Every year, I try my very best to let people know when Free Comic Book Day is coming, encouraging all to grab their kids, friends and strangers who have nothing better to do and head to the nearest participating comic shops to see what guests have shown up to celebrate, what killer sales the store has going on, and most importantly, GRAB FREE COMICS!!! No lie, for those who wake up nice and early and lineup under the burning ball of fire, a fat stack of books await you. Latecomers are left with the scraps, if even that is still available.
STEP 1! Line up early to get the most books possible. I arrived plenty early to The Comic Crypt in Shrewsbury, NJ, and luckily, was third in line.
STEP 2! Grab 1 of everything, then hang back and take pics.
STEP 3! Photograph The Comic Crypt to give thanks for this bundle of books I paid zero cents for. I also brought the store owner a complete set of still sealed Star Trek Animated Series VCR tapes. Good trade.
Point of fact, though Free Comic Book Day means free comics for all those that show up, the store actually pays for these comics. Comics cost around 60 cents and lower. With 50 different titles ordered in different quantities, going heavy on things like DC and Marvel and down to 5 books total on the more obscure indie offerings, total cost to this particular shop is 3 to 400 dollars. For that, they get their shop added to the FCBD website and see lots of smiling faces. They've participated for 7 years now. Sort of enhances your appreciation for the stores that participate in this FREE day of fun, doesn't it? This is why it's so important to actually buy something when you hit one of these shops and support what they are doing for the community. At the very least, you should be blowing up your social media feeds with pics of your scores, listing where you got them.
STEP 4! Take in the arts.
Thems good arts. Paintings by Pete Caballero
STEP 5! Draw magic circle and invoke the restless spirit of Harley Quinn and Inappropriate Batman...you know..after the childrens leave. With the kiddies gone, things got...weird.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Missuz Lily Stitches of Ink and Paint Burlesque
STEP 6! Return home with my acquired booty and attempt to review each and every title so the creators get the most out of this labor of love.
And so it was, over one month's time, I read 2 to 4 books a day in what little spare time I had, fending off the distractions of shiny things and ..you know..women..who want to steal my comic books. I have a spray for that. It's just a little water bottle..and just a spritz works. TODAY, that long road has come to an end...and here is what I read.
Transformers Robots in Disguise (IDW) - Light fun but not overly simple. Bumblebee leads a crew of autobots including grimlock to round up escaped rogue robots that cause chaos where ever they land. Not just for kids, though it is squeaky clean. The humor, mostly the bits featuring Grimlock, are the most entertaining, as was expected. The rest feels more kidified than your average cartoon skewing to a relatively young demographic. The story is quick and over in a flash with stakes kept low, zero drama, and just a hint of an ongoing story to suggest to a kid that this is just the beginning. We even get a glimpse of familiar Autobot friends in the end, assuring a parent will have something to look forward to as well. To be sure, this is Transformers light...even lighter than Prime...but it serves as an excellent introduction for future big bot fans.
Avengers (Marvel) - While public perception of Marvel might be that their focus is dead set on their cinematic universe, their new lineup of Avengers including teens Ms. Marvel, Miles Morales Spidey and Nova alongside female Thor and Falcon Captain America suggests otherwise. This is a quick introductory battle with Radioactive Man that serves to give a sort of GIJoe-esque lesson in life and little more. It's going to be an odd mix for older fans, but it's amusing none the less. The second half of the book serves as an introduction to the Inhumans, who may quickly be replacing the X-Men and mutant kind as the dominant powered spieces on Marvel's planet Earth. The quickie story is intriguing, but doesn't really give you a sense of the book, or this new team.
Gronk (Action Lab) - Gronk introduces a little green monster with a ruffled head of golden hair and the girl she lives with. They converse with lots of sarcasm injected into every recollection, and while that is mildly amusing, I fear the book thinks the whole premise is cuter than it really is. Gronk comes off like a kidified Jhonen Vasquez comic, merely suggesting it is edgy while truly being sweet enough to rot teeth. Good for tweens, I suppose. The second half is dedicated to Hero Cats of Stellar City, which is exactly what is sounds like and little more in this introduction, though the writing and tone were enough to make me want to read more....about talking cats... who seem to have no other super power.
Hatter M: Love of Wonder (Automatic Publishing) - The reader is dropped head long into events already in play as Queen Redd seeks to crush the forces of good and assure a certain girl's head decorates her mantle. No need for explanation or character introduction. We know most of the players, though we've never seen then in battle and out for blood. The story is extremely engaging and the action, tense. The art is a little sketchy for my tastes, forcing me to struggle to focus on where the action is going, but excellent writing coupled with the odd decision to give most characters a thought bubble (including dogs and priests who are passing characters) makes the whole experience worthwhile and has me eager to seek out more.
Avatar The Last Airbender (Dark Horse) - Following events that take place after the legendary cartoon series, we join Toph and Ty Lee on a tiny, low stress adventure of self discovery which seems squarely targeted at a younger audience. This is light fare with familiar characters doing familiar things, all tied up in a sweet resolution, so while there isn't much meat on the bone, it does beg the question " What is everyone else up to at this time??!!"...which may convert long time TV fans to the comics...so mission accomplished. This book also contains a Plants vs Zombies story, which teaches how to spin the zombie craze for kids and does it very well! The quickie story is goofy and fun and ridiculous enough to make a pint sized horror geek snort-laugh. You'll also find a story from "Bandette", a charming, seemingly French or French influenced comic about a happy female thief who laughs in the face of danger and her friends who get in on the fun. This title is also very light in tone with a theme of friendship being more important than anything else draped over the quick tale, but the adult themes (theft, assasins) would probably keep me from sharing this one with impressionable kids.
