Tales of the Buddha coverAt the opposite end of the comics spectrum from last week’s kid’s comics The Phoenix is this stoner-infused look at the early life of Buddha, which is definitely for adults only! From the wonderfully warped mind of 2000ad legend Alan Grant and fellow Dredd alum John Haward and Jamie Grant Tales of the Buddha (Before He Got Enlightened) gives us a gag and ganja-heavy account of the eastern mystic as he searchs for enlightenment. Each 1 or 2 page strip sees our portly hero travelling the world and across history, getting up to all sorts of un-pious mischief while meeting a host of famous faces along the way – from Hercules and the Argonauts to Elvis and more. Forget your historically accurate timelines sacred scriptures, and just revel in the smart jokes and brilliantly quirky artwork of this supremely smart and enjoyable creation.

The Phoenix Comic Free Sampler coverThis week sees the launch of the first digital edition of the weekly UK comic The Phoenix launched via Apple Newsstand with an app powered by the team at Panel Nine, this is a bold new step for the company, but one that helps The Phoenix find its natural home in the 21st century – on the iPads of the nation’s kids. If like me you’re a child of the 80s then reading The Phoenix gives you a delightful trip down memory lane as it feels very much like a natural successor to classic British kids comics like the Beano and the Dandy. This is in no part thanks to it’s anarchic sense of humour, and unpatronising tone, combined with a 21st century update and so it creates a brilliant blend of quirky comic strips with potentially strong characters that help keep it looking current and relevant and should keep kids and parents alike amused.

Amazing Spider-Man 700This weeks must-have digital comic is an obvious one, partly because its the only major title released this post-Christmas week, but mainly because it is the final issue of one of Marvel‘s flagship titles – The Amazing Spider-Man. After events in recent issues (and this is your SPOILER warning, stop if you haven’t read them yet!) life in the Spidey-verse is about to change forever. And we are assured this is a forever change as it brings to an end the most iconic title in the Marvel cannon and also the end of Peter Parker as Spider-Man.

Insufferable 1 coverThis week sees the arrival of the first 3 issues of Mark Waid’s Insufferable on ComiXology. Previously released as weekly updates on his website Thrillbent.com, each issues comprises two installments and introduces us to the world of aging superhero Nocturnus and his upstart protege Galahad. Although it was a great read online  Insufferable’s natural home is on a tablet and being able to read each issue in glorious full screen is a real treat.

The Masks and Mobsters team of Josh Williamson and Mike Henderson have taken their world of 1940s pulp noir and infused it with a generous dose of ‘the best Christmas story ever told‘ – Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol – for this brilliant festive offering. As two hitmen try to hunt down a certain, Ebeneezer Scrooge, they are warned off their hit by some malevolent spirits who have other plans for Mr Scrooge.

The art of writing a Christmas special isn’t easy. Whatever medium you’re working in the need to avoid mawkishness, sentimentality or twee cliche is a tricky one to get right, so what do you do if you are Britain’s leading sci-fi comic? Well in the case of the 2000AD Christmas Special they have gone for quantity rather than seasonal themed merriment. This bumper issue features 100+ pages, to keep you going over the festive period, and is packed with the usual high quality action adventure you would expect. With several epic stories coming to their conclusion in the last few months,  new series and story arcs begin with this issue, and so there has never been a better time to get into 2000AD

Back in August we reviewed the sublime Thoughts on a Winter Morning from Kurt Busiek and Steve Lieber and published by digital only imprint MonkeyBrain comics. This was one of those highly personal and deeply charming books that make you cherish the depth on offer in the world of digital comics and now MonkeyBrain have done it again and released another, equally wonderful, but delightfully simple book in the shape of The Stars Below by Zack Smith and Rich Ellis.

If I were to describe this as a dialogue free, black and white book about a pigeon, you would justifiably be a bit wary and think that sounds incredibly dull, but that is to do this book a huge disservice. Yes, it is a book about a pigeon, and yes it has no dialogue or colour, but it is utterly compelling and quite mesmerising. Smith’s pacing of the story is sublime, with subtle scene setting, dynamic action and a sweet ending. Meanwhile Ellis’s work oozes charm and character making the pigeon’s emotions clear without ever resorting to cartoonish anthropomorphism.  With some beautiful and clever layouts, including a splash page of the bird being chased through an office block by an eagle and a brilliant Will Eisner inspired final page, this is a real showcase for Ellis’s deft touch.

Although this book might not sound like everyones cup of tea, at the bargain price of 69p means it is well worth downloading and will charm and delight in equal measures while reminding you that not every comic has to be packed full of supernatural scares and superhero slugfests be utterly wonderful.

The Stars Below is available from MonkeyBrain comics on ComiXology for 69p

This week sees the debut of Dan Goldman’s Red Light Properties published via MonkeyBrain comics. This tripped out psychedelic supernatural sleuthing book, is a perfect fit for the MonkeyBrain imprint and sees the first four titles available to download in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

With its story of psychic estate agents who clean up previously haunted properties in order make them saleable (or green lighted) Red Light Properties is a haunting mix of supernatural whodunnit with a surreal drugged out quality – in a large part thanks to lead character Jude’s reliance on psychedelics in order to waken the spirits. It’s eclectic mix of styles makes it feel like a strange mix of classic UK TV show Randall and Hopkirk Deceased, mixed with Stephen Kings the Shining and given a Grant Morrison style psychedelic makeover under the hot Miami sun.  Goldman’s mixed media art style combines stylised line work with photographic backgrounds and digital rendering helps further the other worldly feel to the book, as does the use of landscape pages which allows Goldman’s layouts to have a real confidence to them and work brilliantly as a digital product.

Having graced the pages of 2000AD since 1977, Judge Dredd is a quintessentially British comic book creation, mixing bleak dystopian science-fiction with sharp satire and a black, often odd-ball, sense of humour. Getting the recipe right is a fine art that only a handful of greats have managed to do with aplomb. Which brings us to this, the first issue of a new ongoing Judge Dredd series from IDW Publishing. This is the second attempt at bringing the Mega City lawman to a wider (i.e. US) audience, after a short run with DC in the early 1990s. But as is often the case when Dredd is taken out of the safe confines of his homeland it is never quite the same, and with this new incarnation it looks like Dredd, it reads like Dredd, but there’s something missing.

Jeff Lemire’s The Underwater Welder reminds you, that underneath their superhero hyperbole comics truly are still an art form, capable of telling intelligent, emotive and highly personal tales without resorting to twee cliche. On the surface this tale of the titular sub mariner is a Twilight Zone style supernatural mystery about a diver who discovers a mysterious pocket watch at the bottom of the ocean and the strange link it has to his past, in particular his missing father who disappeared on Halloween in mysterious circumstances. But this rather circumspect synopsis does not do the plot justice as under the surface are fathoms worth of hidden depths that make this a truly wonderful read.