The world is cruel, and we have to support one another. Death may be inevitable, but how we spend the time before then is up to us, and these indie comics: July 21st, are shining examples of characters who put others first, even at great cost to themselves.
Creative Team: Sean Lewis, Caitlin Yarsky, and Ari Pluchinsky
Publisher: Image Comics
Bliss is a story about a father and a son. Only the father is a reformed murderer, and the son is standing in his defense at a trial against him. Of course, it’s about much more than that: drugs, addiction, forgiving without forgetting. It gets deeper and darker as the story goes on, but it beautifully captures reciprocal sacrifice in a unique and heartbreaking way.
The Many Deaths of Laila Starr #4
Creative Team: Ram V, Filipe Andrade, Inês Amara, and AndWorld Design
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Laila is back alive once more in The Many Deaths of Laila Starr #4, and for once in her many lives, facing a consequence. Darius is an adult now, and Laila discovers for the first time one of mortality’s most difficult lessons. The penultimate issue in this immaculate series, it sets up the emotional stakes for its conclusion on very tall, shaky stilts. I’m not ready for how this will end.
Creative Team: Emila Clarke, Marguerite Bennet, Leila Leiz, Triona Farrell, and Haley Rose-Lyon
Publisher: Image Comics
What I love most about Mother of Madness #1 is that its portrayal of motherly sacrifice isn’t stuck in any kind of stereotype or caricature. Maya is surrounded by the absolute worst of men, who are written to be over the top misogynists and terrible people. But she’s just living her own life. Plus, her emotion-based powers aren’t based in stereotypical “feminine” emotions either. They’re just tied to regular, normal, deeply felt feelings. And being so normal in her quest to do good makes the beginning of this mini-series excellent and promising.
Creative Team: Sophocles Sapounas
Publisher: BHC Press
This pick belongs here for its art style alone. It’s a very simple style. Sans color, it is essentially rough sketches for almost 200 pages. But the roughness is a part of the quality. A story about a zombie apocalypse and two wayward travelers who happen upon each other in their quests to survive (or remember anything), Not Alone is really rough. But it’s also hilarious. Something about the sketch style makes the constant jokes land even funnier. And ultimately, like the other indie comics: July 21st highlighted this week, it’s about sacrificing for others, even when they’re strangers.
Creative Team: Ray Fawkes
Publisher: Oni-Lion Forge
Another unique entry in this week’s roundup, One Line, is a story told in a totally unique manner. Each page consists of 9 panels, and across opposite pages, 18 rectangles, several stories of different families from different corners of the world are told concurrently. The punctuation-free narration weaves poetically across the panels like you would read any other comic, tying different families’ stories together across space and time with ongoing and shared themes. Until violence is wrought and sacrifices are made for family and peoplehood, and characters die without leaving behind children to carry on their stories. Those panels then remain black for the duration of the novel. It’s a tragedy about power and harm towards one another, but also how we strive to care, even in the face of the darkest parts of humanity.
Creative Team: Mohsen Ashraf, Patrick Meaney, Jeff Edwards, and John Kalisz
Publisher: Image Comics imprint Top Cow Productions
How would you fare if you were cursed to absorb the hardships and emotions of everyone you ever encountered? Probably not well. When EMT Sylas is given this power, it begins as a blessing. There’s no greater skill in saving lives and helping others than being able to intuitively understand their pain. But years go by, and it becomes too much until he can’t bear it anymore and leaves even more harm in his wake. It’s a tragic metaphor for what happens when those who care for others cease caring for themselves.
Creative Team: Joe Henderson, Lee Garbett, Antonio Fabela, and Simon Bowland
Publisher: Image Comics
Concluding Shadecraft’s first arc, this issue turns Shadecraft into a full family affair. With revelations about characters’ past sacrifices for one another mixed with some healthy dollops of humor, it wraps up this first arc nicely while positioning the story excellently for the future.
Tales from Harrow County: Fair Folk #1
Creative Team: Cullen Bunn, Emily Schnall, and Tyler Crook
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
While not much happens in this opening salvo, Tales from Harrow County #1 has an intriguing art style and an underlying mystery revealed on the final pages that screams, “people have sacrificed a lot for one another, and not too many people are likely to be happy in the end because of it.” Whatever comes next will assuredly be creepy as well as emotional.
Sacrifice is selfless; it’s something a lot of us readers wish we had the strength and bravery to do ourselves, sometimes. That’s why reading great stories like these indie comics: July 21st demonstrates that selflessness so well is so satisfying.
Read these indie comics: July 21st and more at ComiXology.com and wherever comics are sold.