Between Thought Bubble, Nottingham Comic Con and the Bristol and Comics Zine fair it’s been a bumper month for amazing indie comics, and so we’ve put together the first, of what we are sure will be several, super round-ups. This one feature’s B. Mure’s delightfully quirky Ismyre, Josh Hicks superb sequel to Glorious Wrestling Alliance: Grappling Road, the haunting Lost Light from Wine and Zine’s Claire Spiller and we are introduced the twisted brilliance of Todd Oliver in Boxes.
From the moment a building explodes with flowers from an eco-anarchist attack you know you are reading something different from the norm, in B Mure’s debut graphic novel Ismyre. For such a violent event it has a really beauty to it, and sets the scene for a strange and charming mystery that you can never quite get a handle on where it is going. When one of his sculptures goes missing, it sets artist Ed on a strange journey into a world of eco-terrorists and a mysterious witch called Faustine who he meets in a bar. As well as his sculpture going missing, a number of people are disappearing as well, and the government suspect the eco-anarchists, but with help from the magical Faustine it all has a much more mysterious reason. Summing up the plot in this way doesn’t really do Ismyre justice as it is a strange mix of mystery and fantasy that a lot of the time doesn’t really seem to go anywhere, but keeps you reading all the same. It’s one of those books which you find yourself being immersed in and going along for the ride, and so what if the story isn’t formulaic and linear, as trying to figure out what is going on is part of the charm. Did we even mention that all the characters are animals? No, because it’s not really relevant, it just looks cool! B’s sublime painted artwork is a mix of highly stylized cartoony anthropomorphic characters with Rozi Hathaway-esque watercolour washes. The characters live in a Bohemian almost Parisian city, that is the Ismyre of the title, and the whole thing feels very strange but in a very comforting and welcoming way. Although there are sub plots involving the government, a noisy neighbour and an ice sculpture, again it is not really about any of those things. It’s about finding answers for life’s problems in the most unlikely of places, and of not always taking the obvious way out when challenged. In many ways, it is this unconformity that makes Ismyre such an endearing read and one which you will find yourself going back to again and again, as each read reveals a little bit more about the strange and enigmatic world that B. has created. One which we hope they return to in the future.
Glorious Wrestling Alliance: Grappling Road
After showcasing his range with Human Garbage, Josh Hicks is back in the squared circle for Glorious Wrestling Alliance: Grappling Road – and this time his band of weird and wonderful grapplers are hitting the road in a tour bus Almost Famous style! A staple of wrestling biographies it’s a fantastic device for getting the gang out into a new atmosphere as well as a way of heightening the tensions out of the ring. Death Machine is still struggling with his poetry, Gravy Train is struggling to find an identity that isn’t meat sauce based, Great Carp is trying to get time to himself away from his party heavy pals and Miranda Fury is still trying to overcome the patriarchal booking plans of the bosses and subverting it by putting a mask on and appearing as Hyper Mask. This allows for an almost comic strip like story which goes from scene to scene and character to character, but the idea of a tour allows the story to have some sense of an arc albeit it a very loose one. Visually Josh is on top form with his simple line style packed full of character and humour. But it is the little graphical details like the tour bus morale meter or the guide to the layout of the bus which gives the book that extra level of interest and makes it more than just another quirky indie comic. Josh is also joined in this issue by regular convention table mate Ioan Morris who provides a back up story about women wrestlers the Combat Smash Banshees. With a much more formal style it is a fantastic contrast to Josh’s lighter more cartoony style and makes this into a wrestling comic worthy of main event status!
The debut comic from the Wine and Zine banner (who brought us gender swap zine Swap), Claire Spiller’s Lost Light sees a young awkward girl living alone in the woods, and protecting herself from the dark and scary animals in the woods with light. But when she runs out of fuel for her lanterns she has to venture through the woods and in doing so discovers the animals aren’t as scary as she first thought. Told completely silently with no speech balloons, Spiller’s very animation infused style has to do the heavy lifting of the story telling, and it’s more than up to the job, especially once the young girl ventures into the woods and sees the animals in the non-artificial light. When she sees them in her lantern light they are dark and menacing, but in the woods they are incandescent, rainbow-coloured and patterned with starlight – not at all scary, quite the opposite. It is these scenes in the woods which are the true highlights of the book. Spiller’s artwork is just beautiful here, with the animals feeling like liquid, glowing and completely otherworldly. It makes for a great parable on the dangers of artificial light pollution in the modern world – especially in the latter third when the girl ventures into the town in a new technicolor cloak and is shunned once the lights go on after dark. Although a relatively simple tale, the stunning artwork and subtle nuances reward repeat reading and with the absence of dialogue it makes you study each page to get the most from the story. This ensures Lost Light gets better with every read and sets the bar very high for the rest of the Wine and Zine crew to live up to!
From an angry man child who hates water, to a doctor treating a man with a tiny shrunken body via a worm in a baked bean can and a time warping nostalgia store, Todd Oliver’s new issue of Boxes continues to be as bizarre and hilarious as ever. It reads like a weird fusion of Oink!, Beavis and Butthead and the Garbage Pail Kids but with a surrealist undercurrent as Todd plays with readers expectations of how the stories are being told. For every strip like Angry Eric which is packed full of laugh out loud moments as a tiny angry man vents against water and hills, there is the surrealism of Dates about a man who gets stood up only for his date to appear on a tiny bench on his own bald head. Todd plays with these ideas of perspective and perceptions a lot and we see it again in Oh Doctor, with the aforementioned patient with a tiny body, as well as as recurring story Me which is all about creating crazy and surreal images and patterns featuring a man who only says the word – ‘You’ – and for whom, literally, everything is about him. With its mix of recurring stories and one offs, Boxes is an absolutely inspired collection of comics, from a truly unique creator. Despite the bright soft colours and crazy visuals that make it feel very accessible it has a dark and strange core to it, that while it’s not ‘Adult’ in the sense that it is gory or rude, it’s certainly not for kids. It’s very very strange, and you have to have a certain level of weirdness in your heart to get it. So if you like a comic which is weird and wonderful in all the right ways (and some of the wrong ways too!) then Boxes is definitely the book for you!