30 Apr 2009

Mini Review: Free Comic Book Day 2009

This Saturday, May 2nd, sees the 8th annual Free Comic Book Day. Those unfamiliar with the event should head to the official site – here we take a look at an advance selection of freebies that should be available at your local comic shop at the weekend. Of course, those of you in the same catchment area as us should head over to Paradox where Andy H will have available not only the comics reviewed below, but many more besides!

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Jim Cheung & Mark Morales
Marvel $0.00

Matt C: As Bendis has managed to gain more and more control over the direction the Marvel Universe is heading so I’ve distanced myself further and further from his work. When I realised the only reason I was buying his Avengers books was so I could bitch about them with my fellow Paradox Comics Group colleagues I realised it was time to knock them all on the head. FCBD provides me with a good opportunity either to see if I’ve made a horrendous mistake or remind myself that I made an excellent decision. And guess what? I was right the first time! Bendis’ New Avengers continue to bicker inanely with each other while the writer manages to achieve the what-should-be-impossible by making me think J Jonah Jameson isn’t completely off base with his continuing quest to bring down Spidey (he’s supposed to irritate other characters, not the reader!). And, as he did in Secret Invasion, Bendis proves yet again that he not only has a limited grasp on the Thor mythos but he also has no idea how to put convincing dialogue in the character’s mouth. On the plus side, Cheung’s art is shiny and beautifully rendered. But that’s about it. What the hell though, this will easily be the most popular book during FCBD so what I say is pretty much irrelevant. I’ll just continue to sit and grumble in the corner. 3/10

Matt T: Well, it’s nice to see a brand new story being thrown out for FCBD instead of the usual regurgitation of a first issue. This is a classic ‘rival heroes meet, fight, then unite against a common foe’ book with one difference: the Dark Avengers. As a team they don’t sit within any comic with a lighter tone, and trying to force some witty banter between Spidey and Venom, or Bullseye, just comes off as strained and dumb. Why would he be joking with someone who has repeatedly threatened, if not come close, to killing him on multiple occasions? As much as this is a decent enough story from Marvel it just goes to prove that the Dark Avengers don’t sit at all well in the current Marvel Universe. 6/10

James R: After a few years of frankly lazy efforts from Marvel and DC on Free Comic Book Day with some arbitrary reprints (incidentally, as a geek there is something quite galling about seeing a comic you paid cash money for a few months prior suddenly being given away for nothing!) it is nice to finally see some effort being put in. This mini issue of Avengers is drawn by one of Marvel’s big hitters (Jim Cheung) and written by Marvel’s King of the Kingdom, Brian Michael Bendis. All told, it’s pretty good fun – despite my moaning, the purpose of FCBD is to get new readers on board, or perhaps entice back the lapsed geek. For the uninitiated, I suppose this would be as confusing as buggery, but hey, isn’t that always the case when you first pick up a Marvel comic?! It looks beautiful and it passed the time, and I would have gone bonkers if you would have said to a 13 year-old me ‘Here. This is free – enjoy!’ Pass it on. 7/10

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert & Rob hunter
DC $0.00

Matt C: This is more like it from DC who usually opt for putting out reprints on FCBD – this year we get a prologue for 2009's Green Lantern event, Blackest Night and it’s something I would have gladly forked out some cash for; as a freebie, it’s a no-brainer. Essentially a conversation piece with Hal Jordan and the recently resurrected Barry Allen standing over Bruce Wayne’s grave, this is a clear example of why Geoff John’s is far and away the best writer DC have writing superhero comics – he handles the two icons with confidence and clarity, and his portrayal of the Flash as a man practically unable to keep still is expertly realized. Reis’s gorgeous, blockbusting illustration, along with some back up art pages spotlighting the large cast of characters that will feature in this event means that not only is this utterly essential for GL fans, but it’s well worth picking up for anybody with an interest in contemporary superhero storytelling. 8/10

Matt T: As an introduction to a comic (Green Lantern) I’ve been long recommended by Matt C and Andy H this certainly wets my appetite. The sombre tone of this post-Death Of Batman story certainly shows the way the event is headed, and also allows Geoff Johns the space to prove that he’s one of the best writers around at the moment. The art is a decent enough, and I especially like the in-flux Flash representation. 8/10

James R: Like Marvel, DC have decided to use Free Comic Book Day to bring something new to the table: here it’s a ‘trailer’ for their big summer event, Blackest Night. They did something similar last year with a preview of all their ‘Big’ titles coming up, and that just came out as a haphazard mess – at least this has a lot more cohesion - but it suffers the same fate that a lot of DC stuff does in my eyes – it just doesn’t feel particularly dynamic or relevant. This might just be down to me not being a big fan of ‘cosmic’ comics, but I can’t say that this has made me desperate to get on board. 5/10

Writer: John Arcudi
Art: Zach Howard, Mark Irwin & Javier Saltares
Dark Horse $0.00

