Round two of the best, worst and most bizarre offerings of Free Comic Book Day 2018 sees old rivals Marvel and DC square off once more. Both companies are currently undergoing some serious restructuring in their storytelling, although DC got the jump on everyone this year by offering DC Nation a few days ahead of schedule for readers – a move which already has fans buzzing and shows a sense of energy about them lately.
However, Marvel’s run of popularity on the big screen lately with the one-two punch of Black Panther and Infinity War has turned minor characters in to household names. It’s the sort of publicity that money can’t buy. But at the end of the day, it’s still all about the comic books… and these two featured incredibly similar stories on the face of things. So what did their best and brightest have to offer, and which was better?
The Avengers/Captain America
Featuring two prologue stories to upcoming series, the first saw Black Panther visiting Old Asgard after being summoned by Odin. Something is coming, Odin warns him, and it’s time for Earth’s mightiest heroes to stand united once more. The source of their troubles? The return of Loki has brought about the return of the Celestials – 2000-foot-tall cosmic beings who bring death and destruction in their wake. But can the greatest Avengers assemble once more? Meanwhile, Captain America’s story questions what he truly stands for in the modern world, where concepts like truth and justice have made way for might making right.
There’s something special about seeing the Avengers getting back on the same page (literally and figuratively), and the set-up here is a well-told story in its own right. However, for all the dread that the Celestials inspire amongst long-time readers they still seem a little intangible at this point. Likewise, for as solid an introduction to the new Captain America series the back-up teaser is, it would have maybe worked better in its own right if it had focused more on Cap and less on his opposition. Solid, but strangely anti-climactic for fans wanting to see the Avengers at their best.
Boasting undiscovered worlds, unexpected guests and unknown origins on its cover, this one had a lot to live up to. It also boasted on the cover that this would be kicking off “The Summer of events”… ugh. Like readers haven’t had enough comic book events lately. Still, right off the bat (no pun intended) they dive in to a Joker story. He’s broken in to someone’s home and is waiting for his invitation to Batman’s wedding. The second story sees Clark Kent return to his job at the Daily Planet, but is he still a great reporter and can he do the job without Lois Lane? The third story sees the Justice League allied alongside their greatest foes as they battle the giant celestial entities known as the Omega Titans in space… but who is left to defend the Earth?
The Joker tale is an interesting premise that sees the clown prince of crime at his insane and irreverent best, although it also feels oddly mean-spirited. Readers are used to seeing the countless victims he racks up, but there was something a little too tragic about this one to make the payoff work. The Superman story, however, is easily one of the best portrayals of him in recent memory. It may only be a taster of what to expect from Brian Michael Bendis’s run, but the characters seem to be handled perfectly and it should inspire confidence in the man of steel amongst his fans. The third story of the “expanded” League for their upcoming adventure is intriguing, but the scale of it seems too big to be done justice in so few pages.
While Marvel’s offering is solid and the upcoming stories seem more important, there’s no denying that this year DC’s big teaser wins out. Despite an uneven tone and not living up to the hype on the cover, the Joker story is still entertaining despite its flaws and the Superman introduction is amazing – even if it’s less flashy. On the down side, the Omega Titans don’t have the sense of menace and legendary status that the Celestials bring to the table. Will these Free Comic Book Day offerings bring jaded fans back to the big two comic book companies, and will the comic books live up to the hype? Hopefully so.