Recommendations for the New Comic Reader – Indie Comics (2016, Q3)

Here are my recommendations for readers from companies that basically aren’t Marvel or DC. I know it’s kind of harsh to only have one category, but if I didn’t do this, I’d have one comic for Aftershock, tons for Image, etc. So here’s my recommendations for indie comics, using the same rules as my DC recommendations: Generally avoiding thicker reads, comics with very little hand holding and series over a certain issue count. Don’t worry, I’m not recommending The Black Monday Murders if you’re new! Also, no Saga, because I feel you need to read that series from the beginning to fully appreciate it.

Cover

Animosity
Published by Aftershock
Currently on issue 2

I you like animals, Animosity is the comic for you. Set in a world where animals are suddenly anthropomorphic and can speak, Animosity is a surprisingly interesting. Aside from the obvious animal abuse issues that arise, there is also controversy over the very act of eating meat and the idea that humanity should have dominion over animals. Not only that, but there’s exploration of how animals acted before the unexplained event. Without spoiling anything, it’s a very good read. Marguerite Bennett writes really good drama without any of it feeling forced. Her relationships feel grounded real, despite such a fantastical event occurring.

Rafael de Latorre’s art is beautiful to look at. He can actually draw different face shapes, making him better than lots of comic book artists working for the Big Two. But De Latorre honestly is very good at drawing faces, and his facial expressions clearly convey emotions while still being subtle. At least when things call for it, because he can still have fun during intense scenes. De Latorre’s obviously really good at drawing animals, otherwise he’d be a poor fit for this series. The softer colours help give the world a more vibrant feel, but that doesn’t meant the series is averse to shadows when the need arises. Animosity is easily one of the best looking comics being published.

My one sticking point is that the world Bennett creates is genuinely interesting, and is ripe for exploration. There are a number of issues that are briefly mentioned and are really interesting, at least enough for an arc each, but so far many have just been glossed over in favour of a story focused on Sandor, a house dog. Not that the story isn’t good, because it is, I’d just like Bennett to do more with the interesting world she’s built.

Animosity has a great premise which leads to a great world. While Bennett doesn’t always fully explore all the elements of this world, the main story of a Sandor’s is worth the trade-off, at least for now.

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Kill or Be Killed
Published by Image Comics
Currently on issue 2

Have you ever wondered why Ed Brubaker, famed Captain America scribe, never wrote The Punisher? I know I have, since it would be a perfect fit for him. Well, Kill or Be Killed is the closest we’re going to get, and it’s better than that Punisher comic. Instead of a grizzled war veteran, Kill or Be Killed stars Dylan, an insecure, average-built guy who’s had just enough bad days to be pushed into killing people. Fully explaining his motivations would spoil half the “fun” of the series, but suffice to say, Brubaker is able to create a heavily flawed protagonist who is still really engaging. And unlike Garth Ennis’ Punisher, Dylan doesn’t have any real training. He doesn’t even have the right mindset for fighting. And his fallibleness is what makes this story so much more engaging!

My one problem is how Brubaker handles a… potential wild card. Again, I can’t really get into it without spoiling things, but a very interesting potential plot thread is set up and had lots of potential. The visuals involving this plot thread alone were great. But Brubaker doesn’t do much with it, at all, to say the least. And it’s clear he isn’t going to.

Sean Phillips’ art is astounding. He really loves playing with shadows, as most of this comic is drenched in them. This darker look creates this constantly eerie atmosphere that just works for the character and his disturbing story. But the colours, when they’re there, practically leap off the page, and the contrast is beautiful. Phillips is a perfect fit for Brubaker’s preference for darker, more gritty stories.

Kill or Be Killed is a realistic vigilante comic where the protagonist is unskilled and troubled, and this is what makes it interesting. While this comic could easily get too dark, given how crappy Dylan’s life has been, right now it’s incredibly engaging to watch a flawed, unskilled vigilante rise in a story where anything could happen to him.

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Snotgirl
Published by Image Comics
Currently on issue 2

From the writer of Scott Pilgrim comes a series that I thought was going to be insanely by-the-books. Snotgirl stars Lottie Person, a fashion blogger who has an amazing amount of allergies she hides from her followers. Snortigirl seemed like it would be your typical deconstruction of social media with the typical message of “people only show a side of themself” or something. But instead, it’s a really weird drama as Lottie deals with her lack of real friends by befriending stranger Cool Girl. What follows is a trippy story as Lottie deals with both the fallout of Cool Girl, and Lottie’s life spinning out of control. While Lottie herself is immensely unlikable, this allows her few genuine moments of humanity and vulnerability to have all the more impact.

Leslie Hung’s art is great for this series, with insanely emotive faces. The anime-esque look really works for a series when there’s so many pretty people wearing “fashionable” outfits. It allows the story to be viewed through a very cartoon-y lens, with everything exaggerated so that any positive or negative thing in Lottie’s life is made a big deal. This really suits a series focused on a social media personality.

If you want a drama comic that knows how to compel you to read about its incredibly unlikable protagonist, that has an interesting plot and unexpected twists and turns, Snotgirl is the comic for you.

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Glitterbomb
Published by Image Comics
Currently on issue 1

Another in the department of “drama about someone with a crappy life, with a twist.” Jim Zub’s Glitterbomb features middle-aged, past-her-prime actress Farrah Durante, who nobody wants to hire. Who’s also a single mum. So yes, it’s the comic equivalent of Sundance fodder… or at least it would be, if not for a horror twist. You can tell from the cover this issue has a supernatural element, and like Kill or Be Killed, it’s best that it’s not spoiled for you. Suffice to say, there’s lots of blood, and it’s not for the faint of heart.

While I just blasted it for being Sundance fodder, it is genuinely compelling to read as Farrah struggles for even the slightest of breaks. Zub’s Wayward similarly wrote a character with a very depressing life, but here, the way he plays with your expectations makes the heartbreak all the more powerful.

My one problem so far is that the first issue didn’t seem like it knew how to end itself, and it came across as incredibly anti-climactic. Hopefully this isn’t a problem with future issues.

Djibril Morisette-Phan’s art is great. Most of the time, it has a nice clean look with heavy lines. But when the scene calls for it, Morisette-Phan brings horror to the comic in a big way, with some very violent imagery, and very good work with silhouettes.

Glitterbomb is a comic that’s still pretty early days, but stars a compelling lead which helps its fairly standard set-up. What makes it stand out is the confidence with which is approaches its horror, using it sparingly but well. If you’re a fan of this kind of story featuring down-on-their-luck artists and like some helpings of horror thrown in, this is the comic for you.

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