A little bit later than we’d been hoping here’s our best of 2021 list! It’s been a pretty great year for indie comics, and it’s given us a lot to recommend, we also struggled to impose an overall ranking, so everything’s been ordered alphabetically and by publisher.

Much like last year, this is far from a complete look at all the books that came out in the past twelve months, there’s only a handful of us here and there’s just not enough time in the year to read everything. As always, we’d love to hear which books you think we’ve missed!

You can also scroll down to the bottom or head over to your streaming service of choice to check out our best of 2021 podcast episode!

2000AD/Rebellion

Megatropolis

Review by Will Holden

Writer: Kenneth Niemand
Artist: Dave Taylor
Letters: Jim Campbell

Megatropolis is an else-worlds style 2000AD/Judge Dredd story set in an alternative universe where Mega City 1 is reimagined in an Art Deco style along with the sensibilities of America in the 1920’s. Many of the character names are familiar but they often appear in very different roles than readers of the main line universe would be expecting.

The main lead of the story is Officer Amy Jara, who has been transferred to a new precinct under a cloud of shame as she has recently killed a 16 year old boy, and son of a very wealthy and powerful Megatropolis family, in the line of duty. Her new colleagues don’t let her forget this, however there are hints early on that there is much more to the story than is commonly known. Many 2000AD readers may note the surname Jara is that of America Jara, the titular protagonist of the Judge Dredd story, you guessed it, America.

Soon, Officer Jara meets her new partner Joe Rico (this is a pairing of the first name of Judge Joe Dredd and his clone brother Rico Dredd), who is a real stickler for the rule of law and is apparently the only other clean cop in the department. Together they begin to investigate a series of violent vigilante killings against the mob bosses and dirty police of Megatropolis, the vigilante is soon dubbed Judge Dredd by the media.

From here the story takes several twists and turns and unfolds occasionally in a non-chronological way, often saving details for later reveals which keeps the turning of each page exciting. The art that accompanies this story is truly beautiful, from the design of the city itself to the clothes and uniforms of its citizens, Megatropolis feels like living world. The colouring is minimal and washed out which gives that feeling of Film Noir darkness of back street alleys and underground rendezvous’, which is then punctuated with the bright lights of the rich and famous denizens of the upper city. This is a great alternative universe 2000AD story demonstrating just what is possible in the overarching world of Dredd.

Aftershock

Knock ’em Dead

Reviewed by Zachary Whittaker

Writer: Eliot Rahal
Artist: Mattia Monaco
Colourist: Matt Milla
Letterer: Taylor Esposito

Knock ‘Em Dead is the story of a stand up comedian who finds himself without a soul following a near death experience. He does however find himself with the ability to host the spirits of comics gone by. Naturally he chooses to use this power for massive personal gain.

Although this book tells a comedian’s story, it’s far from a comedy. There’s a huge helping of horror throughout, which Mattia Monaco illustrates gloriously. Eliot Rahal also manages to use this supernatural premise to investigate some relatable issues, looking into identity, imposter syndrome and self destructive cycles, among others.

If you’re after a horror comic that’ll give you something to think about, Knock ‘Em Dead is definitely a good choice.

Scout’s Honor

Reviewed by Angela Cainen

Writer: David Pepose
Artist: Luca Casalanguida
Colourist: Matt Milla
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual

Back in January we reviewed issue #1 of Scout’s Honor on the podcast and I was pretty confident it would be one of the best comics of 2021. Time has proved me right as it’s really excellent with great writing, characters you root for, wonderful art and just all round quality.

In a post apocalyptic future the Ranger Scouts have taken control of cities leaving others to the Badlands. One young Ranger scout, Kit, hides a secret but also discovers the dark secret behind the power hungry Ranger Scouts and resolves to take them on and uphold the true Ranger Scout creed.

The plot weaves in all sorts of deeper stuff, about self identity, belief and the weird cultish nature of scout movements. It’s really well done and Kit’s journey as a character is immensely compelling. Kit and her friend Dev are both likeable and their friendship turned enemy ship is a great dynamic.

