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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

The Boys (Vol. 1): The Name of the Game

Amazon Prime is releasing Season 2 of their TV show rendition of The Boys comic book series on Friday. My fiancé and I watched Season 1 earlier this year and are rewatching it while eagerly anticipating our Friday night plans 😉 We love it so much, I thought I’d check out the first volume of the comic. I’ll talk about this first volume of the comic first before comparing it to Season 1 of the show.

Don’t worry, this review is free of spoilers =)

Superheroes are real, and they are backed by the most American institution: big corporations. What happens when they mess up? Hughie is about to find out. After his girlfriend, Robin, is accidentally killed by A-Train, one of the Seven (think Justice League or Avengers for this world), he is approached by a man named Billy Butcher. Billy wants to recruit Wee Hughie into a group called The Boys. They are backed by the CIA specifically to keep the Supes in line. Hughie wants justice for Robin, but at what cost? Annie January, also known as Starlight, is the newest member of the Seven. It’s been her dream ever since she was a little girl growing up in the rural Midwest. However, she’s about to find out that being among the best of the best is not what it’s all cracked up to be…

The point of this series is to subvert common superhero tropes. As such, the comic is very graphic, in terms of both violence (some of which is sexual) and sexual content, neither of which are seen often in traditional superhero comics – at least not to this extent. None of the characters presented are especially good people. They’re not all bad, but none of them are particularly good, either. In this world, Supes are the faces of corporations and businesses, not operating independently. As such, they serve the ends of the corporations first, and of the greater good to a lesser extent. The art of the book, especially in the coloring, is dark and murky, as if you’re seeing the world through a dirty lens.

Overall, I think the first season of the show did a much better job with this story than it’s source material, for a couple of different reasons.

First, and I’m not sure if this is because I simply watched the show first, but I felt the story in the book went way too fast. A plot point that is revealed very late in Season 1 is presented in the book within the first half of the first volume. This absolutely killed any mystery or tension behind it. At that point I felt there was no longer any point to reading. Other plot points were switched around from the book to the show, which in my mind only served to aid in the deliciously slow reveal of that big twist.

Second, there is a large level of violence in both the book and the show. In the book it felt much more gratuitous and as if violence was in there for violence’s sake, not necessarily to move the story along. While I can close my eyes at some parts of the show (and definitely needed to), it’s harder to skim a graphic novel. You still see the parts you want to skip over! This is fine for some readers, but still definitely not for me.

Third, as mentioned before, none of the characters are particularly good people. Perhaps this changes as the graphic novel series goes on, but here in the first volume I didn’t get the impression that any of these characters were redeemable whatsoever. None of them were particularly human, just cardboard stereotypes, even the people we’re supposed to be rooting for. The show takes steps to humanize all the characters. We are shown the good qualities in these bad people, making us wonder if we are supposed to really hate or like them. Volume 1 of the book series doesn’t offer any of that, so readers just… plain don’t like them.

The Boys can be a great subversion of the superhero genre, and does succeed in both comic and show form – but overall the winner in my eyes, and my ultimate recommendation, is the show on Amazon Prime, not the graphic novel series. If you can stomach the gratuitous violence and love to love very bad people, pick it up!

-Kathleen

Ennis, Garth, and Darick Robertson. The Boys (Vol. 1): The Name of the Game. 2010.

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