It’s quite easy to rely on mainstream comics month after month. Marvel and DC produce enough reliable superhero titles that any review column could coast along just covering those. We all know that books like Ms Marvel, Secret Wars, and even Image books like Saga are, month in, month out, impressive titles. But what about the rest?
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the East London Comics and Arts Festival in Hackney. Founded by indie publishers Nobrow Press, the festival gives stalls and space to artists across all ranges. From self-published zines, all the way up to Jonathan Cape graphic novels, the entire spectrum of indie comics was featured.
Instead of reviewing another batch of superhero titles then, I thought I’d talk about two of the books I picked up at the festival. They might not be new releases, but both of them should be on your radar.
First up then is Nobrow Press, who published Mikkel Sommer’s Obsolete a few years ago. This is a gem of a book, telling the story of a pair of soldiers and the nightmares they endure both during, and after combat. This is a book about the effects of war on the minds of people, and is one of the most poignant books on combat that I’ve read all year. That it achieves so much in about twenty pages is nothing short of astonishing. Sommer is a writer of few words, letting his art tell the story instead. It’s a smart choice. Not that the dialogue in the issue is bad, but often the art is all that’s needed. The first half of the book, which is almost entirely without dialogue, is easily some of the finest crafted work in comics I have seen in ages. You should all head on over to Nobrow’s website and pick up a copy. You won’t regret it.
On a dark and stormy night, a man finds himself stranded after his car breaks down. He’s taken in by a seemingly kind couple who offer him a bed for the night. Then things get strange. It’s a fairly typical premise, but the first issue of Canadian comic book writer Conor Stechschulte’s Generous Bosom is anything but typical. Using the framing device of two men in a bar telling each other their wildest sex stories, the reader is wrong-footed from the outset. This is a strange, psychological drama which, in its first issue, plays its cards close to its chest. Stechschulte is a master craftsman, and his art is brilliant. Rain bleeds through panels and streams down the page, and his characters expressions are really engaging. Generous Bosom also contains what might just be the most successful sex scene I’ve read in a comic, full of fumbling characters making mistakes. What a brilliant book. The book is sold out on the Breakdown Press website, but if you search a little deeper elsewhere, you should still be able to track down a copy.
I highly recommend both of these books, and other titles from both Breakdown Press and Nobrow. As I said, it can be easy as a comic book fan to just coast along and keep going back to the same old books time and time again, but you’d be missing out on a whole wealth of extraordinary talent.