Tag Archives: Nova

AvX and Marvel’s Infinite Comics: Review

Well, it is here.  Marvel announced its new concept, Infinite Comics and the first offering is an Avengers vs X-Men tie-in. (Starring Nova of all people)

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.

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More JMS and some DnA

Just as I was about to write off J. Michael Straczynski completely, I decided to try another of his books.  I picked up the first collection of Supreme Power and I have to say I enjoyed it a great deal. 

First off, this is not the most original book I have ever read, but when this came out in 2003-ish it was something that had not been seen as much as it has in the last few years.  8 years on, it feels a little “done before”, but that does not make this any less enjoyable.  JMS and artists Gary Frank and Jon Sibal offer a sort of “what if” story.  It is a redux of the Squadron Supreme from the 70’s era Marvel, but to be honest, you really get the DC vibe more here. The characters are all pretty direct analogs of  the main DC heroes and there is no attempt to cover that.  Since the original book was a direct “marvel version” of the DC Justice League, that really should not be a surprise.  In fact I can not think of a less subtle way of doing it.  This book’s versions of Superman and Batman have origins very similar to the DC ones and somewhat altered premises based on Green Lantern, Flash and Wonder Woman, in a very brief cameo, are all here.  The obvious corollaries end there, though.  These folks live in a very real world, surrounded by the real events that we grew up with.  That changes the dynamic greatly.  Suddenly, Batman is a racist, his African-American family having been killed by southern white supremacists.  The people this character, called Nighthawk,  helps are exclusively black.  The Green Lantern variant here appears to be schizophrenic and the Flash, here called The Blur, is a fairly ordinary guy that wants to be a hero and has no problem cashing a check for doing that.  The closest relation to the source material here is Hyperion, who stands in for Superman.  Having said all that, if you feel this is a bit tired, you would not be entirely wrong.  We HAVE seen this before and since.  There are small touches here of what would become Superman:  Earth One.  The thing that set this apart for me was the complete feel of the book.  Even well-worn ideas can seem fresh and exciting when done well by people putting their best work on display.  Gary Frank’s work here is superb, the static feel his art sometimes gets a bad, and unjustified knock for, creates a stillness that works perfectly for the story.  JMS hits all the right points to make this seem very real and believable.  There have been other revisionist takes in comics.  Watchmen, Planetary and even much of the New 52 try to do this, all with varying degrees of success.  Where this book succeeds is that it is not at all self-aware.  It feels like it is just as organic as any other origin story and does not reference anything outside of itself.  I never feel as though this is ripping off, or standing on the shoulders of some other work.

Next up this week was Nova by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.  I have come to really enjoy the writing of these two, known in the industry by the collective title DnA.  This book is no exception.  I have read the first two trades covering issues 1-12 and an annual.  I was almost put off the duo by The Annihilators.  The story was fine, the art was just this side of awful.  Tan Eng Huat has generally been a good artist, but this book felt very rushed.  While that one was a struggle to get through, Nova was the opposite.  Having read some of the other DnA works like Guardians of the Galaxy, The Thanos Imperative and Ressurrection Man ( the last, a great title from DC from the 90’s, ressurrected for the New 52), I was ready to jump into more of this universe.  Clean art and strong storytelling, mixed with characters that these guys really appear to understand, made this  a very good read.  Many fans today are a bit down on the cosmic books, and for a while, I was one of them.  These guys have made this a staple of the work they have done at Marvel, and made themselves the go-to writers in the genre, the same way Jim Starlin was through the 80’s and 90’s. 

Both of these books have made me want more.  Fortunately, there are 6 total volumes of Nova and 2 more Supreme Power with this creative team.  While it appears unlikely that JMS will return to write more of his book for Marvel, DnA are only just warming up.  It is clear they will keep building the Marvel cosmic universe for a long time to come, and I cannot wait for more.

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