The first Saturday in May each year celebrates Free Comic Book Day, a day when when participating comic book shops around the world give away comic books absolutely FREE to anyone who enter their stores. With so many to choose from, just how do we know which ones are worth grabbing? We’ve compiled quite a long list of short reviews (includes a synopsis) of the majority the comics we can expect on offer come Saturday. While the majority of the comic books on offer are good, some stood out above the others.
V Wars (IDW)
A great Vampire thriller that takes place in a world where everyone is infected with the vampire virus, they are just unsure of when they will turn. Morals are tested, making monsters of men. Our protagonist is left questioning what it means to be human.
Summer Blast (Kaboom)
This giant issue features a range of awesome titles crammed into one FCBD bumper issue. Featuring comics such as Adventure Time, Steven Universe, Regular Show, Peanuts, Garfield and a mystery comic; making for colourful artistic entertainment.
Rocket Racoon/Ultimate Spider-Man (Marvel)
Marvel treats us to two visually strong stories. Rocket Raccoon boasts some great illustrations and action sequences. But whilst both Ultimate Spiderman and Rocket Raccoon are shown in full colour and feature great artwork, Rocket Raccoon is the more enjoyable of the two and it serves its purpose of introducing this character to a new generation.
Project Black Sky (Dark Horse)
This comic features both Captain Midnight and Brain Boy as they team up to fight a Giant Gorilla that has been infused with some rather advanced technology. The art on display in this issue is unbelievable and the best part is that readers will be getting this hard work for free! Most of the issue is in colour until the art shifts to show each step of the development process. Not only is this a great read but it also educates the reader about the hard work behind the scenes of a great comic.
Free-For-All (Bongo Comics)
Bongo Comics offer a collection of Simpson’s based comics that feature the people of Springfield, as well as the infamous Itchy and Scratchy. A definite favourite in this collection has to be the misadventures of Millhouse as he attempts to gain super-powers, asking Bart of all people for not only assistance but guidance. Each story has a little superhero theme at its core.
The Adventures of Jellaby (Capstone)
This story is definitely one aimed at the kids. It tells the tale of Jellaby, a lost monster who befriends a human named Portia. This issue offers a few short stories, including a brief origin of the friendship between Jellaby and Portia. Each tale is filled with fun, imagination and youthful adventure. The art is great and really brings out the best in this colourful title.
Hip Hop Family Tree (Fantagraphics)
I doubt we will be seeing this one on our shores in South Africa and it is actually a real pity. This comic focuses on the history behind some Hip Hop greats. This comic features the likes of Grand Master Flash, Kool Moe Dee, Afrika Bambaataa, LL Cool J and many more hip hop greats as it infuses the comic world with the truth behind Hip Hop culture. Although it may feature some cuss words, these are the days of good Hip Hop, when it was about talent and team-ups as artists worked together in order to create a new sound and a new movement. The art in this issue is great and the pages have been yellowed in order to give it that Old School feel.
Transformers vs. G.I. Joe (IDW)
IDW offers a re-mastering of a classic cross over that features two of Hasbro’s major franchises. The colours are bright and psychedelic, lending to the time period of its initial release. Fanboys of either of these franchises should definitely grab this issue as it will wake up those feelings of nostalgia for sure. Another reason to grab this issue is the fact that it shows you just why Snake Eyes has to wear a mask.
Guardians of the Galaxy (Marvel)
This issue is made of three parts, the first being an introduction to each team member of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Flash Thompson, aka Agent Venom, is approached by Tony Stark and offered a spot on the team of the Galactic Guardians. This leads to Flash Thompson and the reader being briefed on each team member and their motivation for what they do. This issue serves its purpose well as it brings readers up to speed with the team behind Marvel’s next cinematic success. The second part of the story deals with another Galactic threat in the form of Thanos, as he attempts to reveal a little more about his character to the reader. The final section is known as “Staging Ground”. It shows Spiderman in an adventure that happened decades ago at the Globe Theatre. The art and costumes are great in this offering as it shows us just what the Spider-Verse has to offer.
