Bonus track: “Alabaster: Shelter Part 1” by Steve Lieber and Caitlín Kiernan.
Let’s talk about this Alabaster: Shelter comic. Here it is, I think this comic is pretty much–
Dark Horse’s bread and butter is licensed comics from LucasFilm and from Joss Whedon. Also whoever owns The Terminator, Alien, Predator, you get the picture. So it’s only right that Dark Horse’s Free Comic Book Day offerings reflect that. And why not? The purpose of this holiday is to encourage non-comics readers to become comics readers. So the smart money is on familiar properties. DC and Marvel are familiar properties by their nature so that isn’t a problem. Dark Horse is familiarity squared. Not only does a general population know who the characters are in these comics, millions and millions have fully experienced those stories in their original forms as films and television serials.
Were I a person who didn’t read comic books and I heard about this “Free Comic Book Day,” I would have been happy to pick up Marvel’s movie star heroes, DC’s Justice League sampler and the familiar faces of Star Wars, Buffy, et al.
On the flipside, we have the traditional comic book reader who sees licensed properties as artificial, as cash-ins. Doors open from both sides and Dark Horse is in a unique position to make inroads from within as well as from without.
With 2012’s “The Art of the Bad Deal,” b/w “It’s Never Easy,” Dark Horse wins, for me. Both stories are written by Joss Whedon’s brother Zack Whedon. The Firefly/Serenity comic “It’s Never Easy” is drawn by Fabio Moon, who has drawn comics for Joss Whedon as well as for Matt Fraction. The Star Wars comic is drawn by Davidé Fabbri. For a comparison, Mr. Fabbri’s work calls to mind Andy MacDonald who drew Zack Whedon’s “Terminator” comics. I initially though Fabbri WAS MacDonald.
The style of both stories is open and amiable. The character drawings call to mind the actors upon whom they are based without being too distracting or overly awkward. Fabbri draws a nice Harrison Ford.
The best part of these comics is when River, from Firefly/Serenity in “It’s Never Easy” leaps from the top of the ship to trample on the bad guy. When she springs off of the roof, her feet are tucked behind her in a way that is counter-intuitive for most artists but actually the most logical when one considers the force that she is trying to propel herself with. She turns in mid-air and hurts the bad guy pretty well. This is the definitive memorable part of the entire comic, cover to cover.
Speaking of. These stories, Zack Whedon’s “The Art of the Bad Deal” and “It’s Never Easy” are the exact same story. Space merchants land their respective ships to trade at the local ports, end up in conversation where a person offers to purchase the ship (refused) then attempts to hijack the ship from its captain (foiled by a powerful unseen ally). That’s kind of cute, in a way. Not annoying. Full disclosure, I read these stories on different days. If I had read them in a single sitting, I’m certain that I would have been highly annoyed by the repetition of not theme but entire plot arc.
Even so, that leap from the roof–