Archive for the “reviews” Category

2000 AD-2000 AD
The usual eclectic, Judge Dredd heavy assortment of sample 2000 AD strips. A good assortment of material offering a fairly balanced portrayal of the publisher’s output, and the tone of the material, both current and reprint.
It’s free

Adventures of Jellaby-Capstone
Beautifully illustrated, gentle stories about a girl and her monster. Utterly charming work.
Get it

All You Need Is Kill/Terra Formars-Viz
Sci-fi stories of soldiers fighting aliens, with a fair amount of violence to each. The material if fairly unremarkable otherwise.
It’s free

Archie Digest-Archie Comics
Unsurprisingly Archie-heavy collection of typical Archie Comics material, broken up some very nice vintage Josie strips.
It’s free

Armor Hunters-Valiant
We all like to joke about current comics bringing back the 90s in full force, and no one is committed to that ideal more than Valiant.
I have absolutely no idea what is going on here, and it’s all a lead-in to a cross-over about characters I’m still more than a little startled to find there is still an audience for.
It’s free

Atomic Robo-Red 5 Comics
Fun stories featuring Atomic Robo and Bodie Troll. This book is always one of the highlights for FCBD. Just all around stellar work.
Get it

Avatar: The Last Airbender-Dark Horse Comics
Nothing here is For Me, but the lead story is a cute, in-universe take on the “Fake Geek Girl” nonsense that’s fairly amusing.
It’s free

Bongo Comics Free-For-All-Bongo Comics
As with past years, a mix of Simpsons comics by a variety of creators. The work is typical of the line, and whether or not you enjoy pretty much hinges on what your tolerance level for the Simpsons is these days.
It’s free

Buck Rogers-Hermes Press
Reprints of vintage Buck Rogers newspaper strips and some preview pages for the current, Howard Chaykin illustrated revival. The vintage material is charming, in that “of it’s era” sort of way, but the appeal here is mostly the historical curiosity value it might have.
It’s free

Courtney Crumrin-Oni Press
A reprint of the first issue of the most recent Courtney Crumrin series. It’s an excellent book, and while there’s a bit less backstory given than is probably needed for a new reader to catch up, it’s still evocative, unique work worth attention.
Get it

Defend Comics-Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
An interesting selection of material focusing mostly on the history of anti-comic book hysteria and free speech issues. It has the feel of something aimed more at parents dragged into a comic shop than kids and new readers.
It’s free

The Dumbest Idea Ever-Graphix
A kid-friendly bio-comic about making comics. Fun, engaging, with appealing art and story.
Get it

Epic-Comix Tribe
I was prepared to just go with the It’s free response to this utterly bland story of a super-powered teenager who loses his powers around girls, but I decided I couldn’t get past the mincing, implied to be gay villain (poodle included) who appears in the prologue, so we’ll just go with

Far From Wonder-Automatic
Vaguely steampunkish Alice in Wonderland revision, reprinting the first chapter with art by Ben Templesmith…who does not draw the rest of the series.
It’s free

Finding Gossamyr: Way of the Bladeslinger/Past the Last Mountain-Th3rd World Studios
Beautifully illustrated fantasy stories, serving as prologues to forthcoming comics or collections. Nice material, and very engaging.
Get it

Fubar-Fubar Press
Oh joy. A zombie comic, where the brave American soldiers get to kill hordes of Muslims, but it’s okay, because they’re all zombies! For those folks who thought the racist subtext of zombie fiction was just a little too subtle, I guess.

Giant Size 4-Pack Bundle-Red Giant
A four pack of flip-books of various fantasy and super-hero titles. The mix is fairly eclectic, and most of the material here is at least promising. Of the eight titles featured, Magika is the most appealing and has the nicest art.
It’s free

Grimm Fairy Tales-Zenescope
A tie-in preview of an upcoming “event” comic for the “sexy fairy tale women” comics. It’s pretty much exactly what I suspected it would be.

Guardians of the Galaxy-Marvel
Marvel, perhaps sensing that there was there was too much interest in the forthcoming film, gives us stories about Iron Man and Venom talking about the Guardians of the Galaxy, a ponderous conversation between Thanos and Drax, and a vampire killing Spider-Man.
Yeah, that should cool off any kids who thought those trailers looked cool.
It’s free

Hello Kitty and Friends-Viz Media
I have absolutely no idea what’s going on here, but it’s cute, bright and nicely illustrated, which is really all it needs to be.
It’s free

Hip Hop Family Tree Two-in-One-Fantagraphics
A brilliant “comics as artifact” presentation of the history of hip hop, presented absolutely perfectly and masterfully.
Get it

The Intrinsic: Singularity Zero-Arcana
A group of vaguely magic themed heroes bicker amongst themselves, and then demons attack. The art is nowhere near appealing enough to counter the generic feel of the set-up.
It’s free

Ipso Facto-Automatic
A stiffly drawn and poorly paced sci-fi comic about…aliens? Psychics? Who knows. It’s not clear, and the presentation is so poor I’m not inclined to try and find out.

