4 May 2018

Mini Reviews: Free Comic Book Day 2018

This Saturday, May 5th, sees the 17th 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 will be available at your local comic shop on the day. Of course, those of you in the same catchment area as us need to head over to Paradox in Poole where Andy H will have available not only the comics reviewed below but many more besides! Get there early to avoid disappointment!

FCBD 2018: AVENGERS/CAPTAIN AMERICA
Writers: Jason Aaron & Ta-Nehisi Coates
Art: Sara Pichelli, Justin Ponsor, Lenil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan & Sunny Gho
Marvel $0.00

Matt C: New creative teams are arriving for Avengers and Captain America, and based on this freebie they will both warrant investigation. The Avengers preview involves a meeting between Odin and the Black Panther, refers back to the ‘Caveman Avengers’ introduced in the Marvel Legacy one-shot, and promises epic storytelling on the horizon. Following his recent issues on Mighty Thor, Jason Aaron is clearly the right man for the job. With Ta-Nehisi Coates in the writer’s seat for Captain America, a more politicised approach to the Sentinel of Liberty was expected, and that’s borne out here in an impressive manner. Historically, the best Cap tales have had a political angle (would you expect anything less for this particular character?), so this intro bodes well for the latest run. 8/10

BARRIER #1: FCBD EDITON
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Art: Marco Martin & Muntsa Vicente
Image $0.00

James R: This is one of the highlights of FCBD 2018. Many comic companies use the day to repackage old material, or give the readership just teasers of  series to come, but Barrier certainly isn't either of those. This issue is a 52-page blockbuster opening chapter that would be my pick of the week even if it was a full-priced issue. As with their rightfully-lauded collaboration, The Private Eye, Vaughan and Martin's new series was originally available online, but as an old-school traditionalist I loved having this issue in a physical form - and what a first issue it is! Presented in a landscape format, giving the book a widescreen, cinematic feel, Barrier tells the story of Texas rancher Liddy, and Honduran Oscar, who is making a perilous journey to America with the hope of starting a new life. The way Vaughan and Martin intertwine these two stories before bringing them both together is masterful, and the issue culminates in one of the year's great unexpected twists. There's no reason not to pick up Barrier, and you should certainly give this wonderful new series a chance. 9/10

FCBD 2018 SCOUT COMICS PRESENTS THE MALL #0
Writer: Don Handfield, James Haick III
Art: Rafael Loureiro, Dijjo Lima
Scout Comics $0.00

Jo S: Diego is a loser, dreaming of dating the High School cheerleader, working in a music store in a giant mall, but the resurfacing of some family history has changed his financial position substantially and he now has enough cash to start to change his future. Styled like a corny teen drama about the social outcast who somehow gets powers or influence and changes his lot in life while everyone learns a valuable lesson, this actually has a little more bite to it: the source of Diego’s cash comes with strings attached and a couple of poor decisions may make his path to his dream a little more bumpy than expected. The art is cute and the ‘80s setting appealed to me with its Kung Fu arcade games and retro digital watches so I enjoyed this as a great example of a modern classic story. 7/10

SHADOW ROADS: FCBD 2018
Writers: Cullen Bunn & Brian Hurtt
Art: A.C. Zamudio & Carlos N. Zamudio
Oni Press $0.00

Matt C: A sequel of sorts to the epic supernatural western The Sixth Gun or, at least, it’s set in the same universe. Not that you’d really glean that from this taster issue, so essentially you can consider it a ‘jumping on point’. Cullen Bunn thrives in this kind of setting, pushing damaged individuals into weird and unholy situations; gunslinging and demons has proven to be a potent mix for him. The art approaches the same ‘look’ as The Sixth Gun, but retains its own identity, and perhaps the only drawback at this stage is that none of the characters really make an indelible mark. It’s early days though, and it’s worth seeking it out as a teaser for the incoming series. 7/10

FCBD 2018 DARK HORSE OVERWATCH & BLACK HAMMER
Writer: Andrew Robinson, Joelle Sellner & Jeff Lemire
Art: Kate Niemczyk, Wilfredo Torres, Dean Ormston & Dave Stewart
Dark Horse $0.00

