The Ten Best Image Comics Books, Right Now

By | May 21st, 2014
Posted in Columns | 66 Comments

Because we can’t resist a good list and updating our thoughts a year later on things, the editorial team at Multiversity has been looking at the best comics at certain publishers this week, and this year, Matt and I switched places. Matt covered the Marvel side of the world on Monday and Brian tackled DC yesterday – and me? I’ll be sharing my favorite Image Comics titles, even though Matt did a dynamite job last year.

As I started putting together my list, I realized something: I’m reading an unbelievable amount of Image titles. I am actually reading over 20, which is a huge chunk of the books I buy regularly, and because each of them are so damn good, I had to make some really hard cuts. But hard cuts I made, and while with most you could probably predict what the top pick would be, I’d wager you won’t be able to guess mine.

But that might just mean you need to get to buying that book, stat.

Take a look at my list, and please, share your favorites in the comments. I’m sure many of you will have different choices, but that just speaks to how many great titles Image is releasing right now.

10. Deadly Class
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Wes Craig

Why It Made the List: Rick Remender is making some serious magic happen right now at Image with this book and “Black Science” to his name, and “Low” with Greg Tocchini right around the corner. But for me, this is the book. In fact, if it had more issues out, I imagine it would finish further up the list, because this title about a school of assassins is just something that hits me hard.

Remender’s characterization and execution in this story is just brilliant, taking ideas that could easily feel like tropes that are low hanging fruit or generic in the worst way and making them fresh and something that resonates with us emotionally. A big part of that is the work on art, as Wes Craig has been a revelation on the book, taking every story beat and making them impact with us all the more thanks to his chameleonic abilities and sharp storytelling sense. Lee Loughridge is a coloring god, and the way he and Craig work together finds two artists working in lockstep in all the best ways. This is a gorgeous, emotional and frankly fucking awesome book, and something that has an edge because it does, man, and I love it for that.

9. Revival
Written by Tim Seeley
Art by Mike Norton

Why It Made the List: It’s funny how a book like Revival, which has only been around for 20 issues, feels like a graybeard compared to many of the hot young things around it at Image. But Seeley and Norton’s book about the dead who just won’t stay dead in a small town continues to perform at high levels, sort of like Peyton Manning winning the MVP in his age 37 season after a whole hell of a lot of neck surgeries (note: I’m not sure Manning is not a reviver himself), overshadowing young bucks with names like Luck and Kaepernick with his old man game.

It’s thanks to Seeley and Norton’s ability to make this town feel like a real small town in crisis, building from the characters out so we feel their claustrophobia and fear, exploring the actions and decisions those emotions drive them to in the process. It really is a rural noir, and a book that continues to find ways to surprise and excite us each and every month. Plus, they have one of the greatest secret weapons in the game, as Jenny Frison is one of the best cover artists in the game today (see: the cover to Revival #20 above) and helps give them a triumvirate of industry best talent driving this book. Don’t sleep on this book, and if you haven’t read it yet, don’t miss your chance to catch up sooner rather than later. You’ll be glad you did.

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8. Zero
Written by Ales Kot
Art by various artists, but colored by Jordie Bellaire

Why It Made the List: Zero, even if it existed in the vacuum as a comic book experiment, would still be a success in my mind. It in many ways is a story of one man’s life told in vignettes, with the constants in the book being the writer, colorist, letterer and designer. The artist switches every issue, and they’re selected not as fits for the book, but fits for that specific issue. That means you get someone like Tradd Moore depicting a story about the childhood of lead Edward Zero and Mateus Santolouco on a sci-fi spy story with a heart wrenching twist, and they were picked not because they fit every story, but because they were the people who had the most appropriate skill set for that very story.

I don’t recall reading a comic ever that was like that, but it works so well here, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it emulated elsewhere. But when you have such high grade components on the book elsewhere, like Jordie Bellaire coloring or Clayton Cowles on letters or Tom Muller designing, it ensures two things: that this book will be amongst the best in the biz at those three levels, and that you’ll have a consistent look and feel throughout, even with different artists. And with Ales Kot? The idea man? The man who makes this world turn and live and breathe and burn? You have a fiercely original story that doesn’t sacrifice substance for style. Instead it integrates those two effortlessly, giving us a book that is as complete of a package as you can find in comics.

