Free Comic Book Day was last Saturday, but I haven’t had a chance to read through my haul until now. I’m not reviewing them so much as evaluating them on whether they succeeded in their purpose: making me want to read (and buy) more of their comics.
Here I talk about comics from some of the Gold Sponsors: DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, and Archie.
Blackest Night #0 (DC Comics) — Fans have told me that the Green Lantern stories have been some of the best superhero comics DC has been putting out lately. You couldn’t prove it by this. I felt much like the Flash character, who’s been gone for too long and who no longer knows who any of the players are. The Green Lantern I like is missing. So is the Flash. Batman is apparently dead (yeah, right).
Instead of showing me “hey, here are some neat adventures to follow”, the message of this comic is “we’re not interested in entertaining you unless you do your homework first.” It’s not a story, but a prologue. Plus, what’s so interesting about death, death, and more death? The two lead characters are talking about “when I died, this happened”, so none of it clearly means anything. Success rate: Fail.
The Avengers (Marvel Comics) — Also complicated, with two teams of heroes to introduce, but it seems like a faithful representation of the usual series, both good qualities — plenty of action, big-name characters — and bad — writer Brian Michael Bendis’ over-reliance on chattering dialogue to fill space. It’s a full story, which is nice, if abbreviated and sudden due to the short space. Success rate: Good job, but not for me. I won’t be reading many core Marvel comics until they get rid of an over-reliance on moral flexibility, Bendis, Norman Osborn, and crossovers.
Wolverine: Origin of an X-Man (Marvel Comics) — Nicely targeted for the weekend opening of the movie, except that Wolverine’s wearing the bright yellow spandex, which glares. This is a kid-friendly Wolverine story, something of an oxymoron, and they mention the origin and the memory loss early on to bring readers up to speed. Lots of claw action, but against machines, so that’s ok. There’s an ad at the back for Wolverine: Worst Day Ever, so I guess that’s what I’m supposed to look for if I’d like more of this. Success rate: Very good, if more entertaining to younger readers.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Dark Horse Comics) — This was on my pass list, because I care not a whit for Star Wars, but then someone read it and pointed out that it had more in it. I wish Dark Horse had thought to publicize the Usagi Yojimbo and Beanworld content. Stan Sakai’s stories about the samurai rabbit are always amazing, and this follows the pattern: it’s full of atmosphere, fighting, and suspense. A true gem, marred only by its lead character not actually doing much but observing.
Emily the Strange isn’t for me, especially since she’s an outright rip-off of someone else’s work. The Beanworld segment is just two pages explaining the concept, so skippable. The Indiana Jones story … I don’t like it when the adventurer hangs out with kids, and it gives away much of the power of the character for a cheap gag. Success rate: I’m going to look for more Usagi Yojimbo, but not any of the rest. Overall, this is missable.
The Mighty Archie Art Players (Archie Comics) — Surprisingly entertaining for what it is — a Western, a couple of fairy tales, and an Egyptian flashback retold with the characters — but an odd choice, since it’s nothing like the usual Archie comic, so anyone who liked it would have a hard time finding more. And some of the material is likely unfamiliar or rather old-fashioned (High Noon?) for the young teen audience. I did like the Snow White story with Veronica as the “wicked stepsister”, Betty as the innocent young girl (of course), and a computer taking the place of the magic mirror. Unusually, in almost all the stories, Archie winds up with Betty. Success rate: Confusing.
Update: KC tells me that “The Mighty Archie Art Players” was a recurring feature starting in Reggie and Me in the 70s (as well as other titles through the years), so it’s possible that this was testing the waters for a revamp or reprint.