THIS WEEK IN COMICS (8/17/11 – Deep Nothing)

Nothing too much up here this week, just a selection of images by Francisco Solano López, the fine Argentina-born cartoonist who died last Friday. Everything I've got here is from the 1986 Catalan Communications edition of Evaristo: Deep City, a collection of crime comics Sampayo produced with writer Carlos Sampayo; I believe it was published in French by Dargaud (as simply Evaristo) the year prior. Note that the Catalan edition is 112 pages; Ediciones Colihue appears to have released a 200-page Spanish language version in 1998, so there's probably untranslated material out there.

Regardless, Deep City is a pretty great showcase for Sampayo; it's a period piece set in both a time and place where the artist knew, the Buenos Aires of the 1950s from which he fled to Spain, and virtually every page is filled with seething, wriggling detail, especially the faces of people. Evaristo is a boxer-turned-lawman, your classic plays-by-his-own-rules tough guy mountain, and López often has fun with positioning his lumbering form against smaller characters or delicate, beautiful objects. Of course, these are crime comics, and so lovely and delicate things do not stay in place for long.

Writer Sampayo is certainly better-known for his Alack Sinner stories with artist José Muñoz, whose swirling lines seem inseparable from the scripting. But pairing Sampayo with as realist a craftsman as López perhaps underlines the mysterious, allusive quality of his writing, with locations transitioning in nearly every panel on some pages, and conversations picking up mid-sentence; the Hernandez brothers suddenly make for a good comparison, though Sampayo's stories here are insistent on maintaining the basic outline of little crime cases while suggesting rather strongly that Evaristo's two-fisted exploits are a flailing against forces he doesn't entirely understand. Politics are rough and rapidly shifting, but even things like a shantytown's vanishing water supply or an insane murderer's religious conversion seem mainly to elude him; he 'solves' cases typically without discovering the purposes of anyone's actions - that mystery is left for the reader to glimpse from Sampayo's fragmented approach.

Still, you can be sure every panel, especially fixed on one moment in time given this kind of storytelling, is very nicely composed. Probably the most representative story is Terror in the Streets, a tale that sees Evaristo pursued by assassins while roughly interacting with a young man who claims to be his illegitimate son. Also, a lion has escaped from the zoo, and that minor plot takes on both occasional narrative primacy and enduring metaphoric value as Sampayo & López flit from scene to scene, sometimes diving back into their anti-hero's caddish past. Absolutely nothing is resolved in the end, in that virtually every participant of note save for Evaristo and the lion winds up dead, but at least Our Man can tell that the lion is old and tame and can't hurt anyone. Of course, that's because he's ineffective in his own way, a force of terror hacking from the cigarette habit that's noted at the top of the story - partial, futile progress, on the way out.


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 Nothings Vol. 4: My Shadow in the Distance: While light at times so that it threatens to break into mist, there's a delicacy to these autobiographical webcomics that feels unique to Lewis Trondheim, no doubt aided by some endlessly fine painted color. This is the newest collection in English, 128 pages' worth. Samples; $14.99.

We3 Deluxe Edition: It's always kind of tricky when a mainline superhero publisher puts out a somewhat off-center, successful genre project because they tend to get really painfully overpraised awfully quick, owing to the hegemony of volume superhero publishers command -- and that effect only doubles when there's a really popular superhero writer at the helm -- but I think now's actually a decent time to revisit this well-regarded 2004-05 Vertigo project from Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely as one of the more inspired mid-'00s efforts by comic book publishers to cope with the contemporaneous manga boom, although the decision to initially break the project up into a comic book miniseries renders the coping a matter of in-story aesthetics. Still, it's a remarkably effective recognition of the visual, movement-oriented emphasis that forms the core of mainline shonen/seinen action manga storytelling, with a strong doomed pawns scenario (housepets transformed into mecha assassins!) touching on that special blend of blazin' guns and brazen sentiment. I suspect the moment has passed for anyone involved to get the chance to do much of anything like this again -- at least not in this forum -- so try and savor the 10 new story pages added to this extended edition; $24.99.



Too Much Coffee Man Omnibus: I'll cop to knowing next to nothing about cartoonist Shannon Wheeler's long-lived character, but it's been a pretty regular presence from what I've observed, and this 536-page Dark Horse collection of stuff seems worth pointing out as a look-at-this summary of the work. Samples; $24.99.

Harold Gray's Little Orphan Annie Vol. 7: Dailies and Color Sundays 1936-38: More from IDW and the Library of American comics; $49.99.

Little Lulu Vol. 28: The Prize Winner and Other Stories: In which Dark Horse moves yet further into the world of Dell Giant comics, this time compiling 200 pages of Marge’s Little Lulu and Tubby at Summer Camp and Marge’s Little Lulu and Tubby Halloween Fun material; $14.99.

Hellblazer #282: I've been enjoying Simon Bisley's irregular stops here on interior art, so here's another. As always, written by Peter Milligan; $2.99.

DC Comics Presents: The Teen Titans: An extremely nondescript title noteworthy for reprinting 2008's Teen Titans: The Lost Annual, the final project by longtime superhero writer Bob Haney, which his publisher had been sitting on for years and years. It's a fun, valedictory piece with art by Jay Stephens & Michael Allred. The package is beefed up to the regulation 96 pages with a Titans story from Allred's issue of Solo (#7), DC's 2004-06 artist showcase series; $7.99.

The World of Smurfs: A Celebration of Tiny Blue Proportions: Finally, your book on, uh, comics for the week - I mean, clearly this 128-page Abrams deal from former MoCCA executive director Matt. Murray has more of a 'global licensing phenomena' focus planned, I'm not entirely blinkered here, but the publisher does promise some coverage of the franchise's origins in Belgian comics along with archival materials and, apparently, a facsimile Spirou fold-up minicomic along with other removable elements; $24.95.


CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR: Editor Greg Sadowski returns with Setting the Standard: Comics by Alex Toth 1952-1954, a 432-page collection of Toth things bolstered by a 1968 interview and the now-familiar heavily illustrated Sadowski endnotes; $39.99. The Complete Peanuts Vol. 16: 1981-1982 will probably be exactly that, with a foreword by Lynn Johnston; $28.99.