Welcome to my new monthly column, in which I plumb the depths of the Previews catalog and separate the nuggets from the turds. The ultimate goal is to point out good books that may be flying under your radar, while occasionally taking advantage of the platform to mock and sneer at stuff I don't like.
Remember, no retailer can afford to order everything that is solicited every month, so letting your favored store know that you’re interested in a certain title will go a long way toward ensuring that it recieves the appropriate attention. Otherwise, it might not get ordered, and, thanks to Diamond’s new cut-off policies, it might never come out at all.
I'll start with the covers:
The cover to the August 2009 Previews catalog announces the final issue of Planetary by writer Warren Ellis and artist John Cassaday, which is probably a wise move by DC since most of the world has by now forgotten that this was still coming out. Call me fickle, but after three years I find it hard to muster up a lot of excitement for this, apart from the pretty Cassaday cover, especially considering how silly the previous issue was.
Speaking of silly, the flip side (or: the cover for people who like to read Previews upside down) features something called Cowboy Ninja Viking by Image Comics (apparently Monkey Pirate Zombie was taken). Seriously? From the writer whose only memorable accomplishment was having the most forgettable run on a Batman title in recent history, and the artist of that one book my Jewish friend liked because it had a Golem in it or something. Seriously? This is your cover feature? Oy vey.
SUGARSHOCK by Joss Whedon and Fabio Moon (Dark Horse, pg. 22, $3.50) The Eisner Award winner for Best Web Comic, originally appearing in MySpace Dark Horse Presents, and published here with never-before-seen material. The story is fun and kinetic, if a bit slight, but it's Moon's art that sells it for me.
BATMAN #692 by Tony Daniel (DC Comics, pg.73, $2.99) Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse for the Caped Crusader, Tony Daniel returns to the title as artist and writer. But hey, maybe he'll be able to interpret his own scripts better than he did Morrison's?
WARLORD #7 by Mike Grell (DC Comics, pg. 94, $2.99) Mike Grell takes over pencilling duties from local boy Chad Hardin, likely in order to appease the nostalgia-driven fanbase who has been pretty vocal in in their distaste for Hardin, presumably for not being Grell-like enough. Which is exactly the kind of reactionary knee-jerk behavior aging comics nerds seem to do best, as if that 70's shit was really all that good to begin with. Then again, we might actually find out just how good it was, because between Grell writing and illustrating Warlord, and Gerry Conway, Doug Moench, Walter Simonson,Jim Starlin, and Marv Wolfman all doing something for DC this month, these solicitations read like they're about thirty years late.
HELLBLAZER: SCAB TP by Peter Milligan and Giuseppe Camuncoli (DC Comics/Vertigo, pg. 115, $14.99) I haven’t read this, but according to some, this is a return to greatness for both Milligan and Constantine, from which they've both been absent for far too long (I dropped Hellblazer sometime during the dismal Denise Mina run, and Milligan has been on auto-pilot since the cancellation of Human Target, if not earlier). So, I will probably give it a shot. As usual, a new writer on the title signals a good jumping-on point for this Vertigo mainstay.
SHADE THE CHANGING MAN VOL.1: THE AMERICAN SCREAM TP by Peter Milligan and Chris Bachalo (DC Comics/Vertigo, pg. 119, $17.99) A new printing of the first half of the first storyline of what is one of my favorite series of all time, with a new cover by original cover artist Brendan McCarthy (yay). It's a bit rough in places, and Bachalo's art certainly isn't as refined as it would become later on, but it sets the stage for some of the most innovative and mind-bending comics Vertigo has ever produced, and that includes the majority of Grant Morrison's output.
SHADE THE CHANGING MAN VOL.2: THE EDGE OF VISION TP by Peter Milligan and Chris Bachalo (DC Comics/Vertigo, pg. 119, $19.99) The concluding half of The American Scream, reprinted here for the first time ever. Further collected editions probably hinge on the sales of these two trade paperbacks, so please, do us both a favor and pick this up, valued reader!
X-MEN: ASGARDIAN WARS HC by Chris Claremont, Arthur Adams, and Paul Smith (Marvel, pg. Marvel 90, $34.99) Chris Claremont's words usually make my eyes bleed, but the pretty artwork from Art Adams and Paul Smith in oversized format might be worth a look. Hopefully, the recoloring only goes as far as that unfortunately defaced cover.
GHOST COMICS by various (Bare Bones Studios, pg. 208, $10.00) Themed anthology featuring a solid line-up of indie cartoonists, including Jeffrey Brown, John Porcellino, and that guy from Low. A Xeric Grant recipient AND a benefit book, you practically HAVE TO buy this.
THE BOX MAN HC by Imiri Sakabashira (Drawn & Quarterly, pg. 261, $19.95) Described as a surrealist scooter trip featuring animal people and weird sex stuff (which, along with the preview panels posted here, suggests all kinds of awesome). I have never read any Sakabashira, but if Red Colored Elegy and the Tatsumi books are any indication, D&Q knows exactly what kind of manga appeals to the discerning art comics reader (right, the filthy kind).
THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2009 HC edited by Charles Burns (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, pg. 269, $22.00) I usually have a hard time recommending these, for the work they reprint is often not in its original length or context, but anyone looking for a very broad sampler of some of the best work currently being done in comics could probably do no better than picking up one of them. The line-up for this year, featuring work by Kevin Huizenga, Adrian Tomine, and Chris Ware, strikes me as particularly strong.
ACT-I-VATE PRIMER HC by various (IDW, pg. 282, $24.99) New stories by the web comics collective, featuring Nick Bertozzi, Dean Haspiel, and Roger Langridge. If you've spent any time on the Act-i-vate website, you know this is not to be missed.
BINKY BROWN MEETS THE HOLY VIRGIN MARY HC by Justin Green (McSweeney's, pg. 287, $29.00) A classic of sorts, and the first long autobiographical work to appear in underground comics, this is a gloriously fucked-up study of OCD and Catholic guilt. And the incredibly corruptive power of penis rays.
STUMPTOWN #1 by Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth (Oni Press, pg. 294, $3.99) With Queen & Country indefinitely on hold, Rucka trades in international intrigue for neighborhood crime watch, with a new creator-owned crime series set in his current city of residence. If by now you aren't aware that Rucka does crime as well as anyone else in comics, a mere $3.99 are likely going to correct that.
GOGO MONSTER by Taiyo Matsumoto (Viz Media, pg. 310, $27.99) Another brick of a book by one of my favorite comics auteurs, creator of the boldly original No. 5 and Tekkon Kinkreet, who draws equally from American, European, and Japanese influences to create a uniquely gorgeous style of his own, and one whose work has been criminally underrepresented here in the States. Billed as a tale of a young boy with an overly active imagination, this is bound to be as wonderfully imaginative and surreal as anything he's done, but hopefully not as overlooked. Seriously, if there is a book in this catalog that I wish everyone reading this column would give a chance, it's this one. Check out the pictures of the Japanese edition!
NEXT MONTH: Bigger, Better, Faster, More!