Kaboom Summer Blast-Boom
I’m not a fan of the aggressively weird school of current cartoons, as it seems like they’re aimed much more strongly at self-consciously ironic 20-somethings than kids. The comics based on them suffer from the same problem. So while the art on some of these is nice, it’s all very much not For Me, so no thanks.
It’s free

Les Miserables: The Fall of Fantine-Udon
Not being a Les Mis fan in any of its forms, I’ll admit to being biased against this from the start. That the art by SunNeko Lee is relentlessly cheery, and thus fully at odds with the subject matter, causes a merely mild bit of cognitive dissonance. The second preview, for a manga version of Pride and Prejudice in full shojo cliche glory, is of far more interest to me.
It’s free

Magic Wind-Epicenter Comics
A Weird Western, featuring Edgar Allan Poe and a psychic shaman. The art is appealing and the break from the usual genres featured today is welcome. The premise has promise and piques my curiosity.
Get it

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers-Papercutz
Prose introductions to the original Power Rangers, and a cute story featuring the same.
The kids who watched this have kids of their own now. I…I need to lie down for a bit.
It’s free

The New 52: Future’s End-DC Comics
Ugly and incoherent mess that pretty much embodies everything wrong with DC’s books these days.

Overstreet’s Comic Book Marketplace-Gemstone
As per usual, a paen to the joys of collecting comics for potential resale value. Also as per usual, misses the damn point of Free Comic Book Day by a mile.

Project Black Sky-Dark Horse Comics
A promotion for Dark Horse’s new super-hero comics line. The story is a fairly standard super-hero misunderstanding leading to a fight, and the art is okay, but I find myself wishing a story featuring Captain Midnight and Brain Boy wasn’t taking itself so seriously.
It’s free

Raising A Reader-Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
A guide for parents on the mechanics of comic books and using them as a method of getting kids to read. A much better comics education offering than the price-guides and “hot books” nonsense we’ve seen in past years.
It’s free

Rise of the Magi-Top Cow/Image
A brief preview to a new ongoing fantasy series from Top Cow. It’s of that “blend fantasy with something like reality” school of fantasy. It’s not particularly strong material, but it’s entertaining for what it is.
It’s free

Rocket Raccoon-Marvel
This is the book Marvel should have slapped the “Guardians of the Galaxy” logo on. A fun, nicely illustrated story about Rocket Raccoon going on an adventure, backed up with a Spider-Man in space story.
Get it

Scratch 9-Hermes Press
This comic features President Obama rocket-punching a “They Live”-bot to save a cat.
It is beautiful.
Get it

Shigeru Mizuki’s Showa: A History of Japan-Drawn and Quarterly
A selection from the artist’s memoir of life as a naval recruit in Japan during World War Two. The historical perspective is interesting, and the art is eye-catching, but the particular selections don’t flow together very well.
It’s free

Spongebob Freestyle Funnies-Bongo
I have absolutely no idea what’s going on with Spongebob stuff at the best of times. Some of the art and stories here are fun and nicely done. Others just reinforce how little patience I have with Spongebob.
It’s free

Sherwood Texas-12 Gauge
A modern re-imaging of Robin Hood as the leader of a biker gang. It’s actually a fairly clever spin to put on the story, but I wish the art was a little more appealing.
It’s free

Skyward/Midnight Tiger-Action Lab
A fantasy story and super-hero story, both not quite there, but engaging and different enough from the usual fare to be interesting.
It’s free

The Smurfs-Papercutz
An assortment of fun kids comics, mostly from Papercutz’s line of translated Euro-comics. A good mix of material, tone and art style.
Get itSonic the Hedgehog/Megaman X-Archie Comics
Short origin stories for Archie’s line of video-game tie-in comics. I continue to be amazed at how insular and continuity-driven this line of comics is.
It’s free

Steam Wars-Antarctic Press
Steampunk. Star Wars.
Oh dear lord.

Street Fighter-Udon
Nicely illustrated fight comics featuring characters I have absolutely no interest in.
It’s free

Teen Titans Go-DC Comics
In contrast to DC’s other offering, this a joyful, anarchic romp through the fun side of super-heroes. Perfect material for new readers and kids.
Get it

The Tick-NEC
An amusing, genre-savvy super-hero farce. Fun, but the amount of enjoyment probably hinges on your Tick tolerance.
It’s free

Top Shelf Kids Club-Top Shelf
Two fun shorts setting up the stories of kid-friendly fantasy graphic novels. Nicely illustrated and amusing.
Get it

Prose pieces, with typical gory illustrations, from Avatar’s Nazi super-humans comic. By Avatar’s standards, almost restrained.

Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck: A Matter of Some Gravity-Fantagraphics
Being a Donald Duck fan there’s pretty much no way I’m not going to endorse this. But even apart from that, the Fantagraphics collections of Disney material are easily the best reprints on the market right now, and this tale, featuring a visually inventive and clever Don Rosa story as it’s lead, is a great introduction to the upcoming line of Rosa reprints.
Get it

Background material and prologue to a comic series about war between humans and vampires, of the postmodern “just a disease” type.
I really don’t like vampires, and I could have done without the gratuitousness of the shock-gasp-horror ending, but it’s not actually bad despite ranking high on the Not For Me table.
It’s free

Worlds of Aspen-Aspen Comics
A flip-book devoted to premiering a new fantasy series about a world with no men, and a sci-fi series about alien game hunters. The stories are actually fairly intriguing, but I can’t get past the Aspen house style.
It’s free

