This year’s Free Comic Book Day selection was varied (as always), with some stand-out offerings for kids. On FCBD, which happened on May 3rd, I picked up a bunch of comics from a wide variety of publishers. From Archie Comics to Viz Media, all the companies came out to show off their prized series, and the consumers were handsomely rewarded. Here’s an overview of some of the stand-outs of the kids comics that were available.
Marvel- Iron Man & Hulk & Spider-man
Standard fare for all-ages Marvel comic books. A stand-alone, tag-team adventure between Iron Man, the Hulk, and Spider-man takes up the entire issue. There’s not much backstory behind the villain, The Mandarin, but the appearance of the Ant-man is pretty good. The art is polished as always, and it doesn’t seem like too blatant of a cash-in on Iron Man (the movie premiered the weekend of FCBD). A definite bonus–the Mini Marvels short comic at the very end of the book that is slightly reminiscent of Tiny Titans. Overall, it’s an OK one-shot, but other FCBD all-ages comics overshadow it.
Viz Media- Shonen Jump Special
A pretty good anthology of some popular Shonen Jump series, with some bonus features. There’s a chapter of Naruto: Shippuden (Part II of the series), an excerpt from Slam Dunk (totally in color), and a chapter from a recent volume of Bleach. It also contains a checklist of all the Viz Shonen Jump and Shonen Jump Advanced series. Another cool little feature in the middle of the issue is a full color, glossy poster of some of the main characters from Bleach. It’s a pretty good all-ages compilation of some of Viz’s greatest hits.
Archie Comics- Jughead
Even though Archie Comics is legendary, this Jughead comic is not. It’s pretty bland, focusing on Geppi’s Entertainment Museum more than necessary. The plot is weak, and the entire issue just seems like a plug for the aforementioned Entertainment Museum. It’s totally kid-friendly, as always, and the art is great. It doesn’t do much good as a segue into the Archie world, and a more traditional comic would have been better as an FCBD offering.
Renaissance Press- Amelia Rules!
This was the first Amelia Rules! comic that I’ve ever read, and I was pleasantly surprised. I had heard that this was one of the greatest of the FCBD selection, but not until I had read the comic itself did I believe it. This particular issue showcases many facets of the series, and provides an introduction into many of the characters, including Amelia, Pajama-man, and Joan. It’s engaging, all-ages fun, and one of the best comics for kids in America today.
Top Shelf Productions- Owly and Friends!
I’ve read a few volumes of Owly in the past, but I picked up this comic mostly because there was a James Kochalka story promised. However, I was utterly gobsmacked by the quality of every tale included. Owly was impressive as always, and Johnny Boo (the Kochalka story I was looking forward to) is sweet. Yam, a silent comic with a lot of charm, packs a lot of punch into six pages. But Korgi was sublimely amazing, and the stand-out hit of the pack by far. The art is so different than many other kids’ comics, and calls to mind some of Tony Millionaire’s work. High quality, all-ages fun.
Sky Dog (Kids Love Comics!)- Comic Book Diner
Slightly less engaging than if could have been, but still worth looking for. It contains a few Patrick the Wolf-Boy stories (by the author of Tiny Titans), Roboy, Dreamland Chronicles, Banana-Tail, Buzzboy, and Tbyrd Fearlessness (a Ray Friesen story which also appears in his Lookit! anthologies). All the stories are fairly good, although I wish that Patrick the Wolf-Boy could have had more of a chance to shine. Also includes a list of children’s comics that, while not complete, is still useful.
DC- Tiny Titans
One of the best comics of the entire lot. By Art Baltazar, it’s a fun romp through tiny-superhero-land, with Slade as the principal of Sidekick City Elementary, Green Arrow making a cameo appearance as Speedy’s guardian, etc. Seeing the solemn DC sidekicks as gleeful, exuberant grade-schoolers is refreshing. Baltazar’s artwork is perfectly suited for such a series as this, and everything is pulled off perfectly. It seems like this will be a very interesting comic series.
All in all, this year’s Free Comic Book Day was a cornucopia of great all-ages comics. If you couldn’t pick up any free comics this year, check out www.freecomicbookday.com. Details on next year’s event should be forthcoming. It’s one of the best days of the year, where you can find something from just about every major publisher in America. Sometimes, the all-ages comics can surprise you. I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on a few of these (e.g. Tiny Titans, Amelia Rules!, etc.), and I look forward to next year!