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Don’t Ask! Just Buy It! – Avengers, Essex County, Daredevil, the Return of Xombi

Savage Critic and “Reading Comics” author Douglas Wolk runs down the hottest comics and graphic novels coming out this week.

KEY

% Go team black-and-white!
¥ The keenly felt absence of ’70s comedy-related projects
That new writer’s showing up soon, we hear
$ T. Rex references and/or dinosaurs
£ Did anyone before Bendis ever actually make a point of the team being formed to avenge anything in particular?

◊ DAREDEVIL #500

The little superhero series that could joins the Big Round Number Club. It’s interesting to see how “Daredevil” has thrived in the long term — after Frank Miller made his reputation with the series, it seemed like it would be chasing his shadow forever (in the same way that everyone who’s written “Swamp Thing” after Alan Moore has had to write it by either following his example or fighting it). But Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr. made it their own a few years later, and so did Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev more recently. Ed Brubaker’s run — which concludes this issue (with an extra story written by Nocenti, whose byline is too rare these days) — has been very good in places but also very Bendis-y; like his predecessor, he’s apparently leaving the new writer (Andy Diggle, who takes over next month) with a fiendish get-out-of-this-one setup.£ AVENGERS FOREVER

A tenth-anniversary-ish hardcover edition of a Kurt Busiek/Roger Stern/Carlos Pacheco romp that gets a lot of its momentum out of one of Marvel’s most peculiarly durable plot devices: the Kang/Immortus business that’s been popping up in one form or another for decades. There’s time travel, alternate incarnations of a lot of Avengers, a full complement of Marvel’s Western heroes, and an early version of the group that’s now been established as Agents of ATLAS.

◊ THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #26

DC’s free-form team-up title piques my interest for the first time in a while with this issue: John Rozum’s first Xombi story since the Milestone line blew up. Xombi was a fine, odd little superhero/occult series by Rozum and Denys Cowan that ran 21 issues in the mid-’90s; you can probably find it in three-for-a-dollar bins these days, but it had an eccentric intelligence that was more like James Robinson’s “Starman” than anything else around at the time. Rozum’s been writing a lot of “Scooby-Doo” stories since then, believe it or not; this issue teams Xombi up with the Spectre, and will probably not involve meddling kids.

¥ THE COMICS JOURNAL #299

This is a particularly excellent issue of TCJ, thanks to Bob Levin’s magnificent 50-page article “How Michel Choquette (Almost) Assembled the Most Stupendous Comic Book in the World” — the history of “The Someday Funnies,” the comics equivalent of “The Last Dangerous Visions” or maybe Terry Gilliam’s “Don Quixote,” with some “Kramers Ergot 7″ thrown in. The illustrations for it include previously unpublished comics by Will Eisner, Barry Windsor-Smith, C.C. Beck and Don Newton (together!), Tom Wolfe, William S. Burroughs, and many others of that caliber. You really need to read it.

% THE COMPLETE ESSEX COUNTY

Jeff Lemire is to the country what Ted McKeever once was to the city–I’m not sure what that means, exactly, but this volume is his three recent graphic novels collected in a single volume, with some extra stories thrown in. There’s a smooth sweetness to Lemire’s writing that belies the frenetic vitality of his art; I’m looking forward to seeing what the monthly schedule of his forthcoming series “Sweet Tooth” does for his work.

◊ £ DARK AVENGERS: DARK AVENGERS ASSEMBLE HC

I still don’t get how this one’s supposed to be an ongoing series — it pretty much has “best before end of Dark Reign” stamped on its lid — but Bendis is awfully good at writing creepy venal characters, and it’s got a lot of them. Also this week: a skinny-looking collection of recent “New Avengers” issues.

% ¥ ESSENTIAL MARVEL TEAM-UP VOL. 3

The run reprinted here includes some of the most entertaining Marvel comics of the ’70s, and it’s got a dozen Claremont/Byrne collaborations to boot, including a killer two-part Spider-Man/Captain Britain story. It’s issues #52-73, 75 and Annual #1, and — oh, you noticed something missing? That would be the best one of all, #74, the Spider-Man/Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time Players team-up. Marvel! Get your permissions-clearance people on the case!


% $ 20TH CENTURY BOYS VOL. 4

Naoki Urasawa, people.

$ WEDNESDAY COMICS #7

It’s great to see a lot of these artists thinking about effective, inventive things to do with a gigantic page. (Extra points to the Flash team for the marvelous split-strip effect.) It’d be even more fun to see more artists taking a similarly inventive approach to the page design of DC’s regular-sized titles.

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