Zombie Tramp-Action Lab
Every year, there’s at least one book that gets the entire purpose of Free Comic Book Day wrong. This year it’s this…thing. Violent, gory, over-sexualized…pretty much the exact way to give a new reader as negative an impression of the comics industry as possible.
Avoid at all costs

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2000 AD–2000 AD
A sampler of current and classic material from the long-lived British weekly. A nice variety of art styles, though all of the stories tend towards the sci-fi and the gory, so not as great a selection of the variety of material available from the publisher.
It’s free

Absolution—Avatar Press
I’ve liked most of the Christos Gage comics I’ve read in the past, but I really don’t need any more “realistic” super-heroes that kill people, thanks.
It’s free

Aphrodite IX #1—Image
Pretty art, and the T&A quotient is actually fairly toned down compared to past incarnations of the title. It’s still almost impossible to actually follow the story, though.
It’s free

Atomic Robo—Red 5 Comics
Each year, Atomic Robo is one of the FCBD highlights, and it’s true this year as well. Fantastic action and humor and art all around. The back-up feature is an introduction to a new title called “Bodie Troll” and I’m in love with the troll cursed with excessive cuteness instantly.

Avatar: The Last Airbender/Star Wars—Dark Horse
The usual standards of Dark Horse licensed material apply here. If you’re fans of the properties, you’ll probably enjoy this. If not, you’ll probably be a little lost as to what is supposed to be going on.
It’s free

Bongo Comics Free-For-All—Bongo Comics
Pretty much the same material Bongo presents every year: a sampling of Simpsons comics that feel slightly past their sell-by date and even more neutered than what the show has become. Nice Sergio Aragones art, though.
It’s free

Buck Rogers—Hermes Press
Most of this book is a reprint of a Buck Rogers Sunday strip storyline. For fans of classic comics material, this may hold some interest, but it’s probably going to read as too hokey and dated for most readers.
It’s free

Chakra the Invincible—Graphic India
While I’m all for seeing greater diversity in comics, superhero comics in particular, kids comics especially, this is pretty much just a collection of fight pages, with not much in the way of story.
It’s free

Damsels: Mermaids—Dynamite
Not so much a “dark reimaging” of a fairy tale as a rather rote sequel.
It’s free

DC Nation Super Sampler—DC Comics
This new Beware the Batman cartoon has a very harsh and angular art style I’m not sure I care for, and an Alfred who looks like a 60s Disney movie thug. Otherwise, this is pretty typical DC kids fare, probably of most interest to adults for the Amethyst cast bio pages included.
It’s free

Disney Fairies—Papercutz
Cute stories about Tinkerbell and other fairies. Attractive art, but never really rises above your average licensed comic level.
It’s free

Endangered Weapon B—AAM/Markosia
The lead story is a steampunk absurdist adventure tale by David Tallerman and Bob Molesworth which shows promise and has attractive art. The rest of the stories are presented too briefly to fairly judge, but none initially interest me. But the lead story does have me intrigued. Maybe I just like the ideas of dodderingly racist British explorers and bears in mech suits.
It’s free

Fubar—Fubar Press
War comics from various eras of history, only with zombies. *sigh*

I’m about a season and a half behind on the show, so this had spoilers galore. The art is workmanlike and the story isn’t much more remarkable. It’s disappointing, because I had been considering picking this up as a series, but if this is what the book is going to look like, I’m probably not going to bother.
It’s free

Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.—Marvel Comics
These are really incredibly ugly photo comics adapting episodes of the cartoons. The cartoons may be good (though what we see here isn’t promising) but the presentation here is so unattractive I’m not inclined to find out.

Infinity—Marvel Comics
A joyless prequel to the next Marvel cross-over, capitalizing on presumed new reader interest in Thanos. Who, outside of a back-up reprint, barely appears. Normally the problem with this sort of thing is that it’s impossible to follow without already reading a bunch of books, but it’s not an issue here, because almost nothing happens whatsoever, and no familiar characters really appear. There is also a few page preview for “Endless Wartime” which Marvel is advertising as their first original graphic novel, which is a nice way to toss the 39 they published between 1982 and 1989, not to mention all those “Season One” books they’ve been putting out, down the memory hole.
It’s free

Judge Dredd Classics—IDW
Attractive reprint of the first Judge Death story, with Brian Bolland art, as well as some other Dredd related Bolland material. Good quality stuff that should be appealing now that Dredd seems popular with US readers again.
It’s free

Kaboom Summer Blast—Boom Entertainment
An assortment of Kaboom kids comics, mostly licensed properties that I have no real interest in, and in at least two cases do not understand the appeal of in even a very slight way.
It’s free

I didn’t know a Thomas Yeates illustrated adaptation of a Louis L’Amour novel was something I would want, but here we are. The Michael Gaydos illustrated adaptation of Kellerman’s “The Web” seems intriguing as well, but given my tastes I’m probably more inclined to track down the novel.
Get it

Marble Season—Drawn and Quarterly
Gilbert Hernandez’s semi-autobiographical childhood memoir expertly captures the realities and nuance of that age. It’s brilliant work from a mature creator. And this package includes an “aftwards” that “contextualizes” the material for those Team Comix wankers still around, unable to just enjoy a good comic on its own merits.
Get it, but rip out the back matter

