Thursday, May 11, 2006

Free Comic Book Diary: The Comics, Part 2

Comics 7-12 are a rather mixed lot.

DC: Justice League Unlimited 1

This makes more sense as an offering; it's a done-in-one, and good reading for the young'ins. If the story has any faults, it's that it's perhaps too simple. The general plot is one that's easily recognizable to anyone who's read the JLA Showcase edition, but for those new to the general DC milieu, it'll be an entertaining enough read. The inclusion of Zatanna and Captain Atom alongside the more familiar faces is welcome. The art does suffer a bit from notmuchbackgrounditis, though.

Oni: Free Scott Pilgrim!

The orgasmic brayings of the indie blogosphere notwithstanding, Scott Pilgrim is not the Greatest Damn Thing Ever. But it is pretty damn good. This story, a brief interlude in the life of our loser chic protagonist, is entertaining goofy action. I'll confess I didn't get every joke (someone help me with the sports drinks and the stat bonuses), but Scott's unwillingness to deck a girl in the face of certain humiliation is endearing, as is his girlfriend's help in overcoming that obstacle. The gay roommate left me lukewarm, though; that sort of thing is almost standard equipment these days, so I need a bit more personality for him to justify his existence. The backup feature, The Aggressive Adventures of Fearless Griggs, is an unremarkable reminder that far more people think they can write satire than actually can.

Image: Future Shock

Good idea: providing sneak peeks at upcoming issues of your most popular comics. Bad idea: providing new readers with absolutely no context as to what those comics are about. Here's an idea of how silly it gets: the Invincible segment doesn't have Invincible in it. In addition, the Shadowhawk segment is almost an exact duplicate of a scene from the first issue of Marvel's Gravity miniseries. When Witchblade has the best-written and most accessible part of your free preview comic, that's a sign. Long story short, a disappointment from a company that's usually on top of things.

Aspen Studios: Worlds of Aspen

On the other hand, Michael Turner's studio provides just what I expected of it: badly written cheesecake. Humorously, the Soulfire: Chaos Reign preview is so blandly written that I wasn't sure if the narrative captions were coming from the humans or the sabre-toothed tigers (in retrospect, I wish it had been the latter). The selection from Aspen's flagship title, Fathom, is full of the standard clich├ęs one would expect from an artist who can't draw all that well trying to write. Shrugged is an interesting concept, but Turner's overwrought dialogue and narration, combined with the painfully stock high school cast, ensure that its potential remains safely untapped. Can you tell I didn't care much for this one?

IDW: Transformers: Infiltration/Beast Wars: The Gathering

If you're not a Transformers fan, don't bother. Infiltration contains some interesting twists on the G:1 cast, and Don Figueroa's art on the Beast Wars story is breathtaking, but if you don't like giant robots, you'll be lost. The Beast Wars preview is particularly impenetrable to newcomers. I understand that this license is important to IDW, but still, you'd think they'd at least pay lip to service to their wide range of other titles.

Wizard: The Top 100 Trade Paperbacks of All Time

Essentially repackaged material from the magazine (including a "Comics' Funniest Moments" feature that dates back at least six years). The contents of the Top 100 list are what you'd expect: nothing that saw print before 1980, heavily weighted towards Marvel & DC, a large portion of the indy content coming from creators who are more famous for Marvel & DC, and at least five "you're shitting me, right?" entries for even the least discerning fan. Only slightly more insulting to the intelligence is a feature on goofy old comics covers lifted entirely from Superdickery.com. While I suppose we should be thankful we were spared unused Black Bull material, it would have been nice to see some actual comics in this free comic. Twisted Toyfare Theater, guys?

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