Monday, May 06, 2013

Comic shop comics: Free Comic Book Day

There were only two (2) new comic books in my pull-file this past week, so I didn't bother driving out to the shop to get them, but figured I'd wait another Wednesday or two until I had at least a handful of books built-up to justify the time spent getting to and from the shop.

But then Saturday rolled around, and I actually had the day off from both my day job and any tight deadline writing and I figured that since it was Free Comic Book Day, I should go check out the scene and pick up my two new comic books and see what freebies my shop still had available by the time I got there.

It was even more easy than usual to find my local comic shop, Comic Heaven in Willoughby, Ohio, as there was a Stormtrooper standing on the side of the road in front of the parking lot, waving at cars as they drove by.

Specifically, it was the type of Stormtrooper that pilots those low-flying speeder bike things through the forest of Endor in Return of the Jedi, which the Internet tells me is a type of Stormtrooper referred to as a "scout trooper," and that these are "light-armored stormtrooper variants, trained as reconnaissance troopers, spies and survivalists." (I was going to scroll through all the different types of stormtroopers in this crazy-long article about stormtroopers in order to find out if there was one that deals especially with traffic control and/or waving at cars, but the article is a billion words long, and I think I could finish a Star Wars novel before I finished reading that actual entry).

I kinda wanted to take a picture of him waving at cars, because the visual clash of stormtrooper armor and mundane stuff like northeast Ohio suburban traffic amuses me, but when I asked if I could photograph him, he said something I couldn't understand through his mask and posed for me:
I asked if he was hot in there, as it was in the low seventies and sunny, and he said something else I couldn't understand.

I guess it's a good thing he was wearing scout trooper light-armor, rather than the standard stormtrooper armor or, worse yet, snowtrooper armor.

Then I saw this young fellow, wearing a poncho and carrying a crossbow.
I took his photo form a discreet distance, as I generally try not to talk to strangers wearing weapons. At first I assumed he was just some random crazy person, as I couldn't think of any comic book superheroes or Star Wars characters who wear ponchos and crossbows, but maybe I'm just not all that hip to nerd media as I assumed I was. Later on I saw two or more other people with crossbows, so I have I imagine it was a thing of some sort.

That, or there's a small group of Ohioans who hunt cosplayers for sport.

There were only three more costumed folks at the shop during the 15 or 20 minutes I was there.

There was a couple wearing rather impressively realistic Black Widow and Loki (movie versions) costumes, who I took this creeper cam photo of as they browsed, because Black Widow and Loki browsing Marvel comics in a comic book shop is funnier to me than Black Widow and Loki posing for a photo.
And then, finally, on my way out, I saw a bigger (and plushier) than life-sized version of Beppo, the Super-Monkey:
Oddly, the big stuffed animal seemed to scare a few of the toddlers, who snuck peaks at it and clung tightly to their parents as they passed. Meanwhile the family of folks wearing crossbows or the guy dressed like a god of mischief with enormous horns on his heads didn't seem to frighten any children in the least.

The shop was more crowded than I'd ever seen it, with maybe 100 people of all shapes, sizes, ages and demographics within, and the employees rather hectically answering questions and rushing to and fro finding things for customers.

They were giving away seven free books per customer, and these were all stacked up on several tables and counter-top space apparently cleared off for the occasion. The DC book/s were already gone, and while I flipped through the Marvel book with Thanos on the cover, it looked so boring that I didn't think I wanted to read it, even for free. I picked up a couple of books for my nieces (Strawberry Shortcake, Archie's Pep Comics, Top Shelf Kids Club and the Disney Fairies book) and two for myself.

I generally try to buy a graphic novel or a couple of manga digests from my LCS on FCBD, because I always feel a little guilty taking free comic books when I'm already good and thoroughly hooked on the medium and thus am the opposite of the sort of person who should go to a comic shop on FCBD to avail myself of the free comics, but, like a heel, I didn't get anything (I'm pretty caught up on the trades I've been waiting to read, and they didn't have any of the few I'm looking for in stock. I considered buying a Showcase Presents volume, but I currently have four of 'em on an end table waiting to be read, so I figured I should read the over 2,000 pages of black-and-white DC Comics reprints I already have before buying another 500 pages).

