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The Image Comics Holiday Gift Guide 2016!

by Sam Stone, from the pages of Image+ magazine

Deluxe edition hardcovers are a highlight of anyone's comics library. These books go the extra mile by presenting the stories in a gorgeous oversized format loaded with special features that looks great on a bookshelf or coffee table. They make great gifts for anyone interested in or curious about comics, especially with the holidays right around the corner. These hardcover collections span a wide variety of genres and styles, and there's certainly something for everyone in the line.

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With a hit television adaptation on Cinemax, now would be the perfect time to jump on the horror comic OUTCAST BY KIRKMAN & AZACETA. There is something insidious about possession. The idea that some malevolent force can occupy an individual and corrupt them against those that care for them is chilling. From The Exorcist to Sinister, the idea of demonic possession has been a strong genre within American horror fiction, and Robert Kirkman & Paul Azaceta deliver on and exceed those expectations. The series follows Kyle Barnes, a man whose family and friends seem to have been plagued by demonic possession since he was a child. As such, Barnes has isolated himself, but eventually begins to investigate the evils that always seem to be never too far away with the help of a local priest. There is a deep sense of dread that permeates the series, even apart from Kyle Barnes. None of the story's cast are safe from the sinister, supernatural threats that lurk inside the most familiar faces. The first two story arcs are collected in a deluxe edition hardcover out in November. It includes a sketchbook of the unsettling horror series, making it the perfect stocking stuffer.

RAT QUEENS is a classic fantasy with a modern sense of humor, thanks in no small part to the writing of series co-creator Kurtis Wiebe. The book follows a team of four women of different fantasy archetypes (the warrior, the mage, the healer, the thief) who stand as roughest, toughest mercenaries in the realm. While the Game of Thrones-level fantasy action is beautifully written and rendered by Wiebe and co-creator Roc Upchurch, what really makes RAT QUEENS rise above the rest of the medieval pack is its modern sensibility and robust comedic elements. Sure, all those familiar swords-and-sorcery tropes are certainly present, but these characters aren't speaking in Old English; watching the titular Rat Queens have fun both on the battlefield and off is the real highlight, because we're having fun right there with them. RAT QUEENS is swashbuckling, rowdy fun with an epic scope and fully developed characters that are the ultimate in fantasy crowdpleasing, a series that Wiebe once described as "Lord of the Rings meets Bridesmaids." The series has featured a couple regular artists in addition to Upchurch, and the deluxe hardcover collection of the series' first two story arcs includes art from both Stjepan Sejic and Tess Fowler. On top of the first 10 issues of the series, the deluxe hardcover includes the smash-hit Braga one-shot special, all in a silver-foil stamped oversized edition. 

Technology has offered us more ways to connect and communicate with each other than ever before, but the distance and comfort in long-range connection has also served to isolate us from each other as well. And, with artificial intelligence becoming more and more of a reality, there are questions of just how sentient robotic life will be and how it will interact with humanity. Both of these concepts serve as the basis for Jonathan Luna & Sarah Vaughn's series ALEX + ADA. A spiritual companion piece to Spike Jonze's film Her, of sorts, with more scope and social commentary, ALEX + ADA is a look at relationships and isolation in face of technology ostensibly bringing us closer together. The story follows a lonely young working professional in the near-future where artificial intelligence has been greatly restricted after a violent incident involving sentient androids. Despite these restrictions, personal robot companions are available, and 20-something Alex has been gifted a beautiful one named Ada to help break him from a post-breakup funk. The problem is, the relatively sensitive Alex isn't entirely sure he needs a companion, much less an artificial one, and is even more uncomfortable with the idea of having a companion that completely lacks free will. At once a meditation on loneliness and relationships, ALEX + ADA is more than just a love story. It's a reminder that we were never supposed to go through life alone. The entire 15-issue series gets collected in an omnibus this November. 

