New comics this week (Wednesday, 12/23/09):
Beasts of Burden #4
Is it here already? This is the end of the excellent miniseries by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson, although I'm fervently hoping that it's not the last we'll see of the characters. The series has seemed to be leading to bigger, scarier plots, but they're waiting ominously in the future rather than actually playing out yet. From what I've heard, sales haven't been especially good, but hopefully the eventual collection will reverse that trend. If you haven't been reading this, do so! It is really, really good.
Having recently read (and written about) the first collection of this series, I've become a fan; it's fun, unique, and bizarre, and what I found notable is that each issue of the first five stood alone as its own story but fitting into a larger narrative, while still explaining its concept without expository. One could conceivably pick up any installment and not feel left behind; if you haven't tried it out, I recommend grabbing an issue and giving it a read; it's easy to see why it's been a hit.
Eric Powell! He seems to be taking a break from The Goon for a little bit in order to do this miniseries, which he is self-publishing through his Albatross Exploding Funny Books label. I think it's about some circus sideshow freaks, including the mustachoied little girl of the title. I bet it will be raucous, goofy fun, and feature some really nice art. Don't let me down, Powell!
Criminal: The Sinners #3
This series has been consistently good throughout its history, and this latest story is no exception. Ed Brubaker is laying out the mystery methodically, but as always, I expect it will really start moving and the shit will hit the fan in later installments. Pacing! Gotta love it.
I think this is the final issue in Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows' zombie-ish series, which, from what I hear has been pretty goddamn depraved. I might check it out at some point, if I feel especially misanthropic.
Garth Ennis Battlefields Happy Valley #1
And speaking of Ennis, here's the latest miniseries in his line of war comics for Dynamite. All of the previous stories have been quite good, so I expect this will be no different. Art here is provided by PJ Holden, and the story involves an Australian commander leading a crew of Englishmen in a bombing squadron over 1942 Germany. I expect many amusing accents.
Hellboy Bride of Hell One-Shot
The latest in Dark Horse's "single issue story" initiative, it's another Hellboy story written by Mike Mignola with art by Richard Corben. I've dug their previous collaborations on the character, so I expect this will also be good. Yea, verily, it shall rock. Here's a four-page preview.
Last Days of American Crime #1
Rick Remender is writing this miniseries from Radical, with art by Greg Tocchini, and it seems like it might be interesting. It involves a sort of sci-fi concept in which the US government is going to broadcast a signal that will inhibit anybody from committing crimes (which doesn't necessarily make sense without some explanation, but it might work as a storytelling conceit), but some guys got wind of it and are planning to carry out a heist just before the broadcast goes into effect. Judging by the preview art, it looks to be a pretty nihilistic affair, full of sex and violence. Could be a decent crime book; we'll see.
Part two of the "Franken-Castle" storyline, by Remender again, with some really nice art by Tony Moore. I only mention this because I should have a review up at Comics Bulletin tomorrow. Find out whether I like it then!
Agents of Atlas Dark Reign TPB
The subtitle here might be a dissuading factor for some, if you're not interested in the tiresome over-plot that's been running at Marvel for the last year, but if you like Jeff Parker, I would still give this one a recommendation. He does have his characters deal with Norman Osborn and company, along with the Avengers ("New" version), but he uses them well, and he's still advancing his own plots and telling good, fun, action-packed stories. The art varies, but whenever Gabriel Hardman takes over, it looks great. This collection also includes some short stories from various event tie-ins, and the issue of Marvel Adventures Avengers in which the Agents guest-starred. Good times, at least in terms of mainstream Marvel superhero comics.
Alec The Years Have Pants Life Size Omnibus
Ah, finally! The huge (640 pages!) collection of Eddie Campbell's autobiographical comics finally comes out, just in time to fit onto lists of the best comics of 2009 (and also the decade, natch). Thanks, Eddie, like I wasn't already far enough behind. I'm really looking forward to diving into this one, since I love his work. It puts the various books in chronological order, includes some stuff that was either never printed or was previously only available in hard-to-find places, and features a new story that sort of brings things up to date. So: awesome. I expect greatness: don't let me down, Eddie! Here, have a preview.
Atomic Robo Vol 3 TPB
Ah, I do love me some Atomic Robo. This third volume of the series began with a story in which the character fought a giant supernatural creature that emerged from H.P. Lovecraft's head (literally), but who knows where it went from there, since I didn't read the later issues. I may just have to just buy this to remedy that. Also available this week: a new printing of the first volume, which I highly recommend if you haven't read the series yet. It's full of funny dialogue and rousing action that spans the 20th century; don't miss out.
