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.
By Fiona Staples, Mark Waid, Andre Szymanowicz, Jack Morelli, Jen Vaughn
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
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
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.
By David Messina, Michele Pasta, Chris Ryall, Christos Gage, Shawn Lee
ROM: Spaceknight holds a special place in many a nerd’s heart, and its early-80s 75-issue run is often regarded as the best result of the brief partnership between Hasbro Toys and Marvel Comics. And while they clamor for more comics in the Marvel Universe, Hasbro isn’t too keen to help out what they now deem the competition (see: the Hasbro Cinematic Universe).
Hasbro granted IDW licensing rights to new material, and the publisher announced new series based on ROM and Micronauts. This Free Comic Book Day serves as issue #0 for the new series, in which ROM is strangely called the Wraithslayer, and not the Spaceknight. Well, it wouldn’t be ROM without some dubious naming-rights issues.
Chrys Ryall and Christos Gage team on the plot, while David Messina, Michele Pasta, and Shawn Lee do a stellar job creating the new debut. The issue also contains a prologue for another Hasbro property, Action Man, from John Barber, Chris Evenhuis, John-Paul Bove, and Shawn Lee.
Eternal man-babies in love with old action figures? This comic is for you.
Help the CBLDF Defend Comics
By Various Cartoonists
Comic Book Liberty Defense Fund
The Comic Book Liberty Defense Fund is a nonprofit organization that champions and protects comic creators’ First Amendment rights. Every year, they put out quarterly magazines as well as annual and FCBD issues to help raise awareness for their cause.
This year’s free book collects stories from James Kochalka, Veronica Fish, Vivek Tiwary, and Sara Richard. The short comics range from excerpts of larger works to special stories created just for the CBLDF.
If you’d like to learn more about the Liberty Defense Fund or if you’d like to donate, head over to CBLDF.org.
By Tom Gauld
Drawn and Quarterly
Drawn and Quarterly is known for publishing some amazing graphic novels from extremely talented cartoonists, including Adrian Tomine’s Killing and Dying and Kate Beaton’s Step Aside, Pops.
This year’s book previews Tom Gauld’s upcoming graphic novel, Mooncop. Gauld’s dry wit and stylized portrayal of moon dwellers makes this absurdist story as entertaining as well as resonating. And if you’re unfamiliar with Gauld’s work, the back-up is filled with an assorted collection of his shorter comics.
The eclectic offering published by Drawn and Quarterly remains some of the most consistently satisfying comics to be released over the years. This free comic gives you a chance to check out what your favorite creators get inspired by.
Junior Braves of the Apocalypse
By Zach Lehner, Greg Smith, Michael Tanner
A perfect all-ages story for your kids to read when you lock them in the other room during The Walking Dead viewings, this story imagines a mutant apocalypse in which the titular Junior Braves are the sole survivors. The group of scouts escape worldwide doom by camping out for a week, only to return to a wasteland.
As their parents go missing and neighbors transform into murderous mutants, the kids team with the camp master to survive and maybe find where their loved ones have gone.
While there are intense scenes, mature themes, and plenty of close calls, Greg Smith, Michael Tanner, and Zach Lehner put out a wonderful graphic novel that is perfect for kids and entertaining for adults.
This comic previews the first graphic novel, with an impending second volume to be released sometime in the future.
By Steave T. Seagle, Jason Adam Katzenstein
Steve T. Seagle has had a hand in creating some wonderful children’s cartoons of the last decade, including Ben 10 and Big Hero 6. As a member of production team Man of Action, he is a vital member of Marvel Animation. But he’s also an acclaimed comic creator.
Camp Midnight is another tale aimed toward kids, chronicling the story of Skye and Mia who accidentally end up at a summer camp for monsters. While the monsters normally hide among the humans, this is their time to cut loose. Skye and Mia have to conceal their humanity, a funny twist on themes of isolation and adolescence.
This Free Comic Book Day reprints a portion of Seagle and Jason Adam Katzenstein’s original graphic novel.
We Can Never Go Home / Young Terrorists
By Josh Hood, Tyler Boss, Amancay Nahuelpan, Jean-Paul Csuka, Matt Rosenberg, Patrick Kindlon, Matt Pizzolo
Black Mask Studios
The hottest indie publisher of 2015 makes a Free Comic Book Day splash, bringing new stories from last year’s hottest title (We Can Never Go Home) as well as its most delayed (Young Terrorists).
Josh Hood and Tyler Boss come back to illustrate Matt Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon’s teenage crime caper, We Can Never Go Home. This exclusive story serves as an alternate take on a key scene from the first series as well as a prologue to the new volume set to debut this fall.
Amancay Nahuelpan, Jean-Paul Csuka, and Matt Pizzolo add a short story featuring the main character of Young Terrorists, Sera, as she takes part in prison prize fights. Jim Campbell letters both stories.
Black Mask comics have a tendency to be collector’s items on the aftermarket. Maybe it’s worth picking it up for the speculator value alone, even if the stories aren’t your cup of tea.
By Various Creative Teams
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Valiant previews a few of its upcoming and current titles including Faith, Divinity II, Bloodshot Reborn, and the summer event, 4001 A.D.
The core lineup of Valiant titles tend to remain in the present day, but the title Rai takes readers to the year 4001 A.D. and the feudal monarchy of New Japan, an artificial moon that orbits the Earth. Rai protects New Japan as a genetically engineered warrior, but when he finds the utopia hides a sinister secret he turns against the society that created him.
In the 4001 A.D. event, Rai will search for the remaining Valiant heroes, giving readers a glimpse of what the future holds for their favorite characters.
Valiant is putting out the best superhero comic books today (you heard that right, Marvel and DC), and this is a great chance to find out what the fuss is all about.