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

% Not exactly comics. Live with it
We are all of us living in the shadow of Alan Moore and/or J.H. Williams III
"All contemporary spandex is to some extent ironic spandex." Discuss
§ Sure, trade publishers, come join the party!
¥ The past is a grotesque animal

The grand old man of American underground comics has been working on his version of the first book of the Bible for many years now--see a 2005 interview with him here. This weekend, at SPX, Carol Tyler mentioned that someone had suggested she should draw the book of Ruth; Chester Brown has already done Mark and part of Matthew. Anyone want to suggest cartoonists particularly suited to other books of the Bible? Joe Matt on Job, anyone? P. Craig Russell's Song of Solomon?


Apparently, this is an expanded version of the 12,000 word essay on the history of erotic art that Alan Moore wrote for "Arthur" magazine a few years ago, augmented with some photos; it's not clear how far it's been expanded. It seems to be appearing with very little fanfare for an Alan Moore book, but hey.


J.H. Williams III and Mick Gray drew most of this series as double-page spreads, and there was some chatter a while ago about having the Absolute edition printed double-wide so they wouldn't have to be split up by the spine. I don't think that's happened, but if there's one of Alan Moore's America's Best Comics titles that deserves the huge/deluxe treatment, it's this one for sure. This collection is the section of the series that zooms out from a well-wrought Wonder Woman pastiche, to an issue-length sex scene/explanation of the Tarot, to the "Metaphore" issue that's some kind of Ouroboros of cleverness.


The longer storylines in Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson's long-running, reliable, mildly meta-ish superhero story are punctuated by single-character spotlights; this one leaps forward in time from the last time we saw Astra, who's a sort of Franklin Richards/Courtney Whitmore type.


The paperback edition of a volume that came out in hardcover last year, the first half of which reprints the three-issue Grant Morrison/J.H. Williams III collaboration that's the best-drawn Batman story of the past 20 years, a sort of "...And Then There Were None"-inspired whodunit, involving an international club of Batman and Robin types, in which Williams takes the humble six-panel grid and makes it the central motif of virtuosic improvisation.


Jessica Abel and Matt Madden are still the series editors, Charles Burns is this year's guest editor, and the lineup is mostly the usual Bagge/Clowes/Crumb/Spiegelman/Ware-type suspects. But that also means there's a lot of excellent work in here, and any anthology that includes Kevin Huizenga's brilliant story "Pulverize" is an anthology that gets my thumbs-up.


Not comics, although creators Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett have extensive comics resumes: this is a heavily illustrated book detailing the history of Boilerplate, a Victorian/Edwardian-era robot who was a mass-culture phenomenon. (He also didn't actually exist, although Chris Elliott thought he did.) It's a fabulous, sui generis book; comics geeks may particularly enjoy a loving pastiche of an Alex Toth model sheet from a '60s-era "Boilerplate" animated series.


Dave Sim's peculiar but fascinating history of the photorealist (excuse me, "photorealism") newspaper cartoonists of the mid-20th century, by way of a fairly creaky fashion magazine parody, continues. I can't think of too many Sim comics that have had a cover drawn by somebody else -- Frank Thorne did one for an early issue of "Cerebus," and Barry Windsor-Smith, I vaguely recall, did one for "Swords of Cerebus" -- but this one's got a rare-these-days cover by the great Gene Colan.


Doug Mahnke's become one of DC's MVPs--his art on the "Green Lantern" wing of the big zombie event has a rich, bubbly creepy-crawliness that works nicely in the context of this story.


Kind of a weird one: a translation of a Greek comics biography of Bertrand Russell that's been getting a bit of high-profile press lately. Be warned, though, that it belongs to an irritating trend in book-trade graphic novels lately: cover credits that say they're by the people who wrote the words, with "art by" the people who drew the pictures. Comics don't work that way. (And surely the recent Amazon kerfuffle had something to do with the fact that "Ball Peen Hammer," also out this week, simply lists Adam Rapp's name on its cover, then "artwork by George O'Connor" in smaller type below it.)


The "soft reboot" of this series is letting writer Paul Tobin have some fun with the early end of Spider-Man's history--viz., the appearance of Gwen and George Stacy this issue (and the fact that it's called "Why I Was Late for Class").


A single-volume edition of the second incarnation of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' pre-"Criminal," pre-"Incognito" collaboration, which uses supervillains and the occasional superhero as props for a dark, inward-folding story about espionage and moral ambiguity.


The latest deluxe reproduction of roughly-a-century-old newspaper strips from Sunday Press. Verbeek, whose comics work is collected here, is best known for one of the oddest newspaper comics ever: "The Upside-Downs of Little Lady Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo," in which the second half of each week's episode was the first half turned upside-down.