To celebrate their first year we thought we’d do a quick rundown of 10 favourite MonkeyBrain Comics. They’re all available via ComiXology so why not give them a try and let us know what you think on our Facebook page.
#1 Masks and Mobsters
Josh Williamson and Mike Henderson’s world of golden age pulp heroes and prohibition era gangsters is the perfect fusion of both worlds, but with a very neat twist – the gangsters actually win! Following the death of celebrated hero Dr Daylight at the hands of gangster Bobby Silver in issue 1 (sorry, spoilers!), subsequent issues are perfectly pitched one shots told from different perspectives of characters in and around Golden City as they deal with the death of the city’s most powerful hero. Taking elements from classic superhero stories, mobster movies, classic horror and even literature (in their Dickens inspired Christmas special), Williamson manages to fuse these disparate elements together to create something instantly familiar but also very original at the same time. Ably supported by Henderson’s brilliant monochrome art, Masks and Mobsters is Monkeybrain’s most consistently innovative title and every issue manages to push the story on while feeling completely unique.
Read our exclusive interview with Josh Williamson & Mike Henderson here
#2 The Mask of The Red Panda
Gregg Taylor and Dean Kotz’s Mask of the Red Panda is another glorious flashback, this time to the world of pulp heroes and radio serials but with a very contemporary feel and a generous dose of supernatural elements. August Fenwick is a billionaire playboy by day and a masked detective by night (so far so familiar) but where the Red Panda truly excels is with sidekick Kit Baxter aka the Flying Squirrel. Baxter is much more than just another damsel in distress or sidekick in strife though, giving the book a plucky central character that is the real heart of the story. With strong Will Eisner inspired artwork from Kotz to go with Taylor’s well worked scripts (he has been refining the Panda for many years as a podcast and radio serial with his Decoder Ring Theatre group) Mask of the Red Panda feels like a book that has been running for years the characters are that well realised and so after it’s initial 3 issue run, this is one book we cannot wait to return later in the year.
Read our exclusive interview with writer Gregg Taylor here
#3 Aesops Ark
When it was released as part of the first MonkeyBrain line-up Aesop’s Ark was the true stand out. A delightful throw back to the world of pen and paper in this new digital age, J. Torres and Jennifer L. Meyer’s hand drawn and lettered story of animals on board the ark exchanging Aesop-like fables may seem completely at odds with a company looking to make a name in the world of digital but the quality of the work on show is truly astounding. Thanks to the iPad’s retina screen and ability to zoom in on ComiXology’s HD versions every page is a true wonder and delight. Released alongside books about a supervillain who want to be a hero, a teenage crime fighter and supernatural detective as part of the first wave of MonkeyBrain titles, Aesop’s Ark really helped define the eclectic nature of the company and is one of the most beautiful books you will read all year and rightly made it onto our top 10 digital comics of 2012 list.
Read our review of all the Monkeybrain launch titles here
#4 Edison Rex
Chris Roberson and Dennis Culvers ‘What if’ superhero tale is much more than just ‘what if Lex Luthor killed Superman’. Sure that is the basic premise of the book as arch villain Edison off’s hero Valiant in the first issue (sorry more spoilers!), but its much more than that. It’s a post modern superhero book that doesn’t rely on grit and violence to get it’s point across, preferring to go the more gentle route of poking light fun at superhero conventions rather than completely ripping it to shreds. Roberson’s deft touch with the script comes from someone who clearly loves superheros and wants to have fun with their mythos, making a book for all ages, not just angst ridden geeks. All the while Culver’s comic strip style artwork gives the book a really strong look and feel and he is clearly revelling in the motley cast of characters. Make sure to check out the collected edition of the first 6 issues which are available now as it gives a much better feel for the title as a whole and you’ll soon realize why this is one of the most under-rated books on the MonkeyBrain roster.
