For as long as we’ve looked up, humanity has dreamt of what life might be like among the stars. The grand tradition of space-based stories is alive and well at Image Comics, who have proven themselves to be one of the leading publishers of comic book science fiction in recent years. Whether you want your space exploration to be light-hearted or dead serious, action-packed or contemplative, with a touch of the western genre or to scare your space suit off, Image Comics have you covered.
Image has been pumping out all kinds of comics for nearly 25 years now, so I’ve narrowed their offerings down to 10 of their most intriguing recent cosmic sci-fi series. It includes comics that have completed their runs, series that are still going, and titles that have only recently debuted, so no matter how you read your comics, there’s something on this list that will send you on a new journey into the four-colored final frontier.
Did we space on one of your favorite Image books? Let us know in the comments below.
(Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein. 12 issues, ongoing.)
The creative team behind Viking reunited to bring readers a brutal and introspective tale of a man crash-landed on an unforgiving planet, and the mistakes he makes there. Abram Pollux’s story on the planet Ouro is a search for vengeance and answers that leaves him — and readers — questioning what’s right. Drifter is a gloomy revenge Western set within an expansive and rich sci-fi mythology, and Nic Klein delivers a beautiful blend of both aesthetics. Whether it’s the looming landscapes, ramshackle settlements, or otherworldly creatures, Klein nails them all with a subtle sense of mood and color that breathes eery life into Ouro. Drifter isn’t just one of the most compelling sci-fi books out there, it’s also one of the most beautiful. The next issue will be the out later this month, which will be collected in the third paperback volume in October.
(Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger. 6 issues, ongoing)
Southern Cross is a great science fiction comic, sure, but it’s also a masterful horror tale. Set aboard the massive tanker ship the series gets its name from, Southern Cross tells the story of Alex Braith, a young woman who has joined the voyage — her first off of Earth — to Saturn’s moon Titan to learn the fate of her sister, who disappeared aboard the previous journey. It becomes immediately apparent that nothing is as it seems, as the mystery unfolds in ever more terrifying and inexplicable ways. The tale feels almost Lovecraftian in the way it builds horror through anxiety, and a lot of that is done via the claustrophobic visuals provided by Kill Shakespeare’s Andy Belanger and the unnerving palette of colorist Lee Loughridge. The first volume of the series is available now, collecting all six issues, a great way to catch up before the series returns for Season 2 in September.
(Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen. 13 issues, ongoing)
I know, I just keep going on and on about Descender. But that’s because it’s just too good not to. Jeff Lemire has created a cast of wonderfully complex characters, from the robotic boy Tim-21 who is more important than he knows, to his deceitful creator Dr. Quon, his friend-turned-robot hunter Andy, to the intensely devoted Telsa. This post-robot genocide solar system is a fascinating and well-constructed setting that Lemire and artist Dustin Nguyen keep fleshing out in surprising and creative ways — and in a uniquely beautiful watercolor style — that have me eagerly anticipating every issue’s arrival. The Walking Dead went from a moderately successful indie hit to a comic book juggernaut when the show introduced it to wider audiences, and with a Descender movie coming down the pike, this book is poised to do the same thing. Pick up the first two paperback volumes and jump on the hype train now, you’ll be glad you did.
(Jim McCann and Janet K. Lee. 4 issues, completed 2013)
If you rack up a few too many credits in gambling debts during your galactic travels, odds are you’ll soon find yourself working off your debts aboard the colossal cosmic casino known as the Lost Vegas. That’s what happened to master gambler Roland in this four issue series from the Eisner Award-winning creative team behind The Return of the Dapper Men, and so naturally, after years of fruitless servitude aboard the ship, he’s ready to bust out. Join Roland on his colorful, high-stakes caper as he attempts to escape the inescapable, with some help from a couple of fellow inmates, a Godspark, an alien princess, and a mysterious telepathic black blob named Ink. Lost Vegas is wildly imaginative and a ton of fun, with Janet Lee providing some of the most unique and elegantly beautiful designs for alien creatures you’ll see in a comic book, and Jim McCann delivering a heartfelt, adventurous script full of suspense and surprises.
