Free Comic Book Day 2018 is over, so it’s time once more for another roundup of the best, worst and most bizarre titles which readers had their pick of. That also means that it’s time for another annual tradition: The Battle Of The Books!
Round One, as usual, begins with the battle of Britain as two of the UK’s biggest franchises go toe-to-toe. Last year, Doctor Who astonishingly dethroned 2000AD as one of Free Comic Book Day’s best comic books through some risky storytelling; meanwhile, 2000AD has been slipping lower down the ranks as they’ve been experimenting with new things. But who will be victorious this year?
The galaxy’s greatest comic has gone all out over the years, offering great value in terms of size, a variety of stories and exuding the sort of anarchy fans expect. However, this year it’s hard to know if they were taking it seriously at all, whether it was part of a clever marketing strategy, or a bad joke that didn’t have a punchline. Claiming to be “Regened”, this year’s 2000AD focused on a younger audience and was edited by Tharg…’s nephew, who brought readers tales of teenage Dredd as a cadet, a young Johnny Alpha before he became a Strontium Dog, a juvenile Future Shock, word search and spot-the-difference puzzles and a meta-fiction D.R. & Quinch adventure.
The results, for the most part, weren’t good.
Cadet Dredd and Johnny Alpha’s stories were good, with decent stories and attractive art. The Future Shock was woeful, with a punchline that simply wasn’t funny. The D.R. & Quinch story was, amazingly, even worse and made little sense. It wasn’t all bad news though, and the Intestinauts were a highlight. Plus, it made for a great introduction to some of the characters for younger readers. But for long-time fans, it was a bit of a mess.
It was a return to formula this year with three short mini-adventures – covering Doctors Ten, Seven and Eleven… with cameos from Twelve and Thirteen. Ten’s story focused on companion Gabby Gonzalez, a recap of her time as a companion in her final moments of life… with a shocking twist to the tale; Seven’s adventure shows him stopping an alien war before toasting marshmallows with his legendary companion Ace; Meanwhile, Eleven struggles to find the perfect midnight snack aboard the TARDIS before experimenting with the ordinary.
As always, these are interesting and fun little tales which don’t offer much in terms of actual story but offer a sample of what life is like for the Doctor and his companions. Are these ones enough to bring in new readers? Hopefully so, especially with the variety in tone of the three. The first is sombre and reflective, the second is playful and adventurous, while the third is quirky… but strangely unsatisfying. However, the end of the first story alone is so unexpected and fitting that it managed to generate plenty of excitement.
Making it the second straight year in a row, the win goes to Doctor Who! It may not have been perfect, but it did a solid job and offered something for fans of each Doctor. However, some of that win has to be attributed to the competition: 2000AD’s questionable premise this year, while probably necessary to attract new readers, may have also alienated some of its regular fans. It was a risky gamble, and with better writing on the last couple of stories (and the exclusion of Tharg’s nephew) it may have worked… but it didn’t.