Manga, Muppets and <i>Daytrippers</i> fill a quiet week for comics

This week sees only a few major releases from Marvel and DC Comics -- a New Avengers Annual from the former and a handful of Blackest Night tie-ins from the latter -- but manga publishers step into the void with several titles, ranging from new volumes of Yotsuba&! and Detroit Metal City to omnibus editions of One Piece and Hot Gimmick.

Of course, it's not all manga: B.P.R.D.: War on Frogs and Citizen Rex come to a close, Daytrippers, Nation X and The Muppet Show Comic Book debut, and War Machine says farewell ... for now.

And that's just for starters. JK Parkin is on vacation this week, but to see what Chris Mautner and I have to say about this week's releases, keep reading. As always, let us know in the comments section what you plan to get.

Kevin Melrose's pick of the week: One Piece: East Blue 1-2-3

This creatively, and perhaps confusingly, named book is an omnibus edition collecting the first three volumes of Eiichiro Oda's smash-hit pirate comedy-adventure (East Blue is the ocean setting for the first six arcs).

If you haven't heard of One Piece -- come on now, how can you not have? -- it's probably because in North America Naruto rules the manga roost. But in Japan, One Piece is the (pirate) king: As I noted earlier today, its 55 volumes to date have sold 176 million copies, making it the bestselling series in manga history.

One Piece is a little ... well, loopy. But that's a large part of its appeal. It's the story of Monkey D. Luffy, a dim-but-likable teen-ager who dreams of succeeding the King of the Pirates by finding the fabled One Piece treasure. He's aided in his quest by superhuman powers -- he accidentally eats a Devil Fruit that gives him stretching abilities but leaves him unable to swim -- and a crew of misfit pirates called the Straw Hats (a swordsman, a thief, a marksman, a chef, etc.). I could go on, but you'd be better served by reading these two reviews.

East Blue 1-2-3 is a really good deal: Three volumes -- 608 pages! -- for $14.99 (less with a discount, of course), compared to the $23.85 you'd pay for them individually. (Viz Media)

Chris Mautner's pick of the week: Yotsuba&! Vol. 7

It's a slow week, so I'll go with the tried and true and pick the latest volume of Kiyohiko Azuma's always-delightful series about a precocious but somewhat innocent green-haired little girl and her suburban adventures with her older neighborhood friends and adoptive dad. Apparently this volume features cows, which is always something to look forward to. (Yen Press)

Citizen Rex #6 (of 6)

Chris: Mario and Gilbert Hernandez's light sci-fi opera comes to a close with this final issue. That's good news for me, as I'm waiting for the trade. (Dark Horse)

Crossing the Empty Quarter and Other Stories

Chris: Hey, two Carol Swain books in one year, that's got to be noteworthy for one reason or another. This trade collects more than 30 short stories by the London artist. (Dark Horse)

Batman: The Cult (new printing)

Chris: A new printing of Bernie Wrightson and Jim Starlin's over-the-top Batman-versus-crazy-underground-cult story is always worth celebrating. If you're a Batman fan and you haven't read this saga yet, it's high time you did. (DC Comics)

Daytripper #1 (of 10)

Kevin: The much-anticipated miniseries by brothers Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon (Casanova, The Umbrella Academy, BPRD: 1947) already is getting praise from the likes of Paul Pope, Terry Moore and Gerard Way -- not to mention Vertigo, which is comparing the work to that of Pope, Craig Thompson and David Mazzucchelli. Big shoes. The 10-issue Daytripper focuses on a Brazilian obituary writer/aspiring author who hates his job and begins to re-examine his life. However, the publisher assures us this isn't just another slice-of-life comic: This first issue apparently contains a twist that "will grow into a mystery about the meaning of life itself." You can read a preview here. (Vertigo)

DC Holiday Special 2009 #1

Kevin: It seems as if every time I talk up a holiday special from DC or Marvel it ends up getting panned. But I have a good feeling about this one, as it features the talents of Jeff Lemire, Fred Van Lente, Amy Wolfram and others. Plus, I'd buy it for that Dustin Nguyen cover alone. (DC Comics)

The Unwritten #8

Kevin: Not that he realizes it, or even cares, but I owe Mike Carey an apology. You see, while I enjoyed his now-canceled Vertigo monthly Crossing Midnight, I was terribly disappointed by his graphic novel God Save the Queen and his miniseries Faker. So when I read about his new series The Unwritten, I discounted it, figuring that, like Faker, it might not hold up under the weight of its high concept.

