We continue our rundown of the best small press and indie comics of 2021 with: epic sci-fi from a Hollywood superstar, dreamy slavic folktales, buddy cop dramas and unsettling small town melodrama.
30. Theatrics Volume 2 (TPub Comics)
Alex says: It’s been a couple of year since TPub Comics brought us the first volume of this tale of an actor who’s life gets turned upside down after a mugging and takes on a new role as a villainous prize fighter. Although it is best read in conjunction with the first part, this second volume takes the story to the next level giving us a glorious rags to riches story, as well as a tragic love triangle. Writer Neil Gibson gives us a gloriously gripping tale of Victoriana, but manages to also some of his trademark horror as well as a twist in the tail ending. While artist Leonardo Gonzales gives everything a high impact and grizzly look that really makes the most of the more brutal elements of this story. A fantastic finale for a series which has become a knock out read!
29. Harker: The Book Of Solomon (Time Bomb Comics)
Alex says: ” Roger Gibson and Vincent Danks’ crime procedural has a really fantastic old school feel to it, reminding us of classic detective dramas from the 70s and 80s like Morse or Rebus. It’s a really fun and enjoyable read, that thrives on the dynamic between the two coppers – the cynic and the idealist, the technophobe and young upstart, the old and new school. Like all great detective shows this is the core to the story, and what makes the book tick – the mystery itself is almost secondary. While the satanic shenanigans create a fun distraction and allows for a satisfying case for our coppers to investigate, ultimately it is just there are just there as something for Critchley and Harker to argue about and it works really well. With more books in the pipeline, this comic is like a Sunday evening ITV drama where once one adventure is finished we cannot wait for the next episode!”
28. Puno: Altiplano Volume 2 (Tacu Tintu Press)
Alex says: “When it comes to originality in small press comics, there are few comics as unique as Gustaffo Vargas’ Altiplano series. His mix of future tech, Aztec tribalism and jungle landscapes is second to none. Whether it is robot jaguars, lush leafy canopies contrasting with neon infused urban sprawls or the most unforgettable assignation in all of comics, this was another tour de force from Gustaffo. HIs work has come on leaps and bounds with this installment, thanks in part to his work on the Crayta series with Dan Abnett. But also the longer format for these comics is allowing him the space to explore even more weird and wonderful ideas. While this volume is more about setting things up for the finale (coming hopefully in early 2022 after a successful Kick-starter) the uniqueness of the ideas on display is something else and we cannot wait to see how it slots into the overall arc for this truly one of a kind series
27. Sagas of the Shield Maiden (Asa Wheatley Comics)
James says: “In a year where we have seen some fantastic anthologies, Asa Wheatley treated us to not one, but two sublime instalments of the Sagas of the Shield Maiden. With an engrossing selection of short stories which present moments on the life of an intriguingly complex character, each presented gorgeously by some truly talented artists, this series had been something truly special for which I sure hope more is to come.”
26. DEGA (Dan McDaid)
Alex says: “There is just something about Dan McDaid’s highly ambitious, visually spectacular Euro-tinged space epic that made us came back to it again and again. Even though we struggled with working our exactly what the story was about and where it was going, we just found ourselves circling back to it, trying to find meaning in the mysterious world McDaid has created. We’re not entirely sure we have ever managed to figure out what is going on this mysterious planet, let alone why it shifts to being black and white half way through, however the sublime artwork, imaginative use of lettering and enigmatic tone of the whole thing just kept us coming back again and again searching for answers. And perhaps at the end of the day that is the point?!
25. Rusalka Part One (Kamila Krol)
Lydia says: “Rusalka by Kamila Krol is undeniably stunning – not just in its beautiful illustrations which feature a sea-green like, aquatic hue, but in putting a twist on traditional Slavik folktales – specifically the Polish water demon Rusalka. Enchanting and dreamlike with a touch of horror, this left me desperately needing the physical copy for my bookshelf as it’s so beautiful! I love anything to do with folklore and myths, and this new take on a traditional folktale definitely did not disappoint!”
24. MADI: Once Upon A Time In The Future (Z2 Comics)
Mike says: “Madi tells the story of Madison Preston, part of an elite special ops crew paid by a large tech corporation to protect their intellectual property, no matter what the cost. Writer Duncan Jones is a film maker and Madi feels incredibly filmic. What makes Madi exceptional is the art from Glen Fabry. And Simon Bisley. And Chris Weston, Rufus Dayglo, Ed Ocana, Dylan Teague…Madi is a feast for the eyes, illustrated and in some cases painted by some of the finest artists currently working in comics. It’s a joy to read as you wonder who’s drawing the next segment and if it can beat what you’ve just seen. Often this works fantastically well.”
23. Full Tilt Boogie (Rebellion Publishing)
Mike says: “Full Tilt Boogie tells the story of Tee, a teenage bounty hunter whose decision to rescue the spoilt Prince Ifan from debtor’s prison accidently starts an intergalactic war. The first part of the story printed in this collected edition initially appeared in 2000AD Regened, the version of the prog aimed at younger readers. It’s to writer Alex De Campi and artist Eduardo Ocana’s credit that the strip was a stand-out of the first Regened issue but has developed into an ongoing series in the regular weekly comic. The lead character Tee is young and hot-headed and her gleeful sense of adventure might well appeal to younger readers but De Campi isn’t the sort of writer to talk down to her audience. Her writing feels fresh and contemporary but the sci-fi tropes that she plays with here also fit in neatly into the Galaxy’s Greatest.”
22. Stagdale Parts 1 & 2 – Frances Castle (Clay Pipe Music)
Lydia says: Do you ever feel slightly uneasy, but you can’t work out why? That’s exactly the vibes throughout Frances Castle’s Stagdale: Parts 1 and 2. Kathy and her mum have just moved to Stagdale, a village which seems to be stuck in the past. Throughout the two short issues, the feeling of uneasiness begins to grow as they meet more of the residents and learn more about the town’s history. If you love subtle mystery with a growing sense of unease (I definitely do!), Stagdale is definitely for you!
21. Snow Angels (Comixology Originals)
James says: “Comixology has really been pounding out the series through their Originals line this year, so many of which have been top quality. However, after reading its first issue, Jeff Lemire and Jock’s Snow Angels was truly something special. The intriguing first issue introduced us all to a captivating story from Lemire set in a brutal and (appropriately) chillingly beautiful world as drawn by Jock. Snow Angels was as haunting and as terrifying a world as you could hope to have seen, but Lemire and Jock made it so memorable that I just couldn’t help but want to know what happened to its two young lead next within the endless trench.”