The Good The Bad And The Infernal, 2013, Guy Adams
A weird western about several disparate groups of individuals trying to find Wormwood, a semi-mythical town that appears once every 100 years, containing a doorway to the afterlife. This time (the 1890s) it appears somewhere in the American West.
It’s a brisk book, with an engaging set of characters, even if a few of them are trying too hard to be memorable.

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Somewhere, what appears to be an office block in Not Canada, a John picks up a very tv-friendly prostitute and brings her back to his house. Only, instead of bringing the woman home for some adult fun, the John, disgraced scientist Warren Voss, straps her down to a gurney and uses an antique syringe to extract some sort of glandular fluid. Which he then injects into his animalistic daughter, calming her down. As we learn when his former colleague stops by, the daughter, Amanda, has some kind of degenerative hyper-violence condition that requires hospitalization, which Voss is of course refusing because he has access to a magic cursed antique syringe and is passing off their effects as “private research.” Over at the shop, Jack and Ryan are wondering if this string of prostitute murders they’re reading about in the paper could be related to an antique when Micki arrives with her previously never mentioned best friend Linda, who is in town looking for a new apartment.

Back at the Voss house, his most recent “donor” escapes, and just happens to be hit by Linda’s car as she drives back to the shop after a date with Ryan. That’s right, we’ve not only got a “never mentioned before friend” but a love interest, too! So we know something terrible will happen to Linda. And sure enough, while Ryan goes to make a phone call, Voss knocks him out and abducts Linda. Voss immediately sets to work extracting fluid from Linda, and as he records his experiments we learn that he doesn’t even realize that he’s using an evil magic antique and thinks he’s doing real science, with plans to transplant tissue into his daughter to cure her condition. The police, meanwhile, aren’t much more help to our protagonists than saying “yep, that’s the missing prostitute, and whoever had her has your friend,” leaving the heroes to investigate on their own. The combination of needle-marks and a man in the lab coat allows Jack to narrow the search down to a 19th century doctor who claimed to be Jack the Ripper, which means Lewis got his hands on two items from him.

Back at the Voss house, a court-appointed nurse arrives just in time for Amanda to regress to her hyper-violent state again. When the nurse sees Voss adminster an injection to Amanda, she calls the authorities, and gets thrown down a flight of stairs for her trouble, just when Micki arrives to get herself kidnapped as well. Micki comes to in a cage, hog-tied and wearing a hospital gown, and sees a completely bestial Linda strapped to a gurney. Voss, unsurprisingly, is dismissive of Micki’s efforts to convince him that the syringe is cursed, and explains his goal to end violence and murder by transplanting brain tissue into his daughter. Jack and Ryan, meanwhile, track down Voss’s former colleague, the registered buyer of the syringe, and learn that Voss was fired after accidentally injecting his daughter with the disease that caused her hyper-violence. When Voss vivisects Linda to prove his theory, he then uses the syringe on Micki in preparation for the transplant, with Jack and Ryan arriving just as he begins to prep for the surgery. Their arrival prompts Voss to sic a near-feral Micki on them so he can escape with Amanda, who turns on him and kills him when he lingers a little too long. Micki is restored, Amanda is committed, and Jack gets to wax poetic about how even love isn’t a good motive for murder.

This is one of the messier episodes, and definately a bit hard to pin down. The main cast sits out for a good chunk of it, and aren’t given much to do when they are around. The story, despite name-dropping Jack the Ripper, is really taking it’s cue from The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, with maybe a smidgen of Eyes Without A Face thrown in there as well. But what the episode mostly seems to be about is abducting and torturing women. It’s not a well the show goes to all that often, but it always feels off when it does, as it’s not really a subset of horror tropes that works well with the show’s premise and cast.

A Very Robey 80s

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We open on a picturesque Not Canada cemetery, as Joanne Mackie (previously seen in Vanity’s Mirror reflects on the circumstances that lead to the death of her sister and boyfriend, namely her sister getting her hands on a cursed compact and going on a killing spree with it. Luckily, Joanne has taken the locket and is keeping it safe, so that it can’t hurt anyone ever again, and she’s doing so by keeping it with her in her purse and taking it out to vow never to let anyone use it hurt anyone from time to time. So we know where this is heading. Especially since in the next scene we find out that Joanne is working as an assistant on a fashion shoot, which is definitely not the type of environment where vain or ambitious people might find a cursed antique a useful means of getting ahead.

