Free Comic Book Day Reviews: Buffy, The Guild, DC’s New 52, and Way More

If you’re like us, you spent most of this past Saturday outside, enjoying the park with friends, and… Aw, who are we kidding? We spent all day traveling from comic book shop to comic book shop, trying to complete our collection of free goodies in order to give you all a rundown of what was good, what was not so good, and what didn’t really matter, because hey, it’s free! Here’s a look at some of the books we snagged on Free Comic Book Day 2012:

Buffy/The Guild (DARK HORSE) – First of all, kudos to Dark Horse for having original stories in two of its most popular licensed universes from the actual creators. That’s just good comics. This flipbook contained a fun trifle in Andrew Chambliss’ Buffy versus not-quite-Aliens story, and Felicia Day’s adorable story from the world of The Guild. The real stand-out though, was two pages of Caitlin R. Kiernan’s Alabaster: Shelter story (the other half was in the Star Wars/Serenity book), which had all the emotion, horror, humanity, and incredible character of her Alabaster: Wolves series. The headliners were cute, but the angel was the centerfold.

.Star Wars/Serenity (DARK HORSE) – What’s most interesting about this book – both stories are written by Zack Whedon – is that they’re basically the exact same story in two different scifi universes. In each, someone tries to take a ship – The Millennium Falcon and Serenity respectively – and someone surprising comes to the captain’s rescue. It may be having Fabio Moon on art for the Serenity one, or that Whedon treats that tale with both seriousness and humor that make it more rounded. But hey, we always wanted to see whether Han Solo or Mal Reynolds would win in a fight, and now we know: neither of them would.

The Hypernaturals (BOOM!) – If you like what Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning do with Guardians of the Galaxy, you’re probably going to like this… And that’s a lot of what BOOM! is banking on here. With any new SciFi Universe, there’s a lot of world building that needs to be done, but DnA is an efficient enough team that, by the end of the issue, you have a fair handle on who everyone is, and what the basic premise of the series is. I’m not going to spoil anything here, but I’m interested to see if this functions more like a zero issue, or an issue one. My guess is the former, but I’m definitely on board for this series when it officially launches in July.

Dinosaurs Versus Aliens (LIQUID COMICS) – There’s been so much talk, for so long, about this insane idea called Dinosaurs Versus Aliens that it’s a thrill to find out it’s even more bats**t insane than we thought it was. On the surface, it’s one of those transmedia projects that will be spun into films and toys, and an upcoming graphic novel; but underneath, it’s Grant Morrison tricking a major studio into letting him dress dinosaurs up as Indians. No joke: you’ve got raptors running around in tribal dress and warpaint, with tusks tied to their heads for fighting. How a dinosaur tied something to another dinos head is beyond me, but this FCBD taste doesn’t even bring in the aliens… So we expect it gets crazier from here. Awesome.

Atomic Robo & Friends (RED 5) – The back of the book says, “Red 5: Comics That Are Fun,” and heck, they ain’t lyin’. Particularly the lead Atomic Robo story, which teams a robot and a talking dinosaur against a bigger dinosaur that’s evolved missiles is pretty much laugh out loud hilarious from the first page. Atomic Robo books are always a highlight of Free Comic Book Day, and the team of Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener deliver once again.

Mouse Guard / Labyrinth & More HC (ARCHAIA) – Not that it’s a huge surprise, but best looking book of the year goes to Archaia for this hardcover collecting some of their best properties. The Mouse Guard and Cow Boy stories are stand outs, but the whole package is so good, my two year old hasn’t let it out of her hands since she first saw the adorable mice on the cover. Note: I had to wait for her to nap. Mission accomplished, Archaia, mission accomplished.

Yo Gabba Gabba Free Comic Book Time (ONI PRESS) – It’s a bit of a bummer to find out these are just reprint stories, but for those who have avoided Oni’s Yo Gabba Gabba! Comic Book Time book because of the kiddie association missed out on great stories from Mike Allred, Evan Dorkin, and more. The stories here perfectly channel the adult and kid friendly vibe of the show, and even manage to be a little edgier than what they attempt on TV.

Avengers: Age Of Ultron Point One (MARVEL) – Okay, correct me if I’m wrong folks – and I probably am – but there’s only a few major differences with this reprint of Avengers 12.1. The first is the title, which puts the upcoming Age of Ultron crossover front and center, rather than leaving the reveal for the end. The second is the dialogue on the first two pages, which – I think – is a little more expository when it was in the first printing. And the last, and most important, is that Spider-Woman has a costume on when captured, rather than being uncomfortably and unnecessarily stripped naked for the entire issue. For that alone, this issue gets bumped up from my original opinion of it.

