Friday, July 21, 2017


Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

Free Comic Book Day happens but once a year. Every year, good old Bloggy Tony gets all the FCBD issues from his friends at Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey. Then he tries to read and review  all of them. He judges those 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. 
Attack on Titan [Kodansha Comics] contains an original, all-new,  20-page story by Jody Houser with artist Emi Lenox and colorist Lee Loughridge. It’s from the Attack on Titan Anthology, which features a roster of Western comics creators offering reinterpretations of Hajime Isayama’s hit anime and manga series.

QUALITY: “Truth” is an excellent story of a young woman after her brother has been killed by the giants and what she discovers about her sibling and the world outside their city’s protective walls via  the drawings he illegally made. In the city, such art is banned and considered treason.

ACCESSIBILITY: Though this story stands on its own, unless a reader already knows the Attack on Titan anime or manga, they wouldn’t be able to get any background on the series. The inside front cover, which does a good job of promoting the anthology, doesn’t offer any “what has gone before” information on the series itself. There is a three-page excerpt from Attack on Titan: The Anime Guide, but it, too, neglects to include background information.

SALESMANSHIP: Besides the inside front cover, this FCBD issue also has several pages of house ads for several other Kodansha books and series. Some of these ads offer enough information that the reader could be tempted to give them a closer look.

SCORE: 8 out of 10 points.

Buffy: The High School Years [Dark Horse Comics] teams a 12-page, complete-unto-itself Buffy the Vampire Slayer story with a 12-page, also-complete-unto-itself Plants vs. Zombies tale. The former is, of course, based on the epic TV series, and the latter is based on a hit video game.

QUALITY: The Buffy story, much of which takes place in a comic-book shop, is fun. The Plants vs. Zombies, much of which takes place in a decidedly odd town in the Old West, is amusing.

ACCESSIBILITY: Writer Kel McDonald includes just enough background in his Buffy script to give a new reader an entry into that world. Paul Tobin’s Plants vs. Zombie story lacks background information. A better designed inside front cover would have made room for that kind of “what has gone before” information.

SALESMANSHIP: I suspect most readers will already be familiar with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and some fewer readers will know about the Plants vs. Zombie video game. The former doesn’t need a hard sell. The latter is entertaining enough that a reader might be tempted to look for more PvZ comic books.

Dark Horse includes lots of house ad for their other titles in this issue. If a reader liked the Buffy story, they will learn there are three original graphic novels featuring the Slayer in high school. The back cover does the same for Plants vs. Zombie. In between, we get four ads for other Dark Horse graphic novels and collections. Some of the items shown look interesting.

SCORE: 7.5 out of 10


Riverdale One-Shot [Archie Comics] is based on the hit TV series on the CW. I don’t care for that TV series and care even less for the writing of Chief Creative Officer Roberta Aguirre-Sacasa, so take that into account when you read my comments.

This issue has two stories, each of them ending with a last-panel “To Be Continued” caption. The Archie story goes into more detail on the events that took place in the first episode of the TV series and leaves little doubt that Archie and Ms. Grundy did, indeed, do the deed and likely more than once. The Veronica story shows what her life in New York was like before her dad was arrested for fraud and embezzlement. Apparently, these tales will be continued in the ongoing Riverdale comic book, which will feature untold tales set in the world of the TV series.

QUALITY: It’s not that Aguirre-Sacasa is a terrible writer or that the art is bad. But his stories here are typical teen angst opera that doesn’t fit the Archie characters. At least, these characters have some redeeming value. In his Afterlife with Archie, virtually every character with the exceptions of Archie and Betty are really terrible people.

ACCESSIBILITY: Pretty good. A new reader should be able to follow these two stories easily. There’s also a character guide from the show with additional background information.

SALESMANSHIP: Also pretty good. If a reader likes what they see in the issue, the several house ads will direct them to where they can find more comics like this one.

