Welcome back to the fourth annual Still on the Shelf, Free Comic Book Day Rundown! Though I have to say, as many comics as were released this year, it may have to count for the fourth and fifth editions. I have still never managed to get a hold of every issue offered on Free Comic Book Day (I think there are regional issues working against me), I have managed to get most of them. And if volume is any indicator of success, this event just keeps getting more and more popular.

2004 was the first year of this column, and I covered 18 issues. In 2005 I covered 22. Last year, 2006, the number crept up to 24. This year, I know I missed three or four issues, but I still had a staggering 38 issues. Needless to say, one look at that pile, and I knew there was no way I would be able to get this column done on Saturday as I had planned.

As usual, this column would not be possible without the help of a local comic shop, who went the extra mile to make sure that these titles were available to be reviewed for this column. This year, I’d like to thank the folks at Comic Universe for all their help. If you are in the Orange County, California area, be sure to pop by and check them out. They are located at 18902 Brookhurst Street in Fountain Valley, and can be reached at (714) 964-9569. The folks there are friendly and are happy to help you find anything you are looking for.

As with prior years, each comic is rated up to five halibuts (courtesy of the SOTS Halibut) based on Overall Quality, Original Content, and Story Completeness. To earn a full 5 rating, an issue must be of good quality, stand on its own, and be made up of original material. Those familiar with my reviews know that I have never, ever given a 5 rating in a regular review. For the purposes of this rundown, the qualifications are different, so you will see a few.

As with every year, I urge all of you who came away with some free books this year to spread the love. You know your friends – you know what they will like. After you are done reading an issue, pass it on to someone else you know you will enjoy it. The strength of the industry depends on new readers. The more people reading comics, the more likely your favorite comic will not get the axe due to low sales. Share your love of comics by giving these away – after all, they didn’t cost you anything.

And now – the Free Comic Book Day 2007 rundown!

Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse. By Floyd Gottfredson and Various.

Seems like most years we have some Carl Barks to look forward to, but this year they have decided to honor Gottfredson who was recently inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards Hall of Fame. The bulk of this issue reprints Mickey’s Robin Hood Adventure, a series of strips that appeared back in 1936. It is every bit the classic, and though possibly not as enjoyable as a Donald or Scrooge comic (Mickey was never that interesting to me), it is always interesting to see a 70 year old comic strip, and see just how different things were done back then.

Rating:

Gemstone Publishing

Nexus. By Steve Rude and Mike Baron.

A real mixed bag here. The concept is good, the execution of this particular issue was not so much. Many of you may remember Nexus – a sci-fi title that was published about 10 years ago by Dark Horse Comics. This is the same property, which the creators are trying to bring back. The issue itself is made up of brief snippets – classic “moments” in the history of Nexus. It is meant to give you some insight into the character, but it ends up being just plain boring. The work is not up to today’s standards, and this presentation is so spotty that only those fans of the property will really enjoy this read. Sci-fi is poised to make a huge come back right now, and while there might be a home for Nexus, it isn’t going to make it very far without some kind of fresh start. Reprinting past glories isn’t going to attract new readers.

Rating:

Rude Dude Productions

The Lone Ranger #0/Battlestar Galactica Season Zero #0 Flip Book. Written by Brett Matthews and Brandon Jerwa, Art by Sergio Cariello, Dean White, Stephen Segovia and InLight Studios.

Flip-book style this year for Dynamite, which is sometimes a good way to go.

The Lone Ranger has been an extremely well received property that, despite my love for a good western, I still haven’t sampled. The offering in this issue was a bit light though. It basically showcased the art, spent a little time fleshing out the Lone Ranger’s morality with a series of clichés, but didn’t do much beyond that. It was a little disappointing to be frank – there was nothing in this issue that would make me not want to pick up the Lone Ranger, but there was also little to entice me. It was just kind of – there. Basically a long “Look! It’s a Lone Ranger comic!”

The other side had some problems as well, but those were mostly preconceived. I am one of those people who really enjoyed the original Battlestar Galactica, and never could bring myself to watch the new version. I am sure it is a fine program, but it just isn’t for me. This read, though, was fairly decent. A basic sci-fi story, well, the setup of one, one would presume that the story continues in the series itself. Decent – made me want to read more, but there wasn’t any resolution, so you don’t walk away with much more than questions. Good as an ad, but as an actual comic read, not so much.

