Best Comic Book Shop 2022 | Ash Avenue Comics & Books | Goods & Services | Phoenix

A hop and a skip away from Cartel Coffee Lab and Buffalo Exchange near Arizona State University, Ash Avenue Comics & Books is the third point on a triangle of Tempe culture — places where hipsters and nerds and old heads alike converge to give each other the gift of fab and find their new favorite thing. Ash Avenue carries single issues and graphic novels, offering a broad assortment of mainstream Marvel/DC titles along with FantaGraphic collections of old comic strips, Love & Rockets, obscure creator-owned titles, zines, and other ephemera. The Ash Avenue staff are friendly and well-versed in all things comics, so they're more than happy to be your Virgil as you navigate the netherworld of illustrated storytelling. The store also buys comics if you've got some sweet collectibles or complete runs of in-demand titles you're looking to trade in. It's a cozy, neatly organized place where you can go to marinate in all things weird and nerdy without fear of judgment or getting put on the spot by someone demanding to prove your comic book nerd bona fides.

There are several reasons why, among other great shops, Imperial Outpost is the tip of the spear for gaming culture around Phoenix. They have a massive inventory of board, card, and tabletop games, from the big faves (such as Magic) to obscure titles (ever heard of Blood Bowl?) And what better way to try out that newly-purchased game than by playing it right there at the shop? Then, when it comes time to bolster your deck or expand your gameplay, the Outpost has supplies and add-ons galore. But all of that only hints at the store's true importance: the human element. Whether you're an old pro or a bright-eyed rookie, the store welcomes players with a passion for great gaming. And it rewards commitment by fostering a community that's as much about robust competition as celebrating the simple pleasures of socialization. It's a place where life can be enjoyed because people want you there, and they provide all the necessities — whether that's D20 dice or friendly faces — to make gaming so much more. So, you could shop elsewhere. But it's Imperial Outpost that's home to the pure nerd magic that's essential to any city.

You don't have to be the Mother Brain to figure out why The Gaming Zone is the best place in the Valley to buy and sell video games. The employees at either location are friendlier (read: less snarky) than other local stores, the trade rates are better, and the sheer depth of the selection is staggering. Besides a voluminous amount of titles, consoles, controllers, and accessories for sale from throughout gaming history — from the Atari 2600 to newer must-haves like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X — The Gaming Zone also offers numerous rarities in its collection. That includes a number of unique "repro" (or reproduction) cartridges of unreleased, custom-made, and homebrew games for such old-school systems as the Sega Genesis, Game Boy Advance, and Super Nintendo. And when you tire of searching for finds like Link hunting for pieces of the Triforce, both locations have arcade classics available for play. Game on.

If you're one of those people who laments the fact that Halloween only comes once a year, you're in luck. Because at Terror Trader in Chandler, it's always spooky season. Terror Trader operates like an antique mall. The space is filled with individual vendors selling all things horror, from DVDs and props to horror memorabilia and apparel. We love the store's monthly Sales from the Darkside events, when horror fans can shop, get grub from local food trucks, participate in cosplay contests, and generally nerd out with like-minded folks. None of the goods are available on the store's website, which means that you're just going to have to make a trip to Chandler to see all that Terror Trader has to offer.

When it comes to zines, Wasted Ink is the Valley's one-stop shop for all things hand-stitched and stapled. Founded in 2015, the distro has been a vital space and storefront for the self-publishing community. WIZD maintains a library of over 1,500 zines and has helped organize and run the annual Phx Zine Fest since 2016. Their shelves provide a kaleidoscope of stories, how-to guides, and personal narratives from writers and artists based in Arizona and beyond. The folks at WIZD have been vocal and steadfast in their commitment to signal-boosting the contributions of BIPOC, LGBTQ, disabled, and neurodivergent creators. They've also hosted workshops, open mics, and events over the years, forming strong connections with the Valley's arts community. The best part about the zines at WIZD? They're really affordable. If you're looking for unique literature you won't find anywhere else that won't break the bank, WIZD offers DIY lit that's cheaper than the cost of a Happy Meal.

Poetry doesn't have to be fancy: Sometimes you can say all you need to say on a single sheet of paper. That's the guiding ethos behind Rinky Dink Press, Phoenix's premium purveyor of poetry micro-chapbooks. Each micro-chapbook features a handful of poems written by local and national poets on a cleverly folded sheet of paper. Through the magic of this origami publishing process, RDP has assembled a run of very cheap micro-chapbooks that offer way more bang than their $1 price tag. Selling their titles individually and in bundled sets, the self-styled punk press has made appearances in Poets & Writers and tabled at conventions and book fairs across the country. Don't be fooled by their small books: Like Ron Burgundy, they're kind of a big deal.

Even in the age of online shopping, we still love a good day at the mall. Chandler Fashion Center has something for everyone. The lineup of 180-plus retailers includes Apple, Tilly's, lululemon, Dillard's, Macy's, and Urban Outfitters, to namedrop a few. The 20-screen Harkins Theatres multiplex is excellent for friends and date nights, and the Crayola Experience Studio, Joystick Arcade, and splash pad are lit for the younger folks. And once shoppers get winded, they can grab a bite and quench their thirst at a myriad of spots in the food court and throughout the area, including Hop Social Tavern, Cooper's Hawk Winery and Restaurant, BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse, Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, and P.F. Chang's. To wrap up the day or night, The Cheesecake Factory and the Starbucks inside Barnes & Noble offer dessert and coffee.

Senegal and Beyond is the kind of unique shop we didn't know we needed in Phoenix, but now we can't get enough of. Opened earlier this year by GG and Matt Berger, a Senegalese woman and her American husband, the shop is stocked with Senagalese teas and coffees, snacks, house-mixed spices, jewelry, and other gifts. Sauces and seasonings that stir the senses line long wooden shelves as the tri-color flag of Senegal drapes over a fridge full of cold drinks shipped express from the West African coast. Senegal and Beyond is both a delightful place to stop and a window to a culture that many in Phoenix are not familiar with, all from a storefront in midtown.

"Metaphysical store" conjures certain images and associations: incense, New Age, Stevie Nicks vibes. Zombi World Market cuts against that grain. It eschews "Sedona crystal shop" aesthetics for an earthier, occult-y vibe — less The Secret, more The Invisibles. Owner Jinn El-Masri's passion for all things Santeria, Vodoun, and ceremonial magic inform the shop's energy and offerings. Zombi specializes in Indigenous and diasporic spiritual traditions. If you want to deepen your knowledge about the loas, learn the finer points of Afro-Caribbean mysticism, or attend fascinating occult talks and workshops, Zombi is definitely the spot. There's more to this world market than voodoo, however. The shop has an eclectic and expertly curated book section, sells homemade crafts (yes, including candles and incense — it a metaphysical store, after all), and also offers unusual curios and antiques that El-Masri has collected over years of world travel.

Whether you think that rose quartz is going to fix your love life, or you're just really into geology, Rare Earth Gallery has what you want. The north Valley shop carries a truly impressive assortment of rocks and crystals, from a palm-sized heart-shaped quartz to epic amethyst slabs that cost thousands of dollars. The dazzling bounty of the earth is on full display here in the form of delicate jewelry, mineral specimens from around the world, and small polished stones that appeal to all ages. We love the beaded bracelets made from tumbled stones and one-of-a-kind pieces mounted on stands. Even when we're not looking to buy, we can't help but stop in whenever we're in Cave Creek to see what Rare Earth Gallery has in store.

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