Monday, February 21, 2011

Taco Bell Comics Review

I was doing some travelling this weekend, and made a couple of stops at Taco Bell. I normally try to eat at least something vaguely healthy on the road (Subway, generally) but since I kind of have to eat some lousier than my usual fare anyway, I might as well get some comics out of it since they're running that Marvel Comics promotion with their kids' meals right now.

I picked up the Iron Man and Fantastic Four issues. Each issue has a new eleven-page story, plus an unrelated one-page backup by Colleen Coover.

The FF story starts with the Human Torch on a date. The lights go out, and he soon discovers a giant robot sucking the energy out of all of New York City. He calls the rest of the FF, who battle the creature for a bit before Mr. Fantastic figures out its origin. The Invisible Woman goes off to nab the Wizard, and the Silver Surfer, noticing the creature from orbit, ultimately intervenes to stop it.

The Iron Man story starts with MODOK meeting with Tony Stark about a plan to solve the world's energy problems by converting all living matter to energy. When Tony dismisses this as yet another attempt to destroy the world, MODOK and his "lawyers" attack. Tony soon dons his Iron Man armor, and has a melee against MODOK and a giant (until now, cloaked) carrier hovering over Manhattan. To no one's surprise, Iron Man kicks MODOK's butt and calls in SHIELD to help clean up.

Obviously, with only eleven pages to work with, there's not a lot of time for character building and such. But, in both cases, the main actors are all pretty clearly defined in a fairly naturalistic way without a condescending attitude or anything. (That should go without saying, but given the history of promotional aimed-at-kids comics over the years...) The stories are short, but fun. The Iron Man one was especially entertaining thanks to Brian Clevinger's dialogue -- although Tony spoke more like Atomic Robo than I've known him to speak in the past. (To be fair, though, I am by no means an Iron Man expert, so it might be perfectly in line with how he's being depicted in his "normal" appearances these days.)

I found a couple of glitches on the first page of the FF story that kept me from jumping into that story as quickly. (A note-worthy issue, I think, in so short a story.) The first thing was that the coloring didn't appreciably change when the lights went out, leaving the reader to ONLY understand that through the dialogue. Made for a bit of confusion reconciling the art and the text. Also, when Johnny sees the giant robot for the first time, it's really unclear what he's looking at. Which, in itself, might not be that big an concern as we do see the robot much clearer later, but the next panel is a discussion between Johnny and his date about the obvious danger and how he should alert the rest of the team. Leaving the reader to wonder what the danger is and how would Johnny know it's something bigger than he can handle. Those points of confusion only last a couple of seconds and, if this were part of a 120 graphic novel, wouldn't be worth mentioning. But, again, given the concise nature of the story, I think it's a little overly distracting. The storytelling isn't really as concise and to the point as it should be for the eleven page limitation.

Both the Colleen Coover one-pagers are fun and well-done. I think the only complaint you could lodge against either was that they're too short!

Both the comics are entertaining and it was good to see that Marvel put a solid effort into making these unique pieces instead of throwing out generic reprints or some pieces of thrown-together schlock. I expect you can get over-priced copies on eBay; I don't know that they'd be worth what you pay for there unless you're a completist about those things. As for getting them via a Taco Bell... well, I will say that I don't do fast food very much at all, so it's not the type of thing I have a palette for these days. For my options on the road in the middle of Indiana, it's not the worst, though not particularly enjoyable either. I enjoyed them enough that I don't regret picking them up, but not so much that I'm going to waste another two meals getting the X-Men and Avengers books. But if you're cool with their food, these comics are a fun treat.

5 comments:

Matt K said...

That's pretty cool; good review of something I'm highly unlikely to run into anywhere else. I didn't even know this promotion was running, in fact.

Interesting that they chose Iron Man and the FF; I can see continued boosting of Iron Man (who starred in two Free Comic Book Day books last year) with the Avengers movie hooha still building, but the FF are a bit of a surprising choice.

At least in outline, this almost sounds like something that fell out of a time warp from the mid 90s and the Marvel Action Hour.

Sean Kleefeld said...

I can see where you would get the MAH connection, but they don't really feel to me like a '90s holdover at all. A lot of those types of pieces, I felt, were so concerned about pushing the IP that there was little regard for art and/or storytelling. While there's no denying these new books are pushing the Marvel brand pretty heavily, there is a decidedly more noticeable attempt to show something worth showing.

Best FF or Iron Man stories I've ever read? No. But as free comics I got with my dinner? Not bad at all. A vast improvement over those MAH comics from back in the day!

Matt K said...

Oh no, as I say, just the broad outline of the concept, i.e. a promotion consisting of a pairing of Iron Man and the FF...

I quite agree with you that the comics as you describe them, i.e. quite respectable (Colleen Coover, even!), sound quite different from an MAH era production. :-)

Drew said...

does anyone out there know if these are still available at Taco Bell?

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