COMIC BOOK REVIEWS: FIVE INDIE BOOKS YOU SHOULD GIVE A READ!
In a world mostly dominated by the big companies Marvel and DC, it’s very easy to see how so pretty awesome books might get lost in the shuffle. Sure, there are some that, through marketing and name value of specific creators, break through and get some much deserved attention, but there are entire series that just never get the chance to really shine.
My goal here is to simply give some awesome indie comic alternatives from Marvel and DC and offer up a few series I think are definitely worth a read. Note these are all either completed series or at the very least are ongoing and have had one full story arc wrapped up.
So take a look and see if any of these jump out at you. Enjoy!
1. GHOSTED (IMAGE)
STORY: Joshua Williamson ART: Goran Sudzuka COLORS: Miroslav Mrva
SYNOPSIS: A horror/crime mashup that's equal parts Ocean's Eleven and The Shining. Jackson T. Winters is one of the greatest criminal masterminds to ever live...except he's rotting in jail after his last, doomed score. But when a filthy rich collector breaks him out, he's tasked with putting together an elite team of paranormal experts to do the impossible: Steal a ghost from a haunted house of horrors!
Why Read It?: Ghosted is an extremely fun and different type of story. It could easily work as a Netflix or Showtime series, with its witty dialogue and ever-evolving plot. The series ran for 20 issues (collected in four volume trades) and mostly revolves around having to pull off some sort of supernatural heist. If you enjoy films like Ocean’s Eleven, then you'll likely find this book right up your alley. The art switches up a few times, but it always remain consistently well done, and author Joshua Williamson keeps the pacing tight speedy. Definitely recommend for readers who enjoy the supernatural and want to get away from the same old books over at Marvel and DC.
2. COLDER (DARK HORSE)
STORY: Paul Tobin ART: Juan Ferreyra
SYNOPSIS: Declan Thomas’s body temperature is dropping. He never gets sick, never feels pain. An ex-inmate of an insane asylum that was destroyed in a fire, he has the strange ability to step inside a person’s madness and sometimes cure it. He hopes to one day cure his own, but time is running out, because when his temperature reaches zero . . . it’s over.
Why Read It?: The synopsis doesn’t even begin to cover how twisted the book is. Declan Thomas' body continues to grow colder, and it gets worse the more he tries to “heal” the mind of insane people. Why is this happening? Why did he suddenly wake up from a seemingly long coma? All of it involves the plans of a deity named Nimble Jack who seems to feed off others' madness, with his greatest dish being Declan Thomas! While the book may seem a bit like “splatter horror,” a closer read and inspection reveals this is much more of a psychological thriller than anything else.
Writer Paul Tobin and superstar artist Juan Ferreyra (Now doing art on the amazing Green Arrow series) really know how to get the reader hooked and reveal just enough that the imagination can take over to produce some twisted visualizations. Over the course of three volumes, Declan and his love interest (a nurse who had taken care of him while he was in a “coma” like state) must find a way to stop Nimble Jack, among other horrific beings, while keeping their own sanity in check. The series is truly a masterpiece, and shouldn’t be overlooked by any fans of horror or thrillers.
3. THE OCTOBER FACTION (IDW)
STORY: Steve Niles ART: Damien Worm
SYNOPSIS: The adventures of retired monster-hunter Frederick Allan and his family… which include a thrill-killer, a witch, and a warlock. Because sometimes crazy is the glue that binds a family together.
Why Read It?: Imagine The Adams Family merged with The Fantastic Four -- kind of. The Allan family is anything but strange, and with good reason. Frederick Allan and his Wife were monster hunters in their youth, but as with anything, life happens. The dangerous monster hunters are now parents, and not wanting their children to live the dangerous life, the Allan’s settled down in hopes of trying to live normally.
So there’s your setup, and from there it gets really interesting, as a half werewolf old friend of Frederick shows up, and the mystery of the children starts to be revealed -- all while fighting off vampires, ghosts, and everything else!