Rating:

Dynamite Entertainment

Who Wants to be a Superhero? Preview. Written by Stan Lee, Art by Will Conrad and Michael S. Bartolo.

So this thing actually does exist! It was originally slated to come out a few months back, but was pushed to July to coincide with the premiere of the second season of Who Wants to be a Superhero?. Well, this is only a preview, and a light one at that – a whole 8 pages. And it is very much a Stan Lee comic, reading like something that came through a time machine. To some people, this is a negative, and that is understandable. Stan Lee has a very classic and unique style that just wouldn’t make it if he was just breaking into the industry today – people expect more sophistication from their comic stories. But it is elegant in its simplicity – you know who is good and who isn’t, everything is clear and easy to follow, and a lot happens. Heck, today, these 8 pages would take many contemporary comic writers 3 issues to tell! This issue is a fun start – the issue should be decent. Wish they would have put together an 8 page original story instead though.

Rating:

Dark Horse

Amelia Rules! “Hangin’ Out.” By Jimmy Gownley.

Amelia is one of those titles I always look forward to on Free Comic Book Day. Gownley does a great job putting this book together. It is good for a younger audience, and while it is geared at them, it is also extremely smart. This issue isn’t nearly as heavy as last year’s was, mostly dealing with Amelia and her circle of friends hanging out inside on a very rainy day. Lots of clever moments as usual. Gownley does great work. Included in this issue is a short Apathy Cat back-up story by Harold Buchholz. It was a but silly, but nothing to scream over. A decent back up that would probably bring this rating down a bit, but the Amelia Rules! story was strong enough that it is easy to ignore.

Rating:

Renaissance Press


Gumby. By Various.

I can’t say I have ever read a Gumby comic before… It is tough to tell whether this is reprinting material from one of the first three issues of the ongoing or not – it probably is, but in a case like this it is okay.

Unlike a DC title, chances are most of you haven’t read Gumby either, and this is your first exposure. It was decent. The story stood well on its own, and was both true to Gumby’s roots and a creative on its own. A fairly fun read and one kids should enjoy.
Rating:

Gumby Comics

Transformers: Official Movie Prequel #1. Written by Chris Ryall and Simon Furman, Art by Don Figueroa and Josh Burcham.

A reprint, but a much appreciated one. The coming Transformers movie is cause for both excitement and consternation. A live action Transformers flick is awesome, but from the look of the robots, it will be less Transformers and more Bionicles. Peter Cullen is returning to do the voice of Optimus is indeed awesome, past experience with Michael Bay’s directing leaves a lot to be desired. The most positive thing I can think to say about this issue is – it makes me feel better about the movie. And that is no small praise. It has a different look, but thus far it feels like Transformers. If this carries on into the movie, it will be a success.

Rating:

IDW

Chose Your Weapon Sampler. By Jin-Hwan Park, Dan Hipp, Seung-Yup Cho, Ki-Hoon Lee, Oh Se-Kwon, Jae-Hwan Kim, and Richard A. Knaak.

This digest collects five story fragments of various Tokyopop stories. It was a little tough for me to get through, but that is more because I am not a big fan of Manga than it is an aspersion of the quality of the work. The scene selection was good – while these are clearly not complete stories, they did do a good job clipping stories in a way that the scene stood on its own and made some sense. Gotta give the editors on this one a little credit.

This might not appeal to a broad audience, but if you are curious about Manga, Tokyopop in particular, this is an excellent showcase of their products.

Rating:

Tokyopop

Sonic The Hedgehog: Unburying the Hatchet. Written by Ian Flynn, Art by Tracy Yardleyi, Jim Amash, and Jason Jensen.

This was a really fun issue. It stands alone and is all original material, two huge plusses on this day. This issue in particular takes place right before the upcoming Sonic #174, but you aren’t stuck with a To Be Continued.

The story is a fun action read that is all-ages appropriate. Not as thoughtful as something like Amelia, or as skillful as something like Owly, but it is a solid story that is a perfect example of the kind of thing readers are looking for on Free Comic Book Day. This should turn a lot of people on to the Sonic comic.

Rating:

Archie

Virgin Comics Special. By Various.

A bunch of new small publishing companies have popped up over the last year, one of them being Virgin, who launched their run with Devi about a year ago.