Mass Effect/RIPD/Killjoys—Dark Horse Comics
Setting aside the video-game tie-in, these are fairly good, but typical of the Dark Horse style at the moment: high concept, vaguely horror-ish, not bad but not remarkable. The Mass Effect tie-in is…a Mass Effect tie-in.
It’s free

Molly Danger—Action Lab
Really nicely illustrated and engaging girl-friendly super-hero comics in the lead, and an even more impressive “Princeless” back-up story. This is the kind of impressive, best-foot-forward material I like to see the comics industry promoting for FCBD
Get it

Mouse Guard/Rust—Archaia
Archaia’s selection of material usually turns out to be the highlight of any FCBD, and that looks to be the case here as well. A flip-book with a collection of beautifully illustrated and engaging shorts from a variety of titles.
Get it

Mr. Puzzle—Capstone
This is just absolutely peculiar, and the coloring hurt my eyes, which mostly just means I am too old to be the target audience for this.
It’s free

NFL Rush Zone—Action Lab
The lead here is nicely drawn, and the idea of football super-heroes lends itself to cynical blogger jokes, but it’s probably good material for kids into sports who are reluctant readers. The fantasy back-up, “Skyward,” is more to my taste, and also well done.
It’s free

Overstreet Comic Book Marketplace—Gemstone Publishing
Every year they put this out, and every year it misses the point of FCBD in every possible way, pushing comics as collectibles and investments rather than something you read and enjoy.

Pippi/Anna and Froga—Drawn and Quarterly
I can’t make up my mind if I like the primitivist nature of these European kids comics or not. They’re aggressively weird, and it continually feels that these things are being pitched at hipster adults and not kids. But they’re cute and funny.
It’s free

Prince Valiant—Fantagraphics
Good quality reprints of a Hal Foster “Prince Valiant” story, in line with the exceptional work Fantagraphics has been doing on their reprint projects. Probably of more interest to folks interested in comics history than a casual reader, though.
It’s free

Ramayan 3392 AD—Graphic India
Beautifully illustrated shorts based on Hindu gods, with a slight sci-fi edge to them. Interesting material and worth a look.
It’s free

Rated Free for Everyone—Oni Press
Oni generally does a good job with their all ages books, and this is no exception. Mermin the Merman is a cute kids story and the Crogan Adventures short is up to the standards of that series as well.
Get it

The Red Ten—Comix Tribe
*sigh* “Gritty”, “mature” comic with JLA stand-ins, as set up for a series about a Joker stand-in killing people.

RuRouni Kenshin: Restoration/Dragonball—Viz
Mostly stand alone chapters from a samurai drama and a martial arts comedy, both fairly known properties at this point. Probably cool for kids into manga for whom Dragonball hasn’t been horribly tainted by being something their dad was into.
It’s free

Scratch 9—Hermes Press
Cute comic about a cat who becomes involved with a mad scientist, and then strange stuff happens. It’s actually pretty charming, with appealing art, and just enough of a weird edge to appeal to kids and adults.
Get it

Sesame Street/Strawberry Shortcake—Ape Entertainment
Pretty and charming kids books aimed at very young kids. For licensed books, very nicely done.
It’s free

The Smurfs—Papercutz
The usual nice selection of Peyo Smurf stories and other kids comics from Papercutz. Annoying Orange has nice art from Mike Kazaleh, but Ariol was slightly off-putting due to the attempt at comic self-involvement from the characters.
It’s free

Sonic and Mega Man: Worlds Collide Prelude—Archie Comics
I have absolutely no idea what any of this is.
It’s free

Spongebob Freestyle Funnies—Bongo Comics
I don’t get Spongebob’s appeal. I really don’t. These are…weird kids comics that feel in line with me just really not understanding what’s great about Spongebob.
It’s free

The Steam Engines of Oz—Arcana
Nicely illustrated, and while I’m generally sick of all things Oz and Steampunk at the moment, this was surprisingly good.
It’s free

The Strangers—Oni Press
A loving tribute to 60s TV sci-fi. Half Avengers, half Doctor Who, all weird and go-go boots. Pretty fantastic first issue.
Get it

The Suff of Legend/Finding Gossamyr—Th3rd World Studios
Beautiful fantasy comics, each story acting as a good, general introduction to the series featured.
Get it

Superman: Last Son of Krypton—DC Comics
So, with a new Superman movie with fairly positive buzz coming up, a new status quo in the regular titles, DC decides to lead with…a reprint of a several year old story, an incomplete one at that, that ties in more with the generally not well thought of at the moment “Superman Returns” than “Man of Steel.”
I really don’t understand DC sometimes.
It’s free

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles New Animated Adventures—IDW
I was never a Turtle fan, so I have no horse in this being faithful either to the original comic or the cartoon. This is pretty typical kids TV tie-in comic fare, but the art style has a blocky look that’s pretty arresting.
It’s free

The Tick—NEC
Amusing and strange story, about what you’d expect from a Tick comic, really.
It’s free

Top Shelf Kids Club—Top Shelf Comics
Nice assortment of short, all ages stories from Top Shelf, all pretty familiar if you’ve picked up one of their FCBD books in the past.
It’s free

Uglydoll Comics—Viz
A collection of UglyDoll, Hello Kitty, Pokemon and something called Mameshiba comics. The art is colorful and lively and kid appealing, even if the stories feel slightly more like something an adult thinks a kid would like.
It’s free

Valiant 2013—Valiant
The relaunch of the Valiant line has proven to be fairly controversial, especially as regards ownership of some of the properties. This is the first opportunity I’ve had to look at any of the current material, and frankly, it’s pretty generic indie super-hero fare. The lead story is a prequel to a cross-over, has some off-putting violence, and not much else to say.
It’s free

Valiant Masters—Valiant
Oh, hey, reprints of 90s comics.

