5.19.2007

Free Comic Book Day - 2007 (Cont'd)

And finally... here are the last few Free Comics that I was able to find this year;

Comics 101: How-To & History Lessons From The Pros! (TwoMorrows Publishing): This is the ultimate Comic Book Industry primer. Brilliant lessons in page layout and penciling (what the Wizard Free Comic Book this year aspires to be), a brilliant art critique section, realistic advice for aspiring writers, and a fairly succinct history of the medium up until the Modern Age that hits all of the major highlights. In short, you could hand this book to someone who knew nothing about comics, or was an aspiring creator, and it would be an effective crash course in getting them up to speed immediately. Grade A+.

Whiteout #1 (Oni Press): There's not much more to say about Greg Rucka's first foray into the comic book realm than it really holds up over time. Years later, it's very strong work that's strikingly original, a unique setting, an offbeat protagonist, and very effective storytelling due in part to collaborator Steve Lieber (who I wish was working more). About the only negative thing I can say about it is that I personally wish Lily Sharpe (I think that's the name of the other female secret agenty type on the ice beside US Marshal Carrie Stetko) had actually turned out to be Tara Chase from Queen & Country. It would have just been a cool way to tie the Oni "Rucka-verse" together. This is a wonderful Free Comic, complete with an interesting retrospective on Oni/advertisement for some of the other books in the Oni Press stable. Grade A.

Last Blood #1 (Blatant Comics): The best way I can sum up this title is that it feels like The Walking Dead meets 30 Days of Night, with gray tone art by Arthur (Kissing Chaos) De LaCruz. This was surprisingly enjoyable, with a unique take on the de rigeur zombie/vampire mythos. The take here is that zombies are actually vampires suffering from severe bloodlust, who haven't fed, and are degenerating to the point of mental breakdown. Grade A-.

Unseen Peanuts (Fantagraphics): This is a wonderful collection of the so called "Lost" Peanuts strips, many of which would have never seen print if not for Fantagraphics commendable multi-year project to publish the definitive, and comprehensive, Peanuts library. What I enjoyed most here wasn't the charming early or "off" work of Schulz, but the fascinating commentary on each strip by Kim Thompson as to the speculation on why they never saw print, the evolution of Schulz's style, and some of the embedded social commentary of the time. A fine book itself, it's also a wonderful gateway to the continuing Fantagraphics' Peanuts library. Grade A-.

Comics Festival! (Legion of Evil Press): Produced in conjunction with the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, this is a shotgun blast of different Canadian creators including personal faves Darwyn Cooke, Eric Kim, Chip Zdarsky, Cameron Stewart, and Steve Rolston. There isn't necessarily one strong standout here, but the sheer volume of pieces, organic diversity, and creator bios make it a nice alternative contribution to FCBD. Grade B+.

Family Guy/Hack Slash Flip Book (Devil's Due Publishing): This may have been the surprise of this bunch. Having never watched an episode of Family Guy before, I didn't exactly have a frame of reference, but it was easy to figure out who was who, and I laughed out loud a couple of times. Really enjoyed the dad's narration and deadpan delivery. Hack/Slash learned about proper character introduction and offered up an amusing origin story, with effective art. Grade B+.

Wahoo Morris (Too Hip Gotta Go Graphics): Very clean pencils and an engaging story about fellow band-mates and their circle of friends that's one part Strangers In Paradise and one part Stylish Vittles. Would have preferred to see the "uncut" original version of this first issue to properly gauge my interest, but pretty strong nonetheless. Grade B.

Nexus (Rude Dude Productions): I'll admit that I liked Nexus a bit back in the day. As a loyal follower of Jim Starlin's Dreadstar, I crossed over during a team up between him, Grimjack, and Nexus - I believe that was during the First Comics run. This collection of highlights feels a bit random, with no particular order, in an effort to pick up a 10-year old storyline. If you're one of those die hard fans of the original, I'm sure this will generate some interest. I, however, am not one of those fans. Grade C.

Digital Webbing Jam 2007 (Digital Webbing): Even for free, this smattering of E-Man, Bloodrayne, Fist of Justice, and Zombie Highway is pretty poor. The Bloodrayne crew really needs to study the Comics 101: How-To book to learn about framing and cropping panels, and remember to properly introduce their characters if you want anyone to care about them. E-Man is just a tired, tired property that the creators keep trying to milk unsuccessfully, Fist of Justice is wholly unoriginal and uninteresting, Zombie Highway showed some promise on the artistic/inking front, but by then I was too tired to read through it. There was also some short piece about Abe Lincoln's head or something, but it all just made my own head hurt. Not a good showing overall. Grade D.

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