It's the finale of FREE COMIC BOOK DAY WEEK at TOT Central as I conclude my reviews of the 35 FCBD issues I got from the superb York Comics and Games in Parma, Ohio. For these reviews, I have dropped the usual "floating Tony heads" and am instead asking three things of these promotional items:
1. Are they entertaining and/or intriguing?
2. Are they friendly to new readers?
3. Do they make readers want to buy future issues of the comic or item, follow the characters featured therein, or buy other items from the publisher?
Here we go...
Archie Comics' Sonic Hide Seek & Destroy! Free Comic Book Day Edition presents an all-new tale. In search of one enemy, the reflective Hedgehog ends up battling a creation of another old foe. The story is meant to give a taste of Sonic's adventures and, as my dear friend Don Thompson used to say, if you like that sort of thing, you'll like this. I didn't care for this issue, but, I'm sure others will find it meets all three of my criteria for a good FCBD effort.
The perhaps sad fact of the matter is that your Tipster just can't warm up to Sonic. I don't like video games even the smallest bit. I don't like stuff based on video games, be it a comic book, cartoon, movie, novel, whatever. I feel the same way about role-playing games, except maybe for the ones where someone dresses up as a French maid or sexy teacher. I don't even try to read/review such things and, if this weren't a FCBD comic, I wouldn't have read or reviewed this one.
Better you should find this out about me now.
I hate to be contrary twice in a row, but whoever wrote the inside front cover copy for Storm Lion #0 set the table for my remarks by hyping how they were going to "shake up the world of comics," tell "stories that are waiting to revolutionize the world" and "to liberate humanity from the yoke of safe cookie cutter tales of fiction!" Was the "chief stormbringer" talking about the same preview I read? This "just another mecha-at-war with a side order of man-made soldiers story" with neither new ideas or exceptional storytelling? Near as I could figure, the enthusiasm is based on Storm Lion having some sort of movie deal. Which might be why this FCBD comic came off more like a Hollywood promotional packet than anything of interest to this comics reader.
This one gets three strikes.
The Tick's Free Comic Book Day Special Edition #1 [New England Comics Press] is a reprint of the very first issue of the character created, written, and drawn by Ben Edlund, who was but a teen at the time. This initial story shows Edlund's inexperience, but it's still a very entertaining introduction to one of comics' funniest characters. It's also, via the George Suarez editorial, a nice come-on for the ten trade paperbacks that collect all the Tick comic books. I'm surprised the editorial didn't mention Edlund's success as a writer and producer for such popular TV genre shows as Angel, Firefly, and Supernatural, but that omission doesn't keep me from deeming this a most successful FCBD effort.
I smiled a lot while reading "The Return of Buzz Lightyear" in Boom's Toy Story Free Comic Book Edition. Though I didn't know/remember the names of some key characters, writer Jesse Blaze Snider kept me smiling and unconfused during this first chapter of a continued story. Artist Nathan Watson deserves praise as well; his double-page spread of Andy's room and resident toys knocked me out. Wonderful stuff.
Entertaining. Relatively friendly to new readers. Makes me want to read more. It's another FCBD win for Boom!
Ultimate X-Men #76 [Marvel; January 2007] isn't a FCBD issue, but it was in the package the fine folks at York Comics gave me, so...
In the Ultimate Universe, Cable is Wolverine's future self and he's come to our time to kill Charles Xavier. There's a recap at the front of the book, good writing by Robert Kirkman that doesn't neglect new readers, and nice art by Ben Oliver. It's been a year or so since I tried catching up on the various Ultimate titles and, if I can find the time this summer, I'll attempt to return to that reading project. This wasn't a FCBD effort, but it did entertain and interest me.
The cover of War of the Supermen FBCD 0 [DC] has one of the ugliest drawings of Superman I've ever seen. His grimace makes him look like he has a cartoon walrus mustache. On the first page, his grimace makes him look demonic. It's the kind of expression a Neal Adams could do quite well. Others? Not so much.
There are two stories in this issue. In "Prologue," we learn what we already knew: Superman is an idiot. He's been played like a violin by Zod from the beginning of this extended storyline and it was so obvious Superbaby could have seen it. I don't like the Man of Steel being played for a dummy. That said, this prologue to the War of the Superman is pretty scary stuff and does convince me to see what happens next.
"Filling in the Blanks" has Lois Lane updating readers on what has gone before. It doesn't fill in all the details, but it does give a new reader enough information to follow and enjoy whatever comes next...and it has a terrific ending.
I'm usually pretty hard on DCU titles, but I think this FCBD issue did everything a good FCBD book should do. I give high marks to writers James Robinson and Sterling Gates and, despite my walrus crack, to Eddy Barrows and the other artists.
Jim Woodring's Weathercraft and Other Unusual Tales is another one of those "if you like this sort of thing, you'll like this" comics. Published by Fantagraphics and consisting mostly of grotesque pantomime, it's not the sort of thing I enjoy. However, it certainly gives a prospective new reader what he or she needs to determine if it would be to their liking. Allowing my dislike of the material negates my answering the first question in an unbiased manner, we get a "yes" answer to the second of my Free Comic Book Day trio and, if the new reader liked what he or she read, a "yes" to the third as well. That makes this a moderately successful FCBD offering.
Worlds of Aspen 2010 #1 [Aspen Comics] previews several of the publisher's titles, but doesn't offer enough of any of them to truly hook a prospective new reader. Some of the art is really nice, none of the writing is awful, one or two of the concepts are intriguing, but there's too little of too many titles to make this a successful FCBD offering. My suggestion for FCBD 2011 would be to put a strong focus on one or two titles, show those titles at their best, and hope that new readers sampling and liking them will then give other Aspen titles a look.
Yow! Drawn & Quarterly Presents a John Stanley Grab-Bag for Free Comic Book Day is as terrific as its title is long. There are six complete and completely charming and completely hilarious Stanley stories collected in this issue: Nancy, Tubby, Judy Junior, Nancy (again), Melvin Monster, and Choo Choo Charlie. The pre-teen stars of these tales are Stanley kids, unique and more than a bit weird. For these youngsters, childhood was an adventure, even if the excitement only existed in their own minds.
I'm gushing, aren't I?
This FCBD issue is incredibly entertaining. It's friendly to new readers because the kids are so well crafted they're instantly understandable. It's hard for me to imagine any reader not wanting to see more of these characters and Stanley's work.
This was one of the best of the FCBD comic books.
That brings us to the end of FREE COMIC BOOK DAY WEEK here at TOT central. I hope you enjoyed this week's columns. If you did and you want to show your appreciation by making use of our handy TIP THE TIPSTER link, well, that would be welcome.
Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back on Monday with more stuff.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
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