Spider-Man Season One (MARVEL) – How many times has Marvel retold the origin of Spider-Man? Approximately a billion? Yet writer Cullen Bunn, in this preview of the upcoming graphic novel, really nails the heart of what makes this such a compelling origin story, and then some. Neil Edwards’ layouts seem reminiscent of Bryan Hitch, with a touch of Mark Bagley, which gives the whole thing an Ultimate, yet old-school feel – just what Marvel was looking for with these Season One books. Given what’s set up in the first issue, I’m very curious to see how it all ties together. It may be an old, over-told story… But when it’s well told, who cares?

Image 20 (IMAGE) – Nothing wrong with a bunch of advertisements, right? Mike Norton and Tim Seeley’s “Revival” is probably the most successful of the bunch, just for plain weirdness… The ending of the short story is appropriately strange, and I definitely want to know more. Oh, and Near Death continues to be a delightful B-movie, so it’s nice to see more of that in here… And the story stands on it’s own, too, which is nice.

DC Comics The New 52 Special Edition (DC) – This issue probably got the bulk of the buzz going into this year’s FCBD, and rightly so, as it contains a new story from Justice League team Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, finally reveals just who Pandora – the mysterious Pink Lady of the New 52 – is, and has a teaser of the upcoming Trinity War storyline. We’re going to have to wait a year for that, which is a bit of a bummer for a teaser, but hey, Lee draws a pretty gatefold, right?

DC Nation Superman Family Flip Book (DC) – I was pretty eagerly looking forward to Art Baltazar and Franco’s Superman Family story, so it’s a bit of a disappointment – and forgive the cliché – that there’s so little of it. The taste we get is nice, but it reads like a good all-ages Superman story, and that’s it. The other stories are even less of a taste, including the comic book take on Green Lantern’s animated series, and Young Justice. They’re all fine, but I don’t think as a kid I’d be sold on any of these particular series in the long run off these somewhat meager offerings.

Peanuts/Adventure Time Flipbook (BOOM!/KABOOM!) – Well, this was a pleasant surprise. Not only do we get reprints of some of the best Peanuts shorts, and two superb back-ups from BOOM!’s excellent Adventure Time comic (Michael DeForge’s “Bacon Fields” has to be one of the funniest short comic stories of the year), but there’s also a prequel to the Adventure Time series from the team behind the book! Face High Fives all around!

Valiant Preview (VALIANT) – Hey, it’s a preview, right? So yeah, you get a few pages with X-O Manowar, and teases of the rest of Valiant’s titles, but if you’ve been eagerly awaiting the new books, it’s enough to whet the appetite.

Witchblade Unbalanced Pieces (TOP COW) – This is an interesting one, as it summarizes – in panels and dialogue – the entirety of Tim Seeley’s first arc on Witchblade, while also being an advertisement for the trade being released soon… Which slightly invalidates the need for reading the trade. On the other hand, if you’re interested in jumping into the title, this provides a breezy, easy way of digesting everything that’s gone on so far, and getting right on board for the next issue. So in that, it’s done its job!

Transformers #80.5 (IDW) – Easily one of the crazier projects released this past weekend, this book sees the team on the original Transformers comics reunited after two decades to continue the story they, well, finished. This book gets the reader up to speed – or at least aims to… Unlike the Witchblade book, which only has a few issues to summarize, this comic has to encapsulate eighty issues of late 80s-early 90s Transformers continuity, which is like a thousand issues in our decompressed time. So yeah, hard to follow if you don’t know what’s going on. That said? It’s great to see Andrew Wildman and Stephen Baskerville back on art, those guys know how to draw robots in – and out – of disguise.

Finding Gossamyr / Stuff of Legend (TH3RD WORLD STUDIOS) – This was a big surprise: a new fantasy book from Th3rd World Studios that purposely evokes the excitement and humanity of a Pixar movie and actually nails it… In this preview, of course, but the look at this new book is exciting, intriguing, and everything you’d want from the first few pages of a book. You know everything you need to know about the characters and set-up, and there’s enough of a tease that I can’t wait to check out the whole comic when it’s released.

There was plenty more to read – and see – on Free Comic Book Day, so what did you guys like? What are you going to pick up more of? Let us know in the comments below!