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The 10 Best Comics Image Currently Publishes

May 8, 2013  |  11:00am
The 10 Best Comics Image Currently Publishes

The comic medium had a lot to celebrate last weekend. Not only did Iron Man 3 usher in blockbuster season with our favorite exoskeletal superhero, but Saturday saw all of the major publishers unleash a metric ton of pro bono product on Free Comic Book Day. With all of these reminders of how fabulous the printed and digital panel can be, Paste decided to sit down and take inventory of the titles that make our Wednesday comic shop jaunts an addictive necessity.

On Monday we ran through Marvel’s finest, yesterday we dove into DC’s best, and today Paste takes a look at Image’s many superlative offerings. At this point it wouldn’t be accurate to call the independent publisher a sleeping giant; with its genre-hopping line of titles produced from an A-list roster of talent, the imprint has proven that its creator-owned model is a vital component for the comic industry. It was difficult honing their selection down to ten, but here are our absolute favorites; let us know yours in the comments.
 

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10. Witch Doctor
Writer: Brandon Seifert
Artist: Lukas Ketner
Falling somewhere between Doctor Strange, John Constantine, and your childhood pediatrician, titular Witch Doctor Dr. Vincent Marrow treats patients afflicted with supernatural maladies using a combination of technology and magic. Brandon Seifert’s scripts redefine the mystical in nifty scientific analogies, comparing the soul to a spiritual immune system and likening demonic possession to vicious parasites. This inventive approach is married to an old-school horror aesthetic that would fit right into a Creepy anthology or Bernie Wrightson’s portfolio. Campy in all the right ways, Witch Doctor’s expansive world has unfolded in captivating and curious ways with each new miniseries, most recently in the fantastic “Mal Practice” arc. (Sean Edgar)
 

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9. The Walking Dead
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Charlie Adlard
You have to hand it to Robert Kirkman. Years after challenging the creative community to abandon licensed properties, Image Comics’ bearded COO has grown his creator-owned zombie apocalypse The Walking Dead into a synergy nova that includes a hit TV show, two videogame series, and a bottomless pit of merchandise. He’s illustrated his point well. Even more impressive, his long-running horror epic can still twist and shock with acute discomfort more than a hundred issues in. Sadistic? Yes. Smart? Mostly. There’s no reason why this tortured road trip won’t ride the pop culture highway for another hundred issues with curves like these. (Sean Edgar)
 

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8. Invincible
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Ryan Ottley
Invincible has continually read like a mainstream superhero title working in perpetual overtime. More happens in one story arc of Image’s flagship brawler (the man’s costume is the publisher’s logo, if you hadn’t noticed) than in a year for any one of the big two’s various mascots. Most of this momentum comes from its unified voice and consistent production; Robert Kirkman has remained the title’s sole author and, save for the introductory issues and a few fillers, Ryan Ottley its only penciller. So when Kirkman introduces such game-changing concepts in his depiction of super-powered youth as insectoid half brothers, Aryan alien invasions, and unexpected pregnancies as frequently and successfully as he does, Invincible truly feels like a four course meal of capes and cliffhangers. (Sean Edgar)
 

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7. Revival
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Mike Norton
Dubbed a “redneck noir,” Revival centers on a small town overrun with zombies. Not The Walking Dead-like zombies, mind you. Rather, these beings walk around and talk like normal people. In fact, unless you’d witnessed their resurrection firsthand, you’d never guess there was anything amiss. That is, until the newly un-alive start acting out in bizarre, violent ways. Revival’s brilliance lies in how it focuses just as much on the emotional drama surrounding the revivals as in the effective horror set pieces it creates.  Like the best TV, the world only becomes more defined and the story richer with each new installment.  (Mark Rozeman)
 

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6. Mind the Gap
Writer: Jim McCann
Artist: Rodin Esquejo
While television struggles to find the new Lost, the influential ABC show’s legacy of melding character drama with a high-concept mystery lives on in comic form. Like J.J. Abrams’ pivotal series, Mind the Gap is a series that engrosses its reader in a world ripe with intriguing secrets. The storyline concerns the young daughter of a wealthy family who is brutally attacked one night and left comatose. Who attacked her and why are the book’s propelling questions. Writer Jim McCann and artists Rodin Esquejo have gone the extra mile, crafting a compelling whodunit while also augmenting it with otherworldly elements that suggest something much larger at play. (Mark Rozeman)
 

