Nobody has a higher batting average for excellent comics over the course of the 2010’s, if not longer, than Image Comics. If you hear comics fans raving over a new series these days, odds are tremendously high it’s an Image published book. Have you heard of Saga? Are you reading Rat Queens? Do you like Sex Criminals?!
While you should never, ever, under any circumstances respond to that last question, Image comics are all the rage and for great reason. In fact, of the top 50 comics on my best comics of all time list, 10 are Image books. That’s a one hot comic every 5 listed average. As a publisher, Image has an unbeatable reputation for quality.
More importantly, Image has an unbeatable reputation for quality comics creators, and for remaining a creator-owned, creator-friendly beacon in a comics industry otherwise dominated by Marvel and DC Comics.
Given such prestige output, knowing where to start can be a challenge. I’ve broken out how to navigate Image series by creator, and by all my favorites below. I’d also highly recommend checking out Comixology Unlimited if you’re totally new to Image books, as you’ll be able to try a wide variety of first volumes for cheap. As always, enjoy the comics!
Robert Kirkman’s Image Comics – Walking Dead, Invincible, Outcast and More
There’s plenty of room for debating the best storyteller writing regularly for Image Comics since 2000. When it comes to sheer popularity and attention, though, ain’t nobody on the level of Walking Dead co-creator Robert Kirkman. Get on his level? You would need a space shuttle or a ladder that’s forever.
Fortunately, The Walking Dead comic book series is not only worth of the mass audience it has accumulated over on AMC, but it’s consistently superior in many ways. The opening 48 issue story arc (collected in an epic Walking Dead Compendium One) is one of my 50 favorite comics of all time, and one of the hardest comics to put down ever.
Since the Walking Dead has been running for the better of the Willenium, I have an entire separate Walking Dead reading order for every book. Purely for purposes of getting started, you can check out:
The Walking Dead
Walking Dead Compendium One – Issues #1 to #48
Walking Dead Compendium Two – Issues #49 to #96
Walking Dead Compendium Three – Issues #97 to #144
Kirkman has also been writing superhero drama Invincible for approximately as long as The Walking Dead, and although it’s significantly less well known outside of comics circles, Invincible is my favorite Kirkman comic by a significant margin.
If you want to read what I’d call the most consistently interesting superhero ongoing series of the 2000’s, you can read:
Invincible The Ultimate Collection Volume One – Issues #1 to #13
Invincible The Ultimate Collection Volume Two – #14 to #24
Invincible The Ultimate Collection Volume Three – #25 to #35
If you’re enjoying, the current (June, 2016) collections go as far as Invincible The Ultimate Collection Volume Ten, which collects Invincible #109 to #120.
2016 also marks another Kirkman comic greenlit for TV, with his supernatural horror exorcism book, Outcast. Like all of Kirkman’s work, Outcast is compelling and addictive through the first two volumes, if functioning on a quieter scale than Walking Dead or Invincible.
Outcast Volume One – Issues #1 to #6
Outcast Volume Two – Issues #7 to #12
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillip’s (And Steve Epting’s) Image Comics
Brubaker and Phillips have become comic book icons through their collaborative crime noir stories. It’s not just that the duo doesn’t make bad comics, it’s that their floor is merely “yeah, that was very good.”
Not all of the Brubaker and Phillip’s collection necessarily functions in the same universe with shared characters, so no need to worry about particularly strict continuity with different series. Nonetheless, I’ve listed their output according to chronological order below. It’s also worth noting that the Brubaker and Phillips partnership began outside of Image, with titles like Sleeper, Criminal, and Incognito. Image is retroactively publishing Criminal issues and trades, so I include the series here as well. You legitimately can not go wrong with any of these books, save maybe the ending of Fatale which I’m unfairly bitter about.
Criminal: The Deluxe Edition Volume One – Issues #1 to #10 (Criminal 2006), Issues #1 to #7 (Criminal 2008)
Criminal: The Deluxe Edition Volume Two – Criminal: The Sinners #1 to #5, Criminal: The Last of the Innocent #1 to #4
Fatale Deluxe Edition Volume 1 – Issues #1 to #10
Fatale Deluxe Edition Volume 2 – Issues #11 to #24
Velvet Volume 1 – Issues #1 to #5
Have to note here that Velvet is created by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, the duo who produced Marvel’s Captain America: Winter Soldier
Velvet Volume 2 – Issues #6 to #10
Velvet Volume 3 – Issues #11 to #15
The Fade Out Volume 1 – Issues #1 to #4
The Fade Out Volume 2 – Issues #5 to #8
The Fade Out Volume 3 – Issues #9 to #12
Matt Fraction’s Image Comics
Comic Book Herald readers may be more familiar with Matt Fraction’s frequently excellent Marvel Comics work, including co-writing The Immortal Iron Fist with Ed Brubaker, and his acclaimed work with David Aja on Hawkeye.
