Friday, January 21, 2011

Free Comics Review for 01/19/11

Welcome to another edition of Free Comics Review! This week we have a monster sized review “pile”, with nine (!) free issues available across all the ComiXology apps. It’s been a while since I’ve had to read so many comics for this column, but I’m not complaining! We have a wide array of comics from Marvel, Zuda, Arcana, and a creator owned comic. Hit the jump to see the reviews.

Arcana Studios Present

Written by Various
Art by Various

Alright, so I am cheating a little bit. This is actually three different comics, but I am grouping them all together in one review. These are all the Free Comic Book Day issues from the year 2004 through 2006.

These are anthology titles released each year, featuring short tales on some of their regular characters. Some of them re-occur from one year to the other, while others don’t. As it tends to be with anthologies, there is a wide spectrum of quality.

From the looks of it, their most popular character is Kade, a warrior-type that is afflicted by some curse that prevents him from feeling anything (how emo, I know). While this means that he can battle without worry about fatigue or wounds, this also means that he can’t do normal things like eating food without biting his own tongue.

There’s also Ezra, a female bounty hunter that from the looks of it, has a very easy going attitude about her job. Her physical appearance is very similar to Kade (and the two apparently know each other) so it makes me wonder if they are related. Not as much is shown regarding Ezra, outside of a dark past, but she much more likable than Kade.

The other stories have some pretty good concepts behind them, but are more often than not hampered by some pretty bad art. There was one called Ant, about a little girl that somehow knows she is going to be a superhero in the future, that features some terrible artwork. Definitely not to my taste.

However much I like or dislike what I read here, kudos to Arcana for providing such a huge sample of their work. Why don’t more publishers release their FCBD issues like this?

Extracurricular Activities #1 (DC/comiXology App)

Written by Rory McConville
Art by Federico Zumel

It’s been a while since we had a Zuda comic in this column, but this is the first of the two that were available this week. Extracurricular Activities is the story about a brand new teacher that joins a school that is more than meets the eye.

The young teacher, named Ms. Watson, has a pretty rough first day at this (seemingly) private school. Her class is made up of unruly boys that don’t respect her, and at the end of the day, she will turn up dead.

Sinister things are happening. For example, the school janitor seems to be, with the help of some of the previously mentioned unruly students, dealing drugs throughout the school.

The director tried to force himself on Ms. Watson, and he knows that when her body is found, he will the first suspect. With the help of the janitor, they plan to get rid of the body that same night, but there’s someone else at school, who might find out what they are doing.

It’s a compelling story, and a pretty good hook for a drama. There’s plenty of shifty characters, which invite readers to play “who-dun-it” at home.

One thing that threw me off was that the principal was worried the police would find his DNA on her body, because he had kissed her earlier that day. I’m no forensic expert, and saliva does contain DNA, but it would be incredibly hard to find traces from a single kiss earlier in the day.

The main drawback against this comic is that the art is pretty rough. I had a hard time figuring out how old the students are supposed to be, and the clothes that the characters are wearing seem made out of the same baggy material. Everything looks pretty scratchy, to be honest.

Lamorte Sisters #1 (DC/comiXology App)

Written by Tony Trovarello, Johnny Zito
Art by Christine Larsen

Here we have another Zuda comic, this time it’s Lamorte Sisters, a story about a group of young girls that have lost their family, and find themselves at the LaMorte Home for Lost Girls.

Oh, and did I mention that all of these young girls are also vampires? And that this home is run by very strict nuns that are hoping to save the girls souls?

I know what you are thinking, and I’m pretty tired of vampires showing up everywhere, but the hook for this comic is ridiculously good. It’s one of those ideas that are so good that they make you wish you would have thought of them first.

Before all that, we are shown a short flashback to how one of the girls got turned. Her whole family was killed, and she was about to die in the hands of this vampire (that resembles the ones from 30 Days of Night), when a hunter rescued her.

Once she recovers, she is put on a bus, and sent to the aforementioned home for lost girls, where we also meet the rest of the cast, who vary in age and personality.

The only complaint that I have about this comic is that it felt pretty short. I got to the end way too fast for my taste, although it’s a good sing that it left me wanting more.

On the art side, Larsen channels several different art styles through the short comic, according to scene. Sometimes it’s reminiscent of Ben Templesmith, like I mentioned, while other times it looks more like Steve Ellis. She is seriously talented, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more of her in the future.

New Mutants #1 (Marvel App)

Written by Zeb Wells
Art by Diogenes Neves

The latest relaunch (this time from 2009) of the New Mutants series started here, with several of it’s former members reuniting for a mission in this arc called “Return of The Legion”.

The first scene in the comic features Karma, who is talking with a little girl in a very creepy scenario. It looks as if it’s happening inside someone’s head. Meanwhile...

Illyana Rasputin, also known as Magik, shows up in the X-Men’s doorstep (literally) asking for help. Last time they had seen her, she had wrecked havoc on the team, particularly on the New X-Men, who are the first to greet her.

Her former teammates Cannonball and Sunspot come to the rescue, and vouch for her, threatening to fight the new students if they don’t back off. To be honest, they come off as a-holes here, considering the New X-Men have a very good reason to hate her.

