Image United #1, written by Robert Kirkman and illustrated by Image Comics founding partners Erik Larsen, Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, Whilce Portacio, Marc Silvestri and Jim Valentino is a crossover event meant as a celebration of the publishers seventeen year history. The simple logistics of having each contributing founder draw their own unique characters – on every page and in every panel – truly boggles the mind, so lets’ at least applaud the massive undertaking that eventually brought this book into comics shops.
"Chapter One" introduces Fortress, a hero with whom I am not familiar, who foresees catastrophic events unfolding that involve Savage Dragon, Youngblood, Spawn, Cyberforce, Witchblade and Shadowhawk. Notably absent are Jim Lee’s W.I.L.D.Cats characters, although Lee does provide an alternate cover for this issue. Image has been rightly taken to task for certain elements of creative hubris that have manifested themselves over the course of the company’s existence, and sadly for such a marquee project, some dumb mistakes do make their presence known within this mini-series inaugural issue.
Between pages 6 & 7, the villain Overt-Kill launches an assortment of rockets towards Team Youngblood’s incoming airship (barely glimpsed in a single panel) and in the very next panel, the featured members are shown leaping to safety, backed by an explosion that is not particularly highlighted as the destruction of their vehicle. I had to go back and view this sequence again to see if I had missed this. That kind of careless oversight takes a reader completely out of a story, and one must assume that this was not Kirkman’s intention. It is just sloppy writing, which an effective editor should have caught before going to press. This happens again several pages later, when Youngblood team member Badrock alludes to Vogue being badly injured while in battle against Overt-Kill; and we did not even see this occur. I also have to take a break here to mention that after dramatically jumping away from their destroyed ship and into battle against Overt-Kill, and before actually coming to blows with the attacking villain, Shaft and company take an expository moment to chat with Officer Dragon, who had witnessed their arrival, before the entire group then jointly leaps into combat almost as an afterthought. That is the typically weird type of stuff that always dogged Image during their earliest days, so apparently some things have not changed at all!
After a sequence showing Cyberforce taking part in a related battle elsewhere, the action returns to the Youngblood/Dragon/Overt-Kill fight, where it’s revealed that Vogue was critically injured, after the fact, of course.
Current Image publisher, Eric Stephenson, has a text piece inside this book detailing the makings of Image United. Since I've never thought that he was a decent editor in the first place and since no "actual" editor is listed among the credits for this issue, I would have to say that the neat promotional gimmick of having all of the company founders cooperate on this project is the only redeeming reason to even give it a look. Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead, Invincible) is a much better writer than this issues story would indicate, but for Pete's sake, why Image would open itself up to unnecessary criticism on a major event-oriented series that potentially could have put that kind of thing to rest, is beyond me. In fact, it is simply ridiculous to be this cavalier on a book that was so intensely hyped.
I have met most of these people in person, and while they are all talented artists with long successful careers under their belts; this type of storytelling indifference, conceit, and egotism is a part of Images publishing history too.