Free comic day is this Saturday, which means you can waltz in any participating store in Portland (such as Cloud 9 Comics, Books with Pictures, Excalibur, Other Worlds, Things from Another World, and Future Dreams) and waltz with a bunch of free books, no holds barred, no strings attached. This is the ultimate heist!!!
But just like with the free pizza bagel samples in a supermarket, there’s a motive for this madness: publishers, authors, and stores want to hook you into their product by giving you a tempting bite that they hope will will make your mouth water. Not your literal mouth, your brain-mouth. I hope you don’t have a literal mouth on your brain.
Some of these free comic bits are great, but most are… well, I don’t think they deserve that much attention unless you’re a super fan of the Sonic comics (in which case, it’s your lucky day and I’m happy for you).
So! Here’s what you can expect on your Free Comic Day adventure, and the books you might want to collect:
There are five books that I love, available for free – I can’t stress this enough, free!!!! – and I hope you will like them too.
I don’t generally recommend DC books, partly because they’re oddly uncooperative with reviewers, but also because their stories tend to require decades-long encyclopedic knowledge of backstory. But that’s not the case with Galaxy: the most beautiful star, a preview of a graphic novel due out in two weeks about an alien princess dressed on Earth as a human teenager. It’s a high school coming-of-age drama folded into a sci-fi adventure with absolutely gorgeous vibrant art, character designs that beg the eye to linger, and a very cute dog. I don’t normally dwell on the panel layout because it’s so wonky and technical, but god damn Lemon, the panel layout in this book is super creative. Science fiction stories are often said to be big, bold explorations of the limits of human possibility, but it’s rare to find one that’s bold enough to incorporate the genre into its explorations. From look to writing to subject matter, author Jadzia Axelrod and artist Jess Taylor have illuminated a unique new adventure.
I also enjoyed It won’t always be like this by Malaka Gharib, an excerpt from her graphic memoir about growing up as a young American girl in an Egyptian family. With this modest slice of life told from a child’s perspective, Gharib has a keen eye for the right details to dwell on: teaching his stepmother the (accidentally wrong) lyrics to American pop songs; compare the sleeping arrangements of his bifurcated family; suddenly seizing the sadness of adulthood. The art is, as Mary Berry would say, informal — not a problem, given the young POV — and the writing is innocently insightful.
There is a solid basis for Hollowmodern horror for all ages inspired by The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. A tough teenager moves to a town obsessed with the legend of the Headless Horseman, and as she tries to make friends and get her bearings, something frightening seems to be happening. The full graphic novel only releases closer to Halloween; should be a fun time.
It’s kinda annoying that the free Doctor Who comic is simply titled Doctor Who Comic. Yes, very descriptive, great work everyone. A fun, casually written story about little monsters who plan to destroy the Earth — and other little monsters who prove to be their undoing — it’s a fun adventure that requires little knowledge of the franchise to enjoy.
Also intriguing is Neverlandersa surprising modern tale of Peter Pan. It’s an interesting premise with some really fun art, but I’m not sold on the execution: the story begins with a group of tattered homeless children living in a junkyard, which is certainly a backdrop real and tragic; but the children all live in relative comfort, which is a bizarre fantasy compared to the plight of homeless young IRLs. The book seems to engage in an uncomfortable romance of youth homelessness in its opening pages before the fantasy elements completely take over, and the tone seems to pull wildly from side to side – sums- us in a framework of grainy reality or cartoonish chaos? The full graphic novel is coming out this fall, and maybe this version will be a bit clearer about the rules of this (beautifully illustrated and thrilling) world.
My favorites won’t necessarily be your favorites, so I encourage you to let your eyes wander over all the books you can get your hands on. There is fun in Red Sonja: She-Devil with a sword, a reprint of an old t-and-a luscious sword-and-sandals romp. This book goes well with Barbaric, a comical new bloodbath about a violent brute and his bloodthirsty axe. Plenty of gore and decidedly modern dialogue abounds.
A psychedelic space-opera awaits you in The Incal universe, which I found a bit squished and a bit too random; but when I read that it was based on a story developed by Alejandro Jodorowsky I said ohhhhhhhh.
Also worth a look a three-stage sampler from Red 5 Comics: It opens with Carriers, a book about violent warrior pigeons that doesn’t fully explain the rules of its world and is therefore a bit difficult to follow; it is followed by dragon whisperer, a cute/violent story about a Victorian world in which magical creatures are subjugated; and Beornan absolutely adorable little Viking adventurer reminiscent of the hero of Calvin and Hobbes minus his tiger friend.
Unless you’re already a fan of these franchises, I wouldn’t go out of my way to look for a School book which contains seemingly random pages of Captain Underpants, Dog Manand cat kid. It is the same dark crisis, yet another sinister weave of DC superheroes; and Best Archie comic ever! is a weird stream of consciousness that feels like it’s missing panels or maybe even whole pages. Pokemon Journeys is exactly what the title would take you to with no surprises between its covers. Stranger Things: Creature Feature is as sad as the TV show, but in the last pages there’s a tiny pasted-on story based on Foreign resident it’s nice enough to have persuaded me to look for more.
Two books were so coated with Teflon that they immediately slipped from my brain without making an impression: Trese: last seen after midnight appears to be an adaptation of a Netflix anime, so maybe it makes sense if you’ve seen this. 10 ton tales does nothing to introduce or explain what appears to be a four-part sample of a dirty clown story (???); psychedelic wizard clipart printed at the wrong resolution; a coloring book infomercial for the Foo Fighters; and the middle pages (but untitled!?!?!?!) of a story about an alien who is also a genius.
The unwieldy title of Winchester Mystery House: The Hundred Year Curse isn’t half as awkward as the story itself, which appears to be an advertisement for the real-life tourist trap – specifically, in the final pages, its gift shop. I found this one to be the most cynical offering this year, which says something when it clashes with another sonic the hedgehog money grab.