Terrible Lizard (Oni Press) - This one boasts it is for all ages and does not disappoint with watered down action and dumbed down writing. Right out of the gate, we meet a character easy to connect with as she is thrown into the center of a super science experiment in temporal displacement, sending a massive TRex to be her new best bud. One giant dinosaur might be enough to grab a kid's imagination, but it seems this little experiment unleashed far greater threats on an unsuspecting populace. In this first issue, the action is fun and light while keeping the stakes mid-range and the situations compelling and amusing without being wacky little kid fare. I'd probably read the whole trade in one sitting.
The Phantom (Hermes Press) - It's hard to get excited for the adventures of a white guy lording over black tribes in the jungle while running around in a skin tight purple outfit, and Hermes Press merely re-publishes the tales of "The Ghost Who Walks"...so nothing new is offered, at least in this comic. The Phantom gets his clothes stolen in one gripping epic and discovers the mystery behind a river that devours men alive in another. No monsters..no super science..just a dude in purple running through the jungle. Classic, perhaps, but not my cup of tea.
Valiant 25th Anniversary Special (Valiant) - Valiant has been making a lot of noise among comic journalists for some time now, and the chatter has been so loud and positive that I've wanted to dive in...if I ever got a few spare moments to read comics. Now Free Comic Book Day offers me an opportunity of an introduction into a world where neither Marvel nor DC heroes tread....and the comic doesn't seem to be made for me. Sad face. This anniversary special serves as the launching point for Valiant's current story lines (or so it seems). We are plopped in the middle of events already in progress, but not to witness super powered battles that will get us hooked on each character while we get a sense of their tone. Nooo..this book is for talking and deep inner reflection. Major buzzkill. Thrill as a de-powered Bloodshot muses over being human. GASP as Ninjak confronts a lady with killer hair. Feel all your feels as some aliens discuss why X-O Manowar Must DIE. ....Or don't. Whatever. The rest of the book features snippets of info on greatest fights, first appearances, team ups...and allows you to imagine the awesome action found in a comic somewhere else.
Captain Canuck (Chapter House Comics) - How can you deny the awesome of a book baring this name alone?? My expectations included slight cheese, over the top action, a quick sense of humor and an air of self awareness. Amazingly, all of this is conveyed in the introductory story where no battle actually takes place. I start the slow clap! The rest of Captain Canuck outlines his origin and takes us through his time jumping, scifi super spy history, dropping us on the doorstep of the new comic due out..right about..meow. The tail end outlines the major players just to wet your appetite. Excellent work! This has everything an intro comic should.
Dark Circle Comics - The gritty, super hero worlds peeled away from the sunny skies of Archie Comics are introduced through chunks of first issues from The Black Hood and The Fox. While the Hood drops us at the very start of his journey, leaving the reader to decide if they care what happens next to a wounded cop in a hospital, the Fox sets a light mood and lays out the almost 66 Batman-esque tone of these books while giving us a bit of costumed action as well. Sadly, I came for the newest title premiere of The Shield and wasn't given more than a page of intro I could have read in a synopsis. Bummer. She is the spirit of the revolution, appearing when she is needed to dole out 2 fisted justice. Now she returns to a time that has forgotten her, with no memory of her past and a big bad awaiting her arrival. Sounds great. SHOW ME SOMETHING PLEASE!
Tales of Honor (Top Cow) - If there's one company you could say, without a doubt, knows how to craft a killer, female driven story, it's Top Cow. Tales of Honor carries on that excellent tradition. You'll find this introduction has a rocky start, unless you're a fan of the traditional bloated scifi background story. Happily, all the jargon and references to worlds and races fades away with solid story telling and a very likable Captain Honor Harrington who is tough as nails, self sacrificing, ass kicking...and fairly ruthless when it comes to justice, which is a surprising twist (though something I should have expected from Top Cow!) This is a story that most likely will unfold in the most excellent of ways and when television comes calling, you can count me as a strong supporter of the Honor series!
Mercury Heat (Avatar) - Talk about the perfect follow up title. So many stories attempt to jump around in time or drown the reader in flashbacks that seem more convenience than useful storytelling. Mercury Heat introduces our lead heroine as a young girl struggling to find her way in an odd, ultra-futuristic setting, and also as a grown woman i'd best describe as a more practical Judge Dread existing somewhere on the fringes of the events of The 5th Element. SOLD. The fact that she's fairly brutal as she takes down a criminal is just icing. Yes, her silly body armor sporting a bare midrift is fairly annoying, but i'll overlook it. ....this time.
