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


* Reference point: "Swamp Thing" #57

^ We really need to think about why we as readers have such a thing for stories about people with guns

% Old gods

¢ Talking animals

@ On the Midtown list but not the Diamond list, sorry if there's any confusion

† Vice versa


Hurm. I was unconvinced by the first issue of this long-delayed collaboration between the grumpy old genius and Jacen Burrows--it seemed curiously low on Moore's old venom and delight, and high on Moore's character-writing tics--but I do really like the idea that it's all about the Lovecraftian horrors lurking in the gutters of comics pages and concealed behind the picture plane.


A $5, 56-page thing with a Ron Marz/Bernie Wrightson Batman story (comprised entirely of splash pages) that's been gathering dust in the DC files for a while, plus Len Wein and Wrightson's "Swamp Thing" #7, which is not exactly hidden: I would bet it's one of the most frequently reprinted comics of the 1970s. It's good, though. If you're into relatively low-priced DC reprints, this week also sees the launch of the new "DC Comics Presents" project: two $8, 96-page reprints of otherwise uncollected material (that has some relevance to currently popular titles, or is by currently popular creators) will be coming out every week for a while. And if you're just into Batman and early-'70s-era creators, I strongly suspect that "Batman: Odyssey" #4 will continue to be crazypants.


The new Hercules event, by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente and Khoi Pham. Preview.


Look, I'm pretty sick of Deadpool too, and I don't quite think his basic concept would be improved by extra ultraviolence and cussing, but on the other hand, this new series is by the team of David Lapham and Kyle Baker, which sounds like a potentially very good idea--both of them have very strange senses of humor and like pushing boundaries. And if we can't have Lapham's "Young Liars" (or Baker's long-gone, perpetually underappreciated "Plastic Man"), we can have this. Four bucks.


I've made the shift from reading Mark Waid's linked superheroes-gone-horribly-wrong serials in individual issues to trades--both series are very fast-moving, and they read better that way anyway. Wish they'd include at least six issues in each volume, though: the four-at-a-time size doesn't feel quite substantial enough.

¢ iZOMBIE #6

More monsters a-go-go, by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred.


John Wagner's Judge Dredd stories keep getting darker, tighter and funnier as time goes by--how many writers who've been associated with a single series for upwards of 30 years can you say that about? This paperback collects the first part of the recent extended "2000 A.D." storyline in which Dredd, as political revenge for his support of mutant rights, is assigned to oversee a forced resettlement camp for mutants outside Mega-City One, while serial killer P.J. Maybe manages to get himself installed as mayor of the city. It's basically the second season of "The Wire" as satire, with a lot more explosions.


Vanessa Davis's quirky, personal, funny-moment-centered comics about Judaism and life in her twenties, on "Tablet" and elsewhere, are a consistent delight--the only thing I can really compare them to are Lewis Trondheim's diaristic comics, and that's not too close. This big hardcover anthology of her recent work is awfully handsome, too.


In which Seth's long-running whatever-the-artist-desires series shifts format to a hardcover, along the lines of recent issues of "Acme Novelty Library." I don't know if a chapter at a time of "Clyde Fans" quite merits the cranked-up production and price tag the way a chapter at a time of "Rusty Brown" does, but I bet this will be pretty anyway.


Ooooh. Darwyn Cooke's take on "The Hunter" was one of the nicest-looking books of last year, and this adaptation of "The Outfit" (also incorporating the compressed version of "The Man with the Getaway Face" that was published as a one-shot a few months ago) looks at least as sharp, including an opening sequence that out-Saul Basses Saul Bass.


Nate Neal's first graphic novel is dumbfoundingly ambitious: it takes as its subject nothing less than the invention of comics, in the sense of narrative-in-pictures, meaning that its cast is a bunch of cave-people. Cave-people who speak a cave-person language that Neal has invented himself (he offers the translation of a few key words on its jacket copy, but that's it). The working title of the book was a drawing of a bison. A man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?


Dan Slott returns to the character he's about to be writing twice monthly for this one-shot tie-in to the Marvel crossover of the moment, which supposedly foreshadows some goings-on in "Amazing." Pablo Siqueira draws. Preview. Also this week, for those who are feeling Spider-Man-deprived while "Amazing" struggles to get near its final pre-"Big Time" deadlines: the one-off Howard the Duck team-up "Spider-Man: Back in Quack," by Stuart Moore and Mark Brooks.

% S.H.I.E.L.D. #4

Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver continue to explore the history of science (and inspired pseudoscience) in the Marvel Universe. Preview. Hickman fans may also want to take note of this week's "Ultimate Comics Thor" #1, written by him and drawn by Carlos Pacheco: here's a preview.