Catch It at the Comic Shop: Free Comic Book Day 2018 Edition

Welcome to a special edition of Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the team takes a look at the Free Comic Book Day offerings on tap for tomorrow and pick out our favorites.

James' Picks:

Transformers: Unicron from IDW Publishing.
So, I'm not a regular reader of the IDW Transformers comics, and that's on me, because I know how great they are. But this story has been marketed as the end of the IDW Transformers universe, and it has Unicron, so I have to check it out. I was 10 years old when Transformers: The Movie came out, and it completely blew my mind. They upped the stakes an incredible level and killed off a whole bunch of characters - that was an important moment for me as a kid, and so I'll read any Transformers story that brings that sense of finality and scope.

Avengers/Captain America from Marvel Comics.
So, I love the Avengers and I'm excited to check this book out to see what's up with the reunited classic Avengers book. But the real draw for me is the sneak preview at Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leinil Yu on Captain America.  I've had mixed feelings about Coates' Black Panther book, as I think he's bursting with ideas but also still figuring out how to be a comics writer as far as pacing is concerned.But I think he's continuing to improve, and brings so much intelligence and thoughtfulness to his stories. And Yu is one of my favorite artists, I love everything he does. So I think this will be worth checking out.

Overwatch/Black Hammer from Dark Horse Entertainment.
So, full disclosure, I don't play Overwatch and don't know anything about it. The reason I'm picking this book up is that it has a new Black Hammer story set 1,000 years in the future of the Black Hammer universe.  If you're nto reading Black Hammer, you are absolutely missing out on one of the very best comics of recent years. Jeff Lemire is writing an amazing, dark exploration of superhero tropes with his signature exploration of emotion, loneliness and regret. He's had amazing artistic collaboration from Dean Ormston and David Rubin. I'm sure this will be a fun story.

Mike's Picks:

Note: I have a core ranking system inherent to my FCBD picks that overwhelms actual content. Simply put, I give preference to books that offer an entirely new story and then to books that offer a complete reprint of an issue. I tend to have an aversion to books that reprint portions of various stories, and I loathe books that function more like Previews catalogs than actual narratives (though that trend seems to die a little more each year).

Original Stories:

Bongo Comics Free-For-All, published by Bongo Comics
I’m a fan of Simpsons comics in general. I think they tend to be underrated, and I dread each month to hear some terrible news that Bongo has shut down or that it’s converted to digital-only format. Bongo’s perennially FCBD offering, the Free-For-All is always the first book I read after getting home from the store. It’s full of original stories, and it usually contains some great comic book satire and meta humor. I’d love to give credit to the team behind this book, but the FCBD website lists Matt Groening as both the writer and artist, and that doesn’t check out . . .

2000 AD Regened by various, published by 2000 AD
Not only is 2000 AD offering a book of entirely new stories featuring some of their most classic characters, said characters are all-ages re-imaginations. It says something that a British company that probably doesn’t sell very many monthlies in the United States somehow manages to produce a more authentic and worthwhile FCBD offering than either of our Big 2 (and upper echelon independents). Bonus points for them for putting out a quality product that kids can enjoy, because we all know that FCBD should really be for kids and/or new readers, not the weird guy in a kilt who accidentally spits onto the back of your head as he’s asking you to move so that he can get a copy of the IDW Star Trek FCBD issue that he could easily reach if he just took a different angle instead of breathing his hot breath onto you and now you think maybe you smell that way and this is probably your new reality so get used to it.

Barrier by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin, published by Image
While this is technically a reprint of a webcomic series, I’m still going to count it as new material since it is the first time it will see print. I have to say that I love what Image is doing with this five issue weekly series – providing the first book on FCBD before releasing the next four. Not only do we get a BKV story this FCBD, we get a new(ish) 53 pages!

Transformers: Unicron, by John Barber, Alex Milne, and Sara Pitre-Durocher, published by IDW 
I’ll admit that I’ve fallen behind on IDW’s Transformers comics, but I’m 37 and I watched the original animated Transformers: The Movie 1000 times in my youth, and this solicit reads that Unicron has arrived to eat Rom’s home world and I’m in even if I have no idea what’s going on.