The Walking Dead—Image
Yeah. I like Adlard’s art, but I’m still not even remotely interested in anything to do with zombies.
It’s free

World of Archie Digest—Archie
A full (almost) 100 page digest sampler of mostly classic Archie strips from a variety of artists. A good selection of material presented in an attractive and appealing format.
Get it

Worlds of Aspen 2013—Aspen
A short prequel to a new Fathom storyline and lots and lots of ads for other Aspen books.

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As has become my habit, here are brief reviews of (most) of this year’s selection of Free Comic Book Day books. Scheduling issues mean a few titles didn’t make it to me in time for review, so you’re on your own if you need to find out if you should pick up Voltron Force or Hypernauts.
Since many stores limit the number of titles an individual may take, I’ve made the review scale as simple as possible; stuff you should get if you can, stuff you may as well pick up if it’s offered, and stuff that should be left behind.

Anna & Froga/Moomin Valley Turns Jungle (Drawn & Quarterly)
Utterly bizarre and demented children’s comics. The art in Anna and Froga may be too primitive for most people, but the “a kid could draw this” aspect is part of the charm.
Get it

Anti/The Ride (12-Gauge)
Well, this is just utterly charmless and dire.

Atomic Robo/NeoZoic/Bonnie Lass (Red 5 Comics)
Good, fun, well illustrated comics. You’d be a sucker to pass this up, because this sort of stuff is what comics should be about.
Get it

Avengers: Age of Ultron 0.1 (Marvel Comics)
So, rather than put out a one-off comic featuring the characters in the movie that just released, Brian Bendis wrote a story starring Spider-Woman, about Ultron, featuring a metric ton of heroes and villains, most of which are never identified by name, that sets up another storyline. Maybe, if we’re really lucky, a cross-over! As “best foot forwards” for the industry go, this is not it.
It’s free

Bad Medicine (Oni Press)
Another Oni book that reads somewhat like a pitch for a movie or television show. In this case, disgraced doctor who talks to ghost/hallucination teams up with sexy female detective to solve weird science crimes. While competently done, it feels very familiar somehow.
It’s free

Barnaby and Mr. O’Malley (Fantagraphics Books)
Nicely illustrated classic comic strips, charming in their own way, but more than a little on the dry side and pretty undynamic.
It’s free

Bongo Comics Free-For-All/Spongebob Squarepants Freestyle Funnies (Bongo Comics)
While it’s always nice to see new Sergio Aragones work, the rest of this is pretty dull. Neither the Simpsons nor Spongebob stories are particularly funny or interesting.
It’s free

Buffy the Vampire Slayer/The Guild (Dark Horse Comics)
A nerd pandering Buffy short and a Guild comic that only furthers my questions about whether the series is meant to be a mockery of these people or not. Okay if you like that sort of thing.
It’s free

Burt Ward: Boy Wonder/Wrath of the Titans (Bluewater Comics)
Nice animation style art in both of these, and while Wrath has an appealing, storybook style, the Burt Ward half of this flip-book is as incomprehensible as last year’s Adam West offering.
It’s free

The Censored Howard Cruse (Boom!)
I honestly cannot imagine how this is going to go over. It’s fantastic work, brilliant stuff, and I’ll save my rant about how any swearing or sexual images have to be censored but violent, gorey ones are apparently a-ok for another time. It’s not a great fit for Free Comic Book Day though, which is why I wonder how distribution of this will play out on the day. Still, well worth picking up.
Get it

DC Nation Super Sampler/Superman Family Adventures (DC Comics)
Too brief samples of DC’s comics adaptations of their (generally good) current animated shows, and a Bronze Age/New 52 amalgam Superman comic by the Tiny Titans creators. Fun stuff, but there’s not enough of any of it to really give a satisfying read.
It’s free

Donald Duck Family (Fantagraphics Books)
Great little selection of short Carl Barks humor strips focusing on Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge. Excellent reproduction similar to their hardcover reprint line.
Get it

Finding Gossamyr/The Stuff of Legends (Th3rd World Studios)
Beautifully illustrated all-ages fantasy comics with strong, intriguing premises.
Get it

The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Angels (Yen Press)
A manga adaptation of a supernatural romance young adult novel series. It’s actually quite pretty and seems like an interesting series, but suffers from the sort of lack of exposition that suggests only those familiar with the original novels should attempt to read this.
It’s free

The Intrisic (Arcana Studio)
Supernatural super-hero indie comics that tread annoyingly familiar ground, with lackluster art and a story that’s somewhat hard to follow. Somehow manages to even lack the charm of a Top Cow book.

