Friday, December 31, 2010

Free Comics Review for 12/29/10

Welcome to the last edition of the year for Free Comics Review! This was the year that brought me free comics every week, so I can’t really complain, can I? Unfortunately, the main ComiXology app is still being buggy, but this time around I went and used their site to catch up on the free comics that I missed. Hit the jump for all of the reviews.

Barbarian #1 (ComiXology App)

Written by Scott Amundson
Art by Jim Lai

Barbarian is a creator owned comic that is solicited simply as “one man’s quest for meaning”.

I’m trying really hard to not be too harsh on a small creator owned comic (and self-published by the looks of it), but this is truly one of the worst comics I have ever read.

The story is about a nameless barbarian that escapes from confinement, though we don’t how or why he was there in the first place. Oddly enough, the outfit he is wearing when he escapes reminds me of Doomsday’ suit before it started breaking.

As the man escapes, he fights several beasts along the way, monsters of fantasy that you would see in a Conan book. The scenes are not very well choreographed, and sometimes it’s hard to understand what’s going on.

After a series of battles, he comes across a group of humans that seem to know who he is. They fight and though it seems the barbarian is going to win at first, in the end he is overcome by his foes.

The barbarian is again imprisoned, but a young woman seems to want him to escape once again, or at least that was how I read that scene. It’s entirely possible that is not what is happening at all.

What the characters’ motivations, personalities, or even names are is a complete mystery to me. I read the comic three times and I can’t make sense of it beyond the simplest understanding.

Box 13 (Vol. 2) #8 (ComiXology App)

Written by David Gallagher
Art by Steve Ellis

Box 13 makes its comeback to this column after what feels like to me a long absence. It was actually released two weeks ago, but the glitches in the Comixology app prevented me from reading it.

Not a whole lot happens in terms of action in this issue, as the whole comic is basically a conversation scene between two characters. The mystery about the boxes and Dan is slowly revealed, and it seems very promising.

Olivia learns the origin of Dan’s strange powers, and why it is so important to stop him from gaining full control of them. The last page is quite striking, and a nice cliffhanger.

An odd realization happened as I read this comic. In previous occasions I’ve read Box 13 exclusively on the small screen of my iPod Touch, but this time I read it on a computer screen, where I got to take in the whole page at once.

While I’ve praised the art at times, and I certainly enjoyed the writing, absorbing it like a traditional comic feels odd. The art is still good looking, but the pages feel empty and drawn out, and the conversations oddly paced and decompressed.

Allow me to explain: in the Guided view, you get one panel at a time, and in the case of Box 13, it usually has very little dialogue. When you see the whole page at once, you realize just how much empty space there is, and how it could be used more economically.

Immortal Weapons #1 (Marvel App)

Written by Jason Aaron & Duane Swierczynski
Art by Mico Suayan, Stefano Gaudiano, Roberto de la Torre, Khari Evans, Victor Olazaba, Michael Lark, Arturo Lozzi, & Travel Foreman.

After Immortal Iron First was cancelled, Marvel released a five issue mini series called Immortal Weapons. Each issue would explore one of the Weapons, mystical kung fu fighters, originally introduced in the Iron Fist ongoing series, as well as a short back-up tale starring Iron Fist.

The first one centers around Fat Cobra, a sumo-wrestler-looking character that is renowned for his enjoyment of food, alcohol, and women. It’s written by Jason Aaron, so you know you are in for a fun ride.

It’s actually a pretty clever storytelling device: Fat Cobra has forgotten most of his life (due to aforementioned fondness of alcohol), so he hires a writer to find out his complete life story. Each segment of Fat Cobra’s life is illustrated by a different artist, which explains the long credits you see above.

This comic is laugh-out-loud hilarious. Fat Cobra, instead of being a legendary hero, is more a ridiculous figure, his whole life is a joke. Yeah, he is talented at fighting, but that didn’t stop him from having a miserable life. Aaron plays up the situations for laughs, and it works.

The back up by Duane Swierczynski and Travel Foreman is a bit stale in comparison to the main dish. It’s a competent enough tale about Iron Fist investigating the disappearance of a man who is the father of a student at his school.

Kong: King of Skull Island #0 (ComiXology App)

Written by Chuck Saterlee
Art by Dan O’Connor

This issue is a short prequel to a mini series that takes place after the events of King Kong, and it’s published by Markosia.

Truth be told, there’s not a whole lot going on in this issue, just a lot of information filling you in on what happened earlier, but I think everyone is pretty familiar with the story of King Kong, right?

In any case, people are returning to Skull Island with the body of the ape in tow when they are attacked by the wild and giant animals that live in it’s vicinity.

At least the issue provides some hints that it will explore the characters aboard the boat some more. There’s very little character work in these few pages, so you don’t really care about one of the characters when the cliffhanger shows him falling off the boat.

The art is very unmemorable. Reliable and adept in the storytelling, but nothing that will stay with you, or wow you into checking out the next issues of this series.

