House of Mystery Halloween Annual #1

Written by Mark Buckingham, Peter Milligan, Chris Roberson, Matthew Sturges, Matt Wagner, Bill Willingham
Penciled by Michael Allred, Mark Buckingham, Giuseppi Camuncoli, Amy Reeder Hadley, Luca Rossi
Inked by Michael Allred, Stefano Landini, Jose Marzan Jr., Kevin Nowlan, Richard Friend
48 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

Years ago, Vertigo published an annual collection of short stories connected to comics in their line, titled Winter’s Edge. With the House of Mystery Halloween Annual, it looks like that tradition might be coming back to life. It’s a strange mixed bag this time; a framing story set in House of Mystery, but otherwise a mixture of stories about existing series, previewing a new series, and a flashback to a series that’s long gone. In some ways, it’s the quintessential Vertigo experience.

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Far Arden

By Kevin Cannon
384 pages, black and white
Published by Top Shelf Productions

Do you ever feel like you’ve been faked out by a book’s presentation? I certainly did with Kevin Cannon’s Far Arden. Somehow along the way I’d mistakenly got the impression that Far Arden was a light-hearted, full-of-fun, slightly-silly adventure story. To be fair, there are certainly vast portions of the book that qualify with that description. But as the hunt for the mythical Arctic paradise of Far Arden develops, it’s only a matter of time before you start realizing that this book is definitely not all laughs and giggles.

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Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators

By Moyoko Anno, Aurélia Aurita, Frédéric Boilet, Étienne Davodeau, Nicolas de Crécy, Emmanuel Guibert, Kazuichi Hanawa, Daisuke Igarashi, Little Fish, Taiyo Matsumoto, Fabrice Neaud, Benoît Peeters, David Prudhomme, François Schuiten, Joann Sfar, Kan Takahama, Jiro Taniguchi
256 pages, black and white
Published by Fanfare/Ponent Mon

I was delighted to recently pick up a copy of Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators; published several years ago, I’d heard nothing but praise for this collection of short stories by both Japanese and European comic creators, each set in a different location within Japan. It’s an ambitious, far-reaching project, with half of the creators flying over to Japan in order to learn about their assigned spot and then trying to convey its charms to the reader. What I found, though, was that some creators who I’d expected great things from didn’t quite hit the mark, while others surprised me with their strong contributions.

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West Coast Blues

Adapted by Jacques Tardi
From the novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette
80 pages, black and white
Published by Fantagraphics

Until now, my only exposure to Jacques Tardi was the reprinting of some of his It Was the War of the Trenches stories in the pages of Drawn & Quarterly volume 2. It’s been fifteen years and those stories have still stuck with me, so when I heard about Fantagraphics’s plans to publish a line of Tardi’s books in English, I was pretty excited about the prospect. The first of Fantagraphics’s new Tardi reprints is West Coast Blues, a crime noir story adapted from a novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette. It’s a smart choice to lead the line. West Coast Blues is just the right mixture of action, suspense, and surprise to keep just about any reader’s attention.

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X-Men: Misfits Vol. 1

Written by Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman
Drawn by Anzu
192 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

X-Men: Misfits is the second of two manga-influenced comics from Del Rey that feature characters licensed from Marvel. The first, Wolverine: Prodigal Son felt squarely aimed at boys and influenced by shonen comics, with Wolverine going through tests of skill and becoming a master of martial arts even while he’s unable to fight the battles of friendship. X-Men: Misfits, then, is more of a shojo comic and aiming towards female readers. With Kitty Pryde being the only female student at Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, she’s the belle of the ball even while she is torn between two different camps of boys. Sounds an awful lot like all sorts of shojo comics out there to me.

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What a Wonderful World! Vol. 1

By Inio Asano
208 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

When I read Inio Asano’s Solanin at the start of the year, I remember hoping that more of Asano’s works would be translated into English; Solanin had just the right mixture of angst, aimlessness, and growing up all wrapped up in its emotional core. Clearly I wasn’t the only person wanting to see more comics by Asano; Viz is now publishing one of his earlier works, the two-volume What a Wonderful World! collection of short stories. Both volumes hit stores this week, but I was lucky enough to dip into the first half early, and it’s a joy getting to read more Asano and his stories about people whose lives are on the brink of crisis.

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Festering Romance

By Renee Lott
184 pages, black and white
Published by Oni Press

I almost feel bad in saying this, but at times Festering Romance didn’t feel like a graphic novel, but rather an illustrated movie pitch. Renee Lott’s graphic novel has it all built in; a small cast, a simple setting, and a strong core idea involving a potential romantic relationship being hindered by each of them hiding the ghost in their lives. And you know something? I think Festering Romance would have the potential to make a ton of money at the box office, with "hit" written all over it.

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By Aron Nels Steinke
160 pages, black and white
Published by Sparkplug Comic Books and Tugboat Press

Sometimes all it takes to attract a reader is an attractive cover. Aron Nels Steinke’s Neptune is the sort of book whose cover promises exactly what it delivers on the inside. It’s a simple illustration style with a surprising amount of detail the more you look at it, and with the promise of fun. There’s an innocence about the cover too, and I think that’s the best way to describe the experience of reading Neptune. I’ve enjoyed Steinke’s short stories in Papercutter up until now, but now that I’ve read an extended story by him I want to see more.

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