Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
…my wife and I had a ball on Free Comic Book Day 2014 this past Saturday. Readers of multiple demographics, especially a heartening number of youngsters, flocked to our local stores and had the opportunity to enjoy samplers from all the major comic companies and dozens of indie publishers.
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?
Part One was an overview of my favorites from this year’s haul. Covered here are the rest, from those nearly good enough to those I wish I’d left behind. On with the countdown:
The New 52: Futures End 0 (DC Comics) — DC’s next Major Event begins as many such DC events do: with heroes being murdered and dismembered, hope quashed under a massive steamroller, and Blue Beetle picked off as an early casualty. Batman Beyond makes his New 52 debut as the Kyle Reese/Kathryn Pryde/Marty McFly character from the future who goes back in time to prevent Skynet analog Brother Eye from turning all DC characters into Borg Terminator spiders modeled on John Carpenter’s The Thing. As an unabashed Justice League: Days of Future Past it gets the ball rolling with some of DC’s best writers and artists. It’s barely discernible as a New 52 story except for all those weird Jim Lee collars. But this Major event will be a weekly, 48-issue project. That’s far beyond my comics-event commitment level, no matter how good the art might be.
Rocket Raccoon (Marvel) — Soon to be a major motion picture! Rocket will be receiving his own solo series soon courtesy of writer/artist Skottie Young, who supplies only the cover here. The interior tale is a personable mockup of Sly Cooper, Jak & Daxter, and other video games from my son’s collection. It’s simple and fitting for kids who want a straightforward action hero and really like animals. As a value-added plus, the issue also reprints a cute, fourth-wall-teasing Spider-Man space story from a few years ago, drawn by personal fave Ty Templeton and costarring the most recent version of the White Tiger. She’s currently appearing in Mighty Avengers and hopefully won’t end up as yet another minority hero that Marvel takes off the shelf and stuffs in their Goodwill bag out in the garage.
FUBAR: The Ace of Spades (FUBAR Press) — The premise remains the same as their FCBD 2013 entry: self-contained stories about major historical events or locales, but with zombies in them. This year’s two topical tales of terror try staging zombies both inside Saddam Hussein’s stronghold at the time of his capture and up against Seal Team Six inside bin Laden’s Abbottabad hideout. Both function well enough as war stories go, particularly the Iraq scenario as written by reliable war-comics pro Chuck Dixon, and this hit a nostalgic nerve as the only black-and-white book in my FCBD pile, but the question remains of just how many more zombie stories Earth really needs at this point.
Rise of the Magi 0 (Top Cow) — A scrawny, big-nosed boy in another land refuses to follow his stubborn father’s career track and sets his mind on more otherworldly pursuits that he might not be ready to handle. While How to Train Your Dragon remains my favorite DreamWorks movie to date, this remarkably not-so-different coming-of-age adventure replaces dragons with magic and Scotland with an Asgardian Agrabah (or something). It’s an imaginative start with art that reminds me of Mark Badger’s work on The Mask and various late-’80s Marvel books, but I’m bitter because it’s only eleven pages long. The remaining pages are padded out with concept art, which can be interesting but always feels like a cheat to me. More disappointing is that this charming book is done the disservice of being hidden beneath a typically edgy Top Cow cover that bears absolutely, positively no resemblance to any art, characters, items, or anything else inside. A fantasy book with this kind of potential deserves better than bait-and-switch marketing.
Giant-Size Adventure/Thrills/Fantasy/Action (Red Giant Entertainment) — Four flipbooks introducing two concepts apiece: I got them from a shop that handed them out as a shrink-wrapped set, but I saw another shop that had opened and stacked them for separate distribution. The eight stories break down like so:
* Shadow Children: Two kids who grew up in a fantasy dimension as a sort of witness protection program to avoid the monstrous adults who ruined their lives now find themselves as teens trying to reenter their homeworld with deadly powers and extra sensitivity to that same kind of adult. Warm, funny, touching, frightening, and potentially triggerish all at once. This could become something big and meaningful if it stays restrained and doesn’t go full-tilt revenge-fantasy.
* Magika: Digitally painted fantasy kids live together in otherdimensional peace, or maybe not; characters possess subtle, realistically mutable motivations; eventual grave danger is neatly foreshadowed from a distance. The most unpredictable of the bunch.
* The First Daughter: A President’s daughter who has a super-science suit and a friend like the Great Gazoo finds out she’s one of many First Children throughout history who’ve been specially prepped and called upon to confront a centuries-in-the-making alien invasion. More young nonwhite female heroes in comics would be superb, but do they have to misuse “literally” and say “hashtag” aloud?
* Pandora’s Blogs: The titular hero is a medical professional’s daughter who has weird misadventures and then writes about them. The intro is a sort of X-Files-meets-Disney Channel quickie that could’ve used a few more pages to set up its bittersweet twist. I was a little put off because I’m not a fan of stories where the hero is an upper-class blogger, but that’s just me.
* Duel Identity: Andromeda is a super-hero by day and an undercover spy by night. Or sometimes she does both in one night, it just really depends. Starstruck co-creator Elaine Lee returns to comics and may or may not have found a viable high concept here, but I couldn’t stop laughing at Andromeda’s solemn investigation into an inventor that she thinks has done something controversial and dangerously revolutionary, but his groundbreaking project is basically Deep Web for iPhone.
