Friday, May 3, 2013

Free Comic Book Day 2013 Reviews and Recommendations: Part 2!

Free Comic Book Day is just getting closer and closer, so it's time to have a look at another selection of the comics that are going to be available. We got early copies of some of the books thanks to our good friends at Quality Comics, and there are some real gems among them. I trust you've already read Luke's post from yesterday going over Infinity, Star Wars, Mass Effect, The Tick, Atomic Robo, Judge Dredd and 2000AD? Good.

My picks from this year's crop were ones mainly aimed at kids, with a couple of zombie-fied adult books on top. I grabbed The Walking Dead, FUBAR, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H, Action Time Buddies, NFL Rush Zone and The Mouse Guard. We'll head below the cut in a sec to check them out, but first, a word from our sponsor.

Yes, Hugh Jackman is our sponsor. We're Australian, he sponsors all of us in everything we do. He's just that kind of guy.

Onwards to the comics, starting with the gory grown-up ones first!

The Walking Dead
The original Walking Dead duo of Kirkman and Adlard team up for this collection of short stories which give us a look into the backstory of some of the peripheral characters from the series. We see how Michonne came to have her two zombie ‘pets’, we share a post-outbreak Christmas with Morgan and Duane, and spend some time with the creepy-ass Governor as he’s setting up his tanks. There is one other story, but I wasn’t quite sure who the characters were, and as I’ve only seen the show and haven’t read the comic (yes, I know, I know), I’m assuming they’re either from the comic or completely original characters. Or I just had a total brain fade while reading it and didn’t pick up on the clues.

As a fan of the show I really enjoyed it, and from what little I’ve seen of the comic, the artwork and storytelling seem consistent with the original (as you’d expect with the legit writer and illustrator on board), so I see no reason why fans of the comic series wouldn’t enjoy the hell out of it as well. I expect this one will be pretty popular, and is well worth picking up even if you're only mildly curious

If you’re like me and have never really read a FUBAR comic before, but like zombies and really awesome stuff, then PAY ATTENTION. A collection of five short stories, FUBAR’s FCBD release for 2013 takes us into five different combat periods in history...and then drops zombies in them. Chaos ensues. Awesome, awesome chaos. We have ‘Jack of Spades’ (modern-ish Iraq), ‘Valley Forge’ (American Civil War), ‘London After Dark (World War II), The Buzzard (Cold War?), and ‘So Far From God’ (USA/Mexico Border War, 1916).

All of the stories are so fantastic I’m having trouble trying to pick a favourite, but if pushed maybe ‘London After Dark’ where the Nazis drop zombie-filled bombs on London. Damn Nazis. Art-wise I’d personally put ‘Jack of Spades’ at the top of the pack, but Christine Larsen’s ‘The Buzzard’ has such a distinctive style it’s hard to ignore. And this might sound a little (very?) weird, but I love the smell of this book as well. I’m guessing it’s due to how heavily shaded some of the art is, but it just smells so inky and rich. That’s not weird right? Oh, it is? Carry on then.

It probably goes without saying that this is my favourite from the pile I got, and I will definitely be picking up a trade (or two) at my local comic book shop tomorrow. It’s pretty gory, so not for the young ‘uns, but adults with even a passing interest in zombies and/or military would do well to snap this up.

Action Time Buddies
Originally a web comic, Action Time Buddies wears its influences loudly and proudly. As you might guess from that cover, there is a bit of My Little Pony, mixed in with some Adventure Time, Pokemon, Ninja Turtles, and I’m not sure if there was a Samurai Pizza Cats kind of feel to it too or if I was just projecting. Some might call it a rip-off, but I prefer to think of it as a homage. It’s not quite as clever as Adventure Time, but if you’ve got a youngster in your life who likes the adventures of Finn & Jake, there’s a very good chance they’ll like this. The main human character ‘Kid’ is an Australian kid who appears to have been written by someone who has never met an Australian in their lives. Or who really likes Steve Irwin.

Another collection of short stories, we join Kid and his pegasus pal Bro on various adventures ranging from investigating what happens in the fridge when the light goes off, to fighting ninjas. Though I feel I should specify, it’s Bro that fights the ninjas. With a katana in his mouth. While flying around, cause he’s totally a pegasus and of course he’d fly around. Awesome. If I’m completely honest, I thought this was going to be pretty bad, but it turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. It’s silly and derpy, but that’s the bulk of it’s charm. I don’t know if I’d call it a must-have (especially if there’s a restriction on how many books you can grab at your local store), but if you’re able to nab a copy the youngfolk in your life will thank you.

Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H
This one is not so much a comic book as it is just preview marketing for the new Marvel/Disney shows Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H and Avengers Assemble. It does its job well enough, in that I’m keen to check out the cartoons when they air (though as IF I wouldn’t have watched Avengers Assemble anyway!), but with the whole book filled with screengrabs that are occasionally blurry and pixellated, it’s a bit of an effort to get through. 

The Avengers preview is essentially just an action sequence with very little plot, but Hulk fares a little better. Annihilus feels like being a bit of a jerk, so rips open a wormhole to give Earth a bit of what-for. He unleashes Hulk’s Conan-esque son Skaar upon Vista Verde, though it would appear that Hulk has no idea who he is. I’m guessing that all gets sorted out later on. They engage in such verbose banter as ‘HULK SMASH’ and ‘SKAAR SLASH’ and all other sorts of riffs that would make Shakespeare jealous. General Ross shows up in Red Hulk form and mostly helps, but ultimately gets taken back through the portal when Annihilus retreats with his tail between his legs. Hulk angsts somewhat. We get to find out what happens next on August 11th. AUGUST ELEVENTH? Man. Luckily Avengers Assemble is airing a fair bit sooner, on May 26th.

I’d perhaps say this is worth picking up for a Hulk-mad little kid, but I can’t see adults being able to get over the presentation of it. It really does look like crap, and is very disappointing in that regard.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The New Animated Adventures
I admit I haven’t actually seen any of the new Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series (I’m more of the ‘90s Turtle’ cowabunga vintage), but if this comic is any indication of what to expect, I might just check it out. It is a complete one-shot story (written by Erik Burnham and illustrated by Dario Brizuela), not a collection of short stories, which is a nice departure. The Turtles are taught a valuable lesson when Splinter instructs them to switch up their weapons and stop being so complacent in their abilities.

I enjoyed this one a lot. The art was vibrant and the story was solid and well written. I was expecting a lot more goofy humour than what was in there, so that was a pleasant surprise. The only real gripe I had was the fact Donatello appeared to be missing a tooth every few panels. Is that a thing? Is Donatello all gappy in the new series? I found it a bit distracting. But APART from that, IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an entertaining read for kids and adults alike, and I would definitely recommend picking this one up if you can.

NFL Rush Zone: Season of the Guardians
I’m not going to beat around the bush here, this Rush Zone comic is terrible. It’s not because I’m a heathen Australian who doesn’t like or know anything about NFL (I’m actually wearing a Drew Brees jersey as I type), it’s just that this comic is so dumbed-down and unentertaining. The story in the preview on the FCBD site actually looked pretty good, but it’s a completely different story to the one that’s in the book.

Thankfully, all is not lost, as the added story preview for ‘Skyward’ is far more promising. Set in a somewhat cliche fantasy universe where the main characters are young, sassy and woodsy, there’s enough here to spark a bit of interest. Dangerous beasts roam the land, and while out in the woods one day our heroes are assisted in their encounter with one of the aforementioned beasts by a mysterious stranger. Who is he? What does he want? Where did he get such a damn cute dog? Sure, I may well have just enjoyed this story because it looked so good compared to what came before it, but I think it could definitely be of interest to the YA set.

Mouse Guard/Rust
Sadly, this year the Mouse Guard hasn’t been released as a hard cover book (I’m guessing there was a spike in homicides/maimings on Free Comic Book Day last year as people tried to get their hands on it), but it’s still the high quality of storytelling you’d expect. Five whimsical stories with beautiful artwork to match, it’s going to be enjoyed by kids and adults alike.

I didn’t care much for the alternate cover story ‘Rust’, nor especially for ‘Flip’, about a ten-year-old cowboy, but the other three stories well made up for them. The main Mouse Guard story, ‘The Tale of Thane and Lisa’, is absolutely beautiful, and my copy is already a bit dog-eared from reading this particular story so many times. I got a hell of a kick out of the dino-centric ‘Bolivar’, and the trio is rounded out by a short from the Labyrinth universe. And who doesn’t like Labyrinth? No cameos from the Goblin King’s crotch here though.
If I hadn’t managed to get a sneaky copy early, this would have definitely been on my ‘to-get’ list, and now that I’ve read it, I can say with certainty that it should be on everyone’s to-get list (unless you don’t like great art and storytelling, of course). I’ll be buying the first volume of this tomorrow if I can find it.

So there you have it! That's the second and final part of our Free Comic Book Day preview all done and dusted. We obviously couldn't cover everything that is going to be available, so there are surely some other books out there that are worth taking a punt on as well as what we've spoken about here. We will be starting our day at Quality Comics at 9.30am before moving on to the other nerd emporiums in town, so we'd love to catch up and have a chat with any of our readers who are heading along too.

Enjoy your Free Comic Book Day, no matter where you end up spending it!

1 comment:

  1. Tyrese is the character in the Walking Dead story. and Valley Forge was during the American Revolution long before our Civil War