This week sees the return of Strange, the Punisher, Doc Savage and Casper

This week brings a whole slew of first issues and new graphic novels to comic shops on Wednesday.

Marvel alone has six new series kicking off this week: PunisherMAX, Dark X-Men, S.W.O.R.D., Strange, Sky Doll: Doll Factory and Realm of Kings: Imperial Guard. DC, meanwhile, launches a whole new world with the Batman/Doc Savage Special, catches folks up on the Authority's "lost year" with the Authority Lost Year Reader and brings the Modern Warfare video game franchise to comics. There's also Tracker from Top Cow, a new Casper series from Ardden Entertainment, Ghoul and a new Locke & Key series from IDW, a new WALL-E series from BOOM! (which is technically a "zero" issue) and Supergod from Avatar.

And if you're looking for something a bit longer and more self-contained, there's Beast from Image, an Absolute Justice collection from DC, the Luna Park OGN from Vertigo, the Steve Ditko Archives from Fantagraphics and many, many others ... it's a pretty big week at your local comic shop.

To see what Chris, Kevin and I have to say about this week's comics, keep reading ...


Chris Mautner's pick of the week: Pim & Francie In Golden Days hardcover

Hopefully you've all been reading Sean's and my posts on Al Columbia, so I don't have to go into great detail as to who Columbia is or why I'm making this my pick of the week. Suffice it to say he's one of the most talented and sporadic people working in comics today, and has mined the horror vein to great effect. This isn't a collection of his work up till now, however, but more a collection of what "might have been" -- it's uncompleted stories and art featuring Columbia's two naif-child characters, forever hurtling into one dangerous situation after another but never reaching any conclusion. It's probably worth noting that a good deal of the pages are torn or pasted back together, the victims, no doubt, of Columbia's perfectionism. It's the sort of thing that will frustrate some, but it does offer an elliptical, sideways path into Columbia's world, which perhaps makes the journey all that more frightening. (Fantagraphics)

Kevin Melrose's pick of the week: Luna Park hardcover

I'm a little perplexed as to why Vertigo didn't package this graphic novel with its recently launched crime "sub-imprint." After all, it's a crime story, written by bestselling author Kevin Baker (Dreamland, Paradise Alley), illustrated by acclaimed artist Danijel Zezelj (Desolation Jones, Loveless) and colored by the masterful Dave Stewart. Luna Park would seem like an ideal shelf mate for Brian Azzarello and Victor Santos' Filthy Rich and Ian Rankin and Werther Dell'Edera's Dark Entries. But what do I know?

Well, I know that, like Baker's Dreamland, Luna Park is set in Coney Island, where a Russian soldier-turned-Brooklyn mob enforcer hatches a desperate plot with his prostitute/fortune teller girlfriend in hopes of escaping their miserable lives. Baker, who's celebrated for his well-researched historical fiction, brings that knack to Luna Park, which apparently moves from modern-day Brooklyn to late-'90s Russia to early-20th century New York. That, combined with the creative team, is more than enough to make Luna Park my pick of the week. (DC/Vertigo)

JK Parkin's pick of the week: S.W.O.R.D. #1

The Marvel universe's Sentient World Observation and Response Department, a.k.a. S.W.O.R.D., gets its own title this week courtesy of writer Kieron Gillen and artist Steven Sanders. The book stars Agent Brand, the green-haired secret agent who debuted in Astonishing X-Men and was featured prominently in Secret Invasion, along with her boyfriend, The Beast, former pet sidekick Lockheed the dragon and longtime thorn-in-the-Avengers-side Henry Gyrich. Gillen says this book "exists absolutely at the boundary between Earth and Space," as the crew deals with extraterrestrials living on Earth and those who decide to visit.

The draw here for me isn't so much the characters -- although the tenuous relationship Gyrich and the Beast shared back in the day should offer some fun moments -- it's the creative team. Gillen has delighted with his take on Beta Ray Bill and of course with his creator-owned Phonogram, while Sanders drew the awesome Five Fists of Science written by Matt Fraction a few years back. This looks and sounds like fun.