As you’d expect, Fraction’s Image output is similarly superb, and tremendously diverse.
Casanova The Complete Edition Volume 1 – Issues Casanova #1 to #4
Casanova The Complete Edition Volume 2 – Casanova: Gula #1 to #4
Casanova The Complete Edition Volume 3 – Casanova: Avaritia #1 to #4
Sex Criminals – Issues #1 to #10
Just the Tips – A Sex Criminals companion.
ODYC Volume 1 – Issues #1 to #5
ODYC Volume 2 – Issues #6 to #10
Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Image Comics
Marvel’s Captain Marvel Carol Corps well know that Kelly Sue DeConnick is producing some of the strongest comics this decade, and her Image work is a testament to her writing and storytelling prowess. Pretty Deadly is a gorgeous mythological western with artist Emma Rios (their work together on Marvel’s Osborn is one of my favorite Dark Reign comics), and Bitch Planet is endlessly thought-provoking sci-fi.
Pretty Deadly Volume 1 – Issues #1 to #5
Pretty Deadly Volume 2 – Issues #6 to #10
Bitch Planet Volume 1 – Issues #1 to #5
Bitch Planet Volume 2 – Issues #6 to #10
Jonathan Hickman’s Image Comics
As a Marvel fanatic, there’s a reasonable probability that I never stop gushing about Jonathan Hickman’s Marvel Comics. His run from Secret Warriors, Fantastic Four, Avengers, through Secret Wars (2015 style – my favorite Marvel event of all time) is simply my favorite sustained creative output in Big 2 2000’s superhero comics.
The fact that Hickman was simultaneously pumping out some of the best and most critically acclaimed Image comics is likely evidence that he has tapped access to a council of interdimensional Hickmans. Ethics of interdimensional alternate universe hopping for purposes of literary profit aside, here are the best Image books from the mind of Hickman:
Manhattan Projects Volume 1 – Issues #1 to #10
Manhattan Projects Deluxe Edition Volume 2 – Issues #11 to #20
East of West The Apocalypse: Year One – Issues of East of West #1 to #15
East of West Vol. 4 – Issues #16 to #19
East of West Vol. 5 – Issues #20 to #24
Brian K. Vaughn’s Image Comics
It’s very probably that his first Image series, Saga, actually cemented his legacy as one of the greats, and could go down as his best comic. Seriously, you’ve seen Saga on at least 10 other “comics you should be reading lists” so if you’re still holding out, give it a look already!
Saga Deluxe Edition Volume 1 – Issues #1 to #18
Saga Vol. 4 – Issues #19 to #24
Saga Vol. 5 – Issues #25 to #30
Saga Vol. 6 – Issues #31 to #36
Warren Ellis’ Image Comics
Warren Ellis looks down upon my praise for Brian K. Vaughn, and my god, he laughs. Except it sounds more like a wolverine growling, and it goes on for an uncomfortable length of both space of time.
Ellis is in the conversation for top 5 comic book writers of all time, depending on your rankings, and your affinity for NEXTWAVE: Agents of HATE. You should read all of his comics, as often as you can, but these are his Image books:
Rick Remender’s Image Comics
Rick Remender has an uncanny knack for convincing you any number of his comics are your absolute favorite comic. Uncanny X-Force has been my favorite comic. Fear Agent has been my favorite comic. I swear, for at least one back and forth between Agent Venom and Jack-O-Lantern, Venom was my favorite comic. He’s like the Guided by Voices of comics (Ain’t nobody listening to a Guided By Voices best of and leaving without thinking GBV is their favorite band for at least three minutes).
Deadly Class Deluxe Edition – Issues #1 to #16
Deadly Class Vol. 4 – Issues #17 to #21
Dave’s Favorite Image Comics (Best of the Rest)
Below you’ll find my additional favorite comics from Image, ordered according to their ranking on my best comics of all time list. I’ve included the number ranking next to each series as well.
30) Morning Glories
Morning Glories Compendium One – Issues #1 to #38
Morning Glories Vol. 8 – Issues #39 to #42
Morning Glories Vol. 9 – Issues #43 to #46
58) Shutter Volume 1: Wanderlost – Issues #1 to #6
Shutter Volume 2 – Issues #7 to #12
Shutter Volume 3 – Issues #13 to #17
62) Bedlam Vol. 1
83) Wicked + Divine: Year One – Issues #1 to #11
104) Superannuated Man
113) Wytches Volume 1
120) Manifest Destiny
145) Southern Bastards
163) Miniature Jesus