TOP 10 INDIE COMICS of 2013 [Face-Off]: Whatcha Gonna Read, BROTHER!?!!
We’re here. It’s more Top 10 lists, whether you like it or not — and we know you do — so without further ado, GHG presents the Top 10 Indie Comics of the Year. Now, while Image and Dark Horse aren’t technically considered “Indies” per se, we’re going to borrow that term to represent anything non-DC and Marvel. So, yes, if a comic so happens to fall under the “Indy” imprint of such companies (such as Vertigo, or Icon), we’ll count ’em — because it makes life easier. Big thanks to our Top Comic Dogs of the clergy, CW Cooke “The Cleric” and “Padre” Guy Copes, for the following wrap-up.
HERE.. WE.. GO!
“Padre” Guy Copes: 10. La Mano Del Destino #3 – Grab your hipster glasses and tweak those trendy mustaches folks. Your favorite pontificating Padre of the pulpit is diving from the top rope to kick off this Indie Comics 2013 year-end top ten lucha style. Really, the first three issues could go here, but since the previous two dropped sporadically over the course of 2011 and 2012, well, it only makes sense to list the issue that actually dropped in 2013. This is DIY comics here, though, and any Indie creator taking on the art, writing, coloring, and publishing all by themselves needs to be commended — regardless of how long it takes. La Mano Del Destino is the creation of J. Gonzo under his Castle & Key imprint. It tells the tale of the former Ernesto el General who — after making a deal with a mysterious promoter — becomes La Mano del Destino to avenge the wrongs done to him and the honor of Lucha Libre. Most stories about or featuring wrestlers are, to put it bluntly, pure Crap…with a capital C. This book, however, is a fun, exciting story that pays homage to the history and mythology of Mexican lucha libre while telling a deep, mysterious tale of redemption. The physical craft involved in making this comic series rock is also top notch. The paper quality and color choices take on an almost muted animated tone. This is good comics, my brothers and sisters. Top that, CW.
CW Cooke “The Cleric”: 10. Invincible – Here’s my “piledriver” to that mere comic: Invincible. Yes, I frigging love this book. I especially love it when it comes out, whether in collected editions or in single issues. I buy all the singles and the hardcover collections because I’m a glutton for Robert Kirkman’s “other” title. Hell, it’s better than “The Walking Dead.” I wish there were more of these crazy, bombastic, incredibly brave ideas out there just wagging their fingers at everyone who is stagnant and without change. This book is all about change, baby, and change is good. If you don’t know the story, Mark Grayson is the main character Invincible. He’s a superhero. Now that you know that, go buy it. One of the most increasingly good and varied comics out there. (Editor’s note: This has been my favorite comic series since its inception. – Monsignor Moody)
Guy: 9. Rat Queens – I’m not the Invincible fanatic you are CW, but I have to say, what I’ve read of the book I’ve loved. Solid pick there. The next one up on my list definitely fits into that crazy and bombastic mold you’re speaking of. Betty, Hannah, Dee, and Violet are the titular Rat Queens. Betty is my favorite, if for no other reason than Roc Upchurch draws her cute as button while Kurtis J. Wiebe gives her a mouth fouler than my own. This book is practically a D&D fan’s wet dream — and if you‘ve ever met any D&D fans, you know they have plenty of wet dreams (sorry, Father McPhail). With a heaping helping of conspiracy, mercenary quests to avoid being locked in a dungeon, drunken brawls, and dark assassins, this book will appeal both to high fantasy fans and 12-sided dice roll veterans alike. Rat Queens definitely pushes some limits though; so if you are — unlike many of us here in the first church of geek — easily turned off by raunchy lingo and drug use, you might want to pass.
CW: 9. Quantum and Woody – This was a book I was determined not to like. I loved the original run by Priest and Bright. I loved it so much I wanted my own pet goat. But dammit if I didn’t just love this book when it popped out and took me by surprise. Again, this is a superhero book to a degree, and it’s a boatload of fun. Comedy, action, suspense, drama, and an idiot main character with another stiff as a board main who thinks he’s the lead, and you’ve got a blended coffee drink that keeps caffeinating your brain. Quantum and Woody is a comic for people who like comics, buddy cop movies, action movies from the 80s, and just fun, sometimes moronic stuff that you can enjoy.
Guy: 8. Super! – This series curb stomps its way onto the list and lands on the church steps courtesy of Unlikely Heroes Studios, specifically Zachary Dolan (Artist/Writer) and Justin Piatt (Writer/ Letterer). To paraphrase the creators, they are aiming to bring back a sense of wonder and joy to the cape and cowl genre. With three issues in the bag and more on the way, I’d say so far mission accomplished. It has a bit of the old Giffen/DeMatteis BWAHAHA JLI, but these guys are definitely doing their own thing. It isn’t all jokes and one-liners. There is some subtle and not so subtle commentary on popular superhero comics contained between the pages of Super!
