3 May 2012

Mini Reviews: Free Comic Book Day 2012

This Saturday, May 5th, sees the 11th 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 on the day. 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: Geoff Johns
Art: Jim Lee, Ivan Reis et al
DC  $0.00

Matt C: Kudos for DC for putting out some original material while Marvel opt for reprints, but I have to say, with my gradually diminishing interest in the New 52 as a whole (only a select few titles are really holding my attention), this did absolutely nothing to stoke the flames. We get a bunch of guff on the Rock of Eternity featuring the sentencing of three of the “greatest transgressors mankind has ever known”. Two of them are new iterations on familiar characters, the third has been making appearances in the background of every DC book since the New 52 launched. This is all a prologue to DC’s first major event since the relaunch, 'The Trinity War'. I’d like to say it got me intrigued, but it would more truthful to say it did the opposite. I’m not writing off what DC have got up their sleeves, but this did nothing to convince me it’s something to get excited about. Some brief previews of the ‘Second Wave’ round things off, but after making such an enormous splash last summer DC now appear to be treading water. 4/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary & Paul Mounts
Marvel $0.00

Matt C: Ho  hum. I may have mentioned my dislike of the majority of Bendis’ mainstream superhero work here once or twice before (!) but a freebie that leads into the next big Marvel event after AVX, featuring some not-too-shabby artwork from Bryan Hitch, had me feeling obliged to take a look (even though it's actually a reprint of Avengers #12.1!) And yeah, it sucked. Spider-Woman is kidnapped by new supervillian group the Intelligencia, who comprise of the Wizard, the Mad Thinker, the Red Ghost and Klaw(!). Steve Rogers assembles a specific team to find the missing Avenger, but you'd be hard pressed to find the skillset he saw in the heroes he picks as they seem to locate Spider-Woman without breaking a sweat, which kind of gives the impression the bad guys barely have the cobined intelligence of a fly. The usual complaint of everyone talking in exactly the same manner applies, and it really does seem like Bendis only has a basic understanding of the characters he's writing. He sketches them adequately, but is useless at those details that differentiate them. Hitch turns in some decent work, but it's still (in my eyes) a long way off from what he was putting out a decade ago. The 'Age Of Ultron' storyline is apparently Bendis' last hurrah before he exits to take over the X-Men (or something). Maybe then I can go back to reading the main Avengers comics again. 3/10

Writers: Various
Art: Various
Archaia $0.00

Matt C: Holy cow! If you want a heads-up on what the absolute must-have comic for FCBD 2012 is, this is it. And once you get to see the product in question you’ll realise I’m almost being objective saying that. A 48-page HARCOVER book with all-new material, this is Archaia putting the majority of the other publishers to shame. It’s a beautiful collection that must have cost the publisher a pretty penny to produce, and even though it was dead cert on my list due to the Mouse Guard tale, I never expected it to be quite as good as this, and presented in this format all the other shorts come off very well indeed (with Cow Boy being my second pick after Mouse Guard, I think). These are going to disappear off the shelves with the speed of the Flash and Quicksilver combined, so do your damendest to get a copy. This is unquestionably the most impressive comic book any publisher has put out on FCBD since the day began 10 years ago. And that’s no exaggeration. 10/10  

Writer: Zack Whedon
Art: Davide Fabbri, Fabio Moon, Christian Dalla Vecchia, Ronda Pattison & Cris Peter
Dark Horse $0.00

Matt C: My love of Star Wars has – surprisingly - never really seeped over into the world of comic books, at least not since the original Marvel series way back when. I’ve got no aversion to reading Star Wars comics though (I just won’t go out of my way to pick them up) so I’m not going to turn my nose up at an opportunity that won’t cost me a penny. It’s an enjoyable, if throwaway Han and Chewie adventure, but flipping the comic over you get the Serenity tale which is actually a lot better. Maybe it’s because it’s his brother’s baby that prompts Zack Whedon to make this the more memorable of the two stories, or maybe it’s Fabio Moon’s fabulous art, but this was the clear winner. Putting both of them together ensures this is one to seek out if you’ve got interest in either/both properties. 7/10

Writer: Simon Furman
Art: Andrew Wildman, Stephen Baskerville & John-Paul Bove
IDW $0.00