First Issue Reprints:

Maxwell’s Demons by Deniz Camp and Vittorio Astone, published by Vault Comics
Though it isn’t a brand new story, Vault is giving readers a complete issue in their reprint of Deniz Camp and Vittorio Astone’s Maxwell’s Demons # 1. If you’re a fan of big ideas comics and you liked stories such as The Stuff of Legend, or you like characters like Franklin Richards, then this book will be right up your alley.

Berlin by Jason Lutes, published by Drawn and Quarterly
FCBD is an exceptional day because it unites the various genres of sequential art under one roof. I hope some superhero fans pick up Berlin this Saturday. Drawn and Quarterly gives us the first page of the recent wrapped series by cartoonist Jason Lutes. A labor of love for over two decades, Berlin is a near masterpiece of the genre.

Rob's Picks:

Looking over my choices, 4 of my 5 are licensed books. I didn't mean to do that, but honestly, my experience with a lot of FCBD titles over the years has led me to feel that the comics which come from the publishers below will be the best comics you'll see at the stories. If you're at a store that only allows a few picks per person, I only want you to get the best. With all due respect to things like the DC Superhero Girls book, I can't stand it when I get "Hey, if you want to see how this story ends, you have to buy something else." These should always be self-contained, things that make you want to get more, not force you into it. So here's mine, which probably show that I really do dig licensed books these days. I can live with that.

Bongo Comics Free-For-All by Various Creators, Published by Bongo Comics
Mike isn't just an alias for me, I swear. But pound for pound, Bongo's Free Comic Book Day offering is the best one each year, and it's really not even close. They don't skimp on the stories, making sure that potential readers see just how much fun reading their comics can be. No idea which creators are involved this time around, but remember they've had everyone from Sergio Aragones to Gail Simone at any give time. If you like the show at all and haven't read the comics yet--here's your chance. They're often better than what's on TV.

2000 AD Regened by various, published by 2000 AD
This isn't doing anything to help dispel the idea that Mike and I are the same person, is it? Oh well, I don't care. 2000 AD is always good for a fun FCBD offering, and this year, they're using it to launch a new concept for them--all ages comics featuring their famously dark characters. This is ambitious as all hell, and I can't wait to read it. Sci-fi horror Future Shocks written roughly at Goosebumps level. Cadet Dredd. This is going to be brilliant, I think, and you should pick it up Saturday to get in on the ground floor.

The Tick by Jeff McClelland and Ian Nichols, published by New England Comics
Oh, I guess you want more than that. [Scott: Yes, Rob. Your contributing editor commands you!]
I'll never forget my first experience with the Tick cartoon, and that love has extended to the comics, and I've even portrayed the big blue lug as a Halloween costume. (I also "murdered" him/me in one of my annual murder mysteries, which I need to do again. But I digress.) While I haven't read any of the regular series for awhile because I try to limit my print singles, I always look forward to whatever the NEC crew has up their sleeve. Apparently, it's a lost plot from the early days re-scripted. With the new TV show around, I'd hoped the comics might get a bigger bounce. Oh well. But if you like the character at all, pick this one up.

SpongeBob Freestyle Funnies 2018 by Various Creators, published by Bongo/United Plankton
Like the Simpsons, this series, since it began, has had a murderer's row of creative talent, including regular contributions from James Kochalka and Joey Weiser. Even Ramona Fraden(!!) has made an art appearance. There's a lot of winks and nods to comics within the comic, and this issue features a longtime nemesis calling in the bad guys, featured in this cool cover. As Mike mentioned above, my preference is for the comics who give readers new, cool stories. This one always delivers.

Doctor Who 0 by Various Creators, published by Titan Comics
I loved the IDW Doctor Who comics, but I have to say that the Titan Comics version has been excellent as well, especially in their portrayals of the 10th and 11th Doctors, who are of course also my two favorites from the new incarnation of the show. This, as in past years, offers a little something about the styles of the Doctors, from each of their creative teams, and will be the first glimpse of the 13th Doctor in comic form, if I understand things right. It's a good way to see if you might enjoy these comics, which is exactly what Free Comic Book Day should be.