Friday, August 13, 2021





Cameron Ashley

Welcome to the kickoff to the 20th anniversary of Free Comic Book Day! 

The aim here is to help you in choosing your selection from the large list of comics on offer this Saturday, May 14th. They are all reviewed below and, as always, titles are listed alphabetically with ratings where provided by the publishers. Those ratings are:

(A)  All Ages (T) Teen (M) Mature (NR) Not Rated 

Although you won’t be able to line up outside the store and choose and pick up your books in person on the day, as you did back in the Olden Times before the plague, never fear - just head on over to the webstore and have make your Stay Away Comic Book Day selections from there.

Unfortunately, the DC books arrived too late to be included below. Sorry about that, I was looking forward to them too. However, there’s a really strong cohort of titles below from all other publishers geared towards all age ranges. I’ll get you next year, DC! 

Choose wisely, stay safe and I hope the following helps you! Enjoy.



(Rebellion) (NR) 

We begin with one of the best offerings of the year, All Star Judge Dredd. The resurgence of the character and the quite obvious uptick in both story quality and creativity of recent years should be unsurprising. If there’s ever a time for Judge Dredd to make a more visible resurgence, the last few years have practically felt like Dredd’s future may well be inevitable. There’s always been a sharp punkish edge to Dredd comics - stories written and drawn by politically-savvy leftists demonising fascists and conservatives via sharp four colour satire - and the three stories collected here in All Star Judge Dredd exemplify the best of this attitude and create a free comic of superb quality top to bottom.


The mighty Al Ewing scripts and Caspar Wijngaard illustrates “The Lawyer,” a supremely clever little Judge Dredd short focussed on a judge whose gone undercover as a Lawyer hoping to sniff out criminal intent and then bring Dredd in to make an arrest. It’s a clever, twisty little number, attractively drawn by Wijngaard, that lays out the world of Dredd perfectly for new readers - it’s funny, it’s cruel, it’s got a wonderfully hyperbolic opening caption and it’s the perfect little showcase for both character and creators. Great stuff.


“Hershey” is up next by writer Rob Williams, formerly of Suicide Squad and Unfollow (which I liked quite a bit) and drawn by Simon Fraser. Former Chief Judge Hershey, battling a mortal illness, has decided to clean up global corruption and criminal activity masterminded by former Judge Smiley under Hershey’s watch. Mortally ill, Hershey jets off to clean up an enormous mess she finds herself responsible for and she’s going to start in the country formerly known as Columbia. The cliffhanger here is great, the set up is really well executed and Fraser’s art, particularly the limited colour palette he employs, is striking. Hershey is off to a really intriguing start.


“Dreadnoughts” rounds the issue out. Written by Michael Carrol with art by the legendary John Higgins (who has not lost a step), we travel to 2035 to an America just around the corner and witness just how the Judges, as appointed judge, jury, and executioner, got started. There’s a lot to set up here and Carroll does a strong job. Higgins, as I mentioned is turning in some rally solid work, adding a layer of realism to his cartooning that perfectly suits this very near future.


Clearly, the Dredd books are in terrific hands currently. The stories are presented perfectly here, with recaps and blurbs provided along with well placed advertisements for a range of top shelf Dredd-related books. This is a must get.



(Graphix/Scholastic) (A)


Rather expertly managing to both educational and genuinely affecting, Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter’s Allergic arrives from Scholastic. Maggie is a little girl with two siblings and another on the way. While far from neglected (this is a very warm family unit), Maggie is acutely aware of how little time her parents have for her these days due to the always encroaching Life Stuff. 

Thankfully, the family has finally decided to get a dog, something Maggie has had her heart on for as long as she can recall. Maggie’s also doubly excited because she knows that, almost by default, she will be the primary caregiver to their new pooch and thus technically its owner. The family goes to adopt and Maggie quite quickly falls for an adorable little puppy. The two bond but just as the family is ready to sign the paperwork, Maggie’s eyes swell shit, she breaks out in hives and is taken immediately to the hospital. She is of course severely allergic to furry critters and her dreams of owning a dog are crushed.

If you’re not moved by scenes of Maggie utterly heartbroken at this development you might have something wrong with you. Nutter’s art may be a bit bare bones but her characters are wonderfully expressive - as showcased in scenes depicting Maggie’s heartbreak. As a crash course in allergic reaction and how and why it happens, Allergic is terrific. Dramatically it also works and readers are left with a quiet but effective little cliffhanger as Maggie decides to turn a negative into a positive.


Good stuff.



(Archie Comics) (A)

Archie celebrates 80 years (!) of comics with a really fun FCBD special that’s self-aware in all the right ways and features a great line up of creators.

“Crisis On The Riverdale Earths” by writer Bill Golliher, Pat and Tim Kennedy and Jim Amash opens things up, colliding all sorts of alternate Archies into one story. Fun and attractively cartooned, it’s a great way to kick things off. Archie himself walks us through 80 years of history next in, “Happy Anniversary” by Angelo DeCesare and the Kennedy Brothers who again turn in some crisp art in another story colliding alternate Archies together.

Fred Van Lente and legendary Archie artist Dan Parent give us a slice of a classic Archie escapade in a sample of their series, Everything’s Archie and a one- page Jughead gag strip closes things out for a very solid FCBD offering. I’m particularly impressed by the Kennedy Brothers (inked by Bob Smith throughout) who are turning in some really good looking Archie work. Thumbs up.


(Marvel) (T) 

Look, can I just start by pointing out how nice it is that there’s a full page ad in this comic for the What If…? Omnibus? I know there’s an animated series coming but the comics landscape and habits of readers have changed so much over the decades that it might be surprising to some younger readers to hear how much these comics broke brains in the 70s and 80s (myself among them). There’s an amazing issue (#39), possibly never to be reprinted, where Thor and Conan fight (I will dig this out some time for an All Star Instagram Page of The Week). These kind of bizarre team-ups are so commonplace nowadays it might be hard to imagine just how surprising some of these issues could be, especially considering the talent that worked on them. It warms the dark back issue bin of my heart  to see the original series return in such a format. Anyway…! 

Hulk’s up second in this book, but we’re starting here because it’s pretty ace. I’ve been on record over the years about how frequently these little, multiple-property-filled sampler issues fail because they are basically all sizzle, no steak. It’s not the fault of creators (except for that *awful* Civil War II FCBD comic a few years back) it’s just not a friendly format to debut new story directions outside of showcasing a few splashy pages. 

