Wednesday, July 3, 2019


What Has Gone Before:

I’m reading and reviewing the Free Comic Book Day comic books sent to me by my pals at Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey. 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 and be able to buy more of the same?

I score FCBD offerings on a scale of zero to ten. Each category is worth three points with the tenth point coming from my interest in seeing more of what’s ever in the book.

We begin with...

Riverdale [Archie Comics] is a tough one for me to review. I used to be a big fan of Archie Comics titles. But when they became much less humorous and more soap opera and soul-deadening horror riffs, I found them less entertaining. I know “new” Archie has its fans. I want to see what those fans see in the comics. I don’t. Doesn’t mean I’m not going to use my local library system to read some of the collections of the recent material. I’m trying to keep an open mind. That said, this Free Comic Book Day has a ten-page story and a bunch of feature pages and house ads.

QUALITY: The writing on the comics story was adequate, but it did not bring me into the ongoing story. The art was likewise adequate. Adequate doesn’t win me over when there are so many great comics available to me. Also in the issue are pages from a Riverdale High handbook and the opening of a prequel novel.

ACCESSIBILITY: So-so. I never felt like I had a leg-up on the story or other material I was reading.

SALESMANSHIP: Top-notch. If a reader liked what they saw here, the ads will direct them to Riverdale collections, the handbook, the prequel novel, Betty and Veronica merchandise, a collection of the Sabrina comic book series, the current issues of Sabrina, Archie and Riverdale, the Sabrina TV series on Netflix, and the Riverdale TV series on the CW and the CW app.

SCORE: Four out of ten points.


The Tick [New England Comics Press] has never been high on my list of comic-book titles. I liked the original TV cartoon and TV live-action series much better. I have not yet watched any of the later small screen incarnations of the character. All that said, I really enjoyed this Free Comic Book Day issue. This issue has a new 12-page story by writer/artist Ian Nichols, a new 13-page story by writer Jeff McCleeand and artist Nichols, and an assortment of single-page features.

QUALITY: The first story confused me at first as it continued from last year’s FCBD tale, but that passed quickly and I was won over by the villains of the piece: the ultimate Tick collectors. All of the other material was also good fun.

ACCESSIBILITY: Outside of not knowing anything about the heroes who made brief appearances in the lead story, I found all of the Tick material easy to get into.

SALESMANSHIP: Low-key but effective. The back cover advertises all of the available Tick trade paperbacks. I’m going to see if I can get them through my library system.

SCORE: Nine out of ten points.


Gilbert [Papercutz] leads off with a 20-page excerpt from Gilbert #2: The Curious Mysterious by Art Baltazar. The title character is a young merman. Also in the issue is a six-page section introducing Monica Adventures, one of the most popular comics in Brazil. Monica has been around for years and has even teamed up with Astro Boy and the Justice League.

QUALITY: The Gilbert excerpt didn’t do anything for me story-wise, but I could look at Baltazar’s art all day. I was more intrigued by the Monica Adventures article and sample pages.

ACCESSIBILITY: The Gilbert story really needed “What Has Gone Before” material, something to give an unfamiliar reader a leg up into the character’s world.

SALESMANSHIP: Papercutz Editor-in-Chief Jim Salicrup was effusive in his praise of Gilbert and other Papercutz comics. A blurb at the end of the Gilbert story directed potential customers to the full graphic novel. There were ads for several other Papercutz graphic novels. The overall promotion seemed a little low-key for me.

SCORE: Six out of ten points.


Malika: Fire & Frost [Youneek Studios] features a 24-page excerpt from the Fire & Frost graphic novel by creator/writer/art director Roye Okupe, artist Sunkanmi Akinboye, colorist Etubi Onucheyo and letterer Bode Joseph. It also has some editorial text and various advertisements.

QUALITY: Malika is always well-written and well-drawn. The problem here is that this excerpt doesn’t really give the new reader a good idea of what has gone before.

ACCESSIBILITY: I touched on this in the previous paragraph. There is no background given for the protagonists. There is a time travel element that isn’t explained well. Unless a reader has been avidly following Malika from the beginning, they will likely be lost when they try to read this FCBD issue.

SALESMANSHIP: Okay. There’s an editorial that attempts to explain the concept behind the Youneek Universe. There are advertisements for a Malika graphic novel and some other comics. None of the ads do a good job describing the products.

SCORE: Four out of ten points.


Animosity Tales #1 [AfterShock Comics] is the best Free Comic Book Day issue I’ve read as of this writing. It leads with an 18-page story by creator/writer Marguerite Bennett, artist Elton Thomas, colorist Marco Lesko and letterer Marshall Dillon. Long-time comics industry veteran Mike Marts is the editor. The issue also features a two-page summary of previous Animosity stories and a preview of the forthcoming Mary Shelley, Monster Hunter #1.

QUALITY: The Animosity Tales story is brilliant, weird and wonderful. I was enthralled from start to finish. The preview of Mary Shelley, Monster Hunter was also quite good.

ACCESSIBILITY: Top-notch. Even before you get to the “What Has Gone Before” summary, the lead story is easy to follow. The Mary Shelley excerpt is equally inviting.

SALESMANSHIP: I’d have given this issue high marks just because of the summary. Even though I now know what happened in those initial four volumes, I want to read them. There’s also a house ad for the most recent issue of Animosity. The back cover touts AfterShock Comics in general.

SCORE: Ten out of ten points.

Look for more Free Comic Book Days in the weeks to come.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

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