Street Fighter (Udon) - With the overlying message "there's always someone tougher...stronger...faster out there", we follow several of the Street Fighter warriors into battle in the fighting circle and beyond. Through these mini battles, we get a taste of each character's personality as well as their fighting styles and signature moves. It's an excellent way to introduce a newcomer to this universe, and for someone who knows a bit about Street Fighter history, it's just about 100% more fun! In the back are some quickie, more kidified comics staring stylized versions of the characters, followed by a mini art gallery. Both are excellent extras, with the cartoonish comics standing apart as very well written and hysterical works all on their own.
Legendary Comics Sampler - In a world where teasers fight for the attention of Free Comic Book Day visitors, shedding blood and doling out full color pain across the paneled wastelands....Legendary chooses...not to play at all! Their FCBD book is less a sampler and more a comic sized catalog with no surprises to be found, unless you've been keeping a close eye on the company and know what they've shown thus far, finding some new info in these pages. Since I am not extremely well versed in Legendary's offerings, I flipped through the book in record time with only one comment to make. The cover is kinda cool.
Bongo Comics Free-For-All - The Simpsons have always been hit or miss with me, and the comics are no different. In the past, I had picked up a random comic here and there and was pleasantly surprised with how genuinely witty the writing was throughout. This time...not so much. We've got a story where Bart runs amok with Professor Frink's hair tonic (void of any and all hipster jokes), Comic Book Guy finds a girlfriend and ditches her due to her questionable tastes (missing all jabs at comic con and cosplaying that are begging to be made), and Lisa dreams she is Pharoah of an idealistic Egyptian nation...oddly told in a pseudo anime style and missing all funny entirely. Super kid safe, yes. Entertaining? Nope.
Divergence (DC Comics) - I've been reading comics for a long time, and while I was never completely attached to the universes of the classic, iconic DC Comics, I was hesitant to explore their new52 revamped worlds. Still, with a little help from a contact on the inside, I had access to those first issues and dove in head first. Most of what I read was extremely likable. Some was instantly forgotten. As both Marvel and DC throw their core universes into chaos once again, I remember the new52 and the jumpstart it gave to the comics industry...and just hope they don't fuck it all up. As you hit the first pages of Divergence, it becomes clear DC is well past their infinite world remodeling. The molten rock has cooled and on this new ground, still obviously soaked with the blood of some great conflict (nay..could it have been..a crisis??!!), our heroes are picking up the pieces and getting ready to start anew. The tone smacks of the elements I loved about Marvel Comics growing up...that air of human frailty, even in one as powerful as Superman...and heroism in the face of self doubt as Jim Gordon slides into a teched out suit of armor to protect Gotham as the new Batman while Bruce Wayne's body is still undiscovered. A third story teases future events in Justice League as violent birth in the land of Amazons heralds the coming of a war between Darkseid and The Anti- Monitor which threatens to crack the world in two. We get the briefest of glimpses at our most beloved heroes as they struggle to fight..protect..survive. Hot damn, I guess i'm interested in reading DC Comics again! With DC announcing, on the first page of this book, that the stories told inside are 100% original and not the first pages of a future book, we may have a future collectible on our hands.
Chakra the Invincible (Graphic India) - Stan Lee...love him or hate him, the man does not stop creating. No idea when this super powered creation was born, but the hokey, old school style of super hero story telling works perfectly for squeaky clean Indian super hero Chakra the Invincible...because the darn kid says his WHOLE name even when charging into battle. This may not be the book of choice for modern, older comic collectors, as the stories even lack the quick wit of Archie comics, but if you like your action as vanilla as can be or better, need something profoundly safe for your kids, this is the book for you. Now how do you say Excelsior in Hindu?
Doctor Who (Titan Comics) - These days, I've not been keeping up with the Doctor, as the 12th's curmudgeony ways just don't entertain me the way the multi faceted, madcap 11th did. It should have dawned on me that the previous Doctors are still alive and well, having further adventures in the pages of comic books. We start with the 12th and Clara on a crystal planet where humans are being killed by an electrical monster. Since it's meant to be a quickie story, the resolution comes fast and with little contemplation. The story telling in and of itself is very disjointed, as action springs forward making one think they missed a panel and conversations flow in bubbles all over the place. Who ever crafted this work needs to go back to comic school. The next two tales are way more fun and feature the 11th and 10th Doctors, giving a quick glimpse at their original comic companions and clearly showing off their love for the individual personality of each character, which comes across perfectly. If anything, this book succeeds in making the reader want to explore more from their favorite personas...and maybe leave Capaldi and his grumblings to the TV crowd who loves him best.
Teen Titans GO!/ Scooby-Doo Team-Up (DC Comics) - Do I even have to explain the enormous potential for fun here? DC Comics does not disappoint with two kidified tales that, while remaining squeaky clean, do not pander, do not over simplify the content and all throughout, maintains the core spirit of each cartoon with the utmost care. The Scooby gang hit the Hall of Justice to discover how a band of rainbow cored ghosts managed to disappear Superman, and the ladies of the Teen Titans stage a slumber party and there are NO BOYS ALLOWED!! Each story is wittier than it has to be, and clever in its own way. The Scooby story even contains nods to old school Super Friends comic and TV characters that made me have a major geek out moment. This one will entertain the kiddies and when they are done, sneak it away and enjoy yourself!
