Saturday, May 4, 2013

Free Comic Book Day 2013

Another year's Free Comic Book Day has come and gone; I believe I missed 2012's altogether (I think I was in Africa), so it was nice to venture into the managed chaos of FCBD again; I'm glad I brought a book with me to the comic shop because I spent about 8 minutes waiting in line to get inside the store.

One unusual thing about the five comics I chose this year is none of them are from publishers I'm currently following on a monthly basis.

From Red 5 Comics comes Atomic Robo/Bodie Troll, with an original Atomic Robo story by Brian Clevinger & Scott Wegener and a preview of Bodie Troll#1 by Jay Fosgitt. Up until last year I had been a regular follower of Atomic Robo, but I reached a point where I felt the series' stories had become too familiar. This tale, in which Atomic Robo fights a robot, does nothing to change my opinion. Still, for people who haven't tested Atomic Robo before, perhaps it'll be to their liking. The real surprise was the Bodie Troll preview: it's the story of an ADHD troll who wants desperately to be fearsome, but is cursed by his inate cuteness. The jokes throughout the story are well presented (such as news stories being presented via the medium of puppet shows), it's clear Fosgitt has put a lot of effort into finding his voice for the story; I'm interested enough to buy the full comic book when it arrives.

Hermes Press published Buck Rogers 25th Century A.D., featuring two linked stories from 1936-37, meant to advertise their Buck Rogers comic strip collections. Unfortunately, unlike most of the comic strip collections I've purchased, the pages don't identify when each strip originally appeared. I'm not particularly interested in Buck Rogers (if anything, I like Flash Gordon), but these strips were diverting; I got a huge laugh from the sequence above, where in the first panel Buck is assigned his first mission for the American Defense Force to see if an enemy fleet is arriving; flash ahead to the subsequent panel wherein Buck is being blasted out of the sky: "It's the Enemy all right!"

Bonus features in this book include reprints of the first few days of the Buck Rogers strip and pictures of vintage Buck Rogers memorabilia. Finally, there's an ad for a forthcoming Buck Rogers series by Howard Victor Chaykin. Although Chaykin has a bit of science fiction in his docket, I was skeptical about him tackling Buck Rogers at this point in time. Having seen the ads, I'm actually reasonably interested in checking out the product.

Similarly, Fantagraphics offered Hal Foster's Prince Valiant, collecting a series of strips from circa 1949. As with the Buck Rogers book, this is advertising a collection of the comic strips but the original publishing dates of the strips are not provided - in fact, even the introduction omits mention of when they first appeared. I've never warmed up to Prince Valiant, which was told in a fashion nearer to that of an illustrated novel rather than a comic book; there are no speech balloons and seldom any sequential action. Still, Foster's art is admirable.

Debuting a brand-new series is Oni Press with the Strangers#1 by Chris Roberson and Scott Kowalchuk. I'm afraid I haven't read much work by Roberson - my favourite thing he wrote was his statement about leaving DC Comics - it influenced my own decision to leave Marvel Comics. Sadly, I haven't been interested in Roberson's stories as of yet. The art by Kowalchuk is evocative of Bruce Timm/Mike Mignola. The series is set in the 1960s and follows a mysterious trio of operatives called "the Strangers" who possess superhuman powers. It doesn't focus on plot or character, but is instead mostly action - which is kind of refreshing in an age where most super hero books are ashamed to attempt an action scene (because so few of today's artists can render one effectively). There's not much to say in terms of the character or plot, but it's told with considerable skill - this might be one to watch.

Finally, New England Comics presented the Tick with an all-new story by Jeff McClelland & Duane Redhead, with two short back-up tales. Strangely, although I enjoyed the Tick's 1990s animated series, the only Tick comics I own are the various Free Comic Book Day editions. This was a decent enough tale where the Tick's sidekick Arthur is badly sunburned on the beach, but must come to the rescue of the Tick and their friends when lobster-men invade the surface world. As soon as the lobster-men appear, it becomes clear Arthur will be the one to resolve the problem, but it's told with a lot of charm. The brief back-up tales are also fun.

Free Comic Book Day is over; starting tomorrow, we have to pay for them again.

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