Saturday was Free Comic Book Day, and amidst a whirlwind day of cleaning and hanging out with friends, I persuaded Rachael to come with me to the comic shop so I could double my free comic book swag. Thanks to the very generous policy of my local comic shop (six issues per person) we walked away with an overflowing bag of comics (and also Saga Volume 4, because you should reward local businesses with some actual business if they’re giving you free stuff), and now that I’ve read through the stack, I can share thoughts. I expect I’ll treat some issues in brief, simply because they didn’t leave much of an impression on me, but maybe by the time we’re done I’ll have produced something interesting to say about a stack of free comics.
The Motorcycle Samurai – I picked this book up because the cover featured a variety of female characters who are drawn with distinct, non-uniform body types. The art style reminds me a little bit of the house style that Tim Schaffer’s video game studio DoubleFine uses in its projects. The issue features two stories that are fun enough and offer a decent introduction to the protagonist the White Bolt, a mysterious motorcycle riding drifter who seems to work as a bounty hunter/vigilante in the lawless desolate land of Cleveland. This series is primarily digital release from Top Shelf Productions, though the first volume is supposed to be getting a hard copy release this summer.
Free Comic Book Day Teen Titans Go! #1 – Though I’ve not seen the newest version of the show, I admit I have a soft spot for Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans. The fact that the cover of this one features Starfire looking joyously insane as she plays pretend with a Batman doll and what I can only assume is a Bane caterpillar as Raven writes all over Jinx’s face for falling asleep during a slumber party is what sold me. The story’s relentlessly fun, and the art is quite charming. There’s a backup story featuring the Mystery Inc. gang and the Super Friends which is the first chapter to a longer graphic novel, which isn’t bad, but isn’t particularly interesting either (I chalk this one up to the fact that Scooby-Doo and Super Friends are fueled by ’70s nostalgia, of which I have none). This one is part of DC Comics’s all-ages line.
SuperMutant Magic Academy – I picked this one up because I saw it mentioned on a list of recommended titles to look for in the FCBD offerings. The premise is remarkably simple: there’s a school for students with extraordinary powers of all kinds, and we get to see vignettes of their lives in a gag comic format. Each page contains a single scene with a punchline, and it’s all just very charming. The back up feature is a series of strips from Step Aside, Pops, the sequel to Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant, which again just features extremely well done gag comics on a variety of strange topics (the first page in this collection is a mashup of The X-Files and Pride & Prejudice; it works). This issue was published by Drawn & Quarterly.
Finding Gossamyr – This is another all-ages book that I picked up primarily because the art looked nice. This was actually an offering from last year’s Free Comic Book Day that I’m guessing the shop had left over. The art’s very pretty, but the story itself didn’t do much to grab me. The back up story, which is for a series called Past the Last Mountain had slightly more promise with its premise of a world where humanity has won a war against magical creatures and imprisoned them in some kind of wildlife preserves. These series come from Th3rd World Studios.
The Walking Dead FCBD 2013 – This was another leftover that the shop was giving away. I’ve read the first Walking Dead omnibus, and after that I decided I had had enough of the comic series, but when you’re getting freebies you don’t complain so much about what’s available. This issue features four stories focusing on several major characters from the series. It’s actually a very good standalone issue, and I hadn’t read three of the included stories before. It was a nice chance to revisit the comic for this series, though I still doubt I could stomach going any further in depth. The Walking Dead is published by Image Comics.
Divergence #1 – This one is a sampler from DC that features three stories highlighting some upcoming changes in the status quo for Batman, Superman, and the Justice League. They’re not bad stories, and if I were a regular DC reader I might even be excited about the changes being introduced (Jim Gordon takes over as a power-armored version of Batman after Bruce disappears following his most recent fight with the Joker, Superman’s secret identity has been revealed by Lois Lane, forcing him to live in hiding, and Darkseid has a daughter who’s precisely the same age as Wonder Woman). As it is, I’m intrigued but my interaction with DC universe stuff is pretty restricted to what they’re doing in TV and the movies.
