First, the basics. Infinite Comics is a digital delivery platform, like the others. Teaming up with Mark Waid, who is writing this issue (can we still call them issues? Or is that too anachronistic?), Marvel has tried to take greater advantage of the technology to make the reading experience better, more interactive and work more effectively with the storytelling medium of comics.
The overall functionality of the interface is the same. You still control things with your finger. That process does not change. What has changed is what you get with that swipe of the finger. The concept of the page is very different and the use of the word page here is a little odd since there really does not have to be one in the same way, and over half of the issue is single panels that now function as the entire page. The landscape format is better utilized here as well. This is not a comic that was scanned and converted to the comic reader format, this was built from the ground up as a digital reading experience. The story has a 12 page intro that asks if you are ready to have the future of digital comics at your fingertips. The future may be a little odd for some, but I like what I have seen so far. . This .99 cent download has 65 “pages”, but the traditional definition of a page is going to have to change somewhat. The first 4 pages of this are the same image that alters only slightly aside from the text, one sentence per advance. (In print, this would NOT be a 65 page comic.) Then the story bursts in. The panels, or what here are pages, flow smoothly from one to the other in a dissolve. There is often no change in the basic panel, but information is added to the same image to progress the narrative. The intro flows into the story and there is another set of images that build on the start, telling you what you need to know ONLY at the pace you need it. There is no spoiler effect caused by turning the page and seeing info or images farther ahead than what is supposed to come next like you get in a regular print book, and even in the standard full-page view of a digital book. As you swipe through, text is added to the same image several times, controlling the flow of the story very solidly. There are instances where if you saw all the text at once as you usually would, the effect would be lost. Here, you get what you need in a way that tries to preserve the emotional content and impact of the story. There are several uses of blurred images and racked focus, so that you see images as though you are pulling focus and seeing it firsthand like a participant. When more traditional panels are used, they flow on the screen one at a time and form a widescreen “page”, but they do not always flow in what would be a natural progression of left to right. There are times when you get a left to right, then the image is interrupted by something in the middle of all that. It is jarring and that is the point. You really can feel the impact of the events unfolding. There is a sequence that in print, would be a double page spread with panels within the main image to simulate movement of bodies in story-time and through the panel. Here that is achieved with a single image that is expanded and altered to show what the passage of the story events are doing. It is very like if you were standing there watching it happen in front of you. Then the changes get even more subtle, page to page. The next sequence uses a minimum of images that slowly change as the story moves. Some change very slightly, others completely. It fits what is happening in that the POV is from someone starting out not fully aware of his surroundings and gaining more info as he goes. In one shot, the panel does not change, but the focus racks from foreground to background. The images included here do NOT do this package justice.
This is a stunning presentation. The story by Waid is slight, as it needs to be. It is a teaser after all, and cannot give too much away. But what you get is strong and interesting. The art by Stuart Immonen cannot be given enough credit for the success of this product. You cannot tell this story as effectively in a traditional manner, and a lesser storyteller would have failed to use the format as well. The book (can we use that word anymore?) is a joy to look at and is never overshadowed by the technology employed to realize it. They compliment each other perfectly.
That will be the real test of this new digital medium, I think. Superior creators will thrive. Learning the tech is just a matter of choice, and they are tools like any other, but only the really skilled in their craft will thrive. Waid’s new all-digital venture is one example of what happens when someone who really knows their stuff tries to force the medium into a place it NEEDS to go to survive. Now the trick for Marvel will be, are they going to squander this with just any old crap, or only use it sparingly to start off. They should allow only the best kids to play in this particular sandbox? Unfortunately, Marvel has not always showed the most restraint when they get something good, but to be fair, most publishers are all too quick to run something into the ground in order to make a quick buck.
A quick note about the main AvX book: ugh! I really think this one will be crap. What I have read other than today’s review, is awful. Sorry folks. A fun idea that looks like it will be poorly executed if the zero and first issues are anything to go by.
I am truly hopeful. This is the best digital comic I have seen yet. If the format is properly used, Marvel’s Infinite Comics could be exactly what the industry needs to not only survive, but prosper and continue on for a very long time.