Friday, May 13, 2011

Free Comic Book Day 2011

Hah, for once it wasn't my fault that this didn't go up yesterday! Blogger was doing some maintenance late afternoon/evening for me so I wasn't able to log on and write this up, I swear I really was going to! Hmm, guess this needs I'll need to put up a post Saturday to keep on schedule then, ah well, technical difficulties happen.
So, comic book fans in the US have probably heard of Free Comic Book Day which is exactly what it sounds like, various comic book stores all around the US get some free, sampler issues of comics from various publishers, put them out, and then on the first Saturday in May (to coincide with the first superhero movie of the summer, Thor this year) people come in and grab what looks interesting (and hopefully pick up something else at the store). I didn't grab anything else at the store since it turns out that the store near my home is strictly comic books and practically nothing else, the store I went to last year (near my college) also had manga and a big tabletop area set up but this store wasn't quite as varied. Oh well, it would be nice to support local, indie retailers but FCBD really does cater more towards comic book fans than fans of comics in general (like manga fans, indie fans, manhaw fans, ect). I didn't grab everything this year, there were a surprising number of comics aimed at elementary school aged kids actually, but a number of things still caught my eye:

Avatar: the Last Airbender (Dark Horse Comics)
By far what I was most looking forward to, the preview of the collection of A:tLA comics coming out this summer. Hardcore fans have known for years that there were a number of comics (which can be set anytime during the show's timeline) that never got published in the US Nickelodeon magazine. They were published in some of the foreign editions of the magazine (such as the German one) but for years American fans had no way to easily read the comics*. And now somehow Dark Horse Comics got the rights to publish them all in one complete book coming out this summer and put out two of them in the preview issue. Someone who isn't already a fan of the series (or not familiar with it) probably wouldn't get the jokes, the comics don't stand very well on their own, but for fans of the series this will make a nice read during the wait for the Legend of Korra, due out next year.

The Dark Crystal: The Origin of the Dark Crystal (Archaia)
I've never seen The Dark Crystal (the movie), although it's certainly on my list, but I didn't have any problems getting into the story. This comic seems to be a prequel to the story (that's what the title suggests anyway), so no prior knowledge of the story of the story is needed (beyond, it involves a giant, magical crystal) and that's a good thing. The colors are a little muted but the artwork seems to be pretty faithful and, if the story is canon, I'd be interested in reading the complete comic after I see the movie.
Elric (Boom! Comics)
I grabbed this comic because it looked interesting and boy was I confused. This seems to be an attempt to tie together a multiverse by saying that various characters from different series are the same character in different realities but, without knowing all the other stories, I just couldn't get into this story. The art wasn't quite to my taste either, there's just something strange about shading in superhero comics, so this one gets a pass from me.

Mouse Guard (Archaia)
The back half of the The Dark Crystal comic, I remember that there was a sampler for this series last year as well and I've even seen the books for this at the local library near my college, I just didn't have the time to pick them up. The story is rather Redwall-esque, a story centered around a group of human like mice who are living in a medieval world with predators all around and who rely on wits and fighting to survive. This section from the story is a short, self-contained tale that made me more curious about series and really makes me want to check out the first book when I get a chance. 
Silver Scorpion (Liquid Comics)
The only real "superhero" comic I picked up and I honestly liked this one way more than I expected. Created in conjunction with the Open Hands Initiative, the comic stars Bashir Bari, a cocky Arabic teenager who gets his legs blown off due to a landmine (in a rather ironic fashion) and through various events ends up with superpowers which he uses to fend off the local thugs. It's paced pretty well, fits an origin story neatly into a pretty short page count and has room to expand upon the story later. I liked the art well enough (still superhero style art but less stylized than Elric's art) and I wouldn't mind reading more, provided the story doesn't drag on for another 30 years.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Dark Horse Comics)
The back half of the A:tLA comic, set during the Clone Wars arc of the Star Wars 'verse I was pretty lost during this one. I'm not that familiar with the Clone Wars time line that much (I liked the five minute, traditionally animated shorts on Cartoon Network way back when, the newer CGI animated series not so much) so this comic didn't make much sense to me. I had no idea who any of the characters were in there (did they just kill Jabba or is that his cousin or something?) and this one just didn't click with me. So, pass!

Witch & Wizard (Yen Press)
Last one folks! Another one I was really interested in (and it looks like I grabbed one of the last few copies from my comic book store, making this one of the more popular titles) this was the lone output from a primarily manga company and this technically isn't even manga. I'm not really a fan of James Patternson's writing (tried the first volume of Maximum Ride, the book, didn't really like it) but I do like Svetlana Chmakova (the artist) and was curious about what project was so pressing that Nightschool seems to be on hold^. Well, I really can't say any good things about this series (other than the fact that I still like Svet's art) because that was a crappy opening. Over zealous new government regime determined to kill off any one with super powers and our main leads just so happen to have their powers manifest for the first time right as the police come to arrest them? I've seen webcomics pull off the "kid gets their powers for the first time, stuff goes south" plot so much better and when you have people who write for a hobby create better stuff than New York Times bestseller authors, we have a problem. It's true that a lot of this could have been changed by Svet (or the other person listed working on the story, Gabrielle Charbonnet) from the original story but it doesn't feel like Svet's writing so I don't think that's the case. In any case, it's getting a pass from me, just didn't come off as that well done.
 Whew, one last bit folks, allaboutmanga has a nice little entry about the lack of manga on FCBD that's worth a look. I'd love to see more manga samplers myself, it's a nice alternative to being a manga cow in my local Barnes and Noble/scanlations so someone make it happen!

*and this is by far not the weirdest thing that happened to this series, Nickelodeon just did some weird stuff with this title, they still haven't put out a soundtrack for the series despite people lobbying for it for years. 
^true the series did have an ending but it sounds like Svet wants to continue it and that YP likes the idea as well, and I really had issues with that ending, silly ret-cons.

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