Friday, May 6, 2016

Free Comic Book Day 2016: Where You Should Go and What You Should Read

So, I've done this every year, and I'm going to again this year. Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day, the annual day when you can go to your local comic book shop and pick up any number of 40 special free comics. This year, as most other years, I will be working up at my old stomping grounds, Dewey's Comic City, where there will be an artists alley, a cosplay contest, drawings, and reps from Valiant Comics. If you're in the South Jersey or Philadelphia area, I also want to recommend heading over to my current store, Stormwatch Comics, for an artist, a sale, and more surprises. No matter where you go, it's gonna be a great time, but I can tell you for a fact these stores do it up right.

Now, as I do every year, here's my little PSA. While these comics are free to you, they aren't free for retailers. They are sold to retailers at a steep discount compared to normal comics, but at the volume they're buying, it's still a lot of money, and that's not counting anything they're paying for advertising and their events. So, it might be nice for you to buy a little something. And while you're at it and getting the free stuff, try something that you normally wouldn't. If you read Marvel and/or DC mostly, try something from Fantagraphics. If Manga is your thing, maybe it's time to sample a superhero comic. The price is right to give something different a shot. I've discovered a couple of my favorite comics, Atomic Robo and The Sixth Gun, thanks to their Free Comic Book Day offerings.

Now, as I also have done each yeah, here are a handful of comics that I think are worth your attention tomorrow.

Legend of Korra/How to Train Your Dragon/Plants Vs. Zombies

One of Dark Horse Comics two offerings this year, this issue features three popular all ages properties, two of which are new to Dark Horse's stable (pun intended). While Avatar: The Last Airbender has been a fixture of Dark Horse's FCBD offerings, this is the first year featuring its spin-off/sequel. The Legend of Korra. The story is set before the time of the series, and is the story of how Korra, the avatar, met her animal guide, Naga, the polar bear dog. It's a short, sweet story, and good for readers not familiar with the world of Korra. While I'm not familiar with the Plants Vs. Zombies games, its story is also accessible. But the highlight of this issue is the How to Train Your Dragon story. The story starts in media res, with the young dragon trainers trapped inside a makeshift shelter with wild dragons attacking them. The story is actually a series of shorts, as each person tells a story of the late chief of the tribe, Stoic the Vast, many of them effecting. What really makes the story is the art by Doug Wheatley, best known for his work on Star Wars comics, whose hyper-detailed characters and especially dragons are a visual treat. This is an all ages book.

Love and Rockets

Love and Rockets is the legendary, long running series from the Hernandez Brothers. Each issue features two unrelated stories, one by each brother. Gilbert Hernandez's stories follow a woman named Luba and her family, from their time in Central America to their time in California. Jaime Hernandez chronicles the lives of Hopey, a former punk rocker, her sometimes girlfriend Maggie, and their extended circle of friends. Love and Rockets is one of those epic pieces of continuing graphic literature that I have always found daunting to dig into, but this issue gives you a good sampling of what the series is like and a good way to judge if it's something you would appreciate and enjoy. This comic is appropriate fro readers seventeen and up.


There are few comics being published that I can say are unquestioningly important, but one of them is definitely March, the graphic memoir of Congressman John Lewis and his time with the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Two of the three volumes have been released, with the third due out this August. The FCBD issue from Top Shelf/IDW features brief excerpts from each of the three, and they are astounding, with beautiful art and important historical context that feels important in the times we live in. This is appropriate for any age, but I would suggest anyone under a teen read it with parents to answer questions.


Yes, both of Dark Horse's FCBD issues made this list. Of the three stories, the Aliens one is the one I was least invested in, and was fine for what it is, a bunch of people fighting aliens, which is about what I expect. The Hellboy story is a Mike Mignola written, Richard Corben tale of a younger Hellboy investigating a magic mirror that is said to have demons trapped in it. Mignola knows exactly how to write into Corben's wheelhouse, giving some true, cringe inducing horror. But it's the Serenity story that's an A-plus here. There's still little enough in the ways of stories from the Serenity 'verse that each one is something to be treasured, and this one is a real emotional roller coaster. Left to babysit Zoe and Wash's baby, River tells a story of how the crew gathered and their travails as a fairy tale to the baby; picture a Firefly version of the classic "Kitty's Fairy Tale" issue of Uncanny X-Men and you'll get the idea. Told from River's point of view, the story is as telling of what River thinks about the others on the crew and herself as it is of the story itself. If you've heard how great Firefly/Serenity is and you've wanted to dip your toe in, this isn't a bad place to start. This book is good for teens on up.

Valiant: 4001 A.D. Special

Valiant put together a sampler of many of their recent high profile releases for FCBD this year, along with a prequel to their new event series, 4001 A.D., which launched this week. This issue is strong because of the sum of its parts; no one story really carries the books, but if you've been curious about trying Valiant's output, or expanding what you're reading, this is a good place to start. The 4001 A.D. story does a good job of setting up the stakes of the new event, and the four previews include three books that have been well reviewed on this very blog: Archer & Armstrong, Divinity II, Faith, as well as a fourth preivew for an upcoming arc from Bloodshot Reborn. I am constantly impressed at how well Valiant holds together a coherent universe while not making it feel like you have to read any more than the titles you want, and the samples here stand on their own and are all of slightly different flavors, so you should be able to find something for anyone in here. This is a book I'd recommend for teens and up.

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