Our annual comic feeding frenzy is almost upon us, and I’m REALLY excited for it. Free Comic Book Day is a great idea – all the anecdotal evidence I have access to (asking one friend about it on Twitter) points to a significant increase in foot traffic and sales. And some of these comic companies are really good at finding stuff to get you hooked. Here’s a full list of the available comics, and it’s insane. I’m excited to grab Archie’s Dark Circle teaser (because these books have been amazeballs), the Hip Hop Family Tree special (one of my best of 2014) or Action Lab’s Gronk, a sexy, funny travelogue starring the hard-partying Patriots tight e…shit, it’s a different Gronk. This week in comics, we’re going to take a look at a couple of other out-of-the-way FCBD books. First: The People vs. Dr. Donovan D. Dinosaur, PhD.
Atomic Robo 2015 Bonus Issue (Tesladyne)
We’ve talked about it before, but it bears repeating. Atomic Robo is the most fun you can have reading a comic book, and team Robo’s FCBD issues are always among the best that they put out.
A large part of that is Dr. Dinosaur, who, unless he’s the villain of the volume coming out at the time, routinely features prominently in the Free Comic Book Day issue. In 2009, we got the origin of his and Robo’s mutual hatred. In 2011, he invaded a middle-school science fair (seriously, this is the funniest issue of the entire series). Then, he teamed up with Robo to stop a problem at the Large Hadron Collider in 2012. This year looks to be more of the same: a taut courtroom drama where Donovan (that should be his name DON’T ARGUE WITH ME) uses currency to try and prove his agency as a sentient being, thus giving him the opportunity to incorporate, granting him all the legal rights of a human person. Can his plan work? Even if the currency he uses is Bitcoin? Of course it can. Bitcoin is no less fictitious than any other simple mammalian currency!
You can pick up this special bonus issue of Atomic Robo online at www.atomic-robo.com
Free 2015 (Roughly Half the Indie Comics Internet)
All of the real FCBD gems are from smaller publishers, and this is no different. Retrofit, Peow! Studio, Oily Comics, Uncivilized Books, Study Group Comics and Big Planet comics have all teamed up to put out a PACKED free comic.
It’s got in it work from :deep breath: David B., Niv Bavarsky, Box Brown, Patrick Crotty, Max de Radigu?s, Hanna K., Alex Kim, Laura Knetzger, Kate Leth, Jason Little, Matt Madden, Jane Mai, Melissa Mendes, Oliver Schrauwen, Ben Sears, Jack Teagle, Derek Van Gison, and Fran?ois Vigneault :exaggerated stage exhale:. I’ve read comics from about half of them – Leth’s Bravest Warriors and her old webcomic, Madden’s Drawn Onward, and cover artist Chuck Forsman’s Revenger being among my favorites.
They snuck previews for some kinda big-deal comics in here: Schrauwen’s Mowgli’s Mirror and Little’s Borb have both been getting a lot of praise around the comics internet, and I can see why from the previews here. I also really dug what I saw from Eel Mansions and Jane Mai, but the most successful previews in this were Hanna K.’s New Frontier: Third Wheel, Titan by Vigneault and D+1 by Ben Sears. This book did exactly what it was supposed to do: get me interested enough to read more. It stands in stark opposition to the impenetrable FCBD stuff from Marvel and DC, where Age of Ultron gets previewed 3 years before it happens or…I honestly can’t even tell you what happened in DC’s book last year. Somebody got hit with a pillar?
You can pick up Free 2015 at participating comic shops (click it for the full list).
The Swords of Glass (Humanoids)
Holy crap this book is great. I was wide-eyed for the first few pages, because this art is stunning – crisp and realistic, but cartoony at the same time. There’s a vague whiff of Japanese influence, like Jamie McKelvie drawing manga, but Laura Zuccheri’s art has a style that’s unique, much tougher to define with shorthand than I can do. The lighting and coloring are intense, and just amazing.
The story is subtle, but deep and interesting and paced incredibly well. I think it crept up on me because I spent so much time gawping at the artwork, but Sylviane Corgiat throws you headlong into an enthralling sci-fi/fantasy world and lets you figure out what’s important slowly. There’s only one quickie infodump, but it’s such a rich story that you find yourself totally immersed in the comic and suddenly you look up and it’s 2 in the morning and you ate an entire bag of leftover ballpark peanuts and your mouth is sandpapery from the salt and even sticking your head under the faucet for 10 minutes only gets you back to “hard night of drinking” dry. It’s a really unique reading experience.
You can pick up The Swords of Glass at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.
Convergence: Booster Gold #1 (DC Comics)
Multiversity #2 is the big DC book out this week, but I already shredded my brain talking about that, so instead I’m going to let it dribble out on my desk while I talk about Convergence: Booster Gold, the college paper written off of the Sparknotes summary of Multiversity.
