Free Comic Book Day 2013 Results, Part 2 of 3: Familiar Names and Creatures

Stjepan Sejic, Aphrodite IX

The painted dragons of Aphrodite IX. Art by Stjepan Sejic.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

As previously recounted, my wife and I had a ball on Free Comic Book Day 2013 two weeks ago. Readers flocked to our local stores and had the opportunity to enjoy samplers from all the major comic companies and many of the indies.

How did the finished works do? Did they present an enjoyable, self-contained experience? Were they welcoming to new readers? Did they adhere to the old adage that every comic is someone’s first?

More of those finished products:

Infinity (Marvel) — Fans already entrenched in current Marvel Universe continuity may enjoy this prologue to the upcoming major summer crossover event, in which an alien race that once rebuilt itself from the ground up after world-shattering decimation now finds itself entertaining a second visit from its conqueror. From a science fiction standpoint, it’s an intriguing short story even though Thanos only speaks a grand total of two words. Any first-time comic-shop visitors who know Marvel only from their movies might be disappointed that their first Marvel experience is filled with complete strangers and has virtually no Marvel heroes in it at all, save a three-panel montage at the end.

Value-added bonuses for longtime comics fans include a reprint of a Thanos short that originally appeared as a backup story in Marvel’s Logan’s Run adaptation (I had no idea this ever happened, though it’s bizarre seeing a very young Mike Zeck doing his best artistic impersonation of Jim Starlin), and a sneak preview of the upcoming original graphic novel Avengers: Endless Wartime by Warren Ellis and Mike McKone (sold!).

Kellerman/L’Amour (Bantam/Ballantine) — Two Random House imprints are having the works of big-name novelists adapted into graphic novels: Jonathan Kellerman’s thriller The Web by Ande Parks (Tomb Raider) and Michael Gaydos (Alias, Daredevil); and one of Louis L’Amour’s innumerable Westerns, Law of the Desert Born with art by Tom Yeates (Saga of the Swamp Thing, Timespirits). The Kellerman sampler benefits from Gaydos’ shadowy atmospherics, but is just several pages of character introductions; the L’Amour excerpt is classic cowboys-and-outlaws travel drama that’s a fine excuse to see more evocative Yeates handiwork, even in black-‘n’-white.

Aphrodite IX, Vol. 2, #1 (Top Cow) — In a post-apocalyptic world where genetically augmented humans vie for dystopian supremacy against technologically complemented humans, a mystery woman in future swimwear awakens from hibernation with Jason Bourne amnesia-fu skills. Also, someone thought engineering dragons was a great practical idea for some reason. Poster-ready painted art by Stjepan Sejic didn’t prevent me from losing interest halfway through the issue, bogged down in reams of exposition and stilted fantasy dialogue. By the end I couldn’t even remember which side was which.

Absolution: the Beginning (Avatar Press) — Reprinting the debut chapter of a creator-owned series written by Christos Gage (Angel and Faith) about a government-employed super-hero who tosses out his moral compass and turns serial killer on the scummiest of criminals. I’ve never watched Dexter, but I assume Dexter-with-powers isn’t radically different. It’s unquestionably one of the most violent offerings in Free Comic Book Day’s twelve-year history. Really not my thing anymore.

The Tick (New England Press) — Back in the late ’80s, Tick creator Ben Edlund gave us indie fans twelve loony issues of joyous super-spoofery about an idealistic lunkhead with no self-awareness and an enlarged sense of justice. A decade-plus later, Edlund ran away to Hollywood and left control of the Tick’s print adventures in the hands of others. With rare exceptions (e.g., Man-Eating Cow) the results were never the same to me. This new adventure is no exception, benign and prone to evincing an occasional smile at best, like Archie Comics with fewer lame puns. My biggest complaint here: for the non-benefit of ostensible new readers, far too many characters went completely nameless.

Damsels: Mermaids #0 (Dynamite) — Now that Bill Willingham’s Fables and ABC’s Once Upon a Time have proven that classic fairy tales are a fertile storytelling ground even in modern contexts, we’ve seen waves of other creators and companies follow suit in the name of profiting from the public domain. The exploitative cover samples I’d seen for Damsels looked like lowbrow versions for young adult males. With their Mermaids spinoff, I was surprised that to see a recognizable talent in the credits — Matt Sturges, writer/cowriter on past DC/Vertigo projects such as JSA, Jack of Fables, and House of Mystery. When a mermaid is captured by an evil giant and accompanied by the Steadfast Tin Soldier, their struggles with loss and abandonment are heartbreaking even during the action-filled climax. If future covers don’t look like Maxim cartooning samples, I might be inclined to pursue the series further.

To be continued!

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