This past weekend I was fortunate enough to attend the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo on behalf of Sound on Sight. I had a great time, and I was able to do a number of things there that you don’t actually care about. You care about the comics, and I don’t blame you. (Yes, dear reader, I am in your head. You should clean in here more often. It’s like you weren’t expecting company or something.) Now, instead of turning in the same articles that you’ll see on any other comic site, we’re taking a different route. While at C2E2, I met a lot of writers and artists, people you’ve probably never heard of, and I bought a lot of creator owned/independent comics. So without further ado, I bring you THE BEST INDIES OF C2E2.
Twisted Dark is a collection of short stories with the same overarching theme.There isn’t much I can tell without giving away twists and plot points, but overall, it was a well plotted collection and a very entertaining read. The first two stories are probably most fitting to the title. Setting the tone with a story titled “Suicide…”, Gibson makes it clear that he will not hold anything back. The five page story is every bit as potent, and occasionally more so, than the others in the collection. The second story, which thankfully, I can describe in more detail, is a personal favorite. It is reminiscent of “Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark” and focuses on Asbjorn, a man living who lives in a small cabin in the forest. Every morning Asbjorn follows the same routine, sitting down to write as his son and their dog go out hunting. When they don’t return, Asbjorn must venture into the woods to search for them. It’s here that the art truly sets the tone of the book, making the woods feel progressively darker and more oppressive. It can be difficult fo visually make an open forrest seem so claustrophobic, but illustrator Caspar Winjgaard does so expertly. The other stories encapsulated within the first volume are good, but the first two are on an entirely different plane. However, they are woven together in a unique and interesting way, which is something that can be both difficult for the author and rewarding for the reader. If you’re looking for a darkly psychological read, then skulk over to T Pub’s web site and pick up one of these.
Super! was surprisingly good. The generic name belies some serious writing talent here. The story focuses on a “B” list team of capes based out of a city called “Cosmopolis”, and predominantly centers on one member in particular:“Blitz”. The reader will enjoy watching Blitz balance her mundane life with the responsibilities of her night job, because she is a rich and relatable character. She spends her day dodging the temptations to play hooky from work, beat the snot out of some obnoxious customers, and tell her boss to stick it. When she dons the costume, however, she becomes all business, assuming she can get over being star struck by the A-Listers. Super! was an all around fun read that Piatt and Dolan can be proud of.
It Looks Back by JSB
JSB (Who I assume is not Johann Sebastian Bach) gives you a little feel for his personality before you even start the story. Hidden in the copyright is a message for thieves and pirates that reads “Fact: Crows have been known to swarm and massacre people who steal and/or repost my shit without written permission.” After that, the work only gets darker. JSB describes It Looks Back as a “Lovecraft meets Sam Spade” story, and I couldn’t possibly think of anything more apt. The story follows Brennan O’Sullivan, an extremely Irish named detective, who is called upon to investigate the suicide of a newspaper reporter. The reporter’s odd behavior leading up to his death leads one of his colleagues to suspect that there is something more at work, and Sully dives right into the case. The art is both creepy and crawly, casting a funeral pall over the entire story and driving home the uneasy feeling that the reader should have. JSB’s writing does need a little refinement because the occasional winks to the audience feel more like punctuation than fluid storytelling, but the story itself is novel and interesting. JSB’s story has all the twisted darkness that I was hoping for in Twisted Dark, but in far fewer pages.
Featuring comedy, tragedy, wit, witches, and cross dressing, the Bard would be proud. Set one month after the death of the King of Denmark, young Hamlet is quickly set on his way to England, exiled by Claudius for the murder of Polonius. Once in England, Hamlet is greeted by King Richard III, who quickly explains that Hamlet is needed to free the land from the tyrant god Shakespeare. Take a moment to absorb all those names, because as is often the case with Richard III, he seems a saint when most he plays the devil. The Prodigals, a group of pro-Shakespearean freedom-fighters, are introduced in due course, headed by Polonius, Juliet, and Othello. They stand opposed to Richard’s villainy, and Hamlet must choose who to believe, and most importantly, what to do should he finally meet Will. Kill Shakespeare has already been printed by one of the larger publishers, IDW, but was definitely worth a mention here because of its great entertainment value. Whether fan of the Bard or not, Kill Shakespeare is a fun and easy read.
