By Shawn Perry
Greetings True Bleeders! It's time for another edition of Indie Spotlight: the semi-regular column dedicated to the wonderful world of self-publishing!
There are so many great stories out there in the zeitgeist of our collective conscious and it takes a special type of person to say "I have a story to tell and I don't care what I have to do I am bringing it to life." What I love most about the comic book medium is that you do not need a lot of expensive equipment, actors or the long-winded prose expected of long-form literature to make your story. It's still no easy task – especially when you both write and draw like many of artists in this week's spotlight – but there is no better story than that of someone bringing their dreams to life and I take great pride in celebrating that here on Indie Spotlight.
So without further ad0, lets start with the final issue of Tony Sedani's excellent mini-series Return to Rander from Boston-based creative collective Stockpile Comics.
Return to Rander #4 by Tony Sedani provides a thoroughly satisfying conclusion to his excellent mini-series from Stockpile Comics. While the art throughout the series has been awesome, I have to admit that everything was taken up a notch in this epic and brutal finale. Return to Rander is the story of a hero's search for identity juxtaposed against another man's search for revenge and both journeys reach their fitting ends in the final issue.
As discussed in my review of the first three issues of this series, the protagonist of the story is a warrior striving to lead a life of peace as he searches for the answers to his past. Think contemporary-era Wolverine meets a Rurouni Kenshin-type warrior with a bad case of amnesia. On the other side of the morality spectrum stands the Matador who commits vicious acts of violence with no empathy throughout the tale in search of the protagonist. Aside from piles of bodies caught in the middle are a pregnant women and her abusive employer who joins the Matador's brigade of blood while also bringing a suprising (re: welcome) touch of moral ambiguity to the story.
This epic tale of good evil reflects the old adage that the best hero/villain duels are two people who were initially very similar but went in two opposite directions. In the end the story of good and evil is told with a tearful goodbye and hopeful smile leaving behind a pile of bodies as the survivor stands on a boat beating against the current to Rander…a place that is as much about the missing pieces as it is about everything we can become in life.
The second issue of Signed by writers Mark C. Frankel and Joshua L.A Jones of Wayward Raven Studios is an engaging and picturesque continuation of the first issue. We pick up where we left off with teleporting talent agent CeeCee using her wits through space and time to unearth the truth behind the disappearance of a client. In this issue she has to engage her aunt who will only give her the time of day if she takes the form of a lioness and successfully makes a kill for the herd.
Of course, that's no problem for CeeCee who is just as at home in the body of an animal as she is in a pair of high-heels in the streets of New York or sharing a bathtub in what must be one of the most aesthetically-pleasing nudist colonies on any of the planes this trippy traveler frequents during the work week. For more information on this series check out my interview with Frankel from New York Comic-Con in which he addresses the series evolving art style as well as his recently published children's book Percy about a Sirruh searching to discover his identity.
Gatecrashers is written by Zach Mortensen with artwork by Sutu and follows a gang of ambulance drivers who represent the inhabitants last hope in an dystopian future city that resembles New York City. There are a lot of moving pieces to this book and I really enjoyed how the vibrant art style matched the pace of the story. Mortensen does a great job building the world of the story around a small cast of characters and lets the action beats have time to settle but always fully engaged. The reason I am being vauge about the plot details is because this story is unpredictable and packs a lot of twists and turns so going in with an open mind is advisable before you strap yourself in for this one. For more information about Gatecrashers check out my interview with Mortensen in which he also provides some background information on Sutu's augmented game-changer Modern Polaxis.
Modern Polaxis follows a paranoid time traveler who believes that our reality is actually just a projection from another plane in the universe. He believes that if he can find a way to enter the projection beam he will become one with the truth or a really powerful time-traveler or something…you will have to excuse my lack of academic conjecture on this subject on my being distracted when I came upon this incredible leap forward in storytelling. For more information on Modern Polaxis check out the detailed coverage from the book's Kickstarter campaign.
American Nature #1 by writers Dave Landsberger and Marc Koprinarov and artists Greg & Fake is a great example of what happens when a talented collective lets their creative juices flow without restriction. This book is a series of mini-stories that include awesome time-traveling cavemen, random anthropomorphic ducks and an underground basketball team lead by a Cheeseburger named Phylo. American Nature is unique in that it features different creative teams for different stories, for example; one of my favorite stories of the inaugural issue, entitled R.A.D in Time, is a delightful jaunt across time that involves three cavemen that steal a time machine from a well-meaning but annoying scientist named Einstein who wants to effect change.These cavemen, later coined the "awesome dudes," are soon given the power of speech by a group of aliens who tell them they are essential to the development of the human race.
The joy of the book is watching the effortless wisdom of the cavemen juxtaposed against Einstein's counterintuitive efforts in an game of cat-and-mouse akin to a sci-fi version of the classic Coyote/Roadrunner cartoons. R.A.D in Time is written by Austin Tinius & Robert Salinas with art by Antonio Brandao and recently was spun off into its own series. Overall, American Nature moves at a brisk pace that seems to match the attention span of the creators and readers who are hungry for something very different from the standard fare in comics and that, after all, is American Nature in a nutshell, right? Anyway, for more details on American Nature check out my interview with the creative team at New York Comic-Con.
Masterplasty by James Harvey is an oversized comic book that features great art and a story that sticks in your head. It all starts when a group of friends goes out to eat and one of them makes the innocent observation that people generally associate with people who are of similar attractiveness. This simple comment leads our protagonist to break-up with his college girlfriend and undergo a new medical procedure that drastically modifies the physical appearance of the human body in ways both beautiful and horrifying.
The story takes him from being an attractive guy in a relationship with a beautiful girl to looking like 80's-era Michael Jackson and dating a beautiful shell of a woman until the whims of fancy whisk her away and he ends up looking like latter stages Michael Jackson mixed with something out of a children's morality tale about chronic rage and monsters under the bridge. In the end he has to move on with his life as a less-than-attractive person but there is a glimmer of hope that he may have learned something and be on the road to earning some of his own inner beauty. While the thrill of enjoying the oversized artwork on your subway commute is worth the 3.99 price tag alone it is the afterword by Harvey that really makes me believe we have only seen a glimmer of the beautiful work of which this young artist is capable.
Kurt Cobain: When I was an Alien from One Peace Books was written by Danilo Deninotti and features strong art from Toni Bruno. This book has been reviewed on this site in the past but I just have to say that I found it an infinitely better experience than Gus Van Sant's Last Days and Cobain's perspective feels true to the person I imagine him to be…it is ultimately not a sad story, nor a happy one, but an alien experience that has a lot to say but eventually ends up just saying a great big nevermind. Not being the world's biggest Nirvana fan or anything but knowing his story well I like to think this work would not bother him at all. For more information on the book check out my interview with One Peace Books Editor Robert McGuire.
Shawn Perry is a proud geek from East Hartford, CT who is striving to be here now. He enjoys yellow journalism, yellow sunglasses and The Flaming Lips crazy-awesome new tribute album to Sgt. Peppers. You can tweet him @thesperry or send him email after email about anything at Shawn.Perry88@gmail.com.