Nerd Culture

11 Free Comic Book Day 2016 Titles You Need to Read

Dry-clean your Leia cosplay and slather on those Team Arrow temporary tattoos: Free Comic Book Day rapidly approaches. Diamond Comics Distributors and ComicsPRO are teaming with publishers to bring 50 free comics to stores on Saturday, May 7. (For a full list of Phoenix-area shops that are participating, see the Free Comic Book Day store locator.)

With so many titles (and some stores limiting how many you can grab), it's a little overwhelming to know what's right for you. That's why we've run through some of the best books worth a look for you, whether you like capes or slice-of-life books, quirky cartooning, or elaborate splash pages. 

Love and Rockets
By Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez

Los Bros Hernandez headline this year’s offering from Fantagraphics, heralding their new comic series off the heels of eight annual graphic novel releases. Jaime and Gilbert spotlight their stories of Locas and Palomar, respectively.

The first story reprints an earlier work featuring Jaime’s character Maggie meeting the troublemaking Vivian for the first time. Gilbert follows with a quiet story about B-movie actress “Fritz” Martínez in a short film in which she improvises dialogue with another nameless actor. Both stories show the breadth of Love and Rockets' strength, be they continuing their long epic stories or quiet, self-contained, and seemingly inconsequential moments.

Fantagraphics always has a great FCBD offering, which has featured Ed Piskor’s excellent Hip Hop Family Tree in recent years. The publisher busting out its flagship book to hype up the new series is the perfect opportunity for fans to see what 35 years of comics history is all about. Everyone who enjoys reading comics deserves to read one of the great modern classics, Love and Rockets.

Archie #1
By Fiona Staples, Mark Waid, Andre Szymanowicz, Jack Morelli, Jen Vaughn
Archie Comics

Despite a stalled horror lineup and a dubious, ill-fated Kickstarter campaign, Archie Comics managed to reboot its core line of characters to critical acclaim. Fiona Staples, Mark Waid, Andre Szymanowicz, Jack Morelli, and Jen Vaughn knocked the first issue out of the park, giving the timeless town of Riverdale a contemporary reimagining.

No longer beholden to the rigidly typical, recognizable, and by-now boring Dan DeCarlo house style, Staples and Szymanowicz use simple layouts packed with a near-cinematic style, allowing Archie to break the fourth wall and engage the reader.

This reprint gives people who’ve never tried an Archie comic the same opportunity as the curmudgeons who didn’t buy into the reboot — to check out an all-ages teen drama everyone can enjoy. And if you like it, there’s a trade paperback with more story waiting for your grubby mitts.

DC SuperHero Girls
By Shea Fontana, Yancey Labat, Monica Kubina, Janice Chiang
DC Comics

Science and technology have come so far, advanced to reveal a hidden truth of the universe many studio execs and toy makers long thought to be a lie: Women like superheroes, too.

Hot on the heels of this mystifying revelation, Warner Bros. is pushing a new initiative called DC SuperHero Girls, in which they reimagine their iconic characters as teens in high school. Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Supergirl, Harley Quinn, and more team up for study groups and super fights in this issue.

The book previews the forthcoming release of the original graphic novel, DC SuperHero Girls: Final Crisis, as well as some of the new merchandise to be sold in stores. It’s obviously geared toward young girls. Which is refreshing and wonderful because most of this capeshit has become vanilla at this point. 

Hilda and the Stone Forest/Akissi/Fantasy Sports
By Luke Pearson, Marguerite Abouet, Mathieu Sapin, Sam Bosma
Nobrow Press

One of the most unique and intriguing publishing houses, Nobrow Press — and its Flying Eye Books subsidiary for kids — bring some of their best stories to Free Comic Book Day.

Hilda and the Stone Forest takes top billing on the comic, previewing the upcoming fall release from Luke Pearson, but the children’s offering also has a short excerpt of Akissi: Home Cinema from Marguerite Abouet and Mathieu Sapin.

The final story features a preview of Fantasy Sports No. 2 from Sam Bosma, the anticipated sequel to last summer’s hit graphic novel about treasure hunting, mummies, and basketball. With 10 pages of story, it’s worthy of a grab on its own, but the two children’s stories up front are just as entertaining.

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Joseph Schmidt
Contact: Joseph Schmidt