The Middle Ground #82 | What to look for in February

Consider this my calling my own bluff. Awhile back, I opined that no-one online really spent enough time talking about independent books that were being solicited, meaning that when they were finally released three months later, your store might have missed out because you didn't even know to pre-order. With the March Previews coming out a week tomorrow, I figured there was no better time for me to tell you what you should be pestering your retailer for from the February edition. Here's my pick of the top five books you should be looking to pre-order.

American Barbarian HC AdHouse Books, $19.95Tom Scioli has gotten a lot of attention - deservedly so - for his Jack Kirby-inspired work on Image's Godland with Joe Casey, but this 256 page hardcover about the last American standing after the end of the world (He's called Two-Tank Omen, which is about as good a sign that you're built tough as you're going to get, let's face it) is all his own work.

Conan The Barbarian #1 Dark Horse Comics, $3.50I promise, not all of my picks are going to include the word "Barbarian" in their title. But, come on: This is the first issue of the new ongoing Conan series by the Demo team of Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan, and they're adapting a Robert E. Howard story about a younger Conan on the high seas, bucklin' swash and falling in love with a lady pirate. How can you not want to pick that up?

Friends With Boys GN First Second, $15.99I'm a big fan of Faith Erin Hicks' work - The War At Ellsmere is one of those comics that just sings, to me - and so this collection of her webcomic is an obvious candidate for picking up in my eyes. It's a coming of age story that started life as a Minx proposal (Remember DC's Minx line? I loved almost everything they put out), and beyond that, I've stayed away in fear of spoiling the experience of reading this very edition. Go check out the website for more.

Gloriana HC Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95There is no way that a new release from Kevin Huizenga isn't going to be my most eagerly anticipated book of the month, and this 108 page hardcover isn't going to prove to be any exception to the rule. As far as I can tell, this is a re-release/reworking of the material that was in Or Else #2 - itself a reworking of an earlier issue of Supermonster - and, as anyone who's read either of the earlier editions can tell you, this is one of those comics where you realize just how good Huizenga really is. A comic that will redefine your ideas of what is possible in the language of comics, this is definitely going to be a must-read.

King City TP Image Comics, $19.99And talking about must-reads: If you haven't discovered Brandon Graham's work yet, this 424 page collection of his series about love, loss and Cat Mastery in the near-future is waiting for you and ready to blow your mind. There are few creators as good as Graham working in the industry right now, in my opinion - Not only are his visuals amazing, but he really, clearly enjoys playing with language - and this is, so far, the best example of what he's capable of. Be warned: This is heavily addictive.

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