Friday, January 9, 2015

Image Expo 2015 Highlights

Although Mother Nature is clearly intent on snowing people in, the comic industry refuses to let that stop the fun and we are all grateful. Thursday marked the return of Image Comics' annual event, Image Expo. For this event, the publisher gathers its staff and numerous creators to showcase some of what's on deck for the upcoming year. The new comic announcements are easily the best part of the show. Those new titles always cause a spike in Twitter activity. Those surprises from fan-favorite writers and artists have readers pledging future paychecks for what are sure to be fun comics. And judging by Twitter, this year didn't disappoint. Now that the dust has settled and fans will be dreaming of all the fantastic stories they'll see throughout the year, I want to share some highlights.

I have to start with Spawn, the company's longest running series. This is a book I read as a kid and read currently. Image announced the new writer, Paul Jenkins, beginning with the monumental Spawn #250. That's 250 issues! How awesome is that? The storyteller joining him will be artist Jonboy Meyers. More news for Spawn is the series' digital debut with Spawn: Resurrection #1.

One of my favorite writers, Kelly Sue DeConnick, and artist Emma Rios, take readers back to their fantasy western, Pretty Deadly, in September. I'm still all in.

In this second story arc of PRETTY DEADLY, the mantle of Death has fallen to a little girl, Sissy, who, along with her tattered band of reapers, is tasked with gathering souls whose time has come, or come and passed. An old woman has a dying request. Her son has been missing for more than a year, gone east, and from there to fight in the trenches overseas. She wants to see the boy one last time before she passes. And so Deathface Ginny is dispatched through clouds of mustard gas to find the young man, but between her and her quarry, atop bitter black mount of twenty hands, sits the Reaper of War himself.

DeConnick is an amazing writer and what Rios has done with Pretty Deadly visually is impressive. I hadn't seen much of her work prior to this book, but she's quite the storyteller.

As for debuts from the event, there are several gems of which you should note. This first one comes from writer Marjorie Liu and artist Sana Takeda. It's called MONSTRESS and it's a fantasy series taking place in an alternate 1900s Asia. Besides just being an interesting concept, this title has my attention because I've wondered for years if Liu would take her talents to the creator-owned world. Take a look at the synopsis below pulled from Image's website.

In MONSTRESS, readers are transported into the early 1900s, where immense Leviathans roam the Earth, wielding unimaginable powers that many have long desired to exploit. When a teenage girl with a mysterious past forms a tenuous psychic bond with the most dangerous of all the Leviathans, she becomes the target of both human and otherworldly authorities who will stop at nothing to possess her—to control her, and control the Lord of the all the Leviathans. What they don’t count on is the courage of the girl herself—and the fact that she is slowly becoming more than human...

Eric Canete, Jonathan Tsuei and Leonardo Olea will bring some sci-fi action in the series RUN LOVE KILL. This will also feature CGI build models for the covers by Manu Fernandez.

The story follows a wanted woman in hiding named Rain Oshiro. The narrative style will prominently feature two very different but significantly connected moments throughout her life: "The Past"—which will explore her history as an impressionable student, an abiding soldier, and a wanted fugitive; and "The Present"—which will show her as she is now and how she copes with (and runs away from) the decisions made in her past. At its core, the story is an exploration of choices—both good and bad. And now, how her choices have formed her into the person she has and will become. Set against a background of a futuristic world as only artist Canete can imagine, Rain has just 24 hours to escape a barricaded city while trying to evade a military force determined to either capture or kill her.

The creators said the series contains running, killing and...dinosaurs. Of the words mentioned from the title, "love" was not. Well, allow me to add it in: comic fans LOVE running & killing (preferably at the same time) and dinosaurs. That's certainly a recipe for comics' unique brand of awesomeness.

From Brian K. Vauhan and Cliff Chiang comes PAPER GIRLS. Vaughan, co-creator of the hit series Saga, and Chiang, fresh off his recent Wonder Woman run, reunite for this new series. And although we have few details, this creative pairing has certainly piqued the interests of many comic readers.

PAPER GIRLS is the story of four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls who experience something extraordinary one day...

Having not revealed much else about the book, Vaughan said he and Chiang like to keep surprises. Well, this won't come as a surprise: I'll be reading it. Sign me up.

Another interesting title is Vaughan and artist Steve Skroce's mini-series WE STAND ON GUARD, a military thriller about Canadian freedom fighters standing up against a technologically superior United States. Then there's James Robinson and Philip Tan's HEAVEN, which apparently is centered around a war between humans and God. Writer and artist Emi Lenox will look to take readers on a personal journey about a trip she took to Japan in her watercolor graphic novel TADAIMA. With the interest in Japanese history and culture I have, I may also keep an eye on this one. These are just a few of the books Image had to show off. This is going to be another big year for comics and the indie publisher. Especially as they look to take an even bigger piece of the comic market pie.

Going back over my main highlights, beyond sharing intriguing concepts, they have another aspect in common: they all feature leading ladies. Cheers for a little diversity and a small shift from white, male leads. Image dropped a ton of fun comic news on fans with all of this. They're doing great things with creators and creativity. The freedom they provide for creators to create and the absolute madness (by madness I mean amazing storytelling) that ensues is what comics are about. Image exemplifies that. As I always say: there are comics for EVERYONE. Image easily has books for every reading taste. It's a great time to be a comic fan.

So, which titles have you ready to contribute to Image's constantly growing share in the marketplace? Let me know in the comments. For more on the publisher and the news of the day, head over to Image Comics.