And it’s still getting better, which is the scariest thing about it.

7. The Manhattan Projects
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Nick Pitarra

Why It Made the List: Take one part real life, pair with two parts madness and one part science, throw in a generous helping of a maniac artist and a writer with equal abilities as a crafter of story and an innovator of form, and you get The Manhattan Projects. While it’s not currently Hickman’s finest book, it is a book that has managed to get an unbelievable amount of mileage out of a very simple concept, while still keeping us perpetually coming back for more thanks to the highly original ideas of Hickman and the gruesomely real and pitch perfect art of both series artist Nick Pitarra and occasional fill-in artist Ryan Browne.

The Manhattan Projects is a comic that I never really expected to read, and it speaks to the development of comics as an art form that something like this isn’t just being published, but that it’s truly great as well. Well, that, and it speaks to the abilities of Hickman and Pitarra too. But don’t tell them that. Those guys get enough credit as is…especially that Pitarra guy.

6. Chew
Written by John Layman
Art by Rob Guillory

Why It Made the List: I mentioned earlier how with Revival, it feels like a relative graybeard compared to everything else on the list because of its 20 issue existence. But if Revival is old, what does that make John Layman and Rob Guillory’s Chew, it of 41 issues in age (just counting the main comic)?

It makes it completely rad, and don’t you forget that.

We’ll never forget this book, and it’s because of Layman and Guillory’s abilities in creating characters and stories that entertain us to no end, while somehow also developing them in such a way that makes us unaware of how much we care about them until they pull the rug out from under us. There have been a few moments in the past year of this book that I would put up against anything you’d find in any comic, and it’s because of the ability Layman and Guillory have as storytellers to draw us in with a fully realized, completely absorbing comic book experience. This book is in the midst of an all-time great run, and it deserves perpetual attention for all it has accomplished, and all it continues to do.

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But the fact that it finishes at #6 on my list right now, even with all that said, really just underlines how great Image is doing right now.

5. Rocket Girl
Written by Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare
Art by Amy Reeder

Why It Made the List: What happens when John Hughes meets time travel sci-fi, with a spunky female protagonist at the lead? One of the most fun comics on the market today, it seems, as Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare have hit an absolute home run with this book. It’s a complete gem that leaves me smiling as we read about DaYoung’s adventures, even with a mission that is clearly dire and vastly important. It speaks to the abilities of Reeder and Montclare as storytellers that they can develop a plot that has such huge import, but still ensure that it is a book that makes us smile. Books like that are all too rare in the increasingly dark and dour comic industry, and when you combine all of that with Reeder’s phenomenal cartooning ability, pairing a energetic, kinetic feel with charming and highly personable character work, you have a book that I can’t help but love.

And I hope you’re there with me, because otherwise, you’re missing out.

4. East of West
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Nick Dragotta

Why It Made the List: This sci-fi Western fable has one of the most unique feels I’ve ever experienced in a comic, and this is how I’ll describe it: it feels like one of those stories you hear that’s passed along generations not because it’s something that has to be told because it’s such a good story, but it’s a cautionary tale that everyone needs to know because of its very nature. The urgency and delivery of the story is so fierce that it borders on overwhelming at times, but with creators like Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta onboard, you have two people who manage to take these big concepts and marry them with very real, very human moments.

With just one or the other, this book would work, but with both? It’s just dynamite. Dragotta is a huge part of that, as his art builds the world in such a literal sense that we feel like we’re being taken directly into Hickman’s brain as Jonathan loudly says, “Yes! This is what I see when I think of this book!” His art can take concepts that would feel out of control or unreal in other artists hands, but grounds them in such a way that the whole book is amplified because of it. This is a total package of a comic, and it is one that thrills and engrosses me with every issue. I should expect nothing less from a team like this one.

