By Zack Quaintance — The last two years or so have felt relatively quiet at Image Comics, relatively. The company has released many wonderful oddities and gems, as always, but there’s been a slight decrease in books that do things like sell movie rights before issue one (Descender), land creators TV deals (Bitch Planet, Deadly Class, Sex Criminals), or have trades in hip indie bookstores (Monstress, Saga, Southern Bastards, Wic + Div).
Many of Image’s strongest books have aged, climbing past 15 issues and heading towards conclusions. So much so that in January, I saw discussion online about whether the creator-owned resurgence at Image had begun fading. Boy was that wrong. Just a few months later, a massive wave of new Image books has arrived. While it remains to be seen which (if any) will crest 20 issues or land trades on end caps at Powell’s Books or The Strand, it’s still worth a look today at the top new Image Comics of 2018, plus their odds for longevity.
Let’s do this!
Special Note: I finished writing this around 2 p.m. today, and by the time I sat down to edit it Christopher Sebela's forthcoming Image book Crowded #1 reportedly got a film deal before being released. Crazy!
Top New Image Comics of 2018
Crude by Steve Orlando & Garry Brown
Crude is one of my favorite books on this list (others being Gideon Falls and Skyward), and Steve Orlando is one of my favorite writers. Like his superhero work, Crude’s plotting is complex and layered, rewarding readers who keep up while shrugging at those who don’t. What sets it apart from Orlando’s other writing is that behind the violence and severe badassery is a heart-rending father-son tale. Artist Garry Brown (Babyteeth, Black Road) is also doing career best work, using truly haunting imagery to depict a mix of regret and anger plaguing our protagonist.
Odds to Reach #20: 50/50.This book should find a large and devoted audience. Should. It does, however, take readers to uncomfortable places, and some find that unpleasant.
Dead Hand by Kyle Higgins & Stephen Mooney
Dead Hand has some of the most gorgeous espionage art I’ve ever seen in a comic. Its plot also harkens back to Cold War tensions between Russia and the United States, oddly timely in 2018. If we were discussing the debut issue alone, I’d be more gung-ho here, but this book has noticeably slowed in #2 and #3. Hoping it recaptures more of its early excitement.
Odds to Reach #20: 66 percent. Kyle Higgins has a big fanbase from his strong work on Nightwing. I do, however, wonder if this story is built for more than 12 to 18 issues.
Gideon Falls by Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino, & Dave Stewart
As I wrote in my review of Gideon Falls #1, it feels like Jeff Lemire has spent his career dancing around the horror genre, dipping a toe in or dangling his feet, without ever submerging himself. Well, that stopped with Gideon Falls, and the result is one of the best new comics of 2018. While doing promo for the book, Lemire—who teams with long-time collaborator Andrea Sorrentino, one of comics’ grittiest artists—said he re-worked these characters from early sketches he did before he was published. It also, however, feels like while re-working these characters, Lemire was watching Twin Peaks, as this book is clearly an homage to that show, one that is equally as unsettling.
Odds to Reach #20: 100 percent. Simple.
Isola by Brenden Flethcer, Karl Kerschl, & Msassyk
This is one beautiful book, captivating through its first three issues. I still, however, feel like another issue or two is necessary before running it through my very very scientific prediction model here today.
Odds to Reach #20: 80 percent. This book is an enigma and nothing would surprise me. Ends after 6? Okay. Runs for 100? I can see that, too. It’s got the makings of a fantasy epic, though.
Oblivion Song by Robert Kirkman & Lorenzo De Felici
Robert Kirkman’s most famous work, The Walking Dead, was adapted into a television mega hit, giving him the fan base and cachet to basically guarantee prolonged runs for new titles. Oblivion Song is no exception, and as I understand it, Kirkman and artist Lorenzo De Felici completed 12 issues before even announcing this book’s existence. And Oblivion Song lives up to that level of swagger. Launched the same day as Gideon Falls, this book is arguably Kirkman’s best (although I have a soft spot for Invincible). Everything about it is deeper and more nuanced than The Walking Dead or Outcast, yet still accessible. Simply put, this book is build for a long haul.
Odds to Reach #20: 100 percent, in fact, I think they’re probably already done with it.
Shanghai Red by Christopher Sebela & Joshua Hixson
There’s only been one issue, which I reviewed here if you’re interested.
Odds to Reach #20: Incomplete. The first issue was great, but not quite enough for our very very scientific prediction model.
Skyward by Joe Henderson & Lee Garbett
As I’ve been telling every comic fan that will listen, Skyward has done basically everything well through three issues. This is a polished book, one that confidently knows exactly where it’s going, taking slow but effective steps to get there. As I’ve written in Skyward reviews, this book’s greatest strength has been the careful pace at which its creators have dispersed information. Too many #1 issues fall into a trap of dumping too much exposition too soon. Skybound—which has a fantastic concept involving the world losing a dangerous amount of gravity—gives just enough info to stay oriented without feeling clunk. It’s very impressive.
Odds to Reach #20: Ah! That’s right, ah! It will break my heart if this book ends soon. The quality is high enough for a prolonged run, and given how accessible this book is, I expect it to play well in trade. Dare to hope.