In round 2 of this year’s Free Comic Book Day Battle of the Books, we’ll be taking a look at the team books for the “big two” publishers, DC and Marvel.
Of course, that means it’s time for the Justice League and the Avengers to square off once again.
However, this year it’s a different playing field, and not just because of the mixed fortunes of their on-screen counterparts. Dear Justice League is an upcoming graphic novel aimed at young middle-grade readers, while The Avengers is aiming at a very different target.
But who will win out, and which of these made their mark this Free Comic Book Day, if any?
Dear Justice League
In this preview of two chapters of the upcoming graphic novel, a young fan of Superman worries about making mistakes – and asks Superman if the legendary man of steel is truly super all the time. It turns out that Superman does, and his latest is reading his fan’s text whilst flying. It’s a mistake that creates havoc in Metropolis, leaving Superman feeling as embarrassed as anybody. Meanwhile, Hawkgirl receives an email from a fan who wants to know more about her eating habits…
While this is obviously isn’t targeted at adults, it’s fun seeing a story like this and it’s clear that it’s aimed both at familiarising kids with the DC heroes, teaching them life lessons… and entertaining them. Superman creating unintentional chaos around Metropolis resembles the beginning of the film Superman III a little too much, which isn’t a good thing, and at times it may seem a little too goofy, but there’s also a wonderful sense of heartwarming charm to it all. As for Gustavo Duarte’s artwork, his ability to have characters tell a story mostly through body language makes him the perfect choice for this title. While this won’t be for everybody, for younger readers this is a real score.
The Avengers (plus Savage Avengers)
It’s time for Tony Stark to explain a few things… but first, he has to figure out where – and when – he is. There’s a lot happening in the world, but does any of it explain what he’s doing in a frozen wasteland and facing prehistoric creatures? While Namor battles the Squadron Supreme, Ghost Rider, Blade and Black Panther need to perform an exorcism on Ghost Rider’s car and Captain Marvel and her squad battle for the fate of the universe. Meanwhile, Wolverine tracks down an old friend…
This is a mixed bag in everything from art and storytelling to overall quality. Both The Avengers and Savage Avengers show a lot of potential here, but the excerpts of both come across like a jumbled mess that doesn’t do a good job of hooking readers. There are plenty of characters and familiar faces on display but, without more context of what’s happening in their stories, there’s no way of telling if it’s worth buying their titles. While the artwork is solid and each creates a unique tone, having them next to each other makes it all look unfocused.
And then there’s the Squadron Supreme.
Yes, for years the Squadron Supreme has been Marvel’s satire of the Justice League and, as such, they’re usually a bit of a punching bag to make fun at the Distinguished Competition. However, to highlight them on Free Comic Book Day – even as a promotional teaser for a storyline – feels like hitting below the belt. As Stark makes comments like “I’ve never considered myself an enemy of DC” (a pun about government interference) and knocks DC for trying to do the superhero thing better than the Avengers, it comes across as needlessly mean-spirited. Marvel may be ruling the box office right now, but this comes across as poor sportsmanship and if anything may be a turn-off to some readers.
While neither of these were particularly must-have comic books this Free Comic Book Day, the winner has to be Dear Justice League… depending on the age of the reader. The sense of wonder of superheroes, especially to younger readers, is sometimes lost these days. Dear Justice League may be simple but it’s far more elegant than most books, and far more fun than The Avengers – which seems too intent on throwing everything at the readers at once and scoring some cheap hits on DC. That isn’t to say that The Avengers isn’t good, and there’s certainly plenty on display but, in terms of quality over quantity, there’s no contest at all.