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

KEY:

* Different class

^ Separations

% Freaks

* ELEKTRA: ASSASSIN

This 1986-1987 Frank Miller/Bill Sienkiewicz miniseries might be the most visually impressive thing Marvel has published in the direct-market era--Sienkiewicz at the absolute peak of his form, a phenomenal he-do-the-police-in-different-voices act that constantly shifts its look between and within panels to register changes in perspective and psychological mood. It hasn't been available as a standalone volume in a long time, and there'll be a paperback version out this fall, but $25 gets you this hardcover edition. Sienkiewicz also draws a story in this week's Rocketeer Adventures 2 #1, keeping the Dave Stevens-created franchise going.* ^ % 2000 AD #1768

John Wagner and Henry Flint's Judge Dredd serial gets into scary bio-warfare territory; the penultimate Nikolai Dante storyline by Robbie Morrison and Simon Fraser approaches its conclusion; Absalom, Grey Area and Strontium Dog chug along. Also this week: Sláine: Books of Invasions, Vol. 1, a new American paperback reprinting a 2003 sequence of 2000 AD's long-running sword-and-sorcery feature written by Pat Mills and drawn in a bizarre photo-manipulated style by Clint Langley, and Judge Dredd Megazine #320, which includes Mills and Langley's new project "American Reaper," as well as an interview with artist Mick Austin and a chunk of reprinted Strontium Dog spinoffs from 1993 and 1994. (All are on the Diamond Comics Distribution list, not the Midtown Comics list.)

^ % AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #682

Dan Slott and Stefano Caselli reunite for "Ends of the Earth," a Sinister Six sequence that has somehow ended up with its own Diamond-shipping-list code. The premise (Doctor Octopus is dying and blackmailing superheroes into doing his bidding) seems to be pretty similar to that Iron Man storyline "Fix Me" from about a year ago. Speaking of which, Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca's Invincible Iron Man #514 is out this week, too.

* CARTOON MONARCH: OTTO SOGLOW AND THE LITTLE KING

I've heard about Soglow's whimsical silent comic strip "The Little King"--which began as a weekly feature in The New Yorker before it moved into newspapers--but never seen more than a few episodes, so I'm particularly excited to see this $50 IDW volume. Incidentally, those little drawings that punctuate the "Talk of the Town" section in The New Yorker are all Soglow's, although the artist died in 1975.

* DARK HORSE PRESENTS VOL. 2 #10

The big draw here as far as I'm concerned is the resumption of Carla Speed McNeil's color Finder serial "Third World," but this issue of the chunky monthly anthology also includes Evan Dorkin, Brian Wood, "Tarzan," and more.

% GARBAGE PAIL KIDS

If you've ever wondered how Art Spiegelman paid the bills in the mid-'80s while he was working on RAW and the first volume of Maus, now you know. (On the Midtown list, not the Diamond list.)

^ % THE SINCEREST FORM OF PARODY: THE BEST 1950S MAD-INSPIRED SATIRICAL COMICS

Before there were knockoffs of MAD-the-magazine like Cracked and Crazy--and I still love the fact that Cracked's parody of "Mad Max" was called "Cracked Max"--there were a whole lot of knockoffs of MAD-the-comic-book, like Whack, Nuts, Eh, Unsane... This John Benson-edited anthology collects work from a bunch of them. (On the Midtown list, not the Diamond list.)