Last Week in Comics: Digital Edition

The fantastic cover to one of my new favorite digital titles.

Lately, there’s been something of a digital explosion in the comics community.  While they fought against digitizing for so, so long, now everyone is rushing to find new ways to make it work for them.

It’s about damn time.

So, I thought I’d check in with a few recent releases in the digital comics world and give you guys some ideas for what’s worth checking out and what you can safely avoid.  This probably won’t be a weekly feature, but I’ll try and check in with the world of digital comics as often as I can.

Aesop’s Ark #1

There are definitely some small issues with Aesop’s Ark #1, but I’ll say this: Jennifer L. Meyer’s art is not among them.  Relaxed, inviting, and easy to sink into, Aesop’s Ark may be at times overly familiar or simple to some readers, but that’s all part of the book’s charmed atmosphere.  J. Torres and Jennifer Meyer have created a loving, relaxed title for younger readers.  (A-. Monkeybrain Comics, $0.99)*

Amelia Cole and the Unknown World #1

Amelia Cole and the Unknown World has, I think, the best chance of all the new Monkeybrain titles at breaking out as a somewhat mainstream success.  A fantasy story featuring a young woman (Amelia Cole) with magic powers and a mysterious past, lost in a world she’s never known, trying to get home?  Yeah, that has some potential.  That said, I think creators Knave, Kirkbride and Brokenshire may have a little too much on their plates for even this extra-large issue, which leads to them cramming as much information into every panel and every page as possible.  If they slow down and relax the pacing a bit, they could have a really engaging book here. (B. Monkeybrain Comics, $1.99)*

Bandette #1

After the first two or three pages of Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover’s Bandette, I was set to dislike it.  The self-consciously twee attitude, the simplistic storytelling, the ridiculous running monologue all grated.  But I found myself getting more and more into the swing of things, and by the time we got to rounding out the book’s supporting cast and introducing a few running plots, I was well and thoroughly charmed.  It helps that Coover’s art is absolutely lovely, and gives the book the feel of a sophisticated-but-entertaining Saturday morning cartoon or a good Tintin comic. I’m very excited to see more. (B+. Monkeybrain Comics, $0.99)*

Double Barrel #2

A two-story anthology (and just general all-around circus), Double Barrel is basically about Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon having a blast.  Of the two stories running through the book, “Heck” and “Crater XV”, neither stands out as a clear superior – “Crater XV” is a parody of action films like those of Steven Segal, as former Navy bad-ass Army Shanks is pulled out of retirement to investigate a ship in international waters, while “Heck” keeps the fast-paced, jokey tone but drops the parody – but both are fun, quirky short stories, though I’d advise jumping back and picking up the first issue before diving in here.  The Cannons throw in some extra short comics, including a strip about SDCC that’s actually pretty funny, as well as some advice for hand-lettering comics.  All-in-all, the book has around a hundred pages of fun, weird, unpredictable comics for less than two bucks.  Why on Earth wouldn’t you give it a shot? (B. Top Shelf Comics, $1.99)*

Edison Rex #1

What If Lex Luthor finally won?  Is the concept familiar?  Sure.  But that doesn’t make the opening issue of Edison Rex any less enjoyable.  Edison Rex and Valiant have been clashing for years, but Rex has finally won… and in the most relaxed, astonishing way you can imagine.  But my favorite thing about Roberson’s take on this sort of story is Rex’s motivation, both for destroying Valiant and for taking up his mantle as hero.  A promising start to what could grow into a very enjoyable sci-fi/superhero story. (B. Monkeybrain Comics, $0.99)*

Insufferable #10

Mark Waid and Peter Krause have been killing it over at Thrillbent with Insufferable, a title that takes the Batman and Robin dynamic and twists it to tragedy, pathos and dark comedy.  Nocturne and his son/former sidekick Galahad have been reunited after years of pain and separation, and their new partnership is not really working out.  Waid is doing an excellent job of making each installment, quick, readable, memorable and fun, and the plot twist at the end of this issue will leave readers clamoring for more. (A. Thrillbent, Free)

Justice League Beyond #9

No, the book doesn’t have the big spectacle of Johns’ current Justice League title… but what it does have is some crazy fun world-building.  Set in the same future of Batman Beyond, this title looks at the future of the DCAU and finds some fun stories to tell.  Currently, in Justice League Beyond, the League finds itself visiting Apokalips… but Darkseid reigns no longer.  Humbled somewhat (supposedly) by his glimpse beyond the Source Wall, Darkseid has made his son Orion the new leader of his hellish planet, and the League needs to work with Orion, Darkseid, the Female Furies and more to fight a planet-destroying threat that has already demolished New Genesis.  It’s a pleasantly epic story, telling larger than life stories with their larger than life characters and building a dark future for our heroes to inherit. (B+. DC Comics, $0.99)

Lookouts #1

I wasn’t terribly enamored of Lookouts way back when it was created during the Penny Arcade contest, but I have to admit after reading the first full issue: this book has a distinctive, memorable, and enjoyable look.  The plotting isn’t all there yet – though I Holkins and Krahulik’s core idea, of the fantasy-world equivalent of the Boy Scouts in a deadly forest with classic monsters, is set up quite well here – but artist Robb Mommaerts does a great job emulating the Penny Arcade style and keeping the book lively.  If writer Ben McCool can pull together a really compelling second issue, I think this book could be something special.  (B+. Cryptozoic Entertainment, $0.99)*

October Girl #1

This, I think, is the title I’m most excited to check out on a longterm basis from Monkeybrain’s launch line-up, though it doesn’t have the most easy-to-sell introductory issue.  Autumn is a disillusioned teenage girl living with her mom.  Besides school, she works at a soul-sucking job as a barista… but all that changes when the wonder from her imaginary friend from her childhood returns, aged and gravely wounded and living in the trash behind her dumpster at work.  It’s a predictable hook, but Matthew Dow Smith’s art is absolutely gorgeous, and Autumn has a lot of potential as a lead character. (B.Monkeybrain Comics, $0.99)*

*purchased and read on the Comixology app on a first-gen iPad.

