White Ash FCBD (#0) – Charles Stickney

2 out of 5

I do maintain that any individual comic book is, ideally, readable. You may not have any idea who’s who or what’s happening for what reasons if you’re dropping into the middle, but it’s the same reason I’ll flip to a random chapter in a book and peruse if I’m unfamiliar with the author: good writing (or, that being subjective, writing that grabs you) tends to work, even lacking context. You’ll get a sense of rhythm, and mood; abstracted from the story, you’ll be able to see if it reads like filler. Or, ideally, if it reads in a way that makes you want to know more. 

While I’ll allow for some wiggle room on this rule, since there are surely some dense, layered texts that are worthwhile reads but violate it, I would stand firm that a free comic book day comic – presumably something to lure in readers – should abide by it. 

After reading Charles Strickley’s 2021 White Ash FCBD offering, not only did that read-through take me literally a week, but I’m not sure I can tell you what the comic is even about. So I wasn’t immersed, and though individual pages find a rhythm – with very expressive art / lettering from Conor Hughes, and a soothing swath of blue / red colors from Fin Cramb, meaning I don’t think visuals were an issue – even though these single beats worked, strung together, it doesn’t read like it tells us anything about the series or even what to focus on in the issue itself. 

…Elsewhere, blurbs tell me that White Ash is a small-town-with-secrets; that – though I see no indication of this on the cover, or the indicia – this is a season 2 of series; and the contents themselves suggest those secrets contain elves and other mystical creatures, and probably some sexy sex. But how the individual scenes connect (the book being comprised of several 1-2 page slices of different combos of characters), I have no idea. 

Because Strickley’s dialogue has a good flow – the characters / world do feel lived in – I’m sure context from the series would make this better, but as a FCBD offering, it doesnt engender interest to find out more. 

Also includes some pages from The Game by the same writer / artist, setting up a premise in which all our actions are given a video game-esque plus or minus score. Since this is an intro, and we know this creative duo works well together, it’s a hook that definitely succeed at drawing one in. 

Finally, some pages from David A. Byrne’s ‘Jessamy,’ which seems to set up some vampire vs vampire intrigue, with a London coven sending the titular character to check out some rumors of other vamps.in colonial-era America. Francesca Fantini’s black and white art is quite beautiful, but the tone of the visuals vs writing is slightly mismatched – the former very “heavy” feeling and cinematic (in part owed to the black and white, sure); the latter more jovial.  A fun read, though.