If you’ve read my reviews before, you know I’ve got a soft spot for the smaller indie books out there. There’s an abundance of passion, creativity, and originality in small indie publishing, and Verge #1 from new publisher Identity Comics is a perfect example of the gems that can be hiding in the massive shadow of the big two and other larger publishers.
MINOR SPOILERS BELOW
Verge #1 is an anthology comic, in the tradition of beloved indie staples such as Dark Horse Presents, created by Lars Canty and Phillip Kelly and featuring four different stories in the first issue:
– “Concrete Shoes” – A noir story set in the future and featuring not only a one-man army made of concrete, but the bold and brutal artwork of the talented Sebastian Kadlecik (Penguins vs. Possums).
– “El Fantasmo” – A story that feels like a cousin to Kipling’s Rikki-Tikki-Tavi or The Jungle Book and hints at a plotline featuring lucha libre wrestlers. This one is illustrated by another phenomenal artist, David Flores (Dead Future King).
– “Girl Made of Ice” – A bizarre and intriguing addition that follows a young girl as she makes first contact with some mind-bending, and potentially deadly, extra-terrestrials. Ashley Lanni Hoye provides the artwork for this tale, and she bring a clean and simplistic style to the piece.
– “The Sheet: Deal with the Devil” – A charming, funny comic about a superhero (or heroic creature?) who is both tragically and amazingly stuck in the form of a living sheet that can smother his victims, enter the brain through orifices like the ears, eyes, or nose, and read their minds. This one’s a one-man band, having been created, written, and drawn all by Lars Canty.
Now, full disclosure, folks; I donated to the crowdfunding campaign that launched Identity Comics and Verge, and, because of this, I’m thanked by name in the front of Verge #1. I’ve also got a pretty friendly relationship with the creators, Lars Canty and Phillip Kelly, as well as a few of the artists on this project, given that I’ve reviewed their work before. (It’s one of the many reasons I knew this project would be worthwhile and wanted to help them reach their financial goal.) None of that changes that fact that Verge #1 is a great, new book by a talented group of individuals and featuring stories more original and unexpected than half the books on the shelves.
Verge #1 has a great look and feel to it. It’s a sharp, clean, fun book featuring some excellent art. Kadlecik’s work on “Concrete Shoes” is the standout art of the book for me, making you feel every devastating blow the story’s rock-hard force of justice (or death) delivers. When it comes to story, “El Fantasmo” really peaked my interest. Verge #1 features a number of distinctive and original concepts, but “El Fantasmo” seems immediately different than most comic books in the market and gives you just enough of both explanation and mystery to keep the reader hungering for more. Verge #1 also has several covers available, offering another example of the collective talent behind the book, and I have to give a shout out to Michael Leone’s work on “Girl Made of Ice” cover (Cover C) which POPS like nobody’s business. The colors are amazing, and it’s exactly the kind of cover that gets a reader to pick up the book and check out what’s inside. Finally, one of the best things that Verge #1 and Identity Comics has to offer is Canty and Kelly’s mission to be open and accessible to their readers. These guys are clearly big on relating and interacting with those that read their comics (offering email, Twitter, and Facebook contacts in the back of their book – a simple and smart move a lot of young publishers forget their first time out) and consider “any sort of art, literature, poetry, or music is a conversation between the creator and partaker.” Identity Comics clearly has the type of creative individuals we should welcome with open arms into the indie comic world.
I only have one real criticism of Verge #1, and it’s all format, comic book sniffers. There are a ton of excellent and engaging stories in this anthology, but you have to make it easy for the reader, especially those with little experience reading comic books, graphic novels, or any format of the sequential art medium. Really what I’m talking about are the introductions and transitions between each story. “The Sheet: Deal with the Devil” nails it by featuring a masthead of the title along with unobtrusive credits for writing, art, etc. These introductions to the title of the story and the creative team are very important. In order for readers to grow attached to a plotline or creator, it needs to be easy to identify the name of either, so that they can follow the story or individual onto the next issue or project. “El Fantasmo” and “The Sheet” also use some final text like “to be continued . . . ” or “Up Next: . . . ” to indicate that this chapter of the story is ending and a new one is about to begin. Luckily, these missteps are easily correctible and in no way “sink” Verge’s ship. This book is still well worth your money, even if it is still finding its feet.
FINAL SCORE: 4 Identity Comics Toe Tags out of 5
Verge #1 is available for sale on Amazon. (All four covers are available, so check out their other links on the page.) You can find out more about Verge and Identity Comics on Facebook, Twitter, or by visiting the official website at identitycomicbooks.com. (Their upcoming books, including a comic about vampire kindergartners, look to be pretty thrilling!)
That’s all for now, comic book sniffers! If you don’t have a resolution for 2014 yet, than make one to keep supporting indie comics all through the new year.
‘Till the end of the world,
Bryant the Comic Book Slayer