Top 5 Indie Comics of SCIENCE

Enough with the wailing and lamentations of the big 2! What about the little guys? They can give us some righteous sci-fi too! Usually without invoking whacky superpowers that make my biology brain hurt. So let's embrace the big ideas of the little guys as I break down my top 5 indie books of science!

The rules:

1) No anthologies, they're too hard to think about as a whole when it comes to the particulars of the science and/or the sci-fi

2) No textbooks, even though there are some great books that actually explain the science I want narrative

 

3) Nothing from Marvel of DC (excluding Vertigo and Wildstorm) because that's the entire point of this exercise

 

 

5) Shockrockets 

This was one of those books that I just saw the creative team and new I had to have. I'd just read Secret Identity and Arrowsmith and wanted oh so much more Busiek. But this was also back when Dark Horse wasn't in the habit of keeping things I wanted in print, so I had to hunt for awhile. And perhaps it was the hunt that made the nectar so sweet once it was acquired, but regardless I ate this book up! Busiek always delivers on the coming of age tale and this is no exception, it's like Wing Commander if Wing Commander was good. Plus the ending it spectacular, but you'll have to read it to find out. Fortunately IDW is doing right by the book and rereleased a beautfiul looking hardcover which I have yet to pick up, but you should!

 

   

4) Transhuman 

I've sung the praises of Hickman's sci-fi writing in the past, and today will be no exception. While Pax Romana is great, it's much more historical, political and religious commentary with the veneer of some science; which is great, but not exactly right to make this particular list. Transhuman, however, his documentary style book about the evolution of technology inside humanity, is right on the button. And this one also has a stellar surprise ending too! But what edges out Transhuman over Shockrockets is that this surprise ending really makes you think about the story in a new light, egging you one for a second read.

 

  

3) Global Frequency

Warren Ellis was almost disqualified for this one based on the anthology rule, but I decided to let it slide because it's more a series of one-and-dones with different artists all within the same universe, which is what makes it so great. (And even if I disqualified this book, Ocean would have taken it's spot.) Each story is Ellis exploring some idea of the near future using a team of 1,001 sleeper agents all around the world waiting to be activated by a special cell phone. Eyes bleed from alien computer viruses, carbon rods threaten earth from space and super-soldiers kill for sexual pleasure, each within the span of a single issue. It's Ellis at his prime and at his prime he always did amazing sci-fi. It was hard to pick just one book, so I picked the most varied of the bunch. Forgive me, Transmetropolitan.

 

 

2) Y: The Last Man 

This is the only long-form series on the list but it's too glorious to ignore. Brian K. Vaughan's opus was integral to my growth as a comic reader and it's genuinely one of the best series I'ver ever read. But it also fills a weird hole in sci-fi in that it's social sci-fi; the soft science of sci-fi stories. Which is really cool because while most stories explore some social aspects of their science tinkering (it's one fo the primary themes of the genre); few delve as deep into big ideas in sociology while still skimming on the science like Y. After reading most about the philosophy of science itself I have a newfound appreciation for the so-called softer sciences (in that they are softer, but it shouldn't be derogatory) so I feel confident that I could defend Y: The Last Man against the hard-science naysayers. Then again, if you've already read the series, I won't have to.

 

 

1) The Surrogates 

Ignoring the movie I never saw, The Surrogates is just tops for me. It hits the sweet spot of being just far enough in the future, but not too far. And just outside the realm of possibility, but not too outside to be ridiculous. And ultimately it's about a narrative that just happens to help the reader uncover all the secrets of this weird neo-Atlanta. The themes should resonate with any internet user concerning the double-edged sword of technological convenience. And unlike some sci-fi, the human characters are an important part of the sci-fi concept itself, meaning they're written as well as any other more literary genre could expect. This is one of my go-to loaner books whenever I'm trying to get a friend into comics, because if they like sci-fi, they're set; if they like detective stories, they're set; and if they have eyes to look at are with; they're set. Other than the prequel it's a shame we haven't seen more from this team, but as The Surrogates teaches us, mixed blessings come to those who wait.

 

This is meant as a mere primer to someone interested in the plethora of science and science fiction in comics. There are books forgotten, books edged out to not repeat creators, and books I just simply haven't read. Therefore the comments are essential on this one. Let me know what I've forgotten, what you love, and what I should read next! Science is collaborative so make sure my next list is too!

 


Ryan  Haupt's selections are subject to change upon the release of any new work by Brian K. Vaughan. Hear him try to squeeze comics into conversations about science on the podcast Science… sort of.

Comments

  1. Just as Surrogates is a detective story mixed with sci fi, and Transhuman (one my favorites) is corporate intrigue/soap opera mixed with sci fi, I think the area of comedy mixed with sci fi is woefully underrepresented on this list. Sure, Y: The Last Man has some great moments of mirth, but it has EVERYTHING. I would like to nominate Barry Ween Boy Genius to this list of some great, accessible sci fi comics.

  2. Some really cool titles here.

  3. No ‘The Five Fists of Science’ by Matt Fraction and Steven Sanders?

     

  4. Good picks, Ryan. One of the main things I appreciated from reading Y The Last Man was its sociological context in its storytelling; something you don’t always get from reading comics. But Ellis’s Ocean or Orbiter would have been good additions to this list (runner-ups, I suppose they are called).

  5. I really need to check out Shockrockets, I didn’t know Immomen had worked with Busiek other than Superman: Secret Identity, I love that book!

  6. Transhuman is the only Indie Hickman work I couldn’t get into. I read the first issue and didn’t care for the documentary style. I think, based on this, and how much I love his other work, I need to revisit it soon. Good to see Global Frequency on here.

  7. @nudebuddha  The ending of Transhuman is worth it. You will see.

  8. @JZga  Considered it, but it was just a bit too whacky to make the top 5. Had I thought this through I would have included honorable mentions.

  9. @nudebuddha  I agree about Global Frequency. One of the reasons I dig Ellis so much.

    I just picked up Five Fists of Science a couple of weeks ago, and I need to move that up in the pile. I’m catching up on my Hickman indie work, but I need to get Transhuman. I thought Pax Romana was pretty amazing.

  10. No love for RASL? Or NIKOLAI DANTE? Or HECTIC PLANET? Or THE INCAL?

    For a list of ‘Indie’ titles, Two are published by DC, and one by Image. Which them rather more high profile then I expected this list to cover.

  11. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @TheAdventurer  I’ve been trying to get Ryan to read RASL too. Obstinate little cuss. 

  12. @PaulMontgomery  I stlll haven’t read Bone, if you can believe it.