Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sat. Was FCBD For All I Care #30

Attack of the Alterna Zombies Volume 1
Blackest Night #0
Free Comic Book Day: Aliens/Predator
Mighty Archie Art Players, Free Comic Book Day Edition
Savage Dragon #148

But first, my personal Free Comic Book Day 2009 story, re-edited from a comment on another blog...

I gave up brick and mortar comic shops for monthly mail order at a hefty discount years ago, but my virtual shop started forcing me to pay $5 extra UPS shipping if I ordered a Previews. I've opted to pick one up at a shop near my girlfriend's house instead. It was actually the last physical shop I subscribed at, but under different management. I still don't like it much, though, and typically just raid their cheapie bins.

We happened to show up on Saturday, because those UPS fucks didn't appear at my place until 7:45 p.m. Friday night to confirm my lack of Previews. The shop is small, but had security to insure only one free comic per customer and a lengthy schpiel about the merits of a lousy fuckin' 10-15% discount subscription service.

I took about five FCBD issues anyway, figuring I'd pay some nominal fee for the extras. I also picked up $2 worth of dime comics. The clerk told me he was supposed to charge me $1 each for the FCBD books, which I o.k.'d, but he then waived the exorbitant fee (wholesale each is what, a dime? A quarter?) I thought he was being a good guy, but I suspect my girlfriend's having bought me a high ticket item on the sly to surprise me in the parking lot might have factored in.

In conclusion, I don't overly much care about FCBD, and I'm glad I don't have to deal with gaming geeks and obnoxious kids on the regular. Considering what a grouch I am, FCBD books left on the table should count their blessings, unlike these poor titles...

Attack of the Alterna Zombies Volume 1 (Alterna Comics, 2009, $0.00)
This was the most independent skewing book on the table, and as an 80 page squarebound digest, the one with the most potential. Alas, it's mostly shit.

  1. The 15 page original lead story features comparative headliners Jesus and Abe Lincoln fighting flesh eating versions of the line's characters in a mushroom-enhanced haze. The fact is, none of these characters are recognizable enough to carry a nothing story, and Christ written "out of character" is just a grungy action star. Without humor, I'd have much rather seen the space devoted to extended reprints, especially as brevity cuts the knees out from under the rest of the book
  2. Birth is blessed with the best looking artist of the book, Michael S. Bracco. However, the excerpt's six pages involved two silent alien races massacring one another and one captioned line of narration.
  3. Novo is also by Bracco, and has much more to say, but no space.
  4. H.C. Noel's Mr. Scootles caught my attention a ways back during an internet preview. The premise isn't bad, though there's grievous refusal of the rule about "show, don't tell." The art is open and animated, but rather stiff in some panels, reminding me of Matt Martin. This is the only incomplete preview that feels like it gave enough information to base a buying decision on.
  5. American Terror: Confession of a Human Smart Bomb is the exact opposite. The art of Jeff McComsey is intentionally rough, with heavy shading and plenty of detail, feeling out the dystopic setting. However, the five pages of script by McComsey and James Cooper offers virtually nothing substantial to go on with regard to the premise, just an action beat that would make about as much sense without dialogue.
  6. The Chair by Peter Simeti and Kevin Christensen is a prison piece that feels like it was created with only vague recollections of prison movies as reference. The amount of effort put into making the tale grim n' gritty only makes it all the more ridiculous. Probably the most unintentional entertainment value in the book.
  7. Jesus Hates Zombies: "300" by Michael Bartolotta and Jeff McComsey offers a complete short story that in quality and content pales the awful lead tale and makes it all the more redundant. That doesn't make this entry good, but by comparison it's a massive improvement.
  8. Lincoln Hates Werewolves by Stephen Lindsay and Steve Cobb is four pages of lead-in that seems to be here to remind just who Honest Abe usually fights, and that his solo stories aren't as lousy as the lead feature. There's some wild perspective, but the art is overall outshone by the computer effects layered over it.
  9. Risers by Martian Fisher and Kurt Belcher got a positive write-up at AICN a while back, and the too-brief preview does nothing to dispel that, but not enough to make me want more, either.
  10. Morbid Myths is an anthology that contributed the supposedly complete short story"What Dreams May Come," by too many hands to mention. There's a decent sci-fi/horror premise put forth, but then it abruptly ends with a terrible denouement leaving way too much in the air to be remotely satisfying. Not the way you want to end an already frustrating book, even for free.

Blackest Night #0 (DC, 2009, $0.00)
When I heard about the Sinestro Corps, I thought it was about damned time the Green Lanterns had their evil mirror universe parallel, with the perfect villain at the helm, and decades of groundwork laid. The same was true with the Star Sapphires, a pluralization of the concept that makes a lot more sense than it taking every Zamaron just to make one mid-level villainess. I didn't even mind Agent Orange as a one man corps of avarice. But now we've got every color of the rainbow with an unimaginatively named corps of its own and slight variations on the same basic designs. My feeling is that it should take years and a variety of creative minds to construct one of these organizations; to diversify, define, and contrast them against one another. These Mighty Morphin' Power Ringers instead seem increasingly homogeneous and rushed on the path to Geoff Johns' true interest, the retarded Black Lantern Corps.