The art really paints the world. There are some wonderfully dramatic scenes such as an acid rain moment with green rain, green lightning and deep shadow. Then there; the design of the giant spiders and other crazy fauna. The wastelands are well realised with a Mad Max vibe. The character design of Kit is also one of the best aspects of the art as it ties in perfectly to Kit’s secret.

This is just one of the best of 2021.

Albatross Funnybooks

Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done?

Reviewed by Zachary Whittaker

Written by: Harold Schechter & Eric Powell
Illustrated by: Eric Powell
Designed by: Phil Balsman
Edited by: Tracy Marsh

Ed Gein is one of the most infamous murderers in the history of the United States. His story has been the influence for numerous works of fiction, perhaps most notably PsychoThe Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Silence Of The Lambs. As is quite often the case with real life influences though, I think it’s arguable that the works of fiction based around Ed Gein are far more well known than his true story.

In Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done? Harold Schechter and Eric Powell explore the full story of Gein’s life, from his troubled younger years to the horrific crimes he would go on to commit. Powell’s artwork makes this a gruesome read, but the storytelling of both he and Schechter make for a book you’ll find hard to put down.

It’s not a comfortable read and it definitely won’t be for everyone, but if you’ve got an interest in true crime, or if you just want to know more about the man that inspired a wealth of horror stories, be sure to check this out.

Avery Hill Publishing

Lights, Planets, People!

Reviewed by Zachary Whittaker

Written by Molly Naylor
Illustrated by Lizzy Stewart

Lights, Planets, People! is the story of Maggie, an astronomer, as she delivers a lecture about her career to an audience of students she’s hoping to inspire. However, as she prepares for the lecture she finds herself struggling with debilitating anxiety.

This is a well written and gorgeously illustrated graphic novel, poignant and relatable throughout. It’s also great to see older LGBTQIA+ characters represented.

Black Mask

Alice In Leatherland

Reviewed by Zachary Whittaker

Written by: Iolanda Zanfardino
Illustrated by: Elisa Romboli

Alice In Leatherland has easily been one of my favourite books of the year. It just came along at entirely the right time.

This one volume story is a lighthearted and relatable romantic comedy following Alice, who after a sudden breakup decides to take her friend Robyn’s advice and up sticks to San Francisco to follow her dream of being a fairytale writer.

Upon arriving in San Fran we see Alice struggle to find her place there, looking for work and a somewhere to live as well as getting back into the world of dating.

Iolanda Zanfardino and Elisa Romboli work excellently together, creating a series that I couldn’t get enough of. It’s beautifully illustrated, bouncing between genuine emotion, cartoonishly over-the-top expression and fairytale sequences at the drop of a hat and the writing fits together with the art perfectly.

Boom! Studios

The Many Deaths of Laila Starr

Review by Will Holden

Writer: Ram V
Artist: Filipe Andrade
Colours: Ines Amaro
Lettering: AndWorld Design

The Many Deaths of Laila Starr is a modern-day fantasy based around the Pantheon of Hindu Gods, at least as its jumping off point.

The story follows Death, who is informed at the beginning of the comic that her position as God of Death is no longer required as a child will soon be born who will go on to create immortality. The severance package that Death receives (whether she likes it or not) is to live a mortal life, no longer a member of the Pantheon. Death is then reincarnated (can you be reincarnated if you haven’t died yet?) into the body of a recently deceased student called Laila Starr and sets about tracking the person who has made her obsolete.

When she first finds this person, who we later find is called Darius Shah, he is a baby having just been born. Laila’s new found humanity stops her from ending the child’s life then and there, despite having done so as the God of Death on innumerable occasions. Death, now is the guise of Laila, and unsure of how the modern world works, keeps getting killed at the end of each issue.

However, due to her connection and relationship with Pranah (here representing the Hindu God of Life) is reincarnated (this time for real) several years later. Laila then meets Darius at various points in his life as she tries to decide precisely what to do about him and her new life as a mortal.

The story takes place mostly in Mumbai and the art and design, showing both the huge high reaching city as well as the lush and beautiful jungles and beaches, is extraordinary and is combined with vibrant and affecting colouring, mostly in hues of pinks and purples as if like a setting sun, which gives a dream-like quality to the events. Once again, it is refreshing to see a story not set in an American city and taking the history and mysticisms of a different culture as its basis.

