A Look at Free Comic Book Day 2012

Free Comic Book Day 2012 has come and gone, and judging by the crowds of excited people I saw at every store I went to (5 over about 4 hours that morning) it was a pretty big success.  But how were the comics that were given away?  Well, I managed to come home with a pretty big stack of them, so let’s take a closer look.

  • Adventure Time/Peanuts – The classic Peanuts stories are great, the new stuff leaves me cold.  Okay, that half of the flipbook out of the way, let’s talk Adventure Time.  This is a great example of what Kaboom is doing with their AT series.  The main story follows all the style guides (and fits within the gutters of issue one), but there are also a couple short stories by indie creators where they can go off and tell whatever stories they like.  It’s a good, fun mix of a good, fun series, and an excellent representation of what you’d get in an issue of Adventure Time.

  • Archaia Presents Mouse Guard and Other Stories – Man, did Archaia raise the bar with their FCBD issue, giving out a 41-page (unless I miscounted) HARDCOVER sampler.  I can’t say every sample was good — Cursed Pirate Girl was somewhat illegible and I had to skip past it — but the Mouse Guard synopsis story (I really need to be reading that!) and Cow Boy by Nate  Cosby and Chris Eliopoulos were excellent.  Cow Boy is definitely going on my next order.  Another fun surprise: a Labyrinth story!  There’s no branding on the story itself but once I recognized Hoggle (okay, it’s not that hard), the other characters came flooding back to me. THIS is what FCBD should be about!
  • Atomic Robo/Neozoic/Bonnie Lass – Even though Archaia put out this Free Comic Book Day’s strongest issue, the Atomic Robo team of Brian Clevenger and Scott Wegener yet again put out an amazing offering this year.  Usually reserving FCBD for a Robo/Dr. Dinosaur fight, this year they teamed up!  Well, in a way.  As always it was hilarious, and as always you should be reading it year-round.  The other samples in here didn’t offer content nearly as strong.  Neozoic hopped from scene to scene (and even from person to person in the same  conversation) so much it felt like panels were missing.  Transitions definitely were. Bonnie Lass was fine, but nothing remarkable.
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron #0.1 – This is a good FCBD choice from Marvel.  High-profile (or rather more importantly, highly talented) creators, recognizable characters appearing in a movie opening the same weekend, and the first part of what will obviously be a huge storyline.  It’s well-written and well-drawn, but after going through it 3 times, I just can’t decide on it.  Is it for the new reader or us established folks?  It definitely feels like part 1 of 13.  The return of Ultron is great, but it feels unusually built up. I just have no idea about this one.  Strategically it’s a good call, but it mostly left me cold.  Maybe that’s just a reflection on my relationship with mainstream superhero comics than anything else.
  • The Censored Howard Cruise – Outside of the obvious creators Crumb, Pekar, and Sheldon I’m not terribly knowledgeable about the original Underground Comix creators, so this joint effort by Boom! (really!) and the CBLDF was a nice addition to the day.  And it really is censored for the FCBD edition, though the upcoming releases will not be.  I was trying to come up with a good way to describe Cruise’s work until Charles Brownstein put it much better than I could have in the backmatter: “Cruse’s technically accomplished line style has a wholesome quality that provides a stark contrast to his candid discussions of sexuality, drug use, and censorship.”  A great offering for the student of both comics and comix.  It’s also worth noting that Boom! has a new Roger Langridge collection coming out called “The Show Must Go On” that we’ll both need to keep our eyes peeled for.
  • Dinosaurs vs Aliens – Since we’re discussing how comics work, DvA fails completely, offering only 8 pages of actual comic book and filling up the rest with sketches, concept art, and text pieces.  It’s an interesting book, but not really enough sequential art to qualify as a comic.  Skepticism ruins the rest of the goodwill I have for this title.  Movie director comes up with painfully obvious mash-up (since those are all the rage), hires the best comic writer in the business to write a screenplay, then does a comic to provide street cred (see also: Cowboys vs Aliens).  Oh well, at least the art will be beautiful.
  • Image 20 – Image takes their shot this year with a sampler of their upcoming titles.  Going with a book full of teasers is probably a good call (although I’m obviously biased towards a full comic) but nothing I read inspired me to pick any of them up.
  • The New 52 – Despite my DC boycott I still picked this up, figuring it at least wasn’t putting any money in the Time-Warner coffers.  Another teaser book, this kicks off the backstory behind Pandora, the mystery woman who appeared in each of DC’s 52 #1 issues.  No disrespect intended to the creators involved, but a passing familiarity with Greek mythology and a play-through of God of War is probably all the Pandora stories we need.
  • Spider-Man: Season One – This whole “accessible universe” thing is getting out of hand.  A decade ago Marvel kicked off the Ultimate line with the intent of luring in new readers.  Then DC launched their Earth One line of OGN’s for bookstores and rebooted their whole damn universe.  Unwilling to be beaten at their own game, Marvel then launches THEIR line of bookstore OGN’s, doing the exact same thing every other relaunch has done since John Byrne did Spider-Man: Chapter One.  If you love modernized Spider-Man reboots this will be right up your alley, but otherwise this is pretty inessential.
  • Stuff of Legend/Finding Gossamyr – I’m always charmed by the soul and charming artwork of the Stuff of Legend books, though I don’t see it on the stands often enough to keep up with it.  (Fortunately, there’s an ad in the back for a collection of the first two volumes, which I will definitely pick up).  Finding Gossamyr was a little confusing…It looks like a young boy solves a math problem that leads to a portal to another dimension, but tI had a little trouble reading the transition between the two worlds.  The artwork was a nice cartoony style, and the story was intriguing more than mysterious for it’s own sake.  If you enjoy Narnia-type alternate world stories, this is a title to keep an eye out for.
  • Transformers: Regeneration One #80.5 – My love of comics started with the original Marvel Transformers series.  I was given a three-pack innocently enough, but suddenly it’s 30 years and thousands of issues later.  There will always be a soft, biased spot in my heart for those Robots in Disguise. Sure, their adventures were mainly used to reinforce toy lines, but by the end of the original 80-issue run we got to some truly original stories as we reached the final battle with Unicron written by Simon Furman and (mostly) drawn by Andrew Wildman.

