Free Comic Book Day: Mighty Heroes, Politicized Robots, and Boring HookersMay 7, 2012
I have to admit that Free Comic Book Day kind of slipped my mind this time around and so I didn’t really have a plan as in previous years. New York City being New York City has quite a lot of festivities dedicated to the day, but instead of that I participated in a much purer essence and went to my most local comic book store in Brooklyn.
There was a three comic per person limit so it took a while to decide what to take a chance on. That also means we all strategically plotted out who would get what so as to have the biggest spread of stories to read. And in the spirit of the day I also bought some comic trades.
Free Comic Book Day’s main goal is to help entice new comic readers while at the same time giving current comic fans a sample of titles they might have otherwise ignored. It is also a good way of helping people back into comics if they have been away from the hobby for a while. For me it is usually an interesting, all be it limited, look at what is going on in the American comic industry. It is a regular smorgasbord of mainstream and independent comics. Theoretically everyone is putting their best foot forward in an effort to attract new readers so it is a good time to see what everyone is offering for the year. Sometimes comic publishers will have their B-teams work on the material for Free Comic Book Day but there is nothing I can do about that. I can only judge the comics on what I see. So any over positive or negative receptions might be merely based on the small sample I got here. But like so many other people this is often the most critical impression publishers can give me so I make judgements without reservation.
I went in with a mind for robots first! We were able to pick up Transformers, Voltron Force, and Mega Man. I’ll say up front that I didn’t have high expectations for any of these really. I also just realized that all of these are based on popular series from the 80s.
I’ve read IDW Transformers books in the past and for the most part they are just passable. And that’s basically what we got this time with a focus on giving us a Sunday sermon (complete with “WITNESS!” throughout the text) on universe history. I really don’t keep up with the convoluted structure of Transformers lore so some things were quite familiar like Unicron while others were not. I was pleased with the cover and art of the main story but there really needed to be more fights. More impressive was the art in the very short story in the back. It was very different from what I’m used to seeing, not slick but more gritty and dark.
I have nothing good to say about Voltron Force but I can’t let it pass. It is just sad all around, from the art to the story to the dialogue and heck, Voltron doesn’t even appear. Also maybe I am getting ahead of myself but why are there only three children being trained for the force? I don’t delude myself in thinking that original Voltron was a great masterpiece but it deserves a little better.
While we are a detective themed blog mecha receive a fair bit of love on this blog. Therefore Narutaki made a conscious effort to get any and all robot focused comics for our post. Sadly they did not have the Atomic Robo sample at Bulletproof so we had to make due with what was there. The strongest showing was probably the Mega Man comic. It was an Archie Comic so it was clearly aimed at a younger audience but it did a good job at introducing the Mega Man’s origin via the first game. Nothing surprising but a solid introduction. I was far more interested in seeing what they are doing with their Red Circle Comics line. It has been a dormant super hero line for Archie Comics for years so I was very curious to see how they were going to update the shelved titles while differentiating them from what Marvel and DC is producing. Sadly while there was two ads for the new line they were incredibly sparse with details.
I have to agree with Narutaki about the Transformers comic. It had enough exposition to make Kinoko Nasu blush. It was also an amazing insight into the convoluted world of the Transformers Universe. When you casually throw out an unexplained reference to a comic from 20 years ago as if it were common knowledge that is a picture perfect example of what keeps people out of hard-core Transformers fandom. Also the hysterical “MY GOD! What have I done?” reaction shots on the last page of the first story were even more amusing by the fact that I had no clue why they were being made. The only thing that was more off-putting was the bonus story at the end. The super serious political analogy comes of as comical despite the fact that it is clearly trying to put an edgy spin on the classic Transformers characters.
The final robot comic was the disappointing Voltron Force comic. If you go back and watch old Voltron cartoons you quickly realize that the show was nowhere as good as your remember it. Sadly this updated sequel does little to improve the hokey storytelling. It has the same corny feel as the original with thee annoying kids at the helm that do little to win over new fans. Also I am not sure why they need the Voltron Force in the first place. King Lotor is clearly going to get himself killed due to his own incompetence. He hardly needs the Voltron Force to hasten his demise.
You can’t get away from superhero comics on FCBD and I wouldn’t want to! We picked up the big ones, of course, The Avengers and The New 52 plus a DC Nation comic and an Aspen sampler.
Jim Lee blew away the competition with a double spread fold out, making The New 52 a big highlight. The story was a surprise too, I really wasn’t expecting those two characters to be part of “Trinity of Sin.” I have been keeping up with a few DC books and this comic renewed my interest in a few others.
The Aspen sampler was odd because the first story is really just acts as a recap episode of Homecoming, even though it is a brand new series not yet out. At first this doesn’t seem like a bad plan, but if didn’t allow me to get to know the characters or events in any meaningful way and so I still don’t really know enough to pick it up or not. That being said, I was much more interested in the few pages Idolized got. It had atmosphere enough to make me curious about the overarching story.
Also I had to laugh at Aspen Photoshopping a tank top onto one of the girl on their cover.