This year’s effort collects some excerpts from four of their books – Ramayan 3392 AD, The Sadhu, Walk In, and Devi. Not the art is just stunning – in all four stories. But the stories themselves are heavy – far too heavy for a casual read. Virgin would have done well to follow the past examples of Arcana and Image and go for shorter original snippets rather than reprints in this case – their material really is too dense to get readers interested in four titles in such a short period. They are still new to the game, though, some trial and error is to be expected. Still – some darned good art in this one.

Rating:

Virgin Comics

Owly: Helping Hands. By Andy Ruton.

Not sure why I even bother with this one – I should just slap a five on it and move on! As expected, Owly was forty-two different shades of awesome, and once again a stunning example of artistic storytelling. To call it cute doesn’t even come close to covering it. This is one of those titles you look for first if you are a guy trying to get his comic-hating girlfriend to go to the shop on Free Comic Book Day. Stick this in her hands and all will be forgiven. For that day, at least. Ruton delivers strong again with another excellent outing. There is a back-up in this year’s issue, a short called Korgi, Sprout’s Lost Cookie by Christian Slade. It isn’t quite as cutesy as Owly, but also well done and effective. A nice capper to a great issue.

Rating:

Top Shelf

Unseen Peanuts. By Charles M. Schulz.

One of the most important criteria for a perfect Free Comic Book Day submission is originality. How, then, can you make a perfect Peanut’s offering? Simple – a perfect gimmick. Unseen Peanuts collects over 150 classic Peanuts strips from the 50s and 60s that have only been reprinted in one place – the Complete Peanuts volumes from Fantagraphics. All of these strips were considered “Lost” for one reason or another. Each string of strips come complete with a bit of commentary explaining why the strips were never reprinted – specifics that you actually can’t find in the hardcover volumes. Even if you are already buying the hardcover volumes like I am, you will enjoy this issue.

Rating:

Fantagraphics Books

Justice League of America #0. Written by Brad Meltzer, Art by various.

Unfortunately, it looks like DC is going the reprint route again this year, which is a same. Their main offering this year reprints the #0 issue of the new Justice League of America. The issue itself doesn’t do a whole lot to introduce the new League, but it does do a nice little recap of the history of the League through the eyes of the “Trinity” of Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman. An ok read – but when I think of an ideal DC Free Comic Book Day submission, I think of an original superhero story with lots of action that gets you excited about a particular character. There was no action, way too much drama, and far too little new material here (read: none). DC can do better.

Rating:

DC Comics

Buzzboy/Roboy Red: The Buzz & The ‘Bot!. By Rich Faber, John Gallagher, and John Green.

Buzzboy is always good for a solid Free Comic Book Day outing. Huge points for complete stories and all-ages accessibility, though there is some reprinted material in this issue. This isn’t as great a sin for a company like Sky-Dog as it is for someone like DC – chances are, you have never seen the Roboy graphic novel, so this is all new to you. As I said before – this is a well-written all ages property (both of them), but it isn’t quite as smart as something like Amelia, so the older you are, the less interesting this will be to you. That is ok though – it is meant for the younger reader, and it should suit them just fine.

Rating:

Sky-Dog Comics

Impact University Volume 3. By Coleen Doran, Tom Nguyen, J.

Peffer, Jim Pavelec, and Jason Cheeseman-Meyer.

For the third year, Impact is back with a couple excerpts from its line of Workshop books. And as in previous years, if you consider yourself an aspiring comic creator, this is an issue you should have checked out. It includes a few short art lessons from some popular artists today, and an intro by Gail Simone. Informative for the aspiring comic artist, as well as for the fan who likes to read about the inner workings of comic creation.

Rating:

Impact Books

The Umbrella Academy/Pantheon City/Zero Killer. Written by Gerard Way, Ron Marz, and Arvid Nelson, Art by Gabriel Ba, Dave Stewart, Clement Sauve, Stephane Peru, and Matt Camp.

Three pretty solid stories headlines by the original 12 page prelude to The Umbrella Academy set prior to the upcoming series. It was a pretty fun read – a little on the dark side, but dark humor and super-heroics go well together these days. The second story, Pantheon City is a little less enjoyable, but it seems like a concept that needs to be flushed out a little more. The Zero Killer snippet was entertaining – it was very much a character oriented story and is a good introduction to the upcoming title. A good effort from Dark Horse this year.
Rating:

Dark Horse

Family Guy/Hack/Slash Flip Book. Written by Tim Seeley and Matt Fleckenstein, Art by Emily Stone and Various.

This issue is by no means to be read by children.

