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Oh, it's wicked, all right.
Merlin: The Darkest Hour, Part 2
Arthur sacrifices himself for Camelot... almost.
Merlin: The Darkest Hour, Part 1
Morgana unleashes a ghost army on Camelot.

Free Comic Book Day: Archaia Preview

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On Wednesday as I picked up my regular pull list, I said to my local comic book store owner that if he was able to hold anything for me on Saturday, I'd most of all like the Archaia free comic, as it had a preview of A Tale of Sand, the comic Laura told us about last month.

"Why not take one now?" he said, and pulled a copy out of a box in the back room. Apparently his wife had just been flipping through the same thing, because one of the covers featured "Mouse Guard." (The Archaia comic is one of those double previews, with two stories printed upside down from the back.)

I'm very happy to show you a peek at the free one-shot I received on Wednesday, in the hopes that some of you who aren't normally comic book readers will head to your local store (here's a handy locator) and try to at least get a copy of this for yourself. Go on, it's free all day tomorrow, Saturday May 7th.

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Robert Plant has not aged well.

The four stories previewed in Archaia's free comic book for Free Comic Book Day are an excerpt from The Dark Crystal, a story from the newest Mouse Guard, an excerpt of Season of the Dapper Men, and some news about the Jim Henson graphic novel A Tale of Sand.

The first thing I read was the Dark Crystal introduction. I have never actually seen the film, but this two-volume graphic novel has been conceived by Dark Crystal conceptual designer Brian Froud. Froud's illustration work on his fantasy novels was the inspiration for both Labyrinth and Dark Crystal, so it makes sense that they would tap him for a prequel story to the movie. And that's what this story is, the tale of how the Great Crystal -- "shining heart of the world" -- became dark and cast a great shadow over the world.

Volume One of The Origin of The Dark Crystal will be available this winter, with Volume Two being released next fall.

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There wasn't anything, art-wise, that Laura didn't have in her post about A Tale of Sand. But the preview included several letters, one from Lisa Henson, Jim's widow, and one from Ramon Perez, the illustrator on the piece. It all made for an interesting read, and I will definitely be picking up the hardcover (120 pages) on September 20th. The release of Henson (and co-creator Jerry Juhl's) last complete screenplay will be just four days shy of what would've been Henson's 75th birthday.

For anyone who was, is a fan of Henson's legacy, I urge you to purchase this graphic novel, too. The art is gorgeous, and Lisa Henson has swore that despite its origins as a screenplay, A Tale of Sand will only be available as a graphic novel. She is not allowing it to be made in to a film.

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I'll admit I always found the cover for Jim McCann and Janet Lee's "Return of the Dapper Men" amusing, because it reminded me so much of the Professor Layton puzzle games for Nintendo DS. But as the above scan has revealed to me, Lee's illustration style is less cutesy that I originally thought. This year, McCann was nominated for an Eisner for best writer, Lee was nominated for best painter, and the Dapper Men received three additional nominations as a graphic novel.

I am now intent on finding a copy at the local library. "Season of the Dapper Men," the story available in the FCBD handout, is a new story expanding on the Dapper Men tale.

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In December, Archaia released the first of Mouse Guard prequel "The Black Axe." This week issue #2 was out. I confess that I'm not really that in to Mouse Guard, so I can't say where the short story in the free comic fits in to the plot. I know that this third volume takes place in 1115, which is considerably "pre" Fall 1152, the previous volume in the series. Here's what I do know: it's mice, and they have swords, and they wear clothes and talk.

Everyone says good things about the series and its creator, David Petersen. He is a cool dude. And I'm not just saying that because he's from Michigan and went to Mott. Okay, I might mostly be saying that because of those things -- but also that anyone who has ever went up to him at a convention says he's the most gracious, appreciative creator they've ever met.

While three of the four Archaia stories previewed here may be a little too mature for your little one, Petersen started out making children's books for his wife, and Mouse Guard was inspired by his love of Disney adventure movies. So it's a safe series for any younglings you might have in the house that are just getting interested in reading.

Whatever you pick up tomorrow at Free Comic Book Day, I hope you enjoy it, and I hope it has you going back to your local comic book store for more. I hate hearing that my local store is struggling just to keep its doors open, when so many local owners work so hard to be personable and accommodating to comic book fans.

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