By Matt Spector
Superhero multiverse madness got you down? While waiting for DC and Marvel's collective dust to settle, take a break to catch on these great indie books. Creator owned publisher Image Comics has so much more to offer besides The Walking Dead and Saga. Here are seven of the coolest Image titles that you should be adding to your pull list.
Bestselling writer Mark Millar (Kick Ass, Kingsman: The Secret Service) and artist Sean Murphy (The Wake, Punk Rock Jesus) combine forces to tell a bro-mance throughout time. A buddy-cop/sci-fi tale, Chrononauts follows the adventures of NASA scientists Doctor Corbin Quinn and Doctor Danny Reilly as they develop a successful means of time travel. The two best friends go off on a time travel bucket list road trip, consequences be damned. They snap pics with the first mammal as it crawls out of sea, give birthday presents to a newborn baby Jesus, date celebrities, and "gamble" in the hey-day of Las Vegas, already knowing the winning bets. What could possibly go wrong? It's Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure with Ph. D.s, Chrononauts is a fast paced story with likable characters and amazing artwork. Similar to have the TV show "The Flash," is "the fun one", Chrononauts has everything you want in the comic book medium for when you get tired of dark and broody.
2.) The Wicked + The Divine
Self-described as "gods as the ultimate pop stars", in this modern superhero fantasy created by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson (the same team that brought you the indie darling Phonogram), every 90 years twelve young people learn that they are vessels for reincarnations of the gods of old, granting them incredible powers and instant stardom. The only downside is that in two years all twelve will be dead and then cycle repeats. A female Lucifer dressed like David Bowie is framed for murder and its up to one of The Pantheon's biggest fans to get to the bottom of the conspiracy and the clock is ticking. It's a world filled with gods that resemble ravers, rock stars, and Kanye West with their own fandom conventions. Stunning artwork, vivid coloring, and sharp writing have earned the title "Best Comic" at the 2014 British Comic Awards. Month after month, The Wicked + The Divine continues to be infallible.
3.) Deadly Class
Deadly Class might be the coolest title out currently, where the only thing more killer then its soundtrack is its complex characters. The year was 1987 and a homeless teenager named Marcus Arguello has just become the newest student at Kings Dominion Atelier of the Deadly Arts, a underground (literally) academy created by the world's top criminal organizations as a place to cultivate the next generation of ruthless assassins. What Hogwarts is to magic, Kings Dominion is to murder. Created by writer Rick Remender (Black Science), artist Wes Craig (Batman), and colorist Lee Loughridge (Fear Agent), Deadly Class is filled with punk rock angst, misguided crushes, brutal homework assignments, teenage drug use and 80's nostalgia. Sex, drugs, rock n' roll, and decapitations. It's just like high school, only deadlier.
4.) Southern Bastards
Crime and football collide in this hard hitting southern fried crime series co-created by writer Jason Aaron (Original Sin, Thor: God of Thunder) and artist Jason Latour (Scalped, Wolverine) and takes the reader on a backwoods journey down to the deep South to experience the seedy criminal underbelly of rural Craw County. Known for barbecue, corruption, and high school football. In Craw County, football is treated as a religion and man who coaches the four time Alabama state champion Runnin' Rebs is God. That man is Coach Euless Boss. A redneck version of The Godfather mixed with the best bits of Walking Tall, Southern Bastards sucks you into to a gritty world of white trash organized crime and daddy issues and doesn't let go.
5.) Bitch Planet
If Quentin Tarantino directed Orange is the New Black and put it in space, you would end up with something close to Bitch Planet. In the near future, men are in charge (or is that more in charge?) and troublesome "non-compliant" women are being banished to an off-world prison known as Bitch Planet, that is as oppressive as escape is impossible. From prison riots to shower scenes, the series is created and written by 2014 Eisner Award nominee for Best Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, who has once again teamed up with illustrator Valentine De Landro (X-Factor) to tell a story that can be best summed up as science-fiction prison sexploitation. Try saying that five times fast.
Scott Snyder (Batman, The Wake) is a master of creating mythology and world building and Wytches is another prime example. These aren't your grandmother's witches in this realistic take on the supernatural. This book has everything you have come to expect from Snyder epic; surprise twists, heroic sacrifices, heart felt characters, and truly terrifying creatures. Plus the artwork is both at the same time creepy and mesmerizing, perfect for a horror book. This series has just completed its first arc with the issue six, with the first volume of the trade paperback to be released soon.
Another fantastic horror series is Nailbiter. There is a small town in Oregon named Buckaroo that has the dubious distinction of having not two or three, but sixteen of the world's most vicious serial killers all born and raised there. They are part of an infamous and growing group known as the Buckaroo Butchers, and the worse among them is Edward Charles Warren, The Nailbiter. Co-creators Joshua Williamson (Ghosted, Birthright) and Mike Henderson's town full of potential killers has everything you would ask for in a horror comic; secret underground catacombs, a serial killer graveyard, even a Murder Store. The Butchers are as unique as professional wrestlers (one them actually is one) and the mystery behind the town pumps new blood into the serial killer genre, where no one is safe from becoming the next big thing in murder.
Matt Spector is a screenwriter and comic book reviewer, specializing in Image Comics. He lives in Long Beach, CA and has been known to suffer from fits of nerd rage. Follow @GothamAfterDark on Instagram.