Insomnia Cafe

JK: Air artist M. K. Perker makes his American feature-length writer-artist debut in this original graphic novel from Dark Horse, about a rare books auctioneer who discovers a library of unwritten volumes. (Dark Horse)

Authority The Lost Year Reader

JK: Once upon a time, Grant Morrison and Gene Ha were set to take the Authority into a bold, new direction ... but the comic fizzled out and didn't make it past issue #2. Now Wildstorm is reprinting those two issues for $3, just in time for Keith Giffen and a variety of artists to complete Morrison and Ha's story. (DC/Wildstorm)

Batman/Doc Savage Special

JK: Doc Savage returns to comics in a one-shot that kicks off DC's pulp-influenced universe, which will be populated by unpowered folks like Savage, The Spirit, the Blackhawks, Rima the Jungle Girl, Batman and more. Here's a preview. (DC Comics)

Batman & Robin #6

JK: CBR ran a preview of this one yesterday, featuring the debut of a new villain called The Flamingo. He looks a lot scarier in the preview than he initially sounded. (DC Comics)

Superman: Red Son Deluxe Edition hardcover

Kevin: The well-regarded 2003 Elseworlds miniseries, by Mark Millar, Dave Johnson and Killian Plunkett, is at last collected in a hardcover format. (DC Comics)

Beast graphic novel

JK: Marian Churchland, who drew a recent arc of Richard Starkings' Elephantman comic and a Conan story for Dark Horse Presents, shows off both her writing and artistic chops with this original graphic novel about a sculptor working a project for a mysterious shadowy figure named Beast. I actually own a copy of this, having bought it from Churchland at APE, but a friend took it home with them shortly after that and I haven't gotten to read it yet. They speak highly of it, and I'm guessing they aren't giving it back easily. (Image)

Dark X-Men #1 (of 5)

JK: Spinning out of the Utopia event that saw Norman Osborn create his own version of the X-Men comes this miniseries by the Captain Britain and MI13 team of Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk ... which is all I need to know. (Marvel)

PunisherMAX #1

Kevin: The mature-readers series relaunches, with a short title and a new creative team in the form of Jason Aaron (Scalped, Ghost Rider) and Steve Dillon (The Punisher, Preacher). The new monthly kicks off with a story -- "the biggest story in MAX history," we're told -- that introduces Wilson Fisk into the imprint's universe. (Marvel)

Strange #1 (of 4)

Kevin: Poor Stephen Strange. With rare exception -- the 2006-2007 miniseries The Oath, for example -- he's been woefully mistreated for several years now. If he wasn't being depicted as a convenient deus ex machina and explainer of convoluted plots, then he was shown as detached and uncaring (or worse, inept). As if all of that weren't bad enough, he surrendered the title, and responsibilities, of Sorcerer Supreme. That brings him, and us, to Strange, a four-issue miniseries by Mark Waid and Emma Rios.

No longer burdened by his weighty cosmic responsibilities, Strange, in Waid's words, has been on "a mystical walkabout," allowing time for reflection. Now he's back, with a stubborn young mentor in tow, even if he's no longer Sorcerer Supreme. With his powers, and access to tools of the trade, limited, a more "human" Strange will have to rely more on his wits and less on elaborate incantations (and grand pronouncements) to protect himself and his feisty sidekick. It may be a nice change for Doctor Strange, and his fans. Comic Book Resources has a preview. (Marvel)

Casper and the Spectrals #1

Kevin: I nearly wrote off this stab at updating Casper, Wendy and Hot Stuff -- "an all-new take on the world's most famous ghost and his two friends" -- but it's written by Todd Dezago of Tellos and Perhapanauts fame. And the interior art, by Pedro Delgado, is decent. I'm not big on the new designs for Wendy and Hot Stuff, though. You can see a preview here. (Ardden Entertainment)

