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Free Comic Book Day 2021

For the second year in a row, Free Comic Book Day had to be adapted due to the ongoing pandemic situation. Normally FCBD is the first Saturday in May, but an August date was selected for the 20th year anniversary of this event. I distributed comics at my library today, and did so outside to be on the safe side. I had terrific teen volunteers who helped, and we had over 85+ people stop by to pick up comics in our small town, so it was a successful event! A bonus to having FCBD at my library is getting a sneak peek at the comics available, and the following were the ones I choose.

Every year I choose a Spider Man comic, as you can’t go wrong with Spidey! This issue features Ben Reilly as the Scarlet Spider, someone I unfamiliar with, although I know there are more versions beyond Peter and Miles. It was a good introduction to Ben’s story, and will give readers time to look up info about him (like I did) before diving into a longer story with him. The second half of the comic was about Venom, Edward Brock, who when bonded with his symbiote is the King in Black. I often get Venom and Carnage mixed up, but Venom is more an anti-hero vs Carnage being a straight out villain.

Another automatic gimmie each year is the Avengers. This year’s story is a multi-verse tale (not typically a fav plot for me) and has cybernetic Deathloks who seems to be have some hero characteristics. They are waiting in a space station for a signal and then all leave at once to head to different Earth dimensions where they encounter different types of situations. The second half is a Hulk story who is battling the very weird big-headed M.O.D.O.K. The Hulk seems to be tired of the same old shit and decides to strike out his own into space, obviously setting him up for brand new adventures. I was happy to see an ad for the Wastelanders: Old Man Star-Lord podcast that I recently listened to and liked in-between the two stories.

This last comic for me is from the world of Something is Killing the Children, and expands on the society of monster-killers that Erica belongs to. Erica’s work in Wisconsin is suspect and her mentor Aaron is sent to rein her in. Some artwork is used from the graphic novels in this comic, but it is fleshed out with additional information to paint a larger picture of what to expect in volume three.

This is the least amount of comics I have selected from Free Comic Book Day- I just wasn’t feeling it this year, and not having DC as part of it anymore is a blow. But nevertheless, I was happy to provide FCBD to my library patrons, and hope that next year we can have a bigger event once pandemic restrictions have lifted.

-Nancy

Marvels

Happy New Year! 2020 proved to be a trash year, so I am hoping that this new year will be as marvelous as this graphic novel is!

After enjoying two podcasts about Wolverine last year, I heard Marvel had put one out about The Fantastic Four without realizing it was based partly on this graphic novel. I enjoyed the Marvels podcast and picked up this source material to accompany it. I was in a bit of a reading slump at the time, so after skimming it and seeing it was worth a deeper read, I put it aside to read after the holidays. 

This amazing story gives the perspective of everyday people living in a world populated with superheroes, villains and mutants. We see the world through their eyes as they try to make sense of the incredible things happening around them. Begining in 1939, we first meet Phil Sheldon a young photojournalist and his friend Jonah Jameson who are amazed when superheroes begin to appear in New York City. The populace is at first scared and then in awe of these costumed avengers and soon admire them as they help fight for American freedom in World War II. But as the decades go by, in a 35-year span, perception of them waxes and wanes. The Fantastic Four are beloved for awhile but later pilloried. Later, the poor mutants get the brunt of the public’s hate. 

Divided into four chapters, the narrative moves forward chronologically with Sheldon marrying and having two daughters as he follows and photographs the heroes, that he calls the Marvels, both for his career and for a book he is planning about them. He is an everyman, who at times succumbs to mob mentality but as the years go by he thinks critically about what having heroes in his world means, despite losing an eye when he gets too close to a fight between Namor and the Torch. There is a poignant scene set in the 60s where Sheldon recounts seeing a mob react during a Sentinals attack, and a riot breaks out. Sheldon comments: “The real story was the people who’d been scared too long…who’d been wound too tight and cut loose”. This has uncomfortable parallels to today, 25+ years after this graphic novel came out, as a certain populace seems to be glorying in a changed America and violence is a daily worry during this contested election. 

Alex Ross’s work is a marvel! He did for the Marvel universe what he would do again later in  DC’s Kingdom Come– he made all the heroes fleshed out and real. His trademark painted photo-realism style is exquisite, as each panel is a work of art. The research he did was evident, showing the heroes in their original costumes from the Golden and Silver eras of comics. He also is great at recreating period pieces, as the narrative takes place from 1939-1974 and he gets the clothing styles and the inevitable aging of the characters spot-on. 

