Indiephile (1st Installment)

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Greetings and welcome to the first edition of Indiephile, a regular feature where I discuss comics from independent publishers in all manner and form. Previews, opinions, reviews, basically anything new that doesn’t have a thing to do with The Big Two (i.e. Marvel & DC). Though I would like to point out right away that this edition is mostly just an introduction with some brief overviews.

I read a lot of indie titles. Lots. A crazy amount of them. But what qualifies as an “indie”? For the purposes of the column, it’s any published comic book that isn’t Marvel or DC (as relating to what I just stated in the paragraph above) and though it seems like I have a vast field to cover, that’s really not the case. You see, as of this writing, the Big Two dominate the comics industry. Over 80% of all comics published in the U.S. are published by these guys. I can only assume that they also publish the majority of comics globally. Of course, I mean no disrespect to the two top publishers, but when I think of less than 20% of the comics industry being the place for all the other publishers out there, I feel that anyone not a part of the Big Two is an indie. However, because of space (and time) restrictions, I will be only to focus on so much. I can only read so much, you know! I try to read everything I can get my indie loving mitts on. I will also endeavour to represent the “true independents.” You know, those home-grown outfits that are a labour of love for a certain creator or creators, or a publisher that is run from an office in a house somewhere. It’s these comics that I consider to be the “final frontier” of the publication of illustrative narratives (along with webcomics). As you may already know, I also yammer on and on in a column called All the Rage. There I have a section called “Indie Front.” I might cover some of the same comics I do in there, but I’ll try not to do too much crossover (as we all know, crossover killed the cat… or Goliath… or something like that). Actually, not having enough room in Indie Front in ATR is what prompted me to do this here thing.

Anyhow, I’d like to get on with the show, as they say. Please keep in mind that I can’t cover everything, but I’ll do my damndest to cover as much as freaking possible, even if all I say on them is a quick blurb…

Let’s get started with this treasure of a creation I just read the first two parts to, called Evenfall. A title by Pete Stathis, Evenfall tells the story of Phoebe Shankar, a young woman who is destroying herself due to the death of her mother. She winds up falling into a crazy (and quite scary) fantasy world where we’re not sure it’s “real” or not. Stathis presents a rich story concerning deep characters with both admirable traits and glaring flaws, and it should also be said that originality abounds without the book getting bogged down by it. He handles this work like a true pro, weaving a complex and deeply immersive storyline that will leave you caring for the characters, particularly Phoebe and the challenges presented before her. Really, any fan of fantasy or a just plain terrific story should pick up both books of Evenfall. Book 3 is currently in production, and I’m already jonesing for it. If you are looking for something that’s both intriguing, endearing AND different, this series is for you.

Next I would like to mention the ‘68 one-shot out from Image Comics. Damn! This is a pure zombie romp, kids. Complete with a hanging joke in reference to Night of the Living Dead. I love it. ’68 is a gory ride that takes us back to the glory days of the U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. Ah, good times, and the perfect setting for a vicious attack from the unwashed undead! The story is simple: U.S. patrol is in the jungle, and when they encounter Vietnamese zombies, all heck breaks loose. Well worth a read, I must tell you, especially for you fellow zombie lovers out there.

Speaking of zombie fun, Image has also put out the sick but vastly entertaining Pieces for Mom: A Tale of the Undead, another one-shot that tells the tale of two young boys who keep their zombiefied mother alive with fresh. Not for the squeamish, as this makes ’68 look like an Archie comic. Steve Niles has written a gruesomely great story that Andrew Ritchie has illustrated to the freaking gory hilt. I rate this as a “MUST HAVE” for zombie fans the world over.

IDW’s Transformers Spotlight: Ultra Magnus is worthy of mention. Nicely written, and boldly illustrated, it’s sweet to see Ultra Magnus in his own comic. I really like how he’s portrayed as a bounty hunter! I am hoping this is turned into an ongoing series. It would certainly be a Transformers title I would relish looking forward to every month!

It’s always pleasant to find a comic I enjoy reading with my kids. Although my boys may be too young to appreciate it fully, they sure do love looking at the amusing art in Sonic the Hedgehog! I dig this comic, too, and issue #170 was just as fun as the rest we’ve read. I do find seeing the Comics Code Authority a bit… odd… Well, it’s great to know there are family oriented titles out there that I can read with my kids. Sonic isn’t bad at all, either, and I recommend it.

Looking for a good anthology book? Here are two: the ongoing title Negative Burn out from Desperado Publishing and Making Deals with Devils from Moneys with Machineguns. Just look at the cover to Negative Burn #8 there… Yowza! That’s one of the best covers I’ve seen in quite awhile. Both of these titles have great stories in them, with Making Deals with Devils appealing to those who dig on stuff like Twilight Zone, Tales from the Darkside and 2000AD’s Future Shocks.

I just read the latest offering of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (#13). Now this is not only one of my favourite Dark Horse titles, but it’s also just one of my favourite things to read, period. If any of you have been following the storyline, you’d know that it’s getting ramped up for something good. This KotOR comic is full of excitement, adventure, character development, and hijinx on a galactic scale (as well as outstanding writing and art). And all of it taking place 4000 years before the time of the Star Wars films. Issue #13 introduces us to probably the funniest Transdoshan I’ve seen. Then again, has anyone ever seen a funny Transdoshan?

While I’m thinking of Star Wars, I also want to mention the excellent Star Wars: Legacy series, which takes place 140 (or so) years after the movies. The last of the Skywalkers, Imperial Knights, Luke as a force ghost, one of the best and scariest “Darths” you’ll ever see; it pulls out all the stops! I’ll make sure to get more into this series and why I rated it as one of the top new titles of 2006 at a future date. In the meantime, treat yourself to this title…

You can’t have Star Wars unless you have Battlestar Galactica, I always say, and with that I’d like to mention the new Classic Battlestar Galactica #3 on shelves now. Dynamite Entertainment has really taken this license and created some fabulous BSG stories (thanks to the awesome creative teams assembled). Classic BSG is one of these titles, where we see the old characters from the “classic” BSG show of the late 70s. This first story-arc is a doozy, with writer Rick Remender having fan-fave characters Starbuck and Boomer lead a group of Sagittarian freedom fighters against their Cylon occupiers. The intensity of this issue (and series so far) is only heightened by Carlos Rafael’s wonderful illustration work. I feel that anyone who’s a reader of action-packed sci-fi, Battlestar fan or not, will highly enjoy this series.

Speaking of Rick Remender, I should also mention his series Fear Agent. Once out by Image (first 10 issues), it will be out by Dark Horse soon. Pulpy, high-octane science-fiction “with stones” at its best, issue #10 left us all with an interesting ending that makes me all squirmy waiting for issue #11. Hurry up!

Okay folks, I’m going to have to cut this first installment short. My All the Rage deadline is looming, and I’ve got a lot of other stuff to do. However, I’m already putting the next Indiephile together, so you needn’t worry! Next time there will be more comics and more fun, you’ll see.

In addition to All the Rage, I’ve started doing weekly audio “blog-cast” over at MediaGauntlet.com called My Stack where I yammer about the many comics I read (the first one covers like 37 comics or some insane number like that). You’ll notice that I tend to focus on a lot of different types as comics and many independent publishers. I also promise that I shall increases my magnificent vocabulary beyond “awesome,” “cool” and “a lot” (as well as a few other words… hehe).

I always want to hear from readers and publishers; so drop me a line, why don’t you? [email protected]

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