So, I know what you are all thinking. ‘Hang on Pete, you said there were more free comics you got on Free Comic Book Day, what do you think about them?’
Well, maybe not quite that. All the same it appears that I only read about half of the comics before my first post. Therefore the rest follow herewith, and what a varied bunch they are…
Teen Titans Go! – DC: There are two strips here, Teen Titans Go! and Scooby Doo Team Up. Sadly the Teen Titans strip stands head and shoulders above the Scooby Doo strip which comes across as ‘by the numbers’ and a little forced. The Teen Titans strip, however is great fun. I remember the characters from last reading Teen Titans back in the 80’s but is was nothing like this and only served to keep me familier with who was who. The artwork is fun and engaging, the characterisation great, the story bouncy and the whole thing is great entertainment. All this and, surprisingly, a lot going on in a short strip.
Avengers – Marvel: Another comic a read a lot in the 80s was The Avengers. Alongside the X-men this was always one to look forwards to each month. Since then I have read Civil War and seen the films but my knowledge of the comic has fallen away. What is great about this is that it still has the light hearted adventure feel of The Avengers back in the 80s but also feels fresh and new. I have Ms Marvel on my list of things I need to check out and my introduction to her here was great. Nicely paced, nicely told with lovely artwork. The second strip, The Uncanny Inhumans, sadly feels laboured and hard to follow by comparison.
Comics Festival 2015 – Toronto Comics: A lovely, and slightly off beat, anthology. As with all anthologies the quality and readability varies from strip to strip. A particular stand out is IRL: CON/GAME by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang. It is a wonderful mix of in game fantasy and real world scheming written with a light touch and beautifully illustrated. A real smiley story. Much like Faith Erin Hicks’ Superhero Girl: The Death of Kevin which plays with some concepts of the superhero genre, particularly in repeating themes, with some excellent art. Arguably the cleverest strip is the single page Costume Quest by Zac Gorman. A very neat idea which doesn’t just cover Halloween but most kinds of RPG, LARPing or Cosplay. How do you see yourself?
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure – Viz Publishing: Free Comic Book Day is a fantastic opportunity to introduce new readers to new characters and new comics and with this offering Viz Publishing have missed it. I get the impression that JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure could be a good read, it is just hard to tell. There is no introduction to the characters or to what is going on, which wouldn’t be an issue if this addressed in the narrative. Unfortunately the strip appears to start half way through an action sequence and finishes before the action ends. We don’t get a good idea of who JoJo is or why his adventure is so bizarre. Which is a shame. On the other hand, the back up strip, Yu-Gi-Oh doesn’t make these mistakes. It is a great introduction to the manga and to the lead, is a fun read and rattles along at a surprisingly rapid rate considering the nature of the action.
Step Aside Pops/Super Mutant Magic Academy – Drawn & Quarterly: I have heard and read a lot about both of these books and expected a lot from them. Perhaps because of this I was sadly underwhelmed. Both halves of the comic have some great strips, with clever ideas and idiosyncratic artwork. Unfortunately some of the strips fall short of the high standards set by others. A few feel rushed, a few look unfinished and a couple could use an edit or redirection. That all said, there are some fantastic high points too. Chopin and Liszt being my personal favourites.
Mercury Heat – Avatar: I have mentioned before that one of the key features of Free Comic Book Day is to introduce potential new readers to new characters, new publishers and new creators. I am vaguely aware of the name Kieron Gillen but artist Omar Francia and publisher Avatar are new to me. Which makes Mercury Heat such a pleasant surprise. Half this free book is given up to notes outlining the ideas and concepts for the ongoing series. It explains how society works, how this particular future world runs and, whether correct or not, provides a scientific basis for a sci-fi story. The lead character is interesting and has a back story which draws you in, while her world is a great place to explore. There is also some sharp art, some action and all in a short space of time. A great use of FCBD from Avatar.
Attack on Titan – Kodansha Comics: For an event where everything is free it is churlish to talk about value. Some of the comics have only had one or two strips, something which cannot be said of this Attack on Titan anthology manga. Here there is value. Two of the Attack on Titan strips plus four others. Each, unlike JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure have a beginning, middle and end and all are a great read. I am less impressed by Stray God which is a little too high school centric for me, and Vinland Saga just doesn’t quite work. Vikings carrying their ships overland and in to battle feels silly and not heroic. Both Attack on Titan strips are excellent, especially in flash back. Your Lie is neat, sweet and clever. My favourite, however is Inuyashiki which is a clever idea, with well round characters and is a great launchpad. Not a really bad strip among them, with some really good ones, and offering best value.
Of course, the other thing you are all thinking is ‘why has it taken so long for you to read these comics and review them Pete?’ Well, as well as finding time to run my own business, family time, writing and drawing Tales of the Sly Ditt Inn, I have also been, in part, reading non Free Comic Book Day comics, A Feast For Crows, The Truth, The Throne Of The Crescent Moon, and an Agatha Raisin book (not recommended) so time has been at a premium I’m afraid.
Addendum: As it happens yet more time has passed, more personal stuff has erupted, more work has flowed in so this post is even later than I re-planned. Oh well.