On one side of this issue we find a Family Guy short. I admit that Family Guy is good for an occasional chuckle, but it doesn’t translate very well at all to a printed medium. It comes off as coarse and crude, and the timing which elicits the laughs on the show itself is just impossible to recreate in comic form. It ended up just being offensive.

On the flip side, you find Hack/Slash, a great creative idea from Tim Seeley that I have been a fan of for some time. They do seem to be too hyped on the potential for the feature-film. 99% of comics that are optioned for movie release never actually happen, and to hype an option two years before an initial slated release date is a lot premature, and might illicit a negative reaction from more savvy comic readers. The story itself is a good one – a flash of the origin of Cassie Hack and how her role as a Slasher killer was cemented by bringing her mother’s rampage to an end. Also unsafe for the younger reader, but it probably turned a couple more people on to an outstanding series.

Rating:

Devil’s Due

Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #1. Written by J. Torres, Art by Chynna Clugston and Guy Major.

The second of DC’s traditional two outings is the Johnny DC effort, a reprint of Legion of Superheroes in the 31st Century #1, the comic book based on the Cartoon Network cartoon. This one is very kid friendly, and a good book to have picked up if you had young ones in tow. Of course, it is a reprint, like DC’s submissions usually are, but you had a complete story and a somewhat entertaining one. Legion fans might find the issue a grating read, but for a kid it might just be passable.
Rating:

DC Comics

How to Draw. By Various.

Maybe it was just a visceral reaction to all things Wizard, but of the three “how to” submissions this month, this was my least favorite. It was really light on the mechanics, and didn’t give any complete lessons like the Impact book did, instead giving you a “taste” of the lesson you would get, and then telling you what to go and buy. It was decent from a very general standpoint – if you wanted an overview in comic art creation, the issue was productive. For real mechanics, though, there were better offerings.

Rating:

Wizard

Wahoo Morris. By Craig Taillefer.

Right off the bat, this title describes itself as the next Strangers in Paradise (quoting a review), and immediately that was a mistake. Something ALL comic promoters should keep in mind (especially the indies), the moment you declare yourself the next insert big awesome title here, you open yourself up to such scrutiny that even the tiniest misstep will be brought to the surface. This issue was a reprint of the very first Wahoo Morris, with some strategic edits to clean up some of the nudity and foul language, to make it safe for any younger readers who might pick it up. It isn’t exactly an all-ages book anyway, but I have to give Taillefer a ton of credit for that move. The story itself? It weathered the storm of my initial heightened skepticism and turned out to be a pretty good read. The only thing it really had in common with Strangers in Paradise was the fact that it is black and white, and is a kind of slice of life love story – the reviewer that blurb can be credited to was really lazy on that comparison. But it is a good title with a lot of promise. This issue was a successful one.

Rating:

Too Hip Gotta Go Graphics

Pirates vs. Ninjas #1. Written by Fred Perry, Robby Bevard, and Wes Hartman, Art by Craig Babiar and Wes Hartman.

Ah, the inevitable attempt to capitalize on pop culture phenomenon. You knew it had to happen sometime. This issue was a reprint of a previous issue – a trade of the first series is set for release in the next two months. It was a little padded but fairly generic fun. Being the first part of a four part series, it did leave a bit to be desired in terms of a conclusion. Wish they would have done something original instead of a straight reprint to be honest – a issue-sized, self contained, straight up brawl between some pirates and ninjas would have done a lot more to generate interest in the series than the meager offering we got here. Could have been better, but not too, too bad as it was.

Rating:

Antarctic Press

Worlds of Aspen #2. [i]By Michael Turner, Jeph Loeb, Vince Hernandez, Marcus To, Don Ho, Jason Gorder, Sal Regla, Peter Steigherwald,

This year’s effort from Aspen was very similar to last year’s – a few excerpts from various stories in their line-up, including the Soulfire, Fathom: Kiani, Soulfire: New World Order, and Shrugged.

Like I have come to expect from Aspen, there was nothing really good or bad about any of these stories. The art on Soulfire: New World Order was surprisingly fresh – everything I have seen from Aspen at this point has been that horrifically generic Turneresque style – it was nice to see something different. The stories were fairly generic, and being incomplete excerpts, you really didn’t get a satisfying read out of any of them.

In the end – a powerfully average outing for Aspen once again – something that seems to have become the standard for that line.

