Monday, May 30, 2016

REVIEW ROUNDUP: DAYS OF FCBD'S PAST

INTRODUCTION:
If you haven't already seen my post on Free Comic Book Day 2016, then definitely go and check that out. If you have, then you may remember that I tentatively promised to do a review roundup of what I was able to get for free online during that day. I'm here now to deliver on that and discuss some of the great digital comics which I was able to read thanks to the power of free stuff. Four of these came from 2015's FCBD and one of them looks like it was from 2014, but I included it in this list anyway.


THE COMICS

1) Stanl Lee's Chakra The Invincible Special 2015 
It was interesting to me that this work include's the immortal Stan Lee's name right in the title. For
those that live under a rock so far as superheroes are concerned, Stan Lee is the father of some of the most famous heroes in the Marvel universe like Spiderman, The Fantastic Four, and The X-men. With a pantheon of iconic characters and a countless number of movie cameos under his belt, it was  just very interesting to see his name on a more recent work of comic fiction. 

It's surprising too that this is a far humbler sort of comic book than fans of the Marvel universe are probably accustomed to. It employs a charming, yet cartoony set of art styles and has a story-line that hearkens back to comics of old. It stars a young Indian boy who dons a powerful suit invented by a scientist he works for which is then supercharged by an aptly comic-booky event. Chakra channels the power of ... well his chakras through the suit and becomes quite the kick-ass little kid. One of the best things about this story-line is that is feels so Stan Lee. Everything follows the classic style and format of comics of old and it was great to see something that combined old with new so elegantly.

This particular issue of the comic features a variety of shorter spreads. It's not a sampler, just sort of a series of snapshot of this character in struggles with various villains whom are largely inspired by different aspects of Indian culture. The main trouble with this approach is that I'm not actually sure that I want to buy into the series. The shorts were fun, but I ultimately would want something of a bit more substance if I was paying for an issue. 

Those coming into it for the elements which are related to India may also want something a little more refined. The Indian elements felt kind of superficial to me and didn't really appear to celebrate some of the cultural differences between India and the United States. This is a VERY Western take on this portion of the world and while it is certainly very cool that Marvel is trying to diversify it's heroes, this just felt like it wasn't as committed to really making the hero as diverse as he should be. I'll also say that looking at the individual issues, it seems like this series is a bit pricey considering what you actually get with it. It's nice to have a kid-friendly, culturally inclusive line of comics, but I guess you kind of have to shell out some cash if that's what you're looking for. 

2) Doctor Who: Three Doctors!
First off, let me just say that I'm not actually a fan of the Doctor Who television series, I don't think I've ever even seen a full episode of it. So I came into this issue not really expecting it to make much sense at all, but was pleasantly surprised when I realized it was written in such a way that I had no problem following it at all. There was even a note left by the creators stating that they wanted this to still be an inviting work of fiction even if you were a complete newcomer to the story-line. Given how many seasons that show has had, I've got to give the writers big props for making this a palatable experience for strangers to the universe. 

I was also quite pleased with how charming the characters are. Seeing previews for the show, I wasn't sure if the campy-ness would really suit me and I guess I'm still not sure that I'd love the show, but after reading through this series of three adventures, I can say that I'm a lot more likely to give it a try. The comic features three short adventures each featuring one of the different incarnations of The Doctor as well as three different aesthetics. Two of the styles looked pretty good while the other was quite a bit rougher in my opinion. Since this is sort of meant to be a promo for a series featuring these three Doctors, I'd hope that they picked one of the cleaner looks for the main series. All-in-all though, I definitely enjoyed this, and would probably look into either reading more of the series or checking out the show. 

3) Divergence # 1 
Another three-part sampler, but this one focuses on the most recent versions of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman (their segments organized in that order). The sections focusing on Batman and Superman capture moments in time which reflect on events of the past while also hinting at things to come in those characters' futures. There's nothing overly exciting that happens, but there are some interesting developments on both sides. Wonder Woman's segment is actually not really about Wonder Woman. It instead tells the story of an important event which coincides with her birth, an event which sees the birth of a powerful enemy which she will have to face in her adulthood. This part felt really fun because it was just so Greek. Visions, prophesies, exotic mountainous landscapes, dramatic thunder storms, and questions of duty and honor all made it feel like something straight out of mythology, which I loved. It was also very interesting to get the origin story for a hero's villain for a change and this odd choice suggests that said villain is an integral part of who Wonder Woman is and/or what she becomes. 



