Tuesday, May 3, 2011

All Star Recommends! Free Comic Book Day Edition

Welcome to a special Free Comic Book day edition of All Star Recommends. A complete list and previews of all comics can be found on the official Free Comic Book Day Website. Naturally we can't offer you the usual 10% discount on any of these titles but if you come in on Free Comic Book Day, pick up one of these books and mention All Star Recommends, we'll give you a 10% discount on any purchase you make on the day. So let's get to it.

Super Dinosaur 
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Jason Howard
Recommended by: Luke

This is no doubt one for all ages with bright vibrant art and a high concept that would appeal to anyone who has thought about their pet being super-powered. Kirkman of course takes that to the extreme making this particular sidekick an armour clad super dinosaur. Serving as a primer for the Image/Skybound series proper it is an attempt to introduce all the characters of the series in an origin style format, establishing the dynamic of the team and the conflicts and mission they face.

Basically Doctor Dynamo and son Derek have discovered a kind of lost world hidden within the Earth’s crust which they dub Inner Earth. Here they discover that prehistoric life has continued to evolve and so they seek to preserve its existence, taking one of the dinos and kitting him out with cybernetics, missiles and guns to aid them as a soldier and guardian. The concept seems to drive it and the setup seems very basic, but one should never underestimate the plotting skills of Kirkman, whose Walking Dead and Invincible are simple enough in their premise but formidable in their narrative power and sense of drama.

Super Dinosaur is an exclusive book for Free Comic Book Day released by Image Comics.

Amazing Spider-Man
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Humberto Ramos
Recommended by: Jess

Ah, the Amazing Spider-Man. It wouldn't be FCBD without him. With his meta-knowledge narration and his insistence on calling everyone by their first name, this freebie issue begins with Spidey fighting SpiderWoman on Fifth Avenue. She's been chemically seduced by the Mandrill and Spidey is trying to get her to stop stealing shiny things for her new primate boyfriend. (Sidenote: nothing is more off putting than reading a character say your name over and over). The battle is being watched by the latest Madame Webb and Shang-Chi, The Master of KungFu, who don't so much step in as evaluate Spidey's technique (which is woeful, thanks to his lack of training and the loss of his Spider-sense).

From there, we get to see shirtless Spidey in action. I mean, ahem, we are treated to some excellently drawn fight montages, a bit of the usual banter interspersed with Madame Web's warnings and the preparation of our hero into the fighting machine needed to tackle what is coming up in the ominously called 'Spider Island' arc.

Being that this is a freebie, of course it's not quite a full issue, but you never really feel at the end that you've missed a whole heap of vital plotpoints. Dan Slott's writing is clever and playful, feeding you enough of the addictive fun that makes for a good Spider-Man story to keep you from throwing a tanty. If you're unimpressed with that, prepare to at least wet your pants in glee at Humberto Ramos' artwork. I love how he does facial expressions (my favourite in this issue accompanies the phrase “Oh. My. God...you REEK!”) and his action panels are always interesting. In what is a very compact story with a few restrictive plot devices thrown in to keep it tight (everybody loves a montage), Slott's banter is lively, Ramos' art is gorgeous to look at and the plot a light lead up to Amazing Spider-Man #666.

The bonus bit in this is a sneak preview of the upcoming 'Fear Itself' event. It's got Antarctica, Nazi librarians, a big hammer and the Red Skull's daughter prancing about talking about darling Daddy’s diary. Tasty tidbits!

Amazing Spider-Man is just one of Marvel's offering this Free Comic Book Day and we have plenty of them.

The Intrepid Escape Goat
Writer: Brian Smith
Artist: Brian Smith
Recommended by: Dom

It can be a lot of fun when a book hearkens back to a pulp style adventure leaving concerns of reality behind in favour of escapism. This is why the Intrepid Escape Goat works, it balances the fun adventure and artistry of a children's television series and the mysticism and intrigue of an Indiana Jones film.

The titular character is just as his name suggests, the worlds greatest escape artist...and an anthropomorphic goat. This story feels like just another of many adventures of his double life as adventurer and world famous escape artist. While the villains here are obvious and of the moustache twirling variety it all feels okay and makes the interactions with them all the more humorous. Characters that pop up throughout all have some fun quirks particularly the princess of the story's sub-title who it can be assumed will go on to become a regular character in the upcoming series.The story is complimented by artwork which has a strong angular style reminiscent of a well produced animated series and moves the action along at a brisk pace.

A story that taps into Egyptian archeology, daring escapes with an exciting train chase thrown in for good measure, The Intrepid Escape Goat is an adventure that can be enjoyed by young and old. Also included as a back up is a short introduction to the comic The Stuff of Legend. It's a story that will quickly get you introduced to the cool world of the series and is sure to suck in new readers.

The Intrepid Escape Goat is published by Th3rd World Studios exclusively for Free Comic Book Day. 

Atomic Robo
Writer: Brian Clevenger
Artist: Scott Wegener
Recommended by: Jess

How on Earth I have missed Atomic Robo in my forays into random comics I do not know. The blurb describes the world of Atomic Robo as '...a lot like our world, except for the robot who is also a scientist. And the monsters. And the evil brains in jars. And the talking dinosaur.' The plot opens with Robo and his team discussing hostiles, entrances into a compound and angles of attack. Their destination? The horrors of a Regional 4th Grade Science Fair! Inside, there's a cute little girl with a big, awesome invention, who dreams of being asked to join Atomic Robo's company – Tesladyne – and finishing what her grandfather started. But suddenly! A dinosaur in a suit appears, with guns, ready to steal her invention and instruct our hero on what bullets killing things sound like. It's beautifully ridiculous and the dialogue is swings from dry humour to over the top in a matter of a panel. The same could be said of the art – Scott Wegener has created these wonderfully expressive characters and doesn't shy away from (well drawn!) ugly poses and pulling faces to get the humour across. This little freebie story seems like a nice entrance into the Atomic Robo world. I am really keen to read more.

