If you’ve been around long enough, the words ‘Image Comics’ sets off a barrage of memories that render you completely useless for about an hour and a half. Ridiculously long Con Autograph lines (I stood in them), Spawn Mobiles & Youngblood Jets (I took pictures of them), Image 0 coupons (I left them attached), severely missed release schedules (I patiently waited) and some of the best damn creator/artists Marvel had ever seen, left the era of standard page rates and moved on to banking serious coin off their own intellectual properties (I had long boxes full of it). It was unprecedented.
Five years in and half the founders were no longer on regular schedules and most weren’t even on their own books anymore. A few of them went back to Marvel to help launch the Heroes Reborn line (In my opinion, some of Jim Lee’s best work was on FF Heroes Reborn). Shortly after Heroes Reborn, a founding member withdrew his imprint, while the rest contemplated ousting another. After the dust had settled, Rob Liefeld withdrew his imprint from Image Comics and thus Marc Silvestri returned with his Top Cow imprint (Silvestri’s Top Cow published comics outside of Image for several months until Rob Liefeld removed himself). Even though Image was producing a lot of good quality comics, Image wouldn’t see anything as special as it’s initial inception until some 10 years later. Enter Robert Kirkman.
Unless you’ve been living under a log, you know that Robert Kirkman is the famed creator/owner of the comic and hit tv series the Walking Dead. Since Kirkman’s arrival, Image Comics has been the land of the sleeper hit. Invincible, Chew, Bulletproof Coffin & of course the Walking Dead have all come out of nowhere and have been truly awesome. (Walking Dead has been a comic book phenomenom in itself. Even my wife has read all 101 issues.)
Today Image has quite a few non-cape n’ tights sleepers out there that you really should be reading. I’d like to go ahead and take a moment and to introduce you to the three best books Image Comics has to offer, that you’re not reading.
Saga Vol 1 #1-6
In a realm where the reader is bombarded with New 52 & Avengers vs. X-Men, Saga #1 (now in its fifth printing) is still likely sitting on the shelves waiting for you to pick it up at your local comic shop. Saga, hands down, is the best story on the shelf, you haven’t read yet. Star Wars mashed with Bill Willingham‘s Fables, Saga is where fantasy meets sci-fi on a inter-galactic WWII battlefield in Shakespeare’s head.
The story revolves around two star-crossed lovers in the middle of an inter-galactic war that spans multiple planets, civilizations and galaxies. One faction is more technology driven and the opposing is magical in nature. The couple fall in love with one another after meeting in a military penitentiary and then conceive a child. The father is of the magic faction and the mother of the technology faction. They swear off violence and go on the run to protect their newly born child from the hellish reality of war. Both factions set out to find the couple and their child, as well as outsourcing the hunt to freelance mercenaries.
Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples demonstrate their mastery of the comic book format as they delicately balance the fine line of giving us everything we had ever hoped for and making us cry out for more. Every other title I read is filler, while I wait around for the next issue of Saga.
Revival Vol 1 # 1-2
Creators Tim Seeley and Mike Norton dub their newly launched ongoing series as ‘rural noir’. The story revolves around the small rural town of Wausau, WI. Due to the recent events, the people Wausau are quarantined inside their own town. People have started to return from the dead, but not in the traditional eat flesh undead fashion. They pretty much return as normal people. Well… as normal as “just returned from dead” can get. I really love the feel of the book. It reminds me of the movie “The Crazies”. Small town, everyone knows everyone and then some crazy unexplainable shit goes down and you don’t know who to trust. The pace perfectly matches the mood and feel of the book.
Jenny Frison’s covers embody ‘rural noir’. Sexy, scary and full of vigor, Frison’s cover to Revival #1 depicts a farmer’s daughter standing outside the creepy snow covered barn, in her hand-knit wool sweater, wielding a bloodied scythe. SOLD! The cover alone got me to pick it up. What a score! I love the comic horror genre and this book is at the top of the heap.
Manhattan Projects Vol 1 # 1-6
Where do I start? Albert Einstein is trying to unlock the mysteries of the Monolith. Robert Oppenheimer is negotiating with extraterrestrials (poorly I might add). Franklin D. Roosevelt’s brain has been brought back to life as an artificial intelligence. What if the original Manhattan Project was just a cover for other crazier projects? Jonathan Hickman has really taken some bold and severely entertaining angles on a few of American History’s famed scientific members in this historical fiction setting. Including in the cast of historical characters is American theoretical physicist Richard Feynman, American Lieutenant General Leslie Richard Groves Jr, Italian-born, naturalized American physicist Enrico Fermi, irradiated American physicist Harry Daghlian Jr. & German born rocket scientist Wernher von Braun.
This severely addicting sci-fi, comedy, horror mash up is not going to disappoint.
UNTIL NEXT TIME… Image just announced that the debut issue of 20 of their most recent titles are now permanently free via Comixology. Saga #1 and Manhattan Projects #1 are included in those free issues. While you’re at it, you should also check out Prophet #21 (fabulous Sci Fi), Thief of Thieves #1 (latest from that brainchild Kirkman, already picked up for tv) & Creator-Owned Heros #1 (Image anthology series), all free through Comixology.