Top 11 Indie Comics of 2011
11. Fallen Angel: Return of the Son (IDW)
Fallen Angel is probably one of those titles you’ve never heard of, even though it’s written by one of the best guys to put words to paper in the industry, Peter David (X-Factor, Incredible Hulk). It stars Liandra, an angel cast out of Heaven by God, as she patrols the city of Bete Noir, which is a purgatory type of place inhabited by an array of Biblical characters, gangsters, politicians, swindlers, and pretty much every other unsavory type you can think of. Liandra kicks ass first and asks questions later, and when she’s not busting skulls she can be found in the local pub slamming beers with the best of them. She’s not your typical protagonist in that she swears, manipulates, and acts promiscuous if the occasion calls for it, yet she still sticks to her own moral code which is overall, a good one. What really makes this series though, is the stunningly beautiful artwork by J.K. Woodward. Woodward has painted every single panel of this series since IDW picked it up from DC way back in 2005. Honestly, I’m shocked Woodward hasn’t broken into the Big 2 yet, since his style is unique and pleasing to the eye, but I assume it’s only a matter of time. Check out an interview with Woodward as he talks about Fallen Angel: Return of the Son.
10. Super Dinosaur (Image)
This one made the list because in my opinion it has rejuvenated kids comics- especially for boys. Man, I wish this series existed when I was a kiddo. It stars a 10 year old genius boy and his best friend, a battle suit wearing T-Rex named Super Dinosaur (SD for short)! Using their gizmos and weapons, the duo takes on the bad guys, which includes a mad scientist and his cadre of dino warriors. It’s fun stuff, and if you have a little boy in the family who needs to read more, this is an easy one to give him and get him hooked early. The best part? It’s written by The Walking Dead creator, Robert Kirkman. Who knew that guy was so versatile? Plus, Jason Howard’s artwork is loaded with the action needed to retain any kid’s attention.
9. Severed (Image)
Back in 2010 Scott Snyder redefined the vampire genre with American Vampire, and in 2011 he redefined horror comics along with co-writer Scott Tuft, in Severed. Why? Because it focuses more on story telling and pacing to make your skin crawl as opposed to B movie violence and gore. This book has one issue to go before completion (7 in all), and it has been one of the creepiest slow burns I’ve ever read in the sequential form. I say “slow burn” because there’s a lot of character and very little action, but because of this the tension and evil just lingers throughout the entire series. From the turn of the century setting, to the beautiful art by Attila Futaki, Severed works because it doesn’t try too hard to creep you out. It’s almost too organic, and the main villain will make your skin crawl.
8. Miss Don’t Touch Me vol. 1 & 2 TPB (NBM)
Ok, so I’m quasi-cheating here since both of these Miss Don’t Touch Me volumes are technically reprints, however, they have both been unavailable for years until this past February. If the title alone doesn’t grab your attention, that cover art certainly will, and once you’ve begun reading this series, you’ll finish both books in one sitting. Like Severed, Ms. Don’t Touch Me is rich in character, taking place in Paris during the 1930s, starring a young girl whose sister is murdered but the cops don’t seem to care. Why? Because she was a prostitute and seemingly one of many in a slew of murders conducted by a serial killer. So what does the young girl do? She joins the most astute brothel in Paris under the moniker “Miss Don’t Touch Me,” where she serves as the place’s dominatrix in order to sniff out her sister’s killer. It’s excellent, and one I would highly recommend to anyone who favors a witty and clever female protagonist. Written by Hubert, art by Kerascoet.
7. Terry Moore’s Echo (Abstract Studios)
Beginning in 2008, Terry Moore’s latest creator owned series, Echo, came to an end last year. Spanning 30 issues in all its black and white glory, Moore pulled off an engaging super hero/sci-fi story that I would strongly suggest any man purchase for his lady if he wants to get her into comics. And to the ladies reading this- if you’re looking for a female character with guts, look no further. Moore is known as the guy who gets women reading comics, and Echo is a great example as to why. The art is simple, yet detailed, expressive, and flat out beautiful- especially his faces. Julie, the book’s main character, is a victim of circumstance and is extremely endearing, and the supporting cast is charming as they show their integrity throughout the story. Pick up the complete collection. It’s worth it.
6. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW)
My Turtles bias may be shining through here a little, but in terms of revivals/reboots/relaunches of 2011 (and there were a lot of them), I strongly believe that the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ongoing takes the pizza. While it’s a fresh take on the TMNT and their origin (which allows for a great entry point for new readers), the fact that TMNT co-creator, Kevin Eastman, is involved gives it legitimacy to the older Turtles fans, and the story delivers. There’s true passion in this series, and it’s evident from the 5 issues and 2 one-shots published last year that the Turtles have staying power in today’s market, which is amazing considering this franchise has had an up and down relationship with comic readers since its inception in 1984. Now though, comic fans (not just TMNT fans) are giving this book a try and the results have been pretty damn positive. This series is plotted by Kevin Eastman, written by Tom Waltz and features artwork by Dan Duncan. Read my full review of #1 here.
