The first issue of a comic book series is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s a blank slate. An opportunity to see something fresh and new. On the other hand, though, it’s an investment that may not pay off. Despite previews, reviews, and buzz surrounding a book, the proof is in the pudding, and you have to buy the book to know for sure. Marvel and DC are notorious for dropping issue #1’s that are FINO’s; Firsts In Name Only. There’s a title change, or a change to a creative team lineup, but nothing really new and refreshing. So it is with the Big 2 publishers and their constricting universes. Persistent universes come with rules. Image Comics, however, is not beholden to these rules.
Every month of 2014 Image Comics offered readers something completely new and different. And these weren’t just your run-of-the-mill issue #1’s, these are books by big names in the industry, books with staying power, and some great comic books. Read the first half of the year in new Image Comics that was 2014 here.
And then came July! Way too many great books, that are so different from each other in substance and style. Of all the months in 2014 that saw new releases from Image Comics, none show off just how robust and diverse this publisher truly is.
Rick Remender (yup, him again) dropped Low on us, and the underwater sci-fi adventure from the future succeeded on every front. Accompanied by Greg Tocchini’s wonderfully fitting washed out art, it’s a not to be missed sci-fi comic from a publisher putting out a ton of them.
Warren Ellis took sci-fi to the strange place that is…well, that is Warren Ellis’ brain, with Supreme Blue Rose, a book I had trouble keeping up with, but loved to look at compliment of Tula Lotay’s highly stylized artwork.
High-octane action in a wickedly deep fantasy setting is Ryan Burton’s Dark Engine, and ‘dark’ is an understatement. It’s contemporary fantasy, but it’s got an edge to it that most fantasy books fail to achieve, and this book is a refreshing addition to a huge lineup.
Probably my favorite new book of the year, and a book that looks to be going away but I have insight that it will be coming back, Death Vigil is a hugely creative work with some of the best art I’ve ever seen thanks to writer/artist Stjepan Sejic. I’ve purposely left off limited series, but I just know this is coming back, so look for it on next year’s list too.
July also brought Hack/Slash: Son of Samhain, Spread, and Tech Jacket, all great series in their own right, and all quite different from everything else going on at Image Comics.
The heat of Summer brought a slew of limited books, and two great ongoing titles, one of which is one of my favorite new books of the year.
Imperial, Dead@17: Blasphemy Throne, and Howtoons: [RE]Ignition all debuted in August, and although we’re only getting small doses of each of these great titles, I didn’t want to leave them off a list of this year’s new Image books. I hope we see them come back in some form or fashion in the coming new year, but they can’t take away what we already have.
Crime writer extraordinaire Ed Brubaker unleashed his latest noir thriller The Fade Out, and it was great to get back to seeing this legend back in the genre he’s best known for. Sean Phillips on the artwork just goes with Brubaker like peanut butter goes with jelly, and the book is some great stuff.
Last for August, but certainly not least, Jim Zub’s supernatural adventure from Japan, Wayward, just blew me away. Great artwork from Steve Cummings gives a whimsical look to a real world full of mythical demons and magic.
We’re getting into books that haven’t had much time to really get going, but that hasn’t stopped them from being awesome.
Another three books in September? Yup!
First up, Copperhead from writer Jay Faerber and one of my favorite artists of the year Scott Godlewski is a sci-fi cop drama on the surface, but a space western at its heart, with some truly fun characters and an awesome setting. Things are just getting ramped up in this title, but it’s fun from the very first panel.
Next in September there was Roche Limit, yet another sci-fi comic from a publisher that puts out a ton of them, this one’s leans a bit more toward the organized crime route, making it completely different. I can’t wait to see what writer Michael Moreci and artist Vic Malhotra have in store next.
Oddly Normal is tough to explain, but it’s slice-of-life with a fun supernatural twist. It seems like a kids book, but it’s just way too fun to read, and I hate to admit it. Otis Frampton is all in on this book performing both writing and art duties, and you definitely should not miss this one.
Image refused to slow down and rest on their number 1 laurels as the year came to a close, and October had 6 debut issues that I strongly believe will be on shelves this time next year.
Easily the horror comic of the year, Scott Snyder and JOCK scared the crap out of a ton of comic book readers with Wytches. This creative team has traded in the gore and the zombies (that seem to be everywhere) for some strong characters, amazing style, and cerebral scares.
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Rasputin, but it was so completely different and fun that I was immediately hooked. Familiar tones work to support a vividly told story that feels fresh and new. Writer Alex Grecian is great, but this book is amazing because of Riley Rossmo’s pencils. I can’t get enough.