At the shoot, aging super-model Tabitha is being upstaged by younger models and ignored by her photographer/lover Emery, and no matter how much fussing over her Joanne does, it’s clear that Tabitha is on her way out professionally. So it’s entirely expected that, when Joanne gets called to the set, Tabitha finds the compact while searching for some touch-up powder. Joanne doesn’t learn the compact’s missing until after she finds out that the magazine publisher orchestrating this shoot plans to have Tabitha fired and the entire shoot redone with the younger models. Tabitha argues with her plastic surgeon over the advisability of having more work done when she shines the light from the compact into his eyes, causing him to fall off a balcony and die, and magically restoring a portion of her looks. Over at Curious Goods, Micki and Ryan are dealing with Jack’s incredibly severe case of Man Flu when Joanne arrives and confesses that she lost the compact. Taking Micki and Ryan back to the shoot to look for the compact, they’re in time to see Tabitha arrive and get rehired, on the basis of her looking nowhere near as old and tired as she had in the previous photographs Emery had shown the publisher, but still old enough that the cover is a toss-up between Tabitha and one of the younger models, Sandy. At least until Tabitha shines the compact in Sandy’s face, who goes on to have an easily preventable accident involving a can of aerosol hair spray and a cigarette. Her callous attitude towards the horrible disfigurement of another model prompts another round of flash-backs for Joanne, clueing her in on where the compact went.

At the shop, Jack realizes that the compact works differently for Tabitha than it did for Helen because they’ve misunderstood the nature of the curse; it doesn’t make people fall in love with the holder, it feeds off the vanity of the holder to enact their revenge on others. The gang rushes off to the photoshoot, as Tabitha fumes over learning that Emery has been cheating on her with Kamichi, the remaining model, and flashes both of them with the compact during the shoot. When a bank of lights crashes down on the pair of them, Joanne snatches the compact away. She quickly gets cornered by Tabitha, who grabs the compact back just as Micki and Ryan arrive, with Micki grabbing a make-up mirror and shielding Joanne’s face with it when Tabitha tries to shine the compact on her. The reflection of the light hits Tabitha, who quickly ages into a dried out husk.

There’s a lot of fancy 80s ladies in this episode, which is unsurprising given the subject matter, but all those fancy ladies leads to a lot of padding. As if the flashbacks weren’t enough (about 15 minutes of the 42 minute run time is devoted to them), a fair amount of time is eaten up by showing models standing around getting photographed. It makes for a very short episode, dragged out. We’ve already seen the antique in question before, but learning that they function differently for different people creates an interesting wrinkle, and goes some way towards answering some of those questions raised by the more specific and narrowly functioning cursed antiques. It also supports the theory that it takes the right kind of person to get them to work, as the compact never even tempted Joanne, who had it in her possession for at least a year.

A Very Robey 80s

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We open with a significant flashback, to Robert E. Lee writing a letter to Jefferson Davis, explaining his refusal to surrender despite the massive losses just suffered at the Battle of Antietam. Oddly, this sequence isn’t in black-and-white, which is the coding the show has consistently used for “travel to the past” before now. As refugees and wounded trickle into the Confederate camp, mysterious stranger Atticus Rook (played by Tom McCamus, who previously appeared as Count Frank) advises Lee to stay put, as the Union forces are just as badly wounded. And then Rook, posing as a doctor, robs the dead (helping one wounded soldier to that condition) and runs through a glowing portal in the woods when he’s discovered. Which brings him back to a modern day room where an antique “magic lantern” style projector is displaying a scene from the Civil War on the wall.

The scene cuts to an antique auction, where we learn that Rook is selling his latest collection of rare Civil War antiquities, with the gang from Curious Goods there trying to track him down in the hopes of finding out who Rook may have sold the magic lantern he bought from Lewis Vendredei on to. Because Rook is a “picker” of antiques and would never keep any for himself, especially not a cursed one. The gang can be dumb sometimes is what I’m getting at. They do, finally, manage to gain some clues when Rook flat out lies to Jack about purchasing anything from Lewis, and Ryan finds out from Rook’s date that, for a celebrated antiques picker, Rook never actually travels anywhere other than his apartment and the diner she works at. Later that night, as Ryan snoops on Rook, Rook takes his girlfriend back to his apartment and explains to her how the magic lantern work, including killing her to activate the time portal. Which of course leads to Ryan getting sent back in time, again.

