As we look forward to 2021, we hope things are going to be a little different. As far as Image is concerned, a new year is a new chance to show what they are all about. That means a few exciting new series sure, but it also means a look back at their series past. We are going to look at a few re-releases, a few new series, a few continuing favorites, and a few potential disasters.
As always, full solicitations are available on the Image comics website.
10. Trade up for a better model
First up, let’s give a little credit to the folks working behind the scenes in publishing. The Image Compendia are a marvel of book binding technology, and it’s sort of crazy that the original flagship Image series has never gotten that treatment. 50 issues in a big fat trade with gorgeous colors are a great way to read a series, and a fun part of any comics collection.
It’s also worth taking the time to mention that the superlative “Prince of Cats” is being reissued with a new printing. It’s like Shakespeare, but it’s NYC in the 80s. There are samurai swords. I’d say it’s one of comics true modern classics. And Spike Lee is making the damn movie!
This column is mostly about highlighting new issues and ongoing series, but Image does great jobs with their trades. I like taking the opportunity to highlight “Spawn,” one of the stupidest comics I’ve ever loved against “Prince of Cats” which is one of the most lush and literary. It just shows that when Image can commit to diversity, it only increases the value of their back catalogue.
9. Back to the beginning
And speaking of cool Image publishing strategies, I love the Image Firsts program. A new issue of a comic can cost as much as four or five dollars. An Image First is guaranteed to be a buck. It gives you the first issue to a series. It can be a great introduction to a series or just a fun thing to read and forget about. When I worked at a comic shop, folks loved these reprints. Kids, tourists, the comics curious, everyone! I’m so happy that not only is this program still going, Image is adding new titles to the rotation including favorites of mine like “Die,” “Bitter Root,” and “Undiscovered Country” and things that I know some of you freaks are into like “Mercy.” Mirka Andolfo, she’s just not for me. But maybe her work is for you, and now you can find out. For a dollar! That’s the power of these Image Firsts. Go ask the kind proprietor of your LCS to hook you up.
8. Take this show into the future
Did I mention that Mirka Andolfo isn’t my thing? But I really appreciate what she is doing. I don’t know if I can quantify it- she’s sort of putting a unique fetishy sheen on genre stuff?- but she’s doubtlessly a breakout talent. A lot of folks are really resonating with what she’s got to say and how she’s saying it. In this new series, she’s gonna Andolfo up a whole new genre- sci-fi! I plan to dutifully read the first couple of issues, feel like I’m missing something, and then be haunted by what I have read. And folks, coming from me, that’s an endorsement!
DEEP BEYOND #1 (OF 12)
WRITER / COVER B: Mirka Andolfo
COVER C: Kim Jung Gi
COVER D: Peach Momoko
COVER E: Greg Tocchini
FEBRUARY 03 / 32 pages / FC/ / $3.99
In an underpopulated future Earth, devastated by the dire consequences of the millennium bug, the survival of mankind—and, maybe, of the planet itself—is handled by a small number of people. Talented scientists who, despite the adverse situation and the stupid feuds that continue to divide the small number of people still alive, try to understand and study what is hidden in the depths of the abyss. Something mysterious and dangerous, which could eventually cause an even worse and more destructive catastrophe! The 100 meets LOW, with a hint of Death Stranding in the brand-new sci-fi thriller series from acclaimed creator MIRKA ANDOLFO (UNNATURAL, MERCY), teaming up with writer DAVID GOY and rising-star artist ANDREA BROCCARDO (Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, Empyre: X-Men) and colorist BARBARA NOSENZO (The Ballad of Halo Jones).
7. Won’t do what they tell me
I didn’t expect to like “Department of Truth” as much as I do, but it is easily my favorite of the recent run of political sci-fi we’ve gotten. It’s a really good comic! By that I mean the concepts, the art, the characters, every element of each issue fuses together into something way more than the sum of its parts. Issue #6 looks like the start of origin stuff, and I cannot wait to find out the centuries old history of the titular Department, especially considering that history in this story plays out retroactively. If you don’t know what I mean by that, I earnestly implore you to check this amazing series out!
THE DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #6
WRITER: James Tynion IV
ARTIST / COVER B: Elsa Charretier
COVER A: Martin Simmonds
FEBRUARY 24 / 32 pages / FC/ M / $3.99
Acclaimed artist ELSA CHARRETIER (NOVEMBER) joins JAMES TYNION IV (Batman) and THE DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH to uncover the deep tangled roots of the Department of Truth—roots that stretch as far back as the Middle Ages. What is the Inquisition? Who are the Illuminati? And what is the truth behind the Phantom Time Hypothesis?