Matt C: My interest in both these franchises has never really progressed past the movies, and even then I’ve had some painful viewing experiences with the characters (Alien Vs Predator was beyond criminal!). Still, I can easily see the ripe potential in both sets of otherworldly killing machines, so although I don’t recall ever reading a single Aliens or Predator comic this was definitely worth a look. While both readable (the Aliens tale more so than the Predator one) sadly there’s not going to be any conversion going on here. Not for me at least, but you may feel differently, so go for it! 5/10

Writer: Barry Levine & Varios
Art: Various
Radical Comics $0.00

Matt C: Radical’s output has been a bit hit and miss for me but I can’t deny they know how to pull out the stops when it comes to delivering impressive visuals, for the most part anyway (let’s not mention the last few issues of City Of Dust!). They’ve made a smart move here then, by basically producing a showcase of the art for various upcoming series in their FCBD title. Some of it’s quite literally eye-popping but often the story premises don’t seem of the same calibre. At the moment I’m fairly curious about David Hine’s Federal Vampire And Zombie Agency and will maybe keep tabs on Rick Remender’s Last Days Of American Crime (which is a great title!) but I remain wary of titles coming out containing exceedingly pretty pictures that try to make up for the lack of originality and ingenuity. 6/10

Writer: Andy Runton & Various
Art: Andy Runton & Various
Top Shelf Productions $0.00

Matt C: The other stories pale in comparison - with Korgi in particular being a tad weird and freaky – but for those of you not already clued in, Owly is a work of genius (really!), transcending any pigeonholing to create some of the most magical and comforting experiences you’re ever likely to get from a comic book. There’s no excuse not to pick this up! 8/10

Writer: Erik Larsen
Art: Erik Larsen
Image $0.00

Matt C: I’ve managed to get this far without reading a single issue of Savage Dragon, and I don’t think my life has been worse off because of this, but I guess such a long running title was bound to cross my path sooner or later, so this felt kind of inevitable. An amusing recap and a certain amount of energy can’t hide the feeling that this would have appealed a lot more to me 20 odd years ago, and another publisher resurrecting the Golden Age Daredevil seems kind of pointless. I can sort of see the appeal, but this is a cult I won’t be joining anytime soon. 5/10

Writers: Henry Gilroy & Various
Art: Ramon L. Perez & Various
Dark Horse $0.00

Matt C: I’m a huge Star Wars geek (yes, I even love the prequels, so up yours, haters!) but for some reason I still haven’t got around to watching the Clone Wars movie. I guess if it ain’t live-action then I’m not really that interested (with exceptions) which might explain why I’ve never gone for Star Wars comics in a big way (bar the Marvel stuff released back in the ‘70s/’80s). The short Clone Wars story here is quite entertaining with some nice cartoony art, but it’s blatantly directed at young audience and contains nothing that would entice me back on a regular basis. Of the other shorts featured within only the Usagi Yojimbo really stuck out. I know the character’s been around an age, passing me by on many occasions, but now I can sort of understand his longevity from this brief encounter with him. I wouldn’t be averse to looking out for more of his adventures at some point in the future. 5/10

Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Art: Justin Greenwood
Oni Press $0.00

Matt C: I’ve raved about this series in its previous incarnation and I’m pleased that Oni are giving it a boost with this FCBD edition. Longtime readers have an obvious advantage but introducing a totally new set of characters means newbies aren’t being thrown into the middle of things without a clue what’s going on. It may come across as a little vague if you’re unfamiliar with the premise, and the art’s not quite there yet, but if you’re interest is piqued in any way then look for the newly released $6 TPB (yes, $6!) and keep your eyes peeled for the second volume this summer. 7/10

Matt T: I’m guessing this book would have worked far better if it was a third or fourth issue, but as an introduction it’s just far too slow and confusing for my tastes. There’s clearly plenty of dark themes and conspiracy afoot, but I felt like the story got going about ten pages too far in, making the atmospheric, but ultimately unnecessary, build–up a waste. 4/10

James R: The sombrero is firmly off in the direction of Oni Press for Free Comic Book Day – Resurrection #0 is a fully contained story that re-caps what’s gone on before for newbies and sets the stage magnificently for the second series of this corking title. On top of that, it’s now in colour, and with a much better artist on board. It’s the kind of comic that restores your faith in humanity. 8/10

Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Kenneth Rocafort
Top Cow $0.00

Matt C: I enjoyed the original Hunter-Killer series quite a bit but its sporadic scheduling really didn’t do it any favours. I had assumed it had been consigned to the pile of forgotten superhero comics but obviously Mark Waid’s still too fond of his creations for that to happen just yet. Top Cow always seem to be very keen on crossovers, but that kind of thing holds limited appeal for me these days, and I’m sad to say this book will probably join that club. Waid has no problem holding the readers interest with his storytelling skills, but unless you’re already a die-hard fan of either Hunter-Killer or Cyberforce you’re not likely to be wooed by this ‘First Look’. 5/10

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