Saturday, May 02, 2015

My Free Comic Book Day

Today was, of course, Free Comic Book Day, the closest thing to a national holiday celebrating comic books that we far. I spent it by, um, working at my day job from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., not going anywhere near a comic book shop, and thus I am unable to report on what might have been going on at either of the two shops I shop at in my immediate area.

My day job is at a library, and we did participate in FCBD, although only in that the children's department laid out some stacks of the kid-oriented comics that the nearest shop donated for that purpose.

I did get a handful of comics today, however, as a friend of mine who was volunteering that that same shop snagged me some of those she thought I would be most interested in. And now I am going to review them.

Divergence FCBD Special Edition #1 (DC Comics) This was DC's main offering this year, and it was an all-around much less depressing, much less derivative, much less likely to actively repel readers offering than last year's zero issue of Futures End–You know, the one set in the nightmare future where cyborg monsters murdered old man versions of your favorite superheroes, while Frankenstein had Black Canary's face sewn into his chest.

So, you know, say what you will about this comic, but it could have been worst. It could have been last year's comic.

The title is apparent reference to the branding initiative that is set to follow the two-month Convergence event, which is currently serving as a punctuation mark of sorts to the 3+-year "New 52" branding initiative. I thought "Divergence" was just a cute way that DC was referring to what comes after Convergence–I didn't realize they were actually calling it that. Huh.

The cover was created just last night, Friday May 1st, by an intern on a dare. I have to assume.

The insides contain a eye-rollingly bullshit editorial from co-publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee about how greatly they value their characters' most iconic qualities, how they want to respect their history without letting it chain them down or to treat it as too precious and how important it is for their publishing line to reflect the world their readers currently live in. That's all well and good, but, um, these guys–DiDio at least–have been in charge of DC Comics for what seems to be forever now, and if we look back only as far as say, Countdown to Infinite Crisis, it would appear that–let's see–absolutely none of that is true.

But who comes to a comic for the prose? Bring on the comics! There are three in here, which DiDio and Lee assure us aren't reprints or previews of upcoming storylines, but discreet stories in their own rights, presaging "three major changes in our most iconic characters." (If you guessed they were referring to Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, you were right. Please note, however, the changes to Wonder Woman will not be occurring in the pages of Wonder Woman, which Meredith and David Finch appear to be continuing to do completely ignorable work on, but in the pages of Justice League).

The first story is "The Rookie" by regular Batman team of Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and Danny Miki. It's only eight pages, so I suppose I can forgive Snyder for pulling out the tired, old Dark Knight Returns convention of having talking head newscasters explain things at readers to convey the fact that Batman is apparently "dead," which was the conclusion of the "Endgame" story arc, the last chapter of which shipped on Wednesday (I read Batman in trade, so I only flipped through that issue and read a few important-looking panels, but Batman and The Joker appear to die together...Snyder and Capullo don't even really pretend to imply that the pair are really for-real dead though, only that Alfred, Julia and others think they're dead).

That is why there has to be a new Batman, and this story reveals who it is, if you haven't heard or figured it out already. I'm not as excited about the Batman-is-out-of-commission-and-someone-has-to-replace-him storyline as I was the first time around (the "Knightfall," "KnightQuest" and "KnightsEnd" trilogy from the '90s) or the second time around (when Dick Grayson replaced the temporarily dead Bruce Wayne in 2009). I am kind of curious, of course, in large part because rather than having someone actually become a new Batman, Snyder and Capullo are putting someone in a Bubblegum Crisis-esque anime aromr, qne because this new Batman is not one any reader would likely have put in their list of Top Fifteen Replacement Batmen (Here's a hint: It's one of only like three Batman characters who weren't battling for the cowl in Battle for the Cowl. I suppose someone somewhere will have to write about why none of the expected Replacement Batmen are trying to replace Batman, unless they all know he's not really dead...?).

My only real complain is an aesthetic one. I don't mind the weird armor, or its color. I can probably live without a cape or wings. But I can't accept the fact that the new Batman's armor has "ears" that look absolutely nothing like bat-ears. Resembling instead moth antennae or rabbit ears, depending on the angle, they just look wrong, but wrong in the wrong way, if that makes sense (That is, we're supposed to notice and react to how different and off this Batman is visually. The ears just go a few steps too far).

