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Best Indie Comics I've read

Since I've been on a tear reading independent comics lately, I thought to make this list.

The truth is, I am indeed mostly a "Big 2" fan. Call me pedestrian or some other label if you want, but I tend to love Marvel and DC and get what I want out of them. With that said, I certainly also appreciate 3rd party comics too, both superhero and stuff from other genres. Some of what I've read has been bad, some has been well done but crushingly nihilistic, and some stuff has been great. This list is that third category. I will not be including Star Wars comics, since that its own mega-franchise that, if I were ever to rank, it would be as its own thing. Other mega-franchises like TMNT will also be excluded.

All entries are alphabetized.

List items

  • While it starts out fairly similar to the Disney film we know and love, it does enough things differently to differentiate itself enough (it also helps that it has a much darker tone).

  • While I never read the original novel, I did read this graphic novel adaptation, and I have to say, I really liked it.

  • Though admittedly FAR bleaker and gorier than what I'm used to, it uses Welsh mythology well, has beautiful art and character designs, a great sense of scale, and effectively chronicles the story of the title character's transformation into a Dark Lord (and a quite awesome looking one at that). Simply put, it's a story that makes me want to see more writers try their hand at Welsh mythology.

  • Though a bit too "X-rated uber gore-porn" at times, I overall enjoyed this mini-series, whose central character feels almost like Wonder Woman in the role of Red Sonja. And it's got a King Kong parody in it too! Definitely makes me wish there were more High Fantasy / Sword and Sorcerery comics.

  • The OTHER "Superman parody who turns evil story written by Mark Waid". And honestly, it's not bad. Nothing anyone whose seen an evil Superman story hasn't seen before, but the execution is as strong as one would expect from Mark Waid, and Axiom stands out from Plutonian by being sympathetic in a way that that other evil Superman was not.

  • A solid enough Sword and Sorcery mini-series, one of the character's handling aside. Though technically set in what's meant to be the "real" world, the main cast of characters definitely give off serious "D&D Adventure Party" vibes. I myself most liked the shy and comely sorceress.

  • Yes, it feels rather like the missing link between Pirates of the Caribbean and Star Wars. And that suits me fine, even if it isn't as good as the best of either franchise. It's definitely better than the worst.

  • A very well done, action-heavy thriller type story set in a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Pretty easy thing to get on board with.

    UPDATE: And now I've seen the movie that's loosely based on this comic!

  • After two "Apocalyptic / Post-Apocalypse Superhero" series that let me down, I was pleased to find this mini-series by Image that gave me the satisfying experience I was hoping for. While it does get more trippy and existential than I would have done (the fate of the Earth by itself would have been high enough stakes, I think), I still overall liked this comic quite a bit. Very nice art too.

  • A seriously bonkers tale from Paul Jenkins. I'm not entirely sure how well the internal logic holds up under scrutiny, as the story invokes and plays around with a lot of heady, high-concept stuff, but even though that was somewhat difficult to follow, I think there's still a solid amount of emotional drama that's mined from this tale, where friends are forced to fight each-other to the death for reasons that prove to be the tale's central mystery. There's some good plot twists to that effect. Plus, I'm a bit of a sucker for 3rd-Party parodies of Marvel and DC characters, and this series has got them in abundance, with the analogues to my two favorite heroes (Spider-Man and Batman) being the main characters!

  • A fun crossover team-up that makes me think Tarantino should try his hand with comics more often.

  • An overall excellent prequel that maintains the masterful command over Silver Age camp on one side and Grimdarkness on the other that the original story did so well. If I had one complaint, it's that I think the way the Earth Omega side of it ends doesn't quite line up with what was established in the original story, namely that Stinger is dead. The story ends with him alive, but ditching Dragonfly. So I guess he dies later?

    Still, that's a fairly minor and forgivable thing, and overall I enjoyed this prequel.

  • Mark Millar does a space opera. I don't love everything Millar's written, but I've honestly liked the majority of it (enough so that I may do a separate list for it one day). This is another winner overall, even if the way the story wraps up is arguably a little too convenient.

  • Love the art style and world-building, including detailed bios on the different races and characters at the end of the graphic novel. Didn't like the last-minute plot twist (one I saw coming no less), but still a solid comic overall.

  • Love the art and atmosphere of this one, and how it sets itself up as a "characters trapped in the wilderness at the mercy of a strange monster" story. Which would have been perfectly acceptable. But the story goes for a plot twist regarding that strange monster that I think is interesting in its own right. One of the big plot reveals is a bit far-fetched, but I'm willing to go easy on that here.

  • A surprisingly fun and enjoyable romantic comedy mixed with elements of the Superhero genre. The art is very pleasing to the eyes, with a bright color palette that feels totally right for the tone of the mini-series. Imperial is a great Superman parody, both in design and characterization, and Mark's back-and-forth with him lands more often than it doesn't. I do question the wisdom in the way it ends overall, given the implications for the world without its seeming only superhero to defend it, but overall, this was really good.

  • Another one of Millar's. How I wish the TV adaptation had gotten a full life.

  • The second part

  • The third part (chronologically)

  • A very dark, but also very well done, Zombie Apocalypse story. For those who like The Walking Dead, I would probably recommend this one, as I think it covers some similar ground, such as the idea that the real monsters are normal humans who care nothing for their fellows, rather than the Zombies themselves.

  • A very interesting, grimdark post-apocalyptic reimagining of classic fairy tale characters. It's pretty grisly and grotesque, but that's sort of the point. I liked it well enough, especially its take on Jack the Giant Slayer.

  • This one was actually an inspiration for some of my own original writing, so I kind of have a soft spot for it. I also love the very 90s/2000s Disney-esque art style.

