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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Very nicely illustrated fight comics that make absolutely no sense to me.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve pretty much chalked up Zenescope’s fairy-tale line as the spiritual successor to Chaos Comics. Take that as you will.
Worlds of Aspen–Aspen
Huh. These still exist.