As I’ve done in the past, I have sat myself down and read every Free Comic Book Day comic I could get my hands on in advance of the actual event, in order to determine which ones are worth picking up. The scale, as before, is simple. Get it means it’s quality material and you should try to check it out. It’s free means that while there’s nothing spectacular here, it’s not especially bad either, so what are you going to do for free? Avoid means that you really don’t want to waste your time on it.
- Aliens/Predator: Free Comic Book Day
If you’ve ever read an Aliens or Predator comic before…yeah, this is basically the same thing.
- Arcana Presents
Two stories here and a fair number of pin-ups advertising other comics. Frankly, the pin-ups look better than what we’re given real samples of, but at least two of the stories here show some cleverness and originality in their stories, if not their art. I’d just skip the lead story.
- Archie Presents: The Mighty Archie Art Players #1
Exactly what you’d expect from an Archie comic.
- Attack of the Alterna Zombies
Oh, look, it’s the hot publishing trend of 2004. The one that refuses to go away: zombie comics. Oh, there’s a couple of other things here, but they straddle that line of “trying too hard” and “seen it all before.”
- Atomic Robo/Drone/We Kill Monsters
Probably the best of this year’s batch of anthology books. Atomic Robo itself is nicely illustrated and funny, and the remaining stories, while of varying quality, are fairly entertaining as well.
- Avengers: Free Comic Book Day
So not only does the reduced trim size make Jim Cheung’s art more eye-strain inducing than usual, but the “big super-hero fight” story here is marred by being mired in “Dark Reign” status quo nonsense. Two Spider-Men? Two Wolverines? And one is good and one is bad? Ugh. A non-essential filler for fans of the 20 Avengers comics Marvel publishes a month, and a reminder of how badly off the rails Marvel has gotten for everyone else.
- Blackest Night #0
After a short recap of recent super-hero deaths, presented via Flash and Green Lantern feeling sorry for themselves, we’re given a series of pin-ups about the various colored Lantern corps that will be featured in the next few months worth of DC comics cross-overs. Now, I like the rainbow Lanterns idea. I even like what Johns is doing on Green Lantern. But there’s just nothing here unless you’re already emotionally invested in DC continuity.
- Bongo Comics Free-For-All!
Hey, remember when The Simpsons was funny? If I strain, I just about can. Weak and phoned in.
- Cars: The Rookie
There’s nothing here that’s actually bad, exactly, but after reading this I still don’t care about talking cars or Randian super-families.
- Cartoonapalooza #2
No real hits here, but nothing that’s really a “miss” either. That’s the risk you run with anthology books like this.
- Comics Festival!
While the usual hit-or-miss nature of anthologies applies here, the overall quality of this work is very good. Kid-friendly without having anything that feels like it’s talking down to kids or adults, with some nicely illustrated work.
- Contract #1
Inoffensive and by the numbers action book, or it might be, if 90% of this wasn’t expositionary flash-backs and not actually funny gag strips. With off-putting cheese-cake art. I mean, seriously, visible nipples on the first full-shot of the main character? Come on.
- Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer: First Look
It’s like the 90s never ended sometimes, isn’t it? Overdone and eye-searing.
- DC Kids Mega Sampler
Cute sample of three of DC’s excellent current line of kid’s comics. Some of this stuff, notably Tiny Titans might be an acquired taste, but it’s worth checking out for yourself or any kids you know.
A lot more context would have improved this immensely. It’s a “slice of life” drama about high school students, but it’s pretty clear I’m expected to know the back-story on these characters and their relationships, and it’s just not given.
- Fist of Justice #1
Lots of dreadful super-hero cliches and the by now tiresome “super-heroes were better when I was a kid” moral.
- Free Comic Book Day and Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Mostly inoffensive sampler of indie and licensed kids comics from Dark Horse. The glaring exception is the god-awful Emily the Strange story, which downgrades this from a “Get it” to
- Impact University Volume 5
As a preview of some of Impact’s recent “how to” books this isn’t bad. But it’s basically just a catalog, and doesn’t really offer anything of any use to anyone.
- The John Stanley Library featuring Nancy & Melvin Monster
This is a great example of using FCBD to miss opportunities. What could have been a charming kid’s comic is marred by torrent-level reproduction and cover design calculated to appeal to East Coast hipsters.
- Love and Capes #10
Nicely stylized art and cute super-hero/relationship comedy. The actual store here is one we’ve seen numerous times in various super-hero melodramas, but Thomas Zahler gives it a unique spin this time around that’s appealing.
- Love and Rockets: New Stories
A sampling of sci-fi/super-hero stories by Jaime Hernandez and some short stories featuring characters from Gilbert’s sprawling and sublime Palomar epic. If you haven’t read the work of either man before now, there’s something wrong with you.
- Nascar Heroes Origins Special
Super-powered race-car drivers. With better art and writing this could have been fun.
- Owly and Friends
Charming, nicely illustrated, very gentle kids comics. An excellent book for younger readers.
This is certainly very pretty, but without any dialog to be sampled in the stories excerpted here, this may as well just be a series of pin-ups.
- Resurrection #0
A promising and intriguing sci-fi conspiracy story. Shame about the back-up comic.
- Savage Dragon #148
Good recap of the title character’s adventures up to this point, and good use of the public domain version of Daredevil. And some pretty good super-hero adventure smashing and soap opera.
- Shonen Jump Free Comic Book Day Special
The focus here is on Ultimo, a comic co-created by Stan Lee and Shaman King creator Hiroyuki Takei. It’s awful, there’s no other way around that. If I was feeling overly generous, I would say that it’s intended to be a parody of inane boy’s fight comics, but no, having read it twice now, there’s really no way to take this thing other than at face value.
- Sonic: Evolution of a Hero
Being neither a child nor a furry, I’d never really paid much attention to the Sonic comics Archie published. After reading this Marvel Saga-style recap of the last two hundred issues or so, I think I actively hate them now. These sound like the worst comics ever.
Avoid at all costs
- Studio 407
These are some ugly comics.
- The Stuff of Legend
Wow. Toys come to life to save the boy who owns them from the Boogeyman. Beautifully drawn and evocatively written. Easily one of the stand-outs of this year’s FCBD offerings.
Get it, get it, get it
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Who could have guessed that a parody of Frank Miller’s Daredevil run wouldn’t hold up after twenty-five years?
- Transformers Animated/G.I. Joe
Another good example of a missed opportunity. The kid-friendly version of Transformers, which has nice character designs if nothing else, paired with the “I’m a big boy now, so I need a serious Joe comic” version of G.I. Joe.
- Warhammer Online: Prelude to War
I worked in a comics/game store for five years. I sold Warhammer stuff all the damn time. I became passably familiar with the storylines of the Games Workshop lines. I’m completely lost in this. People who are apparently evil fight other evil people because…they’re not quite evil enough? A storytelling mess with ugly, muddy colors.
- Wizard Hot Lists
The most public face of the comic book industry, available in more places than actual comic books, manages to avoid being outright offensive this year, and settles for just being dull.
- Wolverine: Origin of an X-Man
Fairly decent kid-friendly story about Wolverine fighting robots. Nothing too exciting, although the art does have an appealing quality to it.