This Wednesday is a grab bag of pulp weirdness. There's a Frank Castle story that takes place in a house of illicit relaxation, a compilation of 1980s Marvel heroes versus a demonically possessed NYC, and Judge Dredd looking burly.

First off, we have the Punisher MAX: Happy Ending (Marvel) one-shot. This self-contained tale stars a poor schmo whose marital problems inspire him to stop by a high-class rubdown joint. Along the way, he gets caught between the Punisher and a mob war. The creative team here should make this project pop — the diabolical Peter Milligan's on pencils and Avatar Press' secret weapon Juan Jose Ryp (Black Summer, No Hero) draws resplendent shoot-em-up sequences.

Also, I've always loved the "random sap gets caught up between Frank and a hard place" motif that was a hallmark of Garth Ennis' Punisher tales — think of Ennis' hapless Lieutenant Soap. This is MY PICK OF THE WEEK, but your mileage for "Punisher goes to a rub-and-tug" tales may vary, so I've picked two more titles that exude gritty goodness.

The first is the X-Men Inferno Crossovers (Marvel) hardcover. Incidentally, this book has very little to do with the X-Men and instead focuses on Spider-Man, Cloak and Dagger, and other 1980s heroes fighting the forces of the underworld (and demonically possessed mailboxes) in New York City. Overall, this title looks like a good cross-section of the late 80s Marvel Universe. The other book that caught my eye was Judge Dredd: Megacity Masters Volume 1 (Rebellion) , which collects post-apocalyptic artwork from some of the biggest names to ever contribute to 2000 AD, such as Brian Bolland and Simon Bisley.

How about other titles on the stands? We have...

Batman 702 (DC): In the second part of this two-issue arc, Grant Morrison and Tony Daniels explore what happen to Bruce Wayne between R.I.P. and Final Crisis.

X-Men: Curse Of The Mutants - Storm & Gambit 1 (Marvel): This title is some two-pronged X-nostalgia. Storm and Gambit brings back memories of the 80s Claremont days, and Chris Bachalo art reminds me of the mid-90s Gen X times.

Guarding The Globe 1 (Image): From the pages of Invincible, Robert Kirkman and Benito Cereno debut a new Guardians of the Globe. I'm just happy to see Brit, the world's most unkillable senior, getting some page time.

Gravel 20 (Avatar): In the penultimate issue of this arc, premier combat mage William Gravel finds his position as Britain's King of Magicians challenged.


Superman/Batman 75 (DC): For this anniversary issue, a host of creators — including Joe Kelly, Steven Seagle, Paul Levitz, and David Finch — supply tales of the World's Finest duo. No, not Ted and Booster.

Astonishing X-Men 35 (Marvel): It's the conclusion to Warren Ellis and Phil Jimenez's "eXogenetic" storyline as the X-team squares off against the mastermind who's been sending his patchwork Frankenstein Sentinels and Brood after them.

Namor The First Mutant 1 (Marvel): The King of Atlantis kicks off his new ongoing series fighting Atlantean vampires. I hope every other line is "Imperius Rex." At least that's how I'd write a Namor series. Incidentally, I'd write a Baby Huey series the exact same way.

A whole glut of awesome trades are coming out on Wednesday. There's Volume 1 of the The Chronicles of King Conan (Dark Horse), which collects Roy Thomas' 1970s Conan stories; a reprint of Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews' Serenity Volume 2: Better Days; and DC Comics Classics Library: Batman Annuals Volume 2 (DC), a hardcover that promises the first appearances of "Giant Batman, Rip Van Batman, Zebra Batman, Merman Batman and more" (THE #$%ing ZEBRA BATMAN!).


Also coming out are the Vertigo Crime trade paperbacks from Brian Azzarello (Filthy Rich, about a washed-up football star selling cars in New Jersey) and Ian Rankin (Dark Entries, which follows John Constantine's investigation of a supernatural reality show); and a trade paperback of Frank Marraffino's 2008 Haunted Tank (DC/Vertigo) miniseries. Finally, there's the oversized hardcover of The Danger Girl Deluxe Edition (IDW) that's chock full of pin-ups for your coffee table.

As always with Comics We Crave, you can find the rest of this week's releases here and your neighborhood comic shop here. Happy reading gang, and remember: this ain't a library!