We continue our rundown of the best indie and small press comics of 2017 with all-ages luchadoras, time-travelling office workers, gonzo super villains, exploding plants, and a theme park full of ghosts,
30. Ghost Island (Afterlight Comics)
It’s been a great year for British horror books with the likes of Corsair from Madius Comics and Ness from Chris Welch bringing the scares to the small press scene. But perhaps our pick of the horrific bunch was Joey Olivera’s creepy mystery Ghost Island. Set in a theme park for ghosts it see a group of strangers brought to the Island to work for its mysterious benefactor. With those involved having secrets and mysterious connections it reads like an Agatha Christie whodunnit mixed with a Victorian supernatural mystery. All of which is told with a slickness and polish that belies its dark heart and signals out Olivera as a really interesting writer to watch!
29. Outlaws Wanted: An NCC Anthology
The Nottingham Comic Con anthology has become one of the highlights of the year, and 2017’s offering didn’t disappoint! With new stories from a who’s who of the UK scene it included: an origin story for the preacher in The Last Sherrif from Reckless Hero; Emily Owen and Gav Mitchell with up a Pup and Grumpicorn story; Chris Baldie’s beautiful strip about a space couple on holiday; Sally Jane Thompson’s sublime pencil drawn tale about the summer heat; Dan Harris’s surreal take on a classic barbarian tale in Fifteen Minutes of Fantasy; and many more. But perhaps our favourite of the lot is Nick Prolix’s absolutely incredible The Flying Halfpennies about a bunch of anthropomorphic cats in the jungle which looks like it has been lifted wholesale from the pages a Golden Age comic and is just stunning! Packed full of genuine laughs and with an all ages tone, Outlaws Wanted is not only an amazing showcase of small press talent, but a darn good fun to read as well!
28. Dirty Rotten Comics (Throwaway Press)
While many small press anthologies have come and gone, Dirty Rotten Comics has established itself as a mainstay of the UK scene thanks to an open submission policy that has brought them some of the very best small press creators around. From regulars like Josh Hicks and Matthew Dooley to newcomers like Rozi Hathway and Jay Levang, with each issue Dirty Rotten Comics feels like an event as it works as a snapshot of UK small press scene collected together into one superbly entertaining package. With each volume feeling different to the last by not relying on too many repeat contributors, it evolves with the scene and so never feels faddy. Instead it feels like one of those titles while showcases and pushes forward the very best small press can offer and so never gets caught behind. Oh, and for issue #10 they went colour, which looked ace!
27. Gun #4 (Reckless Eyeball Press)
The first arc of Jack Foster’s Gun managed that rare thing in indie superhero comics – a book that doesn’t feel like a simple copy of a big two title. Instead it felt like it actually had something fresh to say with the genre by focusing on the villains and mixing up crime noir and a heist thriller into an action packed adventure. For this new arc, Foster has his heroes infiltrate a cross country car race called Slaughterball which sees villains race across America to drop a bomb on either coast. It’s a high impact action adventure, mixed with twists and double crosses as our hero Trevor must infiltrate the secret cabal of Slaughterballers, along with a gonzo journalist called Woody Dallas. It’s like the Cannonball Run meet Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas reimagined by Ed Brubaker and thanks to stunning painted artwork and an impeccable sense of design is one of the most exhilarating indie superhero books around!
26. Legend of La Mariposa: The Sons of Justice
The latest multi-coloured spin off zine from James Lawrence’s wrestling themed webcomic Legends of La Mariposa. However instead of starring the super cute luchadora of the title, this one is more like a spoof of an El Santo style wrestling movie and sees the group of Lucha heroes known as The Sons of Justice battling a demonic force in a graveyard. It’s a perfect introduction to the wonderful world of La Mariposa and manages to get the balance of having enough in it for wrestling fans to get a kick out of, but not so much that it will stop those who aren’t grappling fans from getting a kick out of it too. We loved the way that the combat is portrayed as ‘real’ and the characters are like real life superheroes, and so it doesn’t get bogged down in trying to navigate the tricky of world of whether wrestling is ‘fake’ or not. It plays to it’s strengths, of action and larger than life characters and almost feels like a video game or animation with the overtop fight sequences. A truly champion read!