All You Need Is Kill/ Terra Formars(VIZ)
Viz Media offers the reader two different tales, both with aliens at the center. “All You Need Is Kill” is a read that is receiving rave reviews at the moment. The protagonists are left fighting a threat that is constantly evolving…literally! This is a graphic novel adaption of this successful manga, so this is an English adaptation that is presented in full colour. Not too sure the purists will be too happy about this FCBD preview. “Terra Formars” still looks and reads like a Manga, it has been kept in the black and white tradition of Manga and the character designs suit what one would expect from the genre. It tells the tale of a group of astronauts as they travel to Mars but are taken by surprise when they discover that Mars is not exactly uninhabited. This issue offers a biography on each team member as well making it a worthy choice for FCBD 2014; it would have been an excellent choice had “All You Need Is Kill” been the Japanese version.
Maddy Kettle Book 1/Monster on the Hill (Topshelf)
Topshelf productions offers the FCBD crowd two titles crammed into a 26 pages issue. Maddy Kettlebook 1 features some great, highly detailed art in a tale that is mostly aimed at the kid crowd although it does feature some rather scary looking villains. The story looks dark using lots of black in the shading as well as dark inks in the colouring. Monster on the Hill is more of a colourful read that does not take itself too seriously. Monster on the hill features good art and colours however you cannot help but feel that Maddy is the main attraction in this one even though both scripts are not exactly memorable.
Les Miserables: The Fall of Fantine (Udon Manga Classic)
This 52 page issue gives the reader the Manga adaptation of a classic story… Les Miserables. The black and white art by TszMei Lee is amazing and really suits the story quite well. Victor Hugo’s classic is done justice in this media as this issue proves that it is not a ploy to make an extra buck out of this classic tragedy. If you are looking for a classic retold in a fresh new way; this is definitely the comic for you on FCBD 2014.
Street Fighter #0 (Udon)
This issue collects three stories from the different street fighter titles currently on offer. The first story, “Hong Kong Hustle” features the likes of Ken Masters and Chun Li as they protect Ken’s new apprentice from the dangers of a colourful and wonderfully presented Hong Kong. The second story, “Keep Your Enemies Closer” follows one of Street Fighters newest villains; Juri; as she attempts to find a way on to the winning team of villains now that M Bison has been defeated and possibly killed. Will Seth accept her assistance or will she be tossed aside and deemed unworthy? “Beyond the Hills” focuses on Akuma and is taken from the Akuma Origins Graphic Novel which was thoroughly enjoyable. The art in each page of this story is rather amazing as it allows the reader to understand just what lead to Akuma becoming one of the best characters of this very franchise. Having read the graphic novel, this sample is definitely a treat that will hopefully encourage you to do the same.
Atomic Robo, Bodie Troll and Haunted (Red 5 Comics)
Red 5 Comics gives us a 32 pager that shows all the projects that they have on offer for 2014. Each story on offer here is rather great and presented with some rather impressive illustrations. The story offered by each title serves its purpose well and that is to entertain and get new readership. Haunted is definitely the most impressive of the three and looks like an ongoing readers should be following.
Spongebob (United Plankton Pictures)
This comic is a collection of funnies that originate from the Spongebob TV show. So expect to see Spongebob, Patrick, Squidward, Mermaid Man and more. The comic also aims to educate as it teaches young readers about the habitats of sea creatures. A firm favourite here is also an educational short story as Spongebob attempts to teach Patrick about the magic behind the creation of comics. This is something that rings true to the industry and many familiar with it will have a good chuckle.
Fubar: The Ace of Spades (Alterna)
This comic is a military based zombie thriller, like Image’s The Walking Dead; this entire issue is presented in black and white, the illustrations are strong and hyper violent, with zombies tearing through the flesh of the living. A group of American soldiers are tasked with retrieving Saddam from his headquarters in Iraq, all seems to go according to plan until Saddam proves he has an Ace up his sleeve and that a nuclear bomb was not exactly his weapon of mass destruction. This is definitely a title for the mature reader as it offers some explicit violence and swearing.
