For the past several weeks, I've been sampling different independent comics over at Comixology. I've been impressed with how Comixology seems to have stepped up their game with promoting independent comics in the application, giving quite a number of them a prime slot on their home screen masthead. See below the spot for Fantagraphics and Abrams as an example.
The first comic I tried was The Tower Chronicles, a free 12 page preview written by Matt Wagner and illustrated by Simon Bisley. I've always liked Matt Wagner, so I figured it would be a sure hit. I guess the cover should have tipped off more.
If the cover gives you a bit of 90's extreame deja-vu, then you aren't alone. Shoulder Pads? Check. Pouches on belt? Check. Buckles everywhere? Check.
The insides didn't do a lot to change that impression. The art reminded me of the lackluster storytelling that was so rampant during the early Image years.
The story isn't much better. It involves a plot twist you see coming by the second panel. After 12 pages we don't know much more about the main character other than he's a bad ass. To call the story servicable is about as nice as I can go. If you are expecting the Matt Wagner of Mage, Grendel or Sandman Mystery Theater, you are going to be a bit disappointed.
Next was a comic called Edison Rex from Monkeybrain comics by writer (and publisher) Chris Roberson and drawn by Dennis Culver. Again, the cover gives us some idea of what we are getting into here.
If you guessed a sort of animated feeling story with a bit of an Invincible vibe, you would be correct. With that said, it was enjoyable with a few clever touches in the story. The title character is a Lex Luthor analogue played a bit more reserved. This first issue had a few homages to old Silver Age Superman comics (as you might imagine) which I enjoyed, so I'll be interested to see what Roberson does as the story moves forward.
There was a bit of flagrant recycling going on...(check out Edison's head in these panels)
But there were also some nicer panels like this one below:
It felt a bit, both storywise and artwise, like an episode of Venture Bros played totally straight. Which is actually a very awesome thing. I can also see this comic getting compared to Tom Strong as time goes on. All and all, a pretty good start for a new comic.
Perhaps the best discovery I've made from trying independent titles was the Lookouts from Penny Arcade by Ben McCool and Rob Mommaerts
The Lookouts are a sort of Rangers in training for a fantasy woods called the Eyrewood Forest. They receive badges for passing various tests (defeating a Troll, healing a forest animal, guarding a human settlement) which is a sort of interesting story gimmick. There is also a suggestion of deeper intrigues between their leader, the grim one eyed Samson and village elders.
The real appeal to me on this series though is the art and coloring. Check out these pages:
And this panel, which to me has a certain Rankin/Bass feel to it.
My only complaint with this comic is that the Lookouts themselves don't do much in it. The story is pretty much all set up with about 4 pages spent on some characters who we may never see again in the series (as it is suggested.) I think a page could have been sacrificed to give us at least a flashback scene wherein we see the Lookouts doing something that gives an idea of what they are capable of.
Overall, trying these new comics was an enjoyable experience which resulted in me discovering one I really liked, so I encourage everyone out there to do the same. Either try one of the ones I mentioned or something completely different. I think us old school readers tend to rely on old favorites to entertain us, and then complain when the old standbys fail to do their job. It might be better to look elsewhere for our fix. If you already have discovered a new comic you really like, feel free to tell me about it in the comment section.