Included with Atomic Robo are two other vignettes from new Red 5 Comics titles – Foster Broussard and Moon Girl. The first is a ribald little tale by David Ziebart, about a trickster and confidence man in the mid 1800s who weasels his way out of the hangman's noose and onto an expedition to the California Gold Rush. There's mystery, scoundrels and some very pretty art by Dan Glasl. It's a nice little teaser for an alt-history comic that would otherwise fly under the radar.

Tony Trov and Johnny Zito’s Moon Girl looks and reads like an old school pulp horror. The Rahzaah’s art is stylised, lending the little snapshot scene a nice dark feel. Those few pages don’t give much away – Moon Girl seems to be some kind of warrior queen with a steampunkish bent who really likes punching the crap out of other girls - but it definitely looks intriguing.

Atomic Robo is Red 5 Comics contribution to this years Free Comic Book Day.

Writer: Joe Harris
Artist: Brett Weldele
Recommended by: Dom

Last year, Oni Press launched their mystical western The Sixth Gun on Free Comic Book Day giving the entire first issue away for free. Clearly happy with the results of the venture, they have taken the same approach this year launching a series that looks into the mysteries of spontaneous combustion.

It is the characters that make this one, main character Melvin's tragic past has him obsessed with what is a seemingly random occurrence. The story suggests though that he has a way of knowing to who or when the event is going to occur and he is driven to finding out the why. His investigations lead him to Emily, "investigative reporter at large" who is looking into the latest incident. She's a lot of fun and attempts to dig into Melvin's obsession with some level of success. The back and forth banter between the two characters is great with their drive and motivations made clear within the story. The art by Brett Weldele gives off a strong Ben Templesmith vibe but remains unique to the artist and the leads are all highly expressive it compliments the characters that have been created nicely. The way the writer and artist build the tension to the first combustion is timed perfectly as mix of words and art, it drives the reader to continue.

As an opening chapter, this story asks a question and gets its hooks into the reader through its characters. If you are looking for something original with a story that will continue beyond Free Comic Book Day, Spontaneous is a mystery worth looking into.

Spontaneous is the first issue of a mini series being offered by Oni Press this Free Comic Book Day.

Locke and Key
Writer: Joe Hill
Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez
Recommended by: Luke

Joe Hill’s macabre series is soon to reach its zenith and in the opening scrawl of this stand-alones introduction to the series’ chilling wonders, he is keen to point out the main book is not FOR THE LITTLE ONES! But before you despair, this one-off is more likely to draw a PG rating from the censors despite alluding to the more mature aspects of the over-arching series.

This adventure, much like the majority of the stories so far, remains confined to the newly acquired manor of the Locke family, comprised of Mrs. Locke and her children three, but what a house it is. The keys of the title unlocking doors that reach beyond a patch of simple grass garden or the mere patio, simultaneously bestowing powers upon those that would dare to venture through with a childlike fearlessness and curiosity.

Here, we join Bode, Tyler and Kinsey as they again have to utilize the houses ‘defenses’ to fend off a persistent Dodge from rubbing them out; Just so he can, without interruption, better harness the secrets that the keys unleash. Big on action and the mystic powers that heighten the ongoing tale, this is one is a "Locke" for fans of the series for sure, and maybe for a parent to read a courageous young one, after first gauging its content.

This issue of Locke and Key is published by IDW exclusively for Free Comic Book Day.

Criminal Macabre/Baltimore
Writer: Steve Niles/Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden
Artist: Christopher Mitten/Ben Stenbeck
Recommended by: Luke

Again with the supernatural creepy ones! And once again the tone of this pairing is best judged by an elder before allowing the kids access.

Baltimore is first and serves up a cautionary tale as two young boys who should know better from the forewarning of their parents, venture out after dark when a bald stranger laden with the tools of a hunter is seen passing through their village. As the boys follow, they foolishly fail to heed the red flags and there results a nice play-with-fire comeuppance that hearkens back to what we fear under bridges and the darkness therein. There is some unsettling imagery that is based in light and shadow that is further heightened by Stenbeck’s art style; which as most do when working with the Hellboy creator, smartly channels writer Mignola. Its beauty is found in the bleak and cold landscape and the finale holds a simple lesson imparted from a stranger who knows better than to give little thought to a persistent curse, and to listen to your folks.

Then detective Cal Macdonald takes over for his slice of supernatural swindle solving. Frankenstein is not happy with his folks, or at least the current holders of his estate of which he was technically the first born, who want to parade him as the profitable property of the Frank family. What follows is a tongue-in-cheek ride along that is not unlike Men In Black, which possesses a unique vibe wherein the monsters or aliens are often proven more human than those who fear and/or seek to exploit them. Good humour from Niles and great noir art from Mitten of Wasteland fame.

Criminal Macabre/Baltamore Free Comic Book Day edition is published by Dark Horse Comics.

Top 10 Deadliest Sharks/Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Predators
Writer: Joe Brusha
Artist: Various 
Recommended by: Dom 

Dudes, Sharks! Dinosaurs! What more do you want?

Top 10 Deadliest Sharks/Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Predators is released by the Discovery Channel for Free Comic Book Day. 

Be sure to check out our Archives for older recommendations.

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