Playwright

Written by Daren White
Art by Eddie Campbell
144 pages, color
Published by Top Shelf Productions and Knockabout Comics

I’ve always appreciated that Eddie Campbell isn’t afraid to take on strange projects. In theory, he could have kept writing and drawn Bacchus over the years, which had a built-up audience and a reputation within comics, or stuck with his autobiographical alter ego Alec. But instead, he’s continued to pick up different oddities over the years, the latest of which is Daren White’s script about a socially awkward playwright. It doesn’t sound like something to set the pages on fire, but I figured that Campbell had agreed to it for a good reason. And, of course, he was right. For a book that should have been annoying, White and Campbell make it startlingly compelling.

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Dungeons & Dragons #0

Written by John Rogers and Alex Irvine
Art by Andrea Di Vito and Peter Bergting
24 pages, color
Published by IDW

I have a confession to make: about 25 years ago, I was a big Dungeons & Dragons geek. Played it all the time with friends, read the novels and comics, even helped maintain one of their official areas on a computer network back in the day. But 15 years ago, I fell away from it all and I haven’t come into much contact at all with the game or products since then. So when a copy of Dungeons & Dragons #0 ended up in my mailbox, well, I couldn’t help but get curious. I’d loved the comics by Jeff Grubb, Rags Morales, Dan Mishkin, Jan Duursema, and Tom Mandrake that DC had published many years ago. Could this be my new "gateway drug" back inside?

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Moving Pictures

Written by Kathryn Immonen
Art by Stuart Immonen
144 pages, black and white
Published by Top Shelf Productions

One of the things I’ve come to expect from Kathryn Immonen is that she doesn’t write stories that talk down to her readers. There’s always a lot packed into her scripts, both what’s being directly stated as well as what you have to piece together and infer for yourself. The end result is a reading experience that ends up being that much more rewarding when you hit the conclusion, and that’s something on display in her and Stuart Immonen’s new graphic novel Moving Pictures.

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Sandman Mystery Theatre Vol. 8: The Blackhawk and the Return of the Scarlet Ghost

Written by Matt Wagner and Steven T. Seagle
Penciled by Guy Davis and Matthew Smith, with Daniel Torres
Inked by Guy Davis and Richard Case, with Daniel Torres
224 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

Reading a new collection of Sandman Mystery Theatre is a guilty pleasure, but not in the way one normally uses the phrase. Having stopped buying the series during its first year due to finances, there’s a certain amount of guilt now that shows up alongside Sandman Mystery Theatre, that nagging thought that once I had a little more money I really should’ve started reading the series again. Still, when all is said and done, it’s not a bad thing to read it now via collections. If anything, I think some of the slight flaws in the book are better mitigated when read in a large chunk.

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House of Five Leaves Vol. 1

By Natsume Ono
208 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

With House of Five Leaves Vol. 1, another one of the SIGIKKI website’s online strips is making the jump to a print edition. As it’s by Natsume Ono (not simple, Ristorante Paradiso), I knew it wouldn’t be your typical samurai story. What I found, though, was a nice play on the genre where no one is quite what they seem, and I think it’s probably the best of Ono’s works brought into English to date.

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Unsinkable Walker Bean

By Aaron Renier
208 pages, color
Published by First Second Books

Aaron Renier’s debut graphic novel, Spiral-Bound (Top Secret Summer), was a strong splash by the cartoonist; I remember being almost instantly impressed at how strong he was able to convey a sense of adventure and fun into both his script an art. It’s been a long time coming, but his new book The Unsinkable Walker Bean is here. The end result? It’s a book with so many different ideas and concepts that it feels like Renier almost doesn’t have room for them all.

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Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip Vol. 5

Written by Lars Jansson
Art by Tove Jansson
88 pages, black and white
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

I picked up the first volume of Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip solely due to a friend of mine (also named Greg), who grew up reading Tove Jansson’s Moomin books and had utterly fallen in love with them. His descriptions over the years had intrigued me, with promises of whimsy and silliness mixed in with satire and cleverness. That’s exactly what I found in these collections of comic strips drawn for London’s The Evening News. The fourth volume, however, was the first to feature some strips written by Tove Jansson’s brother Lars Jansson, and this fifth volume published the final collaborations between Tove and Lars before Tove quit the strip entirely. This book, then, was a test. Would Lars be able to grow into the strip enough to make me want to read it once Tove was gone?

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Three #1

By Eric Orner, Joey Alison Sayers, and Robert Kirby
32 pages, color
Published by Rob Kirby Comics

Long-time readers will know I’m a fan of a good comics anthology. It doesn’t have to be overly long; Greg Means’s Papercutter, after all, proves on a regular basis that you can have a three-story collection and still end up strong. I was fairly psyched, as a result, to find the debut issue of Robert Kirby’s new anthology Three waiting for me in my mailbox recently. Based on this initial line-up of creators, I think there’s finally another regular anthology comic for me to look forward to.

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RASL #8

By Jeff Smith
24 pages, black and white
Published by Cartoon Books

RASL is one of those titles where I have no choice, mentally, but to "double-dip." I buy each issue as it’s published, and then once the collections show up they end up heading onto my bookshelf and the individual issues of RASL get passed along to other readers. It’s partially because a new Jeff Smith series is too exciting to pass up, but more than that, I stick with the individual issues because I think Smith’s one of those creators who understands simultaneously how to write for both a collected edition as well as the individual issue.

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Northlanders #30

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Ricardo Burchielli
32 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

Brian Wood and Ricardo Burchielli are known for working together on their series DMZ, also published by Vertigo. So when I heard that Burchielli had come on board to draw a story arc for Wood’s series Northlanders, I was intrigued. Ancient Viking settlements are about as far from a war-torn wasteland of Manhattan, but at the end of the day there’s no need to worry. This ends up being an entertaining first chapter in the latest Northlanders storyline.

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