Today, there are a number of great releases scheduled to appear at your local comic shop. Here I’m highlighting some notable titles worth paying attention to.

Look Straight Ahead cover
Look Straight Ahead

Look Straight Ahead (Alternative Comics, $19.95) is an impressive exploration of mental illness in the life of an artist. The question of whether treating such a condition might affect one’s creativity is meaningful and often unanswerable, but author Elaine Will uses the comic medium in unique fashion to indicate her protagonist’s hallucinations and other struggles.

Rick Geary’s newest installment in his Treasury Of 20th Century Murder is one of the best yet. Madison Square Tragedy: The Murder of Stanford White (NBM, $15.99) portrays an hundred-year-old scandal involving a showgirl and a public shooting in a way that makes it fresh and relevant today.

Fred Chao brings Johnny Hiro back in a second volume, The Skills to Pay the Bills (Tor Books, $17.99). I enjoyed the first book immensely, and I’m looking forward to more creative cartooning and imaginative adventure in an urban environment. I’ll be reviewing this soon.

Grand master Walt Simonson’s Judas Coin (DC Comics, $14.99) is now available in paperback. This collection of stories wanders through DC history with notable guest-stars and an impressive display of artistic flexibility, as different styles illustrate different eras, all linked by a piece of Judas silver.

The best superhero comic coming out today finally has a hardcover collection. Hawkeye Volume 1 (Marvel Comics, $34.99) reprints issues 1-11 of the outstandingly written and designed series by Matt Fraction, David Aja, and others. It’s a fresh take on heroics with a really great character in Kate Bishop (and Clint Barton’s not bad, either). The two heroes contrast generationally and give each other someone to play off of. The visual portrayal is different and modern, telling stories efficiently and attractively. Since the material’s already been released in two softcover volumes, this collection seems aimed more at existing fans, but the comics are worth re-reading enough to make a hardcover a good idea.

Just in time for the holidays, Viz releases a Bakuman Complete Box Set ($159.99) that contains all 20 volumes of the manga series. Bakuman is the story of two aspiring manga creators, an artist and a writer, who navigate the business of making comics with plenty of up, downs, and emotional struggles. The characters can be either flat or exaggerated, but the tips included about how the manga industry works are fascinating.

I’ve been enjoyed reading Ghosted, a comic series about a con man investigating a haunted mansion by Joshua Williamson and Goran Sudzuka. The characterization is sharp and plot twists surprising. Issue #5 (Image Comics, $2.99), out this week, concludes the first arc. If you haven’t yet tried it, there’s a collection of #1-5 coming next month at a bargain price.

Similar Posts: Good Comics Out January 2: Manga Classics and Comic Strip History § Coming Up: Manga Due July 2010 (or Later) § Bakuman Complete Box Set Due This Fall § Good Comics Out August 7: And So They Leave Us § Comic Creator Lessons From Bakuman