My Free Comic Book Day 2019 Results: The Best and the Least Best

Carnage!

I’ve never been a Carnage fan, but Ryan Stegman, JP Mayer, and Frank Martin do make him look stylish.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: on May 4th I once again had the pleasure of observing Free Comic Book Day, the least fake holiday of them all, that annual celebration when comic shops nationwide offer no-strings-attached goodies as a form of community outreach in honor of that time-honored medium where words and pictures dance in unison on the printed page, whether in the form of super-heroes, monsters, cartoon all-stars, licensed merchandise, or entertaining ordinary folk. Each year, America’s remaining comic book shops (and a handful in the UK that can afford the extra shipping charges) lure fans and curious onlookers inside their brick-and-mortar hideaways with a great big batch of free new comics from all the major publishers and a bevy of smaller competitors deserving shelf space and consideration.

As they’d done last year, my local shops offered a special deal that sounds crazy on the face of it: for a fair sum of money, we could pre-purchase a bundle of all 53 Free Comic Book Day comics (according to their Facebook post) that their stores planned to order. They set aside copies of all those comics, bagged ’em up, and let buyers pick them up late Saturday afternoon, once all the furor and hubbub had subsided. I went for it. I liked the idea of playing the role of patron, donating extra cash to help facilitate Free Comic Book Day for other folks in town, in a way that would help my shop offset the costs.

I spent the next three nights reading everything I was given and then tweeting my impressions after each comic, along with photo excerpts from every single comic. I took photos rather than scans because (a) our scanner sometimes ruins the hard work of comics colorists, (b) I wanted to capture the feel of comics on actual physical paper, and (c) snapping pics was faster than scanning. This reading/photography project took until 12:15 a.m Monday night to complete.

Careful observers will note the official FCBD site listed 51 titles in all. I’ve cataloged the following discrepancies:

  • Due apparently to oversight, the shop gave me two copies of Aftershock’s Animosity Tales.
  • Two titles listed on the FCBD site aren’t in my stack: DC’s oddly formatted Dear Justice League and Golden Apple Books’ Blastosaurus Annual. The shop probably skipped ordering one of these, but I’m not !00% sure which.
  • Three titles are in the stack they gave me but not on freecomicbookday.com: IDW’s Transformers/Ghostbusters (a 4-page ashcan they may not have counted as a comic, though the shopkeep did); The Overstreet Guide to Collecting 2019; and the 2019 edition of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s Defend Comics.

…so that’s 53-1+2-3=51. Anyway:

This entry is a condensed version of that epic-length tweetstorm: my presentation of the ten best books of the bunch (I’m not in the mood to rank them), followed by my five least favorites of the entire stack. I never trust a comics reviewer or website that shares nothing but relentlessly glowing opinions — nor, conversely do I trust a critic who hates all comics and can’t be pleased — so this is my way of not becoming that which I disparage.

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Happy Free Comic Book Day 2019!

Free Comic Book Day 2019!

This year’s haul, part 1.

It’s that time of year again! Today marked the eighteenth Free Comic Book Day, that annual celebration when comic shops nationwide offer no-strings-attached goodies as a form of community outreach in honor of that time-honored medium where words and pictures dance in unison on the printed page, whether in the form of super-heroes, monsters, cartoon all-stars, licensed merchandise, or entertaining ordinary folk. It’s one of the best holidays ever for hobbyists like me who’ve been comics readers since the days when drugstores sold them for thirty-five cents each and comic book movies were sad, cheapskate abominations.

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My Free Comic Book Day 2018 Results: The Best and the Least Best

Maxwell's Demons!

A boy and his toys go to war. From Maxwell’s Demons #1, art by Vittori Astone.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: on May 5th I once again had the pleasure of once again observing Free Comic Book Day, the least fake holiday of them all, that annual celebration when comic shops nationwide offer no-strings-attached goodies as a form of community outreach in honor of that time-honored medium where words and pictures dance in unison on the printed page, whether in the form of super-heroes, monsters, cartoon all-stars, licensed merchandise, or entertaining ordinary folk. Each year, America’s remaining comic book shops (and a handful in the UK that can afford the extra shipping charges) lure fans and curious onlookers inside their brick-and-mortar hideaways with a great big batch of free new comics from all the major publishers and a bevy of smaller competitors deserving shelf space and consideration.

