Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (March 2012)
This long-awaited collected edition of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s hilarious superhero pastiche may initially appeal to the small group of in-the-know comics fans who can reel off its trivia at a moment’s notice — Flex was illustrator Frank Quitely’s American introduction, the series began the “no cynicism” phase of Morrison’s superhero output, and DC Comics had kept it uncollected out of fear of litigation since 1996 — but rest assured, this is one of “those books,” the kind of comic that will eventually make its way onto the syllabi of English classes as well as the shelves of non-comics readers. Confidently silly and yet blistered with sincerity, Flex is one of those graphic novels that make an entire shelf of the things superfluous.
Is That All There Is?, Joost Swarte (February 2012)
A comprehensive collection of Joost Swarte’s work from 1972 to now, supervised by the man himself, Is That All There Is? aspires to be a “work of massive historical importance that people will mainly like just because it’s really, really awesome.” Bad jokes aside, Swarte has long been one of the greatest blind spots in English-language comics libraries, having only been seen in Raw, the influential anthology of yesteryear. His list of accolades may be what get most to crack this book open; rest assured, you’ll stay for the content.
Gloriana, Kevin Huizenga (April 2012)
The third (and final) edition of stories that first appeared in the self-published “Supermonster,” these are the comics that put Kevin Huizenga on the map for many. In gorgeously drawn stories that showcase the cartoonist’s hyper-literate ear for dialog as well as his ability to get sentimental without resorting to all that pesky sentimentality, Gloriana promises to usher in a whole new generation of sincerity amongst comics fans. That’s how easy it is to kill cheap cynicism: you just have to make the alternative look way more attractive.
Fallen Words, Yoshihiro Tatsumi (April 2012)
The sixth English translation of Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s influential Japanese output, Fallen Words is a collection of eight stories set in Japan’s Edo period. Merging slice-of-life plots with Tatsumi’s proclivity towards the extremity of emotion, the book is certain to be another glorious argument for why this man deserves to be read in as many languages as possible.
Prophet, Brandon Graham and Simon Roy (January 2012)
The sort of project that’s usually relegated to people fantasizing on Twitter, Prophet might be the most heavily anticipated team-up of the year. This long-cancelled science fiction superhero series (with no fanbase to speak of), resurrected and handed off to Simon Roy and Brandon Graham (a cartoonist whose talent for comics is matched only by his unexplainable ability to make comics seem way cooler than they’re actually capable of being), looks to be 2012’s standard bearer for sleazy genre pleasure. Who wouldn’t make room for that?
Fatale, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (January 2012)
Writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips earned the goodwill of readers years ago with the release of Sleeper, and they’ve maintained their audience since then, regularly turning out stories under the Criminal and Incognito banners. Based on the first chapter (Fatale will be serialized in monthly installments throughout 2012), the series looks to be an excellent addition to their library. While it’s another noir-influenced story whose fractured chronology reflects Brubaker’s continued obsession with history’s cause and effect, Fatale’s notable addition is the tropes of horror. It isn’t a genre the writer’s associated with, but if the first glance is any indication, it very much could be.
Daredevil Volume 1, Mark Waid, Marcos Martin, and Paolo Rivera (February 2012)
Every couple of years, a superhero comic comes along that unites everybody — the custom costume-wearing fanatic and the neckbeard-adorned graphic designer — and for this burgeoning decade, that comic seems to be Daredevil. Gorgeously illustrated by a rotating team of some of the genre’s only remaining innovators and written in a deceptively “traditionalist” style, the comic’s first six issues have been collected in a hardcover edition that will see release next month. Even if you don’t pick up on its plaintive critique of the genre’s current woes (short version: superhero comics are kind of gross right now), you can still get drunk on one of last year’s most intoxicating treasures.
Krazy & Ignatz 1922-1924, George Herriman (March 2012)
The concluding volume in a series of Krazy Kat collections that stretches back multiple decades (and multiple publishers), this is one of the great American works of art, with a near-century of praise by a prestigious choir including Godard, e.e. cummings and William Randolph Hearst. The never-ending saga of a cat who loves a mouse, despite the mouse’s obsession with dashing his brains in, Herriman’s creation cannot fail to amuse. Lack of availability is, finally, no longer an excuse.
Kramers Ergot 8, edited by Sammy Harkham (January 2012)
Eight installments in (and now on its third publisher), Kramers Ergot is sometimes discussed as if it’s merely a report card on the state of alternative comics, as if the table of contents is all that requires our attention. Ergot 8 looks to shake that foundation a bit, opening as it does with the most bewilderingly aggressive tract Harkham’s discovered thus far. From there, the book does take on a bit of a laundry-list quality — there’s Johnny Ryan, there’s Ben Jones, there’s Frank Santoro, Gabrielle Bell, all of your big dogs, they’ve come for your bones — but don’t let the brevity trick you into thinking there’s not something of substance going on. There’s a method to the madness, and by the anthology’s weird, atonal closer, you’ll be laughing (or wryly grimacing, at the least) right along with it.
My Friend Dahmer, Derf Backderf (March 2012)
Although comics is a wildcat enough field that any predictions should be taken with a grain of salt the size of a bowling ball, here’s one nonetheless: My Friend Dahmer is going to be the one to beat. Painstakingly researched and assembled over the last 20 years, the graphic novel tells the story of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s high school years, primarily from the point of view of someone who went though those moments along side him: Derf Backderf, the comic’s writer and artist. There’s no question that the book is focused on a difficult, demanding subject matter, but there’s also no one more qualified than Derf to deliver it. His inviting, funny art is the easiest sell in the world, and it works extraordinarily well, just barely masking the trenchant rage pulsing behind the narrative curtain. It’s the sort of work that proves that true crime writing can be more than just exploitative garbage, and that sociological study can be more than a pursuit for crowd-pleasing pacification. This is the one that a lot of people have been waiting for.