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May 2012

Welcome back, here’s a round-up of my recommendations for new comics, manga and graphic novels due out during May or soon after, sifted for you from publishers’ advance listings. Highlights this month include: the long-overdue debut in full book form by the remarkable Italian maestro Sergio Toppi; new graphic novels by Eddie Campbell, Jaime Hernandez & David B. (who is among the guests at this year’s BD & Comics Passion festival at the French Institute in London, in association with Comica, on May 24th to 27th); great global comics from Japan, Egypt, Sweden, Belgium and Spain; some classy first-time complete compilations from Gary Panter, Howard Cruse, Jeremy Bastian & Doug Wildey; the surprise return of horror-meister Wrightson on Mary Shelley’s man-made monster; and a massive artbook on Marvel artist John Buscema (I have the bi-lingual Spanish original of this and it is stunning).

I hope I’ve found you one or two treats to look forward to. And by the way, Flemish artist Maarten Vande Wiele is one of the special guests taking part in our live Drawing Parade at the Spring Comica Comiket in London on Saturday April 21st, where the English edition of Paris will be launched. See you there!

Attack on Titan
by Isayama Hajime

The publisher says:
Humanity has been devastated by the bizarre, giant humanoids known as the Titans. Little is known about where they came from or why they are bent on consuming humanity. Seemingly unintelligent, they have roamed the world killing off humankind for years. For the past century, what’s left of mankind has hidden in a giant, three-walled city. People believe their 100-meter-high walls will protect them from the Titans, which are 10 to 20 meters tall. But the sudden appearance of an immense Titan is about to change everything. Attack on Titan is a breakout hit in Japan, where the first five volumes of the series have sold over 5.5 million copies in just 18 months. The series has won multiple manga awards, including Best Shonen Manga of 2010.

Best of Enemies: A History of US and Middle East Relations, Part One: 1783-1953
by Jean-Pierre Filiu & David B.
$24.95 / &pound:14.99

The publisher says:
Filiu and David B. draw striking parallels between ancient and contemporary political history in this look at the US-Middle East conflict. The reader is transported to the pirate-choked Mediterranean sea, where Christians and Muslims continue the crusades, only this time on water. As the centuries pass, the traditional victims of the Muslim pirates - the British, French, and Spanish - all become empire-building powers whose sights lie beyond the Mediterranean.

Paul Gravett says:
David B.‘s album is the first part of two analysing the history of relations between the United States and the Middle East, co-written with historian Jean-Pierre Filiu and covering 1783 to 1953. What may come as a shock to many readers, certainly to me, is that these complex relations and antagonisms date back as early as the 18th century and the birth of America itself. The first ten-page chapter, ‘An Old Story’, takes us back to Iraq 2,400 years ago and the reign of Gilgamesh, who with his friend Enkidou attack the land of the cedars where the demon Humbaba lives. The story of Gilgamesh is one of the oldest texts ever rediscovered and here Filiu and David B. cunningly subvert this tale of invasion in the name of security and liberty and of the consequences of death and destruction by putting into the mouths of Gilgamesh and Enkidou the statements made by George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld in 2002 and 2003. They comment, “As if the warning about the disasters of a war, pronounced more than a thousand years ago in the very region where the current drama takes place, had not been heard.” The chapter ends with this striking parallel, showing a Sumerian stone found in Iraq and on display in the Louvre in Paris, known as ‘The Stele of the Vultures’. This shows the winners piling up bodies of the vanquished to form a monument to victory. The panel below shows the chilling recreation of this same triumphalism in Abou Ghraib where American soldiers forced prisoners to lie down on top of each other as if in a pile of bodies. “Plus ça change…”

From here in the second 48-page chapter ‘Barbarity’, Filiu and David B. chart the long, tortuous history of Christian and Muslim conflict in the Mediterranean region. Once America became an independent state, its ships were no longer protected by the British fleet and in 1785 the Algerians captured a number of American trading vessels, piracy that shocked public opinion. America was barely born as a new country, when it found itself already in conflict with distant states. Peace of a sort could be bought at a price, however, as other nations had found already, so Congress allotted $80,000 to bargain with the “barbarian lands” of Morocco, Algeria and Libya. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams in 1786 met the Libyan representative in London but negotiations collapsed. Relations in this area continued to complicate and are brilliantly dramatised and clarified in this graphic history lesson.

