10 essential titles to pick up on Free Comic Book Day

Saturday, May 6, is Free Comic Book Day, coming as it does the first Saturday after the summer’s first big comic book movie, aka the first Saturday in May. (“Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” is the name of that one and it is a bit… mixed).

Favorite for paper – James Roberts searches through boxes of comic books for sale on the first day of Wizard World Austin Comic Con at the Austin Convention Center on Friday, November 22nd, 2013. ERIKA RICH / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Some shops will be having special events or costumes or special snacks or just lines. Contact your local shop to see what hours it will be open and if the staff — all of whom will be working a very long day, possibly outside for at least part of it —  are doing anything that requires looking like Bane or Hellboy.


Here are ten comics that jumped out at me as worth checking out:

“Secret Empire” (Marvel)

Remember about a year ago when it looked like Captain America was an agent of Hydra and it kind of bummed everyone out? That plotline hits a peak in Marvel’s “Secret Empire” series, as (alternate universe?) Cap reveals himself to have been a Hydra agent all along. Writer Nick Spencer and artist Andrea Sorrentino bring the entire Marvel Universe together to fight Hydra, who have now taken over the country. We’ll see how this goes.  Plus, in less politically tone-deaf news: Check out a preview of storytellers Chip Zdarsky and Paulo Siqueira’s revival of “Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man,” which brings Spider-Man back to his humble roots. (He’s been head of a corporation for a while, it’s a whole thing.) Rated: Teen

“Wonder Woman” (DC)

Bestselling writer Greg Rucka had a really good run on “Wonder Woman” in the early 2000s and has returned for an equally acclaimed run with fan-favorite artist Nicola Scott. Wonder Woman has had kind of a rough go of it continuity-wise for the past 30 years or so, but Rucka is doing a bang-up job. (This is a reprint of his recent Wonder Woman #2.) Rated: Teen

“Buffy: The Teen Years” (Dark Horse)

Joss Whedon’s “Buffy the Vampire Slyer” has thrived in the comics format. But it’s rarely been all-ages. That changes with this book wherein writers Kel McDonald and Paul Tobin join artists Rachel Downing and Yishan Li for a story of 16-year-old Buffy fighting monsters and hanging out with pals. With a Plants vs. Zombies bonus story. Rated: All ages

“The Ballad of Franklin Bonisteel” (Lion’s Forge)

Full disclosure: Writer Gabe Soria is a friend of mine. In spite of this blight on his character, you should check out this one-shot about record producer Frank Bonisteel. Drawn by artist Warren Pleece, it’s a prequel (can a prequel come out before the actual book?) to Soria’s and artist Paul Reinwand’s really cool looking book “Murder Ballads,” a rock ‘n’ roll myth. Includes a download code for a cover of “In the Pines” by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and bluesman Robert Finely. Rated: Teen

“I Hate Image” (Image)

While some companies reprint books for Free Comic Book Day, some (see also the one directly above) are new stories. In “I Hate Image,” Skottie Young and Jean-Francois Beaulieu smash the fourth wall as Gertrude, the extremely violent star of their “I Hate Fairyland,” goes on a rampage against the casts of (completely unconnected) Image titles such as “Saga,” “The Walking Dead,” “Savage Dragon,” “Black Science,” “Spawn” and many others. Rated: Mature

“Kid Savage” (Image)

Man of Action Entertainment, the folks behind such vibrant IP as “Ben 10,” “Big Hero 6,” and “I Kill Giants” (specifically writer Joe Kelly and artist Ilya), present the story of a troubled, space-faring family who must rely on a, well, savage guide when they crash on his primitive planet. Rated: All ages

“World’s Greatest Cartoonists” (Fantagraphics)

Every year, art/literary comics king Fantagraphics produces a stellar sampler of those whom they publish, and this year is no different, featuring all-new, exclusive work from such cartoonists as Noah Van Sciver, Simon Hanselmann, Ed Piskor, Dash Shaw, Emil Ferris and many more.  A must-have and a great way to sample great talent. Rated: Mature

“Star Trek: The Next Generation — Mirror Broken” (IDW)

Writers Scott and David Tipton join artist J. K. Woodward to present a “Next Generation” story taking place in the Mirror Universe, where the Federation gave way to the Terran Empire and, incidentally, where that show never ventured. Check out the guns on Picard! Rated: All ages

“2000AD” (Rebellion)

The legendary British sci/fantasy anthology turns 40 this year and celebrated with a 32-page special starring Judge Dredd, the A.B.C. Warriors, Mallory Hope, Judge Anderson and Judge Death. Comes with additional digital content. Rated: Teen

“Catalyst Prime: The Event” (Lion’s Forge)

Christopher J. Priest has returned! After a long absence from comics, the writer of the terrific “Quantum and Woody” and the early-2000s “Black Panther” is back writing comics. His “Deathstroke” for DC is loads of fun and here he joins co-writer Joseph Illidge and artists Marco Turini and Jessica Kholinne to kick off the Catalyst Prime universe with this one-shot about an asteroid which changes the lives of five astronauts exposed to it. Rated: Teen.