15 Dec 2016

Pipedream Indie Round-Up: Anthologies

Our next edition of our ongoing team-up with Pipedream Comics. Anthologies are the lifeblood of the indie scene and here we take a look at five of the best.

COMICHAUS
Writers: Various
Art: Various
Comichaus £5.00

Alex T: The new big dog in the anthologies yard, Comichaus channels the spirit of classic UK anthologies like 2000 AD or Warrior to create a modern take on the British serial. Compiled by Pete Genepool and James McCullough, who run the online indie comics marketplace of the same name, each issue features a selection of ongoing tales from some of the UK's brightest talents, and is rounded off by a quirky one-off. The regular strips include feisty investigator Karyn Shade from James McCullough and Jessica L Byrne, Jon Laight and Dan Butcher's highly ambitious sci-fi series Suited And Booted, Dave Cook and Norrie Millar's cop with a secret story Feather, Aaron Walther and Ed Bickford's scratchy Western Troubleshooters and Luke Cooper's gothic Mortality. The one-offs include the truly unsettling 'Mum And Dad' by Tom Ward and Ian Laurie in issue #1 and a creepy stalking tale from Ness's Chris Welsh in issue #2. As well as the excellent range of storytelling on offer in every bumper issue, what truly sets Comichaus apart from the crowd is it's covers which are supplied by top industry names like Glenn Fabry, John McCrea and Carlos Ezquerra, all of which helps present Comichaus as the complete package when it comes to high quality indie comics! 8/10

DARK MATTER VOLUME 2
Writer: Chris Sides
Art: Various

Alex T: Writer Chris Sides brings together a roster of some of the most exciting creators in indie comics for the latest volume of his anthology Dark Matter. Sides writes all six stories, which showcase his range and ability to turn his hand to a variety of subjects, but also gives Dark Matter a nice sense of variety, despite coming from a single author. As well as working in different of genres, he also manages to mix things up with a well considered roster of artists who each bring something unique to their chosen story. Paul Moore turns The Rollover (about a group of time-travelling lottery ticket thieves) into a simmering piece of sci-fi crime noir. Sides’ long time collaborator Chris Travell really ups his game for the over saturated desert scenery of crime story Cerulean Sky, while Matt Harrower brings an anarchic energy to end-of-the-world drama Unspoken that really helps it to stand out from the crowd with it’s spiky angles and ink-splattered details. Dark Matter is rounded out by Stand With Me (art by Randy Haldeman), The Last Batch (art by Dan Cornwell) and Fine Dining (drawn by Jim Lavery), which although may feel more traditional indie content, they fill out the pages nicely and are a long way from feeling like padding with their mix of zombie drinking tales and revenge hungry restaurateurs. As a showcase of a writers’ work, Dark Matter is a fantastic collection, but more importantly for punters, it’s also a really great read! 8/10

PAPERCUTS AND INKSTAINS
Writer: Rob Jones, Mike Sambrook & Nick Gonzo
Art: Various

Alex T: From the demented minds of Madius Comics comes their signature anthology, Papercuts And Inkstains. Written by Madius’ main men, Rob Jones and Mike Sambrook, (with occasional help from mad genius Nick Gonzo) each issue has a revolving roster of artists, who create three short, one-off stories, many of which have the classic anthology structure of a twist in the tale and range in tone from sci-fi to horror to fantasy. Each issue is rounded out by the recurring adventures of the Profits of Doom - a group of hapless Satanists who inadvertently summon a demon who goes on the rampage. With some truly spectacular artwork from Mike Smith that makes the book feel mystical and mischievous at the same time, in many ways the Profits encapsulate what is so great about Papercuts And Inkstains. They mix horror and humour in perfect harmony and give a sense of continuity from one issue to the next in the same way that Dredd does for 2000 AD. But unlike Dredd, the Profits brilliantly showcase Jones and Sambrook's infectious sense of humour, which runs through the whole series. It’s this underrated part of the comic creators arsenal that helps Papercuts stand out from the average, more serious, indie anthologies out there and will keep you coming back for more issue after issue - and will also keep you checking out other Madius books like the wonderful Griff Gristle or their horror anthology The Tragic Tales Of Horrere. 8/10

SAVE OUR SOULS
Writers: Various
Art: Various

Alex T: While many of the books we have looked at here follow the traditional ‘anthology’ mould of collecting together a variety of traditional comic stories, Save Our Souls continues to break new ground by mixing hilarious cartoon strips and poignant, intelligent long form articles which are beautifully illustrated. In a way it feels more like like the kindred spirit of Private Eye or Charlie Hebdo than it does a modern comic book (despite the very comicy production values) and as such it makes for one of the most absorbing and thought-provoking reads out there. Every page features something different and interesting with highlights for the last issue including: Chris Schweizer’s series of illustrations looking at Warrior Women throughout history; Richard Johnson’s diary/sketchbook about his time on the frontline; and Dan Peterson’s autobiographical look at time on board a rescue vessel helping Syrian refugees in the Mediterranean. But if you’re after something a bit lighter there’s also Gabby Schulz’s Little Finlay sketches about an obnoxious boy getting hurt, a story called ‘Pigeon King’ and Mark Stafford’s stunning inside front and back covers, which help to lighten the mood. With a third issue coming soon, Save Our Souls is one of the most exciting and innovative anthologies out there. 9/10

SLICED QUARTERLY
Writer: Various
Art: Various

Alex T: Ken Reynolds’ experimental anthology Sliced Quarterly is based loosely on the concept of ’slice of life’ comics, but rather than feature page after page of overly analytical autobiographical comics, Reynolds prefers to encourage realistic stories told in unrealistic ways. It creates a collection of stories that push boundaries of storytelling and are definitely not safe and predictable. Although this means the readability of some of the stories may be a bit of a struggle (Gareth Hopkins offering in issue #4 being a great example!), the pieces in Sliced are always interesting and anything but generic. In the latest issue other highlights include Galaxafreak’s Andrew Pawley, taking a psychedelic look inside a commuters brain, Kathryn Bigg’s tale told via a series of old maps, as well as 'Cliffs Of Dover', a story told entirely using notes on the screen of a PDF document. There’s also an unsettling offering from Monologue’s S.J. McCune (a man used to unconventional storytelling) and a creepy fairytale from Paul Bradford. With all four volumes available for free,  there’s no financial reason not to check this out, and if you are looking to try something new and different then Sliced is the perfect place to start and a great example of how indie publishing, and anthologies in particular, can give creators the chance to tell unique and original stories without restrictions. 7/10

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