Isaac the Pirate Vol. 1: To Exotic Lands

By Christophe Blain
96 pages, color
Published by NBM

Christophe Blain is one of those super-creators in France that very few English-speaking people have heard of. NBM seems determined to show us just what we’ve been missing, though. They’ve already published his graphic novel Speed Abater, and his work as an artist on Dungeon: Early Years is hitting stores early next year. The book I’m probably the most excited about, though, is the one that just hit stores: Isaac the Pirate.

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Buddha Vol. 1: Kapilavastu

By Osamu Tezuka
400 pages, black and white
Published by Vertical, Inc.

It’s hard to believe that just a couple of years ago, it was almost impossible to find works by Osamu Tezuka in English. Considered by many to be the father of comics in Japan, his English canon consisted primarily of Adolf and Black Jack. Now, it seems, America is finally catching up with the rest of the world. In the past five years, we’ve seen Tezuka inducted into the Eisner Awards’s Hall of Fame, and translations of Phoenix, Astro Boy, Nextworld, and Metropolis just the tip of the iceberg. Now book publisher Vertical, Inc., already publishing translations of Japanese prose novels, is publishing Tezuka’s eight-volume opus Buddha.

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Acme Novelty Date Book Vol. 1: 1986-1995

By Chris Ware
208 pages, color
Published by Drawn & Quarterly and Oog & Blik

On the surface, releasing a sketchbook seems like a vain exercise. For many comic artists, it probably is; stripped of stories and sequence, you’re left with a series of drawings that need to not just look good, but look so good that people want to buy a book of it. Drawn & Quarterly certainly seems to understand exactly who in comics deserves this treatment, first with Seth’s Vernacular Drawings collection, and now (co-published with Dutch company Oog & Blik) Chris Ware’s The Acme Novelty Date Book.

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Norm Magazine #1

By Michael Jantze
48 pages, black and white
Published by Publishing

I don’t think it’s any small coincidence that more and more comic strip artists are using the comic book market to collect their strips. There’s a real crossover in terms of audiences these days, and self-publishing isn’t the anathema in comics that it is in the book industry. More importantly, it gives the creator a real freedom they might not get with other companies, making sure it’s presented however they want it. That’s definitely the case with Michael Jantze’s The Norm, which he’s managed to make even funnier the second time through… without changing a thing.

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Giant THB 1.v.2

By Paul Pope
96 pages, black and white
Published by Horse Press

There are some things that only happen once every couple of years. Cicadas burrow out from under the ground. An ex-roommate of mine willingly decides to wash the dishes. The United States has a presidential election. And, most happily of all, Paul Pope releases a new issue of THB. And unlike the cicadas, some things are actually worth the wait.

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Union Station

Written by Ande Parks
Art by Eduardo Barreto
120 pages, black and white
Published by Oni Press

The phrase “graphic novel” is one that’s thrown around comics a lot these days. Anyone and everyone is trying to produce graphic novels—but so often the end result feels like little more than a padded-out 32-page comic that the creators or publishers merely wanted to have a spine and ISBN number. I think that’s why I instantly appreciated Ande Parks’s and Eduardo Barreto’s Union Station so much, because it never lost sight of its goal to be an actual novel.

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21 Down: The Conduit

Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Penciled by Jesus Saiz
Inked by Jimmy Palmiotti
176 pages, color
Published by WildStorm/DC Comics

It’s interesting to see how comics have shifted in the past decade. Ten years ago, comics seemed to strive to emulate Chris Claremont’s X-Men, where rambling storylines threatened to stretch into eternity with no resolutions or major developments in sight, sort of like many popular sitcoms. Now, the reverse seems to be true. We’re seeing more and more comics focusing on tighter story arcs, with small “seasons” of issues where conclusions are reached even as seeds are laid for future outings, not that unlike shows on cable networks like HBO. 21 Down from WildStorm definitely went for the latter approach, and to continue the television analogy, hopefully this is the DVD release that will help ratings for its second season.

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