Friday, December 3, 2021




Welcome to the first installment of my 2021'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. On three occasions, I’ve reached my goal of reading and writing about all the FCBD comics from a given year. The quest begins anew.

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. 

Suicide Squad Special Edition #1 [DC] cover-features 12 pages of a King Shark story by Tim Seeley with art by Scott Kolins, followed by a 14-page excerpt from Suicide Squad: Get Joker, a “Black Label” series by Brian Azzarello with artist Alex Maleev.

QUALITY: I loved the King Shark excerpt. Terrific writing and art  starring some very relatable characters in King Shark and a minor criminal called Defacer. It amused and intrigued me. However, the second excerpt was as interesting as paint drying. Nothing new and nothing worth following up on.

ACCESSIBILITY: Both stories were easy to get into. I had no trouble following them.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. There were house ads for the Suicide Squad movie, ads for the full versions of the excerpted comics and a two-page checklist of Suicide Squad graphic novels. My only quibble is the list didn’t include the John Ostrander series.

SCORE: Nine points out of a possible ten points with all of those points earned by the King Shark portion of the issue.


Batman and Robin and Howard/Amethyst Princess of Gemworld Special Edition Flipbook [DC] presents previews of the two graphic novels. The first is my New York Times bestselling author Jeffrey Brown and the second is by New York Times bestselling authors Shannon Hale and Dean Hale with art by Asiah Fulmore.

QUALITY: Excellent. The young characters in both graphic novels are well crafted. The writing is very good, as is the art. Brown’s art is more cartoony and Fulmore’s art is more traditional, but I liked both quite a bit.

ACCESSIBILITY: I had no problem getting into either book, though an old reader mired in DC Comics’s “real” continuity morass might be confused. Me? I enjoy the different looks at classic DC characters far more than the “real” continuity’s dark takes on them.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. House ads promote around thirty different titles aimed at young readers.

SCORE: Ten points out of a possible ten points. I’m requesting the full graphic novels from my local library system.


Solo Leveling [Yen Press] is a Korean webcomic following the less-than-successful efforts of Jimwoo Sung, an E-Class monster hunter.E-Class is the lowest rank. Sung is a bit stronger than an average person and heals faster, but he has no real prospects. He hunts so we can pay the medical bills of his sickly mother. This FCBD issue presents the first thirty pages of the webcomic by Dubu.

QUALITY: Jimwoo is a relatable character, but that’s the only plus in an only moderately interesting or well-told story.

ACCESSIBILITY: Moderate. The excerpt leaves a great many questions unanswered.

SALESMANSHIP: Poor. The inside covers are blank wasted pages. The only interior ad is for Coca-Cola. The back cover has an ad for the first two volumes of the series.

SCORE: Two points out of a possible ten points.


Life is Strange [Titan Comics] appears to be a long-running comic-book series based on some sort of video game. The issue contains a pair of six-page excerpts from different Life is Strange series and a host of explanatory material.

QUALITY: Comic books based on role-paying or video games are almost never of interest to me. The art and writing didn’t appeal to me, nor did the convoluted premise of the series.

ACCESSIBILITY: I’ll give this issue points for the attempt to make this comic welcoming to new readers, but it didn’t succeed in that attempt.

SALESMANSHIP: So-so. Three house ads for various volumes of Life is Strange and a back-cover Coca-Cola ad.

SCORE: Three points out of a possible ten points.


Who Sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott [Penguin Workshop] presents an introduction to and a 16-page excerpt from an all-ages graphic novel telling the history of civil rights activist Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott she sparked. Whoops! I guess I gave away the answer to the title question. The comics material is written by Insha Fitzpatrick, illustrated by Abelle Hayford and colored by Hanna Schroy.

QUALITY: Aimed at younger readers, both the writing and the art are first-rate. An all ages presentation of some racially challenging material. The history the white supremacists don’t want taught in our schools.

ACCESSIBILITY: I don’t think any readers will have any difficulty getting into and understanding this historical material.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. There are nine pages of house ads for this and other all-ages graphic novels.

SCORE: Ten points out of a possible ten points.  

Free Comic Book Day 2022 will be back on its usual first Saturday of May date, which gives me five months to write about all of the 2021 free comic books. I’m confident I can accomplish that for the fourth time in my blogging career. Look for more FCBD coverage in the near future.

Thanks for stopping by the bloggy thing today. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.
© 2021 Tony Isabella

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