Here are the four books I brought home from the shop on Saturday, and what I thought of 'em...

Hawkeye #10 (Marvel Entertainment) I suppose the idea of too much of a good thing is so ingrained in the American psyche that I shouldn't be too surprised that Marvel's been pumping out even their highest-quality, most standalone comics at a greater-than-monthly frequency, even if that means the artists who are largely responsible for that quality can't possibly keep up with the accelerated schedule.

So here's another David Aja-less issue of Matt Fraction and David Aja's Hawkeye, and, as in the past Aja-less issues, readers can at least take comfort in the fact that Marvel hired another of the best super-comics artists currently working for the Big Two to fill-in.

This time it's Francesco Francavilla, coloring himself, and the results are, as expected, lovely. The story pulls back from the cliffhanger of the previous issue, and then introduces us to the villain from that cliffhanger, telling his secret origin and what exactly he was getting up to just before putting on his mime make-up and drilling poor Grills. (Spoiler: Grills was shot to death in the previous issue).

Clint Barton, AKA Hawkeye, AKA Hawkguy, is largely absent from this issue, as the story belongs more to Kate Bishop, AKA Hawkeye, and this new killer who is apparently going to be a big threat to the Hawkeyes, given the build-up he's been given (more than one issue, in a series that has had a lot of done-in-one stories).

I feel a little weird about teenager Kate Bishop grabbing the charming but almost twice her age man she meets at a party and planting a deep kiss on him. I don't know if Bishop just likes older men (in all the Young Avengers comics I've read, she's only been romantically entangled with other teenagers) or if Fraction is just engaging in some thirtysomething male fantasies in the writing of this title or...what, but the romantic tension between the two Hawkeyes has always felt a little on the creepy side to me. And now here's another December for Bishop's May (Or is she more of an April or March...?)

Legends of The Dark Knight #8 (DC Comics) Two rather strong stories in the latest issue of DC's over-sized Batman anthology: One short, one long.

The first is a 10-page story written by the great Paul Tobin and drawn by Tradd Moore, an artist who is new to me, but whom I can't wait to see more of.

The plot is basic, Batman 101 stuff: Extremely bizarre, labor-intensive murders are being committed by a new killer with a hard-to-crack pattern (a one-off villain, I'm sure, as he lacks a name, costume or open-ended gimmick that would make return bouts of interest), Batman is on the case (wearing a disguise, intimidating thugs for info), Batman figures out the crimes and beats up the bad guy (Who it turns out is an artist and, from the look of it, one particularly badass artist: He takes three punches from Batman before going down).

Tobin does a fine job cramming that all into ten pages but making it read as if it all fits perfectly comfortably there; it's a pretty fine job of crafting a story so efficiently that it fits the half-as-big-as usual space afforded a done-in-one Batman story.

But I knew Tobin was a good writer before reading this; I didn't know what an amazing artist Moore was (That's his cover, and no, I don't know what all that glowy stuff is, but it sure looks dynamic, doesn't it?).
His artwork is smooth, clear, more than a little cartoony and extremely kinetic. When his Batman jumps, kicks, punches, falls or swings, he does so big and fast. Hell, even when his Batman gestures or changes expression, there's a sense of animation to it.

I really dig this Batman.

The second story is a full-length, 20-page one written by Ricardo Sanchez and drawn by Sergio Sandoval. This too is Batman 101, but the specific crime/s are even more outre, including finding a body that seems to have been mauled by a single animal that somehow left DNA evidence belonging to more than a dozen different animals, and the world's largest collector of "crypto-taxidermy" recently had his prize piece, a "barghest", stolen.

So Batman investigates, and has to eventually fight a real live barghest, which Sandoval draws to resemble very lizard-like dinosaur, like a Komodo dragon with a man and weird, eye-less face.

