#30 Broken Bear (Caliber Comics)
We get sent a lot of great fantasy comics here at Pipedream HQ and for one to really stand out from the crowd they have to do something truly exceptional. Frankee White and Adam Markiewicz’s tale of a young squire who turns on her master in return for his power and strength creates a superbly complex and flawed heroine for this misadvenutre. As she heads to the city and becomes embroiled in the evil governor’s gladiator style combat ring, her relationships with the new allies she makes are constantly under question, and her motives uncertain meaning you are never quite sure where the story is heading. And for that reason alone it is a truly compelling read. It’s backed up with some glorious artwork which mixes classic fantasy characters with a contemporary style and colour scheme that makes it feel like a Vault Comics book or a companion piece to the excellent Planet Of Daemons. This is one of those books which caught us by surprise when we first read it, and feels a real under dog read that is need of championing!
Read our full review of Broken Bear here.
#29 Miskatonic High (Mike Shea & Ryan Mendoza)
When a group of high schoolers come together for an after school volunteering club, they never expected to end up being trsansported from an old lady’s mushroom infested basement to ancient Egypt where they are almost sacrificed to a tentacled beastie by an ancient wizard! Is it real or just a mushroom induced hallucination?! Well, as each issue after that sees them dealing with more and more bizarre events you have to think there is something odd going on in the small town of Miskatonic. Writer Mike Shea and artist Ryan Mendoza have created a really fun high supernatural school drama. There’s elements of all the classics, from John Hughes to Buffy and even a bit of Scooby Doo, but it’s all given a contemporary edge, without being too snarky or self referential. There is enough of an edge for it to appeal to adults, but it’s not so edgy that it can’t be enjoyed by a teen audience too. A fantastic slice of high school horror!
Read our full review of Miskatonic High #1 & #2 here.
#28 Transmissions (TPub Comics)
It’s been a strong year for TPub Comics with the excellent sci-fi anthology The Theory and twisted time travel tale The Traveller. However overshadowing both of those has been the excellent Transmissions from writer Jed McPherson (The Show). When a seemingly defunct Soviet radio broadcast starts sending people into homicidal rages then it is up to a government agent and a GCHQ codebreaker to investigate. McPherson has imbued Tranmissions with the tense complexity of a cold war spy thriller or a John Le Carre novel, but given it the action thriller potential of a Bourne movie. Artist Marco Perugini gives everything a stylish Sean Philips-esque realism to the characters (which perfectly compliments the Ed Brubaker style writing) and manages to balance the talking heads and action with aplomb to create one of the most accomplished series we’ve read from Neil Gibsons’ TPub stable.
Read our full review of Transmissions here
#27 Gryffen: Galaxy’s Most Wanted (SBI Press)
For their follow up to the equally brilliant Heavenly Blues, Ben Kahn and Bruno Hidalgo have created an anarchic and unpredictable hero in the form of Lyla Gryffen. A gender queer former space captain in evil empire ‘The Reach’, they are put on trial for desertion only to break out and go on the run with a resistance fighter and the galaxy’s smartest man (who they are definitely going to hook up with!). Gryffen has the unpredictable nature of Harley Quinn, the salty language of Lobo and the anarchic spirit of Tank Girl which means this series is a riot of outrageousness and violence from the start. Told via a series of half sized issues, Gryffen has a relentless energy and pace to it, that makes it into a compelling and frequently laugh out loud and WTF read.
Read our full review of Gryffen: Galaxy’s Most Wanted here
#26 The Tower in the Sea (Avery Hill Publishing)
B. Mure’s Ismyre series has developed from an idiosyncratic magical fantasy into a really compelling and original series of books. For third chapter, The Tower In The Seas the story is based in a school for divination which see a young orphan dropped off to learn the skills of second sight and attempt to discover more about the dreams of destruction which haunt her every night. It gives the book a Harry Potter style feel to it, however this more than a knock off of the boy wizard! Thanks to B’s exquisite watercolour artwork, lush colours and unique character design it makes for a really unique and original read. All of which is under pinned by a real depth to the storyline with political and even satirical undertones to it. As such, this latest installment of the Ismyre series feels like so much more than another cutesy animal book or esoteric fantasy and is fast becoming one of Avery Hill’s most consistently great series.
