I've basically given up on FCBD because I'm not the target demographic and my LCS options don't seem to "get it" and do anything I can really get out and support, which I've previously written about here and here. So, I skipped it, but through a connection I managed to get my hands on 22 of the 42 books (52%) that were offered. It's a little disconcerting that the handful of people I spoke to said they didn't even see the Archaia Hardcover because the shops they went to are more mainstream oriented, so they didn't even bother ordering it. Sigh. I was basically only interested in 4 books (9%): Archaia Hardcover, Bad Medicine from Oni Press, Serenity (for the Fabio Moon art!), and the Bongo Comics Free-For-All (which is usually fun). I ended up getting 2 of them (4%). I don't have the desire to belabor points I've already written about, so I'll just say that you can see how those percentages (and the scores below) reveal my disinterest in the day. Here we go...
Serenity: Hey, for me this is huge just for the Fabio Moon art alone! With Cris Peter on colors, it looks fan-frickin-tastic. Zack Whedon seems to have the voices of the characters and the cadence of their speech down by the very first page. Moon nails the acrobatic martial arts of River Tam. Like the other Dark Horse offering, we get the Brian Wood essay on The Massive, a different Alabaster teaser, and a Star Wars flip side that's a great introduction to their whole line of SW properties. It's pretty cool to see the similarities between Malcolm Reynolds and Han Solo when they're juxtaposed like this. I think Dark Horse probably wins this year for the consistent high quality of their offerings which truly understand how to work FCBD. Grade A.
Yo Gabba Gabba!: Oni Press was super smart with this job, offering kids something recognizable to transition them from TV to comics. I'd probably read a spin-off series featuring Blue Blaster 5 if those dope colors came with the joint from Mike Allred and Jamie S. Rich. You even get an Evan Dorkin back-up story with Super Martian Robot Girl. My kids (6 and 3) both went crazy when they saw this. Grade A.
Superman Family Adventures: Well, if we can't have Tiny Titans anymore from Art Baltazar, then this is the next best thing. The visual banter between Lois and Clark is grand, the whole thing is self-effacing and charming in all the right ways, and it's the perfect rendition of blustery Perry White. My 3 year old son liked the panels with him shouting, which he could discern meaning from without reading, just from the emotive facial expressions. He was cracking up. The Green Lantern story is way too wordy and the Young Justice one never gets going. It's just "hey, here's Artemis, here's Robin, and we're out." Probably woulda' been a straight "A" if it was all Superman Family Adventures and wasn't bogged down by the lackluster other two, in fact, probably closest to an "A+" this year. As is, Grade A-.
Avengers: Age of Ultron: I like how this is just so squarely planted right in the center of the Marvel U. Even if you're totally new to the U, you get the sense that this would all make sense and that you could sort out all the players, unlike, say, what's going in in the DCnU right now. This is a great introduction to all the various Avengers teams, Abigail Brand of S.W.O.R.D., and there's plenty of X-Men crossover too. It's an actual story in itself, and it leads you right into something massive to follow up on. It gets, perhaps, a little lost in bad guy monologuing for a moment, but overall charms you into wanting more from a huge classic threat. Grade A-.
The Guild: This is a nice high-energy introduction to the characters and the premise of the property. Also, "Uncle Tapatio" had me laughing. There's also a full page essay from Brian Wood about The Massive, a fun space adventure with Buffy and Spike on the flip side, and a Caitlin Kiernan Alabaster short. Dark Horse just gets it, with plenty of places go on all of these selections if any of them were to grab you. Very smartly done. Grade A-.
Finding Gossamyr: This is done in a great animated style, with great colors, and leads right into a book coming out from Th3rd World Studios. It's not something I'm going to buy, but at least they understand how FCBD works. The Stuff of Legend (which I have sampled) gets a nice teaser on the flip side for this dark, heartfelt, and elegantly unique idea. The visuals are stunning, if a bit wordy. Grade A-.
