THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (11/3/10 – Uncovered, Unexpected, Ongoing)
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Yeah, that’s right: I flip through foreign-language magazines looking for the comics. This is from a bookmark tucked away in a recent issue of Snob, a Russian-language lifestyle glossy which I’m told is common to newsstands in the NYC area, presumably given an especially liberal construction to “area” in that I’m three and a half hours away by train. As you can see, it’s an installment of John Deering’s Strange Brew, initially reading “It really tortured my soul to create this one…” Since I cannot read Russian, I don’t know if the same joke is being communicated presently, or if some advertising or Russian lifestyle-related jest has been covertly substituted, but I think all of us can agree, nonetheless, that making fun of gallery art and artists is as potentially universal a language as has yet been conceived.
Er, let’s get right to the release list:
MOME Vol. 20: In which the now-well-established Fantagraphics house anthology celebrates a nice round number with a spanking new cover design by contributor and Fanta stalwart Adam Grano. Showcase stuff includes a new piece by Steven Weissman, plus Italy’s Sergio Ponchione with a color (and I’d guess stand-alone) prelude to his four-issue Ignatz series Grotesque. With serials by Josh Simmons & Shaun Partridge, T. Edward Bak, Michael Jada & Derek Van Gieson, Conor O’Keefe and Ted Stearn, and stories by Sara Edward-Corbett, Nate Neal, Nicolas Mahler, Jeremy Tinder, Aidan Koch and Comics Comics contributor Dash Shaw. Preview; $14.99.
Denys Wortman’s New York: Portrait of the City in the 1930s and 1940s: Surely your Golden Age of Reprints ingot of the week, a 288-page James Sturm-fronted overview work of Wortman, the kind of peer-respected gag cartoonist/illustrator one can easily see tumbling through the cracks between newspaper strips and early comic books of the period. Samples; $29.95.
Hokusai: Demons & Other Tales of the Fox Mother: A new 96-page collection of Japanese-themed color dream comics from Al Davison, he of The Spiral Cage and the webcomic Muscle Memory. I know nothing more, but that’s enough to take a peek. Introduction by Neil Gaiman; $17.99.
How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less: A new color Vertigo expansion/redraw of well-received minicomics by artist Sarah Glidden, chronicling a 2007 trip the author took to Israel as part of a Birthright program designed to connect descendants with their heritage. Preview; $24.99.
Berlin #17: That’s fucking right, Jason Lutes is gonna keep the serialized alternative comic torch burning; sign o’ the cross when you pass these by. It’s the start of this historical saga’s third and final storyline too, so there’s more to come. Plenty more; $4.95.
Bent: And on the other side of things, barring a continuation of Weasel (which by the end had basically turned into this), Fantagraphics brings a new 80-page, 10.25″ x 9″ hardcover collection of the best of Dave Cooper’s most recent paintings, drawings and photographs. Samples; $22.99.
Louis – Night Salad: Being the latest hardcover production from Glasgow-based duo metaphrog (Sandra Marrs & John Chalmers), once again featuring the hairless, doughy man-person of the title, this time on a journey across odd lands in search for a cure to his friend’s illness. Looks glossy; 96 color pages. Preview; $14.99.
Little Lulu Vol. 25: The Burglar-Proof Clubhouse and Other Stories: The train that will never stop. Steaming; $14.99.
Xenozoic: Your recent-ish reprint item of the week, a 352-page, 8.5″ x 11″ Flesk Publications softcover omnibus collecting which should be every damn issue of Mark Schultz’s 1987-96 throwback high adventure series Xenozoic Tales, also known in Saturday morning animation format as Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, easily the best kids’ cartoon to have sprung from the pages of Death Rattle since Greg Irons’ Q*bert (NOTE: this is a lie). If you don’t have the 2003 two-volume Dark Horse printing of this stuff, take a look, it’s handsome, breezy adventure illustration. Samples; $39.95.
Classic Jurassic Park Vol. 1: BUT WAIT, THE DINOSAURS AREN’T DONE WITH YOU YET. Back in the early ’90s, Topps Comics released a bunch of dino-related items, including the official tie-in licensed comic for Cadillacs and Dinosaurs (not included in the Xenozoic collection, mind you); their initial 1993 Jurassic Park series was the crown jewel in terms of involved talent, written by Walter Simonson with art by Gil Kane & George Pérez. This is a new IDW collection of that material, to tie in with its continuation of the license; $17.99.
Genkaku Picasso Vol. 1: We’re currently entering into something of an English translation renaissance for artist Usamaru Furuya, whose bizarre, satiric, fetishistic, visually resplendent humor works Short Cuts and Palepoli – the latter only partially released via the Secret Comics Japan and Pulp anthologies — won him a devoted, starved out klatch of admirers just a ways prior to the manga bookstore boom. Now Vertical is planning a 2011 release for his purportedly insane 2006 artificial man theater adaptation The Lychee Light Club, in the wake of CMX’s intention to publish his awesomely-titled disaster horror series 51 Ways to Save Her, before they went under. So, no, still not the best luck, but getting better! Right now Viz is presenting this, one of Furuya’s attempts at a straightforward youth fantasy series, concerning an artist brought back from the dead with the power to literally draw his way into people’s subconscious problems; Promethea crossed with Inception, if I’m understanding it right. Certainly worth a look; $9.99.
