In the last seven weeks, I've written about the first issues of the six books that started Image Comics:
Taking a fresh look at those heady days has been a lot of fun. There's so much fun stuff to revisit from those first two years that I could fill this column for the rest of the year, easily.
Instead, this week, let's look at Image Comics for the future.
Saturday, May 6th is Free Comic Book Day this year. Image has two books coming out for those of you lucky enough to get to the comic shop when they first open and you can still grab your pick of books.
I have a funny feeling the first book will go quickly. While FCBD is meant to be an outreach to bring in new customers, the first book is meant strictly for the fans. The second book is the outreach book.
Let's get to it:
"I Hate Image"
Skottie Young's contribution is self-indulgent to the extreme. That's why it works so well and I like it so much.
Image is not unaccustomed to making fun of itself. In its earliest days, it published both "Stupid" and "Splittin' Image," the latter of which is being reprinted soon.
More recently, Todd McFarlane published "Spawn Kills Everyone!" through Image, but it wasn’t terribly successful, creatively. (It went to a second printing, so somebody must have liked it.). It felt in-jokey at the expense of any semblance of a plot. It wasn't clear who the audience was for it: Spawn fans, comic fans, pop culture fans, comic haters?
In the end, it felt forced and too long. Chibi Spawn the Mass Murderer should have been funnier, but the last thing the comics world needs is another comic book about a comic book convention.
Skottie Young's "I Hate Image" is pretty clearly aimed directly at Image Comics fans. In the book, Gert -- the star of Young's "I Hate Fairyland" -- is looking for a meeting with the Image Comics founders, and will kill every Image character along the way necessary until she gets to them.
That’s the framework Young uses to give himself a story reason for the first half of the issue and it's elaborate visits to so many other Image Comics environments.
The people who will love this book the most are the ones who love Young's take on popular characters. Seeing Young draw "Paper Girls" and "Saga" and "The Walking Dead" should be enough of a selling point to make this book a success. But this isn't recasting them as babies. This is just drawing them in Young's cartoonier style and then having fun at their expense for a panel or a page or three.
Then Gert kills them on the last panel. And you laugh.
The plot is paper thin, but nobody will want this book hoping for a shocking twist ending. They'll pick this one up at FCBD for the victory lap of modern Image Comics' excellence, and a few good laughs. It's a lot of fun with a lot of solid jokes that work for both Gert and the worlds she's entering.
If you're upset that Image isn't doing something to move comics forward and to provide something for the brand new comics fans that Free Comic Book Day is theoretically for, then you can look towards their other FCBD offering, "Kid Savage."
This book is really the opening pages of a new graphic novel by Joe Kelly (writer), ILYA (artist), Gary Caldwell (colorist), and Thomas Mauer (letterer) that is scheduled to be released the week before FCBD.
This is the story of a prehistoric caveboy type surviving in the wild with his two-headed pet while fending off the crazy sharp-toothed animals who want to make him their next meal. Then, a bright streak in the sky and a crash brings something new to his world, the likes of which he's never seen.
It'll probably read better as a completed work. The pacing is a bit weird as a 30 page preview. It starts as one story, then suddenly shifts to another one, then the story stops suddenly, just as we get a hint that maybe the two stories are connected in an unbelievable and senses-shattering way.
There is enough in this sample to make me interested in the graphic novel, so it did its job for me. If I were a comics newbie, would this appeal to me enough to buy the full book? I'm not sure. There's plenty of meat on these bones, but the bones are coming from three different places, and there's two completely different tones at the start.
I can definitely see it appealing to the kinds of kids who are growing up on all those tween sit-coms on Disney and Nickelodeon, not to mention the tv movies those actors inevitably star in later. There's a family dynamic introduced in the second half that'll feel right at home there.
The thing that gets me over the hump of the story's structure as a single issue is that I like ILYA's art so much that I want to read the rest of the book. There's great animation to the characters, with strong emotions on their faces. It makes it easy to follow and enjoy the story, whatever it is.
Caldwell's colors also make the book approachable. They're fairly simple, without too many Photoshop whizbang effects -- just appropriate and well chosen colors to tell the story and maintain the art as the star of the book.
It's an All Ages rating for this book, which also includes a preview of Gregg Schigiel's "Pix," fittingly. It'll be a free comic for you on Free Comic Book Day, and the graphic novel, in its entirety, will hopefully be on a shelf in the same store at the same time for $15.