Stephen King's N
Marc Guggenheim and Alex Maleev, Marvel, $24.99 (112p) ISBN 978-0-7851-3453-4
This horror comic is brilliantly adapted from a Stephen King short story, published in his recent collection, Just After Sunset. King readers will recognize the rural Maine setting, the menacing tone, and the constant threat of evil lurking, just waiting to break into the everyday life of unsuspecting normal folks. In this world, those with OCD behaviors are actually right, the world will fall apart if they don't count and arrange their surroundings to precise specifications, because "the gate in our heads... [the] one that keeps insanity in all of us from flooding our intellects" has been breached. Not only that, but the disease is catching, as one obsessive compulsive passes his or her disorder on to whomever they reveal it to. The storytelling is tight and utterly, creepily effective, while the gritty, detailed drawing style pulls the horror from even the most innocent setting, inky abstraction of nightmare energies rising from the earth contrasting, to horrifying effect, with near photo-realistic drawings of characters' faces. A gripping, masterful story that anyone who doesn't scare easily--and many who do--will relish. (Nov.)

The Story of Saiunkoku, Vol. 1
Kairi Yura and Sai Yukino, Viz, $9.99 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-4215-3834-1
This story began as a series of light novels by Yura and Yukino and was subsequently adapted into an anime, drama CDs, and a manga written and illustrated by Yura. Set in the fictional empire of Saiunkoku, it follows Shurei Hong, a clever and hardworking girl born to a noble family that has fallen on hard times. Unable to fulfill her ambitions to work in politics, she accepts an offer to work as a consort for the childish Emperor Ryuki. Finding it difficult to even meet Ryuki (he initially pretends to be someone else to avoid her), it is quickly apparent that this will be no easy job even for the ambitious Shurei. However, she soon notices the good in Ryuki that few others have taken the time to see, and they become a charming odd couple of sorts. Indeed, the centerpiece of this story is the interactions between Shurei and Ryuki; the subplots are interesting but mostly serve to further develop their relationship. The story is endearing, striking a good balance between humor and romantic subtexts, and the art pays a strong attention to world building detail. (Nov.)

Return of the Dappermen
Jim McCann and Janet Lee, Archaia, $24.95 (172p) ISBN 978-1-032386-90-5
Classic surreal fiction like Alice in Wonderland is difficult to copy because it effortlessly combines the imagination of a child with the mature artistry of an adult writer. This imaginative fantasy strives to achieve the same effect and is, for the most part, a success, thanks in no small part to Lee's magnificent illustrations. It is a tale of a world without time or progress, inhabited only by children who never grow up and robots. Together, a human boy named Ayden and a robot girl named Zoe work to fix the broken world and teach their close-minded peers the importance of change. Their helper in this task is a whimsical, dapper man, a sort of "Cat in the Hat" mercurial hero. It is a fun ensemble though the dialogue occasionally overdoes the exposition. While the theme, as it is presented, is an abstract one for younger readers, it works in an impressionistic way; the lush artwork is easy to get lost in, and the fantastical setting and atmosphere create a unique background for a timeless parable about time. (Dec.)