The exact nature of the creature's creation is fairly occult, which doesn't always sit well atop Batman comics, but Sanchez routes it in the alchemy/black magic that is deeply established in Batman comics, so it actually works quite well here. There are a few unexpected twists here, but it's probably the ending I liked the most, as it implies there will be a new, extremely weird addition to Bat-Family (Make way for Ace, The Bat-Barghest!)
Sandoval's art is very realistic and representational, a style I don't generally go in for much, but his storytelling is top-notch, so that while Batman's cowl may look an awful lot like, say, the one Michael Keaton had to wear in his Batman movies, the panels and pages all look, work and read like comic book panels and pages, rather than scans of photos. David Lopez and Santi Casas' coloring is extremely dark, which gives the art a dark, murky, occasionally washed-out look, pierced by the light of computer screens or the moon shining through a cloud, and, in another story, using another character, that might not work all that well, but this is a Batman comic, so those are, if not necessarily virtues, than at least perfectly appropriate to the content.

The Smurfs (Papercutz) This is the Papercutz FCBD offering, which includes:

1.) An eight-page Smurfs comic strip and two short, one-page Smurfs gag strips.
Even the Smurfs have trouble telling themselves apart, apparently
2.) An eight-page Annoying Orange strip that I could only make it half-way through (The art is really nice, but, uh, I dunno—anthropomorphic fruit bowling just didn't speak to me, I guess; maybe it's because a durian was involved, and it brought back traumatic flashbacks to the one time I had a sip of durian bubble tea and spent the next 12 hours trying to get the taste out of my mouth?)

3.) A 10-page story starring "ARiOL", a finely-cartooned, fine-line strip featuring anthropomorphic animal characters, that looks so European that I was not at all surprised to notice that the creative team was named Emmanuel Guibert and Marc Boutavant.

I liked them all save the Annoying Orange story; I'm already on board with any and all of the Smurfs reprints Papercutz has been putting out, and now I really want to see more of this ARiOL character and the comics he's in, even though I hate his name and am not sure if I'll be able to honor that capitalization scheme much longer.

The lead Smurfs story—in which an ogre tries to eat Gargamel, and Gargamel tries to convince him to eat the Smurfs instead, and then the Smurfs convince him to seriously, go ahead an eat Gargamel instead—is pretty aggressive in selling the line of Smurfs collections to new readers, with every page ending in a footnote referring to a particular volume.

Top Shelf Kids Club (Top Shelf) And finally, here's the other FCBD book I brought home for myself. It's a black-and-white anthology featuring a half-dozen kid-friendly Top Shelf characters, including a preview of an upcoming book, Rob Harrell's Monster on the Hill.

The others are:

1.) A typically charming four-page Owly story by Andy Runton (which reads a bit longer, as two of those pages feature 16 panels apiece)

2.) An elegantly drawn Korgi story by Ann and Christian Slade (eh)

3.) A Johnny Boo story by James Kochalka (God I love Johnny Boo; this one's about annoying boinging, and while the eighth panel is the funniest, the third is my favorite, as it features a completely upside down Squiggle, and I'm a big fan of Squiggle's expressions)

4.) A not particularly interesting Upside Down story by Jess Smart Smiley (whose debut Upside Down graphic novel I really rather liked)

5.) A Pirate Penguin Vs. Ninja Chicken strip by Ray Friesen that I didn't particularly like (I think it was the designs that put me off; that, and the the weird-but-not-that-weird-weirdness-for-weirdeness'-sake of it. I did like how the skull on the Penguin's pirate hat wold occasionally change expressions in order to match that of the Penguin.

As for the Harrell story, I didn't read it, as I plan to check out and review the graphic novel, and didn't want to read part of it before I read the whole of it. I did look at the pictures though, and they actually reminded me quite a bit of Jeff Smith's Bone, particularly in the look of the monsters, the landscape and the lines used.

Well, that was my Free Comic Book Day. What'd you get during yours...?


Greg said...

Tradd Moore draws the two Luther Strode mini-series for Image. Ridiculously violent, but really cool-looking books. If you're interested.

Akilles said...

Finland doesn`t have a day like this...

Anonymous said...

"What did you get?"

Inker's cramp, and about half a page further than I was before.

Oh, shopping? I'm a bit broke. But now that I've finished Gravity's Rainbow I can start reading random comix from my library again.