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)*
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)*
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)
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