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

KEY

* "Nine Stories"

^ "The Catcher in the Rye"

¥ "Franny and Zooey"

¶ "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction"

¢ "Hapworth 16, 1924"

¶ BATMAN: THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE #1

Grant Morrison's six-issue miniseries about the original Batman finding himself lost in time kicks off with an extra-length, Chris Sprouse-drawn Batman-in-the-Stone-Age special. There's a preview, and I also recommend reading my interview with Morrison.

^ BIRDS OF PREY #1

Gail Simone (with artist Ed Benes) relaunches the special-ops-team superhero series that made her name. Also in Brightest Day reuniting-the-team news: Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, who made good use of Booster Gold in Justice League a few decades back, take over writing his series with #32 (drawn by Chris Batista, who worked with Giffen on some Booster material in 52), and Giffen and Judd Winick, with artist Aaron Lopresti, launch Justice League: Generation Lost, a twice-monthly, yearlong miniseries that will apparently alternate with Brightest Day proper.

¥ EX MACHINA VOL. 9: RING OUT THE OLD

The penultimate collection of Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris's politics-and-superheroics series, including #40, in which Vaughan and Harris appear as characters, and Special #4, drawn by John Paul Leon.

¥ HEROIC AGE: PRINCE OF POWER #1

The new temporary incarnation of Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente's "Incredible Hercules" series kicks off with art by Reilly Brown, and Amadeus Cho occupying the Hercules role himself. Preview. Also this week: a $20 hardcover collecting the recent "Assault on New Olympus" storyline.

* THE INVINCIBLE GENE COLAN

A hardcover tribute to the great Iron Man (and "Tomb of Dracula" and Dr. Strange and on and on) artist, with contributions by Stan Lee, Tom Spurgeon, Neil Gaiman, his longtime inker Tom Palmer, and more. Also note the Colan benefit auction.

¥ JUDGE DREDD: THE COMPLETE CASE FILES VOL. 15

We've now hit the beginning of the '90s in this series, which means that we're getting both the Dredd features from "2000 A.D." and the ones that appeared in the early issues of "Judge Dredd Megazine"--although not the related strips, like "America," which is arguably the best Dredd story ever, even if it wasn't technically his own story. But John Wagner's writing was firing on a lot of cylinders during the cooldown from his 26-part "Necropolis" storyline in the previous volume, and we also get some of the earliest Dredd material the young Garth Ennis wrote.

* LITTLE LULU VOL. 23: BOGEY SNOWMAN AND OTHER STORIES

I somehow imagine the editors at Dark Horse chasing down any John Stanley material that hasn't yet been reprinted and clamping a dome down over it, like the SWAT team in "Monsters, Inc." Preview.

¥ THE MUPPET SHOW VOL. 3: ON THE ROAD

The first four issues of the ongoing series, written and drawn by the inestimable Roger Langridge.

¢ PUNISHERMAX #7

Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon's ruthless "Bullseye" continues.

^ SIEGE #4

The conclusion to Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel's sound-and-fury Asgard-go-boom miniseries finally shows up (preview), which means that a bunch of books that come after it are starting to roll out this week too: the sixteenth and final issue of Bendis and Mike Deodato's fine, nasty "Dark Avengers," Bendis and Bryan Hitch's one-shot "New Avengers Finale" special (preview), and Paul Jenkins and Tom Raney's "The Sentry: Fallen Sun," which was solicited only as "Fallen," and managed to maintain at least nominal mystery about its contents until Diamond's Previews site briefly leaked the full information Monday morning. Well, now we know who dies. Just to bring Bendis up to four titles this week, we also get the non-"Siege"-related "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #10 (preview).

^ SUPERBOY: THE BOY OF STEEL

Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul's Superboy serial from "Adventure Comics" got a hell of a buildup, only to find itself interrupted by "Blackest Night," then abruptly truncated so that Johns and Manapul could relaunch "The Flash" (although the wrap-up was one of Johns's more satisfying stories in recent memory). This collects the whole too-brief thing as a $20 hardcover. Also out this week: "The Flash" #2, whose pacing I really hope will pick up from the first issue.

¥ SUPER HEROES #2

I admire Paul Tobin and Ronan Cliquet for doing a one-off, 22-page story involving Galactus auditioning potential new heralds. I'm not entirely sure why the cover makes it look like an issue of "Thor," but professional marketers know better than I do. Glad to see the cover price is back to three bucks, too. Preview.

¥ UNDERGROUND

The Jeff Parker/Steve Lieber spelunking thriller, now in a single convenient volume with some extra material! Dedicated site, with previews.

^ WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #8

The "bold new era" in "Web of Spider-Man" is that "Spider-Girl" is no longer appearing there. Also, apparently the "Heroic Age" is going to be referred to by that name on-panel extensively, judging by this preview and "Prince of Power." Also this week: "Amazing Spider-Man" #631, in which Zeb Wells and Chris Bachalo's "Shed" continues. Emma Rios is also credited with art; maybe there's a backup story in this issue, too? "Amazing" seems to have been throwing in lots of extra material lately.