This year my Free Comic Book Day involvement took on a different form. My local shop offered a special deal that sounds crazy on the face of it: for a fair sum of money, we could pre-purchase a bundle of all 52 Free Comic Book Day comics that their stores planned to order. Normally these would all be free, but you’d look like a schmuck for casually walking in, picking up all 52, and walking right back out. Instead they set aside copies of all those comics, bagged ’em up, and let buyers pick them up late Saturday afternoon, once all the furor and hubbub had subsided. I went for it. I liked the idea of playing the role of patron, donating extra cash to help facilitate Free Comic Book Day for other folks in town, in a way that would help my shop offset the costs.

I spent the rest of Saturday night and nearly all of Sunday reading all 52 and then posting my impressions on Twitter after each comic, along with photo excerpts from every single comic. I took photos rather than scans because (a) our scanner sometimes ruins the hard work of comics colorists, (b) I wanted to capture the feel of comics on actual physical paper, (c) I wanted to test my new phone, and (d) snapping pics was faster than scanning. This reading/photography project took until 11:30 p.m Sunday night to complete, and would’ve taken until sometime Tuesday if I hadn’t cut corners somewhere. I had to put this entry off for a few days because I needed a break after spending so, so much time with them all.

This entry, then, is a condensed version of that epic-length tweetstorm: my ranking of the twenty best books of the bunch, followed by my six least favorites of the entire stack. I never trust a comics reviewer or website that shares nothing but relentlessly glowing opinions — nor, conversely do I trust a critic who hates all comics and can’t be pleased — so this is my way of not becoming that which I disparage.

Up first: that happy Top 20. On with the countdown!

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Happy Free Comic Book Day 2018!

Free Comic Book Day!

One-third of this year’s FCBD reading pile.

It’s that time of year again! Today marked the seventeenth Free Comic Book Day, that annual celebration when comic shops nationwide offer no-strings-attached goodies as a form of community outreach in honor of that time-honored medium where words and pictures dance in unison on the printed page, whether in the form of super-heroes, monsters, cartoon all-stars, licensed merchandise, or entertaining ordinary folk. It’s one of the best holidays ever for hobbyists like me who’ve been comics readers since the days when drugstores sold them for thirty-five cents each and Jean Grey had never died before.

Each year, America’s remaining comic book shops (and a handful in the UK that can afford the extra shipping charges) lure fans and curious onlookers inside their brick-and-mortar hideaways with a great big batch of free new comics from all the major publishers and a bevy of smaller competitors deserving shelf space and consideration. It’s easy to remember when to pin it on the calendar because it’s always the first Saturday of every May and virtually always coincidental with a major movie release. Some folks were concerned about a break in tradition when Avengers: Infinity War moved up a week, but millions of psychologically devastated viewers still have it fresh in mind and haunting them to this day, so there’s no danger of anyone forgetting about superheroes in the near future.

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My Free Comic Book Day 2017 Results, Best to Least Best

Spectacular Spider-Man!

Spidey and the Vulture, both older than they’ll appear in the next film. Art by Paolo Siqueira, Frank D’Armata, and one of the four credited inkers.

On May 6th my wife and I had the pleasure of once again observing Free Comic Book Day, the least fake holiday of them all. Readers of multiple demographics, thankfully including lots 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. This year’s assortment saw a metric ton of all-ages comics far outnumbering the adults-only options, served up by a plethora of publishers great and small, hopefully many of whom will still be around a year from now.

I never grab copies of everything, and this year I restrained myself a bit more than usual. Sometimes reviewing comics can be fun, but I wasn’t in the mood to read that many kids’ comics in a row. Also left behind were a few books based on cartoons and movies, reminders that some publishers see comics more as a second-tier merchandising stream than as a literary medium unto itself.

