Friday, May 22, 2015


Every year, my friend Bob Hoskins and the sensational staff of his Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey, send me a box filled with every Free Comic Book Day free comic book. Every year, I plan to review all of those free comic books. Every year so far, I have come up ridiculously short of that goal. Let’s see if this year is any different.

The 2015 plan is to read a bunch of FCBD books and write about them every Friday. I’ll lead each of these weekly bloggy things with my choice for the best FCBD of the week’s bunch.

When I look at a FCBD comic book, I look for more than the quality of the material contained in the issue. I consider whether or not it’s accessible to a first-time reader of that material and whether or not that first-time reader is likely to seek out the comic books and books showcased in the free issue. In the best case scenario, that first-time reader does seek out the comic books and buys them from the generous comic-book shop where he or see scored the free comic book. That said...

Rabbids [Papercutz] is my choice for the best Free Comic Book Day comic book of the first batch, even if my dear friend and Papercutz editor-in-chief Jim Salicrup stubbornly insists on writing “comic books” as one word. I’m thinking of staging an intervention.

This comic book contains several pages each of Rabbids, Ariol, The Smurfs and The Garfield Show. Rabbids was the only one of these I hadn’t read before. Written by Thitaume and drawn by Romain Pujol, the rabbids are weird-looking rabbits who star in single-page gag strips that are every bit as weird as their stars. The strips are infectiously funny and sometimes sneak up on the reader.  Several times, they made me literally laugh out loud. I would say I planned to seek out every Rabbids book there is, but, to be honest, I plan on begging Jim to send them to me.

The handsome and witty Salicrup does a good job introducing all of the issue’s features in his inside front cover editorial. Even if you rush past those paragraphs of perfection - I’m laying it on way too thick, aren’t I? - all of the strips are new-reader friendly.

Ariol is a young blue donkey who, among other youthful pastimes,  collects comic books and related items. In this issue’s story, he’s trying to get the final sticker he needs to complete his “Thunder Horse Super Collection” album. Most of the action takes place at a comics shop and, as a guy who owned such a shop back in the day, I could relate to the owner and his disgruntled adult customer. The story by Emmanuel Guibert and artist Mark Boutavant is funny with a satisfying ending.

Who doesn’t know The Smurfs? In a story by creator/writer/artist Peyo, we meet the nice twin brother of evil wizard Gargamel. It’s another fun story and I especially enjoyed the “Smurf Notes” trivia that ran below each page of the story.

Finally, we have an amusing science fiction adventure adapted from an episode of the wonderful Garfield Show and originally published in a French comic album. This calls for some full disclosure on my part. Though Salicrup did the dialogue restoration for this story, I’ve been handling that enjoyable task for the albums published by Papercutz. I love the show and these albums, but I figure I should tell you I work on them.

Rabbids is everything a FCBD issue should be. The stories are fun and well-done. They’re very accessible to a new reader. They stand a good chance of enticing that new reader into seeking out more of the same. Well done, Papercutz. Well done.


I also read...

Divergence #1 [DC Comics]. DC gets points for presenting satisfying chunks of three stories: Batman, Superman and Justice League. If I hadn’t read so very many better stories starring those characters, I might be more interested in them.

“The Rookie” by Scott Synder and Greg Capullo introduces the silly notion of the former Commissioner Gordon becoming some kind of Iron Batman. It made me giggle, but I’m on record of not being fond of Synder’s run on Batman.

“Exposed” by Gene Luen Yang and John Romita, Jr. has good writing and terrific art, but it chips away a few more of the elements I’ve always thought were essential to Superman. Sometimes it seems as if DC Comics likes everything about Superman except everything about Superman.

The Justice League fragment is “prologue two” to something called “Darkseid War.” I find Darkseid as tedious as the Joker. I am not entertained by brutality for the sake of brutality. As much as I’ve enjoyed Geoff Johns' writing in the past, this does nothing for me. I’ll take a pass.


Overstreet’s Comic Book Marketplace #5 [Gemstone] features mostly short and always well-written articles on comic books and various related matters. However, the magazine lacks a statement of purpose which could have explained its raison d'etre to comics newcomers. This was a decent FCBD offering, but an friendly introduction would have made it more inviting. That would be an easy fix for the 2016 edition of CBM.


The Phantom [Hermes Press] has a couple introductory pages by the late great Don Newton and a couple more by the equally great and, thankfully, still with us Sal Velluto that introduce the Phantom to new readers. Those pages are followed by two complete stories: one drawn by Bill Lignante from the Gold Key run and one drawn by Jim Aparo from the Charlton run. It’s a nice FCBD offering, but falls short when it comes to promote Hermes Press’ new Phantom series by Peter David and Sal Velluto. As David is well known in a number of fandoms (comic books, fantasy, Star Trek), I think Hermes missed a bet by not giving him some play here.


I am not the audience for Pokemon [Perfect Square], which featured fragments from three different Pokemon manga series. I couldn’t get  a handle on what these series were about. There was no editorial presence to guide me through what I was reading. I was hopelessly lost from start to finish.

On the other hand, Pokemon fans probably already knew enough about the series to be entertained and possibly enticed to seek out the manga volumes of those series. As I said, I’m not the audience for this stuff, but that doesn’t mean this comic book wasn’t effective with the demographic being targeted by Perfect Square.


I also don’t think I’m the audience for Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon Legacy [Image], though I do buy and usually enjoy the title. Like the ongoing title, this FCBD issue is mostly big and frantic fight scenes with a page here and there of nice character interactions. Larsen has gotten quite good at the latter and it’s a strength that he should play to more frequently.

The other drawback for me is the vastness of the Dragon back story. Literally hundreds of characters set amidst reality-altering tales. It makes me dizzy sometimes.

Savage Dragon Legacy #1 gives the new reader all the information he or she needs to decide if they want to follow the title. Which is not a bad thing for a FCBD comic book to do.


I have somewhat mixed feelings about the Scooby-Doo! Team-Up/Teen Titans Go! [DC Comics] flip book. Writer Sholly Fisch does a great job with a Scooby-Do/Super Friends team-up, but the 10-page segment ends on a cliffhanger that directs the reader to Scooby-Do! Team-Up Volume 1. Nothing takes the fun out of a free comic like having to plunk down $12.99 to get the rest of the story.

The Teen Titans story is complete unto itself and nicely captures the craziness of the current cartoon series. Also included in this comic book and game pages for each half of the comic.

DC gets high marks for the material, but loses points for the bait-and-switch.


One more FCBD offering for this go-round.

Secret Wars #0 [Marvel] has a story by Jonathan Hickman and artist Paul Renaud that sets up the next big Marvel Universe(s) event. I’m not a fan of Hickman’s writing. His Avengers “world is ending” run became tiresome more than a year ago. I don’t expect I’ll be more enamored of his Secret Wars. The second story in the issue is a strange Avengers/Attack on Titan mash-up that didn’t do much for me. As with some other FCBD comics, I’m simply not the audience for this one.

I think the issue will have a “wow” factor for some new readers who only know the Marvel heroes through the movies, but I also believe those new readers will be utterly baffled by the intricacy of this epic event. I’d rate it a FCBD fail.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. Actually, Tony, if Scooby-Doo Team-Up 6 is still available, you can get that for $3 instead of paying more than 4 times the amount for the trade paperback. I had the issue, then traded it away after I saw how badly written it really was. As a Super Friends fan from way back, I was a bit gypped. Fisch similarly did a disservice to Jonny Quest fans in the latest SDTU issue, and I fear more of the same awaits.