New Zealand cartoonist Dylan Horrocks is best known for his celebrated graphic novel Hicksville, in which a reporter discovers a town where comics are the greatest art form of all, and cartoonists are the greatest celebrities. After more than a decade of sporadic work, Horrocks is back with Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen, another reality-bending meditation on comics and creation. In the story, which has been serialized as a webcomic for many years, cartoonist Sam Zabel, a minor character in Hicksville, deals with the effects of depression, creative block and anhedonia, until finding himself whisked to a pulpish Mars inhabited by monsters and green-skinned harems—all torn from the pages of a comic book Zabel read. It is wish fulfillment or real?

LIke Hicksville, Sam Zabel is a mutli-leveled work that plays with views of reality, while illuminating the creative struggle and the use of pulp fantasy as an escape from—and substitute for—real life. With Horrocks' art honed down to an even cleaner look since Hickville, this is an exciting return by one of the medium's most singular talents. Sam Zabel will be published by Fantagraphics in December in the US.