To further strengthen this unique story, author Kurt Busiek shares his thoughts about creating this tale. He plumbs the Marvel comic universe for a timeline on how the heroes developed, and they are worked into the story. Thus, the book becomes an encyclopedia of sorts as heroes and villains move in and out of the narrative in cameos as Sheldon, his family and regular people are the true main characters in this story. In addition, Marvel great Stan Lee adds an introduction and other artists share their insight during chapter breaks. The story is then bookended with comic sources for all the hero references and Ross shares his artistic process. While the podcast based on this graphic novel was interesting, it centered on the second and third chapters only, and this entire book fleshes out the story more thoroughly.  Although only one day into 2021, I’m guessing this book will be a contender for my Best Reads at the end of the year!

-Nancy

Free Comic Book Day 2020

Free Comic Book Day had been scheduled for Saturday, May 2nd, and for very obvious reasons didn’t happen. I had brought FCBD to my previous library for several years and had big plans for my new library, but it had to be cancelled. With many of the issues already printed- what were the publishers and comic book stores to do? So, they decided to release the issues on a weekly basis from July 15th- September 9th. But I am resourceful and know that September 25th is National Comic Book Day, so my new library patrons will get comics after all on that day, albeit in a smaller outside the library (in a tent) event.

Here were some of my favorite issues this year, minus any DC comics that I had originally put in an order for since they pulled out of the event (boo, hiss!) since they no longer work with Diamond Comic Distributors.

Dark Ark: Instinct

This dark what-if tale was fascinating. Many of us have heard the biblical story of Noah and the ark saving people and animals for the future, but this tale speculates that a sorcerer Shrae builds an ark to save the unnatural animals. In this short story, a spider/human hybrid is about to give birth on the boat so her mate seeks nourishment for the forthcoming babies. But instinct takes over when she thinks she can not feed them and her mate discovers what she has done when he was briefly away and his actions doom them to extinction. The art was necessarily dark and sketchy with pink and red overtones. Cullen Bunn continues his excellent storytelling in this series.

X-Men/Dark Ages

The first story was about the X-Men with the second about the Avengers. I had no idea what was going on in the X-Men story although it had gorgeous art. Different universes, tarot cards, and ominous warnings were all I got out of it. The next story was centered around Tony Stark (whom I dislike) but at least I understood what was happening. When Iron Man’s powers are strictly based on technology, what happens when the world goes dark?

Spiderman/Venom

This issue contains two stories- the first about Spiderman and Black Cat and the second one being about Venom. In the first story, Peter and Felicia are battling it out with Vulture and working well as a team. The sexual tension is high and Peter questions what Felicity is up to, as she can’t always be trusted. In the next story, Eddie Brock is warning the Avengers team that the extremely dangerous villain Knull is readying to attack. His symbiote Venom is friendlier than I remember, and the two have to battle another villain, Virus. Both stories are good lead-ins to their respective future narratives.

Bloodshot, featuring X-O Manowar

The meh Bloodshot story was only a few pages long and didn’t even list the author and illustrator, although it did show Vin Diesel on the front cover as he portrayed him in a recent movie. I enjoyed the longer second story about X-O Manowar during his Viking childhood. It connected the mythology of his ancestors with his space-traveling future.

The Resistance

The evocative cover drew me in, and this story ended up being my favorite FCBD issue as it was a complete first issue of a new series, not just a taste like so many FCBD stories are. In fact, the narrative is eerily similar to what we are going through now, as a pandemic sweeps through the globe. In this tale, the pandemic is even more deadly, with a 95% fatality rate. But suddenly, the virus stops- as if a switch were turned off. The remaining world needs to regroup, with hints that there might be a mystical or otherworldly reason for what happened. The art is solid and was appropriately shadowy considering the storyline.

I also read Invincible by Robert Kirkman and The Boys by Garth Ennis, but they are simply reprints of their first issues to serve as lead-ins to new series on Prime Video that they wish to hype.

I appreciate that FCBD was not scrapped and adapted so readers could still pick up free issues. The comic book stores and publishers made the best of the situation with the unforeseen pandemic and DC pulling out of the event. It builds goodwill, drives people to comic book stores and thus increases sales at both the stores and for the publishers.

