This is Indie Penance, my regular(ish) measure of casual mini-reviews focussing on the finest, craziest and/or most notable indie projects and creator-owned comics to have come my way.
2019, Pat Higgins
2001: A Space Odyssey meets Paranormal Activity in Pat Higgins’ ominous 60-page one-shot.
When a young couple install a hi-tech smart security system into their home, a series of strange occurrences begins while they sleep. Could “Charlie” be more advanced than they’d like to believe, or is a recently deceased relative attempting contact from beyond the grave?
A Delaware-based cartoonist, Higgins has a distinct style that evokes underground comix and the thick clean lines of Mike Allred, employing an extremely creepy distortion effect to view our terrorised couple through Charlies’ voyeuristic lens. A few incongruous facial expressions aside, this is an insidiously atmospheric book, one that gets under the skin and keeps you guessing until the very end.
You can purchase The Family at pat-higgins.com, alongside Higgins’ three previous works.
2019, iestyn, Ian Miller, Miranda Smart, Dave Crane, Mister Zinester, Gareth Hopkins, Sophie Ell, Jaime Nyx, Vacuum Books, Zeno the Cartoonist, Motobus, Simon Russell
Featuring contributions from artists around the world, The Sea is a collection of brief, often abstruse and/or poetic, meditations on the role of the sea as an unfathomable, healing, destructive and isolating force in our lives.
One of my bugbears with anthologies is when creators are only credited at the front or rear of the book, leaving me clueless as to who’s work I’m reading as I progress through the book. But here it works wonders, with Ian Miller’s photographic rumination, Sophie Ell’s haunting observational sketches and Gareth Hopkins’ superb stream of consciousness piece flowing naturally into one another. Editor Iestyn Pettgirew compares The Sea to a music album; in fact, many of the segments in this eclectic anthology don’t even have titles.
There’s an adventurousness and unpredictability to The Sea that reminds me of the experimental eighties’ collage work from Bill Sienkiewicz and Dave McKean. Y’know, that brief period before the nineties put the medium on freeze for a decade, when publishers were seeking a mature readership that wasn’t quite there yet. Things have changed, thankfully, and then some.
I recently backed the Kickstarter for The Sea, which as of writing has 9 days to go. Check it out at www.kickstarter.com/projects/iestynpettigrew/the-seas.
The Way Volume 1: Age of Darkness
2019, Cole Alexander Higgins
“Inside every world is another world, and inside of that is darkness and light.” Thus begins Cole Alexander Higgins’ grim journey through a primeval world, and an alternate history of mankind.
Higgins’ beautifully grotesque art and ambiguous words fit somewhere between a graphic novel and illustrated prose. His primitive people’s tormented expressions and the metaphysical plot’s biblical implications pique the readers’ emotions at a gut level. Pages only occasionally continue or recall previous images, and there’s a rhythmical sense of disorderliness throughout. Flicking through the book felt akin to sorting through a jumbled pile of silent movie intertitles.
Frustratingly abstract and deliberately difficult to decode, I perhaps appreciated The Way: Age of Darkness more than I enjoyed it, and felt no more enlightened by a second reading. I read a digital copy of the book, and suspect it would work better in the flesh, where one can return to it in sporadic, non-linear doses, and allow Higgins’ impressive art and suggestive words to build a narrative unique to the reader.
Nevertheless, an impressive debut that will appeal to those seeking something original and esoteric.