Yes the Cybertronians were victorious, but in the aftermath were some of the grayest, bleakest stories I had ever read as the Transformers struggled to find purpose again.  Furman got to tell stories that didn’t require introducing new toys and could focus on the characters.  Wildman, who if I recall was a pretty divisive art choice at the time, was my favorite TF artist ever, able to draw alt modes and robot forms equally well and distinctly.  What really set him apart were the distinctive (and dare I say, human) faces with spittle frequently flying and battle damage showing they may be robots, but they’ve clearly been to Hell.

Together they got away with telling some truly weird stories.  Galvatron travels to kill his past-self before realizing he would cease to exist.  Megatron and Ratchet fuse into a Two-Face robot.  And then five issues after defeating the ultimate evil they were gone.

Their run based my entire opinion of what Transformers COULD be.  Even though it’s been a while since I’ve gone back to see how they hold up, make no mistake: I know full well that most of the comic series was pretty bad, not to mention some truly awful cartoon episodes.  But those issues…well they showed a lot of growth and potential for more.

Wildman and Furman have teamed up many times since that series end, even on Transformers, with Armada.  Those darker issues seem to have inspired other approaches to the characters as well, but none of them have worked for me.  The names and characterization are roughly the same, but the Armada or Energon Optimus Primes just aren’t the
same to me like the G1 Prime is, just like Alan Scott is not Hal Jordan is not Kyle Rayner.

Now here we are, 21 years after that series ended, and Furman and Wildman are back, picking up where they left off. Or rather, 21 years after they left off.  They do so fairly seamlessly.  Furman’s story could have been more linear rather than bouncing around, but we’re definitely going to get back to the original (and if I may be so bold, my) characters.  And Wildman’s art returned to exactly where I remember, without all the overly-angular jagged faces obviously inspired by the movies.  This is a very good comic, and I’m really excited to see where they take us.

(Now after having written all this, I feel like I’ve done Geoff Johns a disservice by my griping about him turning DC into what he loved most as a kid.)

