Author: Gilbert Hernandez

Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics

Price: $26.99/$19.99 US (Hardcover)

*** 1/2 (out of five)


Miguel Serra is so tired of life that instead of putting himself out of his misery, he puts himself to sleep — for a year.


After 365 days in this self-induced coma, the would-be teen rock star suddenly awakens and begins to piece his life back together: his relationship with his girlfriend, Lita, his friendship with best-bud, Romeo, and reviving the trio’s band, Sloth.

The only problem is that Miguel himself has now become like the band’s namesake, maintaining a perpetually slow pace that challenges every facet of his life.

Then the story goes all David Lynch-esque.

Gilbert Hernandez, co-creator of the critically acclaimed indie comic, Love And Rockets (along with brother, Jaime), uses his mesmerizing art style and storytelling ability to transform the lemon orchards in Miguel’s hometown into a place of magic and mystery.

In a complex web of illusions and “did-that-really-happen?” moments, Hernandez examines the complex nature of teen life, including their hopes, dreams and fears.

Sloth is one of the most visually striking and mentally engrossing graphic novels of the year.

Batman: City Of Crime

Publisher: DC Comics

Price: $26.99/$19.99 US (Paperback)

*** 1/2 (out of five)

Gotham City has always been the cesspool of the DC Universe — the kind of place that’s so bad that even the tireless Batman can’t stop all the crime there.

But things seem to be going from bad to worse lately.

It begins, as these stories so often do, with the death of innocents — seven teenaged girls, to be precise.

Six of them are killed in a fire, while the other, an acquaintance of Bruce Wayne’s, is found dead in an alley.

As the circumstances of the fire and of the lifestyle of the seventh girl come to light, Batman begins to unravel a startling conspiracy in Gotham, one that involves plenty of Wayne’s fellow bluebloods, city officials, police and residents.

And when the hero finally figures out where to point the finger for all these tragedies, he finds an answer that may be more unsettling than the deaths themselves.

Crime-noir writer extraordinaire David Lapham (Stray Bullets), with help by artists Ramon Bachs and Nathan Massengill, takes his time with his first foray into the DCU, building a complex and very visceral story that is highly satisfying.

The Cobbler’s Monster

Beckett Entertainment/Image Comics

$14.99 US (Paperback)

*** (out of five)

In the summer of 1887, the citizens of New York City are living in fear of a monster. It had killed men, devoured pets and made everyone fear the alleys and shadows. The Cobbler’s Monster is essentially a fusion of Frankenstein and Pinocchio (heavy on the former) that takes the idea of Gepetto’s unwavering love for little troublesome Pinocchio and asking how far that love would extend to a monster that he loves like his son.

It’s a decent story, a nice blend of emotion and action – courtesy writer Jeff Amano and artists Craig Rousseau and Wayne Faucher — but there are a few twists that are a little hard to take. As the old cobbler and his young accomplice Matthew confess to police detectives how they brought the monster to life, they bandy about technical terms that may be simple to the average B student in high school biology, but would have sounded like crazy talk to "ye olde N.Y.P.D."

If you’re willing to take that leap of faith, along with the inevitable horror movie ‘why are they going in there if they know the monster’s in there’ moments, The Cobbler’s Monster is worth a try.

Superman/Batman: Vengeance

DC Comics

$26.99/$19.99 US (Hardcover)

**** (out of five)

Only three little words are necessary to convince any DC Comics fan to pick up this book: Me Am Batzarro!

The original Superman/Batman creative team of writer Jeph Loeb and artists Ed McGuinness and Dexter Vines re-team for this six-issue bookend and give readers just what they want — more heroes and villains than you can shake a stick at.

While Batman and Superman try to defend themselves against an other-dimensional super-team that mistakenly blames them for the death of a teammate, the rather unusual partnership between longtime Man Of Steel nemesis Bizarro and the backwards Dark Knight, Batzarro, is forged.

As the dimension hopping really heats up, readers are introduced to a gender-backwards Supes/Bats duo, a whole mess of Supergirls and the first DCU appearances of Batman Beyond and the Red Son Superman.

But the real question is: Who started all this mess?

The answer is priceless, as is this great farewell by Loeb, McGuinness and Vines.

Bomb Queen: WMD (Woman Of Mass Destruction)

Jimmie Robinson

Image Comics

$12.99 US (Paperback)

*** 1/2 (out of five)

Breasts, butts and bombs — that’s pretty much the root of Bomb Queen.

Jimmie Robinson’s wonderfully vulgar, violent and voluptuous villain is the unquestioned ruler of New Port City.

But when mayoral hopeful Robert Woods uses BQ’s reign of terror, which is highly popular in her hometown, as a campaign platform, she’s forced to face the wrong side of public opinion for the first time in years.

The result, in this collection of a four-issue limited series, is a blast.