Saturday, July 22, 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.

Secret Empire [Marvel] presents a 10-page excerpt from the latest and possibly worst “Let’s break toys we didn’t create” event fail as well as 10 pages from Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #1 by Chip Zdarsky and Paulo Siqueira.

QUALITY: Maybe it’s because I still have a soul, but I’m just not down with this tedious “Captain America is the leader of Hydra and a totalitarian dictator who betrays his friends and lets loose all kinds of Hell on the America he once loved” epic. Taken out of the context of the terrible story, the writing and art aren’t terrible. But they are in service of an awful story. As for that Spider-Man excerpt, Zdarsky is trying way too hard to be funny and, because of that, he’s not. But I did like the upgrades to the Vulture and the introduction of the new Trapster. Did I miss something happening to the old Trapster?

ACCESSIBILITY: The Secret Empire excerpt goes for faux-poignant in the writing and fails to provide new readers with the background information they would need to know what the heck is going on with this story. The Spider-Man excerpt is much better in that regard.

SALESMANSHIP: Ten pages of house ads feature a lot of Marvel stuff, including the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series. Sadly, the ads don’t offer much in the way of information. They might remind an existing reader what’s available, but they don’t entice the new reader. Which is the point of Free Comic Book Day.

SCORE: Three out of ten points.

Kid Savage [Image] presents a 30-page chunk of the graphic novel by Joe Kelly and artist Ilya. Set on an uncivilized alien world, the segment shows the title hero fighting nasty creatures to survive. He, in turn, meets a family that has crashed landed on his world. There’s also a brief excerpt from Gregg Schigiel’s Pix, which I’ve praised recently.

QUALITY AND ACCESSIBILITY: Decent. The story is fast-paced, but in speeding from scene to scene, it doesn’t slow down to provide any background. Nor does Ilya’s art always convey what’s happening in a clear manner. Ultimately, I had to do an online search to find an article that gave me a handle on who these characters were and what was happening, The Pix excerpt is much better in this regard, but is all talk and no action.

SALESMANSHIP: The last panel of the Kid Savage excerpt lets us know there’s a graphic novel. There’s a nice ad for the Pix books preceding the Pix except. There’s an ad for other Kelly-written GNs and also a general “Image Classics” page. Neither of those two ads offers any real information on the titles being advertised.

SCORE: Three out of ten points.


All-New Guardians of the Galaxy has a 10-page Guardians story and a 10-page Defenders story. The Guardians tale is written by Gerry Duggan with art by Aaron Kuder. The Defenders intro is written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by David Marquez.

There’s a similarity between these two stories. In the Guardians, the Nova Corps has returned to intergalactic law enforcement, only to be challenged by the Shi’ar Empire’s Fraternity of Raptors. In the Defenders, Luke Cage, Daredevil and Iron Fist are taking pre-emptive action against anyone trying to fill the crime vacuum left by the Kingpin moving into the mainstream.

QUALITY: The Guardians story is functional, but doesn’t really have the feel of either the movies or the previous Guardians comic books from Marvel. The Defenders story is much better, but its attempt to mesh the various Netflix series with the Marvel comics universe is not a smooth transition, asking us to believe its seeming “big bad” is actually as dangerous as the story would have him be. However, I liked it well enough that I’ll be following the ongoing Defenders series and giving Bendis more time to make his case.

ACCESSIBILITY: All of these characters are pretty well known to an audience larger than that of the comic books. I don’t think a new reader would have any real problems getting into the stories. But a little introductory copy would have gone a long way.

SALESMANSHIP: Nine pages of Marvel house ads, including a double-page spread of Guardians trades and separate full-page ads for the first issues of All-New Guardians of the Galaxy and the Defenders, do the job pretty well. However, the other ads seem to be targeting existing Marvel readers instead of new ones. I’m out of the ad copy business myself, but Marvel could sure use someone like me to bring an outsider perspective to these ads.

SCORE: Eight out of ten points.


Colorful Monsters [Drawn & Quarterly] is a 68-page comic book with solid chunks of four graphic albums: Kitaro and the Great Tanuki War, If Found...Please Return to Elise Gravel, Anna & Froga, and Moomin and the Brigands. That’s pretty impressive for a free comic  book, but doesn’t change the fact that three of the four features do nothing for me. I do like a wide variety of comic, but nobody I know of enjoys every comic book there is. It’s what I have started calling “The Krazy Kat Konundrum” wherein I can recognize something has merit but which doesn’t appeal to me at all.

QUALITY: Kitaro and the Great Tanuki War is the only one of these features I liked...and I liked it a bunch. Which should come as no surprise to those of you who have seen my glowing reviews of this manga series. I struggled to get through the other strips, my eyes glazing over as I did so. Once again I must quote Don Thompson and say “If you like this sort of thing, you’ll like this.”

ACCESSIBILITY: Decent. Introductory comments to Kitaro and If Found should give a new reader a leg up into those strips. But there was nothing similar for Moomin or Anna & Froga.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. This giveaway comic book has ads telling  readers about the other volumes in these four series.

SCORE: Five and a half out of ten.


Animal Jam [Dynamite] is based on some online playground. Over 70 million fans think it’s perfect for kids of all ages. Here’s what Wikipedia says about it:

[National Geographic] Animal Jam takes place in fictional Jamaa.  [The area contains] various biomes and cartoon player-created animals. Players can create an animal with an anonymous 3-part name, such as "Crashing Magicshark", dress it up with virtual clothing, and control it in the gameplay environment. The original six virtual animals that could be created were the panda, rabbit, tiger, wolf, koala, and monkey. Many more animals have been added following the six, letting players have the possibility of seeing one of their favorite animals in the game. Players can also customize their dens with furniture, chat with other players, adopt pets, play mini-games, buy additional furniture, clothing, and dens with gems and diamonds as a method of payment, attend parties, and go on various RPG-style adventures. There is a membership feature available costing real money. Members get access to exclusive dens, pets, animals, and adventures, among other things.
This FCBD issue has a 20-page Animal Jam story written and drawn by the prolific Fernando Ruiz. It also has a dozen pages of house ads for other Dynamite titles.

QUALITY: New animal Clover comes to Jamaa where she’s given a tour of the place and introduced to many animals, including the “Alphas” who protect the animals from the Phantoms who would harm them all. We get an amusing travelogue, a concise history of how the place works and some action/drama when Clover accidentally opens a portal to the realm of the Phantoms. It’s a solid story with lively art. Definitely one of the best FCBD issues.

ACCESSIBILITY: If a doddering old senior like me can follow Ruiz’s story with ease, anyone can.

SALESMANSHIP: Very good. Besides Animal Jam, we get ads for several Grumpy Cat titles, Boo the World’s Cutest Dog, Betty Boop, Bob’s Burgers and Doodle Jump Comics.

SCORE: Ten out of ten points.

That’s it for today. I’ll be back with more reviews of Free Comic Book Day comics tomorrow. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

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