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You get what you pay for: Graeme on more FCBD books.

Graeme McMillan

Aaaand we’re back with more Free Comic Book Day Comic Books That Are Free. If you’re going to be wandering into a store this Saturday looking for some priceless (in the sense of it not having a price because it’s, you know, free) swag, then I have to admit – You might want to avoid all of the superhero books I talked about yesterday and think about these books, instead. Or, at least, the entry from our Canadian friends in the North:

COMICS FESTIVAL!: Easily the book to pick up, even if you avoid everything else from the day. Just the line-up of talent involved, from Bryan Lee O’Malley, Hope Larson, and Darwyn Cooke all the way to Ryan North’s awesome and worthy of festivals on its own Dinosaur Comics!, is pretty impressive, but no-one involved phones it in here. Highlights for me include Kean Soo’s Jellaby, just cute enough to melt your heart without making you feel manipulated, and O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim spin-off The Wonderful World of Kim Pine, which will make you hungry for more Pilgrim later this year. It’s Excellent in its quality and eclectic nature, and the perfect book to give someone who doesn’t know much about comics but is willing to learn.

HUNTER’S MOON/SALVADOR: From the sublime to the… well, the not sublime, let’s put it like that. A lazy, lazy effort, sad to say – With the exception of the one page hype piece at the start of this book, this pretty much feels as if someone’s just put the two books together by accident – the excerpts shown stop without warning, and don’t offer any tension or even reason to read any further. Disappointingly Crap; the books and the publisher deserve better, I think.

TRANSFORMERS: OFFICIAL MOVIE PREQUEL #1: There’s one thing I don’t get about publishers releasing previously released comics almost entirely as they appeared before for FCBD – DC are by far the worst at this, with both of their books more or less just reprints of things that fans have spent money on in the last year – but I have to admit that I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this reprint/repurpose of the first issue of IDW’s movie tie-in. Once I got past the whole “That isn’t what Megatron looks like! And he turns into a gun!” thing, this proved surprisingly Good; maybe not enough to make me want to pick up the rest of the series, but enough to make me want to see the movie.

UNSEEN PEANUTS: Surprisingly weighty, at least compared with some of the other Free Comic Book Day offerings, this mix of rare (and in some cases, never-before-reprinted) Peanuts strips – along with commentary on why they’re so rare – feels like one of the better bargains of the day. Charles Schulz’s genius is pretty much one of those things that everyone takes for granted these days, and for good reason, which is just one more reason why this collection of his misfires is Very Good.

VIRGIN COMICS SPECIAL: Pretty much a sampler without that much time, attention or care spent on it, this just collects a few pages from the first issues of four of Virgin’s series – Ramayan 3392 AD, The Sadhu, Walk-In and Devi. None of them are much to my taste, so Eh; I found more interest in the text material repeatedly calling Nic Cage’s upcoming title “Enigma” when the cover they show calls it “Voodoo Child”.

COMICS 101, WIZARD: HOW TO DRAW and IMPACT UNIVERSITY #3: This year’s “learn to be a comic creator” books almost work well together. Comics 101, a compilation of essays from creators of TwoMorrows’ magazines like Draw, Alter Ego and Rough Stuff, is a slightly schizophrenic book, mixing “how to” basics with a brief history of the medium in America, but it’s a hefty and Okay read. In comparison, Wizard’s magazine is frothy and all about the spectacle, but just Eh in terms of content – it’s not incredibly helpful, but has unintended humor like Joe Quesada announcing that covers should reflect the stories inside. Maybe he should tell the rest of Marvel Comics that… Impact’s Okay anthology moves between surface finish and dry basics, with writing that follows the two extremes, but arguably works best as a bridge between the two earlier titles. Not that I think that they planned it that way, mind you…

As I said yesterday, I didn’t even get the chance to read everything – Somehow I missed out on Dark Horse’s preview of The Umbrella Academy (by Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance and Casanova’s Gabriel Ba), the First Second preview for The Black Diamond Detective Agency (Eddie Campbell’s new book) and Tokyopop’s Choose Your Weapon, to name just a few. There’s a complete list of books available here, but why not just go into your local store and pick up whatever catches your eye?

Me, I’m not going to follow my own advice, but that’s because I’m not going to be in a comics store this weekend – Kate and I are heading out east for a whirlwind tour of friends, culture and pizza-that-is-apparently-very-good (And when I say “whirlwind,” I mean “less than 48 hours”). Expect more from me on Monday, when I will be very tired indeed.

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