Ed Saul charges towards the finish line of our last installment of reviews for all 60 of 2014's Free Comic Book Day comics, led by Rich Johnston's 31 reviews and followed by Hannah Means-Shannon's 24 reviews. And now you have no excuse for making wise decisions this Saturday when you head to your local shops to make choices of your own. The final word is that comics this year have been pretty strong in terms of offering substantial reads and exposure to new material, with a fair few geared toward bringing in new readers and spreading the gospel of comics, which means it's going to be a good Free Comic Book Day.
The Dumbest Idea Ever!, published by Scholastic
The story of a kid who tries to make his own comic book, Dumbest Idea Ever involves a good amount of emotive language and meditation on the creative process, while also being a fun story for kids. Jimmy Gownley's pencils are playfully reminiscent of Bill Watterson and Charles Schulz, while his storytelling creates a more open, accessible take on some of the principles laid out in Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics series.
Transformers vs. G. I. Joe, published by IDW
With the grainy yellowed-paper colouring and the hand-drawn lettering, you'd think this were a lost classic IDW had dug out of a basement from the 80's. As it is, seeing these two properties go head-to-head in classic fashion (as opposed to versions based on their recent movie adaptations). In effect, the whole story is not unlike pitting a herd of elephants against a troop of gorillas – you know they're both endangered species but the spectacle is thrilling to see.
V-Wars, published by IDW
Is there meant to be a hint of irony that the stoic hero of this book bears the last name "Swann"? Sadly, in spite of the dynamic art there's nothing hugely innovative about this vampire story, which serves as little more than a neat cocktail of "massed hordes"/"supernatural virus" post-apocalyptic tales – a hint of 300 Days of Night here, a dollop of Crossed there, two parts World War Z, one part Daybreakers. Even the ending seems reminiscent of one of the more haunting twists in Night of the Living Dead.
Courtney Crumrin, published by Oni Press
With the introduction of a creepy old house and an outsider kid on the first day of school in a new town, Courtney Crumrin is treading familiar ground – perhaps even seeking to court the readership of recently-completed Locke & Key, or Neil Gaiman's Coraline. The art is suitably dynamic, with some beautiful visual concepts, and the writing wisely begins to build its mythology rather than pacing things out. I'm not sure if Courtney really doesn't have a nose or if this is just the style of the artist, but at the end of the day it's a good kid's comic with two interesting female protagonists, so I'm happy.
As someone who read an awful lot of Redwall books as a child, I can't help but love Mouse Guard whenever I see it on the stands. As always, the story is absolutely solid and the art gorgeous, especially in the expressions and backgrounds.
The colour palette for Rust is well-chosen, and the story has a pleasantly inspirational feel. Some of the panelling is very emotive; Royden Lepp understands quite well the importance of negative space in communicating emotions and danger.
It's surprising that more hasn't been done with Jim Henson's Labyrinth before – like The Dark Crystal, the story has acres of potential plotlines and world exploration. Adam Smith's story has a taste of the whimsy and intelligence of the original film; hopefully whatever comes next won't be as creepy…
I'm a sucker for good cross-hatching, and Sean Rubin brings that in spades. I've not yet considered the idea of exploring the struggles of immigrants in America through cartoonish dinosaurs, but it's an intriguing concept…
Will O' the Wisp
A nice play on the old "Your Pet Has A More Thrilling Night Life Than You'd Imagine" story formula, set in a Gaiman-esque town of witches, gravediggers and cookies with crickets baked in. The art is charmingly moody and the characters expressive.
I've never seen Farscape, so I'm kind-of lost here. I gather that the story and visuals are as true to the series as could be, and hopefully fans should get some pleasure out of it.
You can find Ed Saul on aboxofbones.com, or via email@example.com.