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

KEY

*Ostensible protagonist hasn't shown up for many recent issues
% Recommended reading to understand this era of Spider-Man: Ron Rege's short story "High School Analogy" (recently collected in "Against Pain")
^ Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess; Ditko is the king
® Red hair figures prominently
ƒ Famously speedy artist
¥ Superhero stories can never end, so they have a special fascination with beginnings
You wouldn't hit a guy with glasses!
¢ Cat-allergy warning


ƒ AMBUSH BUG: YEAR NONE #7

"Ambush Bug: Year None" #5 came out last December, but Robert Loren Fleming and Keith Giffen's original version of this DC self-parody miniseries' sixth and final issue apparently... cut too close to home, or something. (Giffen had suggested that it was going to be a parody of "Final Crisis.") So now they've jumped straight from #5 to #7. Genius.


® ASTRO CITY: ASTRA SPECIAL #2

Kurt Busiek mentioned at a panel this weekend that "Astro City" had been around for a decade or so before he found himself forced to get a handle on what it was really about, thematically, and the phrase he came up with was "bruised hope." That's an interesting lens to read the series through; I'm curious to see how it figures into this two-issue interlude, too.

ƒ BART SIMPSON COMICS #50

Sergio Aragonés joins "Bart Simpson" with this issue as a writer and artist, and is apparently going to be around on a regular basis; I'm curious to see if he's going to be drawing everything on-model, or if he's going to be the one Simpsons comics artist who gets to cut loose in his own style outside of "Treehouse of Horror." Also out this week: the first issue of a new Aragonés-drawn "Groo" miniseries, "The Hogs of Horder."

^ ¥ ® DETECTIVE COMICS #858

Two and a half years after her debut in "52," we finally get to see the new Batwoman's origin, although there've been a lot of hints dropped in Rucka and Williams' first four issues of "Detective." This series has more "oh wow" moments per issue than any other superhero title right now.

* ƒ GREEN LANTERN #47

The best-drawn tentacle of the "Blackest Night" squid -- #4 of that miniseries is also out this week -- and it probably doesn't make sense without the mother-blob. At this point, though, Doug Mahnke is kind of on fire, and I'll look at anything he draws.

* ¥ INCREDIBLE HERCULES #137

The conclusion of the "secret origin of Amadeus Cho" storyline; I suspect that before long we'll see the Herc/Cho team back together, but in the meantime how great is it that supporting characters keep kicking the stars of this series out of it? Preview.

¢ MAP OF MY HEART

John Porcellino's long-running, autobiographical (20 years!) "King-Cat Comics" comes out of 'zine culture more than comics culture, but it's beautiful cartooning--he's got a super-minimal but absolutely assured visual style, and his work has a very personal beauty and meditative clarity to it. This is a massive $25 omnibus from Drawn & Quarterly. Preview linked here.

% ^ † MARVEL ADVENTURES SPIDER-MAN #56

Paul Tobin and Matteo Lolli's run has been very clever about picking toys from the Marvel sandbox that work nicely with the "Peter Parker in high school" setup but weren't actually around in the Lee/Ditko era; this issue, Cloak & Dagger, who are in their way also confused, angry kids, show up. Preview.

% ^ † ¢ MARVEL MASTERWORKS: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN VOL. 3 TPB

At last, a color paperback reprint of this not-quite-as-exposed-as-the-rest part of the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko run: "Amazing Spider-Man" #20-30 and Annual #2. If you happen to be near Eugene, Oregon, any time before the end of the year, do go to the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art and see their exhibition of "The Art of the Superhero," which includes Ditko's interior art for #26 in its entirety; it will make your eyes bug out of your head. (And if you happen to be there this Wednesday, I'll be giving a lecture there about the Venn diagram of representational art, cartooning and superhero cartooning, in which #26 will probably figure heavily.) It'll also be interesting to see which version of "Amazing" #29 ends up in here: no high-quality reproductions of Ditko's original art exist, and there's been a bit of controversy in the last few years over Marvel's various reconstructions of it (the version in the Omnibus edition a few years ago was apparently very heavily redrawn).

¢ ® MODELS, INC. #3

The real draw in this issue of the miniseries about most of Marvel's model characters is the backup: the "Banana Sunday" team of Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover reuniting for a story involving Millie the Model and zombies. Coover can make basically anything cute (check out her Wolverine cover) -- but zombies? We'll see! (Okay, fine: I've already seen a few pages from this story, and the answer is yes.) Preview.

^ NEW AVENGERS VOL. 10: POWER TPB

Everyone's psychological price barrier is in a different place; I'm sure I won't feel this way forever, but I find it much harder to justify $4 than $3 for 22 pages of a superhero serial. I like Bendis's superhero serials a lot, but I also enjoy them more when I read them in big chunks, and they're cheaper that way. So this is going to be my first "New Avengers" since "Secret Invasion" ended. Don't anybody tell me how it ends, okay? Actually I already know.

¢ SANDMAN: THE DREAM HUNTERS

Apparently Vertigo wanted Neil Gaiman to write a new story for the twentieth anniversary of his "Sandman" run, but they couldn't come to terms, so instead P. Craig Russell did a comics adaptation of the (illustrated) Gaiman Sandman novella that Vertigo published some years back, a fable about a monk and a fox in old Japan. Guess what: It's gorgeous. Russell and Gaiman are particularly well-suited for each other's quirks -- "Ramadan," anyone? -- and this one might be the most sumptuous-l
ooking thing Russell's ever drawn.

¥ † ® SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGIN #2

There is a peculiar pleasure in being told a story one already knows by heart.