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

KEY:

* Redheads

^ Absence of customary redheads

* ACTION COMICS #4

Grant Morrison and Rags Morales' new take on Superman's early social-activist days continues. This issue's got a Steel backup feature by Sholly Fisch and Brad Walker (although it was solicited as being by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Matt Camp); does that mean we're going to be getting 30 pages of story for four bucks again? That'd be nice.

* CRIMINAL VOL. 6: LAST OF THE INNOCENT

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips do Archie as a grim where-did-our-youth-go story--that sounds like a terrible idea, but they pull it off pretty well.

* ^ DEFENDERS #1

No once-successful franchise can be allowed to lie in its grave for long, I suppose, but the interesting thing about the original incarnation of this Marvel super-team series--which ran for more than ten years!--was that, especially at its best, it emphasized that it was a B-level series with B-level characters who had no good reason for hanging out with each other. (The Steve Gerber-written run is probably the most fondly remembered, thanks to its extremely high WTF factor, but I also have a weakness for the later, very text-heavy issues when Peter B. Gillis was writing it; they had an attitude of "what the hell, nobody's paying attention, right? So let's stretch out a little.") Matt Fraction and Terry Dodson are responsible for this version.

* RED RASCAL'S WAR

It's been a couple of years since the last non-anthology-type Doonesbury collection (incidentally, if ever a strip needed a comprehensive print edition with annotations, it's this one). As of this volume, it's got a new format. Good news: all strips are now in color. Bad news: computer lettering. I know it takes a little longer to hand-letter stuff, but we can tell.

^ X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

A new printing of the wrapup to the Chris Claremont/John Byrne run, Uncanny X-Men #138-143, from 1980; it's not unreasonable to argue that every X-Men era since then is either trying to recapture its spirit or trying to explicitly distance itself from it. The core of this volume is "Days of Future Past" itself, a magnificent La Jetée-via-Terminator 2 thing, set in the terrifying future of 2013, that sets up... everything after it, more or less... in 44 pages. (Legendary cover copy: "This issue: EVERYBODY DIES.") We also get Claremont and Byrne's surprisingly fun oh-crap-we-need-to-regroup-don't-we recap of the entire series up to that point (slapped together after it was editorially decreed that Phoenix had to die), the Alpha Flight/Wendigo two-parter, and the one where Kitty Pryde faces down the (thinly disguised) monsters from Aliens by herself.

* ^ X-STATIX OMNIBUS

$125 gets you 48 comics' or so worth of the clever, stylish Peter Milligan/Mike Allred semisatirical superhero opus (initially a new take on X-Force until somebody decided "ah, why not, let's go for the club-drug reference") and its various spinoffs and tie-ins. I don't know that it'd have made any kind of sense if every other X-Men (and superhero) series didn't take itself way too seriously, but guess what: they did, and still do! Milligan and Allred both have new comics this week, too: Chris Roberson and Allred's iZombie #20 is out, and Milligan reunites with his occasional collaborator Simon Bisley for Hellblazer Annual #1. There actually already was a Hellblazer Annual #1 in 1989--and it's not like Hellblazer itself has renumbered, bless it--but never you mind that.