3 May 2019

Mini Reviews: Free Comic Book Day 2019

This Saturday, May 4th (be with you!), sees the 18th 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!

Writers: Donny Cates, Saladin Ahmed & Tom Taylor
Art: Ryan Stegman, Frank Martin Jr, Cory Smith, Jay Leisten & David Curiel
Marvel $0.00

Mike V: This issue contains two stories, the first focusing on Eddie Brock and the second Miles Morales and Peter Parker. Donny Cates helms the former, with art from Ryan Stegman and Frank Martin Jr and with the tagline “The Venom epic of 2019 Starts here!” it features fantastic writing, supported by some of the best art I've seen in comics recently. The story serves as a taster for the Venom event 'Absolute Carnage' released this summer and I can safely say this will definitely pique the interest of fans, be they fans of Spider-Man, Venom, Carnage or X-Men. The backup story, by Ahmed and Taylor, offers great fan service to both Peter Parker and Miles Morales; you see the two sharing banter and a friendly rivalry that really captures the essence of both characters and is also lit up with some great artwork from Cory Smith. We even see a classic Spidey villain show his face along with action and side-by-side fighting for Parker and Morales. Specially written just for this issue, it's something long time fans of the web-head will appreciate, and new fans, perhaps from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, will find a fantastic jumping on point. 10/10

Writer: Lauren Myracle
Art: Isaac Goodhart and Jeremy Lawson
DC $0.00

Jo S: Before the Bat, before the Cat, there was a kitten… The beautiful cover of this little mini-comic drew my attention immediately on sight of it in Previews, and the pale buttermilk and blue colour palette runs through this story of a young Selina Kyle, struggling to cope in a home with a violent, drunken stepfather and distracted mother. Lost and miserable, she finds and rescues a kitten, an immediate bond forming between the two. Caring for the kitten gives her purpose and positivity - although her skills as a thief are also becoming evident. As a bonus to this sweetly tragic beginning, there also a sneak preview of a new Teen Titans: Raven graphic novel from the creative team of Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo - though only a six page snippet, I really enjoyed this - Picolo's art is almost monochrome here, but he has a wonderful way with faces; I look forward to much more of both these stories. 8/10

Writers: Jeff Lemire, Ray Fawkes & Jody Houser
Art: David Rubin & Ibrahim Moustafa
Dark Horse $0.00

James R: Dark Horse have taken the '2 for 1' route again this year, using their offering to showcase two of their biggest properties. First, there's an introduction to the world of Jeff Lemire's Black Hammer. Written by Lemire and Ray Fawkes, and illustrated by Ether artist David Rubin, this short story gives readers a glance at the diverse spread of Black Hammer titles, touching on the war comics-inspired Black Hammer '45, the original title, and then giving us a glimpse of what's to come in this ever-expanding universe. The other half of the book is dedicated to Dark Horse's Stranger Things adaptation; the Netflix mega-hit is gearing up for its third season, but this series is a prequel - taking place before the events of Season One. The short story here from Jody Houser and Ibrahim Moustafa shows provides fans of the series with a backstory for everyone in Hawkins, Indiana. 7/10

Writers: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz & Megan Brown
Art: Various
IDW $0.00

Kenny J: TMNT heads towards issue #100, and war is imminent with this freebie setting out where the Turtles are going and where they have been over the course of the IDW series. The first story - written by Eastman, Curnow and Waltz - is all action-packed with battling mutant animals. Fast-paced and exciting, the brothers have one goal but many adversaries, each ramping up the stakes. Megan Brown's contribution is a retrospective of the series to date that is easy to follow and helps new and lapsed readers (like myself!) know exactly how this war broke out. There are many artists on this section presumably as the images are plucked from the original books in which they appeared but there is a single page that would have sold me on the whole series. Unfortunately, without page references, I may never know who the artist is or what issue it originated from. This definitely attempts to woo readers to continue reading the main book even as it reaches its centenary. I think it may have worked on me. 8/10

Writers: Jason Aaron & Gerry Duggan
Art: Stefano Casellli, Mike Deodato Jr, Erick Arciniega & Frank Martin
Marvel $0.00

