Love comics? Then send yourself a Valentine this February with new editions of CRYING FREEMAN or Bendis' SAM & TWITCH, the Belle & Sebastian comics anthology, romance in the mighty Marvel mutant manner, or classic gay comics from Ignite.
28 November 2005

For everyone expecting a heartfelt "February is coming up, and here's advice on how to give your beloved special someone the gift of comics" well, forget that. If you think your boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, partner, or imaginary friend wants comics for Valentine's Day then heck, go for it. I'm not going to take the fall for why you're in big trouble because you thought THE SPIRIT ARCHIVES VOL 12 was a great gift when in reality you should've taken the hint on those new shoes that were the real object of desire.

(Speaking of which, for all of my admirers out there, gift certificates to Kenneth Cole are always appreciated. Greg needs some love, too. Especially in the form of new shoes.)

So until then, hunker down in front of the fireplace (or at least a good space heater), wish for springtime, and read about books that are planned to ship in February 2006. Unless, of course, you're in a tropical location or perhaps the Southern Hemisphere. Then go swimming at the beach, because, why are you sitting in front of a fireplace? Really, people, do I have to tell you everything?


ALICE IN WONDERLAND #1 by Rod Espinosa
DEC05 2794, p218, $3.50

I'll be honest; I'm not entirely sure why Rod Espinosa is writing and drawing an ALICE IN WONDERLAND adaptation. I'm not complaining, though. Espinosa's work on books like THE COURAGEOUS PRINCESS and NEOTOPIA is fantastic, a real breath of fresh air with its energy and likeability. If Espinosa wants to draw the Mad Hatter and March Hare, then let him draw them! It's going to be just beautiful. (I'd show you the beautiful cover myself, in fact... if Antarctic Press had put it on their website. So, um, flip to page 218 of Previews and take a look. Or maybe in a couple of months it'll finally be online for you to see.)


DEC05 2825, p224, $2.99

I don't know anyone who bought Michael Turner's FATHOM for a reason that didn't involve the lead character running around in a bathing suit, so it's nice to see that Turner's company Aspen is finally admitting as much.


HELLBOY: MAKOMA #1 by Mike Mignola and Richard Corben
DEC05 0013, p18, $2.99

I'm not really sure what to feel about this. On the one hand, it's a new HELLBOY mini-series, and the idea of Mike Mignola having Richard Corben draw the flashback sequences of Hellboy's first journey to Africa is a pretty cool idea. On the other hand, it's also the start of Mignola's move away from drawing HELLBOY, with first Corben and then, later in the year, Duncan Fegredo taking the art reins. And you know, that makes me a little sad. HELLBOY's a fun book, but it makes me wonder how much of the charm of the character has been in Mignola's art. I guess we're all about to find out.

CRYING FREEMAN VOL 1 by Kazuo Koike and Ryoichi Ikegami
DEC05 0041, p30, $14.95

Wow. I don't know how I missed the news that CRYING FREEMAN is coming back into print, but on the bright side it meant a really fantastic surprise when I turned the page and saw the solicitation staring me in the face. CRYING FREEMAN is one of those books that I've always planned on reading based strictly on its pedigree. Kazuo Koike's writing on LONE WOLF & CUB and SAMURAI EXECUTIONER entranced me, and Ryoichi Ikegami's lifelike art in SANCTUARY and MAI THE PSYCHIC GIRL is better than most published books now, some two decades later.

I actually know very little about CRYING FREEMAN itself other than it's about a master assassin who was programmed through hypnosis to kill on command despite his own wishes. Trapped in a body that doesn't obey his own desires, all he can do is cry for his victims even as he kills them. That alone makes the book intriguing, but knowing that it's Koike and Ikegami makes the allure all the stronger... especially with a 408 page first volume. (Now if Dark Horse could just bring SANCTUARY and MAI back into print, since Viz seems to have abandoned them along with CRYING FREEMAN, I'd be even happier.)


DEC05 0223, p57, $5.99

I know what you're thinking. "It's another Batman in the future story, big deal". Well, yes, it is indeed that. But it's by Paul Pope. Paul Pope! This means we're going to get slick art that almost explodes across the page, and crazy larger-than-life ideas accompanying the images. Honest, people, this should be on everyone's "buy sight unseen" list because it's just going to be that good. I can feel it. Between this and Matt Wagner's BATMAN AND THE MONSTER MEN it almost makes you wonder why DC's even publishing their regular Batman titles, because they automatically suffer in comparison.


I know this is selling like gangbusters, and I'm glad someone's enjoying it, but I honestly just can't bring myself to care. I'm not saying I dislike it, just that I've found myself extremely apathetic about the whole situation. So, um, if you're a fan... well, there's some specials and tie-ins published this month. Go to town.

