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The ComicsAlliance Free Comic Book Day 2012 Rundown

This weekend is the first Saturday in May, and that means that it’s once again the most wonderful time of the year: Free Comic Book Day! All across the world, comic book shops will be celebrating by offering up free comics, with a lot of places throwing in sales, signings and other in-store events for good measure, all in order to spread the fun of reading comics to a wider audience.

That’s why today, ComicsAlliance is getting in the spirit of the season by taking a look at some of the best comics to grab at your local shop on Saturday, with a Free Comic Book Day Rundown!

Archaia Entertainment: Mouse Guard, Labyrinth & More Hardcover

A lot of the major publishers, including Marvel and DC, tend to stick with reprints or previews — most of which tend to be available online for free all year anyway — for their Free Comic Book Day offerings. Archaia, on the other hand, has gone the extra mile this year. They’re not just putting out a new story this year, they’re putting out an all-new 48-page hardcover.

That’s right: A hardcover. For free.

And it’s good stuff, too. As the cover suggests, the book is built around Archaia’s flagship book, David Petersen’s Mouse Guard. The story that Petersen tells here is absolutely perfect for the book, a simple but satisfying taste of what he’s doing with the larger series that shows both his strengths as a storyteller and a reminder of what makes the book itself great. It’s the kind of thing where I can’t imagine reading it and not wanting to see more, and when you get right down to it, that’s pretty much the FCBD mission statement.

There are five other stories that tie into Archaia’s other titles, including a Labyrinth tie-in by Courtney Crumrin‘s Ted Naifeh, Adrianne Ambrose and Cory Goodbey, but the real star of the show is the eight-page Cow Boy chapter from Nate Cosby and Chris Eliopoulos. Cow Boy is easily one of my favorite new comics of the year, and the story here is an incredible showcase of all the comedy and heartbreaking action the series has to offer.

To be honest, anything in this book could’ve come out as a Free Comic Book Day title and stood on its own, but to have them all together in a hardcover that anyone can walk into a store on Saturday and grab is a great way to show people how many great comics there are outside the familiar world of super-heroes.

Red 5 Comics: Atomic Robo & Friends

If Free Comic Book Day was a competition, Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener would be the all-time champions. This year marks their fifth FCBD story, and they’ve consistently knocked their offering out of the park by offering up the best comic money can’t buy. Seriously, it took someone doing a free hardcover with some of the best creators in comics to finally knock them off the top of my FCBD Must-Read list, so that oughtta tell you something. If you somehow missed the other books, they’re still available to read for free through Comixology, and they’re a great way to jump on one of the best comics on the stands.

And this year’s no different. They’re back with an original stand-alone story that any reader of any age can pick up and enjoy whether they’ve never read a comic before or they read them every single day, a model that I wish every publisher would embrace for FCBD. Of course, if you’re already an Atomic Robo fan (and you should be) chances are you’ll be getting a little more out of it. This is, after all, the story where Robo teams up with Dr. Dinosaur (Robo’s talking dinosaur nemesis who believes himself to be a time traveler) in order to stop the Large Hadron Collider from tearing a hole in reality. Because really, an immortal robot action scientist still needs someone to turn to in times of trouble, even if that someone is an insane talking dinosaur who once tried to murder him with a truck.

And that, my friends, is the true meaning of Free Comic Book Day.

Boom! Studios: Peanuts/Adventure Time Flipbook

With scripts by Dinosaur Comics creator Ryan North, art by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb, and backup stories by unexpected indie comics icons, it’s no surprise that Adventure Time has become one of the comics I look forward to the most each month. It fits right in with the tone that made the show such a hit, and while picking up a licensed comic can sometimes be a pretty risky proposition, Adventure Time is one that’s perfect for fans of the show. It’s a great book.

And while Boom! could’ve easily gone with a reprint of the first issue in order to get all the kids excited about Finn and Jake’s rematch with the Lich King, we’re getting a whole new story in there where BMO learns karate.

People. A sentient video game console learns karate. That’s really all I should have to say on this one.

Plus, on the flipside, you get to see a little bald kid suffer from crippling depression! It’s a win-win for everybody but you, Charlie Brown!

Fantagraphics: Donald Duck Family Comics by Carl Barks

As much as I tend to prefer the comics that bring new stuff to the table, there’s certainly a place for reprints of great stuff. That’s where Fantagraphics really shines with their spotlights on classic Disney comics. In fact, their FCBD offering from last year was my introduction to Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse strips, and those turned out to be some of the best comics I’ve ever read.

Carl Barks, on the other hand, is someone that I’m definitely already familiar with. He’s unquestionably one of the greatest comics creators of all time. His stories, particularly his work on Uncle Scrooge, combine adventure and comedy into something that’s still the gold standard for all-ages comics over fifty years after his “retirement.” They’re timeless, and while Fanta’s been doing a pretty great job of getting his work back into print in hardcover collections, the free set they’ve put together here could easily spark a lifetime love of the medium for anyone who reads it.

After all, that’s what Barks’ stories have been doing since about 1953. That’s the great thing about these: As much as they might be part of a marketing tool to get you to buy those hardcovers (which you should be doing anyway), it’s clear that the people behind Fanta’s reprints are doing their best to put great stuff out there where it’s as easy as possible for people to read it.

Archie Comics: Mega Man

It might a little odd that Archie, a company that’s been getting a lot of attention both for headline-grabbing stories like the introduction of Kevin Keller and Archie’s alternate future marriages, has decided to just go ahead and reprint a comic they put out last year for Free Comic Book Day. And given everything I’ve written already, it might seem even more odd that it’s one of my top recommendations.

But here’s the thing: Mega Man is really good.

I’ve been a fan of the video games for my entire life, but Ian Flynn and Patrick Spaziante have done something amazing here. They’ve managed to expand on the story in the games (which probably wasn’t that difficult, since most of them were made on the original NES at a time when “story” was less important than “jumping puzzles”) in a way that makes sense, gives the characters distinct personalities, and gives you the same events in a new and different way that’s as exciting as it can possibly be.

It’s got thrilling action, genuinely great humor, and even deals with questions of morality and guilt in a way that’s surprisingly mature and compelling. Over the past year, it’s become one of the books I look forward to the most every month. I mean, it’s even at the point where I’m seriously considering checking out what Flynn’s done on Sonic the Hedgehog, and I am a guy whose life on the Internet has made him live in abject terror of one day knowing more about Miles “Tails” Prower than I already do. If you missed out, definitely pick this one up and see for yourself.

Zenescope Entertainment: Animal Planet World’s Most Dangerous Animals

This is a comic from the people who put out those softcore sexy fairy tale books about how a grizzly bear will straight up murder and eat you.

There is nothing I could possibly add that would make it sound any better or any worse.

So there you go, everybody: My picks for the must-have books from this year’s crop of FCBD titles. But the thing is, there’ll be plenty of other great stuff at your local shop that’ll be well worth picking up. If you can’t wait for Saturday, you can check out the full roster of books online, complete with previews for most of the titles. I’m really looking forward to Boom!’s preview of Hypernauts to see what Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning do with a new cosmic sci-fi title, the Valiant preview is surprisingly amazing thanks to the incredible talent they’ve put behind their relaunch, and Bongo’s Simpsons comics are always one of the standouts. And did you know that it’s 2012 and they’re still making Lady Death? Who knows, maybe this is the year it gets good!

But that’s the thing about Free Comic Book Day. The whole point, for both old readers and new, is to give you a risk free opportunity to try something you might never pick up otherwise. So get out there and take a chance! You might be surprised by what you find!

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