GRAPHIC NOVEL: The Book of Leviathan is a compilation of the strip by UK cartoonist Peter Blegvad, about Levi, an intelligent and inquisitive - but innocent - infant, and his investigations in the mysteries of life. From the samples I've seen of his work, it's intelligent, innovative, and interesting. $24 for 160 pages in hardcover.
NEW TO PREVIEWS: I've been a subscriber to (We're Living In) Funny Times for years, and can vouch for it as an excellent collection of social, political, and other forms of illustrated and written humour. It regularly features an assortment of cartoons ranging from single-panel to single-page, by such folks as Tom Tomorrow, Alison Bechdel, Peter Kuper, Ruben Bolling, Singer, Dave Horsey, Lynda Barry, Ted Rall, Nicole Hollander, Tom Toles, Keith Knight, Lloyd Dangle, Jules Fieffer, Carol Lay, etc. (And they fill the spaces between cartoons with funny articles by Ian Shoales, Dave Barry, Phil Proctor, Dr. Science, etc.) Buy a few issues to see if you like it... then subscribe.
NEW SERIES: I don't recall seeing #1, but this doesn't sound like it'll be terribly difficult to pick up with #2. It's Misadventures from the Diaries of Marco Solo by Shannon Brady, about a traveller's search for himself, drawn in an expressive style, based in part on the creator's own experiences.
NEW SERIES: The first issue of Girl Genius by Kaja and Phil Folgio is coming in February; see last month's Picks for more info about it.
Shanda Fantasy Arts
NEW SERIES: John Lustig's Last Kiss has been appearing in Comics Buyer's Guide, and now makes the leap to its own publication. Uncharacteristically (for Shanda) it stars plain old people (not anthropomorphics), in parodies which supply new dialog for old-style romance comics. $5 for 48 pages.
NEW SERIES: Universal Chronicles: Desperado Family by Rod Espinosa (of modest Courageous Princess fame) is a sci-fi series about a family who have finally brought peace to their world and are now faced with new, greater threats. Sounds interesting, and I liked his previous work.
COLLECTION: Marbles in my Underpants is a hefty collection of work by Renée French, a rather peculiar (in a good way) cartoonist whose work has previously been scattered about in various anthologies and the odd stand-alone work such a Grit Bath or the art for Rheumy Peepers & Chunky Highlights. Now it's all (or at least a lot of it) is being pulled together in a single place. $18 for a solid 232 pages.
GRAPHIC NON-FICTION: The next in Rick Geary's Treasury of Victorian Murder series is The Mystery of Mary Rogers, about the unsolved - but widely speculated - murder of a young New York cigar store clerk. $15 for 80 hardcover pages. (A later softcover edition is likely.)
NEW SERIES: Apparently the two "Ultimate" books are doing well, or at least Marvel has faith in them, because they're adding a third. It's called simply Ultimate Marvel, and will feature the all-new Spider-Man in team-ups with other characters from the all-new Marvel continuity. They'll be written by Brian Michael Bendis (the writer of Spidey's solo series) with a different artist for each story. (Big-name pros are practically queuing up to do this, since they get to pick the guest star they want to do.) The first issue features Wolverine and the art of Matt Wagner, and will be $3 for 48 pages. As I understand it, these stories will be used as backups in the larger-format Ultimate Marvel Magazine for newsstands.
LIMITED SERIES: Fabien Niceiza and Steve Rude are doing a three-issue series called Spider-Man: Lifeline, a self-contained story in which the wall-crawler gets caught in the middle of race between two crime bosses after a magical talisman. It's coming out bi-weekly (two issues in Feburary, the last in March).
SPECIAL: The Fantastic Fourth Voyage of Sinbad features just what the title suggests: the FF and Sinbad on a magical quest, in a story by Chris Claremont and Pascual Ferry. $6 for 48 pages.
