May 5, Cinco de Mayo, and also Free Comic Book Day for 2007. The shop was packed (including a dozen or so little kids, which was heartening), so I just grabbed a bunch of stuff and left. :) As in previous years, I'm not going to review these as themselves...in other words, I'm not really aiming at whether you should pick up these specific books. After all, they're free, if you can find 'em and are the least bit interested (and your shop lets you grab more than one title), just snag 'em. Rather, seeing these as the advertising that they are, I will decide whether I think you should consider picking up the regular titles, or books by this publisher in the cases where these aren't tied to specific titles. In some cases, of course, I will be biased by my existing buying habits (BUY AMELIA RULES!), and in others I may recommend you look at it even if I don't plan to buy it myself...after all, I know that there's plenty of good stuff out there that simply doesn't strike my fancy. In any case, keep in mind that these all interested me at least enough to pick 'em up for free and write a few lines about, which puts 'em ahead of a lot of books. Heroclix: This year's FCBD figure is Batman from the upcoming [correction: recently relesed...shows how much I follow Heroclix anymore] DC Origins set, with the Detective Comics #27 costume. It's a big figure, showing some scale creep in the line, but the sculpt is pretty good. The stats, at least, aren't horribly inflated. Might be worth picking up a couple boosters if this line is heavily retro-themed instead of just salted with a handful of these sort of figures. Star Wars Miniatures: A 9 point orange-trim Republic Clone Trooper from Ep3 is the freebie this year. The overall quality of SWMinis doesn't seem to have really changed, and they're still made of a rubbery plastic that's hard to modify. I really just grabbed this to stand next to my Lego Clone Troopers. Oh, and it has the "Order 66" special ability. The rest of the comics are in a very rough "how interesting do I think they'll be" order, although I keep the two Marvel books together and have the smaller-sized books on top for reasons of stacking ease. :) Choose Your Weapon Sampler: Tokyopop - Standard manga-collection digest size, hence being first. :) Samples of Archlord, Gyakushu!, Phantom, Utopia's Avenger, and Warcraft: the Sunwell Trilogy (all from volume 1's except the last, which is from volume 3). Strictly speaking, most if not all of this is not manga, it's manhwa (Korean stuff). Archlord looks to be pretty standard fantasy-comedy, and Gyakushu! is some sort of horror fantasy revenge thing, neither interested me. Phantom feels like an attempt to mix Gundam with Patlabor...moderately interesting, but nothing I plan to pick up. Utopia's Avenger is incoherent demon-slaying action with art I found nearly impossible to follow. And the Warcraft thing was mostly just a big battle scene that meant nothing to me and was almost as hard to follow at times as UA. The Black Diamond Detective Agency: :01 First Second - Chapbook-sized with victorian penny dreadful looks to it. Eddie Campbell's new work, a turn of the century terrorism mystery in which a train is blown up, taking with it much of a small Missouri town. This appears to be simply the first third of the upcoming book, and as a mystery it seems Campbell is deliberately trying to make things confusing at the start. While this would work well for the complete book, it's a bit frustrating in this teaser, in that there's stuff that might be more confusing than it needs to be (in the, "wait, who's THAT character?" sense). Interesting, but not enough to get me to order the full thing. Comics 101: How-To & History Lessons From The Pros: TwoMorrows - This is a sampler of TwoMorrows' various magazines, such as Draw, Alter Ego and the Kirby Collector. So there's a mix of creation tips and comics history. The art stuff is, as one might expect, a bit too short to really be useful, but Fingeroth's "Top Ten Tips For Writers" is helpful. I hear that if you go to twomorrows.com on May 5-6 you can even download free PDFs of the latest issues of the six magazines excerpted here, a good idea if you're interested in learning how to become a comics pro. How To Draw: Free Comic Book Day Booklet: Wizard - Promos for a quartet of How To Draw books Wizard is putting out. Some interesting stuff, most of which I've seen before, but except for Calafiore's piece on roughs it shares the usual "how to draw" problem of being a mix of "too basic to help any but the rankest beginner" and "too complex to be absorbed by any but a near-pro". Comic Genesis: Didn't see a Keenspot book this time. As usual, a sampler of a bunch of webcomics from what used to be Keenspace and is now Comic Genesis. The only one of the batch that I already read is the sadly on-hiatus Green Avenger (if you don't read it, go to www.green-avenger.com and catch up!) [Later note: So, of course, Abby updated on FCBD!]