Comic Book Comics #4

Chris: I've been enjoying Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey's ongoing history of the industry. This latest issue covers the turbulent 60s, with a focus on the Marvel era and the undergrounds. (Evil Twin Comics)

The EC Archives: Shock Suspenstories Volume 1 and 2

Chris:I can't imagine any EC fan desperate enough to fork over $300 for leather-bound editions of Shock SuspenStories, but I suppose such a person must exist. I would like to imagine that person writing a blank check to me on a frequent basis. (Gemstone Publishing)

Female Force #9: Stephenie Meyer

Kevin: Bluewater Productions cashes in on the Twilight craze with a biography of the series' author. It's a comic that likely will only appeal to the die-hard fans, which should be more than enough to ensure brisk sales. (Bluewater Productions)

The Ghoul #1

Kevin: Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson reteam for this story about a Los Angeles police detective who, while investigating an unusual Hollywood mystery, receive a monstrous hand from The Ghoul, an investigator of weird crimes. This issue also includes a prose story by Niles. Comic Book Resources has a preview. (IDW Publishing)

Hot Potatoe hardcover

Chris:The ever-eccentric Marc Bell offers an attractively packaged collection of comics, art and other stuff made over the past ten years. Bell is easily one of the most idiosyncratic artists working in comics today and his style can take a bit of work to ease into (you have to have an appreciation for oddball whimsy for one thing) but it's an effort worth making. (Drawn and Quarterly)

Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows #1

Kevin: Bestselling author Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez return for a third installment in their critically acclaimed horror series. You can see a preview here. (IDW Publishing)

Nylon Road: A Graphic Memoir of Coming of Age in Iran

Chris:I know nothing about this book -- it certainly wins the "out of left field" award for the week -- but the subject matter, plus the striking cover, certainly make me curious. I can't imagine it's as good as Persepolis -- indeed a bit of coattail riding may be involved -- but I'd certainly be willing to give it look-see. (St. Martin's Griffin)

Peanuts 60th Anniversary Book

Chris: Egad, has it been that many years already? In honor of the upcoming anniversary, here's a big, fat treasury of Peanuts comics from Andrews McMeel, complete with commentary by Schulz, memorabilia and more. Perfect for the Peanuts fan who doesn't want to buy the Complete series. You cheapskate you. (Andrews McMeel)

Selfish Mr. Mermaid Vol. 2

Chris: Those are the worst kinds of mermaids. (Yaoi)

Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives (Vol. 1)

Chris: Some of Steve Ditko's earliest, pre-code work, mostly done for Charlton is collected in this chunky volume, edited by Blake Bell, who wrote the Ditko biography/analysis Strange and Stranger. Gruesome stuff for the most part, but you can see the artist trying to forge his way through. Definitely a must for anyone who calls themselves a Ditko fan. (Fantagraphics)

Supergod #1 (of 5)

Kevin: Warren Ellis describes this miniseries as the third part of a thematic trilogy that began with Black Summer and No Hero. Supergod continues his examination of superheroes, this time from the perspective of a superhuman who's no longer ... human. With artist Garrie Gaston, Ellis envisions a super-powered arms race in which one of the weapons gets loose. Mad science, destruction, not-so-heroic superheroes -- it all sounds very Ellis. (Avatar Press)


JK: The little robot who could returns for more Earth-cleaning adventures set before the 2008 movie, written by J. Torres. He talks about the book here. (BOOM! Studios)

The Year of Loving Dangerously

Chris: Editorial cartoonist and gadfly Ted Rall talks about his early years of bitter struggle with Pablo Callejo providing the art. If you tend to like Rall's text pieces but can't stand his art, then this might fit your bill. If you can't stand Rall, regardless of prose or comics, then this isn't going to help matters any. (NBM)

To see everything on Diamond's weekly shipping list, click here, then let us know what you're getting tomorrow in the comments field below.

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