Free Comic Book Day!

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We’re one week away from Free Comic Book Day! If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s the day when comic book shops give comic books away (as the name suggests) – and yes, it’s really free! If you’ve never picked up a comic book before, now’s the best time to do it. FCBD events are always packed, so you’ll find plenty of people you can chat with to find out what’s good on the shelves.

In the past few years, FCBD has grown here in the Philippines, and there are more and more people attending each year. Apart from giving away free comics, the biggest bookstores and comic shops gather top Filipino artists – including those who work for big publishers like Marvel and DC – and have them do sketches for comic book fans. Last year I had the honor of having superstar artist Stephen Segovia do a sketch for me on a blank comic book cover.

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The sketch, featuring Flashes Jay Garrick and Barry Allen, was done completely with ink. It was amazing to watch something like this get drawn right before my eyes, and to just witness a talented artist doing what he does best. I think it took about an hour and a half to finish but it was definitely worth the wait.

They also raffled off some freebies and I was lucky enough to win an actual page from a comic book series I read. The large illustration you see here, photographed with the magazine, was actually used during the production of the comic book. How cool is that?

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So if there’s a comic book shop in your area, do drop by and ask if they’re participating in this year’s FCBD. You might just find your next adventure waiting for you there.

Free Comic Book Day happens annually on the first Saturday of May.

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Fatal attraction

This week, I’m rereading the first volume of the crime/mystery/horror series Fatale from the ultra-talented duo of writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips. It’s been over a year since I read it and I just recently got a hold of the second volume so a little refresher is in order.

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Fatale Deluxe Edition Volume One. Collects the first two story arcs Death Follows Me and The Devil’s Business.

The story revolves around Josephine, a woman with an obscure past riddled with very deadly secrets. She doesn’t age, and she has the apparent ability to charm men into doing whatever she wants – just some of the side effects of a curse placed on her decades ago. And of course, that kind of power comes with a lot of trouble. Dirty cops, occult worshipers, demons and pretty much every manner of shady individuals want a piece of her.

It’s quite hard to find a series where the level of art matches the level of storytelling – even more so when both are on an exceptional level. The story is multi-layered. You have so many things intersecting, so many plot threads coming together to weave a beautiful noir tapestry. That, in itself, is a treat. If this were prose, I’d still read it. But then you get art like THIS and everything feels perfect.

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Phillips’ illustrations fit the story extremely well. Most of the first story arc takes place in the 1950’s and you feel like you’re transported to that era when you read this book.

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The attention to detail is astounding; from the clothing, to the hairstyles to the cars and the scenery. It’s like reading one of those classic films where everyone looks so elegant – but with a dark, gritty twist.

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I don’t always reread previous volumes before getting into the next one, but this series deserves the attention. I’m actually enjoying it more the second time around and I’m seeing some details which I might have missed or forgotten. More than anything, I’m getting really pumped up for volume two, which should be another great read.

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Awesome cover art for the second volume. Collects the last three story arcs West of Hell, Pray for Rain and Curse the Demon.

Silver Age Showdown

It’s always a treat when I get to add a vintage comic book to my collection. You simply don’t come across these things every day. Plus, I’ve been looking for this particular issue for a while now. I’m a huge Flash fan, and you can’t have a proper Flash collection without collecting his races against Superman.

I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard (or participated in) the age-old debate about who’s faster between these two titans. Well, things weren’t much different half a century ago. Superman is known for being “faster than a speeding bullet” and Flash is the Scarlet Speedster, the Sultan of Speed, the Crimson Comet. So it only makes sense to pit the two against each other in a race around the world.

It was in 1967 – nearly 30 years after the creation of the two superheroes – that DC Comics finally gave the fans what they wanted. The race that was three decades in the making took place in the pages of Superman #199 where the two raced for a charity event organized by the U.N. This was one of the earliest comic book crossovers and certainly the most interesting one at the time.

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With the success of this Superman issue, a rematch shortly followed in the pages of Flash #175, and the two went on to have several races against each other in the decades that followed. Nearly 50 years since the iconic showdown, the Flash raced Supergirl in a crossover episode of their TV shows, proving that super-speed races still captivate fans of the superhero genre.

…Though if you really want to know who’s faster, check out this page from the third issue of The Flash: Rebirth (2009).

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Sci-filosophy

I’m a hundred pages into my fifth novel for the year and it’s been an interesting ride thus far. We are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson is a sci-fi novel about a teenage boy named Henry Denton whose seemingly average life is disrupted by a series of alien abductions. He has no idea why he was chosen. All he knows is that the aliens have given him 144 days to decide whether or not he wishes to save mankind from an unknown catastrophe that will destroy the planet. All he has to do is press a shiny red button and everything will be okay.

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To most people, the choice seems to be an obvious one. But for sixteen year old Henry, it’s not exactly black and white. His boyfriend just recently committed suicide. His grandmother is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and is slipping further and further by the day. His relationship with his chain-smoking mom is going south. His dad left them a long time ago. His brother just got his girlfriend pregnant and dropped out of college. And the popular boy at school who makes fun of him when everyone’s looking and secretly makes out with him when they’re alone only complicates the equation. Beyond his personal life, world events haven’t been encouraging either, with rising tension between nations that are overly eager to jump-start a nuclear war.

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When everything’s falling apart, is the world really worth saving?

The book invites us to examine this question. And as you read along, you realize that the answer really isn’t as simple as you thought it would be – especially for Henry Denton.

I like how the book is both human and alien (literally and figuratively). One moment, Henry is struggling with every conceivable problem a high school kid can have. Next thing you know he’s immobilized on a slab inside a spacecraft for God knows what reason. The guy just can’t get a break.

What makes the book entertaining is its breadth. It gives you ample doses of genuine human struggle while having a compelling sci-fi spin. It challenges you to question the value of life and our existence as a species. It urges you to find meaning in our daily struggles. It makes you wonder what the point of living is, or if there is a point at all. It encourages you to ponder the infinite vastness of the universe and what role we’re supposed to play in it. The book gives you so many things to think about, and that’s always a good thing. I’m really looking forward to the remaining 350 pages.

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