Indie Comics Round-Up: Leamington Comic Con 2017 Special

With Leamington Comic Con fast approaching us, we take a look at 4 books which are making their debut at this weekend’s event, featuring: Darrell Thorpe’s Sub Diablo: Great Titans; King Legacy #1, Rozi Hathaway’s Cosmo and Other Stories; and Paul Rainey’s Thunber Brother Special.

Sub Diablo: Great Titans

Darrell ‘Forpe’ Thorpe’s second volume of his book Sub Diablo continues the quirky underwater adventures of a family of explorers in a sub that looks like a skull, who are being harassed by underwater deity and antagonist King Koi. It all starts off with Koi attacking them with a giant eel before kidnapping their pet goldfish, who in reality is a super powerful fish god which Koi thinks is being held captive by the family (who he refers to as the airlings). As you can probably tell its a fairly bizarre tale that reads like the Mighty Boosh meets The Life Aquatic, but it is all told with a super cool digital graffiti style which helps makes it feel really fresh and unique. It’s a great reflection of Forpe’s passion for graffiti and his knack for creating super stylised illustration and you should definitely check out his website for some great examples of his work. However, this issue feels like it has been done in a much looser style than the debut, which we’re not sure if we prefer. It feels more digital, as if drawn straight into a computer, and so is a bit rougher around the edges than it’s predecessor. It also moves away from the simple muted colour palette of the first in favour of a darker tone. The story also feels quite rambly and reads more like a sequence of pages in a webcomic, rather than a more coherent arc. However, these are minor criticisms and it’s well worth picking up as Sub Diablo is a lot of fun and you can’t help but get carried along with it’s energetic, anarchic charm, that perfectly suits it’s stylised artwork.

King legacy #1 (Green Crayon Comics)

The winners of the first Small Press Factor competition, Dave Jones, Jay and Liam Frettingham’s tale of Elvis and aliens is a really fun and enjoyable read that takes a unique mix of concepts and puts them together to make a really smart package. The story starts off with wannabe rock star and hotel janitor Liam having his night shift interrupted by ‘The King’ who appears packing a huge cannon and tells Liam about an impending intergalactic war. He also reveals just what he’s has been up to since being abducted from a Vegas hotel in 1970, including hanging out in intergalactic temples and getting shouted at in an alien training montage. It means that this first issue is very much split into two parts, and as such suffers from that first issue problem of putting emphasis on one element rather than the other and leaves the reader not entirely sure what the connection between the two is. After learning all about Liam in the opening pages we don’t see him again and so are left wondering how he is involved in this story by the end. In our recent interview they mentioned that issue 2 is well under way so hopefully it should expand on this further, as it could do with fleshing itself out more. Although the story isn’t quite there, it has a very simple and linear feel to it and a real confidence for a debut book. Jones’ art is stylised and a nice mix of classic 50s style pulp aliens but with a modern Saturday morning cartoon polish (think Johnny Bravo) thrown in for good measure. This gives it a bit an all ages vibe, despite not being aimed at that market, which stops it from being too faddy and following the latest indie trend Instead it means that King Legacy ends up being a really enjoyable, if slightly silly, read that manages to be fresh and fun without trying too hard – a bit like the King himself!

Cosmos and Other Stories (Good Comics)

The latest offering from Rozi Hathaway sees her continue her wistful work that we first discovered in her dreamy Nordic tale Njalla. This collection of short pieces is published by Good Comics and in the spirit of this micro-publisher feels almost like a sampler for Rozi’s work. There are six ‘stories’, which are more like ideas, as they read like thought pieces or mood sketches rather than actual tales. They have a real poetry and finesse to them with though, with each one reflecting on themes of loneliness and isolation, whether that is in a crowded city or alone in the wilderness (but it’s not in a gloomy way, just in a quiet and tranquil way). They are told using Rozi’s unique mixed media approach which sees her pencil sketches under pinned with slashes of painted colour (some water colour and some in a thick oil/acrylic) that fills her simple drawings with  a rich splash of colour or a washed out wet feel – that works really well for some of the more melancholic moments. It’s quite an unorthodox read with a lot left unsaid, so if you are after something more structured and self explanatory then you might find it a frustrating book as not a lot happens. However if you are after something a bit more arty and thoughtful than your usual books then Cosmos is a wonderful collection of work that we genuinely wish had more in it because what is there is really rather wonderful.

Thunder Brother Special

Set in a world where soaps are real (but are secretly filmed for people’s entertainment), the hero of Paul Rainey’s Thunder Brother is CSI-suit wearing security officer for Soap Division, the agency responsible for filming such shows, and along with his teenage sidekick Sally has to make sure these two disparate worlds don’t collide. This new issue is a follow up to the six issue series Paul previously worked on and comprises two new Thunder Brother stories, as well as a preview of Rainy’s new book with Robert Wells called Connected (which is about a pair of brothers who discover a chip that you can put in your phone and connect to an intergalactic phone network and download futuristic phone apps to save people from burning buildings – but they only use the free ones!) The first, sees a former soap star looking to return to her previous life after a failed bid at normality and ice-skating success, while the second sees a character brought into a soap in order to boost ratings with a sensational love triangle storyline, and ends up falling for her co-star. But don’t worry if you’re not a fan of the Soaps, that’s not what this is about. It’s not easy to sum up exactly what Thunder Brother is about as it has a very dry and sardonic sense to it. It feels quite satirical, poking fun at soap opera tropes and conventions, but it doesn’t take the piss in an obvious way. This isn’t a comic book soap opera, it’s about the juxtaposition between the fantastic world of the soaps and the mundanity of the real world, and it feels like it revels in the latter much more than the former. Thunder Brother is a reluctant hero who is bitter at being passed over for promotion and being lumbered with a junior sidekick. This makes for a slightly surreal and odd set of stories that are not obviously funny but are also very endearing, really well written and brilliantly realised at the same time. The art is really tight, with a lot of great classic comic book tricks on show, but is also quite minimalistic in its approach, with Rainy using lots of small panels and talking heads, to convey a lot of story without too many big flashy images. It gives it a 70s newspaper strip strip feel, but mixed in with the sensibilities of a modern indie book, and reminded us of both Nick Prolix’s Slang Pictorial and also some of the stories in Avery Hill’s Reads. Despite finding it a challenging read at first, as we struggled to get the tone and subject matter right, we have come to love the unorthodox world of Thunder Brother, and although we admit to this being our first time reading a book from Paul, it will definitely not be the last!

Author: Alex Thomas

Alex Thomas is the Editor and founder of PIpedream Comics. He grew up reading comics in the 90s, so even though he loves all things indie and small press, he is easily distracted by a hologram cover.