Illyana hints that Karma might be in a big danger, so they set off to investigate where she was last seen, investigating a possible new mutant in a small town. As soon as they get there, it’s pretty obvious that something is not right. There is a pretty cool cliffhanger at the end, but I won’t spoil it.

Wells has a pretty good handle on the characters (though like I mentioned, they came off pretty badly in that one scene) and he is clearly invested in them. I like his portrayal of Illyana, since she is basically heartless.

Neves’ art is a bit hit or miss for me. Some scenes look positively gorgeous, but other facial expressions and poses border on Greg-Landian qualities.

Thor #26 (Marvel App)

Written by Dan Jurgens
Art by Erik Larsen & Klaus Janson

Another issue of the Dan Jurgens era of Thor, where (in case you didn’t know) our Nordic hero shares his body with an E.R. named Jake Olson. This is very much a breather issue, after a big epic battle against Thanos in the previous issue (those Editor’s notes ARE helpful after all).

Thor returns to Asgard, with a Recorder in tow (kind of like Watcher, but he records stuff instead) that acts as walking-talking exposition machine. Odin is about to go into his Odinsleep, and has left Sif in charge of Asgard.

After that, Thor returns to the mortal world, and changes to his Jake Olson person. Because of his absenteeism, he has been fired from his job, though a friend helps him get it back.

Meanwhile, Crusher Creel, also known as The Absorbing Man,  is trying to care of his girlfriend, who is suffering from cancer. He decides the best way to move forward is to go to a hospital, kidnap a doctor, and force him/her to help his girlfriend. I know Creel isn’t supposed to be smart, but c’mon!

It’s also kind of annoying that in the three Thor comics I’ve read from the Jurgens era, Creel has appeared in two of them. Was he THAT important of a recurring character, or is this just a coincidence?

Speaking of annoying, boy, does the Old Thor Speak get frustrating fast or what? It’s fine when he is with the Avengers or in the mortal world, and you get some respite from it, but Jurgens went really overboard with it here. Since half of the issue is in Asgard, there were more “Thous”, “Thees” and “Doth” that I cared to count.

The art by the Larsen/Janson team is great. It’s a very dynamic looking book, and while not suitable for every comic, it fits great in the Kirby-inspired Asgard. The cover by Mike Mignola is pretty sweet too, isn’t it?

Ultimate Spider-Man #46 (Marvel App)

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley

Here we have another issue of Ultimate Spider-Man. I’ve lost count, but I know I’ve reviewed several others from this series. Maybe if I wait long enough, I’ll have every issue for free!

People like to complain about Bendis decompression, but this time around, it’s a nice done-in-one tale featuring the first appearance of Ultimate Sandman. The story itself takes immediately after a showdown between Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus, and involves plot lines from that story.

The narrative method for this comic is that of Sharon Carter debriefing what happened in a S.H.I.E.L.D. mission. It’s interesting because it provides a different point of view from how one would normally see a Spider-Man fight.

Agent Carter heads to where Doc Ock is holding people hostage, in order to arrest him. Once there, she discovers something far more sinister. Hammer industries has been experimenting on humans. One of the subjects? Flint Marko.

Sandman escapes from his confines, with a little unintended help from Agent Carter, and attacks the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Luckily for them, Spider-Man was still on the scene and he helped fight and subdue him.

There is a lot of dialogue here, but it fits the story, which is being retold by Sharon. There is not a whole lot of Bendis-speak, if you care about that sort of thing.

Bagley was probably just starting to hit his stride here, and I think this looks great because of it. He was always more at home with Spider-Man and his rogues than with Peter Parker and his friends, I think.

Valentine #9 (comiXology App)

Written by Alex de Campi
Art by Christine Larsen

Valentine is a creator owned comic, which I think is solely published in digital form. I know previous issues were free, but I haven’t read them for one reason or the other.

This is the first one that I will read, as an experiment, to see how much I can gather without any sort of background information.

The story is about two teenagers, a boy and a girl, that have accidentally hit someone while they were driving down the highway. They are both trying to decide what to do, as they seemed to have to killed this man.

Much freaking out occurs, as all the scenarios run through their head. Eventually, they realize he is still alive, and they decide to seek help in the nearest town. The guy heads there, while the girl waits with the victim of the crash.

Something is strange is going on in the bar that the guy goes to phone for help, especially with one of the patrons who looks rather demonic and interested in the accident. Back in the scene of the crash, the person has recovered, though he is talking to the girl with rather cryptic messages.

Apparently the victim of the car crash is the protagonist of the whole series, and the weird person at the bar is the enemy. Looks like I have much reading to do to get caught up for my next review.

Remember how I said earlier that you would see Christine Larsen show up in other places? Looks like it was faster than anyone could have predicted, as she is also the artist for this series. She is seriously good, and I can’t wait to see more of her art.

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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Aaron K said...

Just today I commented that Jurgens' take on Asgardian dialogue changed -- and definitely for the better -- over the course of his long run on THOR. It started off almost painfully bad; it took real time to get through it. By the end of his run, it was much more relaxed, while still retaining that certain dignity and otherness that Asgardian dialogue should. It's most definitely an acquired skill.

Matt Duarte said...

@Aaron: I've read the final issues of that Thor, which were part of Ragnarok/Disassembled, and I don't remember finding the dialogue that annoying, so you are probably right.

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