I thought I was in the clear. "Where's Wheeler?" I asked, chatting on videophone with the good folks at the Ninth Art editorial offices.
"Oh, didn't he tell you?" his secretary (who bears a striking resemblance to George Clooney) replied. "He's out of the country on very important business."
For a minute, my heart leapt with joy. Could this be? Was my editor out for the duration and thus I was in the clear on this month's deadline? I had two parties scheduled for the Saturday the article was due and really wanted to go to both of them.
"Don't look too excited," faux-Clooney added. "He's in North America. Rather close to you, in fact."
And that, dear readers, just goes to show you: don't ever assume that your editor being out of town means you're safe. If anything, it just makes things worse. I've now blocked the entrance to my home with old copies of Previews, and have turned off all the lights while I frantically type, trying to finish this month's column before...
Say, what's that sound at the door?
BUMPERBOY AND THE LOUD, LOUD MOUNTAIN by Debbie Huey
MAY06 2772, p213, $8.95
Huey's first BUMPERBOY graphic novel was adorable, a fun romp with Bumperboy trying to find all his missing marbles so he can participate in the big competition. This one looks to be just as fun, with more larger-than-life ideas and slick, appealing art. BUMPERBOY is one of those few "all ages" books that really is for all ages, not just kids.
GIRL GENIUS VOL 5 by Phil and Kaja Foglio
MAY06 2781, p220, $19.95
So here's the deal. Head over to the Girl Genius website and sample some pages of this truly fun comic involving mad scientists, steam engines, and killer wasps. Then you'll understand why taking this online (where it's free for the reading) has attracted so many readers that the books are now selling out faster than the Foglios can reprint them. And once you have that tidbit of information, you'll now understand why I'm telling you to pre-order this book. You're going to want it, you see, and this way you'll be assured a copy as soon as it comes out. The first taste may be free, but it's good enough that you'll want to just sit down with the collections and re-read them until your eyes fall out. (But don't worry. The mad scientist "sparks" of GIRL GENIUS can build you new ones. Better. Stronger. Faster. Oh, and they'll also cut through both tomatoes and tin cans. What are you waiting for?)
KRAMER'S ERGOT VOL 6 HC
MAY06 2992, p259, $34.95
I know, you're thinking to yourself that this sounds a little expensive. Well, what you also need to know is that it's 8x11", full color, 336 pages long, and all the past volumes have been a really strong mix of new talent and established creators from independent and alternative comics. I won't lie and say that every story in the past has been good, but the highs have been high enough that I've always felt more than satisfied. The solicitation calls it "the RAW of our times" and while I don't think it's quite at the levels of Art Spiegelman's legendary RAW anthology, it's certainly doing its best to stake a claim in that general direction. If you're interested in the future superstars of comics, this is a place to start looking.
CONAN AND THE SONGS OF THE DEAD #1 by Joe R. Lansdale and Timothy Truman
MAY06 0013, p24, $2.99
There are two categories of people at this moment: those who are excited about this, and those who have never read Lansdale and Truman's JONAH HEX stories. Either of these creators on their own are good; Lansdale has a wonderfully evil sense of humor, and Truman's art is wonderfully lush. Together, though? I guess merging the adjectives one gets evilly lush. And that's a good thing.
BMWFILMS.COM PRESENTS THE HIRE by Matt Wagner, Bruce Campbell, Mark Waid, Kurt Busiek, Steven Grant, Francisco Ruiz Velasco, Kilian Plunkett, and Claude St. Aubin
MAY06 0015, p27, $17.95
What's interesting about this collection for me is not who's in it, but rather who isn't. When the original press release ran, it talked about the people who would be working on this six-issue mini-series. Well, only four issues were released and are collected here, meaning that we missed two stories. Guessing on how the four missing creators would've worked together, one of the issues would've been by Karl Kesel and Ariel Olivetti, which would've certainly been nice. The other one? Katsuhiro Otomo and Katsuya Terada. That's right, the creators of AKIRA and BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE.
Now, I know that Dark Horse would've wanted to publish those issues. By all reports, working with BMW's licensing group was incredibly difficult, which was why all of the issues were released amazingly late. But not ever getting an Otomo and Terada collaboration? Quite disappointing, to put it mildly.
BATMAN #655 by Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert
DETECTIVE COMICS #821 by Paul Dini and J.H. Williams III
MAY06 0130 and MAY06 0132, p62-63, $2.99
Dear DC Comics,
I cannot help but notice that you've put together one of the best line-ups for your two Batman books in positively years. Grant Morrison's take on Batman in JLA was fantastic, and Paul Dini as one of the show runners for BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES brought the best depiction of the character onto our screens that we've ever seen. J.H. Williams III is an amazingly brilliant artist, and Andy Kubert... well, he's got potential, especially since he's inking himself versus the not-attractive colored-pencils look of 1602. Anyway, congratulations, you've got $6 more a month from me.
