FCBD '06: Dark Horse, Bongo Comics Trump Marvel

When Dark Horse began publishing comics, people in the industry said it wouldn’t last five years. When the company was five years old, they said it wouldn’t last ten. They were still predicting the publisher’s demise on its 10th anniversary.

The aptly titled Dark Horse Comics has been going strong for twenty years, and this year’s Free Comic Book Day issue shows us why. Conan: The Spear by Timothy Truman and Paul Lee offers a glimpse into the heart of a dark sorcerer bent on bringing an ancient evil to Conan’s world. Conan, having survived a bloody battle, must sneak into the fortress, find an artifact of power and dispatch the sorcerer before it is too late. The writing is slightly cliche, but the artwork is both beautiful and believable.

The other story in this flip book is Star Wars: Routine Valor — without a doubt one of the best comics that I’ve read. Set sometime during the Clone Wars, it tells of the bravery of a small group of Clone Troopers who must disable mountain-perched heavy artillery after being shot down in battle. The story is told with a style and humor sadly lacking in most comics. The art and the layout of the panels is far beyond what everyone else is offering for Free Comic Book Day this year.

Speaking of comic art, Marvel ComicsX-Men: Runaways contains the worst depiction of Beast I’ve ever seen. He looks like some sort of Disneyesque werewolf. To boot, the story is not well thought out and makes a horrible introduction to the relatively new Runaways series.

This comic also contains a few pages of material from Ultimate Spider-Man — perhaps more aptly titled Watch Spider-Man Continuity Go Down the Drain — an altogether disappointing showing from an industry leader.

Bongo Comics Group gives us a highly entertaining read in Bongo Comics Free-For-All. In “Comic Book Guy Gets a Life” we find the pointed satire that has made the Simpsons so enduring. The issue also shows us the origin of Glowy the Radioactive Dog, Bender running amok at Bongo Comic’s headquarters and Pie Man fighting his evil doppelganger. It concludes with”Heroes for Rent,” featuring Lenny and Carl battling Disco Stew (with a little help from the Village People and Peanuts’ Linus, believe it or not).

With showings like this from Dark Horse and Bongo, Marvel is going to have to perform a lot better in the coming years.

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About James A Woods
Freelance Writer, Constant Learner, Family Man

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