The fifteen comics in my FCBD 2017 reading pile came out as follows, ranked from Totally Not For Me to I Would Pay Monies For More, complicated by the fact that several of these contain two or more stories. I considered concocting some sort of system involving grade-weighting and averages that would even up the scores, but ultimately I’ve decided to base everything on subjective non-math and internal whims instead. As most listicles are.

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10 Tips for Having a Super Awesome Free Comic Book Day

Free Comic Book Day 2017!

Harley Quinn, Spider-Gwen, and Ms. Marvel welcome you to a whole wide world of whimsy and wonder!

It’s that time of year again! Today marked the sixteenth annual Free Comic Book Day, the one official holiday in my lifelong hobby when comic book shops across America lure in fans and curious onlookers with a great big batch of free new comics from all the major publishers and a bevy of smaller competitors deserving shelf space and consideration. It’s easy to remember when to pin it on the calendar because it’s always the first Saturday of every May and virtually always coincidental with a major movie release (in 2017’s case, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2). It’s also easy to notice if you live near a comic shop and the parking spaces are much scarcer than normal.

I’m too late for this entry to be immediately useful, but for future generations who might be considering participating in the joy of reading and/or the rush for freebies, we offer the following ideas for maximizing your graphic storytelling holiday to the fullest extent, whether you’re brand new to comics collecting or a savvy peer who likes nodding along with solid reminders.

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My Free Comic Book Day 2016 Results, Best to Least Best

Deadpool!

Our annual Free Comic Book Day tradition saw us once again at Indianapolis’ own Downtown Comics North, where cosplayers are always on hand to greet kids, accompanying adults, and regulars alike. Naturally for pop culture’s Year of Deadpool there was Deadpool, so please enjoy Deadpool because Deadpool.

On May 7th my wife and I had the pleasure of once again observing Free Comic Book Day, the least fake holiday of them all. Readers of multiple demographics, thankfully including lots 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. This year’s assortment saw more all-ages comics than ever, so this wasn’t just an outreach to longtime fortysomething collectors who need no further enticement.

I never grab copies of everything, but this year I got a little more grabby than I thought. This entry was procrastinated days past its relevance expiration date because it took me that much longer to find the free time to read them all, even those I could speed through in three minutes flat. In my mind, regardless of total consumption minutes, each issue ought to be a satisfying experience for any new reader who opens the cover without any foreknowledge. Historically, each publisher’s offerings tend to fall into one of six story levels, ranked here in order from “Best Possible Display of Generosity and Salesmanship” to “Had to Slap SOMETHING Together, So Whatever”:

1. New, complete, done-in-one story
2. Complete story reprinted from existing material
3. A complete chapter of a new story with a proper chapter ending
4. Partial excerpt from an upcoming issue that will also contain all these same pages
5. No story, just random pinups or art samples
6. Disposable ad flyer shaped like a comic

Surprisingly, none of this year’s samples settled for option 5 or 6. Good show, publishers.

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My Free Comic Book Day 2015 Results, Best to Least Best

Secret Wars FCBD 2015!

Valeria Richards addresses her troops in Secret Wars #0. Art by Paul Renaud.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: my wife and I observed Free Comic Book Day 2015 this past Saturday. Readers of multiple demographics, thankfully including lots 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. As an incentive for the younger recruits, the shop we visited split the all-ages material apart from the rest and put up “KIDS ONLY” signs discouraging greedy adults from hoarding everything and leaving nothing behind in their wake.

I never grab copies of everything, and this year I took even fewer items than usual because I don’t really have the time or inclination to be the guy who thinks he’s obligated to read and respond to everything. I came away with a dozen comics of varying interest levels and finished reading the last of them the next morning. In my mind, each issue ought to be a satisfying experience for any new reader who opens the cover without any foreknowledge. Historically, each publisher’s offerings tend to fall into one of six story levels, ranked here in order from “Best Possible Display of Generosity and Salesmanship” to “Had to Slap SOMETHING Together, So Whatever”:

1. New, complete, done-in-one story
2. Complete story reprinted from existing material
3. A complete chapter of a new story with a proper chapter ending
4. Partial excerpt from an upcoming issue that will also contain all these same pages
5. No story, just random pinups or art samples
6. Disposable ad flyer shaped like a comic

The twelve comics in my FCBD 2015 reading pile came out as follows, from least favorite to definite favorite:

Right this way for the countdown!