I’m not the biggest Donny Cates guy around (he’s okay) but I have to say, this, THIS is how you do it. Not only does the terrific Ryan Ottley get to bust out some energetic, attractive and kinetic artwork, Cates solidly lays the groundwork for his follow up to Al Ewing’s genuinely great, redefining run on the title and leaves us with a clear indication of where his tenure on the title is going and exactly why you should read it. I mean to have double-page spreads of Hulk throwing trains AND build in a quick little cliffhanger in such a short span of pages is pretty admirable stuff. It’s not the most shocking new direction, but it’s smartly moving Hulk away from the (awesome) cosmic horror space Bruce and friends inhabited for Ewing and artist Joe Bennett’s run. It’s also a clear statement of creative intent, which so, so many of these (mainstream) FCBD comics lack and I think is absolutely necessary for a crowded market of expensive super-hero comics being plonked on top of one another for prime shop shelf space. Kudos to either Cates for crafting this as is or editor Tom Breevort for perfectly slicing an issue in half. There’s 10 pages here, with one double-page spread and four splash pages. The art is so good and the intent so clearly stamped upon the story, it’s not just a great looking comic, it’s an excellent example of maximising the format to your creative advantage. 

But hold the phone! I flipped this review unnecessarily because for some silly reason, I doubted writer Jason Aaron. Coming up with endless credible cosmic threats to the Avengers month after month must be difficult at the best of times but something is coming for all the worlds of the multiverse and this time their faces might look a little familiar. 

I’ve not read much at all of Aaron’s now fifty issue deep Avengers run, but if Hickman’s Avengers  was prog rock, Aaron’s is stoner metal - still high concept but heavier, groovier. We don’t get the most original idea ever here but concepts like an Avengers tower built on a God Quarry which exists at the heart of a black hole, not to mention a team of Avengers populated by interuniversal versions of Deathlok should have one reaching for their Sabbath LPs, a hopefully clean bong and perhaps some copies of The Offical Handbook of The Marvel Universe before it’s all said and done. 

Artist Iban Coello is riding high these days and good for him. Personally, I think the guy needs a kick ass inker to put the work over the top but that’s just my own personal distaste for the scratchy superhero finishes of someone like Danny Miki which has become so prevalent. It all looks like Tony Daniel to me and if you like Tony Daniel, hey great, do I have an Avengers book for you. I’m overly mean - there’s some cool stuff here. This Avengers tower built upon the God Quarry looks terrific and Coello’s layouts are consistently great.

In short: Avengers/Hulk is a pretty solid package, truly one of the better and more compelling Marvel FCBD offerings I can recall reading.


(Black Mask) (T)

Long live Black Mask. Really. In a world full of upstart comics publishers that seem solely geared to getting some ideas to the screen *coughAWAcough*, Black Mask continue to push forward with slick, very LEFT of centre comics frequently populated by characters of colour and fuelled by, among other things, a punk rock aesthetic and, well, anger. Anger at the world, at its politics, at conservatives, at racists, at…shitty people essentially.

I’ve been curious to check out Black, the series armed with the premise that only black people get super powers (taking X-Men’s “hate and fear” to a far more literal but realistic level). I admire the premise, the choice to render this in monochrome (at least in the case of “Interlude” as presented here) and its characters. In execution though, Kwanza Osajeyo’s script is a little clunky. It’s smart, the characters are great, it’s just not executed as well as it could be. However, considering this is literally an interlude to the main series, slight clunkiness is certainly forgivable . Yasmin Flores Montanes turns in some decent work also, but Jean-Paul Csuka’s tone work really lifts the whole package, Man, white people look extra white in a monochrome world with a large cast of black people - a brilliant creative choice. Whiteness is “othered” here to a terrific degree. A fairly solid intro all in all.

In 2017, 32% of Californians supported Calexit, essentially meaning they would vote to secede from The United Sates. This is actually *true* so it’s no wonder that writer Matteo Pizzolo cooked up this comic named after the movement, tweaked the dystopia dial up to eleven and went for it. We don’t get a whole lot of plot in “Calexit: Our Last Night In America,” it’s all set up and cliffhanger, but these pages just fly past. Pizzolo runs the risk of being too dialogue heavy but never steps over the line and, make no mistake, this is largely talking heads but the patter is snappy, the characters fleshed out and the time is wisely taken to, you know, create some humans as opposed to exposition machines. Carlos Granda is the artist for this FCBD intro to the series and he does a really good job with young people being young and talking a lot. I’m not being flippant - this is a really, really good introduction to the series, the kind of storytelling so assured that, yeah, here’s two young people on the eve of succession with a one panel cliffhanger at the end. There’s some comic book swagger here on the page and I like it. Also: new writers, please note how much smoother everything reads when you’re aren’t putting every second word in bold!

A few pages of Calexit spinoff Emmie-X, also by Pizzolo and Granda, are sprinkled in the back of this book that amps the political anger right up.

In short: Get this.

Oh! there’s an ad for Australian writer and all around good dude, Ryan K Lindsay’s Everfrost at the back of this. Get that too. Ryan! I owe you emails. So sorry.



(Titan) (M) 

Solidly crafted SF-noir awaits in Titan’s Blade Runner FCBD special, giving readers a glimpse into two of the publisher’s efforts based on one of the greatest SF films all time. Blade Runner: Origins comes to us from writers K. Perkins and Mellow Brown with art by Fernando Dagnino. Blade Runner 2029 is written by Mike Johnson with art by Andres Guinaldo.

Origins, as the title suggests, takes us back to the beginning, an alternate 2009 with an LAPD Detective tracking down the presumed killer of a Tyrell Corporation bio-engineer (I assume the first murder committed by a replicant?). There’s some crisp art and the story does enough to set the table.  2029 is more my speed, however, with Johnson’s noirish captions setting the tone. Focussed on Aahna “Ash” Ashina, a Blade Runner with tendencies to save as many replicants as she kills, this is again a decent taste of Titan’s take on the property. Ridley Scott’s film was set in 2019, meaning we have Origins set a decade prior and 2029 a decade later. The intrigue here comes more from just how the creators of these various books (there is also another title set in 2019 - the year of the film) build out their respective eras and join the plot dots together between not just the comics but bridging out to 2049, the year of the second film. Titan helpfully includes some text pieces for each of their comics, allowing new readers to find their footing easily. Absolutely worth a look.



(Dynamite) (M)

Dynamite wisely brings The Boys to FCBD 2021, easily the highest profile thing they have in their arsenal. Unfortunately, Chapter One of “Herogasm” is on offer which makes me wonder if the third season of the TV show will adapt the story arc next. I don’t really need to explain much about The Boys, right? It’s an enduring comic with surprising crossover appeal and a quite successful streaming show on Amazon Prime; you’re on top of it. Scripted by Garth Ennis and drawn by a few artists, co-creator Darick Roberston chief amongst them, the series focusses on a covert team trying to bring down superheroes, who are all horrible and juiced up with corporate chemicals, any way they can. 