SCAM: Crosswords (Epic)
This FCBD issue offers two stories that focus on characters of the Scam family. The first focuses on a mastermind named Crosswords; he is a man behind a mask that has made himself a millionaire thanks to his combination of genius and bloodlust. This story is ridiculously violent but it gets the point across; that you should not cross Crosswords! The second story shows Pint a Scam team member with a unique talent. The more he drinks the more powered up he gets. He is capable of feats that rival Superman; the only problem being that he is totally hammered when pulling them off. This story is rather entertaining and offers some humour as well. Both of these stories work well together and create an entertaining read.
Zombie Tramp/Ehmm Theory (Action Labs Danger Zone)
This issue comes with a “Mature Readers Only” warning for a reason, so make sure you do not get your 6 year old a copy of this, unless you like explanations. Zombie Tramp tells us of the origin of our protagonist Janey and what let her to be the Zombie entity that she is today. This issue manages to offer a great origin story within 10 pages. Ehmm Theory has always been a great read filled with humour, great art and colourful characters. The story on offer here deals with the concept of inter-dimensional time travelling as we meet a bad ass version of Gabe and Mr Whiskers as they warp into the current dimension that the story is taking place in. Both issues offer great stories filled with action of the violent nature!
Skyward/Midnight Tiger (Action Lab Comics)
Skyward is definitely one of the front runners when it comes to Action Lab Comics, it offers a great fantasy story that feels like an RPG as you get to see the protagonist Quinn grow with each issue. The art in Skyward is top notch and this issue tells the story of why the Berserkers are a divided force and no longer unified in strength. The minute I saw this cover advertised by Action Labs I could not help but notice an interesting superhero. Midnight Tiger is set to be an ongoing title under the licence of Action Lab and this FCBD issue sees the hero creep onto the pages for his very first outing. This issue tells us exactly of his origin and how his costume came to be. Both comics on offer are brightly coloured and youthful. Well suited to the target audience and the protagonists alike. This issue also offers an interview with both of the comic creators as they answer those pending questions.
Steam Wars (Antartic Press)
Steam Wars is, as you guessed it, a steam-punk version of a Star Wars adventure… with anime flair to it. All the characters are based on characters from the Star Wars franchise. Only, dare I say it, the Steam Punk influenced art has made it more enjoyable than the usual Star Wars comics. The art is anime like and that is thanks to some great colouring and illustrations. I mean how awesome is it that the traditional lightsaber has been replaced by a Fencing Sword that has been infused with Electrical energy? Each character is given a refreshing new look and this really makes for a great, creative read even though it is based on a timeless classic.
Mouse Guard (Archaia)
Mouse Guard is definitely a firm favourite amongst the Free Comic Book Day crowd. People gather at our venue each year looking to grab this title and now I finally understand why. This FCBD issue is amazing. The 48 page issue offers 6 different stories all crammed under the guise of Mouse Guard. Other titles include: Rust, Labyrinth, Bolivar, Will o’ the Wisp and Farscape. The sheer talent on offer here will leave the reader in awe. Not only do you get a great short story but the illustration and colouring in each and every offering is highly detailed and impeccable! This is definitely a title that will fly off of the shelves once again at FCBD 2014!
Scratch 9 (Hp)
Scratch 9 is definitely aimed at the younger kids, it is brightly coloured and not exactly thought provoking. It is more a sort of entertainment for younger readers to pick up and relate to after all the heroes and villains are animals you could find at your local pet store. While dealing with not so normal situations the protagonists are just ordinary pets and kids. Also on offer is Run and Amuk, however at the time of reading this review the second story on offer was still in its mock up stages. All we know right now is that Amuk was a pup that fell into the “Lake of the Sun” transforming him into a tough as nails, giant sized beast. Both stories are colourful and aim to capture the hearts and minds of the younger readership. I can only rate on what I have seen thus far, ` but this will not be a complex read due to its target.