  • 2000 AD – The surprise find of FCBD 2012!  I’ve never seen a 2000 AD FCBD issue before; I didn’t even know they participated.  The first pleasant surprise was the large magazine size, so it stands out from all the other offerings.  Then it gives several complete chunks of comics.  Sure, some of the stories were a part one but it’s an accurate representation of what to expect from 2000 AD.  Then the contents showcased a little bit of everything: classic sci-fi, some horror, a vintage Alan Moore story, and a superhero satire.  I’ve never read an individual issue of 2000 AD before, but after this I think I might need to add it to my pull list.
  • Valiant 2012 – Even though this was just a teaser book, it worked. I’m sufficiently piqued for the Valiant relaunch this summer.  Unfortunately, it’s still a bad free comic.  Marvel and DC put out things like this monthly; it’s a promotional item.*

* Yes, they’re all promotional items, but the point of Free Comic Book Day is, you know, a free comic book.

  • Yo Gabba Gabba – I really don’t know what to say about this one, since I am neither a small child nor a guardian of small children.  It definitely won’t appeal to anyone whose age is approaching double-digits, and there’s no hipster cred other than some nice work by Mike Allred and Evan Dorkin.  But might it get small children into appreciating comics?  Yes.  Yes it might. And that’s one to grow on.

And that was my 2012 Free Comic Book Day.  I think it was a raging success, even if not every book was.  I hope you found some great comics out there and have maybe been inspired to track down a few new things.  And only 11 months until next year’s!

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Game Tape

I didn’t post reviews last week because there wasn’t much to say that hadn’t been said before. I will say that FF #1 was a great solid start/ transition. Hickman continues to be a master at crafting stories that are interesting with enough material to feel full for an issue and enough mystery to pick up the next. So…. how was this week?

The winner of Wednesday is hands down Nick Spencer’s Jimmy Olsen #1. The amazing thing about this one shot is that half of it reprints Spencer’s back-up feature from Action Comics. The framing device was always a sort of week-in-the-life-of-Jimmy-Olsen, but we didn’t get the entire week until now. These adventures are distilled mad-cap. Spencer took the best parts of Silver Age Jimmy and gave it some modern character and zip. From 5th Dimensional madness to the Mobile Newsroom to plot to take over the internet the stories fly. If you missed these stories the first time around, the $5.99 cover price is worth it even the second time around.

No other books this week fared as well.

Cornell’s Action Comics #899 started out really well. His version of a battle of wits between Luthor and Brainic is not to be missed. Unfortunately, this takes up only half of the issue. The other half can best be explained in the phrase, “Come again?” or in the parlance of our times, “WTF?” There’s a Phantom Zone space god and a battle on the astral plane… uh….yeah.

Age of X: Universe is bizarre. It’s got that same feel uncomfortable squirmy feeling that Warren Ellis’ Ruins did. Everything and everyone you know is off kilter in a bad way. The only mostly recognizable person is Sue Storm as she chafes against some of the more extreme measures taken. Tony’s fate in this universe is fascinating and it’s hard to find Bruce tragic (which seems to be what they’re going for) given the Nazi/ Racial overtones of his work in this universe. No clues still as to how this world got so far off track. If you’re looking for something to drop a few bucks on this week, this book isn’t it.

When you’re talking infinity gems, one name probably pops in you head. It probably also isn’t Parker Robbins. In his talkiest issue yet, Bendis has Uatu the Watcher narrate/explain/ blather through the most recent issue of Avengers. I’d be okay with this type of narration if JRJR’s art didn’t SHOW US everything Uatu is explaining. Worst of all, Bendis through Uatu sings a tiresome refrain about how over his head Robbins a.k.a. the Hood is at this moment. He also ham-fistedly reminds us that others more accustom to the gems’ power are probably (read certainly) searching for the gems too. Which boringly telegraphs the last page. I’m officially dropping this book after the arc ends.

I also picked up the Godzilla book, but I imagine Jesse will have more to say about it than I ever could.

AVENGERS FAQ – A List

With a roster that has boasted gods, time-lost champions, robots, mutants, and war heroes, The Avengers are a storied team having connections in every corner of the superhero community. On the other hand, it’s among the most unstable teams. Members come and go seemingly at their leisure. New members are constantly coming in to the mansion it is important to indoctrinate them into policy as soon as possible along with an orientation program, there is an online FAQ that new members can reference. Here are some of those questions and the corresponding answers.

Q: I’m a scientist; will I have access to laboratory facilities?