The series has it’s high points, and when it’s good, it’s really good. It also has some superfluous fatty parts. Herogasm suggests that when all the superheroes team up to take on some massive intergalactic threat, they are actually all buggering off to a private island for an extended drug-fuelled orgy. It’s a good gag, constant crossover cataclysm as an excuse for a bacchanalia ,but one that gets pretty drawn out and one I actually found quite dull by the end of the arc, the kind of juvenile shock-for-shock’s sake nonsense that peppers the otherwise lengthy and stellar resume of its writer. Ennis’ old Hitman collaborator, John McCrea is on deck to draw this arc and he has some fun with proceedings.

While this might not be a highpoint of the series in my opinion, curious readers get the full first issue, chockablock with full nudity and superhero rumpy-pumpy,  and are gently pointed in the direction of more Boys (in the form of the 6 recently-released omnibus editions), with advertisements for this and Ennis’ other Dynamite work up back.



(Dark Horse) (M)

Okay, so I had to look this up. Apparently, Critical Role is “an American web series in which a group of professional voice actors play Dungeons & Dragons.”


Like I’m sure that’a actually pretty fun to watch but do we really need this spun off into a comic? I try not to let my frustrations at the amount of licensed comics clogging up FCBD offerings cloud any actual enjoyment of the material but Dark Horse has two FCBD offerings again this year and both of them are 100% licensed fare (as does Titan).  Doesn’t Jeff Lemire have a new creator-owned book coming out from Dark Horse really soon? Isn’t there *literally anything else they publish?* 

Hoo boy. Okay, having said that, if you like fantasy fare, you could do a lot worse than this. Jody Houser scripts and and Tyler Walpole illustrates “Home”, a story of a little boy named Luc fretting that his warrior mother, part of a group called The Mighty Nein, might not return from her adventures one day. It doesn’t do a whole lot of world building, but it does use it’s short space well, giving readers a taste of some colourful derring-do afoot in these pages.

The Witcher “Once Upon A Time In The Woods” closes us out, a short little number by writer Bartosz Sztybor and art by Nil Vendrell. This is actually good fun, with some really nice Tim Truman/Sam Glanzman inspired art from Vendrell. The Witcher refuses to kill a pig-thieving monster but he’s not the only monster hunter around…

Despite my griping, this is a pretty solid affair with The Witcher absolutely worth your time.



(NBM) (NR)

I’ve not read Lewis Trondheim and Joann Sfar’s Dungeon before -  there’s quite a bit of it and it’s broken up into major sections with a number of artists involved - so this is a bit of a treat. In fact, my only real exposure to Trondheim’s fairly large body of work was a volume of The Spiffy Adventures of McConey which didn’t do too much for me.

Trondheim’s in a kind of semi-retirement, I believe, but his Dungeon epic (spanning a wide range of volumes and time periods) endures, and looks better than ever with the terrific Boulet illustrating. Honestly, this is one of the best drawn FCBD comics of the year and also one of  the most generous in content - a whole chunk of the upcoming volume 7 is included an Boulet’s work is cracking throughout.

Functioning largely as a satire of epic sword and sorcery tropes, Sfar and Trondheim set up their gags beautifully here. Not only that but the adventure is a compelling one. Sent to recover the magical “fungus purit” with which they can oust the usurpers of their dungeon, Marvin (a dragon), Herbert (a duck) and Isis ( a cat) undertake their quest with gusto. Along the way there’s stops at taverns and brawls and discussions as to the nature of true love. The “fungus purit” doesn’t quite work the way our heroes hope, however, to comedic results. As imaginative as it is funny, Dungeon’s a clear work of enthusiasm by its creative team and NBM wisely let you know how and where to start should you fall in love with this world. Highly recommended.




(Boom!) (T)

Having sold over a whopping 500,000 copies, it was only a matter of time before the world of Something Is Killing The Children was expanded. An unlikely franchise player upon launch, perhaps, creators James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’edera’s horror story about monster hunter Erica Slaughter saving kids from “monsters that only she can see” has so far spanned three trade paperback collections and an upcoming hardcover, becoming a bona fide hit in the process.

I’ve hemmed and hawed about dipping my toes into this world so the arrival of BOOM! Studio’s FCBD special, Enter The House of Slaughter, means I’m all out of excuses. Promising to extensively world-build upon …Children’s foundation, The House of Slaughter launches in October. This FCBD special is a little confusing for newbies such as myself - a text page or intro by Tynion on the *blank* inside front cover laying out just a little story would have been a welcome inclusion for readers who want to immediately dig a little deeper (I’m always a little surprised, year after year, about how such little basic things are missed that can make all the difference in really elevating a book for the scores of new readers publishers hope to hook with their offerings). Enter The House of Slaughter makes for a dense, slightly obtuse introduction for newcomers. I have no doubt, however, that the already converted will hit the ground running and love this and the curious will find much to grab onto.

So what’s going on here? I’m not entirely sure. Erica Slaughter’s out hunting down a nest of monsters in the town of Archer’s Peak (presumably right before the kick off of the main series as that’s where …Children is set) and there’s all sorts of factional business going on at The House of Slaughter involving Erica’s handler, the black-masked Aaron Slaughter, and his superior, the white-masked Cecelia Slaughter, and the nuances of these relationships are probably way more transparent to regular readers. Days skip at the rate of one a page for parts of the comic, again I assume the timeline slots in perfectly with issues of Something Is Killing The Children, and we are left with a conclusion that again (sorry) might not resonate particularly with many new readers as a must-read hook.

If this all sounds a bit harsh, I have some good news - despite what I’ve written above, Enter The House of Slaughter largely works. Dell’edera turns in some pretty terrific pages here - great action shots, great body language during tense conversations between characters, creative with the talking heads his writer gives him. Tynion IV is clearly steeped in this world, keen to expand it out and unafraid to do it in a more complicated manner than you’d expect. It’s dense but it moves; unwilling to rely on the crutch of narrative captions that would bog down its motion. Puerto’s colours are lush and painterly, the palette fittingly moody and dark. And look, I’d rather my head was spinning a little than bored or frustrated (we’ll get to there later).

The intrigue is, well, intriguing and while this issue gives no real indication of The House of Slaughter’s actual premise (From the solicits: “You know Aaron Slaughter as Ericas handler and rival. But before he donned the black mask, Aaron was a teenager training within the House of Slaughter. Surviving within the school is tough enough, but it gets even more complicated when Aaron falls for a mysterious boy destined to be his competition..”) it’s done the job for me and I’ve already hassled the store about ordering the upcoming hardcover collection of …Children. 

In short, existing readers will likely be thrilled at what appears to be the creators slotting both “halves” of their story together. New readers may well end up like me, scratching their heads a little but returning to this comic more than once. In selling the main title of this world, Enter The House of Slaughter does a good job. How it impacts its soon-debuting sister title, which sounds not unlike a kind of queer horror Deadly Class more than a straight tie in to…Children, remains to be seen but horror fans shrugging their shoulders at most current attempts at horror comics and looking to sink their teeth into something expansive should certainly give Enter The House of Slaughter their attention. Thumbs, after some deliberation, well up for this.