KID ETERNITY TPB by Grant Morrison and Duncan Fegredo
DEC05 0327, p113, $14.95

This is an odd choice for a collection, to the point that I almost can't help but wonder if it's because DC's running out of uncollected comics written by Grant Morrison. It's a strange little mini-series painted by Duncan Fegredo, updating and darkening a forgotten comic book character.

It's ostensibly about a kid who, unable to go to the afterlife, can summon up historical figures by saying the word 'eternity'. It's actually a strange rambling story about a comedian's hang-ups, a journey into hell, and memories that can kill you. KID ETERNITY is the sort of comic where the journey is better than the destination; the ending is rushed and out of the blue and in many ways unsatisfying, but on the way there you've gotten lots of gorgeous set pieces.

Morrison and Fegredo's depiction of Hell is breathtaking, and there are snatches of language and art that a decade and a half later still remain fresh in my mind. It's both a success and a failure all wrapped up in one, and if that idea intrigues you then definitely take a look.


BILLY HAZELNUTS HC by Tony Millionaire
DEC05 2994, p268, $19.95

"SOCK MONKEY and MAAKIES creator Tony Millionaire transmutes nursery rhymes and the golem myth into a storybook about a girl scientist and her friend, Billy Hazelnuts (who was created from cooking ingredients by tailless mice). Their journey to find the missing moon while battling an evil steam-driven alligator with a seeing-eye skunk fuses the darker spirit of older fairy tales with an absurdist adventure, and gender politics. Demented and charming!"

Folks, I couldn't have written anything better than that. What are you waiting for?


JAYSON VOL 1: BEST OF THE '80S by Jeff Krell
DEC05 3086, p290, $9.95

DEC05 3087, p290, $14.95

I must admit that I'd never heard of JAYSON before reading the solicitation, but it seems that it's a long running comic that debuted in Philadelphia's gay paper back in 1983, as well as appearing in the pages of GAY COMIX and being syndicated. This is the first of two collections of strips, with BEST OF THE '90S next up out of the gate, depicting Jayson's attempts to find love in the big city (and all the disasters that await).

What I have heard of, though, is Ralf Konig's MAYBE, MAYBE NOT, which was nothing short of huge in Germany (where it was first published), spawning an enormously successful movie adaptation as well as four graphic novel sequels. It's a comedy about a straight man who might not really be straight after all, and by all reports it's hysterically funny. If these are the books that Ignite is using to launch its line (hopefully their website will go live soon to enlighten us on their future plans), then I'll be keeping my eyes open for more.


SAM & TWITCH: THE BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS COLLECTION VOL 1 TP by Brian Michael Bendis, Angel Medina, and Ashley Wood
DEC05 1752, p131, $24.95

How odd is this? Just a week ago a friend was saying that while he was a Brian Michael Bendis completist, the one exception to the rule was that he'd never picked up the first SAM & TWITCH collection that was published. I could certainly understand, since the comic had been published in colour but the collection was black and white, and no additional collections of Bendis's run on the book seemed to be forthcoming.

Now it seems that my friend's hopes are finally being met, with a full-colour collection of the first nine issues being published and (by the sounds of things) more to come down the road. Bendis fanatics, this book is for you.

DEC05 1753, p132, $19.99

This is really, really cool. Belle & Sebastian is a fantastic band from Scotland, whose songs are utterly infectious and not really like anything else out there. Not only are they musically talented, but the lyrics in Belle & Sebastian songs are always clever and intriguing, like little short stories in their own right.

Now a virtual who's who of cool people in comics are writing and drawing stories based on Belle & Sebastian songs. With folks like Laurenn McCubbin, Ande Parks, Chris Samnee, Jamie S Rich, Mark Richetts, Leann Buckley, Rick Spears, Rob G, and Andi Watson on board, I just can't help but know that this anthology will not only appeal to fans of the band, it'll also be a good independent anthology to boot. (I'm quite pleased, incidentally, to see that one of the preview pages is of 'The State I Am In', because if it hadn't been adapted I'd be wishing that I'd been able to do just that myself. Spears and G, you better do it justice!)

BOMB QUEEN #1 by Jimmie Robinson
DEC05 1754, p134, $3.50

Jimmie Robinson is the sort of creator who can handle all sorts of stories, from the gothic clockwork realm of AVIGON to the supervillain's daughters' romps of THE ADVENTURES OF EVIL & MALICE. Now he's got a new mini-series called BOMB QUEEN, and I had to chuckle at the description and preview pages. There's something just right about the idea of a city that is ruled by a super-villainness, where the citizens actually like it and don't want to be 'rescued'. Unfortunately, a hero's shown up to try and do just that.

