Sea of Red #1

Written by Rick Remender and Kieron Dwyer
Art by Salgood Sam
32 pages, two-color
Published by Image Comics

I’ll admit it, I was a little skeptical. Admit it, if you heard “vampire pirates” you’d raise your eyebrows too, right? It just sounded, well, a little silly. I owe Rick Remender, Kieron Dwyer, and Salgood Sam a big apology, though. Sea of Red is not only a distinctly non-silly book, it’s one of the better debuts of the year.

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Atheist #1

Written by Phil Hester
Art by John McCrea
32 pages, black and white
Published by Image Comics

Every time I turn around these days, there’s some new sort of “final days” media being released. The end of the world is a popular subject, and while the exact nature of how civilization is going to fall, one of the central ideas that pops up in most of these is the idea of the dead coming back among the living. That’s one of the main conceits of The Atheist, but Phil Hester and John McCrea’s take on the idea is just different enough that it almost immediately caught my attention.

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Process Recess: The Art of James Jean

By James Jean
224 pages, color & black and white
Published by AdHouse Books

If you’ve been to a comic book store lately, you’ve probably seen a cover by James Jean. Jean’s covers are some of the most striking in the industry, gracing books like Fables, Green Arrow, and Batgirl. When I heard that he had an art book about to be released by AdHouse Books, whose design sense is always a selling point on each and every book, I instantly knew that this book would be a winner.

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Vernacular Drawings

By Seth
208 pages, color
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

You have to be patient if you’re a fan of the cartoonist Seth. Seth’s comic Palookaville (collected into graphic novels as It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken and Clyde Fans) is published once, maybe twice a year… but it’s always clear that each issue is a labor of love. I think that’s why when Drawn & Quarterly first published Seth’s sketchbook compilation Vernacular Drawings I was so excited, and why I keep coming back to it years later—the amount of time and passion that went into each one is always apparent.

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Johnson Sketchbook Vol. 1

By Dave Johnson
56 pages, black and white
Published by Atomeka Press

Dave Johnson is an artist whose work primarily graces covers on comics like 100 Bullets and Detective Comics. Aside from his work on books like Superman: Red Son it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen him produce anything but some thoroughly striking covers. That was one of the most exciting things about The Johnson Sketchbook—seeing more pencils and inks from one of comics’s most accomplished cover artists.

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Intron Depot 4: Bullets

By Masamune Shirow
128 pages, color
Published by Seishinsha and Dark Horse

When I recently read Ghost in the Shell, I found myself more interested in Shirow’s art than his writing. Thanks to finding a copy of the fourth of Shirow’s art book series, Intron Depot, I figured this would be a chance to perhaps finally discover just what it was about Shirow’s works that people found so appealing.

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Art of Usagi Yojimbo

By Stan Sakai
200 pages, black and white, with color pages
Published by Dark Horse

One of the best comics being published at the moment is Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo. Sakai’s stories of a ronin finding his way throughout the roads and paths of Japan are engrossing, and Sakai’s able to write his scripts pretty near-perfectly every month. With all of the attention paid to Sakai’s writing, though, it’s nice to see attention being paid to his art as well. That’s exactly what we get with The Art of Usagi Yojimbo, an oversized hardcover that looks at Sakai’s creation from an artistic standpoint. As enjoyable as Dark Horse’s earlier art books in this format were (The Art of Sin City, The Art of Hellboy, The Will Eisner Sketchbook), I have to say that I think this is my favorite one yet.

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