Cityscapes and virtual relationships from artist Iou Kuroda's Sexy Voice and Robo, a 2000-03 comedic mystery series starring an inquisitive junior high school-age girl and the nerdy adult guy she befriends in the course of pretending to be a phone sex operator for sociological reasons. Very winsome art. Later adapted as a television drama, though the comic was never really 'finished' - VIZ eventually collected all the printed material into a book, which is Kuroda's only official release in English. Or, it was...
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.
Appleseed Alpha: Damn, Iou Kuroda. That guy was briefly a star among seinen manga scanlators and Japanese-capable connoisseurs -- the great Bill Randall surveyed his then-recent project Nasu (also the basis of an anime short film) in issue #258 of the Journal (Feb. '04) -- though after VIZ's 2005 English publication of Sexy Voice and Robo he kind of dropped out of visibility... but then, the only books he released in Japan subsequently were Atarashii Asa, a two-volume historical adventure that took him over four years to serialize, and Daikinboshi, a 2008 collection of shorts. That is, until 2014, when Kodansha's 'alternative'-flavored seinen monthly Morning 2 began serializing, of all goddamned things, Iou Kuroda's very own official prequel to the 1985-89 SF action series by Masamune Shirow, positioned as a tie-in to a '14 computer animated feature film from Japanese director Shinji Aramaki and American AAA video game writer Marianne Krawczyk which basically tried to turn Shirow's concepts into an Olivier Megaton movie - like, the kind of thing Luc Besson would produce, but not direct, if you get what I'm saying. I don't think this is Kuroda's goal, from the handful of Japanese-language chapters I've seen; although there are some pretty wild action bits, his aim seems to be more kinetically interpersonal, in the vein of his other projects. A 448-page Kodansha hardcover collects the entire run of the series, for the benefit of nostalgists and curiosity-seekers alike; $24.99.
Larry Marder's Beanworld Vol. 4: Hoka Hoka Burb'l Burb'l!: I was just wondering what had happened to this series the other day, and lo and behold, here is Dark Horse with a new 160-page installment for Marder's exceedingly particular signature series -- sort of a system of fables surveying the sociology and flora/fauna of a cartoon universe -- which has been publishing on an irregular basis for 32 years. Here's an introductory website, if you're interested. A 6" x 9" hardcover; $16.99.
Jam in the Band: Your obligatory book about which I know next to nothing, this 386-page graphic novel from artist, educator and departed Paper Jam festival organizer Robin Enrico follows the prime, decline and aftermath of a punk band, "through a collage of drama, interviews, diary pages, and show fliers." Published by Alternative Comics, and collected from various minicomics the artist has been releasing for several years. Preview; $19.99.
The Cross-Eyed Mutt: Being the latest in NBM's line of translations for French comics albums created in association with the Louvre. This time the artist is Étienne Davodeau (he of such mainline adult-targeted BD as Lulu Anew and The Initiates) with a 2013 comedy concerning a museum supervisor trying to avoid hanging a family ancestor's ass-ugly painting in -- you guessed it -- the Louvre. A 7.5" x 10.5" hardcover, 144 pages in b&w. Preview; $24.99.
One-Eyed Jack: As you may know, last year Rebellion (publisher of 2000 AD) acquired numerous vintage youth-targeted comics from Egmont UK. As a result, what we're seeing here is the first book released under the publisher's new Treasury of British Comics banner, a 162-page softcover with plenty of built-in appeal to 2000 AD readers, seeing as how it comes from Judge Dredd co-creator John Wagner. One-Eyed Jack was created in 1975 in the pages of Valiant, an IPC boys' anthology - its violent and hard-hearted NYC detective protagonist, essentially a variation on the then-popular Dirty Harry movie character, later came to inform the creation of Dredd himself. Longtime UK comics veteran John Cooper (who died in 2015) provides the art for these original-run adventures; $17.99.
Nocturnals: The Siniƨter Path (&) Angel Catbird Vol. 3 (of 3): The Catbird Roars: A pair of fantastical genre comics for your consideration. Nocturnals is the creation of artist Dan Brereton, a painted comic about supernatural characters involved in mystery, horror and SF-inflected scenarios that debuted in 1994 as part of Malibu's creator-owned Bravura line, and has bounced around among publishers ever since. This all-new 96-page story has been nearly a decade in the making, although it was a 2015 Kickstarter campaign that really seems to have pushed it forward. Angel Catbird offers the unexpected sight of Margaret Atwood writing an animal rights superhero comic as The Handmaid's Tale plays out for television viewers. Dark Horse has seen it through to this 104-page concluding hardcover volume, drawn by Johnnie Christmas and colored by Tamra Bonvillain; $19.95 (Nocturnals), $14.99 (Catbird).
