As always, I picked up a bunch of stuff this past Saturday for Free Comic Book Day, of which the store I frequent (Dreamwell Comics in Vegas) is an enthusiastic supporter. I don't really have an opinion on the politics of Free Comic Book Day, or whether it's effective, but anecdotal evidence from the guys who run Dreamwell suggests that people really do come into the store and pick up comics when they otherwise would not have. Do they become habitual readers after that? Well, that's hard to say, but probably at least a few of them do. As for me, I usually save the most innocuous free comics that I get and give them out to neighborhood kids along with candy on Halloween. This is about as much proselytizing for comics (or interacting with children, for that matter) as I am interested in doing.
It's always interesting to see what each company chooses to give away as their free comic of choice; I try to pick up only what I might actually read, so I didn't get everything the store had (nor did they have everything that was offered, I don't think), but I did get a decent variety of stuff. I tend to prefer the comics that are actual full stories, rather than samplers, as a bunch of three-page snippets don't really engage me enough to seek out more. Thus, Virgin's sampler got a brief skim that confirmed my lack of interest in most of what they publish, and the very ill-advised Nexus sampler, with seemingly random pages from various issues of the book's past 98-issue run, was completely incomprehensible (although the Steve Rude art was beautiful) and made certain I won't pick up the title's grand return after a decade on hiatus.
But I liked the sampler-y book from Dark Horse, which had a complete lead story featuring oddball superhero team the Umbrella Academy (created by My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way, which meant all the emo teens showed up to grab this one). That was a little too self-consciously weird, although amusing, but the smaller tastes of Ron Marz's sci-fi mystery Pantheon City and Arvid Nelson's thriller Zerokiller (both with excellent art) piqued my interest enough that I'll check out debut issues of both when they're released. The teases were short, but still felt substantial, unlike what was in the Virgin book.
The all-ages offerings at FCBD are often the best, and the first issue of DC's Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century (based on the Cartoon Network series) was clever and fun, although Marvel's split Iron Man/Hulk Adventures book was just sort of dull. I've heard oddly positive buzz about the new Gumby comic, which features the unexpected talents of people like Too Much Coffee Man creator Shannon Wheeler and Flaming Carrot creator Bob Burden - their FCBD offering was nothing to radically revise my opinion of Gumby, but it did have a lot of references to famous bits of fine art, which I suppose counts for something.
Finally, two big debuts: Robert Kirkman's The Astounding Wolf-Man, his new ongoing werewolf book for Image, struck me like pretty much all of Kirkman's work: A little stilted, a little cheesy, not enough of a reinvention of whatever stock concept he's working with to justify the excitement around it. After having read a decent cross-section of this guy's stuff, I feel like I can officially say he's overrated. I just don't get the appeal. I wasn't too crazy about Marvel's Dan Slott/Phil Jimenez Spider-Man book, either, which was also quite hokey and pretty boring. It's an okay intro to Spidey for kids, I guess, but it didn't make me want to start picking up his monthly adventures.
Which is what these books should do, ideally, but other than those two Dark Horse series, I don't think I'm going to seek out anything teased in these FCBD books (although I did also like the Lone Ranger story in the Dynamite flip-book). The neighborhood kids will have some fun stuff to read come Halloween, though.