Oh! one last point. This doesn’t bother me in the slightest, but it might some: there are a lot of F-Bombs dropped for a book with a Teen rating. Just putting it out there. Wertham’s about to claw his way out from the grave.



(Silver Sprocket) (M)


Mature readers, rejoice! Here’s another one for you, Silver Sprocket’s offering, Fungirl: Tales of A Grown-Up Nothing by Elizabeth Pich.  Appealing to fans of Lisa Hanawalt, Adult Swim’s more stonery offerings and really anyone who enjoys their cheeky comics in vignette-sized bites, Pich’s Fungirl should be read right to its last page to fully appreciate as it takes a few strips to fully sink into this work. Join Fungirl as she masturbates, interrupts her roommates having sex, wipes out horrifically on a skateboard and perhaps most shocking of all, gets a job! 

Everything here sharpens as the pages turn - the jokes get better, the situations more ridiculous - it’s more than just a reader getting to know a group of characters, it’s Pich also getting better. I can only imagine how much sharper the strips get in the full volume. Fans of quirky alt-comics should definitely check out Fungirl.



(First Second) (A)



Look, to be frank I didn’t get too much out of this. It’s very wordy but not particularly witty, dumps new readers into book four of a series, is not very funny and not particularly appealingly drawn. Investigators creator John Patrick Green is a New York Times Bestselling author, however, and I imagine his readership for this series about Alligator secret agents is made up of masses kids not unlike my four year old, Edgar, who is obsessed with crocodilians. Seriously, Edgar LOVES this. He wants me to smash out this review so he can take the comic and put it in his collection. So I shall do just that. I’m not surprised this works at all as conceptually it’s all there but, man it could be so much better. Still, With villains made out of waffles and Houdino the triceratops, Investigators: Ants In Our P.A.N.T.S is a suitably silly funnybook for the little animal lover in your life. Okay, I have to hand mine over now.




This is the fourth time in five years I have had to write about this comic. 

Why do this to me Joe Benitez, why? 

I promised Mitch that I’d try and find a new angle on this thing, but I’m sorry…I’m just too tired. It’s Lockdown 6, man. Everything feels like groundhog day. Reading comics shouldn’t. Benitez has moved his creator-owned title away from his own Benitez Productions and over to Image and, look, the title’s a good fit for the publisher. Resembling a steampunk Witchblade in aesthetic, we all know there’s an appetite for this kind of art…just not in my house.

Lady Mechanika is a Victorian-era P.I. who’s “the sole survivor of a mad scientist’s experiments which left her with mechanical limbs.” The steampunk-inclined amongst you should give this a look, as Benitez does a great deal of visual world-building and if you do find this resonating with you, Image leaves you in no doubt as to where to start with this series, about to enter its seventh volume at its new publishing home. See you next year, Lady Mechanika. I’ll try and find something else to talk about your pages then.




Massive congratulations to local artist Doug Holgate, illustrator of Max Brallier’s highly successful The Last Kids On Earth series of books. There’s toys, a Netflix show and endless opportunities for this fun all ages property to only continue its momentum. Good for you, Doug. Described by publishers Penguin as “Diary of a Wimpy Kid meets The Walking Dead,” these are the action-packed, highly colourful  adventures of a group of kids surviving a monster apocalypse. And it’s way more fun than that slightly disturbing synopsis would indicate.

Brallier and Holgate, along with fellow artist Jay Cooper and others, showcase the creative team’s latest effort, “Thrilling Tales From The Treehouse,” a graphic novel containing six stories starring our treehouse-residing crew for FCBD 2021. Cooper’s the artist of this and he and Brallier craft a rollicking caper featuring characters Quint Baker and Jack Sullivan, with Baker’s latest invention, the Bad-Day-Away, running amok. This one’s a good time.



(Dark Horse) (A) 


Charming stuff here from Dark Horse’s all ages sampling of Nickelodeon properties The Legend of Korra and Avatar The Last Airbender. It’s a pair of cartoons I’m not familiar with outside of what seems like annual FCBD inclusion, but newcomers will likely be as won over as I was by a good first opener and a really sweet closing story.

Kiku Hughes writes and Sam Beck illustrates the Korra tale, “Clearing The Air” a little story that takes readers back to Tenzin’s youth as he tries to teach his young charges about peaceful conflict resolution. It’s well made stuff.

Avatar’s tale, “Matcha Makers” functions much better as a stand-alone and features some great art from Nadia Shammas. Written by Shammas and co-writer Sara Alfgeeh, “Matcha Makers” sees old Uncle Iroh’s  reluctance to find a new fame companion being helped along by some “strange spirit activity.” There’s some lovely work by Shammas here including a beautiful, elegant yet economical little sequence of tea being brewed that’s really worth taking a look at. No prior knowledge is needed to enjoy this one.

Overall, with this release Dark Horse provides some calm in the storm this FCBD with a pair of peaceful, well made comics that may cleanse your palate for more high concept, action driven comics on offer this year. “Matcha Makers,” particularly, gets the thumbs up.





From the apparently super popular “series of primarily episodic graphic adventure games” (??), Life Is Strange is the second of two offerings from publishers Titan this year. There are, thankfully, character bios and a complete rundown on the multiple volumes that lead up to this particular comic about, among many other characters, Max, a girl who can not just rewind time but travel to alternate timelines. While clearly I am old and have literally zero frame of reference for this property, I couldn’t really understand, from this sampler anyway, why anyone would be interested in reading this. Despite a recap that involves out of control time-warping powers, a destroyed city and teens with *other* powers, this FCBD contains none of that and is instead 20-odd pages of talking heads and what they are talking about is both A) confusing and B) rather dull. 

I shouldn’t really have to assume any of this is my fault. I shouldn’t have to be a gamer to follow a comic book, but it’s a shame that Titan didn’t showcase something a bit more dramatic by the team of writer Emma Vieceli and Claudia Leonardi, who both seem more than competent at their respective tasks. I dunno. You’re on your own with this one, sorry.




As far as what I am now going to call the “catalogue” approach to FCBD goes (essentially a bunch of differing content stuffed under the same cover with little helpful explanation about any of it) One Press Summer Celebration is about as good as it gets. Four all-ages titles get the sample treatment here and whilst I’m always grumbling about this kind of approach to FCBD, it’s impossible to deny the sheer quality of this content.

Pages from The Tea Dragon Tapestry, Jonna and The Unpossible Monsters, The Sprite and The Gardener and Mooncakes are all on offer here and I’m practically certain that one or more of these is going to land with practically any comics reader who picks this up. Im a little disappointed that theres no introduction to the titles, but Oni does an okay job of adding short intro and outro blurbs to each and, look, when the content is this strong, its fine. It does, however, make things difficult to review.

