In round 3 of this year’s Free Comic Book Day Battle of the Books, we’ll be looking at two titles that went evil and broke the rules a bit – namely, by adding a cover price and by not really being a part of Free Comic Book Day’s usual routine.
Both comic books are focusing on the villains of their respective brands.
For DC, it’s to promote their Year of the Villain crossover event; for 2000AD it’s an event in itself.
But was either title so bad it was good, or did bad simply mean bad?
2000AD Villains Takeover Special:
As usual for 2000AD, Tharg presents an anthology of tales from across time and space. First up is a Judge Death story, as he experiences bad dreams and has a therapy session to help him understand why can’t kill Judge Dredd; Mister Brass and Mister Bland try to turn a profit on Nu Earth, and prove that all is fair in love and war; The Lord Weird Slough Feg gets more than he bargained for when Slaine pays him a visit; Was Tyrus Stix the best Strontium Dog of all time? Johnny Alpha might disagree; And for the Hellphibians, it’s time to mate…
Right off, the Death story is a gem and with one of the best lines ever used to describe Judge Dredd. The only weakness of it is its short length, but there’s plenty to make up for it. Brass and Bland is solid enough, and the Strontium Dog story is a brief classic. The Slaine tale, sadly, is a little bit of a let-down given the usual high quality, while the Hellphibians – a Tharg Terror Tale – is the only real disappointment, with a cringe-worthy punchline. However, after last year’s ReGened Free Comic Book Day special, this is a massive step up. At a cost of .99c (US$) or .99p (UK£) this is fantastic value for money, although being released in such close timing to FCBD that it’s practically a part of it feels questionable. Still, given the high production quality of this issue and the standard of work in it, it’s hard to argue with the results.
DC Year of the Villain preview:
The most dangerous Summer event starts here! When Lex Luthor blatantly attacks the President and Amanda Waller in the White House, he instantly makes himself a target and crosses a line that he can’t come back from. But, as always, he’s fully aware of what he’s doing and his plan is far bigger than anybody can comprehend. With Bane ready to take over Gotham, the Batman Who Laughs preparing to destroy the World’s Finest and Perpetua’s power returning, what hope do the heroes have?
It’s a little hard to know what to make of all this. On the surface, it’s a very exciting time at DC with plenty of bold moves being made across the board. On the other hand, this feels like just another “event”, the same as all the others and there’s little to make it seem more exciting. Yes, Lex Luthor seems to cross a line, but it really isn’t as shocking as is being made out. Meanwhile, Perpetua is difficult to take seriously as a genuine threat and looks ridiculous. While DC is trying to throw the kitchen sink at this one, and there’s plenty to be gleaned from this for a reasonable cost of 25c (US$), it’s impossible to see this for any more than it is: a preview, just like it says, and nothing more.
It may cost a whole lot more (relatively speaking), but 2000AD’s Villains Takeover is a more complete product with its self-contained stories. It’s certainly higher quality – in everything from artwork and writing to paper and printing format. Then again, it’s designed to be so there’s a lot of effort put into it. Meanwhile, DC’s Year of the Villain preview does nothing more than it claims to on the cover, but that’s alright too and it’s an intriguing tease of things to come.
That being said, neither of these strictly qualify as Free Comic Book Day by having a cover price, so theoretically they both lose. It isn’t that they’re bad, because they’re both good, but the Free Comic Book Day Battles have rules… even if they don’t want to follow them.