Rasl, Glamourpuss And Rachel Rising – The New, Old Black And White Indie Boom

This is totally a nineties revival. Three books out this week, one by Dave Sim, one by Jeff Smith, one by Terry Moore, all huge figures of the self publishing business for decades, and all back to putting out regular black-and-white work, away from their earlier, more famous work.

First up, the interdimensional action romp Rasl from Jeff Smith gains a romantic twist that should give out lead, Rasl, some serious issues in his journey across worlds trying to put right what once went wrong, as the art thief gets out of his depth, but constantly keeps trying to put it back together. Such a difference to Bone, but still with the emotional core of that book, with monsters and grotesques and the strangest looking beautiful people.

Dave Sim continues to give us quite the mix in Glamourpuss #25, with Canadian model Kyla Nicolle posing for scenes and being grabbed by the narrative, and an argumentative bunny rabbit, into a battle of wits and pits before crashing into the self-aware lawyer baiting of The Adventures Bi Curious Of Avril Lavigne and Dave Sim's obsessions with slivers of pop culture have always run through Cerebus, here they appear undiluted, pure and cutting – while simultaneously celebrating the photo-realistic style, which then leads us into the death of Flash Gordon creator Alex Raymond, and the subsequent condition of Stan Drake, without missing a beat. It's an extraordinary range of ton, subject matter and style, with Sim in far greater control of the wheel than Raymond. We also get a return to Sim's taking one image and portraying it in very different panels alongside a narrative, that we most recently saw in the Hero Comics Elephantmen. Glamourpuss eschews much of its narrative to play with the medium, but it still packs a powerful emotional punch.

Rachel Rising #8 is about the practicalities of coming back from the dead, and here we have neck brace issues, and a cast with their own issues with life and death. Stand out scenes are Rachel with the wolves in the snow, and the snake within. This book expertly gets over a feeling of dread without ever going for the obvious. Things are very very wrong, but people continue to get by and do very peopley things. Even when that means breakfast small talk with a pinned up corpse. And a central female double act does have a certain familiarity…

As someone who also self-published in the nineties, it's wonderful to see these three still doing it so well and so different. Now all we need is to get Steve Bissette and Paul Pope back into the game…

Batman Annual #1 courtesy of Orbital Comics, London, currently exhibiting a Dan Parent Archie Comics exhibition.

About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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