6. Truly hexed
This series is likely going to inspire a really nuanced discussion about representation. And it should! But I’m not prepared to have that conversation here. That’s because it is the story of a Pawnee man during the Civil War contending with some real supernatural pulp stuff. That sounds up my alley, but the success of this story is going to live or die on how specific the characters are, how much it escapes from stereotypes, and how much it tells a worthwhile story. John Arcudi is known for telling clever, subversive stories though I don’t know what his personal bonafides are. My point is, knowing what I know, I think this sounds like a neato comic series and I am rooting for it to be great.
TWO MOONS #1
WRITER: John Arcudi
COVER B: Gerardo Zaffino
FEBRUARY 24 / 32 pages / FC/ / $3.99
RUMBLE and B.P.R.D. writer JOHN ARCUDI is back at Image with rising star VALERIO GIANGIORDANO for an all-new ONGOING HORROR SERIES! This issue starts the long journey of a young Pawnee man named Virgil Morris—aka Two Moons—fighting for the Union during the Civil War. When he is suddenly confronted with his shamanic roots, he discovers horrors far worse than combat as the ghosts of his past reveal the monstrous evil around him!
5. Courts of light and darkness
I’ve been really fond of Brian Haberlin’s recent comic output, so if he wants to do a one-shot that’s mired in the intrigue of a Faerie court, I say go for it. We don’t get enough short-form comics, and sometimes those are really special. I especially admire the audacity of doing a fantasy story with a very short page count. You’ve got a whole world to explore. Knowing when to hold back takes discipline. Plus, Haberlin has been on something of an experimental tear lately, so I bet we have some cool art surprises in store for us.
ADDENDUM: The updated solicits now make it clear that this comic was originally published in 2000. That means that it’s not really part of Haberlin’s recent efforts. So now this becomes a throwback to his earlier work, which still sounds like it cool be fun and interesting.
ARIA: HEAVENLY CREATURES (ONE-SHOT)
WRITER: Brian Haberlin, Brian Holguin
ARTIST: Brian Haberlin, Jay Anacleto
COVER A: Jay Anacleto, Brian Haberlin
COVER B: Danny Miki
COVER C: J.G. Jones
FEBRUARY 17 / 56 pages / FC/ / $6.99
Lady Kildare, expatriate princess of Faerie, is living a life of aristocratic decadence among Victorian London’s social elite. One night, while slumming among the city’s notorious underbelly, Kildare and her companions come across an illicit underground sideshow boasting “Creation’s Most Wondrous and Perverse Curiosities.” The centerpiece of this bizarre menagerie? A genuine angel held in captivity! This sets the stage for an unlikely alliance and the beginning of an unforgettable tale of mystery, adventure, and retribution. PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED IN 2000 UNDER A DIFFERENT TITLE.
4. The end of the queendom??
What a mess. What a journey. I remember how excited my friends and I were when “Rat Queens” first dropped. We hadn’t ever seen anything like it. Some folks got tattoos of the characters. Then one of the series creators was arrested on charges of domestic violence and the series went through a messy series of creative shake-ups. One artist left because they were sick. Another left on bad terms. More recently, the entire creative team left and the book was taken over by a whole new group of people. Now, after 41 issues (and a few one shots) it seems to be ending for real.
And maybe that’s for the best? I know some people who are morally opposed to continuing to support the book (some of whom have “Rat Queens” tattoos). I know other people who think it’s always been a fun comic, worth reading. But the truth is that it has always been troubled, always been fun to read, and now it is reading. That’s a messier story than most comics get and that alone is worth marking its conclusion! And hey, this is comics. For better and for worse, nothing ever stays dead.
ADDENDUM: Though I know Upchurch profits from “Rat Queens” as a creator, he hadn’t really been involved in the book since his arrest. He’s recently been making an attempted return to comics, which I find to be in bad taste. (His recent comic series is a laughably thin metaphor for the crimes he’s been accused of, told in a way that makes him look like the victim and hero). In the earlier version of these solicitations, it was not clear that Upchurch was going to be doing the cover for the issue. I’ll probably personally still be reading the issue, as I’ve always been a fan of this tortured series, but I thought you should know in the interest of full disclosure.
