The GeeksverseREVIEWS | FCBD 2013 top picks!

REVIEWS | FCBD 2013 top picks!
Published on Monday, May 6, 2013 by
FCBD 2013 gave us a lot of great, free comics. But which ones are our favorites? Find out after the jump!

Before we get down to the business of listing our favorites from FCBD 2013 and why we liked them, let us just say that all of the thirty or so FCBD issues (out of a total of 52 titles altogether) we were able to get our hands on over the weekend had something substantial to offer in the spirit of FCBD. They were all enjoyable reads and accessible to new readers. All that being said, some titles stood apart from their companions on the free comics tables for any number of reasons, and so we list them below, in no particular order, so that you might be able to track them down before they all end up hitting eBay for ridiculous prices.

Oni Press: Rated Free For Everyone (Oni Press)

rated_freeFree Comic Book Day provides a great opportunity for parents, teachers, librarians, and other persons in positions to influence the reading choices of younger readers to introduce them to the unique experiences provided by the comic book medium. It’s also fair to say that we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend any of the all-ages appropriate FCBD 2013 comics we read to readers between 7–12 years old. From the occasionally bizarre comedy of VIZ’s It’s an Ugly Doll Comic and BOOM! Entertainment’s kaBOOM! Summer Blast, the storybook-like appeal of Drawn & Quarterly’s Pippi Longstocking Color Special, and the cartoon tie-ins like the DC Nation Super SamplerHulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: New Animated Adventures (read contributor BigIV’s thoughts on those three titles here), younger readers are almost assured to find something they’ll like among the FCBD 2013 offerings. Out of all the great options, our pick for favorite all-ages read of FCBD 2013 is Oni Press: Rated Free For Everyone. The anthology comic features two, self-contained stories. The first (“Welcome to the Zoo: A Mermin Tail”) is an entertaining comedy featuring Joey Weiser’s Mermin, but it is the second story in the issue (“The Crogan Adventures: The ‘Black Brigade'”) written and illustrated by Chris Schweizer that captured our attention. Set during the height of the American Revolutionary War, “The Crogan Adventures: The ‘Black Brigade'” shows the conflict from a unique perspective: that of a former-slave-turned-soldier in the British Army who sees British victory over the American rebels as a step towards the liberation of the thousands of black slaves held in America. It’s a compelling, beautifully illustrated tale that brings up the complex interaction of race, politics, and history in a thoughtful, accessible, and entertaining manner, all the while keeping things from getting too impenetrable for the younger set (although we would recommend this story for readers from the age of 9 or older).

Kellerman/L’Amour Special (Random House)

Featuring excerpts from graphic novel adaptations of two recent Random House prose releases—the Western short story collection Law of the Desert Born by Louis L’Amour and Jonathan Kellerman’s bestselling psychological suspense-mystery novel The Web—the Kellerman/L’Amour Special serves a two-fold function: It can introduce comics readers who would otherwise be unaware of or indifferent to the prose works of L’Amour and Kellerman and it can also serve as an accessible bridge for Western and mystery/suspense prose short-story collection and novel readers to graphic novels and the larger world of sequential art. Of particular note is Thomas Yeates’ black & white art for the Law of the Desert Born portion of the issue. It’s exceptional-looking stuff, echoing the work of Golden and Silver Age Western comics greats like Russ Heath, Pete Tumlinson, and Fred Ray:

Molly Danger featuring Princeless (Action Lab Entertainment)

A big part of FCBD’s remit is about reaching out to the kinds of readers typically under-served by the biggest and most successful comics publishers as well as introducing long-time comics readers to the kind of diverse material that may occasionally get pushed aside by the Big Two’s marketing muscle. Action Lab Entertainment’s Molly Danger featuring Princeless does a commendable job of fulfilling both objectives. This FCBD issue introduces readers to Jamal Igle’s Molly Danger, a spunky, super-powered crimefighter who embodies everything we like about our favorite superheroines without looking like she rushed out of the house without finishing getting dressed. The action-packed lead story is well-served by Igle’s dynamic, highly-detailed art, and we love the idea that a superpowered crimefighter would have an on-site support team of technical specialists providing her with live situation updates and actionable intelligence as she combats all manner of threats. The Princeless half of the issue is also an entertaining read in its own right. All in all, a comic book that we would not hesitate to recommend to superhero comics fans young and old, male and female.

