• The New Deadwardians. Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard. Vertigo. 176 pages. $14.99.
My first impression of the initial issue of this series was that it was yet another fable starring the ubiquitous undead, this time set in Edwardian England. Now collected, though, the tale is revealed as a brilliant mash-up of politics, magic, sex and more, with vampires and flesh-eating zombies as its conceit. Culbard’s art is smart, taut and visceral. Sure, there are tiny holes in Abnett’s plot (how does a male vampire successfully complete coitus with a live female?), but despite the requisite suspension of disbelief, this clever contemporary story definitely does not suck.
• Hawkeye. Matt Fraction and David Aja. Marvel Comics. 24 pages. $2.99 (monthly).
Marvel’s version of Green Arrow has been kicking around its universe for many decades and in sundry incarnations (he started as a villain). With an elevated profile from Jeremy Renner’s portrayal in the Avengers movie, a new comics series was a no-brainer. But instead of cosmic superheroics, this new skein features ground-level action by writer Fraction (real name Matt Fritchman), fresh off a staggering run on Iron Man, as good as any comics writing ever. Aja’s art and Matt Hollingsworth’s subtle color palette complete the mix, with designerly but highly dynamic storytelling. The result is the best reimagining of a second-string Marvel character since Frank Miller’s Daredevil.
• Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 2. Michael Kupperman. Fantagraphics Books. 144 pages. $24.99
Kupperman’s virtual bromance with his immortal and randy conception of Mark Twain continues center-stage, along with the stock players from the previous Thrizzled collection — and a few new characters. Humor and profundity collide and embrace once again, as his straight-faced retro art illuminates the never-ending, laugh-out-loud absurdity.
• Comics About Cartoonists: Stories About the World’s Oddest Profession. Edited and designed by Craig Yoe. Yoe Books/IDW. 230 pages. $39.99.
Sitting for hours at a drawing board or typewriter produces a fair amount of imaginative introspection and fantastic extrapolation. Putting these musings on paper and publishing them was the next logical step. This collection, curated by the amazing Yoe, includes some terrific lost classics by Kirby, Wood, Bushmiller, Wolverton, Caniff and a host of other greats (and a few lesser lights.) With artists’ and writers’ autobiographical origins, twist-ending horror stories, alien invasions and more, it’s a hilarious and historical volume. The reproduction is impeccable as well.
• Beta Testing The Apocalypse. Tom Kaczynski. Fantagraphics Books. 136 pages. $19.99.
His functional and utilitarian art is often reminiscent of the insanely proper illustrations in Jack Chick’s religious tracts, but Kaczynski’s own wildly anarchic imagination fuels his insightful and unsettling narrative. He combines socioeconomic fact, fantasy and farce in this seriously paranoid criticism of modernity, and the result is a disturbing but hilarious tale of identity loss and consumerism run amok.
• Peanut. Ayun Halliday and Paul Hoppe. Schwartz & Wade. 216 pages. $15.99.
High school is the perfect setting for a graphic story, which is why it has been successfully employed in so many strips. Teen angst, conflict, love, nascent yearnings — Peanut has everything you need for humor, drama and conflict. But this story, starring a bright but needy girl who fakes a medical condition, is full of heart, absent the usual sappy sentimentality. Though aimed at teens, it’s a terrific all-ages effort. Halliday’s bittersweet script is expertly illuminated by Hoppe, whose savvy camera angles and naturalistic layouts add inestimably to the experience.
• Tank Girl: Carioca. Alan Martin and Mike McMahon. Titan Books. 136 pages. $19.95.
Probably the last thing musical Gorillaz co-conspirator Jamie Hewlett wants to do is return to his hoary co-creation, Tank Girl, but writer Martin was game, so here we are with half the team, joined by an erstwhile Judge Dredd artist, the formidable McMahon. Tank Girl goes through her usual foul-mouthed paces accompanied by her mutant kangaroo boyfriend in a discursive revenge story involving a jerky TV host who impugns the pair’s putative integrity. It’s a game effort, but one that’s strictly for the fans.
Richard Pachter is a writer in Boca Raton.