The selection of super hero comics was quite strong in comparison. The New 52 story came out of the gate swinging. A nice story introducing the new metaplot involving Pandora. It did a great job on selling this new ongoing story in the greater DC universe. I was quite proud that I was instantly able to tell the first member of the Trinity of Sin was Judas Iscariot. It seems that years of playing pen and paper role-playing games have paid off once again. But I was quickly put back in my place when Narutaki had to inform me that the bigger revelation was that it meant that the Phantom Stranger was actually Judas. They also has some little snippets for their new comics that were filling in gaps that were left after they canceled some of the launch titles in the New 52. The Dial H sold the series as extremely strange but that was the point. Also the new World’s Finest series with Huntress and Power Girl has the distinct ability to offset some of the ill will that titles like Red Hood and the Outlaws got DC due to their sexist content. But it requires a bit more of the delicate touch they have with titles like Batwoman to be successful.
The DC Nation sampler was clearly meant to tap a younger audience DC has garnered with their cartoons on TV. The Green Lantern story was extremely kid friendly but entertaining. The Young Justice story on the other hand was too long to be a sneak peek but too short to feel like a decent sample. They should have stuck to a 2 page spread like they did with sneak speaks in the New 52 book. The Superman Family preview did much more with the same number of pages but that might be because it is more of a gag comic.
The Marvel entry wisely cashes in on the Avengers movie that is currently in theaters. That is just simple synergy. It is a pretty strong start of a new arc for the Avengers that has most of the characters that would be familiar from the movie as well as some additional Avengers like Wolverine and Spider-Man that pretty much sell comics on their own. A nice hook for people who might be stopping in because they saw the Avengers cartoon and/or movie.
I also picked up the World of Aspen comic mostly because I have never heard of the publisher before. Oddly enough their main preview, Homecoming was their weakest. They basically has the protagonist recite to you the premise of the comic in the least interesting way he could. I will say the story of a nerdy loser who has to live with a sexy alien princess to help fight an extraterrestrial invasion sound more like a harem anime premise than an American comic. The little Idolized preview for a reality TV show in a world of superheroes was a much stronger pitch. It showed more in 7 pages of sparse dialog than Homecoming said in 10 text heavy pages. I noticed almost all the Aspen comic titles has prominent female protagonists. But they were all titles that were clearly for a male demographic as opposed to using female characters to try to garner a unisex audience.
Despite the fact that Dark Horse’s selection featured Firefly and Star Wars on the covers, the best part was really Alabaster Wolves which had a mere 6 pages. This is a story that takes on fairytale myth of trolls under a bridge and it ends before I could find out what was to happen! Apparently the other part of the story was in another offering from Dark Horse. Despite that the art style was engaging with a graphic feel and a palette that captured a stormy night.
Because my roommate was with us he instantly picked up the Serenity comic from Dark Horse. It told a fairly Firefly feeling story in just a few pages. Depending on where you stand in the Joss Whedon nerd war should tell you where you will stand on that story. The biggest complaint I had with that story was while the cover is quite fetching the interior art has some of the most bizarre faces I have ever seen. They are clearly stylized but in quite an unattractive manner. On the flip side they also had a Star Wars comic. The story reminded me of the old Han Solo Adventures books I read oh so many years ago. It was a fun little story if a bit hollow.
Oh dear me, Route des Maisons Rouges is a sexy comic without enough sexy. I came to call it Prostitute Planet because it comes off as just that. I looked this series up to find it described as a “satire.” I guess it is; hot women who are (sort of) action girls taken to the ultimate conclusion that they are prostitutes…? But the story is just not that interesting, like at all. Since this was the second issue without any recap I was sort of floundering on the plot. There seemed to be some spying going on (industrial espionage?) and some complicated relationships. But I can tell you next to nothing of anyone’s personality.
I think both of us could agree that the worst comic we read was Route des Maisons Rouges. It was the tamest story about the political machinations of prostitutes who double as spies that there has ever been. I will admit I picked it up because the cover clearly promised it was going to be a sexy European comic. But while it is a translated Italian comic is was a PG as you can make a story about brothels in Paris. There is an unending amount of cheesecake but not even a single scene of nudity. That would be fine if the story were strong but the dialog has such a bizarre cadence. Everyone’s dialog flows like molasses in the arctic circle. I want to blame the translation with its awkward lines like, “He played me like a thrift-story PS3″ but I think it is more a reflection of the weak source material. It is just the translation does nothing to help the story. Had there been more nudity or sex I think I could have been far kinder to it as it would have crossed the line into light pornography. But as it stand its chaste treatment of the topic just made it painful to read.
As always Free Comic Book Day was an adventure with bright spots and low moments, and I’ll be back again next year.
This was a bit of a smaller haul than usual. Had we gone into the city I am sure we could have brought back a king’s bounty (and gotten some May 5th Go!Go! Curry.) The stores in Manhattan tend to have a bit more of a selection of swag and a great deal more colorful characters. But we still got a decent number of comics for free. It was definitely interesting to see how the various companies sold themselves. I was an interesting insight into what they felt was what would hook a new reader with only a few pages. Some were obviously more successful than others. But overall I look forward to see what titles are available next year. Excelsior!