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The 5 Image Comics You Need to Buy on the iPad (And the 4 They Need To Offer)

Today, Image Comics became the latest publisher to launch their own branded iPad app, which, much like the Marvel, DC, Boom! Studios and Scott Pilgrim apps, is powered by comiXology. There have been Image books available through comiXology before, including must-have titles like “Chew” and huge runs of both “Invincible” and “Walking Dead,” but the release of the app has come with a massive expansion of their digital presence with a whole new slew of titles, and that’s good news for everybody.

The only problem with having so many titles suddenly available to read is that you’re spoiled for choice. So if you want to spend your hard-earned cash on digital copies of creator-owned comics, I’ve picked out the best ones to jump on — and a few that need to be on there immediately.1. Jack Staff: I’ve talked about my pure and undying love for Paul Grist’s “Jack Staff” before, but if you missed it then, here’s the short version: “Jack Staff” is my favorite comic book. The hook is that, the title character used Britain’s Greatest Hero, but then he stopped and everyone pretty much forgot about him. Now, twenty years later, strange things are kicking back up, not the least of which being his return to action, looking not a day older than when he left.

More than that, though, “Jack Staff” is about Paul Grist building an entire world for his characters influenced by the comics he read growing up — the latest iteration of the series is even titled “The Weird World of Jack Staff” — with the end result being a book that not only features Grist’s amazing, innovative storytelling, but is also jam-packed with multiple interweaving storylines. Pick up an issue and you don’t just get Jack, you also get Tom Tom the Robot Man, the Agents of Q, Detective Inspector Maveryk (and Detective Sgt. “Zipper” Nolan!), and my personal favorite, Becky Burdock: Vampire Reporter.

It’s great stuff, and while the original twelve-issue series hasn’t been released digitally yet (Image released it as a trade paperback called “Everything Used To Be Black & White” as a joke about the series going full color), the first two issues of the Image run are up now and, as they explain just what happened 20 years ago, they make a great jumping-on point for new readers.

2. Hector Plasm: If you’re not familiar with Benito Cereno and Nate Bellegarde’s “Hector Plasm,” the often tragic yet hilarious series of short stories about a profoundly unlucky ghost hunter, then you should probably know that this is the comic that led “I, Zombie” writer Chris Roberson to call Cereno “the single greatest writer working in comics today.”

Readers may be more familiar with Cereno and Bellegarde from their work on the “Invincible Presents” books (and Cereno’s currently writing “The Tick” and co-writing “Guarding the Globe” with Robert Kirkman), but Hector is their masterpiece. There are only two issues, but they’re oversized — “De Mortuis” is 48 pages, “Totentanz” is 38 — and each one contains stories that are a master class on both art and economy of storytelling. Art-wise, it’s worth the $2 an issue just to see Bellegarde’s beautiful riff on Edward Gorey.

In short, while I’m sure Benito and Nate are gritting their teeth at the comparison as much as Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener do when it comes up in discussions of “Atomic Robo,” if you like “Hellboy,” you’ll like “Hector Plasm.”

3. The Amazing Joy Buzzards: You know how Josie and the Pussycats used to travel around the world, getting into hijinx and solving mysteries? Mark Smith and Dan Hipp’s “Amazing Joy Buzzards” is like that, except that the band can also summon a mystical, unstoppable luchador to fight their battles by shouting “Go Go El Campeon Go!

Pretty sure nothing else needs to be said about this one. The first two issues are up now, and they’re awesome

4. G-Man: Cape Crisis: If you’re familiar with the work Chris Giarrusso did at Marvel with his “Bullpen Bits” and “Mini-Marvels” strips, then you’re probably already aware that he does some of the sharpest, funniest all-ages super-hero strips ever printed. And as good as those are, his “G-Man” stuff is even better.

“Cape Crisis” was the first full-length G-Man mini-series (following up on the short stories that ran as backups in “Savage Dragon,” as well as other places, all of which is collected in the “Learning to Fly” trade), and it’s fantastic. It’s got all the charm you’d expect from Giarrusso’s work, but it also manages to pull off being a sweeping (and appropriately silly) super-hero story at the same time that makes it one of the titles that’s truly good for all ages.

And finally…

5. Jersey Gods: I’m a huge enough fan of Glen Brunswick and Dan McDaid’s “Jersey Gods” that they quoted my gushing praise on a few of their back covers, but I meant every word. For me, the initial appeal of the book was purely high concept: What if Jack Kirby and Nora Ephron collaborated on a story where a cute, sassy, career oriented young lady started dating an all-powerful extradimensional New God who had come to Earth in order to wage the latest battle in his eternal struggle against the forces of evil? You’d get the world’s first cosmic romantic comedy, that’s what.

That’s right, folks: It’s a CosRomCom.

What kept me around, though, was the fact that Brunswick did a phenomenal job with the character work, building likable, relatable characters without ever losing the sense of grand cosmic thunder, helped in no small part by the fact that Dan McDaid is one of the few artists who can outshine a Mike Allred cover. It’s great stuff.

That’s five awesome titles that are ready to download right now, but it’s certainly not all there is to the Image catalog, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they add in the coming weeks. As to the things I’d like to see show up, well…

Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Phonogram springs immediately to mind as one that’s conspicuous by its absence. It is, after all, one of Image’s more recent critical triumphs as well as a book that propelled its creators into the spotlight as two of the best guys working in comics today. I have to imagine that it’s on its way — you can’t put everything out on Day One, after all.

Joe Casey and Chris Burnham’s “Nixon’s Pals is another great choice, the awesomely over-the-top story of a guy who works as a parole officer for super-villains. It’s amazingly fun and deserved way more attention than it got, and the same goes for Casey and Burnham’s even more over-the-top, ultra-violent follow-up, Officer Downe.”

My final choice, and one that I’d most love to see: Alan Moore’s run on “Supreme.” I’ve mentioned how great this book is before — it is, quite simply, Alan Moore doing Silver Age Superman by another name — but it seems like might be a little more difficult to wrangle. It started out as an Image title, then moved to Rob Liefeld’s own Awesome Comics, then later got reprints from Checker Books. Even so, The Rob is back at Image with “Youngblood” (another creator-owned series that took the same path, and that Moore also worked on for an all-too-short two issues), and since that made it to the iPad, I can’t see why “Supreme” wouldn’t.

Especially since the only trades are pretty lousy in the reprint quality. Nice crisp digital versions would make Rick Veitch’s art look even better than it already does, and that’s saying something.

So get on it, everybody! There’s great comics out there just waiting to be read.

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