Creating the first issue of a comic or an original graphic novel is no easy feat. You only have so much time to grip someone and convince them that your thing is worth reading. It’s especially difficult when you’re dealing with wholly original material. If people have no context going in, those first few pages are even more critical. That’s why, when it works, it’s worth celebrating. So ComicsVerse will be rounding up the best Image Comics original graphic novels and debut issues of the year, giving you a new list every few months.

In no particular order, here are the works we think were exceptional from January to March 2018.

PRISM STALKER #1

A space odyssey entirely like any we’ve seen before, PRISM STALKER #1 dropped us directly into the action. The main character, Vep, is a slave to a quadruped alien race who has taken hold of her people. But Vep doesn’t exactly “play along” and is being relocated and taken away from her family.

PRISM STALKER #1 Advanced Review: A Bizarre, But Relevant, World

Writer and artist Sloane Leong brings this comic to life with finesse. Though the story is strong, the character design and art are what puts this book above the rest. The foes are immediately intimidating, and the elders endearing. The colors pop off the page in a truly masterful way because of the unorthodox, but effective, palette. It immediately puts you in another world.

The concept is also extremely relevant. Our main character is a refugee trying to find her place in the universe and amongst her people in an environment that make it almost impossible. This makes for a story that, although set in a much different place and time from where we live, is effortlessly relatable.

first issue
Courtesy of Image Comics

It’s the kind of first issue that makes you really want to read the second installment immediately, which is the real goal of any #1.


BINGO LOVE (OGN)

The only original graphic novel to make the list this time around, BINGO LOVE by Tee Franklin, Jenn St-Onge, and Joy San shines because of it’s character work and plot line.

We’re seeing more and more stories about queer love, but that does not make them any less important. This one is different enough to be especially poignant, but also relevant to many.

first issue
Courtesy of Image Comics

BINGO LOVE tells the story of an older woman who fell in love with her best friend as a teenager. But when their parents discover their blossoming relationship, they are separated and punished. It’s easy to excuse this kind of reaction as a product of its time (the 60s), but in follows Hazel and Mari into modern day, too.

BINGO LOVE OGN Review: A Walk Down Memory Lane

When her first crush and long-lost love comes back into her life, her daughter is not exactly receptive. BINGO LOVE takes us through the ups and downs of the reunion, and shows us the true power of love.

The characters, even the ones you won’t necessarily agree with, are vibrant and relatable. This story will warm your heart as well as hurt you, just like a life well-lived.

OBLIVION SONG #1

Ah, Robert Kirkman. He just has a way with world-building. Since his phenomenal superhero book, Invincible has ended, it just makes sense that he takes up a new mantle.

And just like his famous zombie book, OBLIVION SONG #1 takes place in a post-apocalyptic world. This first issue explains the world just enough that readers can follow along, but leaves enough to be discovered in future books.

Enter Oblivion in Robert Kirkman’s OBLIVION SONG #1

What we do know is that a dimensional break has popped up in the dead center of a city, causing a large portion of the population to disappear into a different reality. People have been tasked with retrieving them, but the other dimension is dangerous, and the risks are deemed too great to continue with the rescue mission.

But Nathan Cole is determined to find his brother on the other side of the rift. And so begins another character-based post-apocalyptic tale from the master himself.

first issue
Courtesy of Image Comics

The art by Lorenzo De Felici and Annalisa Leoni is incredible. It’s gritty and realistic, with the perfect amount of texture. It puts you directly into this world that is so different from ours … or maybe it isn’t quite as different as we’d like it to be? That’s the skill of this art, though. It makes you ask those uncomfortable questions, which is a real accomplishment.


ICE CREAM MAN #1

Holy dissonance, Batman!

ICE CREAM MAN #1 by W. Maxwell PrinceMartin Morazzo, and Chris O’Halloran is a masterclass in effective juxtaposition to create terror. This first issue is a delightful mix of traditional horror concepts with the creepiness of the “wholesome” 50s-era ideals.

The setting for this comic is very Pleasantville, as the art and pastel color palette emphasize. That is, until people start dying.

The sheer creepiness of a uniformed ice-cream man who is just the happiest sun of a gun you’ve ever seen, strolling through suburbia is taken to a whole new level when one of his kiddie customers goes home to his parents. That’d be normal, except for the fact that his parents are now rotting corpses, still sitting at the kitchen table. And the kid makes it worse by, like, talking both to and about them as if they’re still alive? He even says to his pet killer spider, “They’ve been really quiet lately.” Yes, kid. Because they’re dead.

first issue
Courtesy of Image Comics

And then we find out (SPOILERS) that the ice cream man is a werewolf thing, which is where some of the traditional horror comes in. But that combined with his generally cheery demeanor when he’s not ripping people apart in the woods creates some expert dissonance. It’s all quite impressive.

Oh and if you’re scared of spiders, they have that covered, too. There’s something to freak everybody out in the first issue of ICE CREAM MAN, and it’s just awesome.


DAYS OF HATE #1

Want to see where this crazy world is going to end up in the midst of our current political turmoil? Want to read a book that is just too real? You’re going to love the first issue of DAYS OF HATE.

Set in 2022, this book is perhaps more terrifying than ICE CREAM MAN. It deals with domestic terror, hate crimes, fake news, and internment camps. Ales KotDanijel Zezelj, and Jordie Bellaire take us a few years into the future, where the characters are fighting the things we’re dreading now.

first issue
Courtesy of Image Comics

More than anything, this is a story about war. Similar to the war against terror, this is not necessarily against another entity like a country — it’s about fighting the concept of white supremacy. And this is not an organized operation by any means. It is the definition of guerrilla warfare. It’s horrifying, it’s real, and it’s a story that must be told.

The art is absolutely captivating. Shadows really make all the difference here, creating an ominous and gritty look at this world that is far too close to our own for comfort. This first issue makes you scared stiff to keep reading, but also completely locks you in.

Twisted Romance #1

This first issue may appear bright and cheery on the surface, but it’s pretty dark. What starts as a story of a cheating husband and a revenge plot quickly turns into a vampire tale. But these vampires don’t drain blood, just life itself. And that is somehow a whole lot eerier.

Even so, this is not really a horror story. It’s a metaphor for love and how each of us view it differently. There are some people who just use and abuse it to gain power. And that leaves some people in one hell of a state. Writers Alex de Campi, Sarah Horrocks, and Magen Cubed give us a lot to think about and dissect here, which is always fun for a comic reader.

first issue
Courtesy of Image Comics

Artist Katie Skelly gives us something completely new to look at in the art. It’s hard to place the look into a genre, but it is infused with pop art elements throughout. The minimalist, flat style really works in this story, and it makes everything just a bit more surreal.

Interview: Get to Know TWISTED ROMANCE with de Campi, Skelly, Gutierrez, McNeil, and Trungles

This is part one of four, but Twisted Romance is clearly setting up something awesome, which is always exciting.

More First Issue and OGN Releases to Come

This is only a taste of the new books that are coming out this year. This collection will keep growing throughout 2018, and we will keep dissecting the best of the best.

Stay tuned for Part Two of our Best of 2018 Image Comics Debuts series, coming in July.

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