THE NEXT #1 by Tad Williams, Dietrich Smith, and Walden Wong
MAY06 0177, p83, $2.99
You know, I love Tad Williams's novels; I've got them all and eagerly read them. But this? It sounds dull as dishwater. Maybe I'll be proven wrong, but everything about the solicitation (the cover, the text description, even the title) just screams "forgettable."
DOOM PATROL VOL. 4: MUSCLEBOUND TP by Grant Morrison, Steve Yeowell, Jamie Hewlett, and company
MAY06 0231, p117, $19.99
Not only does this DOOM PATROL collection have the appearance of Flex Mentallo, the evil Men from N.O.W.H.E.R.E., the reason for why the Pentagon is really five sided, and the debut of one of the most terrifying and deadly foes that the team will ever face (the Candlemaker)... but this also has my second-favorite Doom Patrol story ever. Namely, the introduction of the Beardhunter, a brilliant parody of the Punisher that at the same time is wonderfully disturbing. I think I laughed so hard that I nearly ruptured something the first time I read it, and it never fails to amuse.
XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS #1 by John Layman and Fabiano Neves
MAY06 3032, p270, $3.50
Two things, here. First, is there still really a demand for a XENA comic? (No, I'm genuinely curious. The answer is probably "yes, but not like there was a decade ago.") And second, what the hell is up with Xena's waist? One strong wind is going to snap her in half. Ewww.
I LOVE LED ZEPPLIN by Ellen Forney
MAY06 3130, p301, $18.95
I adore Forney's comics. Her "I Was Seven in '75" strips for various alternative newspapers are the sort of stories that make you laugh your head off, thanks not only to the situations she presents but the manner in which she does so. She's got a real knack for both comedy and drama, and her art style is just plain nice (and reminds me a bit of Gilbert Hernandez). This new collection brings together more of her stories, and if it's even half as good as her first collection (MONKEY FOOD) I will be in heaven. Oh, and some of the stories here are collaborations with people like Margaret Cho, Dan Savage, and Camille Paglia. If that doesn't make you desperately want to read this book, I don't know what will.
DEATH JR VOL II #1 by Gary Whitta and Ted Naifeh
MAY06 1711, p136, $4.99
It's really amazing. Most computer game based comics are cringable at best. DEATH JR is a fantastic book in its own right, with most people being surprised when they discover the video game connection! Fans of Naifeh's work on COURTNEY CRUMRIN and POLLY AND THE PIRATES should know that Naifeh's art fits Whitta's script perfectly; you can see exactly why Naifeh would want to work on the project.
24SEVEN by Becky Cloonan, Phil Hester, Mike Huddleston, Adam Hughes, Frazer Irving, Alex Maleev, Jim Mahfood, Tony Moore, Mike Oeming, Eduardo Risso, Ben Templesmith, and others
MAY06 1717, p142, $24.99
A 200-page graphic novel with stories about robots, the line-up of talent alone makes this a must-buy. I mean, really! It makes me quite happy to see so many good people all in one book. I was originally a little sad that Image no longer would be publishing the FLIGHT anthologies, but it seems that Image has found some other good options to fill that slot.
IRON WEST by Doug TenNapel
MAY06 1723, p148, $14.99
TenNapel's CREATURE TECH graphic novel was sheer fun, a mix of crazy, far-out ideas and beautiful, slick ink lines. IRON WEST sounds like it's very much along those lines, with an army of robots during the Gold Rush era planning on taking over the railroad and turning it into a demonic iron monster. Um, hello? You got me. I'm there. (And have I mentioned how much I like Image's new solicitation format, since it allows them to regularly have four-page previews of upcoming books? If every section of Previews was this nice, you wouldn't need me writing a guided tour of the book.)
THE FOREST KING: WOODLARK'S SHADOW VOL 1 HC by Dan Mishkin and Tom Mandrake
MAY06 3256, p322, $12.99
Mishkin and Mandrake's comic collaborations in the past (CREEPS and ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS) have been a lot of fun, a good mix of strong ideas and beautifully lush art. So a hardcover graphic novel about an evil being in the forest stalking a kid sounds great; a mix of dark horror and fantasy that the two have proven so adept at in the past.
This is the sort of book that pre-ordering is meant for; the solicitation is buried deep in Previews and it's easy to miss, but it's exactly what I don't want to let pass me by.
FINDER VOL 8: FIVE CRAZY WOMEN by Carla Speed McNeil
MAY06 3260, p324, $15.95
McNeil's FINDER is the sort of comic that when being published issue-by-issue was at the top of my stack of things to read. Like GIRL GENIUS (mentioned earlier in this column), it's now being published on the web. It's with that in mind that I want to point you in the direction of the website to take a look at this storyline. Because let me tell you, I can never look at the concept of "speed dating" again without laughing until my stomach hurts. It's a comedy, it's a romance, and it's darkly serious. No one makes comics like McNeil does, and that's a real shame because she's just that good.