If you somehow missed picking up this issue at your local comic book shop during the weekend, all is not lost: Action Lab Entertainment, in cooperation with Comic Book Resources, has made the whole issue available for free reading here.

The Strangers #1 (Oni Press)

The Strangers #1 is a sexy, stylish superheroes-meet-spy-fiction romp, and we have to laud Oni Press’ boldness in launching the miniseries with a free print issue. Balancing outrageous action scenes with sequences that build up suspense and anticipation for the rest of the narrative, The Strangers #1 is nonetheless a satisfying read, even when regarded as a standalone issue. Excellent stuff.

2000 AD Special (Diamond Comics Distributors-England/Rebellion)

Featuring six, top-notch, tales (four of which are standalone “one-and-done: shorts) spotlighting fan-favorites Judge Dredd, the Future Shocks short story series, and Zombo, the 2000 AD Special perfectly encapsulates the elements that make up 2000 AD‘s distinct long-standing appeal for fans on both sides of the Atlantic and the strength of its anthology format.

Free Comic Book Day: Star Wars/Captain Midnight/Avatar: The Last Airbender (Dark Horse Comics)

As with the 2000 AD Special, the Gold Sponsor FCBD 2013 sampler provided by Dark Horse Comics effectively and efficiently showcases the unique strengths of the publisher’s catalog. In Dark Horse’s case, it’s a combination of licensed comics based on properties with a huge international fan following (Star Wars, Avatar: The Last Airbender) and action-adventure comics infused with a pulp sensibility. Most readers will likely focus on the lead Star Wars story in this anthology featuring card-carrying badasses Darth Vader and Boba Fett and/or the Avatar: The Last Airbender short featuring fan-favorite character Mai dealing with her break-up with Fire Lord Zuko from last year’s top-selling Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Promise, but they should not overlook Roger Robinson’s Sal Buscema-esque linework on “Captain Midnight and the Case of the Grim Ghostly Pilot.”

Superman: Last Son #1 Special Edition (DC Comics)

These past several months, we at the Comixverse have been a bit critical of DC Comics when it comes to how they’ve handled their properties and their relationships with creators and the comics press. To be perfectly honest, outside of books like Dial H for Hero and Snyder’s work on Batman and Swamp Thing, we really haven’t found much that appeals to us in the publisher’s recent output in its main superhero line. So we were both surprised and heartened when we found out that DC’s FCBD 2013 offering would be a special reprint of Superman: Last Son #1, a solid 2008 miniseries outing from Geoff Johns and Richard Donner featuring astounding art from Adam Kubert. Yes, it’s a reprint of a story that’s no longer “in-continuity,” but it’s a good-bordering-on-great comic, it’s free, and anyone who is a superhero comics fan should give it a try.

Prince Valiant: Free Comic Book Day Edition (Fantagraphics)

Vintage art from the legendary Hal Foster and a concisely-written foreword to put the comic’s contents in historical context? Yes, please.

Discuss this article below or contact the author via e-mail
2 Responses
    • Molly Danger and Strangers are both at the top of my list too along with IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja TV tie-in and Teen Titans Go!. Like Teen Titans, where I was less excited about Beware the Batman, PrinceLess was less interesting to me. It was nice but I wouldn’t seek it out in the future.

      Launching the first issue at FCBD worked for Astounding Wolfman and Super Dinosaur so Oni’s move may not be that much of a gamble.

    • Molly Danger was great. Strangers was decent. This is the 4th (3rd?) year that Oni has introduced a new series via FCBD. It worked great for The Sixth Gun, not so great for Bad Medicine.

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