(Brandon Thomas and Juan Gedeon. 1 issue, ongoing)
Horizon is by far the newest entry on this list, but that doesn’t mean it should be overlooked. Announced at Image Expo back in April, the concept for this book was definitely one of the most intriguing of their slate of announcements. The comic stars an alien warrior named Zhia Malen coming to Earth to join up with a strikeforce from her home planet Valius who have been sent to retaliate for humans invading and occupying their home. In his letter at the end of the first issue, writer Brandon Thomas describes Horizon as being born out of “that constant hum of disappointment, frustration, and anxiety” over humanity “not getting the job done” and I can’t wait to see that subversive angle play out in coming issues. The first issue is out now from Robert Kirkman’s Skybound imprint, with the second issue arriving in stores this Wednesday, so if you’re looking for a new sci-fi series to jump on board with, Horizon has got you covered.
(Michael Moreci, Vic Malhotra and Kyle Charles. 14 issues, completed 2016)
Roche Limit just wrapped up its run last month (the final paperback volume will arrive in September), completing the expansive and ambitious sci-fi trilogy that included Roche Limit and its subsequent volumes, Clandestiny and Monadic. Much like the mysterious cosmic anomaly that the titular colony orbits, it’s hard to pin down what exactly Roche Limit is. The first book is drenched in noir and existential horror, the second an action-survival tale, and the third is something else entirely, but they’re all held together by the shared setting, a space colony overrun by crime and corruption, and the shared philosophical underpinnings that will have readers recalling 2001: A Space Odyssey. Weird, wonderful, and unquantifiable, Roche Limit has something for you, regardless of what you look for in your science fiction.
(Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro. 8 issues, ongoing)
Don’t take my word for it that you should be reading Bitch Planet. Go to any comic convention and it won’t be long before you see someone sporting a “Non-Compliant” tattoo, the mark that inmates of the titular all-female prison planet are branded with. Kelly Sue DeConninck and Valentine De Landro’s sci-fi feminist anthem has already inspired a legion of fans during its relatively short run, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s intense, gleefully rebellious, and viciously satirical towards the real-world patriarchy, like Orange is the New Black with the mean streak of The Handmaid’s Tale. The second volume is planned for a November release, so now is a perfect time to catch up with Bitch Planet and see how non-compliant it can inspire you to be.
(Chip Zdarsky and Kagan McLeod. 5 issues, ongoing)
Kaptara might be the weirdest comic on this list. But that’s hardly surprising considering this bizarre blend of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was birthed from the twisted Canadian minds of Sex Criminals artist and Howard the Duck writer Chip Zdarsky and Infinite Kung Fu illustrator Kagan McLeod. When sexually-frustrated slacker astronaut Keith Kanga crashes down on the planet Kaptara, he finds a world filled with killer creatures, bare-chested barbarian heroes, garbage trolls and exhibitionist wizards, and he’s not sure he ever wants to go back home, and you won’t want to leave either. Hilarious, manic, and wildly imaginative, Kaptara’s first paperback volume will have you joining me in begging for this series to return.
(Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. 36 issues, ongoing)
Now the recipient of even more Eisner Awards, Saga hardly needs my help getting you to read it. Chances are if you’re any kind of regular reader of comics, you either already do — it’s second only to The Walking Dead as far as Image sales go — or you have had someone yell at you for missing out. Saga is a sprawling epic about a galaxy embroiled in an endless war, but it’s also about love, family, and the things the people caught in the middle of those conflicts will do to protect those closest to them. If you haven’t yet explored the dreamlike universe of Saga with Hazel and her parents, then you’re quite simply missing out on one of the best comic books ever published. There are six paperback volumes currently available for you to binge on, just in time to jump on board when the series returns with issue #37 later this month.
(Ken Garing. 5 issues, comipleted 2013)
Both written and drawn by Ken Garing, Planetoid is one of Image’s most underrated science fiction gems. The series stars Silas, a former soldier who finds himself flying too close to a small planet with a abnormally powerful magnetic field, which brings his ship crashing to the planet’s metal-covered surface. There he embarks on a harsh journey of survival and discovery that will require him to battle the planet’s massive mechanical monsters as well as earn the trust of the people that have been stranded there already. Planetoid is a gritty, action packed adventure packed with beautifully sketchy artwork that renders the scrap-metal mountains and giant robot creatures in surreal detail. A quick, satisfying gut-punch of a read, all five issues of Planetoid are collected in a single paperback volume, available now.