That's followed by Gene Luen Yang's debut as the new writer on Superman, in the eight-page "Exposed." Drawn by John Romita Jr., who will be staying on as pencil artist when Yang's run on the Superman monthly begins in June, and inked by Klaus Janson and Scott Hanna, it's merely a collection of vignettes that reveals Superman's radical new status quo–bridged by the same media-as-storytelling device segment I was just complaining about a few paragraphs ago (I guess adding Twitter to the mix makes it seem slightly less Dark Knight derivative, but somehow more grating).

As for that status quo change? Superman has been outted as Clark Kent, and by Lois Lane of all people. That's...that's a pretty big goddam story right there. Unfortunately, it's also the sort of story that would be infinitely more compelling had DC not just rebooted their continuity a little over three years ago. The storyline seems to want to illicit shock and drama from the fact that its doing something outrageous that hasn't been done in the character's lifetime, but, well, this character has only been around for, like, 40 issues of a couple Superman and Action.

Not that I'm not interested, of course. I've already added Superman to my pull-list, for the first time in over five years. I like Gene Luen Yang's comics. I like John Romita Jr's comics. And I like Superman. So I'm having a hard time imagining Superman by Yang and JRJR not being good.

The final story is "Darkseid War Prologue Two: The Other Amazon," by Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok ("Part One" was this week's wordy, guest artist-filled Justice LEague #40). It's eight pages are devoted to revealing that the very same night that Diana was being born to Hippolyta, another Amazon (this one with an omega sign from her sorority tattooed under her eye) was giving birth to her own demi-goddess daughter, also sired by a god. Remember Darkseid's daughter from Wednesday's issue of Justice League? Well, it's not Scot, as the story seemed to imply (like, if that was your first exposure to Jack Kirby's New Gods characters, that comic totally sold Scot as Darkseid's daughter).

During the birth, an Amazon oracle has a vision that serves as a preview of the events of the upcoming "Darkseid War" storyline–Batman becoming the new Metron? Captain Marvel Shazam passing on his magic word to Cyborg? Badly drawn Mister Miracle, wearing a messed-up mask?–that should prove tantalizing. Most tantalizing of all, of course, is that this storyline seems to include another continuity-rebooting Crisis, seeing as it includes The Anti-Monitor and his shadow thingsGiven the genie of Superman's secret identity being let out of the bottle, a reboot seems more likely still, even though one has to imagine Geoff Johns is getting tired of re-writing DC history every couple of years, being the man who scripted Infinite Crisis and Flashpoint already.

Free Comic Book Day 2015 (Avengers) #1 (Marvel) And here I thought Divergence was a funny name...!

This comic features two stories, previewing two new team titles that appear to be set post-Secret Wars, one of which looks quite promising, the other of which looks much less so.

The first of these is a story featuring "The All-New, All-Different Avengers," written by Mark Waid and drawn by Mahmud Asrar. The line-up is on the cover, and you can see just how all-new and all-different they really are; there's only one founder on the team (provided that's really Tony Stark under the helmet; he never takes it off or gets called "Tony"), a team that features four newbies, three of whom are teenagers.

Waid's plotting and scripting are, as always, quite clever, and he manages to tell a complete and really quite solid story in just ten pages. A seemingly new and improved Radioactive Man attacks a bank, and these new Avengers arrive to stop him. Despite opening with a pair of splash pages that call into question if Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man Miles Morales (I'm interested to hear if they give him a name to distinguish him from Spider-Man Peter Parker or if they just call them both Spider-Man) and Nova will remain on the team after their very first mission.

I'm pretty divorced from the month-in, month-out goings-on of the Marvel Universe at the moment, so I don't know who's who and what's what exactly, but I was curious about Iron Man, particularly since someone mentions The Avengers not having "Stark money" anymore, and thought Waid's Ms. Marvel sounded and acted a little off in a few panels, even if he recovered nicely at the end, when she quickly answers a bit of superhero trivia that Iron Man, who was actually there at the time, doesn't quite remember.

That's followed by a story featuring "The Uncanny Inhumans," by Charles Soule and Brandon Peterson. Set in Mumbai, it features a Bollywood actor getting misted and turning into a tree monster (which seems a little too Groot-like, if you ask me), another new Inhuman attempting to stop his rampage, and then Medusa and her team swooping in to save the day. In the last panel, she grabs Johnny Storm's butt and kisses him. I kind of want to Google Crystal to see what relation she was to Medusa, if any, but I also kinda don't want to know.

Peterson's artwork is very slick and photo reference-y, reminding me of Greg Land a little too much for me to stand looking at it long–frankly, I had trouble reading 10-straight pages of it, so I can't imagine reading whole collections worth of it. The artwork on the back cover by Nick Bradshaw looks infinitely better, and also features a few characters who aren't in Medusa's company during the interior story.