I have little idea about what’s going on in K. O’Neill’s The Tea Dragon Tapestry, but if I remember correctly this is a bit of an All Star fave and it’s not hard to figure out why. O’Neill’s pages are luminous and broadly appealing, fantastical but gentle, with young female friends at the story’s centre. Unfortunately I have no idea what’s happening here but before briskly moving on I’m going to add that this is not O’Neill’s fault. There’re friends and magic and blacksmithing and cute animals and a coal spite named Brick. Greta has been scouted to apprentice for a certain master smith and she’s understandably apprehensive. Her friend, Minette (I had to look that up - there shouldn’t be unnamed major characters in these things) attempts to put her at ease. There’s clearly a colourful, gentle rites of passage story at the heart of this and I’m genuinely sorry I can’t spruik this as I’d like. This is (again, I looked this up) from the upcoming final book in a widely-acclaimed series by a clearly talented creator. At least Oni gives me that much to hype and, as the closing blurb suggests, “Ask your local comic shop retailer how to continue the adventures of the Tea Dragons!” I might just cheekily suggest, before moving on, that new readers should need NO suggestion and understand exactly where and how to start from this very FREE PUBLICITY COMIC, but hey, what do I know? Retailers do enough, Oni, they shouldn’t have to be your permanent PR people too…

But oh my goodness, shut up Cam, it’s former Daredevil, Black Widow and Thor artist Chris Samnee and he is absolutely going for it in these preview pages of Jonna and The Unpossible Monsters, co-created with co-writer Laura Samnee and coloured by Matthew Wilson. Geez this is good, so very, very good. Samnee’s pages are consistently lovely, his art just feels quintessentially “comics” to me, with hints of everything from Mignola to classic bandes dessinees but somehow it’s all still him. Oddly, although the concept is absolutely nothing alike, I get Leave It To Chance (the classic all ages title written by James Robinson and illustrated by Paul Smith and, at its artistic peak, inked by George Freeman) vibes here. Everything here is so lush and juicily inked - this is comics art as comfort food.

Jonna’s a wild little girl whose older sister is trying to find as Jonna runs, leaps and bounds through the fantastical jungle landscape they live in. Jonna stumbles onto a monster in one of the best double-page spreads you’ll see this year and we’re off to the races here, all calling All Star Comics, or emailing because the phone is engaged because everyone is trying to order the first collected volume out a week after FCBD. Okay, probably not but I’m absolutely getting a copy and if you get the chance to read this comic, the odds are good you will also. Absolutely gorgeous work, flawless visual storytelling, sumptuous drawing. My God. If there’s ever to be a successor to Jeff Smith’s Bone, judging from the few pages readers are treated to here, Jonna and The Unpossible Monsters might just be it.

Joe Whitt and Rii Abrego’s The Sprite and The Gardener has the totally unenviable job of following Samnee’s work, but the duo holds its own in this pretty charming sample. As a set up for a new reader, this is possibly the best - largely the result of narrative captions, hey they do serve a pretty fundamental purpose at times - and it’s a unique one at that. In a pre-agricultural revolution age, sprites were “the caretakers of life.” When humans came along  and farmed and build homes and gardens and such, they became the “creatures of gardens.” The sprites still exist and Wisteria is one of them, freshly arrived and trying to fit in amongst the other sprites of Sylvan Trace. Wisteria comes from Meadowgreen, an example of “bad gardening” as far as the other sprites are concerned but what happened there and why did Wisteria leave? Conceptually and somewhat aesthetically, this feels like manga - it’s quirky, it moves, it has a large cast of cute sprites to keep up with and it’s bouncy, fun, intriguing stuff with cute, expressive characters inhabiting a fairly distinct  environment. 

Mooncakes by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker rounds us out here. Much like the opener, I have no idea what is going on, but Oni tells us this is a “best-selling” comic that’s about to get a hardcover collection, so I guess I’m the idiot. Nova is a hearing-impaired witch who works in a cafe/bookshop that has a secret backroom filled with book on magic and witchcraft. There’s a wolf roaming around, and, geez, I don’t know. The problem with these (generally terrific) quieter stories is that readers given four or five pages can’t make heads or tails out of many of them without a little assistance. Xu’s art is fine but, visually, this is the weakest of the four for my money and unfortunately, much like The Tea Dragon Tapestry, I’m not given much to either promote or endorse. 

HOWEVER, come for Jonna and The Unpossible Monsters, stay for everything else and you’ve got yourself a freebie that might just have you filling in your own knowledge gaps on all stories presented within. Grab this.




(Fantagraphics) (M) 

The one person who reads my ramblings regularly is probably like, Oh God, Cam’s reviewing and gushing about another Fantagraphics book and they’d be right. Yeah, I am. And really, right here is the reason I constantly talk about how Fantagraphics is the best publisher in the game because, whether the Red Room’s content is to your taste or not, if you can’t objectively put this as one of, if not the most, successful FCBD offering of the year, I think you’ve got rocks in your head. 

If you are going to do a Free Comic Book day offering, do it right. Fantagraphics delivers big time in this regard in 2021 with a book that ticks all the things I look for every year in every title: 

-     Brief introduction/editorial that sets up both creator and story

-     Brand new material that (for the most part) gives new readers a solid, clear entry into the product and functions, largely, as an Easter Egg for existing ones

-     Functions both as a stand-alone and an appetiser for more

-     Generous in content

-     If a reader wants more, it’s extremely clear how much more there currently is, where to start and what’s to come

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.

According to the aforementioned editorial, over 50,000 copies of Ed Piskor’s Red Room #1 were sold. That’s a pretty staggering number considering this is a dirty, grimy revival of the Outlaw Comics philosophy of violent excess. The craft though, man, Piskor’s going for it with this series about a bitcoin-funded economy of dark web snuff film and if you’re not one of the 50,000 already reading the title this is as good a time as any to check it out. If you ARE already reading the title, Red Room FCBD contains possibly the best story in the series to date, or at least one of them. That would be “Juniper,” one of five varied shorts Piskor and Fanta cram in here. But we’ll get to that. Piskor’s toned the content down somewhat for FCBD, but the stories presented here (and the series as a whole) are better for such a varied and playfully executed creative exercise.

We open with “Alabama Dracula,” the weakest story here featuring one of Red Room’s costumed killers in his day to day life. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a scene excised from Red Room #1 actually, given how this plays out and segues directly into issue #1 of the series. We meet Mr. Miller, creepy crossing guard, happy and willing to converse with the kids he sees everyday but struggling to talk with their mothers. He is, according to local scuttlebutt, the richest man in town thanks to “bitcoin” but we know he’s the Thelema Clan’s Hazzard Paleface, doped up, placed in a crate and carted off to murder for fun, profit and dark web fame.