* Tesla: The man, the myth, the legend! He’s revamped here as a science hero (not a comics first — cf. Matt Fraction’s The Five Fists of Science), but it’s a shame his new redhead companion is pluckier and more interesting than he is.
* Wayward Sons: In the Wild West, two unrelated teens — one white, one Native American — manifest unexplained wind powers, have dull family talks, and are talented enough to jump and shoot multiple arrows at the same time. The more I see impossible archery moves in movies, the less I give them a break.
* Darchon: What if Dr. Strange were a bigger, more capricious jerk? I wouldn’t buy his comics, that’s what.
Epic #0 Pilot (ComixTribe) — A generous thirty-two page origin about a teen super-hero with a fatal weakness that reminded me of the obscure 1980 movie Super Fuzz, which I saw at the drive-in when I was eight years old. I loved its ludicrousness to pieces, especially how the hero lost his powers every time he saw the color read (pretty much the most debilitating hero weakness since Mon-El’s vulnerability to lead), and that’s resulted in a rare moment of me awarding happy nostalgia points. I doubt that was the intent here, though. Art chores are split between two pencilers and a contributing inker; one renders in much more detail than the other, but seems to struggle more with anatomy issues. It maybe wasn’t the best decision to overload the mandatory action prologue with no less than seven super-villains (plus an evil poodle) when we haven’t even gotten to know the hero yet. But the high school scenes felt accurately like high school, and then there was that Super Fuzz sensation. If there were a second issue, I might flip through it on the shelf.
All You Need is Kill/Terra Formars (Haikasoru/Viz) — The lead story is an excerpt from the graphic-novel adaptation of the Japanese prose novel of the same name, which has also been adapted into the upcoming American summer blockbuster Tom Cruise vehicle more generically named Edge of Tomorrow. Said excerpt is a flashback for Emily Blunt’s character and probably resonates more in context. The backup story is a mere nine pages of translated sci-fi manga, barely enough space to introduce the characters with dry text dossiers, show off a nicely toned manga vista, introduce the grotesque villains, and clock us in the face with a nasty plot shock before our time’s up. After forcing myself to slough through the dossiers, the other eight pages zipped by too quickly to form a solid opinion.
V Wars 0 (IDW Publishing) — Bestselling novelist Jonathan Maberry takes a break from his occasional Marvel projects to indulge in a creator-owned horror series that would just as easily been called World War V if it weren’t for possible Roman numeral interference. Simply put: vampire outbreak instead of zombies, caused by an oddly specific virus that activates some dormant metagene in most of Earth’s population. I guess? The quote-unquote “vampires” die like anyone else would in a hail of bullets, exhibit no outward signs of traditional vampirism, and look to me exactly like really angry people with pointy teeth. Frankly, I’m not sure why anyone calls them vampires and not simply cannibals. Earth’s only hope is a sheepish guy who’s an expert in vampire mythology and folklore, which would come in handy if they acted like vampires at all. After twelve pages of that is another thirteen pages of dry dossiers. Long story, short version: collectors my age tend to have a knee-jerk repulsion against text features in comics, brought about by decades of exposure to worthless but compulsory text features in comics.
Scam: Crosswords (ComixTribe) — Scam was some sort of miniseries about which I know nothing. One of its characters, a masked killer named Crosswords, is like the Punisher or Garth Ennis’ Hitman, the latter of whom felt like the template here for a black-humored, creatively over-the-top assault against a billionaire bad-guy family. Much like Ennis’ Avatar Press work, except with fewer discernible organs. The equally dark backup story stars an antihero who has powers only when he’s really drunk. Hee?
The Intrinsic: Singularity Zero (Arcana) — Two pages of dry text dossiers (UGH) lead into lots of DeviantArt CG material where teen heroes squabble, say wooden things like “Let’s flee!”, and are drawn in stiff poses with more shading than detail. This all feels like someone’s art-class project, but somehow the company coaxed superstar Alex Ross to paint a cover for their upcoming debut. Neat trick.
Sherwood, Texas/Boondock Saints (12-Gauge Comics) — Story #1: Robin Hood and his Merry Men rebooted as a Sons of Anarchy pastiche. Mostly it’s angry guys fighting, and the word “feisty” is misspelled twice. Story #2: a Boondock Saints vignette that bounced off me because I’ve seen neither film. Daryl Dixon and two other guys kill smugglers, blow up drugs, have half their dialogue censored, and make sad, dated Rick James jokes. This is cowritten by original writer/director Troy Duffy, so I have to assume something in here is exactly what Saints fans want. I seriously wouldn’t know.
Über FCBD 2014 (Avatar Press) — Several drawings of WWII superhuman ultra-violence aren’t nearly enough to disguise the fact that this is a comic entirely made of dry text dossiers. Nope nope nope nope nope nope nope.
…and here endeth the pile. In all, a few joyous discoveries and several works that bear further scrutiny in the months ahead, assuming my local comic shop orders all or any of them. See you next year!