Ok. I’m back and so I’ll have a quick look at some of the stuff that’s been released in the last few weeks and then get back to a fuller review.

First up is Bat-Man: Hong Kong by Doug Moench and Tony Wong. This is a companion piece to the earlier manga tale by Kia Asayama in its style and genre. Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea have had their own version of manga for a long time now and tends to be mostly in color as opposed to B/W in Japan. Stormriders is another example as is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The Bat-Man tale is stylish and colorful but Tony Wong seems a little uneasy with catering to an American market. Published by DC Comics in H/B priced £18.95

One of the things I’m looking forward to in ROTK are the battle scenes. If there’s one thing film should do properly and rarely does is depict war accurately. The battle scenes at Helms Deep were brilliantly done and the preview of ROTK gives a brief computer look at the enemy battalions lining up at the Pelennor Fields. Should be worth an Oscar alone for Weta again.

Artesia Afield is the latest and second volume in Mark Smylies’ story of a Bodeccia like protagonist and her war. It’s a sword and sorcery (as opposed to sword and fantasy) tale that takes most of its look from the Renaissance period of Europe. The armor and weaponry look good, feel real and authentic as do the battle scenes and politics of the time. Artesia is a strong-willed, independent woman who knows to what end her path will come to and is not afraid. She does what she does for the greater glory, her love for her fellow kinsmen and land and her gods.

Mark Smylies’ art is lush and the colors have a nicely washed-out feel. His style does still have a raw feel to it now and then, especially with the faces that can jar with rest but on the whole it’s comparable to most European comic artists.

Artesia Afield is available from Archaia Studios Press; in soft back priced £17.99

Ripple: A Predilection for Tina is difficult. It was difficult for the artist/writer Dave Cooper and it’s difficult for me to review it. Some graphics you have to keep your own view about.

Ripple: A Predilection for Tina is published Fantagraphics priced £10.50

Olivia De Beradinis is one of my favorite artists. Her style is cheesecake and you’ve probably seen it in quite a few places but her latest volume American Geisha shows a maturity not seen before. Her models still remain semi-naked but the format and colors have a more toned down and somber feel. Gone is a lot of the glossiness of her earlier work and its all the better for it. A lot of the pieces have a more `40’s,`50’s feel to them ( though strangely not the ones with Bettie Page)and the use of color and art as background is more easier on the eye than the stark white she used to utilize. I’ve tried to sell my body (or Kats) for medical research or other purposes to be able to afford one of her pieces, even a small one. But no luck so far, ah well.

American Geisha is available from Ozone Productions priced £34.99 (signed edition).

Dork: Circling the Drain is the latest batch of reprints from Evan Dorkin. Truth be told its not as funny as his other work but this explained by himself in the story “What Does It look Like I’m Doing”, where he relates his breakdown. Still, mustn’t grumble. His work is miles beyond anything we have that passes itself off for pop culture humor. He’s just as cutting about modern trends as ever and his pastiche of Kong as Mighty Karl Jung is hilarious. He’s even self-deprecating over the fact that he announced the collected Lords of Elltingville two years ago.

Circling the Drain is available from SLG priced £9.99

Last and definitely not least is Quimby the Mouse by Chris Ware. This oversized book is absolutely gorgeous and a real labor of love. Chris Ware won the Guardian book prize a couple of years ago with Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Boy in the World (and caused consternation amongst the bookshops who didn’t know how to promote or sell it) and Quimby is a collection of the strips from Acme Novelty Library including the first appearances of Jimmy. Quimby himself is a wordless Disneyesque mouse whose life and problems are related in a number of panels, small and large. Some of the gags are incredible, showing detail few illustrators put into their work. One page has Quimby in a 1920 animation style complete with scratches and dirt. The layouts and schematic blueprints create a puzzling confusion to some of the strips but this all adds to the effect of reading something special. Even the cover has the effect of stopping you in your tracks if it was on a shelf in a bookshop and going “Whoa! What is that?”

Highly recommended.

Available from Fantagraphics priced £17.99

All the above books should be available from your local comic-book shop. If they’re not, ditch the shop and find a better one. Kinda hard down here in MK where the owner of the comic shop that calls itself one told me that in his opinion comics were dead (the way he sells them,yeah, they are).

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