Below is a collection of our favorite INDIE/CREATOR OWNED books from 2018. Here at the INDIE ENGINE our sole purpose is to drive independent creators and small publishers and help with visibility, signal boosting and exposure. Along the way we get to discover works that we wouldn’t have otherwise had we not decided to go down this road. So this will be the first of (hopefully) an annual round up of our favorite works. A snapshot type of thing. Also, some works might be from earlier than 2018 but they were new to us in 2018 … so they qualify.
Guardians VOL 1 & 2 (Todd Black W – Chua Eng Chee A/I – Alex Garcia Colors/A VOL 2)
The best part of this book lies within the premise. The search for meaning is a very well traveled and very effective road for a journey to follow. With Guardians though, it is not US or ‘the people’ that are in search of purpose. Rather, in this tale it is the very Guardians themselves. Element and Chaos were sent to protect innocents, to be GUARDIANS of the people. Just as we and the people of Delta City have, Element and Chaos have two very opposite approaches. One of the heroes is curious. He wonders. He wants to seek and know the truth of things. The other? Purpose is irrelevant beyond that which he was created for. There’s no thought that needs sating or desire that needs fulfillment. This comic series flips the standard tale on it’s head by begging the questions that we always ask … but from those we always look to for answers.
Megatomic Battle Rabbit (Stu Perrins W – Isreal Huertas A)
Fair Sparks Books is a fantastic publisher putting out books for all ages. MBR can very easily be their poster title. This book is fun and presents the grander than us vision that so many have as a kid, and brings it to the page. Dexter looks to the stars and has that itch, that wonder about him. From the stars comes the MBR! He’s stranded though and is an alien on an alien world (to him). I love that the introduction to MBR gives us the very blunt and dry basics of who he is but leaves the rest to wonder. Wonder is the key here and we’ve got TWO main characters setting out to find answers about what is going on, and more importantly, themselves. While there’s much mystery and this book is just getting started, it is an absolute must pick up for the younger reader. It is aimed at such, but the quality is absolutely there for those watching over and reading along their young reader.
Ashes (Mario Candelaria W – Karl Slominski A)
Taking the ‘hero’ moniker and applying it to an everyday hero (the Firefighter) gets this story off on the right foot. Now, this one is from 2015, but it was this year that I discovered it. I’m glad I looked back through Mario’s work. Some people seem to have it all and for whatever reason they’re just ‘kissed’ by the golden goose. Bad things happen to good people though, and Ashes explores that world in a very REAL story about the all-american guy getting a hard dose of reality. The hook of setting the story within actual people makes it that much more visceral and connective. The story within Ashes resonates on several layers and relates to everyone. I love it because it is a prime example of what you can do within the medium of comics. Mario’s storytelling is on a very natural plane and this book is a prime example of it.
The Devil in Disguise (Matt Garvey W – Robert Ahmad A – John McCrea CA)
Getting hold of this book brought a few surprises we weren’t expecting. There’s Francavillian tones in the art work that really set this book apart from others. The look and feel of the book are very fitting considering we’re talking about the Devil working out a deal with a man to be a super hero. Yup, that’s right. Matt Garvey has a nice little spin on things with this book. What is right? Wrong? Yeah that pesky grey area … but we all know everything intersects so why is the question of right and wrong so hard to answer? Well, that question ends up giving us a very classic feeling superhero tale that is twisted by way of very old school horror visuals. The classic cult makes an appearance as well. All in all it is a fantastic read that blends several genres together without getting in the way of itself. See, the Devil WANTS to be a hero … sort of. Though, who really are the good guys and what really is bad? Take the familiar and dump it on its head with this book.
Operation Boom (Reckless Hero – Chris Jenkins W/Colors – Chris Imber – A/W – Brian Vander A)
The premise is easy enough. Top secret device stolen from military, mercenaries hired and fate of the world level impact. The standard set up gives way to a very entertaining and action packed set of books. I was able to hop on and catch up with #3’s kickstarter and I’m glad I did. The story is written in a very straightforward manner and that’s fine. It doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t, and quite frankly, a straightforward book is refreshing now and again. The art is absolutely brilliant. I’m usually not a fan of Manga-esque looking art but Imber’s style actually REALLY grabs me. He is damn good. Each character has their own style and flair while the style lends to keeping something familiar about each of them. Jenkins nails the presentation and delivers much more than you first realize upon turning the pages. I really like this book and glad I got the three issues together. Sit down and enjoy a blow’em up romp.
Gateway City (Russell Mark Olsen W/A – John Freeman/Edits – Emily Olson/Color asst)
This is classic noir with sci-fi at its finest. An absolute wonderful book. Hard boiled mobster drama with a tangle of extraterrestrial fun! An ‘innocent’ detective job during prohibition turns into an uncovering of a whole hell of a lot more than your typical 20’s shenanigans. See, Gateway City is aptly named on many fronts and Olsen brings us much more than underground activity from us pesky humans. There’s also a rather large alien racket being hubbed in St Louis as well. This story is actually two different tales expertly woven. We’ve got the classic noir as well as a very good intergalactic play out. BOTH work and both are, in of themselves, excellent. The marriage of the two makes Gateway City a very unique piece of work that I cannot praise enough.
Captain Cosmic (Andy W Clift)
You want good old fashioned super hero comics? You like Silver Age books? You like space adventures? Well, here you go. Captain Cosmic is every one of those things and every bit the best part of each. An overly grandiose issue (entire planets are disappearing) is warmly greeted by characters that you feel like you already know and hold dear to your heart. Captain (and Kid) Cosmic echo the warm feeling (and the art work/tones do so as well). Everything about this book is everything that is right with classic hero stories. Even the language invokes an Adam West type of 60’s goodness. It’s almost like a period piece except it doesn’t FEEL old, it just wraps everything up in a wholesome bow and reminds you of what comics used to be and still can be.
Ancient Noise #1-2 (David Crispino W – Tony Gregori A – Jasen Smith Color/#1 – Claudia Aguirre Color/#2 – Nic Shaw Letters/#1 – Lauren Norby Letters/#2)
Where to begin with this romp? I’ve grown very fond of the team of Crispino and Gregori and Ancient Noise typifies everything that is wonderful about their teaming up to make comics. This book is outrageous, funny, WELL WRITTEN and looks … just stunning! Issues 1 and 2 are the first half of the AN story and at the half way point we’re just getting ramped up. We’ve got time travel, space bending and a sentient gorilla named Silver. There’s something afoot with Silver and the larger understanding doesn’t appear to be visible to the ‘lil humans. I’m absolutely loving this book and it is an absolute blast. I can’t wait to continue the exploration of time, space and our own evolution as this series finishes up. There are unbelievable splash pages from Tony and the depth of the writing from Crispino will make you flip back to the first page and re-read it again immediately upon finishing.
The House (Phillip Sevy W – Drew Zucker A – Jen Hickman Colors – Frank Cvetkovic Letters)
I was supremely bummed to have missed the kickstarter for this collected edition of the absolute FIRE series, The House. This team has brought a thrilling, psychological hell ride to life in this book. WWII and we’ve got Soldiers on the run from German forces. There’s a storm brewing literally and figuratively, and the house in the forest appears to be the only hope of a way out. Sometimes it’s better to stay outside. This is one of those times. As I read through the book I got R-Point vibes, and just as the soldiers did I got sucked further and further in. The tension continues to mount and does not let you go. Yes, it’s horror … but not your gore-fest jump scare type of outing. This is horror on the psyche level and before it’s said and done you’re going to go WTF! for all the right reasons. There’s slow burn and mindful terror. High tension at it’s finest.