Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mini-Review x 3 - Free Comic Book Day 2011 #1

I'm going to - finally - get around to reading and reviewing the Free Comic Book Day 2011 issues I have sat around. I meant to do so months ago, but I never got around to it. That changes now! Today I'll be reviewing Super Dinosaur: Origin Special (Image), Young Justice/Batman: The Brave and the Bold (DC) and Pep Comics: Featuring Betty & Veronica (Archie).

Young Justice/Batman: The Brave and the Bold
This was my first foray into these titles, both of which are aimed at younger readers. As the title suggests, this is split into two parts. The first part is a short Young Justice comic, the second part is the Batman one. I'll review them separately.

Young Justice
The team is made up of Kid Flash, Superboy, Robin, Miss Martian and Aqualad, and they've been sent to Colorado to face Psycho-Pirate, who has managed to get hold of some plutonium. The Young Justice team try and get it from him, but they all get put into a trance of self-doubt which reveals to us all of the issues the characters currently face, i.e. they're not as good as the "older" superheroes they're based on/team up with.

The art is really quite good and appropriate for the age group and the theme of the team, and I found it clear and easy to follow. Despite being perhaps twice the target age, I did enjoy it.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold
In this shorter piece, Bruce Wayne is supposed to be attending a charity function, but is instead helping the Flash save people from a fire. We're treated to a brilliant duality with the attention flicking back and forth between the function and the conflict between Batman, the Flash, Heat Wave and the Firefly. It's really well done, and gives two great perspectives. One is that Bruce Wayne's reputation with the Gotham elite is being slightly tarnished by his string of non-appearances, but we know that he's actually out there saving people and kicking butt. It ends with Alfred giving a brilliant witty retort that really catches the guests off-guard.

The art is pretty good in that rather ridiculously exaggerated way that you often find in cartoons, and it works quite well for this. It's clear and easy to follow.

Overall, a good taster issue. I think even adults would enjoy reading this, because the Young Justice section is quite deep once you get into it, but also because the Batman section harks back to an Adam West-era Batman, where it wasn't all dark and brooding.

Pep Comics: Featuring Betty & Veronica
I had to do a little bit of research on this. Pep Comics was the name of the series in which Archie had his debut, and it was one of the classic series - along with ones such as Action Comics. It had a brief resurgence in the '80s, but has since lain mostly dormant.

In this issue, we follow Betty and Veronica as they discover the old Club Archie treehouse, and reminisce about when the gang were kids. After an embarrassing moment for Veronica, they all go to Pop's and discuss creating a new club. Archie, Jughead, Nancy and some others create a club for younger children, in which they help them with one-on-one attention, whereas Veronica's idea is to basically spoil the kids rotten. The kids like Veronica's club, but ultimately prefer the one-on-one attention they get in Archie's.

It's a sugar-sweet issue with some really good ideas behind it, mostly about friendship and how you should help others. I found myself a little confused, however, as it didn't really introduce any of the characters and only a few were referred to by name. Sadly, I didn't think much of the art. So much of it seemed reused and poor quality, which I found to be a disappointment. Facial expressions seemed odd, and barely changed during panels. When the characters spoke, and they weren't grinning, they looked really, really odd. I hope that's not true of most Archie comics, as I could see it becoming annoying very quickly.

In conclusion, a fairly fun read with some rather inconsistent art, the quality of which is questionable.

Super Dinosaur: Origin Special
I've never heard of Super Dinosaur before, but I'm fairly glad I picked this issue up. Derek Dynamo is a young boy with a dinosaur for a best friend. His father and his assistant, Max Maximus, had discovered Inner Earth, an untouched place with dinosaurs and a rock called DynOre, which could be used as a fuel. Max begins conducting experiments to alter and "improve" the dinosaurs to create an army, as well as creating the harness that Super Dinosaur wears, whereas Derek's father is oblivious to the sinister nature of the experiments. Max goes renegade, Dr Dynamo is injured in a blast, but Super Dinosaur (SD, as he's often referred to) sticks with Derek.

I hadn't really realised it until this morning, but Derek is a terrible character. He's about ten years old, he's a supergenius, and he's a brat. He finishes his dad's equations, because he can't as the blast caused some brain damage, he improves and upgrades SD's armour and many other things, including fooling the government. That's pretty ridiculous, even by comic standards.

That's not to say it wasn't a good read. The backgrounding seemed really thought out, and the art was largely pretty good. There's a nice mix of characters and it looked as if the series would be pretty good. Heck, there's even a female dinosaur/human hybrid mentioned in the character pages at the back.

If one can get over the arrogant brat of a protagonist, I got a good impression of the series. It looks as if it could be some really daft, explosion-loving fun. I may just have to pick it up.

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