Dave Ryan’s War of the Independents is a true exercise regimen for the mind: it is pure science fiction and superhero bravado both in its general plot as well as its premise and theme. The book even taps a metatextual level in order to force its readers to comprehend what exactly is unfolding. What’s real and what’s not? Who owns what as intellectual property and how does that ownership conform to concepts of a Jungian collective unconsciousness and imagination?
Unfortunately, I can’t really describe the plot of War of the Independents in great detail because there are simply too many different players to keep track of. Oh, there’s certainly a war brewing, a great and powerful war that will shake the foundations of time and space. This book is not unlike the major events that Marvel and DC have been hosting in their respective universes to sell more of their products, and it’s somewhat apparent that creator Ryan is tapping into this.
But with War of the Independents, Ryan is waving his arms and shouting: “Hey, don’t forget about us. This is where all great creators—writers and artists alike—start in their careers: on the frontlines of the independent scene!” I admire this message (that’s, of course, so long as I’ve interpreted Ryan correctly and am not putting words in his mouth) because I see a lot of independent material and greatly admire most of it for its originality and craft.
The general plot of Independents is simple: it’s all about war, as mentioned above, and the good guys are collecting heroes from parallel comic-book worlds to join up for the grand epic battle. For a teaser, I’ll mention that Jeff Smith’s Bone is involved. It does sound a bit generic, and I’m the first to admit it. If a fault were to be pinpointed in the book, it would be that the lines of good and evil are too linear and too parallel against each other.
But Ryan places a lot of painstaking effort into nearly all of the illustrations in the book, capturing all of the unique details that differentiae the large ensemble he’s pulling together. I’d love to know what efforts he had to undertake in order to gain copyright access to all of these characters. It must have been a lot of work, because at the book’s end he credits all of the different properties and their creators.
Though I found it predicable at points, I admired the first issue of War of the Independents. The comic’s very concept is what will carry it forward in its run. And I can’t argue with a book that bravely includes a cameo from Gumby. Yes, that Gumby.
This comic book review originally appeared on Broken Frontier.