Serious question: Is this the single best Wednesday of the year? After poring over the Diamond shipping lists as I do at the beginning of each week, it sure looks like it. Some of the very best looking books of a crowded week of big releases, as well as a few oddities, after the jump.
Astro City: Astra Special #1: Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson chronicle the graduation of superheroine Astra Furst, in the first half of this two-part mini-miniseries set in their familiar but unique shared superhero setting. It’s a $4 comic.
Aya: The Secrets Come Out: At last, the third volume of Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie’s fun dramedy about life in an Ivory Coast town in the 1970′s. The last volume ended with quite a cliffhanger, so if you’ve read the first two volumes (and you should have!) this release should be a pretty exciting one. It’s a 130-page hardcover for $20, but you can get it for 50% off during publisher Drawn and Quarterly’s insanely good sale.
Ball Peen Hammer: Novelist and playwright Adam Rapp teams up with artist George O’Connor for an original graphic novel about a very unpleasant, and extremely claustrophobic, post-apocalyptic drama. I’m halfway through a copy of it, and the first half is pretty damn intriguing. It’s 145-pages for $18.
Batman: The Black Glove: J.H. Williams III steals the show in the title story, a three-parter by Grant Morrison that resurrects and revitalizes the Club of Heroes concept (I would totally read a Club of Heroes comic, by the way, DC; it’s like the Global Guardians, if every member of the also happened to be Batman!). This trade also collects a two-parter in which Morrison retells another Silver Age standard, Batman’s successful hunt for his parents’ killer (back in continuity after the Infinity Crisis/52 rejiggering!). That’s drawn by Tony Daniel, which means this $18, 173-page book is likely to give readers such a case of aesthetic whiplash they had better read it with a neck brace already in place.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold #9: It’s a comic perfect for fans of both Secret Six and Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade! There aren’t too many of those, are there? Batman teams up with Catman, in this issue by the Cosmic Adventures creative team of Landry Walker and Eric Jones. Who are they teaming-up to take on? Well, the cover shows The Joker and Two-Face, but the copy says The Riddler and Penguin. Either way, it should be pretty sweet. And still only $2.50!
Bomb Queen IV #1: Writer/artist Jimmie Robinson launches his latest miniseries starring the titular supervillain, this one with a—groan—Barack Obama cover. I like how the solicitation says, “Bomb Queen vs. Barack Obama? Only Image would dare! ” Er, how daring is it to publish the 4,357th Barack Obama comic of the year, exactly?
The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb: “Religion” probably isn’t the first word taht comes to mind when one hears the name “R. Crumb,” which is at least part of the reason why this project is so exciting. A complete, word-for-word adaptation of the first book of the Bible, this incredibly ambitous work promises to reveal new aspects of both the artist and the subject. It’s a $25, 225-page hardcover.
Dark Reign: The Sinister Spider-Man #4: I haven’t been reading the comics, but I have been enjoying Chis Bachalo’s covers for this series, and this one looks pretty cool, too. This is one of several $4, villain-focused “Dark Reign” minis coming to a close this week, along with Dark Reign: The Hood and Dark Reign: Lethal Legion.
Die Hard: Year One #1: My favorite thing about the Die Hard movies was their goofy titles, like Die Harder and Die Hard with a Vengeance, so it’s kind of disappointing to see this origin story of the character John McClane has a fairly generic title borrowed from Batman. I guess Die Hard: Born Hard might have worked better for a series focusing on McClane’s childhood rather than his rookie year on the force, as this one does. This should be an interesting one to watch though, as it seems the people who like the movies probably like Bruce Willis more than they do McClane. On the other hand, it is being written by the great Howard Chaykin, with art by Stephen Thompson. It’s a $4 comic.
Icon: A Hero’s Welcome: The Superman of the Milestone Universe gets a new trade collection, of the first eight issue of his ongoing, by Dwayne McDuffie, M.D. Bright and Mike Gustovich. That’s great news, as it means I can quit looking for those issues in back-issue bins. Speaking of which, does anyone wanna buy some far from mint used copies of Icon #1, #2, #5 and #8? The trade is 190-pages long, and will cost you an Andrew Jackson.
Marvel Mystery Handbook 70th Anniversary Special #1: This $5 handbook should prove a fun companion to those great Anniversary Specials Marvel’s been pumping out on the regular all year, not to mention other backwards-looking projects like The Twelve, Invaders/Avengers (which available in hardcover this week) and The Marvels Project. The focus is on heroes introduced in the company that would become Marvel’s first year: The Human Torch, The Angel, Ka-Zar, The Black Widow, Phantom Bullet, Electro, Mister E, Dynamic Man, Phantom Reporter, Master Mind Excello, Masks both Fiery and Laughing and, according to the solicitation copy, “a host of oddities from Fletcher Hanks’ Whirlwind Carter to Taxi Taylor!”
Prison Pit Book 1: This is an all-new, original graphic novel from Johnny Ryan (Angry Youth Comix, Blecky Yuckarella). It’s either extremely welcome news, if you think Ryan’s funny, or terrible news, if you don’t. Publisher Fantagraphics says it combines Ryan’s love for “WWE wrestling, Gary Panter’s ‘Jimbo’ comics, and Kentaro Miura’s ‘Berserk’ Manga into a brutal showcase of violence, survival and revenge. Imagine a blend of old-fashioned role playing fantasy games like Dungeons & Dragons crossed with contemporary adult video games like Grand Theft Auto, filtered through Ryan’s sense of humor.” So, you know, look for that. It’s a $13, 120-page paperback, and you can download a 12-page preview here.
Refresh, Refresh: Now here’s a book with a strange set of credits. It’s by writer/artist Danica Novgorodoff (Slow Storm), but it’s a graphic novel adaptation of a screenplay by James Ponsoldt, which is itself an adaptation of a short prose story of the same name by Benjamin Percy. Got all that? Regardless of its quality—and it is a pretty good comic—it’s pretty fascinating if you happen to be someone interested in what makes comics comics and how they differ from other media, as it’s full of examples of Novgorodoff spending, say, a dozen silent pages telling the same plot point that Percy told in a few short, emphatic sentences. It’s a 145-pages for $18, and you can see some pages at Novgorodoff’s site.
Runaways #14: Well, that didn’t last long. The third volume of the series comes to a (temporary…?) end with this $4 issue from the incredibly talented team of Kathryn Immonen and Sara Pichelli.
Spider-Man: The Clone Saga #1: Huh. I thought Marvel was just kidding about this. Guess not.
Teen Titans #75: New writer Felicia D. Henderson debuts in this anniversary issue, although she won’t be back in November or December, when J.T. Krul writes some “Blackest Night” tie-in issues. Hopefully she’ll be back again in January? Joe Bennett and Jack Jadson provide the art, and the solicitation promises “an all-star cast of Titans past and present.” It’s $4, with the back of the book still home to Sean McKeever, Yildiray Cinar, Júlio Ferreira’s Ravager.
Trotsky: A Graphic Biography: Victorian murder master Rick Geary turns his considerable skills to the life of Leon Trotsky, one of the last century’s more controversial figures. Trotsky’s got a face just made for a cartoonist like Geary, so this is a promising project. It’s $17 for 110-pages.
Umbrella Academy Vol. 2: Dallas: A new series means its time for another epic catastrophe, but Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba’s team still has a bit of a hangover from the nearly averted apocalypse of the last volume. Will they be able to pull it together in time to deal with these new dangers? If you waited for the trade to find out, your wait is now over. It’s 190 pages for $18, and you can read a short preview here.