IDW

Canto II: The Hollow Men

Review by Will Holden

Writer: David M Booher
Artist: Drew Zucker
Inks: Drew Zucker and Phillip Sevy
Colours: Vittorio Astone
Letters: Deron Bennett and AndWorld Design

An all-ages fantasy, this time set in a more familiar swords and sorcery style fantasy world. Canto II: The Hollow Men is, as the name suggests, the second volume of this series which follows the exploits of the titular character, Canto, a member of a race of people who are little clockwork suits of Knight armour.

In the first volume we find that these people have been subjugated by having their hearts removed and replaced by clocks, then put to work chopping down trees to endlessly feed the Furnace, all orchestrated by the shadowy Shrouded Man. By the time we pick up with volume two Canto and his people are free and have found a new home for themselves, but the Shrouded Man’s reach is long and a curse he has placed upon the tiny knights means that their clocks have all begun to slow now they have left captivity. It’s time for Canto to go adventure once again but this time he is joined by a handful of his newly freed companions.

I think that this second volume improves on the first with slightly more refined art and colouring, and you don’t need to have read volume one as The Hollow Men fills in any blanks that you might need. However, I would still recommend going back to the first volume as it is still an excellent read and more recently volume three has been released which I am yet to read but if you haven’t done so yet, this is the time to catch up.

Image Comics

Bliss

Reviewed by Zachary Whittaker

Story: Sean Lewis
Art: Caitlin Yarsky
Colours: Ari Pluchinsky
Book Design: Ryan Brewer

How far would you be willing to go to save your son?

Benton Ohara finds himself faced with this question when he and his wife Mabel are unable to pay for their son’s health care.

Bliss is narrated by Perry, Benton and Mabel’s son, as he attempts to defend his father’s actions in court. In the family’s hour of need Benton is given the opportunity to make money as a hired gun for the creatures that run Feral City, The Gods Of Docktown. They’ll also provide him with a supply of Bliss, a drug which allows him to forget what it is he’s done, and in doing so absolve him of the guilt from the crimes he’s had to commit.

Although the story begins as a tale of a man doing whatever he can to provide for his family it doesn’t take long for Bliss to become something bigger than that.

Bliss is a book that covers a lot of ground in a single volume, it’s a supernatural crime story with an ongoing mystery to how the world works. It’s also a book that makes you question how far you’d be willing to go for your own family, and if we can ever really learn to accept our parents as the flawed people they inevitably are.

Crossover

Reviewed by Zachary Whittaker

Story: Donny Cates
Art: Geoff Shaw
Colours: Dee Cunniffe
Letters & Design: John J. Hill
Story Edits: Mark Waid

Look, a few books further down this place I’m going to say “this is the comic book I needed this year” and Crossover comes really damn close to falling into that category too.

Crossover follows the story of Ellie and Ryan, two kids in a world that’s suddenly found itself confronted with an invasion of comic book characters in Denver, Colorado. As protagonists they don’t have a whole lot in common, expect for both being fans of comics in a world that’s grown to fear the medium and what can come from it.

I’ve enjoyed Crossover a lot this year, the freedom to draw upon the rich history of comic books and use characters from here, there and everywhere makes for a forever unpredictable book. With that, there’s the nostalgia of everything I love about superhero comics and crossover events. However, this is a series that also does some great grounded character work, it isn’t all masks and capes. There’s emotion, there’s mystery and there’s the excitement of just not knowing what’s going to come next.

The whole creative team are firing on all cylinders and together they make Crossover an essential read from 2021.

The Good Asian

Review by Angela Cainen

Written by Pornsak Pichetshote
Art by Alexandre Tefenkgi
Rest of the creative team:
Lee Loughridge, Jeff Powell, Dave Johnson and Will Dennis

The Good Asian isn’t finished yet but the first trade came out in 2021 and was (IMHO) the best crime noir of the year. It tells the story of Edison Hark, a policeman in Hawaii who goes back to San Francisco, where he grew up, to investigate the disappearance of a young woman called Ivy who worked for the white family that took him in as a child. However there’s murder, blackmail and all manner of other things swirling around the Chinatown of the 1940s.