  • Playing out a bit like a somewhat lighter and softer version of Helboy, I really loved the Halloween-flavored weirdness of this one. And yes, the art style is also great.

  • A sequel/spin-off of Project: Superpowers, which I sadly still haven't gotten around to finishing yet. I am a sucker for stories with Batman parodies in them, and this is an example of that. Story's nothing super original, but I think it's handled reasonably well, with a personal connection between hero and villain that makes their conflict have a bit more weight than it might have otherwise.

  • Yes, the art style is very, VERY crude. Not to my tastes. But...

    ...pretty much everything else about this one is a winner. For starters, it manages the very difficult feat of having a Superhero comic premise that feels entirely novel (definitely not something I would have ever thought of, and I love superheroes to death). It's funny, engaging, and filled to the brim with "sight gag" easter eggs, with cameo appearances from characters and items that aren't all from Superhero stuff (such as Bender and the priest robot from Futurama and the Sword of Omens from Thundercats). It's just a blast. I would not at all mind getting more stories set in this particular setting. Again, its a Superhero comic that's premise feels totally unique. That alone impresses me.

  • And here's Part 2. Roughly as good as Part 1, even if I'm not sure Zoe's redemption felt entirely earned or properly developed. Not that it wasn't developed at all, but I feel a touch more could have been done. Other than that though, I would say that overall this was a good conclusion to the story. A part of me wishes there had been more stories in-between this second volume and the first, because (again), I really think this was a great, novel premise that easily could have worked as a more long-running / ongoing title. But either way, it was a great read.

  • Again, I sadly haven't finished this one yet. One day...

  • Simply put, Walt Simonson is basically a magician when it comes to writing Thor and Norse Mythology in general. I love the comic's take on Thor, casting him as a sort of benevolent undead bringing hope to a post-apocalyptic world. The art's a bit crude in places but overall good, and has some Mjolnir action worthy of the Marvel Thor.

  • A fun and novel premise with writing by Mark Millar and art by Greg Capullo? Yes please!

  • I like Agatha Christie's work, including And Then There Were None, so a version of it with superheroes is right up my alley.

  • While the art is a bit crude in places, Reyn is still a fun time. I love how it begins as a fairly conventional Fantasy story only to gradually build up to a huge plot twist that completely changes and recontextualizes the whole thing. I dare not spoil it because I think its handled so well. Even the last issue having a ton of exposition info-dumps doesn't bother me, since it helps clear up the remaining ambiguities. Shame the planned second volume was never made.

  • A badass Samurai going to different parts of the world fighting a variety of foes. Sort of like a more grounded Samurai Jack. Also, its Ron Marz, so yeah.

  • Second part of the story, and as good as the first part.

  • I personally found Dynamite's main Sherlock Holmes story to be extremely dull and needlessly convoluted. This tale by contrast, is much better. Not the best take on the great detective, but still one I enjoyed. Truth be told, I kind of liked some of the twists it played on the mythos, particularly with Watson.

  • A pretty engaging historical adventure story with some good swordfighting action (as is only fitting given the title). The story's attempt to frame rapiers as a lazy rich man's weapon doesn't really hold up under scrutiny, but the overall tale is still engaging and well told, with some solid art to boot.

  • Playing out rather like a James Bond story with a time travel twist, this one's right up my alley: Nazis dying in droves in a variety of violent ways, Hitler getting the living shit beaten out of him, a "heroes go back in time to prevent disaster" premise, it's all there. I do sort of wish the main characters hadn't been forced to wear Nazi uniforms as a disguise for most of the tale, but that quibble aside, this was a very enjoyable adventure. Good, cathartic, guilt-free fun.

  • A great Werewolf Detective Story that kept me engaged throughout. My only real gripes with this one are that 1), the artist changed towards the end of the mini-series, with neither of the replacements feeling as right for the tone of the comic as the artist who did the first three issues, and 2) the protagonist somehow NOT ending up fired from his job and in jail after the stuff he pulls in the last issue. But apart from those annoyances, I really liked this one. There's a somewhat similar mini-series to this one that I also loved that is further on down this list.

  • A series of Graphic Novel Westerns that I've really enjoyed, such that I really hope we get more (and the last one ended with that still a possibility).

  • Title says it all: Sherlock Holmes Vs. Zombies. Great.

  • And here's the sequel. Holmes/Dracula crossovers are actually more common than you might think, but that doesn't make this a bad read by any means, and it's also the only Holmes/Dracula crossover I know of that's in comic book form (as opposed to a novel). I love the art too. Very easy on the eyes.

  • An incredibly dark and well-written take on the Werewolf legend, with a sobering look at the ways in which such a curse ruins and destroys everything it touches. It's basically a deconstruction of Werewolf stories, but one that I think works really well.

  • After the depressingly nihilistic End League, this was a great palette cleanser. Simply put, The Wrong Earth lived up to my expectations and, if anything, exceeded them. The writer gets the feel of both the campy, Adam West Batman-esque Earth Alpha, and the Grimdark Earth-Omega, perfectly. Even more incredible, he integrates these completely tonally different universes into a story that works. Honestly, I kind of wish more Superhero writers would think to have team-ups/interactions between campy Silver Age-esque and edgy Iron/Modern Age heroes. There's just so much fun and storytelling potential to be had there.

  • A fun enough Space Opera-type tale with some very pleasing art and a great villain. And, the main character's a dark haired waifu in a form-fitting suit. Hard to say no to that.

  • Sequel to the above. Main villain's motives weren't the best, but overall I still enjoyed this second part, which introduced some new characters and continued to flesh out what is to me a fairly unique Sci-Fi/Space Opera type setting. Pity that there doesn't seem to have been a Part 3 that I'm aware of.