Dark Reign Sinister Spider-Man TPB
Another example of halfway-decent comics that tie in to Marvel's big, tiresome event. This one follows Venom as he eats people, antagonizes J. Jonah Jameson, and starts a gang war. Mostly lighthearted, at least as far as violent nihilism goes. Chris Bachalo does some of the art, but not all of it; even so, it looks pretty nice. I don't know if I would really recommend it, but if you want to sample some of the better stuff from Marvel these days, this is one to consider.
Fantastic Four TP Master of Doom
This is the end of the much-vaunted Mark Millar/Bryan Hitch run on the FF, and it kind of finished with a whimper, with neither creator fully involved in the final issue. I wouldn't actually call it good, but it does feature some interesting ideas, and Hitch delivers some pretty nice imagery. Worth a look for the curious, but don't expect to get a great value for your money.
Footnotes in Gaza HC
The other major release that's squeaking in under the wire at the end of the year, this is the new book by Joe Sacco, sure to be another great example of his journalistic comics. This one looks at the the past 50 years of war and violence town of Rafah in the Gaza Strip. Sure to be on a lot of lists of the best comics of the year, since Sacco is really fucking good at what he does. I know I'll be reading it as soon as I can.
The Mighty Vol 1 TPB
So, this series from DC (which isn't part of the "DC Universe", or Wildstorm, or Vertigo, but stands on its own) is rumored to be pretty good, but maybe that's just grading on the curve compared to Outsiders and Titans. I think it follows a superhero who is mostly a tool of the government/corporations, and maybe he's also somewhat mentally disabled or something? Whatever the case, it's destined to only be a twelve-issue series, since it has been cancelled, meaning that this is the first half of the story. I'll have to pay attention to reviews and whatnot to see if it's something worth seeking out.
The More Than Complete Action Philosophers TP
I certainly enjoyed this series quite a bit when it was being serialized; it was a funny, educational look at various figures throughout history, with Fred Van Lente explaining their writings in engaging, hilarious manner and some great cartooning by Ryan Dunlavey. This book collects the entire series in one big volume, rearranging them into chronological order so you can see the development of philosophy through the ages. Great stuff; I highly recommend it.
Olympus TP Vol 01
I'm not sure if this is an ongoing series or a miniseries, but here's the first collection, and I haven't heard much about whether the issues included were any good or not. It certainly looked interesting, with some strikingly bright-colored art, and while the story didn't seem all that unique, it could have been decent, something about gods passing as mortals and fighting each other. I guess I'm asking if anybody read it and if it's worth checking out. Well?
Runaways True Believers Prem HC
I haven't been able to keep track of the various hardcover and softcover reprints that Marvel has been doing on this series, but here's the latest release (reprint?), if you're interested. It includes the first story of the second volume, in which the team started fighting crime on their own in LA and ended up going against another team that consisted of former kid heroes who were in a support group to quit superheroing. Enjoyable stuff that's worth reading if you haven't already. I'd wait for a cheaper paperback version though, if I were you.
Sublife GN Vol 02
Fantagraphics has this latest short story collection from John Pham, with some stories following characters introduced in the first volume and others standing alone. Looks like some interesting stuff here, some sci-fi, some post-apocalypse, and some modern urban street-level life. I bet it's good reading, although I still need to check out the first one. Fanta has the usual slideshow/preview.
The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century AD HC
Fantagraphics also has this latest book from Dash Shaw, which ties into (that is, contains storyboards, character designs, and scripts for) the series of short animated films he recently did for IFC.com (which you can watch here) and includes various other short pieces that ran in MOME. That's a kind of odd combination; myself, I'm much more interested in the latter than the former. Shaw is a hell of a talent though, full of ideas and energy; a chance to catch up on those stories that I missed by not reading MOME is one that I'll try to take. Here: slideshow/preview.
Finally, here's a book that collects a comic I previously was not aware of: a three-issue miniseries by Chuck Dixon and Jorge Zaffino that was published by Eclipse in 1987. It appears to be a post-apocalyptic story set in a new ice age, and this volume also includes a new sequel called "Wintersea". For anybody who read this when it originally came out (or at some point in the twenty years since then), how is it? Any good? Should I try to give it a read? Not that I want to add to my stack of book to read or anything...
And that appears to be the week, and also the year, at least in terms of stuff that Diamond is shipping to comics shops. I've still got a bunch to read before I can attempt to formulate a Best of 2009 list, but I'm looking forward to doing so, since list-making is one of those activities that is compulsory during this season. Also, I'll do more writing, since that is also expected of me. Yes.