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Captain Comics: FCBD's give away offered more than a peek at things to come

Andrew A. Smith, Tribune News Service on

Published in Comic Books

Publishers have gotten much better at Free Comic Book Day. Rather than a collection of teases to books we may never see, most of the 51 titles that were given away May 6 had full stories -- and then some teases. Here are some of the most interesting:

EVERYONE ASSEMBLE

With "Avengers: Endgame" burning up the box office, interest is high in what Marvel plans to do with its premier super-team. The answer is: an explosion of super-teams.

The issue begins with Iron Man somehow transported into the past, where he begins the narration that runs through most of the issue (and yes, he sounds exactly like Robert Downey Jr.). While there, he meets the Avengers of One Million B.C. (ancient versions of Black Panther, Ghost Rider, Iron Fist, Phoenix and Star Brand, with Agamotto and Odin standing in for Dr. Strange and Thor). Back in the present, Dr. Spectrum, Hyperion, Nighthawk, Power Princess and Whizzer of the Squadron Supreme of America (squint and you can see Green Lantern, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Flash of the Justice League) battling the Defenders of the Deep (Andromeda, Echidna, Orka, Sub-Mariner, Tiger Shark and friends).

Meanwhile, Black Panther, Blade and Ghost Rider of the O.G. Avengers attempt to exorcise the Spirit of Vengeance from Robbie Reyes, while a long sequence hints at how the Savage Avengers (Conan, Dr. Voodoo, Elektra, Punisher, Venom and Wolverine) assembled for their series, which began May 1. While out in space, the new Starjammers (Carol Danvers/Binary, Steve Rogers/Captain Corsair, She-Hulk and a Brood-ized Thor) are on a mission for the Shi'Ar Empire. Yeah, that's way too much to pack into a single comic book and still make sense, but playing name-that-character was a lot of fun.

DC'S YOUTH REVOLUTION

DC Comics has launched a couple of imprints for younger readers, and its two FCBD offerings tease graphic novels from those lines.

"Dear Justice League," arriving July 31, will feature members of DC's premier super-team corresponding with young fans, and it's from DC Zoom (aimed at middle-school readers). The FCBD book includes the Superman and Hawkwoman chapters, and are amusing enough even for adults -- especially the Super-error that causes a Rube Goldbergian cascade of unintended consequences.

"Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale" offers two teases from DC Ink (aimed at young adults). The first is a not-for-children vignette from the Feline Felon's youth from the GN of the same name, which should bring a tear from the hardest of hearts. The second is from an upcoming "Raven" graphic novel that's too short to really mean much, but does hint at a coming-of-age vibe.

TV STARS

Since comics have virtually taken over the small screen, it's only natural that there are a lot of comics that TV viewers will find familiar. Especially since the cross-pollination works both ways, and after spawning TV shows, comics often begin to reflect their offspring. Here are five:

"Deadly Class: Killer Set" is a brand new adventure starring Marcus and friends -- and Viktor, who is definitely not a friend. "Killer Set" occurs before the events at the end of the first "Deadly Class" season, as certain parties are still alive. It's a must have for "Deadly Class" fans, print or TV.

If you love the quirky dramedy "Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor," this book perfectly captures the vibe and likenesses of the TV show, as does the monthly from UK's Titan Comics.

"My Hero Academia" just made its American debut on Cartoon Network May 5, so this Viz book might serve as a primer for this popular Japanese series about a high school for super-powered teens. The FCBD offering is basically a half-book fight scene, rendered in the familiar spikey-hair, high-energy manga style. The other half of the book is "The Promised Neverland," a series about which I know nothing, but it was pleasant enough.

-- The first half of "Riverdale" offers a partial story from "Season 3" of the Archie series (the comic book, not the TV show), about Picture Day, and Cheryl Blossom, in particular, is in full diva mode. The second half is excerpts from the upcoming Scholastic titles "Riverdale Student Handbook" and "Riverdale: The Day Before" (a prequel). Yes, it's required reading, and yes, there will be a quiz.