The Heroes of Our Free Comic Book Day 2015

Bat-Villains!

Even those dastardly Bat-Villains love Free Comic Book Day because it’s the one day of the year they can have nice new things without resorting to theft or deathtraps.

Happy Free Comic Book Day! The fourteenth annual celebration of graphic storytelling narratives and/or floppy funnybooks was a rousing success, far as we could tell from our single stop at Indianapolis’ own Downtown Comics North. In years past I’ve made road trips to visit multiple stores for the occasion, but our schedule was too packed with other obligations and joys. Regardless, ’twas a morning well spent, money well spent for a few items, and an experience fully enjoyed.

Right this way for FCBD photos! Including cosplay!

Free Comic Book Day 2014 Results, Part 2 of 2: the Other Half of the Stack

Batman Beyond IN "Futures End"

Batman Beyond vs. Batwingbot and Squirebot in DC’s apocalyptic Futures End. Art by Patrick Zircher.

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:

This way to skim The Rest!

Free Comic Book Day Results, Part 1 of 2: the Better Half of the Stack

Avatar vs. Fantasy Dudebros

Even in the world of Avatar: the Last Airbender. some guys think they gotta dominate everything. Art by Faith Erin Hicks.

As previously recounted, 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?

Of the nearly five dozen items offered to retailers nationwide, my wife and I carried away twenty-five in all, in addition to numerous other items I purchased using money instead of good will. My favorites from my FCBD 2014 reading pile were the following:

This way for this year’s Top 12!

Indianapolis Wins at Free Comic Book Day 2014

Free Comic Book Day 2014 for Kids!

Happy Free Comic Book Day! The thirteenth annual celebration of graphic storytelling narratives and/or floppy funnybooks was a rousing success, judging by the sights my wife and I saw at the three Indianapolis stores we visited. This year’s intent rightly wasn’t to reward the adults for sticking with the hobby through thick and thin. As you can tell by the above photo, including and entertaining today’s children was a major priority. Sure, many of them were based on beloved properties from other media, but those who looked carefully could find some original creations seeking their attention as well.

This way for photos! And cosplay! And more comics!

Free Comic Book Day 2014 is Nigh!

Free Comic Book Day 2014That magical day is here once again! the thirteenth annual Free Comic Book Day is happening this Saturday, May 3rd, coinciding with the long-awaited U.S. theatrical release of Amazing Spider-Man 2. What better way to maximize your otherworldly weekend experience than to have your favorite media teaming up against the forces of illiteracy and doldrums?

For those just joining us: every year since 2002, the greatest American comic book shops participate in the hobby’s largest outreach effort to alert the world that comic books are a viable force for expression and entertainment, have plenty to offer, aren’t just for kids, aren’t just for lusty young-adult males, and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The overriding message here, especially if you consider the wide assortment up for grabs this year:

Comics Are For Everyone.

This way for links and advice and a short video!

Free Comic Book Day 2013 Results, Part 3 of 3: Worlds Beyond Marvel and DC

Atomic Robo, Red 5 Comics

Atomic Robo: an essential part of every Free Comic Book Day.

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?

And now the conclusion, focusing on smaller publishers that demand and/or deserve equal attention:

Marble Season (Drawn & Quarterly) — Celebrated Love and Rockets co-creator Gilbert Hernandez, sallies forth into all-ages territory with slice-of-life vignettes of a ’60s childhood in which marbles were a game option before “gaming” was a common verb, kids routinely spoke in benign non sequitur, secret clubs didn’t involve violent hazing, and super-hero role-playing required neither rulebooks nor electricity. Each scene free-flows into the next without need for an overall “story arc” driving the narrative — it’s just the life of kids bouncing each off each other and drifting from one activity to the next. If Peanuts had been less punchline-driven and maybe a tad edgier (we sure never saw Linus and Lucy trying to understand a celebrity suicide) but with the same skewed innocence and underlying heart, the result would’ve looked a lot like this. One of the year’s best FCBD offerings.