RAT QUEENS #25
WRITER: Ryan Ferrier
ARTIST: Casey Silver, Moritat
COVER A: Roc Upchurch
COVER B: Priscilla Petraites, Stjepan Sejic, Roc Upchurch, Owen Gieni, Moritat
FEBRUARY 03 / 32 pages / FC/ M / $3.99
Trapped and powerless in a mysterious dimension outside of time and space, the Rat Queens finally come face to face with the force that has wreaked utter havoc on their realm: The Void. Herald of anarchy, or gatekeeper of freedom? Answers abound in the thrilling conclusion to The God Dilemma.
3. Every dog has its day
This is probably the book that Image is pushing the hardest. And it’s easy to see why. It’s got such a wild premise. They keep repeating the “Lady and the Tramp meets Silence of the Lambs” line and… who doesn’t like the sound of that!? It’s funny and weird. It’s the kind of thing that I hear about and I’ve gotta find out more. A solicit like this is an automatic read for me. And if you see me pushing for issue #2 in this column (or more likely, #4 or #5 as solicits are 3 months out), you know the first issue was a big success.
STRAY DOGS #1
FEBRUARY 17 / 32 pages / FC/ / $3.99
Lady and the Tramp meets Silence of the LambsIt’s scary being the new dog. Sophie can’t remember what happened. She doesn’t know how she ended up in this house. She doesn’t recognize any of these other dogs. She knows something terrible happened, but she just…can’t…recall…WAIT! Where’s her lady? A five-issue Don Bluth-style suspense thriller by My Little Pony comic artists TONY FLEECS and TRISH FORSTNER, STRAY DOGS is Lady and the Tramp meets Silence of the Lambs.
“My favorite thing about comics is when someone shows you something you didn’t know you needed. The Secret Life of Pets meets Seven? Yes, please!! Welcome to STRAY DOGS. I was blown away!”—BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS
2. Some cats do too
This series has been a real grower. There’s no other book with a tone like this. You can feel it in the writing and in the art. The cat looks like a newspaper comic strip character. But the world is as lush as any comic Image offers. The adventures are madcap and silly, but the different worlds the cat travels to have deadly high stakes. At first I found the incongruity to be off-putting, but then I realized it was totally the point of the book, and I started to dig it. “Inkblot” is going for something a little different, right at a time I was craving an unusual story. Give this series a chance if you haven’t yet.Continued below
WRITER / ARTIST / COVER A: Emma Kubert, Rusty Gladd
FEBRUARY 03 / 24 pages / FC/ T / $3.99
Desperate to capture, contain, and study the cat, the Seeker builds a magical prison to begin her experiments. The cat unravels the fabric of reality anyway.
1. A limitless one
A couple of years ago, there was a fantastic little sci-fi series called “Self/Made” by Mat Groom, Marcelo Costa and Eduardo Ferigato. It was a fantastic and confident debut for them. The book would have been clever and creative no matter what, but it was just so well executed. That in part was because of one Kyle Higgins, a pretty well-liked writer (who had mostly done work for DC) and who had come on “Self/Made” as an editor. I thought that was so cool! Higgins was paying it forward, helping other guys in achieving their comic book dreams. Well, Higgins is back with an original book of his own and it looks neat. I mean OK, it looks like a lot of comics- an everyman loser comes into a special power- but I don’t think Higgins would do this book if it was the same as every other time this idea has been tried. I think he would only do it if he had a vision of crazy stuff you and I would love to see in a comic. So a new Kyle Higgins sci-fi series which reunites him with “Self/Made” artist Marcelo Costa is a number one pick of the month for me! Excited to be surprised by this one.
RADIANT BLACK #1
WRITER: Kyle Higgins
ARTIST / COVER D: Marcelo Costa
COVER A: Michael Cho
COVER B: Marcelo Costa, Eduardo Ferigato
COVER E: Marcelo Costa, David Finch
FEBRUARY 10 / 32 pages / FC/ / $3.99
For fans of INVINCIBLE and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers comes a brand-new ONGOING SERIES from acclaimed writer KYLE HIGGINS (Ultraman, C.O.W.L.) and artist MARCELO COSTA that reinvents superheroes for a new generation!Nathan Burnett has just turned thirty, and things aren’t great: He’s working (and failing) at two jobs, his credit card debt is piling up, and his only move…is moving back home with his parents.But when Nathan discovers and unlocks the ethereal, cosmic RADIANT, he’s given the power to radically change his fortunes!There’s just one problem: The powers don’t belong to him. And the COSMIC BEINGS who created them want them back…by any means necessary.