Super Mutant Academy/ Step Aside, Pops (Drawn and Quarterly) - First off, I would like to apologize to the creators of this comic for the groaning I did when I saw the cover. My tights loving, super hero idolizing brains saw the art and screamed No!!! This is gonna be...all...ARTSY!!! I shall melt and shrink away from culture. Lucky, this year i'm duty bound to write up ALL the Free Comic Book Day comics I picked up this year...no matter how long it takes in between work...and it's taking a long fuckin time. THAT SAID....holy shit Kate Beaton's " Hark! A Vagrant" is completely brilliant. This is a woman who could watch the history channel for 4 hours and then write the most hysterical comics you've ever read...about Genghis Khan. She's a God Damn Genius..there's no bones about it. If I ever accidentally meet her at a show, I predict I will fanboy so damn hard. This is the True Romance of comics...it's so good you want to turn everyone on to it and your friends will be shocked no one ever showed it to them before, and when you meet someone who loves it like you do, you form an unnatural.bond unreasonably quickly until your husbands and wives pull you apart, reminding you of your marriage. ....It's that good. The other side of the comic is some nonsense about high school kids who are weird and have animal heads or oddball deformities (thus the mutants). The funny here is hit or miss, but often surprisingly sweet.
The Tick (New England Comics) - Ahhh..the Tick. As much as I love the old cartoons and comics, there's been enough negative stigma associated with the character to make me sour on him over the years. Still, I occasionally drift back to the comics and have found them very hit completely or miss entirely, and i'm happy to report this visit is a hit from the iconic cover featuring Tick and Arthur yelling their battle cries to the odd, random and hysterical adventures found inside. Thrill as Tick gets a visit from a dead former sidekick who holds the key to defeating a colossal, city devouring monster! Let the magic overtake you as the creators explain what happened during a black panel in Tick #1!! (hint..it involves hobos) Shriek as Arthur tries to inject some culture into his life with a trip to an art museum and is thwarted at every turn by all manor of evil demanding the duo's attention!!! It's all extremely entertaining, true to form and enticing enough to get readers wanting more.
ICE: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (12-Gauge) - My first though when picking up this comic was "Holy hell..change that title. Nothing fires up someones spirit of adventure like customs enforcement!" While i'm dead certain the sub-name has got to go, it didn't diminish the quality of the writing, art and pacing within. In the few pages given, we are introduced to the quintessential haunted law man on the edge, and though he seems poised for a fight at all times, it's clear this isn't some one dimensional action movie hero. Point of fact, each scenario presented, from a counterfeiting bust to late night paper work, was instantly engaging while remaining uniquely real. With supremely likable characters, a brisk pace and the inevitable cliffhanger surrounded by flames, the entire work is perfection. Hollywood could learn a thing or two here.
The Motorcycle Samurai (Top Shelf Productions) - Come and witness a tale of badlands and blood and sand and a badass on a motorcycle. In a time where a public cries out for more original female heroes, the White Bolt, central character of Motorcycle Samurai, answers the call. You'll notice I didn't call her a hero, for in truth, I have no idea what her allegiances are, save for a brief puppet introduction claiming she craves justice heaped atop her morning frosted flakes. We'll assume she is a hero vigilante of sorts, and one with an old school samurai code, as even when facing off against a team of female opponents (also unclear if they are good or bad) plucked straight from Kill Bill, she never unleashes her sword, still managing to dispatch her foes with fists and a sword hilt to the cranium. That being the case, not a drop of blood is shed here as Bolt takes a hooded man across a seemingly desolate old western landscape, with heaps of atmosphere and a quirky art style, but not much substance to entice. Our main character displays a no nonsense attitude and makes herself clear with deeds as well as words, but that's all you get. Her wit is as dry as the Earth she rides across, and so I fear this brief visit may not provide enough impact for further investigation.
Sonic the Hedgehog/ Mega Man (Archie Action) - More tales of video game heroes kept ultra squeaky clean for the kiddies! Sure, these days that includes suggestions of death, losing an eye off panel, fighting amid a ruined city, time travel and other sciency notions and terrorist plots..alongside the expected battles..but these are the tropes of a modern, sophisticated children's tale I suppose. On one side of the comic, Sonic takes on his nemesis and is interrupted by a monster attack threatening to engulf the city in flames. We find Mega Man in the other half, oddly telling the origin story of his current terrorist leader enemy, serving only to set the reader up for an oncoming Mega Man-Sonic cross over (and not the first). While the Sonic story gives us a display of his powers as he battles a giant monster in mid air, along with a flavor for his sense of humor ( PUNS!!), the Mega Man half seems content to set things up for their next big event, spending all their time introducing an angry guy with a robo-eye and no charisma to speak of. Interesting choice, but not one that appeals to me as a first time reader, which is supposed to be the point of Free Comic Book Day.
Cleapatra In Space (Graphix) - I swear we've seen this before...Cleopatra in the future fighting along with female warriors and one hell of a hokey theme song? Never the less, its a pretty fun idea for a kid's comic series! Cleopatra is beamed forward through time by unseen hands to fulfill a prophesy that she will end a great war. In this dark future, a power mad despot has devoured all the Earth's information and erased this knowledge from the rest of the planet. Only one nation with the foresight to keep the written word at hand has the power to fight back, and now that the chosen one has come, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Normally, the second you say prophecy and chosen one in the same collection of words, I groan, roll over and go back to sleep, but for a kid's story, it smacks of boundless mystery and fun. Why Cleopatra? ....why not. FUN! This is a turn your brain off sort of adventure and clearly not meant for us old folks. Further, the overlaying message is "knowledge is power", which I love. Those who keep mankind's collected thoughts safe from destruction can drive back the evils that would conquer us. It's a message worth championing.
