As we continue of rundown of the best indie and small press comics of the year we are blasted into space, get caught up in an unlikely election and meet a giant rabbit.
40. Impossible (Markosia)
You can’t ask for a more dynamic opener than an astronaut plummeting to earth with only 1% oxygen remaining! This is the awesome start for Impossible, Chris Sides’ first chapter in his new Frostbyte Trilogy. When scientist Will is betrayed by his crew mates on a deep space mission, how will he survive being thrown into deep space? Impossible is a rip roaring read from start to finish that feels like a great forgotten genre movie from the 80s, but in comic book form! Sides script may be packed full of action movie cliches, but that is what makes it so great, and artist Jake Rowlinson defies the odds to make this book impossible not to love!
39. Unpresidential (Man vs Rock)
From the opening line that reads ‘Welcome James Franco loving Americans’ you know you are in for another dose of riotous anarchy from the creators of Man Vs Rock.If you are looking for a subtle or nuanced look at American politics then this not the book from you. It’s another volume of bat shit crazy comics from the team who brought you Buck Stone and is another defiant middle finger to the mainstream – on both sides of the political divide. When President Trump mysteriously disappears and his cabinet get caught up in an unsavoury incident involving a Russian bear, a snap election is called and step forward the most unlikely of candidates – Kim Jong Un! Writers Kevin Bieber and Justin Reynolds leave no one out of the firing line ripping it out of Democrats, Republicans, Middle America, the alt right, the alt left and everyone in between. Even Bono! It’s a savage and completely uncompromising look at Modern American and told in the familiar politically incorrect style we loved in Man vs Rock.
38. Bun (Madius Comics)
We’re more used to a slice of darkly hilarious horror from the guys at Madius Comics, rather than a tale about a giant rabbit. However Mike Sambrook’s solo writing debut came out of left field to deliver a strange of mix of sweet and surreal that we really weren’t expecting! From the opening pages, Sambrook and artist Rachel Packwood create a sublime anthropomorphic tale about a giant rabbit who is different from the other animals in the wood. Packwood’s art is particularly lush in these opening pages but it soon takes a walk onto the dark side, as Bun heads off to the city and gets caught up with some undesirables. It gives the story the dark centre we would expect from a Madius Comics book, but without it losing the emotional heart and empathy which they created in those opening panels. It also means you can’t quite work out where the next chapter of the story is going, but isn’t that what makes a comic like this so much more interesting!
37. It’s Cold In The River At Night (Avery Hill Publishing)
Carl is looking for a new purpose in life – his time on an isolated house with stilts with his thesis writing girlfriend Rita is not going too well and so he decides to learn how to make boat shaped coffins after seeing a picture of them in the local pub. But after meeting a scary local craftsman, not all goes to plan. Alex Potts’ graphic novel is a strange and meandering character piece about a man looking for a new identity in a very strange and uncertain world. It’s also about looking backwards to the past while also looking forward to the future, and about the effects of isolation on a relationship, but don’t be put off by this making it sounds dry, it’s also a really engrossing read. Although you never quite learn where these characters come from or where they are going, Potts writes Carl, Rita and co as such incredibly rounded and believable characters that you want them to do well, whatever new activity they choose to take up!
36. Tiny Overlord (Jess Bradley)
Balancing creativity and family life is not always an easy task, so cartoonist Jess Bradley decided to combine the two with a book dedicated to her one year old son. For any parents out there it is a hilariously accurate look at the trials and tribulations of parenthood – complete with the mountains and mountains of poo! Jess’s tales of balancing work and motherhood will make you cry with laughter, (but that could also be due to the lack of sleep!) as her real world anecdotes will feel all to familiar! While for any aspiring parents it’s a crash course into the chaotic emotional rollercoaster that is brining up an infant! And a great look into what a challenging and emotional journey is ahead!
35. Cosmos And Other Stories (Good Comics)
The latest offering from Rozi Hathaway sees her continue her wistful work that we first discovered in her dreamy Nordic tale Njalla. This collection of short pieces is published by Good Comics and feels almost like a sampler for Rozi’s work than a fully fledged story. There are six chapters which are more like ideas, thought pieces or mood sketches rather than actual tales, but have a real poetry and finesse to them. Each one reflecti on themes of loneliness and isolation and are told using Rozi’s unique mixed media approach which sees her pencil sketches under pinned with slashes of painted colour. It makes for a really unique and striking book from a one of a kind talent, that we wish had more in it because what is there is really rather wonderful.
34. The War For Kaleb (Leftovers Ltd)
It’s been a strong year for comics featuring mental health stories, but The War For Kaleb has been one of the most interesting. Rather than opt for the auto biographical route, writer/artist Jason Pittman has merged it with his love for superhero storytelling. Casting his lead characters depression and anxieties as heroes and villains who battle within and without his psyche to keep him on the straight and narrow. It’s a really clever concept as it allows Pittman to articulate quite complex emotional thoughts in a straight forward vernacular that comic fans know and understand. Which in turn helps to create a book which is very accessible and that more people should read as it helps to brilliantly shine a light on this important subject.
33. Badger vs Tiger (John Cei Douglas)
This was our favourite pick from this year’s East London Comic Arts festival. We were won over by John Cei Douglas’ animal combat tale from the minute we heard the title and saw the old school fight poster cover. But once we started reading it, we realised it was more than just a punny title, it was a beautifully told tale of a boxing badger who comes out of retirement to engage in one more out against a dastardly tiger. Told without dialogue the match itself mixes the grit of an old school wrestling with the bombast and movies of a classic WWF match, but with woodland creatures, to create a surreal and sublime story that is part Wind in the Willows and part Wrestlemania. Packed with tonnes of character wit and invention and some genuinely sweet moments this is an absolute knockout book! (And if you love this, be sure to check out his other books Static and Show Me The Map To Your Heart).
32. Practical Implications of Immortality (Matthew Dooley)
We were huge fans of Matthew Dooley’s surreal and sarcastic debut collection Meanderings, and he has continued to share his melancholic outlook on the world in this new collection. With strips that range from list like one shots about ‘Potential Existential Threats’ and ’21st Century Methods of Divination’ to longer form stories such as St Helena (about sweary birds) and personal musings on the world (including a quite drastic weight loss solution) Dooley’s view on the world is strange and nihilistic but also bizarre and very humourous. For every story about personal introspection and angst, there is one about a boy finding a sweary message in a bottle. It also features Colin Turnbull: A Tall Tale – the story about a lofty milkman for which Matthew won the Jonathan Cape Short Story prize. A unique world view from one of the most interesting and enigmatic cartoonists around.
31 Alex Automatic: Bokeh’s Machine (Cabal Comics)
Fraser Campbell and James Corcoran’s amnesiac super spy is back and this time he is thrown into a jungle mission to infiltrate the lair of the evil Dr Bokeh who has created a machine that bridges the gap between reality and fiction. It’s a brilliant McGuffin for a book all about confused reality and allows artist Corcoran to really showcase his vintage Kirby-esque linework. This means villainous lairs, giant apes and rhino guards, all of which require Alex to unleash his full arsenal of high tech weaponry. After laying the ground work in the debut, this sophomore effort seems to really flesh out the world of Alex while also revelling in the excitement and action that making a genre book set in the 1960s can produce. Alex Automatic continues to be one of the most exciting and original small press books out there.