Are you planning to visit your local comic shop for Free Comic Book Day this Saturday but unsure what to pick up? We have you covered with some recommendations! This list of fifteen series should have something for everyone, and all the titles on it are available in collected formats. We list the first volume for each, but most of these titles have multiple volumes available. It's far from exhaustive, but it will get you started.
This 2015 relaunch of the Archie comic manages to blend classic characters with more contemporary comics storytelling. The writing is legitimately clever and funny, and the art is eye-catching. Volume 1 centers around unraveling the mysterious "Lipstick Incident" that led Archie and Betty to break up. Even if you have never been an Archie fan, this series is worth checking out - and there will be a free FCBD edition of its first issue available on Saturday.
Start with Archie Vol. 1 by Waid, Staples, Wu, and Fish. Vol. 2 is not out yet, but once a few more issues come out, it will be. If you don't want to wait, #7 is on shelves now, and #8 comes out next week.
Avengers & New Avengers (2013)
Originally, the Civil War event from 2006 was going to be on this list due to its cinematic counter-part debut this weekend. It's worth a read, but this pair of interconnected Avengers books is a fascinating, nuanced take on what happens when Avengers dissemble, overreach, and become desperate. Avengers sees Iron Man and Captain America build an army of heroes large enough to handle any threat; New Avengers focuses on the Illuminati as they secretly try to save Earth from a multiversal threat that they have no idea how to stop. Both series are bolstered by all-star art.
Start with Avengers Vol. 1: Avengers World by Hickman, Opeña, and Kubert, and New Avengers Vol. 1: Everything Dies by Hickman and Epting. If you can find the oversized hardcovers, those will make reading easier later on when the two books begin to actively cross over.
Snyder and Capullo just finished their almost five-year stint together on Batman, and it will go down in history as one of the character's great runs. New threats feel familiar, as though they've always been a part of Gotham; old ones are redefined without losing what makes them special. These issues balance risk with homage and history with invention at every level; the product is a satisfying take on a Batman who isn't infallible but always finds a way to carry on.
Start with Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls by Snyder, Capello, and Glapion.
Black Science (2013)
Anarchist scientists develop trans-universal travel to find solutions for global issues like plague, disease, and hunger. It does not go smoothly. Do you need to know more? You do? Okay, how about this: the writing is sharp, the art is stunning, and the world-building that happens between the two never gets old.
Start with Black Science Vol. 1: How to Fall Forver by Remender, Scalero, and White.
This series comes to an end soon, but that is no reason to skip it. A blend of comedy, police procedural, and science fiction, Chew follows Detective Tony Chu as he investigates crimes involving the most dangerous of illicit substances: chicken. Oh, and he has the power to learn the history of anything he eats. There's even an animated feature in the works starring Steven Yeun, Felicia Day, and David Tennant.
Start with Chew Vol. 1: Taster's Choice by Layman and Guillory.
Doctor Strange: The Oath (2006)
At the end of the year, Doctor Strange will be in theaters. If you want to get a feel for the character before then, this is the definitive Doctor Strange story. Originally published as a five issue mini-series, The Oath sees the Sorcerer Supreme put his life on the line to save his aid and friend, Wong. It includes everything you need to know about Strange's backstory. And Night Nurse.
Start with Doctor Strange: The Oath by Vaughan and Martin. If you want somewhere else to go after that, check out the current Doctor Strange series by Aaron and Bachalo; its first volume, The Way of the Weird, just came out in hardcover.
In the history of no-brainer recommendations, this may take the award for safest bet. When it launched in 2012, this book about Clint Barton and Kate Bishop on their off hours was a significant departure from what people expected of a costumed hero book. The run is funny, emotional, and inventive. There's even an issue from the perspective of Clint's rescue dog, told entirely in smell.
Start with Hawkeye Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon by Fraction, Aja, and Pulido.
Justice League (2011)
DC's goal to simplify and streamline continuity with The New 52 saw mixed success; Justice League, however, took advantage of the reboot to show the League form for the first time. Its freshman arc sees the members of the team come together, brought in by Batman and Hal Jordan as they begrudgingly work together to investigate alien tech that has begun to show up in their cities. The premise is familiar, but Johns's writing makes it enjoyable, and he quickly moves the series into new territory.
Start with Justice League Vol. 1: Origins by Johns, Lee, and Williams.
