Saturday, May 7, 2011

Graphic novels worth buying on Free Comic Book Day

Posted By on Sat, May 7, 2011 at 9:00 AM


In its ninth year, Free Comic Book Day continues to provide a good excuse to patronize your friendly neighborhood comic book store May 7. But it would be gauche to waltz in, snatch up this year's free titles and scram without buying anything, so here are some recommendations of new titles you could, like, pay money for.

Ghost World creator Daniel Clowes again puts contemporary American angst under a magnifying class in his latest graphic novel, Mister Wonderful. Originally serialized as a one-page strip in the New York Times Magazine, the tale of a middle-aged divorcée's blind date delivers the painful awkwardness and rueful comedy that have become Clowes' trademark.

At times writer/artist Adrian Tomine seems like Clowes' greatest prodigy, delivering similarly clean illustrations, fumblingly realistic dialogue and deadpan jokes. Tomine empties his personal sketchbooks for the more upbeat, relatable Scenes From an Impending Marriage graphic novel as he offers observational gags about his own engagement, with droll anecdotes like the artist's insistence that he design the wedding invitations, a task that becomes more trouble than its worth.

"Gritty" can be a crime fiction cliché, but artist Alex Maleev's abrasive urban hellholes look literally flecked with grime and sediment. Maleev reunites with prolific superhero writer Brian Michael Bendis for the compelling noir-style limited series Scarlet. The ordinary young heroine addresses the reader directly as she seeks justice against the corrupt cop who killed her boyfriend, but a potentially familiar revenge story reveals bigger themes as Scarlet challenges whole civic institutions.

Published by Marietta's Top Shelf Productions, Jeffrey Brown treats the Transformers toy-and-movie franchise with the respect it deserves in the graphic novel Incredible Change-Bots Two: "Twice as much as met the eye last time!" Brown's irreverent gags and crayon-style pictures follow the continuing battles between the stalwart Awesomebots and the evil Fantasticons, space robots with incredible powers who, alas, are none too bright.

Finally, the comic book Axe Cop delivers an even crazier concept. Axe Cop originated in 2009 as a web comic by then-5-year-old Malachai Nicolle and drawn by his 29-year-old brother Ethan Nicolle. Now in comic form, Axe Cop recounts the increasingly outlandish adventures of a hatchet-wielding police officer with the catch-phrase "I will chop your head off!" and insane plot twists one would expect from a kindergartner.

Atlanta-area comic book shops participating in Free Comic Book Day include Oxford Comics and Games, Criminal Records, the Book Nook, Tea House Comics, Great Escape Comics and Games, and the Titan Games & Comics locations in Duluth and Smyrna.

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