Friday, December 15, 2017


Hey, kids! It’s time for another look at the free comic books given out for Halloween ComicFest.

Halloween ComicFest is the celebration of Halloween and comics! The event takes place October 28th at participating comic shops. FREE Halloween themed comics will be available, along with the chance for fans to participate in "The Greatest Halloween Costume Contest Ever!" It’s a great event for comic and Halloween fans of all ages! Come and celebrate Halloween this year with FREE comics!

Like Free Comic Book Day, Halloween ComicFest happens but once a year. Every year, I get all the issues from his pals at Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey. Some are digest-size comics and some are full-size comics. After receiving them - there were thirty comics this year - I read and review them. I judge these individual issues on three criteria:

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?

On a scale of zero to ten, each of those criteria is worth up to three points. Tony awards the elusive tenth point when he deems a FCBD offering particularly worthy.

Casper the Friendly Ghost Halloween ComicFest [American Mythology] is a 16-page, digest-size comic book reprinting Casper and Spooky stories from what I’m guessing is the 1960s. There’s a Casper tale and a Wendy the Good Little Witch gag page by Marty Taras, a Spooky story by Howard Post and a Ghostly Trio gag page by Ernie Colon.

QUALITY: These all-ages stories are fun and well-crafted. Casper’s “Helpful Uncle Fuzzy” is a delightful take of the friendly ghost’s kind but forgetful uncle. The Spooky story is particularly suited for Halloween. I give them high marks.

ACCESSIBILITY: I’m not sure I can actually judge this category for this comic book. To readers of my generation, these characters are so well known they require no introduction. Is that the case with younger readers? There have been many cartoons and even some Casper movies. Do they still air on TV?

SALESMANSHIP: Poor. If a reader enjoyed this stories as I did, that reader will get no information about where to find more like them. American Mythology should have lost the last gag page and replace it with an ad for their Casper comics.

SCORE: Six out of ten points.


Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Halloween ComicFest Edition #1 2017 [Archie] is the one Halloween ComicFest comic book that I refused to read. I have judged this book by its back cover, the one which explains in loving detail how Sabrina’s dead father has come back from the dead in the body of her resurrected boyfriend and  arranged a romantic rendezvous with his unknowing daughter. When did Donald Trump get into comics?

QUALITY: Writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has one trick in his Archie bag. He takes these classic characters and he twists them into sad reflections of themselves. He demeans them at every turn as if he were performing in some modern-day Hellfire Club fetish theater. I hate his writing. Passionately.

ACCESSIBILITY: The back cover copy lets readers know what they are getting into. One can only hope they have the good sense not to get into this particular comic book.

SALESMANSHIP: This 36-page, full-size black-and-white comic has an ad for a Sabrina trade paperback on its inside front cover, tucked into a corner following the very large credits.

SCORE: Not applicable, mostly because I never thought to allow for negative scores.

Choose Your Own Aspen Adventure [Aspen Comics] is a 32-page, full-size black and white comic book. It is basically an activity book tucked inside a story of sorts.

QUALITY: I didn’t do the activities included within the story, but they look like great fun for kids. The story is thin. This isn’t a comic book for me, but I applaud the obvious care and craft that went into its making.

ACCESSIBILITY: Some introductory material would have been helpful. I’m still not sure who these characters are.

SALESMANSHIP: Poor. The inside back cover has an ad for a bunch of Aspen graphic novels, but they don’t seem age-appropriate for the kids who might be enjoying this free comic book.

SCORE: Four out of ten points.


Malika: Dragon Trials [YouNeek Studios] is a 32-page, full-color, full-size comic book featuring a 24-page story of the warrior queen created and written by Roye Okupe. Art is by Chima Kalu. The story appears to be an excerpt from the second Malika graphic novel and takes place almost entirely in her mind. I have written favorably about the character on two earlier occasions this year. I reviewed Malika’s Free Comic Book Day issue and the first volume in her series of graphic novels.

QUALITY: Very high. Malika must fight four dragons to prove worthy of wielding a powerful mystical sword.

ACCESSIBILITY: This excerpt needed some background. A text page on “The Divine Ones” gives background on the supernatural entities at the art of this excerpt, but doesn’t really help a new reader learn anything about Malika.

SALESMANSHIP: Very good. The issue has a house ad for the first of the Malika graphic novel, a second house ad for other YouNeek GNs and a back cover ad for the second Malika GN. If a reader enjoyed this comic book, they will be made aware of other graphic novels of this nature.

SCORE: Eight out of ten points.


Runaways Halloween ComicFest 2017 #1 [Marvel] is a 32-page, full-color, full-size comic book reprinting the 24-page origin story of the title characters. Written by Brian K. Vaughn with art by Adrian Alphona, David Newbold and Brian Rebar. First published in 2003, the story involved a group of teenagers learning a shocking truth about their parents.

QUALITY: This was one of the best debuts of the new Millennium. We get to meet the kids and learn something about them. The build to the last page reveal is amazing.

ACCESSIBILITY: It’s a well-done opening story that should pose no problem to a new reader.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. There’s an ad for a new Runaways title and another for the collections of the previous comics. There are also ads for some other Marvel titles.

SCORE: Ten out of ten points.


Star Wars: Darth Maul Halloween ComicFest 2017 #1 [Marvel] is a 32-page, full-color, full-size comic book reprinting the first issue of the five-issue series by Cullen Bunn with artist Luke Ross and
colorist Nolan Woodard.

QUALITY: Very good. Bunn’s story captures the rage that drives his protagonist and ends on a scene that makes me want to read the rest of the series. Luke Ross does a fine job on the art.

ACCESSIBILITY: The Star Wars Universe is a little complicated for my aging brain, but the opening page sets up what I needed to know. The rest of the story is straightforward.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. There are ads for the collection of this Darth Maul series and for other Star Wars comics collections. There are also ads for other Marvel titles.

SCORE: Nine out of ten points.

I have one more installment of these Halloween ComicFest reviews. It will run before the end of the year.

Come back tomorrow and I’ll have something else for you. It could be a piece on online comics news sites or it could be a column of comics reviews. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

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