A lot of times while I'm putting together this column I'll run into contradictory or non-conclusive information, and I won't know what to do. For instance, a few sources (such as DC's homepage) claim The Steve Ditko Omnibus Vol. 1 Starring Shade the Changing Man is due out tomorrow, although Diamond don't have it listed for release and my usual cross-check with Midtown Comics (being an East Coast xenophobe) reveals nothing. At least I can be sure a more definitive date will appear in the future, though; that's not always guaranteed with smaller publishers, to say nothing of English-language publisher outside of North America.
This brings me to a particularly odd sight this week - a number of sources (that aren't Diamond) are reporting a gigantic cache of releases coming in this week from Cinebook, a UK-based specialist in English translations of older Franco-Belgian comics. Specifically, Cinebook is releasing these materials one-to-one with the original European albums, all of them around 48 pages and retailing for $11.95 U.S. I can't think of the last time so much BD showed up at once; maybe those Guido Crepax omnibuses from Taschen? Most prolifically anticipated are vols. 17-28 (that's twelve individual books) of Lucky Luke, jumping all around in the series' publication history in no order I can discern, though everything appears to be teaming artist Maurice "Morris" De Bevere with writer René Goscinny. Next there's the first seven volumes of Cinebook's new edition of Jean Van Hamme's & William Vance's suspense series XIII, which has already gotten farther than any past publisher in translating this material (including Marvel). And then there's vols. 4 and 5 of Roger Leloup's Yoko Tsuno, again bouncing from 1979 to 1986, book by book.
Needless to say, it's a choice opportunity to put more than $250 in the service of Eurocomics in English and your local economy, in the somewhat unlikely chance your comics store opts to navigate this wave of stuff. Cinebook does have a pretty wide library of material, including a just-restarted effort at releasing the entirety of Pierre Christin's & Jean-Claude Mézières' Valérian and Laureline (as appears to be the new English title), and they're worth keeping an eye on.
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.
Big Questions: Certainly one of the prominent huge damn book releases of 2011, this is a 658-page collection of Anders Nilsen's misty suspense fable, a series of activities and conversations held among birds and other creatures, occasionally human, in a metaphorically-charged country terrain. It'll be something to see how it all reads together, having been serialized since 1999 across comic books of varying format; indeed, part of the strange appeal of Big Questions to me was seeing its milky covers pop up every so often in comics stores, the contents always in media res, its origins inaccessible like a forgotten early history (at least until someone loaned me his back-issues). Note that Diamond is only listing a hardcover edition for this week, although some stores will apparently be getting the paperback as well. Preview; $44.95 ($69.95 in hardcover).
Blackjacked and Pistol-Whipped: A Crime Does Not Pay Primer: Because good taste is eternal. Actually, this looks like a really interesting reprint project for Dark Horse: a 224-page 'best of' selection from the trendsetting 1942-55 Lev Gleason publication, godhead of the crime comics boom and godfather of the pre-Code horror era, with several text supplements, including -- prominently, judging from the Pete Poplaski/Bernie Mireault image above -- a Denis Kitchen essay on editor Bob Wood, who (years after the title's cancellation) went down on a manslaughter conviction and got himself killed by prison acquaintances. Introduction by Brian Azzarello; $19.99.
Infinite Kung-Fu: A much-anticipated 464-page Top Shelf collection of action comics work by Kagan McLeod, who's been putting out self-published installments for over a decade. A big week of big books, I tell you. Official site, many, many samples; $24.95.
Bouncer: The One-Armed Gunslinger: Only the latest Alejandro Jodorowsky release from Humanoids, this time a 7.5" x 10.25" hardcover collecting the third through fifth French volumes of his Old West gunfighter action series with the excellent François Boucq. This is the stuff that Humanoids was initially planning to put out as comic books a while back, then briefly (and only partially) released online as digital comics; the first two French albums are in the 2004 DC/Humanoids Bouncer: Raising Cain softcover, which itself was a collection of two yet earlier Humanoids hardcover releases from 2002-03. I like this series - it's probably the best available-in-English example of Jodorowsky suffusing a straight-ahead, no-big-deal genre exercise with his personal themes and obsessions, and the funny, fleshy-minded Boucq is possibly his ideal collaborator. Note that another two-album storyline is already finished in Europe, so more is likely on the way. French-language samples; $29.95.
