Once again, I found myself venturing out of my comfortable suburb (living a 15-minute walk to your work is amazing) into the crowded urban wilderness also known as the CBD of my actually quite low-density city. This was for the sake of both Free Comic Book Day, and WASO doing a Star Wars & Beyond concert to celebrate John Williams’ birthday. I didn’t post earlier because I had such a sucky day. In fact, I am still incredibly cranky about the time I had nearly two weeks later.
Unlike last year (when I could have sworn FCBD in Australia was on a Sunday) the weather was fucking awful – rainy and incredibly humid in the way that clogs up air conditioners. So the first comic store we went into, we had to walk out again after two minutes. I couldn’t handle the heat and stuffiness from the place being so packed. It seemed like a fun atmosphere however, lots of people were dressed up and I’m told I had many ladies admiring my Nightwing shirt (though my friends may have just been winding me up).
The next store was a more general geek store, with a huge trade selection. It was a lot less crowded and stuffy (but still the busiest I have ever seen it) so we browsed. I convinced my friend to buy Gates of Gotham because it is fucking fantastic, but also because she is from France and it has the Nightrunner mini in the back. Yes, this is me being an excellent and considerate friend. I picked up for myself the last two volumes of the Red Robin trades.
I am going to pause for a minute and rant about the other thing that made me cranky about FCBD. Namely the Red Robin trades I bought, The Hit List and Seven Days of Death. Now, I know this is old news. I don’t care, I only just got around to finding this out for myself.
I should point out how I really wanted to like these books, I was hoping, after reading the first volume (there are four in total) that it would improve, especially with the change in writer. Unfortunately, it didn’t. There are good moments, but really: the plot switched between boring and just plain incoherent; the characterisation was inconsistent; there’s so much non-sensical techno-babble, clearly written for the sake of pseudoscience and to take up space, it just goes beyond silly; there’s the awful use of Catman and other lame villians treated with 100% seriousness and none of the skill or self-awareness in the writing that these characters need to avoid making your book come off as really terrible shit. I mean, really, acting as if the majority of your audience (EVEN IF THEY READ SECRET SIX) aren’t going to start giggling when you introduce him as one of the DCU’s greatest villains? Really? C’mon. I am a massive Thomas Blake and Catman nerd – best illustrated by the Catman gelaskin a friend gave me for my PS3 – and I was cringing.
The final storyline takes the cake of awful though. This is where Drake, for no discernible reason, suddenly decides to set free his father’s killer from prison, then hunt him down through a series of techno-magical wouldn’t-actually-work traps based entirely on Captain Boomerang’s particular criminal behaviour. Yes, that’s right: he cruelly hunts down his father’s killer, several years and several million traumatic events after his father’s death. While knowing his adopted father is now alive and kicking, and knows EVERYTHING that happens in his city. It really is as awful as it sounds: terrible as a concept, terrible as a one-shot issue, fucking terrible as a climax. It seemed like an attempt to have a character-defining morality moment, to show how Drake differs from his other blue-eyed, black-haired adopted brothers… only so grimdarkly ham-fisted, contrasting so badly with the cartoonish, pulpy tone, that you know as soon as the story starts what will happen – and yes, it even concludes with a little angsty monologue. You half expect “MY PARENTS ARE DEAD!” to be passionately emo’d as Drake’s last appearance pre-Flashboot.
For fuck’s sake, I haven’t even gone into the awful tropes: apparently every girl in the world is attacking Red Robin for nothing more than make-out time. There’s even a mini-‘cliffhanger’ that has a nasty (nameless?) woman capture him and decide she wants to steal his virginity so she can be impregnated by his magical snowflake sperm. I mean, what? And that’s just the sexist tropes, I haven’t even gone into the exoticisation of the Middle-East, Russia and most of Asia. Post-colonial, this book is not.
In case it isn’t clear, I do not recommend these books. Not even to the most hardcore Tim Drake fan. That said, to be fair to the artist though, some of the terrible plot can be forgiven by the very pretty art. Marcus To deserves all the credit for me finishing this series and is about the only saving grace of the book. I was impressed with his Unternet Red Robin costume, a hybrid between the normal Red Robin and the old Nightwing uniform – it’s pretty sweet. As an aside, why the fuck was the horrible condom costume, and now the incredibly silly DCnU feathered costume, chosen instead? Anyway, in the end these books just seem like such a waste; waste of a coming-of-age story, waste of artistic talent and waste of one of my favourite characters.
Now, back to that Free Comic Book Day.
Free-comic-book wise, I grabbed the Super Family Adventures/Young Justice/Green Lantern book for kids. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, it was the only thing that really caught my eye. More successfully, the secondhand book store nearby also had a 50% off sale on all comics to celebrate FCBD. This was pretty sweet, and I picked up a few random volumes of Buffy and Transmetropolitan that I didn’t already own. Also scored an out-of-print Rucka Wonder Woman volume which I may have gotten a little over-excited about.
The WASO concert was quite good too. Very fun – the conductor stripped off to reveal his Superman costume underneath. Though it was a little unfortunate: he probably could have done with some slightly more supportive undies. I’ve retumblred some of the photos a friend took. I am a giant nerd for groups like WASO trying to make orchestra music accessible to kids and a non-traditional audience though.
Finally, after walking around the city all day, my partner and I got back to where the car was parked, discovering the carpark was locked and had supposedly been ‘closed all day’ – despite the large ‘Open’ sign and the pay machines happy to let us in that morning. So we waited for ages, trying to contact someone to work out what the fuck was going on there. That might actually have been the main part of the day that has left me all bitter. But then again, those GN’s were pretty bad.