5. Tale of Sand HC (Archaia)
If there was a “coolest graphic novel” award for 2011, Tale of Sand would be the recipient. The fact that Archaia Entertainment was able to discover a previously unpublished Jim Henson screen play and interpret it in comic book form as the major medium for it to hit the public eye, is truly remarkable. There are no muppets or puppets in this one- it’s straight up a journey of one man and the choices he makes. Check out my podcast interview with Tale of Sand artist, Ramon Perez, from June 2011 on site at the Jim Henson studio Lot in Hollywood!
4. Sweet Tooth (Vertigo)
Jeff Lemire. This guy completely won me over in 2011. His work on DC’s Animal Man and Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. introduced me to comics I never thought I’d care about (seriously, both are phenomenal and would be on this list if it weren’t solely indie books), but it’s Sweet Tooth that has been his home run title since it first debuted in 2009. The reason why it made the Top Indie Comics of 2011 List though, is because of the storyline that began in #26, featuring guest artist, Matt Kindt. For the first time in a long, long time, this story arc (which concluded with #28) evoked an emotional response from me that turned into physical tears. I won’t spoil why, but man, it’s a gripping story, and those three issues can be read independently of the rest of the series. Although, it does shed some light on what has been happening since issue #1, and the way Lemire is tying everything together is beginning to make uncomfortable sense…
3. Scalped (Vertigo)
Holy fuck all this series will blow you away. Wonder why the name Jason Aaron has been popping up all over Marvel for comics like Wolverine, X-Men, and The Incredible Hulk? It’s probably because of Aaron’s phenomenal work on this book since issue #1. 2011 saw the second to last story arc of this series come to a close, and shone some ugly light on the supporting cast, while putting our main character, Dash Bad Horse, through some seriously fucked up shit. That’s the thing about this book that makes it unlike any other- you love to fucking hate everybody. There’s no good guy. Everyone has some sort of terrible character flaw that makes them unforgivable, yet as a reader you can’t help but stare as you watch each character self destruct. It’s so fucking good, and series artist R.M. Guerra needs to win a fucking medal for the work he’s put into this series. Any male comic reader can’t consider themselves a real man until they’ve read Scalped.
2. Echoes HC (Top Cow/Minotaur Press)
If we were giving out a most fucked up writer award, Joshua Hale Fialkov would win it for his work on this book and his new ongoing through Image which debuted last year, Last of the Greats. Echoes is an excellent gateway comic for new readers, and it’s usually one of the first books I show my new customers. Experienced readers can get into it even more, as it presents a story they’ve never seen before. It’s messed up, seriously messed up, and the entire time you’re reading there’s an air of uneasiness that won’t go away. It stars a schizophrenic man whose father tells him, upon his death bed, an address. When the son goes to this address, what he finds there horrifies him to the core and leads him to question everything he thought he knew about his late father. Did I mention he’s also schizophrenic? It’s intense and dark, evil and pitiable. Plus, Rahsan Ekedal’s artwork adds an element of storytelling that no other artist would be able to pull off and make this book work so damn well. His black and white style accurately portrays character expression and emotion, which is just as crucial to telling this story as Fialkov’s words. If you’re looking for a self contained comic to make you question good as you know it, read Echoes.
1. Our Love Is Real (Self Published/Image)
Well, this is the Top 11 Indie Comics of 2011 list, and it wouldn’t be complete without having a truly indie published comic on it. Our Love Is Real is that book, and it takes the cake and smashes it all over your face and man-bits… then licks it off. Everywhere. Originally self-published by writer/creator Sam Humphries for 4 printings, and then later picked up by Image, Our Love Is Real proves that you can get it done solo with indie comics (just like TMNT in the 80s!) and make a splash in today’s Big 2 over-saturated market. Of course, Humphries had to work his ass off to make that happen, but he did and it was a glowing success. Seriously- first prints of this comic are still selling at $100 on ebay. That’s insane for a modern day title! The story is worth it too, taking place in a future world where sex with animals has become the norm, so people have branched out to unite themselves with… other things. It’s hilarious, but also shockingly relevant to today’s social struggles in the United States. What’s more, is that Humphries did it again this past December, self publishing another new series called Sacrifice, and not surprisingly, it’s just as successful as Our Love Is Real online and in stores. I highly recommend both. When you’re reading these comics you begin to seriously wonder about the books you’re buying lately and think, “Why not indie?”
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