The Smurfs (Papercutz)
Papercutz make use of The Smurfs in order to grab the attention of readers at this year’s FCBD. This issue will feature a number of short stories such as: The Annoying Orange, Dinosaurs and Ariol as well as The Smurfs. The art on display is so vast but one thing rings true throughout and that is the fact that the detail is great. The focus is not solely on entertainment either some stories aim to educate as well. This is a great read for younger viewers; filled with bright colouring and unique lettering, this is set to be a hit amongst the younger members in the crowd.
Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man Flipbook (Archie Comics)
At the time of receiving the review copies, Sonic was yet to be coloured and lettered, all that was able to be seen was the illustrations in their raw form. But this did not in any way steal from an enjoyable issue. The Mega Man comic was almost complete and this was definitely a strong title, featuring some great art and colouring. The Mega Man issue provided some great entertainment that aimed on furthering the protagonist of this major franchise. This issue focuses on the dawn of a new Mega Man, a man that is said to be Last son of Dr. Light, a man that has waited 100 years to be awoken…Mega Man X. Both issues possess great extras that explain the story thus far, but with Sonic lacking so much detail due to its pending completion I can only rate on what I have seen thus far.
Entropy (Epicentre Comics)
Entrophy tells the tale of a future where society is divided into two classes known as “The Haves” and “The Have Nots”. The future is controlled by a government that destroys any opposition and any threat that might taint the minds of their modern society. But as you would expect, freedom is always something that is worth fighting for. The art in this issue is great; it is highly detailed and complements the complex script that is on offer. This issue is definitely for the mature reader, one that is able to cope with some explicit violence. This preview also contains two short stories: Vegetable and Crosses, both of which cater to the adult reader as well.
Epic (Comix Tribe)
Epic is a Zero Issue that aims to introduce a new, youthful superhero to the genre. Much like the protagonist the art aims to keep that youthful vigour as it offers bright colours and is not a story that is supposed to be taken too seriously. Featuring a colourful cast of villains’ Epic makes for a witty read that does not pull any punches. This comic does a great job of showing us exactly how a teen would most likely react to the responsibility of superpowers.
Ipso Facto (Automatic Pictures Comics)
This self-published sees its first print ready for Free Comic Book Day. It is great to see a title like this being shared amongst other titles on the free comic book shelves at this year’s celebration. This first issue is all about an awakening. Mosel was just an ordinary teenager until he met a strange man that told him that he is destined for greatness. Not much is known about this strange man named Brezny but one thing is for certain, he knows about the future and that Mosel will need to save it. Featuring Johannesburg South Africa, this comic presents a mature title that presents a global threat. The script is great and offers good narration accompanied by a lot of cussing and explicit sexual references in this one, so this is not a title for fledglings.
Courtney Crumrin (ONI Press)
Holly is the new girl in Hillsborough, being labelled an outsider was nothing new to her so she was used to the rejection she would face at her new school. Then during lunch she notices Courtney “Bad News” Crumrin. A girl labelled as being a witch, the current loner at the school. Intrigued by the fact that there is another like her, Holly attempts to befriend the cold Courtney Crumrin. After being ignored by Courtney, Holly gets up and leaves. After reaching out, she failed at another friendship, lost in isolation Holly takes a walk home, but little did she know that this walk would change her life forever. Courtney Crumrin is a great read for all ages, it boasts some great writing and some excellent illustrations and dark colouring. My only question is… where is Courtney’s nose?
Uncle Scrooge: A Matter of Some Gravity (Fantagraphics)
Fantgraphics shares some stories featuring prominent ducks from the Disney family. This issue features two stories; one featuring Uncle Scrooge and his nephews and the other featuring Uncle Donald and his nephews. This issue is highly detailed and feels like classic Disney as they make use of classic colouring that does not look like it has been done digitally. Whilst the illustrations have great pencilling, the colouring feels rather bland especially in this day and age. Sure it is a classic read but it will not be winning new readers over, this will only please those readers that are looking for that nostalgic feeling.
