Image Comics has always been a firebrand when it comes to pushing the boundaries of graphic storytelling. The publisher takes huge risks when it comes to pushing the envelope and gives their artists and writers free reign to explore complex themes that “mainstream” books rarely have the gumption to tackle. A lot of these themes lead down some dark roads and allow creators to produce some rather disturbing moments in their books. Sometimes these moments have a long-lasting emotion effect on the reader, making them pine for the loss of a beloved hero or a tragic event that scars characters so deeply, we connect to their pain.
Other times these moments are disturbing because of their audacity. They are there just to shock or pull a guttural reaction form the reader. Or, they are just plain gross. Many Image titles have scruples with piling on the gore, especially in some of the longer running books like Spawn, Invincible, and The Walking Dead. But what moments really got to us? What scenes were so disturbing in Image Comics that we just coupled shake the feeling they left us with? Well, here are 15 of them, ranging from bloody disgusting to emotionally damaging.
15. ROBOT REMOVES EVE’S LEG IN INVINCIBLE
Robert Kirkman’s Invincible has a knack for subverting superhero tropes in creative and often bloody ways. One of the more brutal and horrific subversive moments happened in issue 111, which marked a huge turn in the series, one filled with shocking deaths and incomparable destruction. One character, who we assumed was safe from Kirkman’s god-like writer’s wrath, was Mark’s pregnant wife, Atom Eve.
During Rex’s onslaught against heroes in his plan to take over the world (you know, that old chestnut), he tries to threaten Eve in the hope that Mark will side with him. Seeing that Invincible has made his decision, Rex dismembers Eve’s leg as an attack against Mark’s emotional constitution. The whole ordeal is presented in a splash page that is as upsetting as it is jaw-dropping thanks to some stellar artwork by Ryan Ottley.
14. MR. GLUM AND ANGEL DRAGON “GET BUSY” IN SAVAGE DRAGON
Erik Larsen’s iconic, long-running comic Savage Dragon is no stranger to controversy. Whether it’s a scene of the sitting U.S. president getting punched in the face by the titular hero or an overly explicit cover, Larsen isn’t afraid to let this flagship title to go off the rails from time to time. And honestly this is one of the biggest draws to the series. One would think after almost 300 issues, the guy would be running out of steam, but nope. It turns out his charismatic blend of tongue-in-cheek satire and depravity knows no limits.
However, one of the more distributing moments from Larsen comes at the opening of issue 207. Shortly after defeating an alien race in Dimension-X, the villainous Mr. Glum and Angel Dragon are engaging in a — let’s say — intimate activity. Which would be fine and dandy if this activity wasn’t happening atop a pile of corpses.
13. EARL TUBB MEETS HIS MATCH IN SOUTHERN BASTARDS
Jason Aaron and Jason Latour’s Southern Bastards is one of the most consistently engaging comics Image is printing these days. It’s also one of the most gut-wrenching and morally complex books the publisher has to offer. The precedence of how intensely brutal this book is willing to get is set pretty early on, at the end of its first story arch “Here Was a Man.”
This comic starts as a wayward son returning to a place they once called home to set an injustice right. That story is upturned when our hero, Earl Tubb is beaten to death by a man who ostensibly is the villain of the comic at this point. It’s a moment that leaves the reader shaken and wondering “where do we go from here?” It turns out the answer to this ponderous question is even darker than the inciting incident.
12. THE WILL ON SEXTILLION IN SAGA
There are very few comic running right now that have stirred up as much controversy while maintaining such a high caliber of artwork and storytelling as Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ fantastical space-opera, Saga. This book is known for not pulling punches on subject matter that may make some readers uncomfortable. This, of course, is one of the reasons we love Saga. It’s utterly uncompromising, but in its art and from a narrative perspectives.
One moment that did leave use shaken, however, involved space bounty hunter The Will. While on the pleasure planet of Sextillion, an unsavory intergalactic pimp ushers The Will into a room containing a six-year old girl who had been sold into an unsavory trade. As if this wasn’t horrific enough, the scene is punctuated by graphic (albeit, justified) violence as The Will crushes the pimp’s head with his bare hands.
