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Don’t Ask! Just Buy It: Batwoman, Hercules, Hellcat

Savage Critic and “Reading Comics” author Douglas Wolk returns for a rundown of the hottest comics and graphic novels coming out this week.

KEY:
Involves a vaguely sleazy relationship between an older male authority figure and a nubile young thing
§ Space travel scenes
£ Kung-fu redheads
¥ God, the late ’70s were weird
ß Characters with animal heads and/or animal masks
Ever get confused about the relationship between Erebus and Cerberus? Prepare to get more confused

ß £ DETECTIVE COMICS #854

Serial comic of the week, hands-down–the first installment of the long, long, long-anticipated Batwoman feature by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III that’s taking over Batman’s old spot in “Detective” for the next year or so. This one gives Batwoman the proper spotlight that her appearances in “52″ hinted at (although it doesn’t actually reveal much about her), introduces some promising new characters, and establishes ways in which she is and isn’t a part of the Batman family as we know it. And Williams’ art is phenomenal — his style is radically different from the one he developed for “Promethea,” but just as inventive, design-heavy and brain-melting. (A preview is here.) Backup feature is Batwoman’s ex, the Question, by Rucka and Cully Hamner.† ACTRESS AND THE BISHOP #1

Brian Bolland doesn’t do a lot of comics besides front-cover art — and the handful of the cute little rhyming pieces collected here. The title, by the way, is a British joke: If you realize that what you’ve just said is a double-entendre, you add “…as the actress said to the bishop.” All of this stuff appeared in the book “Bolland Strips!” a few years ago, but this incarnation is considerably cheaper.

¶ ¥ § CEREBUS ARCHIVE #2

Dave Sim continues his trawl through his early years — pre-”Cerebus” material, actually — with commentary on his development as an artist. You have to give him credit for figuring out a way to get paid for reprinting his rejection slips. Literally. Also, the variant edition’s cover features both a zombie and Obama.

†¥ ESSENTIAL DOCTOR STRANGE TP VOL. 4

Remember when he used to be the Sorcerer Supreme, back when they still made Polaroid film? This book reprints “Doctor Strange” #30-56, from 1978-1982, when his series couldn’t hold on to a creative team for more than a few issues. But a lot of excellent artists came and went during this period — Frank Miller was even supposed to take over at one point, although that didn’t happen. What you do get is six issues with some first-rate Marshall Rogers art, as well as a lot of Gene Colan work and appearances by Michael Golden, Paul Smith and even (inking one page) “Elfquest”‘s Wendy Pini. Black and white, which may not be the best way to appreciate the Rogers stuff.

¶ INCREDIBLE HERCULES #130

Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente’s collaboration on this series has been a reliable, low-key pleasure from the get-go — a buddy series about Hercules and the brilliant but not-quite-emotionally-developed teenager Amadeus Cho, exploring the intersections between Greek mythology and the Marvel universe. This issue takes place in Hades, which we found out last time has a secret entrance in a casino.

ß § LOW MOON

Not the Norwegian cartoonist Jason’s best book–that crown belongs to “I Killed Adolf Hitler,” which isn’t what you’re expecting no matter what you’re expecting. But the title story of this hardcover collection is a dryly hilarious inside-out Western that was originally serialized in the New York Times Magazine, and the other stories here are effectively its B-sides.

ß £ PATSY WALKER HELLCAT TP

Kathryn Immonen and David Lafuente’s “Hellcat” miniseries was one of the most purely joyful things Marvel’s published lately, and distinctly unlike any other superhero comic of the moment. It’s collected here along with the “Hellcat” serial that Kathryn and Stuart Immonen did for “Marvel Comics Presents.” Patsy Walker–who’s actually been appearing in Marvel comics since 1944, in various teen-humor, romance, fashion and superhero comics–is Hellcat, the Initiative superhero assigned to Alaska. Supernatural hijinks ensue. (There’s an excellent Tom Spurgeon interview with Kathryn Immonen here.) Immonen’s taking over “Runaways” soon, and Lafuente will be drawing “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man”; this story is why.

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