Published on May 5th, 2014 | by Brad0
My Week in Comics – Free Comic Book Day 2014
My week in comics this week was free. Every year, on the first Saturday of May, comic companies launch free samples into their stores to entice new readers to the wonderful world of comic book storytelling. Free Comic Book Day is a great idea. Where I’m at in the world, it’s unfortunately a bit poorly marketed, with my local store being a Forbidden Planet, which had a postcard in its front window saying “Free Comic Book Day – 03/05/14”. Great stuff guys. This is kind of the major criticism that the movement has, the notion that there’s no advertising it to potential new readers and everything’s just snapped up by those of us who are there every week anyway. So, furthering the stereotype, I was there at 10am picking up what I wanted. Here’s what I got;
The New 52: Futures End #0 (DC)
Written by Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens and Keith Giffen. Drawn by Jurgens, Ethan Van Sciver, Patrick Zircher, Aaron Lopresti, Art Thibert, Mark Irwin, Jesus Merino and Dan Green.
DC typically use FCBD to preview or launch a major upcoming event, and this year is no different. The book in question is the new weekly Futures End series, launching on Wednesday, and certain to be covered in this very column every week. Following the model of previous success story 52, they’ve put together four of their best writers, and given them a cast of the rich tapestry of supporting characters in the DCU to play with for a year of weekly comics.
We open in the future, 35 years from present, as sentient satellite Brother Eye is in the final stages of conquering the world. The last vestiges of human resistance (Flash (Barry Allen), Captain Cold, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Blue Beetle (Jaime Reyes), Grifter and Amethyst) are charged with creating a diversion whilst the two Batmans (Bruce Wayne and Batman Beyond, Terry McGinnis) prepare a possible solution. It’s a proper grim-dark setup, which may turn some people off.
This is a good-looking book. Not sure who amongst the team of credited artists actually drew it, but Hi-Fi’s colours lend a nice consistency, with Keith Giffen also taking on the art overseer role he had on 52. The transformed heroes are truly creepy, with the fates of Wonder Woman and Black Canary standing out as particularly horrifying. In all, Futures End #0 is an intriguing prologue, and I’m very much looking to the series proper launching on Wednesday.
The Tick (NEC)
Written by Jeff McClelland. Drawn by Duane Redhead (main feature) and Ian Chase Nichols (backup).
Spooooon! I used to love the The Tick cartoon back in the 90s. The creation of then-18-year-old cartoonist Ben Edlund back in 1986, The Tick is nearly invulnerable, possessed of superhuman strength, dumb as a rock and utterly heroic. He’s probably the finest superhero spoof out there. This comic is just a joy. A wild adventure largely satirising Superman villain Brainiac, this is littered with jokes, great action, and a sense of lightness and joy that’s often missing from modern comics chasing that Bat-dollar. It’s always refreshing to read a comic like The Tick, unafraid to be unabashedly silly.
The art by both Redhead and Nichols is great. Redhead’s out-and-out cartoonishness fits the tone better than Nichols’ stylised realism, but for a three-page backup, it works just fine. And frankly, it’s worth it just for the look on The Tick’s face when he tells Arthur he’s off to the North Pole. I haven’t read a Tick comic in a while, but this one might just entice me back.
2000 AD (2000 AD)
Written by various. Drawn by various.
Gotta love 2000 AD. One of the success stories of British comics, this is primarily the house that Dredd built. Larger than any of the other FCBD offerings, this is an anthology comic going through some of 2000 AD’s better-known properties.
We open with the man himself, Judge Dredd, written by Matt Smith and drawn by Chris Burnham. With the Judges’ numbers depleted, the Hall of Justice is having to fast-track cadets into action. One such new Judge, the excellently named Stib Hartnell, is under heavy fire from a gang. Simultaneously, Judge Dredd, the nearest Judge to Hartnell, is taking on a malfunctioning demolition robot, and has to talk the rookie through what to do over radio. The twin narratives are plenty exciting, and Burnham’s artwork is typically superb. As a way into Judge Dredd, this is a very enjoyable comic.
Following Dredd is a preview of the new Slaine original graphic novel, Lord of the Beasts, written by Pat Mills and drawn by Rafael Garres. I’m utterly unfamiliar with Slaine, so this was a bit odd. I liked the art well enough; there was some really creepy imagery. Not sure I’d buy the comic, but it was something different. Up next was Rogue Trooper, written by Gerry Finley Day and drawn by the great Dave Gibbons. Rogue Trooper is a black and white sci-fi war comic, following Rogue, the last survivor of a genetically-engineered GI United massacred on Nu Earth. Really good read, this, got a great feel for the characters, and Gibbons’ art is typically gorgeous. One of the best comics in this magazine.
Next up, we return to the world of Judge Dredd with Anderson: Psi-Division. We follow Judge Anderson, who you may remember from Olivia Thirlby’s great performance in the magnificent Dredd film from 2012 (and if you haven’t seen that, rectify it as soon as you’re done reading here). Written by Alan Grant and drawn by Romero, Anderson must take down a golem conjured up by some kids. The look of the thing conjures some memories of Alan Moore-era Swamp Thing, but ultimately it all feels a bit inconsequential, and very slow after the blast that is the first Dredd comic in the magazine. With almost no transition, we leap straight into Absalom, written by Gordon Rennie and drawn by Tiernen Trevallion. Again, I’m not familiar with this series, but I liked what I read. We follow Harry Absalom, who appears to be a paranormal investigator, a mixture of John Constantine, Eddie Fitzgerald and Sam Spade. The black-and-white artwork gives this the feel of a 30s noir film, and Absalom himself is a fantastically dishevelled looking creation. Definitely going to look more into this character in the future.
The main features round off with Durham Red, written by Leah Moore and John Reppion and drawn by Jan Duursema. Again, a new one to me, this follows the adventures of our titular hero, a space-vampire bounty hunter, the type of character description that reminds me just why I love comic books. Red seems to be your typical over-sexualised anti-heroine of the 90s ilk, but this is a plenty enjoyable romp, and it’s pretty reasonable fare if you like that sort of thing. The anthology then rattles through a few shorts, none of which are particularly noteworthy. 2000 AD is by far the best thing I picked up on FCBD, a great selection of introductions to their various characters. A lot to like, a lot to recommend.
Roundup of the Rest
Fantagraphics offered up a reprint of a couple of Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge stories by Don Rosa from the 90s; A Matter of Some Gravity, in which Magica de Spell inverts Donald and Scrooge’s personal gravity by 90 degrees, leaving them to run along the walls as they chase her down, and Sign of the Triple Distelfink, giving the origin of the extreme good fortune of Donald’s cousin Gladstone. Both very funny, very enjoyable capers. Archie Comics present a flip-book of video game tie-ins, Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man, neither of which were particularly good. And Marvel continued their Guardians of the Galaxy marketing with an introduction to the team in Guardians of the Galaxy, and a preview of the forthcoming Rocket Raccoon solo series. Both reasonably enjoyable, with Rocket’s Keith Giffen-esque adventure being the more entertaining of the two.