CW: 8. Burn The Orphanage – How many superhero books can we talk about? Apparently, a bunch of them. Anyways, here’s something a wee bit different. Side-scrolling 8-bit action video games were my jam (and to a degree, still are my jam). I play through Streets of Rage on a PS3 disc as often as I can (the entire trilogy of games). This comic is basically like playing Streets and being a kid again. Burn the Orphanage by Sina Grace and Daniel Freedman is such a blast of a comic that I can’t wait for the issues to come out so I can burn through them and then re-read them and then re-read them. It’s only a three issue mini (if I remember correctly), but I frigging love it. It makes me feel like a kid again, putting in Game Genie cheats and trying my damnedest not to die on Mr. X. I’m going to go pop that disc in and kick some henchman ass.
Guy: 7. Witch Doctor: Mal Practice – While you go get your game on, I’ll continue to move away from superhero — and good ol’ wrasslin’ — comics. For all you smart guys out there, no, I didn’t spell the subtitle wrong. Mal Practice is the latest six-issue mini-series featuring the continuing misadventures of Brandon Seifert (The Writer Dude) and Lukas Ketner’s (Artist Dude) Dr. Vincent Morrow. It is a psychedelic mash-up of House, part mystical CSI, and the more Lovecraftian acid trip adventures of classic Dr. Strange. Joined once again by his assistants Penny Dreadful and Eric Gast, Morrow continues to mix both magic and medicine to cure the world of the monstrous grotesqueries infecting it.
It’s a cool book, fun book, weird book that tackles the, uh, strange (pun cheeesily intended) world around us. And, Strigoi Disease will have you checking your tongue to make sure it is still your own. What? Yeah, that creepy. CW, I just bought the trades, so if you want my floppies let me know. (Man that came out wrong.)
CW: 7. Hit – Cheers! Did you love LA Confidential? Did you watch the new TNT mini-series “Mob City” and wish that it was on for more than 3 weeks? Do you have an affinity for mobsters and cops doing dirty deeds to get the job done? Did you possibly enjoy Gangster Squad? Hit is the book for you. Bryce Carlson and Vanesa R. Del Rey create an entirely amazing world that is true to life and just a big amazing playground that I want to play in. I want to dig in, grab a sawed-off shotgun, shave my head and start punching stoolies to get to the truth of the matter. It takes a bunch of different angles and swerves and throws you for a loop and it involves dames and damsels and dirty-ish cops, and man do I love it. Again, I wish this was more than just a four issue mini (just like I wish Burn the Orphanage was more than just a mini as well). It’s not fair. I swear. It’s just not fair.
Guy: 6. Trillium – Not fair.. is the four week wait between issues of Trillium. Trillium is important because it is part of the “Vertigo is back” group of books that launched and have so far succeeded in 2013. It sees Jeff (Animal Man, Green Arrow) Lemire both writing and drawing a heart-warming sci-fi story that spans time and space. Plus, friggin Mayan temples on an alien world. I could keep babbling on and on about the book or you can just run out and grab every copy you can and start reading. And…go!
CW: 6. The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West – If you told me this idea on the street, I’d punch you in the face and steal it and then sell it for a million dollars right this second. This like so many others of our top ten lists are those million dollar ideas that come once in a lifetime. Mixing these two genres together is such a big, bombastic badass idea that I wish it had been mine. I wish I had thought of it. It’s a crazy book that like has so many different angles that you never see what’s coming next. Big Dog Ink is putting out some incredible books like this and Critter (just to name two out of their whole sweeping line) and you’d do well to learn about them. I think Legend of Oz should be your first entry into their line. And you won’t for a second be upset by this.
Guy: 5. FBP (Federal Bureau of Physics a.k.a. Was Collider) – What more can I say about one of my favorite new series? The Padre is digging the story progression and world building of a reality where the laws of physics are turned upside down, inside out, and sideways, sometimes all at once. Issue four saw a game changing event occur that has seen some fun new characters introduced and some clearer glimpses into some of the mysteries surrounding this world where the laws of physics are not as set in stone as we thought they were.