Rating:

Aspen Comics

Arcana Studio Presents 2007. By Various.

Another strong submission from Arcana Studio – that makes four years in a row! My reaction to this year’s is not-so-surprisingly similar to last year’s. As the years go on, Arcana has grown better at their craft, and as a company they are really putting out some great work these days. Several years ago, when they first started out, a lot of the praise they earned was owed mostly to potential – they are really realizing that right now.

Three new stories were found in this year’s issue – a Kade: Sun of Perdition short, a prologue to the upcoming 100 Girls series, and a look at the forthcoming Clockwork Girl series (which is starting off with a $.25 issue. All three were solid stories – I was particularly impressed with the art on the Kade short – it was really something special.

Arcana has nailed the Free Comic Book Day formula from day one. Show off your line, but give readers a complete read that is easy to follow. Right on the money for the fourth straight year.

Rating:

Arcana Comics

Last Blood #1. Written by Bobby Crosby, Art by Owen Gieni.

The first thing that came to mind when I opened up this issue was The Walking Dead – only with slightly less awesome art. While the art critique held up in the end (it was decent, but could stand some improvement), I was pleasantly surprised at the original twist Crosby added to the story. Yes, it is a zombie book, and yes, the story does follow a group of living people who have to survive in a world overrun by those creatures. The twist? Vampires. Needing a source of blood to survive, vampires actively protect the humans from the zombies to ensure their own survival. The issue also reveals a connection between the vampires and the zombies that actually makes a lot of sense.

This issue looks to be the actual first issue of the series – a tactic we are seeing employed a few times this year. This issue is the actual #1, with issue #2 set to come out in July. That is the very spirit of Free Comic Book Day. A little more risky, but readers who picked this issue up got a real free comic in every sense of the word.

Rating:

Blatant Comics

Digital Webbing Jam 2007.By Various.

Digital Webbing gave us a look at five of their properties this month. These stories are described as “remastered,” or simply previews – which means they probably aren’t original, but once again – indie companies tend to get a little pass on that.

The first was a Bloodrayne short that wasn’t too bad. It was high action, and though you really don’t get too much detail about who Bloodrayne is (unless you are already familiar with the game), you get a nice fight sequence and some decent conflict which stood pretty well on its own. The Fist of Justice short had a clever twist, but ultimately it wasn’t something that could carry a concept over the long term. I really tried to like E-Man, but there just wasn’t much there to really go on. Zombie Highway’s and Punks were also way too short – it probably would have served the whole issue better to give those pages over to Bloodrayne and Fist of Justice for to better showcase those books.

This issue was better than I expected – the spotlight features stood well on their own, and were fairly enjoyable.

Rating:

Digital Webbing

Love and Capes #4. By Thomas F. Zahler.

Like Last Blood, this is a legit complete issue that is part of the series. It is going to be available for sale in July as a variant cover – mostly to give readers the opportunity to check it out who might not have been able to find a copy on Free Comic Book Day, which is a perfectly acceptable strategy, and one I think falls very much in the spirit of “original, non-reprinted” content. The issue itself was fun. There is plenty of spoofing of mainstream heroes, but the core of the story is essentially a romantic comedy that spotlights the relationship between The Crusader – a super-hero, and Abby Tennyson, the owner of a bookstore. The issue was a light and fun read that was well put together. Hope you got a chance to read it.

Rating:

Maerkle Press

Comic Genesis Free Comic Book Day 2007. By Various.

As in prior years, Comic Genesis devoted their Free Comic Book Day issue to highlighting thirty web comics that are hosted on their site. They also include instructions on how to set up your own account with them and post your work.

A novel idea – and it probably did bring in a few takers, but as a comic, it resulted in a slightly amateurish product. The production was nice, but the strips themselves often left a lot to be desired. Several forgot to even showcase why their comic is worth reading, instead devoting the whole thing to a big ad where the characters asked people to check out their strip. A few gems – worth flipping through, but there really weren’t any solid standouts. Having to sift through a lot of hard-to-read and humorless strips really made it worse for the few gems in there.

Rating:

Comic Genesis

Little Archie: Legend of the Lost Lagoon #1. By Bob Bolling and Jim Amash.

Archie still hasn’t managed to recreate the magic of its 2004 Free Comic Book Day entry, but this one wasn’t half bad. Granted – Little Archie is about as intriguing as Baby Mickey (sorry – Muppet Babies was the only time the concept ever worked) – but Bolling does manage to tell a somewhat interesting story. The real stars of the story were the grown-up camp counselors, whose behavior in the story really mimicked the kind of thing you would see from the regular cast of an Archie book. This made me kind of wonder why they bothered with the Little Archie gimmick at all.