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5. Prophet
Writers: Brandon Graham, Simon Roy
Artist: Simon Roy, Others
Much like Alan Moore on Supreme in the late 1990s, Brandon Graham and a crew of great artists have rebooted the hackneyed superhero also-ran Prophet into a surprisingly taut and restrained sci-fi thriller that feels like Conan written by Ray Bradbury. With terse narration and almost no dialogue, Prophet focuses tightly on the individual adventures of a series of clones of the Liefeld superhero John Prophet (part Captain America, part Wolverine, all shoulder pads) in a far off post-human future. Imagine the many Sam Rockwells of Moon if they were bioengineered super-soldiers dealing with utterly foreign and impenetrable alien cultures. The silent Prophet, in all his permutations, is as mysterious and unknowable as any of the aliens he encounters, with vaguely defined missions, a variety of unusual weapons and tools, and the occasional prehensile tail. It’s a gritty, no-nonsense exercise in world building, not too dissimilar from Graham’s Multiple Warheads. (Garrett Martin)
 

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4. Chew
Writers: John Layman
Artist: Rob Guillory
I have no clue what combination of factors inspired John Layman to hatch a universe where an avian flu outbreak results in the complete outlawing of poultry, but those muses must have been a doozy. Whether the world of Chew spawned from a food poisoning fever dream or divine vision, it really is unlike anything else that exists in popular fiction today. Landing somewhere between a Looney Tunes episode and a hallucinogenic police procedural, Chew revolves around FDA Agent Tony Chu, a “cibopath” who can absorb psychic impressions from anything he digests, whether it be a human appendage or more conventional fare. Layman’s exuberant imagination doesn’t stop there: double-crossing government agencies, berries harvested from outer space, and frog-chicken hybrids have all provided vital plot points in this series’ whimsical trajectory. Rob Guillory’s exaggerated figures and fluid action sequences perfectly complement the narrative’s mayhem, forming a perfect storm of oddball creativity in every issue. (Sean Edgar)
 

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3. The Manhattan Projects
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Nick Pitarra
In The Manhattan Projects, Hickman uses an alternate history US defense department as a display case for his hyper-scientific big ideas. The narrative feels like a repository for beats that might have been too sinister for the author’s Fantastic Four run, but still retain a lot of the same zany fun save for some very dark subplots. Nick Pitarra’s layouts are more exaggerated and cartoony than his previous work, keeping realism as far away as possible. The Manhattan Projects has evolved into another cult romp from two creators with a history of innovating on traditional comic templates. And just like their past work, it’s just as cool and crazy. (Sean Edgar)
 

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2. Fatale
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Is there a more harmonious creative team than Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips? Since the pair’s explosive sci-fi espionage hit Sleeper in 2003, their collaborations have consistently delivered tight, lengthy arcs of sublime fiction. Fatale is no different. Brubaker practically bathes in Raymond Chandler’s rain-drenched, nicotine-stained noir legacy, wrapping his projects in the twisting confines of the genre. It was only a matter of time before the duo laid their pulpy hands on the horror template. Fatale follows Nicolas Lash, a shadowy gentlemen who inherits the manuscripts of his late godfather, a famous crime novelist. He soon meets a cursed bombshell who can bend mens’ wills to her beck and call. Brilliance ensues. Brubaker knows how to write natural dialogue and drive plot momentum, and Phillips’ ability to capture his flow is impeccable. Fatale is serial storytelling at its most addictive. (Sean Edgar)
 

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1. Saga
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
With its second story arc complete, Saga continues to be a big, smart, flowing epic packed with endearing dialogue and careening plot twists. Every character, including albino men with television heads and mutant spider bounty hunters, comes with a three dimensional personality that begs to be explored. Staples’ pencils, inks and colors are gorgeous, propped against warm, washed-out backgrounds that emit a surreal fantasy glow. As the narrative progresses, Brian K. Vaughan’s tale of a new family pursued by two warring militias is not only one of the best comics published today, but one of the most endearing sci-fi/fantasy works in the category’s history. (Sean Edgar)

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