‘Oil’ is not surprisingly the title and focus of the third chapter. The authors point out that it was the American officer Alfred Mahan, a theorist about the projection of power, who coined the term ‘Middle East’ in 1902, and affirmed that any power who controlled the ‘Middle East’ would control the world. David B. illustrates these turbulent machinations, ideologies and wars with great panache, incorporating the potent symbolism and techniques of political cartooning and poster art, while also recording key figures in realistic portraits. On this page, he turns the vital pipelines into a device for dividing panels on this page, the oil physically pouring out of the Saudi leader and into the gaping maw of President Wilson.

The fourth and final part, ‘Coup d’Etat’, deals with more recent and more familiar history of the Cold War and the regime change which brought the Shah to power in Iran, but is no less riveting and revelatory, and an indictment of the British as much as the Americans. In ‘Operation Ajax’, the unlikely named Kermit Roosevelt emerges as a sinisterly effective manipulator of the masses. The book ends with Britain gradually being removed from the region: “The time of colonial powers is over, now come the time of the United States.” As important as it is today to look back across ten years to September 11th 2001, it is perhaps even more important to look back much further still and try to understand the bigger picture behind so much of the issues and conflicts still igniting the world today. The Best of Enemies achieves this with compelling clarity and should be required reading in school history classes everywhere.

Best Shot in the West: The Adventures of Nat Love
by Patricia C. McKissack, Frederick L. McKissack Jr. & Randy Duburke
Chronicle Books

The publisher says:
From acclaimed authors Patricia C. McKissack and Fredrick L. McKissack Jr. comes a thrilling biography of an unforgettable man told in compelling graphic novel form. Born into slavery in 1854, Nat Love, also known as Deadwood Dick, grew up to become the most famous African-American cowboy in the Old West. A contemporary and acquaintance of Bat Masterson and Billy the Kid, Nat was widely known as an expert roper and driver, a crack shot, and a real Wild West character. Featuring lively full-color artwork by Randy DuBurke, Best Shot in the West is an exhilarating mix of high-interest historical fiction and nonstop adventure.

Big John Buscema: Comics & Drawings
by John Buscema

The publisher says:
John Buscema has been called one of the finest comic artists who ever put pen to paper. His work for Marvel Comics on The Avengers, Thor, the Fantastic Four, and Silver Surfer are all classics, highly regarded by fans from around the world. The same is true for his definitive rendition of Conan the Barbarian. Buscema breathed life into Robert E. Howard’s legendary creation in a manner that has rarely been rivaled. IDW is proud to announce the first American publication of John Buscema: Comics & Drawings, a special edition of the fine art catalog created for the most extensive exhibition of Buscema’s art ever staged. Weighing in at nearly 300 pages, this gorgeous hardcover book is a dream come true for fans of the visual mastery of John Buscema, an artist whose ilk we are unlikely to see again.

Blacksad: A Silent Hell
by Juan Díaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido
Dark Horse

The publisher says:
Detective John Blacksad returns, with a new case that takes him to a 1950s New Orleans filled with hot jazz and cold-blooded murder! Hired to discover the fate of a celebrated pianist, Blacksad finds his most dangerous mystery yet in the midst of drugs, voodoo, the rollicking atmosphere of Mardi Gras, and the dark underbelly that it hides!

Cursed Pirate Girl: The Collected Edition
by Jeremy Bastian

The publisher says:
Adventures on and under the high seas lead a cursed pirate girl to encounter mythic creatures, gnarled and crusty pirates, and ghostly apparitions as she tries to find her lost father, one of the dreaded Pirate Captains of the mythical Omerta Seas. A whimsical swashbuckling tale of wonderland journeys and unimaginable dangers, starting in Port Elisabeth, Jamaica in the year 1728, and quickly heading across - and beneath - the waves. The first three issues of Cursed Pirate Girl are collected in this edition with an all-new epilogue.

Dal Tokyo
by Gary Panter

The publisher says:
Gary Panter’s long-running punk/sci-fi strip finally collected in one giant volume. Panter began imagining Dal Tokyo, a future Mars that is terraformed by Texan and Japanese workers, as far back as 1972, appropriating a friend’s idea about “cultural and temporal collision” (The “Dal” is short for Dallas). Why Texan and Japanese? Panter says, “Because they are trapped in Texas, Texans are self-mythologizing. Because I was trapped in Texas at the time, I needed to believe that the broken tractor out back was a car of the future. Japanese, I’ll say, because of the exotic far-awayness of Japan from Texas, and because of the Japanese monster movies and woodblock prints that reached out to me in Texas. Japanese monster movies are part of the fabric of Texas.”

