I owe you an apology. It’s been too long, but I promise, I have been reading comic books.
1. Will Eisner’s The Spirit: The New Adventures, which is in no way by Will Eisner, has had a new printing from Dark Horse. It is half the price of the original printing, on better paper, at slightly larger trim size and now includes a never-before published story by a very interesting Australian writer/artist I’d never heard of in addition to the rare Alan Moore-Dave Gibbons/Neil Gaiman-Eddie Campbell/Kurt Busiek/Paul Pope/etc stories that made up the original volume and if that’s not a deal I’d like you to tell me what is.
2. Karnak is back! I have missed this book and while I’m terribly sorry this will be the final Gerardo Zaffino issue – I can see very clearly why they hired him, his work on here is astonishing – it’ll be nice to get closer to something approximating a regular publishing schedule. Speaking of which:
3. Miracleman appears to have been pushed back. Again. I’d be less upset about this but TWENTY YEARS. It’s a long time to wait. They’re renumbering the book for each of the Gaiman arcs, so the next issue is to be The Silver Age #1 and then presumably The Dark Age #1 and so on. The full collection of the first Gaiman story is out; it’s wonderful and has a great Mark Buckingham collage cover of the kind he did in imitation of Dave McKean the first time around and then with a bit more authority on the reprints. It’s lovely and finally has the backup stories that lead into the next sequence in it, which the editors left out of the collection the first time around. It’s just a brilliant thing to have in my hand and it makes me all the more anxious to have the rest of the story before, I don’t know, a meteor strike the Marvel offices or something awful happens to Neil Gaiman. I realize how weirdly selfish that sounds but there are artists, Gaiman among them, who have unfinished work I’m very partial to and with which I’m happy for them to take as long as they want with the the sole caveat that they not die first. It feels like a good compromise; Stephen King said people relievedly walked up to him after his car accident and told him they were glad he’d survived which, if memory serves, King said “beats the hell out of ‘why aren’t you dead yet.’” He was in the middle of The Dark Tower at the time, into which he incorporated said car accident, incidentally.
4. Dan Clowes has finished his masterpiece Patience and I got to read it early and hang out with him for a feature on same which I have to say was a strong exception to the Never Meet Your Heroes rule. Eightball, Clowes’s crazy, id-driven humor anthology comic that read (and still reads) a little like what would happen if Mad and Zap had a baby, imprinted on me like a newly-hatched chicken when I was a teenager. Patience is his crazy, id-driven scifi comic; he’s gotten a lot less discursive with age and so his new book doesn’t have that funny character who intemperately hectors the reader but it does feel just as strangely personal as anything in the Clowes canon. I can’t say enough good things about the art; it’s just staggeringly beautiful, with these huge two-page spreads of the hero traveling through time. His work always sort of dares you to analyze it, but it’s very hard. His narrator’s self-image is such a typically heavy presence in the world that it often overwhelms the reader’s ability to figure out how many of his perceptions are accurate and which of the ones that aren’t are colored by rage or fear or lust. A few times his mind will wander during what are obviously vital conversations and Clowes will realize this by letting the dialogue he’s not listening to carefully enough go off the borders of the panel. A lot of contemporary indie comics are just gorgeously drawn but hardly written at all; Patience has both halves of this weird hybrid medium fully realized and it’s a real watershed. I’m sorry we live in such a shitty, awful time for criticism because it’s so finely wrought it bears a lot of unpacking. The TCJ review of the book was conspicuously awful and that’s the highest-profile an in-depth treatment the book is going to get, at least until arts writers all suddenly collectively get over themselves.
5. The medium needs some new ideas. Clowes has quite a few; the mainstream superhero titles are just so horribly deracinated with a very few exceptions. I was reading the new Doctor Strange, a book I really like largely for the artwork, and I suddenly realized that the writer, Jason Aaron, was doing a riff on Alan Moore’s first big Swamp Thing story from thirty years ago and then about five pages later started pillaging the first issue of The Sandman. Those are both great books but they’re an average of thirty years old!