Monday, May 9, 2016

On The Shelf: Free Comic Book Day 2016 reviewed, part 1

If there is one thing I've learned the last couple of years, it's the fact that if you don't get the freebies you really wanted on Free Comic Book Day, chances are pretty good your local dealer will have remainders the next day.

And when it comes to remainders, people, all bets are off. No restrictions on how many books you can take, unlike on FCBD itself.

Here are some of this year's entries. I loaded up on remainders on Sunday, and haven't finished reading them all.......

DC reissued the first issue of their 2011 Suicide Squad relaunch to warm up fans for the feature film due in August. When DC first revived the concept of the Squad in the 80's (its history dates back to the 60's when it was known simply as Task Force X), I had the complete set. The idea is the same as the previous series, as DC sees the Squad and the Secret Six as their answers to Marvel's Thunderbolts, with villains being used to fight even badder guys. DC needlessly revamped Harley Quinn, forcing the fan favorite to swap her harlequin bodysuit for rouge white skin (like you know who) and a tendency to have her dialogue lapse into virtual Brooklynese. While Margot Robbie will play Harley in the movie, the way Harley talks sometimes in the books sounds like the writers were wishing for someone else. Just can't figure out who.

I may be, ah, persuaded to invest in trade paperbacks during the summer to get up to speed.

For the post-Barbie set, there's DC Super Hero Girls, the animated version of which was discussed over at Saturday Morning Archives not long ago. This free volume sets up a graphic novel, "Finals Crisis", a clever play on a certain miniseries of a few years back, and due next month.

Marvel, meanwhile, previews Civil War II, their big summer event, cashing in on the obvious box office returns on "Captain America: Civil War". Also, there will be two Caps running around, as Steve Rogers reclaims the mantle once more in a new series by Nick Spencer & Jesus Saiz. Something tells me Sam Wilson's book will be history ere long, and that's unfortunate, since it's a backwards step for Marvel in their quest to diversify their universe of characters. They went to the idea of giving Wilson, aka the Falcon, the Captain America ID and the shield, and now they're playing indian giver. Too many haters in the house, it seems.

Image serves up Steve Seagle's latest, a kid friendly opus entitled, Camp Midnight. Bear in mind that Seagle is one of the geniuses behind the Man of Action stable that created Ben 10 and are tasked with the dreck that is Ultimate Spider-Man. The latter series may have been a warm up for Seagle, as he's working the horror comedy room this time.

Martial arts legend Bruce Lee left us more than 40 years ago. Daughter Shannon realizes there's an audience that wishes he was still around, and so Shannon, together with television producer-turned-comics writer Jeff Kline (he worked for Sony's animation division in the 90's on Men in Black, Jackie Chan Adventures, Jumanji, and others), crafted Bruce Lee: The Dragon Rises, which purports to posit an amnesiac Bruce in the 21st century. I get that Bruce is treated in much the same way as another icon who left us in the 70's, Elvis Presley, but this is just wack. Two issues are already out, and the first was reissued for FCBD. I'm on the fence on this one.

Speaking of icons, the Pink Panther is back, this time at American Mythology Comics, the same folks who obtained a license for The Three Stooges. Format's the same. New material, coupled with a reprint, only in this case, I'm scratching my head trying to remember who had a license, besides Harvey, to publish the Panther's adventures in the 90's. The difference, though, is that this time, the Panther, in his new stories, has a rebus puzzle or somesuch in his word balloons, as they want to emphasize that he can't talk, which was where the older comics from the 60's through the 90's went wrong.

Dynamite Entertainment holds the license to Fox's Bob's Burgers, but, to me, the comics version is lacking something, and the FCBD entry proves this out. What is it lacking? Real humor.

Grant Morrison returns with a new project for Graphic India. Avatarex: Destroyer of Darkness is written as if Morrison is using Jack Kirby's seminal Fourth World books as a template. Looks also like a follow-up or spin-off from his current 18 Days opus.

Finally, Bongo's annual Simpsons-centric Free-For-All gets in on the superhero satire as Homer & Bart become father & son crimestoppers in a plot worthy of not so much Batman, but rather some of its knockoffs, like, for example, Mr. Terrific. Where was Radioactive Man when you really needed him?

As for new stuff already out, Marvel is revisiting a classic rivalry from the 80's by pairing Daredevil with The Punisher, and, yeah, this is another cash-in job, this one off Punisher joining the cast of the Netflix Daredevil series, and already ticketed for his own spin-off. Well, three movies didn't quite capture Frank Castle the way Marvel hoped. I just started viewing Season 2 of Daredevil, but unlike most fans, I don't binge. My brain would hurt for a week if I did.

Anyway, A Russian baddie is being sent off to Texas, but escapes, no thanks to the fact that he's on Punisher's hit list. That pisses off DD, who has a new sidekick that hopefully we won't see on TV. Charles Soule writes. Punisher also has his own book needlessly rebooted to #1, and the plotline there is not as good, which is why I didn't buy.

Daredevil-Punisher gets a B+.
Bruce Lee: The Dragon Rises merits a B.
Bongo Free-For-All, Pink Panther, & DC Super Hero Girls each merit an A.
Civil War II, Steve Rogers: Captain America, Camp Midnight, & Avatarex each merit a B-.

We'll reserve judgment on Suicide Squad for now. More reviews later this week.

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