LIMITED SERIES: Given the length of the issues (16 pages) Paul Quinn might've been better off publishing his three-issue Suspension of Disbelief in one volume. In any case, it's slice-of-life story about a guy who finds his girlfriend in bed with his best friend, and a girl whose boyfriend keeps finding excuses for skipping their dates out. Three guesses where this ends up, but it's the journey not the destination, so I'm going to take a shot at this one.
LIMITED SERIES: Hammer of the Gods is a series by the talented Michael Oeming with scripting by Mark Wheatley, based on the viking legend of a sickly infant whom the gods save... with the price that he will not be an ordinary boy and man, but instead become a powerful weapon. It'll run for 4 bimonthly issues for its initial story run (presumably covering Modi's "origin"), and if it does well they'll do more stories down the line.
Someone ought to explain to genius at Top Cow that 2001 isn't a leap year and no one ever even suggested it would be, so protesting that they don't need the extra day in February is kind of doofy.
NEW SERIES: Double Image has a sort of clever name going for it (most of the other "____ Image" puns have been done), but it has the risky "flip book" format going against it. It's a monthly double-feature series by Larry Young and John Heebink on one side with The Bod (about a busty model who can't get taken seriously until an accident turns her invisible), and Joe Casey and Charlie Adlard on the other with Codeflesh (a mature-readers series about a bail bondsman for supervillains).
COLLECTION: The first 5 issues of Todd Dezago and Mike Wieringo's fantasy adventure series Tellos are being reprinted in Reluctant Heroes. It also includes the "prelude" and "prologue" specials released through Dynamic Farces and Anothing Universe. $18 for 152 pages. Conveniently, they're reoffering #6-9, and giving the reorder number for the latest issue #10, so it'd be a piece of cake to catch up on this series now. (They're doing pretty much the same thing with Section Zero, making it easy to get #1-5 at the same time they're soliciting #6.)
ONE-SHOT: Trosper is a multi-media project by writer/illustrator Frank Woodring and musician Bill Frisell. The concept of a children's book accompanied by a CD of ambient jazz really doesn't make much sense, but then I've never figured out Woodring's appeal and everyone else thinks he's a genius, so that's probably just me. If it works for you: $13 for 36 color pages in hardcover... and an undisclosed number of minutes.
NEW SERIES: Blood Shed by writer Fern Wharton, penciler Dana Washingon, et al. may not feature the most original concepts (e.g. mutants, investigating the paranormal, etc.), and the cup sizes on the women are improbably large, but the execution looks pretty slick, especially for a small, nearly-unknown outfit putting out a full-color book. $3 for 40 pages.
NEW SERIES: Deep Fried is a crude but generally clever collection of short pieces by Jason Yungbluth, featuring a cast of characters including Beepo and Roadkill, a clown and his pet talking cat. Check out the online strips to see if it's the sort of thing you'll like.
NEW SERIES: The new Green Arrow series by Kevin Smith was announced over two years ago, and the previous series (which had starred Ollie's son Connor for three years) was cancelled to make way for it. But it's been delayed, mostly waiting for Smith to find/make time for it. But with the movie Dogma finished, a bunch of Daredevil under his belt, several of Smith's scripts for this series in the can, and a good lead by illustrators Phil Hester and Ande Parks - more than five years since Ollie was last seen alive - DC figures it's finally time to solicit orders for it.
LIMITED SERIES: Superboy's Legion This is a companion of sorts to JLA: The Nail by the same creative team of Alan Davis and Mark Farmer. Instead of having baby Kal-El go undiscovered by the Kents, they're sending him directly to the 30th century, where Superboy can inspire the Legion of Super-Heroes in person. Another difference is that Farmer is doing the writing instead of Davis. And it's only two issues instead of three.