Donald Duck Family Comics: This Fantagraphics edition is not really my thing, but it's a great sampler of the collections that specialize in the Disney Ducks or the Mickey Mouse strips of Floyd Gottfredson. There isn't a gateway to an ongoing series per se, but to the many collected editions. Grade A-.
Graphic Elvis: This teaser is from the Liquid Comics hardcover commemorating the 35th anniversary of the death of Elvis. I'll be a party-pooper first and say that I'm not sure this qualifies as "comics" when it's just pin-up material, but aside from that, it's really cool! Various comic book artists pay tribute to The King and illustrate key single page pin-up moments from his life and interpret quotes about him from other musicians. It contains some of my favorites like Paul Pope and John Cassaday, though Tony Millionaire has the best piece in the book hands down. It's gorgeous. I was particularly fascinated by the meeting The Beatles had with Elvis at his Bel Air home in 1965, including the impromptu jam session that nobody thought to record. D'oh! Grade B+.
Overstreet's Comic Book Marketplace: This is a very fun and interesting history lesson about key horror comics publications, all the way from classic EC horror to modern stuff like The Walking Dead or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I'm not sure what value it really brings to the purpose of FCBD to show an $8,500 copy of Eerie #1. Will that make civilians engage with the medium? And if they do, will it be for the right reasons? Grade B.
Bongo Comics Free-For-All: Hrmm, that's a great cover, but these usually do a much better job of capturing the magic of the show. Nice that it's a full length story, and there's a Sergio Aragones strip too, but I could do without the Spongebob flip side (though it was kinda' funny they attempted to spoof the old Nick Cardy Aquaman visually). Basically underwhelming. Grade B.
Atomic Robo: I guess I've always thought of this property as a comedic version of Hellboy & BPRD when I've sampled it, and that pretty much holds water here too. It's a little too much "haha" and anime aesthetic for my taste, but it's well done for what it is, and includes some teasers for Neozoic and Bonnie Lass. Overall, it just seems pretty light and forgettable. Grade B.
Spider-Man: Season One: The talky teen drama of Peter Parker has never been my thing, but maybe this would be an ok introduction? I can't imagine younger people being very excited by this, it seems very dated and boring. FWIW, I've tried 3 of the Season One projects now, and this is the worst, with X-Men taking the top spot, and Daredevil being a distant second place. Grade B-.
Voltron Force: It's kind of weird to see Viz Media putting this out when I thought IDW held the license. Everyone knows that Lance is the coolest of the Lion Force pilots, and he gets all of 3 lines in this whole thing. The entire first half of the book is about Lotor doing something I don't care about because the Lions never actually face the threat he's concocting, so this issue would have been better served going right into right into an extended intro to the new team instead. Grade B-.
The New 52!: I guess there's some decent art to be found, but the story is just magic nonsense about Pandora (the chick in the background of all The New 52! comics), but the only people who care about that are the people already deeply concerned with The New 52!, which is not really the crowd that FCBD is supposedly aimed at. If some civilian picked this up, they'd be thoroughly a) bored and then b) confused. They'd see totally bland characters like Cyborg and a bunch of peripheral agencies in the DCnU, it's basically the most boring stuff DC has to offer. It's like DC blew their creative wad on the Jim Lee 4-panel gatefold deal, which is just some advertisement for something else. I don't think a civilian could makes heads or tails of this. I mean, they'd be seeing three different versions of Batman alone, DCnU Batman in Justice League, Morrison's Batman in Batman Incorporated, and Earth 2 Batman, shit, I can't even tell you what the differences between them are, and I read comics. Because there are some misc. previews and the couple pages of Chris Burnham art on Batman Inc. are nice, I'll ratchet up a "+" and go with a Grade C+.
The Hypernaturals: It's kinda' interesting to see Boom! put forth these titles that are all San Diego-centric in their own way, but with this art they're certainly not putting their best foot forward. It's awful. I also expect a lot more from the Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning writing team, especially when it involves cosmic stuff. This, however, is a fairly regurgitated future superhero team, with commentary about culture and media. Yawn. It's too earnest to be humorous, and too humorous to be done in earnest, so it's really nothing. You'd be better served pulling old issues of Joe Casey's Wildcats or Intimates outta' quarter bins. Grade C.
