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Don’t Ask! Just Buy It! – September 28, 2011: Big, Bulky and Black & White

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

* ’72 flashback
% Couples, united and split
^ “High anxiety”

Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos’ “Spider-Island” continues; it’s not often that a big crossover event can best be described with the word “madcap.” Tie-ins this week include Antony Johnston and Sebastian Fiumara’s Spider-Island: Deadly Hands of Kung Fu and Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente and June Brigman’s Herc #8.

Vertical’s Osamu Tezuka translation program continues with another one of his stand-alone works; this one’s also known as “The Human Metamorphosis,” and is apparently about a sociopathic actress. It dates from the early ’70s, arguably Tezuka’s most fertile creative period.

I can’t think of any other cover artist who’s been as consistently on the mark as Bolland–his Animal Man and Invisibles covers, in particular, were just about always phenomenal. This $40 art book from DC apparently includes some unpublished work and process pieces.

The second batch of Carla Speed McNeil’s “aboriginal SF” books collected–this time Dream Sequence, Mystery Date, The Rescuers and Five Crazy Women. And if you didn’t pick up vol. 1, don’t let that put you off. This one’s even better, and the Finder books are basically modular: they’re about different aspects of a world, rather than linked events in particular characters’ lives. (The “main character” of the series only puts in brief cameos in the first two stories here.) This series is one of my absolute favorite American comics: inventive, gorgeous, thoughtful, unpredictable.

Craig Thompson’s masterpiece to date: a big, intricately imagined, exquisitely executed, deeply sad and disturbing, ultimately ravishingly beautiful graphic novel about the Islamic world and its relationship to the Western imagination. I’ve gone on at length about it elsewhere , but this is the book of the week for sure, maybe the book of the year.

Writer Kieron Gillen’s serial about the Marvel Universe’s mythological aspects switched artists last issue (Richard Elson is now drawing), and threw in an additional swerve: its main character has apparently shifted from Loki to Mephisto. Enormously fun.

The most intriguing of this week’s DC reboots is Peter Milligan and Mikel Janin’s mystical-Vertigo-characters-as-superteam project–Milligan’s also writing the Vertigo incarnation of John Constantine, and had a long association with Shade, the Changing Man, too. Also this week: the paperback edition of JLA vol. 1, collecting the early issues from the Grant Morrison era.

In 1972, Jack Kirby was essentially assigned to create something along the lines of Planet of the Apes. He came up with this roaring, bizarre series about a teenage boy roaming the world after a “Great Disaster,” one of whose effects is that it’s turned a whole lot of other species of animals semi-human. Fifty bucks gets you the first twenty issues (Kirby wrote the series through #37 and drew it through #40, so there’s likely to be a Vol. 2 at some point).

Brian Michael Bendis’s Dark Avengers series was a terrific little anti-superhero title, improved by the fact that it was closed-ended. And now the Dark Avengers appear to be coming back–Norman Osborn, who really needed to stay in his cage for another decade or so to get much dramatic force out of his reappearance, returns here. On the other hand, this issue’s drawn by Neal Adams–his first Avengers story since the Kree-Skrull War in 1972, I believe. That’s a win. Also in the Bendis department this week: the first issue of Brilliant, his new collaboration with Mark Bagley.

I hadn’t realized that Marc Bell had a weekly comic strip, but this volume apparently collects some of it, along with various pieces Bell has drawn for anthologies. There are a lot of cartoonists out there who owe plenty to R. Crumb; Bell is one of the few whose personality and chops are as strong on their own.

Another potentially fun DC reboot: George Pérez writes and contributes layouts, Jesus Merino does the finished art. From what I’ve seen of it, it looks very Pérez-y.

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