Good Comics at the Comic Shop March 5

What an amazing week! It took me so long to tell you about it because I couldn’t resist reading a bunch of these outstanding titles first. Here’s what I recommend from your local comic shop.

Jimmy Gownley (Amelia Rules!) has been making and publishing comics since he was 15 years old. The Dumbest Idea Ever! (Graphix, $11.99) is his autobiographical story, in comic format, of how that came about. He was a star athlete and high-achieving student in Catholic school, but a bout of illness derailed his plans. He found comic books and realized he could tell his own stories, starting with tales of kids he knew. I think teens will particularly enjoy this story of someone like them, someone with a life where everything doesn’t go right but who followed their creative urge anyway.

Another anticipated all-ages title this week is the supersized hardcover Muppets Omnibus (Marvel, $59.99). It collects all the Roger Langridge comics previously published by Boom!: the original four-issue Muppet Show miniseries, The Treasure of Peg-Leg Wilson, the 12-issue (#0-11) Muppet Show Comic Book series, and the four-issue The Muppets that came out through Marvel (the Four Seasons stories). This is a wonderful way to get more stories with the characters beyond the movies and TV show. It’s a terrific job of work by Langridge with faithful portrayals of the beloved cast. I hope stores are stocking up now before the release later this month of Muppets Most Wanted.

If you’re looking for older reprints of animal characters, Hermes Press is collecting the Pogo stories from Dell’s Animal Comics as Walt Kelly’s Pogo: The Complete Dell Comics Volume 1 ($49.99). In addition to the 27 five- to ten-page stories, this book also has a profile of Kelly and his treatment of the South and race, particularly the character of Bumbazine, a young black child, seen here. The earliest stories were about Albert the Alligator, and Pogo was just supporting cast. Since the stories predate the better-known comic strip by a good deal, at the beginning, Pogo looks nothing like the character you’re thinking of. Instead, he resembles a real possum, which looks strange, although you can see the look develop as the stories progress.

If you’re interested in the history of comics, there are two collections of works by pillars of the field Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Following the genre-focused books Crime and Science Fiction, Titan Publishing has the The Simon and Kirby Library: Horror ($49.95). If you’re looking for something a little sweeter, Fantagraphics has Young Romance 2: The Early Simon and Kirby Romance Comics ($29.99). I found the previous collection a fun time capsule, and I’m eager to see more.

Also from Fantagraphics, Nijigahara Holograph ($29.99) is an amazing manga. I’m still trying to figure it out — I think I need several more reads to know what’s going on, particularly before I review it — but it’s remarkably drawn and enticingly enigmatic. There’s a group of kids who do something horrible, then the story shows us some of them grown up, and there are lots of butterflies, which are maybe souls or maybe symbols of the line between life and death. It’s a twisty tale that requires the reader to participate in figuring out its mysteries.

The sci-fi manga comedy Thermae Romae, the story of an ancient Roman architect who time travels through water to modern Japan where he learns to build ever-better bathhouses, concludes with Volume 3 (Yen Press, $40). It’s as funny as ever, although as the story wraps up, the plot elements change fast. Nice presentation, too, in an upscale hardcover.

For lighter reads, two shojo series I’m enjoying are also available. Strobe Edge (Book 9, Viz, $9.99) is a teen soap opera with the most basic of premises: how do you handle liking someone who might not like you back? Midnight Secretary (Book 4, Viz, $9.99), on the other hand, is a more adult tale of a woman in love with her boss, who’s also a vampire. Sexy!

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