Z2 Comics Free Comic Book Day 2017: The Ballad of Franklin Bonisteel – Gabe Soria

3 out of 5

…I’m a little puzzled on the point.  FCBDs, to me, are a way of garnering new readers.  There’s the altruistic ‘reading is fundamental’ aspect, but that generally seems to apply more to the kids book offerings, which Bonisteel definitely is not.  So if publisher Z2’s foray then falls into the first category, I’m completely baffled how this standalone pulp yarn – which is named for a character who doesn’t seem like the lead character, and which sets up absolutely no clear lead-in for future stories – is intended to hook me to read more.  There’s also a short excerpt, from the same publisher and writer, from Murder Ballads, which does have a flashback setup to theoretically interest us in the cause of a murder that takes place on page one, but this isn’t the lead feature, so at only a couple of pages, I’m hardly invested.

So back to Bonisteel.  The titular character is a Phil Spector-proxy producer / musician who hires a local motel rat to track down someone Bonisteel feels owes him some money.  The motel rat – Pete Reyes – is our narrator, and there’s the sense that we’re either being set up for things to go noir and get deeper than expected, or for Reyes to emerge as a low rent detective with case-of-the-week comics.  No: The case is solved (with approximately zero sleuthing) and there’s no indication that there’s any intention to stay with any character.

None of this is to say that this is a bad read.  Warren Pleece’s art and Gabe Soria’s script sell the 70s setting without pushing it, and we’re carried along on the mini man-hunt with good momentum.  The characters don’t exist much beyond their one sentence caption introductions, but they remain consistent and prove entertaining for passing the pages.

But the intention of it all…?  Evaluated as a one-shot – which it eventually is – Bonisteel is well produced and very readable, but leaves no lasting impression.

Update: Apparently this is a lead-in to a character in Murder Ballads.  The review still stands.

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