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

KEY

* Swords

^ Cups

% Wands

¢ Pentacles

* ^ % ¢ ABSOLUTE PROMETHEA VOL. 2

Got a C-note? Get this collection of the high point of Alan Moore and J.H. Williams III's collaboration. Yes, this is the part where Moore stopped the plot for a year to explain the Kabbalah. As he put it, more or less, there are a million comics that don't include an extended philosophy lecture, and one that does. This is beautiful stuff, and I bet the oversized format makes it even nicer. Although I'd like it even better if the double-page spreads were each printed on a single page.

* ¢ ACTION COMICS #893

Paul Cornell's Lex Luthor serial continues with a meeting with Gorilla Grodd and his "#1 attack spoon." If you are skipping this story because, like Semi-Nameless, you're not interested in "Action" without Superman in it, you're missing out. Preview.Plus the Jimmy Olsen backup other Comics Alliance writers have been raving about, which is also previewed in its entirety for free.

% AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #644

The third installment of Mark Waid and Paul Azaceta's "Origin of the Species" storyline--weird to think that "Brand New Day" will ultimately have taken up more than 15% of the entire run of "Amazing"--plus more of that increasingly bizarre Stan Lee/Marcos Martin serial. Preview.

* % AVENGERS: PRIME #3

Brian Michael Bendis and Alan Davis send Iron Man, Thor and Captain America on the superhero equivalent of a rapport-building retreat. Preview.

* ^ THE BALLAD OF HALO JONES

It's strange to me that this Alan Moore/Ian Gibson project (now getting its first U.S. edition in a few years) is so little known, at least among people who aren't "2000 A.D." fanatics--it's one of my very favorite Moore projects. (The first two pages of the first episode are probably the best example of high-density world-building I've ever seen: it takes Moore and Gibson almost no time to lay out the premise of their science-fictional setting, introduce the protagonist, and present her with the gist of what she's going to have to overcome over the course of the story.) Maybe the problem is that it's technically unfinished: what you're seeing here is the first three serials in what was going to be a ten-serial project before Moore quit over contractual/ownership issues. What there is is really great, and complete in its way--it doesn't end on a cliffhanger or anything--but there are hints that Halo goes on to something even more interesting.

* % CASANOVA #3

More Fraction, Moon and Bá.

* HEREVILLE: HOW MIRKA GOT HER SWORD

Barry Deutsch's thoroughly charming all-ages story about a young Orthodox Jewish girl fighting trolls makes its appearance in its expanded, finalized book form, after a couple of previous incarnations. (Worth investigating: the site devoted to it.)

% ¢ THE SANDMAN: THE DREAM HUNTERS

P. Craig Russell's comics adaptation of the Neil Gaiman/Yoshitaka Amano prose-with-illustrations project, now in paperback, was reportedly Vertigo's substitute for a newly-Gaiman-written "Sandman"-20th-anniversary thing, but it's actually pretty neat. Russell has a real feeling for Gaiman's work (he's adapted a few other Gaiman projects, and worked on some of the best issues of "Sandman"), and if this had appeared as an arc in "Sandman" proper, it would probably be one of the most fondly remembered ones.

% SHOWCASE PRESENTS: THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES VOL. 4

The black-and-white omnibus series reaches the end of the Legion's "Adventure Comics" era, takes in their brief run as a backup series in "Action Comics," and reaches the beginning of their gradual encroachment on "Superboy."

* % X-MEN: SECOND COMING

A chunky hardcover volume, encompassing 15 issues' worth of this big ol' crossover, for $40. 'Bye, Kurt.

* ^ YOU'LL NEVER KNOW, VOL. 2: COLLATERAL DAMAGE

The best book of the week: a way to have your heart torn out while your eyes feast. The second volume of C. Tyler's project about discovering what her father did in World War II expands its scope to other painful parts of her family dynamics, and incorporates Tyler's extraordinary 1995 short story "The Hannah Story." If I started going off about how much I love Tyler's artwork and design and storytelling, we'd be here all afternoon--there's really nobody else doing what she does in comics--so just have a look at the preview.