-Nancy

Free Comic Book Day 2019

For the fifth year in a row, I have brought Free Comic Book Day to my library. I pick up a good selection of titles from my favorite comic book store, Graham Crackers, and offer them to the library patrons when they come in. I also had some Star Wars and superhero crafts available for kids to do as well. I know, I know…I’m pretty awesome to offer such epicness to my library community, and this year we had the biggest crowd yet. As an added bonus, I love getting a sneak peek of the titles, and this year I choose seven.

Hope proved to be my favorite of the seven stories I picked up. It introduced the story about Julie, a mother who is secretly an Ultra and keeping her secret hero identity even from her husband and daughter. When a car accident with her family reveals her secret, Julie’s life is upended and her daughter is taken from her. This was strong introduction with very promising story lines, in addition to the bright clean art. Perhaps because I am a mom myself, I could imagine myself in her shoes (plus who doesn’t wonder what they’d do if they unexpectedly obtained super powers).

As soon as I saw a pug on the front cover, I knew immediately that Mike Norton of Revival fame was the illustrator, so this was a must read for me. This story is mash up of two existing comics- Grumble, with a physic and wisecracking pug, plus The Goon, a muscled fighter of supernatural creatures. It was odd pairing of characters, definitely more geared for existing fans of either series vs a new reader like myself. At the end there was a reprint of the story Hillbilly.

My Favorite Things Is Monsters took the comic world by storm and for good reason: the author/illustrator Emil Ferris is crazy talented. In this comic three vignettes are offered- one that describes Ferris’s path to publication, a short about Karen and her brother Deeze talking to neighbors and a how-to-draw-a-monster segment.

In this issue we get a small, touching scene between Nancy and Steve, as Nancy is concerned her little brother Mike is not coping well after their monstrous adventures. They try to draw him out by encouraging him to return to his involvement with his role playing games. There is an additional Black Hammer story afterwards, which introduced me to Madame Dragonfly.

This issue had a few Marvel stories in them, and like I said after reading last year’s FCBD issue, it can be hard for someone who is mostly a fan through the movies to connect with these stories that vary in author voice, illustration style and time period. The first story had some heroes that I don’t usually associate with the Avengers, such as Ghost Rider and Blade, so that was amusing at one level. The second story, The Savage Avengers, had a much grittier vibe and featured Wolverine.

This issue contains two stories- one about Venom and his reemergence, and the second one is a light hearted romp between original Spider-Man Peter and the younger Miles. The first story is very dark and violent, so I found it interesting that they paired it with the next story that was all about the two Spideys arguing over pizza and could be read by a younger demographic than the first story.

Blood Shot gets yet another revamp, this time under author Tim Seeley. I read Bloodshot: Salvation for the first time last year, and was intrigued by this soldier of fortune, who would just like to be free of the shadowy agency Project Rising Spirit and the super powers he had forced on him that transform him. In this story, he saves a scientist from a dangerous cult and it serves as a prequel to the upcoming series.

All in all, I felt I picked up some strong titles. I was most intrigued with Hope, and liked the peeks into Stranger Things and My Favorite Thing Is Monsters. The others were good reading, but the free issues won’t make me pursue the series.

-Nancy

Spider-Man/Deadpool: Isn’t It Bromantic

I have a habit of being enthusiastic about things. My family and friends know that if I like something, I will not shut up. I will mention it again and again and again. For example, do you know how many times my cameo in the graphic novel Revival (volume 8) can be brought up? Quite a lot in fact. Quite a lot indeed. It all started in college when I fell in love with Star Trek TNG. I could not stop talking about the episodes and characters. This is when I truly outed myself as the geek I am. My sweet husband has many of my interests, but I often want to talk about bookish things more at length than he does.  That reason was the genesis of this blog, as I wanted to find a community of like minded individuals. So what does this long introduction have to do with this Spider-Man/Deadpool book?

As I stated above, I get enthusiastic about books I like, and when I discovered and fell in love with the horror graphic novel series Locke & Key written by Joe Hill and illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez I mentioned it several times in this blog, and was eventually able to hound Michael, my friend who writes the awesome blog  My Comic Relief to read and review it. He felt the review would have a better audience match on his beloved Kalie’s blog Just Dread-full. His response after completing the six book series was to say “Nancy knows what she’s talking about and I should just read everything she suggests.” Damn straight- more people should do what I say (especially my three children)! Anyhoo- to finally get to this book review, I agreed to read a book of Michael’s choosing since he read mine. This book was his choice, as he is a huge Deadpool fan (he wrote a guest post for our blog this summer on guess who?) and although I am a Marvel fan, our blog’s lone Spider-Man review is Kathleen’s.