25. Ismyre (Avery Hill Publishing)
From the moment a building explodes with flowers from an eco-anarchist attack you know you are reading something different from the norm, in B Mure’s debut graphic novel from Avery Hill. It sets the scene for a strange and charming mystery that you can never quite get a handle on where it is going. When one of his sculptures goes missing, it sets artist Ed on a strange journey into a world of eco-terrorists and a mysterious witch called Faustine who he meets in a bar. As well as his sculpture going missing, a number of people are disappearing as well, but with help from the magical Faustine it all has a much more mysterious reason. Ismyre is a strange mix of mystery and fantasy that a lot of the time doesn’t really seem to go anywhere, but keeps you reading all the same. Much like It’s Cold In The River At Night, Ismyre is one of those books which you find yourself being immersed in and going along for the ride, as trying to figure out what is going on is part of the charm.
24. Lost Light (Wine And Zine)
Clare Spiller’s parable about the effects of light pollution sees an awkward young girl living in a forest, protect herself from the dark creatures of the forest with a sea of lanterns. But when she is forced to walk through the woods to get fuel for those lanterns, she discovers that the dark creatures she feared may not be as scary as she first assume. Told without dialogue, Spiller’s luminescent rendering of the animals in moonlight is absolutely spell-bending, turning dark and sinister creatures into beautiful and ethereal creatures which seem to glow thanks to their exquisite detail. Although it is a relatively simple tale, the stunning artwork and subtle nuances reward repeat reading and with the absence of dialogue makes you study each page to get the most from the story and ensures Lost Light gets better with every read. (Also be sure to check out the excellent gender swap zine Swap, the debut collection from the Wine & Zine team)
23. Human Garbage (Good Comics)
It’s been a great year for micro-publishers Good Comics, with some really interesting new books from some really exciting creators. But perhaps our favourite of the bunch has been this collection of work from Glorious Wrestling Alliance creator Josh Hicks. Featuring work which had previously appeared in Dirty Rotten Comics, along with new stories, it’s a superb collection of funny and smartly written strips, that showcases the diversity of Josh’s work – from crime noir stories about cats, to night club tales for people who hate night clubs, to near future tech adventures and mysterious explorers in wind swept deserts. They are even in colour! Josh’s work on GWA was always a stand out, but seeing him handle different genres and different styles of story shows that he is much more than just the guy who does that wrestling zine! But more of that in a minute!
22. Glorious Wrestling Alliance: Grappling Road (Josh Hicks)
The second chapter of Josh Hick’s awesome wrestling zine, sees the quirky cast of the GWA hit the road Almost Famous style in an attempt to make some money for their promotion. Inevitably this leads to infighting among the crew as Death Machine continues to struggle with his poetry, King Carp is desperate for some peace and quiet and Miranda Fury attempts to continue her fight against the patriarchal booking committee by donning a mask and appearing as Hyper Mask. Josh’s low-fi style mixes newspaper strip style cartooning with really cool infographic panels like the tour bus morale meter which makes this a truly main event worthy comic!
21. The Kill Screen: Everything Not Save Will Be Lost (Mike Garley Comics)
This prequel to the critically acclaimed series from Mike Garley, Joshua Sherwell and Mike Stock explores the origins of their techno digital dystopia. With a new format that collects together 50+ pages from their Patreon, rather than create single issues, Garley and Sherwell have created a slow burning origin story that gives a real depth to the origin of their world. Interspersing a group of friends who have a possible cursed floppy drive, with a sub story about a safe designer being kidnapped by mercenaries, the extra pages allows the story time to breath and then when the action does explode at the end it as meaning and significance. Mixing an action and thriller plot with dystopian science fiction and the odd horror trope, the combination of Garley, Sherwell and Stock continues to create one of the most distinctive and original small press books out there and this prequel merely helps develop the legend of this excellent title even further.