It's about a young man who, as a child, served as the model for the title character of his father's popular series of fantasy novels about a boy-wizard. Think Christopher Robin meets Harry Potter. As an adult, he becomes a D-list celebrity, eeking out a living on the circuit -- at least until a series of events blur fiction and reality, suggesting that he actually is the boy-wizard.

So, yeah, I was ... dismissive. Then over the weekend I read the first issue  of The Unwritten (available for free download on the Vertigo website), and I was completely sold. It's good --  so good that I'm ordering the first trade paperback in an attempt to play catchup. (Vertigo)

Nation X #1 (of 4)

Kevin: This is a peculiar anthology that's unlikely to set the sales charts on fire. Nonetheless, I'm happy that Marvel is releasing it, if only because it means we get to see creators like Michael Allred, Becky Cloonan and Tim Fish tackle Nightcrawler, Gambit and Northstar, respectively. From what I gather -- I haven't found much information about the miniseries, really -- Nation X centers on how the members of the X-Men are adjusting to their lives in their sovereign mutant nation on an island off the coast of California. Hey, there are certainly flimsier concepts for an anthology series. (Marvel)

Sky Doll, Vol. 1

Chris: So how did Marvel's great experiment with French publisher Soliel turn out? I imagine it was something akin to DC's partnership with Humanoids, although perhaps the former fared a bit better. At any rate, here's the first trade collection of their flagship title in this line, about a sex android who tries escape her master and her programming. (Marvel)

The Tomb of Dracula Omnibus, Vol. 2 hardcover

Kevin: If I had heaping piles of cash lying around getting moldy, I'd likely snap up these $100 hardcover collections from the heyday of Marvel's horror comics. This volume collects Issues 32-70 of The Tomb of Dracula (the series ended in 1979 with #70), plus Doctor Strange #14 -- part of a crossover with The Tomb of Dracula #44, in which Strange is transformed into a vampire -- and Giant-Size Dracula #5. (Marvel)

War Machine #12

Kevin: Bring out your dead! There, there, don't cry: It'll be back in time for the Iron Man movie sequel. (Marvel)

Death Metal City, Vol. 3

Chris: More ridiculous heavy metal shenanigans, courtesy of Japan. I really need to start getting caught up on this series. (Viz Media)

The Muppet Show Comic Book #0

Kevin: Roger Langridge writes and Shelli Paroline illustrates a stand-alone story -- a prelude to the ongoing series -- centering on the "Pigs in Space" recurring sketch. (BOOM! Studios)

Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box, Vol. 1

Chris: It's not comics, but there will surely be some crossover appeal nevertheless. From Fantagraphics comes this collection of box art from the heady days of VCRs and videotapes, with a special focus on direct-to-video B-movies and trash cinema. A specific audience, to be sure. (Fantagraphics)

The Return of King Doug hardcover

Kevin: Optioned for a film way back in April 2008, this fantasy-comedy-adventure by Greg Erb, Jason Oremland and Wook-Jin Clark at last hits stores this week. The Return of King Doug focuses on a boy selected to lead the forces of good against the armies of darkness in a battle for the Narnia-esque wonderland of Valdonia. But the young hero does what any 8-year-old might do: He flees back to Earth. Now as an adult he comes to realize he can't run away forever. (Oni Press)

Vietnam Journal, Vol. 1: Indian Country

Chris: At the same time Marvel was putting out The Nam, Don Lomax was serializing this edgier, Harvey-winning series based on his own experiences in Vietnam. This 138-page trade collects the first couple of issues. (Transfuzion Publishing)

Check out Diamond's website to see what else will be in stores this week, then tell us what you're buying in our comments section.

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