Every week I like to share my picks of the new comics in stores that Wednesday over on Grizzly Pullz, but I don’t always get to explain why I am loving a particular series. Today we will be exploring a mix of creator-owned titles from Image Comics you should be checking out, and why I love them. We’ll be looking at a few series that range from critically acclaimed to fan-favorites, and in some cases new titles just starting out. These lists are not only a chance for us to share some of the great series, but to offer a starting point for any comic fan, new or old, who are looking for a few titles to try out. It can be kind of daunting to jump into the world of creator-owned comics, but I’ll give you fair warning, you WILL be hooked.
Trust me, I was. I’m a lifelong fan of superheroes, so my comic interests usually align with Marvel, DC, and sometimes Vertigo. Despite my growing interest in various creator-owned series, I rarely branched out into that world, with odd exceptions like Invincible. When I finally decided to start exploring the wide selection of titles, it was a little overwhelming. but I dove in and couldn’t be happier. So this list is really to offer other fans in the same position some great choices to help ease their way into the wide world of creator-owned comics.
If you haven’t figured it out yet from either the Pullz or my past work with GeekExchange, I am a big fan of Rick Remender, who has a number of great creator-owned series on top of his work with Marvel. He seems to be the type of writer who benefits from having multiple ongoing projects, which makes this fan happy. Deadly Class is a newer title, with art by Wes Craig and amazing colors from Lee Loughridge. Set in the ’80s, Deadly Class follows Marcus Lopez as he joins King’s Dominion High School for the Deadly Arts, an underground school of assassins. There he finds his own deadly clique and begins to come into his own, along with Yakuza assassins, mob connected children, and completely insane killers. You know, your average high school group of friends.
Deadly Class is really a classic high school tale from any of our childhoods, mixed in with cutthroat cliques, flirty crushes, experimental drugs, Vegas road trips, and of course, assassinations. Remender is also quick to point out on the back pages some of the themes and situations from his own youth that directly relate to the story and characters. The art is fantastically animated and perfectly complemented by Loughridge’s expressive colors, and the series drips with the music of the generation, which can also be found in the back pages thanks to Remender’s playlists. The series is still testing the waters, but has developed a hardcore fanbase that you should definitely become a part of.
Staying with the high school life, that brings us to Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma’s fantastically mind-bending series, Morning Glories. MG follows a class of gifted students as they acclimate to their new life in the dangerous world of the Morning Glories Academy. Homicidal teachers, homicidal students, and homicidal spirits all populate the supernaturally charged Academy, which is full of mysteries and wonderful characters. Spencer has previously described the series as ‘Runaways meets Lost‘ which is as fitting of a comparison as I could hope to make. As our six lead students navigate the waters of the Academy, we are left to navigate the numerous mysteries that unfold each issue.
Eisma’s art is chilling, dramatic and perfectly sets the mood of the Academy. The characters are well-defined and relatable, despite the extreme conditions some of them exist in or the soap opera-esque lives they come from. The mysteries of the series seems to double with each issue, as religion, time travel, ghosts, secret societies and more are examined and teased for the readers to decipher. The fan community is almost as exciting to read as the comic is, with an excellent amount of fan theories and spot-on analysis further exploring the questions each issue brings up. Perfect for readers who love jaw-dropping moments and aren’t afraid of a little brain-hurt. The first season was recently completed, and the second continues to leave our mouth’s dropped at the end of each issue, be sure to check this series out as soon as possible.
Alex + Ada
Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn share with us a unique look into the future, a robotic age that is just beginning to dawn. Life-like android companions have been sold on the market, but made incapable of self-awareness by the corporation who created them. We are introduced to Alex, a relatable nobody who has broken up with his girlfriend and rarely even sees his human friends. Alex is gifted with a new X-5 unit, which he finds extremely uncomfortable to be around. Unable to adapt to his new companion, and unsatisfied with her lack of personality or free will, Alex finds a way to unlock her AI, freeing her sentient life just as the government begins to crack down on the ‘free’ androids and the humans who helped them get there. Alex’s x-5 unit names herself Ada, and chooses to stay with Alex as she learns about herself and the surrounding world.
Aside from the fantastic art and wonderful characters, the series tackles a number of Asimov-ian themes, such as robotic freedom, our society’s dependence on technology, and the inevitable android revolution, of course. The developing relationship between Alex and Ada carries the series, but it’s also their individual relationships with Alex’s friends, grandmother, and other androids that fill out the story and keep us reading. Alex + Ada is an interesting look into a future that is frighteningly close, the society that forms around it, and the people – organic or robotic – who populate it. Add this one to your pull list, because it is only going to get better.
Chances are you have already heard of Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals. If you’re on the fence over this series, it’s time to get off. Sex Criminals is a fun, filthy story with a great pair of characters, fantastic writing and even better art. Zdarsky’s character designs are crisp and realistic, and help ground the series in a relatable universe, while the colors contradict that reality as the panels pop off the pages. We follow two main leads, Suzie and Jon, as they discover not only their unique abilities, but each other. Suzie is a librarian, fighting to keep her library open and in the black, while Jon is an actor who meets Suzie at a party, where they both learn of each other’s special ability.
Early in the series we are introduced to “The Quiet” or “Cumworld” as it is more graphically described; a world that is frozen in time whenever certain individuals orgasm. While it’s presented through our two protagonists, we quickly learn that they are not the only two capable of entering the Quiet. Fraction and Zdarsky have introduced us to this world and provided a lot of information about our main characters in a relatively short amount of issues, which leads us to believe that this story is only going to become bigger and more fantastical with each passing issue. Sex Criminals has already taken the comic world by storm, and it feels like we’ve only barely scratched the surface. Jump on board, even if it’s just to see what all the fuss is about.
Most comic fans were instantly drawn to Lazarus because of the reuniting creative team of Greg Rucka and Michael Lark. Along with Ed Brubaker, the pair was responsible for the amazing Gotham Central series from DC Comics, which in part inspired the current Gotham TV series. Lazarus takes place in a future dominated by the wealthy elite, a topical interpretation of our 1% society. The nation is ruled by a few rich families, while the poor and disenfranchised – known as the Waste – live in extreme poverty. Each family chooses a member to serve as the Lazarus, a genetically engineered enforcer. Forever Carlyle is the Lazarus of the Carlyle family, and our protagonist, but we learn early on that her role as the Lazarus is not without some mysterious secrets.
Rucka continues to present not only a captivating story full of dynamic characters, but a thoroughly researched look at the science behind the science fiction. Lark’s detailed grittiness brings a real gravitas to the series, and the visual world-building is expertly done. The world of Lazarus is suspensefully revealed as more is unearthed about the various families who run the nation, and their own respective Lazarus agents. Forever Carlyle is a conflicted character in a corrupt world who draws the reader in, and makes Lazarus a must have for any comic fan’s pull list.
These five series are just a few of the great creator-owned comics that I have been enjoying, but is really only a drop in the bucket. Today we focused mainly on series from Image Comics, but in the next few weeks we will expand our look into some other companies great comic series that deserve your hard-earned dollar. Stay tuned to Grizzlybomb over the next few weeks as we continue to explore the wide world of creator-owned comics.
Which of these series do you recommend? Which are you going to try out? Let us know in the comments section below or join the discussion on the Grizzlybomb Facebook page!
Images: Image Comics