11. AL SIMMONS VS THE KU KLUX KLAN IN SPAWN
Spawn has always been mixed bag. There are some brilliant high-concept ideas floating around in its 200 plus issues, and there are some huge swings and misses. But during the first few years of the series, Todd McFarlane and Company were not afraid to brush up against dark social issues. From domestic abuse to drug addiction, nothing was off the table.
One such topic the series encountered was in issue 30. While a fatigued Al Simmons is hoofing it back to New York on foot, he faces the Ku Klux Klan in a small Southern town. This leads to the explosion of the town’s intrinsic racism and even the lynching of Spawn himself. The entire issue is quite disturbing considering how relevant the racial commentary was in 1995, and how relevant it still is today.
10. A KISS FOR DADDY IN THE WALKING DEAD
Man, Brian “The Governor” Blake is just a gross character. There isn’t much the guy did in his relatively short run in The Walking Dead that wasn’t absolutely despicable. Blake was so vile, he makes Negan look like a teddy bear, despite his own horrible transgressions (more on that later).
But as much brutality inflicted on Rick Grimes and his fellow survivors by The Governor, one of the more disgusting moments exercised by this tyrannical jerk unfolds when he gives his zombified daughter, Penny a big smooch on the lips. That’s right, he kisses an undead child, one he has chained up in his quarters. It’s a scene that really lets you see the internal workings of a deranged man, which has now been seared into our memory whether we want it there or not.
9. EYEBALL MOUTH IN SPREAD
The aesthetic of Justin Jordan and Kyle Strahm’s post-apocalyptic gross-out horror series Spread is designed to make the reader feel queasy. The titular Spread assaults each panel with its unsettling anatomy and disgustingly parasitic modus operandi. Jordan and Strahm introduce the horror early on and in a very unique and utterly disturbing manner.
The taciturn protagonist of the story, a man simply known as “No,” comes face-to-face with The Spread and dispatches with a bunch of infected with extreme prejudice. One of these infected folks reveals his affliction to the reader by growing a razor-fanged maw inside his eyeball. Yes, that’s right: a mouth inside his eyeball. It’s an absolutely horrifying image, one that lays down the creative carnage that will soon become a hallmark of the series.
8. LODO’S BETRAYAL IN THE GODDAMNED
There is nothing quite like The Goddamned, Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera’s brilliant, nihilistic take on The Old Testament. It’s a savagely brutal book from both a narrative standpoint and its ghastly detailed artwork. No one is safe in this world, and the series goes to great lengths to drive this point home.
Any shred of hope that is even remotely suggested within the pages of The Goddamned is almost instantly dashed to bit. A prime example of this is when Lodo, one of Noah’s indentured child servants known as The Bone Boys, is saved by Cain and reunited with his mother. What should have been a touching moment in a sea of bleak events becomes even darker when Lodo slashes her throat for being too weak and declaring himself leader of The Bone Boys, further proving that there is no room for love in The Goddamned.
7. POINTY-FACE LOSES HIS GRONCH IN ORC STAIN
If you haven’t treated yourself to seizure-inducing, hyper-kinetic, punk rock riff on J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythos, Orc Stain by writer and artist James Stokoe (Wonton Soup, Godzilla in Hell), you’re doing yourself a great disservice. This book, while amid an indefinite hiatus, is an absolute blast to read.
But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy read. Some of the subject matter is so bizarre it steps into the realm of being downright unsettling. We would be remised to mention that the currency in Orc Stain is Chits, which is made from the reproductive organ of males Orcs, known as the Gronch, so…yeah. Our hero, One-Eye utilized a magic hammer that can take down mountains with a single blow. During a battle with his former partner, Pointy-Face, One-Eye uses the hammer to remove his Gronch. The scene is played for laughs, but, boy is it upsetting, especially for Pointy-Face.
6. BILLY KINCAID IN SPAWN
Okay, this one isn’t so much a specific moment, but the simple existence of a character in Spawn. Full-time serial killer and part time ice-cream truck driver, Billy Kincaid, is one of the most horrific villains Al Simmons has ever gone up against. Keep in mind that his rogue’s gallery includes literal monsters and demons from Hell, so that’s saying something.
