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

KEY

* Talking animals

^ Jack o'lantern stuffers

% Lawyers, guns and/or money

¢ Simplify, reduce, oversimplify


^ % ACTION COMICS #894

Paul Cornell and Pete Woods' Lex Luthor serial gets to the much-hyped installment with Death from Sandman as a guest star (and apparently Neil Gaiman has a hand in her dialogue). Other attractions include more of the Nick Spencer-written Jimmy Olsen backup and a P. Craig Russell cover. Preview. Also in the "what other people are doing while J. Michael Straczynski is writing Superman" department this week: a fill-in issue of Superman, #704, by G. Willow Wilson and Leandro Oliveira, focusing on Lois Lane.

% AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #646

Mark Waid and Paul Azaceta wrap up "Origin of the Species"--that fake-out/cliffhanger last issue was really well done. Only one more issue left of "Brand New Day" after this, too. Preview. Also out this week: a free Spider-Man Saga thing, and Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #7.

% AVENGERS #6

Brian Michael Bendis and John Romita Jr.'s time-travel/future-dystopia/lots-of-hitting serial continues. It's unfortunate that this is running at the same time as Romita's drawing Kick-Ass II: The Kick-Assing, since he occasionally cuts corners when he's overloaded, but this has still been pretty satisfying so far. Preview.

¢ BART SIMPSON COMICS #56

Featuring contributions by Sergio Aragonés, Gilbert Hernandez and Scott Shaw! (That exclamation point is by convention rather than an indicator of my excitement, although I'm still pretty excited.) It is slightly freaky to me that Gilbert H. is still doing stuff for this series; big-name alt-cartoonists generally seem to be satisfied by one draught from the Simpsons well. But hey, new Gilbert H.

* ^ BEASTS OF BURDEN/HELLBOY

A one-shot by the bizarro team of Mike Mignola, Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson, uniting their respective spooky characters.

^ % BULLETPROOF COFFIN #5

David Hine and Shaky Kane's twitchy metacomic about all those great old-time off-brand horror stories hits its home stretch. Hine's also got an issue of his odd Detective run out today.

¢ DOONESBURY AND THE ART OF G.B. TRUDEAU

A thick art book compiled by Brian Walker, with a lot of fascinating examples of Trudeau's pencil art for the "Doonesbury" strip itself and its related ephemera. I wrote about this at some length over at Techland, but the short version is that it's really worthwhile for fans of Trudeau's work.

* DUNCAN THE WONDER DOG

I keep hearing how good Adam Hines's debut graphic novel is; it's allegedly the first of a nine-volume series. Whoa. Preview.

^ DUNGEON MONSTERS VOL. 3: HEARTBREAKER

Another installment of one of Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim's side series to Dungeon a.k.a. Donjon. This one, supposedly, includes the eighth and ninth volumes of the French series' incarnation, skipping over the fifth through seventh. Not complaining, though: both of those volumes have art by Blutch, and one also includes work by the phenomenal Patrice Killoffer.

^ H DAY

It's great to see new work from the sui generis artist Renee French on the shelves. This is an unsettling, wordless hardcover involving pain, dogs, antlike people, and a claustrophobia-inducing city.

% INCOGNITO: BAD INFLUENCES #1

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' sequel to their crime serial (with masks and powers) from a while ago--what they do when they're not doing Criminal, in other words.

% THE LAST RUN: A QUEEN & COUNTRY NOVEL

Not comics: a prose novel by Greg Rucka (the third in this series), following Private Wars, which itself picked up where theQueen & Country comics left off. Preview.

* % THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SCROOGE MCDUCK COMPANION

I really wish somebody would just go ahead and compile all of Don Rosa's Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck stories in English already, but in the meantime there are the (currently) three volumes of his "Life and Times" project--this is the third, with "lost chapters" set between the chapters in the main body of the story. I'm having a hard time thinking of any other cartoonist who's both so deeply indebted to a particular other one (Carl Barks, in this case) and so exuberantly original.

% ¢ LONE PINE

Jed McGowan's Xeric book: a quiet, meditatively paced, existential-minded crime story, in black and white and blue, with lots of silhouetted figured and threatening open space. Its closest formal relative is probably early Anders Nilsen. Preview.

¢ XKCD VOL. 00

The first print collection of Randall Munroe's stick-figure comic, which has the highest quality-of-comedy to quality-of-drawing ratio out there. Part of the profits are going to build a school in Laos, for what that's worth.