Buck Rogers (Hermes Press)
This is another Buck Rogers collection of short stories as Hermes Press reprints classics in order to give readers a taste of the past. Readers will be travelling back into time as they experience where it all started. Whilst most stories are re-issued prints, there is modern story on offer at the conclusion of this 32 page issue. Although the review copy was not 100 percent complete it is safe to say that this issue will be a hit amongst the readers that know what Buck Rogers is all about, young readers will most likely avoid this title as the art and colouring will look outdated to them.
The Intrinsic (Arcana)
Digitally rendered art can be a hit and a miss at times. Whilst this issue offers a great story and cast of characters, one cannot help but feel that this art has held the issue back, even if it is ever so slightly. The Intrinsic tells the story of a group of Philosophers. Philosophers are individuals, not necessarily human, that have been charged with protecting mankind from the supernatural. Philosophers are powerful magicians. The main character in this origin issue is Rex, he is called upon by the High Council of Philosophers. The story uses this as an opportunity to introduce the main cast of characters and set up the plot; as someone is trying to shut down The Intrinsic.
Dumbest Idea Ever (Scholastic)
Scholastic gives us a youthful adventure that caters for all ages; Jimmy had it all he was the top of his class when it came to both sports and academics. He probably had the girls weak at the knees, but Jimmy’s life was about to change thanks to all types of sicknesses. Jimmy missed the Basketball Championships, then he ended up missing school; his grades dropped almost as quickly as his popularity. How would Jimmy fix all of this and get his dream date…by creating a comic of course. There is something enjoyable about this read, from the illustrations to the lettering; everything works well together as it tells a story that is humorous and really relative to FCBD.
Showa (Drawn Quarterly)
This comic tells a Japanese classic and is set to be read right to left as it is presented in the traditional Japanese form. Shigeru Mizuki presents historical events in a fun light, this book offers lots of different styles of illustrating; all of which are in the traditional black and white Manga style. There are moments where the story makes a serious point ant the illustrations back it up, and then there are other times when the focus is on humour and once again the art gets the point across. Shigeru shows that he is able to intertwine Manga and realism and this creates a sheer work of art; a timeless classic!
Finding Gossamyr (Th3rd World Studios)
I look at this cover and I immediately think of Disney’s Frozen but do not be fooled by this cover as this story is unique in its own right. Only having been able to view ten pages thus far, it is safe to say that his is an adventure title that features some stellar colouring and illustration. Eloric wants to be more that what he seems destined to be. He no longer wants to farm and plough the lands in order to keep Wyrms happy. Eloric wants to be a Bladeslinger, the warriors of the land. But is Eloric worthy enough to wield the blade or is he too immature to handle that sort of responsibility? Only time will tell.
The Tick (New England Comics Press)
This issue collects two stories one full length comic and one short story that is three pages long. As usual when it comes to this title, nothing is meant to be taken too seriously. The Tick comes to the rescue when superheroes like him end up being shrunk along with the city they have been sworn to protect. The issue is bright and colourful; definitely leaning towards getting newer, younger readers interested in this title.
In true 2000AD fashion, this issue is made up of a range of short stories. This 48 page issue has loads of different stories on offer, making it the gem of the FCBD titles this year. Stories come from a range of well-known titles such as: Rogue Trooper Anderson’s Psi Division, Absalom, Slaine and Judge Dredd. Each story features its own team of illustrators so the reader is getting the best that the title has to offer. The art in Slaine is just amazing and it is definitely the best out of the bunch when it comes to this FCBD treat. This book will most definitely be one of the first to fly off the freebie desk this year, so make sure you grab it and prevent yourself from living with regret for the next year.
Find a Free Comic Store Locator here: http://www.freecomicbookday.com/storelocator
At the time of print, a small number of issues weren’t available for review.