Ryan makes contacts with the locals, (with a now sepia-toned past–thanks, editors!) cobbling together a sort of plausible cover story about being a Yankee bounty hunter pursuing Rook, befriending Abigail, the young widow of the soldier Rook killed to steal a bullet-damaged whiskey flask. Rook gets cornered by Abigail’s father while trying to steal Lee’s sword but manages to kill the old man and escape, leaving Ryan trapped in the past, and conveniently framed for the old man’s death. Jack and Micki, meanwhile, manage to find a photo of Ryan at Antietam while trying to find more clues about the magic lantern, because sometimes they’re a little slow on putting together the whole “Ryan disappears when we’re dealing with a cursed item tied to a specific time in the past” thing. Rook, meanwhile, decides to kill the police officer canvassing his building about the dead body found outside earlier, and in the process breaks the slide he needs to get back to the past. Rook is forced to contact a semi-rival whale collector who had shown off his extensive collection of period slides earlier in the episode, with Micki and Jack following along secretly, and Micki ending up in the past with Rook this time. Ryan’s brilliant plan to turn himself in to Lee to warn him about Rook manages to backfire spectacularly, leaving Micki to steal a horse to rescue Ryan and Abigail to delay Rook. Micki and Ryan manage to make it back in time, with Rook running a little slow and ending up embedded in a wall. And the question of just how he made so much money selling inadequately aged antiques with no provenance is never answered.

This isn’t a great episode, but for no particular reason. The antique itself is rather dull and operates on the usual rules, and the effect isn’t dynamic or interesting. It’s a Ryan heavy episode, too, and although it avoids the usual “Ryan falls for a girl who is almost certainly going to die” routine that most Ryan stories have, it still has the usual problems of not giving Micki or Jack much to do. On top of that, Ryan manages to not have much to do this time around either. That they cast the same guest actor as the villain in two different time travel stories is also suggestive of a certain laziness.

A Very Robey 80s

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2000 Ad–2000 AD
As per usual, a magazine sized anthology reprinting a selection of current and previous titles which have appeared in the British sci-fi/satire comic. It’s the usual quality material that’s not going to be to everyone’s taste as always, and this year there are no real stand-out entries in the sampler itself.
It’s free

The All-New, All-Different Avengers–Marvel
The first half of this is a pretty fun story about the Avengers team consisting of the “new”, more diverse slate of legacy characters running around in Marvel’s books. It’s a good story, and a nice way to give some weight to the characters. And then there’s another preview of Marvel’s ongoing attempts to make the Inhumans happen outside the context of a Kirby FF story.
It’s free

And Then Emily Was Gone–Comix Tribe
The first story in this book is an evocative fairy-tale themed horror story with arresting art by Iain Laurie that’s compelling and disturbing. And then the second story is a, well, fairly obvious Joker-analogue character that just read like a really depressing throw-back to bad 90s violent anti-hero stories. So the first story would have gotten this a Get it but the Millar-esque Joker/Mask story knocks it down to
It’s free

Attack on Titan–Kodansha Comics
Another sampler, this one featuring a selection of manga titles from Kodansha, leading off with two brief out-takes from the Attack on Titan family, a series I can never quite get over the impression of a grammatical error in the title translation. In any case, the push here is on boys adventure stories with fairly diverse tones but mostly similar art styles, to results dependent heavily on your own tastes.
It’s free

Avatar: The Last Airbender–Dark Horse
While I’m still not a fan of the various Avatar cartoons, the story in this comic is well written by Gene Luen Yang and well drawn by Carla Speed McNeil, as is the preview of the Tobin/Coover series Bandette series. I can see the appeal of the lead series, but my personal preference would have been to make Bandette the pushed book.
Also there is a Plants vs. Zombies story in here.
It’s free

