It’s that time of year again where we begin to rundown the best indie and small press comics in time for our Indie Comic Of The Year poll. We start with a demonic superhero, a dystopian hi-tech future, the most action-packed comic of the year and the finale of a small press stalwart. As well as some exciting debuts and the return of some old friends.
#50. 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special (Rebellion Publishing)
This year’s summer spectacular was notable for featuring an all-female creative roster for the first time in the history of the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic. This meant we had stories from the like of Leah Moore, Alex de Campi, and Babs Tarr, as well as a fantastic Future Shock from the incomparable Tillie Walden. But fortunately this was more than just a piece of politically correct positive discrimination, and the 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special 2018 was just as fantastic a collection of stories as it ever has been. It introduced the Prog to some exciting new creators and we hope it will be the start of more interesting stories from them as a result, and as comic fans that’s what is most important at the end of the day.
#49 Mahoneys (Hard Line Comics)
Take a shot of Powers and add it to a dash of Cheers with a generous measure of Superior Foes of Spider-man and you’ve got Mahoney’s, the new book from The Guys’ Richard Carrington. After focusing on the world of heroes in his previous book, Carrington has turned his attention to villains this time, and in particular Mike Mahoney, aka The Brawler, who has turned his back on being a bad guy and set up a bar for villains. It’s your usual den of inequity and sees an eclectic roster of characters come in as patrons or as staff. The banter between the cast is fun and Carrington and artist Brian Dawson are clearly enjoying creating their rogues gallery of characters. They have also created a really solid main character with Mahoney who has that every-man quality, but also that honourable thief element to him, which makes him a great foil to the troublesome clientele. Mahoney’s mixes a love for classic superheroes with a smart post-modern angle to create a really fun and enjoyable read.
Purchase Mahoney’s from www.hardlinecomics.com
#48 The Little Deaths Of Watson Tower (Nick Bryan/Rosie AleXander)
With it’s striking pink and blue cover, this debut offering from Nick Bryan and Rosie Alexander managed to clearly stand out from the crowd, even before you see what is going on inside. This one shot follows the adventures of a bunch of council estate kids who terrorise a resident with magical powers and get a lot more than they bargained for when he turns them into mini grim reapers! Little Deaths is packed full of lively banter, surreal visuals, but also a real heart thanks to a subplot involving one of the character’s relationship with their dad. With each page having a superb mix of high energy and beautifully constructed panel designs, this is a really exciting debut and a pairing we will be keeping an eye out for in the future!
Purchase The Little Deaths of Watson Tower for £3 from Gumroad
#47 Hitsville UK #7 (Hitsville UK)
The final issue of this cult classic, John Riordan and Dan Cox’s musical misadventure has been one of the most consistently entertaining and outlandish small press comics of the last few years. It’s mix of musical satire along with high-energy madcap adventure has seen some of the most outlandish musical acts we’ve ever seen compete for supremacy and success in a truly one of a kind world full of Nazi electro bands, menacing DOOM mechs and sinister goth groups. However for this finale they somehow manage to gather up all those loose notes and turn it into a rabble-rousting, crowd pleasing finale.
#46 Dark Angels of Darkness (Peow Comics)
Packed full of raw energy and crazy outlandish concepts, Al Gofa’s debut graphic novel is one of those books where it is difficult to describe it’s sheer outlandish brilliance. On one level it’s a power struggle between an evil overlord and his disgruntled military, but it’s also this crazy mash up of outlandish hybrid creatures that sees characters merge together to create weirder and more wacky combinations, in order to become more and more powerful. With the angular originality of Kevin O Neill and the raw imaginativeness of Michael Fiffe, this is one of those books that revels in it’s own craziness to create a superbly silly but highly entertaining slice of WTF comics.
#45 32 Kills (Comichaus)
The most action packed comic we have read all year. Fact. Writer Mike Garley and artist Andy Clift have made this more than just a pull quote bating headline by adopting a 16 panel structure throughout which has required them to cram their action packed story into every panel. In doing so they have created an ultra violent, avant grade thrill ride that fills every milimeter of every page with as much action as possible. Reading 32 Kills feels like action movie The Raid distilled through the hard boiled crime of an Ed Brubaker comic, but featuring the artistic flair of Darwyn Cooke or Bruce Timm, thanks to man of the moment, Clift. A fantastic alternative take on the world of action comics.
#44 Stutter (Joe Stone)
A fantastic example of how small press comics look at the complex nature of social issues and mental health. This autobiographical book from newcomer Joe Stone explores his own issues with having a stammer and he recounts incidents through his life from childhood to the present day, as well as explaining the mechanics of a stammer and how and why it affects him and others. It’s this mix of personal reflections and insight along with some really clever visual tricks (such as using crumbling speech bubbles to represent his struggle with words) that makes this such a timely reminder of how comics can explain complex issues using clever visual language.
#43 Close (Comichaus)
Writer Chris Sides (Dark Matter, Impossible) and long time collaborator Chris Travell bring us a dose of gritty contemporary crime drama in Close – part of a raft of new titles being released by Comichaus this year. The tale of a convicted stalker who gets implicated in the accidental death of his obsession allows Sides to writes a tense and well constructed event comic, that feels like a cleverly crafted indie movie or a tense prime time TV drama. Travel’s highly detailed pencil artwork give it a very shadowy edge and helps give it the reallistic edge it needs to flourish. Although it ends a bit quicker than we would have liked, Close was still a compulsive and taught read that benefitted from being binge read like a boxset rather than read episodically in the Comichaus anthology.
Purchase Close for £5 from Comichaus
#42 Peace of Mind (Grym Studios)
This hi-tech thriller from writer Callum Fraser and artist Emiliano Correa mixes the dystopian ideas of Phillip K Dick and the cyberpunk chic of the Matrix to create a really smart and ambitious piece of small press sci-fi. The story opens in a VR world that is glitching, but when it’s occupier is expelled from the system for breaking the Ts and Cs she is picked up by a group of misfits who work in the sewers (assuming she’s dead). With her not being dead, there is inevitably more to this glitch than we know, and Fraser and Correa explore this idea with a mix of high-tech cyber story-telling and gritty dystopian down at earth drama. The artwork is scratchy and original while the cover is strikingly stylish and it all makes for an interesting an intriguing world which you cant help but get plugged into!
Purchase Peace of Mind #1 from comiXology
#41 The Devil In Disguise (LabRat Comics)
Matt Garvey’s satanic superhero has evolved from a Hammer horror-esque opening chapter into a classic cape adventure as our hero and his devilish alter-ego Lou attempt fight crime, battle giant lizard monsters and even send a demon back to hell. Devil in Disguise is a fantastic mix of classic Lee and Kirby superhero antics, late 90s horror comics like Spawn, and Garvey’s own quirky sense of humour and wit. The artwork from Robert Ahmad channels classic silver agers like John Buscema, but with an orange and black, duotone colour scheme that evokes Francesco Francavilla’s work on the superb Archie horror books and creates a really original hybrid of capes and demons!