Yesterday, May 4th (so also a belated Happy Star Wars Day, May The Fourth Be With You), was Free Comic Book Day, an annual event where comic stores offer a selection of comics that customers can take for free (some ask for a small donation) to help promote their business and promote the key titles from comics publishers for the next 12 months. Now, whilst these comics are all free to customers, the store has to buy them in, so if you plan on going next year, please, please purchase something too as most comics stores are independent businesses and are great for the struggling high street. My comics shop is Close Encounters in Bedford, they have other stores in Peterborough and Northampton and are a family run business who run events ranging from the book club I attend through to Pokemon TCG and Magic tournaments.

Now due to the popularity of the event, and that everyone likes free shit, alot of stores limit the number you of comics you can take,  my store put the limit at five per customer, these are my pics.

Under the Moon is a Catwoman origins story set during her high-school years prior to her becoming Catwoman, when she is just Selena Kyle. This FCBD release is part of a bigger graphic novel aimed at Young Adults thats coming later this month (and is part of a series of books that will also see Raven from Teen Titans get her own book, part of which appears at the back of this issue).

So, teenage Selena doesn’t have a very happy life, her Mum has a dickhead for a boyfriend who stamps his authority on the household. One day Selena finds a stray cat and takes it home, hides it in her closet and the pair make each other happy, which her Mums boyfriend begins to question until her discovers the cat which ultimately leads to the cat dying.

There are elements of this story I like, I like that it hints that Selena will have to learn to deal with her feelings and possibly grieve the loss of her cat and I like that its quite obviously aimed at somebody similar in age to my eldest daughter (and I think she may get a kick out of the book herself, although she’s at that stage where anything I recommend is regarded as being uncool so may have to leave this FCBD issue where she can read it and discover it for herself). I like the colour palette, which is full of pale blue tones and gives the story a kind of melancholy edge to it. However it does something that I find distracting in alot of media, particularly media within the geekdom, in that far too often writers tend to include characters and events that shrink that particular world. In this instance Selena goes to school with Bruce Wayne, they were once good friends but he “stopped speaking to her” but her finding this cat gives her the courage to speak to him again and he reveals how he has lost his parents. I’ve complained about fan service on here before and this feels very much the same and the reason I complain about it is due to me wanting certain characters, in this case Selena Kyle/Catwoman, to be able to stand on her own two (four?) feet for herself without having Batman there to prop up the story. Something else I’d have liked to have seen is taken from the short interview that Lauren Myracle (writer) and Isaac Goodman (illustrator) have conducted between themselves at the back of the book. In the interview Myracle talks about how books featuring high school kids often have moments where the cast are chatting to each other but that when it comes to comics each panel needs an “Action” because people just talking doesn’t work in a comic, I’d personally like to see someone try, because I think if the conversation is engaging then it would still work regardless of whether or not the scene is described using pictures or words.

Sticking with DC Comics, I also picked up Year of the Villain after hearing somebody else asking to have the tie-in books to be added to their pull list. Year of the Villain is DC’s event comic for this year and this FCBD is the one that kicks things off, which it does with some style, all the major players turn up for a few panels each, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow etc but the major event for this issue is Lex Luthor attacking the White House and then seemingly taking his own life.

There’s not alot else to say about it, as its one of those books thats essentially an advertorial for things to come without offering anything of note, a teaser trailer that gives little room to discuss things and anyone who is interested in the event will already be adding the relevant titles to their pull list (such as the guy above).

It’s at this point that I noticed I didn’t pick up any Marvel, that wasn’t’ a conscious decision. I went to the store with only two titles in mind that I really wanted to try, Under the Moon and Spawn (which I’ll come to later), the rest where titles I picked on a whim. First of which is Deadly Class: Killer Set.

I knew nothing of this book before going in, I wasn’t aware that it’s been running for a number of years already and that it has its own TV show, have I been living under a rock all this time? Evidently. So a quick read up suggests this is a one shot inclusion to the series, a standalone story but it also feels like the reader is expected to know the characters already, which is fair enough (and is a feature of the next book I picked up too). That being said, its piqued my interest in the series and I want to pick up the collected volumes as I really quite liked this one. I really enjoyed the artwork, which had a kind of punky edge to it which tied nicely into the setting of the second half of the book when the group go to see a rock band, not to mention its general location which appears to be an 80’s New York.

There’s an almost Edgar Wright quality to it too, with music being heavily used a backdrop and the action when Viktor is “completing” his homework assignment. On this evidence I may even check out the TV show.

So, you know how I said Deadly Class seems to require some knowledge of the characters? Well the biggest culprit of this is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which to be fair almost everybody knows who Donatello, Leonardo, Michaelangelo and Raphael are as theres been a plethora of non-comic book media dedicated to them since the late 80s. I’ve never actually read any of the comics (and I know thats where they originate) so was excited to see this sat on the table so I could give it a try. The main story is entitled “Road to War” and the comic is being pushed as the Road to Issue #100.

With that you’re thrown straight into the action, the Toitles are in a race against time to get a friend to the hospital whilst being pursued by a variety of bad guys, and its at the point where Mikey and Dony have to turn the Turtle van around and head elsewhere that we leave the action and the book then takes us down a path to give us a short retelling of the Turtles’ history which is told well enough to leave someone who has missed all the action thus far and provides a good jumping in point for newer readers, which is something I feel these FCBD should embrace more (and possibly do).

The last of my five, Spawn. This one I’d heard of, and as mentioned near the top of the page, was one of my “to get”‘s. Image Comics decided to re-issue the first issue of Spawn for FCBD2019. My only experience of the series is watching the film when I was a teenager on VHS in the late 90s. I dont even remember what I thought of it, but that I’ve never re-watched it probably speaks volumes, I do know its not particularly well regarded though.

So onto the comic, its really very 90s, the artwork in particular screams early 90s, and it seems to want to revel in that.The talking head news reporters that bookend the comic remind me of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns. What #1 of Spawn does do is it sets out alot of questions for the reader, and opens things up so that you will want to read further issues, but it doesn’t really give alot more than that. I’ve come away from it not knowing whether Spawn is a comic for me or not, which if I’d have paid for this, would probably have put me off buying more issues.

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