Provided you don’t mind sharing them with Hank Pym (and most people do) you are free to use all labs and scientific equipment. It should be noted that outside of poor interpersonal skills and a penchant for creating sentient death machines, Pym has personal grooming issues. You may wish to consider renting space at the Baxter Building instead.


Q: What smells like brine?

Prince Namor.  Don’t forget to bow.

Q: My alter ego is confined to a wheelchair, but I see no appropriate ramps, entrances, stalls, nor elevators in the mansion. How soon will you be accommodating my needs?

Thank you for your service to the Avengers. We regret to inform you that due to budgetary constraints, we simply cannot maintain the current member roster. You are expected to vacate the premises within 14 days of receipt of this notice.

Q: Thor’s passed out in my bed!  What do I do?
Don’t wake him!  Occasionally our resident Norseman over-imbibes while celebrating a victory and must perform the 36-48 hour Thorsleep. Also, DO NOT swap beds with him, as he sometimes finds his way back to his room.  Jarvis has guest beds available in just these circumstances, assuming Hawkeye does not have more than 8 overnight guests.

Q: An alternate future version of myself is staying in the mansion; should I take any precautions to avoid them?

This should have been covered in your introductory briefing. Refer to pages 347- 349 in your manual.

Q: Can I throw Cap’s shield some time?

 

The best answer is don’t get caught. Everyone has had a toss at it at least once. I recommend waiting until Mr. Barnes is in the shower.

Q: I found a wrapped fruit basket in my bathroom. Is this some sort of odd Avengers welcoming custom.

 

To begin, do not consume or even touch the basket. It’s classified as mystical hazardous material. While it is not an official ritual, most members have had the misfortune of finding such a fruit basket in or near their commode. It usually indicates that Thor has had to use your toilet in an emergency situation.

 

Q: What if I found this basket in the sink/ shower?

We will move your quarters immediately. You will have to report with your personal belongings to the Quantum Furnace in the sub-basement. All of those items will need to be destroyed.

Q: I accidentally sideswiped the space shuttle with a quinjet.  What happens next?
First, be sure to exchange insurance information.  Second, contact your Mutual of Asgard representative.  Third, don’t tell Iron Man. Those things are expensive.

Q: What happens if I get sick or injured?
Ironically, very few of the “Doctors” on staff hold medical degrees.  Because of our wildly irregular HMO, your best bet is to see your family practice doctor during regular business hours (specialists are not covered by our insurance) and pay the $75 deductible. Special consideration is given to herbal or holistic treatment, which has a $65 deductible. Under no circumstances should you visit an emergency room, as most work-related injuries caused by our line of work run afoul of OSHA and US Dept of Labor regulations and we’re already on their radar.

Q: Realistically, how many days will I be “working?” Should I have an actual job?
You are on call 24/7/365, but the average crisis takes about 13 hours from instigation to aftermath. There are exceptions that could have you gone as long as a week or two. It is encouraged that you find gainful employment outside of your work as an Avenger. Most of our members hold jobs elsewhere. We suggest you look into a position with a flexible work schedule, a job that has you out of the office frequently, or freelance work. Jobs such as: reporter, photographer, billionaire industrialist, supermodel, research scientist, private detective, or children’s book illustrator tend to work out well.

 

 

Q: What is the Avengers Courtesy Fund? Am I expected to pay into it?
The ACF is a fund paid into by those Avengers who wish to participate. Members pay $20 a year. It pays for birthday cakes/ celebratory doughnuts, plants at funerals of members or member families, get well cards, and the like. While it is strictly voluntary, all are strongly encouraged to participate. See the Hulk if you have questions or choose to opt out.

Q: Hank Pym slapped me, what’s my recourse?
Was Dr. Pym Ant-Man or Giant-Man at the time?  If Ant-Man, grab him by the head and pull off his legs.  Alternately, you may try to cook him with a magnifying glass.  If Giant-Man, first count yourself lucky to be alive.  Then see the mansion bulletin board for the next meeting of Women Against Slapping People (W.A.S.P.).  There is a strict hierarchy to be followed.  If Dr. Pym is standard size, just kick him in the boys.  Twice.

 

 

Q: What’s with all the dog hair and raw meat in the bathroom?
Mr. Logan must be staying with us.  Please notify the janitorial staff.  If he is still in the room, DO NOT attempt to take food from him.