Hip Hop Family Tree Three-In-One (Fantagraphics) - I've read biography comics before. They are usually painfully boring or ridiculously over the top. When you see the name Fantagraphics on a project like this, you know the subjects will be treated with admiration and respect, but more importantly, it's going to be a good time! Hip Hop Family Tree introduces a handful of rap legends as they break into the scene...warts, lisps, fanboying and white-boy-jokes all left in place providing a less hero-worshippy experience, and more importantly, creating a very real feeling. Watch rap adversaries bite their lips and go wide eyed as a jealous anger boils within their chest. Laugh as LL Cool J shows up for one of his first meetings looking like a mascot for the Sugar Hill Gang. Even if you know very little about the music, these stories are highly entertaining. Toward the back is a bonus comic called Cosplayers with a story that gets damn near deep, flanked by the exploits of 2 women who like to cut up comic books. THE HORROR!!!! My body was not ready. In between these two clashing titans is a quickie parody of Rob Leifeld's Levi Jeans commercial which would make you an instant fan, even without the rest of the comic. A few pages before that...is the best illustration of Shock G from Digital Underground you've ever seen in your entire life (and, admittedly, there are so many to choose from), drawn by Skottie Young.
Neil Gaiman's Lady Justice (Super Genius) - The public at large is always screaming about how we must create new heroes or suffer the hell of never ending remakes, re-imaginings and reboots. Well, here's a new hero, forged in fires stoked around 1992. I'm not suggesting that is when this comic was created, though it would not surprise me, as the content includes oddball, over the top violence from a woman with extreeeeeme cleavage and nothing but a blindfold to mask her identity. Said woman is also a former dancer, and the creators make use of this talent in her killing...which is just plain silly no matter how gritty you paint that picture. She has experienced pain in her life, and after watching both her brothers die, she merges with the spirit of justice and begins her quest to balance the scales!!! YEA...super hokey, but it will probably work for some. The art has a very old school Swamp Thing feel to it, and that alone is appealing. Might be worth a second look. Wear your best acid wash jeans and give in.
Stuff of Legend/ Thantos Diver (Third World Studios) - I'll just come right out and say Stuff of Legend is one of my favorite indie comics of all time. The art is beautiful and moody, lending to the dark fairy-tale-esque tone. This is the story of a young boy kidnapped by the Boogeyman, taken to another world found within the darkness of a simple closet. The boy's puppy and favorite toys journey to this world to free the boy and bring him home, and are transformed into real flesh and blood versions of themselves along the way. I've lost track of this story and will mention that the tiniest teaser provided in this comic and my word should be enough to get you to hunt down issue 1. If you're not hooked after that, you never will be. On the opposite end of the book is a story about two competitve sisters who dive into submerged cities to salvage what they can to make a living. The story is crudely drawn, a bit disjointed and is dripping with Anime tropes. Not really my cup of tea.
Wonderland Special Edition (Zenezcope) - Zenescope's tales of Wonderland have always been at odds with itself. Covers depict scantily clad ladies doing battle, or just standing around looking scantily clad. This element alone is what I feel keeps a larger audience from diving into some very well written and highly imaginative stories, which are also ridiculously bloody at times. This little Free Comic Book Day teaser abandons much of the cleavage in favor of glimpses into the madness that waits beyond the looking glass, as told by a woman in an antique store eager to engage a prospective buyer. It is a perfect taste of a book that might otherwise be overlooked, and as mentioned before, is ridiculously, fantastically bloody in the end.
Jurassic Strike Force 5 (Silver Dragon Books) - If there's one thing comics can boast over any other media, it's that there is no shortage of ideas that make you instantly groan, fully realized into paneled pages with passable art. From the text shouting "Earth's ORIGINAL Heroes" (ug) to the text on the back screaming "Read the original story millions of years in the making" (...make it stop) to the premise as fresh as a 90's extreeeeeme animals with attitude team book, this crapfest has plenty that will make you want to fling it across the room as it whimpers "I didn't ask to be born..." and begs for a fiery death. It's dinosaurs in techy battle suits on modern day Earth. Do I need to say more? Do I really need to add the teaser book's repeated gag is the wise crackin dinos ordering hundreds of burritos??!! This is a story seemingly written by a 10 year old, but one that other 10 yr olds would turn their nose up at. Seriously...in a world with internet, we can do better than this.
Rabbids (Papercutz) - Continuing along with the theme of terrible comics that make me groan more than the mention of Cabin Boy, we've got a comic adaptation of a popular video game series that manages to suck all of the fun out of the premise. Good job you. It's clear the content is made ultra safe for kids, but little people are not dumb...they're just young. This stuff is drek, and worse, its drek with moments that will slightly disturb the reader. Other bits in the book include Ariol, a super ultra squeaky clean story that makes Peppa Pig look racey. All fine and good, but there's no substance here. I fear the demographic they are shooting for is too young to read. The same can be said about the Smurfs bit and...the terror of all terrors....GARFIELD, who journeys into space on a mission ripped from "Armageddon" and lands on a giant meatball to blow it up and thwart the plans of unseen Lasagna aliens. DEAR GOD MAKE THE BAD PEOPLE STOP.
