As we close in on the top 10 for Indie and Small Press Comic of the Year 2018 we have a motley bunch of books that include skeletal villains, sweary superheros, 60s spaceships, fantasy adventures, flawed writers, bawdy tales and giant space cathedrals!
#20 Bastard Galaxia (Gregson & Simmonds)
An evil skull faced villain attempting to take over the universe may sound like a familiar tale from Saturday morning cartoons of our youth. But Steve Gregson and Matt Simmon’s Bastard Galaxia takes some of the more ludicrous ideas from those cartoons and milks them for everything their worth, in this hilarious webcomic that has been collected into an epic trade. From the opening chapter which sees him address his bone troopers, Bastard Galaxia has a frenetic pace that keeps firing gag after gag at you like some kind of high powered evil joke ray. Packed full of nostalgic 80s references and crude silly humour it’s one of the funniest, strangest and most enjoyable books we’ve read all year!
Read Bastard Galaxia at www.bastardgalaxia.com
#19 Death Sentence: Liberty (Monty Nero)
After a two year break, Monty Nero and Martin Simmonds’ tale of sex, drugs and superpowers makes a welcome and explosive return with a visceral, action packed new arc. Set in a world where superpowers are a sexually transmitted disease with a 6 month expiry date, our heroes Verity, Weasal and Roots are back for more as Nero and Simmonds continue to build their violent, sweary and outrageous series. Now funding on Kickstarter, so the shackles are off in terms of adult content, Death Sentence is a timely reminder of just how exciting super-powered storytelling can be in the 21st century. Nero is a master of the genre after his work at Marvel, and Simmonds delivers career best work here, which considering this is a year where he has worked on Punks Not Dead and Friendo, then that is saying something!
#18 Apollo (SelfMadeHero)
After the crazy antics of Last Driver and Adventures in Science, Matt Fitch and Chris Baker have for opted a new subject that is both down to earth but also still out of this world. Teaming up with veteran artist Mike Collins, their take on the Apollo moon landing mixes historical detail (courtesy of Collins’ intricate line work and photo realistic spacecraft) with a bit of trademark Hitch and Baker outlandish-ness (such as talking moons that feel straight out of a New Gods book or protesting hippes living the American Dream.) All of this makes for a fascinating and fantastical look at this iconic moment of 20th century history.
#17 The Bawdy Tales of Lazlo Cale (Grenade Fight Inc)
You don’t get a lot of ‘bawdiness;’ these days, but it’s the perfect word to describe Andrew Maxwell and Goran Gligovic’s intergalactic art heist escapade. Our hero Lazlo goes from high-price male escort to international art dealer, but when one of his clients persuades him back for one last job he is drawn back into conflict with his long time nemesis – who just happens to be Edgar Allan Poe. This is because the whole book is set in a world where an inter-dimensional bomb has realigned the universe and all realities exists at the same time – which in short allows Maxwell to create a world that mixes futuristic tech and Parisian art nouveau decadence. Add to this an adult tone which is just the right side of risqué and you get the brilliant and ambitious slice of sci-fi slickness with one of the most charismatic and exciting lead characters we’ve read all year.
#16 Rolled A One (Chris Baldie)
Space Captain’s Chris Baldie leaves his moustachioed hero in space for a more earth bound story as a group of friends embark on a quick game of Dungeons and Dragons. Baldie manages to blend fantastical moments with a wonderful mix of character moments as this group of disparate friends bond and bicker over their fantasy adventure. The action flips from real life moments in the kids’ basement to scenes within the role playing game and it makes for a fantastic and exciting story. It’s all brought to life by Baldie’s brilliantly detailed artwork which has the personality of Asterisk and the densely panelled pages of Hilda. Another high rolling adventure from one of our favourite creators who will be bringing this book to BHP Comics in 2019, so be sure to pick up the last of the self published versions while you can!
#15 The Fearscape (Vault Comics)
While we’ve read many books this year which we have described as ‘Gaiman-esque’ it’s been Ryan O’Sullivan’s ambitious tale of a failed writer who inadvertently becomes mankind’s saviour that has been the closest to matching the Sandman scribe’s ambitious world building. O’Sullivan creates one of the year’s most unlikeable heroes in Henry Henry, a struggling writer and plagiarist, and tells his story using 4th wall breaking layouts, including entirely blank pages filled only with dialogue. The flowery and verbose style of narrative that is used as Henry’s voice showcases O’Sullivan’s lyrical style to perfection and when you add to this effortlessly cool artwork from Andrea Mutti and you have a smart and ambitious piece of fantastical story-telling that draws you in from the very first deconstructed page.
#14 Lip Hook (SelfMadeHero)
Although it starts off as a bit of a crime caper, David Hine and Mark Stafford’s tale of rural unease soon develops into a dark and horrific tale of two gangsters hiding out in a village that has a range of creepy secrets to hide. But so do the gangsters! Whether it is the insect factory at the village’s centre, the fascistic local lord or the village’s mysterious past as the centre of an ancient pagan religion, Lip Hook builds from a simple premise into a dark and twisted slice of classic British horror but with a dark Pagan undertone as well as a bleak Victorian aesthetic. Hine and Stafford work in perfect harmony to bring some truly outlandish concepts and ideas to reality and create a book that builds to a outrageous conclusion that will shock and amuse in equal measure.
#13 The Great North Wood (Avery Hill Publishing)
While we’ve always loved Tim Bird’s thoughtful looks into the English landscape, this is the first time he has created a book which we have enjoyed reading as much as we have enjoyed thinking about the message inside. Centred on an ancient wood that stretches across south London, Bird tells the story of this area through a series off vignettes that are anchored together by a fox who appears in various guises. It allows Bird to look at everything from ancient rituals to local myths to urban decay and the decline of the English countryside. With it’s large format and intricate panel design it is poignant and thoughtful book that is also very readable and a really underrated gem of a book that should appeal to a huge variety of comic and non-comic fans alike.
#12 The Edge Off (Cabal Comics)
If William Burroughs wrote a straight to DVD action thriller and turned it into a small press comic, then it would be somewhere close to Fraser Campbell and Iain Laurie’s psychedelic revenge thriller The Edge Off. The concept of a hit man out for revenge on gangsters who kidnap his daughter may sound like the plot of Taken 4 but thanks to a sub-plot involving a hallucinogenic designer drug that our hero Lee has been forced to take, along with Laurie’s twisted and surreal artwork that feel like a waking nightmare, it makes this into one of the most strange, and truly unforgettable books you will read all year.
Purchase The Edge Off for £4.00 from Cabal Comics
#11 On A Sunbeam (Avery Hill Publishing)
A former winner of our indie comic of the year poll, Tillie Walden’s coming of age space opera makes our list because of its print release via Avery Hill. Released in the aftermath of her Eisner award win for Spinning this now feels like a bold move away from her more personal and introspective work, but without ever losing what makes her work so compelling – i.e. a subtle and intimate look at teen sexuality and the search for identity. Add to this an out of this world sense of design and world building with giant space cathedrals and spaceships that look like coo carp and you have this utterly unique book that continues the exciting trajectory of one of comics most innovative voices.