This is a book that takes the pulp detective setup and gives it a whole new feel simply by telling the story through Asian-American eyes. It feels both wonderfully nostalgic to crime noir of the past but also acknowledging the real life situation of Chinese-Americans

The art makes this a such an atmospheric book. It captures the different tones and emotions swirling through the characters. It’s a really good fit to the period and tone. If there’s such a thing as visual noir then this nails it.

There’s plenty of twists and turns and surprises. Like the best crime fiction it keeps you guessing. Edison Hark is a great protagonist in the tradition of hard boiled detectives.

Plus this gives insight into a community and period I wasn’t aware of. I learnt a lot reading this book and the supplementary material. So much of the history resonates even today. As well as being about the past it’s still very relevant today.

If you like crime noir I recommend and even if you don’t you’ll enjoy a very atmospheric and fun book.

Home

Review by Angela Cainen

Writer: Julio Anta
Artist: Anna Wieszczyk
Colourist: Bryan Valenza
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

Sometimes a book comes along that is so relevant and so important it needs to be read. Home is one of those books. The story of a young immigrant, Juan and his mother as they travel to the USA and the awful situation they end up is sadly a true story for many, many immigrants today. The twist with Home is that Juan has super powers. When Juan is separated from his mother and ends up in detention those powers activate leading to a cat and mouse chase as Juan tries to avoid ICE and at the same time fins his aunt who lives in the US.

At the end of the day this is a heart-breaking story about a child who has done nothing to incur the anger against him. Although the powers mean he’s a particular target the sad and enraging thing is that Juan is targeted simply because of where he has come from.

The art helps really pack the emotions. The facial expressions really tug at the heartstrings. Juan’s face with tears rolling down should tug at anyone’s heart strings. The juxtaposition of this innocent child and the military style ICE is a recurring motif with some panels really driving home the fact we have an innocent child being hunted like a dangerous criminal.

Home doesn’t quite stick the landing for me but its a worthwhile read and one that is very much a message for our times.

Home Sick Pilots

Reviewed by Zachary Whittaker

Writer: Dan Watters
Artist: Caspar Wijngaard
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Designer: Tom Muller
Production Artist: Erika Schnatz

I’m honestly at a point where I’ve said so much about Home Sick Pilots that it’s almost difficult to know what to say…

This is a series that follows three teenagers in a California punk band in the mid-90s who find themselves mixed up with a haunted house and the ghosts that inhabit it while looking for the coolest possible venue for a gig.

It’s a book that balances teenage drama and emotion with a love of punk rock and haunted house mechs fighting VHS tape monsters.

The entire creative team work together perfectly, creating a series that’s wonderfully written, and gloriously illustrated, coloured and lettered.

This is the comic book I needed this year, and I can’t help but constantly recommend it to anyone that’ll listen.

Jules Verne’s Lighthouse

Review by Angela Cainen

Story: David Hine & Brian Haberlin
Art: Brian Haberlin
Colours: Geirrod Van Dyke
Letters: Francis Takenaga

Jules Verne’s Lighthouse is very much an Angela book. It’s got a strong female character, space pirates, weird space stuff and a robot. Really it’s everything I could ask for and it was one of my favourite books of 2021.

I have not read the Jules Verne novel upon which this is based and how close to the original it cleaves I could not say. This comic book reimaging has Vasquez, a veteran soldier, and her nanny bot Moses on a far outpost a space station near a wormhole. When space pirates board Vasquez is forced to confront her dark past even as she fights for survival in the present.

There is a lot of strong character work in Vasquez and her development but other characters are not neglected. There’s a real a sense of them as people. Even Captain Kongre, leader of the pirates has more to him than meets the eye.

Plus I am sucker for a good robot and Moses is a very good robot with a very interesting design and an even more interesting personality.

The art may not be to everyone’s taste as the digital style is very much what it is. I enjoyed it however and felt that the way the panels were laid out was interesting. I was never bored reading and looking at the art and the way it was put together for me was a pleasure.

If you like sci-fi then you should certainly check out Jules Verne’s Lighthouse.