In 1983, Panter finally got a chance to fully explore this world, and share it with an audience, when the L.A. Reader published the first 63 strips. A few years later, the Japanese reggae magazine Riddim picked up the strip, and Panter continued the saga of Dal Tokyo in monthly installments for over a decade. But none of these conceptual descriptions will prepare the reader for the confounding visual and verbal richness of Dal Tokyo, as Panter’s famous “ratty line” collides and colludes with near-Joycean wordplay, veering from more or less intelligible jokes to dizzying non-sequiturs to surreal eruptions that can engulf the entire panel in scribbles. One doesn’t read Dal Tokyo; one is absorbed into it and spit out the other side.

Doug Wildey’s Rio: The Complete Saga
by Doug Wildey

The publisher says:
Doug Wildey was an acclaimed comic book and comic strip artist, as well as a noted animator. Very much in the school of Milton Caniff and Alex Toth, Wildley was an artist’s artist, a storyteller of the highest order, and one with remarkable depth. While not known for any specific character (very much like Toth), Wildey worked in many genres - with western stories being some of his most memorable. In 1987 Wildey began one of his most personal works, Rio - the story of an aging cowboy and gunfighter, as well as special agent for the President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant. This volume collects the entire Rio saga in one handsome collection, including the final, unfinished and unpublished Rio story.

Frankenstein: Alive, Alive
by Steve Niles & Bernie Wrightson

The publisher says:
The all-new horror series by acclaimed creators Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson, Frankenstein, Alive, Alive picks up right where Mary Shelley’s classic tale ends. “This is an idea that’s been rattling around somewhere in the back of my mind for a good many years,” said Wrightson. “I mentioned it to Steve and we started talking. In about two minutes I realized that not only were we on the same page, we shared a vision. I’m very excited to see this finally happening. It’s going to be lot of fun.” A lifelong Frankenstein fan, Wrightson’s work on this monster has garnered universal praise for over 25 years. Now, Wrightson and Niles are collaborating on the next chapter in the life of Frankenstein’s monster. Frankenstein, Alive, Alive turns this classic tale around, by telling the story from Frankenstein’s perspective in this 13-issue series. “The fact that I grew up worshipping Wrightson’s Frankenstein and now I’m working on a sequel with him is mind-blowing,” said Niles. “This is the project of a lifetime for me.”

God and Science: Return of the TI-Girls
by Jaime Hernandez

The publisher says:
The “director’s cut” edition of the sprawling super-hero epic from Love and Rockets.

Originally serialized in Love and Rockets New Stories, Ti-Girls Adventures managed to be both a rollickingly creative super-hero joyride (featuring three separate super-teams and over two dozen characters) that ranged from the other side of the universe to Maggie’s shabby apartment, and a genuinely dramatic fable about madness, grief, and motherhood as Penny Century’s decades-long quest to become a genuine super-heroine are finally, and tragically, fulfilled. In addition to introducing a plethora of wild new characters, God and Science brings in many older characters from Jaime’s universe, some from seemingly throwaway shorter strips and some from Maggie’s day-to-day world (including some real surprises).

The main heroine of the story, forming a bridge between the ‘realistic’ Maggie stories and the super-heroic extravaganza is ‘Angel,’ Maggie’s sweet-tempered and athletic new roommate and best friend, and now herself an aspiring super-heroine. Aside from being presented in a large format that really displays Jaime Hernandez’s stunning art, God and Science will be a ‘director’s cut’ version that includes a full 30 new pages in addition to the original 100-page epic, including four new full-color faux Ti-Girls covers, several expansions of scenes, an epilogue set back in Maggie’s apartment, and a long fantasy/timewarp sequence that draws the focus back on Penny’s awful predicament.

Mastering Comics: Drawing Words & Writing Pictures Continued
by Jessica Abel & Matt Madden
First Second

The publisher says:
A new course of material to accompany First Second’s widely acclaimed 2008 comics textbook. In their hotly anticipated follow-up to 2008’s comics textbook Drawing Words & Writing Pictures, School of Visual Arts cartooning professors Matt Madden and Jessica Abel bring their expertise to bear on the ‘second semester’ of a course of study for the budding cartoonist. Covering advanced topics such as story composition, coloring, and file formatting, Mastering Comics is a vital companion to the introductory content of the first volume.