Game Tape

Before we get to the reviews, I’d like to make two super-points:

1. JMS will leave Superman with issue 706. He didn’t even write six issues! This number is no where near the year’s worth of stories DC and JMS were promising. I believe all that is left for me is to quote Dr. Sheldon Cooper, “I informed you thusly.”

2. Absolute All-Star Superman might be the greatest comic I own.

It would have been nice to have Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #6 before either of the last two issues of Batman and Robin. What is it about “returns” that make publishers sloppy with the calendar? In an ideal world, B&R #16 would have come out the same week as B: tRoBW #6 so that they could serve as companion pieces. This delay weakened them both. On the other hand, if you didn’t catch that the Bat-god was actually the Omega-Sanction weapon, it is explained again here. It’s Morrisony in that way that leaves me thinking to hard at the end.

One thing I can say for sure is that from Final Crisis until now, Morrison is the only person I’ve seen that treats Darkseid and the New Gods properly*. They should be highly conceptual and ape-shit crazy in scale. I didn’t get why Darkseid should be the ultimate baddy in the DCU until these books. He’s not just another dictator with designs on Earth. He’s not just another guy for Superman to punch really hard. He’s an idea. You can’t stop an idea with fists, gadgets, and rings.

Those of you who were not a fan of the refrigerator scene in the last Indiana Jones movie will want to avoid Transformers #13. On the other hand, it’s worth having a look at to see which Decepticon gets an extreme make over. Things are building to something decidedly big in the coming months.

I’m enjoying Avengers: Children’s Crusade. I really enjoyed the Young Avengers book when my student teach bought it for me as a thank you gift. It’s fun and action packed. But issue three of CC seemed like it could have used a little less of Quicksilver and Magneto being Quicksilver and Magneto. Still, you can’t go wrong with DR. DOOM.

Anyone out there reading Jeff Parker’s Hulk book? Is it worth looking at if I’ve never been that into The Incredible Hulk?

Game Tape

It’s that time of week again. Books have been purchased, read, and loved or regretted. Now it’s time to review the game tape.

This was a really light week. There were three books on the pull list. I also got the 6th and final volume of Scott Pilgrim. I’m saving that for the weekend. Otherwise, there isn’t much to report.

This week marks the return of Marvel’s GI Joe: A Real American Hero. More accurately, IDW is picking up where the ’80’s Marvel series left off; we got a taste of this in the FCBD issue #155 1/2. The FCBD issue established a new status quo where Cobra is in charge, and they’re hunting down the Joes as terrorists. Issue 156 picks up here with GI Joe on the ropes; on the whole, it’s a good “getting the band back together” issue. As usual, Larry Hama uses his intimate knowledge of military lingo to add verisimilitude. The art is solid and the issue isn’t bad. It’s just not anything we haven’t seen before.

As per usual, the two Jeff Parker books were thoroughly enjoyable. With such a light week, two Parker books were the main reason I bothered to visit the shop at all. Why can’t Marvel recognize the great talent they have?

The last book I picked up this week is Avengers #3. Last month I stated that nothing really happened. This month is different. The majority of the book is spent with the team fighting an alternate version of Apocalypse and his horsemen. It’s a bit muddled and Bendis still manages to do more talking than actual fighting. It’s a weird and awkwardly written fight, and it only serves the purpose of reminding us that Time is out of whack. JRJR’s art tells us that something exciting should be happening. The dialogue doesn’t really manage to match though. They’re talking about the “threat” as though they’re still sitting around the table. In addition there’s a disjointed sense to everything. I had planned on giving this series a try through the first arc, but, at this glacial pace, it’ll be issue 12 or 15 before that happens. I’m pretty much done with it.

That wraps things up. See you next week.

Avengers Confidential!

Which ARMORED AVENGER has spent $30 BILLION IN R&D trying to develop a TRANSFORMING QUINJET?

Who is the JADE GIANT that often makes BOOM BOOM in his RIPPED PURPLE TROUSERS???

Which LITTLE BIG MAN gets his jollies SMACKING AROUND the LITTLE WOMAN??? It's not Ray Palmer*!

Which SHRINKING VIOLET was observed with a certain SPIDER NOIR STINGING EACH OTHER???

Who is the NORSEMAN overseen GIVING ALE to underage girls at AVENGERS AUDITIONS???

*Actually, it’s him too.