All three art styles were pretty good, with the Wonder Woman portion being the best in that it was the most detailed and colorful. The illustrations for Superman's portion were a bit grungy and not really to my liking. Batman's was pretty dark and grey-ish as well and done in a style which didn't look all that different from BATMAN VOLUME 1: THE COURT OF OWLS which makes me think that maybe this is happening in that same world.

In general, I will always like these big name heroes, but I just can't seem to get into their comics. There's too much going on and I rarely understand them the way I want to even in the allegedly rebooted versions of the characters. While this is definitely a good sampler for anyone looking to read newer comics featuring these characters, I'm not too sure it is enough to make me want to get into their respective series. 

4) Captain Canuck # 0 
I guess Captain Canuck is an older hero who got a shiny new reboot. From what I could tell, they aren't reinventing his story so much as they are updating it and continuing it from wherever it left off. Sadly, I didn't really get a great grasp of what this new series has to offer since the events of this issue are largely inconsequential. Things play out like a generic action movie where there's a lot of self-assured banter, some dramatic shots, and not much else. There's also just literally nothing that happens. The whole thing is just the hero in his jet with his crew on an unspecified mission to do unspecified things. It leaves off with Captain Canuck diving out of the jet dramatically and then a big advertisement for finding out what happens next in Issue # 1. It's basically just a glorified teaser. The art is passable, but not great, and I really just don't see myself being all that eager to give this series a serious look.

The second half of the issue is actually a recap of the old version of Canuck. It gives readers a snapshot of who he is, what he can do, and summarizes the events of his past. Oddly enough, I actually enjoyed this section of the issue much more. Part of it is probably that there was an actual story being told even if it was just an exposition dump, but the other part was that I actually thought the art looked better. Yeah it was old and sure the costumes were cheesy, but it had a certain character which this rebooted series did not possess. I think I would actually be more enticed to read this version of the character than I am the new one. 

5) Guardians of the Galaxy
Technically, this one is from 2014's FCBD, but since I picked it up this year, I've included it in the list. From what I can tell,  this is sort of an extended promo for a new series featuring what used to be one of Marvel's most obscure teams. The comic features Tony Stark.(aka Iron Man)  speaking with a soldier who isn't a character I am familiar with. They are discussing the guardians and much of the issue is just Tony's explanation of who the Guardians are and what they can do. The ending leaves off with a setup for a new adventure featuring the Guardians working with this soldier. I don't know of if I am really sold on diving any further into the series, but this was a pretty decent summary of who all of these characters are for those who aren't familiar with them.  


The art in this is pretty good and the effects are brilliantly done.  I also liked that the guardians kind of looked like their movie counterparts, but we're not an exact match. I'm not sure how worthwhile the story-line will be but it certainly promises to offer a colorful and highly detailed adventure that's unlike any the Guardians have seen before (maybe). As an added bonus, this issue also comes with previews for a comic staring Thanos (the big, purple guy who shows up during those post-credits scenes in the Avengers) and one that looks at different Spidermen across the Spiderverse. I was actually  pretty intrigued by the Spiderman one so I may go back and look at that at a later time.

CONCLUSION
It's a good batch overall. I think I was definitely more successful with the physical comics I picked up in terms of finding series that I'm actually interested in buying into, but free is free and there was definitely some entertainment value even in those comics I've described above which I have no interest in reading more of. I will say that I don't know if these issues are free all the time or not. You can look for them on Amazon and/or Comixology. Even though the two companies are tied in with one another, there are still some differences in what each offers. There's also comics that are just randomly free whether or not they belonged to any of the prior FCBD's. In the future, I'll look to do more roundups on things I find for free. Since I'm a little bit ahead of my 2016 Goodreads challenge, I feel like it would be fun to mix it up and read more of comic issues and short fiction which I'll blog about, but not count toward my reading challenge.

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