On February 1st, 1992, the landscape of comics changed forever. A slew of the medium’s biggest talents, including Jim Lee and Todd McFarlane, banded together to form Image Comics. Not mired in continuity or trying to appeal to just the capes and tights fans, Image strived to tell riskier, more mature stories. This new Image universe was not a shared one, but one where the creators could tell whatever stories they wanted in a new, exciting way. Image has paved the way for some of the most astounding comics to ever grace our bookshelves and has managed to stand on its own against the Big Two.

25 years later, Image shows no sign of stopping. Their output more prolific than ever, they’ve expanded their reach with each new series they’ve put out. In celebration of Image’s 25th Anniversary, we at ComicsVerse decided to pick a few of our favorite series and share them with you. Special thanks to fellow contributors Jhoan Suriel (JS), Murphy Wales (MW), Kay Honda (KH) for sharing their favorite Image series along with myself, Chris Galvin (CG).

THE WALKING DEAD

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THE WALKING DEAD is, arguably, Image’s most famous ongoing series, being a consistent bestseller. With 166 issues, several spin-offs (including video games), merchandise, and even a dedicated convention for diehard fans, Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano, and Cliff Rathburn, are household names. While the post-apocalyptic zombie genre has been done to death, THE WALKING DEAD breathes new life into the concept with its depiction of a brutal world where survival means kill or be killed and humans must adapt.

Unlike superhero comics, once major and minor characters in THE WALKING DEAD die, they stay dead for good. There is no deus ex machina twist here. Each issue keeps fans on their toes with speculation about who’s going to die next or what might be the next threat to Rick Grimes’ band of survivors. Characters are nuanced and complex, just like people in real life. The series is also layered with relevant social commentary. When it’s all said and done, THE WALKING DEAD will be hailed as one of the best comics ever created. – JS

LISTEN: In this ComicsVerse podcast, we talk about one of THE WALKING DEAD‘s most famous villains: Negan!

CHEW

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Take a world where the mass consumption of chicken is banned, mix in an Asian-American protagonist, heroes and villains that get their powers from food, some comedy as well as tragedy, and you get John Layman and Rob Guillory’s CHEW. FDA agent Tony Chu chews his way through some of the funniest and grossest things imaginable, like ears, cigarettes, and everything else in between. Over the years Guillory and Layman have perfected their craft, with their humor perfectly matching their art style. It’s always a marvel to read a comic that feels like it could be an animated series.

This series just wrapped up its final arc late last year. While the series ends on a high note, I couldn’t help but think of how so many characters have the potential for a spin-off series, such as Olive Chu, Tony’s daughter; Chow Chu, Tony’s brother; Savoy, one of the villains in the series; and Applewood, Tony’s boss who has the body of a horse.

That being said, Layman and Guillory deserve commendation for ending it where they did because there are so many ongoing comic series that get long in the tooth from having to recycle characters and plots without progressing the main arc. CHEW is a diamond in the rough, so you owe it to yourself to read it from the very beginning and embrace the zaniness. – JS

READ: CHEW wrapped up with #60. Read our review here!

DEADLY CLASS

ImageIf you’re looking for the nostalgic stylings of the L.A. Punk scene and high school drama, DEADLY CLASS has all of that and more! Image star writer Rick Remender — best known for LOW and TOKYO GHOST — teams up with original artist Wes Craig to produce an 80’s story filled with loud music, puberty and mega-violence. If you were ever into the horrific and comedic stylings of BATTLE ROYALE, DEADLY CLASS achieves the same kind of experience with its juxtaposition between the horrors of teenage hormones and learning all you need to be a first-class killer assassin. The King’s Dominion High School of the Deadly Arts is the backdrop for the narrative following young homeless teen turned assassin-in-training, Marcus Lopez. High school is hard enough without the deception, manipulation, and murder attempts, and we’re not talking just about a student’s social life. Marcus is the new kid among a young member of the Yakuza, KGB operatives, and the spawn of infamous crime gang families. Marcus not only has to learn how to maneuver himself through a new social climates, but also how to differentiate his peers to people he can trust or people that are in his way.

Already three arcs in, the Remender-Craig dream team pumps out high-octane, drug-infused young madness onto the page with its exciting personalities and unique look. True to the Image brand, DEADLY CLASS is a series that stands on its own two feet with a vibrant look and gripping story. – KH

LISTEN: In this ComicsVerse podcast, we got to chat with Rick Remender!