Robinson's EVIL & MALICE showed that he can handle comics that are just sheer fun, and that's exactly what BOMB QUEEN promises to be. Two big, big thumbs up from yours truly.

GIRLS #10 by Joshua Luna and Jonathan Luna
DEC05 1770, p148, $2.99

Winner of the worst solicitation of the month goes to GIRLS #10, and I'll reprint it in its entirety:

'Are you afraid of girls?'

Well, since you asked... I am a little afraid of the naked women that are on most of the covers of this comic, and a little happy to see that for once the cover girl has clothes on. Good for her!


DAREDEVIL #82 by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark
DEC05 1984, pM17, $2.99

I have to give Marvel credit; after Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev ended their huge run on DAREDEVIL, I half expected the numbering on the book to (yet again) start over. Instead of using that gimmick to keep people's interest, they've gone a far smarter route and found a really strong creative team to follow them: Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark. The two did a great job on the crime noir SCENE OF THE CRIME mini-series, and they're a perfect match for DAREDEVIL. Marvel, you get a big stamp of approval for this.

I HEART MARVEL: MY MUTANT HEART by Daniel Way, Peter Milligan, Tim Fish, Marcos Martin, and Ken Knudtsen
DEC05 2006, pM33, $2.99

All right, I admit it... I was a little sceptical about the idea of Marvel publishing several romance comic one-shots in February for Valentine's Day. However, I have to say that I am impressed with some of the talents lined up for the books.

Sure, getting Tom Beland of TRUE STORY, SWEAR TO GOD to write the Spider-Man book is a natural. But getting Tim Fish (editor of YOUNG BOTTOMS IN LOVE and creator of gay romance series CAVALCADE OF BOYS) to write and draw a story for MY MUTANT HEART? Wow. Now I'm impressed. Fish isn't someone I would've expected to work on a mutant book, but I am dying to see the end result, because he's really darn good. And believe me, if there's someone out there who can write and draw romance comics about people who are ostracised from the rest of society, it's Fish. Way to go!


BROWNSVILLE HC by Neil Kleid and Jake Allen
DEC05 3126, p303, $18.95

I'd never heard of the Jewish Mafia group Murder Incorporated until Judd Winick's series CAPER (of which the first story arc was inspired by the same real life group), but what I've read about them since then has intrigued me. If Neil Kleid and Jake Allen can bring across even half of the interesting aspects of this group of gangsters that carved a name for themselves out of people's livelihoods in the 1930s, then this will be a winner.


GRAY HORSES by Hope Larson
DEC05 3139, $14.95, p306

Hope Larson's first graphic novel, SALAMANDER DREAM, was a beautiful, wispy graphic novel that stuck in my mind far longer than I'd originally expected. Now that she's got a second book on the horizon, I can't help but think that it's going to be just as affecting, this time telling the story of a woman who leaves home to study abroad, even as she dreams that she's a horse. I know, it sounds strange, but after SALAMANDER DREAM I'm more than willing to believe that Larson can pull it off.


THE ABANDONED VOL 1 by Ross Campbell
DEC05 3217, p326, $9.99

Ross Campbell's WET MOON VOL 1 was one of my favourite graphic novels from last year; a gorgeously intoxicating book about art school, alienation, and more strangeness than you can shake a stick at. By the time I was done reading it, Campbell had gone onto my 'buy anything by this creator' list, and now I can put that policy into action.

It's a zombie story, where everyone older than 23 dies and then comes back as a zombie to kill the young - but knowing Campbell, it's also a love story with a wonderful touch of weirdness about it. If that's not enough, TokyoPop's printing it in two colours, with the second ink being blood red. Sold.


DEC05 3369, p359, $16.99

There were a lot of rumors flying around that Viz had stopped publishing Osamu Tezuka's epic masterpiece PHOENIX after the fifth volume, and that we'd never see the rest of Tezuka's life-long creation. Well, I'm relieved to say that this doesn't seem to be the case, and that this latest volume is a whopping 424 pages to boot!

Oh, and if you haven't read it? It's a brilliant series that alternates stories set in the far past and the distant future, with each new storyline moving closer towards the present. Each story has a connection to the Phoenix, the avatar of the Earth itself. It's a highly ambitious project (Tezuka hoped to eventually have enough volumes created that the final one would have been where the two timelines collided), and the more I read of it, the more entranced I am. Either of the first two volumes (DAWN and FUTURE) is a great starting point, and since NOSTALGIA is another 'future' story, I suspect that it'll be just as easy to jump in there as well. Great stuff.

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