This year marks the 20th anniversary of Image Studios, the comic publisher launched by creators, for creators. Boasting star-making titles like Walking Dead, Phonogram, Casanova and Morning Glories amongst their incredibly impressive list of successes, Image have spent the past two decades publishing creator-owned titles free from the red tape of Marvel or DC. Everybody’s written for Image: Kurt Busiek, Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker, Brian K. Vaughan…

So, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the company, we’ve decided to pick up as many of Image’s new titles as possible, to have a look at how the company are still trying to push new voices and art. Let’s begin with Alpha Girl #1, a new comic about a cosmetic apocalypse written by Jeff Roenning, who co-created the story with Jean-Paul Bonjour. Art is provided by Robert Love.

Alpha Girl herself doesn’t have much to do in issue #1. Instead, writer Roenning seems more interested in establishing his world and style. That’s all very well, but we really don’t get any idea of what the main character will be like in the rest of the series, and the world-building is strangely paced. After getting a quick rundown of Alpha Girl’s childhood, we then jump to the incident which caused half the world’s population to turn into zombies. Basically, it turns out that wearing perfume is the cause. But despite this being a fairly obvious turn of events, Roenning spends a lot of time detailing the exact story behind this killer perfume virus. It seems that the idea is to throw in some satire about the oblivious mercenary nature of big business, but sadly, many of the jokes fall flat.

Love’s art is a strange choice for a comic like this, which features some graphic scenes of violence, and drug use. Cartoonish and childlike, the best sequences are the fight scenes, because Love is able to move the characters towards the background of the page and give us a clearer look at what’s going on. The conversations are less successful, with the large heads of the characters getting in the way and distracting readers from the tone of the story. It’s also rather difficult to work out how old Alpha Girl is meant to be – she could be in her twenties, her teens, or younger.

More than anything else, Alpha Girl feels like a strained version of Chew, also published by Image. Where Chew hits character beats and follows through with the jokes, Alpha Girl ignores character and instead goes for obvious gags which don’t have much real impact. Sadly, the comic as a whole feels like an exercise in shock-humour and exaggeration than a fully-formed, individual and offbeat satire. We wouldn’t recommend it.

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