Bob’s Burgers–Dynamite
I’m not particularly a fan of the show, though I have noticed how it occupies the same sort of mental space that the Simpsons did at the same point in its life-span, before it became somewhat neutered by its status as a television mainstay. The comic doesn’t feel like it has quite the same energy as the show, focusing instead on little vignettes with individual characters, which is probably the best way to go about adapting a property like this to comics.
It’s free

Bodie Troll–Red 5 Comics
Bodie Troll is an absolutely amazing and gorgeously drawn comic that it’s always a delight to see. I kind of wish it wasn’t paired with a story called “Drone” which is about, well, a robot drone fighting “terrorists” in Sudan, because that’s a really tonally jarring companion piece. It’s also not the sort of thing I’m really comfortable handing off to a kid, while Bodie Troll is almost perfect for kids. So…yeah. I wish I could say Get it I’ll have to settle for
It’s free

Bongo Comics Free-For-All–Bongo
It’s a pretty representative sampler here of Bongo’s Simpsons comics. There’s nothing that truly stands out, though some of the more off-model artistic styles have some visual appeal.
It’s free

Boom Studio’s Ten Year Celebration–Boom Studio
A selection of licensed and original all-ages comics published by Boom. As with every anthology, some of it is good, most is fairly indifferent, with the licensed comics in particular the weak point. Part of that may be that Boom specializes in licensing a lot of the Aggressively Weird Cartoon Network shows and those in general are very much Not For Me. Overall the art in all the stories is good, however, and I can see the book appealing strongly to kids.
It’s free

Captain Canuck–Chapter House Comics
A very brief reintroduction of the cult character. For me, it doesn’t really do much to sell me on the character or the concept, and I’m a guy who actually likes the more oddball super-hero types.
It’s free

Chakra the Invincible–Graphic India
This is credited to Stan Lee, but, well, so many things are…
It’s a slickly produced set of super-hero stories starring an Indian boy and very heavily playing off aspects of the culture. The stories are fun, and all in all it’s a perfectly fine kids super-hero adventure story.
It’s free

Cleopatra in Space–Graphix
Sci-fi heroines are going to be a bit of a theme with this year’s books, it looks like. In this case, it’s a younger readers book about Cleopatra as a young girl sent forward in time to save a race of talking cats from an alien invasion. It’s engagingly drawn and fun.
Get it

Comics Festival 2015–Beguiling Books
A selection of short material by mostly Canadian creators, with a decided emphasis on general audience, skewing to “young adult” style material. Generally it’s very good, but suffers from the unevenness that usually plagues anthologies.
It’s free

Dark Cricle Comics–Archie
The current artistic renaissance going on at Archie is pretty interesting on a number of levels. That they’ve chosen to go a very dark and adult route with their super-hero revival is not surprising given the successes they’ve had, but “dark adult” super-heroes in the bigger scheme of things doesn’t really feel like something we need more of, even when they’re as of high quality as these are.
It’s free

Defend Comics–CBLDF
An anthology of brief stories with a common theme of freedom, stories and reading loosely linking them together. A few of the stories are slightly preachy, which, given the publisher and context is fairly understandable, but the overall quality of the work here is outstanding.
Get it

So, after the “Convergence” event ends, DC has this whole slate of new books and retools coming that are direct response to fan exhaustion with the “New 52,” with a deliberate approach to more diverse characters and storytelling styles. But rather than showcase those books for Free Comic Book Day, DC has decided to preview the new status-quos for Batman and Superman and the next Justice League storyline, which were already spoiled by one of the scummier internet sites and mostly antagonized existing readers.
It’s free

Doctor Who–Titan Comics
I’m pretty much burnt out on almost everything Doctor Who related these days, so while there’s nothing at all objectionable in these brief stories, I just can’t work up any enthusiasm for them. I’d much rather have seen some material from the other books Titan publishes, but I’m under no illusions as to what will get people to pay attention to them.
It’s free

Fight Club–Dark Horse Comics
I’m probably at least fifteen years too old to be excited about more Fight Club anything, but the art by Cameron Stewart is nice, so it’s at least pretty to look at. The same is true of the included Goon and Strain stories; nicely illustrated but otherwise not really doing much for me at all.
It’s free

Gronk–Action Lab
The lead story, about a little monster struggling to fit in, and the back-up about super-cats, are both just overwhelmingly cute. They’re also funny where appropriate and very nicely illustrated with clean, cartoony styles. They’re both extremely charming.
Get it