“Poker Face’s People’s” is up next, showcasing Red Room killer Poker Face and those people, from all walks of life, who pay to watch his work. This is a great little FCBD bonus - something that wouldn’t quite work as part of the monthly comic but perfect as a bonus whilst also functioning as a sneaky bit of world building. Piskor’s love of Bissette and Vigil are on clear display here artistically and the tones, throughout the book actually, are just terrific. 

“#clickbait” is story number three, a very clever history of the dark web in Red Room’s world told exclusively through smart phones, monitors and tablets. This is a total info dump, but it’s so creatively executed and again highlights how flexible Piskor’s concept can be structurally. It also leads directly into Red Room #3 so regular readers look out for that.

“Donna Butcher’s Legacy of Brutality” is up next, focussing on Red Room killer Donna Butcher, her copycat killers, her enduring, Manson-esque Pop Cultural cachet and tying directly into the upcoming Issue #4 due later this month. Piskor’s lettering goes all E.C typeface at the end of this one, a hint perhaps at Red Room #4’s influences.

Closing proceedings off is, as mentioned at the top of this review, “Juniper,” which mashes up classic kid’s comics with classic horror comics - specifically Bruce Jones and Berni Wrightson’s classic, enduring “Jenifer” which has to be one of the most brilliantly demented comics ever made. I’m not going to say too much about this, but Piskor dropping the tones and going full colour is a clever touch, not only suiting the story perfectly but also further demonstrating the creative flexibility at play throughout the series. Let’s hope Piskor can keep it up.

Needless to say, I found Red Room FCBD essential. It’s conceptually, to me anyway, the complete FCBD package in presentation and it’s one of the few titles on offer that feels truly special, unique and complete as a result. Kudos to all involved.



(AWA) (T)

Oh my Lord. Here it is. This is where I lose it.


Let’s start with the positive: Not All Robots by writer Mark Russell and artist Mike Deodato is pretty wonderful. It’s a tragedy that we only get six pages of this comic, about a world where humans are obsolete and robots do all the work, because it is quite clever and very, very funny. It’s odd to see Deodato’s photo-realistic work on something so seemingly low-key, but it works, adding to the whole sitcom vibe (which given the whiff of “let’s spin this off into TV LAND!” that I get from everything AWA publishes is not surprising).

Why is there not twenty pages of Not All Robots and six, or better yet no pages at all from two J. Michael Straczynski projects, The Resistance: Uprising and Moths, both of which, subjectively, I find visually ugly, horribly dialogued (STOP BOLDING EVERYTHING! NOBODY TALKS LIKE THIS!), and overly bloated with their own stale, super-powered wind. Objectively, surely we can all agree these are both very, very boring.

This is more “let’s just put out some high concept bullshit, press some Hollywood flesh and spin these off into other media” crap from the revenge vehicle that AWA could well be for Bill Jemas and Axel Alonso, I’m sorry, but it is. Millarworld books are more authentically Comics at this point, and that’s now owned by Netflix. Ugh. Sorry. I can’t love ‘em all, folks. Not All Robots, thumbs up! Let’s pretend this FCBD comic is six pages long.

Moving on.



(Papercutz) (NR)


Well I’ll be smurfed! Free Peyo! Okay, so there’s no way I really need to talk much about The Smurfs, right? Those kind of annoying but wonderfully cartooned creations of  Peyo, the late, great Belgian artist are getting the FCBD treatment and I really could look at some of this art and those hand-lettered sound effects for ages. 

American publishers of the adventures of The Smurfs, Papercutz, provide a solid sampling a short Smurfs tales - unfortunately there’s no date Peyo produced these works included - with three Smurfs stories included. 

Where this gets interesting, for me anyway, is that right up the back there’s a short Johan and Peewit story (Peyo’s other notable work in which The Smurfs first appeared). “The Hanged Man’s Inn” is the highlight here and I suspect it might be the first time Australian readers get a taste of Peyo’s earlier work. I’ve certainly not come across it before. Recommended.




What a year: 20 years of Free Comic Book Day, 80 years of Archie, 35 years of Dark Horse Comics and 30 years of Sonic!

Two Sonic tales are included here and props right off the bat to the team behind “Amy’s New Hobby,” writer Gale Galligan, artist Thomas Rothlisberger and colourist Nathalie Fourdraine knock their little opener out of the park. Amy’s started drawing comics based on her adventures with Sonic and friends. She’s convinced they aren’t very good. Tails discovers them and starts showing them around to equal enthusiasm from the crew. We get pages of Amy’s comics intercut with the main story (which is incredibly candy coloured by Fourdraine) and then its time to finally show Sonic himself…I can’t wait to put this in my son’s hands. He enjoys drawing immensely but his confidence took some building. Reading this with him would have been a big help not that long ago and will still provide some nice positive reinforcement going forward. 

“Race To The Empire” follows. Functioning as a pretty thorough recap of characters and events in the Sonic comics to this point and giving a clear indication of where the series is headed next and how you can follow along, this is a great little feature marred only by the fact that the multitude of artists who drew panels clipped and stitched in here are all uncredited. Poor form, that. Still, this comes heartily recommended.




(Marvel) (T)

Marvel brings more big guns out for its second FCBD offering of 2021 which primarily focusses on Spider-Man and Venom. Zeb Wells and Patrick Gleason kick us off with *a* Spider-Man taking on Bushwacker. Wells is cramming in as much as he can here and Gleason’s art is typically slick. He’s inking himself these days but I have to say his pages here don’t look quite as good as they did when the superlative Mick Gray put the pens and brushes to Gleason’s pencils back in the Batman and Robin days. A minor quibble that only total dorks like me would probably notice. This is a perfectly fine prelude to an upcoming Spider-Man story. Sorry, not trying to be obtuse or even snarky - I can’t say too much more than that without going too plot-heavy and we are too short on Spidey pages for me to do that without ruining it. It’s not executed with the creative verve of the earlier Hulk story (see above) but Spidey fans will, as usual with FCBD offerings, want this to see in which story direction the web-slinger(s) firing webs this time around. 

Venom is up next and I personally find it kind of goofy that the character is now in space and apparently going to have a lightsaber fight with Kang but, hey, my admiration for Al Ewing’s work is noted above and I’ve heard a lot of good things about co-writer Ram V. so let’s put in pin in this, eh? Interestingly, Bryan Hitch is back at Marvel for the art chores. Not a name we might associate with Venom, but the perfect choice (along with regular inker Andrew Currie) to depict both the grandeur of…err….cosmic Venom and the grittier, but still bombastic adventures of earth Venom which appear to be escalating once again to universally cataclysmic levels. Venom! Not just eating street thugs anymore!