Karmen

Reviewed by Angela Cainen

Story & Art: Guillem March
Colour Assistant: Tony Lopez
Translation: Dan Christensen

In terms of the prettiest book of 2021 it is hands down Karmen. It’s just such a beautiful book. The art is glorious. It covers cityscapes, echoing the actual places where this book takes place, then there’s character designs such as the eponymous Karmen who looks to either be wearing, or is, a skeleton, with freckles that evoke blood splatter. Then there’s even some MC Escher influences later on.

The art is just phenomenal at every turn but the writing is also above average. This is the story of Cata, who cuts her wrists in the bath and is greeted by Karmen, a sort of take on the Grim Reaper. However, Karmen doesn’t simply escort souls, she allows them to undergo their own journey, which is what happens to Cata.

We follow Cata as she explores the world unfettered by her physical self. We see what she sees and experiences as this book asks questions about life, death and the human connection. The emotions swirl with the art to make a heady mix.

Karmen might be the title character but it is Cata who allows us to explore many aspects of what it means to be human, to have your heart broken and that broken heart pushing you to extreme actions even as you lack the self reflection which could help. It’s heart breaking for the reader.

A haunting, beautiful book that stays with you Karmen deserves to be read.

The Silver Coin

Reviewed by Zachary Whittaker

Written by: Michael Walsh, Chip Zdarsky, Ed Brisson, Kelly Thompson, Jeff Lemire, Joshua Williamson & Ram V
Linework and Lettering by: Michael Walsh
Coloured by: Michael Walsh and Toni Marie Griffin

The Silver Coin is a horror anthology series illustrated by Michael Walsh, who’s joined by a different writer for each issue. The uniting factor between each issue is the titular silver coin, a cursed object that spells doom for anyone who finds themselves in possession of it.

This is a series that often feels like a whistle-stop tour of horror stories, with each writer exploring a short format spooky story of their choosing. With that in mind and the ridiculously good variety of creators involved, I’ve recommended this previously as a great introduction to horror comics and comics in general. You might not be into the series as a whole but it may well get you interested in a creator or genre you didn’t know you’d enjoy.

If you are into horror comics already though, this is a series that brings together established horror writers and creators you might not immediately associate with the genre to bring a handful of stories that any horror fan would enjoy. I’ve also really enjoyed learning the coins history as the series has developed, especially the subtle connections that you might not notice on the first read.

Stray Dogs

Review by Will Holden

Writer: Tony Fleecs
Artist: Trish Forstner
Colours: Brad Simpson
Layouts: Tone Rodriguez
Flatter: Lauren Perry

I have already written at some length about Stray Dogs as I reviewed the single issues for the website and needless to say, I love this book (it is on my best of list, after all).

Stray Dogs is the story of a group of dogs that live in a large house with a single “Master”, however none of them remember how they got there in the first place. That is until a new member of the canine family arrives but appears to hold some memory of the life she had before this one.

The narrative plays heavily on the fact that dog’s memory is mostly short term, so the dogs are incapable of recalling much more than the life they now lead. As the plot unfolds, we find out that the Master is not a good man and is possibly involved in murdering the dog’s previous owners and keeping them as trophies.

The various dog characters all have very distinct traits and appearance yet all of them seem to be genuinely dog-like. Although they are anthropomorphised, they still feel like they have authentic dog personalities. The art is reminiscent of the drawn animation style of Disney and Don Bluth from the 80’s and so feels both classic and timeless immediately. The story pulls you through scenes of tension, fear and loss but also the joys of playing dogs and moments of really sweet camaraderie within the pack. I have read many books which put animals front and centre; however it seems a rare thing to have these characters going up against such a real-world antagonist as opposed to magical or fantastical opposition. It is a fascinating reading experience when you understand the context of the situation much more clearly than any of the characters involved, and it makes for a thrilling ride.

Time Before Time

Reviewed by Angela Cainen

Writers: Declan Shalvey & Rory McConville
Artist: Joe Palmer
Colourist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Ehaou

I love a good time travel story and Time Before Time is a really good use of the plot device of time travel. In the future the dodgy outfit known as The Syndicate will relocate you and your family to the past for a hefty fee. They are also at war with rival group The Union. Tatsuo works for The Syndicate but he decides to leave in the process he gets tangled up with FBI agent Nadia who has her own reasons to hate the The Syndicate. They then end up getting mixed up through time with the The Syndicate, The Union and the war between the two.

