Recommendations for the New Comic Reader – Indie (2017, Q1)

Recommendations for the New Comic Reader is exactly what it sounds like — the posts where I recommend current ongoing comics to new readers, mostly based on the current or most recent arc. I focus heavily on the series being new reader friendly, so if the latest masterpiece of Grant Morrison’s isn’t here, you know why. I’m mainly concerned with what I myself am reading, but will occasionally recommend something people have told me or I’ve heard is good, if I feel it bits (these recommendations will be clearly labeled).

I actually found it somewhat difficult to find any indie stuff I’d recommend to new readers. Sure, there’s stuff that’s great, but a lot of it requires that you’ve been following the series for a while. Also, a lot of comics are on breaks, though I’m recommending them anyway (this practice is actually part of why I love Image). But beyond that, indie stuff generally needs to be of a higher calibre to grab me, as I’ve got no loyalty to anything but the creators. But there were some surprises here and there, so join me after the break for my indie comic recommendations for new readers for Q1 of 2017.

sg1Snotgirl

Written by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Latest release: Issue 5 (current arc begins in issue 1)
Length: 5 regular issues

Snotgirl was somewhat anticipated, given the popularity of the Scott Pilgrim comics… which I’ve never read (I did like the movie, however!). I just picked the series up because I’d heard good things about O’Malley, and figured, hey, why not? Well, Snotgirl is a consistently amazing read, filled with humour and drama, while retaining just the right amount of self-awareness.

The comic starts Lottie Person, a fashion blogger with severe emotional issues. The series, surprisingly, doesn’t go out of its way to deconstruct the idea of social media. Instead, it just tells a good story about Lottie’s love life and friends, with characters who react to minor slights like someone wearing the same dress as them like their entire world was just destroyed. It’s hilarious, yet still compelling. And O’Malley throws in some trippy stuff, with Lottie possibly hallucinating, and some murdering and stalking hijinks.

Read Snotgirl if you want to read a fun but still compelling drama about characters that are hilariously bitchy yet sympathetic.

a5Animosity

Written by Marguerite Bennett
Latest release: Issue 6 (current arc begins in issue 5)
Length: 6 regular issues + 1 Animosity: The Rise issue

I’ve gushed about this series enough that regular readers of my blog probably know why it’s amazing by now. But for those who don’t know, Animosity features a world where animals suddenly become anthropomorphic and can now speak.

Marguerite Bennett explores the idea in cool ways, though she sometimes skims over ideas that should probably be explored more, such as the importance of religion. However, she really focuses on the bond between Jessie and her dog Sandor (named after the Game of Thrones character), and how they survive in this dangerous world. Bennett makes every issue a sentimental, dangerous adventure, while building on a long-term story that I won’t spoil.

Animosity is a great read, with an interesting world and compelling characters. While it focuses mostly on the relationship between Jessie and Sandor, she still shows off some cool concepts and other cool characters. It’s a great read, especially if you’re a pet lover.

Note: It seems like each arc of Animosity will also have an issue of Animosity: The Rise to end things on. I’m not sure how necessary they will be to the story of Animosity, but they’re a nice companion piece, following the immediate aftermath of the “awakening” and are included in the trades anyway.

e1Extremity

Written by Daniel Warren Johnson
Latest release: Issue 2 (current arc begins in issue 1)
Length: 2 regular issues

Extremity came out of nowhere and made something of a splash. It’s not Saga or anything, but it’s got good word of mouth going, and with good reason. Johnson does a good job exploring the horrors of war and revenge, while writing interesting characters.

Extremity follows the life of Thea and her brother Rollo as they wage war on those who’ve wronged them. Thea used to be an amazing artist, but another nation attacked and removed her dominant hand. Fueled by revenge, she and her father wage a relentless war with those involved. Her brother, meanwhile, is a sensitive soul, and questions the meaning of his family’s acts. There’s a clear anti-war, anti-revenge story there, but none of it feels pretentious, and you’re invested enough in the characters that you can just read it as a good ol’ fantasy story.

The main problem is that Johnson crams a lot of exposition and world-building into the second issue, and it gets a bit overwhelming. So long as this doesn’t become a trend, I can see myself being able to process it all, however. Hopefully it was just a one time thing, because the characterisation is very good and the comic actually has a decent world. Hell, it avoids the common problem of “both factions look the same” by just… giving each faction a different facial marking. It helps you tell them apart in the bigger battles, while also adding a cool visual that adds to the world. More of this and less of the outright exposition, please.

Extremity is, so far, a good look at the horrors of war with a nice look at the concept of revenge. If you want a cool fantasy world and a compelling cast, Extremity is a good choice.

kobk5Kill or Be Killed

Written by Ed Brubaker
Latest release: Issue 7 (current arc begins at issue 5)
Length: 7 regular issues

Ed Brubaker is a writer who’s always excelled at telling gritty stories. Hell, the only non-gritty thing I’ve read from him is his X-Men run, and that was… a thing that existed. His indie projects have never really grabbed me, but Kill or Be Killed absolutely has. It’s a mature deconstruction of vigilantism while telling a gripping story of a man’s complicated life.

The current arc has, so far, focused on adding complications to the mix. With Dylan encountering cops for the first time since going down his dark path. He’s starting to see the less glamorous side of vigilantism and getting more and more reckless, while still remaining human and sympathetic.

The latest also focuses more on his ex-girlfriend Kira, who was a supporting character for the first arc before leaving. It shows her as her own character with her own issues, whereas previously, she seemed to exist mostly as a love interest. But she’s interesting, with her own emotional baggage, and how the Dylan’s vigilantism (which she doesn’t know about; she just thinks he’s weird and possibly has self-destructive trendencies) — affects her seems like it’s going to be explored. Regardless, issue 6 alone shows that Brubaker is able to quickly establish an interesting character, and I’m very interested in how Kira will react to everything going forward.

Ed Brubaker continues his deconstruction of vigilantism with Kill or Be Killed, while still telling great stories with incredibly human characters. This new arc’s added complications make the already compelling plot even more gripping. If you like grounded, realistic takes on vigilantes with a deconstructionist best, read Kill or Be Killed.

Musings: I’ve realised that my RFTNCR pieces contain a lot of text per comic, and a lot of the time it’s unnecessary. With that in mind, I’m going to try and have Q2’s RFTNCR be a little more concise and to the point, more like this one and not so much like the others I’ve done.

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