James R: Dark Horse bring us a 2-for-1 deal this year: the first half of the book is a preview of Dark Horse's new series based on the phenomenally popular video game Overwatch. Whilst it's very much not my thing, the beauty of FCBD is that it gives the reader a sample - comics is such a rich medium that sticking to reading the same tropes and characters is a waste of so many potentially great experiences and FCBD gives us all the chance to try something a little leftfield. However, the real draw for me was back half of the book, which acted as a terrific trailer for Jeff Lemire's magnificent Black Hammer universe. We get our first look at his and Wilfredo Torres' riff on the Legion of Superheroes - the Quantum League. We're also treated to a scene with the original Black Hammer cast, courtesy of Dean Ormston; Lemire does a great job of combining these two stories to feel like an organic whole and give any new readers a quick and effective catch-up. If you're still wavering over reading Black Hammer (and one more time: YOU SHOULD READ IT!) this is the perfect opportunity to see what all the fuss is about. 8/10

FCBD 2018: STREET ANGEL’S DOG
Writer: Brian Maruca & Jim Rugg
Art: Jim Rugg
Image $0.00

Jo S: Come for the art and stay for the adorable story! The cover of this comic is a bit misleading - it’s very pink! Inside is some great graffiti-style artwork, lots of action with a dynamic tearaway hero - to me, it seems a shame that the pink cover could be dismissed by a number of readers as being ‘for girls’. Jesse is a ninja skateboarder, living on the streets and caring for herself. In this one-shot she rescues a dog from a violent attack and they quickly become fast friends. I love the dog’s expressions throughout - it’s constantly petrified, shivering and wide-eyed, an adorable pudding of a mutt who needs a studded collar to garner any semblance of toughness. A fine story for all ages, this is elevated by Rugg’s adventurous structure and varied art styles. I loved it. 7/10

RELAY #0
Writer: Zac Thompson
Art: Andy Clarke & Dan Brown
Aftershock Comics $0.00

Matt C: Captain Picard wouldn’t be happy with how the Prime Directive is applied here as we bear witness to extreme tampering and manipulation of a developing civilization by an extraterrestrial visitor. It’s an interesting premise but it’s presented in a rather opaque manner, and consequently it’s very hard to connect to. There’s a fine line between mysterious and perplexing and this one seems to fall down on the latter side of things. Additionally, having a monolith featuring as central to the proceedings invites unfavourable comparisons to superior sci-fi, and although Clarke’s illustrations really nail the expansive, epic nature at the heart of the story, it’s ultimately too obscure to work as an effective trailer for the series. 5/10

FCBD 2018: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN/GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Writer: Nick Spencer
Art: Ryan Ottley, Cliff Rathburn & Laura Martin
Marvel $0.00

Jo S: It’s apartment-hunting time for Peter and his good pal Randy (son of Robbie) Robertson (yay for alliterative names!) and they’re not finding it easy, what with superheroes and supervillains alike destroying apartment blocks across the city and prices rocketing… This little one-shot introduction to Spencer and Ottley’s new run on Amazing Spider-Man features a gnarly, bemuscled Spidey in his suit, and a surprisingly handsome Peter Parker in street clothes - I’ve always thought of him as more geek than jock so found this a bit of a mismatch. Ottley has captured a number of those bizarre Spidey poses, and there’s lots and lots of webbing - I just couldn’t find the emotion in this that feels like an integral part of a Spider-Man story. Considering the positions he’s capable of contorting himself into, I perhaps expected something a bit more three-dimensional. It’s fun though, and as a one-and-done there's plenty to enjoy. The Spidey tale is backed up with a 'Guardians Super Fact File' (and, man, you know I love a fact file!) which is actually a handy revision guide for the recent All-New Guardians Of The Galaxy series and a primer for the Infinity Countdown event. Pics and quips a-plenty, this is a concise reminder of the key information, including Gamora's link to the Soul Stone and Groot's inability to grow to much more than twig stature. 7/10

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