The latest comic by surrealist master Jim Woodring, a non-fiction graphic novel about child crime, a politically charged space opera and a stylish sci-fi yarn from artist Inaki Miranda highlight this week's comics.

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty
G. Neri and Randy DuBurke, Lee & Low, $16.95 paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-58430-267-4
In 1994, in the Roseland neighborhood of Chicago's South Side, a 14-year-old girl named Shavon Dean was killed by a stray bullet during a gang shooting. Her killer, Robert "Yummy" Sandifer, was 11 years old. Neri recounts Yummy's three days on the run from police (and, eventually, his own gang) through the eyes of Roger, a fictional classmate of Yummy's. Roger grapples with the unanswerable questions behind Yummy's situation, with the whys and hows of a failed system, a crime-riddled neighborhood, and a neglected community. How could a smiling boy, who carried a teddy bear and got his nickname from his love of sweets, also be an arsonist, an extortionist, a murderer? Yet as Roger mulls reasons, from absentee parenting to the allure of gang membership, our picture of Yummy only becomes more obscure. Neri's straightforward, unadorned prose is the perfect complement to DuBurke's stark black-and-white inks; great slabs of shadow and masterfully rendered faces breathe real, tragic life into the players. Like Roger, in the end readers are left with troubling questions and, perhaps, one powerful answer: that they can choose to do everything in their power to ensure that no one shares Yummy's terrible fate. (Aug.)

Escape from Terra, Vol. 1
Sandy Sandfort, Scott Bieser and Lee Oaks, Big Head, $12.95 paper (189p) ISBN 978-0-9743814-7-3
The vision of outer space as a neo-American wild west has long fascinated sci-fi fans and writers, and this graphic novel continues the tradition, blending adventure stories of evil empires and assassins with a heavy dose of libertarian philosophy. This collection of two years' worth of the Web comic assembles the story of an anarchist asteroid society rebelling against a totalitarian Earth government that seeks to expropriate its wealth to maintain a collapsing welfare state. The colorful cast includes the French (natch) bureaucrat Guy and his voluptuous assistant, Fiorella, who both come to sympathize with the space colonists' plight. The stylish realism of Bieser and Oaks' artwork is a treat while the story wears its agenda on its sleeve. The scientific and political discussions of the second and third stories are particularly engaging, and anxiety about tax-hungry unsustainable governments is certainly a timely theme if one looks at Greece or the Tea Party movement. While the idealization of anarchy goes all the way to gun-toting freedom-loving colonists who decide to throw due process under the bus, this is still a throwback to science fiction with ideas. (July)

Jim Woodring, Fantagraphics, $19.99 (200p) ISBN 978-1-60699-340-8
A book that sticks with you like a virus, Woodring's newest collection of tales of vague morality and definite oddity keeps intact his status as one of comics most eccentric auteurs. The surreal universe of Frank, "the ignoble innocent who bends with the breeze, rolls with the punches and never learns tomorrow what he has already forgotten today," focuses here on Manhog. Formerly a sideline character, the squat, piggish, and eternally suffering Manhog gambols and charges through the landscape, eating most everything he comes across and suffering mightily for it. The malevolently grinning character half-moon–faced Whim particularly has it in for Manhog (capturing and torturing him) as do the Fates-like creatures Betty and Veronica, who conduct strange spells and experiments on the clueless creature. Woodring's wordless story is a looping and circumstantial affair, concerned more with fantastically rendered backgrounds--his starkly layered landscapes play like minimalist woodcuts of the deepest unconscious--than matters of plot and story. There is a creeping message of sorts, about the wages of greed and what happens to curious cats, but it's mired in a universe of deeply strange beauty and not always easy to divine. (June)

Tribes: The Dog Years
Michael Geszel, Peter Spinetta, Inaki Miranda and Eva de la Cruz, IDW, $24.99 paper (200p) ISBN 978-1-60010-686-6
Creating a cinematic spectacle of a graphic novel, artist Miranda and colorist de la Cruz combine for impressive wide-screen vistas in this story of an apocalyptic future where mankind has been condemned to live no longer than 21 years. The story follows Sundog, a member of the Sky Shadow tribe located in the ruins of what was once the Pacific Northwest. After an artificially engineered virus drastically reduced human lifespan centuries ago, the world of Sundog and the rest of his tribe has been reduced to hunting and gathering and fighting off savage competitors. When an aged man appears from the sky with the promise of a cure, Sundog is convinced by Fallingstar, a girl he cares deeply for, to go off on a quest to recover it, and an adventure to find the way to grow old commences. Writers Geszel and Spinetta have put great thought into constructing a believable world that has been run by teenagers for generations, although the story dawdles at times. Miranda's artwork and layouts are the standout; from its sweeping landscapes to its hectic action sequences, it continually conveys a sense of epic adventure. (June)