Armies (&) Valerian and Laureline Vol. 16: Hostages of Ultralum: Two more translations from the French. Armies is a 7.6" x 10.2" Humanoids colorized softcover collection of booming, ironic fantasy war comics from Les Humanoïdes co-founder Jean-Pierre Dionnet and the formidable artist Jean-Claude Gal, who emphasizes the diminution of the fragile human figure against towering architecture and mighty landscapes. I interviewed Dionnet back in 2013 when Humanoids released their first, hardcover edition, although a b&w version of *some* of the work was released by Heavy Metal way back in 1978; the Humanoids edition pairs the original '70s stories with a longer '80s narrative, Arn, produced with the aid of an additional scriptwriter, "Picaret". It's good stuff. Hostages of Ultralum is the latest Cinebook translation of handsome SF albums by Pierre Christin & Jean-Claude Mézières, this one from 1996. Soon to be a major motion picture, opening against that Christopher Nolan WWII movie I keep forgetting about; $19.95 (Armies), $15.95 (Valerian).
Jupiter's Legacy 2 #5 (of 5): Admirers of the artist Frank Quitely will want to know that this is the final installment of his prolonged intergenerational superhero collaboration with the writer Mark Millar and the publisher Image... it's been more than four years. Not that all of this is attributable to any one person -- I believe the series' former colorist and current letterer Peter Doherty suffered a stroke recently -- but I do think the prolonged nature of the project has placed Quitely into something of a purgatorial space in terms of visibility, as such things are frequently driven by the hype of the new. I'm also not sure what Quitely has planned next, although there's an exhibition of his original art currently up at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, which I'm told is very impressive; $4.99.
Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme Omnibus Vol. 1: Don't be fooled by the '1' on the cover - this is not a new edition of the Steve Ditko classics on which the early Marvel universe's quasi-counterculture cred was built. Rather -- and contrary to what you may have read in an earlier version of this column, which was drafted by my evil twin from the astral plane -- this brick collects late '80s/early '90s fare, as launched by writer Peter B. Gillis and penciller Richard Case, the latter of which would almost immediately depart for the Grant Morrison-written tenure on Doom Patrol. Future Image founder Jim Valentino shows up briefly in this, as does Gene Colan, experienced with the character. I'm pretty sure you can buy all of these comics individually for less than half of what Marvel is asking, but don't let me tell you what to do; $125.00.
Berserk Vol. 38 (&) Plum Crazy!: Tales of a Tiger-Striped Cat Vol. 1: Two rather different manga here. Berserk, of course, is the long-running, enduringly popular, and potentially never-ending dark fantasy series from creator Kentaro Miura, which recently wrapped a second series for its television anime adaptation. Japan was just treated to the collected vol. 39 two weeks ago, so this Dark Horse localization is maintaining a one-behind pace. Plum Crazy!, in severe contrast, is a cat manga. How popular is cat manga? The series used to run in Neko Panchi, a magazine dedicated primarily to comics about cats, and it's up to sixteen collected volumes in Japanese. Natsumi Hoshino is the author of this Seven Seas-published peek into the life of a feline who must deal with a new kitten in the house; $14.99 (Berserk), $11.99 (Plum).
The Good Earth: I did really badly in English class for my freshman year in high school; bad enough that I was denied entry to the honors curriculum at that time. As I result, I was never assigned to read the 1931 Pulitzer-winning perennial by Pearl S. Buck, and I can't say I've gotten around to it since. This 144-page Simon and Schuster hardcover release finds Nick Bertozzi (who's done a lot of work in the generalist bookstore vein) adapting the prose to comics - I'd make a joke about high schoolers being delighted, but surely anyone who's trying to avoid reading a book is just gonna hit up Wikipedia; $26.99.
Frank Thorne's Battling Beauties: Finally, your book-on-comics of the week arrives from Hermes Press, covering pretty much what you expect when the name "Frank Thorne" is invoked. "This extensive art monograph presents artwork from such titles as Red Sonja, Ghita, Lann, The Iron Devil, and more," says the publisher, which also promises "lengthy" interviews with Thorne conducted by Howard Leroy Davis. A 9" x 12" hardcover, 192 pages in color; $60.00.