FCBD Special: Quick Hits Featuring Our Free Comic Book Day Round-Up

Quick Hits was posted a little later than usual today because we wanted to take the time to read all the great (and sometimes not as great) Free Comic Book Day Offerings that we got at our local comic book shops across the country on Saturday.

This edition of Quick Hits will be a bit different from our normal style.You'll see us talk about some comics we might not normally cover, as you may have noticed from the other posts today. Just because we don't write a lot about books from certain publishers doesn't mean we aren't interested in them!

For this column, we are not running the usual full creator credits. This is not a diss on anyone's participation in the work--it's merely a choice to keep the column from turning into a jumble of names, given the reviews themselves are short. We at Panel Patter, many of whom are writers and artists ourselves, fully respect the hard work and effort that goes into making a comic.

Most of these comics are in alphabetical order, but we'll lead off with a few that sparked the greatest interest among the Panel Patter staff, starting with...

And Then Emily Was Gone/Oxymoron (Comix Tribe) 

If you're looking for a good scare, this is a great issue to pick up. And Then Emily Was Gone has been a big hit for ComixTribe (my review here), as it's a highly compelling, completely nightmare-inducing, supernatural and psychological horror story with adept storytelling from John Lees and horrifically good art from Iain Laurie. This issue tells a self-contained story about some events that are tangentially related to that of the main story, and gives a great flavor of what the book is like. There's also a story involving the freaky character Oxymoron, who seems to be ready to wreak some havoc throughout time. (Review by James Kaplan)

Bongo Comics Free-for-all! 2015 (Bongo Comics)

This is the FCBD I usually look forward to the most because it's usually one of the best. Bongo basically gives you an issue of Simpsons Comics each year, featuring stories that could easily be in their main magazine, which I used to read on a regular basis in trade. Not unlike the show itself, it does seem like the gang may be starting to run out of fresh ideas, as this one hewed closed to familiar themes: Bart pulls a school prank, Homer wrecks the house trying to fix a hole in the roof, and Lisa dreams of a better world that inevitably goes wrong. They're fun stories (better than the TV show in its current state, that's for sure), and I love that the characters are like Groening's originals in the story by writer David Seidman and line artist Mike Kazaleh and are turned realistic by writer Heather Nuhfer, and artists Nina Matsumato and Andrew Pepoy. This one is like turning back to old friends, yet requires no old knowledge for a potential new reader. A great fit for FCBD. (Review by Rob McMonigal)

BOOM! 10 Year Celebration Free Comic Book Day Special (BOOM! Studios)

Instead of enticing readers with longer takes from one or two stories, BOOM! opted to go with a smorgasbord, covering everything from an Adventure Time spinoff to the critically acclaimed Mouse Guard and a few of their monthly versions of classic newspaper series like Garfield. In most cases, they've chosen to do a short-short story, and those work best, showing what the series is like. (For example, the Mouse Guard tale is a narrative about what their version of heaven is like, complete with a fable that only the humblest may enter it.) A few are excerpts, and I admit that the one for Iscariot, with its Matt Kindt-like visuals from S.M. Vidaurri, really has me looking forward to its debut later in the year.

All of these comics are designed for an all-ages audience--you don't see a short vignette from Hexed, for example--which makes sense because theoretically, that's who Free Comic Book Day should be primarily aimed at, not grizzled vets looking to scoop up previews they've likely already read at CBR already. Though filled with familiar titles (Lumberjanes, Peanuts, Regular Show, etc.) and thus not a huge draw for existing BOOM! followers like me, it's a great way for a new reader to see what they've got out there--and isn't that the point? (Review by Rob McMonigal)

Divergence #1 (DC Comics)

The New 52 was a mixed bag, but give DC credit, they're not afraid to shake things up. This issue has previews of three of their biggest titles, Batman, Superman and Justice League, each of which have some pretty significant events going on. In Batman, the Snyder/Capullo team continue their strong work, but with a significant shift to the status quo. I won't spoil the events of Batman #40 for you, but let's say someone else, someone pretty surprising is filling in as Batman. Over in Superman, John Romita Jr. continues as artist, but with story from Gene Luen Yang. I've loved Yang's independent comics (such as American Born Chinese and Boxers & Saints), so I'm curious to see what he brings to DC's greatest superhero (sorry, Batman). There's a huge status quo shift for Superman as well, which I don't know has been done before. I'm a little surprised about who caused it, but very curious to see where it goes. Lastly, Justice League (written by Geoff Johns, with solid art from Jason Fabok, in the DC house style) is setting up a big conflict between Darkseid, the Anti-Monitor, and it seems to involve Diana and the Amazonians as well. (Review by James Kaplan)

Gronk and Friends (Action Lab FCBD 2015)

One of the best things about FCBD is how it caters to families. Action Lab's FCBD book is split between Gronk and Hero Cats. Both are family friendly. What's really great about Gronk in particular is the way it shows a more realistic, but still entertaining parent-child relationship. It cracked me up to see an adult woman deal with a little rambling monster. It appealed to my humor without sacrificing the age-appropriateness for the kids in my life. On the art, Katie Cook does a great job making vibrant and adorable monsters. They look like an adorable mashup of chibis and web comics. The colors are bright but not abrasive and I couldn't get enough of the androgenous Gronk. I had this approved by an adorable (and easily scared 7 year old) and it gets a big two thumbs up. We read it twice. I love having the opportunity to introduce comics into kids' lives and Gronk is a great, funny read with likeable characters and pleasant art.

The Hero Cats portion was slightly less appealing to me. It's still cute, still age appropriate for the young 'uns, just didn't have the humor I was looking for. THAT's actually the best part of the FCBD samplers. I know that in the samplers, I can try out some great stories and if they don't click for me, it's no big deal, because it's smaller and less time (and of course free). (Review by Brianne Reeves)

Molly Danger (Action Lab)

I know nothing about Molly Danger, or at least I didn't before I read the Free Comic Book Day issue today.  Now that I've read it, I still don't know a whole lot about the character's backstory, supporting cast, or even her origin but it doesn't matter.  This was a blast.  If this issue is anything like the series by Action Lab, then you can guarantee it's a lot of fun.  There's something about this book, possibly the art style he's using for this series, that reminds me a lot of Astro City.  And that's pretty high praise coming from me, because I adore that book.  So this free little preview actually worked on me.  I'll be picking this up!  Count me in Mr. Igle. (Review by Douglas Peach)

Tales of Honor 0 (Image/Top Cow)

When the people of Earth move out across the stars, they form varying societies. One, based on the old Monarchy of England, Manticore, has arguably the most bad-ass female Captain in fiction Honor Harrington. In this short, we see why she's both feared and respected, as she takes on a slaving ship with an important hostage, playing Kirk/Sisko-level manipulation to come out on top, even if it's not the way you'd expect. I became a fan of this character late last year, and this is a really good example of why--Harrington is a strong female character, non-sexualized by both the writers (character creator David Weber and comic writer Matt Hawkins) and artist Linda Sejic, who makes her feminine in a very normal body shape. It's a great way to do character-driven hard SF, if a bit on the conservative side, and this told you what you needed about the world as well as why Honor is a character to watch. Very good introduction, and thus a good FCBD in my opinion. (Review by Rob McMonigal)