Hatter M: Love of Wonder–Automatic Publishing
It seems like every year there’s another preview book for this steam-punk story inspired by Alice In Wonderland, and every year I find myself perplexed somewhat by it. It’s not that it’s bad, by any means, I just find myself always unimpressed and slightly confused by it. The generous interpretation is that it’s just Not For Me. Pretty enough art by Sami Makkonen this time around, though.
It’s free

March: Grand Prix–Capstone
A very nicely drawn all-ages book about car racing. The graphic asides listing the various strengths of the various cars and diagrams of parts were an especially nice touch, especially for kids with particular interest in cars or machinery.
Get it

Hip-Hop Family Tree Three-In-One–Fantagraphics
Last year’s book was one of the highlights, and this year we get pretty much more of the same: excerpts from the book itself, with a bonus “Cosplayers” story by Dash Shaw. It’s good material, and it’s worth checking out, but it all feels very much like the same thing as last year’s book.
It’s free

ICE: Bayou Blackout–12 Gauge
12 Gauge is a publisher that regularly attracts artists whose work I enjoy, but the bulk of their line is violent action comics, most of which feel more than a little bit like film pitches. There’s nothing wrong with that, I just don’t find it particularly interesting.
It’s free

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure–Viz
JoJo is one of those long-running manga titles that very much exemplify the “fight comic” aesthetic. It’s also just very peculiar with an extremely dated art style. And as much as I’d have liked to see Viz push one of their stronger titles like Assassination Classroom for Free Comic Book Day, this is an understandably safe bet for them.
It’s free

Jurassic Strike Force 5–Silver Dragon
Humanoid dinosaur aliens fighting ninjas. I mean, that’s a pretty solid concept for a fun kid’s book.
It’s free

Legendary Comics Sampler–Legendary Comics
This is not a comic. This is a catalog of current and upcoming Legendary comics and graphic novels. I really wish it were a comic, because Legendary has put out some good, or at least interesting, comics. And for some reason Holy Terror, but no one’s perfect.
It’s free

Mercury Heat–Avatar
By Avatar standards, this is positively restrained: I only count one eye-gouging. This is a teaser issue for an upcoming sci-fi comic about a woman who is also a police officer on Mercury, that appears to be trying very hard to ride the current zeitgeist for female protagonists in sci-fi stories. Only this is an Avatar book, so our heroine’s uniform includes a bare midriff.

Motorcycle Samurai–Top Shelf
Well, this is just charmingly peculiar, a visually distinct post-apocalyptic biker samurai action comic by Chris Sheridan that…well…it pretty much does what it says on the tin and I didn’t know I needed this but apparently I did.
Get it

Neil Gaiman’s Lady Justice–Papercutz
Yep…this is a reprint of a 90s book that was part of a line to launch an original super-hero universe all right.

The Phantom–Hermes Press
A collection of classic Phantom stories reprinted, along with a brief and more recent recap of the Phantom’s origin. It’s good, classic adventure story material, hampered somewhat by poor reproduction, particularly in terms of inconsistent recoloring.
It’s free

Pokemon XY–Viz
That’s weird, in this comic X is a boy, and we all know that X is a girl and the boy is the asshole neighbor of the real hero.
Anyway…Viz’s Pokemon line is pretty consistently fun, and this sampler provides some nice teasers for several of the books.
It’s free

Savage Dragon Legacy–Image
Well, I’ll give Erik Larsen credit for keeping his creator-owned series going for so long. And while his brand of comics aren’t to my taste, I can see why he has his fans. But if this is intended to catch people up on the series, well, it’s a couple of fights book-ending pages and pages and pages of clumsy exposition, and that’s just not interesting at all.