Stewart R: 21 years. That's a long time in anyone's book and certainly a long stretch in terms of comic continuity. Of course the Autobot and Decepticon forces spent four million years in their volcanic tomb so perhaps it's not that long after all! Now, after two decades, Furman and Wildman pick up where they left off and this is a perfect introduction for potential new readers, unaware of what has come before, as well as being a terrific memory-jogger for those of us with a few cobwebs hanging in the rafters of the mind after all these years. This FCBD effort manages a fine balance of skirting over 80 issues of important plot points and story with some simple yet effective panels from Wildman that neatly capture what those previous comics were about, while also showing what has happened in the time since the Last Autobot resurrected Cybertron and everyone's favourite transforming truck-cab, Optimus Prime. Furman has always written a good line in conflicted and troubled leaders and if this first teaser is anything to go by I'd say that we could be in for more delicious soul/spark searching from several characters over the next couple of years as the conflict inevitably begins anew. The Wildman/Baskerville art team is nearly working to the same high standard they were producing in the early 1990s with just the odd panel here and there being a little simpler than I was used to 'back in the day'. In any case, this is a decent Transformers comic and a fine offering from IDW this FCBD! 8/10

Writers: Nunzio Defilippis & Christina Weir
Art: Christopher Mitten & Bill Crabtree
Oni Press $0.00

Matt C: Two years ago for FCBD, Oni put out the first issue of The Sixth Gun for free, and that title remains firmly on my pull list. Last year it was Spontaneous #1, and while that mini didn’t live up to its initial potential I still saw it through to the end. So I guess you can say that what they’re doing works, and it looks like that’ll be the case this year with Bad Medicine #1 (the first in what I believe is an ongoing series that continues next month). It’s an atmospheric murder mystery that centres around a corpse with an invisible head and people playing around with bleeding edge medical science. It’s got a tight script backed up with some expressive art and it had me wanting to find out what comes next. Job done, in other words. There’s a short Wasteland backup (one of those series I always feel I should have got onboard with a long time ago) that’s fairly effective but will probably play better for existing fans. Another FCBD winner for Oni, all told. 8/10

Writer: Cullen Bunn
Art: Neil Edwards, Karl Kesel & David Curiel
Marvel $0.00

Matt C: This is a good idea, releasing for free the first chapter of a 136-page hardback graphic novel that some folks may be reluctant to lay down the cash until they see what they’re getting in for. The real questions is, how many of those folks are looking for another retelling of Spider-Man’s origin? To be fair, Bunn and Edwards do a sturdy job of giving something incredibly familiar a new spin, but I’m guessing I’m not the intended audience for this. Marvel seem to be using these Season One books as way to attract new readers into the fold, and while I can’t fault their intentions, I’m not sure pricey hardback books are the way to go. But I could be wrong. This is a decent enough opening and maybe this is the kind comic you give to the friend who wants to get into the hobby, but doesn’t know where to start (although the argument is of course that you could hand them, say, the first trade of Ultimate Spider-Man). Not bad, but probably not for longtime fans. 6/10

Writer: Grant Morrison and Barry Sonnenfeld
Art: Mukesg Singh & Liquid Studios
Liquid Comics $0.00

Matt C: When I first heard the pitch and the people behind Dinosaurs Vs Aliens I thought, here we go. Hollywood R&D’ing potential blockbuster high concepts in comic form is never something that’s going to sit right with me, and hey, Morrison annoys me more often than he impresses me (although he does impress me from time to time. Let’s just not talk about the ‘Batman is gay’ thing right now!). So I approached this with almost total cynicism and came away… kind of intrigued. Maybe not intrigued enough to fork out for the forthcoming graphic novel, but the writing and the art (mostly the eye-popping art!) in this brief preview definitely altered my preconceptions of the project. I’m not in dismissive mode anymore and am quite eager to hear people’s opinions of the finished product as opposed to not giving two hoots at all. Give it a look yourself, see if it changes your mind too. 6/10

1 comment:

Tim Knight said...

Waitaminute, Bendis is leaving The Avengers? Learn something new every day.

Excelsior! That'll be a good time to jump back on board that title then. Pity the X-Fans though...