Five non-Marvel and DC superhero comics to cleanse your palate

Commanders in Crisis: “The Avengers and Justice League have nothing on this team.” IMAGE: Courtesy of The Nerdy Basement

By: Madeleine Chan, Opinions Editor

Superhero comics published by Marvel and DC are great . . . sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, there are stellar comics that these companies produce, but they are still rife with inconsistent storytelling and prejudice, among a host of profit-over-people industry practices. Indie publishers aren’t wholly free from these discretions, but they do have a wide range of the most exquisite superhero stories and art that I’ve seen. Whether to help you wait for the next superhero blockbuster or broaden your superhero media consumption, take a look at five of my favourite fictional fables.

Moth and Whisper (2019)

Image courtesy of Aftershock Comics

It is difficult to summarize the lengths to which I adore this book written by Ted Anderson and illustrated by Jen Hickman. The story follows Niki — a genderqueer, Robin Hood-type thief in a near surveillance-state future — whose parents have recently disapeared. They use both of their parents’ thief monikers, Moth and Whisper, interchangeably, diving into the city’s criminal underbelly to find them. The art melds colour and story perfectly to convey Niki’s changing feelings about themself. But instead of revolving around Niki’s gender identity, the story simply embraces it as a part of the overarching theme of identity, family, and choice. Every time I re-read this book I discover something new in its incredible craftsmanship and I’m reminded why I fell in love with the comic medium. 

Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt (2019)

Image courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment

A reimagining of Peter Cannon’s questionable past, this is an encapsulating myriad of fourth-wall breaking and emotional existentialism. Kieron Gillen tells the tale of super-genius Peter Cannon, aka Thunderbolt, who realizes alternative versions of himself are trying to destroy (and befriend) him. Not only are the art and colours by Caspar Wijngaard and Mary Safro, respectively, so stunningly complementary to the story, the panels themselves are also used to tell the story. This is how panels should be used in comics, rather than to simply hold images. At its core, Peter Cannon’s story is about embracing change and accepting events as they play out, and I cannot think of a better way that this could have been told.

Doctor Mirage (2019)

Image courtesy of Valiant Entertainment

Magdalene Visaggio writes a beautiful tale about life and death in this book filled with supernatural magic. The story follows Doctor Shan Fong Mirage, who has recently lost her ability to see ghosts, as she tries to bring her late husband back to life. Nick Robles, one of my favourite comic book artists, brings the story to life with visuals that make you feel like you’re experiencing Shan’s grief alongside her. And colourist Jordie Bellaire helps breathe intrigue and vivacity into the fantastical, and sometimes hellish, landscapes Shan finds herself in. Doctor Mirage is a true treat from cover to cover.

Commanders in Crisis (2020)

Image courtesy of Image Comics

The Avengers and Justice League have nothing on this team. Steve Orlando pens a story painfully familiar in today’s time of seemingly rampant hate, apathy, and pessimism. A team of five super-powered people discover that someone is stealing empathy itself, amidst growing political turmoil in the US. Commanders in Crisis is halfway through its 12-issue mini series release and Orlando does an incredible job at fleshing out characters and building the world in what little space he has, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next. 

Rise of the White Phoenix (2019)

Image courtesy of Lisa LaRose Art

Written and illustrated by Vancouver-based artist Lisa LaRose, this self-published comic takes no prisoners, but it might steal your heart. Starring Luisa, a young girl who dreams of becoming a luchadora (Mexican wrestler), this story is about the trials and tribulations with family, society, and corruption. At the same time, Luisa wrestles with herself as she strives to achieve that dream. Even if you know nothing about wrestling (like me), the art and story are engaging enough to make you want to. You can read the prologue and buy the first book at luchacomic.com.

All other comics can be found at your local book or comic shop, or digitally at comixology.com.