Savage Critic and "Reading Comics" author Douglas Wolk joins ComicsAlliance for a rundown of the hottest comics and graphic novels coming out this week.

Signs of the end times: two Metal Men appearances in one week
Ω Contains work by artists who were in "Kramers Ergot 7"
# Romance comics in various sorts of drag
Machines sometimes don't function as intended
The franchise yawns and staggers to its feet, just like Sam Rockwell's character in "Moon"


Jaime Hernandez, as far as I'm concerned most days, is the best cartoonist in America. I know a few people who've been scared off exploring his work by the amount of stuff he's published, but part of the beauty of it is that you can jump in almost anywhere. Like, say, this volume, which collects the material that appeared in "Locas in Love," "Dicks and Deedees," "Ghost of Hoppers" and "The Education of Hopey Glass." If you insist on starting at the beginning with his Maggie-and-Hopey stuff, track A is "Maggie the Mechanic," "The Girl from H.O.P.P.E.R.S.," "Perla La Loca," then this; track B is "Locas: The Maggie and Hopey Stories," then this. Simple, yes? I envy anyone getting to read this for the first time, either way.

Some serious coffee-table-book action here: an Andrei Molotiu-edited anthology of comics that are just abstract images in sequence, by people from the fine-art and art-comics world, as well as some people I wouldn't have expected: Patrick McDonnell? Mark Badger? Of course, a lot of the fun of reading this is noticing your mind automatically trying to impose narrative on these abstractions. If you want to get a taste of what it's like, Molotiu also runs the Abstract Comics blog.


Dan Slott gets credit for making last issue's final page the very first time Mary Jane has made a surprise appearance without a "face it, tiger" joke (well, besides the one in the editorial aside) -- especially since they sold so many copies the last time they recycled that gag. This issue, we get Mark Waid and Mario Alberti dealing with the long-deferred Peter-and-Mary Jane business, as well as Brian Michael Bendis and Joe Quesada (!) dealing with the long-deferred Peter-and-Jessica Jones business (which seemed like a joke when Bendis set it up in "Alias," but is now apparently canon).


Anders Nilsen's serial about life, death and little birds seems to come out about once a year, and this is a slimmer chapter than the last few. It's a narrowly focused episode in which the series' central pair of birds find themselves in big trouble from some hungry crows; the tone is a not-much-like-anything-else combination of whimsy and sputtering existential horror. I wish "Big Questions" appeared more often, and I don't know if it's meant to be a closed-ended story or not, but I'm quietly hoping it goes on forever.


Jerry Moriarty's very short comics about a postwar salaryman's life initially appeared in "RAW" and various related publications, mostly in the '80s. Moriarty's a painter, and there's something a lot more painterly than comics-ish about his comics -- they usually zero in on a single moment of psychological stress that Jack manages to navigate somehow, and composition and texture count for a lot in them.

^ † ≠ DOOM PATROL #1

I'm suspicious about any revival of "Doom Patrol": Grant Morrison's late-'80s/early-'90s tenure on it was so good and so premise-redefining, and its ending so magnificent and so final, that the series really seems like it should rest where he left it. (That didn't stop Rachel Pollack, who continued the Morrison run for another couple of not-bad years, or the creators behind the less successful 2001 and 2004 revivals, which more or less ignored Morrison's work.) The enticement here is the backup feature: the Keith Giffen/J.M. DeMatteis/Kevin McGuire team doing the Metal Men, which should be entertaining -- those three creators reliably bring out the best in each other.


The comic book as art object: Tom Gauld's biggest showcase to date (I think), a 32-page book consisting of a fable that contains fewer words than this blurb, illustrated by a series of meticulously cross-hatched full-page images. A board book for adults, basically: it can be anywhere between trivial and profound, depending on your willingness to stare at it.


I like Matt Fraction's suggestion that the "World's Most Wanted" storyline is actually a Hero's Journey plot "turned inside out," even though I'm not entirely clear how it connects -- it seems like one long belly-of-the-whale phase.


The fifth issue of Mark Waid and Peter Krause's allegedly open-ended serial about what happens when a thinly disguised Superman stand-in called the Plutonian gets sick of taking shit from all you sons of bitches and starts slaughtering the f-ck out of everyone, just because, gets a 99-cent jump-on-board-now special. (There's also a ten-dollar collection of the first four issues out this week.) Waid is famously the world's biggest Superman fan, and he knows the workings of Superman stories well enough that he can extract a lot of poison from reciting their magic words backwards.


No, not "Love and Rockets." This is Thom Zahler's mild but thoroughly charming thrice-annual superhero sitcom, in which all the actual superhero action happens off-panel. This one's about the Lois Lane stand-in shopping for a dress for her upcoming (next issue) wedding to the much nicer Superman stand-in than the one in "Irredeemable." It's really cute, and Zahler's artwork has a neat design sensibility behind it.


This is J. Michael Straczynski's first of four specials reviving the former Archie Comics/Red
Circle characters that DC previously tried, unsuccessfully, to revive as a younger-readers line in the early '90s. What I want to know is: Bill Sienkiewicz? The guy who drew "Moon Knight" and "New Mutants" and "Stray Toasters" and "Big Numbers" and the most visually inventive superhero series Marvel's published in the last thirty years, "Elektra: Assassin"? Why is he just inking Tom Derenick (here and on the recent "Reign in Hell" miniseries), rather than doing something that plays to his strengths?


Tantalizing discovery of the week: just in case somebody blows a deadline, Mark Chiarello has Creeper and Plastic Man pages ready to go. So if everyone makes their deadlines, could we maybe see them in the final issue anyway, please?

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