Savage Critic and "Reading Comics" author Douglas Wolk joins ComicsAlliance for a rundown of the hottest comics and graphic novels coming out this week, which includes this helpful key:

# Prominent avian characters
¶ Mysterious red-headed women
≈ Not just robots: sexy robots
† Dogs with unusually advanced communication skills
% It's really nice to see the indie cartoonists who established their careers in past decades still at it


Probably the weirdest series currently running. For those of you coming in late, this is Dave ("Cerebus") Sim's ongoing essay about the "photorealism" (his noun-not-adjective) cartoonists of the post-war era and how they developed and fine-tuned their styles, embedded in parodies of fashion-magazine layouts that provide an excuse for Sim to draw his versions of photographs of pretty girls. There are no characters. There is no plot. As a comics wonk, I find it riveting, but I also have a very high tolerance for Sim. You can read the historical stuff from the first few issues here.


The first issue of this Gilbert/Mario Hernandez collaboration from Dark Horse involving body modification and robots, but really, "Gilbert Hernandez" is all I need to pique my interest. For the last couple of years, he's been doing a lot of deliberately anti-"literary" stuff, and drawing it with incredible relish; at the very least, this will be fun to look at. Incidentally, did other Betophiles notice that he drew a story in last month's "House of Mystery" #14? It totally escaped my notice until this week.

# † COMPLETE PEANUTS VOL. 12 1973-1974

Is there a period that's considered the prime of "Peanuts"? Because this is probably my favorite--not as quippy as the '60s, not as understated and surreal as the final few years, but an era when almost every phrase that came out of Charles Schulz's characters' mouths was exquisitely tuned hilarity. I may think that in part because these years produced the first "Peanuts" strips I read; on the other hand, the first time I held this volume in my hands, I immediately flipped it open to two random pages and cracked up laughing at each of them.


So J.H. Williams won't in fact be drawing the entire run of Batwoman in Detective, and therefore the universe is not perfect, although I'm not going to complain too hard when Jock takes over for a few issues. But hot damn is this a great-looking, precision-tooled comic. I keep going back to last issue just to stare at it and reread it, and I bet I end up doing the same this time. Preview here.


An excellent piece of fiction-writing advice by someone whose name I can't call to mind: Figure out what the worst thing that could possibly happen to your protagonist is, then make it happen. Matt Fraction appears to have taken that to heart for the terrific serial whose first half is collected here, where Tony Stark finds himself forced to destroy his chief weapon -- his mind -- by degrees, just as he's coming under attack from everything he used to command. The Fraction/Salvador Larocca "Invincible Iron Man" series also won the Eisner award for Best New Series this past weekend.

% MOME VOL. 15

Fantagraphics' developing-cartoonists-plus-a-few-grumpy-old-masters anthology has been on a roll lately. This issue, the vets are Gilbert Shelton and the Spanish cartoonist Max, and the young guns include the fabulous Dash Shaw, Andrice Arp and T. Edward Bak, the last of whom contributes the first chapter of "Wild Man," a graphic novel that "Mome" will be serializing.


Roger Langridge's "Muppet Show" comics are a small treasure, where one of the funniest cartoonists around at the moment takes on a scenario and set of characters that dovetail very nicely with his gifts. What is "The Muppet Show" if not vaudeville, anyway? He's also one of the very few English-language cartoonists of the moment who singlehandedly write and draw a complete comic book every month--David Lapham has been doing it with the about-to-end "Young Liars," Jeff Lemire is about to do it with "Sweet Tooth," and I can't think of any other currently running series in that particular club. (Please fill in my gappy memory in the comment section.)

¶ † ROSE

A new edition of Jeff Smith and Charles Vess's prequel to "Bone": a dark fable about the young woman who grew up to become Gran'ma Ben. It's got a very different tone from "Bone" proper (less Merrie Melodies, more unexpurgated Grimm's Fairy Tales), and Vess's lush post-pre-Raphaelite visual style is a distinct departure from smith's, but it's an excellent book in its own right. The paperback is 11 bucks; not bad!


It took me until week 3 to realize that Wonder Woman waking up in the final panel of her strip every week might be some kind of "Little Nemo in Slumberland" homage.

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