THE STORY: "Concrete" by Paul Chadwick (W/A) - Dark Horse Comics
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: "Concrete" is a high-concept alien abduction story that leaves its hero, Ronald Lithgow, stranded on Earth after aliens transplant his brain into a hulking new body. Incapable of normal human interaction and unable to seek revenge against the aliens who kidnapped and brutalized him, he takes on the name Concrete and becomes a celebrity adventurer under the cover story that he is a cyborg government experiment.
One of the best lasting indie comics series to come out of the '80s, it takes the heart of Ben Grimm's Thing situation in "The Fantastic Four" and isolates Concrete in a role that forces him to find meaning and pleasure in life without ever being able to be accepted as human by those around him.
THE STORY: "Rapture" by Michael Avon Oeming & Taki Soma — Dark Horse Comics
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A full year has passed since Earth's superheroes fled the planet in one fell swoop, leaving the world in utter disarray. Buildings are collapsing, starvation is mounting and deadly cannibals lurk around every corner. In Portland, Oregon, Evelyn Town hopes for a reunion with her long-lost boyfriend Gil Borden. But the opportunity to reconnect comes at a steep price when a mysterious entity known as The Word bestows Evelyn with a powerful spear and the title of Champion, leaving her to exact vengeance upon the evildoers of the world.
With her new powers, Evelyn might finally find Gil — but when she does, will Gil be able to see past the blood on Evelyn's hands?
THE STORY: "Strikeforce: Morituri" by Peter B. Gillis (W) and Brent Anderson (A) — Marvel Comics
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A savage alien race has invaded Earth, and the planet stands on the brink of being conquered. Desperate to save humanity, Earth's scientists create a process for granting superhuman powers to test subjects — but the abilities come with a hefty sacrifice. Anyone who receives the "Morituri Process" (from the Latin phrase "Morituri te salutamus," meaning "We who are about to die salute you!") dies within a year's time.
Heroes are born and die in a matter of moments as humanity sacrifices its best and brightest to stop the aliens' invasion.
THE STORY: "Chew: " by John Layman (W) and Rob Guillory (A) – Image Comics
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: If there's one cop who understands the adage "You are what you eat," it's Tony Chu.
As a Cibopath, Chu sees the secret history of everything he eats. Eating an apple, for example, gives him a psychic impression of its life from orchard to shopping cart, meaning he'll know everything from how ripe it was when it was picked to what kind of fertilizer was in the soil it grew from. His gift is his curse, however, as he's often forced to nibble corpses and other taboo ingestibles in order to take a bite out of crime.
It's not long before his ability gets him noticed by the government's top brass who may or may not have his — or anyone else's — best interests at heart. Read More...
THE STORY: "Hard Time" by Steve Gerber (W) & Brian Hurtt (A)
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: No one was supposed to get hurt when Ethan Harrow and his friend Brandon held their local high school hostage with masks on and guns at the ready—they just wanted to teach the school bullies a lesson. But Brandon's quick trigger finger prompts an otherworldly response from Ethan, killing the former and leaving the latter as the only blameworthy culprit left alive.
Ethan is subsequently tried as an adult and handed a prison sentence of 50 years to life. The outside world moves on as Ethan's mother and his lawyer continue to fight for the troubled boy's freedom, but inside the prison walls—indeed, deep within Ethan himself—lurks a super-powered creature that could give Ethan another shot at life. Read More...
THE STORY: "Air" by G. Willow Wilson (W) and M. K. Perker (A) - DC/Vertigo
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: An acrophobic (afraid of heights) flight attendant gets mixed up with a mysterious terrorist group after an encounter with a globe-trotting stranger.
Airplane hijackings, kidnappings, trips to mythical cities and reality-bending adventures ensue as she struggles to make some sense of her new relationship and the trouble she's welcomed into her life.
THE STORY: "Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer" by Van Jensen (W) and Dustin Higgins (A) – SLG Publishing
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: After vampires claim the life of his father Geppetto, Pinocchio takes up arms (and wooden stakes replenished every time he tells a lie) against the undead in his kooky little corner of Tuscany and beyond.
WHY IT WORKS: Van Jensen's Pinocchio is a brooding man-child forced to confront the darkness that lurks in the corners of his fairytale-like existence. Tragedy pushes him to come to terms with the bizarre Carlo Collodian world he inhabits, meaning his former selfish mischief—and current personal quest for revenge—must take a backseat to mowing down monsters and fighting for those closest to him. Read More...
THE STORY: "FreakAngels" by Warren Ellis (W) and Paul Duffield (A) - Avatar Press
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A group of super-powered misfits carve out their way in a flooded post-apocalyptic London that they helped destroy.
Personal issues and histories gradually complicate their situation as the story zooms out to show who and what lies beyond their urban fortress community of Whitechapel.
THE STORY: "Nathan the Caveman" by Ben Bishop (W/A) - self-published
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: The remains of a caveman are discovered in a remote location and brought back to the United States for a museum exhibit. Meanwhile, aspiring artist Nathan Burling finds himself falling in love with Adrianna, a 24-year-old employee of the same museum that's about to host the caveman exhibit—but a previous heartbreak in his enigmatic past prevents him from fully accepting a good thing when he sees it.
The story of Nathan and Adrianna's developing romance unfolds concurrently with a look back upon the caveman's life and the similar events that led to his death. Read More...
THE STORY: "Pax Romana" by Jonathan Hickman (W/A) - Image Comics
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A warehouse full of modern weaponry and genetically-enhanced soldiers is sent back in time to Ancient Rome by the Vatican in order to change the course of history and ensure a future in which the church reigns supreme. The plan changes dramatically, however, when the time-traveling army abandons their religious directives and decides to create a new, better history using the knowledge and technology they brought with them.
A veteran general and his team have the power to shape the future, but now they must decide what sort of future they should create. Read More...