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    The Anchor Panel: Image Comics

    Ladies. Gents. We're back.
    Who is this? How did you get this number?

    It's been a while since we've been working at the Anchor Panel and let's mention why. Reynolds over here has gotten a bit too big for the 22 Pages family with his newfound responsibilities as a Global Morning TV guest correspondent and co-EIC of The Same Page (http://samepageteam.com/).
    Well, thanks for the kind words. You know, I just wanted to feel wanted.

    When I fired you I only meant it as a joke.
    Oh yeah? Ahem. Well then, Alex, as you know it is 2013 and, as you mentioned, we are back on the Anchor Panel. So, given that it's the start of a new year, I thought (after some cajoling) we'd get to thinking and talking about the state of comics.

    Books with pictures. My bread and butter! I've got quite a bit to cover. Why don't we start with the books you're familiar with.
    Alright, so since I've been, errrr, out of it for a bit, where should we start? Or maybe I should just lay it down and say that the comic I'm most looking forward to in 2013 is Brian K. Vaughn's ongoing, wild and wonderful Saga.

    Yeah. That's sort of the safe pick, though. As ambitious a work as it turned out there was very little chance that the combination of BKV and Fiona Staples doing a space opera was going to be anything less than spectacular.
    It is just damn refreshing, though I shouldn't be surprised that the guy who brought us Ex Machina and Y: The Last Man, AND saved TV's Lost would make something compelling.

    He has a pedigree that would make most writers jealous and a talent that goes unmatched, in my opinion.
    Exactly. Right away it was impossible for me to not be totally enraptured with the world Vaughn is building. We've got interplanetary high-tech war, mixed with a healthy dose of fantasy and magic, add in some interspecies romance, and robots with televisions screens for heads (and they're the aristocracy!).

    Keep it in your pants, pal.
    Alright, alright, what else is on deck? Since we're in Image territory right now, what other titles should we be looking at?

    That's what is so interesting about Image right now. They have been pumping out new properties en masse for the past few months. Brand new names, as well as several established veterans, are coming together to pump out some of the most inventive creator owned work seen in years.
    Man, how did we get here? I mean, Image still lags way behind Marvel and DC in terms of sales (which is unlikely to change), but I would love to build a time machine, go to 1996, and tell everyone that Image would be responsible for a huge surge in great boundary pushing comics (oh, and that Rob Liefeld would be unemployed).

    Yeah, I'd say it is fair to compare them to the Marvel Comics landscape in the 60's when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (among others) were pumping out a myriad of titles that would end up revolutionizing the industry. But a key difference here is that Image isn't catering to just one subgenre.
    O RLY? Ahem, sorry, old meme. It's been awhile. I have a handle on some of the bigger titles they've got going on. I mean, it is hard to miss the Walking Dead and the rest of the Robert Kirkman universe (e.g. Invincible) these days. What else is going to blow my mind?

    Aside from those flagship titles, you have Grant Morrison on Happy, Ed Brubaker on Fatale, Jonathan Hickman on The Manhattan Projects. And there's no shortage of new titles coming out that are worth checking out like Revival, Nowhere Men, Comeback, Clone and let's not forget, Todd: The Ugliest Kid on Earth, which is a title I'm sure you can sympathize with.
    Thanks, guy. Best part about writing on the Internet? Your face is not your money maker. Moving on, I'm with you on Fatale. I love the Brubaker and Sean Phillips team, was all over their Sleeper, Criminal and Incognito and was jazzed to dive into this one. Gotta say, it's a bit slow going, but the tone is so strong. Thoughts?

    Well, they both found their niche many years ago and love to stick to it. At the very least, they're steadily injecting horror into this story, so as to give it something new. That said, you won't find many flaws in Fatale.
    Definitely. I love how it works within the standard noir tropes (crooked cops, mysterious woman, goons, etc.) but then slowly mixes in those terrifying horror elements. It starts in familiar territory and ends so uneasily. I have no idea where it could go. Speaking of which: Morrison's Happy?

    It feels a lot like WE3. You can see that it's a very clear cut three act structure that would adapt seamlessly into film. Weird? Yes. Grounded enough that I could see it one day as a movie? VERY yes.
    Yeah, yeah, yeah, but is this straight-ahead-with-a-tinge-of-weirdness Morrison or blackhole-bizarre-brain-leaking-out-your-ear Morrison? A key distinction.

