If' N Oof
Brian Chippendale, PictureBox (www.pictureboxinc.com), $30 (800p) ISBN 978-0-982-09475-4
Creatures with flower faces, leering robot monsters, and a charming mouse-eared hero are all drawn in a splotchy, scribbly style that gives truth to a line that occurs early in this strange, rambling yet engrossing book: "Operation Dreamworld must be realized." Chippendale, also known for his participation in the noise band Lightning Bolt, has a singular imagination and uses well-defined and -paced single-panel pages that lead us forward. Unexpected settings fill the page with lines--a bathroom with many obsessively drawn tiles, a flying space-city, a black-on-black dreamscape--before emptying out into white. Then a character leads readers, page by page, through empty space to a door leading back into the hectic frenzy of lines. Wonderfully peculiar characters speak in a variety of voices; robotlike instructions are interrupted by colloquial musings ("I mean, everyone here has been super nice, the pool is great, the garden rules, but..."). All are delightfully strange and once you enter, you don't want to leave this odd and imaginative world with its pleasantly bumbling heroes, If and Oof, constantly waking from one dream only to find themselves in another. (Nov.)

The Broadcast
Eric Hobbs and Noel Tuazon, NBM, $13.99 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-56163-590-0
Orson Welles's famous War of the Worlds radio program serves as the backdrop for a melodrama about star-crossed lovers, class warfare, and racial tensions in the Depression-era Midwest. Twenty-year-old Gavin wants to propose to his young love interest, Kimberly, but needs her stern father's approval to do so. Meanwhile his father, Dawson, plays benefactor to starving farmer Jacob, and a black stranger drifts into town. These diverse characters are thrown together by Welles's broadcast, which scares them into taking refuge in a storm cellar. Newcomer Hobbs works hard not to oversell the drama, using the radio program as a catalyst rather than the driver of the plot, focusing on the tensions within the group, which are only heightened when a pair of dead bodies are discovered, and Dawson does not return from a trip to gather firewood. Hobbs works hard to endow even his antagonists with a measure of sympathy. He largely succeeds, elevating melodrama into an intriguing character study of different personalities under pressure. Tuazon's (Elk's Run; Tumor) art is pleasant, relying on gray wash over sketchy ink lines to create expressive body language and a loose, impressionistic feel that adds to the ominous mood. (Nov.)

Elmer: A Comic Book
Gerry Alanguilan, SLG (www.slgcomic.com), $12.95 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-59362-204-6
Jake Gallo is an angry young man, frustrated at his lack of employment and easily provoked by perceived slights. It is not until we are several pages into the book that we discover that he is also a talking, thinking chicken. He is no anomaly; decades earlier, all of chickenkind suddenly gained intelligence and speech; by the 2000s they are legally human. Jake's father's illness and subsequent death lead Jake to read his father's account of the early days after the change; this in turn allows Alanguilan to show the reader the often horrific sequence of events that followed chickenkind's sudden elevation to sapience. Used to seeing chickens as food or worse, humans are not shown at their best as they react, often violently, to this sudden alteration of the natural order. The gorgeous b&w art, full of lush pen work and strong expressions, takes what should be a self-evidently ludicrous proposition and somehow imbues it with plausibility, drawing readers into a brutal, blood-soaked tale of a transformed species and the outrage and savagery of their former owners. A peculiar but engaging work that deserves attention. (Nov.)

The Adventures of Unemployed Man
Erich Origen, Gan Golan, Ramona Fradon, Rick Veitch and Michael Netzer Little, Brown, $14.99 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-0-316-09882-3 A superhero-filled parable of the current economic crisis that is in turns informative, smart, funny and preachy. Origen and Golan's story follows a superhero formerly known as the Ultimatum, who had championed a misguided campaign to educate society's poor on how to best lift themselves up by their bootstraps. After he's fired from the job, he hits rock bottom and joins with other heroes who tried to make an honest living by following what they'd thought were the right rules only to be crushed and tossed aside by an unfair economic system. Together they fight an organization led by the uncaring Invisible Hand and filled with characters meant to represent everything from key economic officials of the past decade to current and former investment banks. They realize that in order to succeed they'll need coordinated efforts from far more than a small band of heroes. Though the entire message comes off as preaching to the choir, the superhero pastiche, drawn in a Silver Age comics style with nods to Jack Kirby by three highly individualistic artists, gets the point across in an enjoyable way. (Oct.)

Hanakua Hero: A True Plantation Story
P.Y. Iwasaki and Berido, Bess (www.besspress.com), $12.95 (80p) ISBN 978-157306-321-0
In the late 19th century, a shortage of labor for the sugar plantations on the islands of Hawaii and difficult economic circumstances in Japan made for a synergistic coupling: thousands of Japanese (mostly young men) left for Hawaii. According to Iwasaki's young adult history tale, those immigrant workers didn't exactly find an immigrants' paradise. Relegated to the most grueling plantation work under frequently cruel bosses, the young Katsu Goto, like other workers, tried to get off the treadmill by opening a store and becoming a businessman. Goto's success, and status as a leader of immigrant workers agitating against miserable working conditions, unfortunately enrages some of the white locals, who look for retribution. Iwasaki's story, though told in vividly juvenile style by artist Berido, is a straight history lesson, with all the attendant pluses and minuses of the genre--fascinating subtext being one of the former, and a tendency toward excessive literalness and footnotes being one of the latter. Although very local in its focus, this is a smart piece of immigrant history. (Oct.)