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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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for Tuesday, May 25, 2010

All this week, we'll be reading and reviewing FREE COMIC BOOK DAY stuff. I came home from my appearance at York Comics and Games with 35 items, one of which I reviewed in yesterday's TOT. As for the rest, I'll be forgoing my usual "floating Tony heads" scoring and, instead, asking three things of each of these items:

1. Is it entertaining and/or intriguing?

2. Is it friendly to new readers?

3. Does it make readers want to buy future issues of the comic or item, follow the characters featured therein, or buy other items from the publisher?

Let's get this party started.


From Image Comics, Artifacts Issue Zero cover-promises that "the biggest event in the history of the Top Cow Universe begins here!" The imprint of Image founder Mark Silvestri, Top Cow is notable for Witchblade, The Darkness and other connected titles. In this issue, a captive Aphrodite IV is told of thirteen artifacts that guide the universe and, if brought together, can end it. Though the story is as talky as you might expect with its 13 pages of full-page shots of the artifacts or those who wield them, writer Ron Marz delivers a story that is both intriguing and very friendly to new readers.

With excellent art by Stjepan Sejic, the issue is a convincing sales pitch for the 13-issue Artifacts, which will launch in July. Also included is a four-page vignette from Magdalena which nicely sums up that character's background. I'd rate this as a very successful FCBD offering.

Atomic Robo

Atomic Robo/Neozoic/Box 13 [Red 5] presents complete short stories showcasing each of these three comics. The publisher wisely used the inside front cover to give a couple lines of intro to each feature.

"Atomic Robo" by Brian Clevinger (words) and Scott Wegener (art) doesn't explain who/what the title character is, but it's a fun little tale involving predator birds and a trio of...explorers would be my guess. Kudos to Clevinger for this line that made me giggle out loud:

"These are the least extinct birds I've ever met."

"Neozoic" isn't nearly as engaging. There's some jungle city we never see, said city's defenders, and said city's enemies in a standard action vignette. With so many choices available to comics readers these days, I doubt I'd give it a second look.

The "Box 13" segment by writer David Gallaher and artist Steve Ellis is intriguing, but, as the opening pages of a graphic novel, not very satisfying on its own. I'm on the fence as to whether or not I'll check out the graphic novel, though I am leaning towards doing just that.

I'd say "yes" to Atomic Robo, "no" to Neozoic, and "maybe" to Box 13. That's a decent showing for a FCBD issue.

Bongo Comics

The Bongo Comics Free-For-All is almost a perfect FCBD issue. Chuck Dixon's "Clown Therapy," in which Krusty the Clown must give up show business, would make an excellent episode of the Simpsons TV show. The same for Tony DiGerolamo's "Homer Beats the Heat." The two-page "Maggie's Crib" by Sergio Aragones is funny.

About the only story in this issue that wouldn't be instantly attractive to a non-comics-reading Simpsons fans is "The League of Extraordinary Barts" by Ian Boothby. I enjoyed this super-hero parody just fine, but it might be a little out there for a reader unversed in super-hero situations.

It's a minor quibble. If I were not already a huge fan of the various Bongo comic books, I'd be heading back to the store to buy as many of them as I could afford.

City of Bones

Stuff of Legend

City of Bones/The Stuff of Legend is a flip book from Th3rdworld Studios. "Bones" seems to be adaptation of something by Cassandra Clare - a novel, perhaps? - and is a too-familiar-to-be-interesting tale of demons among us, mysterious protectors, and a teenage girl who is more than she seems. I like the art by Nicole Virella, but I'd pass on buying this four-issue series.

"Legend" has sentient toys trying to rescue their young owner from the evil Boogeyman. It's a workable premise, but the segment included here didn't excite me, though, again, I liked the Charles Paul Wilson III art. In between the two story fragments are three pages of tepid webcomics. I'd pass on these two series.

Comic Shop News

For more than two decades, co-editors Cliff Biggers and Ward Batty have published Comic Shop News, a spiffy promotional newspaper. For this special FCBD issue, they offered lists of and comments on what they considered the best in comics. It's a decent guide, but sadly limited. The editors are way too enamored of DC super-hero comic books; they show but one Marvel publication, the Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus. They are obviously star-struck by Hollywood writers and novelists, making no distinction between those who do good comics work and those who don't. Their selection of manga struck me as dated and barely scratched the surface of the quality and variety available in that category. Alternative comics creators and cartoonists from outside the direct mark industry get shorted as well. Given an opportunity to help expand the market by showcasing some of the amazing new work available in comics stores and bookstores, this issue of CSN failed to take advantage of that opportunity. Very disappointing.

DC Kids

The DC Kids Mega Sampler 2010 was also disappointing. It kicks off with an eight-page chunk of a Billy Batson/Shazam tale that isn't new-reader-friendly.

That's followed by eight pages of Tiny Titans material. Now I find that title delightful, but, despite its style of writing and art, it's always struck me as being aimed more at avid DCU readers than kids. This segment wasn't any different.

Then comes an eight-page Batman/Martian Manhunter story that fails to convey the atmosphere and quality of the Batman: The Brave and the Bold comic book. Two filler pages from Super Friends conclude this sad FCBD effort. If DC repeats this in 2011, they need to put a lot more work into it.

Del Rey Showcase

The Del Rey Showcase is a mixed bag. It begins with a terrific segment of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies; The Graphic Novel as adapted by Tony Lee and illustrated by Cliff Richards. As the only student in my high-school English literature class who enjoyed the works of Jane Austen, I found the segment captivating. It convince me to find and reread my Austen books, read the modern spins on them, and read this graphic novel.

The segment from The Talisman wasn't as well done, but it does convey enough of the original novel and this adaptation to entice a new reader into following the series.

Less impressive were the selections from Dean Koontz's Odd Is on Our Side and The Last Airbender prequel. I found the writing and the art uninteresting on both. Still, the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies pages more than made up for the failings of these two segments.

Doctor Solar/Magnus

Free Comic Book Day: Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom/Magnus, Robot Fighter was the Dark Horse entry. Given the history of these characters, the regard for their past incarnations, and the interest in the Jim Shooter-written relaunches, this was a terrific choice for the publisher. I know I was eager to read the pair of stories featured in this issue.

So I was keenly disappointed when I actually read them. It's not that either was a bad story - I thought the Solar tale had some fine moments in it - but neither was as good as the afore-mentioned earlier incarnations of the characters. In particular, the Magnus story was somewhat unfriendly to new readers.

I'm not writing off either Solar or Magnus. I look forward to the debut issues of their new mags. But my continued interest will depend on the stories in those series being much better than these two short tales.


Bluewater Comics produced a flip book for Free Comic Book Day: Fame/The Puppy Sister. Simply put, it is more certainly not a keeper. Even beyond the awkward pairing of comics biographies of popular singers and what appears to be a kids comics, this material falls far below what I would deem industry standards. The writing on the biographies is dull; it's somewhat better on the puppy tale. The art on these biographies is unappealing. The art on the puppy story boasts a couple good shots of the dog, but has little else to recommend it. Of the ten FCBD issues I've read so far, this one is the worst. Unless Bluewater can come up with something much better for FCBD 2011, they should probably pass on participating in that event. They did themselves no favors here.

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more Free Comic Book Day reviews.

Tony Isabella

<< 05/24/2010 | 05/25/2010 | 05/26/2010 >>

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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