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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.

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Free Comic Book Day 2013 Results, Part 1 of 3: Familiar Names and Faces

Star Wars, Dark Horse Comics

From “The Assasination of Darth Vader” by Brian Wood and Ryan Odagawa.

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?

My reading results were as follows:

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Indianapolis Wins at Free Comic Book Day 2013

Free Comic Book Day, costumes, DC Comics, 2013

My wife and I are pleased to report that Free Comic Book Day 2013 was certainly a success at Downtown Comics on Indianapolis’ northside location. Not only were the costumed heroes out in full force as shown above — not to mention villains such as Harley and Ivy, and sometimes Catwoman –but in all of FCBD’s twelve years of existence and outreach, this was the first time I’ve had to wait in line for over half an hour to enter the shop.

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May 4th is Free Comic Book Day 2013! Go Get Some!

Free Comic Book Day 2013I would be remiss in my comics fandom if I didn’t take a moment to plug the heck out of the twelfth annual Free Comic Book Day. And no one likes being remiss. No one.

Each year since 2002, American comic book shops participate in the hobby’s largest outreach effort, to alert the world that comic books are still being published, aren’t all terrible, and would be even better if more people bought them so that they could afford to make even more comics, or at least afford to make their current comics even better and prevent their writers and artists from being lured away by other, better-paying media. To that end, comic shops nationwide hand out free comics to any and all visitors — not all their comics, mind you, or else they all go bankrupt and Free Comic Book Day defeats itself. Rather, all the major comic book publishers, an impressive number of semi-major publishers, and a crowd of eager indie startups each publish their own FCBD specials for the occasion — usually all-new stories available nowhere else, except for a couple of Scrooge-like companies who serve lukewarm reprints, under the impression that newcomers will be none the wiser.

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Tomorrow’s Publishers Mine Yesterday’s Concepts for Today’s Freebies (FCBD, Part 3 of 3)

Thus the trilogy concludes:

Donald Duck Family Comics (Fantagraphics) — After previous stints with Gladstone, Hamilton, and BOOM!, Disney relocates their American reprint license once more. Fortunately Fantagraphics knows a thing or two about quality reprints. The FCBD trial offer is a satisfying dose of Carl Barks’ classic Duck stories for the next generation. Funnier than Archie, more inventive than Harvey Comics, frequently smarter than the super-heroes of their time — Barks’ works deserve perpetual reintroduction to every incoming class of freshman comics fans.

Green Lantern/Young Justice Super Sampler/Superman Family Adventures Flipbook (DC Comics) — Art Baltazar and Franco, the minds behind Tiny Titans, open Side A with a done-in-one Hal Jordan tale that’s a basic fight scene with an oooooold foe name Myrwhydden, who’s like Mr Mxyzptlk minus pranks. At least it’s a complete story, unlike the other two shorts: a five-page Young Justice excerpt pitting them against burglars who can’t hit a target point-blank with a semiautomatic; and a five-page excerpt from a Baltazar/Franco Clark/Lois/Jimmy story for kids. The Young Justice show is in a bad time slot for me, and I’ve no interest in the new GL cartoon (viewed superficially from outside, it seems to turn the Lantern factions into squabbling space gangs), but I appreciate what they’re doing in the comics versions for wee would-be readers.

The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Angel (Yen Press) — Manga about a stupid girl who follows the orders of complete strangers and can’t believe it when they bring her a world of hurt. She finds surprise accompaniment in a fellow captive who’s fortunately a homicide detective. Also, she can shape-shift into another girl. Walking into this blindly, I lost out on any nuance and was disappointed in the naive protagonist. If you know the names Cassandra Clare or The Mortal Instruments, some or all of this may mean much more to you.

