Secret Wars #0
This is how you tease a big hairy crossover event: tease the reader, give them context, crack a few jokes and ramp up the danger, then wrap the issue with a tease of colossal adventure to follow.
I have no idea of my LCS (Subspace Comics in Lynnwood, WA; hi, Amy and Brian!) is like yours but I heard a lot of buzz in the shop today about Secret Wars. I heard four or five people talk about how they were excited to pick up this comic, were excited about the event, and grooving on the latest changes to the Marvel Universe. Convergence has been a bit of a dog, sales-wise from what I hear, but this comic looks to me like it accomplished its objectives: as part of Marvel’s big push, it’s got fans waiting with bated breath for the Secret Wars event.
– Jason Sacks
Ever read something where you feel like you have no idea what’s going on? It might be good, but you don’t have any context on things. No matter how much you try, no matter how much effort you put int understanding a project, much of what makes it entertaining just eludes you.
This anthology starts well, with a delightful Judge Dredd story by Matt Smith and Norm Breyfogle that’s a cute commentary on working-class revenge against the wealthy. But after that we get a series of middle chapters of stories that left me perplexed. There’s a Nemesis the Warlock story that features gorgeously demented art by Kevin O’Neill and a story that’s nearly incomprehensible out of content. There’s a Slaine story that’s similar: Simon Davis’s spectacular painted art depicts a gory tale that made no sense to the uninitiated, a Dan Dare story where the galactic hero fights some evil aliens, without any real context, and something called Doctor Sin that looks luminously weird but twists and turns in ways that seem arbitrary instead of delightful.
Last year’s entry by 2000 AD for FCBD was one of the best books of the year, with a breathlessly great Zombo story that had me gasping for breath because I was laughing so hard. That story left me begging for more. This year’s stories had me begging for explanations.
– Jason Sacks
Dark Circle Comics FCBD #1
My favorite “floppy” for Free Comic Book Day was the preview issue by Dark Circle Comics, which is the new imprint succeeding the old Red Circle at Archie Comics and it provides three character previews to “Dark Circle Wave One.”
First up is the Black Hood, a “corrupt, drug-addled cop.” It’s a photo realistic look at the tough streets of Philadelphia, where things start out pretty badly, but there is hope and possible redemption. Next is The Fox in “Fox Hunt,” which features a photographer turned superhero, with plenty of subtle and not so subtle humor woven into the storyline. Mark Waid always shines as a writer and here is further proof. Finally a 3-page character concept art gallery for The Shield, only now the familiar hero is a female and it’s easy to see she’s ready to mete out justice. We’re also given a little teaser for Dark Circle Wave Two with a glimpse of the Hangman.
For anyone who loves vintage heroes, this new set of books from Dark Circle look like just what the doctor ordered. I think they’re off to a strong start and look forward to delving more deeply into this new/old set of stories.
– Bryan Stroud
Motorcycle Samurai (Top Shelf)
The digital indie comix favorite comes to print first with this one-shot and soon with a full graphic novel courtesy of Portland’s Chris Sheridan, a nice guy and even better cartoonist.
Motorcycle Samurai is one of those high-concept comics that defy easy description. It’s kind of all-ages and kind of adult. It’s kind of sci-fi, kind of western. It’s got a strong hero at its center but we know nothing about the hero; it has strong women with clever tag-lines but those women, The Hornets, are rivals for our hero. Mostly this comic is all kinds of weird and all kinds of delightful, with fascinating angular art by Chris Sheridan that gives everything a skewed, off-center appeal that makes this world even more compelling than it would otherwise be. It might be the oddest comic of Free Comic Book Day 2015 but it’s also one of the most fun.
– Jason Sacks
Neil Gaiman’s Lady Justice (Super Genius)
One of the most unexpected and obscure revivals of this year’s FCBD (I’ll talk about the other one below), Lady Justice was one of the keynote comics of short-lived Tekno-Comix, which published from 1995 to ’97 with the backing of the former president of the Sci-Fi Channel (long before Sharknado and Galactica.) I honestly was shocked to see Lady Justice back since her original comic is traditional quarter bin fodder, but in light of Valiant’s big movie deal, I guess ’90s super-heroes are hot again.
Gaiman didn’t do much for the character, then or now, but created the ideas and passed them on to writer C.J. Henderson to flesh out. He delivered a very ’90s comic, a hyperviolent revenge fantasy with a handicapped woman at its center. She gains the ability to walk and to “see” via a blindfold via mystical means and seeks vengeance wearing a skimpy but appropriate costume. With some awesomely wild Michael Netzer art, this reprint of Lady Justice #1 is a fun throw-back to old storytelling styles and approaches. The comic is gory and not very deep but its bullets pack a strong zing.
– Jason Sacks
Captain Canuck #0 (Chapter House Comics)
Just as unexpected as the Lady Justice reprint this FCBD was a revival of Captain Canuck. The Captain’s series ran a dozen or so issues in Canada and the US in the late 1970s and early 1980s and has never really been seen again aside from a couple of and a dimly-remembered revival or two over the years. Now the hero of Canada is back because why the hell not and we get an extremely mediocre FCBD comic featuring him.