That’s mean and kind of a cheap shot. The Old 52 Booster Gold series was legitimately fantastic. Geoff Johns and Dan Jurgens used Booster to tell an honest story about heroism, to explore the legacy and history of the DC Universe in an endearing way. The issue around The Killing Joke was fantastic, and it looks like this Convergence mini is going to be, unlike most of the rest, pretty significant to the overall plot. Telos has all the time travelers locked away somewhere, and Booster and his future self need to work together to free them. His character has been shifted away from “likable self-absorbed dipshit” to genuine hero, and I’m looking forward to how this one turns out.
You can pick up Convergence: Booster Gold #1 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.
Silk #3 (Marvel Comics)
Silk has been the most surprisingly not-bullshit retcon in Spider-Man history. Her entire concept is a “yes and!” improv game taken to a ridiculous extreme. Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider while on a high school field trip. YES AND there was a girl who was on the same trip who was also bitten. Parker gained spider-powers and went on to fight crime in New York City. YES AND Cindy got the same powers, but she was kidnapped by the
second third one of the ten worst ideas from JMS’s Spidey run, hidden in a bunker from the third worst idea, and then let free during a crossover that was specifically about retcons as part of Spidey’s forced tie-in.
But it works! Cindy is an interesting character, building a life in a way that calls back to Peter’s but is entirely her own. Robbie Thompson is doing a solid job of capturing just enough early Spidey energy, and he’s helped immensely by Stacey Lee’s art. Spider-action is really hard to do well. You’re basically drawing giant robots fighting a ninja contortionist who can jump 20 feet in the air, so pacing and blocking fights takes a certain grounded insanity that not all artists can pull off. Lee does a fantastic job with it.
You can pick up Silk #3 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.
Headspace (IDW Publishing/Monkeybrain Comics)
I’ll be honest: I wanted to walk away early in this one. The art’s a little raw and rough, and the script is really talky without saying a whole lot. Early on, it felt almost like Ryan K. Lindsay was trying to fill space over Eric Zawadski’s art, while Zawadski did the heavy lifting while Zawadski did the heavy lifting of showing Shane’s backstory.
I stuck around because of the cyborg dog bartender. You don’t walk away from a comic with a robot pet service worker. Just a general rule. Headspace took a little while to get going, but once it started explaining what was actually going on, it got really interesting. It turns out the cyborg dog bartender wasn’t part of some weird purgatory; Shane is stuck in the head of a serial killer, and the serial killer is on the run. The book twists and turns from there, and ends up being pretty entertaining. It looks like my made-up rule about anthropomorphic robots is pretty solid after all!
You can pick up Headspace at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.
Pisces #1 (Image Comics)
There’s good and there’s bad with Johnny Christmas and Kurtis Wiebe’s new series. Christmas draws great action. He’s got a kind of Top Cow sensibility, with better, clearer storytelling ability, and his art isn’t hampered by Top Cow’s tendency to overink. His pacing and layouts keep the story moving, and Tamra Bonvillain’s colors are excellent.
The story is where things get rough. I like Wiebe’s work on Rat Queens, but there’s a sense of humor there that isn’t really evident in Pisces. Here, he gives us a comic that’s even vaguer than your average first issue – a guy drives drunk (?) to the hospital where he gets the piss kicked out of him by a doctor (?) for missing his soon-to-be-ex-wife having their baby. Then he wakes up in Vietnam, gets captured by the North Vietnamese, escapes, walks into the ocean and wakes up in space. Nothing about the plot is terribly clear. I got the feeling that Wiebe wrote the first arc all at once, then slapped in issue breaks every 24 pages. It might be worth waiting for the trade on this, but don’t expect any more than the sweet Christmas art.
You can pick up Pisces #1 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.
ONE THAT GOT AWAY
Every week there are way too many comics for me to read and keep track of. So in every column, I’m going to take a look at a book that came out in the last few weeks, but that I only just had a chance to read.
|Dark Horse Comics
This week, it’s Witchfinder: The Mysteries of Unland. It’s a light, entertaining Victorian murder mystery. Kim Newman and Maura McHugh’s script is shot through with a dry humor that borders on sarcasm. Edward Grey is a paranormal investigator checking out a murder in a country town that’s a little too perfect, and he falls into a monster-related conspiracy that he has to resolve. It’s interesting: the story moves along at a leisurely pace, adding a kind of meta atmosphere to a story about British aristocracy that I’ve never noticed on another book before. But it works nicely to a crescendo as the book goes along.
The art, from Tyler Crook, does a nice job jumping between cartoonish (especially the old comic at the beginning that showed the police version of the murder Grey’s investigating), where it plays up the humor in the script, to the gross, monstrous horror once Unland starts making its play. It’s a Hellboy book, though, so it’s got the same quality you’d expect from the Mignola team.
You can pick up Witchfinder: The Mysteries of Unland at your friendly local comic shop or online via the Dark Horse app.
That’s what I’m reading this week. What are you picking up?