Wake Up And Smell The Coffee #8: It’s All About Image - Part One

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Hey, gang. I thought I would change the tone for once and cover another publisher out there that’s making strides in the industry. Image used to be one of those companies that couldn’t get my attention without a bag of money and a shotgun, but once J. Michael Straczynski of Babylon 5 fame started to work with Top Cow…. I changed my tune. Over a gradual period of time, I found many interesting titles I never would have paid attention to before and/or touched with a ten-foot pole. Now one of my favorite comic creators is writing *three* books for Top Cow (Paul Jenkins), Kevin Smith created a new imprint when he moved there from Oni Press, and now G.I. Joe has returned from the grave. If you had told me how many Image books I would commit to in the future, say three years ago, I would have called you crazy.

As I’m a bit pressed for time this week, I figured I could cover the books I’m more interested in imprint by imprint. Naturally, that would start with Image Central. I’ll apologize ahead of time if I miss anyone’s favorites, but I must admit… these tastes are my own, which can get quite selective. Feel free to pass “Curse of the Demon” runes to me for skipping Powers, but it’s really just not my thing. Here we go:

G.I. Joe – Need I even go on? Any self-respecting child of the 80’s knows what I’m talking about, love or hate it. A staple of Reagan-era American youth, this cartoon series / toy line / comic book showed kids how much fun you could have fighting a world wide terrorist group named Cobra. Fighting for freedom wherever there was trouble, the G.I. Joe comic was there from the early 80’s and somehow managed to all the way into the early 90’s at Marvel Comics, despite the passing of its television counterpart years before.

Hoping to rekindle the success of the original incarnation, Dark Horse Comics and Hasbro launched a new version called “G.I. Joe Extreme” which not only paled in comparison, but also failed miserably while earning the contempt of the still lingering Joe fandom. It wasn’t until 5 years later that writer/artist Josh Blaylock would negotiate for the comic rights to the property, allowing for the recreation and continuance of original series through Image.

Today, Blaylock (along with penciler Steve Kurth) has not only successfully relaunched the legendary franchise; it has also been turned into a top 10 item on Diamond’s direct sales list. Though it may be too early to gauge the series properly, the power G.I. Joe holds over its fans is undeniable. If Blaylock can reach the standards achieved by classic Joe writer Larry Hama and Marvel Comics, the book will hold its ground for years to come.

Randy O’Donnell is the [email protected]! – I’m honestly surprised this book hasn’t garnered more support. One of two new books from veteran comic writer Tom DeFalco (Spider-Girl), it is perfectly complimented by one of my all time favorite artists, Ron Lim. For anyone unfamiliar with Lim, his previous accomplishments range from several runs on major Marvel comics such as Captain America (with Mark Gruenwald), Silver Surfer (with Steve Englehart, Jim Starlin & Ron Marz) and even the mega popular Infinity trilogy (also with Jim Starlin).

Past glories aside, Randy O’Donnell is just plain fun. It’s witty, exciting, and just well crafted. I have always loved these kinds of books, but they are increasing in rarity. For whatever reason, it’s very hard to find singular superhero books with kids featured as stars. Some might say that it has gone out of style, but Ultimate Spider-Man says otherwise. I believe the problem is that publishers have lost perspective of how fun stories about kids with super powers appeal to more people than the next Watchmen will. It may win you a fancy Eisner and get some press, but it won’t bring you legions of new readers.

That said, I just have to say it’s a great book and deserves more than it’s getting. If you like concepts like Spider-Man, this series is for you.

Kabuki – Unfortunately, there’s not a lot I can say about this book at the moment. I’m still working through the first trade, which I bought after seeing writer/artist/creator David Mack’s work at Marvel Comics. If you’re not sure who or what I’m speaking of, check out David Mack’s written story arc for Daredevil, “Parts of a Whole”, which has just recently been solicited in previews for the spring. If you have the chance, you should also hunt down his four-issue story arc with Brian Michael Bendis, for whom he penciled and painted the entire story for. If you already have seen these Daredevil projects and enjoyed them, give Kabuki a try.

Well, that covers my favorite highlights at Image Central. I hope you come back next week when I’ll be delving into Top Cow and Joe’s Comics (oh boy!). As for the magic runes, I was just kidding folks. Those things scare the @$^% out of me. No need to send them anyway, as I already see 30 ft demons when I pass MTV while channel surfing and catch a glimpse of the latest N’Sync and Britney Spears videos. *shiver*

Born and raised in Tampa, FL, Drew Reiber is a part-time student with aspirations of someday writing those comics he so loves to rant about. He’s currently pleased as punch with Carlos Pacheco’s last penciled issue of Fantastic Four this month and especially that last revelation. You’ll see.

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