The deigns in Time Before time are great. From the various futurescapes which have nice little details and bleakness to more familiar closer to our own time period. The character designs are also excellent and a lot is said from their facial expressions alone as every one has secrets they want to keep hidden.

When you have good character design it’s nice when that’s backed up with good writing. The characters of Tatsuo and Nadia are interesting in of themselves and their growing friendship as they have only each other to rely on is a real hook for me. There’s layers of trust to it.

The conceit of the time travel is nicely done with time pods the only way to travel, if you have them. There’s some really good art as well when we see the different pods and the effects of travelling like that.

It feels a very complete world we’re diving into through both the art and the writing. Currently ongoing it’s well worth picking up the first trade and getting to know the world of The Syndicate and The Union. This is a book with twists and turns and surprises and each issue really building on what’s come before. Hop on.

Mad Cave Studios

Becstar

Reviewed by Zachary Whittaker

Writer: Joe Corallo
Artist: Lorenzo Colangeli
Cover Artist: Sweeney Boo
Letterer: Joamette Gil
Editor: Chris Fernandez
Book Design: Miguel Angel Zapata

Becstar is definitely the most lighthearted sci-fi comic I’ve read this year; which really sets it apart from a lot of this year’s science fiction.

The story follows Paprika, Becstar and Sally Soolin as they set out on a quest to find one of Becstar’s old crew mates, Anyssa, and the artefact she’s in possession of – The Creation Gauntlet. They’re in a race against time as another old ally turned villain, Lord Mordecai, is also after the artefact.

I’ll be honest, it’s a series that doesn’t break a lot of new ground, but that’s one of Becstar‘s strengths. It’s just a fun, funny adventure story in space, with plenty of magical artefacts, knowing references to its influences and great cartoony artwork from Lorenzo Colangeli.

TKO

Djeliya

Review by Will Holden

Writer, Artist, Colours & Letters: Juni Ba

Djeliya is an all-ages fantasy based mostly on West African folk tales. The book opens with some exposition, explaining that there is a mystical Ivory Tower that is inhabited by the Wizard Soumaoro, who was once a benevolent leader but one day blew up the world and continues to crush any society that raises itself to a sufficient standard to threaten the God-like control of the Ivory Tower.

Our main protagonists are Mansour and Awa, the last two remaining members of a destroyed kingdom. Together they travel across this decimated world trying to find their place in it while also learning lessons about themselves, their world and culture, and the reasons for the devastation wrought by the Ivory Tower.

The use of West African legends is a very refreshing change from the western-centric comics market (at least what we tend to have access to) and makes for a unique reading experience in both story and design. The art is highly stylised, with heavy shading and block colouring, perhaps reminiscent of Mike Mignola, however this is not an imitation of anyone’s work and stands entirely on its own merits.

To top it off, the back matter is some of the most interesting I have seen in a comic or graphic novel, providing the background of the African Legends that have been the inspiration for the story.

Valiant

X-O Manowar

Reviewed by Angela Cainen

Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Emilio Laiso
Colourist: Ruth Redmond
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

As a Valiant fan of old I am very familiar with Aric of Dacia. I’ve read all the recent runs and yes the 90’s stuff as well. However, I can’t say that I have enjoyed a book more. Or liked Aric more. This run has made me like and root for one of my least favourite Valiant characters and that’s no mean feat.

This run picks up after Harbinger Wars II with Aric trying his best to just be a good guy and get by. He doesn’t always succeed but he is trying and he feels more genuine about his heroics than I think I’ve ever seen. Of course he is not alone he has his sentient laine armour with him and Shanhara is finally given a strong character of her own with her own character arc and plots. It’s a really fresh take on both characters and one I very much appreciated.

The interplay between the two, the banter but also the care they have for each other is a nice emotional bedrock for the book. It’s helped by some good supporting characters even a kid character called Desmond who surprisingly for a kid character in comics is actually likeable and not annoying. There’s a real emotional heart.

