We’re reaching the business end of our rundown as we take a look at the books which were just pipped to a place in the 1op 10 – they include surreal teacher swaps, battling mechs, pirate gorillas, revenge seeking super villains, blue haired Scandi scamps, heroic milkmen and vampire fighting monsters.
#20 The Exchange
It’s been a really strong year for Madius Comics and a large part of that has been this unexpected gem. While nominally being about a put-upon teacher going on a job share, it is so much more than that. Because the school which our hero ends up going to is in the strange and surreal world of Old Queensdock – where the national motto is “don’t be weird”. However this is not easy because the residents are a bunch of tentacled weirdoes. As you would expect from writers Rob Jones and Mike Sambrook the book is layered with fantastic quirky humour and sarcastic asides, but what makes the book stand out is the exceptional artwork from Liam Hill. It has the kind of strange animation like quality of Adventure Time and the surreal grotesqueness of a Todd Oliver book and it helps make this into one of the strangest and most hilarious books we have read all year.
Read our full review of The Exchange here
#19 Killtopia #2 (BHP Comics)
After a strong debut in 2018 that saw it justifiably nab a place on our top 10 indie comic of the year, the sophomore issue of Dave Cook and Craig Paton’s high tech dystopian sci fi tale begins to really build on that strong foundation and prepare readers for the future. After the action heavy first issue, this is much more about character development and wider world building, all of which helps to really build the world of Killtopia into something more substantial than just another Bladerunner/Akira wannabe. The story of Shinji, a trainee wrecker and the newly discovered sentient mech Crash continues to build, but alongside it we learn more about the supporting cast, such as the pilot of the King Kaiju wrecker and the all conquering wrecker Stilleto. By rounding out these supporting characters it becomes a much richer story, and that in turn makes the stunning visuals and fantastic concepts even more enticing as a result.
Read our full review of Killtopia #2 here
#18 The Glass Hood (LabRat Comics)
It’s been a bumper year for writer Matt Garvey, and perhaps the most eagerly anticipated was his return to the world of last year’s Indie Comic of the Year Red Rocket Comet. This spiritual sequel to RRC is set in the same universe, but is not a direct sequel and sees Garvey reunited with RRC artist Grayham Puttock and joined by newcomer Stefano Pavan to create another split style super hero/villain stand off. This tale of the villainous Glass Hood getting his revenge on the heroic Commander Justice, after 20 years in prison, feels like a glorious hybrid of the crime noir of Criminal and the classic superheroes of the Bronze or Silver Age. It all makes for a fantastic genre mash-up, and while not quite up to the dazzling heights of RRC, this format is such a strong concept for a comic that it should keep Garvey and co in quality comics for as long as they choose to.
Read our full review of Glass Hood here.
#17 The Seven Sagas of Silverbeard (Catfood Comics)
One of our favourite Kickstarters of this year was for the fantastic Seven Sagas of Silverbeard from Catfood Comics. As well as featuring a comic that starred an immortal gorilla and his adventures as a pirate adventurer, the campaign also featured the fictitious history of forgotten small press publisher Catfood Comics – complete with lost history of Silverbeard comics. Writer Pete Taylor has clearly revelled in creating this brilliant world, mixing homages to Conan the Barbarain and classic pulp serials of the 30s and 40s, with a knowing nod to classic silver age comics with some of the extras he offered in the campaign. With the book outlining all seven sagas of Silverbeard, thanks to a magazine style catch up feature, this is a book which is about so much more than just the story on the page, and is a reflection of what an original and exciting world you can create in small press.
You can read our interview with Pete about The Seven Sagas of Silverbeard here
#16 Space Captain #5 & 6 (Never Ever Press)
Writing an ending to a series is almost as difficult as writing a beginning. We’ve seen some fantastic finales this year (from the The Walking Dead to Giant Days), but few have had the emotional depth and impact on us as Chris Baldie’s Space Captain finale. Consistently one of our favourite small press books of the past few years, the Captain has been searching for meaning about his status as the last living human in the universe, and this year we were treated to not one, but two new issues in one go! With these final issues we see him reunited with his alien friends as well as finding his way back home. However the real emotional treats are reserved for him finally remembering how and why he ended up in this situation and Baldie manages to fill this moment with a really heartbreaking pathos that brings to a conclusion one of the most glorious small press series of recent years. (It’s been a bumper year for Baldie, as he also re-released the fantastic I Rolled A One via BHP Comics with some new pages which flesh out this wonderful tale of friendship and fantasy even further).
