Click any image to see a larger version

A lot of comics news has been breaking lately as the industry gears up for its yearly pilgrimage to the San Diego Comicon, the mother of all comics conventions (at least in terms of sheer size and high profile). Some of the best news involves a “rebirth” of DC’s VERTIGO imprint and a new slate of promising titles from IMAGE Comics.

Comics trends usually move in cycles. If what I’m seeing lately is any indication, we’re about to see a new age of non-superhero, creator-owned comics rise to make history. I still dig superhero comics (when they’re well done), but the comics that have always thrilled me the most, inspired me to the point of obsession, and drew me back to re-read them the most over the years are usually non-superhero books. Or, they’re books that have such a strange and skewed angle on their heroes that they break the mainstream mold of “hero comics.”

Not long ago VERTIGO founder Karen Berger left the company, turning over the Executive Editor reins to longtime editor Shelly Bond, who has been responsible for some amazing comics during her 20 years with the imprint: SHADE THE CHANGING MAN, THE INVISIBLES, HEAVY LIQUID, HELLBLAZER, HOUSE OF MYSTERY, FABLES, and many more.  (NOTE: Shelly was also the model for “U-Go Girl” in Mike Allred’s X-STATIX comic for Marvel.)

Now that Shelly Bond is in charge, VERTIGO seems to be revamping, redefining, and revitalizing itself with a slate of promising new (ongoing) titles. Here three of them that are sure to be can’t-miss books:

HINTERKIND – An epic fantasy adventure set in a post-apocalyptic world, HINTERKIND is written by Ian Edginton and illustrated by Francesco Trifogli, and debuts this October. Decades after “The Blight” all but wiped out the human race, Mother Nature is taking back what’s hers and she’s not alone … all the creatures of myth and legend have returned and they’re not happy.

HinterkindMy thoughts: One look at the cover image and you can tell this is going to be a big, rollicking fantasy of the kind that VERTIGO does so well. The combination of the post-apocalyptic and epic fantasy genres is intriguing, and the art of Francesco Trifogli is a huge draw.

THE DISCIPLINE – Coming this December from writer Peter Milligan and artist Leo Fernandez, THE DISCIPLINE is a dark, erotic thriller about a privileged young woman named Melissa who is thrust into a centuries old battle between good and evil. She begins an affair with a mysterious man named Orlando who opens her eyes to a sexually sinister world she never knew existed.

My thoughts: Peter Milligan. ‘Nuff said. I first fell under his spell when I picked up issue #1 of his SHADE THE CHANGING MAN comic—with art by the young Chris Bachalo. I still have every single issue of this comic, which is one of my all-time favorite series. But Milligan has blown me away several other times during his long and storied career. Leo Fernandez caught my eye with his PUNISHER run at Marvel, and his noirish style sounds perfect for this concept.

SUICIDERS – Also in December is the great Lee Bermejo’s one-man-show SUICIDERS. Bermejo will both write and draw this series set in Los Angeles after “The Big One.” “Suiciders” is the wildly popular reality sport that contestants are literally dying to be a part of … and to be the best, you have to murder the best.

My thoughts: After reading Brian Azzarello’s graphic novel JOKER, with art by Bermejo, I was amazed at the artist’s versatility. Until then, I had thought of him only as “painter”–if he did comics they were painted comics, and therefore he would never do an ongoing series—too time consuming. However, JOKER proved that he had the chops to go the pencil-and-inks route, with gorgeous results. The concept behind this sci-fi story is basically “two futuristic boxers—one on top of the world, the other trying to fight (and kill) his way there. Sounds like a real knuckle-duster. I am so there.

For a complete list of VERTIGO’s new titles you can go here.

BlackScience-01-Cover-B-Dressed-a7939IMAGE Comics announced several new titles this week at its Image Expo event. Three of them, for various reasons, have me champing at the bit to read them. Here they are:

BLACK SCIENCE – Writer Rick Remender announced BLACK SCIENCE with artist Matteo Scalera, coming in November. The series is a “sequel” of sorts to Remender and Tony Moore’s FEAR AGENT, and was “inspired by the writer’s love of Frank Frazetta paintings and Al Williamson illustrations.” Scientist Grant McKay has finally done the impossible—deciphered Black Science and punched through the barriers of reality to ultimate chaos. “Now Grant and his team are lost, living ghosts shipwrecked on an infinite ocean of alien worlds, barreling through the dark realms, long forgotten, ancient and unimaginable.”

My thoughts: Wow—this sounds amazing. I was a big fan of Remender’s FEAR AGENT, but this sounds even better. First of all, Frank Frazetta is my favorite artist of all time (as well documented on this blog), and Al Williamson was one of the greatest science fiction illustrators in history. This is going to be pure, all-out sci-fi adventure at its best (just like FEAR AGENT). Also, with digital paints by Dean White (UNCANNY X-FORCE) it’s going to be gorgeous to look at. Let the trip begin!

VelvetVELVET – Ed Brubaker announced this new series with artist extraordinaire Steve Epting. It’s an “espionage-flavored” book similar to their work on CAPTAIN AMERICA, yet more “twisted.” Velvet Templeton has to leave a desk and go back into the field as a secret agent. Brubaker says the book will have a James Bond/Mission: Impossible vibe “mashed into a meta textual cold war scenario.”

My thoughts: Brubaker is the MAN. What can I say that hasn’t already been said about spectactular books like CRIMINAL, INCOGNITO, FATALE, SLEEPER, not to mention Bru’s many triumphs on Marvel books. Nobody does espionage/crime books as well as Ed Brubaker. And Steve Epting? Good lord, the man is talented. These two have a synergy that approaches sheer comics perfection. Check out any issue of their run on CAPTAIN AMERICA and you’ll see what I mean. My only worry here is that Epting will be leaving Jonathan Hickman’s NEW AVENGERS, where he has been blowing my mind lately on a monthly basis. I hope he stays, but I’m expecting he’ll need to focus on VELVET. As long as Epting keeps giving me monthly doses of his fine artwork, I’ll avoid withdrawal symptoms.

SouthernBastardsSOUTHERN BASTARDS – Jason Aaron announced this new crime series with artist Jason Latour. launching in early 2014. “People say write what you know…this is what I know,” said Aaron, who is from Alabama. “This is the book I was meant to write in a very sad, dark way.” Latour called the book “The Untouchables versus Boss Hog” or “The Dukes of Hazard by the Coen Brothers on meth.” The book is set in a fictional Alabama county “filled with lots of mean old bastards…”

My thoughts: Finally, the writer of VERTIGO’s superb SCALPED crime-noir series gets back to his roots. Jason Aaron has been doing mostly Marvel hero books (such as THOR) since he finished SCALPED. SOUTHERN BASTARDS sounds like a return to gritty, salt-of-the-earth crime noir fiction—or Aaron’s version of it anyway. Latour’s art speaks for itself, and seems to be the perfect match for the story Aaron wants to tell. SOUTHERN BASTARDS sounds like the perfect remedy for “superhero overdose.”

For info on more new IMAGE books in the works go here.

Well, there they are: Six new comics bound to drive the medium forward and provide some much-needed relief from the hero-glut of mainstream comics.

The next 12 months is going to be a great time for reading comic books.

In between great fantasy novels, of course…. 🙂