While some people waste their springs cleaning, the rest of us know that the best way to spend it is outside, with a bag of comics. All of the major comics publishers seem to have the same idea, as the next few months are stacked with great releases. Here are ten comic books and graphic novels we’re looking forward to, from Gary Panter’s previously hard to come by masterpiece Dal Tokyo to the first graphic novel from cartoonist Dan Zettwoch.
1. Richard Stark’s Parker: The Score, Darwyn Cooke (May 2012)
There wasn’t a misstep to be found in Darwyn Cooke’s first two adaptations of Donald Westlake’s Parker novels, and you can expect The Score to follow in their bestselling footsteps. This time around, the flint-eyed Parker leads a team of crooks through one of the best scenarios the workaholic Westlake ever produced: the takedown of an entire town. As a book, The Score is already a masterpiece. There’s every reason to expect that Cooke’s adaptation will be one as well.
2. The Furry Trap, Josh Simmons (July 2012)
Published three years ago in an indie porn comic, Josh Simmons’ “Cockbone” remains a high water mark for today’s horror comic. Relying less on graphic violence and more on the thick sludge of dread, “Cockbone” was terrifying, and in a way that set it apart from everything that shares the name. Simmons wasn’t a stranger to freaking people out — this is the same guy responsible for an unlicensed Batman comic designed to test stomachs — but “Cockbone” shot him into a class by himself. The Furry Trap will collect that story, along with ten others being described by the publisher as “hard-edged horror.” You already know if you can handle this stuff, so if you can, it’s time to start counting days. Eli is, most definitely, coming.
3. Best of Enemies: A History of US and Middle East Relations, Part One, Jean-Pierre Filiu & David B. (May 2012)
Teaming up influential French cartoonist David B. with a seasoned Mideast scholar is pretty much the definition of a no-brainer, and there’s no doubt that any single glance at the book is sure to leave you blown away. There’s page after page of intricate, flawless black and white cartooning to be found, all of it in the service of teasing out almost 200 years of history. It’s a fascinating endeavor, the “aim high” kind of work that one hopes to see more of in the near future.
4. Dal Tokyo, Gary Panter (July 2012)
While it’s a bit of an exaggeration to call Dal Tokyo Panter’s lost masterpiece, it certainly hasn’t been the easiest thing to come by. That’s to be the case for anything that’s serialized over the course of multiple years, multiple publications, and two different continents. Thankfully, the entire book has finally found a home at Fantagraphics, and those of us without access to early-’80s copies of the LA Reader can finally experience “a future Mars that is terraformed by Texan and Japanese workers” as only Gary Panter — one of the most influential cartoonists alive — can provide. For some of us, this book has been a long time coming.
5. Birdseye Bristol, Dan Zettwoch (June 2012)
The first graphic novel from cartoonist Dan Zettwoch is exciting enough, and the initial batch of images has only stoked those feelings to a fevered pitch. Dan’s been a favorite among cartoonists for years, and he’s garnered a loyal following among comics fans as well. Birdsye Bristol has all the trappings to bring his work to that wider audience it deserves. The plot sounds impossibly weird and totally delightful, making it a perfect fit for Zettwoch, an artist who has mastered the art of making a mess of his audience’s brain. If you’re looking for a comic you’ll spend hours on, this is the name you want to write down.
6. Daredevil Born Again: Artist’s Edition David Mazzuchelli & Frank Miller (June 2012)
Although he’s most well known now for his critically-acclaimed bestseller Asterios Polyp, David Mazzuchelli is no stranger to those with even a passing interest in superhero comics. Back in the 1980s, he and Frank Miller — no slouch himself — were responsible for Batman: Year One and Daredevil Born Again, two superhero story arcs that heavily influenced everyone who read them, from artist to fan. In June 2012, IDW’s “Artist’s Edition” series will turn its focus to that Daredevil story, printing the entire seven parter from the original art, collected from scans by Mazzuchelli himself. At 12″ x 17″, the book is a massive undertaking, with a price to match its one-of-a-kind esteem. Don’t get worked up about that: it’s going to be totally worth it.
7. League of Extraordinary Gentleman: Century 2009, Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill (July 2012)
While the conclusion of a multi-year story arc is probably the last place one wants to meet an Alan Moore narrative, you’ve got until July to play catch-up. (And there are only two prior installments!) The details of an unreleased Alan Moore comic are locked up as tight as anything, but we do know this: it involves terrorism, religion, a magical child, and at one point there were rumors that Stringer Bell (yes, from The Wire) was going to appear. Let’s not kid around — it’s an Alan Moore comic. If you don’t read those, you don’t read comics.
8. Freedom, Seamus Heffernan (April 2012)
With the help of a healthy Xeric Grant comes the first self-published installment of Freedom, a smart entry in historical fiction set in America during the run-up to the Revolutionary War. Heffernan’s a confident illustrator coming off the tail end of years of research — don’t be surprised when you start googling to see which parts of Freedom are the fictional ones — but this is one that you’ll probably grab for production value alone. A beautifully put together comic with a good story, soaked in ambition: what more could you want?
9. Lincoln Washington: Free Man, Benjamin Marra (April 2012)
Benjamin Marra’s comics aren’t for the faint of heart, but that doesn’t mean those with stomachs of cast iron won’t find plenty of enjoy in Lincoln Washington, the story of a properly enraged former slave in Reconstruction-era South Carolina. Hyper violence and extreme sexuality abounds, all of it delivered in Marra’s unique, hilarious voice. As with his Maureen Dowd comic, Marra provides the pleasures of pure entertainment so directly that it almost fools you into thinking that anyone can do it. They can’t, but that’s the way that genius is supposed to work: you walk away thinking “perfect” is just that easy.
10. Fury Max, Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov (May 2012)
One of the hardest working men in comics, writer Garth Ennis (Preacher, Hellblazer) has had a quiet couple of years since the conclusion of his justly revered reinvention of the Punisher, with only the post-apocalyptic gross-out Crossed series making much of an impact. Returning to Marvel to tell yet another story with their archaic Nick Fury character — now more well known in his Samuel L. Jackson film iterations — doesn’t sound like a recipe for much excitement. But for whatever reason, Ennis has always seemed to flourish when writing the square-jawed, eyepatched Fury, a character whose main trait, besides an absurdly macho patriotism, has always been that he’s cooler than everybody else, and he knows it. (Imagine if Cassavettes had survived The Dirty Dozen, and then he and Lee Marvin had a baby together: that’s Nick Fury.) Either way, there are few creative teams left that deserve the powerhouse label, and Ennis and Parlov are at the top of that list. If anybody is going to find something fresh in the desert of creativity that is modern Marvel Comics, it’s these two. They have, after all, done it a few times before.