Could have been worse – but the gimmick was a killer here.

Rating:

Archie Comics

The Astounding Wolf-Man #1. Written by Robert Kirkman, Art by Jason Howard.

Another “Give the first issue away” effort – and Image being as big as they are, this will probably pay off the most for them. Robert Kirkman, of course, is well known for his work at Image. Invincible and The Walking Dead are two of the top books in their line, so you can bet they would be eager to add a third. The story itself followed a pretty standard wolf-man formula, and was fairly enjoyable, if predictable. I can recall that the first issue of the Walking Dead was very formulaic- it took several issues before it really started to stand out. The same may hold true here – it has potential for sure. A lot less serious and not nearly as dark as The Walking Dead, but just as appealing to fans of the supernatural. A good first issue, and a great Free Comic Book Day submission.

Rating:

Image Comics

APE Entertainment’s Comic Spectacular!. By Various.

Most of the time, when I pick up an anthology-style Free Comic Book Day issue, I cringe before opening. Cracking open APE’s issue was such a relief. Inside there were sex actual short stories. Not excerpts of stories – full stories with a beginning, a middle, and an end. It seems like comic creators have a hard enough time with 8 page stories – to see this many 5 pagers of such high quality was a real treat. My favorite line of all the FCBD issues I read this year appeared in this issue – “The Civil Boar tie-ins broke my fall. I knew they were good for something.” If that doesn’t about sum it up, I don’t know what does. This was an outstanding effort for APE, and I hope they pick up a few new readers for their efforts.

Rating:

APE Entertainment

Liberty Comics #0. By Dennis Mallonee, Mike W. Barr, Billy Tucci, Andrew Pepoy, Henry Vogel, Mark Propst, and Rob Jones.

Heroic Publishing has gone with Liberty Girl again to headline their Free Comic Book Day submission, and it seems to have worked out in their favor once again. This issue contained four complete stories – and all four in the same “Golden Age Style” that Heroic prides itself on. And they pull it off. It leaves a little to be desired in terms of character development, but that really isn’t what this issue is all about. It was good decent fun, and this year’s issue was even better than last year’s. I am glad to see that Heroic has managed to stick around this long – it is always a treat to crack open one of their issues.

Rating:

Heroic Publishing

The Train Was Bang On Time. By Eddie Campbell and William Hornber.

Bonus points for creativity in format, I have to admit. Sadly, that was the most novel thing about this issue.

To be frank, it was a little confusing and a lot boring. The issue quite literally started with a bang – a protest turns bloody as a train is blown up, instead of merely blocked as a group of protesters intended. Framed as a detective story, a good mystery was anticipated. Unfortunately, after the explosion, the story just kind of meanders. The reason for this is several fold – one, a real weakness in artistic storytelling, and two – a poor script that relied on good artistic storytelling to carry it. Page after page without a word on it attempted to convey what was happening – and that lack of dialogue killed what could have been a good story. Sometimes it is better to forget trying to be so bloody artistic and tell a good story – when you go for “artsy,” you often fail if you don’t do it with good reason and skill.

Could have been much better.

Rating:

First Second Books

Whiteout #1. Written by Greg Rucka, Art by Steve Lieber.

This issue was a reprint of the original Whiteout #1 published way back in 1998. Oni has just released a “remastered” trade of this mini, and is including the first issue here by way of promotion. OK, so it isn’t exactly original or yet-unseen material, but it was a decent first issue, and there is a really good chance that most Free Comic Book Day patrons hadn’t read it before. The ending is a little rough – the story is incomplete and not really satisfying if read on its own, but as a lead in to a four issue mini, it wasn’t too bad.

Not the ideal choice for a Free Comic Book Day submission, but far, far better than a lot of the alternatives.

Rating:

Oni Press

Viper Comics Presents Volume Two. By Various.

I’ve been an unabashed Viper fan for a long time, which makes this review very, very hard.

This effort was really less than stellar.