LOVE AND CAPES #1 by Thomas F. Zahler
MAY06 3266, p324, $3.95
I got to read an advance copy of LOVE AND CAPES, and I must say: this is really darn funny. In some ways it's Zahler's take on the whole Superman/Lois Lane romance, but it's really much more than that; it's a humorous look at dating in general (hey, is this romance month at Previews and no one told me?) as well as superpowers, but there's also a real clear love for the genres in general. It's not poking fun at them, it's having a good time with the ideas. Definitely check this out.
BEYOND #1 by Dwayne McDuffie and Scott Kolins
MAY06 1954, pM19, #2.99
I'd like to point out that I actually forgot to include this the first time I wrote this column. I'd sent everything in, had gone to bed, and was just about asleep... and then it hit me. Had I gotten a Marvel Previews at the store on Wednesday? I remembered picking it up, but somehow between that moment and getting home, it had vanished. And with Marvel's solicitations being in their own booklet, I'd completely forgotten that I hadn't gone over the publisher's offerings for this new Things to Come.
So I sat in bed, half-asleep, and thought to myself that I'd read the solicitations online. Was there anything that had jumped out at me? If I could remember it, I'd then write it up in the morning. The one thing that fell into that category is the upcoming BEYOND mini-series. I love McDuffie's writing, and Kolins's art is really sharp looking. The basic concept sounds certainly familiar (SECRET WARS meets LOST in space?) but that's not necessarily a bad thing; the mix of characters pulled together sounds like fun, and I have high hopes that these creators will do a great job with the book.
At any rate, congratulations to BEYOND because it's the one book that I could remember while half-asleep. That's got to count for something.
WASTELAND #1 by Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten
MAY06 3335, p335, $2.99
I really like Johnston's writing; he's proven himself on books like THREE DAYS IN EUROPE, SPOOKED, and QUEEN & COUNTRY: DECLASSIFIED that he's got a sharp, creative mind that can hit different genres and styles with great ease. Mitten's art, likewise, has just gotten better and better with each project. The two of them working on an ongoing series about a post-apocalyptic world and a mysterious stranger turning it on its side? Well, duh. Of course I'm going to buy it.
What's also nice is that there's a WASTELAND website already set up with previews, behind the scenes sketches, news updates, and a whole lot more. So you really don't have to take my word at it. Go take a look. You'll learn what I already have: this book looks sweet. (And hey! The first issue is double-sized but at its regular price. Extra points, folks.)
THE SURROGATES VOL 1 by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele
MAY06 3435, p363, $19.95
Hey, remember this time last year when I talked about this cool new mini-series coming out from Top Shelf that was a science-fiction mystery? And remember when it turned out that I was absolutely right on how much fun THE SURROGATES turned out to be? What's that? You didn't listen and missed out while all your cool friends were loving life and Venditti and Weldele's hot new creation?
Don't miss out again, because there are only so many times I can protect you from your own mistakes.
THE LAW OF UEKI VOL 1 by Tsubasa Fukuchi
MAY06 3470, p374, $9.99
I read a lot of manga, but every now and then there's a solicitation that just makes me scratch my head. Case in point:
Seemingly ordinary Kosuke Ueki has been chosen to be a contender in the tournament. Granted the power to change trash into trees, Ueki has two disadvantages to overcome: One, he doesn't know he's a participant in the tournament, and Two, how the heck can anyone win a battle with the power to turn trash into trees?!
I don't make them up, folks, I just report on them. (I guess the Japanese really love their recycling. Or something.)
THE DRIFTING CLASSROOM VOL 1 by Kazuo Umezu
MAY06 3488, p376, $9.99
Now conversely, check out this solicitation for something you'll be dying to read:
In the aftermath of a strange earthquake, an entire elementary school vanishes, leaving nothing but a hole in the ground. While parents mourn and authorities investigate, the students and teachers find themselves somewhere far away... somewhere cold and dark... a lifeless, nightmarish wasteland in which their school stands like a lone fortress. As panic turns to terror, as the rules start to fall apart, a sixth-grade boy named Sho and his friends must fight to survive in an alien world.
Now how cool is that, huh? If that's not enough, know that Umezu is considered one of the grandfathers of Japanese horror manga, someone whose influence is known all throughout Japan. I've only seen one book of his translated into English, OROCHI: BLOOD, but that alone is enough to make me want to read more of his work. Viz is putting this in their "Signature Series" line that also includes books like VAGABOND, MONSTER, and PHOENIX. I'm starting to get the impression that "Signature Series" is their way of saying "really damn good" without making everyone else published by Viz jealous.
That's OK. I've figured out the code. I know that this is a must-buy book. And now, so do you.
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