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

KEY

* Buzz Lightyear

£ Woody

% Jessie

^ Stretch

¢ Sid

§ Mr. Potato Head

¥ Lots-o-Huggin' Bear

@ Ken

& Andy

£ AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #635

"The Grim Hunt" continues with three features, including the one I'm most excited about: the two-page "Sunday strip" by Stan Lee and Marcos Martin. Everybody who gets excited now about finding early Brendan McCarthy or Pat Boyette comics? You are going to be hunting down Marcos Martin comics eventually, if you're not already. Preview. Speaking of McCarthy, he also contributes a cover to this week's "Peter Parker" #4, which collects more of Bob Gale and Pat Olliffe's online-serialized Spider-series. Preview. Meanwhile, Paul Tobin and Matteo Lolli's "Marvel Adventures Spider-Man" #3 teams up their high-school Spider-Man with what I'm guessing will be a less-bloodthirsty-than-usual Wolverine. Preview.

¥ ARKHAM ASYLUM: MADNESS

A hardcover original graphic novel by Sam Kieth. Note that the title "Arkham Asylum" was already used for a very good Batman book a good long while ago... might this have originally been planned as a miniseries or a five-issue arc in "Batman Confidential" or something? Just sayin'.

* AVENGERS #2

Bendis and JRJR's new Marvel heavy-hitters/time-travel series continues. Will there be more punching this issue? I certainly hope so, I say as I rub my grubby little hands together. Preview. Also in second-issue-of-relaunched-superteam-book action this week: Paul Levitz and Yildiray Cinar's "The Legion of Super-Heroes" #2.

¢ BART SIMPSON COMICS #54

I approve of this series' recent shift toward including work by notable cartoonists who stick more with their own established styles than the Simpsons "house" style: the "Treehouse of Horror" is not enough. This time, we get stories by Peter Kuper, Carol Lay, Evan Dorkin and (regular contributor) Sergio Aragonés.

£ BATMAN: THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE #3

Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette, who worked together on "Seven Soldiers: Bulleteer," reunite for this story of Bruce among the pirates. There seems to be some incarnation of the early DC character the Black Pirate involved, although this one's Jack Valor, in the year 1734; the older version was Jon Valor, from the 16th century. Hmm. Preview.

£ DETECTIVE COMICS #866

Dennis O'Neil and Dustin Nguyen mark time while Bruce Wayne remains unavailable for a few more months; if someone's marking time, it might as well be creators as interesting as these two. Pretty funny that the solicitation still says "and come back next month for the return of The Question and Batwoman!" Actually I wouldn't mind an O'Neil/Nguyen Question story at all.

@ DODGEM LOGIC #3

Oh, now that the fourth issue of Alan Moore's magazine of stuff Alan Moore likes is out in the UK we get the third one. Fine. As long as we get it. (Sigh.) This one apparently comes with an iron-on T-shirt decal by Melinda Gebbie.

% HERALDS #4

Kathryn Immonen and Tonci Zonjic's weekly miniseries keeps coming; so far, it has a very strange sense of pacing that I like a lot. Preview.

& JOE THE BARBARIAN #6

Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy's high-fantasy "Home Alone" moves into its third act.

* JUDGE DREDD: THE COMPLETE CASE FILES VOL. 1

An American edition of the earliest Dredd stories, from the first sixty issues of "2000 A.D." It took a while before this series hit its stride, honestly--the first few stories were very clearly aimed at angry 10-year-old British boys, so there's a lot of yelling and shooting and not much else--but the "Robot Wars" and "The Return of Rico" sequences in here are the first real glimmers of greatness, and once Brian Bolland arrives it improves immeasurably. Also, I have a particular place in my heart for "The Oxygen Board," the first Dredd story I ever read and a terrific bit of sci-fi satire.

* LOVE AND CAPES VOL. 2

The second half-dozen issues of Thom Zahler's breezy "S*p*r*m*n and L**s plan their wedding" series, collected. Speaking of delightful stand-ins for Kal-El, the first issue of Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson's "Astro City" gets a one-dollar reprint this week.

^ OCTOPUS PIE, VOL. 1: THERE ARE NO STARS IN BROOKLYN

The first mass-marketed collection of Meredith Gran's excellent Webcomic about a two young women living in Brooklyn. Thecast list will give you a good idea of her sense of humor.

^ THE ODDLY COMPELLING ART OF DENIS KITCHEN

This $35 hardcover collection has been in the works for more than twenty years--it was originally scheduled to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Kitchen Sink Press in 1989, and Dark Horse first suggested that they might publish it in 2003. Kitchen is far from the most prolific of early underground cartoonists, but his work is always a pleasure to run across--he's really funny, and his drawings have big, simple, cartoony surfaces that are incredibly meticulous if you look closely at them. Preview.

§ SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING BOOK 3

The hardcover reprints of the Alan Moore era continue with #35-42--a strange transitional period, beginning with the "Nukeface Papers" two-parter that read as if it had lost a lot of its conceptual grounding on the way to the page, and continuing with the beginning of the "American Gothic" sequence that continued through #50. The premise of "American Gothic" seemed to be to recapitulate the structure of the original Len Wein/Berni Wrightson run on "Swamp Thing" (sending the character on a journey across America, meeting a variation on a classic monster archetype every issue), except throwing in the idea that every issue would also be a satire on some aspect of American culture. Which meant there was a lot of baggage it had to carry. I'm looking forward to re-reading this stuff, in any case.

* SUPERMAN #700

As with "Batman" #700, this one's got three stories, including a prologue to J. Michael Straczynski's upcoming run (and James Robinson wrapping up his run).

* % X-MEN/S.W.O.R.D.: NO TIME TO BREATHE TP

In other words, this is the ill-fated, short-lived, haphazard but very enjoyable Kieron Gillen/Steven Sanders S.W.O.R.D. series, now with an X-Men logo slapped on the cover on the strength of its major roles for the Beast and Lockheed.