Saturday, May 14, 2011

If a Comic Book is Free Does It Mean You Will Read It?

Y'know, I think I still have a bag of comic books from last year's Free Comic Book Day somewhere, many of which I never got around to reading. This year my local store limited us to only ten books, meaning I had to leave some potentially good titles on the shelf. Although, considering I brought along four of my six children, we certainly could have collectively sampled everything, but then we all have our favorites.

Of the books that I did get, I read a majority of them or at least the half that I was interested in anyway. A lot of publishers put out a dual flip book of some sort. It's a pretty good marketing move, giving the reader more exposure to their line. Sometimes, instead of an extra story, they'll just throw in some back matter. I have to say that there were several really good, bag and board worthy, issues this year as well as a few duds. Let's take a look shall we...

Of the Big Two, Marvel was clearly the winner giving us an extra issue of the beloved Thor the Mighty Avenger (with the Langridge/Samnee take on Captain America to boot!) and a new complete in continuity issue of Amazing Spider-Man. Both stories were very enjoyable. I loved the Doctor Who joke offered by Loki and used it as a test to see how closely my son read the issue (he had skimmed it).

The ASM issue, which was referenced this week in the actual series, was particularly noteworthy, because it finally dealt with Peter's spider-sense loss. A lot of Pete's fighting style is directly tied into his early warning sense and he's really clumsy without it. Enter the Master...of Kung Fu himself, who begins to train Peter how to fight in the "Way of the Spider". The Spider Island portion was only a minor two-page blip, but at least we now know why Maryland has been infested with Stink Bugs.

Comparatively, DC's offering was a mixed bag. Their Green Lantern story was a REPRINT (part two of the Secret Origins arc). Great art, good story, and I can understand the rationale, since the movie was based off of it to some degree, but I would've rather seen something new. It was definitely for the non-regular crowd. The Flashpoint preview was very lame, but I am starting to reconsider my decision to not get the series, given Jim and Shawn's positive comments.

Their kiddie offering was much better and was divided into two parts: Young Justice and the All-New Batman Brave and the Bold. The YJ was okay, but I'm just not interested in the concept that much and I haven't seen the cartoon. The Batman story was stellar with the same fantastic creative team as the regular monthly, which I've been getting since the restart. The team-up portion was Batman and the Flash fighting against Heatwave and Firefly, but what made this tale interesting was the framing sequences with Gotham's high society. They're at a charity function and gossiping about Bruce Wayne, who is absent from the event. Each subsequent page has a different head-shot of one of his "friends" making a remark in the first panel. It's an efficient page layout and the pay-off when Alfred comes with a blank check that puts that hypocritical group to shame is priceless. It's amazing what you can accomplish in only eight pages.

One of the best stories I read was the Mouse Guard one, which literally flew off the shelves in the store. They were out in less than two hours. I don't know if it was rehash of a known fable, as it seemed familiar to me, but regardless it worked great in the MG format. A wise mouse defeats a snake, crab, and hawk, using their own weapons against them. I particularly enjoyed seeing the hawk get killed, since I suspect such a bird killed the newborn goslings at the local pond the other week. The Dark Crystal flip story was also nice, especially since the art was so good. I've always liked the movie and this upcoming series will tell the history of the Crystal. The Jim Henson graphic novel in the center looks really great too. There's another part that I haven't gotten to yet, not sure that I will or not.

One of the highlights of any FCBD is the offering by Top Shelf. Owly is still the headliner, but he's been reduced to a mere four pages this year, which is a bit of bummer. I don't care for any of the other material, kid friendly or not. Still, I liked this year's story anyway and Andy did a great job of coming up with an inventive solution to Owly's bird nest problem.

I always like Bongo's Simpson's issue. I never know if it's all reprints or not, but I don't have any of them, so I don't care. Some really funny stuff, especially Sergio's take on a field trip to the circus with Bart and Lisa!

BOOM gave out a preview of the new Elric series. The story itself was decent, but not very memorable. Elric fights some monsters and is told by a raven that the future of the balance is in question. I will say that the dialogue seemed right on the mark for the albino prince and I'm glad that other aspects of the Eternal Champion will appear such as Corum (my favorite) and Hawkmoon. There was even a nice retrospective on the history of Elric in comics. (My first published letter of comment was in Hawkmoon: Jewel in the Skull #3!) If the story didn't set me on fire, the back matter did, because knowing how much the writer is into the character, you just know the final product is going to be good. I actually found the rough sketches to be a little bit better than the finished inks, but the art seems to fit the material well.

I was sure to get the Stuff of Legend book, given the high praise that series gets on this site, but it was a bit of a rip-off. Although the recap was interesting, the preview was unreadable. Here's where a reprint might actually have been better. The Escape Goat flip-side was fun, but I don't like screaming little girls (what father does).

The Archie book was okay, but it just illustrates how much I love the Married Life over the more generic after-school special could-be-any-time-frame material.

Maybe I just don't have the right "chip" in my brain, but Super Dinosaur didn't really wow me at all. It wasn't bad, but I was expecting a little more due to Greg's glowing review. Maybe it's like Monty Python -- it's better in the retelling than the actual experience. I do heartily approve of Image actually producing a true all-ages book though, one that doesn't use the Lord's name in vain!

I know I missed a lot of titles, and I was hoping to pick up a few more "leftovers" this week, but they were all gone or already packed away on Wednesday. Still, it was definitely another successful event and I even got a cool Clark as the Red/Blue Blur sketch too. Yes, I should have gotten to see the finale of Smallville by the time this posts, but there is no way I could comment on it so quickly.

Well, maybe just a quick comment. Lots of cool things, but man, I wanted to really see him in the suit up close! And I can't believe Lois and Clark had to wait another seven years to wed? After all that build-up, he just pushes the planet away? Nice way to reset everything though, especially with Lex. Just give me a full Superman movie with this cast already (even if it's a TV movie). So long Smallville, you had a great run. We can only hope the new Wonder Woman series will be even half as good.


  1. Matthew - Great review, now I'm sad I didn't get the Mouse Guard book or the Amazing Spider-Man book. Loved the Monty Python reference as it is so true, many things are better in talking about it then the actual experience, which has always defined the Holy Grail to me.

  2. Holy Grail is exactly what I was talking about -- that and the encyclopedia salesman/burglar gag. My lunch pals in high school would talk and reenact scenes all the time and it was hilarious, but when I finally saw it -- not so much.

    I had to borrow my daughter's Mouse Guard book. Maybe Gwen can send you a copy for a change. :)