Free Comic Book Day (Secret Wars #1 (Marvel) Well, that's what the fine print says, one parentheses and all. But I guess I shouldn't nitpick typos...this is a free comic after all, and there are probably several dozen typos in this very blog post.

This is another two-story anthology from Marvel, the first of which is a prelude to their big Secret Wars event, the culmination of Jonathan Hickman's years worth of plotting on Avengers and (even more so) New Avengers, an event that will redefine Marvel's publishing line for the foreseeable (i.e. the solicit-able) future and likely involve some sort of DC-like continuity rejiggering (If nothing else, it will bring Miles Morales from the Ultimate Universe to the Marvel Universe proper, as the other Marvel FCBD book makes clear).

Written by Hickman himself and drawn by Paul Renaud, the "Secret Wars #0" briefly recaps the events of New Avengers and the threat of the Multiversal incursions of alternate earths. It does so in the course of a 10-page story featuring The Future Foundation kids; Valeria Richards is leading them in the building of a 60-seater "live boat" of sorts, in which they and chosen scientists and engineers and suchlike can attempt to flee the ending world and restart life somewhere else.

But, as she notes, it looks like they'll have to fight their way off of Earth, as this latest incursion is from a familiar alternate Earth, that upon which Marvel's Ultimate line has been set.

I've enjoyed Hickman's New Avengers so much, I honestly can't wait to read Secret Wars. Although I will wait, because goodness, are Marvel comics expensive!

The back half of the book is filled with a story that should probably be the cover one, and is likely to be of greater interest to more people worldwide than Secret Wars, but it's really hidden back there (Unlike the other Marvel FCBD book, this one doesn't have a back cover for the back story, but features a wrap-around ALex ORss painting of various Marvel characters from various alternate realities secretly warring).

This is "Attack on Avengers" by Hajimie Isayama, C.B. Cebulski and Gerardo Sandoval, and it's a kinda sort Attack on Titan crossover. There's a big paragraph that fills a whole page explaining its origins–Japan's Brutus magazine commissioned a story that "postulates what would happen in an encounter between Marvel's AVENGERS and the Titans from Hajime Isayama's popular manga ATTACK ON TITAN."

It would be terrible comics, apparently. At just eight pages, and not including a beginning or ending, I'm assuming this is a sliver of something that will be published state-side eventually. It's basically just the freaky-looking Titans from the manga attacking New York City as any giant monster would, while first Spider-Man and then Avengers from the movie arrive to fight them. In the last two panels, The Guardians of The Galaxy arrive to lend a hand, their arrival weirdly hearalded by Blue Swede's "Hooked On A Feeling." Apparently The Guardians' popularity is so inextricably linked to a handful of pop music songs that they travel with their own soundtrack now...?

Even though there's not enough to count this as an actual story, it's barely legible. Cebulski is credited with breakdowns while Sandoval handles the line art. It's possible that Brutus asked for the art to be as American superhero as possible, which apparently means shitty. Really, really shitty. It looks and reads like super-comics from the the time in which Image's founders were working at Marvel and preparing to make their own bad comics under their own new publishing outfit. Characters jump and pose nonsensically, and would collide with one another if each panel didn't jump like a smash-cut. It's a mess.

On the other hand, it's Attack on Titan. With Marvel's movie characters. That's gotta pique some interest.

Teen Titans Go/Scooby Doo Team-Up (DC) I couldn't find fine print revealing the actual title of this anywhere, so I'm just going to go ahead and call it that. It's a flip-book, featuring ten pages of each comic named in the title. The Scooby-Doo story is actually the first half of the Super Friends team-up from last year's SDTU #6. The Titans story is likely also a reprint then, but if so, I hadn't read it before, as I've only read the first issue of the Teen Titans Go comic (it doesn't quite capture the manic pacing of the TV show, but then, I don't think a comic book can precisely replicate all of the best aspects of that cartoon). In it, Raven and Starfire invite Bumblebee and Jinx to the tower for an all-girl slumber party and kick the boys out. I liked the fact that a Justice League and Guy Gardner and some of the GLC were in the neighboring lanes at the bowling alley whenC Cyborg and Beast Boy went there to spend the night.

1 comment:

Evan Dawson-Baglien said...

There actually are a few species of bat with long, rabbit-like ears. Townsend's big-eared bat, and the brown long-eared bat, for instance.