Jurassic Strike Force 5 (Silver Dragon Books)
Sci-fi dinosaur superhero comics, with a toy line ready to go for a hoped for media blitz. Nicely illustrated, if you can avoid asking yourself why the female dinosaur has mammalian sex characteristics.
It’s free

Lady Death: The Beginning (Boundless Comics)
Big, loud and dumb are the keywords here. It’s utterly uncomplicated and direct about being those three things, and it’s got a kind of manic tone. I sort of see why this has an appeal, but it’s still not particularly any good.
It’s free

Mega Man (Archie Comics)
Sort of fun, but mostly acts as an introduction to the character. Who has been around twenty-five years. Something with more robot fighting action would have been appreciated.
It’s free

Mouse Guard, Labyrinth and Other Stories (Archaia Entertainment)
Everything in here is perfect and wonderful. Putting all this goodness in a nice little hard-cover does a good job of telling everyone how special and worthwhile this material is, matching form with content. You need this.
Get it

My Favorite Martian (Hermes Press)
Sort of amusing, in that way old Dell/Western comics have. It certainly wins the award for “most random” title to be released as part of Free Comic Book Day.
It’s free

The New 52 (DC Comics)
Previews for upcoming comics shuffled into a semi-narrative that previews the first big “event” comic of the DC relaunch: the startlingly original idea of a bunch of super-heroes fighting each other over what is sure to be a preventable misunderstanding or difference of opinion. Of minor interest to continuity fans, but otherwise pretty forgettable.
It’s free

Overstreet’s Comic Book Marketplace (Gemstone)
Overstreet does a better job than they have in past years, putting a lot of material in here about the history of horror comics (a random but ultimately inoffensive topic), but there’s still a big push on the value of comics as collectables. Missing the point of a day where you give comics away to people to get them to read the damn things entirely.

The Rockhead and Zinc Alloy 2-For-None (Capstone)
Kid-friendly super-hero books. Not particularly compelling, but not badly done either.
It’s free

The Smurfs and Disney Fairies (Papercutz)
Nice mix of all-ages material, all well drawn. The Tinkerbell stories are, perhaps, a bit simplistic, but the rest of the material is excellent.
Get it

Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics)
Sonic has his fans, mostly amongst kids and the darker corners of the internet. This is a solid adventure comic, but it doesn’t have much to recommend it apart from “well done.”
It’s free

Spider-Man: Season One (Marvel Comics)
It’s yet another updating of Spider-Man’s origin. Wasn’t this the whole point of the “Ultimate” line before that went off the rails? If you need another Spider-Man origin, this is at least pleasingly drawn and not insultingly stupid.
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Star Wars/Serenity (Dark Horse Comics)
Fabio Moon’s art in the Serenity story is nice. Otherwise, both stories here are pretty charmless and feel rote, like the properties are just being trotted out to push fan buttons.
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Top Shelf Kids Club (Top Shelf Productions)
Good mix of all ages material in a variety of styles. Most of it should be familiar if you’ve ever picked up one of Top Shelf’s samplers before.
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Transformers: Regeneration One #80.5 (IDW)
I liked Transformers as a kid, but this stuff is just utterly incomprehensible unless you’ve been steeping in it for years.

Witchblade: Unbalanced Pieces (Image/Top Cow)
Top Cow’s universe has been around long enough now that I find their existence vaguely comforting in the same way I used to find Chaos! Comics’ existence comforting: it’s so unpretentious in its blatant exploitation and so earnest in its wrestling by way of heavy metal album covers plots that the appeal is evident.
Doesn’t mean I think it’s any good, though.
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Worlds of Aspen 2012 (Aspen Comics)
A sample of story intros and pin-ups that, well…is representative of the sort of material we expect to see out of a pin-up art company that’s still stuck in 90s storytelling styles.

Worlds Most Dangerous Animals (Silver Dragon Books)
This may be of interest to children with morbid interests in animal attacks on humans. They’ll eat it up, everyone else will probably be bored.
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Yo Gabba Gabba! (Oni Press)
An entertaining mix of alt-comic and indie creators doing comics based on a tv show for preschoolers. I can’t quite tell if this is for kids, or for those adults who watch a show for preschoolers. Fun stuff, in any case.
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Valiant 2012 (Valiant Entertainment)
A company that largely existed to feed off comics speculators is back, trying to pitch itself as the interconnected, story-driven super-hero universe that isn’t Marvel and DC, because historically those have done well…

Zombie Kid (Antarctic Press)

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As careful readers of Monday’s post might have guessed, I’ve been delving into a lot of Grant Morrison’s work again.

It started with New X-Men, the smaller sized editions that Marvel has been releasing lately. Even though I have all these comics, three moves later those are all in storage, and my desire to reread and have them in a loanable format won out over my usual desire to avoid unnecessary double-dipping. This is still amongst my favorites of Morrison’s super-hero work, though the collected format really drives home how inconsistent art can hurt a long-form story, and Marvel’s insistence on pricing each volume the same, regardless of how many actual issues are collected, is almost admirable in its mercenariness.

I moved on to buying the trades for The Invisibles, as I had noticed that several volumes had gone out of print, and given how dated much of the material is I thought the odds of new printings were low. More fool me, apparently. This is still one of Morrison’s better long-form stories and still holds up remarkably well, even though the scenes that take place in “the future” are now mostly in the past and look faintly ridiculous. It happens. The other sore point is that the final storyline (excepting the Frank Quitely illustrated coda), the one which features a different artist on almost every page, feels so rushed and compressed that very little of the story actually gets resolved. I can easily imagine that an additional issue or two would have given Morrison more room to bring the story to a close the way he intended.