Bodie Troll (Red 5 Comics) - A cute n fluffy little troll boy ventures off to pick up more cider for the patrons at the pub he works for, is sidelined by a tea party, gets smashed off of root beer and accidentally marries his tea hostess in a ceremony performed by her stuffed bunny. Town ordinance says all ceremonies performed by stuffed individuals are legally binding! WHAT WILL OUR HERO DO??!! This is the perfect amounts of random, silly fun mixed with highly appealing comic art that looks like the love child of Disney and Sergio Aragones, creating a world you'll want to see more from when you have't even finished this teaser. Excellent work! Next, you'll find a quick introduction to Drones, a book seemingly about robots remote piloted by humans in battle. While the subject matter is violent, the tone is kept light and jokey. It's likeable enough, but I feel like I've read this story 50 times before, and with no new spin on it, i'm not so engaged. In the back we get a quick look at Creature Academy with a young boy introduced to a world just beneath his own as marauding spirits attack. From these fleeting moments, I get an air of Harry Potter with Anime overtones set against highly polished art that further suggests both topics but resembles neither. In the end, a small part of me wants to know more, as all the pretty in those panels explains next to nothing, so I suppose...mission accomplished?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW) - BEHOLD!! The perfect teaser comic. Opening with a quick origin story from Splinter lamenting his past while looking over a barely alive Donatello, the book shifts into a higher gear as we hit the rooftops with Mikey, Raph and Leo who catch us up on the flurry of events that have led us here. We get glimpses of epic battles, mutant monsters on the side of good and evil and a veritable roll call of characters to get old fans who are new to the comics extremely excited, and simultaneously catching up folks new to these stories all together.
Suddenly, we pull out of flashback mode as our 3 turtle heroes dive into battle, offering just a taste of the action ahead, the key players involved, and a familiar evil guy with lots of pointy bits coming off his uniform, proving that dead isn't really dead in comic books! Perfection across the board.
Savage Dragon Legacy (Image) - These days you hear a lot about The Walking Dead and Saga, with occasional rumblings from the worlds of Spawn and Invincible, but what ever happened to that big green guy in the cop uniform?? The Savage Dragon Free Comic Book Day offering introduces us to a new Dragon and drops us in the middle of his first day on the beat. This is pretty standard super beat down fare with the ultra baddie shouting about his might and our hero answering with bravado and a snappy comeback here and there. It's likable enough, but not so remarkable. In a quick and convenient moment with a press person after the battle is won, we learn who this new Dragon is and what's become of the last Dragon (not Bruce Leroy), opening the door for eager collectors to go grab that back story and catch up with piles of trades. Toward the back, I suppose we are seeing some of that back story?? It's a little unclear without any notation of time in relation to what we just read. It's a stand alone moment where something huge happens, but being placed apart from the previous tale, it lacks weight and context, when it should have probably been the opening origin story for the hero on previous pages. Odd choice! The whole is enjoyable enough and moves the action along with speed, but again, there's not much here you haven't seen already if you've been picking up super hero comics for years. New collectors might have a damn good time with it.
Bob's Burgers (Dynamite) - The ridiculously awesome cartoon series is now a ridiculously awesome comic book series, with the advantage of not having to employ 500 starving Asian animators to complete a sequence involving Gene leading a horde of frogs to a river with his farts. COMICS ARE MAGIC!!! Alongside this rhymey, Sawyer-esque (for no discernible reason) tale are additional epics including Tina's erotic super pony fanfiction, Louise exploring her artistic side by improving library books and Louise going head to head with an alien take over plot...that might not be an alien take over plot. In between we get a look inside the mind of a burger genius with Bob's burger creation notes. If the ongoing comic series is half as good, you may as well just consider it further tales of the Bob's Burger cartoon series!
Pokemon X Y (Perfect Square) - Dive into the nonstop excitement and adventure of the Pokemon worlds with a tale of young X...after he has won a massive competition...and is now hiding in his room away from the press...for the whole story. Yay. THRILL as a further story unfolds, in which Emerald, who loves Pokemon battles but hates Pokemon, draws a shape in the grass!! -gasp- Faint from SHOCK as Black gets a package! A PACKAGE I TELL YOU!!! Newcomers to these worlds will shrug and be happy this comic didn't cost them anything after 10 minutes of figuring out what direction you are supposed to read each panel in. Fans of the games will probably understand everything that's happening and squee with delight every time someone starts shouting randomly. Good for you.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure (VIZ Media) - Now that you've got the hang of reading Japanese comics, it gets a little more challenging with old school Manga. My problem with a lot of traditional Manga is in the amount of space they fill in a panel with action lines, impact sound effects, grunts..ground..sky..hurling debree.. It's all very busy and for me, that spells difficulty in following the action. In this comic in particular, we are once again faced with events already in swing, so i'm not sure if my misunderstanding of what's going on comes from not being up to speed with the current battle and the oddball players involved, or that the action is not very well explained. Whatever the reason, i'm lost in a sea of masculine, angry eyebrows, weird costume choices and a Dragonball-esque battle that probably started 16 issues ago and will go on for another 12. This is not a starting point, and amid this flurry of breaking bones and frozen limbs, I fear Senpai will not notice me. I am...lost. Luckily there is reprieve in the complete polar opposite Yu-Gi-Oh! action in the back of the book, but easy to follow is understandable when we are talking about two kids facing off at a table with a card battle game. NON STOP CARD FLIPPING ACTION!!! Though this is also a poor entry point for this comic series, it does give you a sense of how they play the game in the stories, a glimpse at some of the monsters and the notion that this is more than just some children's fad. The monsters are probably the coolest thing about the story, but for me, not enough to make me want to seek out more. Then again, i'm probably not this book's demographic at all.