It started off well enough – the Yeti Another Day strips were an excellent warm-up. This issue was bound to be Sasquatch-heavy with their promotion of the upcoming anthology, so it set the perfect tone. The second short – an excerpt from Sasquatch vs. UFOs started off well enough, and seemed like a clever concept. However, the end is where things started to go wrong. That story ended in a cliffhanger without giving any real substance of its own. The stories after that had even less substance. Even Oddly Normal – a fantastic title, was pretty empty. Don’t get me wrong, it started off as any good Oddly Normal issue would, but the pages included couldn’t stand on their own at all.

This was a decent showcase of Viper’s various titles, but they forgot that Free Comic Book Day is supposed to be about free comics, not free ads and preview pages. Outside the initial strips, nothing in this book could be read or enjoyed on its own. A real shame. All of these titles deserve to be given a shot – but this particular issue was a weak contribution to the event.

Rating:

Viper Comics

Marvel Adventures Three-In-One. By Various.

The first of two Marvel submissions this year – this one was geared towards the all-ages reader. And it wasn’t half bad. The “solicit” for this issue promised all-new stories, though I am pretty sure that the Franklin Richards story in the back was a reprint. The Hulk and Iron Man stories seemed fresh, however, and for ten page shorts were exceptionally well-written. It just goes to show that there really are people left at Marvel who can write a short comic story- most impressive! This was a great issue for the kids, and the average non-comic-reader Joe who happened to pick this one up.

An excellent start for Marvel.

Rating:

Marvel Comics

Amazing Spider-Man Swing Shift 2007. Written by Dan Slott, Art by Phil Jimenez.

Wow – just wow. I honestly don’t think Marvel has ever done a better Free Comic Book Day issue. Last year was the first year they really did well, but this is absolutely perfect.

OK, So there is a new Spider-Man movie out – heck, Free Comic Book Day was scheduled to be on opening weekend for this movie. So Marvel responds by releasing a Spider-Man comic for this years event. The right move for sure.

Second – it is an original story. Written by Dan Slott to boot, which is a bonus for comic fans who follow the creative talent behind their books. And he really delivered. This story was all-ages friendly, not bogged down in continuity, fun and exciting. It had humor and action, and though it followed the old standard Spider-Man formula (you know, Peter on his way to meet X loved one, only to be interrupted by a criminal), it was handled with such humor and grace that the issue was a joy to read. And as one-off villains go, Overdrive was a pretty good one.

And as icing, why not give a preview of an upcoming issue of Amazing Spider-Man? I dislike Free Comic Book Day issues that are made up entirely of preview pages, but if you took the time and effort to deliver a high quality complete story, and want to take a couple pages to showcase an upcoming issue, go for it! Through and through, a great issue, Well done, Marvel.

Rating:

Marvel Comics

Comics 101: How-to and History Lessons From the Pros!. By Danny Fingeroth, Mike Manley, Bret Blevins, Bob McLeod, Roy Thomas, and Michael Eury.

Of the three “How to” comics that came out this year, this one was my favorite. Mostly because it wasn’t so artist-oriented, but also included some stuff for aspiring comic writers. But it was more than that. The real gem of this issue was the lengthy comic history articles in the back. There was a lot of informative information regarding the history of the medium in that article, and I highly recommend all of you find a copy if this issue if you missed it and read it. A lot of you probably know everything presented in it anyway, but it is a nice piece of work that I think you will enjoy. Especially if you want to make comics – you should know the ins and outs of the industry you aspire to be a part of, and this article will get you off to a good start.

Not a great issue for someone looking for a comic story, but for the real comic geek – it’s a good one.

Rating:

Twomorrows

Comics Festival 2007. By Various.

If anything, I hope you managed to pick this issue up just to read Darwyn Cooke’s outstanding short.

There were several shorts in this issue, and of all of the anthology books that came out this year, this one really stood head and shoulders above the rest. In addition to Cooke’s story The Alex, there were a few other notable standouts, including True Romance from Brian McLachlan, Michael Cho, and Cooke, The Wonderful World of Kim Pine by Bryan Lee O’Malley, and what I considered to be a real commentary on the nature of masculinity in today’s society, J. Bone’s Jett Vector. Through and through a great read.

Rating:

Legion of Evil Press

Wow – there you are, thirty-eight Free Comics! As always, there are a couple that get missed in the shuffle – due to regional issues or some other unknown factors. This year, the submissions from Bongo, Boom!, Castle Rain, Comic Shop News, Keenspot, and Drawn & Quarterly were missed. If you picked up any of these issues, please feel free to add your thoughts!

Thanks again for reading, and see you next year!