When the comic book industry releases its upcoming solicitations (two months in advance), there's always a lot of buzz and fanfare over the announcements for the four "front of the book" publishers: Dark Horse, DC, Image, and Marvel. The thing is, some of the most exciting books due to hit are actually the ones from the other publishers. This, then, is the second in a series of monthly rundowns of the other books you should be talking about, the big books you might have missed.

Trust me, if you've never checked some of these other creators or series out, you've seriously been missing out.


by Nick Abadzis
Laika was an abandoned puppy destined to become Earth's first space traveler. This is her journey. Nick Abadzis masterfully blends fiction and fact in the intertwined stories of three compelling lives. Along with Laika, there is Korolev, once a political prisoner, now a driven engineer at the top of the Soviet space program, and Yelena, the lab technician responsible for Laika's health and life. This intense triangle is rendered with the pitch-perfect emotionality of classics like Because of Winn Dixie, Shiloh, and Old Yeller. Abadzis gives life to a pivotal moment in modern history, casting light on the hidden moments of deep humanity behind history. Available in Softcover and a Collector's Edition Hardcover.
208pgs, color, $17.95 (hardcover $29.95)

You know how every now and then two different movies are in production for years and then are released in a matter of months of each other, at which point you wonder why two movies so similar ended up completed around the same time period? (Antz vs. A Bug's Life, or Deep Impact vs. Armageddon.) That's almost how I feel about Laika, because even though Nick Abadzis has been working on it for quite a while now, just recently released through Oni Press was James Vining's First in Space (about Ham the chimpanzee, though, not Laika).

Regardless, though, that shouldn't keep you away from Laika. Abadzis is a brilliant cartoonist, and what I've seen so far of Laika shows a real sensitivity to the material as well as keeping it interesting and exciting. First Second's books are always packaged beautifully, and I'm sure this is going to be another great volume that you'll want sitting on your bookshelf.


A gorgeously illustrated series by CLAMP, the all-female Japanese mangaka group, creators of the bestselling Tsubasa, Chobits, and Cardcaptor Sakura.
192pgs, B&W, $10.95

Wow, this tells you absolutely nothing about the book, doesn't it? It's almost like Del Rey is secretly hoping you won't want to buy it or something. That said, this is actually one of my favorite series by CLAMP, telling the story of a high school student who can see spirits and desperately wants to rid himself of this gift. He takes a job at a mysterious store run by a witch who says that she'll take the power away from him, but until then, he encounters a series of customers who all come to the witch for a request, but often with disastrous results. At the same time, our hero is starting to learn more about both the witch and his own powers, and a destiny that he seems to have in store for himself.

It's a fun series, a strange combination of a horror anthology series (like Tales from the Crypt or The Twilight Zone) and, well, a tv show like Heroes. This is much more fun than it should be, with beautiful, intricate art from the best member of the four-person CLAMP collective.


by Mark Crilley
In this thrilling third book of a four-part manga series, our high-school heroine is now fully entwined in a forbidden romance, and the stakes couldn't be higher. After finally winning the new senior's attention and trust, young Miki is slowly becoming part of his mysterious, and magical, world. But when a vindictive rival vows to expose them, the devoted couple has two choices: break up, or run! Dynamic art, a touch of magic, and loads of high-school drama bring this vivid graphic novel to life!
176pgs, B&W, $7.99

It's funny, Mark Crilley (most famous for his series Akiko) returns to comics in his best series yet, from a major publisher providing a lot of material for a lower price point, and there's barely a peep from the comics world. How'd that happen? Maybe no one heard about it? Having just read the first volume of Miki Falls, I must say that it's fantastic; a really clever idea (that I won't spoil, but let's just say that the twist was one I didn't see coming), and a beautiful pencil-shaded art style. As soon as I'm done writing this article, I'm running to the store to pick up volume 2.


by Steve Niles and Bill Sienkiewicz
After years of attacks, and several without, the citizens of Barrow have become united against random attacks on their city by the undead. Unfortunately the same does not apply outside of Barrow or the rest of the mysterious Arctic Circle. Co-creator Steve Niles and legendary artist Bill Sienkiewicz take the 30 Days of Night mythos and turn it on its head in a terrifying new graphic series. Forget everything you ever thought you know about 30 Days of Night.
32 pages, color, $3.99

Ok, I have to admit that I'm really over the whole 30 Days of Night series; too many mini-series seem to have watered down the brand name more than a bit. (I am curious to see how the upcoming movie will be, though.) That said, I may make an exception for a new mini-series drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz, whose art I've been loving for over a decade with its jagged line art and rich painted colors. It's a gorgeous sort of controlled chaos with Sienkiewicz, and I can see it matching up to the dark, claustrophobic horror that so often punctuates Niles's 30 Days of Night mini-series.


by Jim Massey & Robbi Rodriguez
Doug and Manny are off on their most sensational, incredible, uncanny, and amazing adventure yet, you might even call it "fantastic"! When super-intelligent, teensy-weensy creatures claim the TerroMax sewers as their own personal fiefdom, it's up to our intrepid heroes, err, janitors, to hit the drain pipes and clean up these micro-invaders once and for all!
96pgs, B&W, $9.95

Maintenance is, to put it mildly, hysterical. Jim Massey's stories about janitors working at a think tank for evil geniuses is brilliant and unpredictable, and the idea of him taking on the classic "fantastic voyage" story but putting the shrunken heroes into the sewer instead of a human body? I love it. I'm already signed on board. This is a laugh-out-loud funny series, people.

Coming tomorrow: Five More Books You Should Buy!

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