Punk rock is more than just a style of music. It's a full-on state of mind, and Rick Remender & Wes Craig's DEADLY CLASS oozes with sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll like only they can craft. Set in the Bay Area during the '80s, DEADLY CLASS follows Marcus Lopez, a disaffected teen, as he tries to make it through all the stupid decisions and heartbreak of high school...only his high school is a private training ground for international assassins who are all just as damaged as he is. With romantic jealousy, murderously ambitious classmates, and more than one kid with a literal axe to grind, Marcus has to learn the hard way that getting through high school is about more than just acceptance. It's about survival. Where DEADLY CLASS really excels is in the genuine emotion that the creators instill in the story despite its outlandishly lethal setting. Everybody made mistakes in high school, some of them with truly disastrous consequences. With that in mind, throw in an (un)healthy amount of drugs and sex and load the cast with trained killers, and you've got the brutal cocktail that is Remender and Craig's deliriously great DEADLY CLASS. The first three story arcs of DEADLY CLASS are collected in all their bloody glory in a day-glo pink oversized deluxe edition.

Remender is also the co-creator of BLACK SCIENCE with Matteo Scalera, a comic series where an accidental family business trip through alternate dimensions goes horribly, horribly wrong. Leading the sci-fi action series is scientist/inventor Grant McKay, who leads his team and family on a maiden voyage through the multiverse only to find themselves lost among the reality-bending dangers of infinite possibility. At once a pulp adventure in the style of Buck Rogers and science fiction high adventure, where BLACK SCIENCE really knocks it out of the park is in the family drama. Grant's failings as a husband and father loom large on his conscience while trying to keep his family and friends safe from the extra-dimensional perils that seem to cascade one after the other. Come for the escapist science fiction action as outlandish and imaginative as Remender and Scalera can dream up, and stay for the real-world emotions and examination of familial responsibility. Just like DEADLY CLASS, the first three story arcs of BLACK SCIENCE are collected in this deluxe oversized hardcover.

 

 

With the idea of sharing personal information in the digital cloud and concerns about privacy becoming more and more prevalent, Brian K. Vaughan & Marcos Martin examine these elements with their story THE PRIVATE EYE. Originally a self-published web comic before being collected in its entirety in a deluxe hardcover by Image Comics, THE PRIVATE EYE takes place in a world where everyone's personal secrets have been compromised and leaked publicly, leading to the dissolution of the internet and people assuming masked personas in public in a widespread effort to conceal true identities. With a title like THE PRIVATE EYE, it's hard not to make the connection to the hardboiled detective yarns of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Vaughan presents the classic hardboiled dialogue and tropes without sounding stale, and Martin's artwork here has a timeless feel without feeling dated; a particularly impressive feat in a society where everyone is masked in public. This, of course, establishes the central dilemma of the story: How does one function as a private detective in a world where everyone, criminals and victims alike, is constantly shrouded in secrecy? One man is about to find out as he finds himself drawn into a bloody murder case in this mask-ridden version of Los Angeles.

Of course, it's hard to mention Brian K. Vaughan without bringing up SAGA, the series he co-created with Fiona Staples. One of the bestselling and most critically acclaimed title in Image's catalog, SAGA is something between Star Wars and Romeo & Juliet, as two soldiers from opposing sides of an interplanetary war fall in love and have a child. Fearing the potential public relations nightmare that their relationship poses, both sides of the war hunt the young family across the galaxy. Vaughan and Staples have crafted a whole universe that literally spans the stars and filled it with a whole host of imaginative and colorful characters, but they never lose sight of the fact that SAGA is a love story at its core, whether that love is romantic or familial. That, combined with a healthy sense of humor, has endeared SAGA to readers all over the world. The oversized hardcover includes character sketches and a roundtable discussion with the creators about the series over the course of its 500 pages!

The deluxe hardcovers from Image Comics really do go above and beyond regular collected editions. Preserved in a high-quality and oversized format, and loaded down with extras, they are perfect for serious comic book collectors and serve as a great entry point into the medium for newcomers. Be sure to keep an eye out for more to come!

Permalink: https://imagecomics.com/features/the-image-comics-holiday-gift-guide-2016

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