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CAPTAIN COMICS: A good month to haunt the comic shop

The biggest comics in November all launched somewhere else. So if you're a fan of NBC's "Heroes," Stephen King's "Dark Tower" novel series or TNT's "Angel," the month should have you haunting the comic shop.

For those living in a cave, "Heroes" is the hit series (season two began Sept. 27) about ordinary people who discover they have extraordinary powers, are somehow drawn together -- and not all of them are very nice. It's reminiscent of the X-Men, except that the discovery of super-powers isn't restricted to adolescence, and nobody pulls on skin-tight Spandex.

While the show tells you all you need to know, NBC has created a Web site that goes further for the truly avid fans (www.nbc.com/heroes). In addition to the usual news, interviews, trivia, games, etc., the site has something unique: comics. Written and drawn by comic-book pros like Tim Sale ("Batman: The Long Halloween," plus all the paintings attributed to the drug-addled artist Isaac Mendez), Phil Jimenez ("Wonder Woman") and Michael Turner ("Supergirl"), each eight-page "chapter" provides scenes filling in the blanks -- background on the characters, events that happened off camera and so forth. For example, we know that a dream from "The Nightmare Man" put Molly in a coma this season; Chapter 56 on the site illustrates what Molly saw.

So what's more natural than to gather these mini-episodes together and publish them? DC Comics is doing exactly that Nov. 7, with a 240-page hardcover sporting covers by Jim Lee and Alex Ross. "Heroes" Vol. 1 ($29.99) contains the first 32 chapters (based on the first season), plus a Tim Sale Gallery with all those apocalyptic Mendez paintings. Now that's heroic!

Meanwhile, "The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born" recently finished its seven-issue run at Marvel Comics, with Publishers Weekly reporting sales of more than 100,000 per issue. Written by Stephen King expert Robin Furth ("Stephen King's The Dark Tower: A Complete Concordance") and comic-book, TV and novel writer Peter David ("Incredible Hulk," "Knight Life"), and drawn by Jae Lee, "Gunslinger" recounted the origin of Roland Deschain, the hero of King's magnum opus "The Dark Tower."

The "Dark Tower" epic, which unfolded in seven books published over 25 years, contained elements of horror, Western and fantasy -- and even bits from other King books. Thanks to "Gunslinger," now we know the trials of the young Roland, as his destiny as the savior of Mid-Land heads toward him like an express train.

Did you miss those issues? No problem, as a 240-page hardback ($24.99) coming out Nov. 7 collects those seven books, plus a cover gallery (including variants) and new illustrations by Lee.

"As a lifelong fan of Marvel comic books, and as an adult reader who's seen comics 'come of age' and take their rightful place in the world of fantasy and science fiction," King said earlier this year when the series debuted, "I'm excited to be a part of Roland's new incarnation."

And Marvel's not done yet. The "Gunslinger" creative team returns for a sequel, "The Long Road Home," in February. Three more "Dark Tower" miniseries are slated to follow.

Meanwhile, Dark Horse's new "Buffy the Vampire Hunter" series -- written by series creator Joss Whedon and calling itself "season eight" of the TV show -- is selling like ... well, like "The Gunslinger Born." So could "Buffy" spin-off "Angel" be far behind?

Nope. "Angel: After the Fall" No. 1 ($3.99) debuts this month from IDW, the first in a 12-part series (with one-shot specials and more to come) that acts as "Angel," season six. While Whedon will oversee the project, it's written by Brian Lynch with art by Franco Urro (who both worked on the Buffy-related "Spike: Shadow Puppets").

"Fall" picks up where TV's season-five cliffhanger ended, with Angel charging into a hopeless battle against a horde of demons. "The series begins to tackle the fallout of Angel's stand, and what it cost everyone near, around and close to him," Lynch said in a press release. "This is the story we've wanted to tell since we first started publishing Angel comics three years ago," added IDW publisher Chris Ryall.

Not to be left out, Dark Horse will publish a hardcover collection of its 2005 miniseries "Serenity: Those Left Behind" in November. That's derived from the TV show "Firefly," another Whedon property.

But say, what about all the superhero comics in November? We'll talk about that next week.

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