Super Mutant Magic Academy–Drawn & Quarterly
Sometimes I’m really not sure I get certain indie comics. That’s okay, not everything has to appeal to everyone. I am absolutely certain that there are plenty of people who find Jillian Tamaki’s rather corny jokes about teenagers who, for some reason, are mutants or aliens or wizards or something just amazing great and compelling cartooning. I’ll be perfectly happy flipping the book over and reading the Kate Beaton strips on the other side.
It’s free

The Stuff of Legend/Thanatos Diver–Th3rd World Studios
Th3rd World’s offerings are usually better than average, and that trend continues. Stuff of Legend is one of those books that you should probably be reading already anyway, and the flip-book companion, is an intriguing and lushly illustrated story about undersea salvagers in an apparent post-apocalyptic world.
It’s free

Very fun stories featuring characters from a variety of Papercutz all-ages books, including Smurfs and Ariol. The title characters, better known as “the reasons we all bought Wiis back when” are featured in a series charming wordless gag strips.
Get it

Secret Wars #0–Marvel
What we have here is an almost incomprehensible info-dump on Hickman’s “I so want to be taken as seriously as Grant Morrison” multi-year epic, mostly consisting of the Avengers being jerks and committing mass murder, as lead-up to Marvel’s “we swear it’s not a reboot” reboot. Which would be fine, but this is apparently supposed to be an attempt to get readers hyped up for the not-reboot, and all it does is remind you that Hickman’s take on the Marvel characters is actually pretty ugly.
There’s probably some curiosity value to be found in the Attack on Titan cross-over preview in the back.

Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man: World’s Unite Prelude–Archie
See, utterly incomprehensible cross-overs aren’t just the demesne of Marvel and DC!
It’s free

Spongebob Freestyle Funnies–Bongo
The Spongebob comics sometimes have very nice art, but I think enough time has now passed since both they and the show came out that I can be quite certain that I just don’t find them entertaining or amusing at all. And I can live with that. If you like Spongebob, or more likely have a kid that does, this is probably fine.
It’s fine

Steampunk Goldilocks–Antarctic Press
I quite like Rod Espinosa’s art, and as very much Done as I am with both “steampunk” and “fairy tale reimagings” this was fun.
Get it

Street Fighter–Udon
Very nicely illustrated fight comics that make absolutely no sense to me.
It’s free

Tales of Honor–Image
This is a very brief introduction to the Honor Harrington character from David Weber’s military sci-fi series, along with a short, stand-alone story featuring the character dealing with space pirates, because this is basically just a naval adventure story in space. It’s nicely produced, with good art and writing, but military sci-fi is very much Not For Me, so while I appreciate the talent involved, it left me rather nonplussed.
It’s free

Teen Titans Go/Scooby-Doo Team-Up–DC Comics
Hey, it’s the kind of fun, all ages stories the internet insists DC doesn’t publish! Weird.
Anyway, I’d have preferred a full length Scooby story, instead of half of a team up with a very Super Friends-ish incarnation of the Justice League, but the draw is probably going to be Teen Titans, which is one of those things I am assured The Kids Today go crazy for.
Get it

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles–IDW
Unlike most of the current crop of licensed titles, I was a little too old to get into Turtles when they hit it big. This is quite nicely illustrated by Mateus Santolouco, but it’s another one of those books that spends a good chunk of its time catching people up to whatever the current status quo is for the characters in the comic, instead of just dumping right into the action. Since that’s a pretty grim place for the characters at the moment, that lessens the fun of the book somewhat.
It’s free

Terrible Lizard–Oni Press
A giant monster comic about a girl and her pet tyrannosaur. The art by Drew Moss is engaging, and I’ve consistently enjoyed writer Cullen Bunn’s previous work. There isn’t anywhere near as much monsters fighting each other as there needed to be in the preview, but there is some fun action and an arresting premise.
Get it

The Tick–NEC
A collection of short stories in the typical style of Tick comics. It’s generally good material, but your mileage will vary strongly based on your tolerance for Tick style jokes.
It’s free

Transformers: Robots in Disguise–IDW
While a few other titles from IDW’s stable of licensed kids books make appearances, the focus here is on, what I’m guessing is, the current animated incarnation of the Transformers franchise. And I’m pretty much officially too old for anything Transformers related I think.
It’s free

Valiant 25th Anniversary Special–Valiant
This is a mix of generally well-executed comics and promo material for a line of super-hero books that hold absolutely no appeal for me.
It’s free

I’ve pretty much chalked up Zenescope’s fairy-tale line as the spiritual successor to Chaos Comics. Take that as you will.
It’s free

Worlds of Aspen–Aspen
Huh. These still exist.
It’s free

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