Matt C: With Avengers: Endgame bulldozing records at the box office, now would seem like the perfect time to entice new readers with further adventures of their favourite characters. And this freebie does offer a 'jumping on point', of sorts, but perhaps only if you have a familiarity with the current goings on in the Marvel Universe. Even then, the first story isn't overly convincing, giving us a sense of who's on the team roster right now but not in a way that generates an enormous amount of excitement. It's okay, but feels like its preaching to the converted a bit too much. The Savage Avengers teaser is better but that's largely down to the phenomenal artwork of Mike Deodato Jr - it's more intriguing than the opening tale and may tempt folks to find out how the hell Wolverine and Venom could find themselves in the same Avengers team as Conan the Barbarian! 6/10

Writer: Bill Williams
Art: Matthew Weldon, Neeraj Menon and Tiago Barsa
Antarctic Press $0.00

Jo S: I loved this sharply funny, perfectly paced outset from start to finish and it's got me looking forward to the full series with great excitement; exactly, I guess, as the perfect FCBD issue should do. In a snowy graveyard on Christmas Eve, we meet Mel, gravely injured in the line of duty, on the point of checking out, and Jessie, disaffected teenager with little to look forward to in life, in a seeming chance meeting which will change the course of their lives. A quirky superhero story, but played with intriguing subtlety and dark humour, this immediately has me grabbed, the perfect blend of smart writing and dark, intense artwork. 9/10

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Wes Craig & Jordan Boyd
Image $3.99

Matt C: Image wisely pick one of their very best ongoing series to throw the spotlight on this FCBD. Deadly Class has also seen the first season of its TV adaptation come to a close recently, so it has the added bonus of interest generated by the buzz around that. It does the smart thing and goes back to the early days of the comic's run with an untold story, which puts it in the same time frame as the TV show. The issue gives a flavour of what Deadly Class is about, with its blend of disaffection, violence, nihilism, hope and love. It's also quite possibly a treatise on an artist's leap into the public domain, where their work is scrutinised, dismantled and critiqued, something the praise it may receive from other quarters can never truly drown out. That's probably more of a meta reading for those familiar with Rick Remender's oeuvre but readers who want to see what all the fuss is about will be in for treat, and those who've been on board for a while will relish the opportunity to reacquaint themselves with some old friends. 8/10

Writer:Kaiu Shirai, Kouhei Horikoshi & Posuka Demizu
Art: Kohei Horikoshi
Viz Media $0.00

Mike V: My Hero Academia is without a doubt the most popular Manga/Anime to come out of Japan in recent years and is fast establishing itself as one of the greatest of all time, whilst also gaining huge popularity in the western market. This is all down to one man, creator Kohei Horikoshi who readily shows his love of western audience cult favourites Star Wars and Marvel Comics. When 80% of the world's population have developed some kind of super power - or 'Quirk' - only a select few can earn their 'hero license' through attending one of a number of schools (like UA High School) where Pro Heroes like All Might (think Superman crossed with Captain America) are the teachers, in an X-Men-like scenario. If you love superheroes, and Japanese comic art style or Manga/Anime, then this, with its backup story Promised Neverland, is a great choice this free comic book day. 8/10

Writer: Micol Ostow
Art: Thomas Pitilli & Andre Szymanowicz
Archie Comics $0.00

Kenny J: I'm not sure where my affinity for the cast of Riverdale and its companion books comes from, having never read Archie Comics until Mark Waid's reinvention a few years back - sadly not much of that makes it into this version of the Archie-verse. The supporting characters, of which there are many, are all introduced here, but most give way to Cheryl Blossom, arguably the most stereotypical and least interesting. Pitilli's art reminds me of the original design while remaining realistic and modern, especially Archie himself when he turns up. It is his relationship with Betty that initially forms the heart of this book but it's pushed aside far too quickly for that quintessential High School trope, the Year Book, and the stakes (that will presumably be taken forward into the main book) that just seem a bit too low. 6/10

HOPE #1 - FCBD 2019
Writer: Dirk Manning
Art: K. Lynn Smith
Source Point Press $0.00

Jo S: Stories a superhero to finding a balance between the needs of their alter-ego and the responsibility of using their powers for good are not rare but this one handles that narrative especially nicely, as Hope finds herself in a difficult situation, with a husband who has extreme, but not unusual, views on how emergent 'ultras' should be treated. A study in how we deal with those who are perceived as different, this story is also a reflection of how some of us rationalise the giving up of things that are important to us for the apparent benefit of those we love. Smith's big eyed characters are really appealing; her artwork is full of warmth and colour and has real emotional pull as well as a clean simplicity. 7/10

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