Boom Studios 10 year Celebration - This one is jam packed with so many well known licenses that are always inexplicably on point, staying true to the original source material on every page. It kicks off with a silly little tale from the world of Labyrinth, a sort of sad but sweet minute with Iscariot, and a beautiful legend from Mouse Guard. The book goes on with quick moments from Adventure Time with Fiona and Cake, Peanuts, Garfield, Lumberjanes, Munchkin and Help Us! Great Warrior. Most are fun with the little time given, though some like Adventure Time and Lumberjanes leave you with no sense of the core book's tone or spirit, so I have very little notion if i'd like to read more. Still, the briefest of moments back in the Labyrinth world will make any older fan completely geek out, and the Mouse Guard story alone makes this book a worthy pick up.
Fight Club (Dark Horse Comics) - I have mixed feelings about continuing stories that felt well finished, but after the glory and majesty of Crocodile Dundee 2, how can you argue that sometimes, lightning can strike twice in the same place? Fight Club's final scene is now burned into our brains; two odd lovers holding hands as massive structures of steel and glass come roaring to the ground in the distance. "Where Is My Mind" by the Pixies playing us into the credits. How do you follow that act?? Since the release in May, I've heard good things about the saga that has continued in Dark Horse's comic pages, but the slice of story we get in their Free Comic Book Day offering is a bit all over the place, much like Tyler Durden's brains. The problem with laying a comic out in the same way a film might jump from location to location with no leading context is it doesn't read nearly as well. Is the narrator continuing his life with Marla, as dysfunctional as that life may be...or is he locked away in a mental institution? ...Or did one event follow the other? If there was a reel change, I most certainly missed the cigarette burn. I'd still love to read the new book, but if this one teaser was all that existed to convince me, I might take a pass. Moving onto "The Goon" which presents a brutal tale of the harshness of life, and in this case, how the monsters of this world are not exempt from it. It's damn funny, has MILES of charisma and leaves you wanting more. Why this crew hasn't gotten their own animated project for adults is beyond me. In the last pages, we visit the world of "The Strain", where a wealthy gentleman is procuring a book of some considerable value and unseen power, but his real interests lie in the man who delivered the book and what pumps through his veins. It's slick and provides some killer visuals, but in the end that's all it is. Just the tiniest taste of an entire world as if to say "You like monsters?? Go git this book kid!!!" I suppose sometimes that's enough.
Worlds of Aspen (Aspen Comics) - Up til now, my only knowledge of Aspen could be summed up with a Monty Python line; "You can't expect to wield supreme power just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!" The two stories in this book waste no time commanding your attention, assuring the reader that strong female heroes do exist and not beating you over the head with it. Eternal Soulfire introduces a world where magic exists in the shadows and back alleys of our world (if this IS our world..I couldn't figure that part out.) We aren't given much more than a sort of bounty hunt with a fairy winged woman who kicks down a door and proceeds to whoop all manner of ass, but it's impactful and new enough to leave me with questions i'd like answered. Flip the book and you've got a story from Fathom Blue. On the surface, one could discount this story as typical Anime group hero fair, complete with a baddie wearing the sort of armor we've only seen when we joke "What if we made male characters wear the silly ass boob armor we put on female comic and video game characters??" THEY ANSWERED THIS QUESTION. ....his butt..is so pale. Still, there's enough introduction to likable characters with charisma and an ending that leaves their circumstances a mystery...and so again, I want more! There's some awesome witchcraft going on at Aspen and I'd like a taste.
Help the CBLDF Defend Comics - When is a comic not a comic? When it's an oversized pamphlet extolling the importance of free speech and the power of literature. Yes..awesome..great...not so much fun. A sweet little tale staring The Green Turtle, beautifully drawn and gets its point across without beating its chest with righteous anger. This is flowed by....Rabbids...the jackasses of the video game world, who teach kids peeping can be funny!! I'll also mention this quick, terrible comic is also in the Rabbids book, giving Free Comic Book Day readers 2 chances to groan loudly. We continue with Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula who figure out a little magic soup will improve communication with the undead. Again, i'm unsure of the message here, but it's light spooky fun and adorable all at once. Beanworld...we get a book talking about it's long life and many forms. Here's the thing. Who is this comic for?? The Archie Kevin Keller tale of free speech that follows suggests a slightly older than kid age requirement, since the content includes lawyers and ..you know..free speech...and goes on for 6 pages with this one drum to beat. A story called Dragons Beware: Freedom Flambeed suggests a younger crowd with delightful cartoony kids discussing the merits of treading lightly and letting yourself be heard in equal parts, and is very successful and entertaining while doing so. Toward the back of the book is a lengthy tale of King Midas who, after getting rid of his golden touch, was cursed with jackass ears he attempted to keep quiet. Though he did not deserve this curse (this is another story of pretty, vengeful gods) the myth suggests his keeping it secret was wrong and doing so only made his humiliation worse. Bottom line here...the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund does great things in protecting the rights of creators who do what they do out of love, and generally have little money to speak of. Their strength is NOT in assembling a comic that is entertaining and on point all at once. In the future, they'd be better served to release a book with 3 to 4 super exceptional indie comic creators that wouldn't normally get such a platform to show their work. The groups message could go at the front and back and poof, objectives achieved, comic books triumph and some excellent artists get their shot. Everyone wins!