Bonus! Look, I’m never going to complain about getting any Greg Smallwood art but it is a little strange that sandwiched in the back of this comic are a few pages of an untitled, unrevealed Daredevil (or Kingpin, more likely) epic drawn (beautifully) by him and scripted by Chip Zdarksy. Four short pages of this are thrown in here and despite how random this feels, it’s easily the best, most intriguing part of the whole package. Make Mine Smallwood! Goddamn, he is good. Almost feels like it’s included by accident, but much like the Hulk sorry above, this is a sample to pay attention to.



(IDW) (NR)

With not one, but two Star Wars: The High Republic comics being given away this year (from separate publishers, no less), you might find yourself wondering…what the hell is The High Republic?

If you are as clueless as I, click here for more detail, but in short - it’s a period of time roughly 200 yers before The Phantom menace movie and finds the Jedi at the peak of their powers. Right, okay, basically it’s a huge chunk of time that allows for a whole bunch of new stories (including, apparently the upcoming Star Wars: The Acolyte TV show), characters across all mediums without stepping on the toes of the roughly 70 years spanned by the existing films.  There’s a really helpful timeline on the inside front cover of this, with some classic Star Wars info dumping on the facing page, getting us (somewhat) up to speed.

Writer Daniel Jose Older and artist Nick Brokenshire open IDW’s effort up with the self-contained “Attack On The Republic Fair,” a short, flashy number, thankfully low on plot points and high on lightsabers. Basically cantered around several young Jedi saving a city from invaders known as Nihil, this is a perfectly fine comic for younger readers, giving a taste of the regular series action without bogging proceedings down with expository information. An advertisement for the the first collected volume of the series informs us that the Padawan we’ve just seen are students of Yoda, so we’ve already got our through line to a more familiar time. 

Rounding us out, Older returns with artist Harvey Tolibao in tow this time for a sampling of the very first issue of Adventures. If “Attack On The Republic Fair” brings the action, this sample brings the exposition as Padawan Lula Talisola takes control of the story, laying some backstory out along with Master Yoda and a selection of other young Jedi on a potentially “world-ending” adventure. Solid stuff all round for the younger Star Wars fan in your life.




(Viz) (T)

Although IDW’s High Republic offering will likely be in higher demand, Star Wars fans shouldn’t sleep on this manga take on the period, particularly as a major event in IDW’s offering also plays a part here. So we have Star Wars comics at Marvel, IDW and Viz with IDW and Viz sharing the same time period and the same major happenings. That has to be a first in comics, right?

Anyhow, writers Shima Shinya and Justina Ireland along with artist Mizuki Sakakibara are the team on The Edge of Balance which features a young Padawan named Lily Tora-Asi resettling refugees to the planet of Banchii. This gets bonus points for Master Arkoff, Lily’s wookiee trainer and is solid Star Wars fare filtered through a shonen manga sensibility.

Jon Tsuei and illustrator Subaru present a taste of “Guardians Of The Whills,” which features two Jedi Knights, Baze Malbus and Chirrut Imwe, who look after the Cyber Temple on the planet of Jedha. They are also peacekeepers, of a sort, and are called into reluctant action as the Storm Trooper presence in their mining town increases. Subaru’s art is a little…lean and fairly generic but  may well shine in action sequences we don’t yet see in this preview. In terms of story, it’s good to see the space opera jettisoned here in favour of Star Wars other main plot inspiration, the samurai movie. If I was collecting one of these, my money would be on Guardian of The Whills for that very reason.

All in all, this is satisfactory stuff and it’s fascinating to see IDW and Viz playing in the sandbox with such highly different approaches to comics.




(Image) (T)

A fairly buzzed about book, Stray Dogs gets the FCBD treatment from Image which is quite the statement on how confident the publisher is about the product. Coming armed with breathless superlatives from comics heavyweights like Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Scott Snyder and Kieron Gillen, the first reprinted issue of this odd little mash up is not as strong as the hype train suggests, but really what could be? Written by Tony Fleecs with art by Trish Fornster and colours by Brad Simpson, Stray Dogs walks a fine line in balancing very cartoonish, Disney-esque art with a dramatic, horror-infused narrative. If you’re unfamiliar with the title, I’m not sure just how much I should say as watching the incongruity between art and plot unfold rather devilishly is a main part of this comic’s engine.

Hmm. Okay. I’ll just say this. Dogs are disappearing everywhere and there is one culprit, a collector of sorts. There is no animal harm, for anybody worried about that, our criminal is something of a dog lover. Grouped together in our dognapper’s home, the large group of dogs have begun to think of themselves as one big happy pack, with one master who treats them well. This is all until a scared little dog named Sophie arrives who has scant, but existing, memories of her old life and her real owner.  

In a really clever creative choice, only human face you see is in the background on the front cover. Humans are constantly framed in long or mid shot with their heads chopped off, or in close as hands or a pair of legs walking away. The focus throughout is firmly on the canine characters and Fornster’s expressive art captures her pack’s individuality perfectly. Sophie’s burgeoning friendship with Rusty, the presumed leader of this ragtag group of dogs, unfolds quickly but cleverly and readers will likely find themselves pretty quickly charmed by it all. Fornster’s art is disarming and the extra dark turn the story takes works as well as it does precisely because it’s belied by the cute factor. With a second arc on the way, it's smart by Image to focus this year’s efforts on something this different and cleverly crafted.  Good stuff.



(Udon) (NR)

Another year, another free Street Fighter comic. You’d think that having read one of these almost every year for the last five or so years I’d have some idea about Street Fighter stuff but….nup. HOWEVER: if you like me are utterly clueless, you can head over to where the publisher is uploading a page a day…for free! Wow, it’s free Street Fighter Comic Book Day EVERY day.

Anyhoo, Street Fighter regular Elena is at school in Japan and she has to choose a college. She’s leaning to returning to her native Kenya, but decides to explore her options at the College Fair, a kind of expo for local colleges. There, she is wooed…with fights! As colourful, cheesecakey and cartoonishly violent as ever, I might not have much of a clue as to who is who here but (as with every year it seems), I give a passing grade to Street Fighter Back To School Special. These are always goofy but inoffensive comics, coloured like cells clipped from an anime, they have their own weird, hyper-coloured aesthetic, all roundhouse kicks and none-more-bright colours and weapons moving so fast they blur like a photoshopped, computery whirligig and I kind of admire them for that, which is bizarre I know because these comics are the comics equivalent of looking at the sun, plus I have a habit of crapping over comics that are likely objectively better. Still, if you ripped a page out of this and handed it to me, I’d put down my wine glass, have a good look and say, “Hey this looks like a Street Fighter comic, is this a Street Fighter comic?” and you would then nod and hand me my black belt in comics. Look, Udon’s endless marriage to a riotously garish aesthetic for this property has won me over.

Matt Moylan, Genzoman and Edwin Huang are the creators here. I’m not sure who did the cover, but it’s a pretty eye catching effort. It’s Street Fighter! Wa-Pow! Want more do you need to know?