NAILBITER

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Exploding onto the scene in 2014, NAILBITER is a stomach churning, darkly humorous horror comic that is one of Image’s best. Co-created by Joshua Williamson (writer) and Mike Henderson (artist), it tells the story of the town of Buckaroo, home to 16 of America’s worst serial killers. At the bloody core of the book stands Edward Charles Warren, the Nailbiter, a serial killer who had the habit (sorry not sorry) of chewing his victims’ fingernails down to the bone. Recently deemed innocent in a court of law, he arrives home to find himself hounded by NSA agent Nicholas Finch, who believes Warren knows where his friend, recently missing FBI Agent Charles Carroll, is. So begins a blood soaked descent into the mystery of Buckaroo. No one is safe, and anyone can start killing at a moment’s notice.

Williamson and Henderson construct a world where horrific death is a daily occurrence, and the hero might just have killed more people than Ted Bundy. Williamson’s scripts are full of dangerous humor and wrapped up in an intriguing mystery that leaves you hungry for more. Mike Henderson is a genius with his visuals, and how he builds a suspenseful scene must be read to be believed. He doesn’t hold back on the violence either, with blood a consistent spatter throughout the pages. Unfortunately, the series wraps up with #30 in March, but on the bright side, readers will finally get the full story behind one of the biggest mysteries in comics. – CG

WATCH: We caught up with Mike Henderson at Rhode Island Comic Con 2016!

MONSTRESS

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MONSTRESS holds the distinct honor of being a creator owned comic by Asian women, which is not a common sight in the industry. Sana Takeda and Marjorie Liu create a war torn, dark fantasy world that is incredibly intriguing because of its arcane and mundane denizens. MONSTRESS explores themes such as racism and slavery while also eschewing male protagonists and antagonists in favor of showing women in menacing roles and positions of power. Maika Halfwolf might not be a likable protagonist, as she’s often impulsive and cocky, but there’s no denying her ferocity and resolve to control the immensely powerful god that lives inside her.

Takeda’s art is absolutely stunning to look at, whether it’s a pirate shark, a cat, a soldier, a vast menagerie of magical beings. As the series progresses, we see even more fantastically designed characters get introduced. In many ways, I can’t help but think how this series would make such a great role playing game that would rival the likes of THE WITCHER and FALLOUT. I was first introduced to this series after Junot Díaz, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO, kept promoting it. If you haven’t checked out MONSTRESS, the first volume is out, so do yourself a favor: read it. Then catch up with the latest issue. – JS

LISTEN: We discussed MONSTRESS in this ComicsVerse podcast!

I HATE FAIRYLAND

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I HATE FAIRYLAND is a bombastic adventure filled with dark, grotesque, and crude humor that’s sinfully enjoyable. Skottie Young writes the comic, and it’ll make kids and adults alike giddy with anticipation with its unique and twisted child like imagery coupled with cartoonish gore. Being the first title by Skottie Young under Image Comics, it’s great to see him flex his storytelling muscles and push the envelope on over the top, outlandish violence.

One of the comic’s charms is its questionable protagonist, Gertrude. From mishap to mishap she scouts the fairytale world for a key to return home. Unfortunately, she’s quested for over twenty-seven years, making a number of enemies in the process. It’s hard to call her a hero of any sort since, more often than not, she is the source of conflict. However, she has Larry, her guide, to bail her out, much to his dismay. I’d recommend any fan of Skottie Young or lover of colorful, comedic violence to pick up a copy today. – MW

WATCH: We talked to Skottie Young at C2E2!

THE FIX

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THE FIX explores the world of crime, corruption, and blackmail that lurks beneath Los Angeles’ glitzy Hollywood exterior, posh nightclubs, and stunning beaches. Having previously teamed up on the critically acclaimed SUPERIOR FOES OF SPIDER-MAN, Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber are back with a series that’s equal parts funny and dark. Roy and Mac are a pair of anti-heroes with questionable morals. They work for a seemingly nice, but menacing, boss with a violent temper and a dark sense of humor. A few issues in, a drug sniffing beagle named Pretzels enters the story, which kickstarts the story. The writing is smart and, though the humor is raunchy in places, it’s compelling, which puts it among Image’s best.

Roy narrates the story with a sarcastic wit, which made it so I couldn’t help but smile when he did questionable things. There’s social commentary laced between the humor that pokes fun at things such as washed-up teenage stars, the LAPD, and much more. It’s a fun series that gradually introduces shady characters, shows off locales that are ubiquitous in pop culture, and moves at a breakneck pace. It’s always fascinating to see what predicament Roy and Mac will get into next and the consequences that they have to deal with as a result of their actions. If you’ve read any of Nick Spencer’s previous works, enjoyed Steve Lieber’s art, or are looking for a buddy-cop story, THE FIX is well worth your time. – JS

WATCH: We interviewed writer Nick Spencer at New York Comic Con 2016!

These titles, though, are just the tip of the iceberg. Image Comics has a wide range of comics to suit every taste, with some of the best creators in the business. Do you have any favorite Image comics? Are there ones you’d recommend? Leave a message in the comments section!

 

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