    Hey, at least Morrison isn't content with churning out most of the same stuff like most creators out there. His ambition is only limited by his imagination and it shows in everything he does. SO BACK OFF!
    I appear to have struck a nerve. For the record, I like Morrison quite a bit (can I get an All-Star Superman shout out or what?), but he can get way out there. Let's move on to your Hickman recommendation.

    MY recommendation? Who knew you'd be so gracious as to switch the focus from you to me.
    Hey, come on now, let's be friends.

    Alright, it's The Manhattan Projects. You know me, I'm a big sucker for some out-there sci-fi (I'm a Warren Ellis guy, after all). The story is set after World War II and takes us into the secret government project known as “The Manhattan Project”.
    Don't mean to burst your bubble here but the Manhattan Project is a pretty well known project. Actually, it is probably one of the better known projects.

    Sure, smartass, but besides being built around Cold War fear, the story stretches far beyond to include space travel, dimension hopping and (deep breath) aliens. Did I mention some of the characters are J. Robert Oppenheimer (at least his murderous twin), Albert Einstein (a depressed and reclusive alcoholic) and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (actually his consciousness in a robotic body).
    OK, I don't know THAT Manhattan Project.

    I'm glad to have enlightened you today.
    Alright, let's not get carried away. Everybody gets one. You're supposed to be guiding me through the world of comics in 2013! You shucked off a bunch of Image titles up there, so I did some research (while we were talking, I was multitasking) and I've got to say that Nowhere Men sounds the most interesting. Am I crazy?

    Nowhere Men is one of the better books of the pack. It starts off with four geniuses, who are treated as rock stars, starting their own brain trust only to have the narrative jump years into the future, showcasing the destructive results in the forms of an unidentifiable plagues and the birth of a dangerous new species of animal.
    So I was right, that does sound pretty interesting! I'll just assume that one is in fact the best of the bunch, but tell me about Comeback anyway.

    Comeback is an oddball book. It's sort of a Looper-style time travel book that falls just a bit short of being enjoyable due to the confusion of reading an incoherent time travel tale.
    So unless it is Back to the Future you are going to slag on it?

    Yeah. Or Timecop.
    Naturally. Basically, you are saying it has an interesting premise but doesn't quite hold up?

    It has a fair bit of intrigue and action but feels a bit disjointed, at times. Maybe it's one of those rare cases when a series is a better read as a graphic novel rather than a monthly serial. In any case, the time-travel noir story is a great way to broaden their readership by offering something new yet familiar.
    Speaking of familiar storylines, it sounds to me like Revival is another Zombie story.

    I'm a little hesitant to call it a "zombie" story because it's not the type of zombies that everyone's used to. But what else are you going to call a story about the undying attacking the living.
    Al, I hate to roll out this old canard but if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck and rampages amongst the living looking for brains to satiate its bottomless hunger... then, it's a duck. Er, a Zombie duck. Ah, you know what I mean?

    Screw it! Zombie story, it is! But with an interesting twist. Believe me.
    Is it the kind of twist we can't quite talk about here without giving away the hook of the book? I can respect that.

    It's mostly the approach. It isn't the end all apocalypse as it's treated in most zombie fiction. Instead, it's an examination of reactions from the perspective of the media, the government and religious groups while still maintaining a horror feel.
    So it's a little more Armageddon by degrees. That's at least a fresh idea. Speaking of which, you know what else Image is planning on putting out this year?

    Something meant to soil your pants?
    As Paul Pope Super Fan #1, I am jazzed. All I know about it: it's a huge (seriously, like 290 pages) collection of Pope work from the past (re: 90s), including some of his wild manga work for Kodansha.

    Ah, yes. The return of the lizard faces. Ya know, on account of him drawing faces like lizards. Was that obvious enough?
    And while I realize this isn't being published by Image, Pope's also got the new Battling Boy coming out this year. Al, did you see the excerpt that was released? Come on!

    Go ahead and gush but the next Anchor Panel will be an all Gambit discussion.
    It truly is a new year if Alex can let me express some heedless enthusiasm.

    Okay, let's close this rigmarole already.
    And on that note, join us next month when we start tackling what to look forward to from Marvel and DC.