Death is an emotion now? Shouldn't it be the absence of emotion, and that being the case, shouldn't they be the Black Hole Vacuum or something? If they all bend to Black Hand's will, shouldn't they take his name? If they have their own goals, that would indicate emotion, right? Have they bonded together for the sole purpose of making the posters in potheads' rooms glow in the dark? Most importantly, hasn't the goodwill toward zombie superpeople long since burned out? So yeah, I'm not impressed with the new oath-takers.

That being off my chest, on to the issue on hand. Ivan Reis really is DC's Bryan Hitch at this point, and God bless him for the pretty pictures and ability to hit a schedule. The book looks absolutely gorgeous, consistent between two inkers and lovingly colored by Alex Sinclair. The story is all about an introduction to the modern DC Universe for newbs, and serves reasonably well on that front. Nothing much for the seasoned reader to bite into, though.

After the twelve page original story, there's a text pitch by Johns, and then nine pages of pin-ups by Doug Mahnke. These serve as a good character guide for each Corps, and an attractive preview of the incoming penciller's take. Not only will the main titles have a consistent style, thanks to Mahnke's strong influence on GLC artist Patrick Gleason, but Mahnke himself has never looked better than under Christian Alamy's inks. Mahnke's long been the DC superstar that wasn't, but with this endeavor looks to finally overwhelm the consciousness of fandom.

Free Comic Book Day: Aliens/Predator (Dark Horse, 2009, $0.00)
The 10 page Aliens segment by John Arcudi and Zach Howard was tantalizing, offering a nod to one of the licensed series that Dark Horse was built on in the '80s, while providing a new beginning for the comics. This portion is more about mood and acquainting readers with the Giger Alien than forwarding a narrative, so that's all I can comment on.

The 10 page Predator segment by John Arcudi and Javier Saltares leans heavily on upfront action, which like the previous preview means the writer known the franchise's inclinations. I've liked Saltares since he relaunched Ghost Rider nearly two decades back, and he doesn't disappoint here. Well-- except there's a last page twist involving a redesign that owes too much to the '90s that spawned the artist. Otherwise though, if there were more pages, I'd have liked to have continued reading both tales. I don't know if that will translate to actual dollars trading hands, though.

Mighty Archie Art Players, Free Comic Book Day Edition (Archie, 2009, $0.00)
My girlfriend went "ooooo, Archie," so I picked this up for her, and would have felt like a real sucker if I had been stuck with a buck tab. I read some Archies growing up, and always found them to be modestly lame distractions, but never this bad. Were they always awful, or have they gotten worse? I recognize super heroes are a repetitive genre, so it's all in the execution. This book offers four stories with the exact same plot: Betty loves Archie, there's a complication (3 out of 4 times Veronica,) then Betty gets Archie (3 out of 4 times, the last a draw.) Along the way are bad puns, bland exposition, and "homages" to movies no younger than twenty years gone, most older than dirt. Every bit was obvious in the days of Dobie Gillis, a reference I myself am too young to make, much less get. The closest any of this comes to relevance is a two page movie quiz that name drops High School Musical 3, but is illustrated with Indy Jones, Princess Leia, Superman and Scarlett O'Hara. Ye Gods, Archie's out of touch-- which is about par, but by thirty years? When I was running a shop, I had exactly one regular customer for Archie: a middle-aged wife who tagged along with a Vampirella collector... and that was over a decade ago! Are geriatrics their base now?

Savage Dragon #148 (Image, 2009, $0.00) I really enjoy Erik Larsen as an opinionated fanpro editorialist, and I've grown accustomed to his Kirby-with-erogenous-zones art style, but his scripts typically leave me cold. Here, he offers a detailed four page synopsis of the relevant series continuity to date, always welcome. However, he then has a ton of in-story exposition to the same effect, as if he second-guessed himself at the last minute and inserted the preview.

Larsen has also reintroduced a bunch of public domain characters recently, as though Dynamic Forces rained on his "to do list" with their own ongoing revival. I've come to find the DF/Alex Ross re-imagining of the Golden Age characters terrible, because it throws out everything that made those creations interesting and turned them into Bronze Age Marvel douchebags, doing so through rather contrived means to boot. Larsen makes the exact opposite mistake, writing his take on the original Daredevil and the Little Wise Guys as though the Golden Age never ended, but in the context of the ultraviolent, oversexed Dragon series. Sure, that could have been intentional, but it tastes like a tofu taco-- two flavors that together sit on your plate untouched.

To top it all off, the plot has no momentum, seeming to exist to give Dragon and Daredevil something to do together. Since the heroes have no chemistry, and what they get up to doesn't hold much interest, the highlight of the issue is a two page text piece on Daredevil's publishing history. A standalone Daredevil book guest-starring Dragon wouldn't have been much better, but certainly more honest. Instead, the Dragon readership was done a disservice by watered down content and Daredevil's spotlight hogging, while all-ages audiences get thongs in their faces.

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