Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wednesday Is Free Day For All I Care #33

The Freedom Collective One Shot
United Free Worlds #1
United Free Worlds #2

The Freedom Collective One Shot (Rough Cut, 2009, $3.95)
It takes a hell of a lot to get me to plunk down four bucks for a fucking comic book, and that's exactly what the Freedom Collective is. Imagine that in 1963, instead of New York Jews Stan Lee and Jack Kirby starting the Marvel revolution, they instead toiled in the same occupations under the watchful eyes of their fellow godless commies in the U.S.S.R. That's exactly what "Comrade Barr" and "Domski Regan" have done here, and they've done it exceptionally well. Nostalgic pastiche has been around since at least the Bronze Age, with most landing firmly on the side of patronizing (including you, Mr. Alan Moore!) Here though, not only do the creators capture the look and tone of early Marvel Comics, but also the unmistakable personality of those works, which is pretty much catching lightning in a bottle. The new Ruskie versions of Marvel archetypes are a blast, and the reversing of Stan Lee's red-baiting propaganda is at the perfect satiric pitch. The book is an absolute gas, and I highly recommend it to fans of the era.

On the cautionary tip, editor "Igor Sloano" leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to proofreading and balloon placement. You will often find yourself rereading panels where the sequence of dialogue is unclear. There are also a number of parody ads that take go a bit too deep into Yakov Smirnoff territory ("In Soviet Russia, comics collect you!") and would have been right at home in What The--?!

United Free Worlds #1 (Fantasy Prone LLC, 2008, $2.99)
On the surface, this is not a terrible comic. There's a lovely spot varnish on the detailed cover, and twenty-nine full color pages of story. These are followed by twelve pages of character profiles, plus three preview pages. Artist Jason Raines offers more panels than George Perez would prefer, background detailing that recalls Geoff Darrow, and a slight manga influence in his characters. Raines is that once in a generation artist of whom you can ask "draw me 200 spaceships in a 1/3rd page panel" and the crazy bastard will actually do it. Jesse Aronson and Michael Montaine offer quality computer coloring and effects. Writer Blake Leibel obviously has an epic in mind, involving a world of savage warriors aided by trained dinosaurs coming into conflict with Earth. All sorts of Machiavellian scheming and other political intrigues are hinted at.

So why is it so boring? I swear, it took me a couple dozen trips to the bathroom to get through the goddamned thing. Do you know how frustrating it is to go through 22 panels of a two page spread depicting what amounts to a few seconds of video game footage? All that portent, delivered with the gravest of tone, for a premise so laughably silly?

For instance, to prove how tough our hero is, he shows up at a bank robbery. He then calls the thieves from an outdoor phone, and at the merest invoking of his hallowed name, the robbers surrender themselves. It might have made for a great lampoon, except every indication is that Leibel's into this shit like an epileptic at a tent revival. To see such an effort and so much bread blown on a achingly awful vanity project is a travesty.

Worse, the entire exceedingly drawn out affair is nothing but wooden set-up that could have been established in a few well written panels, much less pages. These terrible characters are all interchangeable with their "whah whah whah" dialogue. The entire book is written as though Charlie Brown's teacher is giving a lecture. It's the worst kind of fan fiction dreck from someone who mistook the back of '80s action figure packaging for a creative writing workshop.

As for the artist Raines, despite the wealth of linework, everything still looks rough and amateurish. Regardless of how everything else works, he cannot draw decent looking human figures and faces, and there's an over reliance on cgi to cover everything objectionable up. He seems to have shot his load in the first outing as well, replaced in the next issue...

United Free Worlds #2 (Fantasy Prone LLC, 2008, $2.99)
...Drawn by Patrick Blaine with the look of something out of Zenescope or a lesser Aspen Studios release. Blaine is about as far removed from the work in the first issue by Jason Raines as you can get. His human figures are flashy and attractive, and he clearly loves two-page spreads and half-splashes. His backgrounds are vague, and he avoids the repetitious throngs of the prior issue. Aside from the dinosaurs and the cgi sequences, you could be forgiven for flipping through both books and assuming they were entirely separate titles. However, writer Blake Leibel's incessant droning on without saying much of anything should clue you in. All in all though, Blaine is professional and his work is appealing. I wish I had the spare dough to pay either Blaine or Raines for my shitty script, but we can't all be so lucky. As art director, Leibel also offers six pages of intricate art very much in the vein of last issue, pointedly described as "rejected concept sequences from the production." Bitter about a departure or just hypercritical, I wonder?

As with last time, the story is more blood and thunder shit, and most of the characters from those profile pages still haven't made a significant appearance. Again, this is a great looking package-- another varnished cardstock cover, this one drawn by the underrated Steve Skroce, but its all polish on a turd.

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