Friday, June 2, 2017


Free Comic Book Day is like Comic-Book Christmas. Held the first Saturday every May, it’s when participating comics shops across North America and around the world give away specially-produced comic books absolutely free to anyone who comes into their shops. On that wondrous day, most shops run terrific sales and many bring in special guests (comics creators, cosplayers and more) to add to the celebration.

This year, fifty Free Comic Book Day free comic books were prepared by various comics publishers. They ranged from Betty and Veronica, Doctor Who, Wonder Woman and X-O Manowar to Guardians of the Galaxy, Barbie, Attack on Titan and Loud House. As usual, my pals at Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey sent those comics to me so I could read and write about them in this bloggy thing of mine. I’ve never managed to read and write about all those comics, but maybe this is the year I finally conquer that mountain.

When I read and review FCBD comics, I look at three areas.

QUALITY: Is the material worthwhile?

ACCESSIBILITY: Is the material presented in such a way that someone coming to it for the first time can follow it?

SALESMANSHIP: After reading the FCBD offering, would someone want to buy more of the same? 

Let’s begin...

Disney Descendants [Tokyopop]. This manga style comic is based on the 2015 live-action TV film, which has since spawn a CGI-animated short-form series with a sequel to the animated show in the works. The concept is a little hard to swallow, but still delicious.

The Disney villains are forced to remain on the Isle of the Lost. However, their teenage children have been allowed to leave the Isle to attend school in the outside world. Their mission is to steal a magic wand that will free their parents, but, in the outside world, they might just discover their better natures.

QUALITY: Adapted by Jason Muell with art by Natsuki Minami, this is an entertaining introduction to the series. I like how the opening is narrated by Mal (daughter of Maleficent) and gives her somewhat biased view of the situation.

ACCESSIBILITY: This 21-page segment seems to be the first chapter of the manga series. As such, it’s easy to get into. I got a little confused because, besides Maleficent, the Evil Queen of Snow White is also a character. The two are similar in appearance and intent. The issue also includes five pages of character images/information.

SALESMANSHIP: I’m sold. I’ll be seeking out the manga series, which should be out this month, and maybe the live-action movie as well. There’s a full-page ad for the manga following the character pages and a inside back cover ad for other Disney manga series.

SCORE: On a scale of zero to ten, I give Disney Descendants ten out of ten points.                                                                       
Fresh off the Boat Presents Legion of Dope-itude featuring Lazy Boy [Boom! Studios] spins off from an episode of the Fresh off the Boat TV series. I’ve never watched the series, but TV Guide describes it this way:

A Taiwanese family finds that life is a lot different in Orlando, Florida, than it was in the Chinatown section of Washington, D.C.

In the third season episode “Pie Vs. Cake,” two of the boys in the family entered a comic-book contest. In this FCBD issue, the family has the super-powers of their comic-book counterparts.

QUALITY: Meh. Written by Gene Luen Yang with art by Jorge Corona, the 20-page story does have some amusing characters, concepts and dialogue. However, it doesn’t stand out from the countless super-hero parodies we’ve seen in the past and more recently.

ACCESSIBILITY: Shaky. While it gave me a sense of the characters, the story seems like an atypical episode of the TV series. Outside of mom Jessica Huang, I don’t feel I have a handle on this family.

SALESMANSHIP: If Fresh off the Boat is an ongoing comic-book title, there’s no inkling of that in this issue. There’s a double-page ad for the TV show, three pages of ads for cartoon-based video games,  an inside back cover ad for the TV series Speechless and the back cover ad for the Pirates of the Caribbean movie: Why Won’t Johnny Depp Go Away Already? At least I think that’s the title.

SCORE: I give this FCBD issue three out of then points.

The Looking Glass Wars: Crossfire [Automatic Publishing] seems to be based on a series of prose novels by Frank Beddor, who Wikipedia says is a “former world champion freestyle skier, film producer, actor, stuntman, and author, adding he’s best known for his work as producer on There's Something About Mary and Wicked, and as author of The New York Times best seller, The Looking Glass Wars.” Which would be a fascinating come-on for a potential costumer if any of that were included in this comic book. Heck, since there wasn’t an indicia, it took me a while to suss out the name of the publishing company. Not a good start.