Worlds of Aspen 2012 (Aspen) — The lead feature, Homecoming, is about a teenage boy whose life changes when a naked space blonde appears in his shower, aliens smash up his school, and his best friends receive super-powers that leave them deformed but happy. He’s the perfect Mary Sue for the book’s intended audience. Also enclosed are promo pinups of breasts and characters from other series, as well as a preview of a genuinely promising new series called Idolized with surprising emotional heft to its superhero-reality-show premise. Despite the decompressed storytelling, it may be worth monitoring.

The New 52 #1 (DC Comics) — A vivid sampler of appealing, professional artwork from several upcoming titles. Then I went back and read all the word balloons, and now I’m bewildered, lost, and not the least bit curious about what happens in any of them except China Mieville’s Dial H, the first issue of which I already picked up last Wednesday. The thrust of the book seems to be heroes pounding on heroes, not terribly dissimilar from Marvel’s own Avengers vs. X-Men crossover event of 2012, which I’m equally not reading. If you like Justice League pinups in which they attack each other instead of any bad guys, here some are. Personally, I lament a comic universe where every hero’s Rogues Gallery is simply a list of all the other heroes.

Intrinsic #1 (Arcana Comics) — Chapter one of the company’s major summer crossover event that will feature prominently in over two dozen different Arcana series, costar potentially hundreds of Arcana characters past and present, and change many an Arcana life forever. And I don’t recognize a single one of them, except possibly one series called Scrooge and Santa that may or may not be what its name implies. This reminds me of the comics I created in junior high that starred lots of my own super-creations, who had adventures cloned from my favorite comics. Each of my many characters meant something to me, but it’s hard to imagine anyone outside my own head appreciating them, their crude artwork, or their derivative nature.

Zombie Kid (Antarctic Press) — A send-up of Diary of A Wimpy Kid whose title tells you everything else you need to know. All the jokes should write themselves. Alas, if only they had, perhaps I might have finished reading this.

Select highlights from the companies whose offerings I failed to pick up:

Marvel’s selections. I procrastinated them at our first two stops, then forgot all about them at the third stop, which was nearly out of everything and put on their game face by restocking their freebie table with leftovers from previous FCBDs. If anyone needs a copy of 2010’s Shrek FCBD comic, I know a place that will hook you up.

The Valiant relaunch. I assumed (wrongly? No idea) that the contents were identical to the Valiant 2012 Sampler that I previously picked up from their C2E2 booth. X-O Manowar writer Robert Venditti cheerfully autographed my copy before I could figure out who he was.

The free Mouse Guard hardcover. How was I supposed to know that all those stacks of 48-page hardcovers were free? Seriously, though? Who gives away hardcovers? They can’t possibly be generous and shrewd, so I can only assume they’re mad.

Barnaby and Mr. O’Malley. I’d normally brake for Crockett Johnson (better known to normal folks as creator of the original, delightful Harold and the Purple Crayon books), especially under the Fantagraphics name, but I shamed myself by somehow not grabbing this at my first stop. Sure enough, the other two stores hadn’t bothered to order it. My loss.

Barry Sonnenfeld’s Dinosaurs vs. Aliens Written by Grant Morrison. Um. Er. I see. For now, pass.

Hey, Kids! Free Comics! Ask Your Parents What Those Are! (FCBD Results, Part 2 of 3)

Continuing my look at comics publishers’ attempts to lure new readers into their white vans on Free Comic Book Day 2012. For historical purposes, my previous years’ FCBD reviews can be found online for 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. The fun part is seeing which past participants are no longer in business.

Onward with more entries from this year:

Yo Gabba Gabba! (Oni Press) — Never seen the show. I haven’t kept up on today’s kid-TV because my son’s era ended right before Steve Burns exited Blue’s Clues and caused the show to jump the shark. From the cover alone, I expected this to be a two-minute shot of toddler-fodder that I’d later pawn off on one of my nephews’ Christmas stockings. Then I opened the cover and was ambushed by names I recognize and respect such as Michael Allred (Madman), Evan Dorkin (Milk and Cheese), and Sarah Dyer (Mrs. Dorkin). Three of the stories teach lessons to tiny children in cute, Dadaist ways that I’d happily share with my tykes if I ever planned to have any more. The fourth story, by Dorkin and Dyer, stars one Super-Martian-Robot-Girl, with whom this is my first encounter. It’s exactly the kind of quality irreverent hijinks I’ve come to expect from the two of them. Google tells me this is not an isolated incident. Now I want more more more more MORE because it will fill the void in my heart left by missing issues of Dorkin’s Pirate Corp$ that I was never able to track down. My nephews will have to go buy their own copies on eBay.