John Lord: And moving into Humanoids' all-in-one department, here's a 2004-11 psychological horror/detective series set in the 1920s, with art by Patrick Laumond and a script by by Denis-Pierre Filippi, the latter of whom was last seen in North America with The Book of Jack, a Humanoids hardcover from 2002. French-language samples; $19.95.
Malinky Robot: Collected Stories and Other Bits: A 128-page Image collection of color & b&w comics by Sonny Liew, spanning a decade or so of work (some of it supported by the now-defunct Xeric Grant). Lots of rich urban landscapes to accompany stylized children as they romp around and cause trouble, and come close to realizing potentially profound things. Samples; $16.99.
Nogoodniks: Another from Drawn and Quarterly's Petit Livres series of small art books, this time devoted to Adrian Norvid. "By pairing childish, crude imagery or messages with a refined and appealing drawing style, Norvid confronts us with our own attitudes about culture and what is appropriate, and points out the fun in doing and saying things your mom told you not to," sez the publisher. Preview; $24.95.
Milton Caniff's Male Call: Being a new 156-page Hermes Press collection of the Terry and the Pirates creator's 1943-46 humorous sexy girl special feature for U.S. military publications. With an introduction by R.C. Harvey and assorted production and advertising materials; $39.99.
Dark Horse Presents #3: Be aware that this issue of the revived Dark Horse house anthology has bulked itself up to 104 pages (at the same cover price) to accommodate a 13-page preview of the publisher's long-delayed updated edition of Jim Steranko's 1976 Chandler: Red Tide, with an additional Steranko interview. A new short story by Dave Gibbons is also included, along with the usual continuing serials; $7.99.
B.P.R.D.: Plague of Frogs Vol. 2: For fans of easy ins, here's another huge (480-page) hardcover collection of Hellboy-related stuff, this time packing in Guy Davis illustrated B.P.R.D. storylines from 2004 to 2006 (The Dead and The Black Flame), before leaping ahead (publication-wise; I take it the stuff's being printed in 'continuity order') for the complete 2008-09 War on Frogs series with guest art by John Severin, Herb Trimpe, Peter Snejbjerg and others; $34.99.
DC Universe Legacies: This was a recent attempt by writer Len Wein to arrange the entirety of the present DC superhero continuity into a single coherent through-the-eyes-of-some-guy kind of saga; it wasn't particularly compelling, although I couldn't help but check in for some interesting contributions by artists and art teams, most strikingly penciller Andy Kubert & inker Joe Kubert, who handled much of the first two issues with impressive panache. Also worth looking for Frank Quitely's homage to Jack Kirby's Fourth World in issue #8, and scattered small stories with art from J.H. Williams III (#2), Walter Simonson (#5) and Joe Kubert solo (#4). None of this necessitates the purchase of a 336-page hardcover, but know it's out there; $34.99.
20th Century Boys Vol. 16 (of 24): Another installment of the Naoki Urasawa series from Viz; $12.99.
In the Studio: Visits with Contemporary Cartoonists: A 2007 Todd Hignite hardcover where he visits with a bunch of cartoonists and many comments are offered on a variety of images and items. It seems to be offered now at a new, low price, as is Mark Evanier's Kirby: King of the Comics; $12.99.
Following Cerebus #12: Finally, your... comic-book-format-book-on-comics for the week, marking the unexpected-to-me return of this Dave Sim-related Win-Mill Productions magazine to active publication. Sim will interview Mouse Guard creator David Peterson, among other features; $4.95.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR: Well, it's been a few weeks now since it hit some East Coast stores, but Diamond is now announcing the imminent and full arrival of the very essence of the Conflict of Interest Reservoir, The Comics Journal #301, now at 640 pages and featuring chats with Robert Crumb and Joe Sacco, Al Jaffee & Michael Kupperman in conversation, perspectives on Cerebus and The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb, and multifarious species of collegiate smart-arsery AS YOU LIKE IT; $30.00. Also be on the lookout for Esperanza, another thick Love and Rockets collection taking the Jaime material up to the start of the present (vol. 3) series; $18.99. Alex Chun has his latest girlie cartooning showcase, The Pin-Up Art of Humorama, promising spicy drawings by Marmaduke creator Brad Anderson, among other suspects; $19.99. And Rick Marschall & Warren Bernard present Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising 1870s-1940s, archiving Mr. Coffee Nerves and other early comics-based adverts for generations to come; $28.99.