SCORE: Well, as my friend and mentor Don Thompson used to say, “If you like this sort of thing, you’ll like this.” I don’t like this sort of thing, but I’m still giving this Free Comic Book Day issue 7.5 out of 10 points.


Joe Benitez’s Lady Mechanika [Benitez Productions] is a steampunk saga set in turn of the century England and other lands. Its title heroine is the lone survivor of mad science experiments that left her with mechanical limbs. Lacking any memories of her life before and during her captivity, the courageous young woman has become a private investigator.

This issue features “The Demon of Satan’s Alley,” the prelude tale to Mechanika’s adventures, as well as excerpts from The Tablet of Destinies and The Lost Boys of West Abbey. Mechanika is created, written and drawn by Benitez with colors and logo design by Peter Steigerwald.

QUALITY: I’m not a steampunk afficionado, but these stories represent some first-class comics storytelling. I like the lead character and the mysteries surrounding her. I like the setting and the gorgeous art and colors. I think I need to read more.

ACCESSIBILITY: Excellent. The back cover gives a concise history of  Lady Mechanika and the prelude story and the excerpts are easy to get into.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. There are a lot of Lady Mechanika comics and graphic novels available right now. A series of house ads could serve as a Lady Mechanika checklist. The issue also has a two-page ad for Wraithborn Redux, an intriguing urban fantasy by Benitez.

SCORE: The full 10 out of 10 points.


Tex: Patagonia [Epicenter Comics] features a 28-page excerpt from the graphic novel of the same name. Tex Willer has been appearing in comics stories for nearly 70 years. He’s an agent for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a Ranger and a leader of a Navajo tribe. He’s a steadfast hero who hates bigotry of any kind and, in this excerpt, is fighting alongside a small army of gauchos and vaqueros to hunt down and punish hostile raiders. Also fighting alongside this army is Tex’s son Kit.

QUALITY: Excellent. Written by Mauro Boselli with art by Pasquale Frisenda, the excerpt has the look of a spaghetti western but with true “white hat” heroes in Tex and Kit. One of the better moments in the excerpt has Kit seeking assurances that innocent tribesman will not be punished for the crimes of the renegades.

ACCESSIBILITY: A two-back text feature after the excerpt gives you everything you need to know about Tex and the character’s history. I think it would have worked better appearing before the excerpt, but Boselli is pretty good at conveying information via dialogue.

SALESMANSHIP: The comic book does a great job leading the readers to the full graphic novel, but not so well with two other graphic novels: Zagor and Magic Wind. I have no clue what either of those is about.

SCORE: 8.5 out of 10 points.

DC Super Hero Girls [DC] features a chapter from Summer Olympus, a new graphic novel by Shea Fontana with art by Yancey Labat. Wonder Woman is invited to spend her summer break with her father Zeus on Mount Olympus. She is allowed to bring her friends, but almost all of them have plans. So it’s her and Bumblebee. Not to worry. This chapter features all of the other Super Hero Girls before Wonder Woman and Bumblebee leave, as well as a nice selection of villains on their way to the hoosegow.

QUALITY: Excellent as always. I love this series in both comics and prose. It’s got action, laughs and a modicum of teenage problems. It’s suitable for all ages and, as I see it, that includes the 65-year-old guy who writes this blog.

ACCESSIBILITY: These are teen versions of classic DC characters and most people will know them. Fontana smoothly integrates background information into the dialogue. There are also several bio pages on the stars of the comic.

SALESMANSHIP: Very good. There are lots of ads for Super Hero Girls books, comics, games and toys. There are also ads for other Cartoon Network series.

SCORE: 10 out of 10 points.

That’s a wrap for today. However, since I fell behind in reviewing all the Free Comic Book Day issues, I’m going to devote Saturday’s and Sunday’s bloggies to them as well. Free Comic Book Friday on Saturday and Sunday? I’m a wild man!

See you tomorrow.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

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