Stuff to buy on Free Comic Book Day

Nothing will stop you, on this Saturday’s Free Comic Book Day, from barging into your neighborhood comics shop, snapping up the free titles and going on your merry way. It would be good form, however, to spend some time browsing and, ideally, purchasing something: the celebration was invented to drive traffic to the comics store. Here are some suggestions of new and recent graphic novels worthy of attention: feel free to add your own in the comments.

Other Lives by Peter Bagge (Vertigo). With the hilarious anthology title Neat Stuff and the definitive Gen X comic Hate, Bagge proved to be the single funniest comic book artist of the 1980s and 1990s. Without the anchor of a single ongoing title, his work has been more irregular in the past decade, but he makes a remarkably mature and accomplished comeback with his new self-contained graphic novel, Other Lives. Bagge takes his trademark drawing style, marked by rubber-bodied, emotionally transparent characters, and applies it to the rich, relevant theme of how modern life, particularly the Internet, can fragment the concept of identity. One of Other Lives’ main characters, for instance, presents the face of a family man at work, but in fact he’s a divorced gambling addict who lives in a motel and maintains an elaborate interactive fantasy life in an on-line community called “Second World.” Other Lives builds to a half-convincing ending and Bagge relies a little too heavily on dialogue to drive his narratives. Otherwise, it’s a powerful and insightful narrative that proves Bagge can be a wise social critic as well as a comedian.