Today was Free Comic Book Day. Free Comic Book Day is a day for discovering comics you didn't know existed and wouldn't have picked up normally. This year had special significance to me, as my own The Elves of Iax was available at Seattle's Comics Dungeon. Comics Dungeon was one of the first stores to actually stock my book, so I like to patronize and promote them whenever I can. Comics Dungeon let you take 6 comics from their free-stuff table. I chose a good assortment of indie, corporate, pro and amateur. Here are the results.
The Winner: Black Diamond Detective Agency - I wasn't really sure how to identify this one, as the old-west style cover has about three lines that could have been the title. The episode was entitled "The Train Was Bang On Time," which seems to be part of the greater Black Diamond Detective Agency series. The art was downright stunning. Eddie Campell's painting are stunning. They are simple at first glance, but upon studying reveal beautiful layers of depth and detail. The water-color vagueness and dark hues really set the mood of the dark cowboy mystery. The story is told in a "tip of the iceberg" style, giving only the top level details of what promises to be a deep and involved plot-line. What I enjoyed most was how the comic could balance between being word-heavy and intensely graphical. One portion would rely entirely on wordless illustrations, while another would simplify the visuals, allowing the dialogue to identify a handful of very curious characters. Eddie Campbell's "Black Diamond Detective Agency" is simply a great old-western mystery.
The Disappointment: Wahoo Morris - Judging by the cover, I expected Craig A. Taillefer's Wahoo Morris would be a good, realistic soap-opera style comic with pretty decent art. After reading it, I can say the art was nice and the drama was soapy. My complaint was the lack of connection between the art and text. The art was so rich and detailed that it made the text blend in to the page, and the text itself was so heavy that reading it was almost a chore. I really had a hard time getting into the book until about halfway through, where the dialogue died down and the art became a little higher contrast. I don't want to dwell on the bad too much - it's really hard to hate a comic because it's art and text are too good for each other. I just generally feel that a deep story need simple, comfortable art, while rich beautiful artwork can get by with much less dialogue or narration. "Wahoo Morris" has potential, but I wasn't really hooked by this particular offering.
The Obvious: Comics Festival 2007 edition - This was a safe bet. There was no way a collection of about 23 different web and indie comic artist wouldn't be enjoyable. My particular favorite offerings were Ramon Parez and Rob Coughler's Butternut Squash, Bryan Lee O'Malley's "Scott Pilgrim" and "Kim Pine," Kean Soo's Jellaby and Eric Kim's "Battle Academy."
The Familiar: Owly Helping Hands - Owly has been around for a while. In fact, artist Andy Runton was one of the original SplurdLinkers. I never really got into Owly as a webcomic, but I really enjoyed picking it up in tangible format. Owly is cute and simple, and Runton does a respectable job keeping it wordless yet readable. The characters speak in pictograph, which can get confusing at times but ultimately keeps the story innocent and endearing. The Owly Free Comic Book Day edition also had a short from another beautiful but slightly more mature wordless comic, Christian Slade's Korgi. Both Owly and Korgi are great all ages comics, and fun examples of the wordless style.
The Unsurprising: Star Wars Tales - A Jedi's Weapon - Now I couldn't pick up only indie comics, I had to give the big guys a fighting chance. Dark Horse Comics put out "Star Wars Tales," and for Free Comic Book Day, they chose "A Jedi's Weapon" to try and get me hooked. The 12 page rag had about everything I'd expect from a movie tie-in book: generic "Marvel-Grade" semi-realistic artwork with mild dialogue, almost interesting story and Hayden Christianson's photograph on the cover. Really it was your average comic book, the cheeseburger of graphic-literature. There's not much more to say then it was everything you'd expect and nothing new or special.
The Cataclysmic Failure: Legion of Super Heroes in the 31st Century - It wouldn't be a "Jer Review" if I didn't find something to really hate with every fiber of my being, and today that shall be DC Comic's LOSHIT31C. Lo Shit 31c is yet another team of super heroes who are also teenagers from space in the future. I assume by the WB logo that it is also a TV show. As much as I delight in verbally assaulting terrible media, realizing that the title itself identifies this comic as warm poop on the floor really took the wind out of my sails. The story consists of the aforementioned future-super-teens using time travel to invite one Clark Kent to come to the future with them to handle some... dark... evil... bad guy... or something. There was some vague mention of a super villain, and I did see Superman beating up a lot of people, but I really got lost on what the actual point was. I have seen marketing ploys that turned into at least mildly-entertaining mindless drivel before, but Lo Shit 31c was an impossible-to-follow, continuity-screwing attempt to make the highly-marketable red and yellow "S" into another Teen Titans. With hundreds upon hundreds of comic artists and authors willing to put absolutely beautiful work on the internet for free just because they love doing it, why do media conglomerates continue to feed their stock artists a high-fiber diet and sell us the resulting dookie? If you find a copy of Lo Shit 31K sitting around, I recommend the following.
Thank you and goodnight.