Each week I'll spotlight a couple independent books I've read and may have flown under people's radar.
THE PRIVATE EYE v1
I picked up the first issue when it first came out. Then, just as I do with webcomics, immediately forgot about it. Some months later, the first collection came out. I was excited, purchased it, and immediately forgot about it once again. In preparing for a recent trip, I loaded up my tablet with some comics, happy for the chance (read: excuse) to read them. This was among them.
I could explain what's happening, but would rather new readers discover them as the story unfolds. It's written by Brian K Vaughan, and I shouldn't have to tell you what else he's done. I'm not going to say, "It's like Saga!" because it's not. But if you like his work, I recommend checking this out. The series can be purchased "for any price you think is fair" from http://panelsyndicate.com. Issue 9 came out in early December and the upcoming issue 10 will be the series finale. I imagine there will then be a second collection, which I will purchase, and read in a more timely fashion.
Warning: this collects only the first five issues of the series. There are more, and you will want to read them.
I'd never read an issue of Archie before. Growing up, if it didn't have Spider-Man, I wasn't interested. By the time I grew out of that phase, I was much to cool for Archie, or anything that didn't have a bunch of pouches and big shoulder pads. By the time my tastes had matured further, Archie has among the farthest from my mind. Then the last couple of years happened. Suddenly, I'm reading about Archie on a regular basis, both the comic company and the various series themselves. Seemingly everyone says they're good. I'm surprised and generally confused, but still don't bite. Then Comixology's 12 Days of Free Comics happens in December, and I get the first issue of the series for free. I think, "Cool. I'll check this out someday to see what all the hype is about." Fast forward to last week when I'm on vacation and load up the first issue during a moment of downtime. I bought the collection before I'd finished reading that first issue. The series is good. Really good. Trust me.
I genuinely meant to talk about the writing and art, but I'd honestly rather you just experience it yourself while reading. And I hope you do.
My origin story for Lumberjanes is much the same as Afterlife With Archie: kept hearing good things, picked up the first issue free, and was instantly impressed. The story centers on five members of the Lumberjanes, a rough Girl Scouts equivalent. They quickly get into some shenanigans and spend the rest of the issue dealing with the fallout from that. There's very little I can say here to convey the fun and highly enjoyable nature of the first issue. I recommend anyone remotely interested pick up the first issue or even just glance at some preview pages.
The first trade is out in April, which I eagerly await. You can expect to hear from me again about this series at that time.
CRIMINAL MACABRE v1
I can't recall which I read first, 30 Days of Night or the Savage Membrane, the first Cal MacDonald novel. Either way, I was an instant fan of Steve Niles' work. I really enjoyed the Cal MacDonald novels but was slow to follow Cal when he transitioned comics. By the time I had, there was a confusing number of collection and no clear reading order (for some reason, I didn't bother consulting Wikipedia for the answer).
A short while back I picked up a code from Steve Niles on Facebook for a Criminal Macabre digital bundle. In the lead-up to this trip, I downloaded a bunch of issues (checking Wikipedia this time!) and was happy to find Cal still the drug-addled monster hunter he always has been.
The book doe an excellent job of introducing Cal, his supporting cast, and the greater world, so this is a great jumping on point. Recommended for anyone missing the old-school Constantine from Hellblazer.
SHAOLIN COWBOY TPB
The collection that came out in December is the earlier series - with the horse and the baby - and not the more recent series with zombies. Those descriptions should be vague enough to avoid spoilers but enough information for anyone that's read one or both series to know which I'm talking about. I didn't pre-order because I couldn't tell from the solicitation which story was in this book. It's my understanding, I was not alone in my confusion. I hope this clears things up.
It's weird that I could write a paragraph to describe which series this collects, yet struggle to describe the book itself. Those familiar with the work might sympathize. Darrow's work really needs to be seen - it's incredible and incredibly detailed. Working as his own writer as well, he's unleashed to draw anything he wants. What he manages to produce is simply one of the craziest comics I've ever seen or read. While I can't recommend it for everyone, I will recommend it for anyone looking to trying something new.