This week's comics are an eclectic mix, for sure, but there's a heavy dose of Halloween-inspired horror ... from the "raise the dead" X-crossover that kicks off in Marvel's X Necrosha to the so-simple-it's-brilliant idea behind Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer, coming from SLG tomorrow. DC gives us another issue of Blackest Night, Radical fights back against the undead in The Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency #1 and Jennifer Love Hewitt even gets in on the action with a Twilight Zone-style book about a haunted music box. Speaking of celebrities, Halloween and comics, Marvel collects Bill Hader and Seth Meyers' Short Halloween comic into a hardcover with stories from Amazing Spider-Man Family.
Also hitting stores this week are several first issues -- DC has a new World's Finest miniseries, Red Sonja gets promoted to Queen Sonja by Dynamite, Dark Horse gives us more Groo and Ares fights his way into his own mini. This week also sees some endings, several minis wrap up, including Last Days of Animal Man, Killapalooza, Marvel Divas and Ambush Bug.
To see what Chris, Kevin and I have to say about this week's releases, read on ...
Chris Mautner's pick of the week: Red Snow HC
Attention Gekiga fans! Drawn and Quarterly knows how to slake your thirst for mature, literary manga with the release of this collection of short stories by Susumu Katsumata. Set in a pre-modern, rural Japan, the stories focus on the relationships between men and women, both young and old, in an agrarian culture where gender roles are strictly enforced. And if I've now made this book sound like a snoozefest, let me add that Katsumata is a natural-born cartoonist, with a charming round-headed style and never once comes off as didactic or forced, but instead is graceful and funny as well as touching. I'm not the only one who feels this way. This won the 2006 Japanese Cartoonists Association's Grand Prize Award. And they're no dummies. (Drawn and Quarterly)
JK Parkin's pick of the week: Unknown Soldier #13
Joshua Dysart and Alberto Ponticelli's Unknown Soldier series has really been working for me. There's a danger in something that focuses on or is set against real life issues becoming the comic equivalent of those Very Special Episodes we used to get from Different Strokes or Family Ties. Y'know, the ones where Dudley gets touched by the guy from WKRP in Cincinnati or Alex P. Keaton becomes addicted to uppers, and nobody acts like they would in every other episode because it fit the message the suits wanted to send.
Luckily for us, Dysart is as invested in the characters as he is in the cause, which makes Unknown Soldier compelling reading that has thus far stayed out of that territory. With this issue, Ponticelli steps away for a couple of issues and Patrice Masioni Makamba, originally from the Congo, steps in for a two-parter. And yeah, this could be seen as the equivalent of stunt casting, but as we've seen, Masioni's got the goods. I'm looking forward to checking his art out on the full issue. (DC/Vertigo)
Kevin Melrose's pick of the week: Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer
As I mentioned in April when this SLG Publishing graphic novel was announced, there's something so perfect, yet so delightfully ridiculous, about the concept behind Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer. I mean, the title tells you all you need to know: The little wooden boy whose growing nose provides an ever-present stake and ... well, he kills the creatures of the night.
If you require a little more than the high-concept pitch, there's this: In the tale by Dustin Higgins and Van Jensen, Pinocchio witnesses the death of Geppetto at the hands of vampires, and swears revenge. He's a little liar on a mission to save humanity from the fanged menace!
Abe Sapien: The Haunted Boy
Kevin: Part of Dark Horse's "One-Shot Wonders" initiative, this standalone story teams frequent collaborators Mike Mignola and John Arcudi with artist Patric Reynolds, who worked previously with Hellboy creator on a short for MySpace Dark Horse Presents. In his early days as an agent of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, the amphibious Abe Sapien is sent to investigate the seemingly accidental death of a young boy and subsequent haunting. (Dark Horse)
Groo: Hogs of Horder #1
JK: Groo wanders back into comic shops this week with a brand-new miniseries about a force more destructive than Groo himself. If such a thing is possible. Check out a preview here. (Dark Horse)
Ambush Bug Year None #7 (of 6)
JK: Yes, you're reading that right ... after weeks? months? years? decades? centuries? (ok, enough!) of waiting, DC is finally wrapping up the Ambush Bug mini-series with a seventh issue, completely skipping over issue six. If you've ever read Ambush Bug, well, this probably isn't surprising. (DC Comics)
Detective Comics #858
Chris: I wasn't too crazy about that surprise twist ending in the last issue, but man, I'd pay $4 to see JH Williams draw a board of supervisors meeting, you know what I'm saying? (DC Comics)
The Sandman: The Dream Hunters hardcover
Kevin: This collects P. Craig Russell's four-issue adaptation of the award-winning 1999 novella by Neil Gaiman and Yoshitaka Amano. In the 144-page tale, a shape-shifting fox falls in love with a Buddhist monk -- she'd initially set out to drive him from his temple, but that's neither here nor there -- and discovers a plot against the holy man by a wealthy onmyoji and a group of demons. So she turns to Morpheus, appearing here as an enormous black fox, for help. (DC/Vertigo)
World's Finest #1