The Intrinsics: This is billed as adventures "from the Arcana Universe," as if that's something anyone's ever heard of before. I guess it gets points for providing a full length issue, but when it says this issue is the culmination of an effort since 2004, I'd hate to see what they could come up with on a monthly schedule if this thing took 8 years. It's a generic super team trying really hard to be offbeat and interesting, but it's just stiff art and some dialogue that goes a little something like this: "Look out! I don't... Can't keep this up... What the...? Ut. Silence. I can't..." It's utter gibberish and it sounds like my kids made it up. Also, do young women really parade around in their panties at the breakfast table in front of their would-be mother-in-law? Grade C.
Lady Death: The Beginning: I don't really understand the Boundless Comics logo, it looks like "cb" crammed haphazardly into a little box. The art is sometimes actually fairly decent in spots, provided this is the type of comic you want. But, it seems like the only people who want a Lady Death comic are people who are already into Lady Death comics. I wouldn't hand anyone this to get them into comics, even if they were into this genre. I'd at least hand them a copy of the new Azz & Chiang Wonder Woman, so that I wouldn't feel like a total creep handing them this pasty buxom demon lady in a thong fighting for... some reason. Sheesh, there's alternatives like Belit in Conan or Big Barda in the New Gods, or... oh, never mind. Grade C-.
Zombie Kid: Here's a frustrated not-really-rhetorical question: Why's Antarctic Press still in business? Are they known for something? Sorry, but there's way too much text to wade through here, at least half a page, on every page, accompanying some fairly simplistic free floating drawings. To qualify as a "comic," doesn't there have to be some semblance of a sequential visual narrative? That's not really present here. Grade D.
Worlds of Aspen 2012: Is anyone still clamoring for Fathom and the cheesecake detritus of Aspen Comics? The creators of this book seem to think so, because they jump right in to address all 12 members of the so-called "Aspenation." All due respect to the late Michael Turner, but all these entries are just paper thin excuses for stories concocted by Scott "Starfire-is-an-intergalactic-space-slut-welcome-to-The-New-52!" Lobdell. They're set up so that mediocre artists can copy Turner's sinewy never-gonna'-be-as-good-as-J.-Scott-Campbell anemic style, and draw 28 year old high school teens in Catholic schoolgirl skirts with knee-high socks. I find it appalling that a civilian could walk into an LCS and come away with the impression that this is what comics in the year 2012 are all about. Cashing in on the late 90's bad girl craze, swiping at the steampunk aesthetic, The Hunger Games, reality TV, and more. It's so tired. It's as mediocre as some of the Grade C's I've given, but even more offensive, so... Grade D.
My Favorite Martian: Good lord, who in their right mind thought the zany shenanigans of Martin would lure the youth of America into comic shops everywhere so they could go and... what? Buy Gold Key reprints of a 50 year old TV show that wasn't even funny then? This is embarrassing. Grade D.
Burt Ward: Boy Wonder: Just who is the target demo for these Bluewater Comics atrocities? It's dumbed down as if it's for kids, but (Holy News Flash Batman!) kids don't know or care who Burt Ward is. This is utterly wasted effort and natural resources. It appears it was created by Burt Ward himself, so it's basically a vanity project? I couldn't even get through those prose pages on the flip side of the Wrath of the Titans nonsense. I guess there are a couple of interesting factoids on the Burt Ward side, otherwise completely pointless. Grade D-.
Jurassic Strike Force 5: I swear I didn't make this title up. I'm always morbidly fascinated where these companies come from, the ones we didn't see before FCBD and won't see after FCBD. Silver Dragon Books? Ok. There's no attempt at story here, it's just dinosaurs in robot armor and they uhh... fight stuff. I think this is just a means to sell the action figures advertised at the end? Grade F.