- Cal C

read/RANT

8 Responses to Last Week in Comics: Digital Edition

  1. wwayne says:

    I don’t like the concept of digital comic or book. When I turn the page, I want to do it touching the paper with my fingers, and not just pushing a button or moving the mouse. Also, when I want to read a comic, I want to check for it looking at my shelves, and not just typing its title. Each time I talked about it with other readers, they always told me that only in Europe people are so nostalgic and conservative: in America, where people are much more open to new things, e-book is already replacing the classic paper book. I heard this statement from people who don’t even know each other, so probably there’s something true.

    • xxadverbxx says:

      Maybe I’m nostalgic or old school with you. Its a pain when moving and a pain when my bookshelves run out of space until I get a new one (which I need to do), but I enjoy physical versions of books and comics too. I’ve tried downloaded comics and while you still get the story, I just don’t find it as easy to read as a physical copy, or as enjoyable.

      Few years ago my parents even asked if I wanted a Kindle or similar e-book device. I told them no, just for I’d rather have that physical copy.

      • wwayne says:

        Great answer! I’m also glad to see that Europeans are not the only old school ones, when it’s about how to read a book.

    • Cal C. says:

      True, but they ARE necessary to getting new readers. Mainstream comics are a) rarely young-reader friendly, b) extraordinarily difficult to find unless you live in a pretty big city, and c) expensive as hell. Digital comics by their very nature get rid of two of those three complaints – they can be cheap, as they don’t require printing and distribution costs, and they can be found by anyone with an internet connection. And, just by chance, (a) happened to come along for the ride too – these are all great books for younger readers.

      I’m a HUGE believer in physical media – as I mention in my Amazing Spider-Man review, my next apartment will probably require an entire second bedroom just to store all the DVDs, blu-rays, comics, graphic novels, novels, etc… that I physically own, and 99 times out of a hundred, I’ll go for the physical copy over the digital one.

      But these are all books that are digital exclusives. Low cost, shorter than the average comic, and meant to reach a wide variety of readers, these aren’t meant to be an either-or thing, but an opportunity for companies to test the waters (and small start-ups like Monkeybrain to get their product out there without costing themselves an arm and a leg). What’s more, INSUFFERABLE, at least, would be a much different (worse) reading experience in physical form – Waid is purposely writing to digital and Krause is modifying his layouts similarly, which creates a new, pretty neat reading style.

      • wwayne says:

        I agree that digital copies offer a lot of advantages both to publishers and readers, and you explained all of them brilliantly. I just wanted to say that I’m too conservative to appreciate this phenomenon, and I can’t help it. It’s like asking to a western fan to appreciate Alien: he may admit that this movie has some qualities, but he will never love it. Another thing I appreciated of your reply was the details you gave me about the comics distribution in the US: in Italy, even if you live in a small town, there are plenty of places where you can get all the comics you want. I did not imagine it wasn’t the same for the US, the country which produces the most beautiful comics in the world and has the most solid tradition in this artistic field. That’s a huge paradox.

      • xxadverbxx says:

        There is another problem with the use of internet distribution. Its already online. It makes it that much easier for people to distribute it illegally. I role play on some message boards with people who claim (and I easily believe them) that its never been easier to find comics to download for free now due to this! Instead of someone(s) needing to buy the comic and take the time scanning each page, all they need to do is take a screen shot and crop down that image before uploading.

        The town I grew up in never had a comic store (still doesn’t) and while you can get a few comics at bookstores, its by no means the selection of an actual comic store that many towns are missing. So I do understand that digital comics are making it easier for everyone to get hold of them and helping comic sales, yet at the same time its probably actually hurting comic sales even more.

      • Cal C. says:

        Actually, it isn’t hurting sales at all – preliminary reports suggest that this year is the best for comic sales in quite some time, in part because of digital.

        If a comic was pirated – and most of them were – it didn’t matter if someone took the 10 minutes to scan them or the 8 minutes to take screenshots of them. Once they go online, no one cares how they got there or how long it took. Piracy was actually the REASON they started looking to monetize digital comics.

        But, as the music industry learned when iTunes succeeded, there ARE people who are willing to pay for convenience. Sure, piracy in the comics industry still exists, but it hasn’t become any more common. In fact, if I recall the few bits of information that have been released on the subject, it’s the opposite – people who prefer print comics continued buying print comics. Very few switched to digital. But people who HADN’T been buying comics, lapsed readers or people who didn’t live near shops, made up the bulk of the readership.

        Read some of Mark Waid’s interviews from a year or two back where he discusses comics piracy. Trust me, the situation has gotten better.

      • xxadverbxx says:

        Maybe it has. Granted, it could be sales have jumped and piracy as well. But thats just junk speculation now. I will have to say I’m shocked at the lack of anti-piracy DC at least has for their digital comics. The images I used in my Static Shock #1 review were just taken from a screenshot, and I was surprised that worked. They could set up some safeguards that while they could be bypassed, would at least make it harder to do.

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