Image Expo happened last weekend in Oakland, CA, and Friday night was full of astounding announcements of upcoming projects from the publisher featuring some of the biggest names in comics as well as a few you need to know about. Rather than make fun of stupid comics as we usually do, we thought it'd be cool to tell you about the ten projects that excited us the most. Positivity!
The Pitch: A space pirate ends up stranded on a planet, must deal with robots, cyborgs and aliens trying to kill him. On the plus side, he has a computer in his suit and a really big gun.
Why You Should Go Ahead and Pre-Order It: Originally released digitally on Graphicly and now coming out in print from Image Comics, Ken Garing's miniseries promises Prophet-esque survival sci-fi in a more 2000 A.D. style. We can't have enough straight sci-fi in our comics, so Planetoid is more than welcome.
The Pitch: Imagine if Black Swan had actually been a chance for Natalie Portman to revisit her role from The Professional.
Why You Should Go Ahead and Pre-Order It: Nathan Edmondson's star has been rising thanks largely to his work on spy stories like Who is Jake Ellis? and Dancer seems likely to be an even more high-concept effort from the up-and-coming writer. Pairing an assassin who's gotten out of the game with a ballerina provides the requisite The Professional meets Black Swan angle, and the preview that USA Today posted makes it clear that Edmondson and artist Nic Klein are aiming for a style and poise somewhere between those two works as well. Klein's art looks gorgeous and expansive, with the expected noir shadowing juxtaposed with bright gore and soft, muted textures. Between the central gimmick and Edmondson's pairing with Klein, this could be the best thing Edmondson has done since Who is Jake Ellis?
The Pitch: An espionage comic focusing on the relationship between governments and private security firms, Secret follows several unrelated events that threaten to devastate at least a couple of major governments.
Why You Should Go Ahead and Pre-Order It: Secret's plot isn't clear yet, but all you need to know is that Jonathan Hickman is writing it. If you've read his work for Marvel (Fantastic Four, S.H.I.E.L.D.) then you know Hickman is a beast when it comes to imaginative storytelling and big (huge!) ideas. Over at Image, it's even more true as Hickman's put out such craziness as The Nightly News and The Red Wing. That his Red Mass for Mars collaborator Ryan Bodenheim is drawing the series only promises greatness.
7. Think Tank
Why You Should Go Ahead and Pre-order It: Details are still pretty scarce on Think Tank, but the series reunites Pilot Season: The Test alum Matt Hawkins with sorely underrated Echoes artist and The Test partner Rahsan Ekedal for a series that Hawkins says "is a look inside the mind of one of these researchers who is a slacker genius." Image is on a roll with the science comics lately, and while Hawkins is somewhat untested as a writer, Ekedal has been an artist to watch for quite some time and it's nice to see him get a chance to show off on a new high concept mini. Besides, we can always use more opportunities to shout "Yeah, science!"
The Pitch: When a teenage celebrity develops superpowers in a future where everyone is obsessed with sports and war, her life turns upside down.
Why You Should Go Ahead and Pre-Order It: Created by Brian Wood and Ming Doyle, the six-issue Mara promises to be the superhero book for readers who are sick of being embarrassed by depictions of women in mainstream comics. Wood is no stranger to writing non-lurid women in his comics like Demo and New York Four, and Doyle not only draws beautiful, realistic women, but has been shaping up to be the next big thing for a while now, and Mara promises to be her first really big exposure to print comics readers. Might as well get in on the ground floor and collect those cool points.
5. Chin Music/Crime & Terror
The Pitch: The former is Steve Niles and Joe Harris joining forces to create what looks like their very own Fatale. The latter is Steve Niles and Scott Morse teaming up for a monthly series of vintage pulpy goodness.
Why You Should Go Ahead and Pre-order It: Niles and Harris is a match made in hell and while the only real detail at this moment is the cover, do you really need anything else? I mean, seriously, my partner in crime Mr. Djeljosevic summed it up best when he sent me a message simply reading "CHIN MUSIC COVER=BONER." Harris has a knack for bringing insane amounts of gritty detail to his panels and consistently excels at making his characters act. And Niles, well, Niles is just gleefully insane.
