannot be denied, and the prospect of a visual restoration as all-around excellent as last year's Richard Corben omnibus warrants a mandatory flip-through, even if you've owned all this stuff for years. Introduction by Mark Evanier; $19.99.



Gamma: This looks like the kind of gaming-informed fantasy worldbuilding-cum-style project Oni used to release back in the day, now culled from the pages of Dark Horse Presents. Artist/co-writer Ulises Farinas -- presently working with Joe Casey on Dark Horse's Catalyst Comix revival, and soon to be drawing an IDW Judge Dredd miniseries for occasional Journal contributor Douglas Wolk -- folds Pokémon and kaiju and super sentai and all the other words into this small saga of a disgraced monster trainer rising up for a new mission, complete in 32 color comic book pages. Co-written by Erick Freitas, and commended to the attention of admirers of Seth Fisher and James Stokoe and other enthusiastic maximalists. Preview; $2.99.

Cul de Sac: Mighty Alice Goes Round and Round (&) Pearls Before Swine: Beginning Pearls: Here's a cute idea from Andrews McMeel's AMP! Comics for Kids imprint - a line of 6" x 9", 224-page paperbacks designed to introduce the wee ones to the better recent newspaper strips by plucking out episodes with the most kid-friendly content. Richard Thompson and Stephan Pastis get the treatment in these two releases; $9.99 (each).

Monster on the Hill Vol. 1: Meanwhile, another contemporary strip man -- Rob Harrell of Big Top -- presents his longform comics debut by way of Top Shelf. Quite a long list of name pull quotes on that solicitation page (Neil Gaiman! Jeff Smith! The aforementioned Richard Thompson!), all charmed by this 192-page depiction of a 19th century village struggling gamely to motivate a largely shit local beasty. Appropriate for all ages, I am assured. Preview; $19.95.

The Rocketeer/The Spirit: Pulp Friction #1 (of 4): IDW had been putting out a bunch of new comics featuring Dave Stevens' throwback movie serial hero, and most of them seem content at evoking a certain go-getting early 20th century vision of saucy dames and smooth angles and stuff. This series, however -- a gala conjoining with Will Eisner's similarly 'period'-inclined two-fisted action guy -- picks up a little extra conceptual flourish by featuring art by a contemporary of *Stevens'* artistic development in the early '80s comic book market, longtime X-Men specialist Paul Smith. The writer is Mark Waid, and the plot is superheroes-fight-but-probably-also-team-up; $3.99.

Lobster Johnson: A Scent of Lotus #1 (of 2): And in the same vein comes the latest from Mike Mignola's considerably less friendly throwback hero, co-written as always by John Arcudi, and drawn now by Sebastián Fiumara. These tend to be succinct, well-constructed little episodes, loaded with fun violence. Preview; $3.50.

I'll Give It My All...Tomorrow Vol. 5 (of 5): Always heartening to see one of Viz's pet seinen projects arrive at its natural endpoint, here a mere three years and change after the publisher's ill-fated SigIkki launch of digitally-serialized Mature Readers comics. Perhaps this Shunju Aono slice-of-life series -- concerning a would-be manga professional's troubled personal affairs -- will pick up a little late heat now that a motion picture adaptation has been completed; $12.99.

Porcelain: A Gothic Fairy Tale: I like to keep track of new publishers -- particularly publishers of English-language comics based outside of North America -- and this is the first Diamond-serviced release I can think of by England's Improper Books, a collective of UK indie comics creators. It's a 96-page color book from writer Benjamin Read and artist Chris Wildgoose (colors by André May, with Alexa Rosa), concerning a street kid's Bluebeard-like relationship with a mysterious artisan. Preview; $19.99.

Camelot 3000: And since we're always down for old tales, I'll wrap things up with this new softcover edition of a 1982-85 DC "maxi"-series, best remembered for its unique historical positioning as both the first big shot of the British invasion of American superhero comics -- courtesy of penciller Brian Bolland -- as well as a harbinger of the type of longform genre comic that would eventually shuck off the concerns of delayed serialization to ultimately exist as a big, fat bookshelf-worthy 320-page brick. Written by Mike W. Barr, inked by various, and probably better known-of than actually read, though you can always change that; $19.99.


CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR: Not a huge week, no, but unusually rich with unusual manga, and maybe the most unique of them all is the late, great Shigeru Sugiura's Last Of The Mohicans, a 1973-74 détournement of the artist's own 1950s manga adaptation of the James Fenimore Cooper classic, translated by the Journal's Ryan Holmberg and published by PictureBox in a 176-page hardcover edition with bonus essays by author and translator alike; $22.95. And elsewhere, all the way across these United States, Fantagraphics brings your book-on-comics of the week, The Daniel Clowes Reader: A Critical Edition of Ghost World and Other Stories, with Essays, Interviews, and Annotations, a 360-page release from editor Ken Parille, matching a potpourri of Clowes' works with learned essays on relevant topics; $35.00.


This past week, Kodansha's long-running seinen magazine Morning ran the final episode of President Shima Kōsaku.

Commemorating the 30th anniversary of the first chapter of what was then called Section Chief Shima Kōsaku, the story saw the titular lifelong business professional step down from the presidency of what was once known as Hatsushiba Electric, but had recently merged with a rival corporation. The series will relaunch in August under its seventh sequential title: Chairman Shima Kōsaku, depicting the character as technically the highest-ranking officer of his corporation, though a Japanese "Chairman" is typically an honorary title given to a more active agent, like an old "President," who has been put out to pasture.


This is what happened on President Shima Kōsaku's final day of work.


He woke up early, and his love met him on the balcony. They were in their pajamas.


It was a sunny day indeed among the skyscrapers of the city.


At the critical moment, Shima Kōsaku addressed the shareholders, withdrawing from the presidency and accepting his chairmanship.


Then he hopped into a sweet ride.


Meanwhile, across town -- or perhaps somewhere far away -- Shima Kōsaku's creator, Kenshi Hirokane, was confronted by the Cormac McCarthy character Anton Chigurh, as portrayed by Javier Bardem in Joel & Ethan Coen's 2007 movie adaptation of No Country for Old Men, the title of which perhaps hold some special meaning for the 66-year old Hirokane, a veteran of the weekly serialization grind for nearly four decades.


A silly ninja was also present in the room, for reasons that remain obscure.


Hirokane expressed some interest in playing golf, but I suspect he realized the futility of his retirement dreams.


And then, as is the option, this glimpse into the private affairs of the strip's "author" was followed by a movie-like credits scroll identifying participating art assistants, studio hands and other miscellaneous support staff: all the employees of the business that is Shima Kōsaku, glimpses of which have proven delightful to me, and also, I pray, to you.