I live downtown. I don’t have a car. When I started at Dark Horse, I was lucky to already live a few minutes walk from a bus that goes straight from downtown Portland to two blocks from DH’s door in Milwaukie. There’s a lot I like about commuting by bus rather than car, but the best part is the hour of reading time the bus provides each day. Sometimes I’m reading novels or magazines, but I often dig out whatever comic I’m reading at the time, be it 20th Century Boys or Batman Inc. or Love and Rockets or whatever. They’re all bus-appropriate.
So, no car, and plans to hit more than one comics shop in short notice. Lots of busing it today, which means getting through more of my FCBD stack. And for the bus, why not some good old-fashioned superheroes?
Captain America/Thor: The Mighty FIghting Avengers
By Roger Langridge, Chris Samnee & Matthew Wilson
This one’s sort of why we’re all here today, right? They schedule Free Comic Book Day to go along with the first big comics movie of the summer, which this year is Thor (and it’s usually a Marvel movie, as Marvel’s efforts to pump out movies are much further along than DC’s). Later in the summer there’s also Captain America, so combining the two for FCBD is a clear winner. The comic, by the creative team of Thor: The Mighty Avenger, the only Thor comics I’ve ever read, is also pretty good. It’s not quite as strong as the series was, since the part that works the best, the growing relationship between Thor and Jane, is largely absent, and while sending the heroes back in time to meet King Arthur is a clever way to put them on unfamiliar ground while still presenting a scenario familiar to kids who don’t read comics normally, Thor’s thing is already being a fish out of water, so this actually isn’t much more of a stretch for him. Still, the superheroics are topnotch, and Captain America comes across as likable, despite receiving only the most basic characterization, and Samnee’s take on the heroes is wonderful, a softer, more human take on superpowered folks than usual while still communicating their power.
Green Lantern Special Edition plus Flashpoint
By Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis & Andy Kubert
I’ve already read the main story here, so I just gave it a skim. It hasn’t gotten better, and while it’s part of Hal Jordan Green Lantern’s origin (part 2 of 6, to be exact), it’s already awfully wrapped up in other things. So many “secret origin”-type stories assume the reader already knows the broad strokes and the future of the characters, thereby creating a mechanical, predetermined feel to the proceedings, and this is no exception. Between Blackest Night teases and callbacks to old Alan Moore shorts, there’s hardly any room left for an actual story, and the cliffhanger, the appearance of a regular-looking person who announces he is HECTOR HAMMOND in large letters, is absolutely meaningless without existing knowledge of the characters. As for the Flashpoint preview, who knows what’s going on there? All it tells me is that I don’t care about Flashpoint. It’s impossible for me to imagine this comic getting anyone excited about this summer’s Green Lantern movie.
Young Justice/Batman: The Brave and the Bold Super Sampler
By Art Baltazar, Franco, Mike Norton, Scholly Fisch & Rick Burchett
This, on the other hand, is very smart about what it’s for and who it’s after. Each of the two stories based on DC’s current cartoons is self-contained and complete, and each finds a relatively organic way to include clear statements about who its heroes are in the course of the adventures. The Psycho-Pirate introduces each member of Young Justice to their hidden fears, while Batman’s team-up with the Flash keeps him from a charity dinner where other philanthropists talk about Bruce Wayne. The artists nail the character designs while bringing something of themselves to the table, and the result is straightforward superhero stories totally suitable for kids with a knowing wink at older readers.
By Dan Slott & Humberto Ramos
I don’t read Amazing Spider-Man, but I’m betting this is not all that different from a regular issue, with a little more upfront background thrown in. It’s not bad, not my thing. Slott clearly has fun writing the banter, and Ramos’s ragdoll anatomy is perfectly suited to the exaggerated way Spider-Man moves. A quick recap page explains what’s up with Spider-Man these days, including the loss of his Spider-sense. There wasn’t much more than that to grab me, and I found the last few pages a little difficult to get through because the pacing was so odd. The story climaxed, had a denouement, and then a fourth act suddenly appeared, having virtually nothing to do with what had come before and setting up an upcoming storyline. I guess the idea was to get people into the mood of the book and then introduce a continuing storyline rather than throw readers in headfirst, but there must have been a way to do it that felt more natural. Still, it’s trying way harder than the Green Lantern comic to attract the non-hardcore, so I have to give it that. Basically, this was a pleasant enough read, but it didn’t convince me I needed more.
Rating: Spider-sense . . . not tingling!
Super Dinosaur: Origin Special
By Robert Kirkman & Jason Howard
This one’s pretty gloriously stupid. I’m sure a lot of kids will be sold the instant they see a T-Rex (Super Dinosaur, natch) using its tiny arms to manipulate two joysticks that control a pair of large, powerful arms. And indeed, Howard’s artwork is inviting enough that I’m willing to forgive things like the fact that no 11-year-old would ever say, to some other kids, “As you know, my dad, world-famous Doctor Dynamo, is a really cool scientist.” And therein lies the weakness of this comic: it’s not a story so much as a recap. At least I assume this is a summary of the story to date and not the actual first-time origin of Super Dinosaur, because it’s largely just exposition in the typically wooden Kirkman style. Again, though, the concept alone is enough to make it easy to get through, and Howard tells as much story with the color scheme alone as do the captions, so it’s all in good fun.
Rating: Little arms controlling big arms! (That’s a metaphor.)