From his first introduction in Spawn #5, Kincaid became one of the most notorious figures in the series, acting as the comic’s cockroach character that just won’t die no matter how many times Spawn cuts his dumb head off. After he’s killed on Earth, and then decapitated in Hell, Kincaid still returns as a poltergeist who possesses people to do his bidding. Kincaid seems to show up ever four or five years in the comic, just to remind everyone that he’s absolutely the worst.
5. FINDING ELIOT CARROLL IN NAILBITER
Nailbiter is a rough book. It’s filled to the gills with serial killers and depraved methods of murder that would make even the most ardent horror fans cringe a little. One of the more sinister fates for the series’ characters belongs to FBI agent Eliot Carroll.
After becoming a bit too obsessed with the Buckaroo Butchers, an unsettling high number of serial killers that all hail from the same small town in rural Oregon, Eliot disappears. He is later found by his friend and colleague, Nicolas Finch and local sheriff Sharon Crane in the basement of the local serial killer graveyard, but poor Eliot is a little worse for the wear having had his arms and legs surgically removed causing him to fall into a coma. So yeah, not good.
4. MICHONNE’S REVENGE IN THE WALKING DEAD
If we even tried to describe the horrific torture inflicted upon The Governor at the hands of everyone’s favorite katana-wielding warrior woman, Michonne in issue 33 of The Walking Dead, you might gag. It is brutal. And while after the torment Michonne suffered at The Governor’s hands earlier, one could easily justify her actions, how things go down are truly sadistic.
The entire ordeal starts out as “oh, yeah, she’s gonna get him,” and as Michonne gets more creative with her pain-inflicting methods, things quickly dive into “please, just kill him, and get it over with” territory. Not much is left to the imagination either thanks to Charlie Adlard’s in-your-face depiction of Michonne’s retribution. If nothing else, this issue may contain one of the most notorious yet somehow most cathartic revenge moments in comic book history.
3. PLEDGED IS PLEDGED IN WYTCHES
Scott Snyder and Jock’s horror (limited?) series, Wytches is a fantastic exercise in communal horror. It does a great job building a captivating mythos and building a sense of dread over the course of six issues. And that mythology and dread lead to a finale that is as chilling as it is oddly logical within the context of the story.
The series focuses on the concept of “pledging” loved ones to the titular Wytches in exchange for some sort of good tiding. When things come to a head in the final two issues, it’s revealed that everyone in town (family included) is somehow not only connected, but actively participating in the sinister bargains proposed by the monsters in the book. It’s a moment that harkens back to classic works like The Wicker Man and it leave the reader absolutely devastated.
2. MARK DEFEATS CONQUEST (THE FIRST TIME) IN INVINCIBLE
One of the most disturbingly graphic moments in Invincible comes at the end of the story arc “The Invincible War,” during which Conquest, a tough-as-nails Viltrumite warrior who was supposed to ensure Mark would take over Earth, gives our hero an ultimatum: complete his task or die.
Mark decided to go with option three and fight Conquest. Their blood-soaked battle further damaged an already ravaged planet and concluded with Mark literally headbutting Conquest to death (but not before Conquest seemingly kills Eve; don’t worry, she’s fine…until she gets her leg removed by Robot later, but you already knew that). The level of violence drawn is far too clinical to be fun and too graphic not to admire in a macabre sort of way. It’s also the moment that really solidifies the levels of brutality Invincible is willing to go.
1. GLENN’S DEATH IN THE WALKING DEAD
The Walking Dead has never been a comic for readers with a weak stomach. The series is known for taking emotional jabs at the reader by killing off beloved characters without an ounce of warning. Writer Robert Kirkman has stated that he often kills characters when he feels the story will benefit from it or it will help drive other characters forward. And while this does feel true (even though maybe he should chill on killing Michonne’s boyfriends all the time), the death of Glenn was almost unforgivable.
From issue two of the series, Glenn acted as the analog for the reader. He was an everyman. A constant source of reliability and hope. He even did the impossible and found love in a world ruled by the dead. Killing Glenn, especially in the horrific manner it happened, felt like betrayal. It’s a comic book death that still rattles us.
Which of these moments scarred you the most? Let us know in the comments!
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