NEW SERIES: The Crusades is the latest new ongoing Vertigo series, marking the return of Seven T. Seagle to Vertigo, along with illustrator Kelley Jones. It's not an historical drama about the European invasions of Palestine, but a story about a knight from one of those campaigns, who appears in modern-day San Francisco and starts carrying out divine justice against the immoral people he encounters there. The series is being launched with a $4, 48-page square-bound book subtitled Urban Decree, which will be followed by the first issue of the series itself in March.
SPECIAL: Star Trek: Enter the Wolves is a Classic Trek story set in the Next Generation timeframe, featuring Spock and Sarek in one of their classic disagreements, this time over the admission of the Cardassians to the Federation. By sci-fi authors A.C. Crispin and Howard Weinstein, and illustrator Carlos Mota. $6 for 48 pages.
NEW SERIES: The Monarchy is a spin-off from StormWatch and The Authority. It's about the team formed by former StormWatch leader Jackson King (hence the title), intended to take a more surgical approach to issues than the Authority. It's written by Doselle Young with art by John McCrea (who's available due to Hitman ending).
COLLECTION: In a cruel bit of irony, Crimson, by far the most reliable title from the Cliffhanger gang due to the responsible worth ethic of Brian Augustyn and Humberto Ramos, is being cancelled after 24 issues, even as issue #8 of the chronically absent Battlechasers series is being solicited. But Crimson: Earth Angel, a third collection, of issues #13-18, is being released. $15 for 144 pages. They don't say whether a fourth, final collection will be done (since they probably don't know). Look for a new series by Ramos and Augustyn soon.
COLLECTION: The latest Usagi Yojimbo book is on the way (but not until March, actually). It's called Demon Mask, reprinting an assortment of stories about the ronin rabbit. Only $16 for 224 pages, or $57 for the hardcover.
COLLECTION: Gold Digger is one of Antarctic's most popular and long-running series, combining action, humour, and some manga-style cheesecake. Gold Brick is a reprint of the first 25 issues of the series, a total of 600 pages (hence the "brick" part of the name).
COLLECTION: Ande Parks' Uncle Slam and Fire Dog was one of the highlights of the short-lived Action Planet anthology. Unle Slam is a former patriotic superhero who disappeared when a bomb blast ripped a hole in his head, and knocked several screws loose. Fire Dog is his talking robotic canine sidekick. This book reprints their appearances from Action Planet, $12 for 100 pages.
Amaze Ink / Slave Labor|
NEW SERIES: I really enjoyed Private Beach: Fun and Perils in the Trudyverse when the original mini-series came out five years ago. Now David Hahn is back with a new quarterly series starring Trudy Honeyvan and her friend Sharona Cupkey, in their off-beat adventures dealing with aliens and whatnot.
COLLECTION: Another Michael Oeming project is available, this one from several years ago. Footsoldiers was a series written by Jim Kreuger about a trio of kids brought to the graveyard of heroes by a mysterious old man, where they find the gimmick tools of a by-gone age, and start to use them to against the oppressive police state in which they live. This collection reprints the four issues of the original Dark Horse series. (Ironically, when I reviewed that series, I commented that the only "big name" attached to it was Laura Allred, the colorist. Now this reprint doesn't include her colors, but Kreuger and Oeming are considered fairly "big names" thanks to their work in the meantime in books from Marvel and Image.) $15 for 152 pages.
RETURNING SERIES: Or maybe not. Quantum & Woody #22 is solicited in this month's catalog, and the guy in charge of comics at Acclaim says that this and the next several issues of the series are all sitting on a shelf and ready to go. But the word on the net is that Acclaim Inc. has pulled the plug completely on the comics-publishing business, since they aren't making any money on it, and the goodwill in comics retailing of the Acclaim/Valiant name has pretty much been used up. Either way, if you're a fan, it can't hurt to order this (as long as you don't have to prepay), since if it doesn't ship you won't have to buy it, and if it does... well, you'll get it. (And if it's the former, Christopher Priest has said that he'll eventually get the rights back, and will try to continue the series elsewhere.)