QUALITY: Meh. Neither the writing nor the art is exceptional in any way. On the plus side, I did like the mystical eye or eye-creature that can be rolled under a door to spy on one’s enemies. You have to put the eye or eye-creature in your mouth to see what it’s seen. Gross, but clever. The story is cover-credited to Beddor, Curtis Clark and Sami Makkonen without any elucidation as to who did what.

ACCESSIBILITY: The FCBD comic book’s 24-page excerpt does an okay job offering readers enough information to eventually get the gist of the story. It failed to adequately explain the “Wondertropolis”  setting and situation. Nor did it give a new reader a decent grasp of who the villains were and what they want.

SALESMANSHIP: Poor. There are full-page ads for this graphic novel and Beddor’s prose books with no description of what’s in them. We also got a full-page ad and a meaningless two-page spread for the sequel to this graphic novel. Though Beddor has been nominated for an Eisner Award in the past, I saw nothing in this free comic book to make me to consider buying more of his work.

SCORE: I give this issue two out of ten points.

Miraculous [Action Lab] has three story excerpts. Miraculous, the title feature, is a French CGI action/adventure animated series about two Parisian teenagers who turn into super-heroes to protect the city from super-villains. The other stories are of Kid Sherlock and Toyetica.

“Replay,” the 10-page Miraculous excerpt, involves an angry soccer player who is given super-powers by some evil guy with butterflies. There are three girls in the excerpt and I’m guessing two of them are the super-heroes.

“The Smell” (6 pages) has Kid Sherlock, but revolves around a new elementary school student who is named John Watson and who happens to be a dog.

“Welcome to the World of Toyetica” (7 pages) tells of a world where small humans exist with large humans. The former were treated like toys by the latter until they were finally recognized as equals and such. Now, apparently, there is some sort of accord that says all dolls and action figures have to be based on the small humans. At the end of the story, we meet a daydreaming student.

QUALITY: Neither Miraculous or Kid Sherlock are terribly original. The Toyetica concept is sort of intriguing, but I didn’t see enough to sell me on the idea. The writing on all three strips is so-so at best. The art is too “cutesy sweet” for my taste.

ACCESSIBILITY: Adequate. The basic concepts of the first two tales are clear, the third strip less so. None of them have enough meat to draw me in.

SALESMANSHIP: There are full-page ads for each of the three strips following their excerpts. There are full-page ad for the Miraculous DVD and a collectible card game. If someone liked Miraculous or the other two strips, they could be enticed to seek out what I’m gonna guess are either graphic albums or ongoing comic-book titles.

SCORE: I give this issue four out of ten points.

Steam Wars: Strike Leader [Antarctic Press] has a 32-page story by writer and artist Joe Wight. From a little bit of online reading, I learned the original Steam Wars comics series - created by Fred Perry - was a steampunk take on Star Wars that has since gone off into new directions.

QUALITY: This was a solid comic book on all fronts. Though I’m not a reader of steampunk fiction, the sympathetic heroes, about half of them women, caught my interest and got me on their side. This FCBD issue was the best of the ones I’ve read so far.

ACCESSIBILITY: An inside front cover synopsis could have some more “what has gone before: information, but I didn’t have any trouble following the story. Points to Wight for working the names of each main character into the dialogue.

SALESMANSHIP: The inside back cover is a full-page house ad for the next issue, but it could have been improved with more of a come-on for that next issue. The back cover ad is for Disney’s new cinema blockbuster...Pirates of the Caribbean: Depp Men Tell Tales While Chewing Scenery. I’m a big fan...he said while trying to type with a straight face.

SCORE: I give this ten out of ten points.

In case you’ve been wondering how my scoring works, it’s amazingly simple. Each of the three areas is worth three points each. To get that tenth point, a Free Comic Book Day issue has to impress me in some manner.

I’ll be back next Friday with another installment of my Free Comic Book Day round-up reviews.
I’ll be back on Monday with something else. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. You should watch the live action 'Descendants' movie. I found it very enjoyable. And there is a sequel coming in July.

    Fair warning - they're musicals.