Absolute All Star Superman: The inevitable deluxe, oversized, slipcased all-in-one edition of what’s probably going down in history as one of the most loved superhero series of the ’00s. What’s interesting, then, revisiting the material, is how unlike other favorites of the day it is; maybe I’m suffering from prolonged exposure to writer Grant Morrison’s booming, sprawling and at times deeply irritating run on Batman, similarly everything-in-the-character’s-history-is-fair-game yet absolutely this series’ mirror image — Superman vs. Batman, structure vs. chaos, succinctness vs. sprawl, out-of-continuity vs. painfully in-universe, inspiration vs. paranoia, science vs. the supernatural, a fortuitous and steady union of writing and art vs. completely the opposite of that — but what’s fascinating about All Star Superman in reread is how quiet it is.
For all its sun poisoning and fisticuffs, what registers to me best are those wide Frank Quitely panels, often with activity pushed right to their edges to indicate impossible speed, but not really to convey it; mostly we stare at airy environments, dwarfing human and superhuman characters and suggesting a sense of mortality, which is of course among Morrison’s primary concerns. Some of the lands are built, and some of them are natural, but all of them seem to envelop the characters, suggesting a world bigger than any of them, and thus reinforcing the need for humankind to draw inspiration from fictions, religious and otherwise, to provide for itself. If the world of this comic in fact has an active, immediate God for a little while, one prone to tangling with strange reflections of himself as the entirety of his rogues gallery, it’s only as a more immediate opportunity to make peace with powerful Ideas that they, the living, also resemble.
It won’t be hard for future reading generations to dismiss All Star Superman out of hand as the kind of soppy, superheroes-are-SO-important extravaganzas that genre readers tend to value. It does get a little soppy, in the way that the ever-deliberate Quitely’s environments have a tendency to provide conveniently blank walls or looming voids for characters to mill about in front of. But something grander is always served; it’s valuable to compare Quitely, who rushed controversially to the front of superhero readers’ attention on The Authority, with that millennial series’ originating penciller, Bryan Hitch, who codified the movie blockbuster simulation style that ‘widescreen’ panels (and perhaps the very tenor of ’00s superhero art) are understood to represent. With Morrison, Quitely subverts this desire to scream and crash like action movies into a very comics-focused balance between unoccupied space and detailed character action – still, like comic panels always are. That this approach interacts so well with Morrison’s writerly intent is a testament to how good his always-collaborative comics can be, which is not a lesson so easily learned down in Gotham, in the shared, fallen universe; $99.99.
Batman and Robin #16: Speak of the devil – here’s the final installment of this titled iteration of Morrison’s Bat-run, albeit not necessarily the final installment of this particular movement, since there’s still a final issue for Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne to go. Still, expect some small explanation of what’s been going on, probably more than a few promises for the future, and shared art duties by Cameron Stewart, Frazier Irving and Chris Burnham. In case you’ve been waiting on the collections, a hardcover edition of issues #7-12 is also out this week, which makes me wonder if the remaining four issues are going to get their own book, or if they’re going to be paired with Morrison’s semi-related anniversary/continuity cleanup issues of Batman proper. Preview; $3.99.
Batman/Catwoman: Follow the Money: But sometimes, you just want to settle down with A Random Batman Comic, the kind where the story begins on page one and ends on page whatever-is-the-last-page. They still make those, sometimes. This one is written and drawn by Howard Chaykin, which makes it more noteworthy than most. It’s 56 pages; $4.99.
DC Comics Presents: Chase: Now here’s an odd little duck – a 96-page comic book-format grab bag of four selected issues (#1, 6-8) from a much-admired 1998 series, which actually only ran for ten issues total before getting the axe. No doubt it’s being issued quickly on the name of penciller/co-creator/eventual co-plotter J.H. Williams III (working with writer Dan Curtis Johnson and inker Mick Gray), who will soon be performing similar art/collaborative writing duties on Batwoman, but Chase is noteworthy beyond that for anticipating a conspiratorial, special ops-flavored cockeyed genre fusion style that would pick up some real purchase across the board as the ’00s dawned. Not that it did ever-suspicious superhuman neutralization agent Cameron Chase any good – even now, her exploits remain uncollected in full; $7.99.
Strange Tales II #2 (of 3): More Marvel superheroes from artists-who-don’t-usually-draw-superheroes, specifically Jaime Hernandez, Gilbert Hernandez — and really, I can’t be the only one secretly hoping deep in my guts that Beto bangs out a full-power contemporary superhero decadence short a la his exploitation movie comics, right? — Tony Millionaire, Farel Dalrymple, Paul Hornscheimeier (sadly, Gary Panter is absent from what could have been an Omega: The Unknown reunion spectacular), Jon Vermilyea, David Heatley, Jeffrey Brown, Paul Maybury and Sheldon Vella. Preview; $4.99.
Gødland #33: Your this-is-out alert for the week. Joe Casey, Tom Scioli; $2.99.
Heavy Metal Fall 2010: This is one of the seasonal specials, wherein two albums are presented in full, as opposed to one album and a smattering of shorts. Prolific Pat Mills is writer for a 2007 installment of his Franco-Belgian-targeted Claudia, with artist Franck Tacito (a spinoff of his similarly vampiric Requiem series with Olivier Ledroit), but I think the primary attraction here is the second and concluding installment to Thorgal artist Grzegorz Rosi?ski’s lush 2004-05 historical mystery series The Revenge of Count Skarbek, created with writer Yves Sente, who recently took up the Thorgal scripting duties from Jean Van Hamme. For reference, part one was published over half a decade ago in the Summer 2005 special, which perhaps indicates the levels of recent demand for lush historical mysteries in the comics form; $6.95.
The Art of Jim Starlin: A Life in Words and Pictures: Finally, your book-on-comics – a 312-page IDW/Desperado production dedicated to the man in the title, presumably similar in image-heavy style to prior Desperado-produced books on Brian Bolland and P. Craig Russell. $49.99.