3. Sex Criminals
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Chip Zdarsky

Why It Made the List: It’s rare that you find a comic that easily could be described as “a movement” (more often, “The Movement”, R.I.P.), but in a really strange, unexpected way, that’s what Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s series about young love and sex with criminal intent has turned out to be. The “Brimpers”, as the fans of the series have become identified as, are one of the most glorious and outspoken fan groups in comics, taking cons by storm that Fraction and/or Zdarsky are at with stories of porn in the woods and this one time when a person, I’m not sure who but a person, went to a Cougar Sex Party and learned a lot about himself. The fan base is enormous, but it wouldn’t be anything without the simple fact that this book is remarkably good.

With all the fun and silliness that surrounds the book, especially when it comes to one Mr. Zdarsky, it’s easy to forget that when you get down to it, this is a very funny, very real, very relatable story of two people who found solace in another person who understood this special situation they’ve each found themselves in. It’s like the X-Men with banging and E.T. penises, and just like once upon a time people when read about Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, we all feel welcome in Cumworld thanks to Fraction’s highly personable and perpetually engaging writing and Zdarsky’s storytelling and visual charm (which I think people forget to bring up because he’s such a hilarious guy, but holy crap, what an artist). This book is a movement because what else could it be. It’s a sexual revolution in funny book form, and hoo boy is it funny, and whether you’re more of a Suzie or a Jon, I have to imagine this is a book that almost everyone could find something to enjoy in.

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2. Saga
Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Fiona Staples

Why It Made the List: When can you tell that something has become unbelievably, uncontrollably popular? When the backlash on it becomes so big that the backlash seems to develop a secondary backlash that makes people love it again. Even as “Saga” moved through its second year, with naysayers on the book packing into comment threads on sites to talk about how they “just don’t understand why this book is so loved” or “can’t believe how overrated Saga is”, it still managed to line up a cornucopia of Eisner nominations and act as the shining light to an industry that oh so often struggles to find them.

And why shouldn’t it. This book is so good you guys. As you recently found out, Fiona Staples was my pick for the best artist of the past five years, and as we’ve always known, Brian K. Vaughan is an all-time great writer. This book combines two utterly brilliant creators at the peak of their game (with people like Fonografiks and Eric Stephenson involved as well) working in completely lockstep to make absolute magic happen, finding legions of readers falling in love with the characters that make up the worlds of “Saga” because we can’t help but be compelled to be. This is sci-fi at its most personal levels, and it doesn’t matter if you have horns, wings or a TV face, this is a book that is utterly relatable in all the best ways. It deserves its love, and it continues to earn mine.

1. Alex + Ada
Written by Sarah Vaughn and Jonathan Luna
Art by Jonathan Luna

Why It Made the List: You know, there are a lot of great options that could have fit here. “Saga” and “Sex Criminals” are undoubtedly the clubhouse favorites, but really, when I get down to it, Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn’s “Alex + Ada” is the book I look forward to most every month. For me, that counts more than anything, and almost invariably, it’s the book that is at the top of my read pile, being the book I’m most impatient to read to see what happens next in the brewing story of Alex and his android/friend/future lover? Ada.

Its story is one of pure simplicity. If you want to boil it down to its core concept, it’s the oldest one we know – boy meets girl – just told in a very original and fresh way. Vaughn and Luna have found a way to depict a future and a story filled with familiar elements, but still make it feel like something that’s simultaneously very lived in and completely unique. It’s impossible not to connect with it thanks to the strangely relatable stories, and the awakening that’s taking place at the center of the story for both Alex and Ada. Luna’s art is the perfect fit for the book, as the very pristine future the book takes place in is completely simpatico with Luna’s clean lines and restrained character work. This book is one that I didn’t even expect to buy at first, but it has become not just my favorite Image title of 2014, but my favorite comic of 2014 period. A lot of people missed on this book, but if you’re one of them, you can fix that very easily. I recommend you do so, as soon as you can.

//TAGS | Countdown

David Harper

David Harper mainly focuses on original content, interviews, co-hosting our 4 Color News and Brews video podcast, and being half of the Mignolaversity and Valiant (Re)visions team. He runs Multiversity's Twitter and Facebook pages, and personally tweets (rarely) @slicedfriedgold. By day, he works in an ad agency in Anchorage, Alaska, and he loves his wife, traveling and biscuits & gravy (ordered most to least, which is still a lot).


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