Metro: A Graphic Novel
by Magdy El Shafee
Metropolitan Books

The publisher says:
When Shehab, a young software designer, runs afoul of a loan shark, all avenues of escape in Mubarak’s corrupt, chaotic Egypt seem to be closed to him. Getting help from the bank is impossible without connections, and Shehab’s uncle abroad wants nothing to do with his troubles. A powerful businessman offers assistance, but the next day Shehab sees him being stabbed in an alley - and the man’s dying words suggest a conspiracy extending to the upper reaches of the regime. Angry and broke, Shehab enlists his friend Mustafa in a bank heist - and falls into a vortex of financial and political corruption. On the run with a case full of money and evidence of murder, the two careen through Cairo’s metro system, evading the police and the thugs who are out in force to crush antigovernment protests. The only allies who can help get them out of this mess, the friends realize, are a blind shoe-shine man and a muckraking journalist. In art as pulsing and immediate as Cairo itself, Magdy El Shafee has delivered a prescient portrait of a crumbling society and Egypt’s coming eruption. A powerful story of young men with nothing left to lose, Metro sounds the cry for a better, freer future.

Paul Gravett says:
Metro was the first adult graphic novel published in Egypt, and could have been the last. Not long after publication, all copies were looted in a raid without a warrant on the publisher’s offices and removed from bookstores. In November 2009, a Cairo court fined both its publisher and creator, and banned the book for being “offensive to public morals”. While Metro contains one mild sex scene and some edgy language, in colloquial Egyptian instead of formal Arabic, what probably offended the authorities far more was its accessible critique of the country’s corrupt regime and its advocacy of protest and democracy. Publisher Mohammed Sharqawy, a political acitivist, had been arrested and tortured before. Author Magdy El Shafee creates a provocative anti-hero in Shihab, whose small software company is about to go under because they lack the right connections to secure a bank loan. Disillusioned with the system, Shihab decides to get the money for himself by staging an armed bank robbery and dismisses his assistant’s anxieties about the police, stating “They’re all busy with the peace and security of one single person”, a reference to the unseen, unnamed but ever-present President Mubarak. Several of Mubarak’s cohorts do appear, thinly disguised but instantly recognizable to Egyptian readers; one “piece of garbage” is shown being thrown onto the street and assaulted by a furious public. El Shafee combines a heist thriller based around Cairo’s subway with a portrait of his people, so caught in the ‘trap’ of day-to-day survival that most cannot contemplate challenging state repression. Metro was part of a call for change which finally ousted Mubarak in 2011. It also paves the way for more Egyptian graphic novels to come.   

Mind MGMT 1
by Matt Kindt
Dark Horse

The publisher says:
Reporting on a commercial flight where everyone aboard lost their memories, a young journalist stumbles onto a much bigger story, the top-secret Mind Management program. Her ensuing journey involves weaponized psychics, hypnotic advertising, talking dolphins, and seemingly immortal pursuers, as she attempts to find the flight’s missing passenger, the man who was Mind MGMT‘s greatest success—and its most devastating failure. But in a world where people can rewrite reality itself, can she trust anything she sees?

Nobrow 7: Brave New World
by various artists

The publisher says:
Nobrow 7: Brave New World will continue in the same vein as Nobrow 6, representing not only the best in illustration but also the best in comics. With contributions from Anders Nilsen, Tom Gauld, Jon McNaught, Luke Pearson, Alex Spiro, Kolchoz, Brecht Vandenbroucke, Nora Krug, Raphael Urwiller, Mayumi Otero, Eda Akaltun, Till Hafenbrak, Jim Stoten, Tom Rowe, Atak, Blexbolex, Bjorn Rune Lie, Clayton Jr., Rob Hunter, Katja Spitzer, Laura Carlin, Antoine Marchalot, Jon Boam, Geoff Grandfield, Nishant Choksi, Paul Blow, Henning Wagenbreth, Micah Lidberg, and many more.


by Erika Raven, Peter Moerenhout & Maarten Vande Wiele

The publisher says:
A pitch-black comedy based on stories and gossip from the world of fashion and showbiz. The fashionista characters are dressed head-to-toe in vintage or couture by top designers - all of which are mentioned in footnotes to the artwork. Three girlfriends want the glamour of the Parisian modelling world. Hope has a damaged face but is still dreaming of being the world’s top model. Faith is going for a career as a singer, and she’s not afraid to play any dirty games to get success! And Chastity wants to be rich and famous - no matter how - and uses her beautiful body to get what she wants. All three of them pay the price of fame… Written by Erika Raven and Peter Moerenhout, with art by Maarten Vande Wiele.

