We’re beginning to get close to the top 10 now. Here are the ones which just missed out, including: anthropomorphic mouse archaeologists, Victorian superheroes, accidental cannibals and Aussie sharpshooters.
20. Mann’s Best Friend (Gluepot Books)
The Rickard sisters channel classic British graphic novelists like Posy Simmonds and Raymond Briggs to create an emotive tale of a man and his dog. It’s not your standard relationship though as Terry blames his dog Eric for his current misfortune and spiralling debt, especially when he is suspended from work and accused of defrauding his bosses. As he attempts rebuild his life and clear his name readers are tested to a quintessentially English rural tale packed full of believable and relatable characters going through all too human dramas. For a debut novel this is really accomplished stuff, with moments that elicit genuine feelings of concern, empathy and joy. If they keep making books as good as this, the Rickard’s could be a creative team to keep an eye on in future years.
19. Mulp: Sceptre of the Sun (Imroper Books)
As it nears it’s epic conclusion, Matt Gibbs’ and Sara Dunkerton’s mouse archaeology adventure MULP continues to be one of the most sublime small press books around. This latest issue begins with our hero Jack Redpath in peril as he has to escape from an underwater tussle, before we catch up with the rest of the gang who are being held prisoner by a group of bird worshipping savages. As we have come to expect from MULP, Gibbs brings together all the classic elements of 1930s pulp adventuring, from crazed natives to jungle temples and fedora wearing heroes which is then brought to life by some utterly magical artwork from Dunkerton – especially in the mountain top jungle temple scenes which are just breath taking and supremely detailed! If this was published by Dark Horse or Boom! it would be getting rave reviews, and once collected we’re sure it will continue to get the love it so richly deserves. But for now it’ll have to be small press’ special secret, so be sure to pick up all the issues you can and not miss out on one of the most action packed and adventurous small press books around.
18. Heavenly Blues (Scout Comics)
Set in the afterlife, Isaiah Jefferson is a former bank robber whose primary purpose in life is tormenting new souls. However when he is hired by an angel to steal an artefact from heaven, Jefferson and his pal (a sweary 17th century teen called Erin) must put together a team of hell’s finest in order to break into heaven. Ben Kahn’s brilliantly original story feels like a Neil Gaiman re-working of Ocean’s 11 while artist Hidalgo gives hell a bright primary colour scheme with artwork that reminded us of John Arcudi’s B.P.R.D. With an incredible sense of design to each issue as well as well rounded and very relatable characters, Heavenly Blues is one of the most original afterworld books we have seen in some time!
17. Whisper WiLds
On first impressions, you cannot help but be pulled into the world of Brent Nelson and Emanuele Arnaldi ’s stunning Whipser Wilds. The beautiful artwork creates a book that looks somewhere in between a lush all ages book and a Studio Ghibli Manga, but with the action of Fury Road. It has a strange vintage vibe to it, as the action is set in an alternate 1940s Australia that features surreal lizard creatures and Mad Max style dystopian bad guys and a heroine is gunning it around on a vintage motorbike. With lush and expressive artwork, the colour scheme, which is all muted greens and browns, gives the whole thing a dust covered, sun faded elegance that manages to perfectly compliment the slick modern lines of the characters. If this were released by Boom it would be getting rave reviews and be on a par with the like of Lumberjanes and Giant Days in terms of adoration. So be sure to get onboard this all action thrill ride as soon as you can, and turn those whispers into shouts about how great this book is!
16. Boxes #4 (Todd oliver)
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. With its mix of recurring stories and one offs, Boxes is an absolutely inspired comic, 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!
15. Merrick: The Sensational Elephantman #5 & 6
After the fever dream prequel of last years Treves: A Restless Night, Tom Ward and Luke Parker return to focus on their titular hero in a new adventure that feels more like a pulp comic strip than a historical reinterpretation. Merrick is sent by Treeves and co to locate a set of magic playing cards from the tomb of an old adversary and while there he encounters Spring Heeled Jack – a Victorian proto-supervillain. With a twist that feels straight out of a silver age Kirby Fantastic Four, this is the high action pulpy Merrick that we have longed to see from the first issue and is a great showcase of the exciting world ward and Parker are building for Merrick and his contemporaries!
14. White Noir (Lab Rat Comics)
This snowbound slice of crime noir feels like a lost Coen Brothers script turned into a comic by Ed Brubaker or Greg Rucka and painted by one of the indie scenes most exciting new creators. Matt Garvey’s team up with the enigmatic Divezez has already given us the excellent The Ether this year, and White Noir is another superb product of this outstanding partnership. With only one issue released so far and with more questions posed than answers given this arctic crime thriller has the potential to be one of the best books of next year as well and it’s iconic bloody show angel cover is one of the most iconic we’ve seen all year.
13. Geis Volume 2: A Game Without Rules (Nobrow Press)
The second chapter of Alexis Deacon’s dark adult fairytale takes the relative simplicity of volume 1 (an evil sorceress makes the residents compete to be chief of a kingdom) and ups the ante, developing the story into a complex morality play packed with sibling rivalries, twists and double crosses, and sinister magical beasties. It’s the Grimm Fairytales meets Game of Thrones but with the high art sensibility of a French bande dessinée and the intricacies of a Russian epic. With exceptional production values and a timeless look this is compelling and complex comics of the highest order.
12. Pantheon (Nobrow Press)
Web first picked up Hamish Steele’s outstanding collection of comics about ancient Egyptian gods at last years Bristol Zine Fair, and he mentioned it would be getting a release from Nobrow. But we didn’t expect him to improve what was already a great book and turn it into such an outstanding read. The newly coloured pages look incredible as Steele takes the ludicrousness of the Egyptian mythology and tells it with an adult sense of humour that makes it laugh out loud funny as well as highly informative as well.
11. Spinning (Self Made Hero)
For her follow up to the trippy sci-fi webcomic On A Sunbeam, indie sensation Tillie Walden looked back at her own childhood for this autobiographical tale about her time as a teenager ice skater in Texas. Although it may not have some of the fantastical elements of her previous books, Spinning still has a lot of the familiar themes we have scene in her previous book such as isolation, loneliness and blossoming teenage sexuality. In many ways it shows you exactly where Tillie’s themes and inspirations come from as she welcomes you into her world and tells you he most intimate story yet. This revealing tale is told with Tillie’s familiar subtle and nuanced style, handling her own story with sensitivity, intelligence and wit and never relying on sensationalism to get her point across. This will be the book which introduces a lot of people to the world of Tillie Walden and we cannot think of a better way to discover such a genuinely talented and intriguing comic creator and her wondrous collection of work.