Also noteworthy is the expanded edition of WE3. The new pages fit in seamlessly, and I had to check against the older edition to make sure that certain segments were actually new. Still, bar none, Morrison’s finest work.

The collected edition of Joe the Barbarian was also recently released, and I’m very glad, as it gave me a chance to give it another look. The series was largely overshadowed by Morrison’s Batman run, and an erratic shipping schedule hurt its momentum, but it’s an excellent book that deserves more attention. It’s a straight-forward heroic fantasy series, almost but not quite appropriate for all ages and extremely accessible. Sean Murphy creates a detailed, expressive world, and script-wise, this is very much in the “funny/emotive” vein of Morrison work. I’m tempted to suggest that releasing this through Vertigo may have done the book a disservice, as the line suggests “mature reader” works and the audience for this is much broader. This feels like an ideal book for a teen getting interested in comics, and just the Vertigo label alone is going to cause many comic stores to stick this into a restricted section.

I’ve also belatedly jumped onto the bandwagons for The Unwritten and Locke & Key, both books I’d initially dismissed as “not for me” only to encounter friends consistently telling me that they were excellent. Mostly my friends were right and I was wrong. Unwritten‘s riffing on the Harry Potter books becomes quickly tiresome, and it has the same problem most Vertigo books do these days-writing for the trade means you pretty much have to read the entire first storyline to get an idea of whether the title is going anywhere interesting, rather than the first issue. But Mike Carey is writing a very smart book that manages to be about fiction and fictionality in a smart way while still having enough of an adventure story edge to be compelling.

Locke and Key by contrast, completely failed to impress me with the Free Comic Book Day sample issue from earlier in the year. It felt like an all ages comic aping a horror series. To be honest…even three volumes in, it still fills like Joe Hill sort of wants to write a Young Adult series with fantasy-horror overtones, with the occasional bouts of horrific violence on hand to make sure that the book stays firmly Adult Adult. But despite that, this is a very good fantasy-horror series, tightly plotted and with a strong sense of having a definite destination in mind and a plan for getting there (a rarity in the current long-form story model that I’m thankful to see here). Story developments feel natural and logically progress from previous events and revelations about what is really going on build on what has already been stated and implied.

Lastly, I’ve been reading the IDW collections of DC’s old Dungeons & Dragons and Forgotten Realms comics. These were fun fantasy comics at the time, and having them back in print is welcome. Jan Duursema is criminally under-rated, and her work on D&D is impressive, and Vajra Valmeyjar is my favorite “fantasy warrior” character for a number of reasons.

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All Star Western #1: Gray and Palmiotti’s Jonah Hex series was one of the under-appreciated highlights of the preboot DC line, so it only makes sense that the same writing team on the same character is one of the outstanding titles of the reboot. Moritat’s art is moody and effective, portraying both the grime and the elegance of the period well. Moving the setting from the frontier to Gotham is an intriguing difference. Seeing Hex as a man out of place has potential, and tying the book more closely to the rest of the DC universe has the potential to get more people paying attention to the book. I’m generally not one to care much for stories delving into the “rotten heart” and history of Gotham; where Gotham is NOW is more interesting than where it came from, generally. But having Hex in an investigative role, and giving him a partner/unreliable narrator in Amadeus Arkham, is a unique enough perspective on the city and setting to have strong potential.

Aquaman #1: The question of why Aquaman is supposedly so lame is one I’ve asked before, and it’s maybe only natural that any attempt to bring the character back to prominence is going to have to deal head-on with the damage lame comedian’s jokes about Super Friends have done. It’s an approach that could fall flat on its face, but Geoff Johns actually manages to pull it off, portraying Aquaman as a character who is both dignified and quietly a badass, albeit one who has to live in the shadow of brighter, more impressive characters. Setting him up as the man responsible for “the shore” is an interesting approach as well; less king of the sea or traditional super-hero, but occupying the space in between. Of course, it wouldn’t quite be a Geoff Johns book without a gory death or villain, and here it’s in the form of carnivorous amphibious shark-people. Of course it is.

Batman: The Dark Knight #1: Another Batman comic, another breakout from Arkham Asylum, another stupid change to an existing villain, another new villain given a silly modus operandi in order to convince us that they’re a serious, credible threat. David Finch’s art is much improved since the last time I saw it, while still not being entirely to my taste, and not even Paul Jenkins as co-writer can elevate this beyond the samey nature. For a line that DC apparently went to great lengths to leave relatively untouched in this reboot, very few of the new creative teams are hitting on all cylinders.

Blackhawks #1: This is straight-up G.I. Joe set in the DC universe. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, G.I. Joe owes a fair amount to silver age DC and Marvel war comics in and of itself, so this is more like coming full circle with the concept of a sci-fi international military special-ops team with silly code names and ludicrous villains. But the approach taken here is all action and character names, very little in the way of backstory or actual characterization. So we have a bunch of people with silly names fighting a secret war against an unknown villain with sci-fi weapons, only without the nostalgic appeal that an actual G.I. Joe comic would have for people.

