Free Comic Book Day 2018 – The Comics I Read
I got a chance to look over some of the upcoming comics for Free Comic Book Day, which is this Saturday, May 5, and these were the ones I recommend seeking out. I couldn’t check out all of them, because 50 titles is just too many, and the licensed books — those based on comics or videogames — are usually of interest just to those who already watch or play the source material. (I tried to read the Viz Pokemon one, and I had no idea what was going on.) But these I enjoyed — or had something to say about.
Update: I’ve also written about some of these titles, and some others, from an All-Ages perspective at Good Comics for Kids.
It turns out I’ve already read the DC Super Hero Girls, because it’s the beginning of Date With Disaster, which came out a couple of months ago. But it’s a fun story that highlights many of the team, and the character profiles in the back make sure new readers know who everyone is. This is a terrific series and very suitable for the day.
The same goes for Comics Friends Forever, the First Second sampler that features excerpts from the excellent Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol and All Summer Long by Hope Larson (and a few older titles). Both of those graphic novels just came out (they will be reviewed here soon), and both are well worth reading. The samples will definitely cause readers to want more.
The surprise to me, in how well I liked it, was Riverdale, by Ross Maxwell, Will Ewing, and Joe Eisma. It’s got the same feel as the guilty-pleasure TV show, with Pop Tate telling Betty about the famous people who’ve dined at the Chock’lit Shoppe and how the diner has stuck around for so long. (The plot seems to have changed from the solicitation.) There’s random violence, weird visions, guest sightings, and a dark turn on a beloved character. Some may be disappointed that there isn’t any of the regular cast involved, but as an odd side trip, it’s a weird little read.
Doctor Who #0 is simply pushing the product. I wanted to see the Seventh Doctor installment, since I’ve always liked him and Ace, but I wound up liking the Tenth Doctor piece more, since it’s Gabby’s summary of her time with him, with the feel of a sketchbook. The Seventh Doctor piece was too much alien war with too much sci-fi gobblydegook, but I’m still looking forward to that coming miniseries. The last story is the Eleventh Doctor looking for a snack. The promised “first appearance in Titan Comics by the Thirteenth Doctor” is a wordless one-page, basically a pinup. Of interest, though, to fans of the show who are eager for the comic relaunches.
Ah, Marvel. The Free Comic Book Day holiday exists when it does, the first Saturday in May, to tie in with your big movie releases. And every FCBD, you put out a superhero comic guaranteed to interest kids but refuse to make it all ages, leading to disappointed customers when responsible store clerks have to tell parents “maybe they shouldn’t have that” or “you might want to read it first” when the children grab for it.
Avengers/Captain America explains the upcoming Caveman Avengers concept a bit, as Odin and Black Panther chat, and leads into the relaunch with the big three movie guys (Iron Man, Cap, and Thor). It’s too talky, with few dynamic visuals, and didn’t keep my interest. I don’t know what the Captain America half is getting at, really, and I’m sure I won’t remember by the time the book launches in two months. This is a terrible introduction for new readers.
The last page of this issue is an ad for Marvel Rising, “for the next generation of Marvel fans”. Why couldn’t they do a FCBD of THAT?
Speaking of retailers trying to be responsible, I have to single out Vault Comics’ Maxwell’s Demons as particularly troublesome. It’s marked All Ages on the cover but includes swearing, including the S-word. The publisher sent out a press release saying that this was a mistake, and “The proper rating is TEEN (13+) for mild language and violence.” That doesn’t help stores trying to prep for this event and deal with 50 comic titles. They’ve released “a set of ready-to-print shelf-talkers, flyers, and cover stickers for retailers who want to use them” which require more work. They also said they were working with Diamond on this, but the official FCBD book page, linked above, still says “All Ages”.
They’re not the only ones mixed up, though. There’s a FCBD age rating chart that has several mistakes on it; I’m guessing plans changed since it was put up in January, and no one kept it current.
One of the disappointing ratings for me was Yen Press’ Crush. It’s a promo for Svetlana Chmakova’s third graphic novel in her series about middle school, after Awkward and Brave, both of which were amazingly excellent. I want to shove this at every kid I see, but there’s an excerpt in the back from W.I.T.C.H. that includes a magical transformation scene that could be interpreted as a topless girl, so it’s not suitable for all ages.
Anyway, Crush introduces Jorge, a kid big for his ages who uses his size to protect others but doesn’t feel like he has many real friends. He may be experiencing a crush for the first time. Chmakova does an outstanding job of getting at the subtleties and complexities of kids’ emotions, and her art is lovely. A great read, and I’m highly anticipating the graphic novel when it comes out this fall.
Scout Comics Presents the Mall caught my eye because of the cover design, which has little to do with the main story inside. That tale by Don Handfield, James Haick III, and Rafael Loureiro is basically an 80s “nerd gets the girl” wish-fulfillment movie, only instead of time travel, the shenanigans revolve around the boy being a Mob heir. It reads as though it’s a sequel or prequel to some other comic series, but there’s no information about such, so I dunno. It’s too abbreviated for what it’s trying to do, but people who grew up on those kinds of films may find it oddly nostalgic, as I did, particularly during the video game showdown at the arcade. The second half of the book is a set of title profiles, none of which grabbed me; they’re all pretty generic sci-fi or fantasy premises.
Update: Turns out that there is a The Mall #1 coming out in July. No idea whether it’s a reprint of this or an expansion or what. Publishers should do a better job with introductory information, particularly when interested readers are never going to see a title unless someone commits to a preorder.
Fantagraphics’ World’s Greatest Cartoonists is no longer my kind of thing, but I have to mention that the excerpt from Liv Stromquist’s Fruit of Knowledge tells the story of Princess Marie Bonaparte, who took extreme steps when she didn’t get orgasms from her husband, only while masturbating. This is why this is one of the few for Mature Readers only titles. And good for the publisher still waving the flag for “comics [as] an art form as rich and vibrant as any other”.