The 2014 Image Expo helped partially prove my theory that there is no longer a Big Two in comics, but a Big Three. At the Expo, a plethora of new titles stretching across different genres were announced along with news about popular creators, like Grant Morrison, Ed Brubaker, Jock, and Kyle Higgins working on new projects. This article is a completely subjective primer about which Image books comic book fans should look out for in 2014.
5. Bitch Planet (Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick; Art by Valentine De Landro)
Over the past two years with titles ranging from her action-packed and character driven superhero book Captain Marvel to the poetic Western Pretty Deadly, Kelly Sue DeConnick has become one of comics’ rising stars. She has knack for writing witty dialogue and complex female characters. And each character has their own unique voice. Bitch Planet could be her craziest idea yet. It is the story of five female prisoners who have to fight male prisoners in gladiator battles to escape an intergalactic penal colony. Heavily influenced by the Women in Prison exploitation genre, DeConnick plans to use Bitch Planet to celebrate the genre as well as exploring problems inherent in it. This should be a controversial comic with a lot of action and a campy feel. Artist Valentine De Landro has handled ensemble casts before in his work on X-Factor, which also featured interesting female characters like Layla Miller and Polaris. Based on its title alone, Bitch Planet will be a polarizing book that puts a progressive take on a forgotten genre.
4. The Wicked and the Divine (Written by Kieron Gillen; Art by Jamie McKelvie)
After their success with Phonogram and their recently completed run on Young Avengers, frequent collaborators Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie re-team on a new creator owned book called The Wicked and the Divine. The premise of the comic is that every 90 years twelve gods are reincarnated to basically be superheroes. But this time there is a thirteenth god, who might not even be one. In this series, Gillen and McKelvie marry humanity’s oldest stories with modern celebrity culture. In an interview, Gillen said that The Wicked and the Divine would be a positive spin on the concept of superheroes as celebrities. In earlier comics, like Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s Ultimates or Peter Milligan and Mike Allred’s X-Statix, this concept has been used in a satirical way. However, Gillen says that these gods will actually save people’s lives. Jamie McKelvie excels at drawing beautiful people and superheroes and isn’t afraid to experiment, like his Instagram panel in Young Avengers #7. His visual stylings and rapport with Gillen will make The Wicked and Divine a must read for mythology geeks, superhero enthusiasts, and anyone who is pop culture savvy.
3. Fade Out (Written by Ed Brubaker; Art by Sean Phillips)
Some of the biggest news out of the Image Expo was that Eisner winning writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips signed a five year exclusive deal to create comics for Image. They have previously collaborated on a superhero espionage comic Sleeper for Wildstorm, the crime comic Criminal for Icon, and more recently the time-spanning, horror influenced Fatale for Image. Brubaker and Phillips take the oldest genres in both film and comics and put new spins on them. For example, Fatale takes the idea of the femme fatale from film noir and places her in varied settings from the Middle Ages to Seattle’s grunge movement. Fade Out is Brubaker’s “ultimate noir story” and will follow the death of a Hollywood actress in the 1940s. Sean Phillips draws gorgeous women and has shown he can tell stories in different time periods extremely well. Fade Out will act as a bridge between film noir and comics, and hopefully many more great genre-bending projects will come out from them for Image in the years to come.
2. Wytches (Written by Scott Snyder; Art by Jock)
Scott Snyder is one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful writers in comics. He is a great superhero (Batman, Superman Unchained) and horror writer (The Wake, American Vampire). Jock is one of the premier cover artists in the industry and has also illustrated some superhero books, like Green Arrow Year One and the “Black Mirror” Detective Comics storyline with Snyder. And now he is a doing a horror book. In Wytches, Snyder and Jock will explore the darker, horror tinged sides of witch stories. As shown by his work on The Wake, Snyder has a good handle on weaving mythology and folklore into a multi-layered story with action, suspense, and scares. Jock’s gritty pencils will add even more terror to the comic. This comic will be the complete opposite of his work on Superman Unchained.
1. Nameless (Written by Grant Morrison; Art by Chris Burnham)
Arguably the biggest guest at Image Expo (sorry Robert Kirkman) was comics legend Grant Morrison, who returns with fellow Damian Wayne killer Chris Burnham to create the “ultimate horror comic” Nameless, a six issue miniseries for Image. This comic is the most mysterious of the announcements at the Expo because the press release only contained a picture of three dark figures with strange symbols covering their bodies. In an interview with USA Today, Morrison described the main character Nameless as “super high functioning in how he makes connections between things”. Morrison hasn’t really done a horror comic, but has stretched superhero and science fiction beyond their limits so horror is a logical step for him. This book will have incredibly high expectations as Morrison’s biggest Image project, and hopefully he will shed new light on one of pop culture’s most beloved genres.