Wednesday Watch: MUST-READ New Releases For 2/29/12

<i>By <a href=http://www.twitter.com/albertxii>Albert Ching, Newsarama Staff Writer</a></i> <p>A few times every year, there are five Wednesdays thus five New Comic Book Days in a month. <p>Every four years, February has 29 days instead of 28 Leap Day, a rather storied cultural tradition (at least according to last week's <i>30 Rock</i>). <p>This week, Leap Day coincides with a New Comic Book Day, for the first time in well, probably a while. But before you recklessly venture out to your comic shop or not (be it brick-and-mortar or digital) to make the most out of this impending extra day, Newsarama has selected 10 of the most noteworthy new releases this week. Click "start here" to begin the countdown. <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>

RALPH WIGGUM COMICS #1

Finally, the TV character that has delivered such classic lines as "I bent my wookiee" and "my cat's breath smells like cat food" is starring in his own comic book. <p>It's part of a quarterly series from Bongo focusing on <i>Simpsons</i> supporting characters, and counts legendary cartoonist Sergio Aragon&#233;s among its contributors. Just don't listen to the leprechaun if he tells you to burn things.

G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO ANNUAL #1

Despite still being in fairly regular practice at Marvel and DC, the comic book annual is a fairly retro concept. <p>Which makes sense that IDW's <b>G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero</b> is getting one this week, as the series is continuation of the Marvel book that ended in the '90s. Keeping with the classic vibe, writer Larry Hama is joined by veteran artists Ron Frenz, Ron Wagner, Herb Trimpe, with inks from Sal Buscema. All this comic needs is a PSA at the end of it.

EMPOWERED DELUXE EDITION VOL. 1

American Manga creator Adam Warren has been writing and illustrating <b>Empowered</b> since 2007, a multi-volume series that might look like a T&A book but offers much more substance. (And some T&A too, to be fair.) <p>This week, a 712-page hardcover collecting the first three volumes it out, and perhaps the best endorsement of this book comes from Dark Horse itself, in the original solicitation: "Enough <b>Empowered</b> to crush your nuts!"

INFESTATION 2 TEAM-UP

<a href=http://www.newsarama.com/php/multimedia/album.php?aid=45714>Click here for a preview!</a> <p>IDW is taking full advantage of Leap Day and looking at the lighter side of their <b>Infestation 2</b> crossover with the team-up one-shot, pairing Groom Lake's Archibald and Bat Boy. (Yep, Bat Boy.) <p>The most unconventional part of an unconventional-by-design crossover, it's written by IDW editor-in-chief Chris Ryall, with covers from <i>The Goon</i>'s Eric Powell and Bill Morrison.

BATMAN BEYOND UNLIMITED #1

DC's "Beyond" franchise continues to endure. Though 13 years past the debut of animated series <I>Batman Beyond</I>, the latest comic book tie-in starts this week, a 48-page monthly collecting the digital-first <I>Batman Beyond</I> and <I>Justice League Beyond</I> features. <p>For anyone out there that continues to be New 52-phobic, <b>Batman Beyond Unlimited</b> might be the right place to get your DC fix (as long as you're OK with Terry McGinnis and alternate futures).

INVINCIBLE #89

The teasers for <b>Invincible #89</b> have certainly been striking, with an unknown African-American character in the familiar costume of the title character. <p>Though <b>Invincible</b> creator Robert Kirkman essentially said throughout this past weekend's Image Expo that Mark Grayson (currently suffering from the Scourge Virus) will eventually be back in the mantle, the fun is in seeing how things get there, right?

PUNISHER BY GREG RUCKA VOL. 1

While the Mark Waid-written <I>Daredevil</I> has been winning people over and attracting all sorts of praise, the Greg Rucka-written <b>Punisher</b> (launched at the same time) has been quietly scoring acclaim and recognition from readers and critics. <p>The two series are headed for the "Omega Effect" crossover in April, and those looking to catch up on <b>Punisher</b> can turn to the first hardcover volume, out this week, collecting issues #1-#5.

JUSTICE LEAGUE #6

Looking to get your New 52 on this week? <b>Justice League #6</b> is the place to be. And by that, we mean the only place, since it's the only new New 52 comic out this week. <p>This issue would likely merit inclusion on our list regardless of the week, though, as it's the end of the book's first arc, featuring the assembled Justice League against Darkseid. For Jim Lee fans, it's also the last issue he's illustrating for a couple of months, as Gene Ha is on art for #7, and Carlos D'anda for #8.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #680

Johnny Storm was ultimately only presumed dead for a little less than a year, but that was still enough time to miss Spider-Man/Human Torch team-ups. <p>Sigh no more as a new one begins this week in <b>Amazing Spider-Man</b>, the first of a two-part outer space story serving as somewhat of a palate cleanser before Spidey mega-arc "Ends of the Earth" starts next month. Plus, if you've read ASM scribe Dan Slott's much-loved 2005 <I>Spider-Man/Human Torch</I> miniseries, you know he has a knack for writing the duo.

THE DARKNESS #100

It's difficult for any new comic book series to get past the 12-issue mark at this point, so the fact that <b>The Darkness</b>, which started life as a <I>Witchblade</I> spinoff (itself a second-generation Top Cow book) is hitting #100 this week is certainly significant. <p>The milestone comes at a conspicuous time for both the series and Image, with <I>The Darkness II</I> video game released earlier this month and the publisher marking their 20th anniversary this past weekend at the Image Expo in Oakland. <b>The Darkness #100</b> is in the thick of the Top Cow Universe's <I>Artifacts</I>-fueled quasi-reboot, and is the final issue for longtime writer Phil Hester.

Wednesday Watch: MUST-READ New Releases For 2/29/12

Date: 27 February 2012 Time: 09:11 PM ET