. The table of contents looks helpful at first, but since there's no page numbers in the actual comic, it's not as useful as it might have been. The level of art varies wildly, from total crap through Indy Cred Scratchy or Manga Wannabe and up to some really well-polished stuff. A lot seems to run towards fantasy and slice of life (and at least one furry slice of life...am I jaded to want furry comics to actually be something other than regular comics with animal heads? Like, to have the species thing matter in the story? Bill Holbrook has spoiled me.). Having gotten through the whole thing, unfortunately, I wasn't tempted to go to a single one of the webpages for the comics inside. Who Wants To Be A Superhero?: Dark Horse - This is just a slim booklet with the first few pages of the upcoming and long-delayed Feedback comic. I guess they decided to push it back to coincide with the start of season two. The Stan Lee writing is about as corny and dated as you'd expect, and the art is murky and badly colored. I don't intend to pick up the regular issue. Ape Entertainment's Comic Spectacular: Ape Entertainment - Anthology showcasing several of Ape's books, with ads for the rest. Athena Voltaire is a pretty standard "female Indiana Jones" sort with decent art, nothing really grabbed me. White Picket Fences seems to be shooting for retro 50s archness, and feels like it's pushing things too hard. The Goblin Chronicles is promising, a fantasy series that, at least in this story, features a young techie goblin prodigy. If the regular series is also about this kid, I might well buy it. Teddy Scare is "spooky cute" stuff, nothing to write home about. Go-Go Gorilla and the Jungle Crew has a sort of Captain Carrot feel, but tries too hard to be camp. Bizarre New World could be interesting, but it's solid narration with no actual dialogue, creating a sense of remove that dampens any interest it might have generated. Digital Webbing Jam 2007: Digital Webbing - An anthology, with E-Man, Bloodrayne, The Fist of Justice, Zombie Highway and Punks. I had no interest in Bloodrayne to start with, and this comic doesn't change that. Fist of Justice has some nice Anthony "I want to be John Byrne" Castrillo art, but a storyline that treads an overused downer path. The E-Man piece is mainly a flashback on his origins and early adventures, eh. Zombie Highway has a nice bit of character stuff, but doesn't tempt me into buying it. And the Punks piece is just bad-stupid. Liberty Comics #0: Heroic - Four done in one tales featuring the Golden Age Liberty Girl, reprinted from various other recent comics. I pretty much dropped Heroic's line over the past year, and none of these really inspires me to return. Nexus: Rude Dude Production - A collection of notable scenes from past issues of Nexus, to help promote the relaunch this summer (well, it'll be #99, so I dunno if "relaunch" is precisely the right word). The snippets focus more on look and feel, although some of the background is included. Each is introduced by a column of text presumably written by series writer Mike Baron. Nexus is one of those titles I've dipped into once in a while, mainly as a result of crossovers and events (I read a lot of other First Comics books back in the day), but it never really grabbed me. Seemed too full of "weird for its own sake" stuff. And while I'm sure some people will be thrilled to see it return, I won't be picking up #99. Justice League of America #0: DC - Eh, what the heck, it's free. :) This bounces between "yesterday" scenes set in what's probably the new rejiggered JLA history and "tomorrow" ones set in possible futures, with a pile of artists contributing. Some good bits, but neither Meltzer's writing nor Turner's contributions to the art (which are pretty bad IMO) inspire me to pick up the regular series. Buzzboy/Roboy: The Buzz & The 'Bot! #0: Sky-Dog Press - Some light and frothy tales. One each with Buzzboy and Roboy, one in which they more or less team up, and a bit of autobio from series creator John Gallagher. There's also a short "how to draw robots" piece that focuses on really simple retro "pile of shapes" robots. Decent, but I'm not really interested in seeking out any of the series promoted. Owly Helping Hands: Top Shelf Productions - This is one of those books I recommend in general without actually buying it myself...but I do pick up every FCBD copy. :) The main Owly story this time is, as usual, wordless (but with symbol/picture word balloons), and has Owly helping a friend with a gift idea. The backup is Korgi, a dog that can apparently light fires with his mind, I think. Owly is a little too cutesy for me, which is saying something. Korgi doesn't interest me at all. Free Comic Book Day 2007 Marvel Adventures #1: Marvel - MA Iron Man and Hulk stories, plus a Franklin Richards story. Within the constraints of such a short piece in a "making up new continuity as we go along" setting, Van Lente turns in a reasonably clever story. I might give MA Iron Man #1 a look when it comes out. Paul Benjamin's MA Hulk story isn't as interesting, though. And the Franklin Richards piece was...ehn. Free Comic Book Day 2007 Spider-Man #1: Marvel - An all-new Dan Slott and Phil Jimenez Spidey story, woot. Plus a preview of the upcoming throwdown between Spidey and Iron Man. The main story may or may not be in continuity, it's hard to tell (it feels like it's post-Back In Black, but