CW: 5. Battling Boy – Back to more superheroics from me, this time by gentleman Paul Pope. The dude is a comic genius. A comic saint. The forefather of badassery and kickassedness if there ever was one. I flew through this book (and still need to get The Death of Haggard West one-shot that lead into this book) and re-read it immediately. Like so many of my other favorites this year, it’s bombastic, it’s fun, it’s an epic comic that should be enjoyed for a moment, for a weekend, for a year, it doesn’t matter. This is wide-screen comic awesomeness that feels like a frigging Hollywood blockbuster waiting to happen. Battling Boy features a young dude with no real powers beyond the clothes on his back fighting to help save a city from monsters and other bad men. Paul Pope is a comics entity in and of himself and you need to read this book, dammit. Do it now. Get. Go.
Guy: 4. The Wake – Paul Fuckin’ Pope. Aww hell yeah dude! You nailed it with that one. Definitely one of my favorites of the year as well. My next best, though, is an intriguing scientific adventure story that I couldn’t put down once I started reading. I missed the individual issues. Thankfully Vertigo dropped The Wake: Part 1 on Wednesday collecting issues 1-5. I sat down to read it, loved it and immediately shot it into the top five on my list. It’s rare for a comic to give me chills. Most attempts at injecting horror elements into comics either fall into the category of predictably bad homage to Eerie Magazine strips of the 70’s or cheap thrills gore-fests that forget to bring a story along for the spooky ride. No worries here as Scott (Batman) Snyder along with Sean (Punk Rock Jesus) Murphy deliver a moody (not Monsignor Travis) scientific, and, on occasion, frightening thriller. The ending to this first part of the tale will leave you stunned and breathless. If you love smart comics, The Wake returns in February 2014 with issue #6. For now, catch up on the first part of the story if you haven’t already.
CW: 4. Dark Horse Superhero Line (Dream Thief, The Answer!, Black Beetle, Catalyst Comix, etc.) – I realize this is something of a cheat, but I couldn’t decide which was my favorite.. so I threw them all together. Dream Thief by Jai Nitz and Greg Smallwood has hometown awesomeness for me, but also incredible ideas and a story that again feels like a movie mixed with some of the best artwork ever put to paper by any artist ever (by the seemingly new but a lot of us have known about him for a long time Greg Smallwood). There’s The Answer by Dennis Hopeless and Mike Norton that was just a rollicking good time that made me want more. There’s Black Beetle by the incredible Francesco Francavilla who again is a comics god that deserves to be in the upper echelon of awesomeness; the whole world should know his name and speak it happily. Catalyst Comix by Joe Casey and the incredible gang of artists he had just makes me salivate. Catalyst relaunched an entire line of comics (Comics’ Greatest World) from a bygone era called the 90s that I thought had been forgotten about by everyone but me. I just LOVED the book with its amazing ideas and fantastic art and fun. Fun, I say fun. One of the best things to come out of Dark Horse Comics for a long time was the superhero line that brought a huge amount of great art and bold ideas. Another thing I wish I could have been involved in or had a say in, but enjoyable. Lovely stuff all around.
Guy: 3. Velvet – Hey look, another one that I reviewed. My self-promotion meter is set to shameless. I’m a sucker for sexy brunettes. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, CW (“And the sky is blue and water is wet Padre, what else is new?”). I’m also a sucker for a well-told spy story (hello, Ed Brubaker) that comes out of the gates shaken, but not stirred. Add in a sexy lead who proves more mysterious and ass-kickingly fantastic than the male protagonists, well then Velvet is my huckleberry. Bru’s book is only up to issue two, so it isn’t too late to snatch them up and join the fun.
CW: 3. Tuki Saves the Humans/Rasl (Color Collected Hardcover) – Jeff Smith is one of my favorite creators. He and Mike Allred (Marvel’s FF) could work on a comic book version of the phone book and I’d buy it. I love everything they touch. Jeff Smith’s Rasl is one of my favorite stories ever and the collected color edition totally counts because it has some new pages, some changes in the book, and it’s in FULL-COLOR and it’s a hardcover. Lovely, again. And then there’s Tuki Saves the Humans. Go to the Boneville website and read through it. Only a few pages have been published so far but it’s beautiful stuff. It’s amazing stuff. It’s wonderful and all the other words that can be used to describe it could just be fluff. There’s hardly any words in the story, yet I can’t stop myself from wanting to look over it and love every minute of it — poking my head around the world as often as possible. You should give it a shot. It’s free online and you might just get swept away as easily as I did.
Guy: 2. Black Science – Oops, I did it again. (Pat on the back, self hi-fives.) I just reviewed the first issue of this series a couple of weeks ago. While it was mentioned it in my latest indie comics review, it’s worth repeating that Black Science is the perfect blend of classic Metal Hurlant sci-fi fantasy and the type of hard sci-fi you find in the novels of Alastair Reynolds. The art team of Matteo Scalera and Dean White is on a whole other level. With the release of the second issue this week, the story just keeps getting better and more complex. This book is shaping up to be a big cosmic, multi-dimensional cocktail of Fuck-Yeah poured into a happy glass of classic pulp adventure. With issue two comes a bit more of a spotlight on the other members of the Anarchist League of Assassins as new danger, shocking revelations and humor abound. Plus, we get WWI German troops fighting Native American conquerors in spaceships. Yes parishioners, this comic is that crazy. Now, if you want to really see me kiss this series’ ass, check out that review I mentioned earlier. So, CW, while I pucker up to shower more love on Black Science, hit em with your numero dos.