That emotional heart is also present in the art. The way the armour and Aric come together and almost seem part of each, the the broken way Aric looks when things go wrong, the determination too. Plus the alien threat faced in this run is well realised with the later issues really ramping up the stakes and tension. There’s plenty of nicely drawn action too.

I’d also say it’s pretty newbie friendly so if you want to check out some recent Valiant I’d say this X-O Manowar run would be the best choice.

Vault

Barbaric

Reviewed by Angela Cainen

Writer: Michael Moreci
Artist: Nathan Gooden
Colourist: Addison Duke
Letterer: Jim Campbell

If like me you enjoy a bit of sword and sorcery then you will enjoy Barbaric. This book is a riff on the old Conan myth. We follow Owen, a barbarian cursed by witches to only kill bad people (there’s a bit more to it than that but you get the gist). His moral compass in this particular endeavour is a talking Axe who gives judgement on who Owen should kill. I should add that Axe gets drunk on blood so he does enjoy a bit of mass slaughter. They team up with a witch named Soren to take on weird townspeople and a looming necromancy threat in the local monastery.

The plot is pretty packed but in all the best ways. Barbaric keeps the pace up as it balances exposition and worldbuilding. Owen is a character who is an ass but you also kinda want to root for. Soren is a strong female character who makes a fun foil for Owen. Then there’s Axe who is hilarious.

That’s one of the real strengths of his book, the humour. It comes from the interplay between the characters, their witty comments in crazy situations and the laconic comments of Axe.

As you might expect there’s plenty of wonderful blood and gore. The art does not skimp on the visceral moments of people’s heads getting sliced, limbs being chopped and Owen just going full on barbarian against their enemies.

Wonderful humour, fun banter and some blood an gore, what more you could wish for in a book called Barbaric? Nothing is the answer. Read away.

The Blue Flame

Reviewed by Zachary Whittaker

Written by: Chris Cantwell
Art by: Adam Gorham
Colouring by: Kurt Michael Russell
Letters by: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

As a series, The Blue Flame feels like it has a lot in common with books like The Vision or Mister Miracle (the Tom King ones) but those books where heavily anchored in the history of Marvel and DC Comics respectively and The Blue Flame isn’t weighed down by such colossal ties.

The Blue Flame follows the story of Sam Brausam, or rather the stories of Sam Brausam. On the one hand he’s a costumed vigilante in Milwaukee, but he’s also a spacefaring adventurer faced with defending Earth against an interplanetary council who will destroy the human race if he fails.

Both versions of Sam are going through a lot, with the parallels in their stories being a real highlight of the story telling. The joint narratives also allow for Christopher Cantwell to tackle a lot of really interesting themes while also giving Adam Gorham, Kurt Michael Russell and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou opportunity to show off different aspects of their respective art forms.

Hollow Heart

Reviewed by Angela Cainen

Written & Lettered by: Paul Allor
Art, Lines, Colours & Cover by: Paul Tucker

Do you like angst? Do you like love stores that are angst? Do you like books that question what it is to be human and what it is to love another? Then Hollow Heart is definitely the book for you. It’s a beautiful angst filled book that will rip your heart out, stomp all over it and you will thank it for the privilege. It’s so emotional but so good.

The story is simple enough. El is a robot with the remains of a human inside. El is trapped in a facility and wants to escae. Matteo is the kindly mechanic who sees in El someone who thinks and feels and as a result he wants to help El. Not that Matteo is without issues. It’s two broken people coming together and trying to find happiness in a world that can’t always give it.

There are morality tales scattered throughout that bear rereading once you have finished each chapter because they give insight inot the events that have just transpired. They are tales of love, of the human experience, of freedom and choice, all the themes that this book is so good at throwing out there. It makes you think and reflect.

If you want art that both encapsulates the tenderness of the main characters as well as their anguish then this book certainly has that. You wouldn’t have thought so much emotion could show on El’s face which is essentially a skull in a pink dome but it does. There are moments where just seeing El in certain situation says more than words could.

I wont spoil the ending because this is a book where you need to read the emotions yourself. It is well worth putting your heart through the wringer however.

Hollow Heart is such a human book and as a result needs to be read.

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