In lieu of the regular column here featuring a spotlight on a new series, I wanted to take the time to talk about a few books that will be released this weekend for the national Free Comic Book Day event. While most people plan to pick up the more recognizable books from DC or Marvel or even the television tie-ins for Spongebob, it is a great opportunity to check out some things you might be unfamiliar with. Free Comic Book Day is a chance to look into a series that might otherwise remain under the radar and see if it's worth following.
Action Lab Studios, a publishing company not as commonly mentioned as Image Comics or IDW has generated a great library of all-ages comics. This year, they have two releases, with each issue split into two features. The titles include ongoing series NFL Rush Zone, Princeless, and Skyward. They have also released a teaser for an upcoming series, Molly Danger. Each issue tells a quick story that gives readers a pretty good sense of the writing and direction of the respective titles.
NFL Rush Zone is written by Kevin Freeman and features an art team of Goodwin and Blankenship. What starts off as a sports story, trickles in bits of clues that develop into a superhero tale. Ish, a boy and football fan, is also an employed Inspector Gadget) and transform, suits up to save the day. The book is filled with football puns and references, but also includes some on-the-nose lessons (and features an evil, robotic Calvin Johnson). The book is decent overall, though clearly appeals to a specific individual.
Next up is Skyward. The creative team on this title features Jeremy Dale and Steve Downer. The story appears to be a side tale from the main on-going. Opening with the daughter of a village leader, the teen is warned that there are a few beasts sighted in the area recently. She meets up with two male friends in the woods outside the village and they discuss training to fight against the wretched monsters. They are confronted by a giant mutated worm, and with the help of a stranger, survive the attack. The man mentions relaying the tale to his son, teasing the not-shown lead of the main series. The story feels a bit thin, and even avoids including Skywards protagonist, but for current readers, this side story may be fun. For others, it does give a good feel for the setting, though no hints of any ongoing story.
Action Lab debuts a new series, a tactic done often, introducing the world to Molly Danger. This female-led all ages book is a fantasy tale that fuses mystical elements with the modern day. The book is the product of Jamal Igle's script, Juan Castro's inks and Romulo Fajardo Jr. coloring. An alien led invasion, fronted by an enormous, missle-armed robot is taking place in New York Cityv and the military has been dispatched. Though this is the first issue, the protagonist and the villain appear to have a history and he is ready for her tactics. Molly has to get clever, and her toughness matched by her intellect help her to really shine as a new and engaging lead character. Molly Danger is an strong all ages story that establishes a well rounded female character in a male-driven medium.
Finally, Princeless's FCBD story is the strongest of the bunch. Already a beloved ongoing series penned by Jeremy Whitley, this issue features a different art team. Typically headed up by Goodwin (lending art to NFL Rush Zone for Free Comic Book DAy), Princeless is instead shouldered by Emily Martin and Soojin Paek. Adreinne is continuing her quest to free all of the imprisoned princesses across the land and stumbles across one named Raven Xingtao. Adrienne and Bedelia face off against a local knight to save Raven. The knight, spouting off stereotypical comments about a woman's place, stands between Adrienne and Raven. The story is light and features some great comedy and action throughout. Raven, as it concludes, turns out to be a bit more than a damsel in distress and freeing her might not have been a good idea (or necessary?).
Overall each of the stories are a lot of fun. The most enjoyable read is definitely Princeless, and the introduction to Molly Danger is a great short. Individuals looking to try some new titles, especially those with children will want to track these stories down come Saturday.