Free Comic Book Day
Everybody in the Clarke family had a good time on Saturday, May 2 at Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark, Delaware. Never have I observed a Free Comic Book Day so well attended. Seems like the whole town was checking it out. We got there early (11:30 a.m.) before any official activity had begun and already a line was forming to enter. By 2 p.m. that line was almost a city block long!!! Kudos to the staff of Captain Blue Hen for planning this event and loading it with a variety of activities, as well as really going the extra mile and effectively controlling the crowd with organized lines and even assistance in the overflowing parking lots nearby.
I can’t imagine how many free comics were given out, and we can only hope that some new readers are recruited as a result. You could get one book just for showing up, and a second or third book if you showed either a library card or brought some canned goods for a local charity food drive.
As you walked into the store through the temporary back entrance you were greeted by several employees who directed your attention to a glass display case holding all the FCBD titles they ordered and inviting you to pick out your free book or books. Between Denise, Dave and I we picked up 9 separate titles - - not quite the same haul as I once got in a previous year at BC . . . but my immediate impression was that the publishers were wising up and devoting more attention to what they put into these books – and actually designed more to bring in newer readers than I have seen in past years. Quality, not quantity.
ALIENS/PREDATOR (Dark Horse): The big news here is that John Arcudi, the writer of Dark Horse’s first venture into Aliens and Predator books back in the late 1980’s, is back as scripter on new titles in both of these series. In a short 10 page prelude to the new Aliens series beginning May 27, Arcudi does a nice job of summarizing what has gone before. It’s later in Earth’s future, the threat to humanity posed by the Aliens now seems to be past tense, and they are the subject of serious study. We learn all this via the captions narrated by a cultural biologist who gets a surprise in the final pages. The story is intriguing, but the art by Zack Howard is ho-hum. This was the series that started my exploration of Dark Horse titles back in the day. The art by Javier Saltares (who I believe was the artist on one of the early Predator titles) in the Predator preview is much better, more interesting, better depictions and more action. A mercenary on a mission to take out a military dictator in an undisclosed African country is in turn being tracked by a Predator who has made the mercenary the object of the next trophy. In the final pages we learn that the Predator is being tracked as well, by a trio of differently-garbed Predators (police?) This story is continued in Predator #1 which hits stores on June 24. I’m keeping my eye on these two and hoping they are both worthy of a future trade paperback publication and subsequent purchase.
TRANSFORMERS ANIMATED / G.I. JOE (IDW): The Transformers story looks and reads like it was intended for a more juvenile audience and the art is very cartoonish / animation cel like, usually 3-4 panels per page. Not my cup of tea at all - - never really enjoyed the Transformers comics. (My older son did however, and we still have many of Marvel’s back issues if you are looking for them. Just contact me.) There are two G.I. Joe stories here, a preview of the opening five pages of G.I. Joe #1, as told by Chuck Dixon and Robert Atkins. The Joes intercept and stop a shipment of arms, only to learn from one of the captured Bulgarians that Cobra is behind it. The second story by original Marvel G.I. Joe scripter Larry Hama reveals how Duke made his original decision (coerced?) to join the Joes team, which is continued in G.I.Joe: Origins #1. Liked the story – and the art by Hawthorne was interesting but nothing special.
WOLVERINE: ORIGIN OF AN X-MAN (Marvel): Despite the misleading title this is a good book for the younger audience it is intended for (cover blub says “great for all ages” just so you know) - - especially the more audience-friendly and less detailed cartoon-like artwork. The story is very good for this type, and tells a previously untold tale of Wolverine’s early days and how a successful solo mission to investigate an island disturbance convinced the government to fund Alpha Flight with Wolverine as the first member. As the story ends, he is being quickly dispatched to quell the raging battle between Hulk and Wendigo (that historic first intro to Wolverine back in the day.)
