Thursday, May 8, 2014

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2014: part 2

Ah, Free Comic Book Day . . .

It's like a nerd Christmas in May, and this year Santa was pretty good to me.

In previous years I've meandered up to the LCS, scored some loot and checked out the sales that invariably fall on Free Comic Book Day. Last year I was unable to attend as I was firing reproduction 19th century field artillery at the 200th anniversary of a War of 1812 siege.

C'est la vie.

This year, however, I would not be foiled. I picked out two shops and headed into the city for two of my favorite things: free and comics. The day started off with a bang. At the first shop I visited greeted me with a door prize, a complimentary variant Superman Unchained no. 5.

Free Comic Book Day was looking good . . .

This particular shop limited FCBD goodies to 4 per customer and my choices were as follows:

Valiant FCBD 2014 Armor Hunters Special

Valiant is busy being hailed as the company putting out the hot books, and their FCBD was pretty much an advertisement for the newest X-O Manowar mega-event. The book offered previews from 3 upcoming books, a pinup or two, interview with creator Robert Venditti, and a recap of the company's mission statement.
It was no Stan's Soapbox, but it'll do.
2 out of 4

Mouse Guard, Labyrinth and Other Stories

Archaia's offering this year was a hardcover anthology. A FREE hardcover. Nearly 50 pages of free, hardcover comics. Outstanding! This book would probably retail for $12-$15. In addition to the titular comics, the anthology offers selections from Rust, Bolivar, Will O' the Wisp and Farscape. Admittedly, I know nothing about most of these selections. The Mouse Guard short was excellent, but I'm a bit biased as a Redwall fan. Likewise with Labyrinth and Farscape. The Labyrinth short was a fun story detailing Ludo's origin story, and the Farscape story is a throwaway, though sure to be enjoyed by a fan of the television show.

As an aside, I've realized how close a parallel there is between Farscape and the current incarnation of Guardians of the Galaxy, what with a displaced earthman tear-assing around the galaxy with a group of rough-and-tumble extraterrestrials. No accusatory reference to the House of Ideas, just an observation.

The other stories therein involved a tweener with a jet pack, a little girl and her sentient t-rex, and what appeared to be a mischievous voodoo raccoon.

Not much to cling to here. I really enjoyed a few of the shorts, and I applaud Archaia on giving away hardcovers.
3 out of 4

Free Comic Book Day 2014 (Guardians of the Galaxy)

Yeah, yeah, I know. I should have used Free Comic Book Day to pick up an Indy book I'd not otherwise read in order to boost readership for creator owned material, but Marvel Zombie must buy product.

If it's any consolation, I actually wanted the Rocket Raccoon book . . .

So, here we are, plugging the GotG movie in comic format. It was very nearly a recap of the movie trailer, involving Tony Stark explaining to Flash Thomson who the Guardians of the Galaxy are. Each Guardian got his or her own page explaining how cool and explodey they are, and at the end of the story it's revealed to the reader that Tony Stark gave this information to Flash not to sell movie tickets but to prep him for his next assignment; he will be representing Earth as a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy!


Also, Flash Thomson is currently host to the Venom symbiote, and although he no longer wants to eat Spider-Man's brain, he is still prone to psychotic episodes. Just the chap I'd want representing the Earth. The whole thing seems like a '90s gimmick, so I fully expect a Wolverine appearance if sales slack.

Story by Bendis, whatever. Nick Bradshaw's art was great, though. The book featured two more stories, one a preview of Jim Starlin's upcoming Thanos graphic novel and the other a preview of Dan Slott's new Spider-Man arc, Spider-Verse.

I'll certainly get the Jim Starlin book, because why would you not get a Jim Starlin cosmic Marvel book?


Why wouldn't you?

The Spidey story was a great teaser as well, involving Morlun fighting a Shakespearean Spider-Man and leading me to believe the arc is all about Morlun hopping dimensions and eating the respective Spider-Men therein.

I'm in.

Morlun is probably the most interesting Spider-Man villain to appear in decades, and Dan Slott has been breaking new ground with the Webslinger and doing a great job. Almost great enough a job to make me forget what a piece of garbage Brand New Day/One More Day/One Moment in Time was.

All said and done, Marvel's FCBD offering was little more than transparent advertising, and I'd've felt cheated if I had to pay money for it.

2 out of 4, on the merits of Nick Bradshaw's art.

Hip-Hop Family Tree Two-In-One

I'm going to try really hard to keep this from sounding like a b.j. for writer/artist Ed Piskor, but holy shit you guys this book.

Hip-Hop Family Tree is Ed Piskor's love letter to the formative days of hip-hop music told through sequential storytelling (that's comics, kids!) and for the love of god is this book well done. The layout is an homage to late '70s-early/mid '80s Marvel comics, from the cover to a faux 'Bullpen Bulletins' section.

Piskor's art is sharp and detailed, stylistically similar to many underground artists from that particular genres Golden Years. Stylistically I was reminded of Spain Rodriguez' art, albeit crisper and less chaotic.

I admittedly know almost nothing about hip-hop music, but Ed Piskor has done painstaking research into the genre. I've learned more about Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, and Run-DMC on Free Comic Book Day than I think I had my life previous.

Okay, that's probably not true, but it's still a damn good comic. I'm not even really a hip-hop fan. I'll absolutely be picking volume 1 & 2 of this book at the earliest opportunity.

Bravo, Mr. Piskor. Hip-Hop Family Tree ranks right up there with Minimum Wage and God Hates Astronauts as far as I'm concerned.
5 out of 5 for the big prize.

The first shop offered goodies from a slushy machine and a popcorn maker, had a young lady cosplaying as Power Girl, and a couple local artists who were mobbed by fans seeking autographs and sketches. There were also three spinner racks offering $4 tpbs, and I netted an Atomic Robo trade, Ultimate FF vol. 2, and the Ballad of Halo Jones.

Because four dollars is cheap for a trade paperback, folks.

My first stop finished, I whisked away to the second store on my route. And was horribly disappointed. Upon entering, the clerk looked up and said, "there's not much left". That may have been an understatement. There was a table scattered with what could only be described as scraps. Leftovers from Free Comic Book Days long past. There were no current titles to speak of, perhaps a Bongo Comics or DC kids book, but nothing I was ravening after. I ended up grabbing an Image Comics sampler from 2012, last years Smurfs book, and an interesting flier piece from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund called Raising A Reader! (exclamation theirs). This particular book is a public service tract detailing how graphic novels can improve literacy in children and can be an educational tool. I would leave copies of this book on every household doorstep and at every library and school classroom, were I able.

Aside from that, I picked up some free back issues including 3/4ths of Topps Comics Satan's Six miniseries and the first two issues of Teen Titans Spotlight from '86, which features Starfire vs. Apartheid. I've not read those yet, but apparently Starfire fights oppressive racism with the power of her bewbs, because holy crap that costume what were you guys thinking? I've always loved old-school Teen Titans, but Starfire looks like she should be in Heavy Metal or that Witch of the Black Rose comic.

Altogether a disappointing second stop, and no Atomic Robo or Rocket Raccoon books at either shop, but in all I'll mark this years Free Comic Book Day in the win column.

If for some bizarre reason there is a reader out there not taking advantage of FCBD, I'd encourage you to do so and spend some money at those brick-and-mortar shops while you're at it.

- Will Dubbeld

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