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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