AVENGERS (Marvel); This is one of my favorite FCBD 2009 books. Jim Cheung’s pencils are at the top of his form, much better than a lot of his work. Mr.. Bendis does a commendable job writing a tightly scripted standalone story. Thor gets his ass kicked by a Storm Giant who will takeover/convert Earth unless stopped. Both sets of Avengers arrive to help - - and while they would rather fight each other it’s Norm Osborn (surprise) who gets them to forget their differences temporarily and concentrate on the real mission of stopping Frosty. What make this story so enjoyable and actually fun to read is that it is narrated by Spider-Man, an eyewitness and participant in these events. His usual wise-cracking and ability to see humor in life-threatening situations are the main reason I like this issue so much. Get this one if you can.
BLACKEST NIGHT Zero Issue (DC): Careful – there may be some unintentional spoilers here.
I’ve never followed the Lantern books but the quality of writing and art here is making me curious. The lead story, Blackest Night: Death Becomes Us, by Geoff johns and Ivan Reis is a quiet and moody piece that takes a dark turn at the end. GL Hal Jordan and Flash Barry Allen meet in a cemetery at the unmarked grave of Bruce Wayne and share their feelings on the Batman and what it means in a world without him. There’s remorse, there’s hope, and there are some confessional moments. I found it to be artfully touching and well-crafted. . . and it gets added to the list of my favorite FCBD 2009 books. As GL and Flash depart, the watcher in the shadows, now revealed to be The Black Lantern, formulates his plan to revive the dead as a page full of small width panels pans across the gravestones of Sue Dibny and Ronnie Raymond as well as images of Hawkman, Hawkwoman and the Atom. And in a nice afterword Geoff Johns states his intentions to make Blackest Night an epic that will impact the entire DC universe (shades of Secret Invasion!).
What the followed in the back of this book alarmed me and made me just a bit gun-shy about following this storyline. There are two page spreads of various hero “organizations” that will apparently play a role in the upcoming Blackest Night saga. I did know that the Green Lantern Corps had an almost unlimited supply of members - - but now there are equally imposing Red Lantern Corps, Agent Orange, Blue Lantern Corps, Indigo Tribe and the worst of all = Black Lantern Corps fronted by the mysterious Black Lantern who somehow is linked to the corpse of the Anti-Monitor, Did all these characters already exist in the DC world, or is Johns now adding them to it? Whoa . . that’s a lot to follow. Part One begins on July 15th and will encompass 24 titles through October 2009. (Part One? - - gulp!!) I’m not sure I’m ready to follow this. You definitely should try to pick up this FCBD title.
CYBER FORCE / HUNTER KILLER - FIRST LOOK (Top Cow) Mark Waid, Kenneth Rocafort
My immediate first impression here was how much the art style reminded me of the short-lived Shadowline series of books from Marvel/Epic back in the 1980’s. The story opens up with the interrogation/torture of Damper by cloaked figures, probing him for info about the Hunter-Killer program. We later learn that one of the persons under the cloak is Ellis, one of the primary characters in the first series of Hunter-Killer books and now a rogue agent. Meanwhile the current Hunter-Killer force is in discovery mode trying to find Damper and instead stumble across the underground headquarters of Cyberforce. This series begins July 22nd.
I did purchase some of the early books in Hunter-Killer, found them interesting and just a little bit different (I do like Mark Waid, so I wanted to try them out) but I quickly lost interest as happens often with me and superhero titles. I also tried several issues of Cyberforce, scattered here and there (mostly found in bargain bins) and while these characters were slightly different they didn’t maintain my interest either. (Back in the 80’s Image just overloaded stores with wave after wave of superhero team titles - it got ridiculous for awhile.) I’m going to pass on this - - in better times I might be giving it a chance.
I still got 3 more books from FCBD to write about, but that will have to wait for this weekend or later. I’m getting ready to work in New Jersey for several days this week. I also have a tenth book to tell you about, The Stuff of Legend, and I’ll probably do that as a separate article.
Thanks for visiting the site and reading our stuff. I really think Jeff may be creating a sustaining community here and think that is rather cool. . . . . . . . mike