The Flash #1: For being the book that was used to justify all these reboots, you’d almost think Flash would have had a splashier opening. But no, very very pretty art from Francis Manapul aside, this is pretty much a generic Flash comic. Setting aside the various generations of Flash family characters may reduce the amount of “grandpa Barry” drama that the title was groaning under, but replacing it with the same relationship drama/romantic triangles as every other super-hero book isn’t much of an improvement. Neither is a story that, yet again, ties into some secret, probably terrible, from Barry Allen’s past. It’s not really a bad comic, but it doesn’t break any new or interesting ground for the character either.

The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man #1: Oh, hey, another teen hero book with violent murders and torture.
What potential there is in a complete reboot of Firestorm, bringing back both Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond and attempting to create a somewhat unified backstory and concept for the title is pretty much tossed out in the window in favor of something squalid and icky. This feels like an attempt to pander to the same crowd that eats up the ultra-violence by making a “lame” hero more “hardcore”. It just ends up kind of gross.

Green Lantern: New Guardians #1: As I seem to be one of the few people who will publicly admit to liking the “Rainbow Corps” storylines from the Green Lantern family, this should be an ideal book for me. I like the grand, space-opera tone that the multi-colored ring storylines bring to the titles. I just despair of the apparent necessity for extreme violence and melodramatic angst. We’ve got a small amount of that violence here, but luckily not too much of the angst. I’ve got hopes for this title, but in this first issue we’re not getting much story, so it’s hard to see what direction the book is going to go in. Especially when the promised content for the second issue looks to be basically just a big fight scene. It makes for a very frustrating first issue.

I, Vampire #1: I actually have a soft spot for the old I, Vampire back-up stories, so I was hopeful that this would be a good reintroduction of Andrew Bennett. This is pretty much just a restart of the title, only moved from the early 80s to the modern day, with the same main character and antagonist and central conflict. Only without the establishment of who these characters are and what they mean to each other. Unless you were already familiar with the concept, this would appear to be just a lover’s spat expressed through the medium of a vampiric war on humanity, with a curiously laconic and passive hero. The art is unfortunately generic, looking much like every other indie comic horror title out there. That virtually everyone looks the same doesn’t help it much either, and the only way to distinguish the lead in many cases is his white hair stripe. All in all, a disappointing package.

Justice League Dark #1: Peter Milligan definitely brings something of a Vertigo flavor with this title, which makes sense given that many of the characters were only fairly recently liberated from that imprint. The book assumes a fair amount of familiarity with the characters on the part of the reader. This is yet another situation where maybe some time devoted to exposition would have been nice, as it’s not clear what exactly is or isn’t different in this new timeline (though Deadman at least appears to be in line with his appearance is Hawk and Dove and DC Comics Presents). Mikel Janin’s art is an interesting choice for a book like this; his figures are fairly solid and almost plain, which is an odd contrast with the more unreal, magical aspects of the story. The story itself is fairly straight-forward, but that lack of exposition and shifting viewpoints results in a book where things appear to simply happen, with indirect transitions, demanding that the reader actually put some work into figuring out what is going on.

The Savage Hawkman #1: Philip Tan’s art is remarkably pretty here, so it’s a shame that it’s in service to a story that didn’t really do much for me. Hawkman tends to work best when he’s a big guy with wings bashing bad guys with a mace. The trend to writing him lately has been to make him a tragic, angsty figure, and that’s pretty solidly continued here. Making the wings and harness a part of Carter Hall, instead of equipment he wears, is a fairly arbitrary change that doesn’t do much to improve the character, and actually makes him more like a Wolverine with wings instead of his own concept.

Superman #1: Despite being set in the present day, this still hews fairly closely to the Superman in Action Comics. He’s cocky and a bit brash and his relationship to Metropolis is fairly complicated; loved by the common people but viewed with suspicion by those in power. The changes to the supporting cast and the status quo make sense in light of current events, and the apparent prominence of Morgan Edge and his companies has the promise of some Bronze Age appeal. It’s a perfectly good, if a little unambitious, Superman comic with nice art and engaging action and subplots that aren’t infuriating. The only major strikes then would be the “One More Day”ing of the Lois and Clark marriage and the presence of “horn blowing giant fish” from Stormwatch, which suggests a fairly heavy-handed editorial hand on the title, if cross-title threads are being introduced in the first issue without directly impacting the story.

Teen Titans #1: I have this sinking suspicion that I’m in the minority on this one, but I found this to be a fun comic. That it ties pretty strongly into Superboy, which has been a highlight title, helps, as does the art by Brett Booth which I’ve always liked, even if it is usually of the “everyone screaming” school of comics art. But the angst levels are tolerable, the characters and the writing is clever, and the central conflict has a fair amount of promise. And hey, it’s a teen super-hero book that keeps it’s violence and action within the reasonable super-hero realms, not delving into horrific torture and gore. That’s, sadly, a plus these days.

Voodoo #1: I can see this catching on in the same way that books like Witchblade do; half soft-core T&A, half well intentioned but not quite pulling it off “strong female character” tropes. That we don’t really learn anything about the lead in the first issue other than that she’s apparently an alien spy and is more than willing to kill characters of equally ambiguous morality.
It’s pretty, but for a number of reasons, this really is just Not For Me.

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