Street Fighter Super Combo Special – I don’t know that I talk about it much on the blog, but I really enjoy Street Fighter. I’m terrible at it, and online play is always a case of me jumping into a match and getting my butt handed to me repeatedly, but I like the series concept, and I appreciate what the game does. I will be honest that I picked up this issue simply because it’s drawn by UDON Entertainment artists, and they always produce top notch artwork of the series’ characters (I want to say that Capcom has hired the studio to do all official artwork on the series now). The story is a fun round-robin style series of fights connecting the winner of the previous fight with a challenger in the next one until the story comes back to Ryu (who loses in the first match). There are also a few silly gag comics in the back and a couple of pin up pages (they are, unfortunately, all very much cheesecake pictures of several female fighters, which isn’t surprising, but is frustrating for a series that’s supposed to be about people who are world class martial artists).
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles FCBD 2015 – I admit, I wanted this issue because the cover makes the turtles look pretty darn cute (I think the enduring quality of this franchise is the mashup of gritty ninja stories with cute talking animals). The issue itself is more or less a recap story explaining what stories this series has told already, and setting up for future stories. Apparently the Shredder and Krang are recently dead after they had a final showdown, Donatello’s body is in a coma while his mind is trapped in the robot turtle Metalhead, and a bunch of other stuff is going on. There are a few nice action set pieces in the issue, and over all it gives a good idea of what’s going on with this version of the turtles. It’s published by IDW.
The Tick: Free Comic Book Day 2013 – I don’t know if the shop ran out of the 2015 issues before we got there, but I did pick up the 2013 Tick, and it’s a thoroughly satisfying story about how Arthur saves the day from an army of invading lobster men after he gets a particularly bad case of sunburn from sleeping out on the beach all day. I think what I most appreciate about the issue is that it’s a standalone story that doesn’t hook into any current plotlines, and it’s not just a sampler of incomplete stories. Considering that it’s a free issue and the whole point of Free Comic Book Day is to draw people into comic shops to buy more comics, I think that’s a pretty classy move. The Tick is published by New England Comics Press.
All-New, All-Different Avengers – There are precisely two reasons I picked this issue up. The first is Miles Morales (come on Marvel, just make him the new movie Spider-Man!), and the second is Kamala Khan (you all know she’s awesome). Oh, there’s also new Captain America and new Thor, and while I’m not actively following what’s going on with them, I’m totally digging the emphasis on diversity in this new Avengers team that’s going to launch after Secret Wars is over. The story’s brief, but it gives a nice sense of the dynamic for the team (Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, and Nova are all kids who are brand-new to big league superheroics, while Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and the Vision act as older mentor figures). The back up story is about the new Inhumans series that’s going to be launching at the same time, and it’s not bad, though I’m not well-versed in the Inhumans corner of the Marvel Universe, so I’m not particularly invested in them. My biggest concern with the marketing for these new series is the use of adjectives that have traditionally been associated with X-books in the past, and while Marvel’s assured everyone that the mutantverse isn’t going to be separated from everything else, it’s pretty obvious that the company is ratcheting back on X-Men exposure in general. It makes business sense since Marvel doesn’t control the X-Men brand outside of comics, so they’re not a major revenue stream for the company, but it does make me sad as a long time fan.
Neil Gaiman’s Lady Justice – Back in November for National Novel Writing Month, I decided to try my hand at doing a series of shared universe superhero short stories playing with the storytelling conventions of different decades of comic books. It was an interesting experiment, though not entirely successful, and one of the resulting stories was a 1970s Batman/horror pastiche about a second wave feminist superhero named Lady Justice. Clearly, Neil Gaiman stole my half baked idea thirty years ago and sold the concept to a now defunct comics publisher which turned it into an ongoing series. Really though, this reprint of the first issue of that series doesn’t hold up too great, and the concept only shares a name with my own idea that will probably never see the light of day. The heroine, Janine Farrell, is a paraplegic woman who’s had her entire family killed off tragically in a series of unfortunate accidents. The spirit of Justice comes to her and offers to possess her body so that she can walk again and avenge her recently killed brothers. Considering this was written in the late ’80s, it’s a pretty violent story, and I find very little in the concept or execution that makes it stand out. Lady Justice is published by Super Genius Comics.
Captain Canuck #0 – This is supposed to be an introduction to a reimagined version of Captain Canuck, a superhero who was created in the ’70s to represent all the great things about Canada. My biggest complain is that this is pretty much just a preview of the new series featuring the first four pages of what I presume will be issue 1. There’s a back up story that gives a brief history of the original version of the character, and the last few pages include some nice concept art from the new series. I see a lot of potential here, but there’s honestly just so little story compared with all the promotion that’s going on that I’m not sure if I’m being overly optimistic about the series. Captain Canuck is published by Chapter House Comics.