❉ Fred McNamara presents the first in a series of guides to the best of the indie and small press comics scene!
The indie/small press comics landscape is awash with talent and creativity. Super news for your average connoisseur of indie comics, but where are the rest of us meant to look? How do we pick the best of the best? Indiequential is the column to help guide through the worlds of independent and small press comics and zines that are well worth your time!
FROM MY BOOKSHELF:
‘This Train Terminates Here’
Steaming in at a mere 11 pages, This Train Terminates Here barely qualifies as a single issue, and yet it’s a joyous thing to find that it compacts an action-heavy tale that’s as weird as it is explosive. Its blitzkrieg medley of time-travel and terrorism recalls such Hollywood flicks as Looper and Source Code. Two warring agents from either side of an undisclosed uprising meet on the London underground, and proceed to reveal their identities to each other. Two snapping narratives weave in and out of each other, as two warring agents from either side of an undisclosed uprising meet on the London underground.
Aaron Edzerza’s gorgeously sharp artwork snaps and crackles with every panel. He gives the confines of the Tube train a warped, exaggerated appearance that perfectly complements both the intensity of John and Charles’ confrontation and Charles’ growing mental breakdown as he discovers just how much of his plan John already knows. Edzerza doesn’t skip on the action scenes either, bringing them to life with vibrant grit. Short and to the point, This Train Terminates Here is fiercely good fun.
‘Extraversal Vol.1 – Time to Fly’
I do enjoy having a gander at a good old anthology. By its very nature, an anthology allows itself a licence to explore endless worlds and ideas, and that’s just what Extraversal does – literally. Extraversal Volume 1: Time to Fly is the first collected edition of Big Punch Studio’s ongoing anthology comic book, and is the perfect place to start for those new to the group.
An exuberant mixture of TV21/2000 AD-style sci-fi strips gives Extraversal a retro-tinged coolness, but the contents themselves are wildly enjoyable. With its thick colours and gleefully twisted depiction of the cosmos, Cuckoo’s rollicking shenanigans of a Guardians of the Galaxy-esque crew of space fighters caught in the spaces between space balances old school fun with a twisting story.
Elsewhere, the dark, complex psychology of Orb is a compelling oddity, with its thin, cryptic colours. At the other end of the spectrum, the delightfully daft adventures of “Cat and Meringue” ensures that Extraversal is a comic that promises quality with each strip. Now is a great time to latch onto the continuing adventures, as the comic is in the midst of a gargantuan crossover event, Perfect Storm, too!
Detached, melancholic and profound, Vantage is an effortlessly constructed probing into personal and existential space. Written by Kristyna Baczynski back in 2013, it follows a young woman’s brief journey across town to visit an older acquaintance. It could be her mother, or grandmother, or none of the above. It’s left deliberately vague.
Throughout the nameless lead’s journey, Baczynski finds surreal pleasure in the mundanity of this every day journey. Coffee beans, eyeballs are all brought to life, and all exude a melodramatic flare for life that our hero seemingly lacks. Set against a distinctive pale blue pallet, it’s a strange, quiet yet heartfelt read.
‘Peace of Mind’ #1
On first inspection, I found Peace of Mind to be something of a mixed bag. It presents a well-worn story of cyberpunk mind-hackery, so much so that at first glance, you’re unsure if it brings any freshness to those ideas. I’m glad to say then that Peace of Mind’s slick, violently precise art and a world that invites you to discover more, it’s a taut debut from Grym Comics.
Peace of Mind #1 adds a dash of social consciousness to its story, a handsome addition to any cyberpunk narrative. In a world where human remains are forced to pay to keep their memories alive for a finite amount of time, a group of scavengers hit the jackpot when they’re latest haul reveals not a corpse, but a live subject. Callum Fraser’s script knows just when to pull you in and push you back, to preserve that unfolding sense of mystery that hangs over the issue. #2 can’t get here soon enough.
‘All We Ever Wanted: Stories of a Better World’
In these times where political and social divisions haven’t been so apparent for so long, it’s perhaps little wonder that Tyler and Wendy Chin-Tanner’s Kickstarter campaign for their anthology met with a rousing success. All We Ever Wanted: Stories of a Better World looks like it packs in far-flung worlds and characters, but its positive vibes of stories that hope for a better world radiate with today’s climate.
The comic features 25+ creators and aims to reach backers in January 2019. After that, we can expect a general release through Tyler and Wendy’s publishing house A Wave Blue World. My bookshelf may be littered with indie anthologies, but I’d be a fool not to make room for this one.
‘Chalk’ (Collected Edition)
Fusing playful romance and epic fantasy made Chalk a standout strip in Comichaus’ self-titled anthology. With a narrative flipping between countless time zones, random people committing acts of brutal suicide, and a deal gone awry with Lucifer himself, Chalk left a gruesome yet devilish impression on me, Catia Fantini presenting a smirk-ridden world of mystery and suspense.
Fantini’s detailed yet unexaggerated art (inked by Steve Horry) gives the strip an odd punch of believability, bolstered by the monochrome sensibilities that characterises all Comichaus strips. That lack of caricature gives the comic’s emotions some muscular immediacy, but also makes the fantasy elements all the more immersive. The strip ran from between issues #3 and #8 before ending on a mid-season cliffhanger. However, with Comichaus’ recent reinvention, abandoning ongoing strips in favour of one-shots, Chalk will return in a collected edition in the near future.
PICK OF THE KICKS:
‘Our Final Halloween’
Five kids waking up in an abandoned, blood-splattered house with no memory of how they all got there is a sure-fire recipe for Mike Garley’s action-driven one-shot to be as fun as his past reads. Hot off the heels of co-creating 32 Kills alongside artist Andy W. Clift, Garley has taken Our Final Halloween, co-created with artist Michael Lee-Graham, to Kickstarter, and you’ve only got a few days left before the campaign finishes!
Those of a digital disposition will find all the more reason to back Our Final Halloween, as it’s being produced as a digital-only comic. Should the campaign be a success, this means readers will be able to read the comic in time for Halloween – a perfectly spooky treat!
That rounds up this first edition of Indiequential. Tune in next time for another ramble through my indie comic collection as we continue to pick the best of the indie/small press scene!
❉ Fred McNamara is a contributing writer for a variety of digital and print publications, covering comic books, films, TV and more. His work has appeared on such websites as PopMatters, WhatCulture, Flickering Myth, Grovel, the Official Gerry Anderson Blog, ScreenRelish, and in such publications as Starburst Magazine, Andersonic and Comic Scene. My work has also appeared in anthologies published by Watching Books and Who Dares Publishing.