Read our full review of The Tower In The Sea here
#25 Zoot! #3 (Hotel Fred Press)
Roger Langridge’;s annual anthology of strips featuring his characters Fred the Clown, McGonnagal (the world’s worst poet) and alcoholic adventurers Art d’Ecco and The Hump has been a perennial small press favourite for the last couple of years, but this new issue seems to have really stepped up a level. It’s still packed with the outrageous humour and anarchic spirit which we loved in previous volumes, but this issue is framed with a series of stories about Roger’s insomnia which sees him link the various strips together in a half asleep state. It means the whole thing hangs together beautifully and gives a superbly simple structure for the eclectic stories to hang off. The stories themselves are hilarious and also beautiful to look at with Roger’s elastic visuals and expressive characters filling every page with some gloriously conceived panels. A phenomenal issue, but we just wish we didn’t have to wait a whole year for the next one!
Read out full review of Zoot #3 here
#24 Transfer #2 (LabRat Comics)
It’s been a supremely productive year for writer Matt Garvey this year, with the release of 7 new titles which have covered a range of genres from all ages horror (Camp Bleh) to sci-fi comedy (Untitled Generic Space Comedy) to action thriller (Prey For Us). Trying to choose which to include on our list has been no easy tasks, however this spot is reserved for one of Matt’s most surprising releases of the year – the second issue of mind swap thriller Transfer. Set in a world where people’s consciousness can be transported around like cargo, courier Steve is is caught up in the middle of a situation he cannot get out of when a job turns sour and he ends up in a body he did not anticipate. With one of the best final pages of a small press comics we have read this year, thanks to a truly jaw dropping twist this has been one of the stand out reads from one of this year’s most prolific and inventive creators.
Read our full review of Transfer #2 here
#23 The Incredible Bun #2 (Madius Comics)
Madius Comics’ tale of a giant bunny who goes to the city to find his fortune has evolved from a cutesy animal tale into something much more edgy and unique. This second issue sees our mute giant bunny embroiled in an animal fighting competition and taking on the enigmatic Vex. Sambrook takes what should be Rocky with Rabbits and continually second guesses readers expectations about where the story is heading, creating this delightfully strange and compelling world. While artist Rosie Packwood balances cutesy animals with ambitious panel layouts and a sublime colour scheme to give this book a real confidence and authority to give with the increasingly astute writing. So much more than just another cute animal comic this is like Watership Down meets Fight Club and is evolving into a really smart and ambitious title packed with originality and hidden depths.
Read our full review of The Incredible Bun #2 here
#22 Atom Agency Volume 1: The Begum’s Jewels (Europe Comics)
If you had to show someone a perfect example of a Franco Belgian bandes dessinée then you could do a lot worse than giving them a copy of Yann and Schwartz’s outstanding series Atom Agency from Europe Comics. Atom Vecorian is a struggling detective (is there any other kind) who looks to make a name for himself by finding the missing jewels of The Begum (aka the wife of the Aga Khan). Along the way he is aided by his plucky sidekick Mini and reluctant ‘muscle’ former wrestler JoJo Top. Atom Agency is packed with Gallic cool and Art Deco style as well as the constant energy of a classic Hergé book. With an enigmatic femme fatale and some gorgeous French locations this is a rip roaringly fun read that is packed full of magical moments that will have you clamouring for more the minute you reach that final glorious page!
Read our full review of Atom Agency here
21. Silent Horns (Wine and Zine)
The first full length comic from Wine and Zine’s Bryony Evans is a wonderfully potent story about coming of age and acceptance. Yfa is a young hexerei, (a sort of horned magical creature that looks a bit like Marko from Saga) and when their horns come through, the Hexerei begin to develop magical powers. But when Yfa’s horns come through her powers don’t appear immediately and so she begins to question why she isn’t like her friends. Silent Horns is a beautifully told coming age story, that has real heart and emotional depth to it. On the surface it is your classic tale of pubescence and acceptance, yet it feels like it could be so much more than that for any teen who is looking for something relevant to them – especially anything to do with gender or sexuality. With gorgeous pencil style artwork, packed full of expressive characters and sublime detail this is a really accomplished story which feels like it offers a positive message for teens and parents alike.
Read our full review of Silent Horns here