CW: 2. Bad Karma – Again, more hometown pride here, but it doesn’t matter in the slightest. I love this book with the same kind of love that Guy shows to Rick Remender and Michael Fiffe. It was a huge success on Kickstarter and it is completely deserved. Fantastic art, wonderful stories, and you name it when it comes to a genre and it is in there. Noir. Time travel. Phil Hester. All of it. It will knock you down, punch your teeth in, and drag you kicking and screaming into a brand new world of comics beauty. With a lineup of creators including Seth Peck, Jeremy Haun, B. Clay Moore, some guy named Alex Grecian, and a number of artists that you will no doubt know all about later on in comics, this book is just a treat. Prose. Short stories. All the wonder and beauty of comics that you could ever ask for. I’m trying not to just heap praise on this thing, but for the love of all that is holy, this is a Kickstarter book that goes above and beyond what you would normally expect from a Kickstarter. Bad Karma is a book you should seek out. You should meet these gents at a comic book show of your choosing or buy it on their website and buy a t-shirt at the same time. IT IS A BLAST. I want to tell you more about the stories but if you look at the other comics I’ve listed as my favorites of the year, you might get a taste of some of the things you can find in here. Buy it. Read it. Then talk to me about it later.
Guy: 1. COPRA – The best superhero comic of 2012 is the best superhero comic of 2013. Shocker! Winding down its initial run with the recently released Issue 12, Michel Fiffe’s ode to classic Suicide Squad and dysfunctional 80’s team books is the oh-wow-fun you’ve been craving in comics for a long time. The design choices, often mixing an abstract graphic design sense with 60’s comic bombast, particularly when it comes to the books special effects, are mind-blowing and inspiring. The best way to describe it is “Ditko meets Picasso in a threeway with Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol“. From the colored pencil color technique to the experiments in page layout, COPRA is just a beautiful book. The story is both big (when it wants to be) and small (really nailing character development and progression) when it has to be. Fife has promised that this is not the end of COPRA. 2014 will see the return of the strangest, most creatively designed collection of anti-heroes and villains you will find anywhere in comicdom today. For comic fans that’s a very good thing.
-Codename: Action (Dynamite)
-Battling Boy (Paul Pope)
-The Private Eye (Brian K. Vaughan & Marcos Martin)
-Lose #5 (Michael DeForge/Koyama Press).
CW: 1. The Fifth Beatle – All of my praise and admiration were pretty much saved for this book. Everything else I’ve read this year has been wonderful and fun and groovy and badass and amazing and just all kinds of awesome. I’ve never been a big fan of the Beatles in any capacity, so a comic/graphic novel that can sweep me up in this story so effectively and then break my heart a number of times before it’s done is just about the best thing I can think about. A book that beat Rasl for my favorite comic of the year had to be incredible, and The Fifth Beatle, the story of Brian Epstein, is heartbreaking and lovely and beautiful to look at. Written by Vivek J. Tiwary with art by Andrew C. Robinson and Kyle Baker and edited by Philip Simon, The Fifth Beatle is like watching the story of the Beatles unfold behind the scenes, watching Brian Epstein start as a manager in a record store and ending up the heart and soul of the biggest band in the world. Seeing some of the story from this aspect is wonderful: we get the human aspect of it without having to have the voice of one of the Fab Four as our narrator and possibly be swayed by their opinion or their facts. We get to the meat of the creation of this universal hit band, and it’s an amazing story. The foreword and afterword break my heart. The story breaks my heart. It’s a story that should be told as a film. It needs to be told as a film. It better be told as a film because I will be there opening day with my friends and family and I will watch their reactions to the beauty of this. If you haven’t read it, get it. Read it. Put it down and cry a bit. Then try and allow yourself to listen to some of the Beatles song and remember: All you need is love.
-Hawkeye (Marvel) (and yeah, it’s pretty damn close to an indie book)
-Superior Foes of Spider-man (again, shut up)
-Imagine Agents (Boom!)
-The Five Ghosts of Fabian Gray (Image)
-A Voice in the Dark (Top Cow)
From GodHatesGeeks, we’d like to send out our best Holiday wishes…and, nearly as importantly, Happy Reading!