The Hypernaturals (BOOM! Studios) — Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, writers of several of Marvel’s cosmic-themed titles from recent years, set out to create their own mythos. In a future where the remnants of humanity are ruled by an unseen all-powerful AI, former members of their premier super-hero team look askance at their successors, embarking on their inaugural mission and at first glance not faring well. The whys and wherefores of this new future are left unexplained from the start, but the tantalizing glimmers of imagination and tragedy hint at grander sights ahead. This one might bear watching when it launches in July.

Image Twenty (Image Comics) — The proud independent celebrates two decades of success with samplers of six new series. Quickly run down: G-Man is normally fun all-ages fare, less appealing when it takes itself seriously; Guarding the Globe is a super-hero spinoff from a series I stopped reading years ago (though I do dig Todd Nauck’s art here); Crime and Terror, from the creator of 30 Days of Night, is essentially a one-page EC tale ballooned out to fill four; Revival seems promisingly spooky, about a resurgence of various undead species; It-Girl and the Atomics is a continuation of Michael Allred’s quirky super-hero team by other talented hands (so far, so good); and Near Death, whose series I’m already following, is not-bad crime drama about a former L.A. hitman trying to save lives as atonement for all his past victims. Overall, the batting average is favorable, as has been the case for much of Image’s output of late.

Transformers: Regeneration One #80.5 (IDW Publishing) — A lengthy text piece inside the front cover helpfully explains the odd title and numbering. The creative team of Marvel’s original Transformers series have now reunited to pick up where they left off 21 years ago. Several flashbacks succinctly sum up What Has Gone Before — i.e., there were these alien warrior robots who were supposed to be friends, but then they fought and fought and fought, but then the good robots won, but now some leftover evil robots want a piece of them. This sounds dismal, but it’s rather efficient and less vertiginous than the recent films. The new settings and characters are up and running in short order along with some old familiar faces, and the vague cliffhanger ending may entice the average robot-loving boys to want more. Glory days might be theirs once more if the team can recapture the 70,000 fans who were still aboard when the original series ended due to what was considered “low sales” in the 1980s. By today’s standards, 70K would place them squarely in Diamond’s Top 10 charts and easily merit half a dozen redundant spinoffs.

Finding Gossamyr/The Stuff of Legend Flipbook (Th3rd World Studios) — Side A is another entry in the burgeoning young subgenre of malfunctioning-child-math-savant sci-fi. A young woman forced to care for her “special” little brother signs him over to an evil boarding school who enlist him to solve an evil equation that will open a doorway to evil aliens from beyond. That sounded silly while typing it, but the brother and sister are introduced with heart, depth, and digital art that pops nicely in a faux-animated way. Side B is another FCBD alumnus best described as “Toy Story Goes to Narnia”. The short sample is an argument between two characters about their past failures that might be better appreciated if you’ve read the full tales of said calamities instead of just a summary. I’m guessing, anyway.

Bad Medicine (Oni Press) — Fringe minus familiar characters and alternate settings. Mostly harmless.

My Favorite Martian (Hermes Press) — A new publisher plans to reprint Gold Key Comics from the ’50s and ’60s such as Dark Shadows, The Phantom, and this one based on Ray Walston’s “classic” TV show about a one-alien sleeper cell conducting secret experiments and failing at exfiltration. Fans my age might appreciate seeing long-lost art from the underrated Dan Spiegle, but I get the impression their target audience is fans twice my age. I’ve never endured a full episode, but my wife promises it’s no My Mother, the Car. To its credit, unlike much of the FCBD competition, this is a complete done-in-one story, benign if poorly aged.

To be concluded!

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