Yesterday, my home-base comics store — that's Phoenix Comics & Games on Broadway — shipped me the last week of new comics that will be available in America for a while, along with a gift certificate that I can use when it's eventually okay to leave the house again. I can't review any of the books, obviously, since they're on their way to me now, so it seems like a good time to look around and see how the comics world is responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
Valiant Comics is releasing downloadable PDFs of trade paperbacks and first issues for free in an ongoing Twitter thread that updates every weekday. You might want to check out the first issue of Doctor Mirage, enjoy Juan José Ryp's beautiful art in Rai #1, or check in on fan-favorite character Faith.
If you buy a gift card from your local comics shop, Vault Comics will send you electronic preview versions of the first issue of two of their new titles, Hundred Wolves #1 and Heavy #1.
The new publisher AWA is offering the first issue of its first book, The Resistance, for free to readers. I like the way they've put some thought into how to read the comic on a web interface — rather than just dividing it up into pages, you scroll downward, losing a sense of the book as a physical thing. Unfortunately, the plot of the book, written by J. Michael Straczynski and illustrated by Mike Deodato Jr., might be too much for readers right now: it's about a pandemic that wipes out 95 percent of humanity, leaving the rest with powers.
No doubt there will be more free and promotional books in the weeks to come.
At the moment, the whole comics industry is waiting to see if publishers will abandon comics shops and go digital-only distribution for the next few weeks and months while shops are closed, and whether customers will follow if they do. I hope they don't; at the moment the only real digital comics retailer is Comixology, which is wholly owned by Amazon. It wouldn't be smart for comics to go from one monopolistic distributor to another, and there are too many good retailers who would not be able to survive that business transition. As with everything else right now, we have to wait and see.