Welcome to the final installment of my 2020's Free Comic Book Day reviews. My pals at Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey send me these FCBD comics so I can read and write about them in the bloggy thing. This is the third time I’ve actually reached my goal of reading and writing about all the FCBD comics from a given year. Yes, it’s true that Free Comic Book Day 2021 happened a month or so ago, but I’m still gonna take this victory lap.
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.
Usagi Yojimbo (currently published by IDW) is one of the greatest comics series of all time. For over 35 years, creator Stan Sakai has written and drawn the adventures of this masterless samurai in Feudal Japan. This FCBD special presents a 19-page excerpt from the upcoming Chibi Usagi: Attack of the Heebie-Chibis by Julie Sakai and Stan Sakai. There’s also a short essay on the creatures known as Tengu and an interview with Stan Sakai.
QUALITY: “Attack of the Teenie Titans” is a terrific story filled with action, chills and humor. It delivers a satisfying ending to that unusual story.
ACCESSIBILITY: Everything a reader needs to know to enjoy this tale is included in a quick series summary on the inside front cover and the story itself.
SALESMANSHIP: There are ads for Usagi Yojimbo and several other IDW publications.
SCORE: Ten points out of a possible ten points. You can never ever go wrong buying a Usagi Yojimbo book, comic book or graphic novel.
We Are Humanoids featuring the Incal [Humanoids) presents an 8-page summery of John DiFool’s adventures and misadventures by Mark Waid and Stephane Roux. Created by Aleandro Jodorowsky and Moebius, some consider the strip a sci-fi masterpiece.
This FCBD issue also includes previews of Count, Swine and Life Drawn. Count is a new take on The Count of Monte Cristo. Swine is about “darkly comic pigs.” Life Drawn is the brand name for slice-of-life graphic novels; this excerpt tells of a young musician whose life is changed when she first sees Prince on stage. A number of short prose articles offer background material on these graphic novels.
QUALITY: So-so. The Incal summary is just that, a summary with no weight beyond that. Count, Swine and Life Drawn: Mpls Sound got my attention much better.
ACCESSIBILITY: Good. There was enough background in each excerpt to give me a door into the GNs and whether or not I might enjoy them.
SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. Lots of ads for Humanoid products. Lots of information on those products.
SCORE: Seven points out of a possible ten points.
Svetlana Chmakova’s The Weird Books [Yen Press} presents the first thirty pages of the creator’s graphic novels about a strange town populated by supernatural creatures of varying types.
QUALITY: This long excerpt was delightful. The characters are fun. The setting is intriguing. The writing and art are first-rate. The large lettering is a little distracting, but I have a hunch it was sized to fit existing art.
ACCESSIBILITY: This FCBD issue has everything you need to know to get into the series.
SALESMANSHIP: Very good. While the focus of this issue is on this specific title, some additional titles by Chmakova are promoted on the back cover.
SCORE: Ten points out of a possible ten points.
X-Men/Dark Ages [Marvel] features 10 pages of the former by writers Jonathan Hickman and Tini Howard with artist Pepe Larraz...and 10 pages of Dark Ages by writer Tom Taylor with artist Iban Coello. As Free Comic Book Day comics go, it cost too much.
QUALITY: By Odin’s beard, this was a terrible comic book. The X-Men story is a confusing mess of inaccessible material which consists mostly of a character reading/interpreting tarot cards. The Dark Ages pages kick off yet another “let’s show how much we hate these classic characters by doing horrible things to them” event. Which includes Tony Stark telling Pepper Potts to use an elevator during an earthquake just before he gets his foot sliced off. Geez, what kind of Marvel fan enjoys this sadistic crap?
ACCESSIBILITY: Practically zero.
SALESMANSHIP: Good with several ads for various Marvel publications and a notice of a live television auction of memorability from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The auction was scheduled for June 2020. Does anyone know if it actually took place?
SCORE: Three points out of a possible ten points.
Zoo Patrol Squad: Kingdom Caper [Penguin Workshop] is my final 2020 Free Comic Book Day review. The issue features a 15-page preview of the title graphic novel, some related features and a great many ads for other Penguin Workshop publications.
QUALITY: Very Good. The premise - a combination zoo and habitat for sentient animals - is charming and interesting. The writing and art are first-rate. The lead characters - Fennlock Fox, who pretends to be an adventurer and his eager acolyte Penny the Pig - are filled with potential for exciting and humorous stories.
ACCESSIBILITY: Good. The excerpt does an excellent job introducing the premise, setting and characters.
SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. Lots of house ads pitching lots of other graphic novels from this publisher.
SCORE: Nine points out of a possible ten points.
It took me longer than I’d hoped, but this marks the third time I have managed to read and write about all of the Free Comic Book Day releases for a given year. I have a huge stack of 2021 offerings waiting for me to read and review them. Can I make it four times? I guess we’ll see.
Thanks for visiting. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.
© 2021 Tony Isabella
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