So this is one of those FCBD issues that give readers nine pages of story along with twenty or so pages of backmatter and ads, and geez, there’s just kind of nothing here for readers to get excited about. The lead four-pager is entertaining enough, but we only get a little bit of set-up, some smartassery and not much else. The second five-page piece, written by the usually wonderful Ed Brisson, is just a recap of Cap’s 1970s adventures and is dead dull despite some well-drawn George Freeman art. And that’s it, along with a few character sheets that I just didn’t care about one bit because the front matter didn’t do any work on selling me on why I cared about these characters or why I’d want to spend my money in this crowded marketplace on a Captain Canuck comic of all things. It’s a stereotype to call Canadians bland and agreeable, but this is a bland and agreeable comic that needed to be brash and bold. Blame Canada.
– Jason Sacks
This is exactly the kind of comic I enjoy seeing published for FCBD. It’s an all ages book that’s sure to entertain both longtime fans of the Simpsons and newer/younger fans of both The Simpsons and/or comics.
This year’s Bongo Free-for-all contains multiple stories within. Some of them are brief, 1 or 2 page stories, while a few longer stories are mixed in. We get everything from Homer’s crazy antics to Bart’s hairy shenanigans to Lisa’s Utopian daydreaming mind in this book. One of my favorites featured Comic Book Guy and his finally-found-perfect girl. She loves comics and “geek culture” and is everything Comic Book Guy wants in a girl, until she talks about her comic tastes.
It’s an enjoyable, satirical look on both comic book and “geek culture” that resonates (unfortunately) entirely too true. You also get the most bang for your – well, zero dollars, for this book. It is 100% all comics. No ads, just pure comic enjoyment.
– Daniel Gehen
Valiant 25th Anniversary Special (Valiant Entertainment)
Just looking at the cover, it’s clear that the publisher isn’t pulling any punches. Rafa Sandoval captures nearly every major player in the Valiant Universe with his eye-popping cover. Inside the cover is a nice write-up giving insight into the publisher’s history as well as teasing its future. A brief “interview” with Jeff Lemire gives way to as short story, “The Dream” (art by Butch Guice) which is a nice lead-in to Bloodshot Reborn. The opening pages of Matt Kindt and Clay Mann’s Ninjak #1 is presented, as well as a preview of X-O Manowar: Dead Hand by Robert Venditti and Sandoval. The issue is also peppered with teases of upcoming series which have yet to be announced, but the art alone is tantalizing.
The issue’s concluding pages fills in readers on more character backgrounds, including Bloodshot, Archer and Armstrong, and Unity, as well as events that have transpired in the new Valiant Universe. The final page offers tribute to every creator that has contributed creatively to the publisher. New readers may not recognize the names, but longtime readers that haven’t tried out their books may be interested in diving into back-issue bins upon seeing names like “Jim Shooter” and “Joe Quesada”.
This was a very dense freebie. If the goal was to recruit in new readers while exciting the current readership with the future, then the Valiant 25th Anniversary Special is a success.
– Daniel Gehen
Divergence #1 (DC Comics)
DC’s Free Comic Book Day offering does exactly what it should: generate excitement. Given the varied reaction to its current event, Convergence, that is quite a feat. For those entrenched in the world of comics, there may be fewer surprises in store compared to those dipping their toes in the water for the first time. Ultimately, as is the case with most big announcements from DC, fan excitement should come with a side of trepidation.
After a forward from co-publishers Dan Didio and Jim Lee, which tells reader to “expect the unexpected,” the book jumps into its previews for the post-Convergence issues of Batman, Superman, and Justice League. Given that these are DC’s biggest franchises, their inclusion comes as a surprise to no one. What is surprising is the amount of change in store for both the “World’s Finest” but the DC Universe as a whole. The “all-new” Batman is sure to cause a stir under the pen of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. Gene Luen Yang’s stint on as Superman writer will begin with a status quo unlike anything seen before. Unfortunately, it continues the trend of making Lois Lane one of the most unlikable characters in the DC Universe since the conclusion of Flashpoint.
Then there’s the preview for “The Darkseid War.” Justice League #40 provided the prologue to this story, but the art from Jason Fabok further demonstrates that this will be an event that truly celebrates the heroism and cosmic scale of the DC Universe. Though Johns’ portrayal of Wonder Woman has been inconsistent throughout his run on Justice League, the prospect of a major DC story arc revolving around her has me excited. Fingers crossed it isn’t another “Amazons Attack.”
– Daniel Gehen
Fight Club 2 #0
This is the sequel to one of the coolest, craziest, most mind-fuck you movies of the last twenty years. No, I’m not talking The Revenge of Jar Jar Binks here. I’m talking about Fight Club 2. Released on Free Comic Book Day by Dark Horse, the continuing adventures of our main man Tyler Durden…sorry, just remembered the first rule of Fight Club.
Trust me though with Chuck Palahniuk writing and Cameron Stewart on art this book brought the right amount of what-the-fuck to hook me. Double story bonus awards go to The Goon (Eric Powell) and The Strain (Guillermo Del Toro) for rounding out the book with some spooky looks into their respective worlds.
– Guy Copes III
Savage Dragon Legacy
Not content to just fuck with you all on the interwebs, one of the founders of the New House of Ideas (I’m talking about Image btw, DUH!) gives us a fun look at the current status quo of his long running creator owned world.
I’ve never been a big fan of Savage Dragon, but this was loud, bombastic goodness. Nothing too serious but there was some real heart in there as well.
– Guy Copes III