The ChillJason Starr and Mick Bertilorenzi. DC/Vertigo Crime, $19.99 (192p) ISBN 978-1-4012-1286-5

There seems to be a serial killer at work in New York, hacking up young men in elaborately grotesque ways, and a drunken ex-cop claims that it is the work of some sort of druidic witch, eating souls for immortality. But there's never any mystery or suspense, just one chase from something to something else, with a lot of yelling and killing going on. Starr is known for his novels, including Panic Attack, but his first graphic novel misses the mark. The ugly and nasty script claims it is neo-noir, but it's actually splatterpunk, with a lot of plot holes. Why are the FBI such interfering jerks? No reason, except to frustrate the heroes' attempts. Meanwhile, the borderline racist caricatures of the Irish and Irish druids are practically embarrassing. Bertilorenzi's art is a cut-rate mishmash of Hellboy and Dylan Dog. Often the book feels as if it was a script for the old Night Stalker TV show rewritten as a Cinemax soft-porn movie. (Jan.)

Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear DaysAl Columbia. Fantagraphics, $28.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-60699-304-0

Columbia's legend over the last two decades has as much to do with the work he's destroyed or never finished as with the few spectacular, horrifying pieces that actually have seen publication. This, his first book, makes a point of being unfinished and unfinishable. These aren't actually stories about Pim and Francie, a pair of little-kid characters (drawn in a vintage animation style) who are perpetually stumbling into ghastly, wrenchingly violent scenarios: they're mangled fragments of stories, closeups of incomplete comics pages and animation storyboards, stained and crumpled sketches and notes. The book's spine calls its contents “artifacts and bone fragments,” as if they're what's left for a forensic scientist to identify after a brutal murderer has had his way with them; Columbia obsessively returns to images of “bloody bloody killers.” (His cartoon shorthand for destruction is a human tornado with lots of bent arms holding knives at daffy angles.) Many of the pieces are just one or two drawings, as if they've been reduced to the moment when an idyllic piece of entertainment goes hideously awry. But they're also showcases for Columbia's self-frustrating mastery: his absolute command of the idiom of lush, old-fashioned cartooning, and the unshakable eeriness of his visions of horror. (Nov.)

GoGo MonsterTaiyo Matsumoto. Viz, $27.99 (464p) ISBN 978-1-4215-3209-7

Matsumoto's nearly European art paired with Japanese manga pacing have made him a fan favorite for years, and he won an Eisner for Tekkonkincreet. In GoGo Monster, he effectively blurs the line between reality, imagination, and madness. Yuki is an outcast elementary school student who “feels” the presence of invisible monsters at his school. Are Yuki's monsters real or imaginary? The old school groundskeeper has reasons to believe Yuki's monsters do exist, and they seem to influence the level of disciplinary problems at school. While we never see Yuki's monsters outside of the depictions scribbled on his desk, readers share Yuki's other hallucinations. In one troubling scene, his teacher's and classmates' heads are replaced with flowers. Matsumoto brings out the surreal moments in everyday life, such as when Yuki stares into raindrops clinging to his umbrella at the distorted image of his face, replicated a hundred times. The high-contrast contour drawings are heavily influenced by French artists Moebius and Enki Bilal, with occasional nods to the psychedelic works of Milton Glaser and Peter Max. Despite occasionally experimental storytelling, the story is very accessible: Viz has faithfully reproduced the beautiful Japanese edition of the book, complete with red-trimmed pages of exceptional quality and a colorful cardboard sleeve. (Nov.)

Kull, Vol. 1: The Shadow KingdomAvrid Nelson, Will Conrad and Jose Villarrubia. Dark Horse, $18.95 (168p) ISBN 978-1-59582-385-4

Kull's unskilled with the refined manners of royalty; as a barbarian who usurped the throne, he lets his sword do the talking. In this reimagining of another barbarian hero from the creator of Conan, a shadowy cult of snake-men slithers out to kill Kull and put their own puppet imposter in place, as they have done with past kings. Kull's plan to defeat them mostly involves beating them up. Alas, except when creating chuckles over lines like “her virgin knot is untouched,” the story is lackluster. Silly and awkward dialogue and explanatory segments regarding the origins and motives of the snake-men leading up to repetitive fight scenes render the book a bit plodding. Although the art adds rich settings and is skillfully executed, it feels stiff at times. However, Kull is an endearing character as he struggles to prove himself a respectable king despite his ignoble background, throughout the more ridiculous trials of fighting snake-men. In the end, he learns to exercise his brain a bit along with his brawn, and proves he is a king to be reckoned with, even if he can't pronounce “jurisdiction” correctly. (Nov.)