Forgotten City by Bryan Glass
Not much to report here, these were simple preview issues so it is difficult to talk about the writing quality. The story follows two young boys who live in a post-nuke wasteland, and they meet some people and…um… that’s about all I’ve got.The art is fantastic, so much so that I bought one of Mann’s promotional prints, which is now hanging on my wall.
The 7 by Chad Gibson
The 7 follows a group of seven assassins, and promises to cross over with Gibson’s other works and maintain continuity. Each assassin has a unique skill ability, from invisibility, to communicating with machines. Nothing else is shown in the first issue. There is an excellent battle scene, but the comic overall feels like all flash and no substance. The little plot that is discussed (and there is VERY little) is dry and easily forgettable. Shared universe continuity is a great concept, and I would gladly give a second issue of The 7 a shot, but as it stands, Gibson is underperforming here.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Book 1 by Michael Mendheim
Mendheim is already a pretty solid name in his own right, and with Four Horsemen coming out of Heavy Metal, it’s easy to see why. The art and story really capture the spirit of Heavy Metal. The reader follows Adam Cahil, heir to two of the seals of the Apocalypse through gore-soaked pages and deep into hell as he tries to stop the release of the Four Horsemen and the coming Apocalypse. The book as a whole is violently entertaining, brutal, and, yes, occasionally a bit nippley. Even with all of the visuals to distract you, the storytelling does not take a back seat. Mendheim creates his characters well giving Adam a number of strong emotional scenes that make the reader feel for the character in every way.
Past Tense by Caleb King and Andrew Day
This was the purchase I was most excited to read. Day and King hooked my interest so well that I eagerly forked over the cash for this first issue. The story follows Adam, one of the First Men, the race that seeded primordial Earth with life many years ago. Adam is also an asshole. So when the time came for the First Men to move on to another world, they left Adam behind, and he has been hanging around here ever since. Unfortunately, you get none of this information from the comic itself as “Chapter One” is roughly eight pages long. What you do get is a well dressed man with lettuce in his hair having a car dropped on his head. Entertaining, but I want more. Someone get me more of this!
Oh Hell by G. Wassil
This was the first thing I picked up. The cover art immediately caught my eye. I make it a rule to always judge a book by its cover, because if the best face you can show your customer sucks, then so will the book, but if the cover art is eye catching, then the book is probably worth a read. Oh Hell delivers fairly well. The story follows a rebellious young girl who gets sent off to boarding school and in this case, school can literally be hell. The story felt a little thin and rushed, but it was humorous, entertaining, and gratifying. Definitely a worthwhile read.
I’ll let Krekeler’s words (or as close as I can remember them) speak for this book. “Imagine we’re friends, and I come to you for advice. Art is what makes me happy in life, and I really want to be an artist, but everyone around me wants me to be a doctor. What would you tell me to do? Now imagine instead of being an artist, what really makes me happy is being the most evil, vile person on the planet. What would you tell me then.”
Even Krekeler’s elevator pitch knocks it out of the park. Dry Spell follows Tom, an ad man with a secret. Tom was once the costumed criminal known as the Black Baron, but he’s given all that up for a normal life and a chance at normal happiness. The only hitch is that Tom is not happy. Krekeler’s sharp, witty story flows perfectly and melts into his fluid, occasionally psychedelic art style.
I really think the best review I can give this book is anecdotal. I brought with me, a friend who had never been to a convention before. She has read admittedly few comics, but has a lovely budding interest in the genre. As she was going through the pile of things I bought at the con, she stopped, picked up Dry Spell, and barely said another word until she closed the back cover. Dry Spell is an intoxicating story that will draw in readers and won’t let them go.