The Life After (2014)
Some books are easy to explain. This is not one of them. When The Life After was first announced, its writer, Josh Fialkov, described it as a book about a young man named Jude who realizes that he is in a purgatory for people who have committed suicide. While accurate, that is only the beginning; going much further would spoil reveals that are best left to read in the book itself. However, know this: it is not nearly as depressing as it sounds, and Jude eventually picks up Earnest Hemingway as his sidekick.
Start with The Life After Vol. 1 by Fialkov and Gabo.
The Manhattan Projects (2012)
What if the atomic bomb were only the tip of the iceberg for The Manhattan Project? What if they dealt with aliens, mystical ninjas, alternate realities, and every kind of fringe science imaginable? What if Oppenheimer were a cannibal? Then you'd have The Manhattan Projects. This series blends fringe science fiction with a cartoon zaniness that makes squabbling, homicidal physicists, um...charming? Okay, maybe not charming. But it makes for a fun read.
Start with The Manhattan Projects Vol. 1: Science Bad by Hickman and Pitarra.
Pretty Deadly (2013)
Maybe you're in the mood for a western. Well, Pretty Deadly has you covered. DeConnick has been at the forefront of the movement to get more strong women into comics (both as characters and creators) for the last few years, and the series she has crafted with Rios, Bellaire, and Cowles is no exception. Steeped in folklore, magical realism, and brutality, Pretty Deadly tells the tale of Death's daughter on a quest for vengeance.
Start with Pretty Deadly, Vol 1: The Shrike by DeConnick, Rios, Bellaire, and Cowles. The second arc is coming out in single issues now and will be collected in its own volume in July.
Saga is easy to sum up: it is the epic (like The Odyssey, not that weekend in Cancún) tale of a couple who come from opposite sides of an interplanetary war trying to hold their family together despite both sides gunning for them. If that sounds like Romeo and Juliet in space, well...that's not wrong, but Saga is much more than that. Its stakes are personal; its characters - even the ones you root against - are multifaceted and likable; and its storytelling is often a punch in the gut. Saga is one of the most successful creator-owned series in comic book history - and deservingly so - even regularly outselling collections of The Walking Dead.
Start with Saga Vol. 1 by Vaughan and Staples.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2011)
It isn't always easy to be a Ninja Turtles fan, but the current ongoing series written by original co-creator Kevin Eastman and IDW Editor Tom Waltz does not disappoint. Part reboot and part reinvention, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles blends elements of the original comics run with aspects of other incarnations of the franchise. The result is character-driven and funny, with high stakes. If the nostalgia that people who grew up in the '80s and '90s feel for the franchise took form, that form would be this comic.
Start with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Vol. 1: Change Is Constant by Eastman, Waltz, and Duncan. If you want to commit, the BEST collections of the series are The IDW Collections, oversized hardcovers that each contain about 16 issues.
We Can Never Go Home (2015)
If you have listened to our third episode, you have heard us gush about this book. Like a lot of Black Mask Studios' offerings, We Can Never Go Home has a punk, anti-establishment vibe; at its core, though, it is a super-powered coming-of-age tale - one characterized by bad decisions that escalate quickly. If you want a taste of the series before you pick it up, Black Mask's FCBD issue will include new stories for it and their Young Terrorists series. The We Can Never Go Home story sets up a new volume, though, so spoilers.
Start with We Can Never Go Home by Hood, Kindlon, and Rosenberg. Black Mask just announced a second volume that will start later this year. If you want more, while you wait you should check out 4 Kids Walk into a Bank by Boss, Mauer, and Rosenberg; its first issue just came out and will be getting a second printing.
Wonder Woman (2011)
Wonder Woman may have stolen the show in Batman v Superman; but in 2011, she ran away with The New 52. The series sees Diana pulled into the intrigue and treachery of her family of mafioso, Greek gods when she saves a woman from an assassin. Azzarello's 37-issue run is a single, continuous story, stylishly rendered by Cliff Chiang, Tony Akins, and Goran Suzuka - with luscious color work by Matthew Wilson. Even if you aren't a Wonder Woman fan, this arc is likely to win you over.
Start with Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Blood by Azzarello, Chiang, and Akins.
[Edited to correct correct mis-information about the We Can Never Go Home/Young Terrorists FBCD issue from Black Mask, which is a pair of new stories, not a reprint; and to note that there is a FCBD edition of Archie #1.]