Paul Gravett says:
Warning: looks can be deceiving. Don’t be glamorised by this graphic novel’s skin-deep beauty. What lies beneath its stylish charms gives a fresh and frank satirical twist to the cliché ‘fashion victim’.

by Sergio Toppi

The publisher says:
A set of tales inspired by the Arabian Nights by European comics master Sergio Toppi, exploring a barbaric society where the supernatural is the only remedy to injustice, as Sharaz-de, captive to a cruel and despotic king, must each night spin tales to entertain her master and save her head from the executioner. Tales filled with evil spirits, treasures, risk, and danger, but always at their center the passions of gods and men.

Spandex: Fast and Hard
by Martin Eden
Titan Books

The publisher says:
Prowler, Liberty, Glitter, Indigo, Butch, Mr Muscles, Diva - all superpowered, all British, and the first all gay super-hero team there ever was! Created by independent creator Martin Eden, Spandex charts the highs and lows of a group of Brighton-based heroes, doing battle with 50-foot lesbians, a group of deadly pink ninjas, as well as their own complicated love lives! Packed with pop culture references, nods to classic comics and chock-full of humour and drama, Spandex is a super-hero book like no other!

Team Cul de Sac
by Chris Sparks & Richard Thompson & various
Andrews McMeel

The publisher says:
Artists from around the world are passionate about Richard Thompson’s work. His strip, Cul de Sac, has been endorsed by Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson—high praise indeed. In 2009, Thompson announced his diagnosis of early-onset Parkinson’s. The Team Cul de Sac book serves as a showcase of original artwork donated to benefit Team Fox, the fundraising arm of the Michael J. Fox Foundation, founded in 2000 to help speed the development of better treatments for Parkinson’s patients and, ultimately, cure the disease.

The Lovely Horrible Stuff
by Eddie Campbell
Top Shelf Productions / Knockabout

The publisher says:
Money makes the world go round, as they say… but HOW, exactly? Award-winning graphic novelist Eddie Campbell (From Hell, Alec) presents a fascinating journey into the wilderness of personal finance. With his trademark blend of research, anecdote, autobiography, and fantasy, Campbell explores how money underwrites human relationships, flowing all around us like the air we breathe—or the water we drown in. The result is a whimsical graphic essay, deeply grounded in Eddie’s personal experiences with “the lovely horrible stuff,” ranging from the imaginary wealth of Ponzi schemes and television pilots to the all-too-tangible stone currency of the Micronesian island of Yap. In a world where drawing corporate superheroes requires literally transforming oneself into a corporation (which is kept in a shoebox under the bed), we are in strange territory indeed. Fortunately, Campbell’s wry eye and vivid full-color artwork imbue the proceedings with real humanity, making The Lovely Horrible Stuff an investment that’s worth every penny.

The Other Side of Howard Cruse
by Howard Cruse
Boom! Townl

The publisher says:
Howard Cruse has been producing amazing, ground-breaking comics for nearly 40 years. For the first time, we’ve collected Cruse’s work from the days of the Underground through present times. From his light-hearted Barefootz strips to biting political satire, to his take on Nancy and Little Lulu, this volume brings you the work of one of the most powerful communicators in the history of comics.


The Vicar Woman
by Emma Rendel
Jonathan Cape

The publisher says:
A female vicar arrives on a small island to take up a new post. It is a strange opportunity: the parish is brand new, and set up by the community itself, who have built themselves a church modelled on St Peter’s Basilica. The vicar is surprised and delighted by the enthusiastic welcome she receives. The church is full day after day, and the parishioners compete for her attention. Not many are interested in discussing spiritual matters however, and as she gets to know them, the vicar becomes aware of a split in the community; a terrible secret that is not spoken of, but which plagues the island, pitting neighbour against neighbour. She hears whispers of a missing young girl whose parents died in a mysterious blaze, of secret abortions, and of a fearsome ghost. What the villagers most want is absolution, but can the ‘Vicar Woman’ provide it for them? The Vicar Woman is a strange and discomforting story, and a brilliant new work from one of the most original artists on the Cape graphic novel list.

Posted: March 26, 2012


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