5 May 2017

Mini Reviews: Free Comic Book Day 2017

This Saturday, May 6th, sees the 16th 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 in Poole where Andy H will have available not only the comics reviewed below, but many more besides!

DC SUPERHERO GIRLS #1 (SPECIAL EDITION)
Writer: Shea Fontana
Art: Yancy Labat
DC $0.00

Jo S: This light and bright FCBD offering from DC begins with a team of our favourite students from Super Hero High working together to clear Metropolis of pesky supervillains so that they can leave for summer break with a clear conscience. Each student will be spending the break at her choice of venue and all are excited about what the summer holds... except Wonder Woman, who is stuck in a dilemma - should she stay home in Themyscira or accept her oft-distracted father’s invitation to spend the vacation at his home? The style steers well clear of being patronising - this could work for readers of any age - and with a useful guide to the SuperHero Girl characters at the end, this is a lively, accessible start to a new story, with enough appealing players for everyone to find someone to bond with. 7/10

THE INCAL FCBD 2017
Written by: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Illustrated by: Moebius
Humanoids $0.00

James R: This is what FCBD is all about for me. I've always wanted to get into the mad genius that is Alejandro Jodorowsky's sprawling comic universe, but I've never known anyone who has access to his work, or could tell me where to start. Respect due to Humanoids for bringing this out then - the first 30 pages of his first comic, The Incal. With art from the legendary Moebius, it's an absolute gem, and I was totally drawn in and won over by this taster. I now really want to pick up The Incal, and follow the adventure of DiFool further. If, like me, you'd ever been curious about the Jodoverse, pick this up on Saturday! 8/10

THE LOOKING GLASS WARS: CROSSFIRE (FCBD EDITION)
Writer: Frank Baddor
Art: Curtis Clark, Sami Makkonen
Dial $0.00

Jo S: I took this book out of the pile because I have an interest in Alice In Wonderland (did you know Charles Dodgson was a mathematician?) but quickly felt a little lost, not only because there is clearly a good deal of backstory informing this new arc, but also because there is absolutely no introductory information or backmatter to help a relative newbie to find her way. That said, the main characters were introduced quickly and I picked up some hints of world structure and history. The art and page structures are stylish and detailed; I loved the fight scene in tailcoats and the idea of the disgusting Momal Eye, and I can see this appealing to those who have left behind Alice as a childish book and moved on to something which is a little more gritty but retains the romance and wit of Carroll’s world. I would have just appreciated a little more information to get me started! 6/10

SECRET EMPIRE FCBD 2017
Writers: Nick Spencer & Chip Zdarsky
Art: Andrea Sorrentino & Paul Siqueria
Marvel $0.00

Matt C: Secret Empire is Marvel's most controversial storyline for a number of years (unnecessarily so, but that's a whole other argument), but it's also one of the most provocative ideas to slip into the mainstream (hence the negative reaction) and, for my money, it's one of the smartest, most engaging event books in a long while. As is their way, the House of Ideas are using FCBD to promote the event, and this tone-setting taster is just the job, with Nick Spencer concisely encapsulating the premise and Andrea Sorrentino's firing off some scorching artwork. The Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man back-up is very persuasive too. I've not followed the wallcrawler's adventures for a number of years now but this taster had me laughing out loud on a couple of occasions, and if that's not a positive endorsement, I don't know what is! 8/10

SPILL NIGHT (FCBD EDITION)
Writer: Scott Westerfeld
Art: Alex Pullivand
First Second $0.00

Jo S: Spill Night is a prequel story linked to Westerfeld’s graphic novel Spill Zone, where two sisters and a very unusual ragdoll survive as orphans after an apocalyptic disaster renders part of their home town inaccessible. Spill Night describes the night of the event, focusing on the experience of the younger sister and how her link with the doll, Vespertine, enables her to escape the contagious badness which is spilling through from another place. I loved the feeling of pace in this story; I felt the anxiety in the race to escape, and enjoyed the casting of cats and rats as puppets for the bad from the other side. Vespertine, who could be seen as a creepy animate dolly with her button eyes and stitched-on smile, actually comes over as a reassuring friend, in spite of her communication being inked in white scrawl on a fractured black background. The French influence on Pullivand’s art shines through and the use of colour - vivid pastels for anything ‘other-sidey’ - made me think of Roger Rabbit and the wildly colourful Toon Town, bright and cheerful colours somehow failing to communicate any reassurance of one's safety in the wrong part of town. 6/10

STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION: MIRROR BROKEN
Written by: Scott & David Tipton
Illustrated by: J. K. Woodward
IDW Publishing $0.00

James R: This FCBD offering takes one of Star Trek's most perennially popular ideas - the 'Mirror Universe,' where our beloved Federation heroes are bad (and very keen on goatees) - and updates the premise to the Next Generation cast. Now, I am more of a Star Wars man than a Trekker, but man alive! Look at that cover! How could you resist sleeveless, goatee-sporting Picard?! The story itself, like most Trek comics, is pretty forgettable and focuses on Reg Barclay's life on the mirror Enterprise (for me, the absence of Riker here was keenly felt). Best of all though is that the back pages are made up of J. K. Woodward's artistic process for the issue, so for absolutely nothing, you can see how and why the artist makes particular choices, and that makes it a worthy selection. But Goatee Picard! In a vest! Yes! 5/10

I HATE IMAGE (FCBD EDITION)
Writer: Scottie Young
Art: Scottie Young & Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Image $0.00

Jo S: This special edition spin-off from the I Hate Fairyland series is a blatant pitch for punters for the other Image series and I LOVED it. Gertrude, green-ringletted psychopathic 10 year-old, and her sidekick bug Larry, have come up with a new scheme to get Gertrude back home to the real world after 40 years trapped in Fairyland: by locating the Image partners and forcing them to tell her how to escape. The whole book is a treasure hunt if you're like me and have an obsessive need to track down every obscure reference to other Image books and characters. I won't bore you with the results of my extensive research (no, YOU spent 45 minutes tracking down Kamau Kogo from Bitch Planet) but that's definitely a game I shall be playing on Twitter with those who care to play along. Apparently, Rick from the Walking Dead’s son is called Carl - who knew? This book is a gross, violent, self-conscious meta-comedy, definitely one for fans to pore over at length. A cynical attempt to source more readers for Image titles? Wait… what’s the point of Free Comic Book Day again? 9/10

KEYSER SOZE/THE RIFT FCBD 2017
Writers: Paul Ens, Don Handfield & Richard Rayner
Art: Livia Pastore & Leno Carvalho
Red 5 Comics $0.00

Matt C: For fans of The Usual Suspects? Well, I have a lot of love for that movie but I see no reason why anyone would want to dismantle the backstory of Keyser Soze by turning him into an attention-seeking psycho in a hat and long coat who comes across as a loose cannon, C-list supervillain rather than a criminal mastermind. Thanks, but no thanks. The Rift taster is a bit more engaging but not overly memorable, with only Leno Carvalho's artwork standing out, and indeed it's the highlight of this whole package. A name to watch? 4/10

ALL-NEW GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (FCBD EDITION)
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Art: Aaron Kuder, Ive Svorcina
Marvel $0.00

Jo S: The first of two preludes in this book tells us how our favourite family of galactic misfits make their escape from a Nova Corps prison where they are being held for various crimes, some of which they may not have committed (on planets which still exist). The story is short and snappy but manages, in just a few pages, to give us a snapshot of each of the characters, making this work as an introduction to the Guardians team. Rocket is witty and technically adept, Quill is smart and sneaky, Gamora is battle-hardened and acrobatically talented; Drax, however, has turned to pacifism, although Quill still manages to use his mighty reputation to dramatic effect. The backup story (really a second story in a twofer) begins a new arc for The Defenders, with what seems on the face of it to be a harmless request for help from a new client at the Alias agency. As the story progresses, each of the Defenders receives a violent warning not to mess with a new player in town. And we can all imagine how well THAT will go down! As with the lead story, in a few pages Bendis, Marquez and Ponsor manage to give us a solid start on a new arc and I will definitely be adding this to my pull-list in June. 8/10

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