While Steve Niles still proves he’s got the writing chops for creepy and fun, Damien Worm’s artwork is the real highlight here. His subtle use of colors and ink washed line work help create a creepy vibe that just fits the setting and tone of the story so well. Don’t let the lettering or marketing fool you; this is not 30 Days of Night 3.0, but a fully-fledged unique and interesting story that just recently wrapped up its first volume run.
4. DEADLY CLASS (IMAGE)
STORY: Rick Remender ART: Wesley Craig COLORS: Lee Loughridge
SYNOPSIS: It’s 1987. Marcus Lopez hates school. His grades suck. He has no money. The jocks are hassling his friends. He can’t focus in class, his mind constantly drifting to the stunning girl in the front row and the Dag Nasty show he has tickets to. But the jocks are the children of Joseph Stalin’s top assassin, the teachers are members of an ancient league of assassins, the class he’s failing is “Dismemberment 101,” and his crush, member of the most notorious crime syndicate in Japan, has a double-digit body count. Welcome to the most brutal high school on Earth, where the world’s top crime families send the next generation of assassins to be trained. Murder is an art. Killing is a craft. At King’s Dominion high school for the deadly arts, the dagger in your back isn’t always metaphorical, nor is your fellow classmates poison.
Why Read It?: If you’re a child of the '80s then you’ll slip right in, and if you aren’t, don’t worry -- Rick Remender and Wesley Craig do an awesome job setting the tone and feel of the series really early on. By the time you’ve completed the first major story arc for Marcus Lopez, you’ll feel like you went to high school in the 80s (If your high school was full of psychotic cold-blooded assassins). I was hesitant at first of putting this series on the list, as it (for good reason) does get quite a bit of press, and there is talk of a TV series as well. Still, the writing is absolutely fantastic, and while it can drag for a bit (there is a lot of existential/drug induced monologues) when the story picks up it never disappoints. I was never a big fan of Remender’s X-Men work, but here I think his style of writing truly shines. Keep in mind this isn’t just a book of kids going around killing people, it’s really about the struggles they deal with not only as teens, but as being trained killers who fantasize about what “normal” is. It’s sort of like what if Saved by the Bell was about an underground school for killers.
5. THE BOYS (DYNAMITE)
STORY: Garth Ennis ART: Darick Robertson COLORS: Tony Avina
SYNOPSIS: This is going to hurt! In a world where costumed heroes soar through the sky and masked vigilantes prowl the night, someone's got to make sure the "supes" don't get out of line. And someone will! Billy Butcher, Wee Hughie, Mother's Milk, The Frenchman, and The Female are The Boys: A CIA-backed team of very dangerous people, each one dedicated to the struggle against the most dangerous force on Earth - superpower! Some superheroes have to be watched. Some have to be controlled. And some of them - sometimes - need to be taken out of the picture. That's when you call in The Boys!
Why Read It?: Garth Ennis has slowly made himself into the “Tarantino” of comic books, and The Boys might be his tour de force! Each issue seems to get more ridiculous as Ennis and Robertson take all known superhero concepts and clichés and turn it all upside down, body slam it, pee all over it, maybe take a dump on it, and while they're at it, they take the extra step to pour gasoline over everything held dear by comic fans toss a lit match at it with a smile. Seriously, everything that people groan or roll their eyes at concerning “superhero” comics, Ennis twists and manipulates into something dark, funny, and grotesquely interesting in this series. The Boys is NSFW in every sense, as nudity, crude sex, and violence explode on almost every page while we learn more and more about this mysterious crew put together for one purpose: keeping the capes in line! If you enjoy movies like Reservoir Dogs, Snatch, and imagine a really dark Untouchables, then you’ll definitely dig this series by Punisher writer Garth Ennis and Transmetropolitan artist Darick Robertson.
Do you have a favorite indie book that seems to be under the radar, or do you just wanna suggest some new awesome books someone might like? Sound off in the comments below and be sure to follow me no Twitter for more comic book suggestions and news!