Savage Critic and "Reading Comics" author Douglas Wolk runs down the hottest comics and graphic novels coming out this week, using this helpful key:


£ Demagoguery
% Peculiarly textured hair
° Snobs get what's coming to them
§ Protagonist wears spectacles
¥ Antepenultimate installment
Psychological state of environment-closing-in represented graphically
^ Shooting off sparks


This is a completely mind-blowing little book by Joshua Cotter -- a brilliant, difficult, painful, not-like-anything-else piece of work.

I reviewed it here, but the gist is that this is a precise reproduction of an entire medium-size Moleskine notebook that Cotter filled, front cover to back cover, with a fanatically detailed piece of cartooning about... uh, it's not totally clear what it's about, although there's a bunny and a hospital and some other stuff. But everyone I've showed it too has first said "whoa" and then "where can I get a copy of this?" You owe it to yourself to have a look.


The Geoff Johns/Francis Manapul run on "Adventure" didn't last long: this issue's lead feature is by Johns and Jerry Ordway. (Manapul returns for next issue's backup and for #6, then they're gone.) But it's a Superboy-Prime story, and any time Johns gets to write about that little creep it's a guaranteed good time.

£ % ° ¥ ^ AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #612

I give up. When "Brand New Day" started, I thought: well, they've got some interesting people working on it, this is probably worth picking up whenever I see it in a dollar bin. Then they started to publish stories I didn't want to wait to read, so I started buying the occasional issue the week it came out. And then I started buying most issues the week they came out. And now the Mark Waid/Paul Azaceta team (they collaborated on "Potter's Field," whose collection is also out this week from Boom!) is kicking off this big ongoing storyline, "The Gauntlet," and Marvel's got their $50-for-36-issues subscription deal on their web site, and I have thrown up my hands and subscribed. It's the first time I've subscribed to a comic book through the U.S. Mail in roughly 30 years. We'll see how it goes. Preview. Also this week: "Dark Reign: The List: Amazing Spider-Man," in which it would be nice if something of consequence happens, but the track record for these things is not great.


...And, roughly three years behind schedule, what started out as the Grant Morrison/Gene Ha reboot of "The Authority" returns. Keith Giffen writes a script inspired, loosely or tightly, who knows, by Morrison's plot; Darick Robertson and Trevor Scott draw this issue; Ha does the covers. Preview, which mostly consists of the Midnighter beating people up.


A paperback edition of what's arguably the flagship Dark Reign book: Brian Bendis and Mike Deodato's (mini-?) series about a group of genuinely horrible people doing horrible things to other people while quietly trying to sabotage each other, too. It's amazingly entertaining, especially #5, which is mostly Norman Osborn being interviewed on TV and pulling every creepy rhetorical move you've ever seen a politician pull. Also out this week in recent-Bendis-Avengers action: the paperback of "New Avengers: Search for the Sorcerer Supreme," and "Dark Avengers" #11.


Howard Chaykin wraps up his heavily Photoshopped, mature-readers-only miniseries about a hardass mercenary demonstrating his anti-sieg-heil, pro-va-va-voom ideology in the '30s.


Part of me wishes they would just go ahead and reprint this entire Tetsu Kariya/Akira Hanasaki series (about young food reporter Shirou Yamaoka's running competition with his estranged food-snob father to create the "ultimate Japanese menu") in its entirety, but that amounts to 102 volumes to date. Instead, we're getting these collections, focused on particular aspects of Japanese cuisine. This one is, as the title suggests, about rice, and begins with an episode in which Yamaoka impresses an art collector by taking him to a restaurant to which he's been tipped off by a homeless man, who knows which restaurants discard the best leftover food in town.

% ¥ ^ PLUTO VOL. 6

Reading Naoki Urasawa's expanded take on Osamu Tezuka's "The Greatest Robot on Earth" is the closest thing in comics to listening to Fairport Convention play Bob Dylan songs.


Alex Raymond's post-war series about a pipe-smoking detective is a landmark of newspaper cartooning--one of the first great photorealist strips. Or so I'm told, since like most people without access to extensive newspaper archives, all I've seen are little bits of reprints and analysis here and there. This edition collects the first two years of "Rip Kirby" (1946-1947), apparently reproduced from newspaper syndicate proofs, which is good news for anyone who wants to see Raymond's legendary linework.


A terrible title (although, actually, I'd love to see a "Showcase Presents Showcase," reprinting all the stuff from the original series that didn't spin off into successful superhero franchises). But what you need to know is that seven of DCCP's first 26 issues, reprinted here, were drawn by José Luis García-López, one of the artists' artists of superhero comics. The guy can compose a cover.


Spelunkers are a superstitious and cowardly lot, and the third issue of Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber's cave-exploration thriller is all about what happens when bats attack. Preview. Also out this week: Parker's first issue of "Thunderbolts."

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