Image Comics launched 25 years ago this month. If you told me back then that they wouldn’t have lasted this long, I probably would’ve believed you. That said, if you had told me that they’d be leading the vanguard of creator-owned comics that were actually worth reading, I certainly would’ve laughed my ass off. While holdovers like “Spawn” and “The Savage Dragon” are still hanging around, Image’s output is vastly different and better than the adolescent-fueled superhero comics that drove the company back in the day. It may have taken them a while to reach this point, but it has been absolutely worth it in the end. Here’s to them maintaining their creative dominance for the next 25 years, and establishing sales dominance as well!
Black Cloud #1, Rose #1, & Plastic #1 (of 5): There are times when a good solicitation can make a difference. Take the titles leading off this month’s selections from Image: Black Cloud #1 from writers Jason Latour and Ivan Brandon, and artist Greg Hinkle, Rose #1 from writer Meredith Finch and artist Ig Guara, and Plastic #1 (of 5) from writer Doug Wagner and artist Daniel Hillyard. While the former two titles are from established creators who I recognize, their solicitations don’t do a good job of making them sound very interesting. Black Cloud is about a woman named Zelda who is described as a woman born into a world of dreams and is now in the run in ours with the pieces of her world up for sale. It’s a confusing mash of ideas that mixes metaphor and literality in a way that doesn’t sell itself. As for Rose, it sounds fairly generic in that it’s about a girl trying to restore balance to a broken (fantasy) world. With a premise as plain as that, you’re going to need some real cleverness and attention to detail to make it stand out. I don’t think we’re going to get that from the writer of a mediocre run on “Wonder Woman.” To be fair, I think Latour is a better artist than he is a writer, and I have yet to read anything from Brandon.
Then there’s Plastic, which tells us about a retired serial killer, Edwyn, whose urges are quieted by Virginia, the woman he loves. They spend their days eating doughnuts and enjoying their appetites for each other, until Virginia is kidnapped by a Louisiana billionaire and Edwyn has to start killing again to get her back. While this may not be for everyone, the premise is at least different. Then this little tidbit is dropped, “Oh, and did we mention that Virginia is a sex doll?” I can’t help but think this may have limited “Plastic’s” appeal even further, but it’s just the right amount of wrong to get me interested. All thanks to its solicitation.
Descender #21: Notable for the fact that it’s teasing an “event” storyline for the next arc, “Rise of the Robots.” You don’t see many “events” in creator-owned comics mainly because most of them don’t usually last long enough to set the groundwork for them. “The Walking Dead” does this every couple of years with its wars, and you could even argue that “Saga” did it with its most recent arc (the only one to have a title) “The War for Phang.” I’d say this is a reason to get excited about “Descender” for showing such ambition, but the quality of the title itself isn’t high enough for that. Particularly after its momentum has been derailed, in my opinion, following its third volume. Maybe the “Rise of the Robots” will be what it needs to get back on track? We’ll see.
Sex Criminals #18: This arrives touting “the long-awaited return of JAZMINE ST. COCAINE!!!” Considering that she was in the previous volume, this does not strike me as a particularly effective selling point. Unless we’re talking about the current Dr. Ana Kinkaid re-assuming her nom-de-porn and getting back into the industry. That would be a noteworthy development for this title. Of course, it’s likely just Zdarsky, or Fraction, or both of them playing up their absurdist sides for this solicitation as they are often wont to do.
A.D.: After Death HC: Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire’s long-in-the-works series about a future where the cure for death has been found gets the hardcover treatment. I’m a little wary about this one since Snyder’s creator-owned work can be either worthwhile (“American Vampire”) or kind of a trainwreck (“The Wake,” “Wytches”). “A.D.” is also described as “A unique combination of comics, prose, and illustration” which is just enough pretentiousness to make me think it’ll fall into the latter camp. So I’ll be waiting for this to hit paperback or for a digital sale to come along.
Moonshine vol. 1: This is the latest collaboration from Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso. It’s also the first to not come from DC or its Vertigo imprint. Which kind of says all you need to know about the state of creator-owned work at that company these days. Anyhow, this takes place during Prohibition in the 20’s as a mob torpedo by the name of Lou Pirlo heads out to West Virginia to strike up a deal with its top moonshiner. The catch is that said moonshiner is more cunning than your average country rube. He also has a secret that anyone who has been following the announcement and solicitation of this title is already privy to. A hint to that can be found in the title, which in this case is more representative of the kind of wordplay Azzarello likes than any kind of homebrewed alcoholic beverage.
Surgeon X vol. 1: The Path of Most Resistance: The title character is a vigilante doctor in near-future London who helps those that have been abandoned by the system. It’s a premise that sounds like it could also function as non-fiction in a couple years. So check it out now to get ahead of the curve. While I’m not familiar with its writer, Sarah Kenney, this series is being edited by Karen Berger who built Vertigo into a legendary imprint before the suits at DC and Warner Brothers started asking for more restrictive contracts with its creators. There’s a bit of nostalgic appeal in seeing a new title edited by Berger, is what I’m saying. This also represents the last work from artist John Watkiss, who passed away after completing work on the issues that make up this volume. He could always be counted on to produce distinctly appealing work and will be missed.
We Stand on Guard: Brian Vaughan and Steve Skroce’s sci-fi story about near-future war between the U.S. and Canada hits paperback. While Skroce’s art boasts impressive detail and designs, and Vaughn has some interesting ideas on display, this miniseries didn’t really click with me. Part of that is because the writer rehashes a lot of familiar arguments and character types in presenting the perspectives of all sides in this fictitious war. The other part is likely because after “South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut” I’m incapable of taking the idea of the U.S. going to war with Canada with any degree of seriousness. Then again, if Skroce had been able to draw a scene of Satan bursting out of the ground to take on all of our advanced warfare mecha that probably would’ve been AWESOME to see!