Five Independent Super Hero Titles you should read by Jake Pierce
When most people think of super heroes and comics they think of Marvel and DC, which makes total sense seeing how both companies have been around for decades. I’d say most of us grew up with Marvel and DC and have a great affinity for both companies, but if you’re like me, sometimes things like reverting back to the status quo or constant crossover events can get repetitive and dull and you just need to branch out. For me every once in a while I need a super hero series that’s self-contained and won’t crossover over with another series each month, or a story that has characters that develop over time and will stick with whatever changes are made to the characters or the world they live in. For me that’s where independent super hero books come in. Sometimes these series can be fun to read because the creators get to cut back and really get creative with a super tale without things like continuity and the status quo looming over their shoulder limiting them with what kind of story they are allowed to tell. So here’s five super comic series that aren’t published by Marvel or DC that I think any super hero fan should read.
1. Invincible by Robert Kirkman, Corey Walker, and Ryan Ottley. Invincible is the first super hero comic not published by Marvel or DC that I ever read, and easily my favorite. Sure Spawn and Hellboy can be considered super heroes, but this is the first one I read in the traditional sense, with a secret identity, colorful costum and a large rogue’s gallery. Invincible starts out as a tale of “What if Superman had a son?” and sure we now know what that’s like now but back in the early 2000s we didn’t, and Kirkman shows us with a young Mark Grayson and his father Nolan. Not too far into the story the series takes a huge turn that I won’t spoil if you don’t already know, and from then on became the super hero comic that ignored the status quo. The story is a long epic tale that constantly changes and evolves over the span of 141 issues, and never reverts back to what the book was at the start. Kirkman’s great with the dialogue, he’ll make you laugh, cry, and get angry when you’re supposed to but what is the big draw for most people is Ryan Ottley’s artwork. His battle scenes and the emotion he shows through the characters become unforgettable and what’s really special about this series. Any lifelong fan of super heroes will dig this book.
2. Danger Club by Landry Walker and Eric Jones. If you’re looking at Invincible and you love the look of the book but not sure if you’re willing to dive into something as long that, then Danger club is for you. At 10 issues, or 2 graphic novels, Danger Club is short, sweet, and to the punch (Literally). Danger Club starts out as a book where the greatest heroes of this world have left earth to face a cosmic threat and never returned, leaving the world led by a corrupt aged super soldier in the protection of their sidekicks. The series dives right into the grit of the story, what starts as a fun gritty super hero comic with wonderful fights scenes and easy to follow characters and backstories, quickly turns into a fun take on the comic industry as a whole. Danger Club is a series I have found myself rereading over and over again, and I’m sure you will too.
3. Jupiter’s Legacy/Jupiter’s Circle by Mark Millar, Frank Quitely, and Chris Sprouse.So I’m cheating here because technically these are two separate series set in the same universe but might as well be one whole series. Jupiter’s legacy follows two generations of super powered beings and how they differentiate. With beautiful art from Quietly and character dynamics easy to follow from Millar this is a fun yet harsh look at how the young heroes of today’s versus heroes of the golden age, with the companion book Jupiter’s Circle being drawn by Chris Sprouse telling the origin of the older generation of characters why exactly the relationships between certain characters are. By no means must you read Jupiter’s Circle to enjoy Legacy but reading the prelude series makes it that much more enjoyable of a read in a way that almost makes it feel like this should’ve just been one complete series. With a Netflix show now in production grab a copy of the series now and get ahead of the curve.
4. Black Hammer by Jeff Lemire and Dave Ormston. Black Hammer is the series that’s vastly different than the rest of the series on my list here. Lemire sticks with the theme of taking character traits from the heroes of the Marvel and DC that the other series on this list have but decides to tell a very different story. Black Hammer follows a group of heroes that teamed up together to stop a world ending threat and though success or what they think is success they somehow got trapped in a small town and are forced to live their days on a farm, if they leave the city limits they will die immediately. The story starts out 40 years after they first arrived on the farm allowing us to see how these characters have dealt with life on the farm. Ormston really delivers with his art and creates a very eerie vibe throughout the series. The back stories of the characters became such a fun part of the series that spin-offs mini-series, one-shots, and even a crossover with the Justice League were released and not in the typical comic book fashion where you have to read them all to get the full picture. Just read the main series, or collect each issue and get the full jest of the universe of the Black Hammer, either way it’s a very enjoyable ride. Anyone looking for a super hero book that isn’t so punchy will definitely get a kick out of this one.
5. Irredeemable by Mark Waid, Peter Krause and Diego Barreto. Irredeemable is Mark Waid’s turn to tell the story of “what would happen if Superman turned evil?” We’ve seen this type of story a few times but this time it’s a full series at 37 issues and 10 volumes of trade paper backs, giving Waid a chance to really dive into this world and why the Plutonian turned his back on humanity and what this world’s remaining heroes, the Paradigm, are willing to do to fight back. A lot of character dynamics from your favorite Marvel and DC characters are there even though they aren’t the exact characters allowing Waid to tell whatever story he wants without the weight of continuity or the pressure of a shared universe limiting him. There’s a lot of action and drama with great character development and backstories that get played out. This may be an evil superman book but he isn’t the only character that will peak your interest, and even a spin-off series that’s a fun read if you loved the series as much as me.