THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (7/26/17 – An Invitation to the Robot Club)

Artist's rendition of the critical reception to Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, based on comics by Pierre Christin & Jean-Claude Mézières.


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, and that I also run a podcast with an employee of Nobrow Press. 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. You could always just buy nothing.



Comics Art in China: I'm gonna make a bit of a change here and put a book-about-comics up top, because this is the second time in a row John A. Lent (founder of the International Journal of Comic Art) has put out an overview-type book on Asian comics outside of the Japanese sphere, and I think that's a valuable and under-explored topic in English writing. Following up on 2015's Asian Comics, Comics Art in China -- and written with the Beijing-based critic and IJCA contributor Xu Ying -- Comics Art in China is 288 pages laying out "the evolution of Chinese comics within a global context, probing the often-tense relationship between expression and government, as well as proving that art can be a powerful force for revolution," as based largely on interviews with more than a hundred comics and animation practitioners. A University Press of Mississippi hardcover; $65.00.

Queen Emeraldas Vol. 2 (of 2): But if it's Japanese comics you want, well... that's probably the kind you're gonna find in English. Following about a year's wait from the first volume, this is the concluding Kodansha hardcover (432 pages) collecting Leiji Matsumoto's fiercely martial ode to autonomy, specifically the one with a lady space pirate on the cover that is titled "Queen Emeraldas". Translator Zack Davisson has noted that Matsumoto's exceedingly popular and similarly-themed Captain Harlock series (the original stuff and a later version) will also be coming soon to English, albeit from Seven Seas rather than Kodansha; $24.99.



Henry & Glenn Adult Activity & Coloring Book: This 128 page Microcosm release is another entry in the coloring book trend of recent years (I paint mine with melted-down Funco Pop!s), but you can also think of it as a collection of drawings of various origin from assorted alt-comics names, all on the theme of two extremely personality-forward musicians having their personae tweaked so that they are in love. Art by Tom Neely, Ed Luce, Katie Skelly, Jim Rugg, Tom Scioli, Keenan Marshall Keller, Shaky Kane and others. Note that the publisher also has a hardcover "Completely Ridiculous Edition" of the 2012-13 series Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever this week, which adds 16 pages to the prior collected edition; $12.95.

By Chance or Providence (&) The Street Angel Gang: Two Image collections by accomplished authors of genre comics. By Chance or Providence collects a 2011-13 trio of b&w self-published comics by Becky Cloonan, which have now been colored by Lee Loughridge. Features "hypnotic melancholy, weaving their way through medieval landscapes of ancient curses and terrible truths," per the publisher. The Street Angel Gang was also first seen in self-published form a few years ago, though now this 40-page exploit from creators Jim Rugg & Brian Maruca is an 8.8" x 12.2" hardcover in the style of the Street Angel After School Kung Fu Special from earlier this year; $19.99.

The Black Sinister (&) Cloud Stories: Two more from names I recognize, and in this column I am God. Troy Nixey has done some striking horror-tinged comics over the last 20 years, such as the Trout and Jenny Finn series, though he's also branched into movie work, directing the 2010 feature Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. The Black Sinister is a 72-page Dark Horse hardcover teaming Nixey with colorist Dave McCaig and writer Kaare Andrews for the story of a billionaire costumed vigilante terrorizing the city he's ostensibly protecting. The publisher makes note of its low cover price. Cloud Stories is a Kickstarted book from humor and autobio veteran K. Thor Jensen which I've written about before; don't recall if it's been distributed to comic book stores, though, so I'll mention it again. Across 216 pages, the theme of 'clouds' is examined in many forms, from poetry to comedy to fantasy to pure drawing. Alternative Comics presents it this week; $9.99 (Sinister), $20.00 (Cloud).

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Usagi Yojimbo (&) The Usagi Yojimbo Saga: Legends: Two releases here from busy Stan Sakai, creator of the anthropomorphic rabbit swordsman character which I first encountered on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon show when I was a child. Obviously, I didn't know that both Usagi and the Turtles had origins in b&w small press comics - ninja and samurai animal characters just seemed to belong together. And indeed, there have been many team-ups between these simpatico titles, with IDW's new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Usagi Yojimbo special only the latest. It's written and drawn by Sakai (working with colorist Tom Luth), so it's basically an extra-length new issue of the main series from a different publisher than usual. Dark Horse, however, does have Legends, a 560-page softcover compendium of various Usagi-related one-offs and side projects, including the 1996 miniseries Space Usagi, the 2009 painted graphic novel Yokai, and the 2014-15 miniseries Senso; $7.99 (TMNT), $24.99 (Legends).

Murder Ballads (&) Solid State: Music-related comics; always a tricky proposition. Murder Ballads is a Z2 Comics release (the same publisher has a new edition of the 2012 graphic novel Harvey Pekar's Cleveland out this week), a 160-page story of race, blues and conflict involving a white record label owner and black musicians from Gabe Soria (a writer in the journalism, gaming and comics fields with credits at First Second and DC) and artist Paul Reinwand, which picked up some attention at the time of its announcement last year for the included soundtrack by Dan Auerbach & Robert Finley, the former of the Black Keys and the latter a blues, soul and gospel player of many decades' experience. Solid State, in contrast, does not apparently come with any music; rather the 10" x 10" Image graphic novel is an official tie-in to a recent concept album by Jonathan Coulton, a singer-songwriter who rose to major prominence online in the '00s for his 'geek' culture subject matter. It appears to be a SF metaphor thing about the internet and stuff. The book is written by Coulton and the very popular comics writer Matt Fraction, with art by Albert Monteys, a Spanish satirist and webcomics creator who was just announced as a special guest at SPX 2017 this past afternoon, which means it's actually good that this column is late, and that all of my actions are once again fully justified; $24.99 (Murder), $19.99 (Solid).

Spawn: Oversized Vault Edition: The Image founders are wild this week. There's a "remastered" (i.e. recolored) edition of 1993's Bloodstrike #1 from the Rob Liefeld wing, a hundred-page 25th anniversary issue of The Savage Dragon with a XXX-rated 'adult' variant cover (because if Image is gonna try to be all things, I guess they need to be Avatar Press circa 1998), but this particular column will take the high road as always and highlight the Todd McFarlane version of IDW's Artist's Edition line, a 12.25" x 17.25" hardcover collecting issues #1-7 of Spawn as shot from the uncolored art boards. Apparently a handful of random copies will come with a surprise original sketch from McFarlane, who will soon be writing and directing a Spawn feature film, hopefully in the style of Gilbert Hernandez's The Naked Cosmos; $175.00.

Jim Shooter: Conversations: Finally -- and speaking of Comics Journal favorites -- your non-spotlit book-on-comics of the week is this 256-page University Press of Mississippi compendium of interviews with the junior high school-aged superhero writer turned editor-in-chief of various genre comics concerns, most prominently Marvel for nearly a decade in the spandex Bronze Age. Edited by Jason Sacks & Eric Hoffman, the book purportedly includes material dating back to 1969, followed by '70s, '80s and '90s talks, plus a new career-spanner to round it all out; $40.00.