Comics Anonymous

April 6, 2012, 6:54 pm
Filed under: Comic Reviews, Marvel Comics | Tags: , , ,

Here’s a first for the site – a review of a comic that is solely digital. We’ve looked at comics before like Makeshift Miracle which rely heavily on digital publication to reach it’s audience, but here’s a comic that will (probably) never see the outside of an iPad/tablet device – and for good reason. It’s the first of Marvel’s Infinite range to hit the virtual stands, conveniently tying in with the Avengers vs. X-Men event that’s just kicked off, and it’s only 69p. Probably the best 69p you’ll spend this week too.

Last month will probably go down as one of those moments in the history of the comic book world, when Joe Quesada announced Infinite comics. But what is it? We’ve had digital comics for some time now – the ability to read our favourite floppy comics on our fancy bright screened tablets, either panel by panel or the good old fashioned page by page. Since its introduction though the biggest achievement we’ve seen is the ability to buy the digital version on the same day that the paper copy comes out – not something to shun, but it’s not exactly blown us away by simply replicating what we can do already for about the same price. Over time there’s been many an argument on the importance of digital comics and what it means for their beloved physical counterparts and the people that sell them, but most of the time it’s just going to boil down to preference with a large portion of the comics community never giving up on paper comics. So what does Infinite comics bring to the discussion? A helluva lot…

To try and explain what this new format is you need to start by thinking about the panel view you would currently get in digital comics, but don’t let that put you off. Personally I’ve never really found this as a viable way of reading comics – most are designed as a whole page layout and enjoyed best when you can see everything at the one time, but Infinite has been designed so that each ‘page’ is meant to be viewed as a moment on the device. After reading AvX Infinite, and now writing about it, I’m conscious that I have no idea how ‘long’ the comic is in terms of pages, but I think that’s kind of the point. Instead I’d say it’s easier to measure it in time rather than number of panels/pages, and that’s because it feels more like you’re watching the comic rather than reading it. ‘But I hate motion comics’ I hear you cry – forget those, this is a totally different beast, this is more ‘Comics with motion’, but without any form of animation.

This is a new style of storytelling, but one that is completely rooted in comics. It puts the best aspects of panel progression in a fluid format, which enhances the experience. If I’m honest, what I liked most about AvX Infinite wasn’t the story – I’ve no idea who Nova is or why he’s important to the overall AvX event –  but that’s not to say that this wasn’t expertly written. To make something like this work, it first has to be done for the right reasons using the right source material. I am in no way suggesting that comics of past should be re-made as Infinite comics in the same way that cinema has butchered its back catalogue by converting most of it to 3D. In the wrong hands, this will just look gimmicky, but Mark Waid has put together this short tale to show us the best bits of what this format can do.

There’s a new world of possibilities on offer to help the writer and artist to tell a story, all tied together with pacing. It’s something that I’m sure already happens when writing a comic, but extra care has to be given now when writing in this style. How quickly sentences or words are said will depend on the moment they’re shown, rather than just where they are placed on a panel or page. Action sequences can be slowed down or sped up by simply deciding on how many pages to show them across, or how often a page changes. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a panel change focus, and when I did, I gasped. Like actually out loud (GOL – a new internet term I just created for comics?). There were a few GOL moments throughout this short piece, purely because I’d never seen nor thought that comics could ever do these kinds of things.

At the same time as the announcement of Marvel’s Infinite range there was some uproar when Mark Waid’s comments were taken out of context. Large parts of the internet mistook his intention to progress mainly in digital as a stab at Comic Book Stores. (It wasn’t.) Having now read his output in this comic, I can see why he wants to pursue it, not as a replacement but supplementary to our existing monthly reading lists. I’d like to see more writers and artists experiment with the format, but not to give up on what they are already doing so well.

Over time it’s likely that we’ll still have paper comics as they are, and the Infinite style is what we will call digital – not just scanned copies of the paper ones.  This isn’t like MP3s replacing CDs, they’ll co-exist rather than battle with each other (this is still comics I’m talking about – not the Avengers and the X-Men).  There’s likely to be nothing that’ll ever make me want to give up my physical comics (sorry Gillian) but this has certainly piqued my interest in digital.

Craig @hastiecraig

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