Pat the Zombie

Written by Aaron Ximm
Art by Kaven Soofi
16 pages, color
Published by Ten Speed Press

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of extremely strange and silly books show up at my doorstep. One of the most memorable ones in that regard, though, has got to be the upcoming spoof children’s book Pat the Zombie. A tongue-in-cheek version of the classic Pat the Bunny (in which very young readers get to pat a fluffy bunny and in many others ways interact with pages), this takes everyone’s favorite mashup subject, zombies, and sets them loose on the hapless reader.

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Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga Deluxe Edition

Written by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen
Penciled by Keith Giffen, Pat Broderick, Carmine Infantino, and Howard Bender
Inked by Larry Mahlstedt, Bruce Patterson, and Dave Hunt
416 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

When friends got me hooked on the Legion of Super-Heroes back in the early ’90s with Keith Giffen, Tom and Mary Bierbaum, and Al Gordon’s infamous "Five Years Later" run, I eventually started moving backwards through the team’s history, reading all of the previous Legion of Super-Heroes comic that began in 1984. I never went any further back at that time, though, and in doing so I missed what remains one of the most well-known stories involving the characters: The Great Darkness Saga. With the softcover collection having gone out of print years ago, this new deluxe hardcover seemed to be a perfect time to see if it still holds up to all the praise heaped on it over the years.

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Cross Game Vol. 1-2

By Mitsuru Adachi
576 pages (v1) & 376 pages (v2), black and white
Published by Viz

First, a quick point that I need to bring up: I’m not a fan of baseball. Watching it on the television just does nothing for me, and while I have a good time at the occasional trip to the ballpark with friends, it has to do with the experience (and getting a chili cheese dog and a beer) rather than the game itself. I mention this not because I think it’s any sort of superior viewpoint (I’m actually a little envious of my friends who love it), but because you need to know that before I tell you the next fact. Cross Game, Mitsuru Adachi’s comic about high school students playing baseball, is now probably one of my favorite manga series of all time.

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Tintin and the Broken Ear

By Hergé
64 pages, color
Published by Little, Brown

I promised myself late last year, after reading Charles Burns’s X’ed Out, that I would make 2011 the year that I finally sat down and read the collection of Tintin albums that I got for a steal back in the day, but had never actually gotten around to starting. It’s a rather obvious omission in my comic reading vocabulary (despite growing up reading a friend’s Asterix books, but never trying the Tintin books sitting right next to them), and it’s been an interesting process going through them in order. With Tintin and the Broken Ear, the sixth book from Hergé, I’m happy to say that I feel like I’ve finally gotten far enough in that I can see what all the fuss is about.

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Complete Ouija Interviews

By Sarah Becan
192 pages, sepia-toned
Published by Shortpants Press

I think all you have to do is say the words, "Ouija Board" to get a strong reaction out of anyone. Love them, hate them, believe in them, scoff them, there’s always an opinion just waiting around the corner. Sarah Becan over the years created four mini-comics that illustrate sessions she was part of using a Ouija Board, and thanks to a grant from the Xeric Foundation, collected them all into a sharp looking little book last year.

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By Sarah Oleksyk
224 pages, black and white
Published by Oni Press

I’ve become a convert to Sarah Oleksyk. Her story in Papercutter #4 was a stand-out in an already-strong comic, and likewise her contribution to I Saw You… was one of the stories worth seeking out. So with all that in mind, her first graphic novel Ivy was a must-read. I’d seen some early chapters in mini-comic form, but it had been long enough that in many ways this was a new experience. And by the time I was done, I couldn’t help but feel that Oleksyk had made a book that should have turned me off, but instead kept pulling me in.

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Flash #9

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Francis Manapul
32 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

One of the things I’ve been quietly impressed with, over the past few years, was how Geoff Johns uses one of his regular titles to slowly lead into a big event. The most recent was, of course, Green Lantern bringing us toward Blackest Night, but the comic just as easily did so a couple of years earlier with The Sinestro Corps War, or for that matter Action Comics kicking off Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds. In the case of The Flash, we’ve been told by editorial ever since the new series began that it’s going to bring us into Flashpoint, this year’s big mini-series. And so far? Well, regardless of how Flashpoint turns out, this is an entertaining way to get there.

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Batman Annuals: Volume One

Written by Bill Finger, Edmond Hamilton, David Vern Reed, and France Herron
Penciled by Dick Sprang, Sheldon Moldoff, and Lew Sayre Schwartz
Inked by Stan Kaye and Charles Paris
264 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

There’s something disarmingly charming about the general silliness of Batman comics from the 1960s. I’ve often joked that some of the comics from that time period are clearly pointing towards illegal drugs in the water coolers, but the fact of the matter is that for whatever reason, no one seemed to be taking themselves too seriously. In many ways, the culmination of this is in the early Batman Annuals, reprinting each year some of the stranger, and crazier stories from earlier times.

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Bakuman Vol. 3

Written by Tsugumi Ohba
Art by Takeshi Obata
200 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

When I first started reading Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s Bakuman last year, I was almost instantly intrigued by the glimpse into the manga publishing world, and getting a look into the mechanics of pitching to and being published by the big leagues. Through the eyes of two high school students, Ohba and Obata looked to be making a fictionalized version of, "How the publishing industry works." As Bakuman has progressed, though, what we’re starting to get now is something even more interesting—most notably a question of what happens when you try and become more "commercial" in your comic-creating.

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Toys in the Basement

By Stéphane Blanquet
32 pages, color
Published by Fantagraphics Books

There are books out there that, no matter who you are, as soon as you read it you’re going to have the exact same mental description in your head. It’s impossible to not refer to it that way the second the phrase pops into your head, and the more you talk to other people, the more you realize that it’s perfect because everyone can’t help but feel the same way about it. I am pretty sure that Stéphane Blanquet’s Toys in the Basement is one of those books, and the phrase that everyone’s going to find themselves using is, "A deranged Toy Story." Which is, I shall quickly add, a complement.

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