Spongebob Freestyle Funnies (United Plankton Pictures) - I'll come right out and admit to loving the hell out of the Spongebob Squarepants cartoons. They strike just the right amount of absurd, random and silly 90% of the time...and that's my jam! The Spongebob Free Comic Book Day comic is only running on 15% random funny, so the book.is perfectly fine for kids and may even make those little faces crack up, but there's something lost in the translation. In the first meaty story, Spongebob and Patric run off to celebrate Jellyfish Migration Day, but unseen hands have drawn their translucent, stingy friends...elsewhere. Yea, its a kid's book so its light on mystery and we find out 2 panels later..wackiness ensues involving Plankton and a top secret stingy sauce. MADNESS. That's the bulk of the book. Toward the back we get 3 more ultra silly quickie tales (they even use the back cover..nonstop party), and a page of fun facts about fishes that are venomous. Gee, I learned stuff today! This one is only mildly entertaining, so surrender your copies to the nearest lil human and live vicariously.
And Then Emily Was Gone (Comix Tribe) - Finding an intriguing new horror story amid the piles of comics that drop every year is like digging up gold in your mattress. There are lots of great looking comics with blood soaked splash pages by the dozen, but you won't find a unique new voice every day. In this dark and somewhat artistic indie tale, the focus is more on meeting a monster of legend rather than the little boy it wants to play with. The odd nature of the art and spiraling quality in which it is presented heightens the reader's feeling of impending dread. Unfortunately, we live in the time of The Babadook, and a host of fairy tales terrorizing children before it, some with adult champions returned from their own battles with these fiends for a final showdown. So, yea, this is done well, and we've yet to see how that same formula plays out here (it's going to come down to writing), but my horror friends have all seen it before. There's going to have to be a great deal of buzz to pique their interest. The second chunk of the book is dedicated to a villain called The Oxymoron who terrorizes an aging super baddie in the hopes of using his time travelling gifts to muck up the world. Sounds fun, but I've got some obstacles to get around before i'm sold...the first being a bad guy with The Joker's smile...which instantly makes my brain yell SEEN IT!! The book could be fantastic moving forward, but show me a jokey, homicidal villain with a red lipped smile and i'll point you to my stacks of comics staring the real deal. If the book is meant to be darkly funny, like a black-comedy version of Deadpool, then i'm slightly more interested, but the humor doesn't translate here. If all we are left with is a dude in a white version of Deadpool's mask and Joker's smile...well ..we've got a teenage kid's fanfic, and no amount of gratuitous bloodshed is going to win me over. Clearly someone likes this character since a fat book of his exploits is on sale now, but whether that someone is actual fans or a publisher with deep pockets and a dream of a movie deal remains to be seen.
2000AD - 48 pages of scifi lunacy indeed!! This oversized book is packed with most of 2000AD's star players, and a couple I never knew existed but will now be looking out for. We kick things off with the original UK badass Judge Dredd as he answers a call of civil disobedience and winds up going head to head with a former military robot turned door man. This story is as timely as ever and even though it mirrors the horrible state of living in modern society (but not quite as bad as killer doorman robots), it doesn't beat you over the head with it. There are 8 more stories packed into these pages, so i'll focus on the highlights. "Nemesis the Warlock" is a hysterical visit with galactic tyrant Thomas de Torquemada as he inspects his shoddily built tomb and is set upon by Nemesis. Truth be told, though both strike an imposing silhouette, neither is packing substantial brain power, so this battle is packed with glorious exposition and lots of alien blood. If the 6 month long battles on Dragon Ball Z were this much fun, I'd be a fan for life! Next we've got Doctor Sin, wherein an aging necromancer with the fashion sense of Ming the Merciless reaches out to a young rapper to take on his mantle and battle supernatural forces with the fate of the world at stake. Instant gold. I want more...like..yesterday. I'll also give mention to the beautiful art of Slaine, which is also gloriously, fantastically, ridiculously brutal. The dude dispatches a group of killers while standing on one of their shields...while the guy is holding it...and continues to hold it until he is dead as well. Did I mention Slaine wears a kilt and has crazy early Lobo hair? More of this as well, please.
HOLY DAMN I HAVE REACHED THE BOTTOM OF THE PILE!!! ~runs out into the street with no pants on~
Thanks once again to The Comic Crypt for this massive stack of reading material and for always providing a great time to the geeky community.