Read our full review of Space Captain #5 & 6 here
#15 Sink #6-10 (ComiXTribe)
It’s not easy to write a really good, nasty horror comic. The tendency is to replace plot and character with blood and guts in order to shock people. However in this tale of life on a Glaswegian sink estate, John Lees has managed to create some truly shocking and unforgettably horrific moments, but all the while building strong and engaging characters who make the stories into more than just an excuse for an outrageous gross out moments. From an unlikely BDSM romance to his gang of killer clowns in a van, Sink is packed full of the kind of characters you wouldn’t want to meet on a dark night, but who are strangely compelling all the same. While not for everyone, Sink is a tour de force of horror writing, and his rich mix of character based stories that are interconnected, is brought to life with some outstandingly graphic visuals from Road of Bones artist Alex Cormack. Along with his excellent series Mountainhead from IDW it has been a phenomenal year for Lees.
#14 Milky #1 & #2 (Joshua Saxon)
Your local milkman might not be the obvious choice for a hero to take on an alien invasion, but that’s what makes Joshua Saxon’s series such a fantastic underdog tale. When a group of all powerful aliens try to kidnap earths women, it is up to milkman Vikander Singh (aka Milky) and a rag tag bunch of misfits to help save the day (especially Mikly’s unrequited love Lucy.). With the style and humour of Simon Pegg movie the Word’s End, but mixed with the edginess of a Mark Millar book, this is a fantastically entertaining read and a really unique and very unconventional angle for such a classic sci story. Gian Fernando’s artwork brings the aliens to life brilliantly and makes the whole thing feel like a very slick and accomplished series, which is well worth getting delivered!
#13 Coin Op Comics #8 (Coin Op Books)
Our pick of the festival from this year’s Thought Bubble 2019, Peter and Maria Hoey’s collection of short stories straddle the gap between comic and art books with 4 glorious experiments in sequential story telling. Each story challenges how you read a comic, whether that is reading them from top to bottom instead of left to right, or using single frames where the content changes within the panels, this is some really top drawer stuff. The stories themselves all revolve around the theme of infatuation and range from a surreal time travel ‘what it’ to an Art Deco reimagining of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth. But it is the production values which are the star of the show, with this hardcover collection feeling like the most premium book we have read all year! Well worth searching out!
Read our full review of Coin Op Comics #8 here
#12 Hilda and The Mountain King (Flying Eye Books)
What was once indie comics best kept secret, Hilda has gone mainstream in 2019 thanks to her new Netflix animated series. However with that step into the limelight, creator Luke Pearson has not let the quality of the source material wain. Quite the opposite as he has released one of the best Hilda books to date. Hilda and the Mountain King has an emotional depth to it that the previous volumes about our favourite blue haired Scandi scamp couldn’t quite muster. When Hilda is turned into a troll, she ends up stuck in the mountains and a troll baby takes her place back home. As a result, Hilda must find the mysterious Mountain King in order to reverse the spell before her house gets completely trashed. While this book is packed with the kind of high energy hijinks that we love in the Hilda books, it is the relationship between Hilda and her mother which is the true highlight. As the previously strained relationship is rekindled in the way that only the love between a parent and a child really can be. A wonderful new volume from one of comics’ best series.
Read our full review of Hilda and The Mountain King here
#11 These Savage Shores Volume 1 (Vault Comics)
It’s been a landmark year for Vault Comics who seemed to have released a new must read book every month for the whole year. One of the true stand outs is this gloriously exotic series which started at the end of last year, and has grown to become the jewel in Vault’s crown. Ram V’s South Asian vampire folk tale takes slices of gothic drama and relocates them to the sub continent which gives everything an exotic and unique visual and cultural setting. But this also sees the group of enigmatic bloodsuckers come into conflict with the all powerful demon known as Bishan. With sublimely detailed artwork from Sumit Kumar, this has been a book at the top of our recommendation list for the whole of 2019, and with the first arc now complete you can truly take in all it’s sublime glory. Along with Friendo and Fearscape, this has become a benchmark book for Vault Comics and one which all other indie publishers must strive to match!
Read our full review of These Savage Shores here