-- If you can't wait for "Stranger Things" to return (July 4, people!), the FCBD Dark Horse book contains a complete story set immediately after the end of Season 2, starring Nancy, Mike and so-irritating-he's-endearing Steve. The second half of the book stars Madame Dragonfly and Jack Sabbath of the '60s superhero homage series "Black Hammer" -- and if you like that series and its spinoffs (as almost all old comics hands do) you should pick this up pronto for the Madame's star turn as a horror comic book host (a la the Crypt-Keeper of comics, TV and movie fame).

 

THE NEW KIDS

A number of small-press, Indie publishers, some of them very new, used FCBD as an opportunity to advertise their growing or upcoming lines. And the quality was surprisingly high, which means their scheme worked on me.

Ahoy Comics launched a couple of years ago with "The Wrong Earth," in which Dragonflyman, a superhero from a super-wholesome world very much like the 1966 "Batman" TV show, swaps places with The Dragonfly, a superhero on a world that takes grim 'n' gritty to an extreme. The first half of the FCBD release features the two heroes in parallel adventures, while the second half features the space-faring anthropomorphic cats of "Captain Ginger."

Neither of these series are currently being published -- Ahoy publishes in "seasons," so you won't see these titles again until another season is ready -- but they advertise the "Second Wave" of comics that are currently available. And "The Wrong Earth" and "Captain Ginger," as well as the rest of Ahoy's First Wave, are available as collections (or will be soon).

Red 5 Comics offers two unique apocalyptic futures, and who doesn't like a good apocalypse? In "The Dark Age," which launches in July, an unexplained event has dissolved all metal on Earth, reducing us to Medieval lifestyles, minus swords and such. In "Afterburn," a solar flare has scorched half the Earth, leaving nothing but ruins and mutants. The other half of the Earth -- the Western hemisphere, as you'd expect in a book published in the USA -- sends mercenary squads and soldiers-of-fortune to loot the now-abandoned treasures of the Old World. The first "Afterburn" series is available in trade paperback, while the first issue of the second shipped May 8.

Tiny Vault Comics has been dropping some pretty impressive series the last few years, ranging all over the genre map. Among them are "Reactor," telling a story set in the future, after global warming has released vampires from their frozen crypts and humanity is forced to flee to the planet Palus. Unfortunately, the refugees set off all the nukes on Earth to destroy the vampires in their wake, which covered the Earth in an ash cloud. The bloodsuckers liked the 24/7 darkness just fine, and have advanced technologically enough to find Palus.

"Reactor" was the second volume of a three-book story, but the first book, "Interceptor," was published by Heavy Metal. Vault now has the rights to "Interceptor," the story of a one-woman army sent to scout and/or destroy the vampire menace, and this year's FCBD book tells the very beginning of that tale. (The long-awaited trade paperback will follow.)

Aftershock Comics launched "Animosity" in 2016, featuring a world where one day all animals wake up with human-level intelligence, completely fouling the natural order. (Adventures ensue.) FCBD's "Animosity" tells a side tale about a girl who saves her pet fish -- who tells her it loves her -- and a bunch of other fish from a pet store as they would otherwise get eaten by now intelligent carnivores. A second story comes from the recently shipped "Mary Shelley: Monster Hunter" #1, which I trust is self-explanatory.

Full confession: I didn't know anything about Scout Comics until Free Comic Book Day. But now I have to bone up, because I found the three partial stories in its FCBD book so strange and compelling I have to learn more.

"Midnight Sky" is set in another apocalypse, one where it's perpetually dark. But what elevates this story is one survivor whose blood mysteriously comes alive and protects her when she's cut. That's ... weird. "Gutt Ghost" (pronounced "Gute Ghest," he says, like it's German) is a sheet-covered being whose intestines eat people who give him trouble. That's ... even weirder. The third tale is "Long Live Pro Wrestling," and even though I'm no wrestling fan, this BTS series might make me one.

Since most of these comics will probably end up being TV shows, you might as well drop by your local comics shop, and see what FCBD books are left over. It's a good time to be a comics fan, and FCBD is a cheap way to find out why.

Find Captain Comics by email (capncomics@aol.com), on his website (captaincomics.ning.com), on Facebook (Andrew Alan Smith) or on Twitter (@CaptainComics).

(c)2019 Andrew A. Smith

Visit his website at comicsroundtable.com.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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