Crime & Terror, on the other hand, sounds a little bit like what migh
t have happened if Steve Niles and Pixar artist Scott Morse had been behind The Goon instead of Eric Powell. The comic promises to cover a lot of pulp ground, with Morse posting on his blog a promise that "we'll be smacking you upside the head with a bunch of short, stand-alone stories: noir, horror, sci-fi, whatever we want." Morse has been adamant that the series will be on a monthly schedule, which seems ambitious considering the ground it will theoretically cover, which is said to also include prose material with illustrations by Morse. But Image doesn't have many series like what Niles and Morse are planning and it could be a coup for the company to get a traction in the kind of material Dark Horse has largely had a monopoly on.
4. Black Kiss 2
The Pitch: Howard Chaykin returns to one of his most infamous works, a violent piece of erotica about porn and drugs and vampires.
Why You Should Go Ahead and Pre-Order It: The original Black Kiss was incredibly controversial in the 1980s, and if there's anything comics needs these days, it's the controversy offered by a daring work rather than the usual string of embarrassing gaffes. Also, HOWARD CHAYKIN.
The Pitch: Dexter meets Silence of the Lambs, Nick Spencer style.
Why You Should Go Ahead and Pre-order It: As one of Image's brightest new stars, pretty much every project Nick Spencer does for the company is at least worth checking out. But pairing him with Riley Rossmo's wonderfully grimy art on a series about a reformed mass murderer is an irresistible hook.
Telling the story of Philip Press, described as the worst mass murderer in the history of America's hardest city," Bedlam looks to be an immensely creepy series about the nature of insanity and what it means to be cured. The title has Press, formerly the murderer nicknamed Madder Red, rehabilitated after a stint in a mental institution and transformed into a consultant for the Bedlam police department. Spencer has said that Press is "probably the most in-depth character study I've done," and the writer has made it clear that he's not going to shy away from reminding readers that no matter how sympathetic Press might appear at times, he is a man who has done extremely horrible things.
While Spencer has done similarly complicated character work in Morning Glories, Bedlam should find the writer challenging himself in a way that we haven't seen yet. It doesn't hurt that in Rossmo Spencer has an artist who can balance beauty and horror perfectly, with the early images of the series recalling Matt Wagner's Grendel as well as the surreal terror of Guillermo del Toro's films. This may just be the series to look out for from Image this year.
2. Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl
The Pitch: Phonomancers are magic practitioners who use music to do their voodoo. But, rather than treat that concept as merely a cute gimmick, Phonogram uses music-magic as a springboard to explore people's relationship with music. It's also pretty funny.
Why You Should Go Ahead and Pre-Order It: The previous two volumes of Phonogram, Rue Britannia (exploration of the evils of rose-tinted nostalgia via the ghost of '90s Britpop resurfacing) and The Singles Club (seven interconnected standalone stories, featuring a major artistic level up for the creators), were fantastic, but didn't sell well enough to sustain a series that its creators were essentially making for free. That we get at least one return to this world is a completely unexpected blessing, as Phonogram is the ultimate music lover's comic, perfectly conveying the feeling of being in love with the form. Also, Jamie McKelvie is an amazing artist.
The Pitch: GRANT MORRISON IS DOING A SERIES FOR IMAGE COMICS!
Why You Should Go Ahead and Pre-order It: Sure, there are next to no details available for this project at this time, other than the fact that it's Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson teaming up to do a series for Image Comics. But do you really need any reason other than that?
This is a massive victory for Image and shows how far the company has come in the last few years, transforming into one of the most innovative and dynamic publishing companies out there and a true haven for creators of all stripes. Any new Grant Morrison series is a reason to get excited but a completely creator owned operation at a completely independent publishing company? That's something to make an entire year. Considering the last series Morrison did outside the confines of DC continuity was the excellent Joe the Barbarian, there's a strong chance that this will be another evolutionary step for the creator that finds him working outside of the genre expectations of the mainstream. Plus, it's due in time for Christmas, so consider it a gift to indiedom.
Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions), film/music critic for Spectrum Culture and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter at @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his comic, "Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men," over at Champion City Comics and check out his other comics at his Tumblr, Sequential Fuckery. His webcomic The Ghost Engine (drawn by Eric Zawadzski) will debut in Spring 2012. p>
When he's not writing about the cape and spandex set, Nick Hanover is a book, film and music critic for Spectrum Culture and a staff writer for No Tofu Magazine. He also translates for "Partytime" Lukash's Panel Panopticon.