Read our full review of issues 1-6 of Edison Rex here
#5 Thoughts on a Winter morning
A comic about a man walking his dog on a winter morning might not sound like the cutting edge of digital publishing, but when it’s written by Astro City scribe Kurt Busiek, you always know that it is going to be sheer class. The first in a series of one-shots that MonkeyBrain released last year year this was originally released as part of a print anthology but under the MonkeyBrain umbrella it was given room to breath and be welcomed in by a whole new audience. After all isn’t that what self publishing, and by extension digital publishing, is all about? Great titles being published so they can be read by the fans, not being stifled by the big two or lost in obscure anthologies. Busiek’s script is highly personal and utterly mesmerising, while Steve Lieber’s simple, classy artwork makes this book something truly special whatever the format you read it on.
Read our full review of Thoughts on a Winter morning here
#6 The Stars Below
Another one shot in the vein of Thoughts on a Winter Morning, except The Stars Below is an even harder sell for your average comics reader – it’s a black and white book about the day time adventures of a pigeon! Written by Zack Smith with art from Memorial artist Rich Ellis, The Stars Below has the kind of gentle touch and emotional beats that you just don’t get in comics all that often. There’s virtually no dialogue and so Ellis’s art is allowed room to breath, especially with the beautifully rendered skylines and architecture he is given a chance to revel in. The bird itself is brilliantly realised mixing great expressions with a true draughtsman’s touch to produce one of the most unique books around and one of the best pigeon adventure stories you’ll ever read!
You can read our full review of The Stars Below here
# 7 Bandette
Husband and wife team Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover have created in Bandette a fast-paced, fun-filled, French-inspired teen adventure/crime fighting/cat burglar book which was one of the stand outs from the initial run of MonkeyBrain titles. It has rightly been nominated for a slew of Eisner awards as it mixes elements of Oliver Twist, the Little Rascals, Nancy Drew and Amelie, in its European infused style and high energy story. Bandette is the real livewire of the MonkeyBrain universe, and along with Kit Baxter is another fantastic female lead that should be inspiring and entertaining for comics fans of all ages..
Read our review of all the Monkeybrain launch titles here
#8 High Crimes
Christopher Sebela and Ibrahim Moustafa’s genre defying crime/mountaineering adventure has one of the darkest and most original premises you’ll see this year – Haskell Price and Zan Jensen ‘rescue’ bodies from Mount Everest and cajole money out of their families to fully recover them – some would even say they extort and/or blackmail! However when they try and bring down the body of someone who should probably have remained up there and attract the wrong kind of attention things start to really heat up. With such morally ambiguous characters Sebela’s scripts is all about the shades of grey in between good and bad, which make for a fantastic read and Moustafa’s brilliant mix of wide open mountain landscape and gritty Chinese suburbs makes this a really intriguing book.
Find out more about the world of High Crimes in our exclusive interview with Christopher Sebela
#9 Red Light Properties
Writer/artist Dan Goldman’s story of a supernatural real estate agent who exorcises ghosts from unsellable houses is another great example of the range on offer at MonkeyBrain. With its psychedelia infused, mixed media artwork, landscape orientation and spooky story lines, combined the underlying story of a family falling apart, it manages to be both trippy, scary and otherworldly but also delightfully grounded with a real emotional heart. Jude is a stoner psychic who can banish spirits from old houses in order for estranged wife Cecellia to sell them. Both need each other professionally but can they ever admit they need each other personally as well? And what about their son who is beginning to manifest his father’s unique supernatural gifts?
Find out more about Red Light Properties in our exclusive interview with Dan Goldman
Dalton Rose’s tripped out fantasy adventure story is like a glorious mashup of Mike Mignola, Geoff Darrow and The Adventures of Zelda, creating a glorious hybrid of epic adventure, gruesome monsters and psychedelic artwork. Stunning to look at with a beautifully simple story arc, Phabula is an assault on the senses that warrants multiple readings to truly to get into, but once you’re there it really is something rather special. Its just a shame that there’s only ever been one issue, a real are gem, so more please and soon!
You can read our review of Phabula #1 here
Don’t forget all titles are available via ComiXology for the bargain price of £0.69/£0.99 and there are also 15 other great titles available from some amazing writers and artists that just didn’t quite make our list!