There is possibly no greater incongruity this FCBD than to behold Tyler Kirkham’s pretty awful Ninjak cover for Valiant 2021 and then opening the thing up and finding, of all people, Javier Pulido drawing the character’s actual adventures. What an interesting experiment this is. I feel pretty confident in saying that there’s not a superhero title on the shelves that looks anything like this. Pulido (colouring himself here also), working from Jeff Parker’s scripts, has taken his art to possibly its stylised peak. It’s attractive and supremely playful work, lots of clean lines and bursts of colour and dynamic layouts. I can see this being a turn-off for some but most should appreciate how fresh and uniquely energetic this feels. I’ll say no more - pick this up for the curiosity factor alone. 

X-O Manowar is back, yet again, in two stories, a prologue to…the series (I guess) and a preview of the upcoming issue #5. In the creative hot seats this year are  Dennis Hopeless, scripting, with suitably flashy art from Emilio Laiso and Raffaele Forte. This is perfectly serviceable, modern superhero stuff but hardly a stand-out and only reinforces just how unique the preceding Ninjak pages are. This is not a knock - in fact, overall this is easily the most focussed and coherent Free Comic Book Day comic from Valiant that I’ve seen (I’ve been rough on their efforts over past years) - but there’s a hook lacking here. 

An interview with writer Cullen Bunn about his work on Shadowman is our penultimate feature. Bunn’s working with artist Jon Davis-Hunt and colourist Jordie Bellaire on the book and it’s a real shame we don’t actually get much art at all as that’s a cracking illustrative team.

Before we leave, it wouldn’t be a Valiant preview without another feature crammed in the back. Some very attractive Robbi Rodriguez Harbinger pages close us out. Between opening with Pulido’s colourful, stylised work and closing with Robbi’s, coloured by Rico Renzi, with its neon pinks and lime greens, you have to wonder (and hope) that this is a sign of the direction in which Valiant is moving. EVERYONE has a superhero universe. The trick may well be to make your titles stand out aesthetically. I would read a line full of books illustrated as creatively and energetically as these Rodriguez and Pulido’s pages and, despite the fact that the package comes wrapped in a cover that looks like it was found on the floor at Extreme Studios, I’m optimistic that Valiant may at least be thinking about taking a bit of an aesthetic left turn. There’s some interesting work in here and, for the first time, I actually solidly recommend checking Valiant’s offer out.



(Aftershock) (T)


Ah, well now, this was a pleasant surprise. Functioning as a prequel of sorts to We Live by The Miranda Brothers (Inaki and Roy), We Live: The Last Days is an all-new chapter in a series that’s broken out enough to earn second volume. As a new reader (I’ve literally never heard of this before), I thought it worked really well. It’s self-contained, sets up the world of the series and puts a new cast of characters front and centre. There is no narrative baggage, no need for newbies like me to play catch up, just open it up and get reading. A great example of what invested publishers can actually do to maximise their FCBD efforts, it’s also clear to see why We Live has resonated. It’s post-apocalyptic, filled with kid characters, but it’s the stakes are very real - life and death - for our four youngsters. It’s a bit like Brallier and Holgate’s earlier mentioned Last Kids On Earth given a gritty reboot. 

Here’s the (slightly convoluted) set up: In a ruined Earth of 2081, there are 5000 bracelets containing survival tips and a way to find an “extraction beacon” which are obviously highly sought after. The bracelets are intended for children, but a whole economy has sprung up around their discovery. Enter four children searching for a bracelet of their own. Their search takes them into  the deadly “Broken Lands” where they encounter a hunter who might just not have their best interests at heart. 

We Live: The Last Days works best when it stays solidly focussed on our four young friends and their relationships with one another. Personally, I could do without the purple mutant rhino thing that beefs the action up midway (that really took me out of this) but overall this is pretty strong, affecting stuff from co-writers Roy and Inaki and while Inaki does a lot of that scratchy Danny Miki style inks (particularly on backgrounds) that I find a bit of a turn off, his characters are terrific and storytelling strong - it’s hard to not get invested in this little foursome. 

Confoundingly, a few pages of Rainbow Bridge, Aftershock’s first real YA graphic novel project, function as our back up feature. Steve Orlando and Steve Foxe write and Valeria Bracanti and Manuel Poppo illustrate. It’s kind of shocking how well Last Days is handled compared to Rainbow Bridge. We are presented, completely out of context, with a handful of very well drawn pages of a dog who has somehow ended up…elsewhere… It’s very cute but I’m not sure how many will rush to pick this up based on what’s presented. I hope I’m wrong and I’m so annoyed by this that I’m once again going to do the heavy lifting for the publishers. Rainbow Bridge is about a young boy who visits the grave of his much loved dog and ends up accidentally summoning The Rainbow Bridge, the gateway to the pet afterlife. There you go.

Anyway, hopefully We Live: The Last Days has piqued your interest; this is well worth a look.



(Viz) (T) 

Yes, more zombies. But, hey, wait this is good! 

Written by Haro Aso and illustrated by Kotaro Takata, Zom 100 focusses on Akira, a miserable salaryman living an incredibly dreary existence of work, work and more work. When he awakens one morning to find himself at the centre of the zombie apocalypse, Akira’s initial terror quickly subsidies as he realises that he doesn’t have to go to work anymore. This is pretty great fun overall and the premise is great - the apocalypse as a means to finally do the 100 things you always wanted to. The gags land, the art is dynamic, the zombies look great, the only question mark here is how deeply the creators can mine their concept. But I guess we’ll have to start reading the series to find out, eh? It’s interesting that Japan has kind of reinvented the zombie. From I Am A Hero’s “Voltron” zombie to the excellent film, One Cut Of The Dead (See this if you haven’t! It’s incredible) and now Zom 100, theres more life in zombies than youd think (sorry couldnt resist). Thanks, Japan!

Koyoharu Gotouge’s Demon Slayer brings this pretty generous and smartly conceptualised FCBD comic home. There’s only a few volumes of Zom 100 currently out, so Viz including a property currently 23 volumes strong is a savvy move. Tanjiro Kamado’s entire family was slaughtered by a demon…except his sister who has now become a demon herself. To save her, Muzan Kibutsuji, the demon responsible for his sister’s change, and obtain the cure from him. While nowhere near as polished as Zom 100, Demon Slayer brings the shonen goodness - the speed lines, the fluid fight scenes and the banging high concept - and could well end up on your pull list after this. This comic gives you all the info you need should you choose to do so.


That’s it! We did it! Have a wonderful Free…err…Stay Away Comic Book Day and I’ll be back in October with something suitably spooky for the season.

Stay safe.



  1. Hahaha was that you that wrote that Troy, that was a hilarious description of fcbd comics, particularly liked the bit about Benitez... hahaha lol have a laugh.

  2. Sorry I find subtle humour extremely funny