Both Spider-Man and Deadpool are known for their snappy banter, but it is Deadpool’s endless musings that get real raunchy. That’s why he’s known as the merc with a mouth and he has an obvious crush on the webbed wonder. The book starts out with the two entwined in villain’s Dormammu’s grasp, but of course the two escape after much verbal sparring. 

Spider-Man is up to here with Deadpool’s shenanigans, but Deadpool is trying valiantly to impress him and has turned over a new leaf (kind of) since he is now supposedly on the Avenger’s team.  However, he’s still a mercenary at heart and isn’t above accepting a kill contract on Peter Parker by another mysterious villian, as he he has been tricked into thinking Parker is evil and deserves to die. Deadpool justifies the contract, not understanding that he has sentenced Spider-Man to die if he goes through with the killing of Spidey’s alter ego.

In the meantime, Spider-Man and Deadpool have crazy bromantic adventures together, with Spidey softening towards Deadpool. A funny dance off between the two men ensue after Lady Thor and a cousin of Deadpool’s wife battle, and the women decide the men must dance for their pleasure to end the fight. During another segment we are introduced to Deadpool’s daughter, and while I wanted more backstory on that, that want will push me to read more stories about her origin and their daddy/daughter relationship.

But hanging over all this, is knowing that Deadpool is planning on killing Peter Parker. While I do want to avoid spoiling what happens, let’s just say nothing goes smoothly for these two heroes to establish a bromance. Knowing that Deadpool’s wife is Shiklah, Queen of the Undead, might give you some clues as to what happens next, but you didn’t hear it from me…

Is the book’s tagline “hijinks and hilarity ensue!” true? Definitely yes! Did the story always make sense? Definitely not! Taken in small doses, I think the dysfunctional “friendship” between these two men is hilarious. I loved the Deadpool movie, and like the cinematic’s most recent Spider-Man, but in the movies the age difference would stand in the way of a bromance. So it’s in print form that their team-ups should continue, for they just make such a cute couple!

My mind is so expanded after reading this story for now I know where to look for inappropriate jokes should I ever need them. Thank you Michael for this suggestion! This book helped me understand you a bit more, and your unique sense of humor. Now if I can just get you (and others!) to read the Revival series next. Don’t forget your own words, when I give you that suggestion 😉

-Nancy

Kelly, Joe & Ed McGuinness. Isn’t It Bromantic. 2016.

The Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1): Coming Home

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Straczynski, J. Michael, John Romita Jr., and Scott Hanna. The Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1): Coming Home. 2001.

Nancy challenged me to read a Marvel comic since I haven’t read/reviewed one yet. I’m never one to back down from a challenge =P I picked Spiderman because he’s the Marvel character I’m most familiar with, and this book in particular because I like the author.

Peter Parker feels more alone than ever. He just moved into a crappy apartment after Mary Jane’s departure. He feels himself growing distant from his Aunt Mae and his every day life. Then his world flips upside down when, out web-slinging one night, he happens upon a man who can cling to walls – just like Peter can. He’s not evil though, just… weird. He asks Peter all these philosophical questions about how he thinks he got his powers, saying that he needs to understand in order to survive what’s coming, and leaps off into the night. Something is pursuing Peter, something ancient and horrible that won’t stop until Peter is dead. Can Peter solve the riddle and survive something that no one else has before?

Overall, I liked it. Mostly on the merit that it was Spiderman and the writing was hilarious. There’s a bit near the end where two plant workers are making fun of Babylon 5, which of course is a show Straczynski wrote for. It cracked me up XD Peter’s perseverance and determination to win even though all the odds are against him was admirable and beautifully captured. The art really didn’t do anything for me. Most of it was okay, but the characters were oddly angular and I found the shading super weird, particularly on Peter’s face when he’s out of costume. Marvel isn’t my cup of tea but I liked this volume and I’m going to try another one written by another author I like =D Thanks for broadening my horizons, Nancy =P

– Kathleen

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