Sensational Spider-Man #23 (Marvel App)

Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Art by Angel Medina

This is the first issue of the Sensational Spider-Man series. Yes, issue #23 is the first issue. Before, this series was formally known as Marvel Knights Spider-Man. This issue is the first in an arc called Feral.

I like Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, so I was glad I got to check this series out. As always, the man is incredibly good at developing an eerie and creepy mood. It’s his personal signature, as several of his comics share that tone and mood.

In this case, a mysterious force is making all animals go berserk. Peter Parker is called to photograph some of the nastier stuff that is happening in the zoo. Monkeys and rhinos are on murderous rampages between each other, for example.

Spider-Man is known for his animal-theme antagonists, and they also seem to be acting more feral than normal. The Vulture decides to pick up people at random and drop them from heights to their death, and Curt Connors loses control of his Lizard side.

From the looks of it, the reason behind all of this is the return of John Jameson (the son of JJJ), who readers may know him as well under the name of Man-Wolf. He happens to be in the city when all the strange events start.

The weak link in this comic is Angel Medina. He draws a great Spider-Man, but his art on the civilian side of this comic borders on caricature. It’s very inconsistent, and I don’t care much for it, but your mileage may vary.

Spider-Man: The Lost Years #0 (Marvel App)

Written by J.M. DeMatteis
Art by Liam Sharp

Oh boy. Do you know what three words Spider-Man fans fear the most? The answer is: “The Clone Saga” (though “One More Day” would be a close second), which is exactly what this is part of. I’ve never read any part of this mega event, the poster child of 90’s excess, so I was dreading to read this comic.

As an outsider, this is an utterly confusing comic. I can’t fathom who decided that this was a good comic to upload for free and use as a sampler of what this event was all about.

The clone of Peter Parker wakes up confused (and naked) in the middle of a city, he doesn’t know who he is, where he is, or why he is there in the first place. Odd bits of memory flow through his mind as he wanders through the rooftops.

Suddenly, The Jackal appears and a whole load of different memories appear. The clone attempts to fight him, for he instantly recognizes him as a threat, as someone that has hurt him before.

Then, a clone of Gwen Stacy shows up. Apparently this Jackal guy just spends his time cloning everyone he comes across.

All throughout the comic there’s a narration that is painfully overwritten, in a very purple prose sort of way. I’ve expressed my distaste for overwritten comics of yesteryear before, and I can’t imagine what reading over a hundred comics in this style would be like.

While this is not the worst comic I’ve read for today’s column (and that’s saying something!), this certainly did not make me want to find out what happens. Spider-Man: The Lost Years is only for completists from the looks of it.

That's it for this week's column! Any ideas, tips, or advice are welcome. Remember that you can always read the comics in the ComiXology web reader (with the exception of the Marvel ones). We always try to improve our content based on your suggestions, and with a new column, it's good to hear back from the readers. So, comment away!

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Anonymous said...

To be fair, the Spider-Man: the Lost Years comic released by Marvel this week is a bit of a misnomer. The title and cover are indicative of a series I know was drawn by JRjr (and I believe written by DeMattis), which highlighted Ben Reilly's flight from NYC, various interactions with Kaine (another failed Parker clone), and Kaine's killing of a cop (that later one would have repercussions for Peter Parker, as Parker's fingerprints were found on the cop). However, the story inside (for lack of a better term) was actually part two of a series of back-ups that ran during the "Power & Responsibility" arc that re-introduced the Spider-Clone as Ben Reilly after an estimated 5 year absence from Parker's life.

The former story was pretty good in my opinion, but then I enjoyed most of the Clone Saga, and the camaraderie that Pete and Ben eventually came to appreciate in one another. The back ups were... just awful. In fact, I think the artist (Liam Sharp) may have drawn the clone naked because he sucked so bad at drawing clothing.

Matt Duarte said...

@Anon: Interesting, I didn't know about that. And yeah, the art is pretty bad, and I was surprised by that as well. I have seem some of Liam Sharp's work (I even reviewed a Gears of War trade which has art by him), and this was terrible.

Scott said...


I wrote The Barbarian! Just wanted to let you know that all your questions are answered in the next few issues! All the ambiguity was totally on purpose! Sheesh, didn't think raising questions woould piss people off so much! Would really appreciate if you could read the rest of the series and let me know if we win you back!

Thanks for the review!

Best Regards,

Scott Amundson

Matt Duarte said...

@Scott: Thanks for dropping by. There's nothing wrong with ambiguity or raising questions, but there's a little too much going on here for my comfort levels. Like I mentioned above, I don't know anything about the characters, or their motivation, which makes it hard to care about what's going to happen to them.

Still, you are writing the book you want, and for that, I respect you and wish you good luck on the following issues.

Scott said...

I appreciate the time you spent on your review and feel like I should take some time to help you appreciate our book.


Our protagonist is looking for food and shelter, but when the angry Gaku becomes aware of his presence, he knows that he must flee for his life. Unfortunately, his violent response brings out a cavalcade of attackers to stop him.

I hope this allows you to enjoy the book. We love our readers, but we don't spell out everything that happens in the story. I'm interested to read your reviews of the next three issues, especially the soon-to-be-released issue three!

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