I had read nothing about Birthright before I picked up the first issue, and the surprise was well worth keeping off some webpages. This is another fantasy book with a twist, but the twist is so delicious as to make readers feel like a kid again. Josh Williamson has started on a path and he has a detailed map, and I’m just thankful to be able to go with him.
I’m not sure how to explain Punks: The Comic from Joshua Hale Failkov and Kody Chamberlain, because it’s so distinctly weird. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Collage comedy, meets Adult Swim short….nah, doesn’t do it justice.
The next book is another one that’s tough to explain because it comes off as a supernatural adventure book, but reads like a heartfelt family drama covering generations, Goners. The overall theme is kept, as writer Jacob Semahn does his best to do something completely different, while artist Jorge Corona captures otherworldly monsters just as well as he does human emotions.
S. Steven Struble and Sina Grace debuted their slice of life comic with the everyday adventures of Li’l Depressed Boy: Supposed to be There Too. There’s a perfect mix of fantasy and real-life situations in this comic, and anyone can find something in the pages of this book.
First in November was ODY-C, Matt Fraction and Christian Ward’s futuristic take on the age-old tale. There was plenty of mixed reactions to the book, and I thought it was good, but I was not captured by the weirdness.
Next was Tooth & Claw from Kurt Busiek and Ben Dewey, and although the fantasy story being told is captivating and engrossing, I can’t help but adore the anthropomorphic characters. Bunch of twists and turns in this one, but in only two issues you can tell it’s a winner.
Yet another sci-fi book among a heap of them, Drifter really came out of nowhere for me, and I was immediately hooked. There’s mystery, intrigue, and just fun sci-fi. It’s amazing that a publisher can put out dozens of sci-fi books a month yet most of them are completely different from any others.
It’s Sons of Anarchy meets Planet of the Apes in this 1970’s primate-biker story (yes, you read that right), The Humans. A monkey biker gang? I wish I had thought of that. This book is laugh out loud hilarious, has some amazing art, and is exactly what you are looking for. Trust me. One-percenter till I die!
Intersect really wasn’t a book that I enjoyed the first time I read it, but I took to the book after a reread. Ray Fawkes is pushing the limits of storytelling in the comic book medium, and you should be reading this book. This isn’t a traditional comic. The story is complex, the art is brilliant, but it’s a tough piece of literature to consume, and while you may not want to work that hard to enjoy a comic, it’s worth the effort.
The last new ongoing of November was Sinergy, a supernatural adventure from Michael Avon Oeming of Powers fame. It’s way too early to have a full opinion, but the premise is solid, quite different, and Oeming’s art is it’s usual spot-on stylistic fun. I want to see more, but it looks like I’ll be on this for the long haul.
November also saw minis like American Legends, Penny Dora & The Wishing Box, and Prophet: Earth War, which may have had short runs but were anything but short on awesome. It’s almost too much to handle, right? But we still have a month to go.
The end of the year was a bit light compared to other months in 2014, but it saw the release of a few titles, and one that is sure to be on every award nominations list in the foreseeable future.
Bitch Planet is a dystopian trot into a feminist nightmare, and writer Kelly Sue DeConnick may have turned a lot of heads with issue #1 of this series, but 2015 is going to be a hell of a year for this title. I first discovered artist Valentine De Landro from his work on X-Factor, but he is totally knocking it out of the park in this book. It’s easily a must-read comic book, but the subject manner and its delivery make it a socially relevant and timely piece of literature.
The second new ongoing released in December was Rumble, absolutely the most entertainingly confusing comic I read all year. It was like watching a newborn baby do his taxes. It shouldn’t be happening, but this is happening, there does not seem to be any reason for me to continue watching this happen, but I simply cannot stop watching it! Writer John Arcudi is telling a weird story here, but it’s not just a weird plot. The characters, the pacing, the dialogue is all so weird, but it just so works brilliantly.
December also saw the debut book called They’re Not Like Us, a new and different take on the people with powers genre. Writer Eric Stephenson’s style is quite different, as is artist Simon Gane, making for a unique comic book. I wasn’t a big fan of the first issue of this title, but there’s a lot of potential here for some great character-based story-telling.
There was a single mini worth mentioning that dropped in December, and that’s Jay Faerber and Fran Bueno on Graveyard Shift. It’s tough to tell how good the 4 issue mini will turn out to be, but the first ish is a roller-coaster ride of twists and turns with a fun, supernatural premise, that is in-your-face violent. If the final 3 issues keep up the pace as well as ish #1 it’s going to a great little mini to start the new year with.