it's hard to say for sure, especially given that at least one dead guy shows up alive in a crowd scene). Still, Slott puts together a fun story with great Jimenez art...except that's not Overdrive, that's Crosswise! (This moment of Transformers geekery has been brought to you by the Bugatti Veyron.) The preview of Amazing #544 was okay, but I doubt I'll go back to picking up that title regularly. The Astounding Wolf-Man #1: Image - Oddly, this is the only version of the first issue that's coming out, with the regular for-pay #2 solicited for July. Kirkman and Howard do a decent job of setting up the premise, although I feel like I've seen it before enough times that I don't feel much desire to get that #2. It also has some short previews of other Image books, including a monthly Brit by someone other than Kirkman. Amelia Rules FCBD 2007: Renaissance Press - Sometimes, I think that FCBD doubles the output on this title. :) But Gownley always puts new stuff here, so I make sure to get it. A decent introduction to the main kids of the title, although it leaves out a few of the second-tier kids (like Violet) and all of the adults. It also features one of the most elaborate Reggie definitions to date. There's also a backup of one of Gownley's favorite comics, Apathy Kat, which is relaunching soon. It had some good points, but felt too inconsistent, like its creator was splicing several different premises together. It's also kinda disturbing that Ap wears no clothes and physically behaves like a regular cat (curling up on a windowsill, for instance) when all of his friends are more anthropomorphized (clothes, upright posture, etc). Unseen Peanuts: Fantagraphics - Dude, Peanuts strips from the 50s and 60s. This is one worth seeking out on its own merits, even if you have to go to eBay or something to do it. Why? Well, if reprints over a hundred strips that were never reprinted prior to Fantagraphics' Complete Peanuts series, and even has a few that their collections haven't gotten to yet. Plus, there's notes speculating on why a particular strip was never reprinted, ranging from "it just wasn't very good" to "obscure topical references" or "took the characters in a way Schulz later went counter to". Dave Van Domelen, "I swear, you've gotta be the WORST bad guy I've ever met! Seriously! Who owns a car in the city?! Insurance, upkeep, the price of parking...no wonder you've turned to crime." - Spider-Man Update: Titles added on May 9 - Drawn & Quarterly Activity Book: D&Q - An excerpt from Lynda Barry's "What It Is" scheduled for spring 2008, according to the cover. It has the look of a schoolkid's doodling on various workbook pages and diary sheets and so forth, and just screams "indie comic" in jagged, hard to read letters. Not that the letters of the actual comic are hard to read, just the layout. It's not so much a story itself as it is about the process of trying to come up with a story. Barry seems to be attacking her writer's block with the verbal equivalent of Vicious Whispers' "army of scribblies" here. Part guidebook, part diary, part writing just to get something on the page and avoid total freezeup. My first impression was pretty harsh (along the lines of "pretentious indie crap"), but I erased a lot of my original review after getting a few pages in. It still gives a bad first impression, but it's a decent read if you can get past the surface features. It's an odd mix of structure and imagination, which I suppose can help some people improve their writing, but didn't really speak to me. In other words, I won't be picking up the full book this is excerpted from, but you might find some stuff in here useful. Daystar Studios 2007 Previews: Daystar Studios Entertainment - A few pages and cover images from each of several Daystar books. The Quest looks to be a fantasy comic with a somewhat bludgeony religious message. The art is okay, but the storytelling jumps around enough to be annoying. The fact that the cover for Love Gun has the artist's signature in a little fake scroll tells me all I need to know about it...avoid. It's some kind of future cyberpunk Spawn imitation crap. The other titles mentioned only show a cover, if that. Daystar's slogan on the cover is, "We Make Movies You Can Read." More like movies I can avoid even on cable. Love and Capes #4: Maerkle Press - This is the regular issue 4, not a reprint or anything. The inside front cover introduces the main charactes, who at first glance look to be yet another set of Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman pastiches, although a Spider-Man copy shows up this issue. It calls itself a super sitcom...and given that I generally don't watch sitcoms (or particularly like them), that's a bad sign. The half-transparent speech bubbles are another bad sign, as they make it just that little bit harder to read when the background is busy. Despite all that, it's okay. Among the various cliches (both superhero and sitcom) there's some good bits here and there. Not enough to get me interested in picking up further issues, but enough I don't regret the time spent reading this one.Back to the Main Rants Page.
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