JK: This four-issue mini-series written by Sterling Gates sees the writer teaming up with different artists each issue to showcase team ups between various members of the Superman and Batman families. This issue features Red Robin and the Kryptonian Nightwing. (DC Comics)
Eternal Conflicts of the Cosmic Warrior one-shot
JK: Paul Grist started this story on Facebook earlier this year; in fact, I think you can still check it out over there. It's also undergone a name change, from The Timeless Adventures of the Eternal Warrior to what you see above, no doubt to differentiate it from the old Valiant comic of the same name. (Image Comics)
Marvel Holiday Spectacular
Kevin: It's a $10 holiday crap shoot, I guess, as the publisher doesn't provide much information about the content or creative teams contained within this 104-page one-shot. (Marvel)
Spider-Man Newspaper Strips hardcover
Kevin: This oversized hardcover collects the first three years of The Amazing Spider-Man newspaper strip, by Stan Lee and John Romita Sr. Maybe that was back when it was good, or at least tolerable. (Marvel)
Spider-Man: The Short Halloween Premiere Hardcover
Kevin: Just in time for Halloween, Marvel rolls out a hardcover packaging that recent one-shot by Saturday Night Live cast members Bill Hader and Seth Meyers and artist Kevin Maguire with issues 4-6 of Amazing Spider-Man Family. (Marvel)
Wolverine: Old Man Logan hardcover
Kevin: Billed as "the most important Wolverine story of the 21st century," the eight-issue arc by Civil War collaborators Mark Millar and Steve McNiven lost much of its momentum due to publishing delays and a weird scheduling shuffle. So maybe a collection will make it easier to determine whether this near-future, Dark Knight Returns-inspired story is all that Marvel assures us it is. (Marvel)
Kevin: And so here we are, at the final issue of X-Factor ... under the current numbering system, in any case. After a one-month break, the series returns in November with Issue 200, a new artist (Bing Cansino) and a new direction. (Marvel)
JK: Marvel kicks off a mini-event in some of their X-titles with this one-shot this week, as the old Hellfire Club member Selene starts bringing some familiar-looking X-characters back to life to cause havoc in upcoming issues of X-Force, New Mutants and X-Men Legacy. I'm mentioning it here for two reasons: one, because I really dig the Lost Boys movie poster homage ad that Marvel's been running in some of their comics, and two, to prove I can make it through this write-up without mentioning DC's big "let's bring everyone back to life as villains" crossover, Bla ...whoops, almost had me there. (Marvel)
Boys #1 Dynamite Edition
JK: As a way to hook new readers, Dynamite is releasing a $1 version of the first issue of Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson's The Boys -- a comic they didn't have the opportunity to publish the first time around, since the book started out at Wildstorm. If you've ever been curious about the book, here's a chance to check it out on the cheap. (Dynamite)
Bob Dylan Revisited Illustrated
Chris: Here's an intriguing oddity. A bunch of Eurocomic artists translate the lyrics to some of Dylan's most classic songs to comics. Lorenzo Mattotti and Dave McKean are the only names that jump out at me, but perhaps you'll see one or two you recognize. Get it for the Dylan fan in your house. (W.W. Norton)
Che Graphic Biography
Chris: Having thoroughly covered 9/11 and its aftermath, Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon look at the live of revolutionary Che Guevera. (Hill & Wang)
Fat Freddy's Cat Omnibus
Chris: I just finished reading this over the weekend. Like the title suggests, it's a thick-volumed collection of every strip Gilbert Shelton did featuring the striped orange tabby that lives in the Furry Freak Bros. apartment. Since a lot of these strips ran as one or half-page fillers, the quality varies, but it's an entertaining enough collection, especially if you like cats. I'll try to have a more thoughtful review up sometime soon. (Knockabout)
Map of my Heart
Chris: Zine comics king John Porcellino celebrates his 20th anniversary of making comics with this hefty volume of material taken from his King-Cat series. Porcellino's works are about as minimalist as they come, yet they're always imbued with deep emotion and intelligence. This would probably be as good a place as any for newcomers to discover his work. (Drawn and Quarterly)
Secret Science Alliance
Chris: Boy howdy, did I like this book a whole lot. It's about a trio of kid scientists and how they learn that the local grown-up scientist is attempting a robbery and try to foil his plot. Author Eleanor Davis fills the pages with detail and flowcharts and diagrams. It's honestly one of the most fun reads I've had this year and I quickly passed it onto my daughter who was captivated just as quickly. I hope it sells a million copies. (Bloomsbury USA)
Tribute: Michael Jackson King of Pop
Chris: I'm sure the fact that this is coming out the exact same day the big event Michael Jackson movie is being released is just mere coincidence and was not the result of crafty planning on anyone's part. I also believe in unicorns. (Bluewater)
Key Moments from the History of Comics
Chris: This looks to be an amusing little chapbook from French cartoonist Francoise Ayroles, and published by The Beguiling (along with D&Q) of all things. It's basically a series of one-page gag panels featuring various famous cartoonists like Charles Schulz and Jack Kirby. You can get a sampling over at Chris Butcher's site. (Beguilling Books)
Check out Diamond's complete list of releases this week, then tell us what you plan to get in the comments below.